This page contains eyewitness reports and testimonies made by survivors of the Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift.

Content of this Page

I. Testimonies of Eyewitnessess regarding the Battle of Isandlwana
From Lieutenant - General Commanding South Africa to the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for War. ( Durban, February 9, 1879)
--> Lieut.-Col. J. North Crealock
--> Capt. Alan Gardner
--> Umtegolalo

Despatch to the Secretary of State for War from Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford (March 15, 1879)
--> Maj. Clery
--> Col. Glyn,
--> Capt. Alan Gardner
--> Captain Essex,
--> Lieut. Cochrane
--> Lieut. Smith-Dorien
--> Capt. Nourse
--> Lieut. Curling

II. Testimonies of Eyewitnessess regarding the Battle at Rorke's Drift
- Official report of the defence of Rorke’s Drift from Lieut. Chard (January 25th, 1879)


February 9, 1879

From Lieutenant - General Commanding South Africa to the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for War.


I HAVE the honour of forwarding certain documents which I was unable to attach to my letter of yesterday's date, sent by the "Anglian", viz:

1). Copies of statement of Lieutenant-Colonel Crealock, Assistant Military Secretary.
2). Copies of statement of Captain Allan Gardner, 14th Hussars ;
3). Epitome of information given by natives to the Honorable W. Drummond and Mr. Longeast Head Quarter's Staff, which should be attached
to the documents connected with the Court of Enquiry ;
4). A. copies of two letters received from Colonel Pearson; and B. Precis of my answer;
5). Copies of reports by Colonel Wood and Lieutenant-Colonel Buller regarding the destruction of Makulusini (pronounced Bagulucini) Kraal, which was referred to in my dispatch as an enclosure also.

I have, &c.,

1. 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.

2. Statement by Captain Alan Gardner, 14th Hussars.
Camp, Rorke's  Drift,
January 26, 1879.

I LEFT the force with the General about 10.30 A.M., and rode back to Isandlana Camp, with the order to Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine to send on the camp equipage and supplies of the  troops camping out, and to remain himself at his present camp, and entrench it.

Between twelve and, one o'clock I reached Isandlana, and met Captain G: Shepstone, who told me he had been sent by Colonel Durnford for reinforcements ; that his (Colonel D.'s) troops were heavily engaged to the left of our camp, beyond the hill, and were being driven back.

We proceeded together to Colonel Pulleine. I delivered him my order; but the enemy were now in sight at the top of the hill, on our left Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine sent out two companies about half-way up-the hill, and drew up the remainder, with the two guns in action, in line, on the extreme left of our camp, and facing towards the left, from which direction the enemy were advancing in great numbers. For a short time, perhaps fifteen minutes, the Zulus were checked, but soon commenced to throw forward their left, extending across the plain on our front. We had between 30 and 40 mounted men, and I asked permission to take them down in the plain, and check the enemy's turning movement. Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine told me to do so, and I accordingly galloped them to the front, and lined the spruit running across the front of our camp.

The Basutos who were previously retiring, formed line with us and the enemy halted and commenced firing from behind cover. Leaving the mounted men who were under Captain Bradstreet, I returned to Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine who had previously told me to remain with him.

Shortly afterwards, observing the mounted men retiring, I rode back to ascertain the cause. Captain Bradstreet told me he had been ordered to do so by Colonel Durnford, who soon afterwards told me himself that he considered our position too extended, and wished to collect all the troops together.

But it was now too late. Large masses of the enemy were already in the camp and completely surrounded the men of the 24th Regiment. Numbers of these were also on the road to Rorke's Drift. The guns limbered up and attempted to retire to the left of that road, but were surrounded and overturned.

The few mounted men remaining retreated up the small hill on the right rear of the camp, but were soon surrounded by the enemy advancing from the left and front. Many were killed. A few of us managed to escape by riding down the hill on the right, but many were shot riding along the narrow valley, and more drowned and shot in crossing the Buffalo.

When I saw all was lost, I sent an order by a Basuto to the officer on Rorke's Drift, telling him to fortify and hold the house. I also sent a similar order to Helpmakaar. We reached Helpmakaar about five P.M., and near a laager round the Commissariat Stores I endeavoured to obtain a messenger to go to Colonel E. Wood, as I feared the General's force would be cut off, and hoped he, Colonel Wood, might be in time to lend his assistance.

No one would go, the Basutos saying they did not know the way. So on the return of the two companies who had started for Rorke's Drift, I decided on going myself, and riding all night reached Utrecht about four o'clock the next day.

