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20th November 2003ammunition shortage at isandlwana
By Omar Khokhar
What is the curent position regarding the possible ammunition shortage at isandlwana. Ian Knight says that recent archaeological appears to suggest that the 24th`s companies suffered no such shortage,

However in the book Zulu Victory by Ron Lock & Peter Quantrill, it is suggested a ammunition shortage was a factor in the british defeat. Any ideas any one?
21st November 2003Martin Everett
The simple fact was that when the picquet line was positioned the soldiers would normally have 70 rounds of ammunition. The average infantryman could fire this in about 10 mins. It was more than 10 mins for the drummers to run back and return from the resupply held by the Quartermaster. Overwhelming numbers of enemy was also a factor.
21st November 2003Julian whybra
This has been done to death on this website and in myriad books. I feel David Jackson answers the myth of ammo shortage succinctly in The Hill of the Sphinx and for those that can be bothered to read it, truly lays the ghost to rest. It is not for me to plagiarise his arguments. The simple facts are that no-one surviving from the redcoats' lines speaks of an ammo failure (with the exception of Smith-Dorrien's remark being taken out of context). When ammo is mentioned it is generally in parentheses almost and relates to the organization of ammo supply NOT failure. These were professional soldiers, well used to organizing such things as a matter of course. It is ludicrous to suggest otherwise.
21st November 2003Mark Hobson
Also, the enthasis was on a slower, more controlled rate of fire. It was more important to take their time rather than to just blaze away and waste ammunition. Firing by sections helped to regulate the rate of fire, as long as the company commanders practised a strict fire control with their men. It was possible to fire off six or seven rounds per minute, but this does not mean they fired round after round in this manner. The heat of the barrel would probably prevent this as well as the amount of smoke produced. There was also at least one occasion during the battle that the cease-fire was called, when the Zulu rush was halted at the foot of the escarpment. It's probably unlikely that many men actually ran out completely. At Khambula the average number of shots fired per soldier was very low, during a battle that lasted for 4 hours (I forget the figures given but there was never a danger of the men running out - the same is probably the case for Isandlwana). The "ammunition controversy" which has been banded about for years was probably no more than the Establishment trying to find a reason for the defeat, this and blaming dead men such as Durnford.
21st November 2003paul neville
Digs at the site also suggest that much evidence was found, metal belts from ammunition boxes, etc that there was no way the soldiers ran out of ammunition. The Zulus also took all rifles and ammo from the soldiers so this also helped spread the rumour of running out of bullets. The wagons for each regiment were not clearly marked and this lead to confusion as to where to get ammuntion from.
21st November 2003Mike McCabe
I have read David Jackson's analysis, and as an analysis specifically of the few surviving (relevant and reliable) primary source accounts it is a very reasonable one. However, it can only logically be argued that ammunition supply was absolutely not a factor in the collapse of a coherent defence at Isandlwana if the rate of fire in any one of the five 1st/24th companies did not have to be reduced at any stage to conserve ammunition, so impeding their delivery of sustained rates and volumes of 'effective fire'. I set aside the unique circumstances of Pope's 2nd/24th company who were unluckily overfaced by a large and dispersed target rushing