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Friday, February 6, 2015 Col Anthony Durnford To mid 1879 - Events immediately after the battle - An enquiry is held 27th January, 1879 in South Africa The Press

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!

Chelmsford immediately ordered an enquiry into the loss at Isandlhawana.  He also sends a telegram to the War Office.

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 Enquiry

Lieut. 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.

6. The Lieutenant-General had himself noticed mounted men in one direction (our left front) on the 21st. A patrol of the Mounted Infantry had found another small body of the enemy in our front, and Major Dartnell, we knew, had a strong force before him on our right front. It was evident to me that the Zulu forces were in our neighbourhood, and the General had decided, on the evening of the 21st, to make a reconnaissance to our left front.

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.

12. The 1st Battalion Natal Native Contingent had been ordered back to camp, and to skirmish through the ravines in case any Zulus were hanging about near the camp.

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.

Lieutenant-Colonel, A- Mil. Sec.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Crealock is quite definite who is to blame for the disaster!  

For the purpose of keeping the allegations against Anthony in the one source, the following from

War Office, March 15,1879.

   THE following Despatch has been received by the Secretary of State for War from Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford, K.C.B., Commanding the Forces in South Africa:—

From the Lieutenant-General Commanding in South Africa to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for War.
Durban, Natal, February 8, 1879.

   I HAVE the honour to forward herewith the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry held to take evidence regarding the disastrous affair of Isandlwana.

The Court has very properly abstained from giving an opinion, and I myself refrain also from making any observation or from drawing any conclusions from the evidence therein recorded.

   I regret very much that more evidence has not been taken, and I have given instructions that all those who escaped, and who are able to throw any light whatever upon the occurrences of the day, should be at once called upon for a statement of what they saw.

   I deem it better, however, not to delay the transmission of the proceedings, which will no doubt be awaited with anxiety.

   I have directed my Military Secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel Crealock, to append a statement of the facts which came under his cognisance on the day in question, which may possibly serve to throw some additional light on what, I fear, will still be considered very obscure.

   It will, I fear, be impossible to furnish an absolutely correct list of all those who perished on the 22nd January, as every record connected with the several corps belonging to No. 3 Column has been lost.
   Colonel Glyn is doing his best to furnish what is required.
   Since writing the above the printed list of killed and wounded has reached me, several copies of which I beg to enclose.
I have, &c., (Signed) CHELMSFORD, Lieutenant-General.
Adjutant- General, Camp, Helpmakaar, Natal,  January 29, 1879.

   HERE WITH proceedings of Court of Enquiry assembled by order of His Excellency the Lieutenant-General Commanding. The Court has examined and recorded the statements of the chief witnesses.
   The copy of proceedings forwarded was made by a confidential clerk of the Royal Engineers.
   The Court has refrained from giving an opinion, as instructions on this point were not given to it.
   (Signed) F. C. HASSARD, C.B., Colonel Royal Engineers, President.

Proceedings of a Court of Enquiry, assembled at Helpmakaar, Natal, on the 27th January, 1879, by order of His Excellency the Lieutenant-General Commanding the troops in South, Africa, dated 24th January, 1879.

Colonel F. C. Hassard, C.B., Royal Engineers.
Lieutenant-Colonel Law, Royal Artillery.
Lieutenant-Colonel Harness, Royal Artillery.

The Court having assembled pursuant to order, proceeded to take the following evidence:—

   1st Witness.— Major Clery states: I am Senior Staff Officer to the 3rd Column, commanded by     Colonel Glyn, C.B., operating against the Zulus. The General commanding accompanied this Column from the time it crossed the border into Zululand.

   On the 20th January, 1879, at the Camp, Isandlwana, Zululand, the Lieutenant-General commanding gave orders to Commandant Lonsdale and Major Dartnell to go out the following morning in a certain direction from the camp with their men, i.e., the Native Contingent, and the Police, and Volunteers, part of the 3rd Column.

 On the evening of the following day (the 21st) a message arrived from Major Dartnell that the enemy was in considerable force in his neighbourhood, and that he and Commandant Lonsdale would bivouac out that night. About 1.30 A.M., on the 22nd, a messenger brought me a note from Major Dartnell, to say that the enemy was in greater numbers than when he last reported, and that he did not think it prudent to attack them unless reinforced by two or three companies of the 24th Regiment.