I then got a messenger to go to Colonel Wood and returned myself to Helpmakaar. On the road, learning that Colonel Glyn's head-quarters were at Rorke's Drift, I proceeded thither.

I trust I may not be thought, presumptuous if I state my opinion, that had there been a regiment or even two squadrons of cavalry the disaster at Isandlana would not have occurred. The enemy's advance across our front which was requisite in order to turn our right was in extremely loose order, the ground was an open plain and could easily have been cleared by a determined charge. The enemy's shooting was so indifferent that our loss would have been - very small - the result moreover of a cavalry charge would have had a very different effect on the enemy's morale to the retreating fire of mounted skirmishers, and I feel confident we could have held our own till the return of the General's force.

Captain, 14th Hussars, Staff Officer, 3rd Column

3. Information received from Umtegolalo, a Zulu well known to Mr. Longeast, Interpreter to the Lieutenant-General, found wounded at Rorke's Drift on the 23rd January.

Statement made by Natives regarding the Action of the 22nd January, at the Sandhlwana Hill.

THE Zulu army had, on the day of the 21st January, been bivouacked between the Upindo and Babmango Hills, from which position a portion of them were able to see our mounted men, viz., the Natal Carabineers and the Mounted Police, on the Ndhlaza Kazi Hill, and were seen by them.

The army consisted of the Undi Corps, the Nokenke and Umcityu Regiments, and the Nkobamakosi and Inbonambi Regiments, who were severally about 3000, 7000, and 10,000 strong, being the picked troops of the Zulu army.

During the night of the 21st January, they were ordered to move in small detached bodies to a position about a mile and a half to the east of the camp at Sandhlwana, on a stony table-land about 1000 yards distant from and within view of the spot visited by Lord Chelmsford and Colonel Glyn on the afternoon of the 21st January.

On arriving at this position, they were ordered to remain quiet, not showing themselves or lighting fires. Their formation was as follows:—The centre was occupied by the Undi Corps ; the right wing by the Nokenke and Umcityu ; and the left by the Inbonambi and the Nkobama Kosi Regiments.

Their orders from the King were to attack Colonel Glyn and No. 3 Column, and to drive it back across the boundary river. They had, however, no intention whatever of making any attack on the 22nd January, owing to the state of the moon being  unfavourable from a superstitious point of view. The usual sprinkling of the warriors with medicine previous to an engagement had not taken place, nor had the war song been sung, or the religious ceremonies accompanying been performed. They were going to make their attack either during the night of the 22nd or at daylight on the 23rd, and, trusting in their number, felt quite secure of victory.

When, on the morning of the 22nd January the mounted Basutos, under the command of Colonel Durnford, R.E., discovered their position and fired at a portion of the Umcityu Regiment, that regiment immediately sprung up without orders, and charged. It was at once followed by the Nokenke, Inbonambi, and Nkobamakosi Regiments, the Undi Corps holding its ground.

Up to this point in the day there had been no fighting. Early in the morning, soon after the departure of Colonel Glyn and the troops with him, a bod (probably a company of the Natal Native Contingent) had been ordered to scout on the left, but do riot seem to have come upon the enemy. About nine A.M. (approximately), Colonel Durnford arrived with 250 mounted men and 250 Native Infantry, who were at once divided into three bodies, one being sent to the left, east (who came into contact with the Umcityu Regiment), one to the left front, and one to the rear, along the wagon-road (which is supposed to have gone after the baggage wagons brought up by Colonel Durnford, R.E).

At this period of the day the position of the troops was as follows. They were drawn up to the left of the Native Contingent Camp, with the guns facing the left. A message was now brought by a Natal Native Contingent officer, probably one of Colonel Durnford's mounted men, that the Zulus were advancing in great force, and firing was heard towards the left (the firing of the mounted Basutos against the Umcityu Regiment).

It is stated by a wagon driver that a consultation now took place between Colonel Durnford and Colonel Pulleine, during which he imagined there was a difference of opinion, Colonel Pulleine ultimately, however, giving way to his superior officer.

A Company of the 1st Battalion 24th were then moved up to the neck between the Sandhlwana Hill and the position occupied by the Zulus, where they at once became engaged with the Umcityu Regiment whose advance they completely checked for the time. The distance of this neck is about a mile and a half from camp.

Meanwhile the Zulus had advanced in the following order. The Umcityu Regiment formed the right Centre, and was engaged with one company 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, and about 200 of Colonel Durnford's natives; the left centre was composed of the Nokenke Regiment who were being shelled by the two guns as they advanced. Next to them on the left, came the Inbonambi Regiment (with the Nkobamakosi Regiment outside of it) both making a turning movement and threatening the front of the camp, while driving before them a body of Colonel Durnford's mounted men, supported by a patrol of Volunteers.

