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16th March 2004The Ammunition question in Durnfords Donga.
By Neil Aspinshaw
Apart from the high possibility that Durnford was being outflanked in the Donga, one of the pivotal causes for the collapse of the right flank has always been that Durnfords riders had not procured any additional supplies of ammunition, and that the QM of 2nd Battallion had refused/turned away his riders.
Surely it is highly likely that the 24th's (both battalions) ammunition supplied simply had not got the correct cartridges.
Durnfords men would have been undoubtably been armed with Sniders, both rifle and carbine, with a smaller minority armed with Martini and Swimbourne henry Carbines. The 24th, even the attached mounted infantry would have only had a specific need for .577/.450 martini rounds (officers pistol rounds excluded).
The snider fired a .577 slug, of which the 24th QM would have no specfic needs. So was it that he simply did not have it rather than him refusing to supply?, a fact historically overlooked.
Also the Martini rifle round was not really compatable with the Carbine. The carbine powder load was reduced ,as the recoil with a rifle round would basically knock you off your mount.
In an emergency carbine loads may be used in a rifle but the range would be severely reduced.
Presumably in the confusion Durnfords riders were unable to find the QM supply in the wagon park. any comments to this chaps?
16th March 2004John Young

I proffered something on the same lines in an answer in August 2001, regarding the fact the Natal Native Horse were armed with Sniders & Westley Richards.

Apart from the N.N.H.'s own commissariat the only regular unit using Snider ammunition in the camp at Isandlwana were N/5 R.A.

So no I haven't overlooked it as a fact in my own research.

John Y.
16th March 2004Julian whybra
Hold on. But Davies, Henderson et al did procure ammunition from the Carbineers camp and did return to the right of the line. Shortly afterwards, Durnford withdrew to just below the 1/24th camp across the road stating that he thought the force too extended and that he desired to concentrate the troops. He did not say he was running out of ammunition.
16th March 2004Julian Whybra
Plus Durnford's ammunition waggon had been escorted into camp with Erskine/Vause some time after Durnford had left it. The waggon was left in the waggon park among the 100 other waggons while Vause and Erskine went off northwards, hence Durnford's men's inability to find it.
16th March 2004Mike McCabe
It is a supposition that Erskine/Vause actually brought the No2 Column wagons all the way into camp. Perhaps they were out of site, on the ramp up to the saddle and thus screened from view by Isandlwana crag. Sources indicate that Durnford's Basothos did not find their own wagons. Why not?

17th March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
I would be inclined to agree with that, presumably Durnford left RD at first light (about 4.30 am that time of year), on having receipt of the order carried by Smith Dorrrien. Arriving at Isandlwana at 10.
It could be supposed that his wagons took alot longer, if they arrived at all. We know McDowells RE company was out repairing the road at the Manzimyama crossing, so the track could not have been in good condition. With wagons covering barely 2 miles per hour, on good going, how long to cover the 11 miles on bad?.
Interesting then, where did those wagons get to?, the saddle and wagon park?, in which case it would have been near the rear, or if they actually got to Isandlwana at all. Do we know how far Erskine escorted them to? The North east approach to Isandlwana is deceiving, we clocked the crossing point on the road to just under 11/2 miles, but it looks deceivingly closer. Did they see the camp in the apparent close distance and head off towards it? believing the job done.
Presumably Durnfords men got ammo from the NMP or carbineers as Julian ?.
17th March 2004Julian whybra
1. But Erskine/Vause say that they brought the waggons to Isandhlwana.
Where else would they put them except in the waggon park and for what reason?
2. MacDowel did not have an RE company. Some of Anstey's section from F coy were doing road repairs out on the plain where the 'big donga' crossed it.
3. Durnford's men got ammo from the Carbineers' camp because they said they did.
17th March 2004Mike McCabe
Until they were ordered to stay in camp, as the Zulu attack developed, some 30 wagons had been emptied and prepared to be sent back along the road from Isandlwana to RD. It is a reasonable supposition that these had been marshalled onto the approaches to the saddle south of Isandlwana crag, ready to be sent back to RD after all once ordered. It might have been a sensible act for whichever ASC Wagon Conductor was in charge of organising priorities of exit and entry to this possible bottle neck, to deconflict Durnford's incoming wagons from the 30 returning wagons, by holding the Durnford wagons to the west of the saddle until their own future way out could be decided. Durnford's decision to advance from Isandlwana was an impromptu one, possibly taken before his own wagons had got close to the camp. These wagons would either have stayed at Isandlwana until called forward by Durnford when it was safe to do so (more likely) or were expected to roll on from Isandlwana to follow Durnford straight away (less likely, due to the risk of attack). So, the man at the gurard tent at Isandlwana would have wanted to keep the direct routew in and out of camp unblocked, regardless, and might well have halted the Durnford wagons until their detailed future could be settled. Durnford presumably had some ammunition reserves in saddle bags (or perhaps on pack mules) generally able to keep up with him. Does anybody, incidentally, know how many wagons and carts No2 Column had?
Isandlwana was not just a single, small, place centred on the saddle - as if that was its Charing Cross. It was a large operational/logistic site inside an extensive piqueted perimeter (see stylised map the Narrative).
18th March 2004Peter Quantrill
Agreed, it is logical that the wagons would be halted off the track and on the west side of the nek.
As far as I can ascertain the NNC scale of transport was 12 Ox wagons per battalion. The NNH possibly were scaled to 1 Ox wagon per 2 troops and 1 for HQ totalling 3.Thus Durnford's column would comprise 15 Ox wagons capable of carrying a total of 50,378 pounds.
18th March 2004John Young

