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 Wagons at Isandlwana

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 11:57 am

Rusteze
I had considered that the ox-waggons of the Additional Reserve might be in the waggon park but they were in company waggons and should have been with the coys i.e. behind their tents. Remember that the coys were expecting to pack up the camp that day and move forward so I'm thinking the coy waggons would all have been nearby ready to be packed up with tentage and equipment and, essentially, kept together for organizational reasons.
The waggon park was essentially for waggons of supplies arriving and waiting to return, not to mention Durnford's waggons probably left there too by Erskine.
That said, you may be right.
Frank
You may well be right about the boy - my inclination would certainly be from Kambula's description towards the younger of the boys in camp.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 12:05 pm

So if the possibility exists that it could have been either of those two then the waggon he was guarding could also have been a 1/24th?

Cheers
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 1:27 pm

I wonder if it was just a practical thing. The ox wagons being difficult to get along behind the tents and the problems of turning etc. Your point about expecting to pack up camp that day and the unlikely need to call on the additional reserve ammunition might equally have led them to leave them where they were. No need to unpack at all.

Steve
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 2:21 pm

Steve
The problems with turning would be done away with if they were driven in straight, tents etc of loaded and then reloaded. Once the ground was cleared they could take as big a turn as they wanted.
I read that there were 220 wagons at iSandlwana on the 22nd that's a hang of a lot of real estate.
I don't know if you have a copy of the John William Simpson/L and Q painting? Its shows the whole layout remarkably well.

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:29 pm

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:39 pm

Frank
Theoretically, yes re the boy.
Interesting, your total of 220 waggons, my best estimate is 106...do you feel another topic coming on???

Xhosa/Frank
And yet the painting is based on info from L&Q.
Have you seen the diagram in Jackson p. 15 based on the diagrams in the Soldier's Pocket Book, the Field-Force Regulations and Harford's Journal?
There are small but distinct differences in the layout.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:52 pm

Hi Julian
Im going to check back to see where that figure sprung from, I do know it cropped up in conversation with Norman and Pam at Talana but I have seen it in a document as well. I really must get down to doing some filing and cross reference work.
That's actually the layout I normally use as a reference, surprise surprise, but the one posted from Xhosa is really visual.
There are some graphic differences with the RA camp the wagons tent layouts etc. I think the key 'base' is actually from Harford, he was there but is known to be different in his memory on other issues.
Cheers
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xhosa2000

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:37 pm

Jackson.

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xhosa2000

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:39 pm

Narrative.

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:30 pm

Frank
Actually, I can't see QM Pullen leaving his waggon in the charge of a boy. He would surely have left it with his QM-Sergt, wouldn't he?
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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:45 pm

How old do we think this boy is?
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:34 pm

Can we count on his statements?

COE-Smith-Dorrien

6th Evidence.—"Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien, 95th Regiment, states : I am Transport Officer with No. 3 Column. On the morning of the 22nd I was sent with a Despatch from the General to Colonel Durnford, at Rorke's Drift, the Despatch was an order to join the camp at Isandlwana as soon as possible, as a large Zulu force was near it.  I have no particulars to mention besides."


46 years later!!!! Memories of Forty-Eight Years Service.

“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 ? "



Yet when someone posted in another thread

“Colonel Durnford was just moving off with his levies towards Sandspruit (away from Isandhlwana), but on reading the dispatch, which conveyed instructions to move up to reinforce the Isandhlwana camp”


Where it suggests SD knew what the ordered said.

It was said his memory was clouded being so late after the event? So it wouldn't stand

So should we not tread carefully, when using SD's text. Or are we saying his memory was okay when it makes our story work.?
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 5:20 am

Morning impoi
I would say its more like using material from ll the old reccolections that can be substantiated. Reading between the lines is probably to the point with SD. I for one do not trust any of his times, pressure of the battle, more significant issues overtaking those memories, could be a lot of reasons. But I do trust his placements, where he was and what he was doing. So yes I agree with you we do need to tread carefully, but as the saying goes, something about babies and bath water?
That phrase you quoted: "Where we were" is a brilliant example and its one that niggles the hell out of me when looking at Julians theory because it says to me that they were actually at the 2/24th reserves. Its the only place that works for me.
But again we musnt forget that the COE evidence was severely truncated by the board and restricted to events leading to the fall. His memoirs do of course broaden out his part in the battle.

