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 The ammunition question

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littlehand

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PostSubject: The ammunition question   Sat Apr 25, 2009 9:50 am

Hi all.
Was the Battle Isandlwana lost due to the lack of ammunition getting to the firing lines.
how far was the firing line from the ammunition store, which I would presume was in the tented area. And would there have been small out posts of ammunition stations formed on the out skirts of the camp.
As this is my first post on this forum, I will understand if I get a frosty reply or no replies as this subject has probably been done to death.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:47 am

Hi Littlehand. We don’t give frosty replies here. We may no reply at all but not Frosty.( Joking )

It appears that plenty of ammunition was getting to the British firing lines an account by the late
Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien GCB, GCMG, DSO, ADC

“I will mention a story which speaks for the coolness and discipline of the regiment. I, having no particular duty to perform in camp, when I saw the whole Zulu Army advancing, had collected camp stragglers, such as artillerymen in charge of spare horses, officers' servants, sick, etc., and had taken them to the ammunition-boxes, where we broke them open as fast as we could, and kept sending out the packets to the firing-line. (In those days the boxes were screwed down and it was a very difficult job to get them open, and it was owing to this battle that the construction of the ammunition-boxes was changed.)
When I had been engaged at this for some time, and the 1/24th had fallen back to where we were, with the Zulus following closely, Bloomfield, the Quartermaster of the 2/24th, said to me in regard to the boxes I was then breaking open, " For heaven's sake, don't take that, man, for it belongs to our Battalion." And I replied, " Hang it all, you don't want a requisition now, do you ? "
The main problem was the extended fire line they were unable to fend of the attack from the Zulu who attacked in overwhelming numbers.

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old historian2

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:54 pm

Littlehand you might find this interesting.!!

Quartermasters Pullen and Bloomfield were on standby at their ammunition waggons and had the assistance of the bandsmen and drummers, ready to supply the companies with extra ammunition.

At the second alarm the men were at lunch. Tumbling out of their tents, they only had on their belts with 40 rounds in the pouches, a few brought their haversacks which had two extra packets of cartridges and some did not wear the pouch which contained the loose ten rounds.

Most of the men only had 40 to 50 rounds on their persons, when in fact each soldier should have had 70 rounds. Cavaye’s ‘A’ company actually did!

Each battalion quartermaster had an ammunition reserve of 30 rounds per man and, in any case, were there not 480 000 rounds in the ammunition waggons parked somewhere on the saddle?

The first half hour of the battle went off well and firing steadily at all points, the battle was static, and the black mass ahead was stopped, the Zulus suffered enormous slaughter, but they still came forward. Slowly but surely the ammunition pouches emptied and messengers were sent back for extra supplies.

The 1st Battalion’s ammunition waggon was behind their tented camp, 1 000 yards from the 1st Battalion companies in the firing line. Cavaye’s A’ company was in fact 1 800 yards (1 640 m) away from his ammunition supply. Qrt.-Master Pullen, J was inundated with demands for ammunition.

The 2nd Battalion’s ammunition waggoneaer QM Edward Bloomfield was actually only responsible for Pope’s ‘G’ company, 1 100 yards (1 005 m) away.

There was chaos at the waggons, the ammunition boxes being closed. Each box had the middle third top section as a sliding lid, held in position with only one cheese head brass screw, which when removed allowed the lid easily to slide out, revealing the tinlining which was easily opened by pulling on a tin strap in one corner. The whole procedure took a few minutes, and the complaint made after the battle by the few survivors, that the difficulty in opening the ammo-boxes was the cause of the men not obtaining enough cartridges is blatantly incorrect. The main cause was the fact that each company or section did not have its own ammunition supply readily at hand, and thus the long distances of many of the companies from their ammunition waggons resulted in the loss of valuable, and as it turned out, vital time, before a trickle of supplies arrived.

With the drying up of the available ammunition, and the resultant drop in the firepower, the Zulu impis numbering 25 000, taking advantage of the lull in the battle at all points, rushed through the available gaps in the line, not only attacking the isolated companies from the front, but now also from the rear. They were also able to overrun the camp itself, by then all supplies of ammunition were decidedly and completely cut off, the waggons being surrounded and all personnel slaughtered.

Source: Military History Journal - Vol 4 No 6
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littlehand

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:46 am

Thanks very much for all your replies.
I did see a documentary by the historian Ian Knight sometime ago, where he managed to open one of the ammunition boxes. Or one like it with the butt of a rifle. Which I think helped to put pay to the myth of not being able to open the boxes fast enough.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:57 pm

Ammunition was getting to the firing lines, but not fast enough.
The firing lines were far tp extended.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:37 pm

It was Durnford’s force who were critically short of ammunition and retired on the camp. The British line was in danger of being outflanked and Pullein ordered the “retire” to be sounded and so the British troops fell back into the camp. The N.N.C. fled and the Natal Native Horse also galloped away – they had fought well but had no more ammunition and could do nothing. On the west side of Isandlwana they found themselves barred by the Zulu right horn and consequently fled in a south-westerly direction down a ravine, which led to the Buffalo River.


