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 Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants

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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySat Oct 02, 2021 5:25 pm

Was there a Laager Commandant at iSandlwana?
I know why Lord Chelmsford didn't laager his wagons but the purpose of this thread is DID Lord Chelmsford have the ability and expertise within his force to Laager his wagons if he had needed to, not just on the 22nd but after that, had the disaster not occurred.

Anyway I was going through some copies of documents from TNA this afternoon and came across this. I'm not sure if this statement is somewhere else on the forum in past discussions about the defence of the camp. If not here it is:-

Reply by Glyn to a request by W. Bellairs from Pietermaritzburg about missing conductors, drivers etc. dated 16th Feb 1879

" There was no Laager Commandant for No3 Column, as it was found impossible to procure one - I at one time hoped I had secured the services of Mr Dubois who was represented to me as a competent person -  but he subsequently declined to go. I then was in treaty with a Mr Woodruffe, also thoroughly recommended who led me to think up to the last moment that he would accompany the column but at the last moment he declined to go. This was duly brought to the notice of H.E.  the Lt General commanding."

So it seems some thought was given before the invasion to laagering the wagons when the column halted.
Am I right in thinking that the Laager Commandant was the officer trained in how to effectively laager large bodies of wagons in a defensive formation?

If I am right it throws into doubt Lord Chelmsford's notes on the findings of the Court of Enquiry that:-
"The ground was too rocky to throw up a shelter trench but the wagons which were ready inspanned at 10am (vide Lt Cochrane's evidence) could if thought necessary have been formed into a laager"

No they obviously couldn't. Suspect

Lord Chelmsford does go on to say that his firepower meant "such an additional procedure was not absolutely necessary" and that it was not meant as a redoubt but as protection for the oxen. Does this mean they didn't have the ability to protect the oxen, vital to the mobility of the column?

Kate scratch


Last edited by gardner1879 on Thu Oct 21, 2021 3:00 pm; edited 2 times in total
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24th

24th

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 3:12 pm

I thought it was because, they didn't intend on staying at Isandlwana, and it would have taken to long. ?

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 5:06 pm

Louis Phillip Du Bois was at iSandlwana, His body was recovered and re buried at Helpmakaar at the Family farm Giba.
Kate like you Ive sat on those hills and contemplated the whys and why nots. I think two prime considerations for not Laagering would be:
Chelmsford
Far to arrogant to obey his own instruction.
Was convinced that he would have to search out the zulu for a battle, not the other way around
Pulleine
The wagons were due to be taken back to Rorke's Drift by Smith Dorrien
On the 21st there was no urgency or anticipated attack.
When the situation arose for the need it was to late.
Space was pretty critical around the saddle area,
He had fixed instructions in how to defend the camp, not the men.
24th
That to mate

Cheers
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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 6:19 pm

Thanks chaps for your replies.
I was aware why they didn't laager,  wagons back to RD, temporary camp, firepower,  etc.

My initial post really was asking the question  did they have the ability to form a laager not just on the day but any time during their prospective march through Zululand based on Glyn's statement above.

Strange for Glyn to say Du Bois wouldn't come.
Perhaps there was another more qualified Du Bois, a relation perhaps of  Louis Phillip Du Bois who is merely shown as a conductor in the casualty returns

This is Bellairs request made to Glyn dated the 16th February 1879:-
"OC No3 Column
1 No reference of missing Transport conductors, drivers etc in the action of the 22nd has yet been received.
2 Have the goodness to report the name of the Chief Conductor, the Laager Commandant and the Baggage Master to your column prior to the 22nd ult. and the instructions given to each
By order signed W Bellairs "

'Laager Commandant' is quite an impressive title that was obviously used by the British army. If Louis had been a Commandant I would have thought he would have been listed as such in the casualty returns.

Just my thoughts

Kate Very Happy
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 9:37 pm

Kate,

I don’t know if it explores the role of a laager commandant but have you looked at the Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers 1880, Laagers in the Zulu War by Lieutenant R. Da Costa Porter, Royal Engineers?  I used to have a copy but traded decades ago to another forum member, it might hold the answer.

JY


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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 10:35 pm

Thanks for the link John.  Salute
That sounds like  a really interesting document.
I've got snippets of Porter's diary in 'Red Earth, the Royal Engineers and the Zulu War 1879.'

He writes on the 22nd June as part of 5th field Company
"The road proved very difficult, and we only did three miles. First we had to ascend a very steep hill, the wagons forming laager, and outspanning as they came up. In the meantime the Company was at work about one and a half miles further on blasting a passage through a rocky cliff..... A big laager was formed at the foot of the hill."
Unfortunatly he doesn't say anything about how they were formed or who formed them.