The Undi Corps, on seeing that the other four regiments had commenced the attack, as above, inarched off to their right, and, without fighting, made for the north side of the Sandhlwana Hill, being concealed by it until, their turning movement being completed, they made their appearance to the west of the Sandhlwana at the spot were the wagon road crosses the neck.

Meanwhile the Nkobaroakosi Regiment had become engaged on the left front of the camp with our infantry, and Buffered very severely, being repulsed three times, until the arrival of the Inbonambi Regiment enabled them to push forward, along the south front of the camp and complete their turning movement.

This produced an alteration in the position held by those defending the camp. Two companies of the 24th Regiment and all the mounted Europeans being sent to the extreme right of the camp, at the spot where the road cuts through it. The guns were moved to the right of the Native Contingent camp, having the nullah below them to their left lined by the Native Contingent; three companies of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment remained on the left of the camp, supported on their left by the body of Mounted Basutos, who had been driven back by the Umcityu Regiment. The one company of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment which had been thrown out to the neck, was now retiring, fighting.

By this time the attack of the enemy extended along the whole front of the camp, a distance of not less than 800 yards, and along the whole left, a distance of about 600 yards, and although they were still held in check by our fire, they were advancing rapidly towards the gaps between the troops. Up to this point their advance had been steady, and made without noise, but now they began to double and to call to one another.

The camp followers and the Native Contingent began to fly, making for the right, and in a few minutes more the troops were forced to retire upon the tents to avoid being cut off, as the Zulus had now burst through the gaps. So far, very few men had fallen on our side, the fire of the enemy being far from good, but as the men fell back the Zulus came with a rush, and in a very few minutes it became a hand to hand conflict.

About this time also the Undi corps, made its appearance on the right rear of the camp, completely cutting off any retreat towards Rorke's Drift. Fortunately the Nkobamakosi, instead of attempting to completely surround the camp by making a junction with the Undi, followed the retreating natives, thus leaving a narrow passage open for escape, which was taken advantage of by such as were able to escape out of the camp. A few were met and killed by the Uudi, but that corps, believing that the camp was already plundered, decided to make the best of their way to Rorke's Drift, and plunder it, never dreaming that any opposition could be offered by the few men they knew to be there.

The loss of the Zulus must have been exceedingly heavy.  The Umcityu were frightfully cut up by the single company of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, which was sent out of camp, and never returned; the Nkobamakosi fell in heaps; the hill down which the Nokenke came was covered with slain; and the loss of the Undi at Rorke's Drift cannot be less than 500; they killed all their own wounded who were unable to get away.

Much astonishment was expressed by the Zulus at the behaviour of our soldiers, firstly, regarding their death dealing powers considering their numbers; secondly, because they did not run away before the enormous numerical superiority of the enemy.

Head-quarter Staff.

4B. Precis of instructions contained in Lord Chelmsford's letters to Colonel Pearson.

February 6, 1879

Yours of 1st received. Trust that the news that you are to be attacked and also Glyn may be true.
Having been attacked, and the enemy repulsed a decision as to your future movements absolutely necessary.
If you can reduce your garrison to one-half, it, will give you a strong moveable column at Lower Tugela.
Should wish to see Naval Brigade garrisoning forts at Lower Tugela. Yourself and staff ought, to be there also.
After a successful action, would be your best chance of withdrawing a portion of your garrison, otherwise a risk.
Endeavour to arrange for the holding an entrenchment requiring a lesser garrison.
Your best field officers should remain in command.
Bring back only what baggage, &c., is absolutely essential. The sick and wounded should come in empty wagons.
I trust that any attack made on our posts may be simultaneous. We are ready for it.
400 men 88th Regiment, expected to-day; 200 remain here, 200 go to Stanger, thus releasing ninety-nine companies for Lower Tugela.
No news from Wood since 24th January.
No raids have, as yet, been made into Natal, but I expect one shortly.
Do all you can to hold out as long as possible with whole or part of your force, but let us know when the time-has nearly arrived to fall back on account of want of supplies.
Native Contingent have disbanded themselves.

February 8, 1879.

