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DateOriginal Topic
3rd April 2005Attacking Rorke's Drift
By Chris
I really do apologise if this is the billionth time this has been asked. But.
Why didn't the 4000 strong Zulu attack all at once?
I remember reading a Not The Nine O' Clock News book once which suggested (like a football tactic) that they should have chosen a 1000 2000 1000 formation :)
A 4000 formation would have been unstoppable surely? Okay...i know the defenders had a pretty good defence and height advantage...and that felling the front rows of Zulu attackers with rifle fire would have hindered and tripped up some....but 4000 is a lot of bods to stop!
(I expect to be annihilated myself with the responses :)
4th April 2005Invader

The helps to explain why they could not be stopped, it doesn't explain why they didn't all attack at once though. I'm sure that someone here will be able to give a reason for the tactics used.
4th April 2005Robert Jones
According to Ian Knight,s "Zulu" the soldiers inside were situated in a rather small area and there just wasn,t enough room for the Zulu warriors to attack enmass. They were trampling over each other as it was.
4th April 2005Paul Cubbin
The warriors didn't all arrive at the post together and were scattered across the area looking for loot. Dabulamanzi didn't really expect a serious defence from the post and made no attempt to launch large scale coordinated attacks until late into the fight. It was one of those odd instances where what looks like a minor action begins to draw more and more troops into the fray in increasingly determined assaults. As the losses mounted Dabulamanzi must have panicked and been more and more determined to get a positive result from disobeying Ceteswayo's orders. Before he knew it he'd lost nigh on 20% of his command for nothing. Its not dissimilar to the scattered assaults on Hougomont in the battle of Waterloo in that respect. What was meant to be little more than a skirmish sucked more and more troops into the butcher's mill in opposition to prior expectation.
4th April 2005Coll

With reference to your last posting regarding Waterloo. I have a strategy wargame based on that particular battle, ranging from small scale actions to massive, covering different parts of the battlefield, Hougomont being one of these.

I find this game - which lets you control Allied or French forces, which consist of infantry, artillery and cavalry units - a reasonably good example of how a game based on the AZW battles should be based, controlling companies of infantry - which can form different formations (double-line, square, etc.), cavalry which can charge enemy infantry, and artillery batteries which can pound enemy positions, all independent of each other which you can control yourself against an A.I. opponent in control of the other army.

The very fact that you control these various regiments, cannons and cavalry and make your own decisions in their use, either in an open battlefield or defending/attacking one of the farms - could give an idea for Isandlwana/Rorke's Drift type scenarios and how you would deploy your forces.

There is a multi-player facility also, so could you imagine what it would be like having several individuals (AZW enthusiasts) controlling the different units, independently from one another against an A.I. Zulu army.

I think a computer strategy game like that would certainly catch your eye if it appeared in a store.

Well, it would get my attention if I saw it advertised anywhere.


PS. Yes. I know it is 'off topic' but as I have been playing the game the past few weeks, it did cross my mind that AZW battles could be simulated in the same way - as I'm sure the subject of computer games were covered previously and this might be a good comparison to what it should be like.

Additionally, if buildings or towns are attacked and the fighting is intense, they actually catch fire. Excellent stuff.

Anyway, must go and fight the French some more. Hope I win this time !
4th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Coll- I have the same game, its a real time thief, isn't it? Top tip - forget your massive cavalry regiments, concentrate on plenty of 9pdr batteries and good quality infantry. Don't skimp on the rifles either.
As regards an AZW game, I for one would love it. A problem that may occur is the fact that the tactical options are probably fairly limited, with British defending and Zulus attacking pretty much all the time. Perhaps a Victorian pan-theatre game would be more successful, encompassing colonial and other conflicts between Waterloo and WW1.
4th April 2005Coll

I do seem to find that the French cavalry seems to be superior, as it constantly wipes out my infantry (even in square formation !).

Do you think the A.I. cheats ?.

Computers don't like to lose !

Or maybe I'm just a lousy commander.

