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 Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War

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terrylee

terrylee

Posts : 41
Join date : 2013-06-03
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PostSubject: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptyThu Jul 11, 2013 8:59 am

Following a request I have pleasure in posting photos of the rifles and bayonets of the Natal Government at the time of the Zulu War. These come from a collection covering the arms of the Natal Regiments over their separate existence 1854 - 1912. With one exception the rifles shown were all acquired in Natal during the 1960s and 70s.

The historical background provided is the result of considerable research. Unfortunately the information available is often vague and sometimes contradictory. Should anyone disagree with what follows and be able to provide conclusive proof, I would greatly appreciate hearing from him.  

Part 1 of 4: The Enfield Rifles

The Natal Volunteers first acquired their muzzle-loading Enfield Rifles in 1860 These appear to have been of the 1853 and 1856 patterns. The long rifles were carried by the foot soldiers such as those of the Durban Rifle Guard while units like the Natal Carbineers had them locally shortened for mounted use. The shortened Enfields were replaced by Calisher Terry carbines in 1863 while those used by the infantry remained in service until 1875. Upon replacement the Enfields appear to have been placed in storage.

During 1878 and 1879 the Enfields already available were supplemented by the Natal Government which acquired a further supply of about 2300 locally. These rifles were then used to equip the Natal Native Contingent and similar units. They were re-issued without bayonets.

Top to bottom:       1853 Enfield & Socket Bayonet
                            1856 Enfield & Sword bayonet
                            1853 Shortened Enfield*

* The significance of the B/l\C brand on the butt is uncertain. It was probably applied before the rifle was sent to Natal, but local opinion is that it could represent the Baca Contingent, a tribal unit raised in 1880 at the time of the Basuto Rebellion.  

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free1954



Posts : 174
Join date : 2012-02-16
Location : northeast usa

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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptyThu Jul 11, 2013 9:59 am

nice. thank you sir for posting the pictures and write up.
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90th

90th

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Join date : 2009-04-07
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Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: Rifles of the Natal Govt during the zulu war    Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptyThu Jul 11, 2013 10:29 am

Hi Terrylee .
Thank you for taking the time to post the photo , much appreciated .
Cheers 90th.
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terrylee

terrylee

Posts : 41
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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptyFri Jul 12, 2013 8:36 am

Part 2 of 4: The Capping Breech-Loaders

In 1863 the mounted units were issued with an early breech-loader, the Calisher Terry Carbine, to replace their shortened Enfields. The Calisher's action, a primitive bolt-action, took a paper cartridge which was still ignited by a separate percussion cap. The Calisher was first used in action at the unfortunate Bushman's Pass incident during the Langalibalele Rebellion in 1873 where it was found to be rather cumbersome to load. This carbine remained in service until the introduction of the Snider cavalry Carbine in 1875.

Apart from one ambiguously captioned photograph I have come across no direct evidence that the Calisher was reissued during the Zulu War, though this may have been the case. If so, it would have only been to second line support units where a lack of weapons skill and the use of non-standard ammunition would pose no serious risk.

For those, like Donald Morris, who believe that the Westley Richards "Monkey Tail" Carbine was used by Durnford's men at Isandhlwana, I include one of these carbines in this series. Although archival records prove that some were obtained by the Natal Government, it seems that they were few in number and may possibly have seen use in the Prisons Service. To date I have found no evidence that they were ever used by the Natal Regiments or reissued later during the Zulu War. Perhaps there is some confusion between the Westley Richards and the Calisher, Both were capping breech-loaders.

With due respect to Mr Morris and his excellent book, I feel that he must have misunderstood the testimony of a native trooper who was at Isandhlwana. This man stated that when Durnford encountered one of his men "with his old cartridge sticking.......(he) pulled the cartridge out and gave back the gun". For those who are familiar with the firearms concerned it is obvious that such a statement could have only applied to a Snider or Swinburn, since the Westley richards and Calisher cartridges are consumed in the discharge.

Top:        Calisher Terry        
Bottom:   Westley Richards "Monkey tail"
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Chard1879

Chard1879

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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptyFri Jul 12, 2013 3:35 pm

Great examples. Are they fully functional:?: 
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90th

90th

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PostSubject: Rifles of the Natal Govt during the zulu war    Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptyFri Jul 12, 2013 4:05 pm

Terrylee again thanks for the pic much appreciated .
90th.
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terrylee

terrylee

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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySat Jul 13, 2013 5:43 am

The Westley Richards is fully functional and the Calisher Terry could be easily made so. However, I prefer shooting more modern rifles!
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terrylee

terrylee

Posts : 41
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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySat Jul 13, 2013 6:13 am

Part 3 of 4: The Sniders

Following the rather unsatisfactory performance of the Calisher Terry during the Langalibalele Rebellion, 500 commercially manufactured Snider Cavalry Carbines of the Mk.III Pattern were acquired in 1874. Over the period immediately before and during the Zulu War these were supplemented by a further 1340 supplied through the Crown Agents with another 498 purchased from the Cape Government. During the Zulu War these carbines were issued to some of the Mounted Natal Volunteers and also mounted Black Auxiliary Units. I strongly suspect that these or Swinburn Carbines were used by the Edendale men under Durnford's command at Isandhlwana. It is recorded that one troop of the Natal Carbineers were still equipped with Snider Carbines as late as 1894.

The use of the Snider Rifle appears to have been more limited than the carbine and I have found no record of an early order. It appears, however, that some were issued in about 1871. A further batch of 1000 was imported during the Zulu Campaign where they and the muzzle-loading Enfields were used to arm the Natal Native Contingent on the basis of one rifle to every ten men. Each rifleman was issued with five rounds of ammunition!  Although I have been unable to establish service following the Zulu War, Snider rifles were still recorded in the 1904 arms return.

