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Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat

SqueezeMe 01 Jul 08 - 09:29 PM
SqueezeMe 01 Jul 08 - 09:30 PM
Charley Noble 01 Jul 08 - 09:37 PM
Keith A of Hertford 02 Jul 08 - 03:24 AM
Bob Bolton 02 Jul 08 - 10:55 PM
GUEST 03 Jul 08 - 12:52 AM
SqueezeMe 03 Jul 08 - 12:54 AM
Keith A of Hertford 03 Jul 08 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 03 Jul 08 - 05:28 AM
Ref 03 Jul 08 - 06:06 AM
Keith A of Hertford 03 Jul 08 - 06:37 AM
GUEST,beachcomber 03 Jul 08 - 06:40 AM
The Walrus 03 Jul 08 - 07:17 AM
GUEST,Volgadon 03 Jul 08 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,johnr 07 Mar 12 - 08:08 AM
Dave Hanson 07 Mar 12 - 08:17 AM
Little Hawk 07 Mar 12 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,Teribus 07 Mar 12 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Mar 12 - 04:08 PM
GUEST,Chris B (Born Again Scouser) 08 Mar 12 - 05:43 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: SqueezeMe
Date: 01 Jul 08 - 09:29 PM

Seeking words of a song I heard many years ago at a folk club in Bristol, UK, concerning the British defeat at Isandlwana during the Zulu War of 1979.

The song chorus reflects upon the, now discredited, theory that shortage of ammunition was the cause of the defeat, in so much as the ammunition cases were unable to be opened "for the want of a simple screwdriver", as the last line of the chorus states.

Any information welcome.

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: SqueezeMe
Date: 01 Jul 08 - 09:30 PM

Idiot! That should read 1879 of course.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Jul 08 - 09:37 PM

This is not the poem that you are looking for, most likely, but it is related and you or someone else might be interested in it:

Isandula

Ever the story liveth of the fight on the far hillside,
Fraught with the ancient sorrow that is brother born of pride:
Holds thy heart unforgetting the name of a far-off grave,
Wet with thy tears, O England — ay, red with the blood of the brave,
Who found, by a far stream's tide, 'neath the sky of a stranger land,
Death and glory in one at the Hill of the Little Hand.

Dark like a cloud they came, the hosts of the Zula king, —
Yea, and still as a cloud: silent they drew in a ring
Round the doomed camp white in the sun, and the soldiers scattered and few,
Darkling the impis came on. — and the Englishmen, what could they do?
God! Will it ever be told? It were all too bitter to tell,
Dark wave pouring on wave, and savage yell upon yell,
Fights unseen and unknown none liveth to hand to fame:
Brave men dead by the guns they spiked ere the spear-stroke came:
Eddies drowned in the tide, — swirls in a pitiless flood,
And the remnant swept to the river — the river red with their blood.

Yet, O God of the heroes, thanks and praise unto Thee,
Who givest a gift that is greater than an easy victory,
Since from the stream of slaughter by the lonely mountain roll'd,
Young hands grasped there the laurels that death shall not withhold:
Yea, a crown that is fairer than the victor's crown of fame,
A star in the years that shall be, and an everlasting flame.

Swift they raced for the river — for there was that they bore
They must hold for, strike for, strive for till life shall be no more, —
Only to save the colours — tho' all beside be lost
Still this is left to die for — (O is it worth the cost?
Is it worth a young life's glory — its promise and its pride?
Hear in their deed the answer — hear how for this they died!)

Shoulder by shoulder they spurred — reached the river — and one at the last
Came unhurt to the shore, and haply his peril were past;
Yet — what of safety, of life? There are greater, things to lose,
There are nobler, goodlier guerdons for a hero-heart to choose.
Back to midstream he turned, to the foe and the purple tide,
To stand by the friend he loved so — to die at a comrade's side,
And the dead men round in a ring bore witness how they died.
So by the lonely river, under the lonely sky,
Dwells by the graves of heroes the dream that shall not die:
By the flow of a far stream's wave, 'neath the sky of a stranger land,
Death and glory in one at the Hill of the Little Hand.


Notes:

From Wings of the Morning, edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1904, pp. 57-59.

Notes from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"On January 22, 1879, Isandlwana was the site of the Battle of Isandlwana, where over 20,000 Zulu warriors defeated a contingent of British soldiers in the first engagement of the Anglo-Zulu War. Almost the entire column of about 1,200 British soldiers was killed, and the regimental colours were lost."

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 03:24 AM

It was always known that the ammunition boxes could not be opened in time.
British ammunition now comes in boxes that can be opened by hand.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 10:55 PM

G'day Keith,

Some of the sites I perused, after reading Dqueeze Me's request point out clear and documented evidence that the ammo cases were breached ... a great number of the 'pull-off' lids from the cased ammo were found on the battle site. The comment was - that a screwdriver may have been the 'approved' method of opening the ammo cases ... but a seasoned soldier knew how to break the cases open with his rilfe-butt.

