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DateOriginal Topic
22nd January 2004I Salute Them All
By Andrew Holliday
I wish to show my respect for 1,500 officers, NCO's and other ranks who died in the battle of Isandlwana. Also for 80 officers, NCO's and Men who successfully defended the post at Rorke's Drift.

I salute them all
23rd January 2004Diana Blackwell
Well said, Andrew. I echo your sentiments.
23rd January 2004Andy Lee
Well said, young man.

One question that I ponder on is, if you look at the interest that the Zulu Wars now generates and the experts in the field such like Ian Knight, Lee Stephenson, Alan Jones, John Young, Ian Woodason and Major Everett to name but a few do you think that the Zulu Wars will be so strongly remembered in another 120 odd years?? just a thought.

I too salute all the Hero's of the Zulu Wars.

23rd January 2004Steven Etchells
Why should we honour them? They had no right to be there,they were an invading army. Should we honour the Germans for invading France or Belgium or Holland? January the 22 1879 should be remembered as the day British imperialist arrogance got its backside well & truly kicked.
23rd January 2004l.j.knight
seen a couple of your of your earlier questions Steven, believe you to be a newcomer to the enduring fascination which is the anglo Zulu war of 1879. it was fated to be a very brutal campaign, as you delve deeper into this subject and set aside imperial considerations prevelant at the time, you will find countless tales of self sacrifice, courage, and a concept which sadly today is anathma to most is more than coincidental that this particular "little war" is so fiercely remembered and even reinacted both here and in KwaZulu...regards
23rd January 2004Andy Lee
Mr Etchells

Suppose not much to do now the 'Anti-Iraq War Campaign' has been killed off have we either that or your French.

Politicians mostly dicated the events of 1879, we were honouring those brave men who in most cases had no other choice than to be there.

23rd January 2004Steven Etchells
I accept your points about brave @ honourable men fighting and dying in the Zulu war, but morally the British invasion of Zululand was indefensible.The British destroyed a people and a country for their own self-serving ambitions in South Africa. As Cetshwayo said he did not go into Natal and tell the white men how to behave.
23rd January 2004Alan Scrutton
Mr Etchells. How about reading the responses to your comments, rather than just blindly labouring the point? This site & forum has little or nothing to do with the politics of this, or any other campaign, but to consider the plight & conduct of those who were very much in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the current time of fashionable morality, why can you not let this site function for the purpose it was intended? They had no choice about how they should behave and if they had, I'm sure they would have not chosen to have been there & endured what they did.
23rd January 2004Diana Blackwell
Mr. Etchells,

You're quite right about the evils of imperialism, etc., in my humble opinion. It is also appropriate to honor the brave soldiers on BOTH sides, not just the British. But your indignation seems a little misplaced, since nobody here is arguing that the British should have taken over Zululand.

Consider an analogy. In the US there are Civil War re-enactors who dress up like confederate soldiers and go through the motions of fighting for a "nation" founded on slavery. The Old South's slavery is at least as evil as the British presence in Zululand. But guess what. I have no problem with Civil War buffs, confederate uniforms and all. I guess this is because the Civil War is over and in the past, just like the British empire. If re-enactments carried any danger of reviving slavery, I'd be against them, but they don't and aren't intended to.

Or consider another analogy. Here in the US there are afficionados of the Old West, who romanticize cowboys, etc. This chapter of history is obviously all mixed up with genocide against the Native Americans, as well as exploitation of animals and environmental damage that persists to this day. Evil, evil, evil! Do I resent Old West buffs? No (except for rodeos, which are cruel). They aren't actually committing any genocide, nor do I believe they are motivated by racial hatred or economic greed (as the original killers of the "Indians" may have been).

Zulu War buffs are not all alike, so I won't try to speak for everyone. But for me, and maybe some others, there is a kind of poetry to the past. My interest in the Zulu War stems from such things as the look of the red coats and loincloths, the terrain of Zululand, the inexorable unfolding of events, the incredible drama of Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift (what a study in contrast!), and so forth. This may sound frivolous to you, but it's a harmless enthusiasm and co-exists quite comfortably with a hatred of imperialism that is, I think, comparable to your own.

Human nature and history are rich and complicated. Thank goodness.

