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Old July 12th, 2018, 05:03 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Belgarion View Post
Who would think that blaming a defeat on a lack of screwdrivers is a better excuse than being beaten by superior numbers?
Let me be clear from the start, I'm not blaming ammo boxes or screwdrivers. I'm discussing the lie about the screwdrivers.


Anyone familiar with recent internal army debate over ammo boxes might believe a lie about screwdrivers. The ammo box described earlier in this thread with the break away access panel was the Mark V Ammo Box which was just coming into use in 1879. The previous Mark IV Ammo Box was identical to the Mark V except it did not have a break away access panel. The Mark IV Box could only be opened with a screw driver. Obviously someone in the mid-1870s had identified this as a problem and the solution was the Mark V with the break away panel. We know that at least some Mark V Boxes were on the battlefield. Several break away panels have been found. Also found were some Mark V Boxes. The Zulus apparently liked the boxes as souvenirs and passed them down as family heirlooms from generation to generation to the present day.

I doubt the British Army replaced all of their Mark IV boxes with Mark Vs as soon as the Mark V came out. More likely, the army continued to use the Mark IVs until their contents were used up and then replaced the used ammo with new ammo in Mk V boxes. It's possible there were both Mk IV and Mk V boxes in use at Isandlwana. Donald Morris, in his book "Washing of the Spears," claimed that in 1962 a copper ammo box strap was found in the battlefield. This copper strap showed signs of being forcefully removed from its box. There is no reason to forceably remove a strap from a Mk V box. It therefore must have been on a nearly identical Mk IV. (Morris was apparently confused in his terminology, thinking that the MK IV was the box with the break away panel but he clearly believed only the older boxes were in use. More recent work has proved at least some of the newer boxes were present.) I'm suggesting that both boxes may have been present.

At any rate, anyone slightly familiar with the debate over the flawed Mk IV Ammo Box could have seen the results of Isandlwana as an opportunity to say "I told you so." Especially if they didn't know that the new improved Mk V was in use at Isandlwana. In short, the army had recently had a debate about screwdrivers and ammo boxes so the idea was already on everyone's mind. The best lies are 90% true and will be accepted as completely true if the audience is already familiar with the story. The army already knew that the older Mk IV Ammo Box was flawed because it could not be opened quickly in a crisis so yes, it was easy to blame the defeat on screwdrivers even if that had nothing to do with it.


Secondly, as to why the British Army did not blame superior numbers - in the 19th century Western armies routinely defeated superior numbers. For the British to admit that they had been defeated only by superior numbers is to admit that the French, Belgians, Dutch, Americans, etc could do things that the British could not. The British were never going to admit that.

Last edited by Chlodio; July 12th, 2018 at 06:35 AM.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 05:16 AM   #12

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It wasn't the ammo boxes. It's the fact the formations marched far from camp and spread out in an easily rolled skirmish line on rolling terrain. Then they were attacked by massive numbers for their size.

Had they formed laagers and stayed lodged within they would have had much better chances, as occurred in other actions.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 06:26 AM   #13
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The first time a person learns something about a new topic or subject, they accept the new information as truthful or accurate because they have nothing else to compare it to. All subsequent information on that subject is then compared to the old information. If the new information conforms with what is already known, then the new information is accepted. If the new information contradicts what is already known (or believed) then the new information is rejected. It has nothing to do with which information is truthful or accurate and which is erroneous. It's all about timing. What has already been accepted as truthful or accurate will not be questioned subsequently. That which conforms to what one already knows or believes will also be believed.

The lie about the screwdrivers was a great lie because it conformed to what was already known about the old ammo boxes. The old ammo boxes were known to be flawed. People were therefore more willing to believe the lie about screwdrivers than to admit that Chelmsford and other British leaders made some serious tactical errors.

Last edited by Chlodio; July 12th, 2018 at 07:57 AM.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 06:48 AM   #14

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If memory serves me correctly, Chelmsford tried to place a lot of the blame for the disaster on Durnford, who was, of course, dead (and if Zulu Dawn is to be believed, a green hat short of being a leprechaun). Burt Lancaster just about managed to go the whole film without sayng "begorrah".
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Old July 12th, 2018, 07:50 AM   #15

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Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
If memory serves me correctly, Chelmsford tried to place a lot of the blame for the disaster on Durnford, who was, of course, dead (and if Zulu Dawn is to be believed, a green hat short of being a leprechaun). Burt Lancaster just about managed to go the whole film without sayng "begorrah".
That is correct. The English tried to blame the Irish. Easy to do given the Irish commander stupidly rode out to obtain glory, but none of it would have occurred if Chelmsford hadn't freaking done the exact same thing the night before.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 12:26 PM   #16

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That is correct. The English tried to blame the Irish. Easy to do given the Irish commander stupidly rode out to obtain glory, but none of it would have occurred if Chelmsford hadn't freaking done the exact same thing the night before.
It was hardly charging out to seek glory. Pulleine had been left in command of the camp, and Durnford only arrived that morning. Yes, he was technically senior to Pulleine (I *think* he was a substantive Lieutenant-Colonel whereas Pulleine was a brevet, but I would have to check that), meaning he "should" have stayed to take command of the camp, but he had mounted troops, so there was some merit in his going out on reconnaissance. He wanted to take some additional troops with him, which Pulleine refused.