But there were only two companies of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment N.N.C., with Durnford, the remainder were with Bengough, so you might have to adjust your figures accordingly.

John Y.
18th March 2004Keith Smith

This is one of the most interesting threads I've read for a while! Some commets from me just to keep the pot boiling:

1, According to the evidence, Durnford left the RD camp (on the north side of the Mzinyathi, near the old camp recently left by the 3rd Column, between 7.30 and 8.00 am (Vause and
18th March 2004Peter Quantrill
Quite right,a concentration lapse whilst researching the scale for Regiments.One has to therefore guess perhaps a total of 5 wagons. The scale as a matter of interest does not seem to allow for carts.
18th March 2004Keith Smith

This is one of the most interesting threads I've read for a while! Some comments from me, just to keep the pot boiling:

1. According to the evidence, Durnford left the RD camp (on the north side of the Mzinyathi, near the old camp recently left by the 3rd Column, between 7.30 and 8.00 a.m. (Vause and Cochrane) (Damn - I just pressed the wrong button and I think I have sent this bit before I wanted to!) The trip for the mounted men to Isandlwana took about 2.5 hours (Davies, who also said there were 'about 10 wagons'). Times of arrival, of which there are about ten different opinions, vary between 10.00 and 11.00, and give a mean time of arrival about 10.30 a.m. Penn Symons says about 10.45.

2. The earlier time of Durnford's departure of 5.30 is given by Davies, but he was referring to a foraging expedition on the Natal side of the river. After travelling about four miles, they were overtaken by Lt. Henderson, who gave them the message brought by Smith-Dorrien from Isandlwana, when they turned round and returned to their camp and prepared to move up.

3. There were, in fact, three companies of the 1/1st NNC taken on by Durnford, but the officer of one of them, Captain Hay, was left behind at Sandspruit because he was Paymaster, so the three companies were combined into two, under Captains Stafford and Nourse.

Keep going, chaps!

18th March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
When I refer to MacDowell, I did not mean it was his squadron, rather than he was presumably the senior nco within a company. I did a recent slideshow for 5 field Squadron RE at Tidworth, they are going to try and find out a little more about MacDowell for me.
His grave (according to D Rattray, and who am I to argue) and the remains of his company lie in the cairn next to the Mazinyama crossing (present day) next to the modern crossing point. A fact that seems to be picked up also in Adrain Graves book. I didn't notice the cairn until I went in Jan. I have a picture of the immediate area if any one wants a look.
I may stand corrected but didn't smith Dorrien actually go to RD?, wasn't it him who borrowed pistol rounds off Bromhead?.
So heres my supposition, if Smith Dorrien actually left Isandlwana at say 12.30 am, he would have not gone very quickly, say 3 hours? bearing in mind it was pitch black.
therefore Durford could only leave within a couple of hoursso 5.30 is realistic.
his wagons would have taken at least 6 hours so it would have been tight that they got there. Also, it the zulu right horn cut the road at the manzinyama crossing via the Telehane Ridge by say 11.30pm that cuts out any time later. It would be very tight for Durnfords Wagons to do that last mile and a half in an hour.
sorry if some of my timings are estimated as I am sitting at the office not with my references to hand.

