Lieutenant John Chard:What's our strength? Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead Seven officers including surgeon commissaries and so on Adendorff now I suppose wounded and sick 36 fit for duty 97 and about 40 native levies Not much of an army for you.
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Captain David Moriarity, 80th, KIA Ntombe
This photograph taken when he was in the 7th Regiment prior to his transfer to the 80th. [Mac & Shad] (Isandula Collection)
The Battle of Isandlwana: One of The Worst Defeats of The British Empire - Military History

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 Additional ammunition per company

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Posts : 639
Join date : 2017-05-13
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PostSubject: Additional ammunition per company   Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:42 pm

Ok, so this is with the power of hindsight and I assume that 70 rounds per man was deemed sufficient based on historical precedents.

But why did not each company have a small establishment to carry a couple of boxes of reserve ammunition, as standard.

This may have reduced the fire power by a handful of men but it would have made the company more resilient (and self sufficient) in the field.

Does anyone know if this was done post Isandlwana (or post Zulu War)?

Obviously in prepared positions/deployments – Khambula, Ulundi etc I assume additional ammunition supplies were made ready.


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PostSubject: Re: Additional ammunition per company   Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:07 am

There is very little in the Field Exercise Manual 1877 about ammunition re-supply. It says "Serving out ammunition from the regimental reserve must be carefully and frequently practised." That's it! There may be guidance elsewhere of course.

I just wonder whether two boxes per company would make a significant difference - on my calculation that's about 14 extra rounds per man?  Four men required to carry the boxes and distribute seems a high price to pay. Easier perhaps just to hand out 14 extra rounds in the first place?

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PostSubject: Re: Additional ammunition per company   Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:59 pm


I think 14 extra rounds is around 20% more 'shots' per man and I feel I would rather have potentially 1600  (or maybe 1200 - I can't remember if it was 80 x 10 or 60 x10 per box?) rounds per company, at the cost of handful of riflemen - that's assuming that it would be infantry doing the carrying rather than bandsmen etc.

I have read that 70 rounds was judged enough to carry without encumbering the soldier and that the bullets in the expense pouch tended to flirt out (if the soldier was running).

Its all academic anyway, I spose, if you think that ammo depletion only had a small part to play (if at all) with the collapse of the firing line, but readily available ammo would have made the withdrawal and 'stands' of the 24th at least more practical.

I spose the ammunition expenditure at other battles (apart from RD) was quite low

I'm just fascinated if there was an 'official' response to the ammo failure scenario, and if nothing was introduced, is this an indicator that it was considered (at the time) to be a red herring.


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PostSubject: Re: Additional ammunition per company   Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:46 pm

The result of ammunition failure.

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PostSubject: Ammunition failure   Sat Aug 12, 2017 4:54 am

Indeed, you are right, more ammo available  in an uninterrupted supply at the firing would have changed the outcome of that ignominious battle significantly.
Now there were a number of reason for this serious  problem  not being identified . One was dealt with in  the "cover up" exposed quite copiously by l and Q in ZV, but another was the fragmented and really quite disfunctional and ineffective  ammunition supply 'system" on that day, a  factor related to the lack of  any proper battlefield command and control. Parochialism , would you believe it, also crept in, some units refusing to help the brothers in arms with ammo.
All factors which "his lordship" would have found to be most embarrassing, so this was all, expectedly, swept under the carpet .
The "ammunition failure" thread is dealt with extensively earlier on this forum gives a lot of interesting information on this subject.


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PostSubject: Re: Additional ammunition per company   Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:23 am

barry wrote:
Indeed, you are right, more ammo available  in an uninterrupted supply at the firing would have changed the outcome of that ignominious battle significantly.

Hi Barry,

Thanks for the reply.

I am not truely convinced that the lack of ammunition would have had a significant effect on the overall out come of the battle, when taking into account with the rolling up of the right flank, the appearance of the Zulu right horn on the saddle, coupled with the fact that when the companies closed frontage (on the firing lines) they were 'isolated' and unable to fire in support of each other - I still think it would have been a 'Home Win' - there may have been more British survivors and less Zulu ones (which is very significant to the individual, I spose).

