Battle Report: 8th August 1990
~vs~ 1879 Zulu
Avery ~vs~ Andy Purcell)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Zulus had four regiments retreating or routing at the end of the battle.
British lost about three hundred Highlanders and almost all the Lancers.
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.
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.