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 Chelmsford's Main Mistake

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BobTiernan




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PostSubject: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 5:12 am

I'd like to know what others think of this view that I've gradually arrived at.

I think Chelmsford actually had a pretty good grasp of things, as his instructions to column commanders revealed and which did not require his presence in order for any column commander to deal with Zulus forces.

However, considering the fact that the Zulus were aggressive and would come to you and take lots of casualties in order to overwhelm an enemy force, or at least before abandoning such an attempt, I think Chelmsford made a serious mistake when he opted to take about half of his force and move some miles out of the camp. He no doubt assumed that the camp would be defended in a more compact defensive fight were the Zulus to attack it behind him, and he in turn would have put up a good defensive fight were his own forward column attacked, but he did not need to precipitate such a fight and should have let it come to him as he approached Ulundi. if not that day, then tomorrow or later than that.

This was not true of the US forces in the Indian campaigns since the villages were really the target and the warriors avoided pitched battles and rarely closed with troopers and could be more or less ignored by most of a column while a village was being destroyed and ponies shot. They may have looked serious, but they weren't a very lethal force, which is why George Carlin said thay started out on the Atlantic coast and ended up defending Santa Monica.

I'll comment on Pullein and Durnford at a later time.

Bob T.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 7:47 am

Hi Bob
I dont believe Chelmsford had to much option. Once that panic call to arms came from Dartnell he had to go to his aid/believe the main force was about to engage. The camp had to be defended so what would have been his options? I think thats the key question really.

Regards

Frank
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Julian Whybra




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 10:52 am

Frank
I suppose his only option would have been to give Dartnell a direct order to withdraw to camp. Perhaps LC's desire to catch the Zulu unprepared, bring them to battle in the open, and finish the war quickly was a temptation too far.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 11:31 am

Julian I would agree. His response could easily have been tempered by the thoughts that Dartnell could have been ambushed on his way back to camp in the dark. but yes he was pretty keen to bring the zulu to battle.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 3:18 pm

I posted the following somewhere else on here but it went off the radar quite quickly and I can't find it now. I have stated here that I concentrate mainly on the defence of Rorke's Drift and the men who fought there, so my knowledge of the disaster at Isandlwana is limited and many on here know a lot more about it than I do. However, I am a member of 'The Friends of Brompton Cemetery' where Frederic Thesiger and many of his family are buried. I produced the following for the 'Friends' so I was able to do it without my 'Zulu War' head on. To my mind he was a highly competent and experienced officer, and some of the events which led to the disaster were completely out of his control, and we are only able to see them with the benefit of hindsight.

Frederic Augustus Thesiger was born on 31 May 1827, the eldest child of Frederic Thesiger (1794-1878), a lawyer, who later became Lord High Chancellor, and his wife, Anna Maria (1799-1875), a daughter of William Tinling. Frederic senior was created 1st Baron Chelmsford on 1 March 1858. They married in 1822, and are both buried at Brompton Cemetery. His great-uncle, Sir Frederic Thesiger was aide-de-camp to Lord Nelson at the battle of Copenhagen in 1801. His brother, Charles Wemyss (1831-1903) became a general in the army, and his sister, Julia (1833-1904), married Sir John Inglis, who commanded the British during the Siege of Lucknow in 1857, and she later wrote about her experiences. His cousin was the actor, Ernest Thesiger, who is also buried at Brompton Cemetery.

An Old Etonian, young Frederic desired to serve in the Grenadier Guards, but after being refused a place in that regiment, he purchased a commissioned as ensign into the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own) in 1844, and after serving at Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada in the following year, he purchased an exchange as ensign and lieutenant into the Grenadier Guards in November 1845, gaining the rank of captain in 1850. In 1852 he was appointed aide-de-camp to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and then to the commander-in-chief of Ireland, 1853-54.

He went with his battalion on active service in the Crimea in May 1855, where he was appointed aide-de-camp from July 1855, to the commander of the 2nd Division, Lt-General Edwin Markham, and finally as deputy assistant quartermaster-general from November 1855. He was promoted brevet-major, was mentioned in despatches, and was awarded the Crimea Medal with Sebastopol clasp, the Turkish Crimea Medal, the Sardinian Crimea Medal, and the Turkish Order of the Medjidie (5th Class).

During the Indian Rebellion he commanded the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment which marched 3000 miles across central India in 1858, and were present at the capture of Gwalior, Kotah, Pouree and Rowa. Conditions were harsh, and on just one day 89 officers and men suffered from heatstroke. During the capture of Kotah they came upon a ram tethered in a temple courtyard. It was adopted as their mascot, and the tradition has continued with its successor regiments.

He stayed on in the sub-continent, mostly in staff posts, and on 1 January 1867, at Bombay, he married Adria Fanny (1845-1926), the first daughter of Major-General John Coussmaker Heath, of the Bombay Army, and they had six sons, although one died as an infant in 1872, and Alfred Sullivan died aged eight in 1889, and was buried at Brompton. The eldest, Frederic John Napier, became the 3rd Baron/1st Viscount Chelmsford, and all the surviving sons went on to have distinguished careers in the army and administration.

