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 Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle

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barry

barry

Posts : 935
Join date : 2011-10-21
Location : Algoa Bay

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PostSubject: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 3:43 pm


Hi All,

Now that many forum members concur, after careful analysis of the facts, that ammuntion supply was indeed a large factor contributing to the loss of the Isandlwana battle ( as did the Colonial authorties at the time), the question is begged whether entrenchment, at their firing lines, with the failed ammunition supply, would have been to the benefit of the defenders. Your views will be interesting.
Once this decision is agreed, it will be easier to see where the blame should lie for the loss of the camp.

regards

barry
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Mr M. Cooper

Mr M. Cooper

Posts : 2522
Join date : 2011-09-29
Location : Lancashire, England.

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PostSubject: Entrenchment at iSandlwana   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 5:10 pm

Hello Barry.

The ground is supposed to have been too rocky for proper entrenchment, however, I feel that use could have been made of the wagons that could have been used to form some sort of barricades along with the dongas and rocky areas, the hill itself could have been used as a rear defence. It might have meant losing some equipment, cattle, stores, etc, but with plenty of ammo in the area being defended, I feel that the outcome may well have been different. Pulleine had plenty of reports, from the early morning, of Zulus massing in the area, he could and should have made more use of the time and the resourses he had to organise some sort of better defences, and he could have done this long before Col Durnford arrived, but he did very little about it. Maybe if he had been more of a line officer rather than an admin officer, he might have realised the situation that was developing in the area and done something about it.

Regards.

Martin.
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Drummer Boy 14

Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 5:34 pm

The only real thing that would have worked would have been a laager, trenches wouldn't have stopped
a rush of Zulus. But again they couldn't Laager on the 20th, and a laager would have ment loosing
the camp and all the cattle, animlas stores ect.



Cheers
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littlehand

littlehand

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PostSubject: Re: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 10:31 pm

Barry Good Question. This is what a member of Parliment had to say..

HC Deb 03 March 1879 vol 244 cc37-105

"SIR HENRY HAVELOCK said, he was sorry that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had been obliged to modify this statement, especially in view of the recommendations on this head made in the very last despatch from the Cape. He was sorry, again, to hear that it had been decided finally that only one of the batteries sent to the Cape should be 9-pounders, and that the rest of the batteries would be 7-pounders only. Both from the reports received from the Cape and the opinion of all military officers who had discussed the question, it was now clear that the 7-pounder was not the one best suited to Cape warfare, though admirably suited for different circumstances, in a different country. As they had already something like 21 of these guns at the Cape, in his opinion they ought to have had 9-pounders instead of 7-pounders sent out. He feared that, from some oversight, the peculiar fitness of the Gatling gun had been overlooked, although in the only report which had yet reached this country on that subject—that from Colonel Pearson, who was intrenched at Ekhowa—it was shown that one Gatling gun had been of the greatest possible service. Meeting at short range large masses of men, the execution done by that gun had been exceptionally tremendous, due to the manner in which the Zulus fought; and therefore he regretted very much that the right hon and gallant Gentleman had not sent more of the Arm-strong-Gatling, although they had plenty of them in store at Woolwich. The guns they had sent out weighed 400 lbs., while Armstrong's pattern weighed but 150 lbs., and, mounted on a light Kaffir carriage, would not only have been infinitely lighter, but would have had greater range, and have been of more service to this sort of warfare. The only other point to which he wished to refer had a melancholy interest at 93 the present time. In these days of breech-loading arms, and rapid fire, the greatest results must be obtained from any sort of shelter, however trifling and slight. Forces in the open, without cover, must certainly be exposed to a punishment which it was almost impossible for them to bear. The despatches from the Cape bore out, in a remarkable and melancholy manner, the lesson they were taught two years ago at Plevna; and he trusted that, at all events, that lesson would be utilized in the future. Changes in our Army were, however, so slow, and they were so difficult to bring about, that if the War Department were left to routine, and the public opinion of the country and the strong opinion of this House were not brought to bear, he did not see any reasonable hope of any change being made to provide for an emergency until that emergency had passed away. The experience of all armies in the field since the American War showed that troops who occupy a position for a few hours, or even a portion of a day, could and should immediately entrench themselves sufficiently to make the position most difficult to attack. Both the Russians and the Roumanians came very soon to see that it was no use having intrenching tools carried by waggons three or four or five miles in the rear. If they were to be of any use whatever, it was now certain that the tool must be carried by the soldier on his person, so as to be immediately available. On the most sudden and unexpected emergency those armies were able, with a light spade, weighing about 2½ lbs., in a very short time, to throw up the intrenchments that were required for their immediate protection. Already the Oliver equipment had been designed to add the intrenching tool to the ordinary equipment of the English soldier; and, therefore, he regretted all the more that this equipment was not supplied- to the regiments that had just gone out to the Cape. If the men at Isandula had had these light spades, they would have been able, even in a few hours, to have intrenched the camp, or, at any rate, to have thrown up a few rifle pits flanking each other. Then, with the powerful weapons with which our men were armed, he undertook to say that we should not now have been mourning a great disaster; the greater Force would not have failed to do that 94 which had now gained for a few men at Rorke's Drift an imperishable name in the annals of our country, and the war would have had a totally different beginning. He did hope that, under these circumstances, the lesson of the Turkish War would not be thrown away on the military authorities.
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 10:56 pm

RD was a fortified position and they held out against a relatively bigger Zulu force, but as far as I am aware, there wasn't an ammunition supply problem at RD.
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Mr M. Cooper

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PostSubject: Entrenchment at iSandlwana   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 11:12 pm

Hi LH.

