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"Battle of Khambula" Topic

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Tango0103 May 2017 3:55 p.m. PST

"On Saturday, March 29, 1879, reveille sounded an hour before daylight at a British encampment in Khambula in northwest Zululand. For the men of Number 4 Column, part of a British invasion force in the Zulu kingdom, it had not been a peaceful night. The previous day, they had made a reconnaissance in force to the nearby enemy stronghold on Hlobane Mountain. What should have been a simple operation had turned into a nightmare. At a critical moment in the engagement, the abaQulusi and Khosa (prince) Mbelini kaMswati's renegade Swazi defenders were joined by a Zulu impi (army) of some 20,000 warriors, and the British and Colonial forces under the command of Brevet Colonel Henry Evelyn Wood were routed. Almost 200 British, Colonial and loyal African troops had perished in the debacle.

The British commander in chief, Lt. Gen. Frederic Augustus Thesiger, Earl of Chelmsford, had yet another reverse to add to the catalog of disasters that had beset him since he invaded Zululand on January 11–the worst being the slaughter of 1,200 of his troops at Isandlwana on January 21, which threw his entire invasion off-balance. He had hoped that the assault on Hlobane would serve as a diversion while he led a force to extricate Colonel Charles Knight Pearson's column at Eshowe, on the coast, which had been under siege by Zulu forces since January 28. Sadly, the plans had gone awry.

As night fell on March 28, Wood's badly mauled forces tended to their wounded and awaited the inevitable assault on their encampment on the ridge that was known locally as Ngaba ka Hawana (Hawana's stronghold) but called Khambula by the British. Mounted Colonial volunteers under Brevet Lt. Col. Redvers Henry Buller searched the area in the vain hope of finding more survivors. Wood did not believe the Zulus would attack his position during the night, but he posted his sentries, and he could not rest. At least twice during the night he toured the outposts himself.

A thick mist shrouded the British fortifications as day broke on March 29. Wood soon discovered that two battalions of black levies–Wood's Irregulars–had deserted. Only 58 men had remained loyal. Despite that mass desertion, the camp routine continued as usual. The wagon oxen were grazed, and a wood-cutting party went to gather firewood for the camp's ovens and field bakery.

Commandant Pieter Johannes Raaff sought Wood's permission to lead a 20-man party of his Transvaal Rangers to determine the present whereabouts of the Zulu force. Wood expressed his concern that the Rangers' horses were too exhausted for such a reconnaissance, but he did agree to Raaff's plan, realizing that he had to find out what the Zulus were up to.

Shortly after Raaff set out, Wood received a delegation of men from the Burgher Force, a commando unit of Boers that had been called out by Petrus Lafrus Uys. They were the only Boers who had answered the British call to arms when war with the Zulus had broken out on January 11. Uys had died during the previous day's action at Hlobane, and his men now told Wood that they wished to leave…"
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mrinku Inactive Member03 May 2017 4:22 p.m. PST

I KNOW they're legit names, but I got a chuckle over Red Bull(er) and Burg(h)er Force being in the same spot. :)

Pretty much a textbook example of how to laager up and defend a chosen position. But one would expect no less of Wood.

Tango0104 May 2017 10:36 a.m. PST



Haitiansoldier Inactive Member06 May 2017 5:43 p.m. PST

Cool. Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift are the only Zulu War battles that are written about, so it's neat to see something different.

mrinku Inactive Member06 May 2017 10:56 p.m. PST

Oh, Ulundi gets its share of the limelight. But I agree that Isandlwana and *especially* Rourke's Drift get more attention than they probably should.

I blame Michael Caine, myself.

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