at them on the British right. It's now an imponderable, but the levels of activity at the QM's wagons at least indicate that the company commanders were anticipating exhausting their first line stocks fairly soon. We might reasonably suppose that reserves were initially held on the man (+20 rounds), at company level (say 2 or 4 boxes, these were fairly experienced companies, and at least two had been sent forward as company strength outposts), and then at battalion and column level. For fire to remain effective as the Zulus ran onto and started to outflank individual companies, the companies would probably have had to increase their rate of fire above the normal methodical steady rates and 'swing' the centre of arc of their fire across a widening general arc of fire as the Zulus got closer. It seems unlikely that the companies were able to coordinate or concentrate their fire in mutual support of each other and, so, each company would have been trying to inflict enough casualties on the Zulus closest to it to deter a general advance by the Zulu 'line' and centre. If we assume that one or more companies never had to reduce their fire, and were simply overwhelmed because the Zulus rushed them faster than they could be shot flat, then the matter is one of arithmetic (and simple operational analysis). If, however, first line stocks and company reserves neared or reached exhaustion, then either ammunition would havehad to be conserved or would simply have run out. In such circumstances, we should not underestimate the handling delays of reaching the right company with more packets of ammunition, getting those packets to individual soldiers, the soldier placing them in his pockets/and or equipment, and the need to maintain effective fire throughout this. We cannot ignore the many possible obstructions to supply (including 'time and space') between Bn issuing points and the receiving unit (the companies). Also, the 1st/24th's companies were deployed nearer to the 2nd/24th's camp and wagon lines than their own. Hence the significance of the Smith Dorrien "requisition" remark. 1st Bn ammunition parties were (through force of circumstance?) having to present themselves to draw on 2nd Bn stocks simply because they could not risk the further delay of going to their own Bn QM much firther away. I think it's very reasonable to suppose that the inability to sustain an adequate flow of ammunition to the individual riflemen did indeed lead to reductions in the rate of fire, or at least dangerous pauses, so limiting the ability of the companies to deliver effective fire - individually and collectively. If we then take account of other incidental pauses as the companies re-positioned themselves, then there must have been quite a few axes along which the Zulus could exploit their way forward. Finally, it appears that the rifle companies were never intended or able to form a coherent and continuous 'all round' defensive perimeter except as an improvisation with all of the original 12 rifle companies being in camp. Reduced to six companies, and limited in their choice of tactics, their only hope was to concentrate and deliver enough voume of fire onto the advancing Zulus that they could not pursue their attack further. That did not happen, pure arithmetic (aided and abetted by uncertain ammunition supply) must have played its part.
23rd November 2003Julian Whybra
Except, Mike, that no-one mentions an inability to sustain effective fire - no officer, no man, no Briton, no colonial, no African - who escaped. If it had been a factor - even a minor one - it would have been recorded.
23rd November 2003Ron Lock
The discussion so far has been confined to the firing line composed of the three companies of the 24th commanded respectively by Capt. Wardell and Lts. Porteous and Pope. To briefly reiterate what can be found in "Zulu Victory".