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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Nov 25, 2009 10:07 pm

Some more evidence to suggest ammuniton was getting to the firing line. By Bertram Mitford. Isandlwana visit 3 year on.

"I climbed to the summit of Isandhlwana, which ascent is neither long or perilous, being at the north end gradual and easy, albeit good exercise for wind and limb. From the top a good sweeping view is to be had, and the whole battlefield lies spread out beneath like a map.

I suppose that for many years relics of the conflict will keep on turning up — assegai heads, buttons, and such like ; here and there a bullet is to be found, and cartridge cases in plenty. Every now and then you come across a heap of these, and begin to speculate on how some poor fellow made a long stand for it on this particular spot until his ammunition failed. On closer inspection, however, the illusion is dispelled, for about eight out of ten of these cartridge cases have never been fired at all, as you may see by the unexploded cap and the marks of teeth where the enterprising savage has torn open the case to extract the powder and ball.

I particularly noticed that none of these unexploded cases were to be found on the outskirts of the field, all there having been fired off not until one got upon the site of the actual camp did they become plentiful, pointing, if anything, to the fact that the fight in camp was hand to hand, our men being rushed before they had time to fire many shots, whereas those forming the outer lines of defence would have had plenty. And the above circumstance seems to make against the idea that there was any faikire of ammunition.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Thu Nov 26, 2009 4:12 am

There is absolutly no primary source evidence to suggest that there was a shortage of ammo. Survivors tell of helping send ammo to the lines by hand and mule cart.
The only suggestion of a shortage was with Durnfords men. The withdrawl of Durnford was however not connected to ammunition but rather being out flanked. His withdrawl forced the contraction by Pope, and hence the collapse.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Feb 21, 2010 12:00 am

Can anyone tell me if I'm correct in saying that it was Ian Knight who discovered or suggested that the ammunition boxes could be opened with a the butt of a rifle. Helping to dispel the myth about the lack of ammunition to the firing line.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:40 am

In a recent discussion I had with Dr Greaves he indicated that spent ammunition cases were found at positions much further out than had been previously thought.

In any defeat like this there are multiple factors that lead to failure and this is the case here. However the sudden collapse could be attributed to the hole that developed in the British right flank.

We know that Durnford and those that held the donga were able to halt the Zulu left horn for some time. The centre was holding well as well. Once Durnford's force ran low on ammunition and withdrew to the camp the game was up. In a sense the lack of ammunition to this area was a major contributory factor. As I understand it, the colonial supplies were on the far side of the camp which delayed further supplies.

Rumour in the Colony was that the difficulty in opening the boxes was the major contributory factor. In reality for most people it is clear that the ground command was inexperienced and lacked the tactical ability to ensure the correct distribution of fire power and make a safe tactical withdrawal in formation. i.e. the firing line was too dispersed to be effective in either attack or defence.
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Mr Greaves

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:14 pm

Hi Rob.
Is it not possible that the spent cartridges you mentioned,could have come from those British Soldiers that were retreating back to the camp. They were still holding their rank formation so there would have been quite a few cartridges where these formations had fire before moving on leaving lines of cartridges.
Just a thought.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:22 pm

Mr Greaves wrote:
Hi Rob.
Is it not possible that the spent cartridges you mentioned,could have come from those British Soldiers that were retreating back to the camp. They were still holding their rank formation so there would have been quite a few cartridges where these formations had fire before moving on leaving lines of cartridges.
Just a thought.

Dr Greaves indicated to me that collections of spent cartidges were found much further out towards the Conical Hill indicating an initial line almost parallel to the Nyoni ridge. Those outer deployments may have fallen back as the Zulu left horn moved into the valley.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:18 pm

The Rev Lee (later Bishop Lee of Zululand) wrote in "Once Dark Country" how several Zulu veterans of the Battle of Isandlwana had told him that the British soldiers had held off the attack with such intensive rifle fire that it almost faltered. "A little more and they would have broken and retreated. As many of them afterwards told me: 'We died', they said 'ngamaviyo' -ie, by companies but at this moment the supply of ammunition began to fail.'"
Regards,
Ken
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Mr Greaves

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:39 pm

There is a scene, in Zulu Dawn where the top of an ammunition box is being broken open using the Butt of a Rifle.
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:12 am

You have to look at three sides to the argument here.
1) There is no primary evidence to suggest the men were running low on ammunition on the line, boxes were being distributed. Smith Dorrien and Essex were involved in the distribution via mule cart. No one survived to report them running out, or that they were not being able to open up boxes in any way or form. So what was the problem?.

