- Published on Sunday, 18 March 2012 00:02 Robin Jenkins
Forgotten Battles of the Zulu War
Published by Pen & Sword £15.99 from Pen & Sword (RRP £19.99)
ISBN 978-1-84884-746-0 Hardback 186 Pages
Partly Illustrated 24.2 x 16.5 x 2.4 cm
For many modellers or military historians with an interest in the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War, their interest can be traced back to the famous 1964 film "Zulu" starring Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins and Michael Caine. This film tells the story of the heroic defence of Rorke's Drift, a missionary outpost and hospital, by under 150 British and other troops against several thousand attacking Zulu warriors, shortly after the Zulus have massacred over a thousand British troops earlier that day at Isandhlwana.
My route to fascination with the conflict was via a very different route. I had started painting 54mm figures in the mid-1970s, obviously not very well at first; I had begun to look around for subjects that were not Napoleonic in nature. At a model show in Bridgend in South Wales (in 1975), I came upon some white metal kits by a firm called Hinchliffe, of Zulu warriors and British infantry and ended up buying 10 of them – and so I became hooked......
The classic text on the Zulu War is "The Washing of the Spears" by Donald R. Morris, written nearly 50 years ago, but which still remains an enthralling book on the conflict. Some of the smaller facts may have been challenged in more recent times but even today it remains a 99.9% accurate volume. Of course, I have read many other books on the War; some have better individual sections but none compares to the overall sweep of Morris' older book.
The major events of the war – its historical causes, the initial invasion, Isandhlwana, Rorke's Drift and the defeat of the Zulu nation at Ulundi – are covered in most books. However, there were a series of smaller secondary actions that have received much less attention and which I have researched myself over the years. Now, without any notice, has arrived a new book on the Zulu war focussing on these "forgotten" actions. Written by Adrian Greaves, who has previously published several works on the war including the excellent "Rorke's Drift" back in 2002 (also published by Pen & Sword), it covers many of the smaller actions and the impact they had, in some cases, far from the battlefield.
Starting with the initial invasion, the book sweeps through actions at Hlobane and Inyezane, another British defeat at Ntombe Drift, Gingindlovu (where analysis of rifle fire and casualties inflicted on the attacking Zulus lead to a change in firing tactics) and Khambula, the first major British victory. The key battle of Ulundi, where the Zulus suffered a crushing defeat, is covered in depth. The slaughter of Zulu warriors at Ntombe River is next examined, followed by the Battle of Tsate which was part of the associated Sekhukhune War. Finally, there is a foretaste of the future, with a smaller massacre of British troops by Boers at Bronkhorstspruit, which is fully evaluated.
Each action is fully explained in good detail and in a lively, engaging style. There is an endpiece as well to each action acting as an overall evaluation, both of the direct action and its impact on the overall conflict.
There are some photographs and illustrations in the centre of the book. Amongst them are illustrations of British troops and views of Hlobane and the site of the death of Louis, the Prince Imperial of France (below)
and further views of the sites of the actions at Khambula, Hlobane and Ntombe River (above).
The book is an excellent read and is being offered at a special introductory price. It will certainly give the diorama modeller plenty of ideas for new models and vignettes and will be of huge interest to the military historian. If I have one gripe, then the action that resulted in the death of the Prince Imperial and its impact away from South Africa could have been covered in more depth, but otherwise this is a cracking read.
So What Do We Think?
Well researched, hugely enjoyable, well written, attractively priced.......can't you tell I loved it?
An excellent read on some forgotten actions
Our thanks to Pen and Sword for the review copy. To purchase directly, click THIS link.