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6th May 2005Col Pulleine's experience
By Rob D
Are there any detailed service records available for Col Pulleine?

I'm asking because a number of accounts suggest that his lack of command experience may have contributed to the British defeat/Zulu victory at Isandlwana, and I find it hard to believe that a field officer of his experience and length of service in overeseas postings would not have had some experience in commanding troops in action - at least at the company level.

Would it not be more correct to say that he had not commanded a battalion (or larger formation) in independent action?

6th May 2005Martin Everett
Dear Rob,

We do hold details of Pulleine's service. However there is an impression that the British Victorian Army was under fire and action for most of the time. Remember that after Isandhlwana, the 1/24th did not see 'action' - under fire until August 1914 - 35 years later - but nobody says that the 1 SWB was inexperienced - more the opposite that they and others were the finest Army that the British had put in the field. Are you saying that if Glyn or Wilsone Black had commanded the camp - because their experience in the Crimea - events would have been different on 22 January 1879.

The best thing is to visit the battlefield itself and decide how you as the commander would have tackle the problem.
7th May 2005Rob D

Thanks for your reply. I should probably have said "active service" rather than "action", and I'm certainly not suggesting that that experience in the Crimea would directly translate to success in Zululand 25 years later.

What I'm questioning is the assumption apparently made by some commentators that Pulleine, although acknowledged as a good administrator, was unproven and somehow unfitted for command at Isandlwana because of his lack of previous command experience in action.

His regiment (both battalions) had been on active service in South Africa and/or in India and I would have expected him to have seen enough and had enough opportunity to fit himself for field command as one could reasonably expect.

I'd be intereted to know if his service records support this belief.


7th May 2005Mike Snook

You are right to express doubts - this is another cliche in AZW history started by Donald Morris and repeated by others since. HBP was a very experienced regimental soldier and was as capable as the next man of handling a battalion in action. There was not a man in the army prepared to fight the Battle of Isandlwana - regardless of how much action he had seen. This was the first battle against an entirely new enemy. No regular officer could conceive what a full scale Zulu attack would look like on the ground. Pulleine was on active service of course in the Transkei 1877-78. He gets the credit iin the history books for forming his unit of white auxliaries - 'Pulleine's Lambs' - officially (top of the head) the Transkei Rangers. But he was also the CO of the unit and it did not merely undertake guards and duties in the frontier towns - though this was its primary function - it did also patrol the Transkei and occasionally move about with columns - though not as a regimental formed body.

I have a realy good look at Pulleine in my forthcoming book 'How Can Man Die Better' and I challenge the cliches trotted out about Pulleine. I hope this redresses the rather unfair way modern history has dismissed the poor man.


8th May 2005Rob D

Thanks for your reply. I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking that Pulleine has been treated rather unfirly.

I'd like to follow up your comment that "no regular officer could conceive what a full scale Zulu attack would look like" because according to Jackson [HOTS p19] Durnford had at least witnessed a Zulu regiment manouvering in peacetime.

If that's true, he should have been aware of the speed with which they could move, and the danger they posed when they charged home.

He was, however, happy to divide his own forces (and "request" Pulleine to follow suit) when large numbers of Zulus were known to be to the north, and their intentions were unkown.

I hope your book has an equally good look at his performance on the 22nd

8th May 2005Julian whybra
I fully concur with the above and find no reason to lay a claim of inexperience at Pulleine's door.
13th May 2005Mike Mccabe
True, but the tactical handling in detail of the rifle coys of 1st/24th was surely vested in its acting CO.

14th May 2005Peter Quantrill
You are absolutely right. A War Office Memorandum clearly stated that, following the arrival of Durnford ( plus/minus 1030 hrs) "this was now too late a period to remedy the fatal errors of position selected before his arrival." ( ie the responsibility was Pulleine's)
What has generally been neglected in forming an assessment of the actions taken by Pulleine are the following:
1. Troopers of the Natal Carbineers had already reprted thousands of Zulus deploying from the Ngwebini Valley at approx 0700 hrs.
2. Scott reports to Pulleine the Zulu advance towards the camp. Time plus/ minus 0730 hrs.
These reports resulted in Pulleine's note of 0805 hrs. to Chelmsford. He was clearly not moved to take these reports as sufficient reason to prepare a defensive position, although the alarm was sounded and troops fell in.
3..Chard reports a Zulu column moving East to West over Nqutu Ridge at about 0945 hrs
4.. Pope's diary showing 7,000 Zulus on Nqutu Ridge in full view of the camp. Time 0945 hrs.
Clearly all this happened before Durnford's arrival. The implication is that in Pulleine's mind, this was not the main Zulu Army. However the early reports showed Zulu intent in great numbers. At that stage, when there was still time, defensive measures such as lagers etc. should have been implimented. They were not, simply because, as the Duke of Cambridge, in his Memorandum to Chelmsford dated 11 August 1879 said, " The idea of a well disciplined native force advancing on, and closing rapidly with British battalions armed with the breachloader and supported by rifled guns was not duly realised."
Surely a euphemism for overconfidence and, to a degree, arrogance.
The plain fact of the matter was that nobody, from the top to the bottom, believed that any attack would succeed against regular troops armed with the Martini Henry. Pulleine happened to be the unfortunate commander and many sympathised with his predicament. His overconfidence is confirmed by his failure to drop the tents, and Bannister's remarks to a letter written to his father five days after the battle. " Colonel Pulleine sent out to strengthen his outlying picquets and the guns opened fire. The Zulus appeared not to like it and were seen making their way over the hills to the left of the camp. Pulleine, thinking it was over, said: ' what a fool a fellow is, he only thinks of these things too late, now if we had only kept quiet in camp we should have coaxed them on and given them a right good thrashing.' "
Under such thoughts that exuded the most enormous superiority complex, the battle was already lost.
15th May 2005Mike Snook

And Pullleine's response to the enemy activity was to sit sight and 'act strictly on the defensive.' Only when Durnford appears on the scene do the shenanigans begin.

Durnford set out with 400 native troops in two separate tactical groupings to engage a force which we know from Pope's diary had been estimated by the vedettes at 7,000 men. Now there's some breathtaking arrogance for you.

As ever
15th May 2005Michael Boyle

I too am looking forward to reading an account that doesn't make Cols. Pulleine and Durnford out to be two thirds of the Three Stooges. (If I'm not over anticipating your take on Durnford.)(Which in returning to this topic after a few hours I apparently am.Oh well.)

The sound of 7,000 Zulus ,with what we know today, sounds considerable but would that estimated stregnth of Native Africans have seemed so threatening then, remembering that (in spite of Boer experience) the Imperial command didn't seem to think that the Zulu were especially more dangerous than any of the other Africans they had faced and that the MH was the uncontested champion of the battlefield (with some guts behind it)? I'm not terribly familiar yet with the prior Cape Frontier Wars but I would imagine the British had faced or chased at least that many before with a reinforced battalion (not that Pulliene considered chasing them). And wasn't the presumed campaign strategy still 'the chase'? As Peter cited in the quote above it would seem that Pulliene even after engagement had thought he scared them off, obviously unaware of the true nature of his foes disposition but conforming to prior British experience campaigning in South Africa.

Further, as everyone in the invasion force knew the estimated amount of troops King Cetswayo could field (down to the individual regiment's names and 'uniforms' thanks to the excellent staff work published prior to the war) wouldn't the sight of "only" 7,000 have tended to reinforce in Col. Pulleine's and Durnford's mind Lord Chelmsford's conviction that the main impi lay elsewhere thus lessening the percieved threat?

Wouldn't Durnford have been aware of the great success the Boer commandos had frustrating the 'horns of the buffalo' with mounted infantry (and with far less men than he had mustered)? Didn't he in fact manage it until running low on ammo. (Though I do think he should have withdrawn as soon as he realized the magnitude of what he was facing.)

My idea of breathtaking arrogance is Chelmsford setting out that morning to seek out the main impi with a single reinforced battalion and no ammo train. I believe that example could not have been lost on Pulliene and Durnford nor the implied assurance that neither would be needed in any but a support role to the anticipated 'main event'.

I am trying earnestly to approach the study of the AZW from the other side of the time-line and in doing so to appreciate the mind-set prior to 22 Jan. in an effort to make more sense of the day.



15th May 2005Mike McCabe
Picking up the detail of 'dropping the tents' (PQ, above), it would probably have taken fast working and well organised parties of (say) 40 men (a half company) to drop the tents of each camp in (say) 30-40 minutes. If we assume that the purpose was to clear fields of fire and observation, then all would have had to be dropped unless some sort of defensive line was deliberately being set up. In the latter case, leaving some tents up would have helped to canalise the attackers, though also provide them with cover. So, it was quite a big deal to decide to drop the tents and it's fairly unlikely that the opportunity to take such a deliberate decision ever arose in the rapidly unfolding events. It's probable, also, that the tents were being left up in an attempt to dry them out - so reducing their weight, bulk, and wear and tear on the canvas and its waterproofing when the time to load them up eventually came.

15th May 2005Mike Snook
Mike B

Yes a look at the Fromtier Wars will pay dividends.

Mike McC
I'm with you all the way - not dropping the tents is becoming a real red herring these days.

Mike (what a lot of Mikes!)
15th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Mike (S)
If Pulleine's response was to act srictly on the defence, then why did he not impliment it by:
1. Forming a laager
2.Form some sort of square.
3. Open ammo boxes etc
All the above in expectation of a major attack.
In reality, Pullene was made aware of a major Zulu advance from 0600 hrs onwards. Let us, in addition to what Scott, Barker and Hawkins had to report, let us also hear what Brickhill says.
" On the morning of 22 January, 1879, between six and seven o'clock, the Zulus showed in CONSIDERABLE force at the southeast end of Ingutu. Shortly afterwards another force came into sight at about the middle of Ingutu and the intervening space was speedily filled in. "
The "shanigans" had started well before Durnford arrived. The latter may well have compounded errors in troop deployment, but in reality the laager and other serious defensive measures should have been started on Scott's report, substantiated by what Brickhill and the whole camp, including Pulleine saw.
The battle of Isandlwana started in the early hours of the morning, not on Durnford's arrival.
I query the time taken to drop tents. Ron L has studied this and it took but a few minutes.I will have to check on this.The fact that the tents were not dropped, contrary to standing instructions, was that Pulleine did not take the existing threat seriously. This was used by Chelmsford in the debate in Parliament and reasoned by him to believe that the camp was not under any real threat.
Mike, we have agreed to disagree in our conversations at Isandlwana on the purported written instructions given by Clery to Pulleine, covered in full by me in Zulu Victory. You disagree but I believe, on the balance of probability, these orders were non-existant.
The views of the War Office, together with those of The Duke of Cambridge, stand good then, as they do over a century later. Over confidence and the underestimation of the Zulu was the cause of the defeat. Whether a different result was possible if the camp had been placed in to a proper defensive position at 0730 hrs and prior to the 0805 note sent to Chelmsford, is open to conjecture.
I also do not believe that anyone in command of the camp would have acted any differentlyto Pulleine, simply because the belief of the day was to actually persuade or bring the Zulu on to the firing line on the expectation that he would break after the first volley or so. The great fear was that he may break early and run, thus making a conclusive victory difficult. How little did they know the Zulu. The lessons of Isandlwana were not only learnt the hard way, but the mistakes made were not repeated during the course of the second invasion.( To be covered by Ron and I in "Zulu Vanquished," sequel to "Zulu Victory.")
16th May 2005Mike Snook

The shenanigans to which I refer is that on the British side - the scattering of the troops over the countryside.

I am of course perfectly well aware of the sightings by the vedettes at 0700 approx. This did not, in my opinion, and the opinion of most others, mark the start of the Battle of Isandlwana.

Since you mention him - of general interest for everybody in passing - check Brickhill's compass directions. He dioesn't know where north is.
16th May 2005Peter Quantrill
It matters not whether Brickhill's compass directions were askew. The fact remains that he sighted a considerable force on the ridge early a.m.
I fail to see that when the vedettes of the camp have been driven in and large numbers of Zulu are deploying in full view of the camp prior to Durnfords arrival, this is not construed as the commencement of the battle. From a British perspective the battle is perhaps viewed to have started on Raw being driven back after Durnford's arrival.
As a battalion commander, I would treat my vedettes being driven back from their designated posts, together with thousands of enemy looking down on my position as fairly critical, to say the least. Merely to "stand to" and await events is not the DS solution! It was precicely because of this lack of urgency compounded in no small degree by overconfidence that resulted in the main attack taking place at about noon on an undefended and extended position.
The primary source evidence that I have listed, tends, in my opinion, to support the view that the battle had started, if not from a British perspective, then certainly from a Zulu perspective, early in the morning. And yes, the day of the Dead Moon et al are all noted.
It is however irrefutable that enemy action commenced from 0700 hrs with Barker, Whitelaw and Scott all vacating Qwabe and momentarily, Conical, to report to Pulleine..It is again irrefutable that Pulleine used the words, referring to the Zulu as " advancing in force" in his 0805 blue note.Now if the camp commander states that the enemy are advancing in force on to his position, has the battle not commenced? Again it is irrefutable that agressive intent was shown thereafter and prior to 1030 hrs. So how can the battle not have started?
I fear another 'agree to disagree,' but then that is precicely what engages historians to continue their interest and debate on a subject that will remain open to many different interpretations.
I am sorry you are not here to share my Kanonkop Pinotage to help pusuade you otherwise!
Burra Salaams,

16th May 2005Ron Lock
Mikes - McC & S.
The failure to strike the tents is no red herring. Nor did it take 30-40 minutes to get them down. Top get them down, packed and ready to transport, yes. But to strike them in an emergency by pulling out the centre poles, only two minutes. Standing orders stipulated that on the sounding of the "Alarm" (bugle call) the tents must be struck - just as they were at Kambula a couple of months later.

The alarm was sounded twice during the morning at Isandlwana but no move was made to strike the tents. As P.Q. says, the most likely reason being the over confident belief that no Zulu would get near enough to the camp to make it an issue. Yet Pulleine, in leaving them erect, was disobeying standing orders. Was there another compelling reason that he felt would justify his action and exonerate him if need be?

There is good reason to believe that it was Chelmsford's intention to move the whole camp to Mangeni during the course of the day. Brickhill maintained that Pulleine was ordered to strike the camp and proceed to Mangeni with "... all speed leaving sufficient guard behind to protect such as could not be moved without delay". Norris-Newman wrote of Chelmsford's intention as "... being that the camp at Isandlwana should be struck that afternoon (22nd) and the entire force moved forward to the spot selected as our halting-ground." Hamilton-Browne wrote that he was to assist Pulleine to strike the camp and move it to Mangeni.

It seems likely that Pulleine was aware of the intention to move the camp and was faced with the dilemma of how would he appear if he struck the tents and the camp was not attacked? He would, no doubt, be branded an 'alarmist'. Sufficient reason for him to hold his hand? It would seem so, with the consequence that Milne decided that all was well. Had Pulleine survived, would he have been court martialed for failing to drop the tents?

As far as the time the battle commenced: Mike and "most others" believe around 11.30?; P.Q., much closer to the mark, about 0700 hrs.