Contents of your letter, dated 6th February, received by telegraph.
My belief is, your garrison should be at once reduced to the minimum which you consider is necessary for its defence; this will give us more time for throwing in supplies.
There will not be a force at Lower Tugela for six weeks at least, sufficient to ensure a convoy to Ekowe, and unwise to attempt it, but if you withdraw surplus garrison, you will have troops enough for a very efficient flying column at that place.
Add 100 or 200 to the 400 you suggest for garrison, but cut down your defences to meet reduced garrison.
Your own presence is absolutely essential at Lower Tugela.
Mine is required all over Natal.
A Head Commander required to look after every post of your command.
Latest news, Zulus will not knock their heads against our posts, but will raid into Natal. All more necessary for a moveable force at Lower Tugela. Other columns are too weak for me to decrease them to increase yours, and each must hold on as best they can until reinforcements arrive, thus you must read my instructions.
Details I leave to you, only let us know when you propose to fall back.
A large force stated to be near Zuguin. " It will not do to face too great odds, but you might, perhaps, manage to reach Umanidusi" (where be every available man from Lower Tugela should sent), without your move being discovered. Each man should carry 100 rounds, two days' food.
Bring no wheeled carriage. Line of march to be most compact, and no delay on the march if a few shots are fired at you. The garrison left at Ekowe must be on the alert, as it will be imagined you have deserted the post altogether.

Lieut.-Col., Asst. Mil. Sec.
A second copy to be sent twenty-four hours after the first. Reported on 9th February that neither of these had passed through the lines.

Colonel Wood's Column, Camp Kambulu Hill,
February 1, 1879.


   I HAVE the honour to report that in accordance with orders I started with the force named in the margin* at four A.M. this morning for Makulisini Krall, at seven o'clock we off saddled for breakfast under the north side of Zingin Hill, starting again at 8.20 we shortly after hit the so called wagon road from Potter's Store to the Makulisini. It is a very bad one, we found the country practicable for all arms up to a point about due north of the centre of Inhlobarm Interior, after that it was very difficult, and neither guns nor wagons could have traversed it, we saw a few Kafirs and cattle in the Inhlobarm.

When within four miles of this neck, from which I was told we should see the kraal, I increased our pace to a fast canter, we left thirty men in this neck and scrambled down the hillside into the basin in the centre of which the place is situated and then galloped up to it at 12.30 P.M.

The Kafirs in it fled in all directions, we took 270 head of cattle and entirely destroyed the kraal, which contained about 250 huts. About 6 Kafirs were killed. We had, I am happy to say, no casualty.

The Makulisini is about 30 miles east of this, it is in a basin entirely surrounded with precipitous hills which would be very difficult to take if held by any force. I do not think guns could be got there without men handling them.

Throughout the day I received the greatest assistance from Mr. Pict Uys, indeed without his men I don't think we should ever have got to the place. As far as I could see I think that most of the Kafirs that were in this Inhlobarm have left it and gone to the south-east.

I have, &c.,
Lieut.-Col., F.L. Horse.
Kambula Hill, 
10 P.M., February 1, 1879.


ON this, as on all occasions, Lieutenant-Colonel Buller, C.B., has done excellent service, and I  am greatly indebted to him and to Mr. Piet Uys.

The Bagalusini Kraal has been till now a rallying point for the most determined opponents of the British Government, and its destruction will have a good effect on all friendly or neutral natives, while the Zulus will see the spirit of the High Commissioner's message is fully carried out, for though this, a barrack, is destroyed, no dwelling places of the inhabitants have been wilfully damaged by the Troops of No. 4 Column.


February 2, 1879, Sunday.


YOUR letter of 27th January reached me this morning, also telegram of 30th, apparently to some one at Lower Drift, asking what ammunition I have got, and detailing position of Nos. 3 and 4 Column , also your telegram to me of 28th, informing me of "Boadicea" men joining my column, asking what you can do for me, and telling me Wood has beaten 5,000 Zulus ; also telegram of 23rd, detailing poor Durnford's defeat, and the losses sustained.

It is all most sad; and no doubt the arms and ammunition taken will be used against us. The above is the plan of the entrenchment here. Of course it is not nearly finished, but it is a formidable place even now, and we work hard at it all day. I sent you a letter yesterday, describing our situation. As last night was rainy, I hope it will reach you all right. The messengers who brought yours came by the road we followed, and did not see any one, but no doubt they were all in the bush, as we believe there are numbers of Zulus between us and the Tugela.

If you could send up the two companies Buffs now at Lower Drift, and the three companies 99th, also at Drift, as well as the Stanger and Durban companies, we should be strong enough here, as I should then form an entrenched camp outside. But the difficulty would be to keep up the supplies, as convoys would be most likely molested, very likely in the neighbourhood of the Amatakula and Inyazane, where it is thick and bushy.