Cheers
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 5:43 am

Julian
Its an interesting issue. Why would a guard, boy, private, be left on a specific wagon. There were a number of waggons in that area, was that the only one that had been 'robbed' of its contents?
Pullen himself was at a point detracted from his duties sufficiently to try and organise a rear guard, if the Zulu were that close he needed that, then why bother with a guard?
Your theory does work in that a guard for a specific wagon was put into place, could very well be the Chelmsford wagon, that fits.
What Ive been trying to do is think aloud and look for other reasons, accessibility to Kambule, possibly a 1/24th 'boy'. They are all possible but the key thing is your theory is the only one with a motive/reason.
Theres also evidence that ammunition was unloaded from that wagon, rounds on the floor for Kambule, BUT and it really is a big but is that phrase from SD. That to me puts it firmly at the 2/24th camp.
There is of course another possibility in that the officer recruited by Essex was not SD and that SD was operating independently. So there were seperate groupings enacting with Bloomfield.
1) SD raids the 2/24th and is admonished by Bloomfield, that one box doesn't go far at all.
2) SD takes what he can and goes to the front then retires back to the saddle.
3) Bloomfield realising there is no more ammunition for his battalion heads back to the saddle.
4) He meets with Essex who prevails on him to release ammunition from Chelmsfords wagon.
5) Essex goes back to the front sending of the cart with another officer ( not SD )
6) Bloomfield gets shot.
7) The pre placed 'boy' is left to guard the balance of the wagon.
8) Kambule retreats and meets up with the 'boy'.

Does that work?
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:12 am

It's possible the "Boy"was Boy Green, could it not?
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:18 am

Morning John
Anythings possible but I would tend to think that Green was with Shepherd attending to the wounded.

Cheers
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:56 am

impi
Yes, one has to be careful with S-D's 1925 account and even with Essex's April account. Events become blurred, their order mixed, as I've written above. The only things which one CAN take as accurate would be specific anecdotes like the Bloomfield banter and then try to fit them within the context of S-D's earlier accounts.
Frank
Yes, that would work but it's one of many possible scenarios and we are now starting to enter uncharted waters, impossible to verify of course but interesting.
John
Boy Green was civilian servant and not subject to any 'officer's orders'. And as Frank said, he would have been with his master, Shepherd.
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:17 am

Frank Allewell wrote:
Morning John
Anythings possible but I would tend to think that Green was with Shepherd attending to the wounded.

Cheers

Shepherd was seen on a few occasions by various witnesses, but none mentioned seeing a boy with him, does that not seem a bit odd, and no mentioned of boy greens body being found with Shepherd. ?
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:23 am

John
No it's not odd at all.
Is Coghill's servant mentioned every time Coghill appears in accounts? No.
Is anyone's? No.
Would Gardner's personal servant attend to his master during the course of a battle? No.
Would anyone's? No.
Hundreds of bodies had no specific mention or identification. Why should anyone have bothered with poor old Green.
Green could have been anywhere. In the hospital tents, in Shepherd's tent...
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:32 am

The fact he was a boy, may have give someone a reason to mentioned it, the same reason the boy was mentioned on the Wagon.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:51 am

Julian
Again, thinking out loud.
John
Key issue would be Green wouldn't accept orders from a 'strange' QM' unless of course his master ordered it and cant really see that.

Cheers
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 12:23 pm

Plus the fact that the boy was from the 24th and thus definitely not Green.
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:17 pm

So what other boys were present. Where they could be considered a boy? Where the drummer boys actually known as drummer boys.?
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PostSubject: Boy controlling ammunition   Tue Mar 01, 2016 2:51 pm

