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DateOriginal Topic
21st March 2002Yardage Markers
By Bob Bennett
In the film Zulu Dawn, there is a scene with a private and dummer boy stepping off yardage and placing markers. Does anyone know if this actually happened, were any left after the battle? Chelmsford arrived after dark and I believe departed before dawn, but did anyone in the buriel party notice anything?
24th March 2002Barry Iacoppi
Good question Bob. I had hoped that you would have got an answer. It looks like you have stumped the team. Any rifleman who shoots over long ranges with a high trajectory rifle like the Martini Henry would appreciate any indication of range. I know that the Boers used piles of stones as range indicators.
25th March 2002Alan Critchley
I believe that the yardage markers were used since the Martini Henry had sights which were adjusted according to the distance of the target.
Since the defence line had been hurridly formed, there was no time to create a more permanent marker such as stones. There were plenty of those after the burial party had been some months later.
As to whether any markers were found, I imagine they were the last thing on the minds of those burying the remains.

25th March 2002James Garland
You're right I'm stumped! But the question contains the key to the controversy over the positioning of the firing line. If we could find one yardage marker it would prove the whereabouts of the original firing line better than any number of cartridge cases.
25th March 2002Bob Bennett
That is exactly where I was going to go with this. If the remains of the markers were located then hopefully it would show the direction the line was facing as well as more of an exact position.
25th March 2002James \Garland
As there are no references to yardage markers in the survivors accounts (as there were so few survivors) from Isandhlwana, I think we first need to look at accounts left by participants in the Kaffir War of 1878 to see if the use of yardage markers in South africa was common practice.
27th March 2002David Glynne Fox
I am no expert on the Zulu War despite a long interest, but it seems to me that the camp at Isandlwana was not deemed to be permanant and only a staging post, soon to be moved to the Mangeni. Therefore, as Chelmsford believed the Zulu army to be approaching from the direction of Ulundi and had set off in that direction himself, an attack on the camp seemed unlikely both to him and most of its occupants, therefore yardage markers, if any were placed at all, must have been hurried and probably only in sight of the advancing impi. Had a battle been expected, which it seems was not the case, then yardage markers would hardly likely to have been the order of the day. Additionally, having bought almost ever y book possible on the subject, it seems strange that as far as I can tell, there appears to be no published records of markers at this battle, nor at Rorke's Drift either, since the troops there were more concerned with the barricades whilst still trying to digest the massacre of most of their sister battalion. Despite all the accounts, there appears to be no evidence of markers and even expended rounds and cases are not necessarily concrete evidence of the actual site of an action because these were, and until recently still were, picked up by successive visitors and removed. We are told, young Zulu boys sold many of these cases to tourists and suchlike as souvenirs, many of which could have been dropped by such all over the battlefield. Therefore, the chances of finding markers, especially at this late date, must be very slim and who is to say that a freshly discovered Martini Henry round was not dropped or moved by someone over the millenia. Only field archeology, unearthing the buried remains which may have lain undiscovered all these years are likely to yield any reasonable evidence at this late date and even then, as aforementioned, there is no absolute guarantee that even these artifacts have not at some stage been moved by person or persons unknown. The investigations currently under way by Ian Knight and others will hopefully throw new light on this issue and I for one await the results with anticipation. In the meantime, unless information or findings prove to the contrary, I would be very surprised if distance markers were used at Isandlwana
1st May 2005Mike McCabe
Logically, the settting out of range markers would only make sense if a defence plan was predetermined enabling them to be sighted beforehand. Setting aside the events in the film Zulu Dawn, where setting out the range markers provides a wonderfully dramatic 'link', each rifle company would have needed some sort of estimate of range to the more obvious landmarks within it field of observation and fire. But, for these to add any value, the firing line and arc of fire woulod also need selectng. That ranges to easily identifiable landmarks would have been routinely estimated as an aid to sight setting is almost beyond doubt. That it could have been done in a truly systematic way at Isandlwana is highly doubtful.