18th March 2004Julian Whybra
1) I believe it was 6 waggons that Erskine had command of.
2) Neil, your first sentence does not make sense so I'm unsure what you mean. I repeat that MacDowel did not have his RE coy at Isandhlwana. Chard had accompanied an Advance Party (consisting of one corporal and 3 sappers) to the camp on the morning of the 22nd, arriving about 10.30 I believe - they were not working on anything. And it's MacDowel with one 'l'.
3) With the greatest respect, you are either very confused or have been gravely misled by Rattray. Anstey (not MacDowel) and the remains of F coy are buried on the banks of the Manzimnyama. Neither was Anstey working on the track there.
18th March 2004John Young

With regard to Lieutenant Francis Hartwell MacDowel, there is plenty of information on him in MacKinnon & Shadbolt, and also in "The Red Earth" booklet produced by the R.E. Museum.

In Mac' & Shad', it recounts his end and places him 'between the General's tent and the fighting line.'

Wilsone Black states; 'We found and buried a body with R.E. officer's blue coat and trousers, unrecognizable otherwise. From the uniform I believe that this was the mortal part of that good young fellow Macdowel [sic].'

So I think there is a case to argue against the comment made in the book that bears David Rattray's name about overwhelming 'MacDowell's [sic] sappers.' As MacDowel didn't have any sappers under his command. MacDowel was one of the unfortunates who returned with Chelmsford's order to advance on his position.

John Y.
18th March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
I know where Ansteys' remains are, we were standing next to the cairns fighting off ants the size of cats on 20th January 2004 and I am therefore not confused as to my geographical position, nor will I forget it in a hurry.
The cairn I refer to is 10 metres to the left of the present Nqutu-Isandlwana Road. 1 mile NW of Isandlwana heading from RD, it is On the Isandlwana bank of the stream actually on the old crossing. I have I photograph of it if you would like a copy. It is likely McDowel was not in command, merely an sapper NCO, in a team repairing the road. Was this the corporal and three sappers refered to in Chards party? That is why I have asked the guys at 5 field Squadron RE,who are studying Chard as part of thier coursework to see what they can find out for me.
I do not intend to be terse with my reply but I have visited Isandlwana battlefield 11 times and walked the fugitives trail 4 times.


18th March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
Sorry I exaggerated, the ants were not that big, maybe small cats!.
18th March 2004Julian whybra
Neil, you may have stood by Anstey's cairn - it is indeed exactly where you say it is, but MacDowel was not there with him and he is not buried there (Higginson saw him die elsewhere).
MacDowel did not even return to camp (from Chelmsford's reconnaissance till 10.30). Neither was he in command of any sappers whatsoever. Neither was he an NCO. He was a lieutenant. Neither was he working on the track over the Manzimnyama (there is no evidence for this anywhere).
The Corporal and 3 sappers bought up to Isandhlwana from RD by Chard were an advance party of the 5th Field coy RE - they weren't working on the road either.
Anstey's section F coy 1/24th were working on the road where it crosses the Big Donga on the plain as it goes eastwards to Isipezi, not on the RD road behind Isandhlwana. As soon as the alarm was sounded, his party were withdrawn to camp. Anstey then took up his coy duties within F coy, went with it up the spur on to the plateau's edge, carried out a successful withdrawal back down again, fought through the upper camp to the saddle, over the saddle, and with what remained of F coy, fought his way to the Manzimnyama stream, where they were finally overwhelmed.
I take no umbrage from your reply but you seem to think that MacDowel died with Anstey and that he was working on the track there - there is no evidence for this anywhere. I can't understand where you have got these ideas from.
18th March 2004John Young

I believe it is possble that those who were repairing the road were part of No. 1 Company, Natal Native Pioneers, rather than Corporal Gamble & his three sappers.

Which may account for the presence of Lt. G.F. Andrews and his ten pioneers in the order of battle for Isandlwana. Andrews survived the action, although F.W.D. Jackson believes he may have returned to assist in moving the camp, see his f/n. 16 on page 61 of 'Hill of the Sphinx'.

John Y.
18th March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
thank you for your reply, I did not mean to imply that MacDowel was with Anstey. merely that I had /read from two sources that He was on the working party on the main track.
The note that John enters that it could possibly be Pioneers is now adding up. But all this digressses from the main thread, did Durnfords ammunition get to Isandlwana?.
At the moment, as I haven't my info to hand, at what time did the companies on the Tehelane ridge withdraw? presumably the right horn swept around the ridge 800+ yards from the skirmishers, down into the Manzimyama valley cutting the road at the crossing.
With this in mind was the road cut before the wagons arrived?

