There was an enquiry conducted in South Africa convened 27th January 1879.
The court of inquiry composed of Colonel Hassard, CB. RE, Lieutenant-Colonel Law, R.A. and Leiut-Colonel Harness RA and was convened at Helpmakaar on 27th January 1879.
On the night of the 22nd January, 1879, Chelmsford and his men made camp at the Battlefield, surrounded by the dead. That was reported in the press, copy below.
Chelmsford and his men discovered the bodies, and they slept there, surrounded by the dead, however he may not have bothered to check if anyone was alive. Or did he? But there was, according to Frances Colenso's book, one brave soldier who feigned death, and survived., he walked out of the gore and mess, after Chelmsford had left the next morning.
Meanwhile one person, who must have been with Chelmsford's troops, is strolling around the battlefield, a civilian doctor.
Battle over, Chelmsford goes to Pietermaritzburg to confer with Sir Bartle Frere. There are reports to be written, discussions held, and all the commanders have to prepare their statements perhaps they all had a bit of a round table discussion, judging by the reports!
But the day after Rorke's Drift, reports in the newspaper written on 24th January 1879, infer that it is Durnford who is to blame, but for good measure, on 29th January, Pulleine is also included.
Again on 29th both men are featured!
Chelmsford returned to the camp on the close of the day, at which point the enemy cleared off.
The despatches, no doubt including those written on the 23rd/24th by his officers are sealed and placed on the ship "Dunrobin Castle" which called at St Vincent and Maderia before arriving at Portsmouth on 25th February, 1879
At the time, the telegraph line only was extended as far as the town of Madeira.
The ship arrives at Plymouth with 3 bags of despatches
A list of all the names of the people in the Battle is printed, it includes the names of the medical staff, well maybe not all.
It appears then that the Enquiry was conducted, and concluded before the despatches were received in England.
Reports to the EnquiryLieut. Col. Crealock
Statement of Lieutenant-Colonel J. North Crealock, Acting Military Secretary
1. Soon after 2 A.M. on the 22nd January I received instructions from the Lieutenant-General to send a written order to Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford, R.E., commanding No. 2 Column, to the following effect (I copied it in my note-book which was afterwards lost): ” Move up to Sandhlwana Camp at once with all your mounted men and Rocket Battery—take command of it. I am accompanying Colonel Glyn, who is moving off at once to attack Matyana and a Zulu force
said to be 12 or 14 miles off, and at present watched by Natal Police, Volunteers, and Natal Native Contingent. Colonel Glyn takes with him 2-24th Regiment, 4 guns R.A., and Mounted Infantry.”
2. I was. not present during the conversation between Major Clery, Staff Officer to Colonel Glyn, and the Lieutenant-General, but the evening before, about 8.30 P.M., on this officer asking the Lieutenant-General if the 1-24th ” Were to reinforce Major Dartnell in the Magane Valley,” he said ” No.” The General received, I believe through Colonel Glyn, a subsequent representation which caused the fresh orders at 2 A.M. the 22nd, and the orders to Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford.
3. Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford, R.E., was not under Colonel Glyn’s command at this time; he had been moved from his original position before Middle Drift, with some 250 Mounted Natives, 200 of Sikalis footmen, the Rocket Battery, and one battalion of the 1st Regiment Natal Native Contingent to the Umsinga District, on the Lieutenant-General’s seeing the ease with which the Natal frontier could be passed in that part of the Buffalo River. The Lieutenant-General’s order was therefore sent to him by me, being the only Head Quarter Staff Officer (except the Aide-de-Camps) with him. These details formed part of No. 2 Column under his command.
4. I sent the orders to him by Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien, of 95th Foot, with directions to leave as soon as he could see his way. I expected him to find Colonel Durnford at the Bashee Valley; it was delivered and acted upon.
5. Although I was not aware at that time of the Lieutenant-General’s grounds for ordering the troops from camp, yet it was evident to me that he wished to close up to the camp all outlying troops, and thus strengthen it. He would naturally also consider that the presence of an officer of Colonel Durnford’s rank and corps would prove of value in the defence of a camp, if it should be attacked.
7. It did not occur to me that the troops left in camp were insufficient for its defence. Six Companies British Infantry, 2 guns, 4 Companies Natal Contingent, 250 Mounted Natives, 200 Sikalis men, and details of Mounted Corps appeared to me—had I been asked—a proper force for the defence of the camp and its stores.
8. I subsequently heard Major Clery state that the had left precise instructions to Lieutenant-Lionel Pulleine “to defend the camp.” Such instructions would, I consider, as a matter of course, be binding on Colonel Durnford on his assuming command of the camp.
