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DateOriginal Topic
2nd November 2003Were captured Troops used for Target Practise at Isandlwana
By Dan
Forgive me if this has been asked before but at the end of Zulu Dawn,when Chelmsford is reviewing the carnage, there are dead British troops who have been tied up and used as human dart boards. Is there any historical fact in this? Thanks in anticipation.
2nd November 2003Mark Hobson

I think the scenes you refer to have a liberal use of poetic licence thrown in by the film makers. Most of the dead soldiers were mutilated after death as part of Zulu cultural practices, but I doubt they went in for torture. Body parts were taken, but once again this would have been after death. There is the old myth of the bugler boys been strung up on meat hooks and disembowled, so perhaps the director was trying to play this into the film a little. Having said that, I don't think Zulu Dawn even comes close to depicting the scenes of carnage Chelmsford's men found when they returned to camp. It would be too revolting to show.
2nd November 2003Dan
Thanks for your reply Mark. I have read that the Bugler boys were strung up and had their testicles removed,forcing the British to remove Bugler boys from future conflicts. I have also read that the Zulus practised buggery on the dead troops to "warn off demons". Another myth or based on fact? Having started to properly research this subject I am trying to check facts with more experienced readers.
3rd November 2003Julian Whybra
Re the 'myth' of the drummer boys. There are several accounts by different soldiers describing the finding of the drummer boys, seemingly verifying one another's accounts. I recall (I think) that these were collated in a past issue of the AZWRS's journals. I'll try to find it and pass on the reference (unless John Young beats me to it!) rather than references for whereabouts of the individual accounts. As for the disembowelling of 'corpses', you will note that there were no wounded at Isandhlwana and no prisoners of war, I am sure that the poor devils who were lying wounded on Isandhlwana plain and awaiting death rejoiced at the thought that they would only be participating in a 'Zulu cultural practice'.
3rd November 2003Mark Hobson
The story of the bugler boys has been bounced back and forth for many years now, but nobody seems to have cleared it up one way or the other. The term bugler 'boys' is probably misleading as I'm sure I've read somewhere that those at Isandlwana were actually in their twenties. As for cutting off the privates privates (sorry) this would also be a part of Zulu custom, the bodily parts to be later used to make umuthi medicine. The Zulus compared killing a British soldier to that of killing a lion, both needing equal courage, and a fallen foe who had fought bravely was considered the biggest prize of all. So the amount of body parts taken may relate to how the Zulus regarded that individual soldier. The penis, as well as skin from the anus, was thought to contain the strongest properties for umuthi medicine.
Another 'myth' that I've heard of was the discovery of a circle of decapitated heads in the camp. Perhaps somebody could throw more light on this?
3rd November 2003PeterQuantrill
Captain Penn Symonds, 2/24th, out with Glyn's column wrote a detailed 44 page report from Rorke's Drift dated February, March and April 1879.
" One little Band Boy of the 2/24thRegt,a mere child,was hung by the heels to the tail of an ox-wagon and his throat cut--------further details would be too sickening."
4th November 2003Dan
Thanks for your replies guys.