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23rd December 2004Why were the Zulus scared of the bayonet and not the bullet?
By Paul Cubbin
Something that has struck me about accounts of the actions in the Zulu war is how the Impis of King Cetewayo had complete disregard for their own safety in the face of volley fire (at least initially) but seemed to baulk at the sight of bayonets.
Part of the explaination must be down to the quality and performance of the obsolete firearms at the Zulus' disposal. Old muskets and early rifles were widely available through less scrupulous Portugese dealers and (in limited numbers) from Natal's traders. They were viewed as status symbols and amusing 'toys' but were dismissed by most of the professional warriors as being every bit as dangerous to the owner as to the target. With limited ammunition available practice must have been difficult.
But then, why was the bayonet so frightening? After all, it wasn't that mush different from a spear, something that the Zulus' enemies had (unsuccessfully) wielded for more than half a century. Was it the weight that was put behind the 'thrust' (many accounts tell how the triangular 'lunger' went straight through the shield into the man), was it the fact that it was employed in disciplined ranks (Rorkes Drift was a successful example, Isandlwana wasn't) or was it something else?
I admire the 'Redcoat' of the Victorian era greatly, but have to admit that physically the average Zulu probably him hands down in fitness, strength and hand-to-hand skills. So, what's it all about?
23rd December 2004James Garland
I saw a demonstration by the "Diehards" at the National army Museum in Chelsea that demonstrated just this point.
The Martini Henry rifle with it's bayonet attached had a far longer reach than the Zulu stabbing spear especially when you see how close to the blade the spear was held.
24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Yup, good point. I guess the stabbing assegai was really more akin to the Roman gladius than what we would class as a spear (the shields are not dissimilar in size and shape, though their use and construction is obviously very different). But I would have thought that other central African tribes would have wielded traditional, longer spears too. Do you reckon it was the type of action used when fighting? Traditionally I guess the longer, lighter spear was used overarm, over a shield edge. It may have been easy for a Zulu to hook his shield edge under his opponent's and flip it to expose his body to a low, close quarters spear thrust. Maybe the fact that the bayonet was also held low (and firmly in both hands with feet braced) confused their standard tactics for combat. At Rorkes Drift, of course, the British were mostly behind barriers that would have protected their lower torso and groin (doesn't bear thinking about), so maybe that would have been another factor. Any other ideas anyone?
24th December 2004Mike Snook

Let's just look at your question - why were the Zulus scared of the bayonet? Note the 'scared' word. Not the right one in my view. They weren't scared of very much at all - nor is there any reason to be even remotely worried about a bayonet - so long as you keep your distance. I'll return to this in a moment.

In the meantime, back to the sources - the only really direct reference that leaps readily to mind - is a remark made by Fred Hitch in describing the battle of RD, to the effect that the Zulus - took the bullet freely and only flinched when it came to the bayonet - or something like that. (Forgive me for being too lazy to go and look it up precisely - but that's pretty close!) Now Fred was not the most gifted literary figure in the world, and with a rather loose phrase like that, I think he could have meant any number of things. I am inclined to think that Fred's remark has created something of an urban legend around this whole issue. We Brits like to think of the bayonet as our sort of weapon - and the remark appeals to what one might characterize as our worst zenophobic sentiments. Hence it catches people's eye.

But although direct references to the issue are few and far between, there is no doubt that breaking up the 24th at Isandlwana was a distinctly tricky proposition.

James Garland above makes the absolutely key point. The Martini is 4 ft 2 in long - add a 22 in 'lunger' to it and you have what is effectively a half-pike. The iklwa is about 3 ft long. Let's develop it a bit further - if I was to back 60 of my Welsh soldiers, equipped with Martinis and bayonets into about 15 square yards, I don't reckon anybody could break us up save with the use of firearms and missile weapons - and that is exactly what the Z's had to do at Isandlwana.

So the answer to your question has two elements:

1. Not 'scared of' but 'wary of.' (For good reason.)
2. Reach, Teamwork and Cohesion.

As to RD and Fred's remark - if you look at the terrace on which the north wall was built, and again picture in your mind's eye men armed with a 6 foot long stabbing weapon, several feet above your head, its no bloody wonder they were bobbing about a bit!!

Hope that helps a bit - tons more in my forthcoming books on exactly this sort of stuff.


