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DateOriginal Topic
26th June 2003Thoughts on Spalding
By A.Maniac
I have been wondering about Major Spalding’s predicament and frankly I do not envy him. I see that the subject was dealt with very thoroughly a year or so ago so will not go over that again.
Whilst I cannot believe that he was really convinced that Rorke’s Drift had been carried I think his decision to sacrifice Rorke’s Drift for the greater priority of safeguarding his men and defending Helpmekaar against possible attack was, in that uncertain situation, fully justified (though his refusal the next morning to send troops and ammunition in response to Chard’s call for help is perhaps more questionable).
Even so I find myself asking what would Bromhead or Dalton or Durnford or even Chelmsford himself have done in his position? The Zulus were clearly attempting to encircle him, he could not know how many of them there were, it would soon be dark, a donga was ahead which the Zulus might have been occupying in force and I am not sure if the wagon carrying the reserve ammunition was up with the men. Added to that he did not clearly know Chelmsford’s situation. If the Zulus had broken off their attack on Rorke’s Drift and instead attacked him in force, he could have formed his 200 men up in a tight square of double ranks, the sides of which would have been about 25 meters long and this position would have been easily defendable so long as it stayed light and the ammunition did not run out, but the Zulus would have had the option of waiting a few hours for complete darkness and then creeping up close. This would have negated the British fire power and surely have produced a wipeout? So I have the feeling that, unglorious as his action was it may have been absolutely the best course. In this case he deserves praise for having the courage to appear as a coward while other apparently braver men might have acted more rashly! Or would they?

28th June 2003James Garland
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Spalding's proffessional contemporaries understood his position and accepted it. I think they were also rather sorry for him. After all if he had been at Rorke's Drift he would have been the hero of the moment rather than Chard and Bromhead.
28th June 2003A. Maniac
One can imagine with what a heavy heart he must have turned back, quite possibly fearing that Bromhead and Chard would not have the experience necessary for the best conduct of the defence!