Hi John,
It is also recorded in the annals that an umfaan was in control of an ammunition wagon during the battle.
Now for those not familiar with Zulu language an umfaan translates into a black pre pubescent male, ie =< 12 years of age. Boys of this age were commonly used as "voerloopers" on the transport wagons, ie they led the span of 16 yoked oxen.
The authorities did  make much use of local transport riders under contract to deliver various war cargoes around the colony, including such things as hay and  mielies for horses at  Isandlwana. The  wagons generally used by the transport riders were large half tent type Boer wagons  with a capacity of 5-6 t. So with all of this in mind, maybe the large 1-2/24th ammunition reserve was loaded on to one of those wagons because of  its size and the boy(umfaan) was left by his baas at his wagon to see to its safety .
In terms of the overall guestimate as to how much ammunition was lost, I agree that the 360k rounds for the 1-2/24 is about right, but the  Colonials (NC, NNC, NMP etc) also carried their own reserves, so about another 140k can be added to the number, ending up with a total of 500k rounds.

regards

barry


Last edited by barry on Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 3:11 pm

Barry
A couple of points re your post. A voorlooper would have been in control of the oxen when the waggon was in motion and their general care. He would not have been left 'in charge' of a waggon of ammunition and certainly not placed so by a British officer or NCO. I can't think of the source you must be referring to - though I know there's something one of Chelmsford's force returning describing seeing a dead umfaan on a waggon, I can't recall it - can you remind me?
Also ox-waggons could be loaded with up to 4 tons for VERY short journeys or internal camp manoeuvrings but no-one ever did for practical reasons - it just exhausted the animals (I'm quoting from Dunne here). A ton was the usual amount the oxen could reasonable be expected to cope with (just under a ton for mules).
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 3:49 pm

John
There were just boys from the 1st and 2nd battalions present ('Boy' was their rank). No other units. These were not drummer boys - that's just a popular colloquialism for 'Drummers', who would have been with their coys.
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PostSubject: Ox wagons   Tue Mar 01, 2016 5:38 pm

Hi Julian,

No, I have not seen anything about finding a dead umfaan on a wagon. More on that one may very well just  be the missing piece in the jigsaw before us.

The only possibly related account which I have somewhere in my library is about the ghastly scene of drummer/band boys found post the battle tied spread eagled  to wagon wheels and gutted "like sheep". This was  refuted by many and I hold no opinion on it either way.  However once the news of this atrocity was received back home the WO changed the rules  immediately strictly disallowing any "boys" on the battlefield in the future.
 
Transport riding in SA at that time was a source of income for many, particularly struggling farmers not making it on the land. This included many Boers from further afield who eagerly sought lucrative contracts with the authorities in Natal to deliver the war goodies across the colony. At that time a good 90% of this hired transport was tractioned by draft oxen as farmers merely yoked up their farm wagons,  travelled to town, and picked up their cargoes.  Wagons thus drawn were slow and lumbering , but, most importantly the oxen could be sustained off the sometines barren veld found along the journey. These ox wagon trips across Natal involved much overnighting in very inhospitable places, and it was from this practise that the laagering concept evolved.

Mules by contrast were fast, but they could not easily live off the veld and were very susceptible to nagana sickness and they died in their hundreds when passing through such infected areas. They needed to be fed costly forage which increased the cost of transport. So mule drawn transport was very much in the minority, being reserved, mainly, for fast short costly deliveries around the populated urban areas of the colony. The military however, had quite a use for mules, particularly the delivery of ammo and equipment on the battlefield.

Now, round about page 150 in L and Q's ZV there is reference to the need to change from an ox drawn wagon to mule drawn one because of the requirement for speed on the reserve ammo wagon ordered by Chelmsford.  This is possibly what I think the umfaan question may relate too.

Trooper Clarke's  (NMP) dairies already posted on this forum recounts a bellowing draft ox being cut lose from a wagon wheel at Isandlwana on the night of 22/01, much to the annoyance of his superior Mansel. His unpublised diaries recount  too the march up to  Isandlawana in Dec  1878 as being slow as they had to wait for the NMP columns'  Commisiariat wagons to catch up and then the troopers, each so often, had to pull the oxen and the wagons out of the mud. Needless to say the air remained blue.

The post battlefield wreckage picture indeed shows many Boer type wagons there, all of which would have been ox drawn. So oxen were definitely there in numbers.