Opening the Boxes

It required a screwdriver to open the box, a single brass screw. which once removed allowed the box lid to slide off. In the event of being no screwdriver...(odd, when every five M-H Rifles were supplied with an action implement with a screwdriver on it), a blow to the egde would shatter the housing. The evidence is contradictory.

LOC 3653 24.11.1879 Box wood ammunition, small arm, with tin lining (Mk8). ..and in having the hole (in the side of the box) for the locking screw strengthened by fixing a small piece of tin around it. (evidence this was a well considered weak point???).

However LOC 3752 14.5.1880 Box wood ammunition, small arm with tin lining, service pattern Mk1X.

"It differs from the previous pattern (3653) in the mode of fastening the lid, the alteration being made with the oblect of preventing delay in difficulty in opening the box in the field". (It had a split pin and wire loop pull).
That there was "issues" in the opening of the boxes can be found in the LOC. 16th Oct 1878 LOC 3434. "Alteration to lid of tin lining". It being found in many instances when using thehandle for opening of the tin lining of the above mentioned boxes, that the tin around the handle gives way and the box is not properly opened. All the boxes in future will have a larger handle".So, what do you do then?, the lid to the opening was a flat plate soldered on, it has to be prized off, not impossible, but a unwanted delay. But this would be done well before it became a big problem


All this is well and good and "overcomeable" in battle, what does't help if your ammo boxes are now in the hands of the enemy i.e in the 1st amd 2nd batts camps, well away from the saddle and the last stands.

So, what to conclude.
Was the initial line out of ammo?, no. But potential delay in opening. But troop disposition extended to far to hold.

The troops retire (in reasonable order) proving ammo was still flowing

They arrive at saddle and now what is left is it, once its gone, its gone.

Was there enough concentrated firepower to stop the rot?, no, it just worked at Khambula, it failed miserably at Tofrek and barely at Abu Klea.
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PostSubject: ammunition question   Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:07 pm

hi all.
This from Ian Knight.