Ultimately, it was Durnford who first5 encountered the Zulu and he kept them at bay for most of the battle, until they started to run short of ammo. That was when their position so far out became an issue, but when they retreated, the British line collapsed and they were overrun.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 12:42 PM   #17

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Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
It was hardly charging out to seek glory. Pulleine had been left in command of the camp, and Durnford only arrived that morning. Yes, he was technically senior to Pulleine (I *think* he was a substantive Lieutenant-Colonel whereas Pulleine was a brevet, but I would have to check that), meaning he "should" have stayed to take command of the camp, but he had mounted troops, so there was some merit in his going out on reconnaissance. He wanted to take some additional troops with him, which Pulleine refused.

Ultimately, it was Durnford who first5 encountered the Zulu and he kept them at bay for most of the battle, until they started to run short of ammo. That was when their position so far out became an issue, but when they retreated, the British line collapsed and they were overrun.
He hardly kept them at bay. His formation only held one point for a brief period. The right horn was still coming and the left was not materially slowed.

I would argue that, absent laagering up, his actions were not relevant.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 12:44 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Chlodio View Post
Let me be clear from the start, I'm not blaming ammo boxes or screwdrivers. I'm discussing the lie about the screwdrivers.


Anyone familiar with recent internal army debate over ammo boxes might believe a lie about screwdrivers. The ammo box described earlier in this thread with the break away access panel was the Mark V Ammo Box which was just coming into use in 1879. The previous Mark IV Ammo Box was identical to the Mark V except it did not have a break away access panel. The Mark IV Box could only be opened with a screw driver. Obviously someone in the mid-1870s had identified this as a problem and the solution was the Mark V with the break away panel. We know that at least some Mark V Boxes were on the battlefield. Several break away panels have been found. Also found were some Mark V Boxes. The Zulus apparently liked the boxes as souvenirs and passed them down as family heirlooms from generation to generation to the present day.

I doubt the British Army replaced all of their Mark IV boxes with Mark Vs as soon as the Mark V came out. More likely, the army continued to use the Mark IVs until their contents were used up and then replaced the used ammo with new ammo in Mk V boxes. It's possible there were both Mk IV and Mk V boxes in use at Isandlwana. Donald Morris, in his book "Washing of the Spears," claimed that in 1962 a copper ammo box strap was found in the battlefield. This copper strap showed signs of being forcefully removed from its box. There is no reason to forceably remove a strap from a Mk V box. It therefore must have been on a nearly identical Mk IV. (Morris was apparently confused in his terminology, thinking that the MK IV was the box with the break away panel but he clearly believed only the older boxes were in use. More recent work has proved at least some of the newer boxes were present.) I'm suggesting that both boxes may have been present.

At any rate, anyone slightly familiar with the debate over the flawed Mk IV Ammo Box could have seen the results of Isandlwana as an opportunity to say "I told you so." Especially if they didn't know that the new improved Mk V was in use at Isandlwana. In short, the army had recently had a debate about screwdrivers and ammo boxes so the idea was already on everyone's mind. The best lies are 90% true and will be accepted as completely true if the audience is already familiar with the story. The army already knew that the older Mk IV Ammo Box was flawed because it could not be opened quickly in a crisis so yes, it was easy to blame the defeat on screwdrivers even if that had nothing to do with it.


Secondly, as to why the British Army did not blame superior numbers - in the 19th century Western armies routinely defeated superior numbers. For the British to admit that they had been defeated only by superior numbers is to admit that the French, Belgians, Dutch, Americans, etc could do things that the British could not. The British were never going to admit that.
MKIV and MKV ammo boxes were the same in design, minus the former having iron bands and the latter having copper bands. They opened the same way, the lid held by a single screw that would either be removed before forward issue or broken off with a quick whack with the butt of the rifle.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 01:00 PM   #19

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Originally Posted by zincwarrior View Post
He hardly kept them at bay. His formation only held one point for a brief period. The right horn was still coming and the left was not materially slowed.

I would argue that, absent laagering up, his actions were not relevant.
He first made contact with the Zulu at 11am. The battle lasted until 3pm. So yes, he kept them at bay for some time.

Given that it was his retreat that caused the line to be flanked and collapse, I'd say he made a significant contribution, especially considering how poorly armed his men were.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 02:09 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by aggienation View Post
MKIV and MKV ammo boxes were the same in design, minus the former having iron bands and the latter having copper bands. They opened the same way, the lid held by a single screw that would either be removed before forward issue or broken off with a quick whack with the butt of the rifle.

Yeah, you're right. And checking the design specs for the Mk III, Mk II, and the Mk I ammo boxes they all had break away sliding lid panels. My source claiming there was an older ammo box that did not have a break away lid panel was wrong.

Still, if people knew that army ammo boxes were screwed shut, it makes the lie blaming the defeat on screwdrivers easy to believe.

Last edited by Chlodio; July 12th, 2018 at 02:16 PM.
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