I will revert shortly on a reference for the report of the umfaan on the ammo wagon however.

regards

barry
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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:32 pm

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:28 am

Barry
Thanks, I look forward to hearing of that reference. The one I recalled is by a Colonial out with Chlemsford who sees on his return to camp “a poor little dead umfaan, as if asleep, atop a waggon” or something like that. No mention of ammo wagons definitely. That’s what I thought you were thinking of.
I have still not heard from Ron Lock re my reference (see EVENT ONE above) to the change to mule-waggon (p. 150 ZV).
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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:29 am

Bonjour,
About the"umfaan", I am not sure that is your reference but...

"We marched out a mournful crowd. In a donga, close under the Isandhlwana hill, lay an overturned wagon (...).
One little umfaan, a leader of one of the spans, was on his knees with his face buried in his hands on the grond, dead and stiff".

Fred Symons, Natal Carbineers quoted in the journal of the AZWRS (John Young) vol. 3 issue 3.

Cheers

Frédéric
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:21 am

Frederic
An umfaan is a young boy.

Cheers
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:31 am

Bonjour Frannk,
Thank you for your kindness.
I know. The information is indicated by Barry in a previous message and "umfaan" is very close to the same word in French ("enfant")
On the other hand, I do not know what was a "baas". I suppose it has nothing to do with the political party of Saddam Hussein ... A "master" maybe?
Cheers
Frédéric
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:37 am

Frederic
Yes, that's the reference I had I mind. Thank you. Not atop the waggon. But on his knees by his span of oxen.
'Baas' is simply South African accent for 'boss'.
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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:45 am

Bonjour Mr Whybra,
Thank you very much.
Frédéric
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:04 pm

This is from an earlier thread in 2012 discussing the ammunition issue - another reference to a native boy handing out ammunition.

Subject: Re: The ammunition question   Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:05 pm Reply with quote
Came across this from "Ron Lock" Author and Zulu War Historian.

"I have recently come accross a 1929 account, by a Mr. Wheatland Edwards, a survivor of the Carbineers, that I had not seen before. Part of his account gives an insight into the chaos during the last moments of the camp.

"We were cut off entirely from the ammunition tent although we could still hear the little piccanin shouting "M'nition, baas! M'nition, baas!" in a high pitched voice. As brave a little fellow as one could hope to find. And all the time he handed out cartidges to those who could get near the tent. He must have gone on doing so until he was killed with the others!"


Frank

In the same thread you asked whether anyone had come across a direct reference to the reported account by Rev. Owen Watkins of the boy on the ammunition waggon's discussion with Simeon Kambula. I wonder the same thing. Did you get an answer?

Steve
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:18 pm

Bonjour,
The piccanin (?) is he obligatory a native? (I.E: M'nition, bass!) or a child of a civil conductor for example?
if so, this testimony seems interesting about the organization of the supply chain of ammo in dire straits....
Cheers

Frédéric
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:21 pm

Sorry,
"desperate situation" / "organization of the supply chain ammo" = oxymoron!!! Very Happy Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:34 pm

I get the translation:
piccanin: "A black African child"
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:57 pm

Hi Steve
No it died a death im afraid.
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:12 pm

Thanks Frank. I have no knowledge of Watkins and so no reason to doubt him. Is he regarded as reliable?

Steve
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xhosa2000

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:49 pm

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:00 pm

Rusteze
Watkins arrived in 1881 to look after Kambula's 'flock'. There would have been lots of locals who would have heard this story from Kambula himself.
And I'd forgotten the story about the piccanninny at the NC's ammunition tent (note, not waggon).
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:02 pm

Frank Allewell wrote:
Julian
Its an interesting issue. Why would a guard, boy, private, be left on a specific wagon. There were a number of waggons in that area, was that the only one that had been 'robbed' of its contents?
Pullen himself was at a point detracted from his duties sufficiently to try and organise a rear guard, if the Zulu were that close he needed that, then why bother with a guard?
Your theory does work in that a guard for a specific wagon was put into place, could very well be the Chelmsford wagon, that fits.
What Ive been trying to do is think aloud and look for other reasons, accessibility to Kambule, possibly a 1/24th 'boy'. They are all possible but the key thing is your theory is the only one with a motive/reason.
Theres also evidence that ammunition was unloaded from that wagon, rounds on the floor for Kambule, BUT and it really is a big but is that phrase from SD. That to me puts it firmly at the 2/24th camp.
There is of course another possibility in that the officer recruited by Essex was not SD and that SD was operating independently. So there were seperate groupings enacting with Bloomfield.
1) SD raids the 2/24th and is admonished by Bloomfield, that one box doesn't go far at all.
2) SD takes what he can and goes to the front then retires back to the saddle.
3) Bloomfield realising there is no more ammunition for his battalion heads back to the saddle.
4) He meets with Essex who prevails on him to release ammunition from Chelmsfords wagon.
5) Essex goes back to the front sending of the cart with another officer ( not SD )
6) Bloomfield gets shot.
7) The pre placed 'boy' is left to guard the balance of the wagon.
8) Kambule retreats and meets up with the 'boy'.

