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 The Battle of Ulundi

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PostSubject: The Battle of Ulundi   Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:56 pm

All through April and May there was much to and fro maneuvering by the British particularly with supply and transport. Eventually, on 3 June, the main thrust of the second invasion began its slow advance on Ulundi.The 1st division was to advance along the coast belt supporting 2nd division, which with Wood's flying column, an independent unit, was to march on Ulundi from Rorke’s Drift and Kambula. Still hoping for an end to hostilities, Cetshwayo refrained from attacking the extended and vulnerable supply lines and the British advance was unopposed. As the force advanced Cetshwayo dispatched envoys from Ulundi to the British. These envoys reached Chelmsford on 4 June with the message that Cetshwayo wished to know what terms would be acceptable to cease hostilities. Chelmsford sent a Zulu-speaking Dutch trader back with their terms in writing.

On the evening of 6 June jittery British troops and artillery in laager at Fort Newdigate opened fire on an arriving piquet company of Royal Engineers commanded by Lt. Chard, wounding one and killing two horses. By the 16th the slow advance was quickened by the news that Wolseley on his way to Natal to take command. On the 17th a depot named Fort Marshall was established - not far from Isandlhwana. On 28 June Chelmsford’s column was a mere 17 miles away from Ulundi and had established the supply depots of Fort Newdigate, Fort Napoleon and Port Durnford when Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived in Cape Town. Wolseley had cabled Chelmsford ordering him not to undertake any serious actions on the 23rd but the message was only received through a galloper on this day. Chelmsford had no intention of letting Wolseley stop him from reaping the rewards of his efforts and did not reply. A second message was sent on the 30th reading:

"Concentrate your force immediately and keep it concentrated. Undertake no serious operations with detached bodies of troops. Acknowledge receipt of this message at once and flash back your latest moves. I am astonished at not hearing from you"

Wolseley, straining to assert command over Chelmsford, tried to join 1st Division, lagging along the coast behind the main advance. A final message was sent to Chelmsford explaining that he would be joining 1st Division, and that their location was where Chelmsford should retreat if he was compelled to. High seas prevented Wolseley landing at Port Durnford and he had to take the road. At the very time Wolseley was riding north from Durban, Chelmsford was preparing to engage the enemy. Wolseley's efforts to reach the front had been in vain.

On the same day the first cable was received, Cetshwayo’s representatives again appeared. A previous reply to Chelmsford’s demands had apparently never reached the British force, but now these envoys bore some of what the British commander had demanded – oxen, a promise of guns and gift of elephant tusks. The peace was rejected as the terms had not been fully met and Chelmsford turned the envoys away without accepting the elephant tusks and informed them that the advance would only be delayed one day to allow the Zulus to surrender one regiment of their army. The redcoats were now visible from the Royal Kraal and a dismayed Cetshwayo was desperate to end the hostilities. With the invading enemy in sight, he knew no Zulu regiment would surrender so Cetshwayo sent a further hundred white oxen from his own herd along with Prince Napoleon’s sword, which the Zulu had taken 1 June, 1879 in the skirmish in which the Prince was killed. The Zulu umCijo regiment, guarding the approaches to the White Mfolozi river where the British were camped, refused to let the oxen pass deeming it a useless gesture, saying, as it was impossible to meet all Chelmsford's demands, fighting was inevitable. The irate telegram from Wolseley issued on 30 June now reached Chelmsford, and with only 5 miles between him and a redemptive victory, it was ignored.

On 3 July, with negotiations having broken down, Colonel Buller led a cavalry force across the river to reconnoitre the ground beyond the river. A party of Zulus were seen herding goats near the Mbilane stream and troopers moved to round them up. On a hunch, Buller bellowed an order for them to stop and prepare to fire from the saddle. His instinct proved right, for 3,000 Zulus rose from the long grass at that moment and fired a fusillade, before charging forth. Three troopers were shot dead and Buller ordered his men to retire. As they dashed back to the river, Baker’s Horse who had been scouting further across took up position and gave covering fire for the river crossing. Their crossing in turn was covered by the Transvaal Rangers on the opposite bank. This incident had placed the entire reconnaissance in grave danger, but Buller’s alertness and leadership saved them from annihilation. Chelmsford was now convinced the Zulus wanted to fight and replied to Wolseley’s third message, informing him that he would indeed retreat to 1st division if the need arose, and that he would be attacking the Zulus the next day.

That evening Chelmsford issued his orders. The British, having learned a bitter lesson at Isandlwana, would take no chances meeting the Zulu army in the open with their normal line of battle such as the 'Thin Red Line' of fame. Their advance would begin at first light, prior to forming his infantry into a large hollow square, with mounted troops covering the sides and rear. Neither wagon laagers nor trenches would be used, to convince both the Zulus and critics that a British square could “beat them fairly in the open”.

