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 Zulu shield question

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SRB1965



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PostSubject: Zulu shield question   Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:47 pm

Hi

Has anyone ever had their hands on a Zulu shield?

If so - just how 'rigid' are they? I have read that they are not that thick and obviously being 'leather' I figured they would be a bit flimsy.

I have always been fascinated by the (supposed) 'shield flirt' move invented by Shaka, I perfected a version many years ago, when I was in a Dark Age re-enactment group but of course, those shields were wooden and rigid.

Is it possible that he told his men to make more offensive use of the shield but nothing more than battering the enemy's shield to one side, with no fancy 'flirt' and writers have invented the 'hook and stab'

Cheers

Sime


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PostSubject: Zulu Shield Question    Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:33 am

Hi Sime
I have 3 of them , one is from that era , the other two are later versions although still old , they aren't flimsy as the leather has and does harden up .
Obviously not effective against any type of firearm , but certainly strong enough to push away another shield , or deflect a spear thrust I imagine .
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PostSubject: Re: Zulu shield question   Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:06 pm

Sime
The 'hook and thrust' is mentioned in a couple of the early settlers works. Andrew Smith and Febana spring to mind as well as EA Ritter. As Gary says they are pretty hard. Last year two of my delightful little grandkids decide my 1870 shield would make a perfect sledge to be pulled around the garden on. And it did, they didn't see the funny side of Grandad chasing them around the lawn with a knob Kerrie though, strange little things.

Regards
PS the shield survived unscathed, the grandkids didn't !
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PostSubject: Zulu Shield Question    Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:39 am

Joker Joker Joker . I can imagine Frank , you might've needed to be admitted ...again !!! Suspect Mad Mad Mad
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PostSubject: Re: Zulu shield question   Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:55 pm

Hi SRB1965

There is a description out there of a single handed encounter between a Zulu warrior and a British officer at Isandlwana. I think you will find it in The Zulu War Then and Now by the two Ians. It describes how the officer attempted to strike the warrior on the head with his sword, but each time he ducked down behind his shield. This was a trick . He tempted the hapless soldier by leaving his head exposed a bit longer and sure enough he brought the sword down sharply. The trick worked and the shield was brought up in time and the blade lodged firmly in the hide holding it tight. This of course left the officers body momentarily exposed, but it was enough for the Zulu to strike and kill him. The Zulu would probably never have met a sword wielding opponent before but undoubtedly years of single combat experience meant his instinct was enough to prevail.
Blood chilling stuff.
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SRB1965



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PostSubject: Re: Zulu shield question   Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:29 am

Thanks 24th foot, I will see if I can find it.

You will probably find that the Zulu (depending on age etc) had no (or very little) 'live fire' single combat experience....it was probably his first go (as more than likely, it was the officers first hand to hand encounter too).

There had been little conflict in the past 20 odd years....part from between themselves (the uThulwana vs iNgobabmakhosi scuffle).

I'm a firm believer that most things such as that are down to luck and that despite the Hollywood love of extended fight scenes, one slip up or mistake and the fight was over......there's a scene in Zulu (just before the action focuses on Nigel Green/Bourne), were a Zulu is feinting at a 24th soldier, who gets his bayonet in the shield and gets spiked.

I wonder how much 'practise' the Zulus would have undergone....I spose their love of stick fighting would have helped.

Once again, cheers

Sime
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PostSubject: Re: Zulu shield question   Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:58 pm

Hi Sime
Yes the Zulu culture was very combat driven, so stick fighting ( I watched it earlier this year but I'm ashamed to say I didn't participate) from a young age was excellent training. You are probably right that it may well have been the officers first real up close and personal life or death combat as well. It's interesting to see how the clash of cultures between spear and shield and sword matched up. The sword was the result of thousands of years of development and I doubt there was any training on how to deal with spear and shield. The Roman legionary with the earlier version would have known precisely what to do. I can't help thinking how the officer in this encounter must have felt when his sword was pulled to the side leaving his whole body exposed to an assegai. In a split second he knew that everything he had known in life was ending and he had been defeated by a naked warrior.
Regards
Lindsay
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SRB1965



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PostSubject: Re: Zulu shield question   Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:03 am

Hi Lindsay,

If you think about it, the way Zulus used the assagai, (usually underarm), its general construction (short haft/shaft and large blade), it was in essence a 'stabbing sword' (but without having to use so much metal), which could be part of the problem with the combat....one was using a slashing weapon, which the shield either through design (or strangely through a weakness - the fact the bladed weapon could damage it and get lodged) was able to deal with. The officer would probably have been no worse off with Martini and bayonet.

Its the same principle with say, Gauls and Romans...slashing sword vs stabbing sword (the gladius could slash as the Gallic swords could stab the there were primarily used, as described), albeit both parties were shielded, its all about controlling or dictating the fight and its easier to do that, if fighting in a controlled manner.

I have (in wargaming circles) maintained for a number of years the most important piece of 'armour' ever invented by man, was the shield......it was cheap to make, effective against missiles or in HtH, could be used in combat and did not suffer from the concussive effect that some weapons could cause on armour alone. If you think about it most cultures, used one at some point in their history, until the advent of effective missile weapons (crossbow, longbow, firearm) when shields went out of use and armour quality/design got better (briefly until ceasing to be used)

I get really vexed (in movies/TV shows) when combatants seem to carry a shield 'just for laughs'....the ideal position for it is between yourself and the enemy......I struggle to get my son to adhere to this idea....he continually leads with his foam cutlass and has his 'Warwick Castle' shield behind him......maybe he will be a fencer....

Back to topic, though, I suppose that once the officer had to draw his revolver - something had gone wrong and once it got to sword work - something had gone very wrong (unless he was gesticulating with the said sword).

I spose if the Zulus had lots of good wood available and a culture of woodworking (plank cutting), their shields would have been wood....

Cheers

Sime
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