 I took this note to Colonel Glyn, C.B., at once, he ordered me to take it on to the General. The General ordered the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, the Mounted Infantry, and four guns, to be under arms at once to march. This force marched out from camp as soon as there was light enough to see the road.

The Natal Pioneers accompanied this column to clear the road. The General first ordered me to write to Colonel Durnford, at Rorke's Drift, to bring his force to strengthen the camp, but almost immediately afterwards he told Colonel Crealock that he (Colonel Crealock) was to write to Colonel Durnford these instructions, and not I.

Before leaving the camp, I sent written instructions to Colonel Pulleine, 24th Regiment, to the following effect:—" You will be in command of the camp during the absence of Colonel Glyn; draw in (I speak- from memory) your camp, or your line of defence"—I am not certain which-"while the force is out: also draw in the line of your infantry outposts accordingly; but keep your cavalry vedettes still far advanced." I told him to have a wagon ready loaded with ammunition ready to follow the force going out at a moment's notice, if required.

 I went to Colonel Pulleine's tent just before leaving camp to ascertain that he had got these instructions, and I again repeated them verbally to him. To the best of my memory, I mentioned in the written instructions to Colonel Pulleine that Colonel Durnford had been written to to bring up his force to strengthen the camp. I saw the column out of camp and accompanied it.

2nd Evidence.—Colonel Glyn, C.B., states: From the time the column under my command crossed the border I was in the habit of receiving instructions from the Lieutenant-General Commanding as to the movements of the column, and I accompanied him on most of the patrols and reconnaissances carried out by him. I corroborate Major Clery's statement.

3rd Evidence.—Captain Alan Gardner, 14th Hussars, states: I accompanied the main body of the 3rd Column as Acting Staff Officer to Officer commanding 3rd Column when it left the camp at Isandlwana on the 22nd January, 1879.

I was sent back with an order from the General between ten and eleven A.M. that day into camp, which order was addressed to Colonel Pulleine, and was that the camp of the force out was to be struck and sent on immediately, also rations and forage for about seven days.

On arriving in camp I met Captain George Shepstone, who was also seeking Colonel Pulleine, having a message from Colonel Durnford, that his men were falling back, and asking for reinforcements.

We both went to Colonel Pulleine, to whom I delivered the order. Colonel Pulleine at first hesitated about carrying out the order, and eventually decided that the enemy being already on the hill on our left in large numbers, it was impossible to do so.

 The men of the 24th Regiment were all fallen in, and the Artillery also, and Colonel Pulleine sent two companies to support Colonel Durnford, to the hill on the left, and formed up the remaining companies in line, the guns in action on the extreme left flank of the camp, facing the hill on our left.

 I remained with Colonel Pulleine by his order. Shortly after, I took the mounted men, by Colonel Pulleine's direction, about a quarter of a mile to the front of the camp, and loft them there under the direction of Captain Bradstreet, with orders to hold the spruit.

I went back to Colonel Pulleine, but soon after, observing the mounted men retiring, I went back to them, and, in reply to my question as to why they were retiring, was told they were ordered by Colonel Durnford to retire, as the position taken up was too extended This same remark was made to me by Colonel Durnford himself immediately afterwards.

By this time the Zulus had surrounded the camp, "the whole force engaged in hand to hand combat, the guns mobbed by Zulus, and there became a general massacre. From the time of the first infantry force leaving the camp to the end of the fight about one hour elapsed. I estimated the number of the enemy at about 12,000 men.

 I may mention that a few minutes after my arrival in camp, I sent a message directed to the Staff Officer 3rd Column, saying that our left was attacked by about 10,000 of the enemy; a message was also sent by Colonel Pulleine. The Native Infantry Contingent fled as soon as the fighting began, and caused great confusion in our ranks. I sent messages to Rorke's Drift and Helpmakaar Camp that the Zulus had sacked the camp and telling them to fortify themselves.

4th Evidence..—Captain Essex, 75th Regiment, states: I hand in a written statement of what occurred, I have nothing to add to that statement. This statement is marked A.

5th Evidence.—Lieutenant Cochrane, 32nd Regiment, states: I am employed as transport officer with No 2 Column, then under Colonel Durnford, R.E., on the 22nd January, 1879, the column marched on that morning from Rorke's Drift to Isandlwana in consequence of an order received from the Lieutenant General.

 I do not know the particulars of the order received. I entered the Isandlwana camp with Colonel Durnford about 10 A.M., and remained with him as Acting Staff Officer. On arrival he took over command from Colonel Pulleine, 24th Regiment. 