18th March 2004Julian Whybra
1) Where is the evidence that the 10 men of the Natal Pioneers were working on the track behind Isandhlwana?
2) There is no primary source which mentions MacDowel being with a working party on the main track. Neil - are your '"two sources" both modern unannotated secondary works?
3) Durnford's waggons did get to Isandhlwana because Erskine/Vause say they did.
4) The coys on the spur, retreated back to camp no earlier than 12.15 - probably 12.20.
5)(a) The Zulu right horn could not have done as you suggest. Vause had time to get to the top of the spur and join in with Roberts/Raw before the withdrawal AFTER he'd arrived in camp, and
(b) if the right horn did as you suggest then Erskine would have died with his waggons. He did not. Not only does he relate what he did with his 20 men after he arrived at Isandhlwana but he survived himself to tell the tale.
18th March 2004Keith Smith

Further to my notes above, and yours which must have crossed mine, your timings are way out.

1. Smith Dorrien left Isandlwana at 3.00 a.m. on the 22nd (letter to his father). It could not have been much earlier than that because Major Dartnell's third and last message was not received at the camp until 1.30 a.m. Allowing, as you say, about 3 hours to get to RD, he could not have arrived there until about 6.00. Durnford had already left for his foraging trip when he arrived, so that Henderson went after him to bring him back

2. Your timing for the arrival of the right horn at the Manzimnyama stream is also incorrect. We cannot know for certain but if the Zulu army was discovered about midday, and assuming that the right horn was already deploying at that time (that is another story!) it would have taken them an hour and a half to travel the 12 kilometres to their destination, assuming a pace of 8 kph, a steady jog. This places their arrival around 1.30 pm, giving many natives, Adendorff and Vaines, and Henderson and the NNH survivors time to get down the road to RD before they got there.

3. The 10 wagons to which Davies referred were supposedly four miles behind when he reached the camp with Durnford. This seems about right because, assuming Neil's rate of travel of two mph, it would have taken them another two hours to reach the camp, placing their arrival about 12.30 pm., well after Durnford's departure. This being so, it is quite understandable why the NNH men would have difficulty finding their ammunition wagon - it arrived well after they had earlier left to either a) go up to the plateau with Barton/Shepstone or b) go across the plain with Durnford. Only Vause would have known where they were because he brought them up.

19th March 2004Peter Quantrill
And even if they had found the ammo wagon would it have made any difference? Not according to Vause.
" After regaining the camp to our dismay it was found that the ammunition boxes had not been opened and the Zulus being so close to our heels we had no time to look for screw-drivers. Fortunately one of my kaffirs came across a box with a few in, which I distributed amongst the men."
Vause lost 13 killed and 10 wounded from a troop strength of 50.
19th March 2004Julian Whybra
The NNPC 10 men were there to pack up the camp ready to move on. Andrews, by his own account, was sent back to supervise this packing up. The NNPC detachment would not have been used for road work that morning.
Both Bickley and Davies saw the road party come in (safely) and state that it was a section from F coy under Anstey. I'm sorry but there are no primary sources to suggest that anyone was working on the road behind Isandhlwana on the morning of the 22nd.
19th March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
I bow to your intimate knowlege, and I can only draw your evidence as part of my questions to this thread.
Having studied my souces when I arrived home it appears that vause must have arrived within the 11.45-12.00 window of oppourtunity that you note. (soucres Hill of sphinx & zulu victory) as he joined Stafford at 12.15-20 at the foot of the spur.
My sources for the disposition of MacDowel's company (RD by Adrain Greaves & David Rattrays comments). points that his company, but not neccesarily him were out mending the road at the spot I pointed out, but also the cairn is in the correct position.
The timing for the arrival of the wagons is interesting. If these were 4 miles behind Durnford as Keith Smith writes then they would have had to make in pretty quick time.
If Vause joined Stafford at say 12.10-20 he must have hot footed to join him heading South east behind Isandlwana. Did he leave the wagons with the last mile to go?.
Having studied your timings, they too seem a little out with mine, Presume Durford left RD at say 7-7.30, he had arrived back to camp after forraging to find it already being packed. Chard met Durnford halfway "hurrying to Isandlwana" assuming chard left at 9.45 that closes the time to even less.
So did the wagons get there? if they did they arrived right at a pivotal time, Vause has hot stepped to join Stafford, therefore they must have been at the far edge of the wagon park (if they indeed even got there).
Your note about the zulu army being descovered at 12.00 is a little late, the companies on the Tehelane spur opened fire on the right horn at 11.45, at the zulus passing across their front at maximun rifle range. (with the backsight set at 800 yards on my Martini you cannot see your target as the barrel blanks your view). Also the ridge drops away from you making aiming even more difficult, In would guess that the right horn never even broke its stride. Dyson on the far left of the line must have been the only company that could have had any effective musketry. So the net must have been rapidly closing even by 12.00.
If the horn was moving at a jog it would not have been long at all before they bisected the road in the stream bed. It would have taken the wagons alot longer than half an hour to get up the slope. So did Ardendorf and pals cut across the enveloping right horn just before the net closed or did they indeed remain on the perimeter of the net?thus they arrived early at RD?.

