Zulu War 1879 (South Africa)

Zulu War 1879 (South Africa)

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Zulu War 1879 (South Africa)

The Zulu war of 1879 finally ended by bloodshed two years of political activity by the British designed to remove the last challenge to their Imperial power in southern Africa. Zululand had become a powerful kingdom under the rule of the warlord king Shaka in the early 19th century, but by 1870 European colonial expansion was starting to hem it in. The British were expanding from the south in Natal and the Boers, Dutch settlers were expanding from the west in the area know as the Transvaal which the British annexed to their future cost in 1877. The British had seized their South African colonies during the Napoleonic Wars but these possessions had been plagued with trouble due to violence between the British, the Boers and local African kingdoms. The British plan was to unite black and white under their rule, but first the Zulu kingdom had to be removed.

At this time the British were fighting many small wars in various colonies and did not want another war in a distant colony. Despite this the British High Commissioner Sir Henry Bartle Frere and the Army Commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederic Thesiger soon to be the new Lord Chelmsford, decided that war with the Zulus was unavoidable. Using the delay in communications between London and themselves they set in motion what they hoped would be a small quick war. Using a minor border incident as justification Zulu representatives were summoned to a meeting of the Border Commission which actually found in the Zulu's favour but determined to promote the idea of a Zulu threat a condition was imposed on the settlement that the Zulus would have to give up their military system which was key to their culture, a condition the King Cetshwayo could never accept.

Lord Chelmsford decided to invade Zululand with 3 columns leaving 2 more to protect Natal and the Transvaal. He expected the Zulus to behave like the other African Armies he had fought and prove elusive and unwilling to fight pitched battles. This was to prove a serious mistake. British forces crossed the ford at Rorke's Drift on the 11th Jan 1879 and on the 22nd January the British forces divided by Chelmsford were taken by surprise and nearly destroyed by the Zulu warriors at the battle of Isandhlwana, one of the few times in the history of the British Army that is has been defeated by a native Army. The British forces holding the Ford at Rorke's Drift quickly came under heavy attack by Zulu reserves leading to one of the most famous battles in British history. When news reached Britain of the disaster at Isandhlwana it caused an uproar.

In March 1879 the second phase of the war began Chelmsford reorganised his troops and awaited promised reinforcements from Britain which would take several months to arrive. With irregular horsemen harassing the Zulu's and an abortive attack on Hlobane mountain which cost 15 officers and 79 men dead the war dragged on as Chelmsford awaited fresh troops. The war began to turn to favour the British as a Zulu attack on the British camp at the battle of Khambula was repulsed on 29th March 1879. In the aftermath of the battle it was clear that the Zulu Impi would never take to the battlefield with such confidence again and the way was clear for a second invasion. As fresh British troops started to arrive the final invasion of Zululand (May to July 1879) began. King Cetshwayo sent messengers to the British asking for terms of surrender but the British demanded unconditional surrender and Cetshwayo made his last stand at the battle of Ulundi (4 July 1879). After this final defeat the Zulu nation was smashed and split up into 13 kingdoms which were given to pro British Africans only for it to dissolve into civil war a few years later. The British pulled out of Zululand soon after the battle and Cetshwayo was hunted down and exiled. After a brief return to try and halt the civil war Cetshwayo was defeated and later died in 1884. Zululand is now part of the Republic of South Africa.

Zulu Wars Index


History: Today in 1879, the Zulu Defeated the British at Isandlwana Mountain

Today in 1879, The Zulu Kingdom celebrated a tremendous victory against the British army, in what is still considered to be the Empires most devastating loss in Africa to date.

After King Cetshwayo and his impies defended their land, Natal, from the British Empire, the British demanded that the King and his Zulu soldiers surrender and submit to a trial, learned..

The Zulu kingdom refused to obey colonial rules, and as a result, British armies planned an attack on Zululand, passing theory Rourke’s Drift to the Zulu King’s base.

In the morning of what came to be known as the Isandlwana Mountain battle, 24 000 Zulu warriors, attacked 1 700 British soldiers, leaving only 60 soldiers surviving.

Months later, the French Prince Imperal and kinsman of Napoleon Bonaparte, was assassinated in an ambush of British troops near Ulundi.

After their initial defeat, the British planned another attack, this time at dawn.

The British armies had planned to make up for having less men than Cetswayo by overpowering him, using more technologically advanced arms.

The Zulu’s who knew the land better than the Europeans and were familiar with its peaks and valleys, outmaneuvered the British who were unable to locate the Zulus, until later that morning.

But the King had an army of 24 000 Zulu impies armed only with spears and outdated guns.

The skirmish lasted until the next day and the British were defeated.

A total of 1329 British soldiers were killed and only 55 survived.

3000 Zulu warriors were killed.

Although the battle was won, the Zulu Kingdom ultimately lost the war and the British Empire conquered Southern Africa, leaving death, destruction and disillusionment in her wake.

Unfortunately, the British got reinforcements from London and defeated the Zulus, later capturing their king.

The soil of Africa remains drenched in blood and the gaping wounds are still forming a clot and starting to heal.

British-Zulu War begins

The British-Zulu War begins as British troops under Lieutenant General Frederic Augustus invade Zululand from the southern African republic of Natal.

In 1843, Britain succeeded the Boers as the rulers of Natal, which controlled Zululand, the neighboring kingdom of the Zulu people. Boers, also known as Afrikaners, were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers who came to South Africa in the 17th century. Zulus, a migrant people from the north, also came to southern Africa during the 17th century, settling around the Tugela River region.

In 1838, the Boers, migrating north to elude the new British dominions in the south, first came into armed conflict with the Zulus, who were under the rule of King Dingane at the time. The European migrants succeeded in overthrowing Dingane in 1840, replacing him with his son Mpande, who became a vassal of the new Boer republic of Natal. In 1843, the British took over Natal and Zululand.

In 1872, King Mpande died and was succeeded by his son Cetshwayo, who was determined to resist European domination in his territory. In December 1878, Cetshwayo rejected the British demand that he disband his troops, and in January British forces invaded Zululand to suppress Cetshwayo. The British suffered grave defeats at Isandlwana, where 1,300 British soldiers were killed or wounded, and at Hlobane Mountain, but on March 29 the tide turned in favor of the British at the Battle of Khambula.

At Ulundi in July, Cetshwayo’s forces were utterly routed, and the Zulus were forced to surrender to the British. In 1887, faced with continuing Zulu rebellions, the British formally annexed Zululand, and in 1897 it became a part of Natal, which joined the Union of South Africa in 1910.

3 Popular Myths of Isandlwana – 1879 Zulu War

The clash between British Troops and Zulu Warriors led to a brutal battle that has been retold numerous times, however much of the tale has proven to have more basis in fiction than facts:

1. ‘Men of Harlech’

According to the enduringly popular 1964 movie Zulu, the 24th Regiment – who comprised much of the garrison at both Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – was composed largely of Welshmen. Although the Regiment had indeed established its depot at Brecon in 1873, its recruits continued to be drawn from across the United Kingdom, and only a small proportion were Welsh by 1879. The association with Wales largely post-dates the Anglo-Zulu War – in 1881, the 24th were re-titled the South Wales Borderers, and it is now part of the Royal Welsh.

2. Ammunition failure

One particularly persistent legend has it that the British were overrun at Isandlwana because of a failure of ammunition supply, either through the parsimony of regimental quartermasters, or because their ammunition boxes could not be opened – an idea which, of course, effectively excuses a number of deeper military errors.

One of the survivors – a lieutenant named Horace Smith-Dorrien, who was destined to become a general in the First World War – recalled the reluctance of Quartermaster Edward Bloomfield of the 2nd Battalion, the 24th, to issue ammunition as the battle began. Yet a close reading of the evidence suggests that this incident was simply indicative of the confusion that inevitably prevailed in the camp Bloomfield’s reserves were, in fact, earmarked to be sent out to Lord Chelmsford should he need them, and Bloomfield was showing no more than a proper respect for his orders.

In a letter home, Smith-Dorrien admitted to his father that he afterwards secured a supply of ammunition and spent much of the battle distributing it to the front-line companies. Nor were the boxes particularly difficult to open – although reinforced by copper bands all round, access to the rounds was by means of a sliding panel in the lid held in place by a single screw. And if time was pressing, the panel could be smashed out by a sharp blow to the edge with a tent-mallet or rifle butt – over the years, a number of screws bent by such rough treatment have been found on the battlefield.

In 2000, an archaeological survey of the site found the remains of the tin lining of a number of boxes along the British firing positions – sure sign that boxes had been opened there. Last word, however, should go to the Zulus, many of whom mentioned that the British infantry continued to shoot at them until the final stages of the battle.

3. Drummer boys ‘gutted like sheep’

One story that circulated widely in the horrific aftermath of the battle was that Lord Chelmsford’s men, returning to the devastated camp on the night of the 22nd, had seen ‘young drummer boys’ of the 24th Regiment hung up
on a butcher’s scaffold and ‘gutted like sheep’. While it need not be doubted that, in the fury of the attack, the Zulus would have killed boys as well as men – they had taken the Queen’s shilling, after all, and their chances with it – this horror story does not stand up to close scrutiny.

‘Boy’ was a rank in the British Army at the time, applied to lads not yet 18, many of whom were the sons of men serving in the regiment. Drummers were seldom Boys – among their other duties was administering floggings as punishment – and of 12 Drummers killed at Isandlwana, the youngest was 18 and the oldest in his 30s. Five Boys were killed at Isandlwana, most of them in the 24th’s band, and the youngest was 16 – not quite the innocent lads immortalised in sentimental paintings of the time.

Even the contemporary regimental history of the 24th admitted ‘no single case of torture was proved against [the Zulus]’. But, in the fraught atmosphere that prevailed when Lord Chelmsford’s command returned to the camp that night, such horror stories spread like wild fire and were readily believed –although, as one officer pointed out, ‘it was impossible for those who told these yarns to distinguish anything in the night, it being exceptionally dark’.

The Rise of Zulu Kingdom

The Zulu Kingdom, also called the Zulu Empire, was a Southern African state in what is now South Africa. During and after the Anglo-Zulu War, the small kingdom gained world renown, not least for initially defeating the British in 1879 at the Battle of Isandlwana.

This led in 1887 to the British annexation of Zululand, while the king’s office continued to be honoured (with the colonial title of Paramount Chief). However, even among the British, who appeared to look down on Africans as inferior, the Zulu gained a reputation for their bravery and ability as warriors.

“While the British discounted their defeat, in the anti-Apartheid struggle in white-dominated South Africa, where the Zulu nation became a “bantustan,” or homeland, the spirit and example of the Zulu warriors lived on to inspire many.

As part of a much larger Bantu expansion, the Zulus had initially trekked or migrated to Southern Africa and their Kingdom can be counted as one of several Bantu Empires, kingdoms and state systems that included Great Zimbabwe’s civilization.

The legacy of the Zulus is one of prestige in a highly organized African communities, which could resist the scramble for Africa, at least initially. When Africa was divided between European powers, they took over any territory they wanted without consulting Africans who own & occupied the land. Europeans enforced treaties backed up by military force.

They were soon defeated by those who refused to sign these treaties, such as the Sultan of Sokoto and the Obo of Benin. In the nineteenth century, Ethiopia alone resisted colonial occupation effectively, though in the twentieth century Fascist Italy exercised it briefly.

The Zulus are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, where they maintain pride in their heritage, history and culture despite the injustice of the Apartheid years.

The rise of the Zulu kingdom under Shaka

This is the only known sketch of Shaka, drawn in 1824. Source: New World Encyclopedia

Shaka Zulu was the legitimate son of the Ruler of the Zulus, Senzangakona. He was born in around 1787. He had been exiled by Senzangakona with his mother, Nandi, and found refuge with Mthethwa. Shaka fought under Dingiswayo, the chief of the Mtetwa Paramountcy, as a warrior. Dingiswayo helped Shaka establish his place as the Zulu Kingdom’s leader when Senzangakona died.

Dingane’s bloody ascension
Shaka was succeeded by his half-brother, Dingane, who collaborated with another half-brother, Mhlangana, to kill him. Dingane assassinated Mhlangana after this assassination and took over the throne. The execution of all his royal kin was one of his first royal acts. He also executed several past supporters of Shaka in the years that followed in order to protect his position. Mpande, another half-brother, was one exception to these purges, and was thought too frail to be a threat at the time.

Conflicts with the Voortrekkers and Mpande’s rise

Zulu warriors | Pinterest

The Voortrekker chairman Piet Retief visited Dingane at his Royal Kraal in October 1837 to discuss a land settlement for the Voortrekkers. In November, about 1,000 Voortrekker wagons descended the Drakensberg Mountains from the Orange Free State into what is now KwaZulu-Natal.

Retief and his members were requested by Dingane to return some cattle stolen from him by a local chief. Retief did so with his men, returning on February 3, 1838. A treaty was signed the next day in which Dingane ceded to the Voortrekkers all the land south of the Tugela River to the Mzimvubu River. Celebrations surfaced. Retief’s group were invited to a dance on February 6, at the end of the festivities, and ordered to leave their weapons behind. Dingane jumped to his feet at the height of the dance and shouted “Bambani abathakathi!” (isiZulu for “Seize the wizards”). Retief and his men were overpowered, taken to KwaMatiwane, a nearby hill, and hanged.

Some suggest that they were executed for hiding some of the cattle they had rescued, but it is likely that the agreement was a trap to destroy the Voortrekkers. A party of 500 Voortrekker men, women and children camped nearby were then attacked and massacred by Dingane’s army. Today, the site of the massacre is named Weenen, (Afrikaans “to weep”).

A new chief, Andries Pretorius, was elected by the remaining Voortrekkers and Dingane suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Blood River on December 16, 1838, when he [Dingane] talked a party of 470 Voortrekker colonists led by Pretorius.

Dingane burned his royal household after his defeat and fled north. Mpande, the half-brother spared from Dingane’s purges, defected with 17,000 supporters, and went to battle with Dingane along with Pretorius and the Voortrekkers. Dingane was assassinated near the modern Swaziland frontier. Mpande then seized control of the Zulu kingdom.

Succession of Cetshwayo

The Voortrekkers, under Pretorius, established the Boer Republic of Natalia, south of Thukela, and west of the British settlement of Port Natal (now Durban), in 1839 after the campaign against Dingane. Peaceful relations were preserved between Mpande and Pretorius. However, war broke out between the British and the Boers in 1842, resulting in Natalia’s British annexation. Mpande changed his loyalty to the British, and stayed with them in good terms.

In 1843, Mpande ordered a purge within his kingdom of suspected rebels. This resulted in several deaths, and the fleeing of thousands of refugees into neighboring areas (including the British-controlled Natal). Many of these refugees have left with their animals. Mpande proceeded to raid the surrounding areas, resulting in Swaziland’s invasion of 1852. The British, however, forced him into withdrawing, which he eventually did.