24th December 2004Andrew Garton
Id like to pose this question,why is it that there are two seizes for the trinanguar socket bayonet?I have seen it stated in several books that list it as 18.5 in. and 22 in.Any clues?
24th December 2004Michael Boyle
Paul and Mike

I'm not so sure that "scared" is too far off the mark.It cannot be denied that many engagements of the altercation begining in 1776 were decided by the the sight of advancing British bayonets, the colonial militias suddenly deciding they had better places to be. If memory serves,there may have been a few other instances where British 'cold steel' had similar demoralizing effects through out history and this against troops similarly armed. Those who had faced the British bayonet in fact learned to respect it (and avoid it).The lessons learned in the States seem to have been exemplified at Gettysburg when the men from Maine foiled the men from Alabama at Little Round Top with a bayonet charge precipitated by a lack of ammunition.In the days of the long rifle a bayonet was indeed a formidable weapon,a fact easily lost in an age of 'weapon systems'.(Here I go missing my M-14 again!)

The British had a long tradition of excellence with long arms going back as far as the billmen and translating quite nicley up to the bayonet. Training was of course the key and in the age of single shot firearms the British Army never lost sight of the difference between ranged and close combat (the socket bayonet for the MH was the longest ever produced due to the shorter length of the MH compared to prior rifles and the desire to maintain the same 'reach').

The view from outside the square (or advance) is decidley different from that within.

The comparison of the iklwa to the gladius is perhaps key. They were both upward stabbing weapons of similar reach both most effective against downward or sideways stabbing weapons (when used with a shield). However the bayonet is an"upper,lower,sideways,down" weapon (with proper training) that cared little for stiffened cow-hide shields and the Zulu impis probably knew it,if not at Isandhlwana at least at Ulundi (whose Zulu lads must be counted among the most courageous on record).

Think of it- At Isandhlawna the Zulu had to advance through ranged artillery to be met by massed volley and independant fire in the hopes of closing with an enemy whose hand to hand weapon had twice the reach of their own to have any hope of winning. Given that most of the Zulu troops had never seen combat until then the fact they pressed home the attack speaks volumns for their training,leadership and courage.

Hitch's comments as well as reports cited by Natal newspapers (re "The Redbook" ) attributed to Zulu troopers lead one to think that the last defenders at Isandlwana made good account of themselves after firing their last round.



24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Mike S and Mike B.

Thanks guys. Food for thought. Views from two sides. I guess the problem about looking at the Zulu war is that we're dealing with a relatively unchronicled race (who were little more than a Bantu offshoot for 60-odd years previously) and trying to understand them. Mix that with supposedly verbatim accounts from excited, suddenly famous squaddies and you're going to get some sensationalism with a tiny nugget of truth inside. Having said that, I'm always cynical about 'new' accounts that suddenly sprout 'new' evidence to put a different spin on things. It seems that the more books that are released and the further in the past events are, the more desperate people are for something new to say. Minor, false and unimportant information is sometimes presented as 'new facts'.
Mike S - let us know when your book is out, I'll be interested to read it (ignore the above, it wasn't directed at you and your work). Your second point above is the one that really hit home with me, don't think I can agree with you on the first. The beauty of a discussion forum, eh guys?
Mike B - funny how the British still today regard the job the of infantry to be 'Close with and destroy the enemy' (or something like that). The operative words being 'close with'. Something that is as essential today as then, maybe more so (something other modern armies seem unable to learn). I have read a lot of 'experts' degrading the effect of the bayont as 'propaganda' and hype, quoting minimal casualty figures as proof. I personally think that's the point (no pun intended) - it was a weapon of psychological warfare as much as physical. A bullet is invisible, a heavy two foot iron spike glinting in the sun is anything but. For me its the attitude of the British soldier to his job throughout history - compared with that of his enemy - that wins him battles. The more excited and frenzied you get, the bigger the psychological effect when you fail.
Andrew - don't know mate. Maybe one length is for the Martini Henry rifle and one for a Martini Henry cavalry carbine (help us out, experts).
24th December 2004Graham Alexander
When individually matched, the superior reach of the Martini-Henry and socket bayonet gave a big advantage to the infantryman. He should have been able to despatch an opponent without too many problems. However, at Isandlwana, the vastly superior numbers of Zulus changed the position entirely. Warriors would still have felt apprehension when tackling an opponent, but the support of many others of their regiment during the combat would eventually overcome all resistance in hand to hand fighting. There are many examples of soldiers holding off an opponent to their front whilst being stabbed from the side and rear by others. The closer the combat, the less effective a long weapon becomes. When really close, the assegai was far more destructive than a bayonet.
I agree with Mike that the Zulus were probably not scared by the British infantryman. They had been trained from boyhood to handle their weapons efficiently and effectively. Going into battle would have caused the usual uncertainty for an individual, but the close support of other warriors would soon have dispelled that feeling. Once the realisation that victory lay within their grasp, there would have been no stopping the upsurge in Zulu morale.
24th December 2004Mike Snook
Paul and Andrew,

