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HARMAN
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Why would Colour Sergeant Bourne make this statement?
He was a good sober man. And he would know the difference between a Martini-Henry and an old musket that supposedly the Zuluís were using.
For him to say this they must have recovered Martini's from the Zulu lines or had seen them being used by a Zulus.
Would it have been possible that after attacking and with drawing the Zulus took ammunition boxes with them thus depleting the amount of ammunition which would lead Chard to think that more ammunition had been used?

Please donít use that old excuse that he wrote this many years after the event so it wouldnít be fresh in his mind
The battle of Rorkeís Drift would be something you would never forget if you had taken part


From COLOUR SERGEANT FRANK BOURNE

The Zulus had collected the rifles from the men who they had killed at Isandhlwana, and had captured the ammunition from the mules which had stampeded and threw their loads; so our own arms where used against us. In fact, this was the cause of every one of our casualties, killed and wounded, and we should have suffered many more if the enemy had known how to use a rifle. There was hardly a man even wounded by an assegais - their principle weapon.
peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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Would it have been possible that after attacking and with drawing the Zulus took ammunition boxes with them thus depleting the amount of ammunition which would lead Chard to think that more ammunition had been used?


Is it April 1st?

Peter
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HARMAN
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Peter.
I was hoping you would have given an answer to the Bourne Statement.

I'm just glad we have the likes of John Young, Peter Ewart, Mike Snooks, Sawubona and Bill Cainan and the many more on this Forum. At least they give good positives replies.


Sorry !!! Peter I forgot you are one of the leading authorities on this subject.

I said before:

And the other good point about a discussion forum is you do not have to reply to a posting if you donít want to.
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Don't overlook the fact that at Isandlwana, Dyson's section was widely separated from the rest of the British forces at the head of the spur and apparently never made it back down to the defense perimeter. The most likely scenario is that he and his command were cut off and overrun by the Zulu right horn which was circling around behind Isandlwana-- the same Zulus of which elements continued over the border to attack Rorke's Drift. I've no doubt that the Zulu picked up at least a score of Martinis and close to a thousand rounds of ammunition from that source.
Also, John Dunn noted that Prince Dabulamanzi (who of course directed the Zulu attack on Rorke's Drift) was an excellent shot and owned several breechloaders. I wouldn't be surprised if he owned at least one Martini Henry as well, since they were offered for sale to any civilians who could afford them in addition to the British military. It isn't too much of a stretch to assume a few other Zulu owned Snider-Enfields or MH's also. Whether they could shoot them very accurately is another story, but it doesn't take much of a marksman to hit someone when the potential targets are bunched together, well below the rifleman's position and less than 400 yards away.
As to the positive identification of the Zulu firearms, there would have been spent bullets from their rifles on "the Oskerberg" all over (in the biscuit boxes and bags of corn and such) and many empty shell casings among the rocks. Further, Surgeon Reynolds certainly would have been able to identify MH slugs if he had removed any from the British wounded.

Don't quote me on this, but I seem to recall that in Vietnam the average number of bullets fired by GI's per VC killed was 40,000! In this age of small caliber automatic weapons that figure isn't really germane to 1879, but it's interesting none the less.
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Bill Cainan1


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 107
Location: Lampeter
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Peter (H)

It is a fact that a high proportion of the Zulus actually carried a firearm of one sort or another (possibly up to 3/4 of them - see Ian Knight's "Companion to the AZW"for an excellent overiew of Zulus and firearms)). However, most of these would have been smoothbore muskets (which are fairly easy to operate, provided you have an adequate supply of black powder and flints) and, to a lesser degree, percussion rifled muskets (percussion caps are probably more difficult to acquire in Zululand than flints as means of ignition). It is debatable as to whether any Martini-Henry rifles were captured at Isandlwana and taken on to Rorke's Drift, but even if they were, there would have been no time for the new owner to familiarise himself with the characteristics of the rifle, and thus their impact would have been negligible. I can not accept that a man can pick up an unfamiliar weapon and proceed to hit someone at 400 yards, or even less. Even at Khambula, some months later, the Zulus (with a few exceptions) had still to get to grips with the MH. It may well be that some of the Zulu hierarchy at RD had MHs or Sniders and knew how to use them, however at RD they would have been fairly busy with command and control matters and would have had no time to play at being snipers !