Does that work?


Smith- Dorrien In a letter to his father written at Helpmekaar shortly after the Battle he states "I was out with the front companies of the 24th handing them spare ammunition.
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:07 pm

impi
Yes, he wrote that. The sentences which follow are interesting too. The idea that he was doing that before Essex's first approach to Bloomfield and then returned to gather round spare unarmed men has to run contrary to the notion that he was one of Essex's men gathered at his first approach to Bloomfield. He can't really be doing both. That's typical of the 1925 account and timeline.
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xhosa2000

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:59 pm

Moreover, the climax of the battle took place over a very short period of time. While accounts of battles are
notoriously unreliable when it comes to timing - events seem stretched out or compressed in the excitement,
while few participants have the opportunity to consult a watch and make notes! - it is generally accepted that
the Zulu army was discovered by Raw’s troops of the NNH at about 12 noon, and that the British line
collapsed between about 1 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. Major resistance continued for perhaps an hour after that - the
so-called ‘last stands’ - while individual soldiers held out much longer. The crucial events which decided the
course of the battle, however - the ones that give rise to so much debate - probably took place over no more
than a ten or fifteen-minute period, in the middle of the battle. Moreover, they took place against a background
of all the noise, smoke and confusion of battle, which assaulted the senses, and limited visibility; in the
memorable words of one who watched the British collapse from afar, it was “seething pandemonium of men
and cattle struggling in dense clouds of smoke” . One Zulu who took part recalled that years later he could
“remember little and saw less, except for a twisting mass of men”.
Small wonder that historians are still trying to make sense of it all so long after the event.

I.K.Knight. Journal 2 AZWHS.

There is no definitive timeline for this battle, it simply cannot be done!.
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:10 pm

Xhosa

I agree with you that it is difficult to come up with a definitive timeline but I do not think it is impossible to come up with an approximate one.
Timelines aside I do think it's possible to come up with an approximate sequence of events in order (i.e. we may not know the times of them but we do know the order in which they occurred). And that I think is very important for historians.
Furthermore, I would say that for certain individuals it is possible to do both, i.e. timeline and sequence.

It's useful to do this as an exercise because one then gets a framework of cross-referenced events on which to hang the actions of others.
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:10 pm

Julian Whybra wrote:
Rusteze
Watkins arrived in 1881 to look after Kambula's 'flock'.  There would have been lots of locals who would have heard this story from Kambula himself.
And I'd forgotten the story about the piccanninny at the NC's ammunition tent (note, not waggon).

There is a testimony about an ammunition box (200 rounds?) taken in a NC's tent by some Durnford's troopers (from memory).
Cheers
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xhosa2000