Somebody with a very precise knowledge of weapons will come to your aid here eventually - I am not specifically a weapons buff- but in the absence so far of somebody who knows the text book answer - I'll do the best I can. There were at least 2 marks of lunger bayonet for the M-H, (and a second type as well), just as there were several marks of the rifle.

(Of course, you don't get bayonets for carbines as it is a cavalry weapon - and a proper cavalryman has either a sabre or a lance and should be using these manly weapons in conjunction with the shock action of his noble steed before resorting to something as cissy as a firearm - the psychology of the cavalry - up to 1914 and indeed beyond! )

The second type of M-H bayonet was a sword-bayonet which in 1879 was carried by SNCOs only. Later, it was a universal issue to, for example, the composite regiments raised as the Camel Corps for the Gordon Relief Expedition. There was a slight wave to the blade which I would have thought was a bit questionable as a design - sure enough lots of them failed at the battle of Abu Klea when the Dervishes got into the square.

The main type of M-H bayonet though - the triangular profile 'lunger' carried by all the junior ranks, came in an early and a later mark. I could have it the wrong way round, but I am pretty sure that the early mark, call it the Mk 1, was the shorter bladed of the two. It has awlays been my belief that it was the 22 incher (or thereabouts) - the Mk 2 or whatever its technically correct name is - that was in service with the 24th in Zululand.

For interest's sake - I believe the 24th were on the Mk 2 rifle in 1879 - though the differences between marks were pretty superficial. Again a real expert will give you chapter and verse on this. If you search Martini-Henry on the internet, you'll get some hits which will cover the bayonets too.

Paul, rememeber that the psychological effect of the bayonet comes when it is used offensively. ie. when you have 600 British squaddies coming at you, and you have to decide whether you really believe in your cause enough to hang around. Its other use - a defensive hedgehog if you will - as epitomized by the British square - implies inherently that you are on the back foot (sorry American cousins - cricketing expression meaning 'on the defensive') or are batting off some of those cavalry wallahs. A static square - recieve cavalry - rallying - or any other kind of square, is nothing to be worried about unless you happen to have taken it into your mind to break the square and kill everybody in it. There is no doubt that at Isandlwana the Zulus tried brute force and ignorance (BFI!) at first, but that it simply didn't work. Thus I would say that they were not scared - otherwise they would have given up and gone away - but more accurately - that they very quickly learned respect for the bayonet - and to become wary of it. They learned the hard way that assaulting a square was bloody dangerous work - and then quickly had to improvise other techniques to break up the formation - the use of firearms, throwing in the bodies of their own dead to drag down the points, and the use of throwing assegais at extremely short range. Now that's not scared - that's clever - and that's why they wiped out my (very fine ) regiment!

I have discovered one slightly vague reference in the sources to the 24th men in one of the squares jeering at the Zulus to 'come on' - typically British eh - 'come on then if you think you're hard enough' sort of thing. But it's not solid enough to include in the book and I've made the decision to leave it out. I share your cynicism about so called new evidence - you won't get any of that sort of twaddle from me - the whole point of my books is to interpret the evidence correctly in the first place. 'How Can Man Die Better' in the summer. 'Like Wolves on the Fold' six months after that.

Long diatribe again - but the answer is as I said, mainly to do with reach, teamwork and cohesion.

For sure 'scared' is the wrong word!!


24th December 2004Mike Snook

We've been typing at the same time - you make absolutely the right point - once the cohesion of a 'hedgehog' has gone - a long stabbing weapon can be an embuggerance.