In 1868 he served as deputy adjutant-general to the methodical and dignified Sir Robert Napier during the Abyssinian Expedition, which set out to release British prisoners who had been held against their will for four years by the brutal Emperor Theodore. In his capacity as the deputy adjutant-general, Lord Chelmsford must be able to claim a considerable share of the organisational success in what was considered to be one of the most remarkable military feats of the Victorian era. 15,000 fighting men started from an improvised port on the Red Sea, advanced over 650 kilometres across unknown territory in tropical conditions to the Abyssinian capital at Magdala, constructing a road as they went, and dragging a vast arsenal of heavy weaponry, including mountain guns, with them. Lord Napier was not always forthcoming with praise, referred in his despatch to Chelmsford’s ‘great ability and untiring energy.’ Napier rescued the prisoners, broke the spirit of the enemy, and Theodore was killed during the capture of Magdala. With no intention of annexation, the British withdrew in safety, with honour satisfied.

In the following year he went back to India, where he was advanced to adjutant-general and remained until 1874, and became major-general.

He took over command of the troops who were already engaged in the putting down of a tribal rebellion known as the 9th (Xhosa) Cape Frontier War, which was raging in the north-east region of Cape Colony. The campaign followed the usual pattern of Frontier Wars. The rebels took refuge in broken country and thick scrub, until they were flushed out and rounded up, and their leaders captured or killed. When the rebels eventually lost heart by the middle of the year and the campaign was brought to a close, Lord Chelmsford turned his attention to the Zulu problem.

He was without doubt made a scapegoat to a certain degree for the failings of the Zulu War, and he was heavily criticised for his tactics on that fateful day at Isandlwana, on 22 January 1879, before becoming the victor at the final battle of the campaign at Ulundi on 4 July 1879.

He never lost the respect of most of the men who served under him. For instance, under the title ‘Zulu Veterans’ Presentation’ the Sydney Telegraph of 8 March 1913 carried a report about a presentation to his son, Frederick John Napier, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, who was the retiring Governor of New South Wales, which stated:

‘Lord Chelmsford was yesterday the recipient of an address from a number of soldiers who fought in the Zulu and Kaffir wars. The retiring Governor is the son of an officer who rendered distinguished service in the Zulu campaign.

Colour-Sergeant Jeffes, who was of the [90th] Perthshires, was responsible for the movement, which led to the veterans waiting upon Lord Chelmsford, and he feelingly spoke of the regard in which his Excellency's father was held as a kind and renowned commander and a gallant soldier. The address was signed by men from the 17th Lancers (‘Death and Glory Boys’), the 94th Regiment, the Frontier Mounted Police, and the warships Pym and Shah.

Lord Chelmsford expressed himself as deeply grateful for the honour that was paid his father's name. ‘My father,’ he said, "always spoke of his old soldiers in most affectionate terms, and after his death I had proof of his kindness and generosity towards them. I, therefore, particularly esteem this address, which, I know, will bring great pleasure to, my mother when I present it to her. It will be to her and my brother a source of comfort, and may I say how deeply I value the tribute you have paid my father's memory.’

Part of the address remarked: ‘Proud indeed are our hearts today that the son of our commander has, by his great virtues and abilities, so endeared himself to the people of this great and glorious land of Australia. We wish to express our gratitude, love, and respect for the honoured name of Chelmsford.’

Lord Chelmsford became lieutenant-general in 1882, and full general in 1888. He was lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1884 to 1889; colonel of the 4th (West London) Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1887, colonel of the Sherwood Foresters in 1898, and he was appointed colonel of the 2nd Life Guards in 1900. He was Gold Stick in Waiting during ceremonial events at Court, and he was the inaugural governor and commandant of the Church Lads Brigade.  He was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) during the November 1902 King Edward VII Birthday Honours list.

General Thesiger was playing billiards at the Royal United Services Club in Pall Mall when he suffered a seizure and died on 9 April 1905, aged 77. He was buried among other members of his family in Brompton Cemetery, London.
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Julian Whybra




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 4:06 pm

Bob
I notice that your opening thread stops short with the question of responsibility for leaving the camp.
Do you not feel that that he bears a responsibility subsequent to the disaster for his part in it?
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 4:25 pm

Quote:-
"He was without doubt made a scapegoat to a certain degree for the failings of the Zulu War, and he was heavily criticised for his tactics on that fateful day at Isandlwana, on 22 January 1879, before becoming the victor at the final battle of the campaign at Ulundi on 4 July 1879."

I have to disagree with you about him being made a scapegoat. Sorry. The disaster was down to his poor leaderhip on the day.
See page 219 of Rifle and Spear with the Zulu. The Life of Alan Colstoun Gardner for my reasoning.
Kate
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 5:06 pm

Kate - I don't mind if anyone disagrees with me concerning the disaster at Isandlwana, I am not as well-read about the battle as many others, and that is why I stopped short of any analysis. The piece is about the man himself who I believe was an exceptional soldier and administrator.

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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 5:31 pm

And this will now lead to a monumental disagreement, I'm sure, the arguments for which can be found on many different threads on this forum.
I must say though, that I am in agreement with Kate about Chelmsford not being a scapegoat. Durnford was set up as the Chelmsford's scapegoat and although Chelmsford was given many a sidelong glance over his behaviour afterwards, the disaster was for Durnford's family and friends to live down.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Sep 15, 2022 6:04 pm

Don't be too sure Julian - it might lead to a monumental argument in your mind but it won't in mine. Don't tar everyone with the same brush. I said that I don't mind anyone disagreeing with me about Isandlwana so if it does turn into a monumental disagreement as you say - it won't be caused by me.