notes: Peter, I am not sure as to how ammunition was distributed for the Snider, Westley Richards etc. was it in the same type of box as Martini rounds? can any of our "gun experts" eleborate?, because are we drawing in the "inadequeceys" of the mark V ammo boxes with the same difficulties as a snider ammo box. I merley play devils advocate to this theory.
19th March 2004John Young

I think you've been misled by the comments in 'Rorke's Drift' by Dr. Greaves.

How misleading is the comment on page 98, that MacDowel was John Chard's superior officer? It just doesn't stand up, like so many things I've read from the pen of Dr. Greaves. Fact: John Chard's commission as a lieutenant dates from 15th July, 1868, whereas MacDowel's dates 2nd August, 1871. How on earth can this junior lieutenant be senior to John Chard?

It is interesting to note that in 'David Rattray's Guidebook to the Anglo-Zulu War Battlefields', that Dr. Greaves is the joint author on the title page, but the rear cover states he is the editor of the work.

In that work, page 72, the authors have MacDowel as the 'senior Royal Engineer officer' - how so? It just doesn't fit in with the fact that Chard was his senior, albeit it that MacDowel was on the staff of No. 3 Column.

As Julian states above the sources are not disclosed for the Greaves/Rattray comments, so can they be trusted?

John Y.
19th March 2004Julian Whybra
I'm afraid I agree with John here, the two 'sources' are both secondary. Only primary sources can be trusted. I suggest that as nicely as possible you ask Adrian and David what their sources are. I certainly do not know of any which would support their views. For your info, Vause did leave the waggons early. He left them in the charge of Lieut. Erskine and 20 men. Erskine's account recorded his safe arrival (and his men's and his waggons) in camp.
20th March 2004Tony Livesey
I`m a bit puzzled. According to Mackinnon and Shadbolt`s book, they state that Lieutenant Anstey`s remains were removed from the battlefield by his brother Captain Anstey, R.E. then conveyed to England, and interred in the family vault in Woking Cemetery. Can anyone shed some light on this?
20th March 2004John Young

No need to be puzzled.

Edgar Anstey's body was removed by his brother, Captain Thomas Henry Anstey, Royal Engineers, who arranged for their return to the U.K.

T.H. Anstey conducted the site survey of Isandlwana, and the well-known plan of Isandlwana, which appears in the 'Narrative of Field Operations...' was his work.

For the Anstey family vault check out the Keynsham Light Horse site in the links field.

John Y.
21st March 2004Neil Aspinshaw
John, Julian
thank you for a very thought provoking thread. I must profess to being out in a hung jury on this, some parts that you learned chaps argue do now fit into what is the generally held as red. However we must give others some credibility as in the case of DR that he has alot of historical information from the zulu's themselves.
Like any game of postmans knock the facts get distorted as the story is repeated I hasten to add by both sides,both then and up until the present day.But as the whole isandlwana debacle has many "grey" areas to it we can only draw our own conclusions to the mosaic evidence.
The only question I have left open on this thread is who/ what company lies under the cairn next to the Nqutu/Isandlwana main road, on the spot that historically/hearsay the RE company was caught?.
Chaps than you for a very interesting thread.

21st March 2004Tony Livesey
Thanks for clearing that one up for me.
It would be interesting to know whose remains lie buried under the cairn in question at Isandlwana.
21st March 2004Ron Clayton
Facsinated by the knowledge displayed.Can I side track you if permissable and see what recent books can you recommend re Isandlwana?