It was, in fact, considerably earlier, at about 0500 hrs. when Ntshingwayo, observing half the British force making its way to his decoy, ordered the Zulu army to deploy upon the camp.
16th May 2005Julian Whybra
You wrote, "The responsibility was Pulleine's" - indeed it was, but he was dancing to Chelmsford's tune (plan) and given his understanding of the whereabouts of the impi (again, thanks to Chelmsford), it is not surprising (Ron) that the tentpoles were not pulled down.
Peter 14th
You wrote "Troopers of the Natal Carbineers had already reported thousands of Zulus deploying from the Ngwebini Valley at approx 0700 hrs." Deploying is your word, not the carbineer's word. Neither was there any mention of where he had seen them, that is your invention. ( Indeed later the 'thousands' became 'hundreds' from another vedette - how else does explain Durnford's 'arrogance' at leading 450 men into battle).
Pope's diary does not show "7,000 Zulus on Nqutu Ridge in full view of the camp. Time 0945 hrs. " As you well know, it is not possible to see what is going on on top of the plateau from down below in the camp. Pope in all likelihood was recording what he had overheard probably from one of the colonial NC vedettes, not what he himself had seen. Why if they were so visible, Pulleine & co.would have taken the action necessary and recorded the event in a note to Chelmsford.
"5 am???!!?" Evidence, please! "Ntshingwayo ordered the Zulu army to deploy?" Evidence, please! Surmise, intuition and wishful thinking are not enough. (I know we've been here before but I can't let it pass; my historical training won't allow it to).
16th May 2005Michael Boyle

I quess I need to go back and re-read "Zulu Victory" again at a more leisurely pace than I was able to afford myself the first time but could you expand upon your conviction toward the 0500 deployment order by Ntshingwayo?

(I'm still pondering the decoy theory as it seemed to have many proponents in the Natal press of the time but many doubts raised subsequently and has seemed a bone of contention in many other discussions here!)


16th May 2005Mike McCabe
"Striking the tents" would have been a multiple activity, including letting the canvases drop (after loosening the guys, and then displacing the central pole). Securing essential stores (water, soime rations etc) near to hand. Quenching all fires. Drawing in tethered and grazing animals. Clearing the overall fields of observation and fire to the fullest extent. And, possibly, some sort of 'denial' plan to ensure that nothing considered useful to the attacker fell quickly into their hands. This was not simple activity, and would have required proper and intelligent supervision to be competently and effectively conducted over about half a square mile of ground. The more methodical Wood had clearly prepared Khambula as a well-coordinated killing ground with interlocking arcs of fire for both guns and rifle fire. He also had his entire infantry force under a firm chain of command, concentrated into skillfully coordinated and mutually supported positions. There is really no true comparison with the situation at Isandlwana.

17th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Good Morning Julian,
It is common cause that the overall reason for the defeat lies very firmly at the feet of Chelmsford. That is emphasised in ZV and not in question.
Most published reports on Isandlwana are generally brief in their account of events from the time of Chelmsford's departure to the arrival of Durnford. By this I am particularly referring to the activities of the videttes and Zulu movement.
Ron and I have, since 1969, made over fifty visits to this battlefield. We have followed, on horseback, the exact route taken by Chelmsford throughout his meanderings on the morning of the 22nd. In addition we have spent an entire day covering the whole area by helicopter. We are publishing a time/distance study on Raw's Troop's journey over the ridge, which findings may cause eyebrows to be raised. No doubt others have spent an equal time on the battlefield, if not more. My point in raising this subject is that primary and secondary source evidence, together with its nuances and interpretations becomes more understandable.
I have invented nothing. Let us go over in detail what we are discussing, namely Pullein's conduct, his response to Zulu activities and the time the battle started.
Baker and Hawkins, together with Whitelaw make their way around iThusi to Qwabe. If the vidette is positioned on the SE corner of iThusi, he can see Qwabe, otherwise doubtful. Whitelaw then moves forward some two miles to Nyezi. He cannot see the east corner of the Ngwebeni valley. The time? Probably 0700 hrs.
Barker and Hawkins then face a mounted force of Zulus followed by 600 Zulus on foot encicling them. This force may or may not be aware of Whitelaw. I call this Zulu deployment. B and H hot foot it back to Scott on Conical Hill who had sight of Qwabe, but not Nyezi.
Scott, wishing to see the Zulu strength for himself, accompanies B and H back towards Qwabe. Whitelaw is now riding back hard with the report of thousands emerging from the East end of Ngweben Valley. If the vidette remained on SE corner of iThusi, it would not sight the Zulus. If it was located perhaps one thousand yards further north and on the eastern escarpment, it would have sighted the Zulus. There may well have been a second vidette so advanced. It would have been logical.
The crisp question has now to be asked, why are the Zulus leaving the shelter of the eastern edge of Ngwebeni Valley at 0700 hrs. Answer, they either wish to halt Whitlaw in his tracks so that further perceived reconnaissance is halted, or they are deploying. Now to enforce Whitelaw's withdrawal requires no more than a couple of dozen warriors, not the number Whitelaw reported. Therefore it is logical to presume that the Zulus were deploying.
To the west of Nyezi, and perhaps one mile distance, was shelter from the prying eyes of the iThusi vidette. It was from this position that the Zulus climbed up a re- entrant to the plateau. This is an assumption on my part having traversed the terrain.Hidden in the many folds in the ground thay eventually moved forward where the likes of Brickhill, Chard and Pope sighted and described "thousands."
I cannnot agree with your assertion that Pope's diary did not show 7,000 Zulus on view to him. Here there is a fundimental difference in our interpretations. What did Pope say?
The relevant portion,
" 3 Columns Zulus and mounted men on hill E.
7,000 more E.N.E., 4,000 of whom went round Lion's Kop." That represents perhaps half the Zulu army that was engaged at Isandlwana, prior to Durnford's arrival. It also confirms that the phrase "mounted men" in all probability refered to the mounted Zulus (sighted by Barker,) who had now moved onto the ridge.( Matshana kaMondisa? Zulu High Command?)
Nowhere does Pope indicate it was not a visual sighting. If that were the case he would have prefixed his diary with the word, " It was reported that." or " Reported that."
Clearly Pope saw them, as did Chard and Brickhill and the rest of the camp. Chard in fact viewed them through " glasses" borrowed from an NCO. They were NOT hidden from view. I call that deployment. Indeed the right horn was in the initial stages of moving, and described as such by Chard.
That is exactly the point I am trying to make, namely that Pulleine should have placed the camp into a laager, with the evidence at his disposal. Chard certainly returned in haste to protect the ponts because of his visual contact, not a colonials report.

So yes, the battle had started before Durnford's arrival. In my view, on the Zulu advance out of the Ngwebeni Valley in the early hours of the morning. Pullein's note tried to explain, " enemy advancing in force" meant just that. It certainly would not refer to a few hundred, otherwise no point in writing the note. It would seem he did not want to be perceived as an alarmist and the reasons for his inaction has already beem explained.
The Zulus were certainly not static on the ridge. Having shown themselves, the right horn either moved back prior to deployment or started to move behind the camp.Conjecture. The camp was stood down! On Durnford's arrival it is probable that the Zulus, having sighted the camp, were reorganising themselves and not all on view. Conjecture. Hence Durnford, having been appraised of the situation, had little or no visual contact.No one quantified the strength of the " 3 Columns" of Zulus reported to him. 100, 1,000, 3,000? With the arrogant mindset of higher command, a standard set by Chelmsford, Crealock et al, off he set in his gung- ho manner. Too little, too late. But yes, blame His Lordship.
Apologies for this all too lengthy discourse.

17th May 2005Mike Snook
Ron and Peter,

A few random points in haste - as 100,000 words to follow!!

There is absolutely no indication of Zulu movement at 05.00am. If Ntshingwayo began to move at 0500 but dsid not develop his attack until noon, then he would be a pitiful army commander. His tactic was blitzkrieg - it was the devastating rapidity of the noon assault that unhinged the British defence. It did not begin at 05-00am. Nor was it due to begin, in my view, until 0600 \approx (light up) the following day.

The 600 Zulus who drove the vedettes down from Qwabe did not come from the direction of Ngwebeni - they came out of the plain. I would say it is racing certainty they were all some of the Zulus with whom Dartnell made contact the previous evening. They were the local warriors of the district, attempting to muster with the main impi at Ngwebeni - but delayed by virtue of the interruption the previous evening. They were estimated at 1500 by those who saw them - (when they chased Insp Mansel back downhill) indicating to me that by the following morning they had divided - half to monitor events in the Phindo hills and half to join the impi. We know '500' Zulus offered resistance in the hills. There were no decoys - there was no plan to decoy. This was a suggestion proffered by the defeated British high command in 1879 to cover its own ineptitude. In 2005 it has, as far as I am concerned, no credibility.

Pulleines 'What a fool a fellow is...' refers to the engagement of the Zulus by the RA in the notch at 3400 yards. The guns ceased fire at this time - indicating that whoever appeared in the notch fell back into dead ground - ie there was a pause by all or parts of the chest above the escarpment.

'Merely to stand to and await events is not the DS solution,' you say Peter. I strongly disagree - IT IS THE DS SOLUTION and that is exactly what Pulleine did during the 0730 onwards alarm.

'It is irrefutable that aggressive intent...' wow what a statement - it is entirely refutable. No aggressive intent had manifested itself to Pulleine when he wrote the 8.05 note - nor had he seen a single Zulu at that juncture.

He and everybody else did see Zulus at 09-30 (best source - Chard).

I agree with Julian about Pope's diary - he did not see the 7000 Zulus. it should be very obvious that this was a very hurried entry - hence no qualification such as 'it is reported that'. In a sense it is more of a logbook or journal entry rather than 'dear diary'

There is no guarantee that there were 7000 Zulus - this is somebody's estimate. I believe it is Captain Barry's estimate. Pope probably heard it proffered during the conversation in the mess tent - remember Dunrford ate standing up and all that.

Sorry - in a frightful hurry and none of above intended to be peremptory - but debating with you two is a very time consuming process!!

Regards as ever

17th May 2005Mike Snook
Sorry -line 8 insert 'or' between 'all' and 'some'

they were all or some of the Zulus etc

17th May 2005Peter Quantrill
This is like writiing the book all over again.
0500 hrs I leave to Ron.
1." Racing certainty?" Primary source please.
2.Whitelaw's report?
3.DS solution is ACTION by creating a strong defensive position, not sit and wait. The result of the battle showed that all DS are now fired. No Staff College for that lot. After all the DS solution seldom finishes in defeat.
4.Agressive intent? With B,H, W and Scott hot footing back and reporting to Pulleine? Methinks the latter may not have trusted the Colonials. Pulleine was told that thousands of Zulus ("in force") were advancing on his camp, was he not? It certainly was not a peace parly
5.One cannot change the words of Pope to suit one's conclusions. He said he saw them, and if Chard did, so did Pope. 7,000 was an estimate. Sure it could have been 8,000 or 6,000. One cannot ignore what was stated by primary source.The Zulus were there in force.
You will have gathered that I have a wee bit of spare time waiting for editorial comment from Greenhill on Zulu Vanquished.
Warmest regards,
17th May 2005Mike Snook

I give up after this!! The key point was that at 0730 and subsequently Pulleine WAS in a strong position in front of the camp - close in front of the camp. And here he could (and would ultimately) have formed square if it came to it. Its got nothing to do with laagers and tents. It was far too late for a laager -which if it was going to be done should have been the previous day on the say so of the General/staff. You cannot lay a non-laagering charge against Pulleiine.

Then at 10-30 Durnford arrives and everything changes. Only after this time were Pulleine's assets despatched into the plain - he is no longer in a strong coherent defensive position and will have no option to quickly form square. He is so deployed in order to try and extricate John Wayne (or should I say Burt Lancaster!) and his troopers from the Qwabe Valley.

Pulleine never got the chance to fight his battle. Durnford exerted undue influence over events, in direct contravention of his orders - move to the camp (and nothing else). And he rides roughshod over Pulleine's orders which DID exist.

No primary source required for the direction of threat to Qwabe - it is an interpretation to fill in a gap in the sources, (which we are all forced to do with Isandlwana), but the key point is that it is NOT at odds with the primary source evidence. The Zulu attack starting at 0700 to accomodate the 600 men threatening Qwabe is, however, in direct conflict with the sources.

I propose we drop this until after How Can Man Die Better is published and then we can have a damned good argument lasting at least a decade!!

PS. I'd just like to ask has anybody ever typed Durnford correctly the first time or is it just me? I always seems to hit Dunrford!!



17th May 2005Coll

Of this whole topic I can only answer 1 thing !

Even though I type his name very often, I've lost track of how many times that I've typed it wrong.


PS. Notice that I haven't included his name in this reply, I can guarantee I would have typed it wrong again, by the very fact I would have been concentrating too much on typing it right !
17th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Agreed, this is my last posting.My final point is
that Pulleine should have started a laager at 0730 hrs. There was time. I would also speculate that in the event of the non-arrival of Durnford at 1030 hrs, the battle would also have been lost, with ease. The War Office Memorandum bears out this opinion.
May I also speculate that it becomes difficult to spell Dunrford if one doesn't like the man.
I am being frivolous-- apologies.
Would you be kind enough to instruct Greenhill to forward me a copy on release of How Can Men Die Better in August and to debit my account with them. I am sure that Ron would also appreciate a copy. I was told by Greenhill four years ago that Isandlwana was amongst the ten most written about battles in British Military History. I would suggest that it is now in the top three?
Kind regards,
17th May 2005Michael Boyle
Darn , I was really learning alot here. Oh well. I'll be looking forward to the books and the 'end of the cease fire' in a few months!

I'm still unconvinced that Pulleine can be blamed for not realizing the full extent of his vulnerability after the various initial reports came in but my devotion to Durnford's (managed to spell it without the odd "s"!) actions are beginning to waver a bit.


18th May 2005Coll

What is causing you to waver about Durnford's actions at Isandlwana ?

The issues about his role and decisions he made have been covered in great detail within many of the AZW titles, but I think you still believed he only done what he could do, given the circumstances, as I did.

What do you think has made you question your thoughts on this ?

Although I don't feel qualified enough to fight on Durnford's side, I still believe in the man and I still believe he performed his duties as well as he could on the Isandlwana battlefield.

Surely, there must be a few others, as well as the two of us, who still see Durnford in a good light ?

18th May 2005Michael Boyle

Wavering, not retreating! (Though as I acquire more information I see the possiblity of a fighting withdrawal on the horizon!)

Actually something Mike Snook said (about Durnford's "John Wayning") got me to thinking about my cultural biases. I'm wondering how much subconscious "American Bravado" factors into my interpretation of what Durnford may have been thinking and my admiration for his attempt to literally "take the bull by the horns". Reading Droogleever and Edward's (and Francis') book should aide me greatly in arriving at something of a conclusion (as well as any published correspondence of his I may find).

My personal thinking has always led me to admire those who risk a throw of the die and act, more than those who eschew risk and wait. However, as a good commander, one must weigh the consequences as compared to the rewards. I'm not sure now that Durnford thought that through.

History is replete with commanders like Bonaparte and R.E.Lee who were masters at risking all to defeat a numerically superior foe with nothing more than guts, evolving strategy and tactics, (and superior intelligence, the true value of good cavalry).

History is also replete with those who thought they were that good but came up wanting.

I believe at Isandhlwana Durnford started out well. He sent out his own vedettes (or perhaps reconnaissance in force) to the northeast quadrant to try and figure out what the heck was going on there but instead of sending out more to the east and south and await their reports he did take off with the rest of his troops in what could be seen as a precipitace action.