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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 8:29 am

Timespan
I meant argument as in polite discussion not fisticuffs!
These are subjects (1. the disaster itself 2. the attempts to divert blame) always hotly debated here and to be truthful there is blame to be laid on all sides for different reasons and not in equal proportions.
I merely meant to attempt to keep the discussion to Bob Tiernan's original thread.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 9:07 am

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
(John Young Collection.)

A contemporary assessment of Lieutenant-General (local rank) Lord Chelmsford.

“...That a more prudent, a more brave, a more capable man does not exist among the many brave and capable men in the British Army,...”

William Henry Smith, M.P.,
First Lord of the Admiralty.

February 1879.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 9:17 am

John - agreed. Having met some members of the Thesiger family over the years with the Friends of Brompton Cemetery I don't think they will be too acceptable of some of the opinions expressed on here.

Julian - If you meant polite discussion that is what you should have said not 'monumental argument', and when has argument and polite discussion been the same thing. Who has mentioned fisticuffs? You seem to have the habit of saying things and then trying to suggest that you didn't mean it? If you think before you write you might not get into the many 'monumental arguments' you get into on here - as I have read.

Anyways, to save the other members from getting bored as much as you are boring me, if you respond to this I will only private message you back - and I suggest you do the same.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 12:21 pm

James,

Many years ago I offered Greenhill Books a biography of Frederic Augustus Thesiger, 2nd Baron Lord Chelmsford using part of Smith’s speech for the sub-title.  The offer was dismissed with words to the effect who would be interested in him.  Well I was, and still am.

I am saddened by some of the vitriol expressed by many - not just on this website - within the Zulu War community against not only Chelmsford, but others as well - in my opinion - who have had their reputations besmirched.

I have used this expression once before this week in another place, where gifted by hindsight there were those who laid allegations against two lieutenants of the 24th Regiment, and not for the first time, and doubtless not for the last time, in response I wrote part of the elegy to the Natal Carbineers who perished at iSandlwana, and if I may misquote it - neither praise nor blame add to his epitaph.

JY


Last edited by John Young on Fri Sep 16, 2022 1:18 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Challenge changed to response.)
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 1:08 pm

And yet, it wasnt a universal forlock tugging opinion.
Lt WW Lloyd wrote:
“ We and a good many other boys know certain things concerning lord Chelmsford’s actions on the 22nd January which if they were raised abroad would simply down him in the eyes of the world and cause his recall in double quick time.”
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 2:17 pm

John and Frank - as I have said I am not so well-read on the battle of Isandlwana as you are, and I know this is a Zulu War site so members quite rightly zoom in on all things of that campaign. However, over the years I have studied Frederic Thesiger and his family and I can't help but have my opinion on him based on his whole career, not just Isandlwana. I also have an interest in the Victoria Cross, so most of my knowledge concerning Isandlwana is based on my research of Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill and Private Wassall.

Frank - while I take on board what Lt Lloyd said, although he does not state exactly what he meant, so... And that was not the opinion in my short biography of many men who fought with him.

Bromhead and Chard suffered the same 'green-eyed monster' treatment and I hope my new book goes a little way to explaining that they were good men who went about their lives with great competence and devotion to duty.


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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 2:26 pm

As we know, there is a wonderful woman lying in Westminster Hall who did exactly the same thing.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 2:33 pm

Hi James
There are a number reports emanating from men who served under him praising him and his abilities. As I pointed out above most of the critisism around him revolves around two issues, his splitting his forces and a certain arrogance in dealing with the zulu.
Ive answered the question from Bob saying I believe he ws left with very little choice when it came from splitting his force and the question of his arrogance is without doubt a by product of his dealings with Xhosa in the eastern Cape.
But even the most perfect of men have, as my grandson phrases it 'brain freezes', a seemingly bad decision doesnt mean he is abad person. Neither does a good one make a man perfect.
Interesting your research of Wassall, he lived down the street from my family in Barrow in Furness. I had the oportunity a few years ago of meeting his descendants, they still live in the area on Walney Island.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 2:52 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 2:57 pm

Frank - I did not realise you are from the north-west of England like me. Good stuff!

Bob - This from my 'Commanders' book. As Chard and Bromhead did not serve at Isandlwana I have only covered the battle in one chapter, mainly to bring the defence of Rorke's Drift into perspective, but this is my Author’s supposition:

"Because of their emphasis on close-quarter fighting, the Zulus were extremely vulnerable to concentrated firepower from a force protected by entrenched positions or behind barricades. Had the British kept every soldier available in the camp and entrenched the position or encircled the wagons, or both, therefore making a second line of defence to fall back on, I believe the outcome of the battle would have been much different. Indeed, Zulu losses may well have been so devastating that the war could have ended on that day. Consequently very few people would ever have heard of Rorke’s Drift – or Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard."

If Chelmsford had known the strength of the enemy force in the vicinity I find it hard to accept that an officer with his experience would have taken the action he did - if it was his decision alone?


Last edited by Timespan on Fri Sep 16, 2022 3:46 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Julian Whybra




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyFri Sep 16, 2022 3:01 pm

Frank
I think my main concern is over LC's post-Isandhlwana in never mentioning his Instructions to Serving Officers which clearly required attacked commanders to deploy troops in the manner he described while giving as one of the reasons for the disaster the faulty troop dispositions.
His past career may have been glorious but many a poor soul has been brought down by a single error (I'm thinking here of a number of recent politicians and police commissioners).
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 12:22 am

Quote. If Chelmsford had known the strength of the enemy forces in the vicinity I find it hard to accept that an officer with his experience would have taken the action he did - if it was his decision alone.