During the course of the battle there were, in fact, three distinct firing lines scattered over the battlefield.
a) That of the two troops NNH, commanded by Durnford. It ran out of ammunition and was refused, or was unable to obtain further supplies. There is indisputable evidence to this effect.
b) The two companies of the 24th commaded respectively by Lts. Cavaye and Mostyn, and later supported by the two troops of the NNH commanded by Capt. W. Barton with a further coompany of the 24th commanded by Capt. Younghusband. The evidence of Capt. Essex, who attempted to replenish their ammunition supply is specific: He was unable to do so.

c) The firing line comprising the remaining companies of the 24th, those of Wardell, Porteous and Pope, suported to some extent by poorly armed units of the NNC. The evidence of survivors, Lt. Smith -Dorrien and Privates Williams, Bickley and Wilson, all mention attempts to re-supply the firing line.

In addition, Capt. Penn Symons of the 2/24th, who, at the time of the battle, was with Chelmsford's column, took it upon himself, immediately after the battle, whilst at Rorkes Drift, to interview and collate evidence. His report was later passed on to Horse Guards and Queen Victoria. He wrote "Whatever demarits this account may possess, however inaccurate it may be in detail ... it has the great advantage of having been written from notes and conversations made on the spot. In all cases it contains the first statements of survivors". With regard to the ammunition supply he wrote:
"Our men now began running backwards and forwards by twos and threes for ammunition. Officers in the camp were serving it out and carrying it to the front ... It was hopeless to expect troops, even with an unlimited supply of ammunition to stop the determined advance and rush of vast numbers." Later in his report he refers to the ammunition supply again: "The reserve was in the wagons, at the nearest point 5oo yards to the rear. Every available man was in the ranks and there were absolutely no arrangements whatsoever for bringing up ammunition.
23rd November 2003Omar Khokhar
Ron, with regard to Captain Essex, I have read this account by him:

"The companies 1st Battalion 24th Regiment first engaged were now becoming short of ammunition, and at the request of the officer in charge I went to procure a fresh supply, with the assistance of Quartermaster 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment and some men of the Royal Artillery. I had some boxes placed on a mule cart and sent it off to the companies engaged, and sent more by hand, employing any men without arms. I then went back to the line, telling the men that plenty of ammunition was coming".

I must admit that this ammunition shortage controversy, is a great debate.
24th November 2003Mike McCabe
Thank you Omar, excellent point.
Julian, I think that we should give some thought to the limitations of many of the primary source and eye witness accounts. Some, will have had only a limited local view of events, and others would have left their particular part of the battlefield before events developed fully. And, some retrospective accounts show signs of failed memory or partial recall once known collateral is taken into account.
24th November 2003Graham Alexander
It is without doubt that fresh supplies of ammunition were rushed forward for the companies falling back from the hill by Captain Essex, but he continued his evidence by stating that
" I looked around and was horrified to see that the enemy had nearly surrounded us and was beginning to fire from the rear, coming up in that direction at a tremendous pace "
This would mean that by the time the ammunition reached the front line ( if it ever did ) it would have little or no effect on the outcome of the battle on their immediate front. Ron Lock is correct in stating that Captain Essex's attempt to resupply these men was to no avail as it was by then far to late to help them. As they had been engaged from the beginning of the battle, it was certain that their ammunition supply was seriously depleted, but they still retained some in their pouches. The fresh supplies being sent to them would have helped, but by this stage in the battle, would not have altered its outcome.
These men were virtually surrounded and it was only a matter of time before they were overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the numbers against them.
24th November 2003Peter Quantrill
I have raised this point on the forum previously,and it is relevant to this discussion..
The facts are, that in all probability,the companies may well have initially carried 70 rounds.However,In doubling to their positions, they lost a fair portion of the ammunition carried in the ball-bags. ( 30 rounds.) Thus Mostyn and Cavaye may well have been down to perhaps 55 rounds, speculating that they lost 50% of the contents of the ball-bag.The same to a lesser extent would apply to the remaining four companies.This would undoubtedly have have had a marked effect on the action which followed, irrespective of potential resupply situation, which is debatable. The primary source for this information is that at the conclusion of the Zulu War a circular letter was addressed to various officers who had served through the campaign,asking for information on certain points which might be useful in future operations in the same country.The following wa a short abstract of replies, and duplicated in "Zulu Victory."
Major-General Newdigate: "Complaints were made about the ball-bags: the weight of the cartridges makes the bags open,and when the men double the cartridges fall out." Newdigate was referring to Ulundi. How much worse the situation at Isandlwana.?
Major Woodgate, " with the ball-bags much ammunition was lost." That was an observation after Kambula. Again, how much worse the situation at Isandlwana?
There seems,on the balance of probability,that the firing lines at Isandlwana commenced the action with considerably less than the generally accepted 70 rounds. Cognisance should be taken of this in any debate on the ammunition controversy.
26th November 2003Paul Naish
Refer to Sgt Major Cheffins' diary. He states that the dead soldiers' bandoliers were empty at Isandlwana. Was he perhaps referring to the Colonial dead?
26th November 2003Mark Hobson
As a follow on to Paul's post above: what happened to the ammunition left behind at Isandlwana after the battle? I'm thinking of the regimental reserves as well as the artillery ammunition. The Zulus would have taken the former, but what about the latter? I've read reports about the Zulus taking Martini-Henry rounds but breaking them open to get at the gunpowder inside. Also, when the Zulus ransacked the camp I assume they would basically have dragged all their booty away, including the ammunition boxes. These would have been pretty cumbersome so might they not have decided to empty the contents and abandon the boxes? Remains of boxes were found near the firing line, but these could have been left by the victorious Zulus and not as a result of the British resupplying the Infantry companies.
30th November 2003Julian Whybra
First, apologies, I have been working away from home for a week and have not been able to contribute as and when I would wish. Next, various statements have been made above as if they were fact and beyond doubt. The only valid historical process is to revert to the statements of the men who survived.
Wilson tells us that the band were told off as stretcher bearers and ammo carriers early in the day. He also states that he saw ammunition being carried out to the front line soldiers.
Bickley and Williams both corroborate these statements separately.
Both Bloomfield and Pullen were seen carrying out their duties at the ammo waggons.
Essex was asked to resupply Coys E & F with ammo. He organized some men and sent them with an officer (White?) up to the firing line. He followed himself with a mule-cart load.
Higginson of the NNC relates how he saw ammo being carried out and Malindi states that his coy NNC was resupplied.
Vause relates how he at first failed to procure a fresh supply of ammo and then was successful in resupplying the NNH on the northern front.
Davies was sent into camp to obtain ammo for the NNH to the south east - by the time he had done this Durnford's line had withdrawn nearer the camp.
It is unthinkable to suggest that an experienced battalion such as the 1/24th and its seasoned officers would not have organized an ammo supply. It would have been standard procedure, second nature, common soldierly sense. There is no evidence from those that were present and survived to suggest that this was not the case. There is ample evidence to suggest that arrangements had been made (ad hoc, I admit, in the case of certain colonial and native units) to resupply all units in the firing line. No amount of modern-day opinion, subsequent verbiage in the form of rumour, or statements made by non-participants years later can alter the content of survivors' accounts written contemporaneously.
1st December 2003Mike McCabe
Nor is it sound just to quote surviving accounts as if they tell the whole story - and as if there is nothing else to be said on the subject - especially when some of them are very difficult to place in time and space on a very large battlefield in a complex series of concurrent minor actions. To consider something "unthinkable" is hardly an act of rigorous objectivity - 'historical' or otherwise.

