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Mervyn Mitton

ZULU HISTORY AND WEAPONRY FROM 1879

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"The World is paved with good intentions" - an old British saying , but very true - time is never on our side.

I have quite a number of interesting items to add to this post - however, for today, I thought we would look at

important Zulu bravery awards.

The most important of these is an Ingothxa - or brass ceremonial arm band. We have discussed these before

but this brings them together. Only the King could make the award and if it was a 'political' one then it was to senior

Chiefs and his personal advisors. However, if a warrior distinguished himself in Battle - then it became a Bravery

award.

Worn on the left arm it was fitted when red hot. The metal - opened wide enough to take an arm, was heated and

the man - with his arm wrapped in wet hides - held it inside. The band was beaten to shape and allowed to cool.

Once fitted it was never removed and was buried with him. Only about 15 or 16 are in museums. Only three

of the Kings ever awarded them and this is from Cetchwayo - who was defeated in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

This one has undoubtedly been buried which would account for the patina.

http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_11_2012/post-6209-0-53000200-1354114631.jpgclick

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This very rare picture shows the Grandson of the Zulu originally awarded this Bravery arm band. It is the one shown above.

He is an Induna - or, local chief and his dress shows that he is an important person in his World. In his left hand he is

holding a staff of office. He is also wearing spotted cat skin - probably civet - which is reserved for senior people.

The younger men are probably his sons. All are wearing the leopard or, civet headring.

Whilst the picture is obviously posed - never-the-less it clearly shows the appearance of a senior chief - and this

will not have changed much over the past 150 years.

http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_11_2012/post-6209-0-91124700-1354114987.jpgclick

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The other major bravery award - again only given by the King - is the Izuku necklace. This is made from

the thorn tree and is rare. Unfortunately many copies have been made which is confusing - they are worth

a great deal of money.

http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_11_2012/post-6209-0-13423800-1354116269.jpgclick

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I'm new around here, but having spent my younger years in Natal I'm happy to see interest in Zulu spears. During the 1960s the home of an old Pietermaritzburg family, the Bryants, was sold up and I bought the Zulu spears and battle-axe in the attached photo. At the time I was told that they had been picked up at the battle of Khambula during the Zulu War. Obviously this cannot now be proved, but the items concerned are of the correct pattern.

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Terry - thankyou for posting these assegais - and welcome to GMIC. We have quite a good following on this thread - although I

think many are from overseas as we are followed by quite a few schools and universities.

These are of a generic type for that period (1870's) and there is nothing to link them with Kambula. However, it is also quite possible

that they are. General Sir Evelyn Wood VC, was the commander at that battle - the first we were succesful-in - and it changed the War

in our favour. I know the farmer who owns the land at the base of the hill and he says they often turn-up old Zulu weaponry. We

do not know the exact numbers of Zulus killed - however, it is thought to well exceed 2000.

After the battle the British soldiers dug 3 large and deep pits and the dead - and their weapons were thrown-in and covered. Today,

the locals dig at night and sell pieces to the tourists - all illegal of course.

Your weapons are as follow:

a) An Iklwa - with Ilala palm binding. The length of the spear was a preferance of the owner. Has a nice head

b) This has a very small head - but then, iron was expensive and it may be due to cost. Nice shaft. The alternative is a hunting spear.

c) This has a very small head and would indicate a spear for bird hunting. The knob at the end would balance the flight.

d) This could be an Isiphapha - or , throwing spear. However, the Ilala binding has come adrift and I can't be sure. Usually a long neck.

e) An excellent example of a Zulu made axe - shaped like a hoe. This-and © have a cow's tail binding. Axes were only carried by chiefs.

Hope this of help. Mervyn

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Dear Mervyn, Thank you for your detailed reply. I have never studied Zulu weapons in depth and found their exact classification most interesting. My main line is rifles and bayonets and should there be any interest I can provide details and photos of rifles and bayonets actually issued in Natal at the time of the Zulu War. If so, they could either remain on this thread or be posted on another. Terry.

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Terry - I have covered British weaponry used at the time of the Zulu War in this thread - so anything you would like to add

will be most welcome. Have a look back. Mervyn

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This rifle was recovered in Zululand during 1970 and has been in my possession since October, 1972. It is a military Martini Henry Mk.I, Second Pattern, dated 1872. It bears no demilitarisation markings and, as with most rifles recovered from tribal areas, is very worn. In fact, the woodwork is worn to the extent that the regimental markings on the butt are no longer discernable.

