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 Light Zulu casualties?

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90th
Mr Greaves
Mikran
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Mikran




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PostSubject: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyTue Aug 07, 2012 6:19 pm

Hi, I'm new to this board but have had an interest in the Zulu war for many years. An issue that I have pondered over is how the Zulus got away with fairly light casualties despite being subjected to withering fire from breech-loading rifles and artillery? Although Zulu casualties are often describes as "heavy", I don't fully agree with that. Of course, a casualty is always tragic for those affected by it and I'm not trying to belittle the Zulu's sacrifice, but still they made very well considering what they were up against.

If we look at Kambula for instance, there are reports of 785 Zulu bodies counted around the British laager (I would assume that these included wounded that were dispatched after the battle). If we add those killed in the mounted pursuit and those who escaped wounded, a Zulu casualty rate of some 2, 000 men in total has been suggested (10% of the Zulu army egaged). I have read that the British expended some 140, 000 rounds of ammunition and 1,070 artilley shells, which means that it took an average of 100-150 rounds to actually hit a Zulu warrior, artillery not included. To me, this is not very impressive, and a 10% casualty rate is hardly to be considered "heavy" (cfr the 25% casualties sufferedd by the victorious Anglo-allied army at Waterloo). At Ulundi, "only" 473 Zulus are supposed to have fallen arounf the British square, despite being subjected to volley fire from more than 4,000 Martini-Henrys, Gatling guns and artilley. If we accept an estimated 1,500 dead and wounded Zulus (of whom many, if not most, were cut down by the lancers), their casualty rate was yet again 7-10% of their army - hardly crippling losses.

So, what I am trying to figure out is how the Zulus were able to keep their casualties low? I have come up with a few suggested explanations, based on educated guess:

* The British were not particularly well trained in markmanship, but focused on rapid shooting (quantity instead of quality)
* The dense smoke created by volley fire obstructed the field of vision to the point that it was impossible to aim at Zulu warriors (if I recall correctly this problem was adressed by British soldiers during the war)
* The zulus advanced in looser, more spread out formations and made use of natural cover in the terrain
* Could Zulu casualties in fact have been underestimated by the British and later historians? For instance, I have seen alternative estimates of 4,000 Zulu casualtiues at Kambula (however, this is contradicted by those sources stating that less than 800 bodies were counted on the battlefield...)

What do you think?
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Mr Greaves

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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyTue Aug 07, 2012 6:35 pm

Mikran! Welcome to the forum. There has been a heated debate regarding the casualty rate at " Isandwana" one of the members based the ammuntion allocation of 70 rounds per man for 900 men we know there were more men at Isandlwana but based on 900 they had before commencement of battle 63,000 rounds. Zulu casualty rate approximately 3000. You would have thought with an enemy advancing the rate would have been a lot higher, especially as it would have been a case of just firing into the massed ranks of the Zulu army. I think it was Ian Knight would stated if all the men at Isandlwana had fired 35 volleys they would have wiped out the entire Zulu Army.

https://www.1879zuluwar.com/t333p600-the-ammunition-question

You only need to look at the last 6 pages to get an idea of events click on link above.
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90th

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PostSubject: Light Zulu Casualties ?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyWed Aug 08, 2012 1:28 am

Hi Mikran.
Welcome to the forum , I wont go into it as its all been fairly well covered here previously , Use the search box and you will find all your answers .......hopefully !. :lol: .

Mr Greaves .
It wasnt a case of firing into Massed ranks at Isandlwana , the zulu made good use of the terrain , there is much dead ground on the approaches to and around Isandlwana , and I dont mean that it could hide a few men , but it could and still would hide many hundreds . The Village that is there now in front of the plain I think it is - cant be seen from where the tents were pitched !. Also from what I've read , heard and seen this terrain would have contributed to a lowerer casualty toll for the zulu army . Also other factors as you are aware - Smoke , dust etc etc .
Cheers 90th. Salute
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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyWed Aug 08, 2012 10:09 am

It must have been hard to hit a Zulu, they were always moving, darting from cover to cover at a distence of over 800 yards, they weren't by any means packed together, they were spread out in skirmish order.

25,000 Zulus didn't just all come running forward at once, they were split into regiments and in those regiments companies, who were spread out making use of every bit of cover.

The soliders at Kamubla fired an average of 33 rounds each during the battle.




Cheers
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Mikran




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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyWed Aug 08, 2012 11:22 am

Thanks for your replies, I really appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I have always suspected that the Zulus actually fought in a loose skirmish formation as Drummer Boy says, despite the fact that they are often portrayed as advancing in a tightly packed "horde". Could it be that they adopted these tactics after their experience fighting the Boer trekkers?

I also find it noteworthy that the Zulus gave in and began their withdrawal after suffering "only" 10% casualties. Were they unwilling to take more losses than that, or were they simply too exhausted to press on their attack (at Kambula, Gingindlovu, Ulundi)?