24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Mike S and Graham - yup again (nice to have clever people around). Thinking about it, we're talking here about a weapon that is not much cop when not combined with discipline and cohesion. Its only scary if you're looking at the business end and it doesn't wobble.
As for the use of the word 'scared', we're probably deep into boring semantics with this aren't we. One man's scared is another man's wary. Is it more firghtening to be on the defensive or offensive? There's probably plenty of argument for either - although discipline and training can minimise its effects if not the emotion. Neither side was short of this (except in the case of Imperial 'irregulars'). I still reckon the Zulus had a nasty shock when faced with regular troops. Up till then (with the notable exception of the Boers many years previously) they hadn't any reason to be frightened of white men. The inhabitants of Natal were tolerated out of curiosity, it seems, more than fear. I reckon (and yes, I know you disagree with this one Mike - you may be right) that the Zulus were damn scared. They suffered horrific casualties and, at least at Rorkes Drift, couldn't get up close in enough numbers or for long enough. Of course, I guess you have to take into account the fact that they had empty bellies and were probably knackered to boot. It probably wasn't anything new to them but still can't have helped.
As for the bayonet thing - I'm pretty sure I read about one of the Mounted Infantry guys (regular converted guys or irregular - can't remember which) spearing a Zulu with a Martini Henry CARBINE with bayonet attached. Was this just a casual use of the word carbine? I know the mounted dudes (again, except for the Boers) were hampered by the fact that their rifle/carbine had no safety so they couldn't carry it loaded. Loading whilst mounted must have been damn tricky and most seem to have dismounted rather than stay on horseback (which seems much safer if more inaccurate).
24th December 2004Martin Boyle
Paul, I'm not sure if the Zulus would have been stronger and fitter than our lads. Today, we are a rather weak and unfit people, but earlier generations were stronger and fitter, despite poorer living conditions and less food.

Just a thought about bayonets causing more consternation than bullets: If the bayonet could cause wide-open wounds, the Zulus might have thought that their spirits would leave their bodies through these wounds. Of course, if the triangular bayonet only made a neat puncture that blows my theory out of the water.

Merry Christmas.


24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Martin - I like it, a bit of lateral thinking there. Of course, by all accounts the MH round ripped open people rather nastily in exiting, probably more than a bayonet would - except in the case of the sword bayonet perhaps, mentioned by Mike S above. But still, nice bit of theology for a Christmas Eve discussion!
As to the levels of fitness, I base my theory on the fact that Zulus are universally described by Europeans as being large, athletic, muscular looking chaps (except for the chieftains who, though still powerful looking, had a tendency to run to fat - those carbs will get you every time). Imperial troops could be expected to march maybe 10 - 15 miles a day, Zulus three times that. Of course, some of that will be the logistical back-up required - wagons and whatnot compared to shieldbearer boys - but still I wouldn't like to bet against a Zulu being more of an athlete than his average British opponent. Anyway, where do you get off calling me weak and unfit. It's these jeans, they've shrunk from last year, that's all. I could still play rugby if it wasn't for my knees.......cheeky bugger, I'm off to sulk with a box of chocs in front of the telly. Happy Christmas to all and pass the Twiglets.
24th December 2004Martin Boyle
No, Paul, I wasn't saying that you are weak. I can tell by your writing that you are a fine figure of a man. Not as fine as me, but still a good one.
24th December 2004Martin Boyle
Furthermore, being the acknowledged authority on the methods the spirit uses in escaping the body, I can tell you that it much prefers slit-type wounds to great big holes.

I can come up with dafter and dafter counter-arguments, so don't argue with me, mate.
24th December 2004Mike Snook

And on that note....its goodnight from me...and Merry Christmas to you all.

Have a good one

24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Martin - ok, I bow to your superior knowledge. I'm going to test out the horizontal slit in my head for the entry of spirits. I'll keep its preferred method of exit to myself. Hopefully it won't be the same one it used for entry.
24th December 2004Adrian Whiting

As the MHR entered into service from 1873 onwards, the approved bayonet for Line Infantry was the Pattern 1853, bushed to fit the Martini Henry. This bayonet is often referred to as the P1853/72, denoting its official acceptance via the List of Changes in 1872. The bayonet had a 17" blade. The bushing involving the insertion of a metal bush into the socket so that it would now fit the MHR's reduced (in comparison to the P53 Enfield rifle) muzzle diameter.

In due course the Pattern 1876 socket bayonet was approved, as a new manufacture for the MHR, from the 7th June 1876. This bayonet had a blade of 22" (actually 22.125" was approved). The P1876 bayonet scabbard appeared in 3 Marks, the MkI being identifiable through having three rivets along its face, the MkII having two rivets. The MkIII appeared in 1893/4 in very small numbers.

