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Mervyn Mitton

ZULU HISTORY AND WEAPONRY FROM 1879

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Patrick - I knew Morris in the 1950's when he was researching 'The Washing of the Spears'. He was coming back a few years ago to write an up-date, but unfortunately died. I have read most of the current crop of books on this period and am still firmly of the belief that this is the best one. The detail and politics that you mention, are what makes it so accurate and you must remember that in the '50's there were still Zulus alive who fought at Isandlawana - not many. From the Boer War nearly all Afrikaaners had someone still alive.

WOW!!!!! I loved that book. You knew him?? :cheers:

I am deeply impressed. His book is one of the best military histories ever written IMHO.

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Mervyn

Morris' book is a 'classic' and like all classics it is a good starting point for a researcher or enthusiast. It has, however, taken the film 'Zulu' and more popular books on the Zulu War to arouse widespread interest in this conflict, so less scholarly efforts should not be dismissed out of hand. Apart from the popular accounts of the war, there have been many serious studies published as well, so there is no shortage of material to occupy people with a developing interest in the Zulu War.

Regards

Brett

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Mervyn

Morris' book is a 'classic' and like all classics it is a good starting point for a researcher or enthusiast. It has, however, taken the film 'Zulu' and more popular books on the Zulu War to arouse widespread interest in this conflict, so less scholarly efforts.....

Morris went to the University of Michigan and then graduated from Annapolis and joined the US Navy for a few years, then worked for the CIA before he retired from government service with his first pension, circa 1971/72. He started writing for a Houston newspaper for several years, and honed his ability to write easily read and understandable text. The clear writing style sets his book apart, rather than the other subject material that was available when the book first came out, or since. When he died in 2002, he was in his late 70's and had heart problems for a while. It's too bad he didn't live longer and manage another book. (He wrote a total of two.)

In the early 1990's, he was in Lesotho at least once as an elections observer. Mervyn, did you meet him at that time, or later?

His wife's maiden name was "Mart" Botha, a South African (?), and inspired his interest his South Africa and by extension, other parts of Africa.

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I have just finished reading an excellent book on the Anglo-Zulu War - by Alan Lloyd it is called the Zulu War 1879 and was first published in 1973.The next three pictures are from this book.

I was reminded that whilst I covered weapons for British Officers' and enlisted men - I overlooked our heavier weapons. Basically, we were using 7 lbs. muzzle loading cannon - and two that fought at Isandlawana are still in the Transvaal on display. Also, at Isandlawana was a Rocket Battery - they were not a success and all were killed.

The last battle was at Ulundi - the King's capital and here we introduced something quite different - Gatling Guns. The Battery that was in the Square was the first to be equipped with them and they proved to be quite effective. They fired bullets from a drum attached overhead - and a handle was turned at a regular pace to fire them. They were in effect the first machine guns.

Edited by Mervyn Mitton

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This was the 7lb Field Artillery piece - of which we had six available. They were mounted on what was called a Colonial Carriage - this had big wheels to get over rough ground.

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Right - I think we can safely move back to the Zulus and their weaponry.

This next picture shows the King's half-brother Dubalamanzi. He was a rather impetuous man with a bad temper, and did not take kindly to being given command of only three impis at Isandlawana and being told to go around the back of the mountain to cut off retreat. This lead him to go against the King's orders that Zulu Forces should not cross the Buffalo River. He wanted a share of the 'glory' and directly attacked Rorke's Drift. However, that will be a separate post at another time.

You will see that the men with him - as well as himself - are all carrying Martini Henry rifles. These were taken from dead British soldiers and for a period of time the Zulus had more of them then we did ! That's what happens when you lose a major battle.

You will note that Dubalamanzi and one of the men on his left, are both wearing the Isicoco - or, headring. This was granted by the King to men who had reached maturity - usually in their 40's. It was made by letting the hair grow and then rolling it into a 'ring shape' with animal fat. It set like a piece of iron and remained until death. Sadly a bounty (reward) was set on these by British Authorities - rather like the Native Americans in the 19th. C.