Following retirement, with more time to devote to such matters, I decided to see whether modern technology would be able to resurrect the markings. Following a fairly involved two-stage process this proved possible. The result is shown in the second photograph. This rifle is marked to the 80th Regiment, rack number 464. The 80th Regiment took part in the Zulu War.

There are several theories concerning this rifle's earlier history, but obviously, nothing can be proved.

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Hi Terry,

Fantastic find!

I remember as a kid the kid over the road from us showed us some stuff under his parents bed, 3 rifles from the Boer war, a martini Henry, a Boer Mauser and a Lee Metford.... we liked the MArtini because you could crank it...

Another guy my father worked with in Capetown had inherited a farm.... after the Anglo-Boer war a Boer commando had disarmed there... he found a load of rifles in the barn... in what would seem like sacrilege today, he took them all to a gunsmith to have them redone and sold them as shooters... :-(

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Terry - the 80th Regiment of Foot were the South Staffordshire Regiment. I am in the shop tomorrow and will check a few ref. books.

With the markings this becomes a valuable piece. At one point - after Isandlawana - the Zulus had more Martini Henrys then the British

Forces. Fortunately, most had the sights set for distance and they were not terribly accurate. Ones that have been recovered from

Zululand often have carvings on the body and are also covered with beadwork.

Chris makes a good point about old items being destroyed for their value. However, from our point of view as collectors - this makes them

more valuable. Mervyn

ps. Your local Police forensic unit can often help with obscured lettering and numbers. Sometimes, just a little chalk dust will help.

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Terry - I checked on the various areas where the 80th served during the Zulu War - I had a feeling that they were connected with a

serious skirmish at Intombi River crossing - my memory is still with me, and I was right.

When they first arrived in Sth. Africa they were sent British Kaffraria and to Natal. They ended up in the Transvaal in the actions

against Chief Sekukuni and were on the border with Swaziland.

From 1879 the Regt. was attached to Number 3 column - this was under Sir Evelyn Wood VC and they fought at the Batttle of Kambula.

Later one of the Companies was escorting a waggon train and as they crossed the Intombi river an ambush was sprung on them by

local clans of Zulus. We suffered heavy casualties and most of the Company were killed

Later 5 Companies of the 80th fought in the Square at the final battle of the Zulu War at Ulundi.

When the war was won and Sir Garnet Wolseley took command from General Chelmsford - a further two Companies , with detachments,

were sent with him to the final capture of Sekukuni's stronghold on the Oliphant River.

The South Staffordshire Regiment returned to the Britain in April 1880.

So, they had an eventful and busy time in South Africa - with a large number of casualties. It would be nice if you could establish the issue

number and to whom it was issued. The rolls might then tell us where he fought and if he survived. This would give a clue on what happened

to the rifle ? Mervyn

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Mervyn, thanks for your informative reply. It adds information to certain areas that I have also researched. Unfortunately, the exact history of this rifle will never be established. The fact that it displays no demilitarisation markings indicates that its departure from the British Army was irregular i.e. probably lost, stolen or captured. The Museum of the South Staffordshires confirmed what I have been informed elsewhere. The records of who received any particular rifle no longer exist.

In a previous instance I investigated a Pat. 1851 Lancers carbine marked to the 12th Lancers recovered in Basutholand near where they suffered losses in the battle of Berea. It appears that the records covering the issue of rifles were maintained by the sergeants in their private note books. Very few of these have survived. It is possible that this system was still going in 1879.

However, the South Staffordshire Museum did give me the names of those of the regiment killed at Intombi and Isandhlwana. 62 at Intombi (Of whom 60 were other ranks and would have carried rifles) and 7 other ranks at Isandhlwhana where they were serving as mounted infantry. Elsewhere, I read that about 80 rifles were lost at Intombi. The difference possibly being accounted for in that some of the survivors escaped by swimming across the river. The significant point about Intombi and Isandhlwana is that the Zulus remained in control of the battlefields and could have picked up rifles. This would have not been the case elsewhere.

On the balance of probabilities the rifle is a relic of the Intombi disaster, but the truth can never be known.

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Some more Zulu War Rifles.

The Swinburn Henry Rifles and Carbines were on issue to the Natal Volunteers from 1875 and remained in service until 1894. From top to bottom:

Swinburn Henry Rifle as issued to the volunteer infantry regiments with pattern 1871 Cutlass Bayonet and commercial Pattern 1875 Bayonet. Although on issue during the Zulu War, it is unlikely that the rifles and Pattern 1875 bayonets saw active service since the regiments so equipped served as town guards during hostilities. The 1871 Cutlass Bayonets were ex-naval issue and were only received to equip the Natal Naval Volunteers when they were formed in 1885.