Top:        Snider Rifle Mk.II*
Bottom:   Snider cavalry Carbine Mk.III, ex-Cape Govt.  

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free1954



Posts : 174
Join date : 2012-02-16
Location : northeast usa

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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySat Jul 13, 2013 10:16 am

terrylee wrote:
Part 2 of 4: The Capping Breech-Loaders

In 1863 the mounted units were issued with an early breech-loader, the Calisher Terry Carbine, to replace their shortened Enfields. The Calisher's action, a primitive bolt-action, took a paper cartridge which was still ignited by a separate percussion cap. The Calisher was first used in action at the unfortunate Bushman's Pass incident during the Langalibalele Rebellion in 1873 where it was found to be rather cumbersome to load. This carbine remained in service until the introduction of the Snider cavalry Carbine in 1875.

Apart from one ambiguously captioned photograph I have come across no direct evidence that the Calisher was reissued during the Zulu War, though this may have been the case. If so, it would have only been to second line support units where a lack of weapons skill and the use of non-standard ammunition would pose no serious risk.

For those, like Donald Morris, who believe that the Westley Richards "Monkey Tail" Carbine was used by Durnford's men at Isandhlwana, I include one of these carbines in this series. Although archival records prove that some were obtained by the Natal Government, it seems that they were few in number and may possibly have seen use in the Prisons Service. To date I have found no evidence that they were ever used by the Natal Regiments or reissued later during the Zulu War. Perhaps there is some confusion between the Westley Richards and the Calisher, Both were capping breech-loaders.

With due respect to Mr Morris and his excellent book, I feel that he must have misunderstood the testimony of a native trooper who was at Isandhlwana. This man stated that when Durnford encountered one of his men "with his old cartridge sticking.......(he) pulled the cartridge out and gave back the gun". For those who are familiar with the firearms concerned it is obvious that such a statement could have only applied to a Snider or Swinburn, since the Westley richards and Calisher cartridges are consumed in the discharge.

Top:        Calisher Terry        
Bottom:   Westley Richards "Monkey tail"
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very nice sir. I have never seen either one before. thanks for posting.
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free1954



Posts : 174
Join date : 2012-02-16
Location : northeast usa

Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War Empty
PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySat Jul 13, 2013 10:19 am

terrylee wrote:
Part 3 of 4: The Sniders

Following the rather unsatisfactory performance of the Calisher Terry during the Langalibalele Rebellion, 500 commercially manufactured Snider Cavalry Carbines of the Mk.III Pattern were acquired in 1874. Over the period immediately before and during the Zulu War these were supplemented by a further 1340 supplied through the Crown Agents with another 498 purchased from the Cape Government. During the Zulu War these carbines were issued to some of the Mounted Natal Volunteers and also mounted Black Auxiliary Units. I strongly suspect that these or Swinburn Carbines were used by the Edendale men under Durnford's command at Isandhlwana. It is recorded that one troop of the Natal Carbineers were still equipped with Snider Carbines as late as 1894.

The use of the Snider Rifle appears to have been more limited than the carbine and I have found no record of an early order. It appears, however, that some were issued in about 1871. A further batch of 1000 was imported during the Zulu Campaign where they and the muzzle-loading Enfields were used to arm the Natal Native Contingent on the basis of one rifle to every ten men. Each rifleman was issued with five rounds of ammunition!  Although I have been unable to establish service following the Zulu War, Snider rifles were still recorded in the 1904 arms return.

Top:        Snider Rifle Mk.II*
Bottom:   Snider cavalry Carbine Mk.III, ex-Cape Govt.  

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





there are sniders for sale around here now that came from the IMA Nepal cache. before that you never seen any for sale. thanks again.
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free1954



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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySat Jul 13, 2013 12:27 pm

never having heard of the CALISHER TERRY I spent some time looking at them on line this morning. I found they had some use in the American civil war. thanks again for the post.
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90th

90th

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PostSubject: Rifles of the Natal Govt during the AZW    Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySat Jul 13, 2013 12:35 pm

Agreed , excellent pics , thanks for sharing them .
90th
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terrylee

terrylee

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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySun Jul 14, 2013 8:53 am

Part 4 of 4: The Swinburn Henrys

Although I have already posted a photo of these in a previous thread, I'll complete this series by providing further information.

Following the Langalibele Rebellion and in consideration of the "Zulu Menace" across the border, the Natal Government considered it necessary to upgrade the arms of the Natal Volunteers and Mounted Police.  The obvious solution would be to obtain the Martini Henry then being used to rearm the British Army. Unfortunately, this was not possible and Natal opted for the Swinburn Henry, a lookalike patent circumvention which obviously traded on its similar appearance  to the superior military rifle. Both rifle and carbine were manufactured by the Abingdon Gun Works.

It appears that the Swinburn Henrys were first issued the Volunteers in 1875 and by the time if the Zulu War some 1150 rifles and 2040 carbines had been received. The carbines saw operational service with the mounted volunteers and the Natal Mounted Police. They were certainly used by them at Isandhlwana during their heroic last stand under Durnford's command. It seems that the Swinburn Rifles saw no active service, being used by the infantry regiments who acted as town guards during the campaign.

The Swinburns remained in service with the Natal Volunteers until 1896 when they were replaced by Martini Metfords.

Top:      Swinburn Henry Rifle with Pattern 1871 and 1875  
                                                                 Bayonets.
Bottom: Swinburn henry Carbine with bowie-type bayonet.

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Last edited by terrylee on Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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free1954



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PostSubject: Re: Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War   Rifles of the Natal Government during the Zulu War EmptySun Jul 14, 2013 11:11 am

thank you very much sir for the photos and presentation. I learned a few new things here this week.
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