AMMUNITION
My view on this is pretty straightforward - there was no significant failure of supply of ammunition to the forward companies which contributed to the British defeat.
Much of the myth to the contrary comes from Smith-Dorrien's account of his conversation with the 2/24th's Quartermaster, Edward Bloomfield, and Bloomfield's famous reply 'For Heaven's sake don't take that man, for it belongs to our battalion.' In his memoirs, written much later, Smith-Dorrien implies that this exchange happened at the height of the battle, and that the British collapse followed shortly afterwards. Yet curiously in a letter to his father written just after the battle Smith-Dorrien doesn't mention this incident, but says pretty much the opposite - that he was out at the front line for most of the battle distributing ammunition to the 24th. This apparent contradiction can best be explained by his shifting memory - that the incident with Bloomfield took place earlier in the battle - and that in fact Smith-Dorrien did in the end get his ammunition.
It's worth noting that the 2/24th camp lay closer to the line than the 1/24th one. Smith-Dorrien - who, as a transport officer, had no particular duties in battle, and was exactly the sort of individual likely to be employed to fetch fresh ammunition - came across the 2/24th supplies first. These were loaded on a wagon (marked by a coloured flag) behind the battalion tents. But - and this is a very significant point - before he had left the camp early that morning, Lord Chelmsford had ordered that the reserve supply for the 2nd Battalion - whom he took with him - be made ready to be sent to him if he needed it. In other words, the 2/24th had marched out with the usual 70 rounds in their pouches, and their reserve, 200 rounds a man, was still in camp. So when Smith-Dorrien asked for some, Bloomfield not unnaturally said no. In my view it would have been a dereliction of his duty to do otherwise - he had been specifically ordered to have it ready for Chelmsford if he needed it. Supposing, at this early stage, the attack on the camp had proved a feint, and the real attack was directed at Chelmsford - the 2/24th (and Bloomfield!) would have been in real trouble if Chelmsford sent back for it, only to discover it had been issued at Isandlwana!
In fact, however, it is clear that Bloomfield relented soon after this. Captain Essex arrived, having intitially been up onto the ridge with Mostyn and Cavaye - when Mostyn and Cavaye retired, Essex went to make sure there was a supply of ammunition being sent out to them (in other words, pretty much at the height of the battle). Now presumably he found Bloomfield and Smith-Dorrien still together, because Essex says Bloomfield then helped him pack up boxes to go to the front line. Why did Bloomfield relent? Well, for one thng Smith-Dorrien was still wet behind the ears, a young 19 year-old lieutenant, and Bloomfield probably didn't trust his judgement - Essex, on the other hand, was older, a captain, and Smith-Dorrien's superior. Also, the situation had then changed, for we know from Essex's account that the full extent of the Zulu attack only really became apparent when Mostyn and Cavaye were forced off the ridge - so Bloomfield could judge for himself now that the situation was quite serious. Essex says he sent some unattached men, mostly RA, out to the line under an officer - this was presumably Smith-Dorrien, as confirmed by his letter to his father - carrying boxes. With Bloomfield's help Essex then loaded up a Scotch cart with ammo, and took it out himself. A Scotch cart could carry up to sixty boxes - each with 600 rounds. We don't know how many Essex loaded up, but it was presumably quite a few - so a lot of ammunition went out to the line.
Did it reach it, could the boxes be opened, and did the 24th companies keep up their fire? When we did the partial archaeological survey of Isandlwana in 2000, we went over sections of the firing line with metal detectors. Although the battlefield has been picked over across the years, we still found quite a lot of debris. There were indications that the 24th had initially advanced further out than most historians thought - down into the hollows towards the dongas running across the foot of the iNyoni heights - but had then retired to a more secure position 100 or 200 meters behind, presumably as the Zulu attack developed. This was on higher ground and in some places there are quite a few boulders for cover (behind one cluster of rocks we found half a dozen Martini-Henry cartridge-cases on top of one another). Now one would expect this to have been the 24th's position when the reserve ammunition (Smith-Dorrien, Essex) reached them - and indeed, we found the remains of a number - again, maybe half a dozen - of the ring-pull handles from the lining of the boxes along this position. This shows that boxes not only reached them, but were opened there. Of course we would expect to find remains surviving from only a small proportion of boxes opened - so the likelihood is many more boxes were opened on these positions.
The boxes themselves are held together by copper bands, but there is a wedge-shaped sliding panel in the middle. This is screwed down - one screw - and obviously this screw is supposed to be removed. But in an emergency a sharp blow to the edge of the panel will split the wooden lid around the screw and knock it out. The dig was filmed for the TV documentary series 'Secrets of the Dead', and Tony Pollard and I re-enacted breaking open a box to see if it could be done. In fairness, the box was one made up by the TV company and not made of mahogany, as the real boxes were - but a sharp blow on the edge with a rifle butt broke it open very easily. Since then it has been pointed out to me by a serving colonel that actually the troops would probably have used the mallets provided to knock in tent pegs, as there were hundreds of these in the camp.
Now here's another interesting point. When we broke it open, the screw stayed lodged in the box side, but was bent over by the impact. Over the years a number of the real screws have been found on the battlefield bent in this way - and of course it would be exceptionally difficult to bend them by some other means (try bending a screw without one end of it being fixed in something! Fix it in something and whack it with a hammer and you'll see what I mean).
To me this is very clear proof - together with the remains of the lining lids - that there was no major problem opening the boxes. It's also interesting to note that one of the W.W. Lloyd sketches of the battlefield in the David Rattray book shows debris on the firing line - including very clearly an open and empty ammunition box.
The other point to mention is whether the Zulus mention any failure of the 24th's fire early in the battle. They do not. They talk about some badly aimed volleys, and the firing ceasing when the 24th rose up to retire on the tents - but many of them (I won't list them all here!) talk about the 24th stopping to fire volleys as they fell back, and the heavy volume of fire that the stands on the nek put down. Obviously, this would not have been possible if the 24th had been forced to retire due to ammunition failure.
It is true that Qm Bloomfield was shot dead while loading boxes onto a mule, and that someone says they saw mules plunging about trying to throw off their boxes - but this must have been later in the fight, after Essex had taken out his cart (simply because we know Bloomfield was alive then - Essex says he was killed shortly after). As the Zulu attack developed, so their fire grew heavier, much of it passing over the heads of the 24th and falling on the flats or in the camp behind - hence stories of ammunition runners being hit before they reached the line. But - it is important to note that only a small part of the resupply operation was affected in this way.
It's also worth saying most of the evidence we have is regarding the 2nd Battn supplies - there is no reason to believe that the 1st 24th did not also (admittedly perhaps later, being further away) send out ammunition to their own companies in addition - but that we don't have the evidence on this point because everyone involved was killed. As probably did the Volunteers - and one of the NNC who survived (a man named Malindi) mentions specifically that 'our ammunition failed once but we got more from the camp'.
It's also true that Durnford was in a different position - when he arrived in the camp that morning his ammunition wagons were still on the road behind him - and he rode out again before they had arrived. There are a number of suggestions that, as a result, when he sent men back from the donga to get fresh supplies, they couldn't find where his wagons had been parked - and that his men did indeed run out of ammunition.
Finally, of course even if the soldiers of the 24th had a good supply of ammunition in their pouches when they retired from the forward positions, this could not last indefinately, and that once the fighting was raging hand to hand among the tents it was impossible to organise fresh supplies. So they kept shooting until it was gone - and hence the stories of men running out of ammunition in the 'last stands', and fighting on with the bayonet.
There are those, of course, who say that all the archaeological evidence of open boxes could be explained by the Zulus smashing open the boxes afterwards. To me it seems absurd to argue that an experienced battalion like the 24th could not open their own boxes but that the Zulus (many of whom had never seen a European wooden box before) could. Nor is this consistent with the remains being found along the British forward positions. I have no doubt that the Zulus did smash open the boxes they captured, but that most of these were undistributed ones still in the camp. The late Donald Morris had a length of copper strap from a box which had clearly been prised off by a pointed object - in my view this is evidence of a Zulu having tried to open the box, since a soldier of the 24th would have known that the straps did not need to be removed to access the packets within.
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garywilson1