A factor to consider is the distance from the Oskaberg/Shiyane terraces to the south "wall" of the post - this is 385 yards. This is an impossible shot for a smoothbore musket (effective range up to 100yards) and a near impossible shot for a rifled musket (eefective range up to 300 yards). Any "snipers" on these terraces would therefore have had little or no effect (unless of copurse they had MHs/Sniders and were trained in their use). I would suggest that the British casualties caused by "rifle" fire were in fact shot from a lot closer distance, which would put the firers in the small areas of cover close to the south wall - folds in the ground, bushes, behind the ovens, etc.

Another factor to look at is Surgeon Reynolds' detailed accounts of the wounds he treated (see "Rorke's Drift Doctor" by Lee Stevenson). The wound caused by a musket ball and the wound caused by a rifle bullet differ considerably. I believe the existing medical accounts point strongly towards the former as opposed to the latter. Had any of the British casualties been hit by a Martini-Henry round then I doubt they would have survived, even with the best effort of Reynolds and his team. In the accounts you need to differentiate between the terms "ball" and "bullet".

As to members of the garrison making statements that the Zulus had MHs on the terraces, I do not see this as a problem. The PERCEPTION amomgst the garrison would be that as the Zulus had overun the camp at Isandlwana and therefore they MUST have MHs ! What would have been a real surprise had the Zulu dragged the two 7pdr guns to RD and shelled the British garrison - sorry, slipped into the realms of fantasy there !

In your post (timed at 7.50pm yesterday) you asked how many rounds each person had on his person. I had actually answered this opoint earlier - see my post of the previous day timed at 2.49pm !! Theoretically each man had 70 rounds on him, and with an easy access to his reserve ammunition. However, we can not say for certain EXACTLY how many rounds EACH individual had on him. The capacity of the pouches is obviously a limiting factor, and define "on" ! As to the men in the hospital, there are accounts of them being given "extra" rounds, but it is not clear if these are extra to the 70 or extra to the 210. This is the sort of detail that just does not exist and (reasoned) conjecture needs to be used.

Hope this has helped ?

Bill Cainan

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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
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Peter (H)

It was the general (and quite understandable) belief in the Colony at the time - and among many of the British forces for some time afterwards - that the force which attacked R/Drift had already taken part in the fighting at Isandlwana, whereas this was subsequently discovered to be not the case. Bourne wasn't the only one who imagined this to be so, and repeated only what was assumed by many for a long time - and perpetuated by Gert Van den Bergh as recently as 1963/4! Despite Bourne's undoubted reliability and possibly impeccable memory, it simply does not follow that every statement he subsequently made about the engagement must necessarily be accurate.

I think we have discussed the access to breechloaders by the Zulu in considerable detail in the past. (Try a search). By the early 1870s, it was frequently claimed by Europeans in Zululand that every single male adult had at least one gun and that many had more than one, the best or most up-to-date being in the hands of the most powerful or influential. This may or may not have been a generalisation but there can be no doubt that, long before the AZW, the country was flooded with the things. As you know, many of these were obsolete and others (but not all) were of doubtful use in the hands of untrained owners. Although many consignments arrived in Zululand via Natal, the "culprits" were usually identified as the Portuguese, with good evidence. Several eyewitnesses at Isandlwana said that every Zulu had a gun, meaning that the British were considerably outgunned as well as outnumbered, if only numerically.

There are eyewitness accounts of German, Norwegian and British inhabitants of Zululand in the 1870s observing consignments of guns being unloaded, and I have come across at least two contemporary accounts which specifically identify these arms as modern breechloaders. It can't, therefore, be said categorically that the idea of a breechloader or two being used against the R/Drift defenders is impossible, but - as the postings above have pointed out - there seems to be little or no evidence for it.

Peter
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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I certainly agree that it's unlikely for a rifleman unfamiliar with his weapon to hit the man he's aiming for at 400 yards, but my thinking is that the target aimed for at Rorke's Drift was in the order of 75 or more by 30 or more yards big. I can't imagine that someone isn't eventually going to get hurt even by the worst of shots, particularly since the angle involved will offset some of the effect of a wrongly adjusted sight.

I'm as familiar with both antique and modern firearms as most, and I have trouble differentiating the terms "ball" and "bullet"! Until recently as well as in 1879 service ammunition was called "ball ammunition". During our Civil War, the projectiles from Springfields and Enfields were inadvertently called "Minie Balls", in spite of the fact they weren't spherical. I (for one) wouldn't put too much emphasis on the words used in contemporary accounts.

Loading a Martini is much simpler than loading a Brown Bess. What could be simpler than opening the action (there's not even a latch like that on a Snider MK III or IV), inserting a round, and closing the action? There's not even a safety to complicate matters. IMO, there's just not much of a learning curve involved nor much in particular with which to become familiar.
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
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OK, been sitting on the fence here, a few pointers from somebody already half deaf through black powder dependancy for quite a while now. Whilst history can only be gleaned from oral and written, a few things here made me think about this.