A war for succession broke out at this time between two of the sons of Mpande, Cetshwayo and Mbuyazi. This ended with a battle in 1856 which left Mbuyazi dead. Cetshwayo then set about usurping the authority of his father. Mpande died of old age in 1872, and Cetshwayo took over power. There was then a border dispute in the Transvaal between the Boers and the Zulus, which now under British control, meant that they were now adjudicating between the two groups. The Zulu claim was favored by a commission, but a provision was added by the British governor requiring the Zulus to pay compensation to the Boers who would have to resettle.

Anglo-Zulu War

Background, Isandhlwana Hill. Foreground, monument to the dead Impi of the Zulu nation. | New World Encyclopedia

It was marked by a number of events, all of which gave the British an excuse to express moral indignation and anger about Zulu conduct. For instance, the estranged wife of a Zulu chief fled to British territory for safety, where she was killed. Regarding this as a violation of their own rule, the British sent an ultimatum to Cetshwayo on December 10, 1878, demanding that he disband his army. As he refused, at the end of December 1878, British forces crossed the Thukela river. The war was waged in 1879. Early in the war, at the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22, the Zulus defeated the British, but were badly defeated at Rorke’s Drift later that day. At the Battle of Ulundi on July 4, the war ended in a Zulu defeat. In order to subdue Africa and rule its colonies, Britain relied more on its military reputation, less on real power in the field, as McLynn comments:

The dominance of the colonial powers was founded on legitimacy, the belief that there was a military behemoth behind a small handful of officials, commissioners and missionaries that one called forth at one’s peril. This was why the British were forced to mobilize such force as was required to defeat Cetewayo by a serious military defeat, such as that inflicted by the Zulus at Isandhlwana in 1879, even though the empire did not hold any major interests in that part of Africa at that time.

However, even in defeat, the Zulu warriors gained the admiration of the British. During the long fight for citizenship and justice in white-dominated South Africa, the tale of early Zulu resistance to white colonialism was an inspiration to many Black South Africans.

The division and death of Cetshwayo

A month after his defeat, Cetshwayo was captured, then exiled to Cape Town. The British transferred the law of the Zulu kingdom to 13 “kinglets,” each with a sub-kingdom of their own. Between these sub-kingdoms, war soon erupted, and Cetshwayo was permitted to visit England in 1882. Before being allowed to return to Zululand, he had audiences with Queen Victoria and other famous characters, to be restored as king.

In 1883, Cetshwayo, much reduced from his original empire, was installed as king over a buffer reserve territory. However, Cetshwayo was targeted at Ulundi later that year by Zibhebhu, one of the 13 kinglets, backed by Boer mercenaries. Cetshwayo was wounded and fled. Cetshwayo, possibly poisoned, died peacefully in February 1884. His son, Dinuzulu, then 15, inherited the throne.

Dinuzulu’s Volunteers and final absorption into Cape Colony

In exchange for their aid, Dinuzulu recruited Boer mercenaries of his own, promising them land. These mercenaries called themselves “Volunteers of Dinuzulu,” and Louis Botha led them. In 1884, the Volunteers of Dinuzulu defeated Zibhebhu, and duly demanded their land. They were individually granted about half of Zululand as farms, and established an independent republic. This alarmed the British, who in 1887, then annexed Zululand. In later disputes with rivals, Dinuzulu became involved. Dinuzulu was charged in 1906 with being behind the Bambatha Rebellion. He was arrested for “high treason and public violence” by the British and put on trial. He was sentenced to ten years in prison on St Helena Island in 1909. Louis Botha became the first prime minister when the Union of South Africa was established and he arranged for his old ally, Dinuzulu, to live in exile on a farm in the Transvaal, where Dinuzulu died in 1913.

The son of Dinuzulu, Solomon kaDinuzulu, was never recognised as a Zulu king by the South African authorities, only as a local chief, but he was eventually regarded as a king by chiefs, political intellectuals like John Langalibalele Dube and ordinary Zulu citizens. In 1923, to promote his royal claims, Solomon established the Inkatha YaKwaZulu organisation, which became moribund and was then revived by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, chief minister of the KwaZulu Bantustan, in the 1970s. In December 1951, Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, the son of Solomon, was officially recognised as the Zulu people’s Paramount Chief, but real control over ordinary Zulu people lay with white South African officials operating through local chiefs who could be removed from office for failure to cooperate.

In different parts of their empire, the British adopted the word “Paramount Chief” to appoint recognised traditional rulers in a way that left their own monarch as the only King or Queen. Therefore, “kings” have been demoted to “prince” or chief. Under Apartheid, KwaZulu’s homeland (or Bantustan) was established in 1950 and from 1970, all Bantu were considered KwaZulu citizens, not South African citizens, losing their passports. KwaZulu was abolished in 1994 and is now situated under the KwaZulu-Natal province.

During the anti-Apartheid struggle, pride in early Zulu resistance to the white domination and conquest of Africa helped inspire many people. Shaka was known as a national hero and the story of his life was re-enacted by many dramas. In 2004, thousands of Zulus took part in a re-enactment of Isandlwana’s victory to mark its 125th anniversary.

Kings of Zulu Kingdom

Malandela kaLuzumana, son of Luzumana
Ntombela kaMalandela, son of Malandela.
Zulu kaNtombela, son of Ntombela, founder and chief of the Zulu clan from ca. 1709.
Gumede kaZulu, son of Zulu, chief of the Zulu clan.
Phunga kaGumede (d. 1727), son of Gumede, chief of the Zulu clan up to 1727.
Mageba kaGumede (d. 1745), son of Gumede and brother of Phunga, chief of the Zulu clan from 1727 to 1745.
Ndaba kaMageba (d. 1763), son of Mageba, chief of the Zulu clan from 1745 to 1763.
Jama kaNdaba (d. 1781), son of Ndaba, chief of the Zulu clan from 1763 to 1781.
Senzangakhona kaJama (ca. 1762-1816), son of Jama, chief of the Zulu clan from 1781 to 1816.
Shaka kaSenzangakhona (ca. 1787-1828), son of Senzangakona, king from 1816 to 1828.
Dingane kaSenzangakhona (ca. 1795-1840), son of Senzangakhona and half-brother of Shaka, king from 1828 to 1840.
Mpande kaSenzangakhona (1798-1872), son of Senzangakhona and half-brother of Shaka and Dingane, king from 1840 to 1872.
Cetshwayo kaMpande (1826 – February 1884), son of Mpande, king from 1872 to 1884.
Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (1868-1913), son of Cetshwayo kaMpande, king from 1884 to 1913.
Solomon kaDinuzulu (1891-1933), son of Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, king from 1913 to 1933.
Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon (4 August 1924-17 September 1968), son of Solomon kaDinuzulu, king from 1948 to 1968.
Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu (b. 14 July 1948), son of Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, king since 1971.


As European powers – particularly Dutch Boers and the British – began to claim parts of southern Africa, it became apparent that expansion was an imperative in order to maintain their political positions. The relationships and boundaries among them became exceedingly more complex, affecting not only themselves, but the indigenous Africans peoples and the land itself.

By 1880, there were four dominant European regions: the Cape Colony and Natal were to some degree under British control, and the Transvaal (South African Republic) and Orange Free State were independent republics controlled by the Boers. These colonies and their political leaders were the most important and influential of the time, and all were eventually dissolved into the singular Union of South Africa in May 1910. [2]

Cape Colony Edit

The Cape Colony was founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. [3] In 1795, it was taken over by the British, who were officially granted possession of the Cape by the Netherlands in 1815. [4] At this time, the Cape Colony encompassed 100,000 square miles (260,000 km 2 ) and was populated by about 26,720 people of European descent, a relative majority of whom were still of Dutch origin. [4] [5] The remainder were descended from German soldiers and sailors in the service of the Dutch East India Company's former administration, [6] and a large number of French Huguenot refugees resettled there after fleeing religious persecution at home. [7] Some of the existing colonists had become semi-nomadic pastoralists known as trekboers who frequently ventured beyond the Cape's frontier. [8] This led to an expansion of the colony's borders and clashes with the Xhosa people over pastureland in the vicinity of the Great Fish River. [8] Beginning in 1818, thousands of British immigrants were introduced by the colonial government to bolster the local European workforce and help populate the frontier as an additional defence against the Xhosa. [4]

By 1871, the Cape was by far the largest and most powerful state in the region. Its northern border had been established at the Orange River, and Britain had handed over the administration of Basutoland too. The Cape was also the only state in the region to (at least officially) give people of all races equal rights. It implemented a system of non-racial franchise – unusual in the restrictive world of the 19th century – whereby voters all qualified for the vote equally, regardless of race, on the basis of land ownership. In practice however, it remained a European-dominated state, although in 1872 it succeeded in gaining a degree of independence from the British Empire, when it successfully instituted a system of responsible government. Its government at first pursued a policy of avoiding further annexations so as to concentrate on internal development, but the South African Wars saw it annex several surrounding regions: Griqualand East, 1874 Griqualand West, 1880 and Southern Bechuanaland, 1895. [9] [10] [11]

At the end of the South African Wars, the Cape Colony, Natal, Orange Free State and the Transvaal were united. [12] [13] The Cape Colony became a member of the Union of South Africa in 1910, and today is divided between three of the modern provinces of South Africa.

Sekhukhune Wars Edit

The land and home of the indigenous native tribes of the Northern Sotho's. There were three separate campaigns against Sekhukhune, Paramount King of Bapedi i.e. the First Sekhukhune War of 1876 conducted by the Boers, and the two separate campaigns of the Second Sekhukhune War of 1876/1879 conducted by the British. Sekhukhune considered Sekhukhuneland to be independent and not subject to the Transvaal Republic and refused to allow miners from the Pilgrim's Rest goldfields to prospect on his side of the Steelpoort River.

The inability of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR 'Transvaal Republic') under President Francois Burgers to score a decided victory in the Sekhukhune War, presented the opportunity to the British to annex Transvaal in 1877. Soon afterwards, Britain declared war against Sekhukhune, Paramount King of Bapedi. After three unsuccessful attempts he was finally defeated by two British regiments under Sir Garnet Wolseley, assisted by 8 000 Swazis and other auxiliaries. Many of the Bapedi armies were killed, including Sekhukhune's heir, Morwamotshe and three of his brothers. The Anglo-Pedi War suffered both the British and Boer armies greatly as well as they fell and perished in great numbers too.

By the 1870s, the Transvaal was crumbling under Boer rule. In 1877, at the outset of the South African Wars, the British under Theophilus Shepstone annexed the state, and the Boers were forced to cede their independence in exchange for a small pension. The British defeating local natives to secure more land in 1879 only gave the Boers less competition to worry about and enabled them to focus on retaking the Transvaal. In 1881 the Boers rebelled and the First Anglo-Boer War ensued. [14] In this war, power was regained by the Boers, though any possibility of expansion and alliance was blocked by the British. [15] With the discovery of diamonds around 1885 in Griqualand, West Transvaal struggled with the Cape and the Free State for land, but to no avail.

At the end of the South African Wars, the Transvaal was annexed by the 1910 Union of South Africa.

Orange Free State Edit

By the beginning of the South African Wars, the Orange Free State was independently ruled by the Boers. The Free State's boundaries were defined almost entirely by rivers: the Orange River on the south, the Vaal River on the west and north, and the Caledon River on the east. The northeastern boundary was shared with its British neighbour, Natal. The Caledon boundary was disputed with Moshoeshoe I's Sotho people, and fought over in two primary incidents – in 1858 and 1865. Before the Boer colonisation, there were indigenous groups like the Sotho, San, and various Nguni clans in the Free State area. In the 1870s the Free State Boers began moving into Griqualand West in search of farmland, pushing the Griqua out. However they did not officially incorporate the land, which came to be disputed by Britain as well as the Griquas themselves. [16] In 1890, there were approximately 77,000 whites and 128,000 Africans (many were servants working on white farms). In 1900, Bloemfontein, the capital, came under British domination.

At the close of the South African Wars, the Free State joined the 1910 Union of South Africa. [17]

Natal Edit

Natal is positioned on the Indian Ocean coast of southern Africa, just northeast of the Cape Colony. Home to the indigenous Nguni and later the Zulu, the region of Natal played a key role in European colonisation. First called the Natalia Republic, the territory was set up in 1839, by Boer Voortrekkers on their "Great Trek", fleeing the Cape English. When the British established the colony four years later– as a strategic land gain – the border was extended to the Tugela and Buffalo Rivers. [18]

In the 1870s, Natal was a British Colony, with a degree of autonomy in its local administration, but under the direct control of the appointed British Governor. It had a more restrictive political system than the neighbouring Cape Colony and its small (mostly British) white population had an uneasy relationship with the powerful independent Zulu Kingdom on their northern border. The Anglo-Zulu War (1879) led to the later annexation of Zululand to Natal in 1897. [19]

At the close of the South African Wars, the colony became part of the 1910 Union, and is now known as Kwazulu-Natal, a province of South Africa.

Basutoland Edit

The land of indigenous Khoi Khoi and Sotho people, Basutoland was positioned between the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Natal. Basutoland was annexed to Britain in 1868 as Moshoeshoe I, King of the Sotho, was threatened by Free State (Boer) encroachers. Three years later it was given to the Cape Colony. [20]

In the 1870s, Basutoland was still relatively peaceful and prosperous, as the weak, indirect authority of the Cape Colony did not threaten the traditional Sotho government and the Cape preferred as little interference in Basutoland as possible. At the end of the 1870s however, an attempt by Britain and the new Sprigg Government of the Cape to enforce a more direct rule and influence the state's internal affairs led to a Sotho rebellion. In the resulting Gun War, the Sotho sharpshooters won a series of victories, and in the final 1884 peace agreement, it was returned to indirect rule, with the British preserving indigenous rule with the intent of exploiting the state's agricultural resources. [21]

At the end of the South African Wars, still under British rule, attempts to incorporate it into the 1910 Union of South Africa failed. As a result of the disagreement, Basutoland became one of three colonies left outside of the Union – together with Bechuanaland and Swaziland. Today, Basutoland is a small independent nation called Lesotho, engulfed by South Africa.

Bechuanaland Edit

Following the Bechuanaland Expedition of 1884–85, Bechuanaland was settled by Britain in 1885, the northern area becoming the Protectorate and the southern area, the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland. This region was constructed between German Southwest Africa and the Transvaal as a strategic attempt to prevent the combining of those two colonies, thereby allowing them access to the Great North Road. [22] Along with the annexation of the Crown Colony in 1895, Cecil Rhodes pushed hard for the northern Protectorate, but was resisted by indigenous Tswana chiefs who successfully convinced the British to halt the annexation attempt. [23]

At the end of the South African Wars, the Bechuanaland Protectorate was one of three states which were not incorporated into the 1910 Union of South Africa. It gained its independence in 1966 as the modern state of Botswana.

The Griqualands Edit

In the 1870s, there were two Griqualands – West and East – both founded by the Griqua people who had moved out of the Cape Colony in the early 19th century due mainly to racial discrimination.