The real failure in firing rate was the result of the Martini actions overheating in rapid fire in a very hot place ... which, along with the black-powder fouling near the chamber led to the original 'foil brass' cartridges jamming after a few dozen rounds. The British subsequently redesigned the Martini with a longer lever to provided more leverage for jammed rounds ... and, more to the point, brought out new versions of the 450/577 cartidge with drawn brass (one-piece) cases ... and made the Martin far more reliable in hot climes ... but too late for the lads at Isandlwana.

There was also evidence the the encampment layout spread the troops over too large a perimeter - so that loose spacings allowed the Zulu to break through after a few casualties and attack from the rear ... and the British formation was based on that not happening!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 12:52 AM

Hi, Bob,

I did mention that the "screwdriver" theory was now discredited, but the song remains, at least in my memory.

The full chorus is:

"Their Martini's were new, they had ball cartridge too,
But there's scarcely a single survivor.
The British Army defeated that day
For the want of a simple screwdriver."

Back in the good old days, when chorus singing was encouraged (nay, compulsory?) in folk clubs, by the time the singer had gone through the chorus a couple of times and then you sung it between all of the 87(?) verses of the song, it pretty well stuck in the mind, in this case for probably 30+ years in mine! However, the verses didn't stick from just one hearing :-(

MC


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: SqueezeMe
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 12:54 AM

Whoops! Forgot to sign in. The last post was from me.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 03:48 AM

The martinis kept firing at Rourkes Drift a few days later.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 05:28 AM

SqueezeMe: It's interesting that you should make that mistake with the date because the film begins with a speech by Richard Burton - in the form of an official communication - telling of the British defeat at Isandlwana. That speech was broadcast on BBC radio around the time of the film's release and the grandmother of a friend of mine thought she was listening to a current news item! She took some convincing that the events related in the broadcast were 90 years or so old.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Ref
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 06:06 AM

There were a LOT more Zulus at Isandlhwana than were at Rourke's drift, and the Brits at the Drift had the advantage of a small and well-constructed fortification behind which to use their rapid-reloading rifles. The commanders at Isandlhwana had ignored the advice of their local scouts to "laager" or set up their supply wagons in a tight defensive formation.

The greatest hero of Rourke's Drift was actually James Langley Dalton, the commissary officer. He was not the effete little fellow depicted in the "Zulu" film, but a tough, retired color sergeant from the British professional army. While Chard and Bromhead were off scouting, he built the mealie-bag fort and arranged the men for its defense.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 06:37 AM

The suggestion was that the defeat was largely due to the inadequacy of the rifle.
There were fewer Zulus at Rourke's Drift, but a lot fewer rifles too.
I would think that those few rifles were firing just as hard.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,beachcomber
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 06:40 AM

How did those unfortunate soldiers get into such positions in the first place ?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: The Walrus
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 07:17 AM

Part of the problem at Isandlwana was tha the ground was too hard to dig for defences and, as the Zulu were 'known' to be well away from the area, the matter was not pressed.

The ammunition box was always a red herring, the lid ware tapered and only fastened with a single screw, it could (and often was) opened by a good kick or a blow from a rifle butt (I believe a number of severly bent screws have been found at the site) - later patterns of wooden ammunition boxes were fastened by a folding 'T' shaped key.

Part of the problem with the Martini-Henry (at the time) was a tendency to jam in hot and sandy conditions - The infanrtry ammunition was made from rolled brass sheet with an iron base (made by military orphans) which, after firing were known to seperate if the body of the cartridge caught (perhaps by foreign bodies, such as sand grains, entering with the round*). The middle of an action, agains a swift enemy with a taste for 'close-quarter' combat is the last place anyone wants to be trying to remove a broken cartridge case with a jack knife.

Btw Wasn't Rorke's Drift on the same day as Insadlwana?

W


* Existing examples of the hand rolled rounds are not uniformly round and all seem to have corrugations from manufacture (expansion as the charge fired would form these to a gas-tight fit against the chamber wall. Any foreign matter in the 'corrugations' would, likewise, be driven hard against the chamber wall.
A little later, the infantry ammunition was changed to the same (and more substantial) 'deep drawn' cases used in the likes of Gatling and Gardner guns.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,Volgadon
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 10:55 AM

I always found it hard to swallow that a soldier would let a mere box defeat him when his life was in danger.
Ian Knight has shown on numerous occasions how easy it is to bust open an ammo box with a martini-henry.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,johnr
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 08:08 AM

january morning, hot african sun
shields & Spears, gainst bullets and guns
impi advances, ready for the fight
red coat soldiers, have them in there sights

look up at the sky above
pray again you'll see your love
            (2)
the bulls horns, surround you
had to run, nothing else to do
feel humiliation, and defeat
as you run, in retreat

look up at the sky above
pray again you'll see your love
          (chorus)
Inslandlwana, standing majestically
Inslandlwana, what did you see
pray tell me
          (3)
head for the river, your last resort
your paths cross, hand to hand you fought
bayonet and spear pierce the flesh
you both know, you've meet your death

