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Lieutenant J.P. Daly, 1/24 Regt.-KIA Isandlwana
[Mac & Shad] Isandula Collection)
The Battle of Isandlwana tactics

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 The best tactics against the Zulus?

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Join date : 2012-08-07
Location : Sweden

PostSubject: The best tactics against the Zulus?   Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:42 am

Were the tactics employed by the British against the Zulus the best ones available, or could they have made use of better means of engaging the impis in the field? Obviously the spread-out firing line at Isandlwana was a blatant tactical blunder, but were infantry squares really that good against the Zulus? Infantry squares certainly repulsed the most determined Zulu attacks, but these cramped close order formations also made the men more vulnerable to Zulu fire, which caused comparatively high casualties (60-70 at Gingindlovu, 70-80 at Kambula, 80-100 at Ulundi). Firing in close order also meant that black-powder smoke obscured the targets, and in effect made volley fire more or less ineffective - I even dare to say useless - which is evident in the comparatively low Zulu casualties discussed before.

Considering the fire-power wielded by the British and the Zulus respectively, one could easily say that British casualties were astonishingly high (although the wounded vastly outnumbered the KIA) whereas Zulu casualties were minimal considering the theoretical power of breech-loading rifles and artillery. Bullet-by-bullet, it seems that Zulu firepower was as effective or even more effective (!) than the British, if considering the lack of- and primitive nature of their antiquated muzzle-loaders.

To me, the tactics employed by the British commanders seem clumsy, "mechanically stiff" and in the end less well-suited to deal with Zulu tactics, notwithstanding the bravery and prowess of the individual soldiers.
So how could the British have made better use of the superiour military technology and fire power at their disposal? Independent firing from the cover of laagers? More focus on mounted men as in Boer/Afrikaaner warfare? Apparently Afrikaaner commandos inflicted as much or even more damage to Zulu impis with much less resources in men and fire-power.
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PostSubject: Re: The best tactics against the Zulus?   Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:12 pm

That's a good point.

The Zulu formation used was always the same.

Could the British not have adopted a waiting game, some companies waiting for the horns left and right and othe Compaines deployed to me the head and chest.
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