The Griqua, a semi-nomadic nation of mixed Khoi Khoi and Boer origins, moved north to lands just north of the Cape, east of southern Bechuanaland, and west of the Orange Free State, being led by Adam Kok I. This new land was established as Griqualand West by Andries Waterboer. When diamonds were discovered in the area, an influx of Whites overwhelmed the Griqua, leading to annexation by the British in 1871, and forcing 2000 Griqua to trek east from 1871 to 1872. Eventually they established Griqualand East in 1873, only to be annexed the following year by Britain. Griqualand East was positioned between the Cape Colony and Natal on the eastern coast. At this point the whites considered the Griqua as part of the bigger Coloureds group. [24]

Other Political Entities Edit

The first series of wars, the "Confederation Wars" in the late 1870s and early 1880s, were due in large part to the Confederation plan of the British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Carnarvon and the disastrous attempts to enforce it. This scheme was intended to forge the diverse states of southern Africa into one single British controlled federation. This was strongly resisted by the Cape Colony, the Boer republics, and the independent African States. The Anglo-Zulu War and First Anglo-Boer War resulted from these attempts at annexation, while the Gun War and Ngcayechibi's War were caused in part by the imposition of new federation-inspired policies on the Cape and its neighbours. [25]

Exacerbating these conflicts was the effects of the discovery of diamonds around Kimberley and gold in the Transvaal. These led to enormous social upheaval and instability. Crucially, they fuelled the rise to power of the ambitious imperialist Cecil Rhodes. When he succeeded in gaining power as the Cape Prime Minister, he instigated a rapid expansion of British influence into the hinterland. In particular, he sought to engineer the conquest of the Transvaal, and although his ill-fated Jameson Raid failed and brought down his government, it led to the Second Anglo-Boer War and British conquest at the turn of the century. [26]

Ngcayechibi's War (1877–79) Edit

Several factors contributed to the outbreak of Ngcayechibi's War (also known as the "9th Frontier War" or the "Fengu-Gcaleka War"). One was the onset of the worst drought in the region's recorded history, and as the historian de Kiewiet memorably noted: "In South Africa, the heat of drought easily becomes the fever of war." [27] The devastating droughts across the Transkei threatened the relative peace which had prevailed for the previous decade. They started in 1875 in Gcalekaland and spread to other parts of the Transkei and Basutoland, also to the Cape Colony-controlled Ciskei. In 1877 ethnic tensions began to emerge, particularly between the Mfengu, the Thembu and the Gcaleka Xhosa. Another factor was centuries of oppression and disaffection, [ citation needed ] brought to a head by the attempt by the new British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Carnarvon (in office 1866–1867 and 1874–1878), to force the varied states of southern Africa into a British-ruled confederation. This led the British Governor and High Commissioner for Southern Africa, Henry Bartle Frere (in office 1877–1880) to use the outbreak of fighting to overthrow both the Gcaleka Xhosa state (1877–1878) and the Cape Government (February 1878). The outbreak initially involved tensions and violence between Gcaleka Xhosa and Cape Mfengu police. The conflict rapidly escalated when Bartle Frere declared the Xhosa King deposed, and resulted in the annexation of the last independent Xhosa state, and the overthrow of the Cape's elected government by the British Governor. The Confederation attempt failed, but the wars resulting from that attempt continued for decades. [28] [29]

Anglo-Zulu War, (1879) Edit

Foreign settlers first came into conflict with the Zulu in the 1830s as they began expanding into Zulu territory. [30] For the majority of the next 40+ years, there was a tentative peace among the British and the Zulu. The Boer/Zulu relationship continued to be one of great friction from the Battle of Blood River in 1838 to Boer incursions and infiltration of land recognised by the British to belong to the Zulu leading into the 1860s. The British supported the Zulu cause against the Boers and supported the Zulu leader Cetshwayo during his coronation in 1873. Cetshwayo assumed this support would continue when the British took control of the Transvaal in 1877. However, the British proved to care more about placating the Boers than they did concerning themselves with the Zulu priorities. When the Zulu began pressuring them, the British under Sir Theophilus Shepstone, the Natal Secretary for Native Affairs, turned against the Zulu and Shepstone began cabling London that Cetshwayo's regime needed to be removed and Zululand annexed.

In July 1878, High Commissioner Henry Bartle Frere, using Shepstone's assurance, began claiming that Natal was threatened by a possible Zulu invasion and pushed for war despite London's desire for patience and doing everything to prevent war. The lack of a continuous line of communication from London to South Africa enabled Frere and Shepstone to push their agenda faster than London could react. Frere felt that the technological advantage of Lord Chelmsford’s British army would bring a quick end to the conflict. Frere provoked war with an ultimatum to Cetshwayo that he knew would be unacceptable. He demanded the immediate disbanding of the Zulu army and abolishment of the Zulu military system in 30 days to remove Cetshwayo's base of power. Chelmsford crossed the Blood River on 11 January 1879 with 4,700 men and set up camp at Isandlwana. They neglected any defensive formations around their camp due to Chelmsford's feelings that a Zulu assault was unlikely. He took the main part of his force from camp on 22 January to sweep the countryside, and while he was out, the Zulu surrounded the remaining forces at Isandlwana and slaughtered the majority of the British troops who had remained. It was one of the worst defeats in the history of the British Army.

The shock of the British defeat led to a desire of the British to crush the Zulu and dismantle their nation. After five months of fighting, the British used their technological advantage as a vast force multiplier and destroyed Cetshwayo's last remaining forces at the Battle of Ulundi. The British brought in General Sir Garnet Wolseley as a new proconsul to wrap up the "native problems" surrounding the Boer Transvaal. [31]

The First Boer War (1880–1881) Edit

The British success in removing much of the "native problem" from the borders of the Boer Transvaal had unintended adverse consequences. The removal of British focus from its Boer issues allowed the Boers to concentrate on the continued British control of the Transvaal. General Wolseley was openly against any notion of Boer independence and issued statements that gatherings in protest of the British rule could lead to prosecution for treason. The Boers continued to push for their independence, to the point that the Boer leader Paul Kruger, who had initially preached caution against rushing to fight, began accepting that war was inevitable. [32]

In spite of the growing signs of conflict, Wolseley recommended the reduction of British garrisons in the region. Continued British indifference to Boer protests and increasing demands placed on the Boers triggered an all-out rebellion in late 1880. The issue that finally brought the conflict to a head was the seizure of a farm wagon over tax dues. The Boers held that the British seizure was illegal because they had never recognised the annexation of the Transvaal. 5,000 Boers assembled at a farm on 8 December and began deliberating a course of action. On 13 December they proclaimed the Transvaal's independence and intent to establish a republican government, raising the Vierkleur, the old republican flag, and beginning the "war of independence." This war had very little in the way of large-scale conflicts. The first was a Boer defeat of a British column that was unprepared for actual conflict. The Boers demanded that the column halt while the British commander, Colonel Philip Anstruther, insisted on continuing to Pretoria. The Boers proceeded to overrun and force the surrender of the column.

The new High Commissioner, General Sir George Pomeroy Colley, assembled units to avenge the British defeat. Colley was short on field experience and marched against the Boer forces who were laying siege to British garrisons and demanding their surrender. His brash tactics in assaulting the Boers led to the loss of a quarter of his troops in a series of engagements in later January and early February 1881. Colley was determined to redeem himself and led forces, in the Battle of Majuba Hill, to seize the hill in spite of the chance of an armistice to end the war. He attacked with a small force that had no knowledge of the initial planning, no proper reconnaissance, and no heavy weapons support. They seized the hill and set up camp without taking the precaution of setting up defensive positions. When the British announced their position, the Boers were initially cowed, but then began covertly scaling the hill from the north, reaching the Highlander lines and attacking. The Highlanders attempted on separate occasions to warn Colley of the attack, but he ignored the reports. Colley was killed in the final assault, as the British lines fractured from a lack of leadership. [33] This defeat shocked the British in South Africa and in the home islands. While many demanded vengeance, the British quietly conducted a settlement that gave the Boers independence with only nominal lip service paid to the authority of the Crown in an effort to allow the British to withdraw "with minimum embarrassment". [34]

The Gun War (1880–1881) Edit

The Pioneer Column Invasion (1890) Edit

The invasion was predicated by the desire of Cecil Rhodes and Britain to pursue further land north through Bechunanaland into Matabeleland. Despite numerous envoys and letters from Queen Victoria to Lobengula, of the Matabele nation, no progress had been made on the opening the "road."

In December 1889, Cecil Rhodes took matters into his own hands by contracting Frank Johnson and Maurice Haney to recruit 500 mercenaries to overthrow Lobengula. Rhodes wanted to strike the main towns and military posts to cause turmoil in the Matabele (or Ndebele) nation. He also wanted to remove the power of the Amandebele to raid nearby villages and wanted to send their state into general confusion. Rhodes believed this would give the British South Africa Company the opportunity to begin mining the land in safety. This plan would never go into effect after Rhodes’ discussion with Fred Selous, who warned him that this would be a monumental disaster for traders and England itself.

Rhodes' decision, based on Selous’ advice, was to move around Lobengula and make for a different route to Mashonaland from the south around Mount Hampden. Johnson's new mission was to find 120 'miners' to travel with Selous as their guide. The plan was approved at the local level, but once London received the report, the plan was seen as an agitation designed to involve Britain in a war with Lobengula. This led to further negotiations with Lobengula in an attempt to open the "road." Lobengula complained about having to deal with subordinates and told Jameson to have Rhodes brought before him. In a bit of manoeuvring, Jameson told Lobengula that he was going to inform Rhodes of his decision to keep the "road" closed. Lobengula's reply to this was that he had "not refused you the road, but let Rhodes come." Using this and reports that the Boers were making expeditions into Mashonaland, the High Commissioner could not prevent the force from moving into the territory.

Johnson had his "pioneers" at camp, preparing to cross. Rhodes insisted that he take prominent Cape members with him in case they were cut off, his reason being that the Imperial Forces would be more likely to rescue well to-do members of the Cape than miners. While the pioneer column moved out of camp and was preparing to cross, false assurances were being sent to Lobengula about the number of white men in his country. However, Lobengula did not attack and the column, after the 360-mile (580 km) journey, arrived at Mount Hampden on 12 September and named the surrounding area Fort Salisbury. [35]

The First Matabele War (1893–1894) Edit

During the second annual meeting of the South Africa Company, Rhodes stated that the company was on friendly terms with Lobengula, the last king of the Ndebele people, all the while knowing that war was to come. Ultimately, Jameson gave Lobengula's commanders an ultimatum to withdraw from Mashonaland. At the end of his meeting with Lobengula, who refused to move from the border, Jameson sent for Captain Lendy and Boer transport riders to find the Ndebele, and if they refused to leave to move them by force. When confronted, Captain Lendy followed orders and fired upon the Ndebele. After the men returned to Fort Victoria, Jameson sent word to Rhodes and Loch that they must go to war. By October, Jameson had gathered 650 volunteers and 900 Shona auxiliaries. Jameson continued to send word that Lobengula had troops planning to attack. The war was an easy win for Jameson, for as his troops advanced in Matabeleland, they swept over the Ndebele defenders with their machine guns and artillery. Once defeated, Lobengula destroyed his capital and fled to the north. Jameson's advancing troops followed him, reaching Bulawayo on 4 November, but had no luck in finding Lobengula. In a desperate attempt to get away, Lobengula addressed a council of his indunas near the Shangani River, and asked that they give all hidden gold to the white men to have peace. Ultimately, the gold was given to men that the messengers came across, and never did reach Jameson or his troops. Matabeleland was ultimately divided among the volunteers and several of Rhodes' officials.

Malaboch War (1894) Edit

In April 1894, Chief Malaboch (Mmaleboho, Mmaleboxo) of the Bahananwa (Xananwa) people refused to leave his traditional mountain kingdom of Blouberg as ordered by the South African Republic (ZAR) Government as he refused to pay tax. The authorities took action through forced removal, which ultimately resulted in the "Malaboch War", with the chief and his subjects defending their territory. As it became evident that the Bahananwa people were losing the war against the soldiers of Commandant-General Piet Joubert, they began surrendering, and subsequently their chief followed suit, on 31 July 1894, after a siege of more than a month. On the day he was taken prisoner, Chief Malaboch twice attempted suicide by jumping into a fire, but both attempts at suicide failed. He was tried by a council of war on 2 August 1894 and was found guilty on all charges. He was never sentenced but kept prisoner of war until his release by the British authorities in 1900 during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The chief returned to his people and ruled until his death in 1939. [36]

The Second Ndebele Matabele War (1896–1897) Edit

When Jameson's forces had been defeated by the Boers, the Ndebele saw an opportunity to revolt. In March 1896, the whites were attacked first at outlying farms, mining camps, and stores. As people fled, and when word reached Bulawayo, the capital, people began to panic and rush for arms. Since the Ndebele had first attacked on the outskirts the element of surprise had passed, and allowed time for the whites to gather and manoeuvre. As volunteers arrived, Rhodes came from Fort Salisbury and, after naming himself colonel, rode into combat with the troops. In June, it seemed that the Ndebele forces were falling back from Bulawayo to the Mambo Hills, but the whites were surprised once more, for the Shona had joined in the revolt. By the week's end, more than 100 men, women, and children were killed, which was about 10 percent of the white population. Eventually there was a deadlock in the Matopo Hills, and assaults continued until Rhodes sent a captured royal widow, Nyamabezana, to the rebels, stating that if they waved a white flag it would be a sign for peace, for the cost of the war was becoming too much for the British South Africa Company. Ultimately, Rhodes rode with several others to meet the rebels. After meeting with them and compromising to meet their demands Rhodes met with other Ndebele leaders, and the details of the agreement were finished in October.

