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British Infantryman vs Zulu Warrior

by Peter Dennis Ian Knight

Expert ananlyis and first-hand accounts of combat during the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879: Nyezane, iSandlwana, and Khambula. As seen in the movie Zulu, starring Michael Caine, Zulu discipline and courage overcame British firepower at iSandlwana, and almost at Rorke's Drift. Featuring specially commissioned artwork, expert analysis and carefully chosen first-hand accounts, this absorbing study traces the development of infantry tactics in the Anglo-Zulu War by examining three key clashes at unit level.The short but savage Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 pitched well-equipped but complacent British soldiers and their auxiliaries into combat with one of history's finest fighting forces, the Zulu Nation. The clashes between these two very different combatants prompted rapid tactical innovation on both sides, as the British and their Zulu opponents sought to find the optimal combination of mobility and firepower.Fought on 22 January 1879, the clash at Nyezane saw Zulu forces, among them the uMxapho ibutho, ambushing a British column; the British forces, including Lieutenant Martin's company of the 2/3rd Foot, engaged their opponents in the prescribed fashion, as honed in the recent conflict with the Xhosa a year earlier. The Zulu attack was premature, and by 9.30am, after about 90 minutes of heavy fighting, they were repulsed. The British tactics worked, but largely only because the Zulus had an uncharacteristically low numerical superiority.At iSandlwana later that same day, however, the shortcomings of the British tactics, obscured at Nyezane, were made brutally apparent. The Zulus had sufficient manpower not only to withstand that level of casualties but also to complete their encirclement of the British forces, and as the British line disintegrated the firefight gave way to the close-quarter fighting at which the Zulus excelled; not one man of the 1/24th and 2/24th Foot survived. The British forces surrounded and crushed at iSandlwana included Captain W.E. Mostyn's company of the 1/24th Foot, which was initially deployed in advance of the British camp but was later withdrawn to form part of the firing line; their opponents included the iNgobamkhosi ibutho, many of whose warriors left first-hand accounts of the battle.While iSandlwana demonstrated the strengths of the Zulu tactics, it also demonstrated their weaknesses - for the casualties inflicted by the British foreshadowed the carnage they would reap once the British wholeheartedly embraced close-order tactics and defended positions. At Khambula on 29 March 1879, a much bigger British force adopted a defensive position and defeated the same Zulu units who had previously triumphed at iSandlwana, including the uKhandempemvu ibutho, which came close to storming the British defences. At iSandlwana, the Zulus had been able to screen their advance with skirmishers and take advantage of the broken and grassy ground, but at Khambula their spontaneous attack did not allow them to disperse properly and they were funnelled together on a contracting front over woefully exposed ground. The British had learned the tactical lessons of iSandlwana and deliberately sought to restrict the Zulu ability to manoeuvre and co-ordinate their attacks, and to concentrate their own firepower.

The New Zealand Wars 1820-72

by Raffaele Ruggeri Ian Knight

Between 1845 and 1872, various groups of Maori - the Polynesian people who had inhabited New Zealand since medieval times - were involved in a series of wars of resistance against British settlers, which in many ways mirrored the American Indian Wars. Like some Native Americans, the Maori had a fierce and long-established warrior tradition (epitomized today by the intimidating haka war-challenge performed by the All Blacks rugby team), and lived in tribal communities dispersed throughout rough and thickly wooded terrain. Subduing them took a lengthy British Army commitment, only surpassed in the Victorian period by that on the North-West Frontier of India.Warfare had been endemic in pre-colonial New Zealand - in contests over territory and group prestige, and in generations-long feuds - and Maori groups maintained fortified villages or pas. The small early British coastal settlements, also widely dispersed, were tolerated, and in the 1820s a chief named Hongi Hika travelled to Britain with a missionary and returned laden with gifts. He promptly exchanged these for muskets, and began an aggressive 15-year expansion at the expense of neighbouring tribes. When new waves of major British settlement arrived between the 1840s and 1860s, competition over the available productive land caused increased friction and clashes. British troops were shipped in, and fought a series of essentially local wars in both North and South Islands over more than 25 years. However, some Maori groups always allied themselves with the Europeans, in pursuit of ancient enmities with their neighbours.By the 1860s many Maori had acquired firearms and had perfected their bush-warfare tactics. Their defences also evolved, with conspicuous log fortifications giving way to deep entrenchments less visible and vulnerable to artillery. The British, too, were adapting their uniforms, equipment and tactics to broken-country fighting in the bush, and employing more portable artillery and mortars. In the last phase of the wars a religious movement, Pai Maarire ('Hau Hau'), inspired remarkable guerrilla leaders such as Te Kooti Arikirangi to renewed resistance. This final phase saw a reduction in British Army forces as operations were increasingly taken over by locally recruited constabulary and militia units. European victory was not total, but led to a negotiated peace that preserved some of the Maori people's territories and freedoms; in modern times this has allowed a real (if sometimes strained) progress towards a genuinely unified national identity.

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