Does anyone on the forum have access to the document mentioned in John's post above?
Kate Very Happy
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyMon Oct 04, 2021 8:45 am

Kate
this from the Natal Witness

Information on the death of Conductor Du Bois, published in The Natal Witness on June 24, 1879.
It is probably that the world will never learn full particulars of the proceedings of the 22nd January, but as time passes along little incidents continue to lead out showing how hard many of the poor fellows died. Amongst those killed that day was one of the wagon conductors, named Louis Du Bois, one of a family who for years have lived on the Zulu Border and became intimately acquainted with the Zulu people. We are informed that when last seen this poor fellow was without firearms, but had got an assegai and a shield, and met his death fighting the Zulus in their own fashion. There were few men so well acquainted with the native character as Mr Du Bois, He had travelled for years in the Zulu, Amazwasi, Sekukuni, and Matabili countries, and spoke nearly all the dialects.
Louis Phillip’s remains were recovered by his brothers and brought back to the farm Giba in Helpmekaar for burial alongside his mother.
Although the title of 'Commandant' was raised by Bellairs theres no reference of one being appointed as such. I have trolled through the LGO list and No 199 17th November 1878 NAM 6807/386-26-13 covers all the relevant formations of Roads Transport Civilians etc. I cant locate any mention at all of a rank of Laager Commandant.
Stands to reason though there would have to be a Conductor that would be well versed in forming a laager, and a goodly supply of men to manually move the wagons, the disselboom having to be run under the wagon in front.
Hope that helps.
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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Laager Commandant at iSandlwana and his role.   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyMon Oct 04, 2021 6:52 pm

Thaks Frank
Interesting, he obviously had brothers and reading between the lines his father was still alive. Was one of them the potential Laager Commandant that turned Glyn down?

I'm struggling to find anything about the rank 'Laager Commandant'.
There is something in the Nottinghamshire Evening Post dated the 21st March 1879 that talks of the fortification of Maritzburg and refers to the rank. Although this refers to a garrison and the fortification  of a city rather than a mobile column, it does  show that it was quite a high rank and not just dished out to anyone:

"Letter from Port Natal. A letter from a private correspondant  Port Natal, February 18th 1879

.....especially in Maritzburg where the prelimanery arrangements for holding the city against all possible assailants are most advanced. The protion of the city set apart for the laager is divided into ward-laagers each having a commandant orderly officer, ward leader,sub leader, officers to distribute arms, officer to complete barriers, three superintendants and an armoury. Lt Col. Mitchel R.M. (colonial Secretery) is laager commandant with Mr F. Sewell as staff officer whilst Capt R. Hime R.E. (Civil Engineer for the Colony) is commandant of ward Laager No1...."

Thinking laterly I looked at Warren Wynne's diary about No1 Column and wether they had  a laager commandant'. Entry for the 28th January:-

"As these wagons had to be disposed of and the cattle protected, I proposed the formation of a 'laager' of wagons to contain the oxen on the south glacis. This was carried out and formed before dark, the lines being laid out as in the sketch which caused the least masking fire"

Seems he did the work himself.
Also looking at another R.E. officer

Lt Commeline R.E. a letter to his father  dated 31st Jan 1879:-

"Next day (23rd Jan)we started for the Mooi River on getting a despatch from a staff officer in front ordering us to hurry on, as there were rumours of a reverse. On arriving at the Inn at the ford we heard the news of the disaster of the day before from two mounted police who had made their escape and were making for Greytown. Native fugitives were beginning to arrive also, though we saw more of these on the two following days. As there was no knowing wether the Zulus were advancing or not, we formed a laager or enclosure of wagons, supplemented by shelter trenches, the house forming the fourth side of the square"

Commeline then arrives at Helpmakaar:-

"This is a funny place. It consisted when we arrived of a row of corrugated iron stores surrounded by a wall of wagons packed above and below with sacks. We Engineers have been hard at work superintending the throwing up of a strong earthwork all around which is to soon supersede the wagon laager"

So if R.E. officers had the ability to throw up a laager why did the column need a laager commandant and  how sophisticated were the R.E. officers designs?
Also if the job was left to the R.E.'s there were  I think only 7 of them at iSandlwana, Durnford being one of them.
That leaves only Lt MacDowell qualified to form a laager for no3 column that morning if it was needed (wether to protect the men or the oxen) and he initially went out with Lord Chelmsford only returning with Alan and his party much later in the day.
That means with no R.E. officer or Laager Commandant Pulleine couldn't have formed a laager even if he had wanted to.