9. The first intimation that reached me on the 22nd of there being a force of Zulus in the neighbourhood of the camp was between 9.30 and 10 A.M. We were then off-saddled on neck facing the Isipise range, distant some 2 miles from camp. During the three previous hours we had been advancing with Colonel Glyn’s Column against a Zulu force that fell back from hill to hill as we advanced, giving up without a shot most commanding positions. Major Clery at this time received a half sheet of foolscap with a message from Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine informing him (I think it ran) that a Zulu force had appeared on the hills on his left front. Our own attention was chiefly bent on he enemy’s force retiring from the hills in our front, and a party being pursued by Lieutenant Colonel Russell three miles off. This letter was not addressed to me, and I did not note on it the time of receipt, but one I received from Colonel Russell soon after is noted by me (I think, for it is at Pietermaritzburg) as received at 10.20.
10. Lieutenant Milne, R.N., A.D.C., shortly after this descended a hill on our left, whence he had been on the look-out with a telescope. All the news he gave regarding the camp was that the cattle had been driven into camp. I believe this to have been nearly 11 A.M.
11. In the meantime information reached the General that the right of our force was smartly engaged with the enemy’s left. Two companies of 2-24th and the 2nd Battalion of the Natal Native Contingent climbed the hill to our right, and, striking across the flat hill, joined the Volunteers who were still engaged. Colonel Glyn accompanied them, having first ordered back the four guns and two Companies 2-24th to the wagon track, with instructions to join him near the Mangane Valley. He had also sent back instructions by Captain Alan Gardner, 14th Hussars, to Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine.I was not informed of their nature. I took the opportunity of ordering our own small camp to proceed and join us, as the General intended to move camp up to the Mangane Valley, as soon as arrangements could be made.
13. Not a sign of the enemy was now seen near us, and followed by the remaining two Companies 2-24th, we climbed the hill and followed the track taken by the others. Not a suspicion had crossed my mind that the camp was in any danger, neither did anything occur to make me think of such a thing until about 1.15, when Honourable Mr. Drummond said he fancied he had heard (and that natives were certain of it) two cannon shots. We were then moving back to choose a camp for the night, about 12 miles distant from Isandhlana. About 1.45 PM., however, a native appeared on a hill above us, gesticulating and calling. He reported that heavy firing had been going on round the camp. We galloped up to a high spot, whence we could see the camp, perhaps 10 or 11 miles distant. None of us could detect anything amiss; all looked quiet. This must have been 2 P.M.
14. The General, however, probably thought it would be well to ascertain what had happened himself, but not thinking anything was wrong, ordered Colonel Glyn to bivouac for the night where we stood; and taking with him some forty Mounted Volunteers proceeded to ride into camp.
15. Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Russell, 12th Lancers, now joined us, and informed me that an officer of the Natal Native Contingent had come to him (about 12 noon, I think) when he was off-saddled, and asked where the General was, as he had instructions to tell him that heavy firing had been going on close to the camp. Our whereabouts was not exactly known, but the 2-24th Companies were still in sight, and Colonel Russell pointed them out, and said we were probably not far from them. This officer, however, did not come to us.
16. This information from Colonel Russell was immediately followed by a message from Commandant Brown, commanding the 1st Battalion Natal Native Contingent, which had been ordered back to camp at 9.30 A.M.—(the Battalion was halted a mile from us, and probably eight miles from camp)—to the effect that large bodies of Zulus were between him and the camp, and that his men could not advance without support. The General ordered an immediate advance of the Battalion, the Mounted Volunteers and Mounted Infantry supporting it.
17. I am not aware what messages had been sent from the camp and received by Colonel Glyn, or his Staff; but I know that neither the General nor myself had up to this time received any information but that I have mentioned.
18. At 3.15 the Lieutenant-General appeared to think that he would be able to brush through any parties of Zulus that might be in his road to the camp without any force further than that referred to, viz.:—1st Battalion Native Contingent and some 80 mounted white men.
19. At 4 P.M., however, the Native Battalion again halted, and I galloped on to order the advance to be resumed, when I met Commandant Lonsdale, who remarked to me as I accosted him, “The Zulus have the camp.” “How do you know?” I asked, incredulously. ” Because I have been into it,” was his answer.
20. The truth was now known, and every one drew his own conclusions; mine were unluckily true, that hardly a man could have escaped. With such an enemy and with only foot soldiers it appeared to me very improbable that our force could have given up the camp until they were surrounded.
21. The General at once sent back Major Gossett, A.D.C., 54th Regiment, to order Colonel Glyn to advance at once with everyone with him. He must have been five or six miles off. It was now 4 P.M. We advanced another two miles, perhaps. The 1st Battalion, 2 Regiment, Natal Native Contingent, deployed in three ranks, the first being formed of the white men and those natives who had firearms, the Mounted Volunteers and Mounted Infantry on the flanks, with,
scouts to the front.