Let's look at that: "If Chelmsford had known" 

Why didn't he know? Where was his intelligence? Where lays the blame for that?
Prior to moving into Zululand was there reconnaissance and intelligence gathered to assess the situation? If not, why not?
Should Chelmsford have split the column - No. With three other columns keeping their column together, clearing their axis through enemy territory in advance towards the ultimate target, Ulundi - No. He should he moved as a unit, if he did not know the enemy's capabilities.
Did he underestimate the enemy through arrogance as mentioned ? - maybe.
Was he aware of the enemy's tactics? - possibly if he got the intelligence. But I do not think he realised the enemy's will for a fight, or bravery within it. To his credit, I don't believe the British and colonial army had ever come up against such a enemy as this prior. He knew tactics within European theatres of war, but nothing to match this, it compares to our surprise introduction to Kamikaze warfare in the second world war.
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PostSubject: Chelmsfords Main Mistake    Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 1:52 am

Hi Frank , Kate , JY & JW
Seems Timespan has had his membership blocked , he wasn't being rude by not answering your replies , Thanks all .
90th Suspect
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BobTiernan




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 4:27 am

Julian,

I'm not sure if your question is about whether or not I place blame on Chelmsford for "leaving the camp", or whether or not I put blame on either Pullien and/or Durnford for the actual battle results
by Chelmsford's "leaving the camp".

I'll try to do both although the latter is a Iopic want to deal with in more detail later.

I have made it clear that I think Chelmsford made a mistake in moving out in the morning to join Dartnell some miles up the track (your thought on Chelmsford's best option is one I agree with - that
he should have sent a message to Dartnell to rejoin the main force - any Zulu attack on Dartnell during that move would have been dealt with - if it was major then it was better to have it with the two forces closer together.)

My reasoning is that since Chelmsford knew he was dealing with an aggressive opponent, he should have kept his forces pretty compact with the exception of the usual scouting, recons, and other details
that may have been needed along the flanks and up ahead, and not counting the expected comings and goings along the back trail.

Since he was head for Ulundi, the closer he got the more he would trigger the big fight he wanted, and he may have had an Ulundi-like battle earlier than the actual one, although there would still have been more casualties to inflict before the Zulus would give up. But Chelmsford could have had his decisive battle earlier had he kept his own column together.

Ad for the camp, briefly. Chelmsford would have fought a better battle had he been there, even with the same size force because he would have done what he expected his senior officers to do, i.e. strike the tents, and so on. I don't put much weight on blaming Durnford who seems to have been passing through in one sense, even though one survivor said that he took command. Pullein was the actual commander of the regular forces there, even if a subordinate for a brief time, and nothing - nothing - prevented him from ordering some of the things as outlined in Chelmsford's instructions for column commanders. he could have ordered the tents knocked down, for example. In the meantime, Durnford was caught in what was a kind of musical chairs game, and when the music stopped, he was not in the right place.

I'll see what's posted tomorrow morning and try to get in a quick reply to something. if not, I'll be back on the 25th as my trip to Wales starts tomorrow although I won't touch down until Sunday morning.

Bob T.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 6:07 am

Why has Time line been revoked? I know he seemed to have a couple of issues with certain members but he did bring value.
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PostSubject: Chelmsford's main mistake    Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 7:10 am

Hi Bob
Chelmsford wasn't aware of how aggressive the Zulu could , and would be , he's known to have stated in Correspondence that his main worry .... was he might not be able to get the Zulu to fight ! , which is obviously why he set out after them , from what I can see Pulleine set up the defence position as Pearson did at the Nyezane earlier in the day , I imagine you've been to Isandlwana ? , they couldn't have a more defensive structure closer to the camp due to the proximity of the dead ground , which is a bitch there as you might know ? .
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 8:37 am

90th
Quote
"I imagine you've been to Isandlwana ? , they couldn't have a more defensive structure closer to the camp due to the proximity of the dead ground , which is a bitch there as you might know ? ."

Gary read HOTS, look at who took the photos, Bob Tiernan
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptySat Sep 17, 2022 11:46 am

If you consider the time taken to move from the Zulu side of Rorkes Drift to Isandlwana with the difficulty repairing roadways and dealing with flank threats i.e. Sirayo it took nine days. Actual movement was largely carrie dout in one day but it was only 8 miles from the Bashee crossing. It is instructive on the issues in moving to the new camp identified at Mangene. It was 12 miles to Mangene form Isandlwana with several large dongas requiring engineering works to facilitate waggon crossings. Necessarily these crossings would cause delay since they would be single track and the train bieng several iles long, delay at these points would cause very significant risk to a force woefully short of cavalry and against a highly mobile enemy. At Isandlwana LC had already decided that his waggon train was not going to take him to Ulundi it was only going far enough to provide a provocation to the Zulu take him head on.

Ignoring Dartnell LC would have had to split his force, in order to make progress his waggon train was almost as long as the journey, and very exposed even with infantry cover. Even a large show of Zulu force at distance would create further delay and nightime would bring geat risks to a waggon train not laagered. Creating strong points at either end of such a march is probably a better option, to do so necessitates splitting the force.

I think it likely LC had reached this conclusion with or without Dartnell.

The message from Dartnell late at night to LC is in this thread seen as the critical message of the campaign to date, causing LC to split his force. Does it exist?