The Second Boer War (1899–1902) Edit

The exact causes of the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899 have been disputed ever since the events took place. Fault for the war has been placed on both sides, for different reasons. The Boers felt that the British intention was to again annex the Transvaal. Some feel that the British were coerced into war by the mining magnates others that the British government manipulated the magnates into creating conditions that allowed the war to ignite. It appears that the British did not begin with the intention of annexation. They simply wanted to ensure that British strength and the regional economic and political stability of the British Empire remained unchanged. [37] The British worried about popular support for the war and wanted to push the Boers to make the first move toward actual hostilities. This occurred when the Transvaal issued an ultimatum on 9 October for the British to withdraw all troops from their borders and recall their reinforcements, or they would "regard the action as a formal declaration of war." [38]

Over time, the war has come to be viewed as a "White Man’s War." Recent scholarship has exposed this as untrue. Black people were used on both sides, primarily in non-combat roles, as labourers. The British employed armed black men as scouts or dispatch riders, and were going to employ unarmed black scouts, but decided to continue arming them when the Boers began shooting at the scouts and dispatch riders as spies. The Boers also employed black men during the war, who mostly helped with digging defensive emplacements and roads for the transport of weaponry. They served in this capacity primarily during the initial conventional phase of the war. [39]

The Second Boer War consisted of three phases. It began with a Boer offensive to besiege the garrisons at Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley, after a quick mobilisation of their commando units from each district, drawing up to 30–40,000 men. The Boers used a quick-hitting mobile style of war, based on their experiences fighting the British in the first Boer War, along with lessons learned from studying the American Civil War. Early British attempts to relieve these besieged garrisons met with mixed results. The British felt that the war would be ended quickly. They were ill-prepared to face the well-equipped Boers, losing a large number of men in their first attempts to push into places such as Magersfontein, Stormberg, and Colenso. [40]

The second phase began with Britain re-elling from defeats and deploying the largest British force ever sent overseas to South Africa. The British commander, Sir Redvers Buller, and his subordinate Major General Charles Warren, began the British offensive with an attack on the hill of Spion Kop. While the British won this battle, they belatedly realised that the hill was over-watched by Boer gun emplacements and suffered heavy casualties. Buller suffered another defeat at Vaal Krantz and was relieved as commander of British forces over questions of his management of the war. His replacement was Field Marshal Lord Frederick Roberts. Roberts won a series of battles by committing overwhelming numbers of British forces against the Boers. He pushed into and captured the Orange Free State in May 1900 and then pushed into the Transvaal to capture Johannesburg on 31 May. Roberts declared the war over after the capture of the Orange Free State and Johannesburg, announcing the formation of the Transvaal Colony and the Orange River Colony, incorporated in 1902. It was at this point that the Boers, initially demoralised by the overwhelming numbers of British troops, began the third phase of the Second Boer War: the guerilla campaign. [41]

After regrouping into smaller units, the Boer commanders started using guerrilla tactics, destroying railways, bridges, and telegraph wires. Their leaders included Louis Botha in the eastern Transvaal Koos de la Rey and Jan Smuts in western Transvaal and Christian de Wet in the Orange Free State. The British were not prepared for this type of tactic, having an insufficient number of mounted troops and no intelligence personnel. They moved against the civilian population that supported the Boers, burning their houses and barns. Nonetheless, support for the Boers remained strong. To deal with families wandering across the countryside without shelter, the British decided to set up what they considered to be refugee camps, in September 1900. In December 1900 Herbert Kitchener of Khartoum took over command of the British army, continuing the scorched-earth policy. He believed that women served as a source of intelligence for the Boers, so he put them in concentration camps. Additionally, he set up blockhouses and barbed wire fences to restrict the Boers to a certain area. In January 1901, Kitchener raided the countryside, putting Africans and Boer civilians into concentration camps. When he learned that Louis Botha was interested in peace, he jumped at the opportunity, using Botha's wife and an intermediary. Nothing came of the talks, for Sir Alfred Milner insisted that nothing but full surrender would be acceptable to the British. The Boers wanted independence, and in June 1901, Boer leaders came together and stated that no proposal would be considered unless it included their independence. Conditions in the concentration camps worsened, and the problem was not brought to public attention until an Englishwoman Emily Hobhouse did her own investigation and sailed back to England with the intention of exposing Kitchener for what he was permitting. The war minister, Brodick, dismissed the complaints of Hobhouse and her supporters in parliament, stating that it was Boer guerilla tactics that had led to the methods currently in use. The military situation for the troops of De Wet, Botha, and De la Rey had worsened, for Kitchener's blockhouses and fences were posing a serious problem. Additionally, three-quarters of the Boer's cattle had been killed and taken away and they were struggling just to survive. Though De la Rey (in March 1902) captured General Lord Paul Methuen and 600 troops, he had to let them go because he had no place to keep them. At this time there were many that decided that it would be best to simply accept British rule, some of them serving as guides. These "joiners," as they were called, disagreed with those Boers who continued fighting at great risk, though they knew there would never be a military success.

By this time Kitchener had built an army of 250,000 troops, built 8000 blockhouses, and had 3,700 miles (6,000 km) of commandos(. ). He also changed his tactics towards women and children. Rather than packing them off to concentration camps, he told his troops to leave them where they found them, so that the burden of taking care of them fell on the Boers. This further pushed the Boers towards negotiations. [42]

Negotiations for ending the war began in April 1902. Proposals were sent back and forth and rejected by both sides as being unreasonable. At times it looked as if the negotiations would fail and the war would continue. The Boers were granted some concessions on the treatment of Cape Afrikaner rebels and the rights of the black Africans. Perhaps the most surprising thing to come out of the negotiations was that the Transvaal and Orange Free State would have to recognise King Edward VII as sovereign over their land. Many of the people of the Orange Free State and Transvaal considered this a betrayal of one of their key tenets for fighting in the first place. [43]

The Bambatha Rebellion (1906–1907) Edit

The Rebellion was in reaction to a Poll Tax of £1 on all Native male members over 18 years of age by the Natal House of Assembly. After the magistrate and a small party were threatened by gunshots from Bambata and his followers, the party made their retreat to a small hotel. Joined by the people at the hotel, the magistrate's party proceeded hastily to the police station at Keates Drift.

As news spread to Greytown, a Natal police force was dispatched to deal with the fugitives, but saw no sign of the enemy after reaching the Drift. At sunset, the march was continued until they were ambushed at a spot in the Impanza Valley by Bambata's men. After fighting off the enemy and returning to camps with the dead and wounded, more troops were mobilised for an attack on Bambata's location. However, the morning before, he had escaped to Zululand by crossing the Tugela River. The Kranskop reserves trailed Bambata along the same route until they made a wrong turn. They made camp under the Pukunyoni until 28 May 1906, when scouts were shot at by a Zulu impi marching toward the camp. After returning with the news of the approaching Zulu, the camp prepared itself for attack. The Zulu made an initial rush but were turned away. Using a herd of cattle as cover, the Zulu drove the herd through the North-East corner of the camp, with many Zulu being shot only 5 yards (4.6 m) from the defence line. The rest were then driven back or withdrew. The Zulu continued to fire on the camp from a "very bushy" hillside about 300 yards (270 m) away. Several troops were killed and wounded.

The end of the rebellion came when Col. Barker was brought from Johannesburg with 500 soldiers. Along with local troops, they trapped and killed Bambata and the other Zulu chiefs, ending the uprising. [44]

The Maritz Rebellion (1914) Edit

The Maritz Rebellion (also known as the Boer Revolt) broke out in South Africa in 1914 at the start of World War I. Men who supported the reinstitution of the old Boer republics rose up against the government of the Union of South Africa. Many members of the government were former Boers who had fought with the Maritz rebels against the British in the Second Anglo-Boer War twelve years earlier. The rebellion was a failure, and the ringleaders were assessed large fines and, in many cases, imprisoned. [45]

Compared to the fate of leading Irish rebels in the 1916 Easter Rising, the leading Boer rebels got off lightly with terms of imprisonment of six and seven years and heavy fines. Two years later, they were released from prison, as Louis Botha recognised the value of reconciliation. After this, the "bitter enders" concentrated on working within the constitutional system and built up the National Party which would come to dominate the politics of South Africa from the late 1940s until the early 1990s, when the apartheid system they had constructed also fell.

Walvis Bay (1914–1915) Edit

Prior to an attack into South West Africa, the Boers had initially raised their objections to any assault on German forces since the Germans had supported them in the Second Boer War. [46] Martial Law was declared on 14 October 1914, the Boer rebellion was quickly suppressed, and at the outset of World War I, South West Africa (modern Namibia) was under German control after having been passed back and forth during boundary negotiations over the previous years [47] After the Maritz Rebellion was suppressed, the South African army continued their operations into German South-West Africa and conquered it by July 1915 (see the South-West Africa Campaign for details). Troops took much of the territory, including Walvis Bay in the north, in 1915. In early 1915 the South African troops began moving into German South-West Africa. South African forces quickly moved through the country, but the Germans fought until cornered in the extreme north-west before surrendering on 9 July 1915.


Guns played an important part in the Zulu War, but, as in many colonial wars, their use was one-sided. The Zulus had no artillery, and they made no use of the two guns they captured at Isandlwana.
All the main British columns had their guns, and they played a prominent part in the battles and sieges of the war. Some of the guns were obsolete by British Army standards. Nevertheless, the artillery used in the Zulu War tells an interesting story of the changes then under way from breech to muzzle loading, in the use of rockets, and of rapid fire weapons as illustrated by the Gatling.
The intention of this article is to outline the use of artillery only, and not to describe any of the battles in detail. A description of the equipment will explain some of the developments taking place in the second half of the 19th Century. The subject will be dealt with in three parts:


In 1879, the Royal Artillery was divided into horse, field and garrison batteries. Batteries were organised in brigades, and it was possible to identify the type of battery by its letter or number designation, or both.
For example, horse artillery had lettered batteries and brigades. Field artillery batteries were lettered whereas their brigades were numbered. Garrison batteries and brigades were both numbered.
N/5 Battery (or N Battery 5th Brigade) was therefore a field battery. 11/7 Battery (or 11th Battery 7th Brigade) was a garrison battery.
The summary which follows outlines the deployment of batteries in the main campaigns of the war. It will be seen that not only the Royal Artillery manned guns in Zululand but the Naval Brigades were also prominent in this respect.
Apart from the guns, all batteries carried rockets - one 9 pr trough per section of two guns. The Naval rockets were 24 pr tubes. Finally, there were the Gatlings - once again, Army and Naval versions.
The equipments will be mentioned below, and described in more detail in Part 3. Full designations of guns will only be given in Part 3, and in the sections 'At the outbreak of war' and 'Reinforcements after Isandlwana' which follow. At other times, for brevity, guns will simply be described as '7 pr', '9 pr' etc.

The artillery available consisted of:
N/5 Battery - Six 7 pr 200 lb Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) guns on Colonial or Kaffraria carriages.
Two rocket troughs.

This field battery arrived in the Cape Colony in 1878, and took part in the closing stages of the war against Sandili. The battery then marched to Pietermaritzburg with a column under Col E. Wood VC. Field batteries were normally equipped with 9 prs at this time, but this battery had 7 prs. These were thought to be more mobile and better suited to South African conditions. N/5 only appears to have had two rocket troughs. Rockets are not always mentioned in contemporary accounts when the armament of batteries is detailed, so they will only be mentioned below where accounts of the war have specifically mentioned their presence.
11/7 Battery - Six 7 pr 200 lb RMLs, mule drawn.
Three rocket troughs.
Garrison batteries manned coast defence, heavy and siege guns, and, at the other extreme, mountain guns. Some batteries were deployed in such stations as Gibraltar, Hong Kong and the Cape in a coast defence role. 11/7 Battery had a field role and was stationed in Natal. The 7 prs were probably on mountain carriages but there is no specific evidence on this point.

Naval Brigade (HMS Active ) - Two 12 pr Armstrongs, Sea Service (SS)
Two 24 pr rocket tubes.
One Gatling.
HMS Active had supplied a landing party for operations in the Cape Colony in 1877 and 1878, and so was experienced in active service conditions in South Africa. It included a Royal Marine detachment among its numbers. At this time, Naval Brigades were equipped with 9 prs and 12 prs, and some, if not all these guns were experimental guns used in the trials of 1863-65. These trials led to the adoption of Rifled Muzzle Loaders (RMLs) in place of Rifled Breech Loaders (RBLs). Technically, the guns used by the Naval Brigades in South Africa are very interesting - more about them later.

Miscellaneous - Two 7 pr 200 lb RMLs
Two 6 pr 3 cwt Armstrong RBLs
One 4 pr Krupp RBL
Three rocket troughs
Other artillery pieces were available in South Africa. Some had been used, and were being used, in military operations in the Cape. Some guns were retained in Durban and other towns in Natal. The annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 had made artillery equipment belonging to the republic available for use by British forces - notably the 4 pr Krupps of Battery Dingaan. Gun detachments were often found by infantry or other volunteers. The only guns which need be mentioned here are those which were made available to Lord Chelmsford at the beginning of the war, and which are listed above.

First phase
This artillery had to be spread between the five columns which were formed for the invasion of Zululand. The organisation was as follows:

No 1 Column (Col C.K. Pearson)
Section 11/7 (Lt W.N. Lloyd)
Two 7 prs
One rocket trough
Naval Brigade (Cdr H.J.F. Campbell)
Two 7 prs
Two 24 pr rocket tubes
One Gatling
The Naval Brigade's 12 prs had been exchanged at Fort Pearson for 7 prs.

No 2 Column (Lt Col A.W. Durnford)
Rocket Battery (Maj F.B. Russell)
Three rocket troughs

Maj Russell of 11/7 Battery was detailed to organise a Rockety Battery. Personnel consisted of Maj Russell and one Bombardier of 11/7, and eight men of 24th Regiment.

No 3 Column (Col R.T. Glyn)
N/5 Battery (Lt Col A. Harness)
Six 7 prs
Two rocket troughs
The rocket troughs accompanied N/5 during the campaign, but they were seldom mentioned in contemporary accounts.

No 4 Column (Col E. Wood, VC)
11/7 Battery (less one section)
(Maj E.G. Tremlett)
Four 7 prs
Rocket Section (Lt A.J. Bigge)
Two rocket troughs
Section (Lt F. Nicolson)
Two 7 prs
11/7 Battery was represented in all columns except No 5.

No 5 Column (Col H. Rowlands, VC)
Detachment 80th Regiment
One 4 pr Krupp
Two 6 pr Armstrongs
In 1878, three Gunner subalterns were specially selected for service in South Africa, in order to train and command some of the gun detachments provided by infantry or Cape volunteers. They were Lts Bigge and Nicolson (already mentioned), Lt F.G. Slade. Originally with No 5 Column, Lt Slade was then transferred to No 4 Column. His two 6 pr Armstrongs were handed over to men of 80th Regiment.

Reinforcements after Isandlwana
The disaster at Isandlwana produced a rapid reaction in England, and reinforcements were soon on their way to South Africa.
From home
M6 Battery - Six 7 pr 200 lb RMLs
N/6 Battery - Six 9 pr 8 cwt RMLs
O/6 Battery - Ammunition Column
Note that N/6 Battery had 9 prs, which most field batteries had at the time. O/6 Battery did not bring its guns, and was employed as an Ammunition Column. In this role, it was concerned with ammunition supply for all arms, not just for the artillery.
From Mauritius
Half 10/7 Battery - Three 7 pr 200 lb RMLs

On arrival, this half battery was re-equipped with four Gatlings, and organized as the British Army's first mounted Gatling battery. Its commander, Maj J.F. Owen, has recently been a member of the Commission which investigated an accident aboard HMS Thunderer, where a 12 in 38,5 ton RML gun burst, killing two officers and eight men, and wounding ten others. The accident was one of the reasons for the eventual discarding of the RML system, and a final return to breech loading in the British service.

From St Helena
Section 8/7 Battery - Two 7 pr 200 lb RMLs

On hearing of Isandlwana, Captain R. Bradshaw, RN, of HMS Shah , on his own initiative, loaded part of 8/7 and one company of Connaught Rangers, for Durban. At the time, HMS Shah was under orders to return to England. Captain Bradshaw's decisive action received the approval of Parliament and the Admiralty. From HM Ships Shah, Tenedos and Boadicea
Two 9 pr 6 cwt RML (SS) Experimental guns
Four 24 pr rocket tubes
Two Gatlings
This was Naval issue equipment. A third 9 pr and two more Gatlings were added later. The 9 prs will be discussed at length in Part 3 where the 'Experimental' qualification will be explained. While it is known that this Naval force was equipped wkh 9 prs, it must be admitted that the specific type of 9 pr quoted above is an assumption. Gatlings were on smaller carriages than those of Maj Owen's Gatling Battery.