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:26 am

I thought Abu klea was a victory for the British with the Mahdist forces suffering about 1500 casualties against 76 on the British side ?
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:47 am

Gary

I used it as an example to illustrate the fact that even massed infantry firing volleys does not stop a determined enemy, whilst the mhadists got into the square via the opening created with the baggage camels, they used the re-entrant to gain real estate before the enfilading fire could stop the advance, it hadn't the weight of fire. It did not stop the hand to hand fighting at Tofrek, only the Berkshires and RMLI stand broke up the rush, but just in time.

At Isandlwana, with even full comlement, Pullein would have only had say 800 rifles to his defence, even in close quaters it probably wasn't enough, as the odds were double that of Tofrek and Abu Klea.

Heres a teaser, another battle, companies spread on defensive cordon, mounted troops launch failed sortee, firing line doing ok, the native troops on the flank collapse inward, groups stick together for mutual defence, retiring in reasonable order, final desperate stands, but ultimately a rout, guns lost, colours lost...sound familiar?
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:49 am

Hello Neil , you are refering to Maiwand i think .

As regards Abu Klea i thought the square lost its shape as it advanced , something which was clearly not going to happen at Ishandlwana , also i read somewhere that they had an early type of machine gun which jammed and thus caused a reduction in fire .

I know this has has been debated before , and on RDVC probably , but my opinion remains that 800 rifles in a solid defensive square with enough ammunition would not have broken.

Gary.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:35 am

Gary

The rear end of the square handn't quite closed on the incline, I studied Mike Snooks photographs intently at Isandlwana Lodge. Mikes now work on it should be the DB's.

I suppose you can only draw a similar conclusion to this at Tofrek, abeit the men were already in rough oblique squares prior to the assault, but 200 rifles per side of a square isn't alot, it wouldn't be like the square that is shown in "The four Feathers" shoulder to shoulder, there was too much kit and men to get inside.

The parrallels of the AZW is Khambula, fact that the Zulus actually got to the Wagons is testimony to the fact musketary and shrapnel on near perfectly laid out defensive postions only just held...its an interesting dilemma to what if this, but parrallels in history are the only benchmark, none would bode to well for 800 agianst 20,000 in any parallel.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:36 pm

Apart from Mitford. Where there any other visits to the Battleground for the soul purpose of being able to try and establish if the so called lack of ammunition was a factor in the defeat at Isandlwana. It would have been far easier to determine this, as many of the empty cartridges would have still been on the ground. Don’t quote me but I’m sure Mitford say’s that he saw plenty of cartridges outside the perimeter of the camp, and hardly any in the camp area.

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PostSubject: ammunition question   Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:09 am

MR G.
This from Mitford.
" Here and there a bullet is found , and cartridge cases in plenty, every now and then you come across a heap of these ,
and begin to speculate on how some poor fellow made a long stand of it on this particular spot till his ammunition failed .
On closer inspection however , the illusion is quickly dispelled , for about 8 out of 10 of these cartridges have never been fired at all, as you may see by the unexploded cap and the teeth marks where the enterprising savage has torn open the case to extract
the powder and ball . I particularly noticed that none of the unexploded cases were to be found on the outskirts of the field , all
there having been fired off ; Not until one got upon the site of the actual camp did they become plentiful , pointing , if anything
to the fact that the fight in the camp was hand to hand , our men being rushed before they had time to fire many shots, whereas
those forming the outer lines of defence would have had plenty. And the above circumstance seems to make against the idea
that there was any failure of ammunition ".
cheers 90th.
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:48 am

what Mitford omits top say is that the whole regimental reserve for the 2 Battn's was sitting ready to go, 100'000's of rounds, plus the reserve of the NMP, The NC, NMR.

The Zulu's would have appreciated the Ammo boxes, without doubt they would have carried away boxfull's of ammo, those who wanted the powder would just sit and tear away the bullet and recover the contents.

