Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Distractions

Lately I have been studying up on the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. Apart from having seen the movie Zulu over about 20 years ago, I know nothing of the war or its causes. In my imagination, it was a massive unprovoked invasion by the Zulus on the British colonies. The reality is far different. I have been attempting to slice and dice this down to something that is specific enough to create a set of scenarios for. So what I have focused on is the advance of Column 1 under the command of Colonel Charles Pearson. This column has a colorful array of units associated with it. Including Natal Native Contingent, a Naval Brigade, naval artillery detachment, portions of the 99th Regiment of Foot, the 3rd Regiment of Foot (The Buffs), Mounted Infantry, native engineers and volunteers.

The Natal Native Contingent has caught my attention. From the Nafziger Order of battle for the Battle of Inyezane - 22nd January, 1879, It lists them as being one battalion of the Second Regiment of the NCC under command of Major Graves. The troops were all drawn from local loyal tribes. There was not enough funds to give them uniforms so they were still in tribal dress with a red handkerchief tied about their heads. The officers and NCOs were all Europeans and uniformed in black and khaki. The uniforms were not the only that they lacked. Apparently, some did not trust firearms in the hands of the locals. Only one in 10 men were armed with a rifle. Over half of these were obsolete weapons. One source mentioned that they were 50 plus years old weapons. On top of this, to keep anyone from getting ideas, those issued firearms were given only 4 rounds of ammunition. The remainder of the men were carrying spears and leather shields. The NCOs and Officers carried more modern weapons but not enough to balance out against the number of Zulus that they would face in the field. Some of the higher ranking officers dismissed these troops as a fighting force. Yet they were used as light infantry at least once.

This project is proving to be a fun diversion and I am learning quite a bit.