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18th March 2002Ammunition Boxes
By John Young
The subject of ammunition boxes has against reared its ugly head within the forum debate. So I decided to do some further research into the subject. I have discovered something I feel should be shared, and would invite any comment on my findings.

From the battlefield remains of ammunition boxes that I have seen that the straps were copper and with brass screws. These seem to indicate that the boxes were Mark V's.

'List of Changes 2848 - Box, Wood, Ammunition, Small-Arm, with tin lining, service pattern (Mark V). Change dated 5th January 1876.

A pattern of this box has ben sealed to govern future manufacture for land and sea service.'

The exterior Length is given as 20.5"
Width 6.8" Depth 8.5"
Average weight empty 12lb. 4oz.

When carrying its full load of 600 rounds for the Martini-Henry rifle - the average gross weight was 79lb. 4oz. Not a weight I contend that one man could carry from the ammunition wagons to firing-line with any great ease. Nor I contend would it have been too easy for two men to carry such a weight for a great distance, bearing in mind they would have been encumbered by their own weapons and equipment. I know mules and mule carts were also used in the supply and distribution of ammunition on the battlefield.

The fact that I have discovered, in the 'List of Changes' No. 3434 - reads as follows:'Boxes, Wood, Ammunition, Small-Arm, with Tin Lining, Service.' Dated 16th October 1878.
'Alteration of handle to lid of tin lining.
It having been found, in many instances, when using the handle for opening the tin lining of the above-mentioned boxes, that the tin immediately round the handle gives way, and the box is not properly opened; all the boxes will in future be fitted with a larger handle, fixed square on the lid, so as to ensure the proper opening of the box.'

Three months prior to Isandlwana, the 'powers that be' had discovered a defect in ammunition box which would be used there. A defect I am sure that was not rectified on boxes already in southern Africa.

I presume that these were the tin handles discovered in the 'Secrets of the Dead' programme. The question as to whether these handles were from defective boxes was, I believe, never considered though.

John Young,
Anglo-Zulu War Research Society.
19th March 2002James
When I was in the Infantry in thye 1970s each rifleman carried about 100lbs of equiptment. The backpack would have been discarded prior to action but the weight was quickly made up with extra ammunition. My point is that you would be surprised at how much weight fit young soldiers can carry. I don't think the ammunition boxes would have presented much of a problem as far as weight goes, but the ammunition carriers would also have been carrying their rifles which would have made it awkward to carry alone. My guess (and that is all it is) is that two men would have carried each box with relative ease.
27th March 2002Mike McCabe
I agree that this box's weight would not have been seen as excessive. We have no evidence for it, but I would be very surprised if the companies of the 24th did not carry a company reserve of (say) 2-4 boxes, simply carried forward by pairs of soldiers detailed off to do so. Any sensible CSjt would ensure that his company followed this practice when moving more than 1000 yards from the battalion main body on picquets or outpost duty. Bulk had already been broken on battalion first line scales - hence the fairly large scalling carried by each man.
27th March 2002Gary Laliberty
Hi all,
The Army was equipped with a single-shot breech-loading rifle, the Martini-Henry. It fired a black power .45 caliber center-fire Boxer cartridge with a heavy lead slug weighing 480 Grains. In trained hands, the rifle was accurate to about one thousand yards. Battalion volley fire against massed targets, opened at about 600 to 800 yards. The average marksman could score hits at about 300 or 400 yards. The cartridges came in paper packets of 10 rounds, each man carried 4 packets in his ammunition pouches, on his belt. Ten loose rounds were in a small canvas expense pouch and 2 additional packets were tucked into his Knapsack. If an alarm had sounded the men would fall in with the 50 rounds, and on the march he would carry the full 70 rounds. Additional ammunition always accompanied the troops, in sturdy wooden boxes, that held 600 rounds each. A Battalion on the march carried a Regimental reserve of 50 boxes, enough boxes to provide 30 extra rounds for each man in the Battalion.
28th March 2002Bill Power
John-were the remains[handles,straps] accurately located insitu?? This,surely,would answer the BIG QUESTION of the line!! Then again,this site was probably picked over as any metal was valuable,likely to be nicked!! If the handles seperated from the tin-plate liner,a rip should occur. The "Lads" could apply a bit of "armstrong" with the bayonet, to open it! Gary; excellent info!! Happen to be holding a M-H in my hands as I type! the sights on the flip up leaf, are adjustable to 1200 Yds.! In the down position on the ranp,to 500Yds.! See Chard's report to Queen Vicky," We opened up @ 500 Yds.,the fire was a bit ragged @ 1st,but soon settled down"!! Right,lets do a little speculative calculation[perhaps more apropos to reason for the success @ RD in another thread]! Assuming firing commenced @ 500Yds, the Zulu being @ full career,what was the closing time to CQB[close quarter battle-ie,mano a mano]?1 Let us say 20secs./100yds.,so approx,100 secs,to objective! Let us say 2 mins,! In 2mins a M-H can fire 12 aimed rounds-20 unaimed! The sights on a M-H,with the leaf down,is a 3 ramp-ie[0-100,100-300-300-500 yds.! With no markers for range,it is probable the sights were not adjusted as the range closed, thus shooting high! The 577-450 B-H round was slow in modern terms,about 1800 fps,thus a large drop! Let us do a comparrison with RD! The fire was 150 rounds/rifle producing 1000 casualities! So in secure position,each rifle should have accounted fof 3 Zulu,given what each soldier had available!! Obviously,the action was more protracted! Thus,we honour the incomprehensible bravery of all !! Regards!! Bill
28th March 2002Bill Power
OPPS! Correction! Rate of fire 12/minute!