4th April 2005Tom Moore
I do wish that I had more time. A game (or at least a mod' to an existing game) based on the AZW would be great. I'm quite ashamed to say it but I used to (at age 12!) collect Warhammer the table top game, there was an AZW style regiment of one of the armys in that. I made sure that was the side I always picked!
4th April 2005Coll
On another version of a computer game to be based on the AZW, I have been playing Medal of Honour Allied Assault - 1 player to 1 3D character - and wondered what it would be like to have an AZW game like this, especially on a large capacity multi-player mode.

Can you imagine it - fighting Isandlwana or Rorke's Drift, seeing only what your character sees, the A.I. Zulu army moving within view but also around a large area you can't see, every one of your shots you have to fire yourself at the approaching warriors - I hope your aim would be good - seeing your ammunition supply depleting - all the time the Zulus surrounding your force in a 3D battlefield, accurate in every detail - camp area tents you can move between, a wagons park, with wagons you can take cover behind or stand on, a weapon facility allowing you to use your bayonet in close-quarter fighting, also including dongas and, of course, the mountain itself or even buildings you can enter and fight from through windows or from doorways.

Sorry, I'm getting carried away, the possibilities seem endless.

However, if my shooting is as bad as it is in the Medal of Honour game, if a game like this does become a reality, I apologise now if I'm assigned to your company.

Do you think a computer game like this could work - and would it be any good ?.

5th April 2005Coll
I'm still waiting on a reply from the BBC with regards to my suggestion of maybe covering the AZW battles in the programme ' Time Commanders', as I am hoping they will at least consider it for a later series.

5th April 2005Bill Cainan

Just to set the record straight. On the 4th April "Invader" quotes my contribution to the Pot Pourri Section in the article "Zulu Attack !" as explaining why the Zulu attack could NOT be stopped. I'm afraid "Invader" seems to have mis-read/mis-interpreted this article, as it actually explains how the initial Zulu attack COULD be (and WAS) stopped by concentrated volley fire !

5th April 2005Bill Cainan

To answer Chris's initial querry as to why 4,000 Zulus could not overwhelm Roerke's Drift, you need to look at the geographical layout of the Mission Station. The first Zulu attack (by the inNdluyengwe Regiment) came from the South West over some 600 yards of relatively open ground. The effect of the concentrated volley fire from the south wall and hospital destroyed this attack - though it did get to within 50 yards of the wall (see my article "Zuulu Attack !" in the Pot Pourri section for an analysis of this attack). It thus became obvious to the Zulu that this was not the best direction from which to attack the post !

Subsequent attacks against the north wall (from the overgrown garden) had to cross a fence, a ditch, an old wall about four/five foot high, tangled undergrowth and then were faced with a ledge (averaging about 5 foot high) on top of which was a 3 foot wall of mealie backs. The Zulu warrior thus found himself having to climb an 8 foot wall with a shield and assegai/knobkerry - a fairly easy task for the British rifleman at the top of the wall to deal with. Also because of the length of the north wall, it would be fairly difficult for the Zulu to commit more than two cnmpanies (say a 100 men in total) at a time, again making it fairly easy for the north wall defenders (say 30+ ?) to deal with. The only real "weaknesses" of the post were at the two ends. At the eastern end was the stone kraal and at the western end was the end wall of the hospital. At both these ends, it would be difficult for the defenders to deploy more than a dozen men. It is only in these two areas that the Zulu achieved any real success - overunning the hospital at the western end, and causing a lot of hand to hand fighting in the stone kraal at the Eastern end. Apart from the initial attack, the Zulu were not able to deploy their superior numbers to any great effect.

As a postcript you might consider that the fact that the terraces of the Shyiane were 385 yards from the south wall, well outside the effective range of even rifled muskets. I would venture to say that the casualties suffered within the post from "rifle/musket" fire were probably hit by individuals firing from bushes/cover considerable closer to the south wall than the terraces. A review of the cause of these injuries shows they were hit by musket balls and not bullets.

5th April 2005Bill Cainan

Sorry about the spelling errors above (Roerke's Drift, inNdluyengwe, etc). I hope that they have not detracted from trhe point I was trying to make, and that you still get the drift !!