Perhaps the Commandant just controlled the forces inside the laager when it was formed, without knowing the role of the rank we don't know but with such a large amount of wagons at the camp the formation of a proper defensive laager would have been a highly complex task.
The Boers had been using well designed laagers with large amounts of wagons for decades.
Perhaps that is why a laager commandant was required to supervise the positioning of the wagons.
But No3 Column didn't have one. Hmmm scratch  

Kate Very Happy
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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyMon Oct 04, 2021 10:47 pm

Further to my last post and looking further afield there is quite a lot about the rank of Laager Commandant during the Boer War
Found this on line:-

"Every Commando unit had a Laager Commandant, assisted by a Corporal they would make the plans and organise the entire “Laager” when the units set up camp. They were typically experienced and knew exactly when and where to set up camp, with the perfect placement of the wagons to form an effective laager to operate from."

If this 'rank' held the same responsibilities during the AZW then it would be a very important position indeed for a column moving into enemy territory. To be without one could cause some serious problems.
To answer one of my own questions above we see the sort of laager a R.E. officer could layout:-

On the 12th April Lt Commeline writes:-
"we had nine wagons with which I was ordered to make a laager to retreat to in case of an attack during the night. I formed them into a traingle thus which you will see formed a capital little fort to retreat into and in fact nothing forms a better defence against a Zulu rush than a good wagon laager. I have since had to make two with a larger number of wagons and think that the triangular form is the best as being the easiest to manage. The laager is not so easily made as you would imagine as teams of 16 oxen are not put into motion, started and stopped with the same ease as a team of cart horses at home, to say nothing of making the black drivers understand where you want them to go"

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Nine to sixteen wagons is about manageable but with columns in Zululand during the second half of the campaign made up of up to 300 wagons which were then  split into two laagers of 150 wagons each,  expecting  a Lieutenant or Captain in the R.E. (and this is meant as no disrespect to the R,E.'s) to communicate with the drivers, organise and then lay out  such a defensive position seems a tall order. Especially as most of them had probably never worked with ox teams before.
There must have been a local, Boer or colonial well versed in carrying out this complicated task.
A Laager Commandant perhaps?

Kate:D
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90th

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PostSubject: Laagering of Wagons at Isandlwana    Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 05, 2021 2:52 am

Hi Frank
Louis Dubois was shot in the head on the Natal side of the river , basically as he got out of the river , this Witnessed by Lt W.Erskine , from memory who was standing next to or behind Dubois.
90th Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 05, 2021 5:22 am

Hi Kate
I would suggest that as the concept of laagering was , as we know, completely ignored by Chelmsford so would be the need for a 'Commandant'. That is untill the second invasion when I would believe it was the very first item on the first page of his notebook, underlined and high lighted.
Have a look at the ' Blood River ' monument site it will give you a better idea of how the wagons were run together, also the size taken. At blood river there were less than 500 defenders in a laager built with 64 wagons, next visit pop in there its pretty amazing, Im damned sure Gary has done it already, not much he has missed.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 05, 2021 8:24 am

Kate just running through 'Englands Sons', there is only one Du Bois mentioned.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 05, 2021 8:58 am

Thats because Laager Commandant Du Bois didn't go Wink

Have been to the Blood River memorial a couple of times before and after the building of the new Zulu museum on the other side of the river. That circle of metal wagons is quite something.

There were approx 220 wagons and 82 carts in No3 Column and approx 346 conductors, drivers and foreloopers.
Are we to expect Lt MacDowel to liaise with and organise these into two laagers?


My point is really in relation to all my waffling above is that it seems Lord Chelmsford did not have the ability and expertise in the camp to form a defensive laager either for oxen or men and was aware there was no Laager Commandant appointed before they set out.
For a man whose planning abilities during the 1868 Abyssinia campaign were highly praised such an oversight seems very odd indeed.

I know he claimed the camp was only temporary but if they hadn't been attacked on the 22nd what was he planning to do on subsequent nights during the invasion?

If I get time I might transcribe the whole of Glyn's reply to Bellairs for the forum. It makes interesting reading with a brew and a biccie.
Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 05, 2021 9:25 am

As I said, it was non existant in his priority list prior to the invasion so really the issue of who could have /should have organised it becomes a mute point. Chelmsford just refused to listen to Kruger etc. IDIOT MAN
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySat Oct 09, 2021 8:37 am

In my quest to find out about Laager Commandants,  I've trawled through pages and pages of General Orders for the whole campaign and not a single mention of Laager Commandants anywhere.