I don't believe he knew what he was up against at that point, I still have questions as to his interpretation of his orders and he could well have thought that the real threat was to Lord Chelmsford then. However after sortieing a few miles from the camp and engaging the horn he should have realized the full extent of the threat and could have broken off and returned to camp at once. Not that that would have necessarily done any good, it could have at least saved the rocket battery and allowed Pulleine's troops to avoid over extending, but I can't see how it could have changed the outcome.

Any way I look at it, it seems Durnford and Pulleine were in a no-win situation and, in war, that often leads to the mind set that "if I gotta go I'm taking as many of them with me as I can!"

By staying at the donga until his ammunition ran low he may have done just that.



18th May 2005Mike Snook
Michael B

Yes I strongly agree with one of your points - there is an element of no win situation about the battle - I sat down at Isandlwana one day and did a combat estimate on the defence of the camp and concluded that a minimum of 9 and ideally 10 companies of regulars would be required to cover the ground and retian a small reserve against contingencies.

So Clery gets a bit of blame for laying out the camp in so extended a fashion - but then in fairness to him - he could not have imagined that the GOC would subsequently split the companies 6 and 6.

A force of 6 companies could survive by forming square - but a battalion square has absolutely no room inside it for NNC and cavalry. And forming square would necessarily have involved the sacrifice of the camp and crucially the trek-oxen. This was Pulleine's big problem. He had been stiffed by the GOC - but Durnford's actions made even a 24th 'survival' square, shall we call it, an unrealistic proposition.


I'm glad its not just me that has that particular bit of finger trouble. And I'm sorry to be rude about your hero. He was a brave man for sure, but there was a lot going on in his head which in my view made him unsuitbale for senior field command. But brave as a lion for sure.


Did you notice that you hit Durnford wrong too!

Regards as ever

18th May 2005Ron Lock

You mention surmise, intuition and wishful thinking. Perhaps circumstantial evidence would be a more apt description. However, one must ask why, indeed, is there no substantive evidence? The person most qualified to give answers on the conduct of the battle would, or course, have been Ntshingwayo, the Zulu commander. At the end of hostilities Wolesley awarded him one of the ten chiefdoms of Zululand which must have involved Ntshingwayo in considerable dialogue with the military authorities. Can we then be credulous enough to believe that he was never questioned as to how he conducted the battle?

The answer would seem to be that what he had to say was not what was wished to be heard. I think that, beyond doubt, he must have been questioned and his answers recorded. If so, then his statements have been supressed, which would amount to another cover-up?

But to get back to circumstantial evidence. Was there a Zulu presence in the hills to the north of the camp that could have observed Chelmsford's departure at 0430, watched it progress across the plain and in the meantime have informed the Zulu command. To be specific: during the night of the 21st/22nd. Captain Barry's company of the NNC, on Magaga Knoll, were disturbed by Zulus calling to them from the darkness. Magaga Knoll commands a view of the plain all the way from Isandlwana to Mangeni Falls and beyond. If it had been Ntshingwayo's intention not to attack until the following day he certainly changed his mind and must have done so for a reason. Surmise or fact? I know we have been here before but it is equally wishful to believe that Chelmsford was not decoyed as to believe the contrary. The difference is, circumstanatial evidence points to the fact that he was.

Mike: Sunrise on the 22 Jan. 1879 at Isandlwana was at 0523 and it was light enough to get around at approx. 0415. Hence by 0500 Ntshingwayo could have received news of Chelmsford's departure, had decided here was opportunity not to be missed and commenced ordering the deployment of his army. Not by blitz krieg lest he alarm the camp too soon and cause Chelmsford to return, but by stealth. He had 20,000 men to deploy around an area of about 55 sq. miles The right horn had eleven miles to cover.

It all took time but the result, as we all know, was a Zulu Victory - see the Book of that name for further details.

Incidentally, Tpr. Whitelaw was a wagon buillder, a blacksmith and had recently won the Natal Carbineers annual shooting competition. Just the sort of man to send out to the sharp end.

18th May 2005Coll

Glad to hear it. You had me worried there for a while. I thought you were heading for your horse and leaving me standing.

There may not be much ammunition (evidence) left to help us, but we need to hold our position (views) for as long as we can.

Make a stand.



PS. A bit over-the-top, but it was better than just thanking you for your reply.

( I'm hoping Coll's Last Stand isn't on the horizon ! )
18th May 2005Mike McCabe
Mike (S),

I agree that this item of detail is now out of its context, but you say:
"Then at 10-30 Durnford arrives and everything changes. Only after this time were Pulleine's assets despatched into the plain - he is no longer in a strong coherent defensive position and will have no option to quickly form square."

I think it would be very hard to argue that Pulleine was ever 'in a strong coherent defensive position'. Nor, I would argue, was he ever in anything other than a most hazardous tactical predicament - from the moment that Chelmsford left, taking the other 'half' of the infantry, and most of the artillery, whilst also perpetuating the maldeployment of most of the NNC (the 'critical mass' of the remainderof the NNC left at Isandlwana was below a level at which they might confidently be expected to manoeuvre, hold ground, or defend wagons and gun lines).
Even elementary operational analysis suggests that Chelmsford might not successfully have defended Isandlwana had the whole of No 3 Column still been in camp. Arguably, though, the Zulus would not have attacked in those circumstances - awaiting his eventual deployment to his next camp. The camp at Isandlwana was laid out administratively from the outset - with all of the tactical penalties and consequences. Apart from Mainwaring's 1895 account (Noble 24th) there are few indications of a defence routine being practised by No 3 Column, and even the events referred to by Mainwaring indicate some flaws in the overall layout.
How, then, was Pulleine supposed to defend the camp with such a reduced force - except by taking absolutely literally his orders to 'drawn in his outposts (whatever)' and by implication no longer maintain them, except (perhaps) on a line equating to the 'night picquet' line, drawn afterwards by Lt Anstey RE (see "The Narrative...").
Without appearing to blame Pulleine, he seems to have taken no actionwhatsoever to rationalise and coordinate a defensive plan at Isandlwana. Nor, I believe, could he have anticipated when Durnford would actually arrive in Isandlwana (do we know for a fact that P knew that D had been called forward to Isandlwana?), nor the eventual tactical situation that would prevail at that that stage.

It could be fairly argued that Puleine might have done very much more to improve his tactical siting and situation after Chelmsford left and before Durnford arrived. However, with such a depleted force at his disposal, and beyond the possibility of support or reinforcement by Chelmsford, it would surely have made very little difference.

18th May 2005Julian Whybra
Peter 17th
You wrote: "The overall reason for the defeat lies very firmly at the feet of Chelmsford"???? I thought the point of your book was that it was A ZULU VICTORY, not a British defeat?
You wrote:
"Barker and Hawkins then face a mounted force of Zulus followed by 600 Zulus on foot encicling them." I have Barker's account in front of me; he mentions nothing about 600 Zulus on foot encircling them. He states that the mounted men were trying to surround them. So where has the 600 Zulus on foot come from?
You wrote:
"Whitelaw is now riding back hard with the report of thousands emerging from the East end of Ngweben Valley." Again, I have Barker's account in front of me, and Whitelaw makes no mention of where he saw the huge army, he just states that he had seen 'thousands'. They may well have been late arrivals moving into Ngwebini valley! you yourself wrote: "Therefore it is logical to presume that the Zulus were deploying" and "This is an assumption on my part". Presumption! Assumption! But it's based on something Whitelaw did not say!
You wrote:
"Nowhere does Pope indicate it was not a visual sighting. If that were the case he would have prefixed his diary with the word, " It was reported that." or " Reported that." I disagree. Pope's diary entry is staccato. It is not grammatical, written in a hurry and contains a few words hastily scribbled down when he could. There is no evidence he saw 7000 Zulus with the naked eye.
You wrote:
"Clearly Pope saw them, as did Chard and Brickhill and the rest of the camp." Chard needed field glasses to see them and as for the rest of the camp, why is it that Essex, Curling, and other officers make no mention of these thousands of Zulus parading around on the skyline?
You wrote:
"Pullein's [sic] note tried to explain, " enemy advancing in force" meant just that. It certainly would not refer to a few hundred..."
Does this not simply reflect the fact that Pulleine did not know the number of Zulus on the plateau and that he was simply collating the vedettes' reports of 'thousands', 'hundreds' into 'in force'?
Peter 17th
You wrote:
"One cannot change the words of Pope to suit one's conclusions. He said he saw them"
But that's just it, he didn't say he saw them! To me it seems as though you have changed the words to suit conclusions!
Ron 18th
Your first two paras are pure conjecture. Was Dabulamanzi interviewed and recorded officially? Wan Mnyamana?
You wrote
"circumstanatial evidence points to the fact that he was. " Circumstantial, may be! But factual evidence from the Zulus themselves, says not!
Interesting about Whitelaw!
18th May 2005Michael Boyle

That's exactly the point I'm having so much trouble understanding. Pulliene would have known his resources were insufficient for a static defence of the camp (and especially the expensive oxen and wagons). He would also have known his NNC auxiliaries were not trained nor predisposed by natural inclination toward static defense. However, regardless of whatever off- the- cuff instructions he may have recieved prior to Lord Chelmsford's departure he certainly knew defence of the camp was his essential responsibility and he would have to do something. (Other than mumble profane dispersions upon Cleary's and Chelmsford's respective lineages for having left him in that situation!)

Thinking more at that point on how he could best defend the camp rather than even considering the possibilty that he may eventually be forced to revert to an unprecedented survival square, what were his options? His first seems to have been to stand down and hope the Zulu would go away.No that's too cruel, he was awaiting further development and taking the time to form a plan. Having ruled out the possibility of a static defence his only other option seems to have been an active defence, relying on his seemingly overwhelming superiority in firepower to try and disperse or at least discourage the impi from closing on the camp until his (admittedly feeble) calls for reinforcement to Chelmsford were met.

This, thus far to me, seems key. I don't think he was manoeuvreing to defeat the enemy, only to buy time until the column could reunite or at least provide mutual support. A tactic used to good avail countless times throughout history. He seems to have been unaware not only of the size of the force he faced but more importantly with the speed with which that force could be brought to bear thus negating his superiority in firepower. Were he facing 'normal' infantry rather than 'foot cavalry' and had Chelmsford been able to 'read- between-the-lines' of his communiques and yes, if he had struck the tents perhaps such a plan could have born fruit.

Given that Zulu tactical abilities seem to have been largely discounted up to that point I don't see that any commander with the same dearth of intelligence available to him could have reacted much differently.

I'm tempted to further expand upon my thoughts here as to Col.Durnford's actions but this has already turned into another of my typical long-winded posts!

(By the way, I don't suppose there are ONCs available for that portion of South Africa? I've found those charts to be a valuable resource in visualizing American Civil War battle sites.)


I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one to find Ntshingwayo's award of a kingdom and seeming lack of subsequent comment on Isandhlwana somewhat curious! Hope you can find a way to flesh that out a bit.


Fear not, at your Last Stand look to the west for the pennants of the 7th Cavalry riding to your assistance! (Wait, that may not be all that auspitious!)



18th May 2005Michael Boyle
Boy I guess I need to be quicker off the mark this time of day! My post above was in response to Mike Snook but as it turns out seems equally appropriate to Mike McCabe.

Glad to see that the rumor of the death of this thread were greatly exaggerated (by me)!

I'll back off now and let the 'big guns' further disabuse me of my allusions!


18th May 2005Mike McCabe
Just supposing that Puleine had decided to concentrate his force (of six rifle coys, plus 'odds and sods') at a line or point of defence, then its firepower would have been diffused (all round defence in a 'square') or any line would have had great vulnerabilities at its flank. Backing up against the mountain on its easternslopes would not have helped much. One of the easiest ways onto the top is at the NNW side, and Zulus would quickly have found ways of engaging from above with firearms. Similarly, only Black's Koppie, or some open site to the east of the tented camp would have enabled a kind of 'square', and would have required pragmatic acceptance the camp and its stores and livestock should be left at risk until the battle was decided either way. Once Chelmsford was sufficiently far to the east not to be able to return to intervene, the Zulu command had a window of opportunity during which it could attack the camp with every probability of success from the outset.

19th May 2005Keith Smith

Well, late as usual! That is the penalty for living on the far side of the world. How very interesting this debate has become, and how well it is argued. Perhaps you will allow me to add my tuppence worth.

My views about the Zulu advance are pretty well known here - I subscribe to the Lock/Quantrill view but diiffer from it in a few areas, such as the location of Whitelaw's vedette. I still, however, have a few problems with it with which I am still wrestling. (Yep, Mike, I always type Durnfrod!)

While at Chatham recently, I came across an article in the RE Journal which I found very interesting, and may be the missing information for which you are looking. Most of you will be familiar with Mehlakazulu's newspaper account of the day. However, the article concerned a second statement by him, made to the governor of the PMBurg gaol while he was in there awaiting trial. The vital extract is as follows:

"In the morning Tsingwayo called me and said, “ Go with three other indunas and see what the English are doing.” I called the indunas and started off at a good pace. We were all mounted. When we got to the range of hills looking on to Isandhlwana, we could see the English outposts (mounted men) quite close to us, and could also see the position of their camp. The outposts evidently saw us, for they commenced to move about and there seemed to be a bustle in the camp, as some were inspanning the wagons, and others were getting in the oxen. We immediately went back, and I reported what I had seen to our commander, Tsingwayo, who said, “All right, we will see what they are going to do !” I went away and had something to eat, as I had had no food that morning. Presently I heard Tsingwayo give orders for the Tulwana and Ngyaza regiments to assemble. When they had done so he gave orders for the others to assemble and advance in the direction of the English camp." (Royal Engineer Journal, 2nd February 1880, pp. 23-24.)

The problem with this document is that it is entirely hearsay, and is reported by a third party. However, one must wonder as to whether or not there is a germ of truth there!

Keep at it, guys!


19th May 2005Coll
Has there ever been an attempt to draw a diagram of how Pulleine, could have deployed the units available to him, Imperial, Volunteers and N.N.C., in a square, as well as what location on the Isandlwana battlefield, it could have been used to the full effect, considering there was no time or decision made to form a laager ?

Obviously, this would be a modern attempt to try and work out how the defensive square would/could have been constructed, in order to 'test the theory', so to speak.

19th May 2005Rob D
Well, this discussion has certainly grown!

The impression I got from some of the earlier contributions was that there was agreement that Pulleine's training and experience made him as well-prepared for his role at Isandlwana as any regular infantry field officer could have been. So in the light of that here's my take on his role at Isandlwana.

As far as possible, he "went by the book" - adhering to orders given to him by Clery on Chelmsford's departure, deferring to Durnford as senior combatant officer when the latter arrived in the camp, and deploying his forces in accordance with the procedures laid down in the current infantry manual.

The orders which Clery said he had been given were to defend the camp if necessary (which wasn't thought likely, and for which no consistent plan had been made), to set his cavalry vedettes forward but pull in his infantry piquets, and to be prepared to send ammunition (and other supplies, as it turned out) to Chelmsford at short notice. This is what he appears to have done until Durnford's arrival.