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Many Zulus - who lived away from the Ulundi area in Northern Natal were quite happy to join the British as guides, bearers and as warriors. We raised a number of Zulu regiments and levies - however, when they came-up against the Zulu Impis - as they did at Isandlawana, they became a handicap.

This photo shows a group of these warriors - you will see that they are wearing similar clothing and carrying the same weapons. Interestingly, the front cover for the genitals is called a Nene. We have shown many examples in our general Zulu post. During warfare it is reported that they tended to shorten the Nene - perhaps for easier movement. However, many troops reported that younger Zulus would expose themselves to their enemy, before going into the fight. Perhaps a 'sign of dis-respect' ?

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here we introduced something quite different - Maxim Guns. The Battery that was in the Square was the first to be equipped with them and they proved to be quite effective. They fired bullets from a drum attached overhead - and a handle was turned at a regular pace to fire them. They were in effect the first machine guns.

Were not these hand-cranked weapons Gatling guns? I believe Hiram Maxim's recoil-operated, water-cooled maxims entered British service in 1889 and first proved themselves a little farther north in 'Matabele Land' ca 1893-94. Perhaps the distinction would have been lost on the warriors in the impis at Ulundi....

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jf42 - you are probably correct. I was trying to remember when I was typing -- but the ref. books are in the shop. I do these posts from memory - a 'bit dodgy' these days..... Anyway, thanks for putting me right and I will correct on the thread. Mervyn

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I would normally post these two items on Helen's general Zulu section - however, they have a military connection and were for warriors.

Firstly a very rare Zulu snuff container. This is entirely made from an antelope's horn - apart from the Mauser cartridge case. The shape meant that it could be carried in the warrior's thick hair - the alternate being a piece of handwoven thread to hang it around the neck. This example was probably carried in both ways as there is some damage to the carving on the top piece. Whilst they did occasionally make use of a cartridge case for decoration - and to hold the snuff - they are rare. Our last two examples went to the Ulundi Museum in Nthn. KwaZulu Natal. Datewise - around the 1900's.

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This is also an important piece of regalia often worn by the warriors'. The Zulu name is 'iDondo' - always a hand cast and shaped brass bead.

They had great value in Zulu society and six to eight could be used to buy a bride ! They were normally worn on a hide 'string'of from 1 to 3 beads. However, this could vary and if you were rich or, important enough then examples of a whole string are known.

The Zulu smiths were very good with brass and iron - however, at one time they brought silversmiths from Matabeland (in the old Rhodesia.) King Shaka's (1816-1824) sangoma (witch doctor) warned they would bring 'bad luck' - so, he had them executed. Very bad luck for them !

Worn probably by an Induna - or, Chief - the poor quality of the beads surrounding it show age and neglect. However, it is the brass bead that has meaning and quite high value.

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Despite my misgivings when I first started this thread, it would seem that we have a small following. Perhaps this is because everyone has heard of the Zulu Warriors and their exploits - but, information is actually quite hard to come-by. I have a few items that have built-up and will add them now.

This first is a chart showing the succession of the Zulu Kings from Shaka to the present King Goodwill Zwelathini. The name Zulu is in fact a Clan name and when Shaka took over it is thought that there were as few as 2500 people entitled to the name. With his conquests and subjugation of surrounding Clans, he made them take the name Zulu - and so the Nation was borne. The word King is a European concept - prior to the early settlers calling him this, the local word meant a Chief of Chiefs - , as we always called them - Paramount Chiefs.

The population grew to around 250,000 to 300,000 by the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War. In the 1950's it had risen to about 3,500,000 - and today, the last census stood at over 12 million. Because of the size of the area and the inaccesability - they take photos on a grid basis and count by hand.

