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Film Zulu Dawn:Lt. Col. Pulleine: His Lordship is of the cetain opinion that it's far too difficult an approach to be chosen by the Zulu command.Col. Durnford: Yes, well... difficulty never deterred a Zulu commander.
 
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 Command and Control

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rusteze

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PostSubject: Command and Control   Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:02 pm

Something to chew over for the new year!

I have been reading Prof. Mary Beard's excellent new book on the history of ancient Rome called "SPQR". At one point she is talking about the battle of Cannae in 216 BC when Hannibal defeated the Roman army. She says:

'Hannibal's mystical battle plans, still on the syllabus of military academies, that amounted to little more than a clever version of getting around the back of an enemy - one trick ancient generals used that offered the best chance of encircling the opposition and the only reliable way of killing or capturing them in large numbers".

Ring any bells?

She goes on to say " It is hard to see how more sophisticated tactics could have been deployed in an ancient battle with more than 100,000 men on the field, how the commanders could have issued effective instructions to their armies or even how they could know what was going on."

Seems to me there are direct parallels to the Zulu attack at Isandhlwana. There could be virtually no control of events by Indunas once the attack was launched, either with their regiments or with each other - there are limits as to what you can do from a distant hill waving a stick. So we need to factor that in when analysing the sequences of attack.

Another question arises about how experienced those indunas were in controlling such a battle. We tend to accept that these men were old and tested warriors who were capable of out-thinking the opposition. But to what extent was isandhlwana a unique challenge for the Zulu commanders? When was the last time a Zulu army of somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 men been put into the field? Had it ever been? Not against the Boer's surely, and how long since they had fought with other tribes on this scale? Had these commanders ever experienced such a thing?

Was this Hannibal's elephants simply rampaging out of control (you try calling them back!) or was it a surgical strike?

2,000 years and what had changed?

Steve
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:25 pm

The same could be said for the British unless your saying total control was had by British commanders over the British and colonial troops. Me thinks the British commanders had about as much control over their men as the indunas had over theirs.
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:08 am

Steve
Just to be bloody difficult and start the year of well: I don't buy the conventional view of an out of control army charging across the hills. Without doubt the intervention of Raw started a series of events that had the Umcityu jump the gun and charge forward followed by probably 60 percent of the army. BUT by the time the impi reached the ridge formations were peeling of for the left and right horns and the chest was pretty much formed up. that didn't happen by any form of group osmosis. There had to have been a level of control to combine the attacks.
There was very definitely an initial flat out charge and had to have settled down to a more determined half jog. SD and I think at least one other account mentions the rate of advance. We could assume that in that settling down distance over a few kilometres the various Indunas regained control, to a degree, and positioned the various elements.
So with those Zulu regiments crashing down onto a pretty solid and unwavering 'thin red line', unwavering equals disciplined, how would you justify your comparison CTSG? Unless of course your referring to the control Chelmsford neglected to impose? Shocked

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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:11 am

Frank/CTSG

My main point is this. By definition, it was always an out of control army. Some adjustments could be made as individual elements advanced, and one element could emulate another as it saw what they were doing. But in the sense of overall command (and in particular if any major change in tactics was required) they had no means of making it happen. For example, once the right horn was behind the mountain there was no way of them knowing what was going on out on the plain. The same must be true of other Zulu regiments at either end of the extended formations. I genuinely do not know the answer to my question about whether this set of commanders had ever had to manage anything on this scale before. I don't think they had, but I could be wrong. That is another major reason why it was all a bit gung ho.

As to the British, that is another question. They certainly had more control during the battle, and as an army they had far more means of control and communication available to them - whether they used them well (or at all) is another matter. I do have a question about the British, but I will put that on pause for a moment while we put the Zulu to rights.

Steve
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PostSubject: Command and Control    Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:29 am

What you say certainly makes good sense to me Steve . I also doubt the Zulu commanders had ever commanded an army of that size in a battle , possibly less than half that number
say at Ndondakusuka in 1856 or thereabouts ? , not sure of the spelling , and who actually commanded besides Cetswayo , Ntshingwayo and some of the older indunas at Isandlwana were most likely there , I think Ntshingwayo was on Mbuyazi's side ?
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:35 am

Steve
I would agree that the horns were never in a position to be effectively controlled which makes my long held argument on the position of the reserve even more tenable. So from that point of view yes to a degree you had an out of control attack but 'out of control' in its broadest sense rather than a 'willy nilly'.
In terms of the Zulu last mass battle, Im open to correction but I would probably put that as the battle of Ndondakusuka in 1856, round 12 or 13 regiments commanded by Cetswayo. John Dunn was involved in that one on the wrong side, going back to and earlier discussion it was his massed rifles that destroyed Cetswayos initial attack.
Over 5000 dead in that battle but interestingly the horns were never out of sight as at iSandlwana so probably grist for your mill Steve.

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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:36 am

Sorry Gary, posts crossed
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:34 pm

Yes, I agree, out of control in its widest sense. I think it does make your alternative view of the position of the reserve more tenable (it was, in practice, out-with the control of the commander). It also tends to support the idea that a fully manned camp could have disrupted the attack to the point where the Zulu commanders were unable to respond. The addition of Durnford's men was never going to be enough to do this, but had those wandering about with Chelmsford been present they certainly might. My conclusion is that the battle was was not won by superior Zulu tactics but by sheer weight of numbers applied in a pretty haphazard way. Only a handful (how many, a dozen?) of the Zulu army had ever experienced anything like it and that had been 25 years before.

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PostSubject: Command and Control    Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:08 pm

I also agree , sheer weight of numbers decided the Victor .
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:19 pm

Interesting point made about Durnfords men making the difference. I would tend towards the oft repeated call of 'if the men were massed' possibly in a square or up against the mountain. The volley fire would have destroyed the Zulu charges. At the Ndondokusuka battle Dunns 200 beat of, then drove back the right horn of the uThulwane, iSanqu, etc. Cetswayos army that day by the way was close to 20 000 strong.
Will always believe that it was the right and left horns that won the battle of iSandlwana.

Interesting question: Who was the white man that fought for Cetswayo at Nondakusuka
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:25 pm

Was it you Frank?

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:33 pm

Just a tad before my time, not by much mind you Very Happy I will tell you that in all my reading Ive only ever heard his name mentioned once.
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:19 pm

Zulu's would they have needed commanding, the order to attack surly would have been sufficient considering the Zulu traditional form of attack. The horns knew what they had to do as well as the chest their main aim would have been to complete the encircling around the enemy. If the timing was wrong the formation doesn't work. I can't think of the Battle, possibly Nyezane, but I believed the Zulu's failed because they didn't complete the formation. So would they have needed to be command when on the formation move.
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PostSubject: Command and Control    Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:14 am

Hi CTSG
The Zulu didn't get their attacking strategy right at Kambula either , courtesy of Wood & Buller goading the ingobamakosi ( Right Horn ) into attacking before the left horn was in position . Had they attacked in unison it may well have been another massacre ! . Wood himself stated it was '' A close run thing '' .
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PostSubject: Re: Command and Control   Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:16 pm

Chelmsfordthescapegoat wrote:
Zulu's would they have needed commanding, the order to attack surly would have been sufficient considering the Zulu traditional form of attack. The horns knew what they had to do as well as the chest their main aim would have been to complete the encircling around the enemy. If the timing was wrong the formation doesn't work. I can't think of the Battle, possibly Nyezane, but I believed the Zulu's failed because they didn't complete the formation. So would they have needed to be command when on the formation move.

I'll go with this. agree
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