Battle Report: 5th January 1999

Later British ~vs~ Zulu

(Dave Lancaster ~vs~ Robert Avery) .

Later British

Brigade

Unit

Fig.'s Org. Class Weapons Pts/Fig Points
  CinC

1

. .. .   100
1st 2inC 1         50
Brigade 78th Highlanders 20 4x5 RegB lbl   300
  24th Foot 40 8x5 RegB lbl   600
  Naval Brigade 24 6x4 RegB lbl   372
Cavalry Dragoon Guards 16 4x4 RegA s, p, blc   344
Brigade 17th Lancers 8 2x4 RegB s, p, l, blc   164
  Frontier Light Horse 8 2x4 RegC s, p, blc   140
Artillery 2inC 1         50
Brigade RA Battery 3 3x1 RegB light blrb FA   309
  RA HMG 1 1x1 RegB gatling gun   98
  Naval Brigade HMG 1 1x1 RegB gatling gun   98
Support Ammo Wagon 1         50
  Wagon Train 3 3x1 RegC wagon + 2 crew   n/a
              2675
.

Zulu

Brigade

Unit

Fig.'s

Org.

Class

Weapons

Pts/Fig

Points

.

CinC

1

 

 

 

  100
Head 1 30 1x30 FanA sp, sh   225
  2 30 1x30 FanA sp, sh   225
  3 30 1x30 FanB sp, sh   225
Right 4 30 1x30 FanA sp, sh   225
Horn 5 30 1x30 FanA sp, sh   225
  6 30 1x30 FanB sp, sh   225
Left 7 30 1x30 FanA sp, sh   225
Horn 8 30 1x30 FanA sp, sh   225
  9 30 1x30 FanB sp, sh   225
Loin 10 30 1x30 FanB sp, sh   225
  11 30 1x30 FanB sp, sh   225
Misc. Skirmishers 8 1x8 FanB sp, sh, blr   119
              2694
.
. Later British Zulu
Foot 1680 6760
Horse 640 0
Guns 10 0
 

Report

Outscouted once again, the Zulu’s set up in their horns of the bull formation. The British, in reply, formed an extended line across the battlefield: mixing companies of their different units into three commands.

Both sides advanced rapidly, but with the Zulu’s sending their centre units (the Head and half their Loin) doubling across to the left flank. Meanwhile the Right Horn advanced and demonstrated: keeping the British in front of them occupied.

Far on the British right, three squadrons of cavalry supported a section of artillery. These units were separated from their supporting infantry, positioned on a hill, by an area of dense scrubland. Seeing this, a Zulu impi charged the single section of artillery. Two squadrons of British cavalry counter-charged, but were thrown backwards by the fanatical, formed, charging Zulu’s. A massive melee developed: but the outcome was never really in question. The 600-odd Zulu warriors quickly overwhelmed their 160 mounted opponents.

At the same time, a squadron of Dragoon Guards had charged the Zulu impi on the far left of the Zulu Left Horn. The impi received at the halt, and the Dragoon Guards were wiped out by thrown spears.

This left the right wing of the British somewhat exposed: with the Zulu Left Horn and Head impis streaming towards it. After 15 minutes of positioning, the Zulus charged six impis into the right of the British line:  with the charges going in neatly from left to right.

The three companies of British Regulars on the hill went first: overwhelmed by two impis. Then four impis charged the first of the British central command: five companies of infantry supported by another squadron of Dragoons and the British CinC. These troops had already lost a gatling gun to fire from the Zulu skirmishers and, even worse, had let gaps develop in their advancing line. Two companies were hit by two impis, and were routed. Then the other two impis hit the rest: and they routed as well.

The British had now lost four out of eight squadrons of cavalry; eight out of eighteen companies of infantry, their CinC (seriously wounded); and two out of five sections of artillery. Their left flank and left centre units had used up their “opening volley” bonus trying to suppress the Zulu Right Horn, and their were six Zulu impis behind their right flank (although one was shaken)!

Worse, if they tried to turn to face this threat, the Zulu Right Horn and remaining Loin impis would threaten their other flank. No Zulu impis were routed: although one had been reduced to half strength.

The end was nigh for the British!

Casualties

The Zulu’s lost 880 tribesmen.

The British lost 40 Lancers; 80 Frontier Light Horse (routed); 80 Dragoons (routed); their CinC; two sections of artillery and a smattering of infantry. The Zulus were, however, about to massacre and ritually disembowel, another eight companies of infantry.

Result

A win for the Zulu’s.

Analysis

The Zulu tactics were superb. At the end of each move, they lay prone and so minimised the casualties from artillery and small-arms fire taken as they moved into charge range. They switched an evenly spaced attack to a massive assault on the British right wing, and succeeded in keeping half the British firepower out of contention as they sliced his line up bit by bit.

At the end of the battle, they had outflanked the British line, and were perfectly posed to flank charge his remaining infantry force.

The British made a few minor tactical errors (e.g. counter-charging a charging impi) but in the main, their error was to allow the Zulu’s to seize the initiative and dictate where their attacks went in.