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Film Zulu Dawn quote: “Excuse me, my Lord, there's something I must convey to you. I rode along the track down to Rorke's Drift. The sky above is red with fire. Your orders my Lord? Do we move to the drift?”
 
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 N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana

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Herbie



Posts : 64
Join date : 2017-11-16
Age : 55
Location : Epsom, Surrey

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PostSubject: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyTue Oct 20, 2020 9:02 am

Sorry if this is a bit long winded but I'm currently stuck in a quarantine hotel in New Zealand for 2 weeks and a bit bored! I don't have access to all my books but I do have England's Sons with me and I've been reading a PDF I had on my laptop of the 9 pdr RML Gun Handbook (1889). Clearly this is 10 years later and a different calibre to the 7 pdrs equipped by N/5 battery but I'm guessing isn't far out with regard to the number and duties of the gun crews. (Please correct me if I'm wrong). I'd be grateful for any comments on the following thoughts and observations I've made:

1. The full crew of each gun was as follows:

No.1 mounted on own horse
Nos.2 & 3 mounted on gun limber (and the No.6 in action)
Nos.4 & 5 on axeltree seats on gun (or could be mounted on wagon for long journeys)
3 Drivers for the Gun Limber Mk II
The gun limber had 2 x ammo boxes each with 14 x shrapnel rounds & 4 x common shell. This may have been different for 7 pdrs though? Each gun also carried 4 x case shot in the axel tree boxes on the gun.

Each gun also had a Wagon Mk I or II which wasn't a wagon as you might think of it but an identical limber to the gun with a 2 wheeled ammunition wagon body behind it carrying another 4 ammo boxes (so another 6 ammo boxes total including the limber). The rest of the crew was carried on this:
Nos.6 & 7 on the wagon body (but as above the No.6 could ride on the gun limber
(possibly the Nos.4 & 5 as well as above)
Nos.8 & 9 on the wagon limber
3 more Drivers.

2. Therefore the full crew for each gun was 15:

No.1 (Sgt) in command
Nos.2-6 main gun crew
Nos.7-9 reserve
6 x drivers
I presume that the ranks for each gun included a Cpl and Bdr but its not clear which positions in the crew they took. Probably some of the drivers were ranked as Bdr as well - I think I recollect Bdr Lewis at Rorkes Drift was a driver in the medal roll.

However the number of men from the battery with Chelmsford to Mangeni was only 4 officers and 46 men. Assuming at least a Battery Sgt.Major and a trumpeter among the ORs that leaves a max of 11 men per gun so they were clearly under strength, accounting for the large number of men left at Isandlwana.

The manual makes it clear that it was not always expected for each gun to takes it's wagon into action but that a minimum of 1 per section (of 2 guns) was required. It was the duty of the reserve gun crew (No's 7-9) to replenish the gun limbers ammunition from the wagon. If there were only 22 gunners and drivers with each section it appears therefore likely to have 1 x wagon per gun rather than 2 (leaving the others at Isandlwana). Perhaps:

2 x Mtd Sgts (2)
2 guns & limbers each with 3 drivers & 4 gunners (14)
1 wagon with 3 drivers & 3 gunners (6)

3. The full ammo scale for each 9 pdr gun was therefore:

4 x case shot
32 x common shell
112 x shrapnel

Does anyone know if this was the same scale for the 7 pdr in 1879?

4. The battery also included a number of Store Wagons (carrying kit such as blankets, tools, spares, ropes, kettles etc). Its not clear how many per battery. There was also at least one Forge wagon (containing smiths and wheelers tools, a field forge and anvil etc). It appears these were all mule drawn given that the battery lost 30 mules at Isandlwana. I'm guessing therefore 4 x Store wagons plus 1 x Forge wagon for the battery each with 6 mules.

5. What started me looking into this was that I wondered whether there were one or more limber teams that tried to escape Isandlwana as well as the two guns that are mentioned in a number of accounts. N/5 lost 24 horses at Isandlwana which would fit with 12 for the guns plus another 12 for 2 ammunition wagons. If they deployed with the minimum of 1 ammunition wagon for the section that would mean at least 3 and possibly 4 teams of horses racing through the camp and not just 2. Do any of the survivors accounts mention this?

6. The battery survivors from Isandlwana numbered 12. Lt Curling, Sgt Costellow and Trumpeter Martin would all have had their own horses. The other 9 men presumably all escaped on spare horses from the battery lines, or is it possible that one of the ammunition limbers/wagons made it at least as far as the river?

7. The battery at full strength was 132, but by 22nd Jan was down to 126. 4 of the missing men were at Rorkes Drift and 1 with the Rocket Battery in No.2 Column, leaving 1 unaccounted for. If there were a total of 90 men in the battery (drivers and gunners) to crew the 6 guns, that leaves 6 officers and 30 men. Of the 30 men, deduct the BSM, 2 or 3 trumpeters, a Farrier Sgt, 3 shoeing smiths and a collar maker which is still at least 21 (and nearly 30 at full strength) for other duties presumably like storemen, cooks etc, but it seems a lot. Any idea what these other men's official roles were?

8. There is no mention of rockets in 1889. Presumably they had fallen out of favour by then. Most the accounts I've seen say that N/5 retained 2 rocket troughs although there is no mention of them so where they out with the battery with Chelmsford or left behind and lost at Isandlwana? If both N/5 and 11/7 batteries retained their rocket troughs where did the 3 troughs used by the ad-hoc Rocket battery in No.2 column come from? Also why given the number of "spare" men in the battery could N/5 not spare more than 1 man for the battery (meaning the 1/24th had to supply 8 infantrymen to make up the numbers)? Is this an indication of the low opinion held of the rocket troughs by the Royal Artillery?