1st December 2003Ron Lock
Perhaps if fighting the war had been left to Colonel Glyn and his seasoned officers, matters might have been different, but they weren't. Lord Chelmsford and his staff ran the show.

Was it for the same reason that Glyn and the 2/24th left the camp on the same day, with every expectation of encountering a Zulu army, but with only seventy rounds of ammunition per man - the reserve being left behind in camp?

Williams, Bickley and Wilson either witnessed preparations for the despatch of ammunition to the firing line or its actual departure, but none witnessed its arrival at its intended destination.. The same goes for Essex. Both Vause and Davies were only able to find just a few rounds for personal use.

Earlier in this discussion I quoted Penn Symons who was emphatic that there was indeed, a problem with the ammo supply - as was, of course, most famously of all, Smith Dorrien. Penn Symons testimony was contemporary and that of Smith Dorrien came years later, but neither can be dismissed as verbiage, subsequent or otherwise.

I have recently come accross a 1929 account, by a Mr. Wheatland Edwards, a survivor of the Carbineers, that I had not seen before. Part of his account gives an insight into the chaos during the last moments of the camp. "We were cut off entirely from the ammunition tent although we could still hear the little piccanin shouting "M'nition, baas! M'nition, baas!" in a high pitched voice. As brave a little fellow as one could hope to find. And all the time he handed out cartidges to those who could get near the tent. He must have gone on doing so until he was killed with the others!"
2nd December 2003Julian Whybra
No, Mike, of course surviving accounts don't tell the whole story and of course there is plenty more to be said on the subject. However I would say that it is legitimate to describe as unthinkable officers not checking that an adequate supply of ammunition would be forthcoming when engaged.
Ron, The three 1/24th soldiers witnessed the evidence of the organization of an ammunition supply (whether the ammo actually arrived or not is immaterial - although I would argue that it did given the time they witnessed it being carried). There is no knowing whether they saw the intial ammo supply, the 2nd, 3rd, nth or final supply.
Davies I believe found 200 rounds and returned to the line just before it withdrew.
Smith-Dorrien's remarks were taken out of context it is generally agreed. Symons does not reveal his sources (it would interesting to know them in the light of all the other evidence). Edwards's account merely serves to indicate that ammo was still being distributed even at a late stage of the battle.
I cannot see how one can reconcile survivors' statements witnessing ammo supply (or for that matter survivors' statements failing to mention that it was running out) with Symons's account. I think this one will run and run, Peter.
3rd December 2003Peter Quantrill
As you say, this one will run and run. It has been fashionable that current thoughts over the last decade or so by historians indicate that there was no front line shortage of ammunition, almost to the extent of dogmatism.It is therefore refreshing that this debate casts reasonable and healthy doubts over the issue.
I would like to add two additional points. First a report from a Hugh Tracy dated 21 April 1965 in which he interviewed Indlalutaka of the Ingobamakosi (sic) Regiment (who fought at Isandlwana) at the village of Chief Mtubatuba Umkhwanazi in Zululand. "His account mentions the end of the rifle fire" indicating a shortage of ammunition.

Second, is the report of Penn Symons already mentioned by Ron.This report must have official sanction and carries the authority of something beyond that of a personal diary.He also stated," In the first place the men had been firing hard and fast for nearly an hour, they commenced with 70 rounds per man and these must have been pretty well expended." Penn Symons was obviously not aware of the ball-bag issue already mentioned, thus the 70 was in all probability more in the order of 60 but this is speculation. He finally added that third reason for the defeat was "The failure of the ammunition supply."
If nothing else this is an issue that will remain debatable and perhaps rebut the current view of the firing line being adequately provided for. Most certainly ammunition boxes were not smashed open by a single blow from the butt of a Martini to facilitate quick resupply. That however is another subject altogether.
3rd December 2003Mike McCabe
The flaw in all of these 'ammunition' discussions is any supposition that the 24th would be able to fight on a continuous frontal position, with protected (or unninterrupted)lines of supply. Supply lines from both the 1st/24th and 2nd/24th camps were seldom if ever protected from interference during the battle. Even in the most favourable circumstances, early on, the frontal defence adopted depended on covering ground by observation and fire, and delivering sufficient effective fire to prevent the numerically superior Zulus from closing in. There is every reason to believe that sufficient fire was not sustained - due largely to the mallocation of the fire units (the rifle companies) and a failure to sustain sufficient fire (significantly contributed to by deficiencies in ammunition supply). Battalion drills and procedures developed for shorter and protected lines of supply would simply not have worked, and in the event should not have been relied upon.

4th December 2003Steven Sass
Would any of you gentlemen be kind enough to reconcile your theories with the findings of the recent archaeological survey of the battlefield. My degree is in anthropology with an emphasis on archaeology. I generally hold the belief that surveys are less effective in telling the story of a battlefield than that of a static habitation site, due to the dynamic and chaotic nature of the battle, the ravages of contemporary looters, modern souvenir hunters, burial details, predators and the effects of the weather. I've yet to see the official findings and data of the survey and cannot comment on their scientific method. However, it has now, for better or worse, effected its influence on the debate and I feel should therefore be considered in the discussion. There seems to be a growing number of people that are willing to place complete trust in the findings of such a survey, and yet, even at it's best without mitigating factors to compromise the sample, the process of building theory from archaeology (especially survey) and is still slightly more art than science. I believe the best case is still made from the reconciliation of original accounts with field work.

That being said, any comments?

4th December 2003Neil Aspinshaw
We are overlooking an important point here, which has not been entirely considered in depth in this discussion line. I do not endorse the fact that ammunition was running out, sure, the men would have potentially fired off the 60+ rounds fairly quickly at what possibly were sitting ducks. But the officers would have had reserve ammunition bought up even before the main firing commenced shooting, And, had resupply organised before this began to dry up.