This will be a difficult problem to solve, but now that we are here it would be a fatal mistake, in my opinion, to abandon the post, which, as I have already said, will be required as a forepost when you are ready to advance again. Indeed, if we retired to the Tugela, we should most likely have all the Zulu army at our back, and be obliged either to destroy all our ammunition and stores before we left Ekowe, or abandon them on the march if attacked, as in all probability we should be by overwhelming numbers.

We have 1,365 Europeans here all told, and about 100 Natives, including pioneers, but exclusive of leaders and drivers, the number of whom I don't quite know. We have in round numbers 1,200 rifles and 332 rounds of ammunition for that number, also 127,000 rounds Gatling, 37 Naval Rockets, 24-pounders (shot; not shell rockets), 46 Rockets, (shell) for 7-pounders, also for 7-pounders 200 Shrapnel, 254 common shell, 20 double shell, and 33 case.

It in almost impossible to get an accurate return of food, but I think we must have over three weeks' supply, the cattle, however, may be swept away at any moment, as of course they have to be kept in the wagon laager outside. I am keeping a small reserve in the ditches, where we stable the horses also, although commanded, the ground is perfectly open round here, except one or two small patches of wood, which would give cover, but which are being cut down as fast as we can do it. The brushwood, however, is all destroyed, the road to Ekowe from the Tugela is a mere beaten track, and at this season of the year very bad in places, especially this side of the Inyazane, which is often very steep, narrow, and sloping towards the valley (where cut on the side of a hill) thus rendering a wagon liable to upset.

The latter defect we remedied en route, but as there is no stone in the country I am afraid it will never be possible to do more than for each convoy to repair the road for itself. There is nothing to repair it with except logs and brushwood, which of course won't stand the traffic of a large number of wagons. I know of no place between this and the Lower Drift where a depot could be advantageously formed, nor even fortified posts.

The camping ground on the left bank of the Umsindusi is, however, nice and open, but it is commanded at one point toward the Amatikulu. Our camping ground at the Inyoni was on a knoll, but it is only nine miles from the Tugela.

You ask if a Zulu can climb over our parapets here without assistance ? I fear he can in some places, but we are working hard at deepening the ditches. We want medicines, and I have written to Tarrant about them, as I have told you what food and ammunition we have got, you will be able to judge of what we can do. I find it quite impossible to get information. Our Kafirs won't do spy. They are afraid of being taken.

 Thanks for your good wishes. Has there been any raid made on Natal?

Sincerely and respectfully yours,



Send this letter to the General, by special mounted messenger if possible, to Durban, first telegraphing the pith of it to him. Send the enclosed small piece of paper to Dr. Tarrant. Tell Major Graves the following officers and non-commissioned officers Natal Native Contingent are here : Captain Shervington ; Lieutenants Orwin and Webb ; Interpreter Grieg; Sergeants Swann, Behrends, Sherrer ; Corporals Adams, Whiffler, Schulter, Schmidt, Meyer, Crossman, Phillipe, Fayard, Westphall, also twenty-six natives. Send us news whenever you can. Dark nights and rainy weather is the time.

Yours sincerely,


The position generally is weak, being slightly commanded on three sides by hills within musketry range, but the whole of the front has been traversed by wagons, cornsacks, &c. The water (very good) is under the fire of the fort within  150 yards, and efforts (which show good results) are being made to obtain water by sinking on the site itself, the troops bivouac at the alarm posts shown.
February 6, 1879


I RECEIVED yesterday morning your letter of the 2nd instant and a Telegram from the Deputy-Adjutant-General of the 4th. In the latter I am reminded of the inadvisability of reinforcements being sent to me as they would only help eat our food. When I wrote upon this subject I was not quite clear as to the immediate future course of this column. I now quite recognize our position and I quite see, too, the mistake which would be made by reinforcing us.

We are now very strongly intrenched. Good thick parapets, ditches no where less than seven feet deep and ten feet wide. In places they are both deeper and wider, the ditches are partly flanked as well, either by flanks, stockades, caponnieres or cuttings in the parapet. Enfilade and reverse fire have been well considered and traverses have been constructed to protect us from both. The batteries are masked and spare sand bags provided to protect the gunners from fire upon any point from which the gun is not actually firing.

