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 iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory

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tasker224

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PostSubject: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:50 pm

Hi All,
iSandlwana is constantly referred to as a "disaster!"
It is blamed on incompetence, scapegoats, complacency, ad infinitum, we have all read about it.

Now I can understand that the idea of a black, native army defeating a sophisticated, superior British lead force may have been unpalatable to the Victorian public, particularly the ruling classes. And they may have found the idea of scapegoats and a set of jolly bad pieces of luck more to their taste.

But isn't it time now, that we took it on the chin? The Zulu victory at iSandlwana was recognised as exactly that? That the Zulu leaders totally and completely outsmarted and outmanouevered Lord Chelmsford and his officers of the 3rd column?
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60thRifleman



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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:20 pm

tasker I think that is almost taken as read. Even in contemporary reports, the Zulus are given a healthy respect and held in a degree of admiration.

The only thing I would add though, is that the Zulus had really only one tactic - encirclement. Therefore, you could argue that defeat at Isandhlwana is about the failure of the British to deal with that tactic. That is not to detract from the Zulu achievement in any way, but I feel that if they had constantly hit the ponderous lines of communication, it would have taken a mammoth effort to overcome them.
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:58 pm

60thRifleman wrote:
tasker I think that is almost taken as read. Even in contemporary reports, the Zulus are given a healthy respect and held in a degree of admiration.

The only thing I would add though, is that the Zulus had really only one tactic - encirclement. Therefore, you could argue that defeat at Isandhlwana is about the failure of the British to deal with that tactic. That is not to detract from the Zulu achievement in any way, but I feel that if they had constantly hit the ponderous lines of communication, it would have taken a mammoth effort to overcome them.

"Taken as read"? I do hope so.
"One tactic"? I think there was a lot more to it than that! (Planning, deception, decoys, stealth, mobility, manouevre, speed, aggression, surprise, adaptability...)
To understand the AZW, one also needs to understand the history of the Zulu nation from their humble and peaceful origins, to Shaka, his ambition and onwards.
I would love to recommend a good book on the topic. I at least am somewhat rusty in that area - I will leave that to 90th - as he is the man who knows what are the best books to read on what. I am sure he will chip in later.
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:11 pm

Now that makes sense.

Quote :
"The only thing I would add though, is that the Zulus had really only one tactic - encirclement. Therefore, you could argue that defeat at Isandhlwana is about the failure of the British to deal with that tactic"

It might pay to look at the Zulu Tatics used during the various battles, I think it was Kambula where they didn't quite get in right.
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:23 pm

"Failure of the British to deal with encirlement" is yet another excuse, which does not credit the Zulus. This is exactly the point I am making in this thread.

But yes, that is a fair point nevertheless and a question that should be asked. (In much the same way that commentators asked the questions last week, did the English defence fail to deal with the aerial threat of Klaas van Huntelaar, did the English defence fail to deal with the pace and fleet footed Dirk Kuyt? (It discredits the Dutch victory doesn't it?)
Well yes; but they were better than us.

Back to the AZW then, LC had been warned about encirclement and weight of numbers by the Boers.
Chelmsford did not act on this advice at iSandlwana.
However, did not the British adapt, strategise and subsequently cope with encirclement in the later battles?

impi - at Khambula, the tactics of Cetshwayo were sound, it was the execution of those tactics that didn't come off.
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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:45 pm

Have to agree with Tasker, getting 20,000 men within 7 miles of the enamy,
charging the gus, out smarting the british,




Cheers
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:04 pm

Was there enough British, Coloinals & civilians ect to deal with the 20,000 Zulus encirling those at Isandlwana To my thinking they were a bit thin on the ground.
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60thRifleman



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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:46 pm

At Khambula they were provoked into attacking too early - you could say that the British stifled the Zulus tactically. At Gingin and Ulundi they tried the same thing - encirclement. I don't see any tactical variation, just a variation in how well that tactic was employed.

To be fair, without cavalry, artillery or trained riflemen there was a limit to what tactics the Zulus could use.

The British too showed tactical rigidity to be fair, but had the combined arms to vary it.

But to be clear, to criticize the Zulus tactically is not in any way a criticism of their fighting ability or bravery. Revisionism is all the rage but not always appropriate.

But above tactics, did the Zulus have any real strategy? I don't think so.
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90th

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PostSubject: Isandlwana- An outstanding zulu victory    Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:23 pm

Hi All .
I agree with 60thRifles to a degree as the zulu's only tactic seemed to be one of encirclement , they didnt adapt in any other way .
Why didnt they attack the slow moving columns when on the move or harass the lines of communication etc etc . If the zulu had been able to '' change '' their tactics somewhat , the war would have been far more costly to the British & Colonial forces .
In the cases of Gingindlovu , Khambula & Ulundi the British KNEW they were coming , Isandlwana they didnt know they were coming , but merely hoping . It's was the old story there , be careful what you wish for !. Suspect
cheers 90th. Salute
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RobOats



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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:44 am

impi wrote:
Was there enough British, Coloinals & civilians ect to deal with the 20,000 Zulus encirling those at Isandlwana To my thinking they were a bit thin on the ground.