Colonel Pulleine gave over to Colonel Durnford a verbal state of the troops in camp at the time, and stated the orders he had received, viz., to defend the camp, these words were repeated two or three times in the conversation

. Several messages were delivered, the last one to the effect that the Zulus were retiring in all directions—the bearer of this was not dressed in any uniform.

On this message Colonel Durnford sent two troops Mounted Natives to the top of the hills to the left, and took with him two troops of Rocket Battery, with escort of one company Native Contingent, on to the front of the camp about four or five miles off.

 Before leaving, he asked Colonel Pulleine to give him. two companies 24th Regiment. Colonel Pulleine said that with the orders he had received he could not do it, but agreed with Colonel Durnford to send him help if he got into difficulties.

 Colonel Durnford, with two troops, went on ahead and met the enemy some four or five miles off in great force, and, as they showed also on our left, we retired in good order to the Drift, about a quarterof a mile in front of the camp, where the mounted men reinforced us, about two miles from the camp. On our retreat we came upon the remains of the Rocket Battery which had been destroyed.

6th Evidence.—Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien, 95th Regiment, states : I am Transport Officer with No. 3 Column. On the morning of the 22nd I was sent with a Despatch from the General to Colonel Durnford, at Rorke's Drift, the Despatch was an order to join the camp at Isandlwana as soon as possible, as a large Zulu force was near it.  I have no particulars to mention besides.

7th Evidence.—Captain Nourse, Natal Native Contingent, states : I was commanding the escort to the Rocket Battery, when Colonel Durnford advanced in front of the camp on the 22nd to meet the enemy. Colonel Durnford had gone on with two troops, Mounted Natives. They went too fast, and left us some two miles in the rear.

 On hearing heavy firing on our left, and learning that the enemy were in that direction, we changed our direction to the left. Before nearly reaching the crest of the hills on the left of the camp, we were attacked on all sides. One rocket was sent off, and the enemy-was on us; the first volley dispersed the mules and the natives, and we retired on to the camp as well as we could. Before we reached the camp it was destroyed.

8th Evidence.—Lieutenant Curling, R.A., states: I was left in camp with two guns, when the remaining four guns of the battery went out with the main body of the column, on 22nd January, 1879. Major Stuart Smith joined and took  command of the guns about twelve noon. I hand in a written statement (marked B). I
have nothing to add to that statement.

(Signed) F. C. HASSARD, Colonel, Royal Engineers, President.
F. T. A. LAW, Lieutenant-Colonel, R.A.
A. HARNESS, Major R.A. and Lieutenant-Colonel.
Captain Essex's Evidence. Rorke's Drift, January 24, 1879.

I HAVE the honour to forward for the information of the Lieutenant-General Commanding, an account of an action which took place near the Isandlwana Hills on the 22nd instant. After the departure of the main body of the column, nothing unusual occurred in camp until about eight A.M., when a report arrived from a picquet stationed at a point about 1,500 yards distant, on a hill to the north of the camp, that a body of the enemy's troops could be seen approaching from the north-east. Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, commanding in camp, thereupon caused the whole of the troops available to assemble near the eastern side of the camp, facing towards the reported direction of the enemy's approach.

He also dispatched a mounted man with a report to the column, presumed to be about twelve or fifteen miles distant. Shortly after nine A.M., a small body of the enemy showed itself just over the crest of the hills, in the direction they were expected, but retired a few minutes afterwards, and disappeared. Soon afterwards, information arrived from the picquet before alluded to, that the enemy was in three columns, two of which were retiring, but were still in view; the third column had disappeared in a north-westerly direction.

At about ten A.M. a party of about 250 mounted natives, followed by a rocket. battery, arrived with Lieu tenant-Colonel Durnford, R.E., who now assumed command of the camp. The main body of this mounted force, divided into two portions, and the rocket battery were about 10.30 A.M., sent out to ascertain the enemy's movements, and a company of 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, under command of Lieutenant Cavaye was directed to take up a position as a piquet on the hill to the north of the camp at about 1200 yards distant, the remainder of the troops were ordered to march to their private parades when the men were to be down in readiness, at this time, about eleven A.M., the impression in camp was that the enemy had no intention of advancing during the daytime, but might possibly-be expected to attack during the night.