21st March 2004John Young

F.W.D. Jackson's 'Hill of the Sphinx', is perhaps the most comprehensive version of events at Isandlwana, it is available through the shop page.

Ron Lock & Peter Quantrill's 'Zulu Victory' is something of a page turner, see my review in the book review section.

John Y.
23rd March 2004Julian Whybra
Sorry to have taken a few days to reply - a family commitment plus wanting to re-read the
accounts of those who left the stricken field on the morning of the 23rd and those who visited
the field subsequently - meant itís taken me a couple of days to put this together. Your
comment requires two answers - one relating to oral tradition, the other on the cairn on the
Manzimnyama bank.
First, I have no absolute faith in purely academic research, There is a place for the gifted
amateur to make a contribution. Normally one finds that such a person will combine a wealth
of knowledge on the subject combined with analytical skills and an ability to weigh evidence
acquired through their occupation (a solicitor or policeman perhaps). In addition, oral
tradition is extremely valuable in adding to the store of recorded evidence. However, it begins
to lose its value, the further in time it is before itís written down (even in a society like the
Zulu one where oral tradition is a norm). When one adds a couple of generations plus the
offices of a European confidant/guide into the equation it becomes more and more like Chinese
(or Zulu) whispers. What you picked up from guides/hoteliers, who are undoubtedly fine
story-tellers, may be interesting and have a kernel of truth and some value, but it cannot be
taken as gospel. And to be frank, you have absolutely no idea which parts of which story you
heard may have come from Zulu oral tradition, and which from the showmanís imagination
with his audience in mind. With certain exceptions, guides tell their audiences what they want
to hear. That people lie under the cairn you refer to is obviously true, that they Royal
Engineers has been shown to be false (would a Zulu have known the difference between an
Engineer and another soldier?). Having had the detailed replies you have had, it is unfair to
respond with ďI still think that there may be some semblance of truth....Ē in a story which to be
honest comes from a totally unreliable and unlearned source.
Secondly, who is under the cairn you refer to. It must first be said that apart from certain
known (and sometimes witnessed) events, the details of the menís end at Isandhlwana remains
mercifully unknown to us. From a close reading of the texts Iíve mentioned above, it becomes
apparent that Mostyn and part of F coy did attempt a fighting retreat over the saddle but were
pushed on to the Fugitivesí Trail by the tip of the right horn. They were then pushed back by
the tip of the left horn, and some finished up on the Manzimnyama on or near where the
Fugitivesí Trail crosses it. Equally some would have been pushed further north. At the same
time as this there are accounts by those returning with Chelmsford on the 23rd who, following
the track to Rorkeís Drift, recorded seeing bodies together on the west side of the saddle
down toward the Manzimnyama (including that of Pulleine in one instance) - I am reminded
here of the account of uMhoti. There is also the fact that the cairn represents the burial place
of a number of individuals collected together for burial - it does not represent the place where
they were killed. So, who is under the cairn? I suggest probably a group of the 24th mixed
with many others who perhaps tried to leave the field early but were caught by the right horn,
mixed with those that were killed on the westward slope of the saddle and collected there for
burial. There is no mention of waggons there, Engineers, or Pioneers, and no particular
mystery either.
23rd March 2004Mike McCabe
I'm pleased to see the 'Engineer Cairn' story so handsomely debunked by Julian. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest a RE link to it. It would also be helpful if people were more ready to ditch 'attractive stories' in favour of researchable fact or intelligent deduction. Some locals will explain that it is the grave of one of the Zulu assistants to an earlier missionary, found dead nearby.

23rd March 2004Julian Whybra
It is also true to say that there were originally some 40 cairns between the saddle and the Manzimnyama down the track - all of which have been washed away gradually downhill and no trace remaining. It could be that the cairn on the stream bank contains the collected remains. (Thank you Mike. A compliment from you is a valued one.)
1st June 2005Coll
As we have been observing in the latest topic about the discovery of the Zulu army, the times and location, etc., including Pulleine's decisions BEFORE Durnford arrived.

I thought I would re-introduce this topic which covers Durnford's actions, etc., BEFORE reaching the Isandlwana camp.

There is mention of the time that Durnford left RD, No.2 Column's journey to the camp, especially details of the wagons and location at Isandlwana, as well as the difficulties in obtaining ammunition for the type of firearm the N.N.H. were issued with, particularly when holding the position at the donga.