Trous-de-loups are being made on the glacis, and a zig-zag will be made to the watering-place about 60 yards from the fort, to ensure the safety of the watering party. We have three entrances, a main entrance over a drawbridge, over which carts or unloaded wagons can pass ; this is drawn back at night; a small foot bridge to the watering place which is topped up on the alarm sounding, and a trestle bridge, also a foot bridge, which is dismantled at retreat. Near the main entrance is a sally port leading into the ditch where at night we have some earth closets, as, of course the day latrines are some distance from the fort. In a hollow below this face are two cattle laagers built of wagons chained and reined together. The circular one holds the slaughter cattle, and the other most of the trek oxen. These are protected by an L-shaped work, nevertheless, the cattle are a constant source of anxiety to me, as they might be taken away during a dark night if the Zulus should be enterprising, at least so it seems to me. I trust I may be wrong.

We are better off for food than I thought we were, and, if our cattle are left to us, we shall be able to get along for over three weeks from this day, and, with many essentials for some time longer. Heygate has sent a pretty accurate return to the Commissary General, which he must have received, as it went with my letter which you have acknowledged.

Our resources in the way of ammunition you also know. As regards dividing our entrenchments, so as to defend our stores efficiently in the event of the garrison being reduced, I am afraid it could not well be done without very, materially altering everything. Every building is now within the fort, and was preserved in the belief that all your columns were to have been fed from. this line, and that, consequently, stores on a large scale would be required, also a fair sized garrison. I mean some three hundred or four hundred men, for, of course,  it was not then contemplated that the garrison would have to deal with any large bodies of Zulus.

As it is, it is highly probable, I suppose, that Cetywayo may make a supreme effort to drive us out and bring the bulk of his army this way. I trust he may do so and he will find it a very hard nut to crack indeed. We have got all the distances measured and this afternoon a table of ranges will be issued to the troops. If we have time the distances will all be cut on the hills which slope our way, and the cuttings filled in with white clay, which we get out of the ditches, so as to make the figures visible.

As regards our immediate future, I am of opinion, and I trust you will forgive me giving it frankly that, a convoy of wagons not exceeding 20 in number and all with good spans of 20 oxen, and none with larger loads than 4000 lbs. should be sent us, as soon as you can get an escort together, equal to a battalion of 600 or 700.

The wagons to contain nothing but food for men and a little more ammunition, especially for guns and rockets, which we want and would not be much good to the Zulus if it fell into their hands. The escort would not require tents, and could carry two days' provisions on their persons, which would gave something. I would ask to have the two Companies Buffs, now at the Lower Drift, sent up, and with the return wagons I would send back the three companies and Head quarters 99th, half the company Royal Engineers, the Native Pioneers, the odds and ends of Volunteers, Native Contingent, and drivers and leaders still here. In fact the latter have signified their intention to bolt, the first opportunity. If the escort reported the road pretty clear, I would also suggest sending back the sick and wounded, who are fit to travel, and some of the trek oxen which I should be very glad to get rid of. The drivers and leaders could take charge of them. I most respectfully hope you will remember that I am only giving my opinion. I am ready to reduce the garrison to any limits you may choose to order, and to take my chance with the remainder, but having pretty well studied our position, I hope from every point of view, I do not think (unless we see no chance of being attacked by a very large body of the enemy) that it would be prudent just yet to reduce the garrison beyond the limits I have suggested.

In making the above suggestions, I have studied to reduce the number of mouths, and to retain, at the same time, all the fighting men I could. It will be better too, to keep units, i.e., battalions together. The Natal Pioneers will be useful in repairing roads between this and the Tugela and the half company Royal Engineers will be necessary, should any intermediate station be fixed upon as a fortified post. I know of no place as I have already told you. The Inyone dries up in winter generally, and what water remains is brackish. Perhaps our camping ground on the left bank of the Umsindusi might do. The water is beautiful, but it is commanded, as I think I also told you, from the high ground towards the Amatakula, only in that direction, however, so perhaps the Engineers might manage to defilade it. The locality as regards the distance between Ekowe and the Tugela would be a very convenient one, I am speaking of places on the road, but I remember none adjacent to it. A few hundred men could cut down the bush along the road for several hundred yards on either side between the Inyone and Umsindusi, but I do not know whether it would not be too big a job to attempt to do so about the Amatakula and Inyazuue. It would be a grand thing if it could be done. I think any escort coming up will have to look about them very carefully nearly every where between the Umsindusi and the high ground on this side of the Inyazune. On some places the bush is pretty thick ; a few mounted scouts with the convoy would be of great use.

As regards the composition of a column, I have come to the conclusion that, although mounted men, if the horses could be fed in this country, would be of immense value, yet, considering that all their forage has to be carried, their utility is much lessened by the fact of the column being materially increased in length by the additional transport.