look up at the sky above
you know you'll never see your love
          (4)
the sound of victory drums, fills air
no one's lives, will be spared
were your helmut, and blood stains the ground
white painted stones, can now be found

your dead eyes stare at the sky
won't see your love in this lifetime
          (Chorus)
Inslandlwana, standing majestically
Inslandlwana, what did you see
pray tell me
          (5)
the sun is setting, on a summers day
young boys herd cattle, after play
a mother worries, as she stirs the pot
will her man make it, or will he not

to-night in her grass hut she'll pray
that he'll come back again some day
             (6)
the sun is setting on a winters day
young children by, the hearth fire play
officers wife, sitting sipping tea
will her man make it, was it meant to be

tonight between satin sheets she'll pray
that he'll come back again some day
          (Chorus)
Inslandlwana, standing majestically
Inslandlwana, what did you see
pray tell me


joca1952@Yahoo.com


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 08:17 AM

It's Rorke'S Drift, not Rourke's.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: Little Hawk
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 10:21 AM

The British commander made a number of mistakes at Isandlwana. He failed to fortify the camp by arranging the supply wagons into a defensive ring or "laager".

The British column had previously been divided into 2 parts, the larger of which had marched off under Chelmsford's command...another major error!...as they were not there to help fight the Zulus when the battle came. (Custer made a mistake like that at Little Big Horn when he also divided his forces in the face of a more numerous enemy).

The British had optimistically assumed that their rifles were proof against any number of African natives...based on previous experience of a long series of victories against African tribes. This time they were wrong...although the Martini-Henry did wreak frightful casualties on the advancing Zulus until the British firing line was scattered and broken.

Better scouting could have given the British earlier notice of the Zulu armie's proximity to Isandlwana.

And the rifles did tend to jam...and the ammunition boxes were part of the problem...as was the attitude of certain quartermasters to insist on rigid protocol for giving out that ammunition.

All in all, it seems that things just happened too fast. For that, credit goes to the Zulus. They had used stealth to approach quite near, and they pressed the attack with impeccable courage despite suffering heavy losses. (It was said later that the flower of the Zulu army fell at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift..."a spear thrust into the belly of the nation")

For the Zulus, it was the beginning of the end...just as Little Big Horn was for the free roaming tribes of the Lakota and Cheyenne. But at least they had their day of glory. For the British, it was a shocking tragedy and an embarrassment...one that stiffened their imperial resolve and made the end of Zulu self-rule inevitable.

There were further battles. In some of them the Zulus acquitted themselves fairly well, but the British avoided making any more fatal errors like those at Isandlwana. The denoument came a few months later at the Zulu capital Ulundi where a large and well-positioned British square formation easily massacred the remnants of the impis in a last battle that was a one-sided slaughter. Once again a technological empire had enforced its unbending will upon the recalcitrant Native who dares to defend the land he was born upon and thereby oppose the forces of "progress". (gentle sarcasm on my part)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,Teribus
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 11:36 AM

"Their Martini's were new, they had ball cartridge too,
But there's scarcely a single survivor.
The British Army defeated that day
For the want of a simple screwdriver."


I believe that there is a bit of poetic licence being used here. The Sharps used at the Little Big Horn suffered from the same problem.

The "screwdriver" wasn't needed to open ammunition boxes, that would have been irrelevant if the guns were jamming, the screwdriver, or more like as not a knife blade would be used to get the spent cartridge out of the breech of the gun. Scratch marks were found on spent cartridge cases at the Little Big Horn.

Nice to see somebody in this thread giving due credit to ex-RSM Dalton who actually "master-minded" the defence of the Mission Station at Rorkes Drift.

Other misconceptions - at the LBH most of Custers men died from arrow wounds - at Rorkes Drift many of the Zulus were armed with rifles taken from the dead at Isandlwana.

The 2nd Warwickshire Regiment who fought at Rorkes Drift won because they fought in formation as trained infantry, volley fire would have solved the "rapid single fire" problems (Napoleonic times Regiments fought column with line by firing in half-company volleys - there normally being ten companies to a regiment - with a muzzle-loading "Brown Bess" Musket to those attacking in the column it was like facing a machine gun) . Had Custer's men fought in the same manner, except fore and aft, concentrating on those immediately to their front at the LBH they would have survived (the Indians with the bows would not have been able to get close enough).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 04:08 PM

SqueezeMe, your mistake with the date reminds me of something that happened around the time of the original release of the film Zulu back in 1967(?).

The film begins with Richard Burton reading out a message from South Africa to London, back in 1879, telling of the British defeat at Isandlwana.

The recording of Burton's speech was played on the radio. My grandmother heard the broadcast but she thought that was listening to a contemporary news item, and got the phone to anyone how would listen to tell them of a terrible massacre of British troops by Zulu warriors.

She never lived that one down! God bless her.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Isandlwana, Zulu War, Britrish defeat
From: GUEST,Chris B (Born Again Scouser)
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 05:43 AM

I'll never forget Michael Caine in the film.

''Oo frew dat bloody spear?'


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