There is mention in an order dated 22nd November 1878 of a 'Head Conductor' Mr J.T. Francis being appointed to Col Wood's column on a pay rate of 13s per diem, 7s more than a standard conductor.
Head Conductor Francis reverted to Conductor at his own request on the 20th Dec 1878 with his pay being reduced to 9s 6d. (Conductor rates of pay had gone up since November and were now 7s 6d a day.)

Then on 26th Feb 1879:-

1 The following classifications and scale of pay for Acting Transport Officers and Conductors is approved of for the column under the command of Colonel Wood, V.C. C.B. :-
 Class 1 -  13s per diem for Acting Transport Officers, and Head Conductors in charge of stations performing the duties of Acting Transport Officers
  Class 2 - 10s per diem for Head Conductors not in charge of divisions whose duties are of a responsible nature.

Late on in this order:-
Head Conductor Francis in charge of Commissariat train from 1st January 1879
Head Conductor Baxter in charge of Depot at Utrecht.

Conductors Lambert and Henwood in charge divisions of transport train, and frequently acting as Head Conductors.

In an order dated the 3rd May there is also mention of the rank senior Transport Officer who has to report to the senior military or Commanding Officer of the station attached.


Could Head Conductor be the same as a Laager Commandant? Nearly double the pay could compensate for the increased responsibility.
The fly in the ointment however is Bellair's, in his request above, also mentions the position of 'Chief Conductor' which is possibly/probably the same as 'Head Conductor'



Oh and in relation to Mr Dubois. In a footnote to a survivors account dated the 22nd February he writes:-

"I forgot to mention, that just as I crossed the river , a Zulu shot at me , the bullet passing to within an inch of my ear. I felt my head to see if I was hit; it killed a conductor by the name of Dubois who was walking up the hill in front of me; this was about five o'clock"

The search continues
Kate scratch
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySat Oct 09, 2021 11:49 am

My understanding is that for many of laagers built, the movement of the wagons into position was only the start and that the real fortification of the defensive position was then the digging of entrenchments outside the wagons, with the dug soil forming a parapet on the inside of the trench and the men taking firing positions between the trench and the wagons. I suspect building a laager would need the close cooperation of the head conductor (to control the wagon movements), the senior RE (to control the trench positions) and the poor bloody infantry (who I know from experience are the ones to do all the digging!).
Phil
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PostSubject: Laagering of Wagons at Isandlwana    Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySat Oct 09, 2021 11:54 am

Hi Kate
Yes I only found the same statements as you regarding a Laagering Commandant , I posted earlier the witness account of Dubois was from Lt Wally Erskine NNC
90th Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptySat Oct 09, 2021 5:03 pm

All good points Phil. One still wonders though, if all those main roles in laager construction were taken care of what the role of the Laager Commandant would be.

Heres the original document if people are interested in reading it:-


This is Bellair's request made to Glyn dated the 16th February 1879:-
"OC No3 Column
1 No reference of missing Transport conductors, drivers etc in the action of the 22nd has yet been received.
2 Have the goodness to report the name of the Chief Conductor, the Laager Commandant and the Baggage Master to your column prior to the 22nd ult. and the instructions given to each
By order signed W Bellairs "

Glyn’s reply:-
No return of missing Transport Conductors, Drivers etc in the action of the 22nd January 1879 has been received by me – this return would be made according to existing regulations in this Colony for transport, to the Commissioner General  through the Director of Transport, which I presume has been done. This has now been called for – I am unable to give the name of the Chief Conductor on the 22nd Jany as I am aware that the Transport Department found great difficulty to the last, in finding a person competent to fill the post- But I have referred to the  Transport Officer for this information.
The Chief Conductor being an Official of the Transport Department received all his instructions from the Transport Officer in accordance with para 65-66+72 Regulations for Field Forces.
I was not in the habit of issuing orders to any of the subordinates of this officer.
There was no Laager Commandant for No3 Column, as it was found impossible to procure one - I at one time hoped I had secured the services of Mr Dubois who was represented to me as a competent person -  but he subsequently declined to go. I then was in treaty with a Mr Woodruffe, also thoroughly recommended who led me to think up to the last moment that he would accompany the column but at the last moment he declined to go. This was duly brought to the notice of H.E.  the Lt General commanding.
The Quartermasters of Corps were appointed to the charge of the baggage transport, the other duties in the Field of these officers being comparatively light, perfectly permitted of their carrying out this service, and it was most undesirable to remove officers from their companies where they were all required. As all the transport with the column was Regimental  (Glyn’s underlining) and the Qr masters of Corps were in my opinion the proper Officers to have charge of it – The Regimental Transport having been completely handed over to  Corps by the Transport Department – Officers Commanding Regiments became responsible for it and issued their own instructions to their baggage masters.- The whole being under General Superintendence  and Control of the Transport Officer in accordance with Regulations for Field Forces Para 72
Sd R T Glyn Colonel
Commanding 3rd Column
Rorke’s Drift
22nd February 1879