9. There was only a scale of 2 carbines per gun, the rest of the crew being armed only with sabres, with even these being stored on the limbers and wagons apparently. It must have been desperate for the unarmed crews as they attempted to escape with little or no means of self defence. (I wonder if the battery's firepower would have been improved if they had left the guns behind and been armed with 132 Martini-Henry's instead)!

10. As an aside, time moves slowly and I was interested to note (as an infantry mortarman until last year) that some of the words of command - such as "prepare to mount", "mount" etc, in the manual are still in use today!

Apologies again for the rambling nature of the above, but hope some of it is of interest and would be grateful for feedback.

Regards

Phil.






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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyTue Oct 20, 2020 12:29 pm

8.  The rocket troughs and rockets were found at Isandhlwana - see my Gunner Taylor essay.  They are also mentioned in Rothwell's list in the Narrative.
7. One was en route to the column but still in Natal.

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyThu Oct 22, 2020 2:29 pm

Herbie
Note this sentence from one of Harness's letters which will answer your question no. 2: “I left a large number of men in camp because I thought we were coming back in the evening, so took only about seven men to each gun”. (Letter from HARNESS to his young sister “Co”, Helpmekaar, 25th January 1879 - this can be read in Sonia Clarke's “Invasion of Zululand” p. 71)
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timothylrose



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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyThu Oct 22, 2020 5:29 pm

On a side note I think you will find that the gunners would have been carrying the 1853 yataghan sword bayonet in its steel artillery scabbard on their belts - any thoughts on the drivers carrying Adams revolvers as well?
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyThu Oct 22, 2020 7:51 pm

Following up on Tim’s comment, the War Establishment armaments for a Field Battery were 12 Snider carbines and 74 sword bayonets.

I recall that there was an issue of pistols made to the drivers of supporting corps and units in the wake of iSandlwana, sadly I’m not in a position to clarify the source as I’m away from my research material at this time.

JY
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Herbie



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Join date : 2017-11-16
Age : 55
Location : Epsom, Surrey

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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyFri Oct 23, 2020 4:01 am

Thanks for the feedback.

I haven’t seen the Harness letter Julian mentions but that does tie in precisely with my estimate of the crew numbers at Mangeni and that 2 of the ammunition wagon/limbers must have been left behind at Isandlwana with the majority of the spare crewmen.

Following on from Tim and Johns comments, the 1889 loading diagrams confirm that there were 2 swords on each gun limber plus 6 swords on each ammunition wagon/limber (48 total for the gun crews. Were these in addition to the 12 carbines and the 74 sword bayonets or were they a later addition to, or replacement for, the bayonets? Did the men with their own mounts - Sgt’s, Trumpeters, maybe drivers also have swords?

Regards Phil
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyFri Oct 23, 2020 8:15 am

Phil,

I think swords were more associated with Royal Horse Artillery batteries, at the time they were identified as a lettered battery and a lettered brigade, such as A/A.  R.H.A. batteries were then considered as a cavalry support arm.  I have a photograph of a R.H.A. battery, circa 1880, in which the Drivers are wearing swords suspended from a waist sword belt.

Field batteries such as N/5, which the course of time would become the Royal Field Artillery, were more of an infantry support arm.

Virtually all the published photographs of the Royal Artillery in Zulu War post-date iSandlwana, which helps little with your question.  So far the only photograph I have found of a Driver wearing a sword was taken at the field service for the Prince Imperial.

Drawings and engravings can prove to be unreliable.  I think that there is one by an officer in N/5 showing a gun crew in action from the 9th Cape Frontier War, I’ll see if I can find it, and if it helps.

JY
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SRB1965

SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyFri Oct 23, 2020 9:04 am

Hi,

Not going to add much here, but just letting y'all know I'm still alive..... Very Happy

I suppose as in uniform regulations, other things changed in action/on campaign.

Even if sword bayonets were part of the issue, I feel (and its only my idea) that such encumbrances would have been left on the wagons/carts.

If you think about it, personal weapons for guns crews are something to be used in the event of failure (if it gets to melee, things are going bad) - just like the rest of the British forces at Isandlwana when the guns deployed, failure was not on the cards + they had close support from British infantry.

ta

Sime
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timothylrose



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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptyFri Oct 23, 2020 12:09 pm

Having worked a 16 pounder artillery piece quite a few times in slightly later Victorian Artillery kit the sword bayonets don't get in the way at all and IMO I would want some sort of side arm for self protection rather than not when on active service
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SRB1965

SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana   N/5 Battery RA at Isandlwana EmptySat Oct 24, 2020 10:20 am

Hi Tim,

TBH speaking as a former re-enactor (albeit 30 years ago), its a lot easier now than it was then.....for one thing we didn't have to march across country to our musters - just hop out of our coach or car......

As I say, its just my thoughts....but generally no one carries/wears anything unless they are told to or think they need to......"when was the last time I used the bloody thing......we're not going to need it.....there's no Zulus round here and if there were, we'd give them an awful hammering with this 'ere 'bye the bye'......"

There may have been a standing order that personal weapons must be carried at all times......

I spose it would be better off having one and not needing it, then the other way round...

Cheers

Sime

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