I think we ought to investige the actual characteristics of the Martini in long periods of firing. I am sure Barry from New Zealand, and some of the regular "shooters" would be able to add to this.
There is no doubt that the main chest of the zulu's closed with the firing line as the rate of fire slackened. Was this due to shortage of ammunition or other factors?
At a controlled firing Martinis have several well known defects, Jamming, overheating, exaggerated recoil and smoke obscuring targets etc.
After 40+ rounds the firer does start to flinch in anticipation of the recoil, at say 80 rounds it is likely that the aimed accuracy from the companies began to waiver. It is far easier to hit something in a "bulk" target at 400 yards than a fast moving target at 100 yards. The closer an adversary gets, the more adrenaline adds to the innacuracy "more haste..less speed!".
As the companies were spread thinly, it is also unlikely that they were formed into tight company blocks, front row kneeling rear row standing etc, but in open order with the firer adopting his favoured firing position, which would most certainly be lying prone, or kneeling.With the rifle steadied.
Imagine the ammunition distributors dilemma of actually trying to locate the scattered rifleman with his packets of ten. In this scenario it is highly likely that the rifleman would have to literally fetch his rounds, or wave to attract the attention of the runners, without leaving his position.
New battle field archeological evidence does seem to prove that the companies took the most suitable positions along the line, taking whatever cover possible. I think sheer logistics from getting reserve ammo at the line, to the indivuidual rifleman and deminishing accuracy was the major contributing factor.
Oh by the way, I read your comments about the wedge shaped sliding lid in the book Peter, I studied the examples at the Isandlwana battlefield museum and the NAM, both do not appear to be wedge shaped, were there several differing "marks" of ammo box?



4th December 2003Adrian Whiting

Martini Henry ammunition would then have been issued in the MkV box (introduced on 5th January 1876 - LoC 2848). Clearly there would then have been some time until the box was fully on issue. The box was the first for "general" service, i.e. for both naval and land service.

The box does have an angled side to the sliding lid section - which is sufficient to ensure the lid can only be moved in one direction (unless you really are determined perhaps !). Only one long side is angled, and it is not very acute.

The preceeding MkIV box, for land service, may also have been in use, but the copper banding apparently recovered from the sites would indicate MkV boxes - the bands on the MkIV being tinned iron.

If you contact me separately I can e-mail images of a MkIV box and lid, which is otherwise the same as the MkV.

Without getting too complicated there was also a MkVI box (7th June 1876 - LoC 2933) which was for "Home" service, as opposed to foreign service. This had no bands or tin liner.

As regards the preferred shooting position. I would tend to discount prone because of access to rounds and because of the limitations it places on field of view. The relevant musketry instruction did not advocate it. Kneeling or standing would be most likely I would suggest.

I hope this helps

4th December 2003Neil Aspinshaw
thanks for that. I will be at Isandlwana in Jan, I had better take a close look at the boxes.

With regard to the shooting position, in practice (and I did try this, much to the amusement of the wife and kids!) try and load my MH lying down. not that difficult, especially if you have a selection of cartridges close by. Check out some of the watercolours of the time, one in particular shows a 24th soldier lying prone. However at the NAM lectures in Feb Tony Pollard did show us archeological evidence of a rifleman firing lying low behind a small stone sangar on the firing line (seven fired cases under the ley of a rock). In reality I suppose if that was all the cover afforded you would take advantage of it.
What did you think about my supposition about ammo distribution actually at the line?. Also the recoil question?.At RD the defenders resorted to holdind their MH's at arms length.


5th December 2003Keith Smith
I might as well throw in my two pennyworth!

Malindi, who fought with Lt. Lonsdale's NNC company on the front line near the Conical Koppie, had this to say:

"Our ammunition failed once but we got fresh from the camp and recommenced firing until the Zulus were within 100 yds."