Thanks for the Wally Erskine link Gary, thought people might like to see the exact description of his death Salute

Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 9:06 am

Kate
A mixture of no commandant being procurable - the temporary nature of the camp - the waggons being all in use - and the enormous perimeter of the camp - all combined to produce an unlaagered Isandhlwana.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 11:47 am

Hi Julian
I was aware why they didn't laager, the point of this thread, based on Glyn's letter, being did he have the ability to laager if he had wanted to?

If we are to use the Boer War description role for a Laager Commandant, then it seems Chelmsford did not have the ability to form a laager not just on the 22nd but for the rest of his drive to Ulundi.
Which means each night after the 22nd his oxen would have been vulnerable and men even more so.
With the unblooded Kings army somewhere in front of him this was a disaster waiting to happen.

Lord Chelmsford's notes on the findings of the Court of Enquiry that:-
"The ground was too rocky to throw up a shelter trench but the wagons which were ready in-spanned at 10am (vide Lt Cochrane's evidence) could if thought necessary have been formed into a laager"

Could they?

Historians often explain why there was no Laager. My point is, and I don't think anyone has looked into this before, is did he have the ability to form a laager if he needed to in the first place and my answer is No he did not.

To expect Lt MacDowell to liaise with the conductors and drivers across several different language barriers and then build two intricate laagers with over two hundred wagons each night is a tall order indeed.

The grand point of all the pontification above is that this was another blunder by Chelmsford in his planning of the invasion.

Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 11:59 am

Brickhill Kate
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 12:46 pm

You referring to this little sentence Frank?

"Between 9 and 10 o'clock, I ordered all wagoners to collect all the oxen (which were then scattered all round the camps and might impede the action of the troops) and tie them to the yokes, but not inspan them,...."

As we know he was Glyn's interpreter. As born and bred South African,  James Alexander Brickhill  would have had plenty of experience in working with oxen. The statement of him giving orders to wagoners is interesting and perhaps his closeness to the Colonel may have given him a certain unspoken authority over the other civilians.
Whether he was qualified to form laagers with hundreds of wagons is another matter.

Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 1:41 pm

Difficult to comment when Ive got my feet up on the railing, sharing a beer with Shane and Roz and looking at the battlefield. Chin chin ducky. Shocked Joker Joker Joker Joker Joker Joker Joker
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 1:59 pm

You can go off people you know Frank!!  
I'm not jealous in the slightest Sad  Mad  Wink
Give them my love and let them know I hope to be back there soon.

Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 2:30 pm

They send there love. Shane says he will e mail you. I will be taking some photos of the dead area tomorrow. ive created a portable hotspot so can send 'live' shots for you.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 2:31 pm

Just a point to look at Kate, I cant find any specific appointments for laagering on the second invasion, and we do know it happened.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 2:59 pm

Oh smashing I will look forward to his e-mail and your pictures.

Yes that struck me when I was wading through all the General Orders for the second invasion. No mention of a Laager Commandant.

Looking at this from a slightly different angle, from what I've read Col. Bellairs seems to have got on well with Lord Chelsmford and no doubt was one of those who closed ranks round him after the disaster.  
Could this request to Glyn have been a small part of that cover up to protect Chelmsford and point the blame at others; in other words sent to make Glyn look foolish and unprepared?
Perhaps Bellairs already knew there was no Laager Commandant but wanted Glyn to put it in writing, and perhaps thats why Glyn covered his own rear when he wrote:-
"This was duly brought to the notice of H.E.  the Lt General commanding."