Relief of Eshowe
Two brigades were formed for the column which was to relieve Eshowe. The artillery for this force came entirely from the Naval Brigades which had been landed from HM Ships Shah, Tenedos and Boadicea . It was allocated as follows:
1st Brigade - Two 9 prs
Two 24 pr rocket tubes
One Gatling
2nd Brigade - Two 24 pr rocket tubes
One Gatling

Second phase
An impressive amount of artillery was now available to Lord Chelmsford. With the reorganization of the forces under his command, the artillery deployment was:
Commander Royal Artillery - Col W.E.M. Reilly,
then Lt Col J.T.B. Brown
1st Division - Maj Gen H.N. Crealock
RA - commanded by Lt Col F.T.A. Law
M/6 Battery (Maj W.H. Sandham)
Six 7 prs
Half O/6 Battery (Maj A.W. Duncan)
Ammunition Column
Section 8/7 Battery (Maj H.L. Ellaby)
Two 7 prs
Section 11/7 Battery (Lt W.N. Lloyd)
Two 7 prs
Naval Brigade (Cdr J.W. Brackenbury)
Three 9 prs
Four Gatlings
Four 24 pr rocket tubes
O/6 Battery was divided between 1st and 2nd Divisions, to provide ammunition columns for both. Note the increased armament of the Naval Brigade.
2nd Division - Maj Gen E. Newdigate
RA - commanded by Lt Col J.T.B. Brown, then Lt Col A. Harness
N/5 Battery (Lt Col A. Harness)
Six 7 prs
N/6 Battery (Maj F.S. le Grice)
Six 9 prs
Half O/6 Battery (Capt R. Alexander)
Ammunition Column

N/5 Battery received a reinforcement of two guns under Capt Vibart in May 1879, to replace the two lost at Isandlwana.
Flying Column - Brig Gen E. Wood, VC
11/7 Battery (less one section) (Maj E.G. Tremlett)
Four 7 prs
Gatling Battery (half 10/7 Battery) (Maj J.F. Owen)
Four Gatlings
After the Battle of Gingindlovu, the Relief of Eshowe, and the Battle of Ulundi, the artillery detailed above was used as required with the various columns in the different skirmishes and engagements which followed until the end of the war.


There were several engagements in the war. The major battles are listed below, with some notes on the artillery participation in each. An interesting point is that 11/7 Battery was represented in all the battles except Gingindlovu - a remarkable achievement.

Inyezane - 22nd January, 1879
Section 11/7 Battery
Two 7 prs
One rocket trough
Naval Brigade (HMS Active )
Two 7 prs
Two 24 pr rocket tubes
One Gatling
Before leaving Fort Pearson on the Tugela River, the 12 prs of the Naval Brigade were exchanged for 7 prs. On the march, the column was split into two divisions. The two Naval 7 prs brought up the rear of the second division and took no part in the battle.
The two 7 prs of 11/7 Battery and the two Naval Brigade rocket tubes were placed together on a knoll at the foot of the pass and performed well. In his report on the action, Commander Campbell praised Boatswain Cotter's handling of the rocket tubes. Mention is made of one well-directed rocket which exploded in a kraal, instantly expelling the enemy. Eleven rockets were fired in the battle.
Midshipman L.C. Coker, 19 years old, was also praised for the handling of his Gatling, which was further back in the column. He had his problems, and in his report said: 'Through the clumsiness of my driver, my distle-boom carried away. I repaired it as quickly as possible. Owing to the distle-boom I was very much delayed.' Colonel Pearson ordered Coker to bring his Gatling into action opposite a hill where the enemy had taken up position. Three hundred well-aimed rounds drove them into the bush.

Eshowe - 23rd January to 3rd April, 1879
Artillery as for Inyezane.
The Zulus made only one attack on Eshowe during the siege, and that was half-hearted. The garrison made one sortie, in which one of the guns took part.
The guns were well placed in emplacements in the walls of the fort. Ammunition was in good supply (150 rounds per gun), except for case shot. This problem was solved when it was noticed that Morton's jam tins exactly fitted the bore of a 7 pr. The men were ordered to give their empty jam tins to the Gunners, who were then able to make more case shot for their guns.

Isandlwana - 22nd January, 1879
Section N/5 Battery
Two 7 prs
Rocket Battery
Three rocket troughs
N/5 Battery (less one section) accompanied Lord Chelmsford on his abortive reconnaissance in force, and took no part in the battle. The Rocket Battery, with its equipment carried on mules, then accompanied Col Durnford's force when it also moved out of camp but the battery was unable to keep up with the remainder. When firing was heard to their left, the Rocket Battery and its escort turned in that direction, but they were almost immediately engulfed by the Zulus. There was only time to get off one rocket before the enemy was upon them.
Maj Stuart Smith, the Captain (or second in command) of N/5 Battery, returned from Lord Chelmsford's force before the Zulus attacked, and took command of the artillery left behind. This only amounted to one section of two guns-and fifty men left in camp.
The Zulus advanced very rapidly when they attacked. The guns opened fire, but it was soon necessary to change to case shot, which is not normally used at ranges greater than 300 m. The two guns were quite incapable of stopping the Zulu masses. After a round or two, the order was given to retire. Maj Stuart Smith was wounded, and there were other casualties as well. There was no time for the men to take their seats on the guns and limbers when the guns moved off, and they had to run alongside the guns.
The intention was to take up another position at the camp, but the Zulus were there first. The guns went straight through the camp, losing more men on the way. Eventually, they became stuck in a ravine, and the drivers, who now alone remained, were pulled off their horses and killed. There was no time to spike* the guns.
<*To spike a gun, a spike (like a nail) was hammered into the vent, thus preventing the firing of the gun.>
N/5 Battery had lost Maj Stuart Smith, 61 NCOs and men, two guns, 24 horses, 30 mules and 534 rounds of ammunition. The Rocket Battery lost Maj Russell, six men and all its equipment.

Hlobane - 28th March, 1879
Rocket Section (from No 4 Column)
Two rocket troughs
This was 11/7 Battery's Rocket Section. One report mentions that Lt Bigge had a rocket tube with him, whereas others state that he had troughs under his command. This is more likely to have been the case. Whichever it was, there is no report of their actually having been used at Hlobane. The Battery Commander, Maj Tremlett, was there - and, in the action, he rescued an officer of the Frontier Light Horse.

Kambula - 29th March, 1879
11/7 Battery (less one section)
Four 7 prs
Rocket Section
Two rocket troughs
Section 7 prs
Two 7 prs
Lt Nicolson's 7 pr section was in the redoubt, while the four guns of 11/7 were in action outside. Nicolson was mortally wounded early in the action.
With a muzzle loading gun, it was necessary for one of the men to 'serve the breech' by placing his thumb on the vent during the sponging out after each round was fired. This prevented a draught which could cause the smouldering fragments of the previous cartridge to burst into flame. The Zulu attack at Kambula was so fierce and the guns, as they poured forth shrapnel and case, became so hot that water had to be poured over them to allow the breeches to be served.
After his capture, Cetewayo said that it was only with the greatest difficulty that his men could be forced to face the guns. One round of case killed ten headmen of his own regiment, in addition to wounding others.

Gingindlovu - 2nd April, 1879
Naval Brigade (HM Ships Shah, Tenedos and Boadicea )
Two 9 prs
Four 24 pr rocket tubes
Two Gatlings
The 9 prs, rockets and Gatlings were posted at the corners of the British camp. Fire was opened by one of the Gatlings at lOOOm and, as the Zulus approached, they were engaged by all the artillery weapons. They played their part in winning the battle.

Ulundi - 4th July, 1879
N/5 Battery
Two 7 prs
N/6 Battery
Six 9 prs
Half O/6 Battery
Ammunition Column
11/7 Battery (less one section)
Four 7 prs
This was the artillery of the 2nd Division and the Flying Column, less four guns of N/5 Battery, and two of the Gatlings. One section of two 7 prs was at Fort Marshall, and the other section was at Fort Evelyn. The Gatlings were left at Fort Newdigate.
For the battle, the guns were placed on all sides of the British square, in order to meet the Zulu attack, from whatever direction it might come. They were in action just outside the infantry line, or in gaps left for them. When the Zulus attacked, the cavalry moved clear, and fire was opened at a range of over 2000m.
Although the action was short, and ammunition expenditure was low, some guns used all their case and had to fall back on reversed shrapnel, which had a similar effect. Later, Zulu dead were counted in groups at less than 30m from N/6 Battery's guns.
The Gatlings achieved considerable success, although they jammed several times. The London Standard reported: 'When all was over and we counted the dead, there lay, within a radius of five hundred yards, 473 Zulus. They lay in groups, in some places, of fourteen to thirty dead, mowed down by the fire of the Gatlings, which tells upon them more than the fire of rifles.'
The battle was over in half an hour. The mounted troops were sent out in pursuit and, when there were signs of a rally, a section of N/6 soon dispersed the gathering.

The guns, rockets and Gatlings used in the Zulu War were as follows:
Guns 6 pr 3 cwt RBL
9 pr 6 cwt RML (SS)
12 pr Armstrong (SS)
7 pr 200 lb RML
9 pr 8 cwt RML
4 pr Krupp RBL
Rockets Trough - 9 pr and 24 pr
Tube - 24 pr
Gatlings ,45 in 10-barrelled
,65 in 10-barrelled (SS)

The guns are described in the order of their appearance in the British service. In describing these guns, artillery development of the period will be outlined.
Rockets and Gatlings are also included as, in the Zulu War, they came under artillery control.

6 pr 3 cwt RBL
In 1859, Mr William Armstrong introduced his rifled breech loaders. The 6 pr 3 cwt RBL was originally intended for mountain service, but it was found to be too heavy. 7 prs were accordingly introduced for this purpose, and the 6 pr was restricted to normal colonial service, as opposed to mountain.
In the Armstrong system, guns were loaded through a hollow breech screw. The breech was closed by means of a vent piece, which was dropped into a slot or opening in the top of the breech. The vent piece was then pressed home against the chamber by means of a breech screw.
The shell was lead coated. On being fired, this soft coating was compressed into the 38 rifling grooves of the bore, and these gave it the required spin.
The Durban Volunteer Artillery (later Natal Field Artillery) took two of these guns to Cetewayo's coronation in 1873.6 pr RBLs were used in the campaigns of 1877 and 1878. Although two were with Col Rowlands' column at the beginning of the Zulu War, they do not appear to have been used in the war.

The breech closing arrangement was the weak point of the Armstrong RBL design, particularly with the larger calibres, where the vent piece was unreliable, heavy and unmanageable. Not many years after the introduction of the RBL system, the authorities were looking for an alternative.

9 pr 6 cwt RML (SS) (Experimental)
Trials were held from 1863 to 1865, between Armstrong and Whitworth guns, to find something more suitable than the Armstrong RBL system. For these trials, Armstrong produced a steel RML gun, rifled with three grooves in the shunt system. The gun illustrated, made in 1864, is such a gun.

The shell had projecting lugs which slotted into three grooves in the bore. In the shunt system, each groove was stepped, with a deeper and a shallower part in the groove. On loading, the lugs of the shell ran easily down the deeper parts of the grooves. At the chamber, the shell was 'shunted' across to a stepped up part of the grooves which produced a tighter fit. The idea was that this would mean greater accuracy on firing, but it was not a success and was soon discarded.

The guns produced by Armstrong for these trials were 'built up' in construction. In this system, wrought iron coils were shrunk on to an inner tube. The same system was used for Armstrong's earlier RBL guns.

This 9 pr can be seen today in Ladysmith. Its carriage is makeshift, but parts of the original carriage can be identified. It is said to have been used in the Zulu War but, if so, it was definitely not used by N/6 Battery, the only Royal Artillery unit with 9 prs. They had standard 9 pr 8 cwt RMLs, which will be described later.

9 pr 6 cwt RML (SS) (Experimental).
Part of the original wooded carriage can be seen. The unusual wheels and trail were added later.

The only other 9 prs were those with the Naval Brigade which accompanied the Eshowe relief column, and which was present at the Battle of Gingindlovu. A drawing of this column shows the Naval Brigade with a 9 pr which does not appear to be of the standard Army pattern.

The possibility is that the Navy were given some of these 'experimental' guns for their landing parties. It is understandable that they were not given to the Royal Artillery, who would have received standard equipment, and not experimental models, especially those which were of a rejected design. Nevertheless, being still serviceable, it is reasonable to assume that the authorities would have wanted some use to be made of these guns. Similarly, the Naval Brigade's 12 prs, to be described next, were also of an old pattern. So guns like this 9 pr could have been used at Gingindlovu. It is even possible that the Ladysmith gun was one of those guns. But after Gingindlovu the Naval Brigade received a third 9 pr - is this that third gun? Anyway, this 9 pr 6 cwt RML is an interesting example of one of the systems produced as an alternative to RBL guns at a time of change in Britain's artillery.

12 pr Armstrong (SS)
HMS Active's Naval Brigade landed with two 12 pr Armstrongs. They were exchanged for 7 prs at Fort Pearson before the invasion of Zululand, and took no active part in the campaign. Records do not show what type of guns these were - RML or RBL? The photographs that do exist are not clear. The best is a drawing copied from a photograph, and this may not be accurate. It shows a gun on a low carriage, similar to that of a Naval Gatling. In construction, the gun is of the Armstrong type, similar to that of the 9 pr just described. The gun has no vent piece, and looks like a rifled muzzle loader. However, another drawing shows a rifled breech loader with the forces at Eshowe, whilst a despatch published in the London Gazette of 7 Dec 1879 refers to the guns as breech loading.

12 pr Armstrong (SS).
This drawing was copied from a photograph taken on the day the Ultimatum was delivered. No vent piece can be seen so, if the drawing is correct, the gun is a muzzle loader. Note the small carriage. In the background are men of HMS Active's Naval Brigade.

Details of the armament of HMS Active merely mention '2 boat and field guns' without giving any other details. All that can be said is that there were two 12 pr Armstrongs with HMS Active's Naval Brigade when it landed, but no details of type and performance can be given with certainty.

7 pr 200 lb RML
Mountain guns were widely used in India, where 7 prs first saw service in 1865. The 7 pr replaced the 6 pr cwt RBL which, largely because of its weight, was not acceptable as a mountain gun.
The gun used in South Africa was the Mk IV steel gun of 200 lb, which was introduced into service in 1873. It was an RML, with three rifling grooves, but these were plain (the French system), and not stepped as in the shunt system.
The 7 pr's mountain carriage was low with a narrow track. This had the disadvantage that it turned over easily on rough ground if towed, but, on the other hand, an advantage was that it was possible to negotiate narrow bush paths which would have been quite impassable for vehicles with a normal track. When towed, the guns were drawn by three mules, tandem fashion. The guns could also be stripped down and carried on mules.
Colonial, or Kaffraria carriages were also introduced for use in South Africa. These were a lightened version of the 9 pr 8 cwt RML carriage - that is, the Army's standard 9 pr, not the Navy's experimental model. These carriages were suitable for horse-drawn movement. However, it was felt that, as there was little difference in weight compared with the 9 prs, the 9 pr might just as well have been used as its fire was more effective.
7 prs saw service on both carriages in the Zulu War but they found little favour. Shrapnel had little effect, because of the low muzzle velocity. The small bursting charge of common shell made its destructive power insignificant. Double shell could only be carried in small quantities, and its range was short.

