Zulu War: Rorke's Drift...

SPERRO

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
3,480
North East England
Hitch received a shoulder wound that shattered the shoulder blade into thirty nine pieces. I'd argue that some of the weapons of the Zulus carried quite a punch


Generals are great at having an IDEA of what front line combat is but few have been there. I remember the advice of my sergeant after a session of bayonet drill back in the days of Lee Enfields (yes I am that old.) " Always have one up the spout. If you're close enough to stab him, you're close enough to shoot him. If you haven't got one up the spout, then for chrissake don't be there cos he'll have one for sure." To the ordinary soldier there's no glory in war.



Three things about that "border skirmish".
One -- If the Zulus had continued next day I agree, they would have won. There were 20 000 rounds there before the "skirmish" and they were down to 900 next day.
-Two-- Reports can be conflicting. A mixed race wagon driver was hiding in the cave and saw the battle. He commented on the accuracy of the defenders fire. That is difficult to reconcile with the number of Zulu dead. He may have been commenting on the daylight fight and naturally at night the marksmanship would have been less accurate.
Three-- It does however give credance to the reputation of the Lee Enfield as a superb rifle. 150 + men firing that number of rounds is quite a feat.
In all probability, the troops were using volley fire at night instead of firing at will, in order to achieve the maximum number of hits.
Some of the buildings were ablaze and this would have hindered night vision, limiting the sight range.

JC
 
Apr 2011
1,461
Melbourne Australia
The Zulu had firearms acquired from traders. As outdated as they were, if they hit, then yes, they would have packed a punch as you would expect from most firearms of approximately that era. But as far as accuracy and rate of fire is concerned, the weapons of the Zulu, as a whole, would have been significantly inferior to those of the defenders. Not to mention the superior firearms discipline of the British.

The formative years of Gough's career were before the widespread adoption of breech-loading weapons. In his day in the front ranks, the men would have been equipped with muzzle-loading muskets, making "having one up the spout" rather more impractical than in later years.

The British bayonet charge still proved itself effective against men armed with spears and cowhide shields - at Kambula, British troops were able to force back a Zulu line at bayonet point.
I agree that a scarcity, mixed armoury of weapons and poor handling gave the advantage to the defenders. Another advantage is being in defence. Attacking against prepared defences is always more costly to the attacker. My point was to dispel the myth among some people that the Zulus had only assegais and shields.

As to Gough, the reason why I was so scathing is that he and Haig were responsible for Passchendaele; sending "the chaps" over the top in bayonet charges against machine guns ranged behind barbed wire. He had knowledge of what a breech loader could do because the Boers were excellent marksmen. The dim wit had had fourteen years to understand that basic lesson.
I know it's off topic but the soldiers knew the score. they sang this to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers
Forward Joe Soap's army
Marching without fear
With our brave commander safely in the rear
He boasts and skites from morn to night
And thinks he's very brave
But the men who really did the job are dead and in their graves
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,469
T'Republic of Yorkshire
As to Gough, the reason why I was so scathing is that he and Haig were responsible for Passchendaele; sending "the chaps" over the top in bayonet charges against machine guns ranged behind barbed wire. He had knowledge of what a breech loader could do because the Boers were excellent marksmen. The dim wit had had fourteen years to understand that basic lesson.
Ah no, wrong Gough. I was talking about that Hugh Gough's great-uncle, the 1st Viscount Gough, who was born in 1779 and died in 1869. IIRC, the remark about being at them with bayonets was made during the Anglo-Sikh Wars in the 1840s.
 
Apr 2011
1,461
Melbourne Australia
Ah no, wrong Gough. I was talking about that Hugh Gough's great-uncle, the 1st Viscount Gough, who was born in 1779 and died in 1869. IIRC, the remark about being at them with bayonets was made during the Anglo-Sikh Wars in the 1840s.
Since this was a thread about Rorke's Drift I had trouble with the Gough you quoted. As the first one died before Rorke's Drift I assumed the later Gough.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,469
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Since this was a thread about Rorke's Drift I had trouble with the Gough you quoted. As the first one died before Rorke's Drift I assumed the later Gough.
I meant it as a general comment on the views on volley fire dating from (approximately) the period. In fairness, I did specify Field Marshal Gough - the latter Gough was only a general.
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,483
South of the barcodes
Not all British generals were enamoured of this tactic. Field Marshal Sir Hugh Gough famously remarked in one battle, when told that his men were running out of ammo, "Thank god! We'll be at them with our bayonets!".
Yeah but courage and tactical flair aside Paddy Gough was generally recognised as being a fighting lunatic who would have attacked an enemy force with harsh language, sharpened fruit or nerf guns if thats all he had. And would probably have won doing it :cool:
 
Apr 2011
1,461
Melbourne Australia
I meant it as a general comment on the views on volley fire dating from (approximately) the period. In fairness, I did specify Field Marshal Gough - the latter Gough was only a general.
My mistake-- sorry mate.
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,069
Navan, Ireland
One of the VC winners Robert Jones ,just 21 at the time of the battle, was a poet and seemingly reasonably well educated, but suffered very badly with his 'nerves' until almost 20 years after the battle he committed suicide.

From what I have read he displayed 'classic symptons' of PTSDI.