22. About a quarter to five we halted at a distance, I should think, of two miles from camp, but. two ridges lay between us and the camp, and with our glasses we could only observe those returning the way they had come. Colonel Russell went to the front to reconnoitre, and returned about 5.45 with a report that “All was as bad as it could be;” that the Zulus were holding the camp. He estimated the number at 7,000.
23. The troops with Colonel Glyn had pushed on with all possible speed, though the time seemed, long to us as we lay and watched the” sun sinking. At 6 P.M. they arrived, and, having been formed into fighting order, were addressed by the General. We then advanced to strike the camp and attack any one we found in our path back to Rorke’s Drift.
24. I consider it but just to the Natal Native Contingent to state that it was my belief that evening, and is still the same, that the two Battalions would have gone through any enemy we met, even as our own British troops were prepared to do. I noticed no signs of wavering on their part up to sunset, when I ceased to be able to observe them.
J. N. CREALOCK,
Lieutenant-Colonel, A- Mil. Sec. thinredlinemod.wordpress.com/eyewitnessess
Goodness, now every single one has the same view!
Crealock advised the court of inquiry that he lost his notebook.
Several of the letters and photographs were recovered along with a considerable amount of money, cheques and other property.
By 27th March Questions about the recovery of the bodies are asked.
'Do the staff think we are going to meet an army of schoolgirls? Why in the name of all that is holy do we not laager?'
Differing degrees of British preparation are frequently (and rightly so) cited as one of the main reasons for the two very different outcomes at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Without a doubt, lack of adequate preparation on the part of the British, resulting from the commanders’ failures to assess the gravity of the situation surrounding them, was a cornerstone factor in the collapse of the British firing line at Isandlwana.
Arrogance by Lord Chelmsford, as to the pluck of the Zulu warriors, resulted in the first strategic failure of the day; the campground at Isandlwana was difficult to defend due to overextension, and a spur of the Nyoni hills 1000 yards to the north, blocking line of sight to the surrounding terrain; a factor the Zulus would evidently exploit in the coming hours, one witness describing how the site was ‘not entrenched in any way and was very badly placed to resist an attack’.
Arthur Harness rightly comments, however, that such a position may have been a strategic error against a foe armed with European technology, but the good grazing and access to fresh water (which, despite heavy rains, was always in short supply) outweighed the indifferent defensibility the site provided against those armed primarily with melee weapons.
Second, Chelmsford disobeyed his own orders by not forming the wagons into a defensive laager, citing the fact that the panoramic views along the eastern slope should have prevented any surprise attack, that the column would be moving off shortly, and that ‘it would take a week’ – a ridiculous holdup in what was thought to be a fight against an enemy that was reluctant to engage in battle.
Smith-Dorrien writes of how, even as the battle commenced, ‘these wagons may at any time have been drawn into a laager, but no one appeared to appreciate the gravity of the situation.’
In actual fact, Pulleine may not have been able to appreciate the peril he was in, due to the fact he could not see the battlefield. The tents had not been struck to provide a clear line of sight, and half the men remained packing camp in an orderly fashion (Pulleine being afraid to waste time in the event of a false alarm, of which there had already been two that morning).
Pulleine’s location meant that he could not draw line of sight to the British firing line, which had ‘crept forward out of sight over the lip of the plain’ to cover the dead ground to their front, and, subsequently, did not realise the true gravity of the situation.
There is much debate as to whether, if deployed in proper, shoulder to shoulder, defensive formation, the British could have withheld the attack.
Certainly, at the time, survivors blamed Chelmsford for the splitting of the forces, Curling writing how ‘the risk of leaving a small force to be attacked by ten or fifteen its number should not have been allowed.’ Most historians now agree, however, with Morris’ initial conclusion; had the British drawn into a more compact firing line, taking advantage of the very same concentrated firepower that would prove effective at Rorke’s Drift, they would have had a substantially greater chance of resisting the attack, even without a protective laager.
As it was, the fact that Durnford insisted on a sortie toward an enemy that he was not fully informed about meant that Pulleine was forced to overextend his frontline to support him – Pope’s company fell as it attempted to rotate, in order to cover Durnford’s withdrawal.
Durnford’s failures, linked with the fact that Pulleine was receiving conflicting reports from both native and imperial officers (Part of a wider conflict between imperial and colonial officers), meant that he remained fully confident that his dispersed infantry could check the Zulu advance. Pulleine realised his mistake too late, and, when an orderly withdrawal to a more defensive position was finally ordered, the Zulus easily overtook the dispersed British lines.