Just had a quick read of what the MP said, I think he might have got it wrong about the "Oliver equipment", I am sure it was the 1871 pattern Valise equipment that the Army had, the "Oliver" being the water bottle.

Correct tasker, the position at RD was fortified, and there was no ammo problem, although there might have been if the Zulus had kept on attacking, as the men had gone through thousands of rounds and it was getting on the low side, however, the Zulus withdrew and went home.
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littlehand

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PostSubject: Re: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptyFri Jul 20, 2012 11:44 pm

I believe at RD, they was down to about 900 rounds left. Not bad after 15hrs considering they started with 25,000.

But looking at the various reports, digging trenches would have been near impossible.

Quote :
Martin" I feel that use could have been made of the wagons that could have been used to form sort of barricades"

This would have been the most simplistic action to take. And the most effective given the time they had, to prepair some some sort of defence.

I strongly believe, that if the men had been kept together in one large square, with ample ammuntion, and cannon firing grape shot when required, the Zulus would have wavered at some point, and given up. Perhaps Ian Knight's statement would have been correct. 35 well aimed volleys would have wipe out the entire Zulu Army. The Zulu's would have been doing all the running to get into their formation, while the Column stood steady.
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90th

90th

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PostSubject: Would Entrenchment change the outcome at Isandlwana ?   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptySat Jul 21, 2012 12:48 am

Hi Barry .
In a word - No. I'm fairly certain Laagering and entenching etc etc has been well discussed on here previously .
With the wonderful benefit of hindsight we can make judgement calls on the defensive strategies used by those in charge at Isandlwana , but , we must all remember that the British didnt think there was any chance that the zulu would attack the camp in any way shape or form . So therefore there wasnt any possibility that Chelmesford was even contemplating doing so , there were 50 - 100 wagons which were to be sent back to RD on the morning of the battle to be loaded and brought forward as quickly as possible so the column could get underway in its push to Ulundi . Certainly '' no time '' was used as an excuse and was stated by the good lord previously when asked about some sort of fortification being carried out when they first arrived at the camping ground . Nothing would have saved the camp because of the orders issued , '' You are to defend the camp '' that cant be done when setting up entrenchments , rifle pits or Laagers as the camp itself was just to big to be defended by the numbers that remained in the camp after Chelmesford had departed .
Cheers 90th. Salute
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thinredlineMOD

thinredlineMOD

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PostSubject: Re: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptySat Jul 21, 2012 2:23 am

The battle was lost the minute it started in my opinion and only a deliberate Zulu withdrawal or a major mistake on Ntshingwayos behalf could've saved the camp. In the battle of Khambula where all conditions were much more favourable (i.e. better terrain, more troops, good fortifications, no ammo problem, etc.) for the defenders than at Isandlwana we see that the Zulus still managed to get dangerously close to the British positions.
As entrenchment is concerned it might have delayed the outcome somewhat but even if they had started digging with the leaving Lord still in sight they couldn't have made a laager which could've withstood the Zulu attack. And had they made a laager (based on the size of the whole force) upon arrival it would've been likely too big to defend. (Completely disregarding the fact here that the camp was pitched only two days ago and an adequate laager would've taken much longer to build.)

littlehand wrote:
This would have been the most simplistic action to take. And the most effective given the time they had, to prepair some some sort of defence.
It's not so easy, LH. These wagons have a 17 metres turning circle, weigh empty about half a ton (some even more) and must've stood quite tightly packed on rough and rocky ground. Some poster on here mentioned (maybe Julian?) that 50 people were needed to move a wagon and considering that most were probably still loaded I've no doubt about that.

cheers, Salute
Dave
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: Would entrenchment have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle   Would entrenchment  have changed the outcome of the Isandlwana battle EmptySat Jul 21, 2012 7:38 am

[quote="thinredlineMOD"]The battle was lost the minute it started in my opinion and only a deliberate Zulu withdrawal or a major mistake on Ntshingwayos behalf could've saved the camp.

Agree with this. Only many hours of warning of an impending Zulu attack (as the RD men had) combined with an heroic effort in planning, tactics, fortification and organisation MIGHT have given the iSandlwana defenders a sporting chace of holding off the attack.
As it was, 90th is right - we have hindsight, they didn't. The camp was essentially caught off guard and was doomed, the moment the Zulus set their minds to it.
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