A study of the renasacked camp by Whitelock Lloyd appears in "A soldier Artist in Zululand", there is a pile of opened boxes, WWL had a photographic eye for detail, he drew what he saw. The boxes would have been carried to the line, Mule Cart:( Essex,) or Pack Mule (HLSD)., so these had been opened an emptied pror to distribution, who knows by?.
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PostSubject: Not the Same weapons or ammunition.   Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:02 pm

Why didn't Chelmsford ensure that every company regardless of British or Colonial had the same weapons & ammunition. Surly it should have been taken into consideration that if every unit had used the same weapons & ammunition there wouldn't have been the problem that exisited at Isandlwana where Durnford's company couldn't find their ammunition waggon. Was there a change after Isandlwana, or did they continue using different weapons and ammo.
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PostSubject: Standarised weapons and ammunition   Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:25 pm


Hi littlehand,
Precisely the point.
But more shameful is the fact that where there was uniformity , Imperial regiments were "tardy" in their supply of ammunition to the Colonials, ie parochialism in the extreme, costing their lives in the end. Too heavy a price to pay for small mindedness .
Changes did eventually come , but too late. Neil /90th will certainly have dates etc.

regards,

barry
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:56 pm

And by all accounts. The M.H and ammunition wasn't that expensive back then, so there is no excuse.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:51 pm

There was only a limited suply of Marti-Henry's avalible so most the Native units
got Sniders or Wesly-Richards as they were least expensive.

Barry i've never heard it cost live, your source ?



Cheers

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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:48 pm

Cost had no real effect.

Consider this: the Militia and the Volunteers in England did not receive MH's until 1885, the snider was still the choice arm for arm of much of the volunteer and colonial forces until well into the mid 1880's, the issue of .577/450 calibered arms was actually higher (Mainly as the Swinburn Henry was commercial, i.e purchased privtely) in South Africa, than forces had in the UK mainland. Even in 1879 Snider carbines were "front line" weapons.

In the Sudan campaigns of the mid 1880's the Snider was still the standard arm of the Indian forces.
Cost of ammunition for MH fell from £2.14s in 1872 to £2.8s per 1000, capacity was increased in Woolwich in 1877 to keep up with demand.


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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Apr 22, 2012 10:52 pm

Was Durnfords ammunition found during the Battle or after or was it never found at all.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:11 pm

This won't be to easy to answer. But is it known how far away the ammunition waggons were from each company, as each company had its own supply.
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PostSubject: Not the same weapons or Ammunition   Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:39 pm

Hi 24th .
Not wishing to get to involved but it appears the Troops on the firing line were about a mile or so from the ammunition wagons .
I would hazard a guess and say Durnford's ammo was looted along with all the other ammunition . I've never read or heard of any ammo being found in great quantities at the camp after the battle or anywhere near the camp for that matter !.
Cheers 90th. Salute
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PostSubject: Recovering the weapons and ammunition lost at Isandlwana   Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:37 am

Hi All,

The regimental records and personal diaries etc show that Col J. Dartnell , o/c NMP/NP and his successors spent the next 30 years recovering from rural Zululand , the equipment and ammunition lost by the British forces at Isandlwana, on 22/01//1879.
It is not known if it was ever all recovered, I suspect not.
An interesting twist is that as recently as the late 1960's it was believed that there was still a Gatling gun out there somewhere, that was being hauled out each so often to settle the perennnial violent tribal/internicine desputes, so common still in present day KZN Natal.

regards

barry


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PostSubject: Further to the Isandlwana ammuntion problem.    Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:29 pm

Hi John/Littlehand/Gary/24th,

If one is interested in studying this problem further the SA Military history society has a document on the internet, ref SA militaryhistorysociety.org, Vol 4 no 6 (1979) which covers this aspect quite concisely.
The author is Maj (Doctor) Felix Machanix.
It is too long to reproduce here, but saliently Machanix says, interalia ;

* 500,00 rounds were avaialble at the start of the battle
* there was no system , but use of carts or other means, to deliver ammuntion to the lines.
* weapons were prone overheating in sustained fire and thus jamming, leaving troopers only there bayonets
* there were problems with opening ammo boxes and smashing them open was taking time depriving the frontline troops of ammo at critical times
* jamming weapons were reducing vital fire power at critical times
* defence lines were too far away to properly supply reasonably quickly by any means.

etc , etc , etc,
A vey good insight. and an aspect touched on by many authors who have done proper research into the Isandhlwana fiasco.

Further, Laband had this to say on the same subject. The quote is verbatim ;

The firing line at Isandlwana ran out of ammunition because it was positioned up to half a mile ( 880m) from the camp , and no proper ammunition carts were availble to bring up more. To compound the problem , no system of runners had been organized before the battle to carry ammunition, and the quartermaster distributiing the ammunition was was overly conscientious of his duty to account for every round issued.
Certainly, there seems also to have been a reluctance to hand out ammuntion to Native Troops.
unquote

Well, well.

regards

barry

Ps : Any wonder that those who could, headed for Helpmekaar


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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:39 pm

There was no system , but use of carts or other means, to deliver ammuntion to the lines.
Men carried boxes between pares and mules were loaded with ammuntion, these reached the line
and we succefully opened.