The trade continued to make the P1853 (17") bayonet as a new item for the MHR, given that the trade also made MHRs for private/Volunteer purchase, and so these can also be found.

The 1st Battalion 24th received their MHRs in 1874, replacing the Snider, whilst on Foreign Service at the Cape. The 2nd Battalion, being on Home Service, had received theirs in 1873, at Warley. Both battalions would therefore have been issued with the MkI.

Although the MHR MkII was approved in 1877, those MkIs already in possession of the Infantry were upgraded locally to MkII standard by the Armourers.

By 1879 there had been 314,683 MkI MHRs (second and third patterns) manufactured, as against 11,053 MkIIs.

It follows from the above issue dates that both 24th Battalions had their MHRs before the introduction of the Pattern 1876 bayonet. Therefore both Battalions were inevitably issued with the P1853/72 bayonet. This accords with the limited examples reputedly recovered from Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, the only ones I have seen being that Pattern. I have not found any evidence to indicate that Battalions issued with the P1853/72 were routinely reissued with the P1876. I would be very interested if anyone can assist on that point.

The Yataghan Sword Bayonet, bushed for MHR, was issued to Sergeants of Line Infantry and to all ranks issued with a rifle in the Rifles.

Mike is entirely correct in commenting that Cavalry were not issued a bayonet for their MH Carbines - in fact the Cavalry MHC lacked bayonet fittings, although the Royal Artillery did carry a sword bayonet for their Carbines. This had originally been the Yataghan pattern, suitably converted, followed by the P1875 saw backed bayonet for Artillery (of which only some 5000 were produced). These led to the P1879 saw-backed bayonet for Artillery, approved on 26th June 1879.


24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Yeah, that's what I was going to say. Thanks Adrian.
24th December 2004Andrew Garton
Thanks for the answer,you really know your AZW!
24th December 2004Andrew Garton
Just a quick note I thought I'd mention.The Rev.George Smith stated that the Zulu were driven back with the bayonet,so Hitch was'nt the only one to recall this.And certainly the Padre was literate enough to have only ment one thing.
25th December 2004Mike Snook

I knew a real expert would appear eventually. Most impressive. Thanks a lot - I am going to print this out for my files if you don't mind. But dammit...what am I am going to put in my books!? 17 or 22?

A couple of years from acceptance of a new pattern is just enough time to create uncertainty over whether a shipload of new pattern bayonets had been sent out to the Cape in the interim or not. Clearly everybody began with the earlier pattern - and clealry there must have been a programme to replace them with the new pattern.

I bet the Indian Army arsenals made their own in line with the spec. Was there a pukka military arsenal at the Cape I wonder?

I am inclined to think 2 years is long enough for the new pattern to have arrived with the SA garrison - but interesting possibility arises that 1/24 and 2/24 had different patterns!!

Anybody got any more gen or thoughts on this one?

26th December 2004Bruce Mathews
is it possible that to die at the hands of the english bayonet was a disgrace for the zulu?
26th December 2004Adrian Whiting

You are welcome to make any use of the info you can ! If I can help with even more tedious detail please contact me off forum !

In terms of helping a little further here though, the longer pattern bayonet, 22.125", introduced by LoC 2953 of 7-6-1876 was actually termed the "Bayonet, Common, complete with locking ring, long". It was not designated the "Pattern 1876" or similar, since it was actually regrded as part of the rifle.

From the original introduction of the MHR with the sleeved P53/72 bayonet there had been concern at the relative short length of the overall bayonet and rifle when compared to the 3-band Snider with the P53 bayonet. However some 195,000 P53/72 bayonets had been sleeved/bushed by 1875 when the time came for the decision to be made to adopt the longer type in 1876.

Between 1876 (start of production) and the end of the 1877 manufacturing year (being March 1878) Enfield and BSA had manufactured 151,091 Long bayonets, by the end of 1893 over 550,000 had been made.

Given the views of the CiC at the time of the longer pattern's introduction, and these production figures, I think it is reasonable to assume that they were intended to replace the P53/72 in due course.

As I said, the two I have seen reputedly recovered from Isandlwana were both P53/72s, but it is entirely possible that the 1st battalion had these and the 2nd Battalion had P76s - although I have no evidence for it, simply conjecture given their longer retention on Home Service. The only certain way to show this will most likely be photographic evidence, since the P53/72 blade is divergent from the centreline of the barrel, whereas the P76 is parallel with it - good luck spotting that !