As to Chelmsford main mistake, it was encouraging Bartle Frere in his misguided and insubordinate campaign against Catshwayo.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyMon Sep 19, 2022 3:20 pm

Hi
Been away for a few days - s, belatedly, some interesting comments as always. Bob, to answer your specific questions directed at me...
Despite Tig van Milcroft's utterly valid post, I still think that it was too early in the campaign for LC to have acted boldly (riskily?) in the way that he did. Ordering Dartnell's withdrawal would have given time for the Zulus to show their hand in a way that LC's forces could have responded appropriately.
Tig is correct in saying that the ground ahead of the column would have provided its own problems for LC but they could have been confronted piecemeal without endangering the safety of the column. I don't think this would have involved a trek as far as Ulundi. The 'big battle' would have happened sooner.
Broadly speaking I agree with your assessment of remaining in camp. There would have been less indecision because the buck would have stopped with LC. Durnford would have been 'reined in' by LC's presence and Pulleine would have been sidelined - put in the shade by Glyn (Clery, Crealock, etc.).
Re Pulleine, when you say nothing prevented him for doing certain things, I would suggest that once the realization hit him that striking the tents would not have been enough i.e. to form a proper defence against 25,000+ Zulus he would need to abandon the camp area & waggon park (effectively losing the entire column's wherewithal), it would have made him think twice and so he didn't, or rather, by the time he did, it was too late. And of course, Durnford's actions didn't help him in this matter.
Have a good holiday in Wales.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:37 am

Frank Allewell:

“I don't believe Chelmsford had too much option. Once that panic call to arms came from Dartnell he had to go to his aid/believe the main force was about to engage. “


Frank,

I believe I made a brief reply to this one earlier but to make a new point on what you wrote above, it may be disputed that there was a panic up ahead although the potential for a serious action was there. But at that time the main force was in Chelmsford’s hands where it was supposed to be, with scouting forces of various sizes (mostly small) keeping an etc. on things to keep the main force from being surprised. Chelmsford chose to weaken that structure for the chance of a battle of questionable promise.

Sending Lonsdale ahead earlier compounded this because it was mostly if not all infantry which should not have been doing much of the scouting needed unless sent forward relatively short distances with orders to proceed no farther if the presence of a force of Zulus was determined to be in the vicinity.
The more I think about this the more I see an incremental error of feeding troops too far up the track without much of a plan for the day. It matters little, in the end, that Chelmsford saved his own life by accompanying this force since it was luck.

Bob

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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:38 am


Julian Whybra:


“I notice that your opening thread stops short with the question of responsibility for leaving the camp.
Do you not feel that that he bears a responsibility subsequent to the disaster for his part in it?”



This, too, deserves a second response to make a different point.

My feeling is that Chelmsford made a mistake by taking roughly half the camp force and taking it about eight miles away without a clear idea other than to await developments based on the reported presence of a large force of Zulus.

At the same time, he expected the leadership in the camp to do a better job defending it than they did. But the Zulu army that attacked was huge, and while it was possible for the force in the camp to have fought a better fight in a way that would have allowed a portion to still be holding out when Chelmsford got close enough to bring it to an end, the distance played against this along with the time it took for Chelmsford to realize he needed to backtrack, not all of which was his fault (i.e. the tents still standing was seen as a sign that it was not serious in the early stages of the reporting).

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:39 am

Frank Allewell:

“I’ve answered the question from Bob saying I believe he was left with very little choice when it came from splitting his force and the question of his arrogance is without doubt a by product of his dealings with Xhosa in the eastern Cape.”

Chelmsford was not entirely in error for believing that either half of the central column should easily survive a defensive battle for some time and that the presence of the other, or a portion of one, moving to join that fight, would prevent any terrible scenario. But had he been attacked instead of the camp, only a portion of the camp force would have been able to come to join him for there was too much property to protect in camp, while Chelmsford’s entire force up the track could return with everything they brought with them.

The result speaks for itself, and as someone else pointed out, he was in too much of a hurry to attack any force of Zulus up ahead that seemed to be more than scouts and cattle herders.

The hardest or riskiest decision he should have made that day, or rather during the night, was to recall the Lonsdale/Dartnell force and hope they didn’t get jumped on the way back. In that event, at least Dartnell’s force and a number of mounted colonials would have gotten back to camp where their presence with the Central Column would have been valuable for the rest of the campaign.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:40 am

Guest:


“If Chelmsford had known the strength of the enemy force in the vicinity I find it hard to accept that an officer with his experience would have taken the action he did - if it was his decision alone?”



I’m not sure of you mean the army that did advance on the camp that day or the force that was in front of Dartnell, had it stayed there. I’ll assume you mean the former because I don’t think there was ever a significant number near Dartnell although it could have been large enough to fight a good battle for a few hours, particularly if no Imperial infantry was there.

But yes, the force that eventually attacked the camp was large enough to have given any commander reason to keep the column in one location with just scouts out as was the plan. Even a Zulu force half the size of the one that attacked was large enough to demand this. By the way, Rattray told me that he believed that when Lt Browne probed forward late on the afternoon of the 21st, he might have just missed seeing the tail of that main Zulu force disappearing into the gorge where they spent the night and were spotted the next day. The additional scouting that would have triggered would have been life-saving.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:41 am

Julian Whybra:


“I think my main concern is over LC's post-Isandhlwana in never mentioning his Instructions to Serving Officers which clearly required attacked commanders to deploy troops in the manner he described while giving as one of the reasons for the disaster the faulty troop dispositions.”


