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DateOriginal Topic
3rd January 2004Gatling Guns at Rorke's Drift
By John J. Boyd
In Military History magazine, I read that at least two Gatling Guns were used at Rorke's Drift. As a resident of Indiana and a gun enthusiast I learned that Gatling Guns were made in Indianapolis, Indiana and most were made in English .455 caliber for use by the British Navy. Since the river that the bridge was to be built over was defined as a navigatable waterway, "Navy" arms were supposed to be allowed for its defence. Is this fact or myth? Are there any official Army records of the battle available over the Internet?
3rd January 2004Edward Garcia
As far as Gatling guns go, none were used at the Rorke's Drift fight.

3rd January 2004AMB
An interesting idea. Sadly there were no Gatling guns at RD. (Although, I would imagine that Chard & Co would have loved the additional firepower!). I am somewhat shocked to hear that you read this in a military history magazine.
Gatling guns were used during the war, but else where in theatre - their effect at Ulundi has been much remarked upon. [Never as reliable as the later (& fully automatic) Maxim, but certainly the pointer for the future of warfare.]
The weapons used during the AZW were both Naval & Army types; .455 being the cal.
I have a feeling that the British used Gatlings were made under license in GB, but someone might correct me on that.

3rd January 2004John Young

Here's an answer to a query posed back in November, that I give:

'The problem with Gatling Guns at the start of the Anglo-Zulu War was the fact the only ones available to Lord Chelmsford belonged to the Royal Navy. Hence the reason of their attachment to Pearson's No. 1 Column - the Coastal Column, 'Jack Tar' obviously needed the sea air to remind him of where he should have been.

So in January 1879, Chelmsford's invasion force had the sum total of two Gatling Guns at its disposal, one from 'Active', the other from 'Tenedos'. The Gatling from the 'Active' was otherwise occupied on 22nd January, 1879 at Nyezane, under the command of Midshipman L. C. Coker. The Gatling from 'Tenedos', I believe, was covering the Tugela crossing at Fort Pearson.

The first use against an enemy by a British Army Gatling Gun battery, would be on 4th July 1879, at Ulundi by 10th Battery, 7th Brigade, Royal Artillery, under the command of Major J. F. Owen.'

The Royal Navy's Gatling Guns were .65" in calibre, as they were used as an anti-torpedo weapon; as well as their other uses of clearing decks & dismasting smaller vessels.

Andrew is correct in saying the guns were made under licence in the U.K., although I have seen an example of an American made Gatling Gun here, at 'Firepower' the Museum of the Royal Artillery.

To my knowledge the only author who has placed Gatling Guns in the action at Rorke's Drift, is Wilbur Smith in a work of fiction.

Hope this helps,

John Y.

3rd January 2004Peter Ewart
John (Boyd)

Not sure there was ever a plan to build a bridge at Rorke's Drift during the war. Spalding was charged with securing the crossing defensively, which was intended to involve defence works (presumably sangars, etc?) on the Natal side to protect the crossing, which involved ponts, not a bridge.

Stanley Baker may have uttered his famous "I came to build a bridge" - but he didn't. The scene depicting him messing about with the ponts seems pretty realistic, however, so Caine's "Carry on with your mud-pies, then" would seem to be not inappropriate!

I may stand corrected here, but I wouldn't describe the Buffalo/Mzinyathi as navigable, either then or now. Too shallow much of the time, too deep and fast at others, and pretty rocky all the time. Canoes?

In the 1990s, the bridge was finally built!

6th January 2004Simon Copley
Yes John, it was in a Wilbur Smith novel. I forget which and don't much care. In the same story he put the number of Zulus at about 50,000! Poor research which has caused me never to pick up another Wilbur Smith novel to this day.
6th January 2004AMB
Wibur Smith's 'When The Lion Feeds', just for interest's sake! Smith is a novelist and as this was his first try, we'll give him a second chance....
7th February 2004dorothy howells
This is not a reply but a query. I recent spoke to a lady who said that hergrandfather had been at Rorke's Drift and had arrived there as a member of the Royal Navy. The date would be about right but I wondered if she may have been thinking of another conflict. Can anybody help me with this?