As for the shot/kill ratio, I read somewhere that Frederick the Great of Prussia calculated that an average of 325 rounds were needed to hit one enemy soldier, so I guess that the British infantry did quite well after all with their 100/150:1 ratio (of course, having access to a more accurate rifle than the smoothbore muskets of the 18th century)
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90th

90th


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PostSubject: Light Zulu Casualties ?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyWed Aug 08, 2012 2:15 pm

Hi Mikran
I understand what you are saying but if as you said '' only 10% '' casualty rate , it soon mounts up in the total of your army ,
10% at Isand , RD, Khambula , Gingindlovu and Ulundi adds up to a lot of casualties out of an army of say 30 - 40 ,000 . The
10% figure is probably at the lower end of the scale when dealing with all those who were wounded and died ; days , weeks or months later- whose bodies were never found , or those who never fully recovered to become ablebodied warriors again .
I think I read somewhere that the total figure of those killed and wounded was somewhere around 10,000 warriors , which equates to 30% - 25% all up . Percentages can be a little misleading . Hope this made sense !. Salute
Cheers 90th. Salute
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impi

impi


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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyFri Aug 10, 2012 12:15 am

Which ever way you look at it, the ammunition expenditure was excessive, comparied to the casualty rate. I personally feel there was to much panic firing, kills by friendly fire bare testament to that. One account comes to mind when Lt Chard was nearly killed and many more with him, if he hadn't had told his men to keep their heads down.
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90th

90th


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PostSubject: Light Zulu Caualties    Light Zulu casualties? EmptyFri Aug 10, 2012 4:00 am

Hi all .
There is no doubt the ammunition expenditure was excessive , but this is the same in all Battles . A real battle isnt like the old war movies or westerns where every shot found its mark !. I havent been in a battle situation but I'm sure much Ammo would be fired for not much result in open spaces .
Cheers 90th. Salute
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Mikran




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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyTue Aug 21, 2012 10:46 am

90th wrote:
Hi Mikran
I understand what you are saying but if as you said '' only 10% '' casualty rate , it soon mounts up in the total of your army ,
10% at Isand , RD, Khambula , Gingindlovu and Ulundi adds up to a lot of casualties out of an army of say 30 - 40 ,000 . The
10% figure is probably at the lower end of the scale when dealing with all those who were wounded and died ; days , weeks or months later- whose bodies were never found , or those who never fully recovered to become ablebodied warriors again .
I think I read somewhere that the total figure of those killed and wounded was somewhere around 10,000 warriors , which equates to 30% - 25% all up . Percentages can be a little misleading . Hope this made sense !. Salute
Cheers 90th. Salute

Are there any Zulu estimates of their casualties?

About Ulundi, there seems to be conflicting figures about how many Zulu bodies were counted on the battlefield. According to the source cited at the wikipedia entry for the battle, only 473 bodies are supposed to have been found, but other sources maintain that well over a 1000 dead Zulus were counted around the square. To me a 473 body count seems impossibly low considering the scale and ferocity of the battle (with the Zulus being able to get within 30 yards at one point).

I'm still trying to figure out how represenative the body counts are for overall casualties inflicted on the Zulu. I know that wounded Zulus were habitually dispatched on the field, but would a majority of the wounded have been able to retreat to safety during and after battle? Were the wounded found on the field counted among the dead, or were only those counted that were found dead on the site? Are there any evidence of Zulu warriors carrying the bodies of their fallen comrades away from the battlefield?
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90th

90th


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PostSubject: Light Zulu Casualties    Light Zulu casualties? EmptyTue Aug 21, 2012 11:10 am

Hi Mikran.
I'm not sure about there being zulu estimates of there losses , I think I've read them but not 100 % sure !. Many wounded would have made their way from the battlefield or had help from relatives or friends . Many Zulu's that had been killed at Isandlwana were taken by friends etc and buried in the surrounding area . Many apparantly were I think dumped into rivers , Donga's etc etc . When the body count took place I'd think the wounded were either dispatched during the count or possibly before as the NNC were the ones used mostly in this gruesome but deemed necessary task .
Cheers 90th. You need to study mo
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Ray63

Ray63


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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyTue Aug 21, 2012 2:13 pm

Makes sense, Caring for the wounded takes up man power.
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyTue Aug 21, 2012 11:14 pm

Hi Mikran, welcome.
I am not sure that back in the AZW, every time a rank stood to fire a volley, each individual had a separate target to aim at.
I would guess they had not, and much the same as today, thousands of rounds were fired solely to stem advances and to keep enemy heads down; I have witnessed a value of ordnance in excess of my mortgage fired off several nights in a row without a single enemy casualty.
However, I am sure that with a MH in the shoulder and a clear shot of the enemy in their sights, back in 1879 a soldier would have been able to drop his target with some certainty, time after time.
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Mikran




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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyMon Jun 03, 2013 8:03 am

At Rorkes Drift the official death toll for the Zulu impi is set at 400-500. Yet, according to sources (including testimony from private Samuel Pitt) a total of more than 800 Zulus (including the dispatched wounded) were actually killed.

Could it be that other battles also had higher casualty rates for the Zulus? For Ulundi it is said that some 1,500 zulus were killed and wounded. This has always struck me as an impossibly low figure, considering the immense fire-power of Chelmsford's square and the actions of the 17th lancers. Would the Zulu impi really have given up after suffering a mere 7,5-10% casualties (maybe as low as 3-5% if excluding the cavalry charge)? It makes no sense to me.

The comparatively low casualties reported also seem contradictional to both British and Zulu accounts which often put emphasis on the devastating effect of volley fire. A 5-10% casualty rate can hardly be considered to be heavy casualties.
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impi

impi


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PostSubject: Re: Light Zulu casualties?   Light Zulu casualties? EmptyMon Jun 03, 2013 4:31 pm

You will probably find, that the person who compiled the casualties figures, during the Zulu war, was the one who compiled the Roll call at Rorke's Drift. It appears he got his numbers jumbled up. (Well according to some) Rolling Eyes
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