The Native Contingent, too are of little or no use, unless all the men have firearms; when, perhaps, they would be as dangerous to friends as foes ; and the officers and non-commissioned officers can speak Kaffir.

In the 2nd Regiment, scarcely one could do so, and I could never get anything done I wanted. The men were always grumbling at doing fatigue work, notwithstanding that they saw the soldiers working alongside them, and said they were enlisted to fight, and not to work. Yet, when they had the chance, they did not do over well.

We should be very glad of a newspaper or two giving an account of No. 3 Column. About what number of Zulus did poor Durnford's party kill before they were overpowered and slaughtered ?  Did the two guns fall into the hands of the Zulus? Did the plucky company of the 2nd Battalion 24th at Rorke's Drift (I suppose it was guarding the Depot) beat off the 2,500 Zulus whom they fought for twelve hours? How very foolish of poor Durnford's detachment to scatter about so far from the camps. Has any raid been made on Natal? The men here are very savage at the thoughts of so many of their wounded comrades being butchered, for, of course, as all were found dead, the wounded must have been murdered.

We are all still in very good health, and the work will not be so hard now I hope, as all the heavy work of the entrenchments is completed. 37 on the sick report to-day, two of the Buffs rather bad with the diarrhoea, one of them, Oakley, the married man whose name I sent the other day, is not so well, he had only fever then. Wounded doing very well. We had some rain last night and the night before a very heavy thunderstorm. To-day it has been exceedingly hot. I am going to send this letter off to-night. The messengers say the road is thoroughly watched, but I cannot hear of any large force of Zulus being between us and the Tugela.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,



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:

Durban, Natal,
February 8, 1879

From the Lieutenant-General Commanding in South Africa to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for War.


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.,

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.
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 quarter of 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.

Colonel, Royal Engineers, President.

F. T. A. LAW,
Lieutenant-Colonel, R.A.

Major R.A. and Lieutenant-Colonel.


A. 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 Lieutenant-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 Icould 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.,
Captain, 75th Regiment, Sub-Director of Transports.

B. From Lieutenant Curling to Officer Commanding No. 8. 

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.
Lieutenant R.A.


Rorkes Drift
January 25th, 1879

Official report of the defence of Rorke’s Drift


I have the honor to report that on the 22 Inst: I was left in command at Rorke’s Drift by Major Spalding who went to Helpmakaar to hurry on the Co. 24th Regt. ordered to protect the ponts.

About 3.15 p.m. on that day, I was at the ponts when two men came riding from Zululand at a gallop, and shouted to be taken across the river – I was informed by one of the, Lieut Adendorff of Lonsdale’s Regt. (who remained to assist in the defence) of the disaster at Isandhlwana camp, and that the Zulus were advancing on Rorke’s Drift. The other a carbineer rode off to take the news to Helpmakaar.

Almost immediately I received a message from Lieut. Bromhead, Commg. the company 24th Regt. at the Camp near the Commt. Stores, asking me to come up at once.

I gave the order to inspan, strike tents, put all stores & c into the waggon and at once rode up to the Commt. Store and found that a note had been received from the third Column to state that the enemy were advancing in force against our post, which we were to strengthen and hold at all costs.

Lieut. Bromhead was most actively engaged in loopholing and barricading the store building and hospital and connecting the defence of the two buildings by walls of mealie bags and two waggons that were on the grond.

I held a hurried consultation with him and with Mr. Dalton of the Commt. (who was actively superintending the work of defence, and whom I cannot sufficiently thank for his most valuable services), entirely approving of the arrangements made. I went round the position and then rode down to the Ponts and brought up the guard of 1 sergt. and 6 men, waggon &c.

I desire here to mention the offer of the punt man Daniells and Sergt. Milne 3rd Buffs, to moor the ponts in the middle of the stream and defend them from their decks with a few men. We arrived at the post about 3.30 p.m. Shortly after an officer of Durnfords Horse arrived and asked for orders; I requested him to send a detachment to observe the drifts and ponts, to throw out outposts in the direction of the enemy, and check his advance as much as possible, falling back upon the post when forced to retire and assisting in its defence.

I requested Lieut. Bromhead to post his men, and having seen his and every man at his post, the work once more went on.

About 4.20 p.m. the sound of firing was heard behind the hill to our south. The officer of Durnford’s returned, reporting the enemy close upon us, and that his men would not obey his orders, but were going off to Helpmakaar, and I saw them, apparently about 100 in number, going off in that direction.

About the same time Capt. Stephenson’s detachment of Natal Native contingent left us, as did that officer himself.