Swinburn Henry Carbine with Bowie Knife Bayonet. The carbines were issued to the mounted volunteers, who served as scouts during the Zulu War, and also to the Natal Mounted Police. The carbine bayonets were of limited issue and primarily saw service with the Alexandra Mounted Rifles and the Natal Mounted Police. Carbines equipped the Natal Volunteers at Isandhlwana and the Mounted Police would also have carried the bayonets.

The carbine in the photo has the low issue number of 69 and thus quite possibly saw active service in the Zulu War.

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Hello Terrylee,

A very nice grouping of weapons, thanks for sharing them with the membership.

Some additional information on the bayonets:

The Naval Cutlass Bayonet pattern 1858 had the rifle ring "bushed" to fit the Martini Henry rifle in 1873. A later pattern 1875 was issued with the rifle ring the "correct" diameter for the Martini-Henry.

The saw backed bayonet is the Artillery Sword-bayonet pattern 1875, some of these were later cut down and the saw teeth removed for use in trench fighting in WWI.

The shorter bayonet is the pattern 1887 Mk III (no fuller in the blade) and were designed specifically for the Mk. IV Martini-Henry rifle. This is a cut down of the longer 1887 Mk III and would have normally been used in trench warfare.

When I say "normally" I mean use by the British forces and of course we are now talking about weapons that may not have fit that regulation completely. The shorter rifle would normally be an artillery pattern as there would not have "normally" been a device for a bayonet. The general rule of thumb being that the calvary would not have a need for a bayonet as they carried swords. In this case I'm assuming these were for mounted infantry, therefore the need for bayonets. The leather rear sight guard is something that is hard to find and this one looks original.

Thanks again for an interesting post.

Regards

Brian

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Hello Brian,

I'm afraid that I have to disagree with your identification of the "shorter bayonet" as being a cut down version of the Pattern 1887 Mk III. I attach a photo of the Swinburn Bowie Knife Bayonet alongside a Pat. 1887 Mk.III for comparison. As you can see there are several very significant differences including length of hilt. And I can also confirm that the bowie will NOT fit a Martini Henry Mk.IV. I can take a photo of that too if necessary!

For information on the Swinburn Henty Carbine Bayonet I can refer those who are interested to Skennerton's book, "British and Commonwealth Bayonets", pages 365 - 366. 190 of these bayonets were imported by the Natal Government with the early carbines over the period 1876 - 1878 and issued mainly to the Natal Mounted Police and Alexandra Mounted Rifles. There is also a photograph of Piet Uys with a Swinburn Carbine and Bowie Bayonet. As could be expected these bayonets were not particularly successful and I have only come across one personal account of their use. This was in the case of a mounted volunteer who was disarmed by a Zulu of his carbine with attached bayonet. He referred to it as a "foolish thing".

So far as I'm aware the Swinburn carbine and bayonet had no artillery use at all, being confined to the mounted volunteers and mounted police. Being commercial production, they had to conform to no recognised pattern and somebody obviously had the bright idea that mounted volunteers and police would benefit from being equipped with bayonets! The fact that only 190 bayonets were issued with the early carbine orders is probably very significant. They are consequently now extremely rare.

Regards,

Terry

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Hello Terry,

Thank you for setting the record and me straight.

I can see very well what you are saying about the difference in your last photo.

No need to bother with a photograph of the Martini-Henry,

I see no reason to doubt you and I certainly was not looking to start an argument, simply a matter of me being mistaken.

Me being mistaken, imagine that, now there's an all too common event. ;)

Thanks again for posting your material and correcting the record.

Regards

Brian

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Lovely weapons Terry. I am rather new to this period of conflict, and my own Martini Henry Mk11 was made a bit late to have seen use in the Zulu wars. I am gradually getting together a rather nice small collection of Zulu artefacts though. My latest finds are a rather battered old shield and axe. The shield would have been 14 X 28 inches were it not for the warping. The woman who sold it to me said it was a dance shield, but I thought they were smaller than this.

What remains of the hair is light a dark brown.

The axe has a shaft of 18 inches, and the blade is 11.5 inches. I was told it was made around the 1920's. I have another shield which I will list seperately.