 No idea had been formed regarding the probable strength of the enemy's force. At about twelve o'clock, hearing firing on the hill where the company 1st Battalion 24th Regiment was stationed, I proceeded in that direction. On my way I passed a company of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, under command of Captain Mostyn, who requested me, being mounted, to direct Lieutenant Cavaye to take special care not to endanger the right of his company, and to inform that officer that he himself was moving up to the left. 

I also noticed a body of Lieutenant-Colonel Dunford's mounted natives retiring down the hill, but did not see the enemy. On arriving at the far side of the crest of the hill, I found the company in charge of Lieutenant Cavaye, a section being detached about 500 yards to the left, in charge of      Lieutenant Dyson. The whole were in extended order engaging the enemy, who was moving in similar formation towards our left, keeping at about 800 yards from our line. 

Captain Mostyn moved his company into the space between the portions of that already on the hill, and his men then extended and entered into action. This line was then prolonged on our right along the crest of the hill by a body of native infantry.

 I observed that the enemy made little progress as regards his advance, but appeared to be moving at a rapid pace towards our left. The right extremity of the enemy's line was very thin, but increased in depth towards and beyond our right as far as I could see, a hill interfering with an extended view.

 About five minutes after the arrival of Captain Mostyn's Company I was informed by Lieutenant Melville, Adjutant, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, that a fresh body of the enemy was appearing in force in our rear, and he requested me to direct the left of. the line formed, as above described, to fall slowly back, keeping up the fire. 

This I did; then proceeded towards the centre of the line. I found, however, that it had already retired. I therefore followed in the same direction, but being mounted had great difficulty in descending the hill, the ground being very rocky and precipitous. On arriving at the foot of the slope I found the two companies of 1st Battalion 24th Regiment drawn up at about 400 yards distant in extended order, and Captain Younghusband's company in a similar formation in echelon on the left.

 The enemy was descending the hill, having rushed forward as soon as our men disappeared below the crest, and beyond (?) the right of the line with which I was present had even arrived near the foot of the hill. The enemy's fire had hitherto been very wild and ineffective, now, however, a. few casualties began to occur in our line. 

The companies 1st Battalion 24th Regiment first engaged were now becoming short of ammunition, and at the request of the officer in charge I went to procure a fresh supply with the assistance of Quartermaster 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment and some men of the Royal Artillery.  

 I had some boxes placed on a mule cart and sent it off to the companies engaged, and sent more by hand, employing any men without arms. I then went back to the line, telling the men that plenty of ammunition was coming. I found that the companies 1st Battalion 24th. Regiment before alluded, to had retired to within 300 yards of that portion of the camp occupied by the Native Contingent. 

On my way I noticed a number of native infantry retreating in haste towards the camp, their officer endeavouring to prevent them but without effect. On looking round to that portion of the field to our right and rear I saw that the enemy was surrounding us. I rode up to Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford, who was near the right, and pointed this out to him

He requested me to take men to that part of the field and endeavour to hold the enemy in check; but while he was speaking, those men of the Native Contingent who had remained in action rushed past us in the utmost disorder, thus laying open the right and rear of the companies of 1st Battalion 24th Regiment on the left, and the enemy dashing forward in a most rapid manner poured in at this part of the line.

 In a moment all was disorder, and few of the men of 1st Battalion 24th Regiment had time to fix bayonets before the enemy was among them using their assegais with fearful effect. I heard officers calling to their men to be steady; but the retreat became in a few seconds general, and in a direction towards the road to Rorke's Drift. 

 Before, however, we gained the neck near the Isandlwana Hill the enemy had arrived on that portion of the field also, and the large circle he had now formed closed in on us. The only space which appeared opened was down a deep gully running to the south of the road into which we plunged in great confusion. 

The enemy followed us closely and kept, up with us at first on both flanks, then on our right only, firing occasionally, but chiefly making use of the assegais. It was now about 1.30 P.M. ; about this period two guns with which Major Smith and Lieutenant Curling, R.A., were returning with great difficulty, owing to the nature of the ground, and I understood were just a few seconds late.

Further on the ground passed over on our retreat would at any other time be looked upon as impracticable for horsemen to descend, and many losses occurred, owing to horses falling and the enemy coming up with the riders; about half a mile from the neck the retreat had to be carried on in nearly single file, and in this manner the Buffalo River was gained at a point about five miles below Rorke's Drift.