Durnford initiated the "forward defense", and Pulleine reluctantly agreed to commit first one, then two infantry companies to the plateau, and eventually brought them back down the spur with a third company in support. He also extended his line to the east to support Durnford, now engaged with the left horn, as he had been "requested" to do.

The infantry companies were deployed in open/extended order to cover as much ground as possible and to take advantage of the firepower of the MH as laid down in the infantry manual. When Durnford's force withdrew their right flank was exposed and they were forced to retire. As they did so, the Zulus charged home and any organisation above the company level disintegrated.

It seems to me that Pulleine did what he was ordered/expected to do - in short, he went by the book. It wasn't his fault that the book was wrong, or that he wasn't able to correct the situation.

19th May 2005Peter Quantrill
In spite of my previous statement, your posting together with Keith's deserves a response and this WILL be my final and closing argument!
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, in his forward to Zulu Victory, emphasised that the Zulu Victory could in no way be described as a British disaster.Quote:
" A more critical approach in this book questions how the defeat of an invading army moved by destructive intent can be depicted as a ' disaster'."
It was and remains a Zulu Victory which , in turn, means a British defeat. Chelmsford, by his tactical limitations and consequent absence from the battle, ensured that such defeat was inevitable.
The 500/600 Zulus sighted by Barker and Hawkins appears on page 169 ZV ( Paper Back) I will check this.
The thrust of our argument, and that of the book, is that the battle started much earlier than was historically accepted.So let's cut the detail and focus on facts.
Whitelaw saw 'thousands' at approx 0700 hrs? This is a fact.
Driven from his vidette post? This is a Fact
Barker and Hawkins driven off Qwabe? This is a fact
Brickhill, between 0600 hrs and 0700 hrs reports Zulus in ' considerable force at the southeast end of Ingutu. Shortly afterwards another force CAME INTO SIGHT at about the middle of Ingutu.' Brickhill makes a factual statement.
Whatever Pulleine's interpretation of the blue note was, he used the phrase, " in force" Whether from vidette reports , or more lkely what Brickhill saw, ' in force' means just that.
You say Pope did not see them. That is supposition, for Pope mentions a figure and whether from reports received or otherwise, he would not invent.I still maintain he saw them. His figure tallies with Brickhill's earlier figures? This is a fact.
Chard saw them? This is a fact, in which case there is no reason to suppose Pope did not.
All told, my words, a considerable force of Zulus, ( substantiated by the above primary source material,) have made a move out of the Ngwebeni valley, and are on the plateau BEFORE Durnford's arrival. Their numbers are far in excess of the requirements of a reconnaissance force. This is a fact.
Thus we like to think sufficient evidence has been advanced to indicate hostile Zulu intent early a.m 22 Jan. and prior to 1030 hrs.
Now Keith's report is absolutely startling. Both Ron and I have never sighted Mehlakazulu's press statement, and have never seen this particular report published in any book on the battle. Brilliant Keith, for the report is far too detailed to be neglected, and furthermore does not smack of invention, which in turn goes a long way (we believe, others may not,) to vindicate our thesis on when the battle commenced.
The Zulus sighted the videttes, who in turn, as we know, sighted the Zulus. Two full Regiments, named, leaving the Ngwebeni valley, no time given, but before Durnford's arrival, numbers substanciated by Whitelaw, Brickhill, Chard, Pope et al.
And finally " he ( Tsingwayo) gave orders for the others to assemble and advance on the English camp."
No doubt Mehlakazulu's statement will be met with disbelief and rebuttal, but it dovetails in exactly with our writings We rest our case.
19th May 2005Mike McCabe

I thought you already knew about this quote attributed to Mehlakazulu. There are other nuggets buried in the RE Journal, including a slightly more detailed - and significantly different - explanation of how Gardner and MacDowel were sent back to Isandlwana, and why.

Sadly, my copies are now buried in stored boxes, awaiting the next house move.

19th May 2005Peter Quantrill
This particular quote has not only alluded us , but to my knowledge, never reproduced by any authors on the subject. Perhaps we are wrong?
As an aside Mehlakazulu's report also dovetails completely with our time / distance study on Raw's move to the plateau and his primary source description of how he met the Zulu army.
19th May 2005Julian Whybra
Startling? The Mehlokazulu account is quoted in Jackson's 1965 article (and elsewhere) and is on p. 54 of England's Sons. Mehlokazulu gives no timing (obviously) for the 'assembling' of the 2 regts (note: 'not leaving the Ngewebeni valley') nor of the rest of the army. The critical passage therefore occurs immediately after the words quoted when it refers to the start of the main battle NOT manoeuvring on the hills for a couple of hours. Thus it does not dovetail with your theory
Re 600 Zulus, p. 169 of ZV is not a primary source; it doesn't appear in Barker. It's pretty important you do check it - I'm certainly not aware of a second Barker account.
Re Whitelaw - I did not dispute when he saw nor what he saw, I disputed where he saw it happen - you wrote 'the Ngwebini valley', Whitelaw did not. Read Barker's account.
Neither is it a fact that he was 'driven from his vidette [sic] post' - he was merely reporting what he saw.
I made no comment re Barker and Hawkins's position.
Of course my statement that Pope did not see them is supposition but so is your statement that he did. I think it is more likely that he waylaid the vedette en route back to the camp - he was in the ideal position to do so - and got the latest news.
19th May 2005Peter Quantrill
My copy of England's Sons, page 54 does not show it. Would you be kind enough to let me know if the page has been updated?
19th May 2005Michael Boyle

4th edition May 2004 cites it on page 53 as well as citing another version from the Natal Mercury 30th Sept 1879.

The Red Book (pgs 349-351) shows a detailed interview with Mehlokazulu "Given on Saturday,September 27th,1879".

The second question- "Did you see Lord Chelmsford's army leave the camp on the day of the battle?" Answer-"No; we heard the reports of firearms and saw him returning." [???, meaning the end of day?]

The third question-"What were the orders as to the attack?" Answer-" No orders were given ; it was not our day.Our day was the following day : it being the new moon we did not intend to fight. Our intention was to attack the camp next day at dawn, but the English forces came to attack us first."

A very long interview which most of you are no doubt familiar but conflicting statements by the same man do leave some questions.


19th May 2005Michael Boyle
Sorry, it is on page 54, my print-out of the addendums is off set.
19th May 2005Peter Quantrill
I have looked through the Jackson Papers.
1. The first PaperI is headed Isandlwana Revisited, A Letter to the Editor.
It was, I think, a letter from Jackson to TSOTQ in 1982 responding to an article by Donald Morris..
Page 9 refers to Mehlokazula and a statements made to the RE Journal in 1880. Nowhere is the quote reflected by Keith Smith shown or analysed.
2. Jackson's excellent paper on the Sources Re-Examined, originally published in three parts in 1965, and again as a Paper in 1999, page 22, also makes reference, but again nowhere can I find the quote or an analysis.
I am obviously missing something or is this reflected in another Jackson paper? Please advise.
19th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Yes, Mehlokazulu's report in the Red Book is well known and documented. This is why his statement to the RE Journal is so intriguing.
The first statement made in September 1879 and used extensively as authoriitative in most books, is now, a year later, contradicted by Mehlokazulu in what appears to reflect a relaxed interview and translation. Why the difference? In the first the indication made by him was that the British forced the battle. The second is quite the reverse. Dare one use the word cover-up? And why has no deeper analysis been made into his second statement? It certainly answers the question of the Zulus in numbers spotted before Durnford's arrival. No one else seems to have a satisfactory answer.
Nuff said; I keep saying it, but that's me lot.
19th May 2005Mike McCabe
"The est is silence...?"

Fat chance!

19th May 2005Michael Boyle

Perhaps less cover-up to it than failure to pick-up on it. It would seem that within the space of a year most everyone then was satisfied with or simply didn't wish to dwell further on the incidents of 22nd Jan. and were content with the explanations already provided by Mehlokazulu in his published interview, so little notice was taken of it.One wonders what other nuggets may lay buried in obscure places.

It may seem odd now that on that morning the entire Zulu Army had "come all this way only to be [suprised] by a bullet from Birmingham" and forced to attack prematurely, but it also seems odd that in all the intervening years, as interest gradually rekindled, no one seems to have thought much of the article contained in RE Journal Vol. X. Perhaps because there seems so little else to corroborate it or perhaps because so many people seem satisfied with the the historically accepted explanation. (All the more reason to continue questioning it though!)

This would be a very opportune time for some one to stumble across a lost interview with Ntshingwayo.


20th May 2005Mike McCabe
Pehaps by NKosikazi Kate Adie?

21st May 2005Julian Whybra
If you have an earlier edition, it will be under the entry for Mehlokazulu - I will send you the latest edition by e-mail. I will dig out the Mehlokazulu refs.
22nd May 2005Michael Boyle
In "Hill Of The Sphinx" Jackson only appears to have used Mehlokazulu's statements from the RE article (as well as Colenso and Durnford,and Mitford) as a source for the amaButho dispositions, without quoting it. Of course the book didn't really address the Zulu preparations for the attack beyond saying they weren't planning to do it that day.

The implications of the quote cited by Keith would seem inconvenient. Any idea why they were never discounted but instead seemingly ignored? (Beyond not having much corroboration or 'upsetting the apple cart'.)


22nd May 2005Julian Whybra
The Mehlokazulu RE Journal 1880 account is quoted from or used and fully acknowledged in:
Jackson, Isandhlwana: The Sources Re-examined, pp. 114, 124, 126, 181 (and is duplicated in the RRW compilation publication, and in The Hill of the Sphinx);
Frank Emery, The Red Soldier, p. 26, 86fn.;
Laband and Thompson, Kingdom and Colony at War, p. 42;
Me, Contemporary Accounts and the Composition of the Zulu Army, Soldiers of the Queen 1988.
It's recorded in others too.
You should by now have received the direct e-mail with the Englsnd's Sons reference.
If one reads the whole RE account and most importantly the passage following I see no 'inconvenience' at all. It complements the other accounts.
22nd May 2005Michael Boyle

It is of course not at all unusual that I have yet to come across the above quote from the RE journal (!), however that particular portion doesn't seem to appear in 'Sphinx' , "Red Soldier" is still finding it's way to me from South Africa (only place I could track one down) "Kingdom and Colony" likewise (though from a nearer source) and I seem to have made the mistake of assuming that "Sphinx" was more or less an update on "Sources" and see I must now revisit the RRW shop!

Hopefully the full article will appear in one of these, if not I'll see about getting hold of a copy of the RE journal (although I'm not sure how easy that will be.)


23rd May 2005Keith Smith

While it is perfectly true that the writers mentioned by you all quote the RE Journal reference, not one of them mentions the quotation I cited earlier. Laband merely mentions it in a footnote as an example of a Zulu account and Emery quotes only the part about the ransacking of the camp and also gives his opinion on the reasons for the British defeat. Jackson also only makes reference in footnotes as to the composition of the Zulu army. My point is that this particular quotation has never been seriously discussed in any material that I have read.

23rd May 2005Peter Quantrill
Thank you for the full account from the RE Journal.
Your comments are exactly my point. I cannot recall historically any serious discussion on the original quote. In fact, they are so diametrically opposed that one senses in one instance, Mehlokazulu aying what he thinks should be heard and in the other what actually happened. In the RE report, the detail Mehlokazulu recorded was so detailed it cannot be construed as false, such as the "bustle in the camp;' ' some were inspanning the wagons;' 'others were getting the oxen.'
It also clearly shows that it mattered not what the position of the moon was as regards the timing for the attack. Quote:
' He then gave Tsingwayo orders to use his own discretion and attack the English wherever he thought proper.'
His evidence certainly brings a new dimention to the analysis of the battle and one that has been for some unexplained reason, been ignored.
Julian. Thank you for sending me the update of England's Sons.

23rd May 2005Julian Whybra
The full account only appears in the RE Journal which you can view via the British Library or get via inter-library loan from your local library.
Well, no, it's too long for total inclusion (after all you wouldn't expect a secondary work to quote a whole account in full) - it's up to researchers to obtain a copy of the RE Journal to get the full version as I did years ago as soon as i became aware of its existence.
As i said earlier the following passage should be read to obtain an idea of the passage of time.
Any sign of those 600 Zulus and Mr Barker?
24th May 2005Keith Smith

I think you have missed my point, despite its being quite clear. I do not expect a secondary account to quote the whole document, simply to cite a paragraph indicating that the attack was initiated by Tshingwayo and was not, as traditionalists even now persist, that it was the result of their discovery in their camp, wherever that might have been. This analysis could be either be brief or at length, but no, it rates not even a mention.

I should add that in my original post, I said that it was probably hearsay. A second recent reading indicates that Steward interviewed Mehlokazulu several times himself and so some of the information included might be first-hand.
24th May 2005Coll
I'm out of my depth in this topic, but if I'm reading it right, is the following true ?

It has always been my understanding that Durnford, by the fact that he sent Lt. Raw and Lt. Roberts up to investigate the situation on the heights and they found the Zulu army in the valley, was blamed for initiating the attack on the camp.

If it is proven that the attack was already planned for that day by the Zulus and possibly was already in progress, before Lt. Raw discovered the valley where the army was, would this prove Durnford to be innocent of the charge that his men on the ridge caused the Zulus to attack ?

I think the view was that if Durnford and his mounted force had stayed in the camp the Zulus would not have attacked that day.

Please tell me. Is Durnford innocent in the fact it may not have been his men, on his orders to explore the ridge, that caused the Zulus to attack, and therefore it was nothing to do with decisions or actions that he took which started the events at Isandlwana ?

I apologise if I have misunderstood.

24th May 2005Michael Boyle

First and third point - I don't think anyone blames Col. Durnford for sending out Lts. Raw and Roberts. Establishing the enemy's disposition is what cavalry are supposed to do. Nor do I see how anyone could seriously think that holding his mounted troops in camp would have discouraged the Zulus from attacking. Truthfully, I'm not exactly sure what people have expected of him other than to have had an epiphany and call all the troops to immediately form square around Black's Koppie.

Second point- That is the present object of contention, although based on the quote above I'm curious as to why Ntshingwayo would have given orders to the Tulwana and Ngyaza(?) who were the 'loins' (although Ngyaza is escaping me) before giving orders to the others to assemble and advance, when traditionalists hold that virtually the entire impi erupted upon discovery and the uThulwana, uDloko and inDluyengwe, who were furthest down the valley, were only held back through the efforts of their commanders.

Although if the plan were coming into place at that time [what time?], Ntshingwayo, knowing the high state of anticipation of his impi could have taken special precautions to insure he would even have 'loins' by personally ordering the above to "Stay Put!" (As it was they wandered a bit anyway!)

All of this of course is counter to King Cetshwayo's statements that his indunas were meeting then to decide who would approach the "English" with his queries prior to engagement.

It all poses an interesting conundrum. (Why do I sense a 'not conundrum' in the offing?)

Fourth point- Although I've often wondered if the impi had not been discovered would the battle have taken place that day, I don't feel (again) that Durnford can be blamed for doing that part of his job. The events at Isandhlwana were started long before that (whether figuratively or actually.)


24th May 2005Julian Whybra
I apologize for misunderstanding you. My point was that despite having read the RE Journal account, those writers attached no significance to the specific para you mentioned because they did not see it as altering the basic timeline for the day or the sequencing of events.
24th May 2005Coll

Thanks for your detailed reply.