There were problems with opening ammo boxes and smashing them open was taking time depriving the frontline troops of ammo at critical times
Smith-Dorrien smashed them open and was succseful in reaching the firing line. The 24th
had pioneers with toold who could open the boxes.

The firing line at Isandlwana ran out of ammunition
No evidence what so ever that the firing line ran out of ammo.

Certainly, there seems also to have been a reluctance to hand out ammuntion to Native Troops.
Becasue they didn't have the same weapon so the 24th ammo would be useless.

Barry, ammuntion played no part in the defeat that day, if it did prove

Essex
Smith-Dorrien
Browne
Umohiti
Higggison
Wilson
Numouroeus warrirs intervied by Mitford were lying


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PostSubject: The experts and survivors   Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:45 pm

Hi Db14,

If the experts and survivors, ie people who were actually there, including Smith -Dorien by the way ( see my earler post,) say that there was an ammunition problem, then you can bet your bottom dollar that there was.

regards,

barry
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:56 pm

There was a massive problem with the ammunition. Most of it stayed in the ammo boxes.

90th
Quote :
Troops on the firing line were about a mile or so from the ammunition wagons .

And that gentleman,was just one of the problems.

If it hadn't been a problem, the enemy fatalities would have been much more.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:14 pm

"The first half hour of the battle went off well and firing steadily at all points, the battle was static, and the black mass ahead was stopped, the Zulus suffered enormous slaughter, but they still came forward. Slowly but surely the ammunition pouches emptied and messengers were sent back for extra supplies.

The 1st Battalion’s ammunition waggon was behind their tented camp, 1 000 yards from the 1st Battalion companies in the firing line. Cavaye’s A’ company was in fact 1 800 yards (1 640 m) away from his ammunition supply. QM James Pollen was inundated with demands for ammunition.

The 2nd Battalion’s ammunition waggoneaer QM Edward Bloomfield was actually only responsible for Pope’s ‘G’ company, 1 100 yards (1 005 m) away.

There was chaos at the waggons, the ammunition boxes being closed. Each box had the middle third top section as a sliding lid, held in position with only one cheese head brass screw, which when removed allowed the lid easily to slide out, revealing the tinlining which was easily opened by pulling on a tin strap in one corner. The whole procedure took a few minutes, and the complaint made after the battle by the few survivors, that the difficulty in opening the ammo-boxes was the cause of the men not obtaining enough cartridges is blatantly incorrect. The main cause was the fact that each company or section did not have its own ammunition supply readily at hand, and thus the long distances of many of the companies from their ammunition waggons resulted in the loss of valuable, and as it turned out, vital time, before a trickle of supplies arrived.

With the drying up of the available ammunition, and the resultant drop in the firepower, the Zulu impis numbering 25 000, taking advantage of the lull in the battle at all points, rushed through the available gaps in the line, not only attacking the isolated companies from the front, but now also from the rear. They were also able to overrun the camp itself, by then all supplies of ammunition were decidedly and completely cut off, the waggons being surrounded and all personnel slaughtered.

Hand to hand fighting with bayonet against assegai ensued, with the British forces in a very short space of time being completely overwhelmed by force of numbers."


By Major (Dr) Felix Machanik
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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:34 pm

Digs at Isandlwana discovered numourous ammuntion box strapps on the firing line.

With regards ammo expedature read this.

"To take the case of the men who died in the Saddle or beyond it is simply not possible for
them to have fourght there way back across the distences in question with the bayonet alone.
The distences vary from 300 yards to 1,300 yards. We can safly conlude then that most of the
men of the 24th were still reasonabley well supplied with ammuntion when the crisis broke. It
is quite clear that the men of the 24th could not have fourght there way back over the distences
concered with thousands of zulus hanging on there flanks or all ready in front of the troops.
Since the soldiers did get back then the zulus were somewhere else, in front of the troops, checked
from pressing the withdrawl to hard by the same kind of fire that had held them in check earlier."




"The 24th had gone into action with 70 rounds a man. Based on ammuntion expenditure of regular
infantrey companies in the other major battles of the war, and assuming that the officers and NCO's
of an experienced battaltion like the 1/24th would have exercised strict fire control, it is difficult to imagine
the men firng more then about 35 rounds each on the firing line. Two months later at the Battle of Kambula
Evelyn Woods Infantrey fired about the same amount in an action that lasted between 3 and 4 hours.
At Ulundi on 10 rounds would be expended in half an hours firing. In the case of Isandlwana even 35 rounds
would be a fairly extravagent amount against an enemy who had been pinned to ground within two to three
minuites of opening fire and held in check with only intermitent fire for a further 25 miniutes after that. Let use
assume at the maximum of four miniuts firing at the rapid rate of 3 volleys per miniute and a round a miniute
for 25 miniutes after that.This complets at 37 rounds expended. At the time of the crisis then, the majority of
the infantreyman probebly had around 33 rounds left in there pouches."
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:20 pm

On of the main reasons they fell back was because they were running low on ammunition, they did not have enough to have sustained a holding position. With regards to the use of Bayonets very few had time to fix them.