7 pr 200 lb RML on colonial carriage - a lightened version of the 9 pr 8cwt RML carriage.

9 pr 8 cwt RML
Mention has already been made of the trials which followed the failure of the RBL system, and of the experimental guns produced for these trials. In 1871, the 9 pr 8 cwt RML was introduced as the new field gun of the British Army.
The main characteristics of Armstrong construction had been maintained. The gun was made of wrought iron it was 'built up' but, in appearance, not at all like the Armstrong RBLs and experimental RMLs. It fired an elongated shell, but it was muzzle loading and it was rifled with three grooves.
In trials, these RMLs had produced a quicker rate of fire than the RBLs, and the breech problem was eliminated. A 9 pr 6 cwt RML was produced for horse artillery, similar to this new 9 pr 8 cwt RML. This was later adopted for field use as well, and remained the standard British field gun until 1878, but many field batteries still had the 8 cwt model in 1879.

9 pr 8 cwt RML - the standard Royal Artillery field gun in the 1870s.

Nothing has yet been said in this article about the horses - of vital importance to all, and, in particular, to Gunners. Some comments about N/6's English horses may be of interest.
They landed in March 1879 in Durban. From then until the end of hostilities, only eight were lost, of which two were killed in action. When the battery was ordered to embark for India, it marched the 512 km (320 miles) from Heidelberg to Durban in fourteen days, and was particularly complimented on the good condition of its horses on arrival in Durban. N/5's colonial horses were said to be useful and handy for the light 7 pr equipment, and 'could be driven to water in a mob'. At the end of the war, N/6's guns and horses were left behind when the battery embarked for India. They were taken over by N/5 who later used them in the First Boer War.

4 pr Krupp RBL
In 1874, President Burgers bought four Krupp 4 pr guns for the Transvaal Republic. They were the first modern guns which the Republic had possessed, and the artillery unit formed under Captain Otto Riedl was its first permanent artillery formation, and was known as Battery Dingaan.
Britain acquired these guns when the Transvaal was annexed in 1877. One or more were used in the Sekukuni and other campaigns of 1878, Colonel Rowlands had one with his column at the beginning of the Zulu War, but it does not appear to have been used. No details of the gun are available but, from the photograph it can be seen that this gun has the standard Krupp wedge or sliding block breech. At this time, there was a 5 cm Krupp mountain gun which fired a 1,85 kg (4 lb) shell. It may be this gun. The four guns were used by the British garrison in the Defence of Pretoria in the First Boer War.

4 pr Krupp RBL. This photograph was taken during the Siege of Pretoria in 1881.
(With acknowledgement to the Africana Museum, Johannesburg.)

By the time of the Zulu War, rockets had been in service with the British Army for many years. In 1879, there were two types in use in the British service - 9 pr and 24 pr rockets of Hale's pattern. These were an improvement on the earlier Congreve's type, which were stabilized in flight by a long stick. Hale's rockets were spin-stabilized by rotation effected by three metal vanes in the exhaust nozzle.
Rockets were fired from tubes and troughs. Troughs were used by both the Army and the Navy, and they fired both 9 pr and 24 pr rockets. Troughs were merely open 'drain pipes' on simple stands. Rockets were fired by means of a friction tube in one of the exhaust nozzles or a slow fuze. In South Africa, Army troughs will have been 9 pr.
Tubes were more common with the Navy. They were less dangerous to use aboard ship, where care had to be taken to prevent uncontrolled sparks and flames from setting light to rigging and inflammable stores in confined spaces. Naval tubes fired 24 pr rockets.
The rocket's effective range was not more than about 1200m. The zone in which a rocket might land was large, and accuracy was poor. Rockets were unsafe on firing, and very susceptible to wind. The steadying effect of rapid rotation only appeared some time after firing, by which time the damage was done, as far as accuracy was concerned.

Manuals stated that rockets could be used for bombarding towns, and firing shipping, buildings etc. They could also be used against troops and cavalry, as they frightened the horses. In the same way, they were thought to be useful against 'savages', and other unsophisticated opponents - but Zulus treated them with contempt.

Headlam, in his 'History of the Royal Artillery' mentions the Navy's enormous 24 pr rockets, fired from tubes which, he said, caused as much anxiety to friend as foe. Rockets were known to turn round in flight, and head back towards the men who had fired them. While possessing great potential, rockets were very unreliable. Before leaving them, though, it is well to remember Boatswain Cotter's well-aimed rocket at Inyezane, and that rockets were used with much success by Germans and Russians in World War II, and that a rocket blasted man to the moon.

9 pr rocket trough and rocket, with a 24 pr rocket below.
This incomplete trough is in the Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg. The missing arm A is shown on the sketch below. Elevation was altered by moving the upright B along the arm A.

Sketch showing the missing arm of the 9 pr rocket trough.

The Gatling was an invention of an American, Richard Joseph Gatling. His guns were used in the American Civil War, improved afterwards, and sold around the world. If Custer had taken his four Gatlings with him in 1876 the outcome of his battle with Sitting Bull's warriors at the Little Big Horn would have been very different.

Gatlings were considered to be artillery weapons by many, and they therefore came under artillery control in the Zulu War. In this respect, Britain followed the French lead. The French had deployed their mitrailleuses as artillery pieces in the Franco-Prussian War, but with poor results.
In Britain trials had been conducted between Gatlings, 9 pr RML and 12 pr RBL guns, the Montigny mitrailleuse, and infantry sections firing Snider and Martini Henry rifles.

The inclusion of artillery pieces in these trials illustrates the thinking of the time. The Gatling came out of this remarkably well, and in reports dated 1870 and 1871, the War Office recommended that ,65 in (16,5 mm) Gatlings be adopted for the Navy and for coast defence, and the ,45 in (11,4 mm) Gatling for the Army.

The first Gatlings were delivered by Sir W.G. Armstrong and Co. in January 1874, and by the end of 1875, forty guns had been produced. The Navy took twelve of the ,45 in guns originally destined for the Army, in addition to their ,65 in guns which followed soon afterwards.

Army Gatlings were on carriages similar to those of field guns, and were manned by a Royal Artillery battery under Major J.F. Owen, in the Zulu War. Naval Gatlings were on smaller carriages, but accounts of the war do not mention the calibre of these guns.

Gatlings for British service were destined to take the Boxer cartridge of 1866. These were not suitable, and early trials invariably led to the guns jamming as the empty case stuck in the chamber, and the extractor tore through the rim. Changes were made, but ammunition problems remained.

The nature of the war in Zululand meant that Gatlings were used against massed Zulu charges at close ranges, and they were very effective. Their part in the Battle of Ulundi illustrates this fact.

The rockets and guns at Isandlwana were overwhelmed and had little or no effect on the battle. But at Inyezane, Kambula, Gingindlovu and Ulundi, artillery played an important part in the British victories, and consequently, the defeat of the Zulu nation.


Gun Weight of gun Type Calibre Weight of shell Ammunition MV (ft/sec) Range
6 pr 3 cwt
(152 kg)
RBL 2,5 in
(6,35 cm)
5 lb 7 oz
(2,5 kg)

(322 m) 3000 yds
(2769 m) 12 pr 8 cwt
(406 kg) RBL 3 in
(7,62 cm) 10 lb 11 oz
(4,8 kg)

(381 m) 3400 yds
(3138 m) 9 pr 6 cwt
(304 kg) RML 3 in
(7,62cm) 9 lb 13 oz
(4,5 kg)

3000 yds (?)
(2769 m) 7 pr 200 lb
(91 kg) RML 3 in
(7,62 cm) 7 lb 11 oz
(3,5 kg)

(281 m) 3100 yds
(2862 m) 9 pr 8 cwt
(406 kg) RML 3 in
(7,62 cm) 9 lb 13 oz
(4,5 kg)

(409 m) 3500 yds
(3231 m) 4 pr
Krupp RBL 2 in (?)
(5 cm) 4 lb approx
(1,85 kg) - - -

1. Guns are described in the same order as Part 3.
2. 12 pr Armstrong details are not known, as there is doubt whether the guns with HMS Active's Naval Brigade were RBL or RML. The details here are for the RBL gun.


Troughs 9 pr 24 pr
Maximum elevation: 15 degrees 25 degrees
Range at 15degrees: 1371 to 2228 yds
(1265 to 2057 m)
1546 to 2226 yds
(1427 to 2055 m)
Weight of trough: 27 lb (12,3 kg) 64 lb 12 oz (29,4 kg)

Note the large zone in which rockets fired at 15degree elevation could fall.

Tube details are not known, but will have been about the same as for troughs.


Army Naval and Coastal services
Calibre: ,45 in (1,14 cm) ,65 in (1,65 cm)
Number of barrels: 10 10
Weight of gun complete: 8 cwt 6 qtr 6 lb (485 kg) 14 cwt 4 qtr 27 lb (775 kg)
Maximum range: 2400 yds (2215 m)
Effective range: Up to 1200 yds (1108 m)
Rate of fire: 300 to 400 rounds per minute

From these details it can be seen that the Naval ,65 in Gatling was much heavier than the Army ,45 in version, but Naval Gatlings in South Africa were on smaller and presumably lighter carriages. As explained in Part 3, the Navy also had some ,45 in Gatlings and Naval Brigades in South Africa may have been equipped with this version, on the lighter carriage.

British Regiments in the Zulu War

hi, List of British Regiments used in The Zulu War
Kings Dragoon Guards (1st)
Duke of Cambridge Own Lancers (17th)
East Kent (3rd)
Kings own Regiment (4th)
1st Somersetshire (13th)
Royal North British Fusiliers (21st)
2nd Warwickshire (24th)
West Middlesex (57th)
Rutlandshire (58th)
Kings Royal Rifle Corps (60th)
Staffordshire Volunteers (80th)
The Connaught Rangers (88th)
Perthshire Volunteers (90th)
Argyllshire Highlanders (91st)
The Scotch Brigade (94th)
Duke of Edinburgh's Lanarkshire (99th)
Commisarriat and Transport Dept
Army Service Corps
Army Hospital Staff
Army Hospital Corps
Ordinance Store Branch and Corps
Royal Engineers
Royal Regiment of Artillery
Gereral HQ Staff
Army Chaplains Dept

George Sidmouth appears in the 1891 Army List as Quartermaster Army Service Corps with honorary rank of Lieutenant with an effective date of 31 July 1889. The 1891 census shows him in Aldershot with his wife Mary and children Kate (age 14 born Norwich), George James (age 1 born Aldershot) and a servant Mary Patrick (15). By 1901 he is serving at Hounslow with cavalry. It was usual practice to commission a quartermaster as an honorary Lt. when appointed to a unit to reflect their responsibilities (in this case 1st Royal Dragoons).

Thank you all for your input, I have since found out that in 1902 he went from Quartermaster to Lt. then Captain.
I have also got a letter from Ian Hamilton Lt. General thanking him personally for his service. I quess this would be for something in the Transvaal War 1899-1900?

George James born in Aldershot was my grandfather.

1291 Private Joseph Healey enlisted on 29 February 1876 with the 18th Regiment. He was 19 years old and was born in Pimlico London. He transferred to the 99th Regiment in 1878, served in Zululand and was awarded the South Africa General Service medal with the 1879 bar. He was discharged unfit on 15 January 1881 in Portsmouth. His papers are on the Find My Past website. There is no mention of next of kin or of any residence in South Africa. Hope that helps.

Thank you for your information and assistance. I will work with this to see where it takes me.

Unfortunately a lot of people refer to the husband of their aunty to be their uncle, where as obviously your uncle or aunt are the your parents brother/sister. This will muddy the water as regards surnames.

Additionally particularly back in the sixties/seventies 'uncle' was an honorary name - for example my 'uncle' Don was actually my dads cousin Don

Do you subscribe to - or do you know some who does, if so the best way to find a potential surname is to do a simple family tree. Otherwise there are a number of websites (BMD ones - which are free) which may help

That is stage 1 - next when you have found potential lancers - based on age etc, you have to cross reference the regimental roll, for similar names and hope he did not enlist under an alias.

Sorry to put a dampener on it, but I do a lot of family tree research, and I would struggle to find a name for him, not saying it is impossible.

There are better people for this sort of thing on the forum - who might know a less labour/time consuming way.

Lets start your search with great uncle and aunt's full address. Do you know this?

Battle of Isandlwana – 22 January 1879 (Anglo-Zulu War)

The Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 was the first major encounter in the Anglo–Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. Eleven days after the British commenced their invasion of Zululand in South Africa, a Zulu force of some 20,000 warriors attacked a portion of the British main column consisting of about 1,800 British, colonial and native troops and perhaps 400 civilians. The Zulus were equipped mainly with the traditional assegai iron spears and cow-hide shields, but also had a number of muskets and old rifles though they were not formally trained in their use. The British and colonial troops were armed with the state-of-the-art Martini-Henry breech-loading rifle and two 7 pounder artillery pieces as well as a rocket battery. Despite a vast disadvantage in weapons technology, the numerically superior Zulus ultimately overwhelmed the poorly led and badly deployed British, killing over 1,300 troops, including all those out on the forward firing line. The Zulu army suffered around a thousand killed.

The battle was a crushing victory for the Zulus and caused the defeat of the first British invasion of Zululand. The British Army had suffered its worst defeat against a technologically inferior indigenous force. However, Isandlwana resulted in the British taking a much more aggressive approach in the Anglo–Zulu War, leading to a heavily reinforced second invasion and the destruction of King Cetshwayo’s hopes of a negotiated peace.

Following the imperialist scheme by which Lord Carnarvon had successfully brought about federation in Canada, it was thought that a similar plan might succeed in South Africa. In 1874, Sir Henry Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa as high commissioner to instigate the scheme. One of the obstacles to such a plan was the presence of the independent states of the South African Republic and the Kingdom of Zululand.

Sir Bartle Frere, High Commissioner of southern Africa for the British Empire, on his own initiative, without the approval of the British government and with the intent of instigating a war with the Zulu, had presented an ultimatum on 11 December 1878, to the Zulu King Cetshwayo with which the Zulu king could not comply. King Cetshwayo did not comply and Bartle Frere sent Lord Chelmsford to invade Zululand.

Lord Chelmsford, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the war, initially planned a five-pronged invasion of Zululand composed of over 15,000 troops in five columns and designed to encircle the Zulu army and force it to fight as he was concerned that the Zulus would avoid battle. Lord Chelmsford settled on three invading columns with the main centre column, now consisting of some 7,800 men comprising the previously called No. 3 Column and Durnford’s No.2 Column, under his direct command. He moved his troops from Pietermaritzburg to a forward camp at Helpmekaar, past Greytown. On 9 January 1879 they moved to Rorke’s Drift, and early on 11 January commenced crossing the Buffalo River into Zululand.

