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 Number of ranks ?

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PostSubject: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:25 am

Hi all

Given that I learn something new every day, now I want to know if the British infantry at Gingindlovu was on two ranks, the first kneeling (it's my actual opinion ) or on four ranks as at Ulundi...

Thanks for help

Cheers

Pascal
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:35 am

As they used the square formation, I think it would have been two ranks, as you say one standing the other kneelIng.
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:39 am

No ! The square formation is on 4 ranks as at Ulundi...
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90th

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PostSubject: Number Of Ranks    Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:01 pm

John they also used the square at Ulundi and it had 4 ranks ! . Norris - Newman in his book '' In Zululand With The British Army ''
states on page 136 regarding Gingindlovhu , '' Col Crealock had determined , from the previous expeience on the road , that if made about 130 yds square , the Laager would give us sufficient room for the cattle and wagons , and space for the Native Troops inside the Europeans , who would then have two men to the Lineal yard of our outside line of defence '' . I dont know if he's talking side by side or in ranks . I'll keep looking !
Cheers 90th
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:27 pm

But they had more men at Ulundi. Which enabled them to have 4 ranks. But of course if you can show otherwise I will be more than happy.
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90th

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PostSubject: Number Of Ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:48 pm

John .
You are right , they had many more men at Ulundi and the square was probably bigger again than the one at Gingindlovhu ,
I've looked through 4 books and there is no mention of two ranks , they all state the line , I've a sneaking suspicion there was in fact just the one rank , as shelter trenches are mentioned as the 60th Regt was laying down initially firing from them ! . This from
' The Zulu Campaign ' by Major Ashe & Capt Wyatt - Edgell who was to be KIA at Ulundi . Happy if someone can show me some evidence that there was two ranks in the firing line , otherwise I think there was only the one , this book also mentions many non combatants , Dunn and his men , etc all firing from the top of wagons , Norris Newman also states this in his book .
The following is also from the Ashe & Wyatt - Edgell book , '' Now that they were within easy range from the tops of the waggons,
an effective and galling fire was opened upon the zulus by the Native Contingents , who were not allowed in the FIRST LINE . This double tier of fire was of great help , and so far thinned the assailant ranks that the second attack was after a time renounced as hopeless ''. So as I said , I think there was only the one line , at that statement seems to back it up ! .
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:07 pm

Possibly just a load of men from the same regiment letting of as much lead as possible. Regardless of formation and ranks. But many images show one rank.

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This one shows two ranks.

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Naval Brigade shows one.
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:59 pm

Hi guys

The regulation of 1877 says that a first line battalion attack thus :

A fighting line of two companies extended in a single rank over some 400 yards and advancing alternately ,covering one another with fire ; about 180 yards behind ,two companies as supports , in whatever suited the ground and the enemy fire , with the tasks of thickening up the fighting line when necessary to maintain the volume of fire ,or protecting it's flanks ;finally ,at a 300 - yards interval , the main body of four companies , at first in column or quarter column ,later deploying into line ,ready to influence the attack as deemed best by the commanding officer.

As the objective was neared,the fighting line would be built up by the support and ultimately ,if necessary ,by main body ,possibly from a flank,until fire superiority enabled the whole battalion to advance and finally charge with the bayonet.

Double time at 165 paces to the minute , was used to avoid enemy fire but also quick time at 120 paces to the minute ( a pace = 0.75 m ?) . Obviously maintenance of such speed was affected by the terrain.

Suitable cover was to be utilised ,but not at the expense of disrupting the attack 's cohesion or it's line of avance .

Futhermore the use of cover and extended order intensified the problem of fire control by officers and NCOs , which the increased rapidity of fire of Snider ans MH rifles made more than ever essential if ammunition was not to be wasted.

In defence a similar three - tiers formation was to be adopted ,thought the intervals and proportions allocated to each would depend on the extent and nature of the ground to be held.

The yardstick for the required density of rifles was that a yard of ground needed three men.Thus a 1000 - strong battalion might be expected to hold a frontage of 300 - 350 yards , the forward companies perhaps each having three sections in the fighting line with men a yard apart and a section in support , the rear companies being in reserve for counter - attack.

These revised formations , which coincided with the introduction of the MH rifle were devided for european warfare .

However the chief enemies confronting the infantry after their introduction were the Zulus , Afghans and Boers...

The military qualities of the first and last were gravely underestimated and the recently - introduced tactics were imperfectly understood and practised , and against the massed , disciplined but mainly spear-armed Zulus they were inapropriate...

The Extended order allowed three paces between each man ( 7 1/2 ft ) , but the officer in command had leeway to open out further if required .

Ind instructions issued to for the Zululnd campaign allowed companies to fight in either closed or extended order...

Also after Isandhlwana, the old fashion square returns to practice for the colonial wars.

At Ulundi the Zulu charges were shattered by 33 companies from 6 battalions and 14 guns in the way that cavalry had been received of old - four deep , in close order in square with the first and second ranks kneeling and the third and fourth ranks standing ...

For the fire of the square, the first and third ranks shoot simultaneously, then the second and fourth ranks shoot simultaneously and so on ...

The original tactics promoted for use in South Africa specified that British infantry from the front line with artillery in the centre and the flank companies thrown back .