23rd January 2004Melvin Hunt
With respect, you have totally missed the point.
Could I suggest that you read all of the previous forum discussion pages so that you can then formulate a better understanding for the above responses to your comments?
I would also suggest that you watch "Black As Hell -Thick As Grass" by Kenneth Griffith.
23rd January 2004Julian Whybra
Mr Etchells, with the greatest of respect you have made the classic error often encouraged
through politically-correct modern history teaching and tv documentary production. No
historian can judge the actions or mores of peoples in the past by the standards of 2004. Of course the British had a perfect right to invade Zululand in 1879 and of course the Zulus had a perfect right to raid across the frontier and to defend their country. Yes, some of the Britons involved had every reason to be deeply ashamed of their part in the invasion and, yes, some of the Zulus were deeply grateful to be rid of the rule of a cruel and brutal despot. There is no right or wrong, there is just what happened (history) and given OUR recent history, we have no monopoly on truth or moral rectitude, so who are we to judge?
23rd January 2004Tony Livesey
Well said Julian. On the 125th anniversary can we raise a glass to all those brave and courageous souls who fought and died in the Anglo Zulu War.
23rd January 2004patrick
In honor of the brave soldiers of the British Army and Colonial forces who died at Isandhlwana, I quote from the memorial cairn to the Natal Carbineers: "Not theirs to save the day but where they stood falling, to dye the earth with brave men's blood for England's sake and, faithful to their charge, her soldier's lie" (Source: The Natal Carbineers, Ian Castle, Military Modelling Magazine, October 1990)

23rd January 2004Diana Blackwell
You have a point...but maybe historical relativism can be carried too far. What about slavery or Hitler's death camps? Aren't some things always wrong? (Not to imply any comparisons here.)
24th January 2004Peter Ewart
Not quite sure about the British "perfect right to invade", Julian, even by the standards of 1879. I suspect you're playing devil's advocate here or, if not, referring perhaps to a pre-emptive strike, justified by both political and military reasons?

We must not forget that there were many who disagreed with the war at the time, and not just those influenced by the Midlothian campaign. We can see this in the parliamentary debates and the correspondence, editorials & leaders in the 1879 press.

I have to agree with your antipathy towards the retrospective judgement we see with so much "history" today, which you have eloquently lambasted previously. On the other hand, history has been re-written since the dawn of time and although it may still yet be too early to agree on the "balance" of good and bad in British imperial policy of the 19th century, it does us no harm to keep up to date (in order to balance our own views - or our early teaching) with modern research on how things were for the colonised peoples. We cannot be surprised that, only now, we are being exposed to the other side of the coin, as it were.

I see the above "toasts" to the bravery of our arms as welcome but perhaps a little too simplistic. The officers were there for fun, adventure, glory and individual career advancement, I think we can all agree. Not for some grand imperial plan, even if they might have agreed with it if asked. Many of them served with distinction and some heroically.

The men were there, as Nigel Green said: "Because we're 'ere." Certainly no imperial plan for them. They all had it extremely tough, especially in that campaign. Most of them did well; again, some were undoubtedly heroes, and some proved to be very poor soldiers. But with the advent of time allowing us to distance ourselves from the "us" and "them" (the enemy) I was immediately a little disappointed that the "toasts" at the top of this thread made no mention of the men of BOTH sides.

After all, the Zulu (even allowing for the renegades, rebels and anti-Usuthu factions) were fighting for their homeland and there were many in GB at the time who argued that we had no right, no business and no need to invade this sovereign kingdom.

(But here we must acknowledge that that is exactly how the Zulu empire had been created - by an aggressive, ruthlessly militaristic policy against their neighbours, and - by today's standards - laced with countless atrocities).

The bloody shame about the whole mess is that Britain intended no such thing in the first place. And having had to "ratify" it by avenging Isandlwana to save face, the mess was exacerbated by Wolseley's farce and the political dithering which accompanied the civil wars of the 80s; the "horse bolted/stable door" annexations of '87 and '97 & the brutal legislation of the '90s and early 1900s.

If it's still not too late to be "disturbed" retrospectively, I'm a lot more disturbed by the British policy of 1879-1910 than I am by anything in 1879, at which juncture British policy was, of course, to "keep out of Zululand."