The backbone of the British force under Lord Chelmsford consisted of twelve regular infantry companies: six each of the 1st and 2nd battalions, 24th Regiment of Foot (2nd Warwickshire Regiment), which were hardened and reliable troops. In addition, there were approximately 2,500 local African auxiliaries of the Natal Native Contingent many of which were exiled or refugee Zulu. They were led by European officers but considered generally of poor quality by the British as they were prohibited from using their traditional fighting technique and inadequately trained in the European method as well as being indifferently armed. Also, there were some irregular colonial cavalry units, and a detachment of artillery consisting of six field guns and several Congreve rockets. on wagon drivers, camp followers and servants, there were more than 4,000 men in the Number 3 Column, not including Durnford’s Number 2 Column. Because of the urgency required to accomplish their scheme, Bartle Frere and Chelmsford began the invasion during the rainy season. This had the consequence of slowing the British advance to a crawl.

The Zulu army, while a product of a warrior culture, was essentially a militia force which could be called out in time of national danger. It had a very limited logistical capacity and could only stay in the field a few weeks before the troops would be obliged to return to their civilian duties. Zulu warriors were armed primarily with assegai thrusting spears, known in Zulu as iklwa, knobkierrie clubs, some throwing spears and shields made of cowhide. The Zulu warrior, his regiment and the army drilled in the personal and tactical use and coordination of this weapons system. Some Zulus also had old muskets and antiquated rifles stockpiled, a relatively few of which were carried by Zulu impi. However, their marksmanship was very poor, quality and supply of powder and shot dreadful, maintenance non-existent and attitude towards firearms summed up in the observation that: “The generality of Zulu warriors, however, would not have firearms – the arms of a coward, as they said, for they enable the poltroon to kill the brave without awaiting his attack.” The British had timed the invasion to coincide with the harvest, intending to catch the Zulu warriors dispersed. Fortuitously, the Zulu army had already begun to assemble at Ulundi, as it did every year for the First Fruits ceremony when all warriors were duty-bound to report to their regimental barracks near Ulundi.

Cetshwayo sent the 24,000 strong main Zulu impi from near present-day Ulundi, on 17 January, across the White Umfolozi River with the following command to his warriors:

“March slowly, attack at dawn and eat up the red soldiers.”

On the 18th, some 4,000 warriors were detached from the main body to attack Pearson’s column near Eshowe. The remaining 20,000 Zulus camped at the isiPhezi ikhanda. On the 19th the main force arrived and camped near Babanango Mountain, then moved the next day to a camp near Siphezi Mountain. Finally, on the 21st they moved into the Ngwebeni Valley, from where they planned to attack the British on the 23rd, remaining concealed until their discovery by a scouting party on 22 January. Under the command of Ntshigwayo kaMahole the Zulu army had reached its position in easy stages. It marched in two columns within sight of each other but few miles apart to prevent a surprise attack. They were preceded by a screening force of mounted scouts supported by parties of warriors 200–400 strong tasked with preventing the main columns from being sighted. The speed of the Zulu advance compared to the British is marked. The Zulu impi had advanced over 80 km (50 mi) in five days while Chelmsford had only advanced slightly over 16 km (9.9 mi) in 10 days.

Cetshwayo, Zulu King in a portrait painted when he visited England by invitation of Queen Victoria in 1880

The British under Chelmsford pitched camp at Isandlwana on 20 January, but did not follow standing orders to entrench. No laager (circling of the wagons) was formed. Chelmsford did not see the need for the laager, stating, “It would take a week to make.” But the chief reason for the failure to take defensive precautions appears to have been that the British command severely underestimated the Zulu capabilities. The experience of numerous colonial wars fought in Africa was that the massed firepower of relatively small bodies of professional European troops armed with modern firearms and artillery, and supplemented by local allies and levies, would march out to meet the natives whose ragged, badly equipped armies would put up a brave struggle, but in the end would succumb. Chelmsford believed that a force of over 4,000, including 1,000 British infantry armed with Martini-Henry rifles, as well as artillery, had more than sufficient firepower to overwhelm any attack by Zulus armed only with spears, cowhide shields and a few firearms such as Brown Bess muskets. Indeed, with a British force of this size, it was the logistical arrangements which occupied Chelmsford’s thoughts. Rather than any fear that the camp might be attacked, his main concern was managing the huge number of wagons and oxen required to support his forward advance.

Once he had established the camp at Isandlwana, Chelmsford sent out two battalions of the Natal Native Contingent to scout ahead. They skirmished with elements of a Zulu force which Chelmsford believed to be the vanguard of the main enemy army. Such was the overconfidence in British military training and firepower that he divided his force, taking about 2,500 men, including half of the British infantry contingent, and set out to find the main Zulu force with the intention of bringing them to battle, so as to achieve a decisive victory. It never occurred to Chelmsford that the Zulus he saw were diverting him from their main force.

Chelmsford left behind five companies, around 70–80 fighting men in each, of the 1st battalion and one stronger company of around 150 men from the 2nd battalion of the 24th to guard the camp, under the command of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pulleine. Pulleine’s orders were to defend the camp and wait for further instructions to support the general as and when called upon. Pulleine also had around 500 men of the Natal Native Contingent and approximately 200 local mounted irregulars. He also had two artillery pieces, with around 70 men of the Royal Artillery. In total, some 1,300 men and two guns were left to defend the camp.

Pulleine, left in command of a rear position, was an administrator with no experience of front-line command on a campaign. Nevertheless, he commanded a strong force, particularly the six veteran regular infantry companies, which were experienced at colonial warfare. The mounted vedettes, cavalry scouts, patrolling some 11 km (6.8 mi) from camp reported at 7:00am that groups of Zulus, numbering around 4,000 men, could be seen. Further reports arrived to Pulleine during the early morning, each reporting movements, both large and small, of Zulus. There was speculation among the officers as to whether these troops were intending to march against Chelmsford’s rear or towards the camp itself.

Around 10:30am, Colonel Anthony Durnford arrived from Rorke’s Drift with five troops of the Natal Native horse and a rocket battery. This put the issue of command to the fore because Durnford was senior and by tradition would have assumed command.[46] However, he did not over-rule Pulleine’s dispositions and after lunch he quickly decided to take to the initiative and move forward to engage a Zulu force which Pulleine and Durnford judged to be moving against Chelmsford’s rear. Durnford asked for a company of the 24th, but Pulleine was reluctant to agree since his orders had been specifically to defend the camp.

Chelmsford had underestimated the disciplined, well-led, well-motivated and confident Zulu. The failure to secure an effective defensive position, the poor intelligence on the location of the main Zulu army, Chelmsford’s decision to split his force in half, and the Zulus’ tactical exploitation of the terrain and the weaknesses in the British formation, all combined to prove catastrophic for the troops at Isandlwana. In contrast, the Zulus responded to the unexpected discovery of their camp with an immediate and spontaneous advance. Even though the indunas would lose control over the advance, the training instilled in the warriors allowed the Zulu troops to form their standard attack formation on the run, their battle line deployed in reverse of its intended order.

The Zulu Army was commanded by inDunas (Princes) Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khozalo and Mavumengwana kaNdlela Ntuli. The inDuna Dabulamanzi kaMpande, half brother of Cetshwayo, would command the Undi Corps after kaMapitha, the regular inkhosi, or commander, was wounded.

While Chelmsford was in the field seeking them, the entire Zulu army had outmanoeuvred him, moving behind his force with the intention of attacking the British Army on the 23rd. They were discovered at around 8:00am by men of Lt. Charles Raw’s troop of scouts who chased a number of Zulus into a valley, only then seeing some 20,000 men of the main enemy force sitting in total quiet. Having been discovered the Zulu force leapt to the offensive. Raw’s men began a fighting retreat back to the camp and a messenger was sent to warn Pulleine. Pulleine observed Zulus on the hills to his left front and sent word to Chelmsford, which was received by the General between 9:00am and 10:00am.

The Zulu attack then developed in the traditional horns and chest of the buffalo, with the aim of encircling the British position. From Pulleine’s vantage point in the camp, at first only the right horn and then the chest (centre) of the attack seemed to be developing. Pulleine sent out first one, then all six companies of the 24th Foot into an extended firing line, with the aim of meeting the Zulu attack head-on and checking it with firepower. Durnford’s men, upon meeting elements of the Zulu centre, had retreated to a donga, a dried-out watercourse, on the British right flank where they formed a defensive line. The Rocket Battery under Durnford’s command, which was not mounted and dropped behind the rest of the force, was isolated and overrun very early in the engagement. The two battalions of native troops were in Durnford’s line while all the officers and NCOs carried rifles, only one in 10 in the ranks was armed with a muzzle-loading musket with limited ammunition[51][52] and many of them started to leave the battlefield at this point.

The Battle of Isandlwana (Charles Edwin Fripp)

Pulleine only made one change to the original disposition after about 20 minutes of firing, bringing in the companies in the firing line slightly closer to the camp. For a few hours noon, the disciplined British volleys pinned down the Zulu centre, inflicting some casualties and causing the advance to stall. Indeed, morale remained high within the British line. The Martini-Henry rifle was a powerful weapon and the men were experienced. Additionally, the cannon fire of the Royal Artillery forced some Zulu regiments to take cover behind the reverse slope of a hill. Nevertheless, the left horn of the Zulu advance was moving to outflank and envelop the British right.

Durnford’s men, who had been fighting longest, began to withdraw and their rate of fire diminished. Durnford’s withdrawal exposed the right flank of the British regulars, which, with the general threat of the Zulu encirclement, caused Pulleine to order a withdrawal back to the camp. The regulars’ retreat was performed with order and discipline and the men of the 24th conducted a fighting withdrawal into the camp. Durnford’s retreat, however, exposed the flank of G Company, 2nd/24th, which was overrun relatively quickly.

An officer in advance from Chelmsford’s force gave this eyewitness account of the final stage of the battle at about 3:00pm.

“In a few seconds we distinctly saw the guns fired again, one after the other, sharp. This was done several times -a pause, and then a flash – flash! The sun was shining on the camp at the time, and then the camp looked dark, just as if a shadow was passing over it. The guns did not fire after that, and in a few minutes all the tents had disappeared.”

Nearly the same moment is described in a Zulu warrior’s account.

“The sun turned black in the middle of the battle we could still see it over us, or should have thought we had been fighting till evening. Then we got into the camp, and there was a great deal of smoke and firing. Afterwards the sun came out bright again.”

The time of the solar eclipse on that day is calculated as 2:29pm.

The presence of large numbers of bodies grouped together suggests the resistance was more protracted than originally thought and a number of desperate last stands were made. Evidence shows that many of the bodies, today marked by cairns, were found in several large groups around the camp — including one stand of around 150 men. A Zulu account describes a group of the 24th forming a square on the neck of Isandlwana. Colonial cavalry, the NMP and the carabiniers, who could easily have fled as they had horses, died around Durnford in his last stand while nearby their horses were found dead on their picket rope. What is clear is that the slaughter was complete in the area around the camp and back to Natal along the Fugitive’s Drift. The fighting had been hand-to-hand combat and no quarter given to the British regulars. The Zulus had been commanded to ignore the civilians in black coats and this meant that some officers, whose patrol dress was dark blue and black at the time, were spared and escaped.

The British fought back-to-backwith bayonet and rifle butt when their ammunition had finally been expended. A Zulu account relates the single-handed fight by the guard of Chelmsford’s tent, a big Irishman of the 24th who kept the Zulus back with his bayonet until he was assegaied and the general’s Union flag captured.[64] Both the colours of the 2/24th were lost, while the Queen’s colour of the 1/24th was carried off the field by Lieutenant Melvill on horseback with help from Lieutenant Coghill but lost when they crossed the drift. Both Melvill and Coghill were to receive posthumous Victoria Crosses in 1907 as the legend of their gallantry grew. Garnet Wolseley, who would replace Chelmsford, felt otherwise at the time and stated, “I don’t like the idea of officers escaping on horseback when their men on foot are being killed.”

Of the 1,700-plus force of British troops and African auxiliaries, about 1,300 were killed, most of them Europeans, including field commanders Pulleine and Durnford. Only five Imperial officers survived. Amongst those killed was Surgeon Major Peter Shepherd, a first-aid pioneer.[67] The Natal Native Contingent lost some 400 men, and there were 240 lost from the group of 249 amaChunu African auxiliaries.[68] Perhaps the last to die was Gabangaye, the portly chief of the amaChunu Natal Native Contingent, who was given over to be killed by the udibi boys. The captured Natal Native Contingent soldiers were regarded as traitors by the Zulu and executed.

Some 1,000 Martini-Henry rifles, two cannons, 400,000 rounds of ammunition, three colours, most of the 2,000 draft animals and 130 wagons, impedimenta such as tinned food, biscuits, beer, overcoats, tents and other supplies were taken by the Zulu or left abandoned on the field. Of the survivors, most were from the auxiliaries. The Zulus had lost around 1,000 killed, with various unconfirmed estimates for their wounded.


Rorke's Drift, known as kwaJimu [10] ("Jim's Land") in the Zulu language, was a mission station of the Church of Sweden, and the former trading post of James Rorke, a merchant from the eastern cape of Irish descent. It was located near a drift, or ford, on the Buffalo (Mzinyathi) River, which at the time formed the border between the British colony of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. On 9 January 1879, the British No. 3 (Centre) Column, under Lord Chelmsford, arrived and encamped at the drift.

On 11 January, the day after the British ultimatum to the Zulus expired, the column crossed the river and encamped on the Zulu bank. A small force consisting of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (2nd/24th) under Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead was detailed to garrison the post, which had been turned into a supply depot and hospital under the overall command of Brevet Major Henry Spalding, 104th Foot, a member of Chelmsford's staff.

On 20 January, after reconnaissance patrolling and building of a track for its wagons, Chelmsford's column marched to Isandlwana, approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) to the east, leaving behind the small garrison. A large company of the 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent (NNC) under Captain William Stevenson was ordered to remain at the post to strengthen the garrison. [11] This company numbered between 100 and 350 men. [12]

Captain Thomas Rainforth's G Company of the 1st/24th Foot was ordered to move up from its station at Helpmekaar, 10 miles (16 km) to the southeast, after its own relief arrived, to further reinforce the position. [13] Later that evening a portion of the No. 2 Column under Brevet Colonel Anthony Durnford, late of the Royal Engineers, arrived at the drift and camped on the Zulu bank, where it remained through the next day.

Late on the evening of 21 January, Durnford was ordered to Isandlwana, as was a small detachment of No. 5 Field Company, Royal Engineers, commanded by Lieutenant John Chard, which had arrived on the 19th to repair the pontoons that bridged the Buffalo. Chard rode ahead of his detachment to Isandlwana on the morning of 22 January to clarify his orders, but was sent back to Rorke's Drift with only his wagon and its driver to construct defensive positions for the expected reinforcement company, passing Durnford's column en route in the opposite direction.

Sometime around noon on the 22nd, Major Spalding left the station for Helpmekaar to ascertain the whereabouts of Rainforth's G Company, which was now overdue. He left Chard in temporary command. Chard rode down to the drift itself where the engineers' camp was located. Soon thereafter, two survivors from Isandlwana – Lieutenant Gert Adendorff of the 1st/3rd NNC and a trooper from the Natal Carbineers – arrived bearing the news of the defeat and that a part of the Zulu impi was approaching the station.

