Battle Report

Battle Report: 30th January 1990

1879 British ~vs~ 1879 Zulu

(Andy Purcell ~vs~ Robert Avery)


1879 British



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


  Sub-General 1         50
Foot 1st Bttn 90th Foot 40 8x5 RegB blr   450
Cavalry 17th Lancers 6 1x6 RegA blc/p/s/l   130
  1st Dragoon Guards 16 4x4 RegB blc/p/s   282
Artillery 1st Btty Royal Artillery 3 3x1 RegA light blrb FA   289
  2nd Btty Royal Artillery 1 1x1 RegB hmg   98
Attached Frontier Light Horse 8 2x4 MilC blc   98

1879 Zulu



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


  Induna 1         50
Left Horn Uthulwana 20 1x20 FanA sp/sh   170
  UmLambongwenya 20 1x20 FanB sp/sh   150
  UmZinyathi 20 1x20 FanB sp/sh   150
Right Horn InDlondlo 20 1x20 IrregA sp/sh   260
  UShisizwe 20 1x20 IrregA sp/sh   260
  UmCijo 20 1x20 FanB sp/sh   150


INdluyengwe 20 1x20 FanB sp/sh   150
  UFasimba 20 1x20 FanB sp/sh   150
  UDlambedlu 20 1x20 FanB sp/sh   150
. 1879 British 1879 Zulu
Foot 800 3600
Horse 600 0
Guns 8 0


The British were caught in column crossing two low hills central to the battlefield.

Their plan was to leapfrog their forces until a square could be formed in the valley between the two hills. Survivors later revealed that the speed of the Zulu attack caught the British command by surprise: they were expecting to have more time to get into position.

However, spotting the Zulu “horns” starting to swing round his force, General Purcell sent out the Frontier Light Horse (left) and the 17th Lancers (right) to delay the enveloping impi's. Both were immediately engaged by the Zulus and, after initial successes at the charge, fell back fighting.

Meanwhile, the main Zulu line, the “chest”, was doubling forward, wheeling slightly to the right as it came.

Two squadrons of Dragoons were sent to delay the left wing of the Zulu line, but became as bogged down and overwhelmed as the Lancers. The Frontier Light Horse was now effectively protecting the Zulu main body and right “horn” from the fire of the British regulars, as it steadily fell back fighting across their field of fire. This meant that the Zulus were able to reach charging distance without taking the usual heavy casualties.

The British cavalry broke, folding the British right wing inwards as the main Zulu body charged home. The British infantry and artillery on the right, although largely destroying the front regiments of Zulus, recoiled up the gentle slope of the hill, where they were overrun and massacred.

Four companies of British infantry in the centre of the field were likewise annihilated, but on the far left of the line, two companies of infantry and the gatling gun blew back their opponents through sheer weight of fire and, as the rest of the British force routed, retreated in good order to the second hill top.

There they stopped, and watched as the Zulus massacred their comrades, safe in the knowledge that the Zulus were too scattered and hurt to assault them again.


The British lost five companies of infantry, most of the cavalry, and all guns except the hmg’s.

The Zulus had three out of their nine regiments largely destroyed.


A pyrric victory for the Zulus.


The British commander threw away his cavalry, allowing the Zulus to close with his force behind the various melees being fought. Whenever the British did get a good shot at the Zulus, they blasted them into the ground: it just didn’t happen often enough before the impis began melee!