24th January 2004Diana Blackwell
You have a point...but maybe historical relativism can be carried too far. What about slavery or Hitler's death camps? Aren't some things always wrong? (Not to imply any comparisons here.)
24th January 2004Alex Ponnaz
Yes, I can understand that many of you, who I assume to be Britons (I hope I am correct), can be pround of your army and their many courageus acts during the Zulu War's slaughters and massacres, done only for the aim of imperialism. Even though yes, the defenders of Rorke's drift did hold off near 40 times their number, I see no reason to, in my opinion, to salute those fighting to make their country gain unwarranted land from people who don't really want you there or need you there in the first place. I do not salute the imperialist imperial soldiers that day but I do observe their courage and bravery on numerous occasions, standing firm for the most part because any Zulu could easily outrun and butcher them if they dared flee out in the open and out of formation. Yet I also very much observe the Zulu courage in charging for a whole mile in 'ground zero' against thousands of rifles and contemporary modern age artillery; if one side has to be saluted, with respect, I would nominate the Zulu for their defense of their land, against invaders with weapons millenia ahead of theirs, that was doomed from, well, a little bit after the start.
24th January 2004AMB
Whether you are an imperialist, anti-imperialist, apolitical, or just plain interested in the histroy of a war forght in pretty brutal conditions, 125 years ago, let's salute the men who took part - on both sides. Courage and fortitude were demonstrated amply on all sides.

24th January 2004Julian whybra
Hang on, what I was saying, in my clumsy way, is that history can only judge the men of 1879 (of whatever side) by the social mores and culture of the time in which they lived, not by 2004's standards. It was acceptable in 1879 for Europeans to advance the cause of 'civilization'. In 1879 it was acceptable for Zulus to engage in their own form of 'imperialism' against the Swazis and Tongas, and the tribes of Natal. Both sides thought they had right on their side.
The analogy with slavery is an interesting one. Slavery in a 17th and 18th century context was acceptable (very much so between the African tribes themselves, and between Africans and Europeans). By the 19th century who is committing the greater wrong, Gordon for destroying the slave trade in the Sudan and despoiling the native culture and traditions associated with it or Zobeir Pasha for trying to maintain the trade and Sudanese culture thereby? As for Hitler, well, millions voted for him, read the contemporary German press before it became state-controlled, Germany in the 30s did very well under national socialism (before the horrors of WW2 were unleashed) and the Germans were very happy with the situation. what was it they had on their helemets - Gott mit uns! No, I don't really think there's such a thing as historical right and wrong, there are just winners and losers and their different interpretations of the same events, and those will alter with time.
Can I also add how nice it's been over the last few days to put faces to so many names down at Chatham at the RE event.
26th January 2004Joseph
Keep in mind that there were no innocents during the Zulu War. The Zulus took the land by force from other Africans who had lived there for untold generations. They were just as wrong as the Brits.

Much like in the American West, both sides have their guilt. The US Govt. most certainly did commit horrible crimes against the Native Americans. I believe the Native Americans had more right to their land than did the Zulus. However, the Native Americans have guilt as well in the horrors they commited. I'm not talking about towards the Govt. or soldiers, but against European farmers and women and children who only wanted to live alongside the Native Americans. They wanted to coexist, but were murdered instead.

I must agree wholeheartedly with Julian. WE cannot judge history by today's standards. The Nazis were evil by the standards of their own time . This should suffice in judgement of them. No need to add today's morals (or lack of them) when considering the times.

I think this has created some good discussion.
26th January 2004Diana Blackwell
I'm glad to hear you (if not Julian) acknowledge that the Nazi death camps were wrong in their own day. They would be wrong today, too. And, although I haven't tried this, I think they would be judged wrong by almost anybody you asked at almost any time (excepting Nazis, of course). I think that if you could show those camps to an Eskimo or Hottentot from 1600, and explain to them what was happening, the Eskimo or Hottentot would disapprove. Some things, like intentionally inflicted mass torture and death, are easily understood by any human and not bound by provincial cultural mores (unlike, say, the pros and cons of arranged marriage). In fact, the Nazi death camps have become what moral philosophers might call a definitive example or "paradigm case" of evil--in other words, if THAT's not "evil" then we might as well throw the word away because what could it possibly apply to?

Second point. Sometimes it's hard to tell which side of a historical conflict is in the right, and sometimes neither side is comletely right or wrong. That doesn't make moral terms meaningless all of a sudden. It just means that moral judgment is difficult--as it often is, for many reasons, including complexity of issue, lack of information, inability to be objective, etc.

