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DateOriginal Topic
8th January 2005Ratio of Bulltes to Dead Zulus'?
By Derek C
I am on a high, having just returned from RD & Isandlawana. In one book it estimates that around 400 Zulus' were buried outside RD in mass graves. We know that many dead Zulus' were carried away after the battle and some died a distance away. If the best part of 20 000 rounds of ammo were expended and I'm guessing around 1000 Zulus' were killed, that seems like a lot of "wasted" rounds from a single shot rifle at relatively close range. I understand the panic of battle etc. but that seems like a lot of British lead lying out in the veld. Any ideas?
8th January 2005Bill Cainan

With regard to the number of hits per rounds fired, I think Hollywood has a lot to anser for in forming impressions in peoples minds !

The estimates of the number of Zulus killed at Rorke's Drift variesfrom between 400 and 650.

Could I refer you to an article I wrote some time ago called "Zulu Attack !" - it is in the Pot Pourri section of this site. There is a table within that article which actually details the likely hits in relations to rounds fired.

8th January 2005Rich

From the looks of the conclusion, there's nothing like firing rom a nice fixed position to get concentration of fire that increases casualties...that in contrast to Isandhlwana where chaos enveloped the moving battle lines and affected fire. Is there a table like that for Isandhlwana?
8th January 2005Michael Boyle

One must also figure in multiple hits. Had anyone counted the total number of wounds on the dead as well as those taken from the field the ratio would seem less disproportionate. Add the fact that while being attacked you tend to shoot the ones in front rather than those in the rear (unless you're Alvin York!) and the many Zulu attacks seem to have been rather short but intense, many of the attackers in the rear would have broken off before they were able to become targets.

(By the way- were you able to make it to the top of Isandlwana?)


8th January 2005steve
Your point is similar to several raised over the past few months,and which has long puzzled me.
The threads on why Martini and not Winchester,the casualty and expenditure rates in the comparison with the early part of the sudanese campaign,and the amount of Zulu with four or five wounds,yet still wanting to have another bash...........leave me with the distinct impression that the MH and/or its ammunition were inferior to other weapons of the time.
An American contributor pointed me in the direction of "the Plevna delay",which showed the limitations of the MH,but proved its worth if used in combined arms
You see it wasnt the MH that saved the defenders of RD,ultimately it was the mealie bags the biscuit boxes and the bayonet.
The disparity between expenditure and actual kills at RD,is immense.Transfer that disparity to Pulleines camp.
9th January 2005Michael Boyle
Steve, I believe it was the MH which slowed them down enough for the bags,boxes and bayonets to take effect!
9th January 2005Derek C
To Michael Boyle...
Regarding your question, I didn't make it to the "top" if Isandlawan if you mean the peak. We did climb the shoulder to the rock face to Young-Husband's cairn and to what we are pretty sure was the cave where the last British Soldier fell.
9th January 2005Martin Everett
Dear Derek,

Have I missed something? Within less than 2 hours of the first Zulu attack at RD it was dark. So one can assume that the majority of rounds were use in very poor light - although there was extra light when the hospital building was set on fire. This may help the attackers rather than the defenders.