I was starting to imagine that Lt. Raw, instead of finding thousands of Zulus 'inactive' sitting in the valley, that he had actually 'ran into' a vast army which was already advancing on the camp's position.

Therefore, the Zulu army would have began the attack by choice, rather than because they were found by the mounted troops.

I know if Col. Durnford and his force had remained in camp, without being aware the Zulu army was only a couple of miles away, that the attack would have probably happened anyway.

This topic seems to be discussing the fact that events started reasonably earlier than Raw's discovery of the Zulu army, as it seems to be at this point most people think the actual battle began.

It is only my opinion that it appears Durnford was getting the blame for causing the Zulus to attack by finding them in the valley, but if the attack was already in motion, it would show that Durnford's mounted men, on the ridge and the plain, did play a significant role, in not only confirming the army's approach towards the camp, but delaying it as much as possible with their small forces, by basically trying to block it's path.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post, it is over my head, so I'll back off and observe instead.

24th May 2005Ron Lock
Coll: I know that P.Q. is about to write on the start of the battle so you will hear from him shortly. However, this note to Julian does comment on the subject.

Julian: You have been pursuing P.Q. re: Tpr. Barker and the 600 Zulus, page 169 "Zulu Victory" viz. "It then became evident that not only were 500-600 men on foot coming up behind the horsemen but also that they were fast becoming encircled". Your particular point being that Barker did not mention that specific number. Correct. He actually said "... we noticed a lot of mounted men in the distancae, and on their coming nearer we saw that they were trying to surround us. We discovered they were Zulus". Barker then retires and reports to Lieut. Scott "... but before we had gone far we saw Zulus on the hill we had just left, and others advancing from the left flank where two other videttes, Whitelaw and another, had been obliged to retire from".

The above quoted passage from Zulu Victory is my condensed interpretation of Barker's account.

Whilst on the same subject, Mehlokazulu mentions in his account of the battle (for which many thanks to our good Cobber, Keith Smith): "... We were all mounted. When we got to the range of hills looking on to Isandlwana, we could see the English outposts (mounted men) quite close to us, and could also see the position of their camp. The outposts evidently saw us, for they commenced to move about (Circle - this is known to have been done by the vedettes) and there seemed to be a bustle in the camp ...".

Tpr. Barker stated: After being posted for about a quarter of an hour we noticed a lot of mounted men in the distance, and on their coming nearer we saw that they were trying to surround us. We gave the usual signal", [circling their horses] but had to retire off the hill post haste, as we discovered they were Zulus".

I find that fascinating, almost as though, 126 years later, the Zulu warrior and the Natal carbineer are corroborating each other's statements.
24th May 2005Peter Quantrill
What I am about to say has already been expressed in ZV and is, by some, considered controversial.
Next months release of the time / distance study will show that it would have been extremely difficult, to say the least, for Raw to have reached the Ngwebeni Valley. Although Donald Morris states that Raw attempted to
capture some cattle being herded by umfans which led him to overlook the valley in which
the whole Zulu Army sat quietly, thus precipitating the attack, is not borne out by Harding Stewart in his questioning of Mehlokazulu, as stated in Keith's quote. Why we got excited was that without the evidence of Mehlokazulu's statement, we had already discounted the traditional theory, based not only on the time / study aforementioned, but on the words of the man himself, namely Charlie Raw in his supplimentary statement.
" We left the camp, proceding over the hills, Captain George Shepsotne going with us. The enemy in small groups retiring before us for some time, drawing us on for four or five miles from the camp, where THEY TURNED AND FELL UPON US , THE WHOLE ARMY SHOWING ITSELF FROM BEHINID A HILL IN FRONT WHERE THEY HAD EVIDENTLY BEEN WAITING.'
And Sergeant Major Nyanda who rode with Raw.
" We saw a handfull of Zulus who kept running from us, all of a sudden, just as Mr. Shepstone joined me on the crest of a ridge, the Army of Zulus sprung up, 15,000 men."
Hamer corroborates this:
" They disappeared over a ridge and on coming up we saw the Zulus, like ants in front of us."
All of these statements may well be open to interpretation, but a reasonable conclusion may may be drawn that the Zulus were already on the move and located on the plateau. This is now further corroborated by Mehlokazulu's statement.
So yes, the vast army was already on the move.
Michael: Cetshwayos statement? Certainly what the British wanted to hear. Not what was recorded in Mehlokazulu's hearsay statement.
" My children, the English have declared war against me, for why I cannot tell, and they have already crossed the Umzinyati and fired on Sihayo's people, killing a lot of them. You are now to go and meet them and see what they are going to do.If they are still determined upon advancing into my country, attack them and show the English dogs how Zulu warriors can fight."
Mehlokazulu then continues, " He then gave Tsingwayo orders to use his own discretion and attack the English, wherever he thought proper."
Certainly two sides from which to interpret evidence and to draw conclusions.
Ngwebeni Valley with thousnds of Zulus hiding behind their shields surprised by the mouted men pouring a volley into them? Methinks not. On balance we prefer our version.
24th May 2005Mike Snook
Pray how did Mehlokazulu and his THREE companions go about SURROUNDING the vedettes? The Carbineers saw lots of Zulus.

There is only one hill in front of Mr Raw and that is Mabaso Ridge - beyond which lies the Ngwebeni Valley. So Charlie Raw does not corroborate L & Q deliberate attack theory. He rode 4-5 miles. He was in sight of Mabaso Ridge - there were cattle, there was a pursuit - there was shooting. THEN and only then did the Zulu army break cover.

Mehlokazulu states specifically that the Z's didn't know about Lord C leaving camp am 22 Jan, and that there was no intention to attack that day - hence he is an inconveninet piece of testimony to Zulu Victory theory. All of a sudden he is now a key witness, or more acccurately a few lines of his overall testimony are now heralded as vital new evidence. Pah! Mehlokazulu is one of the strongest reasons to discount deliberate attack theory.

Who says the army is even in the Ngwebeni Valley at the point in time that these few lines refer to? Why can this not refer to daylight on the 21st ie Mehlokazulu and his 3 mates being sent out from the area of Siphezi Hill?

Even if we allow it to take place on the 22nd - then his recce patrol occurs after the 0730 alarm - Pulleine ordered the trek oxen to be rounded up in response to the stand to. (ie at least 30-45 mins after the Carbineers first sight Zulus.) and I remind you Ron that above you have been harking back to cunning moves beginning at 0500.

If Lord C has been decoyed - if it is all part of a cunning Ntshingwayo master plan, why is he so casual about keeping the camp under surveillance. Just nip up to the top of the hill and see what they're up to - cos I (brilliant tactician) don't seem to have a clue what's going on.

Actually I happen to think that Ntshingwayo was a briliant tactician and was getting his ducks in a row for a devastating first light attack on the morning of the 23rd. If he intended to attack on the 22nd - then he must have been a bit late getting up!!!!!

All the 'new' Mehlokazulu does is confirm that the lad was riding about a bit and got spotted by the vedettes. We know this - mounted Zulus were spotted on the afternoon of the 21st and on the morning of the 22nd.

In the mid-afternoon of the 21st the impi begins to 'advance on the camp' ie to move from Siphezi to Ngwebeni where it will overnight. Can anybody convince me that Mehlokazulu is not here talking about a recce patrol on the 21st. Becuase if he is - then both parts of his testimony can be true.

I'd just like to say aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!!!


24th May 2005Coll
I've got to go with the possibility that the Zulu army was already in motion advancing towards the camp, when Lt. Raw 'ran into' it on the ridge.

Two reasons why, although not to make a particular point or anything, just my own opinion.

1. This way it could explain why Durnford was not at fault, sending his mounted men onto the ridge, where they met the Zulu army already advancing, not as thought, being forced to attack after being discovered.

2. I think if you were to accept the fact that the Zulus were forced into action on their discovery by the mounted men, it takes something away from the Zulu Commanders, as it would look like they just charged forward more in reaction than the trained, disciplined warriors that they were.

Additonally, although they did eventually become organised, forming the chest and horns, etc., I don't know, it just seems like it would take away the initiative they had in basically taking control of the battle from the outset.

Please don't bite my head off, as this is only my views (at the moment), but things change so quickly sometimes.

Over recent years I have gathered together many AZW books, but, as my concentration is not fully-functional at the moment, I have not managed to read most of them.

However, one of them is 'Zulu Victory' by Ron Lock & Peter Quantrill, which I now hope to read soon.


I'm sorry if you have already mentioned details of your book, but could you just update me with the following -

Is it covering all of the AZW Campaign, or Isandlwana specifically ?

Also, in a previous topic you mentioned ( I think ) you cover Lt. Scott and the Volunteers in more detail. Is this right ?



PS. I'm very glad that the AZW is my main interest. It really is a fascinating subject to study.
24th May 2005Michael Boyle
I would have paid to watch this debate!

Peter, yes I concur that King Cetshwayo was one astute gentleman, more than equal to some of the politicians of his day (or ours). I find myself frequently going back to "A Zulu King Speaks" to try and get a better fix on his statements. However even without the above quote I had always presumed he would have given his commanders full tactical control (while still holding within his strategic constraints).

The more I delve into Zulu spiritual beliefs the more appreciation I have of the seriousness with which they were held. Their belief that amadlozi (spirit ancestors being the the very backbone of their religious system) walked the earth at night required extensive 'doctoring' and constraints for them to even venture forth for mundane reasons. (Night time was not the right time for them!) The 'nightest' night of the month was that of the new moon, thus truly inauspitious for beginning a new enterprise. I don't think planning an attack on the day of the new moon would have been something Ntshingwayo would have taken lightly. However if he saw an opportunity not to be repeated, then perhaps with additional proper 'doctoring' he would have gone for it.

There are of course reports that the inyanga were unable to even perform the 'pre-battle doctoring'. (The more critical 'pre-campaign' doctoring had naturally already been performed prior to their deployment.) I not yet sure how to factor all this in.

If I'm correct in assuming this is the same Mehlokazulu who's killing of his mother started the whole ball rolling, shouldn't this be considered when evaluating his statements?


25th May 2005Keith Smith

Apology accepted, of course!

Mike S.
I'm sorry that you discount Mehlokazulu's statement so readily but even without it there is a solid case for the discovery to have occurred well west of the Mabaso ravine. Time alone will demonstrate this quite easily. The ravine is 10 kilometres from the camp. Travelling at a steady jog, perhaps 8 kph, then it would have taken them at least an hour to approach the camp. However, we know that the discovery took place around noon, so they could not have come until fire until after 1.00 pm. But all the other evidence about the conflict indicates that they were there much earlier. Take next the fact that George Shepstone reached the camp at the same time as Gardner, about 12.15. How could he have ridden 10 kilometres in a little more than fifteen minutes - thus approaching 40 kph!

That great sage David Jackson states that he believed that when Shepstone then went out to ride after Higginson, he rode at some 10 miles an hour (HOTS, p. 28) and took 20 minutes to reach him "just as the fighting began". He thus travelled only about 3.3 miles or a little more than 5 kilometres from the camp.

Finally, there is the Isandlwana map in the RE Museum said to have been marked up by Alfred Henderson. This shows the point "Where the Umcityu were first seen" and discussed by Julian and David Jackson in their excellent discussion of the Durnford Papers (SOTQ March 1990). Transferred to a modern map, the position equates to about 1500m south of a hill now called Ngwebeni and 3.5 km west of the Mabaso ravine. From this, one can imply that Raw was perhaps a mile (1.6km) to the SW of them, placing him a long way from Mabaso. This point is still some three miles from the camp, as the crow flies, and further stil by the route he would have used. This entirely supports Raw's account.

There is a lot more evidence, but I will not bore you with it here. Sorry, but I simply cannot accept that the discovery occurred at Mabaso. Pah! indeed.

Cheers :-)
25th May 2005Ron Lock
Mike! Mike! Are you alright?
You went "aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh"!! Couldn't make out if you were shot or just sick. I do hope that you re o.k.?

Anyhow, to continue "kill or cure" as the old saying goes:

Mehlokazulu (MKZ) catches up with the Z. Army at "the Nqutu mountains ... where it had just encamped". Evening/night of 21/22nd. So that rules out your Isipisi theory and he wouldn't have known at that time, that "... the army [No. 3 Column] had been divided" as it was yet to happen. In the morning MKZ goes off with three mates. Did they go alone? He does not say. Were just the three of them enough to cause the outposts to "move about" and further cause "a bustle in the camp" or had the camp seen something else?

How long were MKZ and his companions away on their scouting trip? One hour? Two hours? What had happened in the Z. camp in the meantime? Has Tsingwayo deployed most of his men? MKZ arrives in time to have breakfast and then hear T. give orders for the Tulwana to assemble - the Tulwana that was part of the reserve. Strange that he should deal with them first - or had he already given orders to other regiments. MKZ covers a time period of maybe six hours with a few paragraphs. As far as your contention that his statements wash out the decoy "theory" as you call it, how would MKZ know one way or the other what his commander had in mind or had put into effect? Was T. likely to discuss his plans with every junior officer?

As far as Raw and the two NNH troops pursuing cattle and shooting etc. thus provoking the Z. army to break cover, there are only three primary source accounts of what happened and P.Q. has just quoted all of of these and they tell a different story. Moreover Mabaso is NOT the only hill up there. Get out your map and take a look at Thusi. Furthermore, Mabaso Hill is approximately seven and a half miles from Isandlwana, not four or five, the distance Raw quoted as having ridden before "... they turned and fell upon us, the whole army showing itself from behind a hill in front where they had evidently been waiting" ... Yawn! Oh yes, in all the befuddlement of MKZ's movements we seem to have overlooked his statement that King Cetshwayo ordered T. to devastate the whole of Natal. Was MKZ telling them what they wanted to hear?

Just how much reliance can one put on prisoners' statements?

Hope you are o.k. Mike.

25th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Have you had a peek at our time / study on Raw? You are spot on. I am glad you brought up Henderson's map. Difficult to conclude Raw was anywhere near Mabaso.
Mike. Has battle fatigue set in? A couple of further points. I know that you have very extensive ground knowledge and have made numerous vists to the battlefield, but have you walked the route that Raw rode, starting from ascending Tahelane Ridge from a point behind Isandlwana, then crossing most of the entire Ridge on the way to Magaga.Just see how long that takes you. From Magaga, Raw did not make straight for Mabasa, though Roberts may have If one moves towards a point slightly north of iThusi from Magaga, travelling in an east / northeast direction, there are numerous folds in the ground which would effectly provide cover.
Have you the full Mehlokazulu report or are you working off Keith's quote? Mehlokazulu stated that " I caught up with the Zulu army at the bottom of Ngutu mountains" and it was on that day he made his recce and saw oxen being brought in etc, so it could only have been on the 22nd as Ron states. Incidentally, the mounted Zulus spotted on Mabaso by Chelmsford on the 21st numbered 14, as recorded in Milne's statement
Michael. Mehlokazulu was the son of Sihayo and it was he who abducted and killed the wives of Sihayo who had fled over the border into Natal. The circumstances of the fleeing demanded the Zulu custom of the death penalty.
If you isist on paying to see events unfold, the Lock / Quantrill retirement trust fund would appreciate any donations!!
25th May 2005Mike Snook
Yes battle fatigue has set in!!! There is nowhere to hide 12000 men (strength of the chest)between Mkwene and Ngwebeni. They were in the Ngwebeni Valley when Raw was at or approaching Mabaso. You admit this above. Raw is on the plateau at some time after 1100 am. So where has the 0500 start or the 0700 start suddenly disappeared to? Your arguments are inconsistent.