26th December 2004Andrew Holliday
As many of you have said the zulus were not afraid of British bayonets they just understood it more, it was a blade similar to what the zulus had, they had no respect at all for firepower becasue they did not understand it and didn't really relise the damage it could cause.
27th December 2004Mike Snook

Thanks again for your latest data. Very useful. Would you agree that with 151,000 banged out by Mar 78 - being a far larger quantity than the size of the regular infantry at that time, that a retrofit for 1/24 at some stage in second half of 1878 seems distinctly probable. I have a copy of the shipping register for 1/24 officers and drafts going out to SA and there was certainly plenty of opportunity given the obvious frequency of troopships heading for the Cape. I believe 1/24 had a full refit after concentrating at King William's Town on conclusion of the 9th CF War. They seem to have had a new issue of uniforms (not surprising after the war in the bush - Lloyd's sketches refer.) But no data available on whether this extended to weaponry sadly. They also reorganized internally - a number of companies changed hands at this time.

Come to think of it - I'm going to have a look at Lloyd to see if the bayonets are on display.


27th December 2004Mike Snook

They are very clear in the Lloyd sketch - both fitted and unfitted, and with a good view of the scabbard. Do you have access to the Lloyd sketch? - I would appreciate your valuable opinion. Its the one of 2 x 1/24 soldiers at repose in the field in the Transkei. One standing with a battered hat on and one sitting with a dinted foreign service helmet. Do you know the one I mean?

If you don't have it let me know and I'll try and attach a copy to an e-mail.

Funnily enough both look different lengths to me. The fitted one looks shorter than the unfitted one still in its scabbard - which looks very long. Potential perhaps for there to have been a mixture - but you are the expert. What do you think?

27th December 2004Adrian Whiting

Yes I have copies of the Lloyd sketch that you describe. I guess there will always be dangers in interpreting a sketch to this level of detail, but in my opinion Lloyd has drawn the 1853/72 bayonet. I say this because the scabbard of the seated soldier has no rivets along its front face, which would be consistent with the scabbard for the 1853/72. Now I am not really that much of an authority on the frocks being worn, so if you or others can distinguish that Lloyd has not drawn them correctly then he may have omitted drawing in the rivets. For example I do not see any cuff embellishment, and the shoulder straps appear to be the same shade as the collar patches, indicating that they are a different colour from the rest of the jacket. This may be because they are the 1872, or even 1868 patterns, where that would be the case (as I recall) or it may be error. The sketch is less conclusive because the fixed bayonet needs to be seen in line with the underside or the top of the barrel, rather than in line with the side, to see if the inside edge of the bayonet appears to arc away.

I have looked at another of Lloyd’s sketches in “Redcoats and Zulus” (first illustration). This is drawn from such an angle, and I would suggest that the inside edge of the bayonet does indeed look to veer away from the barrel line, suggesting the 1853/72 pattern – but this is a very fine judgement !

On the other hand, the photograph of the 91st in column is worth scrutiny. The Pioneers are in front (despite many captions that seem to suggest the Pipes are to the fore…) and the centre man appears to have a socket bayonet. Unless he is very short indeed, then I would suggest it must be an 1876 pattern, since it extends below his knee line.

In addition, in a photograph of the 1/24th Colour party in 1880 (p126 of “Zulu” by Ian Knight – the Windrow & Greene publication) the fixed bayonets are clearly P1876s, given their length relative to the MHRs they are affixed to. I appreciate that this is post the war !

Finally, for now (!) I note that in 1893 the Natal Administration carried a large stock of P1853/72 bayonets – could these have been those formerly carried by the 24th and handed to the local Government upon re-issue with the 1876 pattern locally ? I guess we will have to keep looking at the photos !


27th December 2004Mike Snook

Thanks for having a look. I appreciate it. I have a full colour copy of the sketch and the shoulder straps are in fact red piped white as they should be. Lloyd was drawing from life in the Transkei - last couple of months 77 and first few months of 1878. I think the inference re. the cuffs is that the crows foot piping has been removed for field service.

What about the bayonet frog in the sketch? Was that the same for both patterns?


28th December 2004Adrian Whiting

Thanks for the extra info - as you correctly surmised, i only have black and white repros of the sketches - and I would have thought that LLoyd would have been accurate.