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When Chelmsford first started his attack on Zululand, he made the mistake of splitting his Forces into three columns. The column under Sir Evelyn Wood VC acquitted itself well and won the battle of Kambula. We all know what happened to the second column at Isandlawana, when they were so badly defeated by the Zulu Impis. The third column under Colonel Pearson was sent across the Tugela River and was to march on the King's capital at Ulundi from the South East. They reached as far as a small settlement at Eshowe (called Ekowe in those days) and suddenly found themselves besieged by 20,000 warriors. This went on for four months - and was possibly the reason we did not suffer a greater defeat, since 1/4 of available warriors were involved in the siege.

When Chelmsford had things under control, he sent a large relieving force - and this original 1879 print from the Illustrated London News shows them on the March. A drift was a cutting where in the rains a stream had washed a deep gully. With ox waggons drawn by teams of 8 they were formidable to cross and a lot of manpower was required. We had teams of african labourers who cut logs and helped fill them-in. Some can be seen on the left. All of our African auxiliaries wore a red bandana around their head - or, on their arm - to prevent confusion in attacks.

Central in the picture is a senior officer, accompanied by his local guides. You will note that in addition to the massed ranks of our infantry, each waggon also has a detachment - the contents of the waggons were valuable. There is a cavalry detachment on the left and the warriors on the right are carrying the Ishilungu - , or main battle shield. This was made from bull's hide and was very heavy.

Eshowe later became the HQ for the Nonquai - or, local Zulu Police and there still remains the original fort built-in 1881.

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This is a nice Zulu fighting axe from the 1879 period. Zulu axes have this slightly hoe shape. The shaft is original but, may have been shortened.

This could have been by choice or, the end may have been damaged. Only chief's carried axes - they were too expensive for ordinary warriors.

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This small knobkerrie - or, Iwisa, was issued to African constables of the Durban Police in about 1900. It is about two feet long (60cm). In those days every European police officer was supported by two black constables. They dealt with African prisoners - in most cases - and were not allowed to have contact with Europeans. This is a rare item.

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Finally, for this posting - another warrior's arm or, ankle band. These are made from brass and are very heavy. Usually they were fitted when red hot and were kept on at all times. How did they put them on when red hot ? The arm - or, leg - was covered with wet hides. I have shown these before , but they are now rare items.

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Looking through an old auction catalogue I found a couple of interesting Zulu items that came up for auction in London.

These first two are IQUBANGAS - they are slightly different from Iwisas or, knobkerries, in that they are not really intended for fighting. Chiefs when relaxing in their Kraals carry these as a badge of office. However, in case of trouble they are still a formidable weapon. Note the copper and brass bindings at different points - all part of the status,

Overall length is approx. 5 feet (150cm)

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Lieutenant Harftford was attached to one of the Native Contingents during the 1879 Zulu War. Very few of them fought with any great distinction - and it would be true to say that the sight of the Zulu Impis caused mass flight. The Lt. reached Rorke's Drift and latter wrote a book on his exploits.

The items shown here were in the family's possession. His spurs are at top right - the two cow horns are Zulu powder flasks and there are a number of neck collars and a foot bangle - these have the dried seed husks to make a sound when the feet are stamped. I am showing them because whilst many Zulu pieces are attributed to Isandlawana, not many have written proof. Top left are two snuff spoons and in either lower corner are pot stands. These have been cleverly carved out of one piece and seem to show a sexual act ?

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Zulu weaponry of quality and age is becoming scarcer all the time - you have to remember that at the time of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 the numbers of Zulus is estimated at between 250,000 & 300,000. For perspective - the number of

Europeans living in Natal at that time was only about 8,000 !

I recently bought this superb example of an Iwisa - or, knobkerrie. This is a fighting one - with a mushroom top to inflict very serious wounds. However , it had the secondary use of being decorative and therefore, giving status to the owner. He would almost certainly have been a Chief or, senior Induna.

The quality of the hand woven brass and copper bindings is of a high order - and it is possible that a further band went around the bottom of the mushroom. Five bands of this quality is rare. The brass and copper wire came from the Portuguese settlement at Delgoa Bay - the Zulus used to exchange ivory and skins. A valuable item.

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