Hmmm, I’m not familiar with that fact, and it is surprising since just be presenting this in any reports, without using it to completely shift all blame to others, would have put himself in a somewhat better light even if he could still be blamed for leaving Pulleine [1] less to work with than he should have had. Also, the inquiry he held soon after, which I believe was pretty much buried for many a decade until I think David Jackson uncovered it, should have been better known all those years. This type of post-battle information-gathering is also what General terry should have done after the Little Big Horn when the combined columns rested for quite some time along the Yellowstone near the mouth of the Big Horn. Surviving officers (and non-coms) would have been more frank in their opinions and recollections about what they themselves would have or could have done, absent later finger-pointing. A lost opportunity, although some letters written about that time indicate what such an inquiry might have yielded.

[1] I won’t say Durnford, for Chelmsford could not have assumed or expected that him to be present, or at least present before things started.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:42 am

Eddie:


“Let's look at that: ’If Chelmsford had known’

“Why didn't he know? Where was his intelligence? Where lays the blame for that?
“Prior to moving into Zululand was there reconnaissance and intelligence gathered to assess the situation? If not, why not?”



Up to the time Chelmsford decided to issue orders for six companies of Imperial Infantry and other units, he was doing a pretty good job at sticking to the responsible methods he outlined, with scouting all around in order to make sure that his column was not surprised, particularly before he could get far enough into Zululand to develop any bolder plans.

So far as I’m concerned, the Zulus that Dartnell encountered and reported up ahead should have been treated as just that – a report, and a report to trigger the column being alert but not alarmed.
Chelmsford was, by the way, concerned about what Zulu forces might be hidden behind or in the rougher ground off to his right (in particular), so he appeared to be cautious in a wise way, at least until he received Dartnell’s message and seemed to have prematurely dropped his concern for the security of his column, in particular the valuable materiel in the camp.

The terrain for miles offered good surprise attack opportunities, however inconclusive such attacks might be in the end, and the fact that a huge force of Zulu was within striking distance at that time shows that Chelmsford should not have been satisfied with the scouting results just yet, at least not satisfied enough for feeling comfortable with splitting his force in that manner he did.


“Should Chelmsford have split the column. . . No. He should he moved as a unit, if he did not know the enemy's capabilities.”


Well put, although I will add that the enemy’s whereabouts and size were probably more of a concern than knowing their capabilities, for Chelmsford probably believed that their capabilities were the easiest to guess, or accept, of the three.

“Did he underestimate the enemy through arrogance as mentioned ? - maybe. . .
Was he aware of the enemy's tactics? - possibly if he got the intelligence. “



Chelmsford was apparently well-versed in his Zulu opponents, even as a military force, or at least had enough information to take them seriously eve if still a non-conventional force that can be defeated by an outnumbered conventional force. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t he have a local expert provide him a detailed report of the Zulu army, complete with list of regiments, and how they fought etc. etc.? He also must have been aware of the battles that were fought against the Boers which clearly showed how aggressive they were even if probably incapable of defeating a force that included six companies of British Infantry. They clearly were willing to take casualties to achieve such a goal, so the question was could the British columns operate in way to minimize the damage whenever a Zulu force was able to fight at a time and place of their choosing. There was reason to be alert and prepared, but not to think a disaster was possible unless complacency in any column was started to set in.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:43 am

90th:

“Chelmsford wasn't aware of how aggressive the Zulu could , and would be , he's known to have stated in Correspondence that his main worry .... was he might not be able to get the Zulu to fight ! “


I mentioned earlier that I’m pretty sure he was well aware of how aggressive they could be, despite what he may have felt regarding the forces he fought in the bush the previous year. As for his main worry, I believe his central column may have been too intimidating in size and that this, not the lack of aggressiveness on the part of the Zulus, would be the reason for failing to get them to attack. Not that I think he was cleverly tempting them to attack when he split his force early on January 22, but I’m sure he felt that had either half been attacked they would have held their ground, even if routinely led, long enough for the other half to join in.

I can excuse him for having such a plan, but later rather than on January 22 or for some days afterwards.


“from what I can see Pulleine set up the defence position as Pearson did at the Nyezane earlier in the day , I imagine you've been to Isandlwana ? , they couldn't have a more defensive structure closer to the camp due to the proximity of the dead ground, which is a bitch there as you might know ?”


Yes, the dead ground was located far enough out that a firing line needed to go out some distance in order to see all of it, or if not, then to stay close enough to the tent area to be able to fire many volleys before the Zulus got to within spear distance of the tents, once they reappeared after first disappearing into the dead ground. So this where striking the tents was important, even if the firing line went far out of camp.

Had Chelmsford be in the camp, having put the other half-column under the command if Glyn, I see to feel certain that Chelmsford would have had the firing line close in, even allowing for the initial fighting up on the plateau, with any company or two up there being pulled back to form the left of the line while still pretty intact themselves. So long as the Zulus were actually heading for the camp, Chelmsford would have had no reason to feel that he needed to go closer to them in order to get them to fight.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:45 am

Tig van Milcroft:


“At Isandlwana LC had already decided that his waggon train was not going to take him to Ulundi it was only going far enough to provide a provocation to the Zulu take him head on.”