If an NNC company so far to the front was re-supplied, how much more likely is it that imperial companies were also so re-supplied?

6th December 2003Adrian Whiting

If you have the front of the box towards you it will be the left hand edge of the lid section that is slightly angled - mind you if the box has lost its labels then distinguishing front from back is entertaing with the MkV ! (the MkIV has carriage straps on the rear).

I think your point about having the cartidges nearby is the key to firing prone. This is what I have always had to do when prone shooting with the Martini, especially in any rapid fire sequences. Having tried this with 1871 valise equipment, both expense and carriage pouches, prone involves a fair bit of laying on one side rather than truly prone.

Others may assist with any first hand accounts of the terrain at Isandlwana, but my recollection of the field in a January was of grass approx 20" high. I did lie prone to fire my Martini there and the grass interfered with the field of view. Obviously I take the point that the grass cover was by no means 100%, and certainly near more substantial rock cover it would have been possible to rest/adopt a more prone position without such interference. I expect that then though, the main problem would have remained access to the ammunition.

As to the discussion of overall ammunition supply my opinion is that the soldiers were well versed in the logistics of ammunition supply. I think much of the 24th present had been on active service in SA previously, and using the Snider, which has the very same issues as regards what the individual soldier carried, and therefore the need to resupply.

I anticipate that distance from reserves would be a problem, but one that Company and Battalion officers would recognise and try to mitigate against. Clearly ammuniton supply did fail in the end, as soldiers became separated from reserves.

I seem to recall a Zulu account describing the turning point of the action being one senior Zulu urging others on, before he himself was shot, and whilst the rifle fire was sufficient to have stalled the Zulu advance.

I think over-extension of the defensive perimeter, because there was originally a thought that the action was to have been an offensive one (from the British perspective), and quite simply Zulu bravery through determination sealed the outcome.

Whilst recoil had a part to play, and I agree with your comments, since I find recoil increases significantly after ten rounds, the evidence from numerous conflicts seems to suggest that "hit rates" are always a very low proportion of rounds fired anyway. I think it is easy for us to consider action in the light of range shooting - the two are simply not comparable.

I hope this assists,

6th December 2003Keith Smith
A matter which seems to have been overlooked so far: the fact that ammunition usage was really surprisingly low, both at Khambula and Gingindlovu. When one considers that the former battle lasted for more than four hours, one has to consider whether the rate of fire at Isandlwana was such as to consume the ammunition (60 or 70 rounds) as quickly as might be thought, especially if it was over, as I believe, in little more than 90 minutes.
If I can find the appropriate figures on those battles, I will quote them later.

6th December 2003Ron Lock
Re: Ammunition Boxes - I agree some boxes I have seen (two) have a wedge shaped lid and others (also two, as far as I can remember) do not. The only box of which I have kept note of markings and other details is the one, reportedly from Isandlwana, in the Warrior's Gate Museum, Durban. There are other relics, also reputedly from Isandlwana at the Museum, including a rocket launcher and, from Rorkes Drift, Trooper Lugg's spurs, woolen head warmer and other bits and pieces. Its a strictly military museum with a mass of interesting material. Charlie van der Merwe, the friendly curator, will be happy to show you around.

The Warrior's gate box has a sliding wedge shaped lid, one end being a quarter of an inch wider than the other. The box is constructed of three quarter inch mahogany planks. The copper bands are stamped RL with a broad arrow in between. The wooden planking is similarly marked and date stamped 1878.
16th January 2004Patrick
I have just rewatched "Zulu Dawn". I think the movie accurately shows how the British lines quickly collapsed once the Zulu impis were within bayonet range.

as a result, ammunition supply would not have mattered at that point. while the Zulus could be kept at bay with long range fire, one could expect some concern about ammunition suppy matters...but, once the battle became hand to hand at close range, no amount of ammunition would have saved the British forces; there were just too many Zulus, and full ammo pouches would have accomplished nothing in those final moments
11th January 2005Amjid
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