The frogs were essentially the same for other ranks, so this wouldn't help. I anticipate though, that the re-equpping you have referred to at KWT may have been the point for re-issue of bayonets. I would certainly subscribe to the idea that some battalions would have had one pattern and another the other. I guess that there may have been situations where companies within a Battalion had different patterns for a time, though I would not have expected differences within a Company, not for Companies within a Battalion to have had different patterns for very long - to the military eye I am sure the 5" difference on parade would have been an abomination !


4th January 2005Paul Mercer
Thanks for the info on bayonets Adrian, I have 4 in my collection, the usual triangular one, a Sword with saw edge, a Yataghan and a Cutlass, the only one that eludes me (because of price) is the Elcho. Did they actually fire a MH with a sword or cutlass bayonet on and if so, what did it do the point of aim with all that weight at the front?
6th January 2005ron clayton
this has been a facisinating discussion fellers and thanks a lot.I'm surprising that no one has lowered the tone by quoting Cpl Jones ie 'they don't like it up em'.Jones of course was I suspect at Omdurman but he could have been at Rorkes Drift.No hint of a Welsh accent though.


7th January 2005Michael Boyle
Just a thought, perhaps semantics is yet another case of " two peoples seperated by a common language" (to mangle one of good ol' Winnie's quotes).

To me the words 'fear' or 'scared' are in no way derogatory when referenced to combat provided they are superceded by proper training and discipline. Fear has proved to be a far greater motivater (and innovater) than either complacency or over-confidence through out the history of warfare even though the concept of fear is often overlooked or denied in subsequent commentary. If the Romans had not feared the abilities of their opponents they would not have developed the tactical doctrine of nightly fortification in hostile territory which allowed them to not only blunt their enemies advantages but enabled them to chose where and when to fight (in the majority of cases). If Napolean had not feared the numerical superiority of his foes he would not have developed his superb logistics, mobility and command and control which allowed him to defeat his opponents piece-meal before they could concentrate their forces.(Until his fear was replaced by over-confidence.) Had Lord Chelmsford entertained any fear of the Zulus the Isandlwana disaster would not have occured (I am of course opinionating throughout).

Some would replace the word 'fear' with 'respect' but I would suggest that is only because the emotional connotation for some reason seems to require disguise for homo-sapien-sapiens. The only emotion demonstrably shared by all species is fear.The reaction for all toward fear is 'fight or flight', get it wrong and you exit the gene pool. Warfare requires a modified response to this.

Prior to an individual's first combat fear is inevitable, the thought of either "Please God don't let me die" or "please God don't let me screw this up" is common. A good commander trains and ensures sufficient discipline and motivation for his troops to be more inclined to the latter.Of course after a few engagements when a soldier realizes he does in fact know what he's doing he becomes more inclined to the former and a good commander finds ways to lessen that intraspection.If a soldier is kept too long on the line he tends to think "who cares, death can't be any worse than this" and a good commander avoids this situation entirely.(Unfortunately not always possible.)

The words 'fear' or 'scared' seem to maintain a negative connotation because they are equated with cowardice ,which may be a concious descision to escape an incapacitating reaction to fear that seems more an individual character trait than a common response,though the term is too often bandied about recklessly towards troops whose leadership had succumbed to it or who hadn't sufficient training and motivation instilled for their required task.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the emotion of fear, if you are trained to avoid it's incapacitating effects and instead to use it as a cataylizing agent rather than deny it with false bravado.

The Zulu shamans had developed rituals which they assured their troops would make them immune to bullets.(Much the same as some Native American shamans had and with similar results).As stated above by Paul a bullet is invisible, until it materializes in matter, so it's not too much of a stretch to convince some one that your magic can prevent that materialization.However I'm as yet unaware of any Muti that ensured the same invulnerabilty to the bayonet.It would seem a much harder sell that magic could make something you do see de-materialize.Granted that at Isandlwana the battle developed too quickly for muti to be administered properly with both sides trying to seize the initiative, but the unblooded Zulu regiments seem to have more than compensated with their zeal to 'wash' their spears. However, according to contemporary Zulu accounts, after the last defenders had expended their last rounds and stood side by side and back to back with bayonets at the ready, they found it more prudent to stand off and allow ranged fire to put paid to the day. A good example of allowing fear to sucumb to common sense rather than rash bravado. (The accounts could have as easily stated they overcame the last defenders in brutal,yet heroic hand-to-hand, no one would have been the wiser.)

Just another dis-interested opinion.