Edited by Harry the Mole

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My second shield is supposedly an isihlangu. The hide measures 51 X 22 inches. It is just something I picked up in exchange for a few odds and ends I was disposing of. The pole that was affixed to it was nothing more than a length of pine curtain pole with a bit of fox-fure stole stuck on the top. I replaced the pole with a suitable tree-branch which I stripped and cleaned. I was told that the shield was probably a tourist piece and (probably) from the 1920's or 30's. I am not so sure, but it displays rather well. The sheen to the back of the shield is down to my wife putting some beeswax polish on it. She thought she was doing me a favour! The shape of the shield looks rather odd on one side, but this is purely down to warping of the hide.

http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-68810200-1363259267.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-73285300-1363259289.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-22836700-1363259313.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-01437300-1363259322.jpg

Edited by Harry the Mole

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Hi - Harry - good to see some Zulu items appearing. You have to remember that more seem to be in good

condition in Britain then there are in South Africa. The troops took them back as souvenirs - however, you

must remember that they had to fit in a 5 feet high kitbag (150cm) so, often the handles or, shafts were shortened.

Looking at your bigger shield first - yes it is purporting to be an Ishilungu. However, I would say that it is a

fairly modern copy made for the tourists. Should it be real you would hardly be able to lift it - made from Bull's hide.

Your other two pieces are quite different. The shield is an Umbumlulu - or, small fighting shield. I would say that it

is pre 1900 and has been folded in half to fit in the thatch of a hat - and left there for a long time. The bracing stick

was probably also in the thatch - but they forgot to look for this. They are difficult to replace. One interesting point -

the old ones tended to have more strips at the top than at the bottom. Yours has this configuration.

This older shield should have properly aged hide that has cured over time. The tourist one has very raw hide.

The axe.............. I have shown example of this type further back on this post. Basically, during the 1879 conflict,

the Zulus were very nervous of a Martini Henry with a fixed blade - the extended length is nearly 9 feet (270cm)

and this put them with a longer reach then a spear. Axes are rare - and very expensive - so it was traditional that

only a chief would carry one. They obtained them from a number of surrounding tribes , including locally made Zulu

ones. During the course of the War , senior chiefs had their smiths fashion the axe blade to look like a bayonet.

Only a few were made and they are very rare today.

The shaft looks OK - the end flares slightly to prevent it slipping from the hand when covered in blood. The head

of the shaft is unusual - it is carved to look like the top of the femur - or, thigh bone. I would expect the spike to

project through the head and be turned down on the other side. Perhaps you could show me a picture ?

Zulus worked in Iron - this looks like stainless steel or, even chromed. This unfortunately, would make it a modern copy.

Perhaps you could , again, send a close-up. Best wishes Mervyn

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Hi Mervyn - and thanks again for the information. The points you mentioned on the larger shield are only what I thought anyway. There were never any spurious claims made about its origins - I was just told it was probably tourist, and probably 1920's or later. Saying 'later' can actually cover a rather long period of time!

I have compared the head of the axe to the metal used on my spears, and I cannot really see any difference. It is probably just the effect of my camera that makes the metal look so shiny. In hand it looks totally different. I have also taken some pictures of the back of the older shield. The hide is around 5mm thick.

best regards,

Steve.

http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-54418800-1363271823.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-40428000-1363271852.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-58932900-1363271868.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-40582900-1363271891.jpg

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Steve - yes, you told me that the larger shield was probably tourist - I just gave a few points that proves this.

The back of other shield shows the natural ageing of the hide - and the flaps conform to the style of the 19th

Century. I think you should speak to a saddler and see if it is possible to have the leather flattened out ?

The usual way is to wet it and then carefully weigh it down. However, this will be a valuable item if put back

into shape - so, worth an opinion.

I am sorry to say that I am still not sure enough about the axe to venture an opinion. There is just something

about the construction of the blade and of the tang that worries me a little. If I were you I would try to get

authentication - there is the Museum in London that specialises in ethnic items. Also, the history museum in

ULUNDI - the old Zulu capital in Natal - has a good ref. section. I could find out their email for you. You

could also go back on this thread and find the ones I posted.

Best wishes Mervyn

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A quick update on my recent posting of the rather battered Zulu shield.

After some thought, I decided to have a go at doing a bit of restoration to the shield. My daughter advised me against it - she preferred it as it was. But knowing the type of person I am, I couldn't resist seeing what could be done.

After finding a suitable container - I wasn't allowed to use the bath, I soaked the shield in warm water for the best part of five hours. By then it had become quite floppy, and before going any further I laid it out on a large plastic sheet and inserted a replacement pole which I obtained from a tree in my front garden.

I straightened out the hide as best I could and sandwiched it between two boards while it dried out. The pictures are of the end result.

http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-58327300-1363864752.jpghttp://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_03_2013/post-15217-0-15900500-1363864788.jpg

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