Doesn't men I don't luv yer!!

Regards as ever

25th May 2005Michael Boyle

I've been contributing via the Lock / Quantrill publishers fund (as well as many others) and am very much looking forward to continuing that!

As, for once at least, I got the reference right would I also be correct in assuming Mehlokazulu was rather young? Cetshwayo did try to buy off the incidents with cattle and the 'boys will be boys' defence. I ask because he would (to himself and the Zulu) seem to be one of the primary reasons their country was invaded and as a youth, in custody, may have been very confused when questioned originally and after a year somewhat more 'hip' to what was 'going down'.

Mitford, as you know, upon meeting him guessed his age then to be mid-twenties and relates his reputation as being "an irreclaimable scamp" , illustrated with an anecdote, but goes on to say that while visiting him " in his own kraal" found him to be very courteous and hospitable. Unfortunatley the only Isandhlwana related information Mitford recounts is an allegation that Mehlokazulu frequently bragged about it. (Without,again, any particulars!)

I'm just trying to get a fix on his contradictory statements. Other than the published interview in "Red Book" and the RE article are there any other statements attributed to him?

(This discussion has me 'gnawin' at the bit' to visit the battlefield on the back of a Basuto pony!)


26th May 2005Mike S.
Mike S.

From your many earlier comments on the forum, I had thoought that you knew the battlefield well. You should know, therefore, that there is a huge area of dead ground when looking east or north-east from both the Nyoni ridge and Mkwene/Magaga, on which a vedette and piquet were posted respectively. The only place from which this dead ground can be observed is from Ithusi, which is why the vedette (whom I contend was Whitelaw) was driven off it in the early morning, thus allowing the Zulus to advance into the dead ground and the Ngwebeni valley to the north-west. It was this forward movement that was still in progress at the time of the discovery, which I contend occurred about 11.45 or so. Why? Well, to minimise the exposure of the Zulu force to the power of the MH rifles prior to the actual launch of their attack. And in this they were partially successful. Did not Morris observe that if they launched a frontal attack across the plain, they would be exposed for a very long time to the British firepower, as was demonstrated in fact.


26th May 2005Keith Smith
Peter Q.

Sorry Peter, I overlooked your mention of your own timetable. The answer is no - I wrote a paper on this in 2003, which is still awaiting publication. In the light of research done since, it needs a little revision, but only in minor details.
26th May 2005Keith Smith
Mike S.

I'm sorry, I notice that I put your own name instead of mine in the header to my reply to you. FFS! (Fat Finger Syndrome).

26th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Mike S.
This debate has gone into penalty shootouts. I think, like Liverpool, we could be winning!
Keith disagrees with us on a few minor issues which are open to different interpretation, but we both agree on timings and general area of where Raw bumped the Zulus.
A final point to ponder and which I do not believe has been given sufficient mileage. Raw states the enemey " drawing us on for four or five miles from the camp where they turned and fell upon us." Now, four or five miles FROM THE CAMP is a lot different from four or five miles from Magaga or the Ridge.
To reach Magaga from the route Raw took is the best part of two miles. It is difficult to believe he could, given both distances stated and time restraints, have reached Mabaso. And Keith is correct in pointing out the dead ground that existed, together with the many folds in the terrain that Ron and I have walked over. Hide a Zulu army? Can be done, not to mention the the ground below and east of the extended iThusi Hill and plateau from which they emerged.
Michael: We understand that Mehlokazulu was probably in his mid twenties.The report published in the Red Book on his interrogation is the one, to date, frequently quoted in all post battle analysis. The killing of the two Zulu women by him cannot really be construed as a real reason for the invasion, rather an excuse, amongst others used by Frere to invade. ( See Jeff Guy, Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom, page 74.)
Since you mention " Through Zulu Country, Bertram Mitford, " his chapter on Isandlwana, originally printed in 1883, shows the following narrative from a warrior ( with whom he conversed, ) of the ' Umbonambi Regiment' who desribes the original contact with the mounted men ( Raw ) as:
" We ( the Zulus) were lying up in the hills up there."
Does'nt sound like the Ngwebeni Valley valley to me!
He also quotes Cetshwayo as saying " Go drive them across Umzinyati RIGHT BACK INTO NATAL" So there is corroborative primary source material, other than Mehlokazulu ka Sihayo's RE Journal statement.
26th May 2005Mike Snook

I do know the ground well - very, very well.

For some reason I have just lost into thin air a lengthy repudiation of your points - and since my patience is beginning to wear a bit thin I am not going to re-type it.

Whitelaw was clearly not on Itusi Hill, nor is it possible to hide a Zulu army above the escarpment short of Mabaso/Ngwebeni. No ifs buts or maybes - it can't be done. I am fully aware of precisely where all the dead ground is on the Isandlwana battlefield, but in order for it to be useful to a military commander it has to have covered approaches too. Which the ground you are talking about, does not have.

I would be delighted to indicate this to you from Captain Barry's position one day.

I went to live in South Africa in order to understand every nuance of the ground. Sorry if this isn't good enough for you.

26th May 2005Peter Ewart

You are right in wondering how to assess the validity of any statements by Mehlokazulu.

Because of his prominent position (son of Sihayo) and the location of his home in Hlubi's district in the post-war settlement and, later, in the Reserve or "buffer zone", he was very well known by the Europeans involved in post-1879 Zululand, such as the magistrate(s) of the Nquthu District and the missionaries at Isandlwana, Rorke's Drift & Hlazakhazi.

It would be fair to say that, for the quarter-century following the AZW, he was not universally popular among these whites, many of whom considered him a braggart and a rascal who remained a thorn in their side. Although he appears to have had every reason to feel aggrieved and unhappy with the British (following the loss of his family's control over the country around his homestead as well as the appalling troubles brought upon the Zulu nation generally by incompetent British/Natalian adminstration and vested interests) it is easy to see why his utterances were dismissed by many - but when this began is more difficult to say. I suppose it was some time between the period when the Natal press hung upon his every word and the time when his bitterness at Hlubi kaMota Molife's installation became entrenched.

He was certainly considered to be a political "stirrer" (seen from the other side, one can see the justification for his position) and no doubt a few sighs of relief followed his eventual shooting in the Mome Gorge.

One story he told about the Battle of Isandlwana during some banter with Hlubi (some time during the 1880s or 1890s) claimed that he had chased Hlubi himself from the field during the rout, and only good fortune had saved the Sotho chief from being killed by Mehlokazulu as he fled, the result of "the loose horse of the white army" on which the Zulu had jumped, failing to go fast enough. Hlubi, of course, countered that he would not have died "as I had a gun that day."

It is impossible to know how much reliance can be put on this story because it reflects the longstanding bitterness between Hlubi & Mehlo, but it would certainly appear, going by the above and the earlier posts, that Mehlokazulu started and finished the day on a horse. The argument itself took place in Charles Johnson's study at St Augustine's, nr R/Drift, and was related in A W Lee's biography of Johnson.

26th May 2005Julian whybra
First, apologies, work and illness have kept me away from the site for a few days - I wish i could contribute more often.
Ron 24th
So, we are agreed: there is no valid source mentioning "600 Zulus". This is extremely important as it tends to reduce your notion of the van of an advancing impi back to a few mounted scouts. And, i must ask, what would scouts be doing in front of an impi on the move since 5 a.m.?
Also your quotation is inaccurate. You have left out a sentence such that your rendition sounds as if Barker wrote "... but before we had gone far we saw Zulus on the hill we had just left, and others advancing from the left flank where two other videttes, Whitelaw and another, had been obliged to retire from" as if describing this happening on his way back to Scott. He didn't. The quotation describes events on his way back (accompanied by Scott) to his vedette post.
Peter 24th & 26th
I simply do not understand how from the remarks quoted you can infer "So yes, the vast army was already on the move". The remarks are not open to interpretation - they are quite clear. Nor does your 26th Mitford quotation support your view - "lying up in the hills" does not sound like an army advancing since 5 a.m. nor 7.30 a.m to me.
As for "winning", this does not enter into it. It is about the truth.
Mike S 24th
I agree totally with you. The 'new' (old)Mehlokazulu corroborates nothing and read in context provides nothing new.
Coll 24th
Your logic is at fault in your reasoning. I'm not chewing your head off but you've put the cart before the horse in asserting:
Two reasons why, although not to make a particular point or anything, just my own opinion.
"This way it could explain why Durnford was not at fault" - that is not a reason!
and neither is
"it takes something away from the Zulu Commanders" - these are both just unpleasnt consequences!
Keith 25th
For info, the map you referred to is marked with Henderson's initials.
26th May 2005Mike Snook

I'm very sorry - I unintentionally ignored through oversight a question you asked earlier. How Can Man Die Better (pub August 20 as I understand it) is specifically about No 3. Column from assembly at Helpmekaar to sunset 22 Jan. It ends with the troops having retaken the camp and bivouacing in the saddle. Like Wolves on the Fold is about Rorke's Drift, (Parts 1 and 2) but Part 3 covers the rest of the war in outline, the fates of the principal participants (by way of epilogue), and it also returns to Isandlwana for a chapter called 'The Blame Game'. This offers my thoughts on culpability etc. I fear Colonel Anthony will be in for some rough handling - but be assured he's not the only one and it is not done for any other reason that is how I interpret the evidence as a professional military man. I hope you will still be speaking to me afterwards!! Like Wolves is already finished and comes out in the spring of 06. Sorry it can't be quicker but that's publishing.

Regards as ever

26th May 2005Michael Boyle
Peter Q.

I understand that neither we, the western people of the time nor Cetshwayo were fooled by the pretense (although Cetshwayo was none the less very confused as to the real reason), I'm not so sure Mehlokazulu didn't credit it, as being a youth, he may have taken a certain perverse pride in the notoriety. Which, if true, could have influenced his statements. Taken with Peter E.'s contribution above, there may yet be some validity there. However I've belaboured the point enough (since the discussion has progressed beyond him) and thank all for sharing their input.

(I did find Dr. Guy's book very enlightening and credit him with further encouraging my interest in amaZulu.)

As Julian has reminded us this debate should not be seen as a sporting event, truth should of course be the goal.

(Having said that I'm scoring it a dead heat thanks to my remarkable ability to put aside preponderance of evidence!)


26th May 2005Coll

I do find it difficult to put into written words what it is I'm trying to say or my thoughts on specific subjects that have arose on this as well as other topics.

However, these reasons or consequences (I don't know what to call them now) were only an example of why I would opt for the scenario that the Zulus were already advancing when discovered by Lt. Raw.

I know it probably looks like I'm going for a possibility that 'suits' me, with regards to my thoughts about Col. Durnford's decisions/actions at Isandlwana, but I'm really not. I've been giving it some serious consideration, so much so I've got an almighty headache.

Additionally, my mention of the Zulu Commanders. Well, I was of the thinking that all the planning, strategy, initiative, etc., by these individuals, would all have been for nothing, if it came down to the fact that at the last moment it just ended up being a disorganised charge (initially) after being discovered by the mounted men.

I really do understand the fact that battles don't always go according to plan, as there have been examples in other conflicts through time, but it does seem to bother me quite a bit, when I think the whole thing might have started because of the 'accidental' discovery of the Zulu army.

My opinion of Col. Durnford and his role at Isandlwana are well-known (I apologise again for going on about him), and I know he is quite controversial, but anything that questions certain aspects of the battle at Isandlwana, which I feel may assist my 'defence' of him in any way, I will grab the opportunity, even if it is only me that can see a connection to what it is I am trying to do.

Does this make any sense at all ?

Even I'm losing track of what I'm attempting to say. I knew I should have just kept quiet !


Thankyou for the details.

I'm sure I will still be talking to you after I have read your book, especially the section about Durnford.

But the question is, if by any chance I do mention my thoughts on the matter, will you still be talking to me ?

26th May 2005Michael Boyle

Why would one think you might mention your thoughts on the matter? (You Go Boy! When the time comes we'll laager our wagons together!)

(It wouldn't be the first massacre in our respective nation's histories!)


26th May 2005Keith Smith
Mike S.

Barley! 'Nuff said, I think. I am looking forward very much to your book and will examine your theses in meticulaous detail! Thanks for the argument, carried on in such good spirit.


27th May 2005Mike Snook

I think the only way out is for us all to meet up one day and re-convene the Board of Inquiry (or is it Enquiry - I can never remember!) only this time we must do a better job than Law and Harness!!

As ever


27th May 2005Mike Snook
Coll and Michael

There won't be time to laager your wagons! But that's a whole other story...oh Lord I wish I hadn't said that!!

27th May 2005Michael Boyle
Mike S.,

It's not like we're serving under Lord Chelmsford ! I believe we may already be out-spanning. (Now where's that blasted ammo cart anyway?) Besides, Raw and Roberts won't be along to reveal your position for a couple of months anyway.

I like your idea of re-convening the court of unquiry (oops, sorry, Victorian spelling vs. modern spelling translated from American spelling is quite the mental excersize for me). If you should decide to impanel a jury as well I think I know where you can find a few who would not shirk it!


Barley? 'Nuff said for Mike perhaps, but....

(Not after any trade secrets though !)



27th May 2005Peter Quantrill
I think we are all agreed that this debate is now winding down.
Readers may be getting bored with the reiteration of the same points in support of an arguement. I will leave with the major issue that I have in understanding and therefore supporting the conventential view expressed so eloquently by Julian and Mike S.
The truth is, Julian, before Durnford arrived, approximately one third of the Zulu army was on the plateau and exposed to the likes of the videttes, Whitelaw,Brickhill and Chard. This is corroborated by Pope and, in my view, Pulleine. By plateau, I mean a straight line drawn from Magaga to Mabaso, and everything south of that line. They have, if Whitelaw is to be believed, emerged from the east end of Ngwebeni, (thousands) and climbed up the re- entrant onto the plateau.Either way, they are not lying quietly in the Ngwebeni Valley. I construed that to be early deployment, not random meanderings.
No one has, thus far, challenged us on the the time Raw took to make contact with the Zulus from the time he left camp. One of our difficulties in conducting the time / distance study, was the inability to get on a horse and follow the route simply beacause the terrain is now covered with fences and wire. So instead we employed two Zulu athletes to move at a pace we anticipated that the two troops would move, bearing in mind that the mounted men had already moved, fully laden, some twelve miles to get to Isandlwana. Their ponies were not fresh. The result of this experiment reinforces our view that the initial contact was not on Mabaso.
And Mike, we still luv yer too.
The point you make about a reinactment of a Court of Inquiry was an idea we had a couple of years ago. Place his Excellecy in the dock with a Prosecutor and a Defence. Bring to life Pulleine, Durnford and include the likes of Clery ( dying to nail him ) and creepy Crealock, all played by someone with a depth of knowledge. Characters must have done their homework and be prepared for fearsome interrogation. No crib notes or papers allowed. Then we have a jury consisting of members who are conversant with the AZW, and we start, TOTALLY UNREHEARSED and unscripted. Watch the fun and let the jury decide. One can play around with having either Durnford being charged for disobeying orders or Chelmsford in the dock. I will volunteer to defend Durnford if Mike McC does not beat me to it.
27th May 2005Mikie Snook

I was close to him during most of the fight. I think he lost his head - I don't think he knew what to do...

