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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Saturday 14 September 2019

Anglo-Zulu War 1879

I spent today touring the battlefields of the early part of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

This morning we followed Chelmsford's invasion route over the Buffalo River to his first encampment at Isandlwana. He then split his force and continued the advance towards the Zulu capital at Ulundi, without fortifying the encampment or leaving an adequate garrison. The Zulus by-passed him and attacked the camp killing almost every soldier and civilian left behind.

My first impression of the battlefield was that the mountain of Isandlwana was smaller than I thought. However, the British firing line was even longer and more exposed than I had appreciated.

This is the battlefield from the initial Zulu position. The British camp is the black area to the left of the mountain. Although the firing line went as far out as the buildings you can see closest to the camp.

This is where the Zulu commander directed the battle. Interestingly, our Zulu guide pointed out that the battle was nearly lost after the first Zulu attack faltered.

This is the main memorial with the mountain in the background.

This monument that marks Durnford's last stand.

The battlefield is full of cairns marking the dead, which makes this battlefield very distinctive.

In the afternoon, I went to Rorke's Drift. The Michael Caine film, Zulu, probably brought this battle into modern public consciousness. While it has major inaccuracies, not least the portrayal of Private Hook (he was teetotal), it is still a great piece of cinema.

Below is the rebuilt hospital building to largely similar design, where the famous evacuation took place at the height of the battle.

The rebuilt church is larger than the original but on the same spot.

The stones mark the final, final redoubt. I was shocked to see how small it was.

The British cemetery.

The more modern Zulu memorial. Not an approved one because the Zulu attack on Rorke's Drift was forbidden by the King. It's a Leopard on shields.

And finally, the mass Zulu grave.

Absolutely fascinating, and very unique battlefield. Brought to life by an excellent guide from Fugitives Drift, which I would highly recommend as a place to stay.

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