Battle Report: 30th January 1990
~vs~ 1879 Zulu
Purcell ~vs~ Robert Avery)
British were caught in column crossing two low hills central to the
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
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!