This subject I feel belongs up beside the recent topic of the Zulu discovery, to help understand Durnford's movements prior to reaching Isandlwana, but also the problems faced later in the battle, which still remains controversial.

With a couple of new books on the horizon, this is the only way I can draw attention the the actions of Durnford from his location at Rorke's Drift, the movement to the camp, the problems with his wagons and why there was an ammunition emergency at the donga.

The only method I can use to defend him and his actions, is to re-activate these 2 topics, not just using previous discussions on these matters, but possibly adding to them, to somehow make his case stronger, regarding the decisions he made and the difficulties he faced,etc. Please bear with me, there is a point to be made, but I just need to find it !

2nd June 2005Michael Boyle
(So this is where the "Engineer's Memorial" was put to rest! I couldn't remember.)


The only other information I've come across lately as to the Colonel's action's before Isandhlwana is alas not good. In Clemmer's "Zulu War" he expands on Chelmsford's 'irritation' with Durnford's earlier self-deployment, that resulted in the well known rebuke, with the allegation that Durnford planned to oppose the anticipated impi by taking up a defensive position on the Zulu side of the river. Putting one's command between a rock and a hard place is not a good tactic. (Forcing the Zulus to cross the river in the face of your defence is preferable to the risk of being pushed into it yourself.)

Clemmer is footnoted rather than annotated and he doesn't footnote the passage in question so it's reliability is suspect. Perhaps someone could help set our minds to rest?

As a comment on part of the topic, I thought the same ammo box was used with both Martini and Snider rounds ( holding less of the latter than the former) which could get one's hopes up until you got close enough to read the labeling. Would this then also be true with Martini, Snider and Swinburne carbine rounds?

Just out of curiousity, how many different types of (longarm) cartridges were needed to supply the campaign and how were handgun rounds supplied?


2nd June 2005Coll

I'm unsure about this allegation and the reliability of it definitely does sound suspect, but, as with other aspects of the AZW, there may be some truth in it.

Durnford may have thought the mobility of his mounted force was being wasted, inactive on the Natal side, or, if his force was needed urgently, he was maybe concerned that it would be his troops intercepted by the Zulus as he tried to cross the river, making his own force vulnerable to Zulu marksmen as well as being met on the Zulu bank by thousands of warriors as they tried to get out of the water.

It is yet another issue about Durnford that needs to be clarified, in such a way, that it is not blocking the path to the truth.

I was of the thinking that all of the Colonial Volunteer units were armed with Martini Henry carbines just before the AZW campaign started, to prevent any difficulties in ammunition supply, rather have several different calibres being necessary.

I'm sure I read that it was only a box of 200 rounds which was obtained from the Carbineer camp, if so, could they have mistakenly thought to be suitable for the N.N.H. firearms, or was it to at least resupply those who maybe had Martini Henrys, and so allowing a few to continue firing ?

This is why I do think Durnford had no option but to withdraw from the donga, as the ammunition supply for the firearms issued to the N.N.H. could not be found.

I think pistol ammunition had to be obtained by the officer's themselves, Imperial as well as officers and troops of the Volunteer units.

2nd June 2005Michael Boyle

Durnford's horsemen certainly had mobility but he also had NNC to worry about too. I'll keep checking for any other references on the incident.

I had thought the volunteer cavalry had MHs too, but I've recently read that just prior to the war the government relented and replaced their Snider carbines with Swinburne - Henrys. I also believe that rifle and carbine loads were different, not sure if MH and SH carbine were different though. I also read here somewhere here that the RA still had Sniders. I think many of the NNC had muzzle loaders.

I also seem to recall that the 200 rds. found were what remained in an open box and even then when brought back found it too late to hold the donga.

I do find it strange that those with sidearms would have to guess how much ammunition to buy and carry with them prior to a campaign. (Especially the ORs so armed.)



2nd June 2005Coll

You're right. I checked a previous topic about the Snider firearms, which at the time had caused me to look at 1 of my AZW books, that mentions a Colonial unit (Durban Mounted Rifles) being issued with the Swinburne-Henry just before the war, so it may have been the same for other similar units.

As for specific details about the firearms themselves, I'm not sure.

Although there were some Imperial mounted infantry in the camp who still used Martini Henrys, who probably were under Captain Bradstreet's command.