It is true that the Zulus repeatedly report that they could not get near to the 24th rallying squares until the ammo failed.

I personally do not believe the ammo failed (as such) until the companies were back in the tents/camp and that no supply infrastructure would have supplied the men with sufficient ammunition.

One book (Snook HCDB maybe?) argued that getting the ammo to the companies (in close action with the Zulus) was only part of the problem but distribution around the soldiers, would have been the crux.

Some (Knight, Snook, L&Q? can't remember who - I really must pay attention to the books I read) argued that the 24th where 'out shot' on the firing line (at close range) by the Zulus, given the amount of firearms they had and the fact that at closer ranges, the superior benefits of the MH were largely nullified (given the cover available - long grass etc)

You (or in fact I) could argue that ammunition supply to the NNMC/mounted volunteers is more important to the overall result.

One thing that I have always pondered is, when the 24th QMs turned away the NNMC troopers requesting ammo, how much carbine ammo would the QMs have? Overall in the camp there would have been thousands of rounds but possibly very few in the 24ths ammo wagons. I have read that the MH carbine could take the MH rifle bullet at a push (and a sore shoulder) but I am not even sure what carbines the mounted men carried - WR, SH, MH?

Part of my 'real life' is to investigate the 'root causes' of accidents in my work department (thankfully there are few and they are not very serious) but it is hard to do a Root Cause Analysis on something that happened two hours ago, when you can talk to the people involved.....

Thanks a lot.


ps I am not being 'argumentative' - just making conversation.....
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PostSubject: Re: Additional ammunition per company   Fri Aug 25, 2017 5:44 pm


late on this but for my pennyworth

Martini Carbines were not available until March 1879 in the SA theatre, hence the adoption of the Swinburn Carbine, and I've listed the distribution of these before in previous posts. The common carbine was the Snider, not only to the irregulars, but also the Royal Artillery as their arm the Carbine Interchangeable Artillery (IC1) had not yet been officially issued until Aug 1879, its intended for-runner the Garrison Carbine had been withheld from issue and then all converted to IC1 A.C in March 1879.

So the most likely cause of ammunition not being distributed by QMs to irregulars is I have not got it, rather than you can't have it. Lt Davies comments about finding an open ammo box amongst the tens never stipulates what he actually found, or indeed where he found it from, In the Royal Artillery camp he'd find snider, so theres variables in his testimony. He obviously went away semi satisfied whatever he had.

In terms of expenditure, well no-one actually knows as nobody lived to tell the tale, but as Both Essex and Smith Dorrien both report of some degree of ammo distribution, then one can assume it was being dished out, and theres n reason to believe the officers would not carry out to the letter of the law the Field Exercise manual as Rusteze suggests. So even if the men did not have their haversacks, the minimum ammunition being carried would be 40-50 rounds, 2 x 20 in pouches and say ten in expense pouch (30 rounds simply do not fit in the pouch, theres not enough room) , even then (and there is no evidence to prove otherwise) compare to Khambula, where expenditure was average 33 round P.M then it is still not high. Lets assume they had the regulation 70 rounds, Wind forward to Maiwand the next year in three + hours some companies of the 66th fired 157 rounds per man average (Beresford Priese Company),and we know that with arguably equal or more enemy pressure. Then the duration of the battle even when severely pressed would dictate a 1.5 hours supply before replenishment with the 70 rounds they should have held.

Just facts here
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PostSubject: Re: Additional ammunition per company   Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:36 pm

Didn't they usurp 20,000 rounds at Rourke's Drift in about 12 hours time? 4:20 p.m. till about 4 a.m.?
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PostSubject: Additional Ammunition per Co   Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:46 am

Hi Bromhead
Yes that's about right , I have the figures here somewhere but have given up trying to find them ! , there was only about one box left from memory , a box holds 600 rds , I remember the rate of fire over the 12 or so hours was about 15 rounds per man , per
hour I think I read in Knight's
' Companion To The Anglo Zulu War '
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