Anglo-Zulu War (1879)
- Background: Britain adopts a policy of Confederation in South
Africa, bringing all disparate groups-- Europeans, Boer and Africans--
under British rule. South African colony British leaders feel policy
of Confederation could not be accomplished with a large, independant
Zulu nation, and force the Zulu into a war, against British home
government orders, that would ultimately curtail Zulu independance.
- Timeline of major events:
- January 11, 1879: Lord Chelmsford, British Commander in South
Africa, enters Zululand with three invading columns and two reserve
columns of British troops.
- January 22, 1879: Majority of Chelmsford's main column, over
1,200 soldiers, destroyed by main Zulu impi at the Battle of
Isandlwana. One of the worst British defeats of the era.
- January 22-23, 1879: Zulu reserves from Isandlwana, unable to
participate in that fight, disobey orders and proceed to attack
Rorke's Drift. Approximately 130 British soldiers, many already in
hospital, successfully defend Rorke's Drift against 3-4,000 Zulu.
Second most Victoria Crosses (11) awarded in a single day's conflict.
- February 11-April 3, 1879: Communications with invading column at
Eshowe cut as Zulus besiege British fortifications in hope to force
the British into the open. Relieved April 3 by Lord Chelmsford.
- March 29, 1879: Main Zulu impi defeated after attacking British
soldiers at Khambula. Similar odds as Isandlwana, but British better
- June 1, 1879: Prince Imperial of France killed while on patrol by
- July 4, 1879: Zulu nation defeated at the Battle of Ulundi,
location of the Zulu royal kraal.
- British: The British still wore traditional red uniforms, although
in the Zulu campaign, veterans learned to dye their white
helmets and accessories darker, and to not wear their
metallic helmet plates. They wore gaiters, not puttees, and
did not carry their valises. Take a look at some of my Essex
15mm Zulu War British. The 24th Battalion of foot
participated at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, and had green
facings (on sleeves and collars). You can see a replica
uniform at Thin Red Line.
- Zulu did not wear their extravagant ceremonial garb to battle,
typically they only wore a loin cloth and a few items
identifying their ibutho, or unit. Zulu shields had a
specific pattern per ibutho, with the amount of white
indicating the seniority of the ibutho. All Zulu boys of a
particular age joined a new ibutho, and would all be given
permission to marry at once, later in life. Married Zulu
wore an isiCoco, a thin, round headring. Take a look at some
of my Old
Glory 15mm unmarried Zulu, painted with shields of the
iNdluyengwe ibutho, an unmarried ibutho that attacked Rorke's
- Personalize your Zulu! Barring any better resource available,
I made a little web program that will generate 100 random Zulu-sounding names
from portions of real Zulu ones. The resulting names are
nonsensical, but many sound good to those of us who don't
know any better (although I did see it generate Thelma!)
- Icon Miniatures,
makers of a great 28mm Zulu Wars line, have a nice article
on Zulu Shield Colours in 1879, by noted author Ian Knight.