Upon hearing this news, Chard, Bromhead, and another of the station's officers, Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton (of the Commissariat and Transport Department), held a quick meeting to decide the best course of action – whether to attempt a retreat to Helpmekaar or to defend their current position. Dalton pointed out that a small column, travelling in open country and burdened with carts full of hospital patients, would be easily overtaken and defeated by a numerically superior Zulu force, and so it was soon agreed that the only acceptable course was to remain and fight. [14]

Defensive preparations Edit

Once the British officers decided to stay, Chard and Bromhead directed their men to make preparations to defend the station. With the garrison's some 400 men [15] working quickly, a defensive perimeter was constructed out of mealie bags. This perimeter incorporated the storehouse, the hospital, and a stout stone kraal. The buildings were fortified, with loopholes (firing holes) knocked through the external walls and the external doors barricaded with furniture.

At about 3:30 pm, a mixed troop of about 100 Natal Native Horse (NNH) under Lieutenant Alfred Henderson arrived at the station after having retreated in good order from Isandlwana. They volunteered to picket the far side of the Oscarberg (Shiyane), the large hill that overlooked the station and from behind which the Zulus were expected to approach. [16]

With the defences nearing completion and battle approaching, Chard had several hundred men available to him: Bromhead's B Company, Stevenson's large NNC company, Henderson's NNH troop, and various others (most of them hospital patients, but 'walking wounded') drawn from various British and colonial units. Adendorff also stayed, while the trooper who had ridden in with him galloped on to warn the garrison at Helpmekaar. [17]

The force was sufficient, in Chard's estimation, to fend off the Zulus. Chard posted the British soldiers around the perimeter, adding some of the more able patients, the 'casuals' and civilians, and those of the NNC who possessed firearms along the barricade. The rest of the NNC, armed only with spears, were posted outside the mealie bag and biscuit box barricade within the stone-walled cattle kraal. [17]

The approaching Zulu force was vastly larger the uDloko, uThulwana, inDlondo amabutho (regiments) of married men aged in their 30s and 40s and the inDlu-yengwe ibutho of young unmarried men mustered 3,000 to 4,000 warriors, none of them engaged during the battle at Isandlwana. [18] This Zulu force was the 'loins' or reserve of the army at Isandlwana and is often referred to as the Undi Corps. It was directed to swing wide of the British left flank and pass west and south of Isandlwana hill itself, in order to position itself across the line of communication and retreat of the British and their colonial allies in order to prevent their escape back into Natal by way of the Buffalo River ford leading to Rorke's Drift.

By the time the Undi Corps reached Rorke's Drift at 4:30 pm, they had fast-marched some 20 miles (32 km) from the morning encampment they had left at around 8 am, and they would spend almost the next eleven and a half hours continuously storming the British fortifications at Rorke's Drift.

Most Zulu warriors were armed with an assegai (short spear) and a shield made of cowhide. [19] The Zulu army drilled in the personal and tactical use and coordination of this weapon. Some Zulus also had old muskets and antiquated rifles, though their marksmanship training was poor, and the quality and supply of powder and shot was almost non-existent. [20]

The Zulu attitude towards firearms was that: "The generality of Zulu warriors, however, would not have firearms – the arms of a coward, as they said, for they enable the poltroon to kill the brave without awaiting his attack." [21] Even though their fire was not accurate, it was responsible for five of the seventeen British deaths at Rorke's Drift. [22] [23]

While the Undi Corps had been led by inkhosi kaMapitha at the Isandlwana battle, the command of the Undi Corps passed to Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande (half-brother of Cetshwayo kaMpande, the Zulu king) when kaMapitha was wounded during the pursuit of British survivors from Isandlwana. Prince Dabulamanzi was considered rash and aggressive, and this characterisation was borne out by his violation of King Cetshwayo's order to act only in defence of Zululand against the invading British soldiers and not carry the war over the border into enemy territory. [24] The Rorke's Drift attack was an unplanned raid rather than any organised counter-invasion, with many of the Undi Corps Zulus breaking off to raid other African kraals and homesteads while the main body advanced on Rorke's Drift.

At about 4:00 pm, Surgeon James Reynolds, Otto Witt – the Swedish missionary who ran the mission at Rorke's Drift – and army chaplain Reverend George Smith came down from the Oscarberg hillside with the news that a body of Zulus was fording the river to the southeast and was "no more than five minutes away". At this point, Witt decided to depart the station, as his family lived in an isolated farmhouse about 30 kilometres (19 mi) away, and he wanted to be with them. Witt's native servant, Umkwelnantaba, left with him so too did one of the hospital patients, Lieutenant Thomas Purvis of the 1st/3rd NNC.

At about 4:20 pm, the battle began with Lieutenant Henderson's NNH troopers, stationed behind the Oscarberg, briefly engaging the vanguard of the main Zulu force. [26] However, tired from the battle at Isandlwana and retreat to Rorke's Drift as well as being short of carbine ammunition, Henderson's men departed for Helpmekaar. Henderson himself reported to Lieutenant Chard the enemy were close and that "his men would not obey his orders but were going off to Helpmekaar". [17]

Henderson then followed his departing men. Upon witnessing the withdrawal of Henderson's NNH troop, Captain Stevenson's NNC company abandoned the cattle kraal and fled, greatly reducing the strength of the defending garrison. [27] Outraged that Stevenson and some of his colonial NCOs [28] also fled from the barricades, a few British soldiers fired after them, killing Corporal William Anderson.

With the Zulus nearly at the station, the garrison now numbered between 154 and 156 men. [29] Of these, only Bromhead's company could be considered a cohesive unit. Additionally, up to 39 of his company were at the station as hospital patients, although only a handful of these were unable to take up arms. [30] With fewer men, Chard realised the need to modify the defences, and gave orders that biscuit boxes be used to construct a wall through the middle of the post in order to make possible the abandonment of the hospital side of the station if the need arose. [25]

At 4:30 pm, the Zulus rounded the Oscarberg and approached the south wall. Private Frederick Hitch, posted as lookout atop the storehouse, reported a large column of Zulus approaching. The Zulu vanguard, 600 men of the iNdluyengwe, attacked the south wall, which joined the hospital and the storehouse. The British opened fire when the Zulus were 500 yards (460 m) away.

The majority of the attacking Zulu force swept around to attack the north wall, while a few took cover and were either pinned down by continuing British fire or retreated to the terraces of Oscarberg. There they began a harassing fire of their own. As this occurred, another Zulu force swept on to the hospital and northwestern wall.

Those British on the barricades – including Dalton and Bromhead – were soon engaged in fierce hand-to-hand fighting. The British wall was too high for the Zulus to scale, so they resorted to crouching under the wall, trying to get hold of the defenders' Martini–Henry rifles, slashing at British soldiers with assegais or firing their weapons through the wall. At places, they clambered over each other's bodies to drive the British off the walls but were driven back.

Zulu fire, both from those under the wall and around the Oscarberg, inflicted a few casualties, and five of the seventeen defenders who were killed or mortally wounded in the action were struck while at the north wall.

Defence of the hospital Edit

Chard realised that the north wall, under near constant attack from the Zulus could not be held. At 6:00 pm, he pulled his men back into the yard, abandoning the front two rooms of the hospital in the process. The hospital was becoming untenable the loopholes had become a liability, as rifles poking out were grabbed at by the Zulus, yet if the holes were left empty, the Zulu warriors stuck their own weapons through in order to fire into the rooms. Among the soldiers assigned to the hospital were Corporal William Wilson Allen and Privates Cole, Dunbar, Hitch, Horrigan, John Williams, Joseph Williams, Alfred Henry Hook, Robert Jones, and William Jones.

Privates Horrigan, John Williams, Joseph Williams and other patients tried to hold the hospital entrance with rifles and fixed bayonets. Joseph Williams defended a small window, and 14 dead Zulus were later found beneath that window. As it became clear the front of the building was being taken over by Zulus, John Williams began to hack a way of escape through the wall dividing the central room and a corner room in the back of the hospital. As he made a passable breach, the door into the central room came under furious attack from the Zulus, and he only had time to drag two bedridden patients out before the door gave way.

The corner room that John Williams had pulled the two patients into was occupied by Private Hook and another nine patients. John Williams hacked at the wall to the next room with his pick-axe, as Hook held off the Zulus. A firefight erupted as the Zulus fired through the door and Hook returned fire–-but not without an assegai striking his helmet and stunning him. [31]

Williams made the hole big enough to get into the next room, which was occupied only by patient Private Waters, and dragged the patients through. The last man out was Hook, who killed some Zulus who had knocked down the door before he dived through the hole. John Williams once again went to work, spurred on by the fact that the roof was now ablaze, as Hook defended the hole and Waters continued to fire through a loophole.

After fifty minutes, the hole was large enough to drag the patients through, and most of the men were now in the last room, being defended by Privates Robert Jones and William Jones. From here, the patients clambered out through a window and then made their way across the yard to the barricade. Privates Waters and Beckett hid in the wardrobe, Waters was wounded and Beckett died of assegai wounds.

Of the eleven patients, nine survived the trip to the barricade, as did all the able-bodied men. According to James Henry Reynolds, only four defenders were killed in the hospital: one was a member of the Natal Native Contingent with a broken leg Sergeant Maxfield and Private Jenkins, who were ill with fever and refused to be moved were also killed. Reportedly, Jenkins was killed after being seized and stabbed, together with Private Adams who also refused to move. Private Cole, assigned to the hospital, was killed when he ran outside. Another hospital patient killed was Trooper Hunter of the Natal Mounted Police. [32] Among the hospital patients who escaped were a Corporal Mayer of the NNC Bombardier Lewis of the Royal Artillery, and Trooper Green of the Natal Mounted Police, who was wounded in the thigh by a spent bullet. Private Conley with a broken leg was pulled to safety by Hook, although Conley's leg was broken again in the process. [33]

Cattle kraal and bastion Edit

The evacuation of the burning hospital completed the shortening of the perimeter. As night fell, the Zulu attacks grew stronger. The cattle kraal came under renewed assault and was evacuated by 10:00 pm, leaving the remaining men in a small bastion around the storehouse. Throughout the night, the Zulus kept up a constant assault against the British positions Zulu attacks only began to slacken after midnight, and they finally ended by 2:00 am, being replaced by a constant harassing fire from Zulu firearms until 4:00 am. [ citation needed ]

By that time, the garrison had suffered fourteen dead. Two others were mortally wounded and eight more – including Dalton – were seriously wounded. Almost every man had some kind of wound. They were all exhausted, having fought for the better part of ten hours and were running low on ammunition. Of 20,000 rounds in reserve at the mission, only 900 remained. [34]

As dawn broke, the British could see that the Zulus were gone all that remained were the dead and severely wounded. [35] Patrols were dispatched to scout the battlefield, recover rifles, and look for survivors, many of whom were killed when found. At roughly 7:00 am, an impi of Zulus suddenly appeared, and the British manned their positions again.

No attack materialised, however, as the Zulus had been on the move for six days prior to the battle and had not eaten properly for two. In their ranks were hundreds of wounded, and they were several days' march from any supplies. Soon after their appearance, the Zulus left the way they had come. [ citation needed ]

Around 8:00 am, another force appeared, and the defenders left their breakfast to man their positions again. However, the force turned out to be the vanguard of Lord Chelmsford's relief column.

Breakdown of British and colonial casualties: [36]

  • 1st/24th Foot: 4 killed or mortally wounded in action 2 wounded
  • 2nd/24th Foot: 9 killed or mortally wounded in action 9 wounded : 1 killed in action 1 wounded : 1 killed in action 1 wounded
  • 1st/3rd NNC: 1 killed in action
  • 2nd/3rd NNC: 1 killed [37] 2 wounded

After the battle 351 Zulu bodies were counted, but it has been estimated that at least 500 wounded and captured Zulus might have been massacred as well. [35] [38] Having witnessed the carnage at Isandlwana, the members of Chelmsford's relief force had no mercy for the captured, wounded Zulus they came across, [39] nor did the station's defenders. Trooper William James Clarke of the Natal Mounted Police described in his diary that "altogether we buried 375 Zulus and some wounded were thrown into the grave. Seeing the manner in which our wounded had been mutilated after being dragged from the hospital . we were very bitter and did not spare wounded Zulus". [40] Laband, in his book The Zulu Response to the British Invasion of 1879, accepts the estimate of 600 that Shepstone had from the Zulus. [41]

Samuel Pitt, who served as a private in B Company during the battle, told The Western Mail in 1914 that the official enemy death toll was too low: "We reckon we had accounted for 875, but the books will tell you 400 or 500". [42] [43] [44] Lieutenant Horace Smith-Dorrien, a member of Chelmsford's staff, wrote that the day after the battle an improvised gallows was used "for hanging Zulus who were supposed to have behaved treacherously". [42]

Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders of Rorke's Drift, seven of them to soldiers of the 2nd/24th Foot – the most ever received for a single action by one regiment. (The most awarded in a day is sixteen for actions at the Battle of Inkerman, on 5 November 1854 in a single action, twenty-eight were awarded as a result of the Second Relief of Lucknow, 14–22 November 1857). [45] Four Distinguished Conduct Medals were also awarded.

This high number of awards for bravery has been interpreted as a reaction to the earlier defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana – the extolling of the victory at Rorke's Drift drawing the public's attention away from the great defeat at Isandlwana and the fact that Lord Chelmsford and Henry Bartle Frere had instigated the war without the approval of Her Majesty's Government. [46]

Certainly, Sir Garnet Wolseley, taking over as commander-in-chief from Lord Chelmsford later that year, was unimpressed with the awards made to the defenders of Rorke's Drift, saying "it is monstrous making heroes of those who, shut up in buildings at Rorke's Drift, could not bolt and fought like rats for their lives, which they could not otherwise save". [ citation needed ]

Several historians [ citation needed ] have challenged this assertion and pointed out that the victory stands on its own merits, regardless of other concerns. Victor Davis Hanson responded to it directly in Carnage and Culture (also published as Why the West Has Won), saying, "Modern critics suggest such lavishness in commendation was designed to assuage the disaster at Isandhlwana and to reassure a skeptical Victorian public that the fighting ability of the British soldier remained unquestioned. Maybe, maybe not, but in the long annals of military history, it is difficult to find anything quite like Rorke's Drift, where a beleaguered force, outnumbered forty to one, survived and killed twenty men for every defender lost". [47]

Victoria Cross Edit

  • Lieutenant John Rouse Merriott Chard, 5th Field Coy, Royal Engineers
  • Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead B Coy, 24th (The 2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (2nd/24th Foot)
  • Corporal William Wilson Allen B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private Frederick Hitch B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private Alfred Henry Hook B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private Robert Jones B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private William Jones B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private John Williams B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Surgeon-Major James Henry Reynolds Army Medical Department
  • Acting Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton Commissariat and Transport Department
  • Corporal Christian Ferdinand Schiess 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent

In 1879 there was no provision for the posthumous granting of the Victoria Cross, and so it could not be awarded to anyone who had died in performing an act of bravery. Private Joseph Williams, B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot, was killed during the fight in the hospital and was mentioned in despatches that "had he lived he would have been recommended for the Victoria Cross". [49]

Watch the video: Zulu - Final Appearance And Salute Scene (July 2022).


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