There is an interesting little case study in Keith Smiths "Dead was Everything" starting on page 131 that explores this infighting and it is very clear which side of the fence Bellairs falls with his attcks on Glyn's character and abilities.
Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 4:56 pm

Kate
I went into the infighting at one point. A good place to start that is with Penn Symonds, he makes very specific points. I need to look up my other sources but there is a record of quit a slanging match between Crealock and Chelmsford with of course the arch snake clery stirring the pot. Possibly its in Sonia Clark.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 4:57 pm

That whole discussion is on here somewhere.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 12, 2021 5:08 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
This does have reference in that there is a conversation between Chelmsford and Glyn that mentions Bellairs. It was located by Lee Stevenson, its on ,I think, page 2
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PostSubject: Laagering of Wagons at Isandlwana    Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyWed Oct 13, 2021 1:36 am

Hi Frank
Not jealous at all I might add !! . Give my best to the ' Big Man ' and Roz , they know I'll be over as soon as is humanly possible , as does Kate ! . Had an hour long chat with Kate the other day .
Cheers Frank , enjoy the feet up and the cold beers .
90th Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 19, 2021 11:16 am

My quest for Laager Commandant info continues.
Seems I was right about Lord Chelmsford's indifference to Laagering. This from the 'scandal mongering' Clery dated 18th March 1879:-

"A small book of field regulations was published here for guidance in the field in which the advisability of entrenchments and wagon laagers is alluded to, but when Colonel Glyn asked about making a wagon laager, the general pooh-poohed the idea altogether, remarking in a jocular way, "why it would take a week to make one" This book of field regulations was known as 'Bellairs Mixture'

Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Laagering at Isandlwana..    Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 19, 2021 2:35 pm

Hi Kate,
Have been reading with interest the various view points about the absence of laagering at Isandlwana. Indeed BA standing orders did have a requirement for laagering when there was to be an overnight camp. I know too that Boer Commandant Piet Uys ( aka Blackie or Swart Uys) from north Natal , a friend of the British, did not want to see catastrophe at iSandlwana  and  issued dire warnings to the British about the folly of not doing so. Further one of the NMP officers, a man of considerable African warfare experience ( unlike Chelmsford of course) sent a message to Chelmsford the day the camp was set up questioning the absence of any protection at all around the back side of the camp. Of course the snotty response to that from the C.I.C was a real pearler and has gone done in history, in infamy, ;  tell that Policeman, not to worry,  we will be doing all the fighting....?. What an opinionated incompetant and naive idiot that man was.
However, I do know that the terrain was covered with a number of dongas, which in reality would have negated the effect of some laagering. Further, constructing a laager would have required a lot of digging in very stony ground, and time. So, how many spades and picks were there in the camp?
Lastly. The Boer Transport riders and their African assistants, ie drivers and voérloopers on those wagons lived very close to the earth. As soon as there was a whisper of trouble they would have known about it and would have gapped it, leaving their wagons in situ and dissappeared into the yonder faster than the rising morning mist on a hot summers day. Thus the untrained men of Chelmsfords army  would have been required to push and manuever some 300 wagons around if there was to be laagering.
These thoughts may bring some  insight and clarity to answers on the absence of laagering.

regards

barry
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 19, 2021 3:02 pm

Hi Barry
Thank you for your reply.
That quote to the NMP is a corker.
In all your years research have you ever come across the rank of Laager Commandant in relation to the Zulu War?
I really need a job description for the rank in 1879.

And  (and this is what I am trying to ascertain with this thread) did Lord Chelmsford have the ability to form an effective defensive laager either for the oxen or the men  if he had needed to;  not just on the 22nd but at any time during his advance?

If the answer is no then his statement somewhere above is a lie.
I don't think he did have the ability to laager and have my own opinions about Lord C.
Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Laagering Commandant   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 19, 2021 7:55 pm

Hi Kate,
Cant say that I have come across  a Laager Commandant. However  Transport Officer is often mentioned and perhaps  this role had a requirement to see to the positioning of wagons on arrival at destination. Maybe? Now to the question, could Chelmsford have laagered, YES, if adequate time was allowed and planning was done. Parking off on ground a bit more conducive to digging/trenching and mounding and not covered in dongas. This implies at least 200 picks and shovels would be available and two days, at least to do the work. However that clever man was on his own mission. It cost him dearly.



regards

barry
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyTue Oct 19, 2021 10:21 pm

The waggons at Intombi were laagered (of a sort) but not properly in a mini-triangle with its base on the river (but ineffectively) and there was a conductor there who may have had responsibility for doing that.
Just for info.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyWed Oct 20, 2021 8:53 am