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:21 pm

If the 24th were firing slowly and carefully, then, how many shots did they fire during the battle?
Clearly, this is crucial to any calculation regarding ammunition expenditure, but the answer will never
be known. We simply do not know when individual companies opened fire, and for how long they
fired continuously. Tempting as it is to imagine that the 24th opened fire the moment the Zulus
appeared, and fired at a consistent rate throughout the battle, this simply would not have happened. As
the evidence above indicates, officers exercising good fire control would have directed the men to fire
at the best targets; with the Zulus moving rapidly, and making good use of cover, there would
inevitably have been times when they were obscured. Individual companies probably ceased firing for
several minutes at a time, as circumstances changed about them. When Mostyn and Cavaye’s
companies first opened fire on the Zulu right horn, it was at long range, and the rate of fire would have
been moderate or even slow - the need to place shots was more important than the need to pour in the
volume of fire necessary to break up an imminent attack. Moreover, any movement among the
companies themselves obviously led to a break in firing. Essex thought that Mostyn’s company had
only been in action on the ridge for about five minutes – and Cavaye’s, by implication, rather longer –
when it was ordered to withdraw to the foot of the heights. Contemporary estimates of time are
notoriously unreliable, especially in a battle like Isandlwana when the trauma of subsequent events
serves to confuse the memory, and on balance it seems likely from other sources that Mostyn and
Cavaye were in action on the heights for rather longer. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that Essex says
these companies were running low on ammunition by the time they reached the bottom of the ridge,
and that he was prompted to organise a re-supply. Certainly, if they had been in action for twenty
minutes, firing an average of two rounds a minute – not an improbable rate, given the factors already
mentioned - they would have used up rather more than half the rounds with which they had begun the
battle.(6)
It should be noted, however, that the actual expenditure in battle was usually surprisingly low. The
optimum rates quoted in the manual were only desirable during the last stages of a determined attack,
when it was necessary to break up a charge before it struck home. When firing at longer ranges, a
slower rate of fire was distinctly preferable. At Gingindlovu – where the fire was less disciplined and
therefore more rapid than at Isandlwana – Captain Hutton observed that ‘the average number of
rounds fired per man was rather under seven; that of the marines next to me was sixteen’. In his
autobiography, Evelyn Wood noted that at Khambula – a battle where the intensity of the Zulu attack
arguably matched that at Isandlwana – ‘the Line Battalions were very steady, expending in four hours
an average of 33 rounds per man’.(7) At Ulundi, the average was 10 rounds expended in half an hour.
Colonel C.E. Callwell, in his wide-ranging review of colonial warfare first published in 1896,
provides a number of examples of rates of fire with Martini-Henry rifles from outside the Zulu
campaign. At the battle of Charasia, in the 2nd Afghan War, ‘the 72nd fired 30 rounds a man, being
heavily engaged for some hours’. (8) At Ahmed Khel it was only 10 rounds per man, while at El Teb
and Tamai in the Sudan – both battles in which the enemy launched extremely determined attacks –
‘the troops most committed fired about 50 rounds a man’. By contrast, French troops at the battle of
Achupa in Dahomey fired about 80 rounds a man in two hours, using a magazine rifle with a much
faster rate of fire – a statistic that Callwell considered ‘remarkable’.
These steady rates of fire were the product of the deliberate policy encouraged by official training
manuals, where slow fire was regarded as effective fire. At Ulundi, the war correspondent Melton
Prior noted with some disdain that Lord Chelmsford met a particularly determined Zulu attack with
the order ‘Men, fire faster; can’t you fire faster?’ and contrasted this with Sir Garnet Wolseley’s
maxim ‘fire slow, fire slow’. (9) The measured volleys of the 24th at Isandlwana can be compared
favourably to the experience of Private Williams of the 1/24th, Col. Glyn’s groom. Williams was in the
camp at Isandlwana as the Zulu attack developed, and together with several officers’ servants, began
to fire from the edge of the tent area at the distant Zulus. This was independent fire, with no one to
direct it, and Williams noted that ‘we fired 40 to 50 rounds each when the Native Contingent fell back
on the camp and one of their officers pointed out to me that the enemy were entering the right of the
camp. We then went to the right ... and fired away the remainder of our ammunition’. (10) Note,
however, that even under these conditions, Williams’ 70 rounds lasted him throughout most of the
battle.
Before leaving the question of the effectiveness of Martini-Henry fire at Isandlwana, it is worth
noting that Smith-Dorrien’s comment that the 24th were ‘making every round tell’ should be taken as a
tribute to their reliability rather than at face value. This is particularly important, because an