In crossing this river many men and horses were carried away by the stream and lost their lives ; after crossing the fire of the enemy was discontinued, pursuit, however, was still kept up, but with little effect, and apparently with the view of cutting us off from Rorke's Drift, 

The number of white men who crossed the river at this point was, as far as I could see, about 40. In addition to these, there were a great number of natives on foot and on horseback. White men of about 25 or 30 arrived at Helpmakaar between five and six P.M., when, with the assistance of other men joined there, a laager was formed with wagons round the stores. 

I estimate the strength of the enemy to have been about 15,000. Their losses must have been considerable towards the end of the engagement.
I have, &c., (Signed) E. ESSEX, • Captain, 75th Regiment, Sub-Director of Transports.
From Lieutenant Curling to Officer Commanding No. 8. Helpmakaar, January 26, 1879.

I HAVE the honour to forward the following report of the circumstances attending the loss of two guns of N Brigade, 5th Battery Royal Artillery, at the action of Isandlwana, on January 22. About 7.80 A.M. on that date, a large body of Zulus being seen on the hills to the left front of the camp, we were ordered to turn out at once, and were formed up in front of the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment Camp, where we remained until eleven o'clock, when we returned to camp with orders to remain harnessed up and ready to turn out at a minute's notice.

 The Zulus did not come within range and we did not come into action. The infantry also remained in column of companies. Colonel Durnford arrived about ten A.M. with Basutos and the rocket battery ; he left about eleven o'clock with these troops in the direction of the hills where we had seen the enemy.

About twelve o'clock we were, turned out, as heavy firing was heard in the direction of Colonel Durnford's force. Major Smith arrived as we were turning out and took command of the guns, we trotted up to a position about 400 yards beyond the left front of the Natal Contingent Camp, and came into action at once on a large body of the enemy about 3,400 yards off.

The 1st Battalion 24th Regiment soon came up and extended in skirmishing order on both flanks and in line with us. In about a quarter of an hour, Major Smith took away one gun to the right, as the enemy were appearing in large numbers in the direction of the Drift, in the stream in front of the camp.

The enemy advanced slowly, without halting; when they were 400 yards off, the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment advanced about 30 yards. We remained in the same position. Major Smith, returned at this time with his gun, and came into action beside mine. The enemy advancing still, we began firing case, but almost immediately the infantry were ordered to retire.

 Before we could get away, the enemy were by the guns; and I saw one gunner stabbed as he was mounting on to an axle-tree box. The limber gunners did not mount, but ran after the guns. We went straight through the camp but found the enemy in possession.

The gunners were all stabbed going through the camp with the exception of one or two. One of the two sergeants was also killed at this time. When we got on to the road to Rorke's Drift it was completely blocked up by Zulus. I was with Major Smith at this time, he told me he had been wounded in the arm.

We saw Lieutenant Coghill, the A.D.C., and asked him if we could not rally some men and make a stand, he said he did not think it could be done. We crossed the road with the crowd, principally consisting of natives, men left in camp, and civilians, and went down a steep ravine leading towards the river.

 The Zulus were in the middle of the crowd, stabbing the men as they ran. When we had gone about 400 yards, we came to a deep cut in which the guns stuck. There was, as far as I could see, only one gunner with them at this time, but they were covered with men of different corps clinging to them.

The Zulus were in them almost at once, and the drivers pulled off their horses. I then left the guns. Shortly after this. I again saw Lieutenant Coghill, who told me Colonel Pulleine had been killed.

Near the river I saw Lieutenant Melville, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, with a colour, the staff being broken. I also saw Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien assisting a wounded man. During the action, cease firing, was sounded twice.
I am, &c. (Signed) H. T. CURLING, Lieutenant R.A.

Goodness, now every single one has the same view!

Crealock  advised the court of inquiry that he lost his notebook. 

Lord Chelmsford with officers (2nd row: Brev. Maj. M. Gossett & Lieut. A.B. Milne; 1st row: Cdr. H.J.F. Campbell, Lord Chelmsford & Lieut.-Col. J.N. Crealock)



 But by 6th March it has  been reported  Captain Symonds has been to the battlefield, and they found the camping ground strewn with the bodies of men, and horses, together with the waggons, all of which had been emptied of their contents - while letters, papers and photographs were mixed up with brushes and boots of every description.

Several of the letters and photographs were recovered along with a considerable amount of money, cheques and other property. 

On 5th March Chelmsford telegraphs War Office advising he still hasn't a report from Col Glyn.

11th March, Paper reporting, Pulleine as well as Durnford, 

                                                                                  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.


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