The prosecution's star witness speaks!


It would be fun wouldn't it.

As ever

27th May 2005Mike McCabe
Thought I hadn't noticed eh?
I would not set out to defend Durnford per se. But, I would robustly query the rationale behind and justification for much that is laid at Durnford's feet for which he is considered (by some) to be responsible or blameworthy.
There's quite a lot of 'keeping fit' by leaping to conclusions, it appears to me - including in various places above, and elsewhere in this forum.

27th May 2005Michael Boyle
Given the gaps in the primary sources, a certain amount of leaping would seem to be required, even if some are 'leaps of faith'. (Guilty plea entered but I also plead extenuating circumstances!)
27th May 2005Julian Whybra
"The truth is.....£?
Or should that be "my conjecture is..."?
Because there is still not one iota of evidence to support a 5 am start or a 7.30 start and certainly none for 600 Zulus chasing barker off the plateau.
28th May 2005Coll
Re-enact a Court Of Inquiry ?

What a fantastic idea !

Something like that, really would be worth filming.

I hope there is a good possibilty that it may happen.


I think you accidentally pressed the GUILTY button on your keyboard, instead of the NOT GUILTY one. (that is, if you were talking about Durnford, of course)


There is a chance we will need a laager !

The prospect of fighting 20,000 Zulus is quite appealing compared to getting Mike annoyed, I think.


PS. Mike - What did you mean by ' no time to laager the wagons ' ? (I'm just asking out of curiosity)
28th May 2005Mike Snook

And at considerable risk of stoking the flames (!) I had my beak in ZV this afternoon, an excellent read on a pleasant sunny afternoon in the garden, and discovered that we now have 'thousands' of Zulus in front of Lord C in the Phindo Hills mid-morning on the 22nd. Now where the hell did they come from?!

No...........! Pretend I didn't say that!! I don't really care any more. I'm going to study the Ashanti Campaign from now on!!

28th May 2005Mike Snook

Sorry - missed you in the crossfire!
Yes, very big thumbs on my keyboard - I obviously meant NOT GUILTY (NOT!)

To be serious for a moment - there are those that say Pulleine should have formed a laager when the vedettes reported their contact. In my view this is not a goer for the folowing reasons:

1 Time taken to round up the oxen
2 Time to inspan
3 Time to manoeuvre wagons into place

[In other words probably not less than 3-4 hours worth of activity and about two to unscramble it afterwards. Pretty rough order figures but you get my drift.]

Fighting from a laager would have involved sacrificing the wider camp across its 800 metre frontage to the enemy - hence logisitc disaster. Pulleine's mission was to defend the camp. Thats what he tried to do.

Regards as ever


28th May 2005Ron Lock

Trust you have fully recovered. I wondered where you had got to.

You say you have a copy of Stalker and Barker's report. Read it again and you will se that Barker arrives at his post about 0500 hrs. and within about fifteen minutes sees "A LOT OF MOUNTED MEN" who try to surround him - not a "few mounted scouts" as you mention. It is too tedious to repeat Barker all over again but within a couple of hours he witnesses "ZULUS ON THE HILL" that he had just vacated and "OTHERS, ADVANCING FROM THE LEFT FLANK",. He hears Whitelaw report "A LARGE ARMY ADVANCING, THOUSANDS". He sees "NUMBERS OF ZULUS ... ON ALL THE HILLS TO THE LEFT AND FRONT" and at about six hundred yards distance he sees "A LARGE ARMY SITTING DOWN".

An army deploying? I say yes. You disagree. There it must rest.

Incidentally, for general interest, details of the time and motion exercise with two runners which P.Q. has mentioned, will be published in the June issue of The Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. Comments welcome.
28th May 2005Mike McCabe
Rather as the Union Flag is described, heraldically, a countercharge of Saltires, the telling of the Isandlwana story on these pages is fast becoming a 'counterplay of Absolutes'.
So, for example, if the Isandlwana camp is to form a laager (above) then there needs - by implication - to be an enveloping ring of waggons and digging. However, having so obviously laid out the camp administratively from the outset, then this effectively generated a task so enormous that it was almost impossible to contemplate - that is, doing the opposite, and converting the camp to a tactically defensive layout. So, because it was dificult, it was OK not to do it?
Re-arranging a few wagons in a hurry to 'form a laager' was no ready antidote to a fundamentally flawed layout - with which the 24th would appear to have been content - at least until about NAAFI break on 22 January 1879!
Could it be that the preference of both battalions of the 24th for their comforts in camp was ultimately the biggest contributor (apart from Chelmsford's removal of so much firepower) to the rapidity of the tactical collapse at Isandlwana.
Back to basics, to what extent was there ever a coordinated plan of defence for the Isandlwana camp - before or after Chelmsford's forward deployment. Time to examine that, surely?
28th May 2005Mike Snook
There is plenty of evidence to suggest a sense of deep unease with the layout of the camp amongst both regular and volunteer officers alike. But the staff were running the show.

Even so, the camp was perfectly defensible by 12 companies and a battery. Take 6 companies and 4 of the guns out, however, a decision taken by one man alone - entirely without consultation with his principal subordinates - and the camp becomes indefensible. Lord C is yer man.


28th May 2005Ron Lock

I'm touched and gratified that on a sunny afternoon in Bedfordshire, you took your copy of Zulu Victory into the garden amongst the honeybees and butterflies, and found pleasure in getting stuck into it - and you make no mention of dozing off! A compliment indeed. Thank you.

Now, the thousands of Zulus that you mention (I will get a rap on the knuckles from Julian for saying thousands) were Ntshingwayo's deception brigade; his decoys. Lt. Archibald Berkeley Milne RN stated that Major Dartnell at Mangeni had reported the enemy were " ... in much stronger numbers than he had supposed and he would not attack unless 2 or 3 companies of Infantry were sent out to support his natives". Dartnell already had about 1600 men of the NNC and the majority of the cavalry.

Now, in adition, he wanted two or three com panies of infantry. Major Dartnell was an experienced soldier and, taking into account the prevailing over confidence of Chelmsford's column, how many Zulus does one suppose Dartnell was confronting? I would guess he would have been a laughing stock if it was only a couple of hundred.

However, as we know, when reinforcements arrived the Zulus had momentarily done a duck. But they were still around. Milne tells us that an hour later "... a few mounted and dismounted Zulus were on the hills about three miles in our right front". The NNP and Colonials then go galloping off to engage them. Milne: "Shortly afterwards the enemy were observed in large numbers on top of one of the hills directly in our front and distant some four miles."

The column attempts to engage the Zulus while at the same time Dartnell, who had gone off with the cavalry, sends in a report that other Zulus had attempted to ambush some of his men. However, the column, the NNC, the infantry, artillery and mounted infantry advance but: Milne: "The enemy had now disappeared from the peak on which we had last seen them and to us were no where in sight". He continues: "Passing up the valley, which was one continual repetition of deep, dried up water courses" [and is still exactly as described] "... the enemy were again seen in large clusters directly in our front but almost immediately afterwards disappeared out of sight."

Seems to me as if the column was being given a right old run around: an orchestrated act of deception, luring the columnn further away from the camp. Milne continues "The main body of the army who had been in our front all the morning were now asembled at the foot of Isipesi Hill [12 miles from the camp] watching the movements of the mounted Infantry who were scouting the plain some short distance off, but on their approach they [the Zulus] all retreated to the table land on top of the Isipezi mountain. I also saw small clusters of the enemy on every hill top all around us observing our movements".

In the mean time the camp at Isandlwana was being attacked ond overrun.

Are we to assume that the Zulus thus encountered had lost their way in proceeding to Isandlwana and by a remarkable bit of luck, miles off their intended course, just happened to bump into the British column and string it along for the best part of twenty hours? Or give credit, where credit is due, to the generalship of Ntshingwayo kaMahole?
28th May 2005Mike McCabe
How, exactly, was the camp 'perfectly defensible with 12 companies and a battery' whilst still laid out administratively?
Where would the battle have been fought on that basis? Even conjecturally.
29th May 2005Coll
Was it not Durnford who was horrified when he saw the layout of the camp ?

Knowing the Zulus as he did, it must have made him uneasy when he was informed of the Zulu sightings on the heights, seeing the camp so unprotected. He needed to know what was up there and, if possible, use his mounted troops to 'push' any groups of Zulus that were found, away from the surrounding areas near to the camp.

Pulleine, however, I agree would not have had time to form a laager, but also I don't think a square would have been practical, with the forces he had available.

A firing line was his best option, I feel, which it was at that time, if the attack was only from the direction of the ridge, but it wasn't.

I have a few ideas myself about certain aspects of the battle at Isandlwana, but being a learner still, I'd be torn apart.

29th May 2005Peter Quantrill
Since, to my deep regret, Mike (S ) has, temporarily retired from the forum, and therefore will not give his views, ( please reconsider Mike ) let me render a possible solution for Pulleine. This solultion HAS to be based on the notion that at the time Pulleine scribbled off the blue note ay 0805 hrs., he was now aware that the possibility existed that a full scale Zulu attack was in the offing. This is all hypothetical.
The camp as at stands, is virtually indefensible where it stands owing to the west of the hill, together with its approaches, allowing cover that will allow the Zulu to close with a series of quick rushes as the eastern and northern approaches are simultaneously assaulted.
Possible theoritical DS solution?
1. Drop tents.
2. Move the entire force forward to the area where Durnford was positioned in the donga, out in the open a couple of miles from the camp.
3. Form square, open all ammo. boxes, and place each of the two 7 pdr's at a corner.
4. Task the mounted men to bring the Zulus onto the plain.
5. Time for range markers to be placed by RE's.
6. Send message to Chelmsford that major attack imminent and return immediately.
The Time to achieve this? At least four hours.
Abandon the wagons, less ammo wagons.
All above is absolute speculation, but a better chance of victory, rather than to contract against the hill.
Field of fire and range? Exellent.
Problem is that the AZW would have been concluded and no books or reseach undertaken which, in turn, would have left a multitude of people with nothing to do!
29th May 2005Coll

I'm not qualified enough to debate this issue, but I will say this.

A square at this position would be isolated, it would also mean abandoning the very thing that Pulleine was ordered to defend - the camp.

Inform Chelmsford ?. He would have shrugged his shoulders, the same way he did in the real events, leaving it too late to react, arriving when the fight is over.

The whole camp to Pulleine was the most important, tents, wagons, equipment and of course, the men.

There is no way he would abandon it.

29th May 2005Peter Quantrill
This is a fun attempt to tatically place Pulleine's force in such a position that the possibility existed of a successful defence being conducted --- no more.
The square isolated? From what? Short of all incumbrances, with a clear field of all round fire and with the arrival of Durnford, my money may just, only just, have been on the defenders.
The Zulus would have many hundreds of yards of open space to cover before closing on to the square.
Lighthearted result? Durnford, VC; Pulleine VC;( plus others, hopefully not Clery or Crealock ) and his Lordship continues to retain command indefintely in Southern Africa. Poor old Sir Garnet would be unable to direct his missives from Cyprus and none of us would have read anything on the AZW, short of a paragraph or two.
29th May 2005Coll

The trouble with your mentioned deployment, is the fact that, with the Zulus approaching from the North, Northeast, Northwest, West and East, is in my view, that maybe only 3 sides of the square would have been in action, not 4.

You can't fight Isandlwana like Ulundi, as even at Ulundi the Zulus managed to get within a reasonable distance, against such incredible firepower, and I'm sure they were attacking all 4 sides.

What if the Zulus at Isandlwana decided against attacking all 4 sides, but aimed their full force towards the Northern part of the square, possibly activating, 2 or 3 sides, initially, but the impact point being on 1 side.

Yes. The Zulus would have sustained losses, but the square would collapse at this point, then finish.

Result - Zulu Victory again !

Don't get me wrong, I wish Durnford and Pulleine could have got a VC, but that definitely would be wishful thinking.


PS. Isolated in the fact that they were indeed positioned in the middle of nothing.

I'm afraid my money would still have to go on the Zulus.
30th May 2005Michael Boyle
Personally I'd have opted for the unimpeded high ground at Black's Koppie with guns at 12 and 6 o'clock to cover 'the notch' harrie the camp and cover Lord Celmsford's re-approach, maybe even shoot down a few tents! Of course that would have required a true epiphany but it could have resulted in "Durnford's Koppie"!

(Just got Emery, Furneaux and Clammer yesterday so may have a few more questions yet on the original discussion!)


30th May 2005Mike McCabe
If that's what would have made the camp defensible, it's very interesting that nothing remotely like it appears to have been envisaged or rehearsed.
I also find it surprising that Mike (S) should view all this as something to be laid upon 'the staff' - were Glynn and Degacher so supine in accepting this fundamentally tactically unsound layout. It's hard to believe that they simply knew no better. Expensive lack of moral courage?
30th May 2005Julian Whybra
Enough! Poor old Barker’s words have been taken in vain for long enough. I don’t believe it is tedious to look at what Barker actually wrote…it is therefore time to look at it…
“On 21st January all the available mounted men were on a patrol, only those remaining in camp who were on duty, or whose horses had sore backs or otherwise were not fit for riding. I was on vidette duty next day with every available man under Lieut. Scott. We left camp at about 4 a.m., and the Carbineers were posted to the direct front and left of the camp, from three to five miles away. Hawkins, my bosom friend, and myself were posted on a hill to the extreme front, quite six miles from camp, and arrived on the hill about sunrise. After being posted for about a quarter of an hour we noticed a lot of mounted men in the distance, and on their coming nearer we saw that they were trying to surround us. We gave the usual signal, but had to retire off the hill post haste, as we discovered they were Zulus. We retired to Lieut. Scott, about two miles nearer camp, and informed him of what we had seen, and he decided to come back with us, but before we had gone far we saw Zulus on the hill we had just left, and others advancing from the left flank where two other videttes, Whitelaw and another, had been obliged to retire from. Whitelaw reported a large army advancing, ‘thousands’ I remember him distinctly stating, and he was immediately sent back to camp with the report. This would be about 8 a.m. He returned with a message to Lieut. Scott that we were to watch the enemy carefully and send back reports of their movements. Shortly afterwards, numbers of Zulus being seen on all the hills to the left and front, Trooper Swift and another were sent back to report. The Zulus then remained on the hills, and about two hundred of them advanced to within three hundred yards of us, but on our advancing they retired out of sight, and a few of us went up to this hill where the Zulus had disappeared, and on a farter hill, at about six hundred yards’ distance, we saw a large army sitting down. We returned to Lieut. Scott, who was then about three miles from camp, and reported what we had seen. Hawkins and I were then sent back to camp to report a large army to the left front of the camp.”

So, the sequence of events actually was [and Zulu Victory’s version of it was]…

1. Fifteen minutes after sunrise Barker and Hawkins noticed “a lot of mounted men [Zulus] in the distance, and on their coming nearer we saw they were trying to surround us”. They retired to Lieut. Scott and told him of what they had seen.

ZV states “They suddenly became aware of a group of horsemen in the distance…It then became evident that not only were 500-600 men on foot coming up behind the horsemen, but also that they were fast being encircled. In an instant the carbineers realised that they were confronting a powerful Zulu impi. At once they set their horses plunging down the slopes of Qwabe and, at a full gallop, headed for Scott on Conical Hill.