[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Just so we all have a picture of a wagon laager. This is Blood River with 64 wagons. The space it occupies is immense. I would venture to suggest that it would occupy most of the saddle area so trying to use anything bigger would be a very large real estate issue. But this does digress from Kates original post: " Did Chelmsford have the capability to create a laarger". My answer would be yes, there were more than enough 'veld savvy' conductors around that would do it with their eyes closed. remember the comments made about the wagons been driven across the rivers, by Smith Dorrien I think, and the complements to the colonials.
The question would be then why wasnt it done? that comes down to the lack of will by Chelmsford, his arrogance in his comments to Dartnell etc showe exactly what he thought of the concept. Those thoughts didnt just spring up at iSandlwana, long before the invasion he was of the opinion that his biggest problem would be bringing the Zulu to battle. So with that mindset he would never have given thought to having a laarger commandant. Personally I think the title/phrase was born out of the English penchance for labeling everything, every Boer knew what to do and how to do it.
Just thoughts.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyWed Oct 20, 2021 3:54 pm

Frank
From everything I've read, I would agree with your assessment. It must also be borne in mind the size of a laager intended to encompass the camp at Isandhlwana - way too big for the number of waggons available and discounting the ones supposed to be travelling back to RD that morning.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyWed Oct 20, 2021 8:57 pm

I agree with most of your second paragraph Frank but not the first. (sorry)

Barry makes a very good point above about choosing the ground to suit the laager.
It may not have worked around the mountain and across the nek so perhaps a more suitable camping site could have been chosen to suit the placement of a laager.
The laager did not need to encompass the whole camp. If we look at Wood's laager at Kambula that was well placed and effective but did not encompass the whole force. I believe this was due to the presence of 'Head Conductor' Mr J.T. Francis who although he had given up his role would still have been on hand to supervise.
Even with the wagons going back to RD Lord C. could have chosen the ground and position to set up a similar camp to Wood.  

You are right Frank each conductor probably did have a certain knowledge about laagering in their own family way but who would supervise and be in overall charge of the placing of each of the wagons?

Warren Wyne wasn't to impressed with the conductors abilities down at the coast.:-
..I proposed that the wagons (loaded) should be brought inside and parked lengthwise, parallel to and about 10 yards in rear of the crests of the parapets of every face so as to act as transverses from reverse fire. The remainder parked down the centre west to east. The conductors, however, performed this clumsily, running some almost into the parapets and cramping and hampering the space needed for work"
 
You need someone in over all charge to oversee the operation. Some one to take charge of this :-

"At the end of each days march a very large "Laager" or square was formed of the wagons, each touching the next with an entrenchment outside and all the animals inside. This was a work of time and difficulty, requiring great patience, for it was no easy matter to get the ox to form into line, and the means adopted to get them to halt always struck one as being ludicrously inadequate. The proceedings was this; the native "forelooper" facing the head of his span, gave vent to a long shrill whistle through his teeth at the same time making a grab at the ground for a piece of dirt or stone, which he threw over their heads and then shouted "Woep! Ah,now". The two front oxen apparently afraid of having dust thrown in their eyes, put their heads down (if they were not in a fractious mood) backed against the oxen behind, whose progress was thus checked; whereupon the pair yolked to the heavy "disselboom" or pole, taking the hint, brought the creaking lumbering wagon to a stop, probably some yards from beyond the desired spot" Col W.A.Dunne C.B.

Ian Bennet writes:-
'General Order 199 of 17th Nov 1878, published in Pietermaritzburg, promulgated the establishment of the new transport organisation. Three directors of transport were to be appointed together with combatant officers to be employed at commissariat duties with supplements to their pay. Wagons were to be worked in sections of ten and convoys of twenty; officers would command twenty or more wagons and drivers would be made liable for any loss or damage to the stores. Each of the three invading columns was to have a Transport Officer assisted by a Head Conductor and a sub contractor for every ten wagons'

'Chelmsford immersed himself in transport matters, conducting a voluminous correspondence with Strickland and various Government Departments in England . he personally issued a special instruction regarding the management of ox transport on the march and conduct of escorting troops. This went into infinite detail as to loads, spares for wagons, laagering (my underlining) and defensive precautions. Even a standard set of colours to be painted on the horns of each span of oxen was specified as a measure to save time in assembling animals to inspan after grazing'

'A group of civilian owned wagons with their loads were manged by an individual known as a conductor.'

Reading the above we could probably treat each conductor as, say for example, an officer in charge of a company. So who is in charge of the Battalion? The Transport Officer would I believe have been a British Army officer with no laagering experience Which leaves the Head Conductor which Chelmsford didn't have or perhaps a Laager Commandant, also absent?