I agree with your details regarding the slow progress of the wagon train, and that this was what was making this sort of campaign expensive in many ways. I think progress was going to pick up after this, had the battle not caused a months-long time-out in this front, and there was good reason to take wagons much farther into the interior to set up a base camp as was done in the Plains Indian wars (although often the American forces had the benefit of rivers with riverboats able to keep supplies coming in, but even that had its limitations – one column finished its season with a “starvation march” during which the men ate many horses).

I did mention earlier that the point here is that Chelmsford would have had more reasons, and more opportunities, to plan bolder forays once he was deeper into Zululand, but not on January 22.
I am also aware that Chelmsford found reasons to not lagger the wagons, and I do agree with the view that at that time it may have been too time consuming to do that every night, but this was covered I feel by this column being large enough to take care of itself no matter how the wagons were parked. They still would have provided a means of bolstering portions of any battle perimeter.



“The message from Dartnell late at night to LC is in this thread seen as the critical message of the campaign to date, causing LC to split his force.”



It was indeed critical in retrospect, but only because Chelmsford allowed it to be. Had I been in Chelmsford’s place the note would have remained just that – a note ignored. Or at least the request would have been ignored, and an order to return to camp would have been sent.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 5:46 am

Julian Whybra:


“Despite Tig van Milcroft's utterly valid post, I still think that it was too early in the campaign for LC to have acted boldly (riskily?) in the way that he did.”


Yes, there it is – exactly!


“Ordering Dartnell's withdrawal would have given time for the Zulus to show their hand in a way that LC's forces could have responded appropriately.”


Yes, and the closer Dartnell and Lonsdale got to camp, the chances for those men meeting with disaster would have diminished a good deal and made it more difficult for any Zulu force to attack them without also triggering being attacked by forces from the camp, making such an attack more costly.


“Tig is correct in saying that the ground ahead of the column would have provided its own problems for LC but they could have been confronted piecemeal without endangering the safety of the column. I don't think this would have involved a trek as far as Ulundi. The 'big battle' would have happened sooner.”


Again, these are like words I could have come up with but had yet to formulate.

The closer he got to Ulundi or any other more or less permanent villages, the more the Zulus were likely to play into his hands, as they eventually did. I disagree with those who say that wrecking the villages would not have accomplished anything if the Zulus did not stay to fight – of course t would have mattered. They would not have lasted long had they been forced to be migratory, driving their ever-shrinking cattle herds as they went along, following any game when they could.

Oh, and you mentioned striking the tents as not as beneficial as some say? I think the idea was that they would be in the way, and deny fields of fire when needed.

The museum in Brecon is quite good.

Bob

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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyTue Oct 04, 2022 10:12 am

Bob,
I am on a tablet so forgive my brevity.
The problem LC had was time and speed. If he proceeded at the speed he was going he would run out of provisions, his animals fail and his injured increase, he also has to secure his lines of supply by deploying a force able to defend to defend itself and the lines, against an enemy with equivalent or better mobility.

As to Darnell's message my point on another thread is that the import of this message was spun by LC post battle to provide a reason for him to move towards Darnell. Why as others point out risk defeat in detail to support an ill considered recon, which as Jackie Fisher would say was too weak to fight and too slow to run away. Consider also that Darnell never thought his force was at risk from attack, but instead was no longer confident he/it could not deliver a successful attack without reinforcement.

All of the above suggests to me that LC was intent on, taking on, the Zulu force which he probably erroneously believed was down at Mangene.

Julian makes the point that this too risky too early, events afirm this.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyWed Oct 05, 2022 1:43 am


Tig,

I agree with all of what you wrote. I'm not aware of whether or not the original message from Dartnell survives, as someone else asked, but even Chelmsford's own account of it does not make him look good for it needs to be remembered that it was not a call for help. Had Dartnell been confronted by too large a force of Zulus he would have gotten out of there since he was all cavalry, and stopped Lonsdale from proceeding any farther.

Chelmsford should have treated this for what it was - a report of Zulu presence - and not used it as a reason to move forward to give battle. In retrospect there is something odd about how it turned out at his end - no battle, and he set up a camp as if all he did was act as an advance guard to the next campsite.

As for using up supplies, he was losing time but he shouldn't have tried to precipitate a battle unless he had moved along deeper into Zululand for he was barely in it at that point. He didn't even know enough about what was ahead to assume he was going to get a good-sized battle out of his advance up the track.

I think there's a consensus here among most of us that Chelmsford erred in trying to trigger a battle this soon, and by dividing his force in the manner he did. The result, of course, was that he lost most of the supplies he was trying to preserve.

Bob
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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyWed Oct 05, 2022 10:16 am

Hi Bob
Its difficult to see what else Dartnells letter could be other than a call for assistance. Earlier in the evening he was highly confidant of his abilities to attack, not just defend, but attack the opposing zulu force.
A re think then occured, probably the realisation that his NNC were not an attacking force (they were always intended to be a force that followed up a defeated army, not a sabre company). Clery in his letter to Colonel Harman, 17th Feb 1879 from Rorkes Drift, is very explicit in commentating that in Dartnell's early morning note he said it would not be prudent to attack without white troops.
I come back to my point, the cream of Natals youth were with Dartnells force. If Chelmsford had ignored the missive and that force had been attacked he would quite possibly be accused of sacrificing those sons of settlers. Dartnells escalated judgement, from wanting to attack to then requesting more men could hardly have inspired confidence in Chelmsford.
Certainly Dartnell's vacillation had to be responded to and that response could not await the whole camp packing up and moving on mass. His only other option was to send a message back to Dartnell to make his way back to the camp, and this in the dark and early dawn, the perfect time for a zulu attack.
Sorry Bob a long winded way of disagreeing with you that there is consensus that Chelmsford erred in 'triggering' a battle to early.
I would rather believe that Chelmsford seriously erred in not just being 'vexed' at Dartnell staying out but instead should have recalled him immediatly to remove him from a potential battle situation and carried on with his original plan of invasion. Of course he didnt have a clue that 20000 rather upsett locals were just over hill, and that he should have have known and would have if he had sent out recconasance patrols in the close environment.