Finally, relativism can tie you up in logical knots. If slavery was "right" in Alabama in 1850, how do we deal with the abolition movement? Were they "wrong"? Surely we don't want to go there! Or was slavery "right" and "wrong" at the same time? That makes no sense. Isn't the simplest and best solution to go with commons sense here: slavery was wrong, but some people wanted it anyway?

Extreme relativism would seem to make history more or less irrelevant. That was then, this is now, and all the rules are different, so we can't learn from the past. But learning from the past is one of the best reasons to study it, don't you think?
26th January 2004Steve
Nice to see lefty tree hugging trollers like Mr Etchells,who would run down brave red coats, put to flight by intellect.
27th January 2004Alex Ponnaz
Joseph, it is true that each nation and/or civilization, more often than not, did some kind(s) of acts that they should be ashamed for, yet still it dosent warrant any sort of invasion by Britian into Zululand. The Zulus made a wreck amongst their neighbors, we all know that, but after the British carved up Zululand into itty bitty bits it plunged the land into civil war! I belive that, racially and culturally wise, and people would rather be conquered by or messed around with similar folk rather than complete outsiders (Example: The crusades. The middle east was all quibbling and seperated but when the crusaders came they put their differences aside, being either Arab or Kurd or Bedouin or Turk or Iranian). That being said, I belive that the Zulu still somewhat had the edge on who was more more deserving to claim the plains of eastern South Africa, but I can see that many of you can bring up points against that. By all means, bring it on.
27th January 2004James Garland
After invading and killing their neighbours with brutal efficiency in order to create a Zulu empire the Zulus were in no position to complain that the British invaded and killed Zulus with brutal efficiency to expand the British Empire. The British were from an industrialised society and were therefore simply better equipped to do the job.
27th January 2004Julian whybra
Before I receive a summons Diana, the point I was trying to make that Nazi death camps were wrong, judging them by the standards and mores of 1943 (as well as 2004).
28th January 2004Martin Heyes
Mr. Etchells, you have been quiet for a while. Any riposte to all those who would appear to disagree with you?
30th January 2004andre
One cannot separate the past from the present into neatly boxed 'periods' of morality. The effects of the conflict discussed on this site are with us today. The fact that the Zulu monarch visited Imperial Britain to plead his peoples' case shows that there was ample opportunity for the colonial power to understand precisely what was wrong and what was right. The fact that Britain may finally have been suckered into a war by its local colonial representatives does not change this. The political dictum that governments do not have friends, but only (national) interests, holds here. But even when acting as a realist/pragmatist it is still possible for the conquering power to know when it is doing wrong to another people. The fact that it chooses to do wrong does not change, no matter how it is later 'dressed up' or sexed-up for presentation/rationalisation purposes. The Zulus, and the Xhosa's, and every other conquered people in South Africa (including, ironically, the Boers) were trampled and oppressed as a by-product of Great Power conflict. The same happened in Africa in the cold war (viz. Angola, Zaire etc.) and it is more than possible that the process of proxy wars will continue in Africa with the evolving global conflict that is being called the 'war on terror.' One does not have to adopt a relativist position to study and analyse history. In other words, and by way of example, it is not necessary to separate out the struggle for human rights in the UK from its colonial practices. Both processes affected one another over a long period of time. One does not have to be a bleeding heart liberal or a tree hugger to see that.
2nd February 2004Steven. Etchells
I think it is you who are missing the point, nobody is accusing anybody of cowardice. Sir Bartle Frere invaded Zululand by giving the Zulus an ultimatum he knew they could not meet.It is also true that the British greatly underestimated the Zulus and treated them with contempt. This contempt was a contributing factor to the British defeat at Isandlwhana.If Europeans didn't want Black power in twentieth century South Africa, do you really think they would allow it in the nineteenth century?. Perhaps you should read some books on nineteenth century politics or can you only look at romanticesed Victorian paintings showing the glory of dying for your country - thousands of miles from your own?.
2nd February 2004Simon Copley
Well said Andre.
I think we MUST judge all periods of history by the morality of today. (Notwithstanding the fact that our morality is the product of our history) Only by applying a standard with the benefit of hindsight and enlightenment can we avoid the trap of glorifying past events that warrant no glory. Thereby we avoid the temptation to repeat the mistakes of the past.