Battle Report

Battle Report: 8th August 1990

1879 British ~vs~ 1879 Zulu

(Robert Avery ~vs~ Andy Purcell)


1879 British



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


Foot 1st Bttn 90th Foot 40 8x5 RegB blr   440
  78th Highlanders 40 8x5 RegA blr   480
Cavalry 17th Lancers 18 3x6 RegA blc,l   168
Artillery 2nd Btty Royal Artillery 1 1x1 RegA hmg   70
Train Wagons & Mules           100

1879 Zulu



Fig.'s Org. Class Weapons Pts/Fig Points
  Induna Enkulu


  Induna 1         100
Left Horn Impi 1 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 2 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 3 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
Right Horn Impi 4 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 5 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 6 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90


Impi 7 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 8 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 9 20 1x20 IrregA sp/sh   90
  Impi 10 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90


Impi 11 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90


Impi 12 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
  Impi 13 20 1x20 IrregA sp,sh   90
. 1879 British 1879 Zulu
Foot 1600 5200
Horse 360 0
Guns 2 0


Someone has blundered! Contrary to usual practice, the British were marching in a careless formation and thus found themselves in a fragmented and extremely vulnerable position when the Zulu ambush was sprung.

This was compounded by the fact that the wagon and mule train was positioned so as to impede the advance of the 90th Foot once battle was joined:  the panicked whinnying and braying of the horses and mules adding to the confusion throughout the encounter.

Once the Zulu hordes appeared, the Highlanders formed an extended, and therefore weakened, square;  with the 90th Foot splitting into two halves:  one advancing to meet the Zulu main thrust, the other attempting to protect the wagons.

Although taking huge casualties, the Zulus impacted on the north side of the Highland battalion’s square:  pushing it into an unwieldy line facing front and back. Horrendous casualties ensued on both sides during the resultant melee.

Meanwhile, the Lancers had charged but, after initial successes, were forced into a retreat by sheer weight of numbers. Throughout this time, four companies of the 90th Foot and the gatling guns had been blasting away at the Zulu flank, although their colleagues at the wagons had become fragmented in the confusion.

As pressure on the line increased, three companies of Highlanders broke and ran. Simultaneously, the Zulus being hammered on their flanks broke, and the south-facing Highlanders charged - pushing their opponents back.

As the final mass of Zulu regiments began to arrive, things looked ill for the British:  but a sudden downpour flooded critical dongas and the battle ended.


The Zulus had four regiments retreating or routing at the end of the battle.

The British lost about three hundred Highlanders and almost all the Lancers.

Had the donga not flooded, and battle continued, the British would very likely have been wiped out, but would probably have inflicted heavy casualties on the Zulus in the process. 


Although the battle was not completed, certainly a tactical victory for the Zulus: poised on the verge of a bloody triumph.


The British had problems right from the moment the enemy were sighted.  The slack order of march, and the weak, extended nature of the Highlanders’ square were the main reasons for defeat, although the Lancers were thrown away in pointless charges, and the 90th Foot got too tangled up in the wagon train to do any good.