With regards to numourous ammo box straps being found on the firing lines, I don't doubt this but I woud like to see written evidence of this.


The other battles you mentioned were well established fortified positions, more cannon Gatling guns and imperial mounted infantry. With plentiy of ammunition with a proper line of distribution.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:24 pm

littlehand wrote:
On of the main reasons they fell back was because they were running low
on ammunition, they did not have enough to have sustained a holding position.

No Evidence. Salute

They fell back because Durford retreated because he was outflanked.

There is a report from about the dig somewhere on the forum.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:46 pm

It would only be natural to fall back to where ammunition would be available. No point in trying to hold a position when the troops are running low on ammunition.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:55 pm

littlehand wrote:
the troops are running low on ammunition.

Your source for the men runnign low on ammo ?


Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:55 pm

littlehand wrote:
the troops are running low on ammunition.

Your source for the men runnign low on ammo ?


Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:56 pm

Captain Essex.

"The companies 1st Battalion 24th Regiment first engaged were now becoming short of ammunition, and at the request of the officer in charge I went to procure a fresh supply, with the assistance of Quartermaster 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment and some men of the Royal Artillery. I had some boxes placed on a mule cart and sent it off to the companies engaged, and sent more by hand, employing any men without arms. I then went back to the line, telling the men that plenty of ammunition was coming".

"During the course of the battle there were, in fact, three distinct firing lines scattered over the battlefield.
a) That of the two troops NNH, commanded by Durnford. It ran out of ammunition and was refused, or was unable to obtain further supplies. There is indisputable evidence to this effect.
b) The two companies of the 24th commaded respectively by Lts. Cavaye and Mostyn, and later supported by the two troops of the NNH commanded by Capt. W. Barton with a further coompany of the 24th commanded by Capt. Younghusband. The evidence of Capt. Essex, who attempted to replenish their ammunition supply is specific: He was unable to do so.

c) The firing line comprising the remaining companies of the 24th, those of Wardell, Porteous and Pope, suported to some extent by poorly armed units of the NNC. The evidence of survivors, Lt. Smith -Dorrien and Privates Williams, Bickley and Wilson, all mention attempts to re-supply the firing line.

In addition, Capt. Penn Symons of the 2/24th, who, at the time of the battle, was with Chelmsford's column, took it upon himself, immediately after the battle, whilst at Rorkes Drift, to interview and collate evidence. His report was later passed on to Horse Guards and Queen Victoria. He wrote "Whatever demarits this account may possess, however inaccurate it may be in detail ... it has the great advantage of having been written from notes and conversations made on the spot. In all cases it contains the first statements of survivors". With regard to the ammunition supply he wrote:
"Our men now began running backwards and forwards by twos and threes for ammunition. Officers in the camp were serving it out and carrying it to the front ... It was hopeless to expect troops, even with an unlimited supply of ammunition to stop the determined advance and rush of vast numbers." Later in his report he refers to the ammunition supply again: "The reserve was in the wagons, at the nearest point 5oo yards to the rear. Every available man was in the ranks and there were absolutely no arrangements whatsoever for bringing up ammunition."
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:01 pm

Essex says how E and F were low on ammo and who he oraginsed a mule cart and
men to carry ammo to them, in the dig i mentioned ammuntion box strapps were found
and E and f Coy posistions confirming that Essex's boxes succesfully reached the line and
were opened.

The evidence of Capt. Essex, who attempted to replenish their ammunition supply is specific:
He was unable to do so.


Suspect Nead to read Essex's account.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:04 pm

Every available man was in the ranks and there were absolutely no arrangements whatsoever for bringing up ammunition."

Yet you also posted

The evidence of survivors, Lt. Smith -Dorrien and Privates Williams, Bickley and Wilson, all mention attempts to re-supply the firing line.


Suspect

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:11 pm

Exactly my point. Primary sources.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:14 pm

Symons is not a primary source, he wasn't there.

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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:23 pm

But the persons he interviewed were. And the fact his report was later passed on to Horse Guards and Queen Victoria, shows it was taken seriously.

Looking at it from a different angle, how long woud it have taken for each man to fire off his 70 rounds. Not that long. We know they were firing off volley after volley.
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PostSubject: Re: The ammunition question   Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:47 pm

Topics merged. Not the Same weapons or ammunition, merged with the ammunition question.

Reason same discussion different thread.
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