unrealistic assessment of the potential destructiveness of rifles on the battlefield can distort our
reading of events. Clearly, if the 24th did indeed hit their targets with every shot, the 600-odd men of
the 24th in the firing line would have killed the entire Zulu army in 34 volleys! In battles across history
– the more so in recent times, with modern rapid-fire weapons – the ratio of shots to hits is always
high. The level of accuracy expected on the firing range was not attainable in the field, where even the
strongest nerves could be unsettled by the tension of battle, and where the enemy was not only a
moving target, but firing back. At Isandlwana, the Zulu attack was carried out in open order, making
good use of the ground, and the warriors only drew together during the final rush. When caught in the
open, the 24th’s volleys were devastatingly effective, but the Zulus naturally sought to avoid this
situation. It is no coincidence that the attack of the Zulu centre stalled when it reached the protection
of the dongas at the foot of the iNyoni ridge. Having found cover under heavy fire at close range, the
warriors found it difficult to regain the impetus of their attack, and mount an assault up an open slope
into the teeth of the 24th’s fire. It has been estimated that at long ranges (700-1400 yards) volley fire
was no more than 2 % effective. At medium range (300 – 700 yards) it might rise to 5% effectiveness,
and at close range (100 – 300 yards) 15% effectiveness.(11) Given the amount of smoke produced by
close-range fighting in any battle, and the effects of adrenaline generated by the proximity of the
enemy, even that figure might be optimistic. It’s interesting to note that at Gingindlovu, if Hutton’s
estimate of the number of rounds fired by the 60th Rifles is correct, then 540 men fired over 5000
rounds; he noted afterwards the just 61 dead were found within 500 yards of their line, in the most
destructive fire-zone. Although more undoubtedly fell at longer ranges, and an incalculable number
were wounded – several times the number killed - this figure suggests a ratio of 80 shots to kill one
Zulu. At Khambula, using Wood’s figure as a basis, some 1200 infantry fired nearly 40,000 rounds of
ammunition, killing up to 2000 Zulus – a rather better ratio of 20;1, reflecting the greater experience
of the battalions involved. In both cases, numbers of the enemy were killed by artillery fire, and many
more in the pursuit, so the proportion of kills attributed to the infantry should be further adjusted
downward. Taking the war as a whole, it probably took between 30 and 40 shots on average to kill
one Zulu, although a number of those shots might have inflicted wounds and incapacitated the
victims.
And therein lies an important truth about the effectiveness of battlefield fire. Killing the enemy was
not the sole objective. Discouraging his attacks, breaking up his formations, and causing him to retire
were the tactical necessities, and it was necessary to kill only a small proportion of the enemy
involved to achieve them. To withstand prolonged and accurate Martini-Henry fire was a terrifying
experience that even the bravest warrior could not endure indefinitely. It inevitably sapped morale,
and led to a growing reluctance to maintain an attack. As Hutton noted at Gingindlovu, heavy fire
could drive off an attack even when the number of casualties was relatively low, simply because it
created an impression of impenetrability. ‘After a short while’, he wrote, ‘the enemy, unable to make
any headway against our fire, gradually withdrew’. This effect tended to be cumulative; at
Isandlwana, the Zulu army, still fresh with enthusiasm to defeat the invader and confident of victory,
was prepared to endue the 24th’s fire to a remarkable degree. Later, however, when the cost of the
victory became apparent, there was a growing reluctance to face the fire on quite the same terms, so
that by the time of the battle of Ulundi, some British observers noted that the Zulu attacks sometimes
faltered and hung back. Certainly, at that battle, several Zulu veterans recalled that the noise and
concussion of British fire at close range was in itself awe-inspiring.

I.K.Knight Journal 11 AZWHS.
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xhosa2000

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:24 pm

Julian...i agree with you wholeheartedly. you more than most guide us..
Isandhlwana!...what a god awful confusing mess.
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littlehand

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PostSubject: Re: Wagons at Isandlwana   Wed Mar 02, 2016 6:42 pm

Julian Whybra wrote:
impi
Yes, he wrote that.  The sentences which follow are interesting too.  The idea that he was doing that before Essex's first approach to Bloomfield and then returned to gather round spare unarmed men has to run contrary to the notion that he was one of Essex's men gathered at his first approach to Bloomfield.  He can't really be doing both.  That's typical of the 1925 account and timeline.

Julian I wonder if the conversation between Smith and Bloomfield actually took place, regarding the requisition, I think it was a myth?
I don't think Bloomfield under the circumstances would refuse ammunition?
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