African levies held a position in echelon to the rear of the infantry while behind them any mounted troops formed on the flanks , ready to envelop the enemy flank and rear , with a reserve of infantry held well in rear of the centre...

In the successful engagement at Nyumaga against the Xhosa the British placed two 7-pdr guns in the centre of their line with a company of the 88 th Regiment to their left and one of the 24 th to the right .

Another company of the 1/24 th formed a second - line reserve with mounted men on the flanks.

This formation was advocated for use against the Zulu too.

At Nyezane Colonel Pearson's initial dispositions followed this plan but as the Zulu attack developed in strenght against his right it became necessary to extend continually on that flank .

His deployment saw two artillery pieces positioned on a knoll with a company of the 2/3 rd on either side .

A third company of the 2/3 rd extended the right while the Naval Brigade formed a thrown-back left flank .

Dismounted Natal Volunteers operated on both flanks , those on the left some distances behind the Naval troops , with the levies held in the centre rear .

The tactics proved successful versus a the little impis present at Nyezane , but later the same day , at Isandhlwana , a similar formation was overwhelmed and the British forces destroyed...

In response British forces no longer deployed in lines against the Zulu;instead compact squares formations offering all-round defence and no open flanks became the standard formation ...

At Gingindlovu a wagon laager 130 yards square was drawn up (with 122 carts and wagons), inside which the draught animals ,auxiliary and mounted troops were placed protected by the wagons from enemy fire on all side, a "shelter trench" - a trench with the earth thrown up inside to form a rempart was dug all arroud the laager, some 15 yards furthers out leaving room for the men of the Imperial Infantry in a line of two ranks deep behind it after a few of the actual historians of the zulu war, or four ranks deep after other actual historians of this war !?!?*? .

The movements of vehicles ,oxen and troops naturally tended to trample down the grass and any others cover within 40 or 50 yards of the position , thereby giving a clear field of fire accross the final approaches.

A square was , of course , a defensive formation that the British knew intimately ;they were well aware of it's strenghts and it's weaknesses .

The straigtht faces allowed for a concentration of fire on each side as appropriate , but the corners afforded a " dead zone " ,untouched by the fire on each sides .To solve this ,the Artillery strengthened the corners .

Unable to penetrate this solid formation the Zulus fell back, pursued rutlessly by the mounted forces and African levies...

At this battle the laager proved awesomely effective ,despite the haste with which it was constructed and the heavy overnight rain that threatened to wash down parts of the parapets and filled the trenches with water .

So large LC force that his troops his troops were able to line the rampart four - deep ,the front two ranks kneeling ,almost completely protected by the ramparts.

At Khambula for the laager ,there was no gap between the rampart and the wagons for the men to occupy;they knelt down under the wagons themselves ,behind the low ramparts , or in the wagons beds...

LC employed also the old - four deep , in close order square formation at Ulundi ,the next and final battle ...

Here however ,he did not base the formation on a wagon laager with dug some 15 yards furthers out ...

It's a " living laager " ,as some of the African levies called hit...Again , unable to penetrate the square ,the Zulu withdrew...

It is this regulation in 1877 which caused the disaster of Isandhlwana, not only it was inappropiate in front of the Zulu, but the British officers were mostly unable to implement...

Cheers

Pascal


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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:01 pm

I have two references that indicate there were 4 ranks at Gingindlovu. Both were found in newspaper articles from 1879.

The first is from a letter by an unnamed Naval Officer, to a relative, in which he states that each night the wagons are formed into a laager, and 15 to 20 paces in front a shelter trench is dug. As soon as the entrenchment is completed the troops man the trenches – two ranks on the knee and two ranks in reserve in the rear.

The second source is from an interview with naval men who were invalided home after being wounded at Gingindlovu. Two sailors from the “Shah” were among those interviewed. Able Seaman Bird stated that he “was in the second rank and was preparing to fire when he was disabled.” Able Seaman Bulger said he “was in the rear rank, and the Martini-Henry bullet which entered his arm caused a wound extensive and jagged.”

I have copies of the articles if anyone wants to post them.


Petty Officer Tom
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:41 pm

Bravo I also think they were about four ranks.

It is normal for a square and with 29 British of imperial infantry companies, they could not do otherwise ...

All the illustrations in this battle, we see the rear of the infantry, so you can not see the first two ranks kneeling ... It is misleading ....

I think that once again we have solved a riddle on this small war

Fellicitations à tous

Cheers

Pascal
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:04 pm

Quote :
Able Seaman Bulger said he “was in the rear rank, and the Martini-Henry bullet which entered his arm caused a wound extensive and jagged.

Friendly or Zulu fire?
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:06 pm

Zulu fire ! Celà coule de source !
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:58 pm

Mr. Greaves,

My guess would be that Bulger’s wound was the result of Zulu fire. He was in the rear rank so I don’t think he was shot from behind by a Martini-Henry by one of his mates. Unless there were Martini-Henrys in the hands of those wagon drivers and others who fired from the wagons, and they would have been firing over the heads of the men on the line, I don’t think
he was the victim of friendly fire.

I remember reading somewhere that several Martini-Henrys, belonging to the 24th, were recovered from the battlefield.


Petty Officer Tom

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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:05 pm

Zulu fire ! Celà coule de source !
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PostSubject: Re: Number of ranks ?   Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:25 pm

Everyone agrees to 4 rows at Gingindlovu ?
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