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 Rate of artillery fire at Isandlwana

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PostSubject: Rate of artillery fire at Isandlwana   Fri Sep 01, 2017 4:44 pm


One quote I have read of is that the ‘big guns at Isandlwana were firing every 15 minutes’ (the quote came from someone at RD and may not be word for word).

The first thing that springs to mind is, I wonder if the ‘observer’ was timing the gun fire with his watch (unlikely) and just assumed it was every 15 minutes?

The second is – yes the gun probably has to be re-laid after each shot, the gun reloaded, a target acquired etc and gun discharged but 15 minutes does seem a long time, especially if a load of Zulus were bearing down on the gunners.

It has been said that a Napoleonic gun crew could fire (depending on gun barrel size etc) up to 4 rounds per minutes (on a range?) even allowing for-  battlefield conditions one shot every 15 minutes seems a little low (to me)

Could the target acquisition and adjusting the trajectory have taken the time, as the Zulus were advancing and disappearing into folds in the ground?

Would the guns have fired as a section (i.e. both together) or would they have fired independently  - I suspect the former when firing on the same target area but the later when  one gun was deployed to support Durnford.

I spose a lot of the observation depends on the hearers location, wind direction and just if he 'noticed' each shot.

When the two guns were recovered after Ulundi, was any ammo recovered or did the Zulus trash them for the ‘powder’?


Sime (former powder monkey on a cannon in the 'Sealed Knot' about 35 years ago)
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PostSubject: Re: Rate of artillery fire at Isandlwana   Fri Sep 01, 2017 10:41 pm

There is an excellent piece by Keith Smith Isandlwana: A Timetable and it states the guns were firing for about 75 minutes and that both fired 40 rounds a piece which works out to about a round every 2 minutes which to me sounds right 15 minutes on the other hand only leaves them firing 5 rounds each and we know the guns started firing early because the death of Lieutenant Roberts caused by one of these guns and the testimony of Zulu crouching down as the gunners moved away from the guns this would have happen more than a couple of times and also at the right hand side of the conical hill was an abandon Zulu hut which the Zulu were using for cover being from the pounding they were receiving from the guns as they were forming up there horns for there charge
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PostSubject: Re: Rate of artillery fire at Isandlwana   Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:01 pm

Hi AI,

I did wonder about the rate of fire reported by the witness at Rorke's Drift, it is more than possible that he recalled there being 15 minutes between 2 shots that he heard but they need not have been 'consecutive' shots.


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