Frank
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BobTiernan




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyWed Oct 05, 2022 8:54 pm

Frank,

I'm under the impression that Dartnell's letter(s) were about the location of a large enough Zulu force to do battle with, and that their presence there gave Chelmsford an opportunity to move forward to join him in an attack as he alone could not make such an attack (an attack, not a defensive fight).

Dartnell's force was cavalry and would not have been crushed once it was daylight and should have been expected to avoid being jumped. Whatever losses he may have suffered in such an event were better than risking other units to join him.

As for the consensus I mentioned, I agree that it is not the general consensus but I was referring only to what it appeared to be in this thread.

Bob
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Tig Van Milcroft




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 4:53 am

John Young wrote:
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
(John Young Collection.)

A contemporary assessment of Lieutenant-General (local rank) Lord Chelmsford.

“...That a more prudent, a more brave, a more capable man does not exist among the many brave and capable men in the British Army,...”

William Henry Smith, M.P.,
First Lord of the Admiralty.

February 1879.

From.......a sailor and a politician, not forgive the pun, a peer.
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BobTiernan




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 5:10 am

I was trying to paste in a few messages the other night, but it didn't work.
Let me try again here (I think it's working - if not here are the two captions:
Here I am poking around near the forward position overlooking the dead ground,
taken looking towards the camp aera - it's very obvious that the camp area is out of
sight and vice versa. Image two is me with an anti-poaching squad from Nqutu, taken
on the western slope of the stoney koppie that was on the south side of the waggon park
area. they had old .303 WWII rifles and happily posed for this image with me.
Also, me and Davis Rattray's guide-for-hire "Satchmo", atop Isandhlwana.

Bob
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BobTiernan




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 5:13 am

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
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Tig Van Milcroft




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 5:52 am

Frank,
There is nothing in the sources that would disprove your view. That leaves only our logic and assumptions to debate, we will probably never know unless that pencilled message is found.

As to the NNH Carbineers they were attached to the NNC infantry but spent no time with them, the infantry were beating their way through Malakatha, and the NNH were up on Hlazikazi. The Mounted Infantry were scouting around Magogo. It was only early afternoon that the commanders, though not the body of infantry all met opposite the Zulu position at Magogo. It was from this position that Gossett and co left to find Chelmsford with the request to attack and to bivvy. After doing so they went a further few miles away from camp to their bivvy near Mangene where they all conveved. Darnell was therefore at this time, early evening sure of his lines of retreat.

As to Clery the author of the tactical manual of his day, he was unlikely to be an impartial commentator, even he is not suggesting Darnell was at risk of attack or was in difficulty returning to camp in the daylight post circumstance.

The mission of the NNH was in support of your view the least risky of the three distinct parties tasks, that perceived risk to them grew overnight is true, but as we know it was the reverse that was true.

For the whole recon to complete three separate tasks, two mounted, one on foot, to meet and to return together is to start with a big ask, since during their operation they would be unable to provide mutual support. The Malakatha looks like very brutal country to operate through, to expect troops to go through it, combine and return is very optimistic in daylight. The recon itself must stay in contact with the enemy and report on its movement to the command. Rather than vaccinate this is exactly what Darnell did. One must challenge the orders given to Darnell in the first place by whoever issued them. Having found a large Zulu force what was he to do? Disengage and return? This would have meant losing his NCOs in the NNC who by all accounts were at the end of their tether, lose them and the force loses discipline and effectiveness. Send the NNH or NMP back and he loses firepower and leaves the NNC at the mercy off the Zulu. They either all go back or none go back. In the event though Darnell who let us not forget was an experienced soldier who had a higher degree of confidence imparted to him by his soldiers than did their titular commander Russell, was of the opinion that he was able to defend himself.

If Chelmsford was concerned about the cream of Natal he could have consoled himself with the thought that they were mounted and had a better chance of escape than the 1000 plus NNC who with their white NCOs were on foot.

The recon exercise though a necessary task was in its inception an ill thought out activity. The situation Darnell was in could or should have been anticipated. If it was its tasks should have been more limited and specific.If not it was little more than bait to the Zulus if their impis had been in the vicinity, as it was it seems it was only Matyana. It was conceivably Chelmsford who took bait by assuming it was the main impi. Fortuitous for the Zulu?
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell


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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 7:45 am

Tig
"Fortuitous for the Zulu", Ron Lock and Pete Quantrill would argue that it was planned. Salute
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell


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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 7:46 am

Bob brilliant old memories popping out there, the great 'Satchmo'.
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell


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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 7:47 am

Tig, lunch next week is going to be a marathon session.
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Tig Van Milcroft




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PostSubject: Re: Chelmsford's Main Mistake   Chelmsford's Main Mistake EmptyThu Oct 06, 2022 7:54 am

Looking forward to it immensely Frank
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