I must admit my night shooting is not great without modern night vision aids.
9th January 2005Neil Aspinshaw
There was a posting on the website recently, Jason Madkin fired his Martini at night and posted a photograph of the muzzle flash, it was incredible, with the flash extending 4 feet from the muzzle, I would imagine your initial night vision going AWOL for while so I go with Martin on poor light and night vision theory.
Also, as the darkness would conceal any attacker, you could only loose off 1 or 2 rounds with a Martini before the bayonet was the only option. If any of you has been to RD at night, it is pitch black.
10th January 2005James Garland
Did the British use suppression fire ( keeping the enemies heads down) during the AZW as they do nowadays. If so that would account for the expendature of Ammo.
11th January 2005Paul Mercer
An interesting subject, no doubt suppression fire accounted for some of the ammo used, but if they did use volley fire against a massed target many warriors would have received more than one bullet. However given the mess a 450 Martini round made when tested on ballistic putty, I cannot see that many men would be capable of further action after one solid hit anywhere on the body, let alone multiple hits. I feel that the Martini round compares favourably with any military round of comparable size of the day.
11th January 2005Paul Cubbin
Something that has just occured to me is the recoil factor in firing the MH. I have never fired one but by all accounts the kick is akin to a bad tempered mule that has been woken in the middle of its nap and told its about to have a cold enema. I know from personal experience of firing more modern rifles that after a couple of dozen rounds the old shoulder becomes a little tender and you get a bit 'kickback shy'. The shoulders of the RD defenders must have been black and blue from sustained firing and their accuracy towards the end of the battle very poor.
As regards multiple hits, surely in volley fire some poor Zulu (with a nice big headdress or other fancy eye-catching accoutrement) would have been targetted by several soldiers at once, resulting in him becoming a collander. I agree with those who maintain that a fat MH round would have taken most people down, although there must have been the odd adrenaline-pumped warrior who kept running (although that first wound would have been eventually fatal) and was shot more than once. Most fatal casualties don't die immediately, but bleed to death, die from shock, wound infection, etc.. and I for one have always assumed a much greater casualty total for the Zulus than the ones given. They had a habit of carrying off their dead (and wounded) and although exhausted, the surviving warriors undoubtably took some of their fallen brethren. Add to that the poor wounded souls who crawled off to their kraals or even a cave or something to curl up and expire slowly. Zulu medicine was almost non-existant and comprised mostly of magic and faith-healing (not so great for physical trauma injuries).
11th January 2005Chris


I also read that a few British defenders later killed themselves (running round chasing imaginary Zulus) - must have been horrendous. I wonder how many Zulus that watched their fathers, brothers or uncles die also suffered this fate from sheer trauma?
11th January 2005Chris
Michael Boyle

Have you been to the top? I've often imagined what the view looks like from up there! Must be cracking!
13th January 2005steve
8 jan
Perhaps it was the buscuit boxes and mealie bags that slowed the Zulu enough for the bayonet or MH to win through, as the case appears to be at Khambula
Of course ,after the battle (RD)the dead were examined,and a fine old mess was made by the martini,and noted by the survivors, and i do not disagree that the weapon was powerfull enough,only that its tendancy to foul when used consistantly(hence the mule kick)that its ammunition cartridge was too flimsy(design later ammended)and that its rate of fire because of the above was seriously impeded,......when(i stress) faced with the adversaries opposed to victorias armies across the world at that time,(i.e.mainly native armies generally ill armed but having superior numbers.............)
That type of adversary perhaps required a different weapon to meet it,one which was repeating,of a shorter range but of a comparable price,and with a lesser tendency to jam.
I can only assume that the MH was designed with a possible european war in mind.

Bertram Mitfords travels through Zululand after the war brought him into contact with many Zulu veterans,and he notes on several occasions meeting survivors,with several wounds,other europeans,including doctors noted the same,and then the final word perhaps to the Zulu themselves,many voiced their dread of the bayonet,(Zulu accounts of the last stand at Isandlwana),but did not apear to hold the same fear of bullets.
14th January 2005Michael Boyle

Good points. We had an informative discussion on the fear of bayonets just last month that you may find interesting ( see 23rd Dec) and another good one on 'why no repeating rifles' a few months before, that was I fear a casualty of the recent server crash. The gist of the latter being that aside from some calvary units during the American Civil War no European-Style army had incorporated a regular issue of repeating arms (even the US Cavalry had reverted to single shot breach loaders after the war).Probably due to the added expense of purchase, maintenance,training and a seperate supply of ammunition (the repeating arms of the time fired pistol ammo with of course less range and stopping power too).

I do however maintain that had not the MH thinned their ranks on the approach the sheer mass of attacking Zulus could have simply bowled over the ad hoc fortifications.(On a similar note I seem to recall an account from a survivor wondering why they hadn't simply slit the bags thus 'melting' those parts of the defences.)

For further information on the relative merits and efficacy of the MH may I reccomend the link at left to the MH site or a search of this one?(The subject does seem to weigh in regularly!)

Of course I have no objections to re-opening earlier discussions on topics as they can add new insights and information sometimes previously missed. So in that vein let me say (in the old Texas vernacular) "Mister, in these here parts we don't cotton highly to people bad-mouthing our Martini-Henrys!"



14th January 2005Michael Boyle
I have unfortunately as yet not even made it to that part of the hemisphere.My query was in response to Derek's kind offer posted prior to his trip soliciting requests for desired photos.My suggestion being that if the opportunity presented itself a series of shots from the summit would be quite interesting.