Battle Report: 21st October 1990
~vs~ 1879 Zulu
Avery ~vs~ Richard Avery)
British were caught unawares by the speed of the Zulu approach, and were
charged whilst still forming their firing lines. On top of this, an unwise
decision to retreat the artillery crews from the firing line as the Zulus
charged, to prevent possible melee casualties, deprived the British of much of
this, the British held their right flank firm:
repulsing a Zulu regiment with heavy casualties. On the left, however,
the Zulus punched a massive hole through the 24th Foot:
routing four companies at first impact, and over-running the fleeing
Highland battalion and the remnants of the 24th Foot were forced to form two
small squares, which were immediately charged by the Zulus. The lower square
was overrun by sheer weight of numbers, with their attackers going on to
assault the wagon train and pack animals.
upper square held, and repulsed its opponents, again causing heavy casualties
but, just as it seemed things might be taking a turn for the better, the
British CinC strayed too far in front of his firing line, and was torn from
his horse and horribly disembowelled by the Zulus. This grim sight sent a wave
of panic through the superstitious Scots, who broke under the next Zulu
all the above was going on, the Durban Police had dismounted and set up a
firing line, but had been annihilated. The Dragoon Guards, however, had broken
two Zulu impi's.
even the Dragoons were overwhelmed and with them disappeared the last hope for
the British army.
British force was completely destroyed: with
only about 100 cavalry making good their escape.
Zulus lost about 3000 warriors: a high price to pay for victory.
total victory for the Zulus.
On reflection, the British did not have a chance from the very start. Out-pointed by the Zulus, they saw their enemy too late to do anything about them. The decision to try and save the artillery crews was a bad one: they should have taken their chances and added their weight of fire to the defence of the main British line.