If you look at the Battle of Blood River the number of actual riflemen was about 400 against 15 000 Zulu. They defeated the Zulu with no deaths and 3 minor injuries in follow-ups. The ratio of enemy:force = 38:1

Isandlwana; approximately 800 European riflemen and 500 natives against 25 000 Zulu. British losses 95+%. Ratio = 19:1

Rorke's Drift 130/5 000 and won. Ratio = 38:1 Comparable with Blood River

In its context Blood River was an impressive victory given that the Boers were just farmers and had muzzle loading rifles. Probably says a great deal about their tactics and the superb marksmanship. Later experienced by the British during the Anglo/Boer War.

So numbers in the context of the Battle is not the key element because the Boers were armed with muzzle loaders and the Imperial forces had cartridges enabling much greater rates of fire. The key is the tactics and position.
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90th

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PostSubject: Isandlwana- An outstanding zulu victory    Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:14 pm

Hi Rob.
Agreed !. Very Happy
cheers 90th.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:15 pm

Rob
One tiny little issue that could have assisted the Boer.
Wives daughters and sons.
Ive seen a muzzle loader fired and reloaded so fast you wouldnt believe it. if pushed id probably take an even bet putting a farmer, his wife and two children loading the two spare guns, equaling the rate of fire of a MH.
And I would give very generous odds on the farmer for accuracy. Notorious penny pinchers as they were, they paid for there own ammunition.
I cannot remember seeing where the quote came from but Im sure it was Oom Paul that said when asked how the Boer were so deadly replied: "the trick was to wait til two rooinek ( Englishmen )were in line then kill them both with one shot."
:lol:
Salute Regards
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Mr M. Cooper

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PostSubject: Isandlwana-an outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:24 pm

Hi all

And also at Blood River and RD, the defenders set up barricades, ie,wagons, biscuit boxes, mealie bags, etc, but at Isandlwana the inept Pulleine didn't bother doing anything like that, he just stuck to Chelmsfords defence plans, and paid the price for not using his common sense.

In the film 'zulu dawn' it does show some boers trying to advise about defences, I wonder if this sort of thing actually did happen, or was it just put into the film as a piece of 'licence'? as we all know, you can't trust film makers to give you the truth or the actual facts of what happened, so this may just have been some 'artistic licence' added for effect.

Martin. Salute
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90th

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PostSubject: Isandlwana- An outstanding zulu victory    Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:33 pm

Hi Martin .
I've certainly read that the Good Lord Chelmesford was advised several times by some Boers in prominent positions to indeed Lagaar at every opportunity , this was told to him before the invasion took place . As in his booklet he released in Dec 78 it states
that camps are to be Lagaared or at least some sort of defensive earthwork or similar is to be done when camped overnight .
cheers 90th. Salute
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Mr M. Cooper

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PostSubject: Isandlwana-an outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:48 pm

Hi 90th

So, in other words, Chelmsford disobeyed or ignored his own orders, then when it all goes wrong, blames someone else for his own mistakes.

Salute
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:36 pm

Ah ha, Martin sees the light.

By Jove hes got it, ( With abject apologies to Rex Harrison ) Very Happy

Salute
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Mr M. Cooper

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PostSubject: Isandlwana-an outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 3:37 pm

springers :lol: :lol: :lol:

Read my other posts, I have always said this. Shocked

(but you knew that didn't you?) Suspect

Hope your keeping well mate.

Martin. Salute

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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: iSandlwana - An Outstanding Zulu Victory   Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:09 pm

60thRifleman wrote:
At Khambula they were provoked into attacking too early - you could say that the British stifled the Zulus tactically. At Gingin and Ulundi they tried the same thing - encirclement. I don't see any tactical variation, just a variation in how well that tactic was employed.

To be fair, without cavalry, artillery or trained riflemen there was a limit to what tactics the Zulus could use.

The British too showed tactical rigidity to be fair, but had the combined arms to vary it.

But to be clear, to criticize the Zulus tactically is not in any way a criticism of their fighting ability or bravery. Revisionism is all the rage but not always appropriate.

But above tactics, did the Zulus have any real strategy? I don't think so.

Some good points 60th RFMN
Was Durnford provoked into attacking too early at iSandlwana? Possibly.
You are right. How does one fight artillery and Martini Henry with spear and shield? The only other feasible tactic the Zulu could have used which the Boer successfully evolved later, was guerilla warfare as 90th alludes to.
You are also correct that British tactical rigidity is also in evidence right through the campaign, so they don't win any prizes either. Even during the Great War, infantry tactics were to walk slowly and steadfastly towards the machine guns right up to 1917.
As for Zulu strategy, this was a foe like the Zulu had never seen before. They would never have needed to think so long term before. The strategy of the Zulu was limited, sadly to Cetshwayo's masterful political tactical handling of the build up to the war. He certainly would be viewed sympathetically today and the British invaders and colonials would have been seen to be shown up for the bullying, greedy, asset grabbers that they were.
Cetshwayo forced the British to do the wrong thing, he gave them no excuse to invade his homeland. In the end, it was done anyway on the flimsiest of excuses, and at that point, the outcome was only going to go one way eventually, with guns v spears.
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