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DateOriginal Topic
12th January 2005biscuit boxes
By Jim
Hi There
We hear a lot about the biscuit box wall,
but can anybody give me a description,please.
size and appearance,wording etc.
I have this awful impression of a brave Zulu Warrior attacking the defence and the last thing he sees are the words "Rovers Assorted"
Seriously though,any info appreciated.
12th January 2005Paul Cubbin
Jim - I've just snatched a book off the shelf above my head, here's quote from Pte Hook - "The mealie bags were good, big, heavy things weighing about two hundred pounds each...the biscuit boxes contained ordinary biscuit. They were big, square, wooden boxes, weighing about a hundred weight each. The meat boxes, two (sic), were very heavy, as they contained tinned meat." No doubt one of the many boffin experts on the site will be able to provide more accurate measurements. I presume the biscuit in question would have been similar to ship's biscuit - edible and fairly nutritious, but not too appetising. They'd have been crackers to eat it.
12th January 2005Martin Everett
Dear Jim,

We have a replica - made by the KZN Museum Service.
14th January 2005Phil Read

There's a replica at Fugitives' Drift Lodge that I've got a couple of photos of. I'll e-mail them to you.

14th January 2005JIm
Thanks to all for your replies
and photos
14th January 2005Bill Cainan
There's a photograph of a biscuit box in Adrian Greaves' "Redcoats and Zulus" (Plate 14) which was published last year. Unfortunately it is incorrectly captioned as an "ammunition box" !!

17th January 2005Mike McCabe
Worth a look at Lady Butler's picture 'The Defence of Rorke's Drift'. Much detail was painted in based upon the advice of the real defenders that she sketched during 1880. You'll see that she shows several types of boxes being used in the wall. Also, a single size of box - especially the closer it got to being a cube - would have made it difficult to achieve a stable structure for any wall, as its strength would depend on the pure dead weight of the box.
18th January 2005Mike Snook

I believe there were also boxes of tinned meat stored at RD - i.e. the packing cases for a substantial number of tins of corned beef (or similar). I have no real idea for sure what they looked like, but they may be what Lady Butler was representing. I would imagine them to be smaller than biscuit boxes. It was Dunne and Byrne who built the biscuit box wall, but Chard's (clever and vital) idea. It is clear that they left a number of narrow gaps in it - presumably to faciliate the orderly withdrawal that Chard had told them he was now planning. The biscuit boxes were stacked two high along the wall. It was never subjected to any form of test for strength/stability as the yard was swept by fire (rifle-fire that is) and that stretch of the perimeter became in effect a no-man's land. The fighting Zulu was not suicidal - merely a superb light infantryman.