At 6 a.m. Buller led out an advance guard of mounted troops and South African irregulars, which after Buller had secured upper drift was followed by the infantry being led by the experienced Flying Column battalions. By 7:30 a.m. the column had cleared the rough ground on the other side of the riverbank and their square (in reality a rectangular shape) was formed. At 8:45 a.m.the Zulu engaged the cavalry on the right and left which slowly retired and passed into the square. The leading face was made up of five companies of the 80th Regiment in four ranks, with two Gatling guns in the centres, two 9-pounders on the left flank and two 7-pounders on the right. The 90th Light Infantry with four companies of the 94th Regiment made up the left face with two more 7-pounders. On the right face were the 1st Battalion of the 13th Light Infantry, four companies of the 58th Regiment, two 7-pounders and two 9-pounders. The rear face was composed of two companies of the 94th Regiment, two companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers. Within the square were headquarters staff, No. 5 company of the Royal Engineers (led by Lieutenant John Chard, of Rorke's Drift fame), the 2nd Native Natal Contingent, fifty wagons and carts with reserve ammunition and hospital wagons. Buller’s horsemen protected the front and both flanks of the square. A rearguard of two squadrons of the 17th Lancers and a troop of Natal Native Horse followed.

Battalions with Colours now uncased them; the band of 13th Light Infantry struck up and the 5,317-man strong ‘living laager’ began its measured advance across the plain. No Zulus in any numbers had been sighted by 8 a.m., so the Frontier Light Horse were sent forth to provoke the enemy. As they rode across the Mbilane stream, the entire Zulu inGobamkhosi regiment rose out of the grass in front of them, followed by regiment after regiment rising up all around them. The entire Zulu Army around 12,000 to 15,000 strong, now stood in horseshoe encircling the north, east and southern sides of the square. A Zulu reserve force was also poised to complete the circle. The Zulu ranks stood hammering the ground with their feet and drumming shield with assegai, made up both of veterans and novices with varying degrees of confidence. The mounted troops by the stream opened fire from the saddle in an attempt to trigger a premature charge before wheeling back to gallop through the gaps made in the infantry lines for them. As the cavalry cleared their front at about 9 a.m., the four ranks of the infantry with front two kneeling, opened fire at 2,000 yards into the advancing Zulu ranks. The pace of the advance quickened and the range closed between the British lines and the Zulus. The British were ready and the Zulu troops faced concentrated fire. Zulu regiments had to charge forward directly into massed rifle fire, non-stop fire from the Gatling guns and the artillery firing canister shot at point-blank range.

Rushes were made by the Zulus, in an attempt to get within stabbing range, but neither their courage and determination nor their belief in tokoloshe and their cowhide shields prevailed against the torrent of bullet and shell. There were a number of casualties within the square to Zulu marksmen, but the British firing did not waver and no warrior was able to get within 30 yards of the British ranks. The Zulu reserve force now rose and charged against the south-west corner of the square. Nine-pounders ploughed chunks out of this body while the infantry opened fire. The speed of the charge made it seem as if the Zulu reserves would get close enough to engage in hand-to-hand combat but no warrior reached the British ranks. Chelmsford ordered the cavalry to mount, and the 17th Lancers, 1st King’s Dragoon Guards, colonial cavalry, Native Horse and 2nd Natal Native Contingent charged the now fleeing Zulus. Towards the high ground the Zulus fled with cavalry at their heels and shells falling ahead of them. The Lancers were checked at the Mbilane stream by the fire of a concealed party of Zulus, causing several casualties before the Lancers overcame the resistance. The pursuit continued until not a live Zulu remained on the Mahlabatini plain, with members of the Natal Native Horse, Natal Native Contingent and Wood's Irregulars slaughtered the Zulu wounded, a vengeance for the slaughter at Isandlwana. After half an hour of concentrated fire from the artillery, the Gatling Guns and the thousands of British rifles, Zulu military power was broken. Chelmsford had retrieved his reputation, with the Zulu men and their stabbing spears falling to the sophisticated arms of the British. British casualties were ten killed and eighty-seven wounded, while over a thousand Zulu dead were counted around the square, with about five hundred dying in the pursuit and as a result of wounds, about the same number are believed to have been wounded. Chelmsford ordered the Royal Kraal of Ulundi to be burnt – the capital of Zululand would burn for days. Chelmsford would turn over command to Wolseley on 15 July at the fort at St. Paul's leaving for home on the 17th.