Does anyone have a copies of the Lord Chelmsford's 'voluminous correspondence' about the colour of Ox horns?
Perhaps he should have paid more attentions to the beasts horns Rolling Eyes
Kate Very Happy
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyThu Oct 21, 2021 7:06 am

Kate
A portion of the Field Force Regulations

‘Field Force Regulations’:
‘The leading troops must not be allowed to out march the baggage wagons. The latter must be kept together as much as possible, and should one break down, or stick fast, those in front must not be allowed to leave it behind.’

Pretty much ignored by all and sundry.
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyThu Oct 21, 2021 9:49 am

...which is why Vause was sent back to escort Erskine's waggons and 16 NNC!
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 7:32 am

Kate.

Notes by Chelmsford on the findings of the Court of Enquiry. Chelmsford Papers on COI, NAM CP8/31 p 144-150.

"Seeing however that each yard of the defensive line would have been defended by 4 rifles, it is clear that such an additional procedure was not absolutely necessary-
A shelter trench is a protection against rifle fire, but would be of no avail against a rush of Zulus- "

"The wagon laager was never intended to be used as a redoubt, but as a protection for the oxen-"

"In the march to Eshowe the troops bivouacked & fought outside the waggons- "

His justifications for not having a laager.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 8:23 am

Hi All,
Whilst musing on this laagering question it clearly shows after doing some simple calcs that the task of laagering was enormous, ie assuming 300 wagons parked nose to tail @ 14m each, would require a defensive line of 4.2 kilometres ; and at 4 defenders per metre (BA specs) would place a requirement of 16800 men. Clearly this was not a goer because the site chosen on the slopes of Isandlwana was not conducive to something that size and the men available, assuming of course all remained in camp were only 2000. So working backwards and allowing for only 1000 defenders (as it was) and halving the cover to 2 riflemen per metre, a defensive line of only 1000m ( ie 71 wagons) would have been feasible. This implies a 300 x 200m format. That size laager may have been possible to fit in on the site used, BUT, there would have not been the space, within the laager perimeter, to safekeep all the cattle and horses as well. So, ideally a lot more time should have been taken, by the officers managing this expedition, to choose the camp site and set it up,.. rather than the half cocked, gung ho, impetuous choice that was made. In reality it was a setup for disaster.

regards

barry
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 8:36 am

Morning Barry. Puts quite a perspective on things. Salute Hows the rain on the East coast?
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 8:44 am

Hi Frank,
14 deg C at the moment and fully overcast. 8mm expected in the course of the day.

regards

barry
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 8:51 am

Lot more on its way up, put your wellies on.
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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 10:57 am

Thanks Frank and Barry for the info.
Those calculations certainly do put things in perspective. With some sent off to RD, 71 wagons would have been feasible. Also if  like Wood the laagers/enclosures were split into smaller groupings ie men in one, oxen in the other and a fort for artillery. That would be more practical but would involve more leadership in placing the wagons. Possible If they had the skill set available.

Some more info on the Dubois family Frank:-

"Edwin Dubois refused flatly to join the column. He and his brother Robert were not happy about the carefree mood of the British staff officers and spoke sourly of the army "picnicking". But eventually the youngest brother, Louis Philippe Dubois, was persuaded to enlist as a conductor, and Foley, too, joined up."

"Dubois had died within sight of freedom. After a frantic search for a horse on the battlefield, he had fought his way down to the Buffalo, had swum it, and was scrambling out when he was felled by a shot in the head - aimed at another man! His body, too was found by Carbutt and taken for burial to the family farm "Giba" at Helpmakaar"
From an essay "The Turbulent Frontier" by Sheila Henderson

I'm assuming Edward was Glyn's proposed Laager Commandant.
Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 12:40 pm

Sounds like Edward could indeed have been the man. Ah my absolute heroin, Shiela Henderson. I have a huge amount of her notes, a lot read and copied a lot still to go. Many many moons ago I sent you through Gary some hand writtem notes on Alan, they were from Shiela.
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PostSubject: Re: Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants   Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 1:04 pm

Your heroine and also David Jackson's!
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90th

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PostSubject: Laagering of Wagons at Isandlwana    Laagering of Wagons at iSandlwana and Laager Commandants EmptyYesterday at 1:08 pm

When one is attempting to work out Laager size and men per yard with 1,000 as being common denominator , let's not forget there were only 6 Co's of Imp Inf at Isandlwana , these we know weren't anywhere near full strength , nowhere near the mythical  1,000 , think you'll find there were more NNC and Colonial troops at Isandlwana than front line Imp troops .
90th Salute
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