I saw that our line of defence was too extended for the small number of men now left us, and at once commenced a retrenchment of biscuit boxes.

We had not completed a wall two boxes high when about 4.30 p.m. 500 or 600 of the enemy came in sight around the hill to our south and advanced at a run against our south wall. They were met by a well sustained fire, but notwithstanding their heavy loss continued the advance to within 50 yards of the wall, when they met with such a heavy fire from the wall, and cross fire from the store, that they were checked, but taking advantage of the cover afforded by the cook house, ovens &c kept up a heavy fire. The greater number however without stopping, moved to the left around the hospital and made a rush at our N.W. wall of mealie bags, but after a short but desperate struggle were driven back with heavy loss into the bush around the work.

The main body of the enemy were close behind and had lined the ledge of rock and caves overlooking us about 400 yards to our south from where they kept up a constant fire, and advancing somewhat more to their left than the first attack, occupied the garden, hollow road and bush in great force.

Taking advantage of the bush which we had not time to cut down, the enemy were able to advance under cover close to our wall, and in this part soon held one side of the wall, while we held the other, a series of desperate assaults were made extending from the hospital along the wall as far as the bush reached, but each was most splendidly met and repulsed by our men with the bayonet, Corpl. Schiess N.N.O. greatly distinguishing himself by his conspicuous gallantry.

The fire from the rocks behind us, though badly directed, took us completely in reverse and was so heavy that we suffered very severely, and about 6 p.m. were forced to retire behind the retrenchment of biscuit boxes.

All this time the enemy had been attempting to force the hospital and shortly after set fire to its roof.

The garrison of the hospital defended it room by room, bringing out all the sick who could be moved before they retired, Privates Williams, Hook, R. Jones and W. Jones 24th Regt. being the last men to leave, holding the doorway with the bayonet their own ammunition being expended.

From the want of interior communication and the burning of the house it was impossible to save all – With most heartfelt sorrow I regret we could not save these poor fellows from their terrible fate.

Seeing the hospital burning and the desperate attempts of the enemy to fire the roof of the stores, we converted two mealie bag heaps, into a sort of redoubt which gave a second line of fire all round; Asst. Comy. Dunne working hard at this though much exposed, and rendering valuable assistance.

As darkness came on we were completely surrounded and after several attempts had been gallantly repulsed, were eventually forced to retire to the middle and then inner wall of the kraal on our east. The position we then had we retained throughout.

A desultory fire was kept up all night, and several assaults were attempted and repulsed; our men firing with the greatest coolness did not waste a single shot; the light afforded by the burning hospital being of great help to us.

About 4 a.m. 23rd Inst: the firing ceased and at daybreak the enemy were out of sight over the hill to the South West.

We patrolled the grounds collecting the arms of the dead Zulus, and strengthened our defences as much as possible.

We were removing the thatch from the roof of the stores when about 7 a.m. a large body of the enemy appeared on the hills to the South West.

I sent a friendly Kafir, who had come in shortly before with a note to the Officer commanding at Helpmakaar asking for help.

About 8 a.m. the third column appeared in sight, the enemy who had been gradually advancing, falling back as they approached. I consider the enemy who attacked us to have numbered about 3,000 (three thousand).

We killed about 350 (three hundred and fifty).

Of the steadiness and gallant behaviour of the whole garrison I cannot speak too highly.

I wish especially to bring to your notice the conduct of Lieut. Bromhead 2/24th Regt. and the splendid behaviour of his company B 2/24th.

Surgeon Reynolds A.M.D. in his constant attention to the wounded under fire where they fell.

Act. Commt. Officer Dalton, to whose energy much of our defences were due, and who was severely wounded while gallantly assisting in the defence.

Asst. Commy. Dunne
Acting Storekeeper Byrne (killed)
Col. Sergt. Bourne 2/24th
Sergt. Williams 2/24th (wounded dangerously)
Sergt. Windridge 2/24th
Corpl. Schiess 2/3 Natal Native Contingent (wounded)
1395 Private Williams 2/24th
593 Private Jones 2/24th
Private McMahon A.H.C.
Pte Beckett, 1/24th Regt.
making a total killed of 17
*List already forwarded by Medical Officer.

Herewith is appended a plan of the buildings showing our lines of defence the points of the compass referred to in this report are as shown in sketch approximately magnetic.

To Col. Glynn C. c/o Commt. 3rd Column

I have the honour to be your obedient servant,
John R.M. Chard
Lieut. R.E.

1 comment:

  1. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.