Cetshwayo had been sheltered in a village since 3 July and fled upon hearing news of the defeat at Ulundi. The British forces were dispersed around Zululand in the hunt for Cetshwayo, burning numerous kraals in an attempt to get his Zulu subjects to give him up and fighting the final small battle to defeat the remaining hostile battalions. He was captured on 28 August and sent into exile on Robben Island, near Cape Town


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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Wed Dec 02, 2009 10:44 pm

Google earth co-ordinates this takes you to bang on the memorial buiding in the centre of the square
28 deg 18'40 south
31 deg 25'34 east
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:15 am

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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:13 pm

Scenes of the Battle Of Ulundi.
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Taken 29 March 2009. National Army Museum
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PostSubject: Battle Of Ulundi   Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:32 am

Hi Pete.
Great work , I've never seen those pictures before .
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:13 pm

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Battle of Ulundi.
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Burning of the Royal Kraal
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:19 am

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These six spent cartridges were picked up from the battlefield at Ulundi, Zululand. Following the British defeat at Isandlwana and the

remarkable engagement at Rorke’s Drift, the Battle of Ulundi fought on 5th July 1879, was the last major battle of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Involving some 17,000 British troops against 24,000 Zulu warriors, it proved a decisive victory for the British and resulted in the final

defeat for the Zulus.
British troops were armed with the single shot Martini-Henry rifle that fired a .450 brass cased cartridge. The body of the standard

cartridge was made of brass foil fixed to an iron base. The thin foil body of the cartridge was designed to expand when it was fired, but

when the rifle got hot the cartridge often could not be extracted from the rifle, leaving the soldier in a precarious position!

These six cartridges were picked up from the battlefield in 1900, by Colonel H.P.Ditmas, just twenty years after the battle. In his

letter dated 1936 donating the cartridges to the BRLSI he recollects that, "the battlefield was a large plain surrounded at some miles

distance apart by ranges of hills forming the Zulu stronghold from which they made their attack".

He was told that he "could find the Site of the British Squares by the small piles of Empty Cartridge cases. Taking with me a Zulu who

had been in the battle and walking over the plain I found the line marked by these small piles of cartridge cases". Five of the cases

have been flattened by the herds of Zulu cattle that wandered across the battle site during the twenty years after the battle. One

cartridge (bottom picture) remains in its original form, unfired, and was probably dropped in the confusion of battle, but the bullet and

powder have long since gone.
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PostSubject: The battle of Ulundi   Fri Apr 29, 2011 3:32 am

Hi littlehand .
Great find and enjoyed reading the letter , well done . Thanks for posting it .
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Incidents at Ulundi   Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:04 am

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90th

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PostSubject: Ulundi in sight    Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:11 am

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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:31 pm

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PostSubject: The battle of Ulundi   Fri Apr 29, 2011 11:55 pm

Hi Littlehand .
Do you know where the 6 Ulundi Cartridges have finished up ? . They may pop up on a militaria Auction site one day !.
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:29 pm

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© Bridgeman Art Library

Click Here to purchase.
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:24 pm


Great pic.

Did they get that close though ?

Neil
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:52 pm

nthornton1979 wrote:

Great pic.

Did they get that close though ?

Neil

Hi Neil

I attended a talk by Ian Knight who mentioned that the closest Zulu body was something like 6 paces from the square, officers drew their swords and the men were told to fire quicker...
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:18 pm

The odd one may have made it closer, but it was noted they advanced between 400-500 yards before being cut down by Rifle and Gatling gun fire.
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PostSubject: Battle Of Ulundi   Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:11 am

Hi all.
Admins first post on this thread mentions '' They didn't get any closer than 30 yds '' . I sure that one of the reporters
mentioned that he saw one / or more bodies that had got to only 10 paces or something like that from the square .
I'm sure this has been posted before but I dont know where !.
cheers 90th. Idea
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:01 pm

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Charge of the 17th Lancers at the Battle of Ulundi.
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:55 pm

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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:13 am

Just a quick point on the statement that appears above:

Quote :
Cetshwayo had been sheltered in a village since 3 July and fled upon hearing news of the defeat at Ulundi. The British forces were dispersed around Zululand in the hunt for Cetshwayo, burning numerous kraals in an attempt to get his Zulu subjects to give him up and fighting the final small battle to defeat the remaining hostile battalions. He was captured on 28 August and sent into exile on Robben Island, near Cape Town

King Cetshwayo was never sent to Robben Island, he was kept at the Castle in Capetown.

kwaJimu1879
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:11 pm

Quote :
King Cetshwayo was never sent to Robben Island, he was kept at the Castle Capetown

Finding lots of information that suggests he was at Robben Island. scratch
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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:21 pm

Littlehand,

I take it the information you are finding is online, if so it is inaccurate.

King Cetshwayo's son, King Dinizulu kaCetshwayo was imprisoned on Robben Island, but Cetshwayo himself was kept at the Castle and later at Oude Moden, with a former Robben Island inmate Langalibalele, he of Durnford fame.

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PostSubject: Re: The Battle of Ulundi   Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:11 pm

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PostSubject: The Battle Of Ulundi    Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:55 pm

A bit more info on the Ulundi Square map Littlehand posted . The Royal Kraal was about 2 or 3 miles from the face of the square from which the 80th Regt was placed . Buller and his Colonial Mounted troops , along with the Native Horse , began their pursuit also from the 80th Regt's position , as you can see , the 17th Lcrs rode out from the other end .
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