There is no mention of “500-600 men on foot coming up behind”, of “fast being encircled”, of “confronting a powerful Zulu impi”, or of the panic inherent in “plunging” and “full gallop”.
Some literary licence is of course perfectly acceptable but this would seem to exceed the facts of Barker’s account.
Ron 28th has excised the words “a lot of mounted men” to indicate the large number of Zulus Barker saw. Setting aside the C19 usage of “a lot of” to mean “a group or number of” as opposed to the C20 “a large quantity of”, in an earlier posting Peter would have us believe that “the mounted men” were Mehlokazulu and his two companions thus corroborating Barker’s account. Now, Ron and Peter, you can’t have it both ways, you can have corroboration and 3 mounted Zulus (which I must say I find hard to imagine attempting to surround Barker and Hawkins) or you can have no corroboration and a group of mounted Zulus. Either way you still can’t have 500-600 men on foot coming up from behind.

2. Barker and Hawkins informed Scott of what they had seen “and he decided to come back with us.”

ZV states “Scott had seen their wild ride and rode out to meet them…Accompanied by Barker and Hawins, he started towards Qwabe.”

Scott was stationed on Conical Koppie which is not as high as the escarpment of the plateau. Scott could not have seen “their wild ride” and there is no mention anywhere of his riding out to meet them.

3. As they ride back to their vedette post on the hill they see Zulus on it and “others advancing from the left flank” from which Whitelaw and friend have been obliged to retire from. Whitelaw reports a large army, “thousands”, advancing, and he was sent back immediately to camp to report. “This would be about 8 a.m.”

ZV states that Whitelaw spoke of a massive army, thousands strong, emerging from the Ngwebini valley and “almost as if to confirm his story” the party became aware of Qwabe “teeming with Zulus”. They all return to Conical Koppie whence Whitelaw and friend are sent back to camp to report to Pulleine. “The time was approx. 7.30 a.m. The battle for Isandhlwana camp had begun.”

Whitelaw makes no mention of where he had seen the Zulus. It probably was the Ngwebini valley, but the Zulus seen could have been entering it, as opposed to “emerging from” it to charge on to the camp, or it could have been in the distance. Barker specifically states that Whitelaw was sent back to camp immediately to report, not that they all went back to Conical Koppie and that Whitelaw and partner were sent back. The times of course differ, but not by much, and the Barker account was written circa 1911-12 (but then if we start to say his memory was unreliable in the matter of time, the whole thing begins to fall apart, doesn’t it?).

4. Whitlelaw returns with a message for Scott from Pulleine that he is to watch carefully and report the Zulus’ movements. After this Zulu are seen on all the hills to the left and front, and Trprs. Swift and A.N.Other are sent back to camp to report.

ZV states that Lieut. Coghill intercepts Whitelaw and hobbles to Pulleine with his message. There is a conference and Whitelaw returns to Scott with his message. “At the time Scott was about a mile east of his command post on Conical Hill.” Whitelaw returns to Scott, Zulus are seen “along the whole length of Nqutu Ridge above and in the undulating ground to the carbineers’ immediate front”. Trooper Swift was sent back to camp to report.

There is no mention of Coghill in Barker or anywhere else, nor of any conference between that officer and Pulleine. This is supposition and conjecture presented as fact. There is no mention of Scott’s position or movements. Scott is placed “a mile east of his command post on Conical Hill” – he has evidently moved forward from his command post on Conical Koppie –but the map on p. 153 places them on the escarpment edge adjacent to iThusi which is not quite the same place as one mile east of Conical Koppie. The last place Barker has Scott is on the plateau and not moving from it. There is no mention of Zulus being seen in the undulating ground in front of the Carbineers. Two troopers were sent back to report not just Trpr. Swift. If the Zulus were swarming on the Nqutu Ridge there would presumably be no need to send back anybody to report this to Pulleine – it would all have been plainly visible from camp.

5. The Zulus remained on the hills; 200 approached to within 300 yards of Scott’s party; the Carbineers advanced and the 200 Zulus retired out of sight and were followed up the hill by Barker and a few others. On a farther hill, 600 yards away, they saw a large army sitting down. Barker’s party returned to Scott who was about 3 miles from camp to report. Hawkins and Barker were then sent back to camp to report a large army to the left front of camp.

ZV states that the 200 warriors advanced and retired, that Barker and Hawkins only were sent up quite specifically on to the north-eastern slopes of iThusi where they discover a large impi sitting at approx. 8.30 a.m. The army had begun to deploy but many warriors were still making their way from Isipesi following their mock engagement with Chelmsford. Barker and Hawkins return to Scott. Another Carbineer is sent back to camp to report.

Barker is quite specific that it was “a few of us” who went up to this hill, not him and Hawkins. ZV posits iThusi to the east as being the hill which the group ascended; it could easily and is more likely have been any of the hill slopes to the north of the plateau’s edge. The large Zulu army is “sitting down” - Barker describes no “deployment” – this is hardly the swiftly moving Zulu army supposedly swooping down on the camp since 5 a.m. and becomes difficult to reconcile with the statement made earlier that “the battle for Isandhlwana camp had begun”. If the impi were deployed and in position it doesn’t square with the Zulu accounts of the regiments becoming mixed up as they emerged from the Ngwebini and tactically in the wrong position. As for warriors still making their way from Isipesi (a hell of a trek even for a Zulu) following a mock engagement with Chelmsford there is not one scrap of evidence whatsoever – whereas there are a number of Zulu accounts, blindly ignored in ZV, which state specifically that it was “Matyana’s people” who were engaged with Chelmsford. The Zulus which Russell’s IMI (ZV p. 178) chased were heading in a north-easterly direction and were certainly not en route “to attack the camp” at 10.15 a.m.. That, however, is another story which must not detract from Barker’s account. Lastly it was Barker and Hawkins who took the report back to camp not “another messenger”.

And so it goes on…
I would therefore respectfully say to you Ron 28th that if you have a copy of Stalker and Barker’s account, it is you who should read it again.
30th May 2005Mike McCabe
How you must miss Sir David Napley.
31st May 2005Ron Lock

You have mentioned, I think for the fourth time, that in Z. Victory I referred to " 500 - 600 men". A couple of postings ago I admitted that 500-600 was my interpretation of the number of Zulus involved. Having confessed to interpretation I really don't see what else I can be expected to say and it is your harping on this issue that I find tedious.

You say some literary licence is perfectly acceptable but, you contend, I have exceeded the facts of Barker's account. I think not.

Barker: "... we noticed a lot of mounted men ... and on their coming nearer we saw that they were trying to surround us. We gave the usual signal, but had to retire off the hill post haste."

Z.V.: [Barker and Hawkins]"at once they set their horses plunging down the slopes of Qwabe and at full gallop headed for Scott on Conical Hill, drawing rein only to negotiate several massive dongas en route."

You say that Barker makes no mention - as Z.V. does - of "his being fast encircled". He actually said instead "they were trying to surround us". In view your agreeing that "some literary licence is perfectly acceptable" what you contend is indeed pedantic.

You also contend that by the use of words "plunging" and "full gallop" we infered Baker was in a panic. (The sentence concerned is quoted in the second para. above). We used the term "full gallop". Barker described their pace as "post haste". Oxford Dictionary definition "With great speed or immediacy". Would you call that nit picking?

And they might well have felt a twinge of panic! I know I would in their position. Nineteen years of age; just the two of them; six miles from the camp; brought up on tales of Zulus and what happened to their regiment at the top of Bushman's Pass. Of course they galloped back.

Later in the day, Capt. Shepstone and Mr. Hamer in similar circumstances "... rode as hard as we could back to the camp and reported what we had seen". And, horses being ridden hard down hill over rocky ground, will inevitably "plunge". Do you ride? You say that Scott could not have seen their "wild ride" (Z.V. description). Of course he could. On Conical Hill he had an unrestricted view of Barker's position two and a half miles away on Qwabe. Not only would he have seen their ride but would have had them in view at all times and would earlier have seen them "circling their horses" as a prearranged signal.

As for the possibility, as you say, of Whitelaw seeing Zulus entering the Ngwebeni Valley in order "to charge the camp" if that was so they would have had a devil of a job, as they would have been going in the opposite direction.

Now, Barker giving the message to Coghill, I plead literary licence! However, Coghill was orderly officer, was he not? Would he not , logically, be the man to hand it to Pullein?

You infer that as Barker did not describe the "large Zulu army" that he saw sitting on a hill as being deployed then they were not so and the Battle of Isandlwana had not begun. When then does a battle begin? I would say immediately one side makes an agressive move against the other. Therefore when Barker saw them sitting on the hill (don't forget all the other deployments seen by such as Chard, Pope, Brickhill etc.) they had been deployed and the battle had commenced.

Finally, if you really believe the force that met Chelmsford's column were all Matyana's men and that the Zulu intent was not to attack until the following day, what on earth was Matyana doing leading Chelmsford's column on to where it would inevitably see the great score mark across the plain made by the passing ot the Zulu army heading for its place of concealment. If your supposition is correct, was Matyana giving the game away?

Oh, one last thing. We did not "blindly ignore "the Zulu accounts of their movements". We dismissed them, as you find in Z.V., as being tailored to what their interrogators wished to hear.
31st May 2005Michael Boyle
I believe Sir David's ears would perk up if he could read this discussion!

Weren't two of the messengers said to have been "incoherent" when (separately) reaching Pulliene? (The first requiring Pulleine to send another officer out to make sense of it and the second [Shepstone?] arriving at the same time as Gardiner?)

(I'm currently half way through Clammer [I know, I know! But his style does reccomend him] where, interestingly, after his paragraph about describing the discovery of the impi [by a single Basuto!] he follows with the single sentence paragraph " The battle of Isandhlwana had begun". It does seem as good a time as any since the impi was certainly on the move then.)


1st June 2005Peter Quantrill
A few issues arise. In some instances your views do appear to give the impression being dogmatic. For example, in a separate subject on this forum discussing books, you stated on 29 May:
"By far the best history of Isandlwana is David Jackson's Hill on the Sphinx."
Let me make it clear that Jackson's work is outstanding, but then so is the work of others, such as Knight and Laband. Surely your statement should have been prefixed with the phrase, " in my opinion?"
Going back to Melokazulu ka Sihayo, you initially gave the impression that the RE Journal report was old hat and gave various references where it was quoted. Upon being challenged by Keith S that the exact quote he had listed on this forum had never been analysed, you responded to Keith:
" Despite having read the RE Journal account, those writers attached no significance to the special para you mentioned because they did not see it altering the basic timeline for the day or the sequence of events."
Which specific writers are you referring to? Laband and Jackson?
In one sentence, this vital piece of evidence by Melokazulu, which totally contradicts his previous statement is dismissed. This is unacceptable and his quote as shown by Keith is more deserving of careful analasys and debate by all.
May I take the liberty of asking two questions which either meet with your agreement or do not.
1.Do you concur that approximately one third of the Zulu Army had left the Ngwebeni Valley and were sighted on both the plateau and ridge prior to Durnford's arrival. A simple yes or no. If the answer is no, then we can drop the debate and agree to disagree.
2. Do you agree with the interpretation of Brickhill's primary source report, ( the only one on the subject to my knowledge) that, when Raw and Roberts were ordered out by Durnford to the ridge and plateau, they retraced their steps by going back over the neck and then swung right across the western side of the hill before ascending the plateau?
Sir David has by now, no doubt broken into a chuckle.
1st June 2005Coll
Mike McCabe

I was very interested in your posting about what you would do in the event of a re-enactment of a Court of Inquiry, being to query some of the blame directed at Col. Durnford.

Could you please explain this in more detail, unless of course, you wish to wait until such a re-enactment takes place ?

1st June 2005Keith Smith

Peter Q/Julian

With reference to Peter's two questions in his post of the Glorious 1st! I should here say that I, for one, do not agree that this was the route taken by Raw and Roberts - rather, that they went due north up the spur. Peter and I have enjoyed an off-site debate on this matter and agreed to disagree, but the evidence which I have seen, inlcuding at least two contemporary maps, indicates that this was the route taken rather than the more odd route suggested by Peter. I believe that Brickhill was in error, and that he confused their movement with that of Vause's departure.
Don't want to open up yet another marathon, but the evidence does not support Peter's view.
2nd June 2005Peter Quantrill
Hi Keith,
I have posted Brickhill's comments elsewhere, but his statement cannot be misconstrued as meaning Vause. It reads:
" At half past ten Durnford's Horse arrived. A welcome addition indeed to our meagre forces.At eleven o'clock a party of them were sent back BY THE WAY THEY CAME ROUND THE ISANDLWANA and from there ROUND the Northernmost point of the Ingutu to check the enemy's recent advance in that direction for those in the middle of Ingutu had disappeared again from the hills."
This description is not in keeping with Vause being sent back to escort the wagons and Rocket Battery into camp. It makes clear that the mounted men were to ascent the ridge. Vause did not do this.Furthermore it would make sense , in Durnford's mind, to ensure that there were no Zulus on the western approaches of Isandlwana.It makes tactical sense. I cannot recollect if the maps you refer to were drawn by those present at the battle? If not, Brickhill's primary source must surely take precedence, as opposed to secondary source material. I know of no other primary source indicating the route taken by Raw and Roberts.
2nd June 2005Keith Smith


I really didn't want to restart this matter, having dealt with it at length with you some time earlier. Suffice to say that the preponderance of evidence is that R & R went north, whilst only Brickhill seems to think that they went round to the south of Isandlwana. He was a civilian and not a military man, so might easily have been confused. I therefore prefer not to accept his evidence on this particular matter. This, by the by, is the same man who, referring to Gardner's return to Isandlwana, stated: "Mr. Alexander was with the General, and was sent back by his captain to assist in moving the camp." (BPP C. 2252 p. 73).!
22nd June 2005Julian Whybra
Sorry, illness has kept me away from the site:
Sorry, I had not seen and have been unable to find your posting re admitting that 500-600 was your interpretation of the numbers of Zulus on the plateau. Fine, now I know the figure was not from a primary source. I would say that given they were mounted Zulus 500-600 is an overestimate. Did you also interpreted that they were not mounted but on foot and coming from behind in addition to the mounted horsemen? This is not being tedious.
Re Whitelaw you seem to have misread my posting. I state no such possibility.
As for Coghill being orderly officer - of course he was - but he is not mentioned in the day's proceedings because of his injury which confined him to his tent.
Re Barker, that's my point exactly, they were sitting, NOT deploying!
Re the score mark, he was apparently not giving the game away as Chelmsford did nothing about it.
As for ignoring/dismissing the Zulu accounts of their movements, I don't see much difference between the two. You may feel they were tailored to what their interrogators wished to hear (quite an assumption given the variety of times and places they were taken in) but it would not seem pedantic to state that their accounts were not tailored to what you wanted to hear.
Mehlokazulu's account is in both Laband and Jackson's bibliographies.
Re your questions:
1. No
2. No, I tend to agree with Keith but I'm willing to keep an open mind.
If Sir David were here he would not be chuckling, he would still be waiting for an answer to my points 1-5 beyond an ''interpretation' of events.

3rd July 2005Ron Lock
Dear Julian,

Thank you for clarifying your position. We do seem to agree on a couple of points at least and agree to disagree on the remainder. However, I am sure I never intimated the possibility of 500-600 mounted Zulus, which would have amounted to a full regiment in British numbers.