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DateOriginal Topic
6th August 2003The initial position of the British firing line at Isandlwana
By Adrian Wright
Are there any survivor accounts indicating that the early position of the British firing line extended nearly as far east as the conical koppie?
8th August 2003Keith Smith

In a previous res[onse to you, I have mentioned the Public Record Office at Kew. There is a substantial document, running to more that three hundred pages, identified as WO 33/34. This is just packed with many of the military correspondence and reports from the war as a whole and is full of interesting stuff. Failing that, just get hold of a book covering the war which is well footnoted - David Jackson's 'Hill of the Sphinx' is one such and a good start.
8th August 2003Adrian Wright
Thanks, but as I only have internet access at my place of work this search may take an awfully long time (not wishing to upset the boss too much of course)
8th August 2003Martin.Everett
Dear Adrian,
Some of the questions you have asked have been posted a number of times on this site. Keith's advice is sound. If you feel you cannot afford David Jackson's new book, i suggest you obtain the reprint of David's earlier article in JSAHR from the shop - only 2.50 plus pp - this is the best starting document if you wish to learn more about Isandhlwana. There no need to use the Internet - anyway the text of documents Keith refers to are not available on-line, only the PRO catalogue PROCAT - see
8th August 2003Trevor
Gets a bit annoying lads, when the answer to a question is "Look it up in a book"
Where's the discussion value in this kind of reply. O.K. It might get a bit repetative for some of you more knowladgable chappies! But use your experiance to generate discussion. Even at the expense of repeating well used questions! So endeth this lesson!!
9th August 2003Keith Smith

At the risking of seeming to be pedantic, may I say that I have some dozens of primary sources referring to Isandlwana; you would hardly expect me to quote them for Adrian. Rather than do that, which would be both tedious and time-consuming, I chose to point him towards a document which I have, and which I know contains many references to his subject. Since I don't know where he lives, access to the PRO might or might not be possible. On the other hand, 'Hill of the Sphinx' distils the essence of most of the important documents (as does Jackson's article, suggested by Martin, except that it lacks Hamer and Malindi).

Adrian, I apologise if my reply seemed patronising.
11th August 2003Adrian Wright
That's o.k. Every piece of information/advice helps - but it is nice to have the answers forwarded by you guys.Thanks.
11th August 2003Adrian Wright
That's o.k. Every piece of information/advice helps - but it is nice to have the answers forwarded by you guys.Thanks.
12th August 2003Ian Essex
Totally agree with Trevor on this.
If someone posts a question on the discussion forum and you get a bit annoyed because it's been asked and answered before...don't bother answering. Let someone else do it.
Remember, not everyone has access to a computer full time. Some only at work and that could well be very resticted. Some people have computers that are very slow and don't always go through the pages of the forum, let alone anything else, very fast. Some may have read through the forum at great length but could have easily missed a question and answer session. Keith may have no way of accessing the public record office. Also, as stated before, a repeat question often broadens into another interesting topic. Peoples standard of research is always going to be vastly different and not everyone has ALL the books, so please, lets stop 'the being annoyed at answering a question again response'. Just leave alone or answer the question.
12th August 2003Adrian wright
Nice to have some support on this - thanks guys.
26th August 2003Mike McCabe
Attempting to answer the original question:
- Quite a few of the battlefield sketches that support surviving primary source accounts (or subsequent reports) do create the impression that the 'line' did indeed extend out towards the conical koppie.
- However, this can usually be attributed to the difficulty of sketching the battlefield site generally, the apparent crudeness of the sketches, and the tendency to draw the various companies as if close to each other and with frontages larger than any they might in real life have been able to cover - even with fire and observation. Thus, the line usually drifts off to the right, and east or southeast by the time all have been included.
-Also, drawers of diagrams face the difficulty of sketching any kind of layout, even schematic, if they do not have a clear and accurate idea of the relative positions of the Nyoni ridges, the various dongas on the battlefield, and the main rock outcrops.
It's not very surprising that drawings are distorted and skewed in these difficult circumstances. Even the Lt Penrose/Capt Anstey triangulation of later 1879 does not stand up all that well when superimposed onto a recent 1:50,000 scale map.
There are also difficulties in piecing together the relative positions of deploying and manouevring units on the right flank of the 'line', despite the good efforts of distinguished researchers and writers like Ian Knight and David Jackson. It is particularly difficult to work out where Lt Pope's company actually ended up, though grave cairns, the Chelmsford Papers 'Isandula Disaster' item, and 'Boast's map' all give us clues. Even standing on the battlefield, and with all the time in the world, it's really very difficult to estimate, let alone sketch, where companies and units might have been deployed.