Before I start, if you have been to a VERY LOUD concert you will know the whistling in your ears, and for the next day you can hardly hear anything, double this... then you are in amongst 20 black powder rifles, forget the calibre.

You can tell the retort of a larger calibre Snider or P53 Enfield at close range, i.e. next so to someone, than you could a Martini. But not past 100 yards, The load is too similar to notice a variance at past this range. (70g compared to 85g). Fact.

At 400 yards, the sound is a muffled boom, unlike the crack of smokeless loads, I have spent hours in the butts at rifle ranges, directly in the sound path of oncoming rounds, I cannot tell a snider from a Martini, from a .45/70 springfield or Remingtom or a 45/90 sharps. I doubt even in his experiance that Bourne would know the difference. No historical influence to this, simple fact.

Just becuse the round that hits home is .450 it doesn't necessarily leave a cartridge case, the most numerous BP .450 calibre round in the region would be from a WR Monkey tail or .50 Calisher Terry, both of which have a self consuming paper round, (No case). A .577 Enfield, will leave no case.

A man shooting a Martini who does not know the sighting, for 400 yards with the sight ladder at 100 will hit the floor at about 250-300, (for example a 500 yard shot, with a man lying prone, will see the bullet go up eight feet before retuning to earth. The simple message on the RT at the range If you shoot @ 500 yards with the sight still at 100 is..."that one did not get here!", Range from Oskerberg to the Mission is approx 300 yards, at a 4-6 feet barricade, you have got to be aiming very high to hit. With a snider or .577 enfield its worse as the sighting on the bed is 300 (400 on a MH) then you have to raise the leaf. Did a Zulu who just picked up a Martini know how that would work....doubtful. Even at Ginginlovu Chelmsford notice the men were shooting low (Trained British line regiments??).

As I mentioned earlier, I have no backup to this except my permanently bruised shoulder, whislting ears and stiff neck through hours on a range in a black powder smoke haze.

Onto the Jamming problem, I thought this had done its bit on previous, but here we go.
There are three main causes of a jam with the Martini.
a) During loading. A misshaped case, (difficult as they are actually quite robust) wil prevent the block being raised. Remendy. Take another cartridge, use the base rim as a puller, or alternatively use the clearing rod, drop it down the bore and the thing drops out. If the paper patch is torn, this too will affect insertion inot the chamber. But, if it is forced, the block will still raise and it will fire, if not remedy is as above.
b) missfire/ faulty case. The safety anvil of Mk3 Mh ammuniton is a weak point, if the primer is pierced the backblast goes backwards, but the MH block had a "gas hole" in the bottom to deflect this away from your face. If the case splits, this is the bad one, as the soldered steel base can detach. If this is after firing then the rod can be used, as the dome shaped end is designed to assist this. (don't forget the MH Mk1 had the old pattern bulb end, not the "Hock bottle" shaped version of the Mk11 of 1877). In worst case the brass has to be eased out (corkscrews did this, as most bottles used corks C1879 most of the men would certianly have these in thoer haversacks..how else would they get into the beer and Gin.
c) During extraction. If the boxer round has not returned to its pre fired state, i.e contracted, this can bind, a good yank on the lever does the trick, however if not.. the good old clearing rod does the biz, drop the block, hold it open with your foot (the block overlaps the egde of a loaded case by approx 2mm when held by the spring tension of the mainspring, you have to lower this an extra bit manually on the lever to take a case out, you need your foot) drop down the rod, guess what?. Its a ten second job.

Doubtless the Martini was jamming in The Sudan, C1884, the talc like sand would adhere to all oiled parts, but in the field trials of 1871-3 the Martini was buried in sand, snow, earth, sawdust, left to on boat decks in mid ocean to rust. Anyone who wants to see the results of this need to buy Skennertons Treatise on the British Military Martini Vol 1, the reports are all there to see.
However, South Africa is not the Sudan, if anything it is rolling grassland, in areas arrid earth baked hard by rain and sun, or rough shalely ground, not a cause of heavy dust ingress. Jamming due to this I simply do not endorse.. sorry Hamman. The Martini action is very simple, you wrote complicated, it not, its very easy and will load if you can drop the block. There was issue with dirt in between the trigger lip and the base of the trigger housing, but this would need to be heavy to prevent a loading.

Overheating/ fouling, partly an issue, however the chamber itself does not get overly hot as it is not exposed to the products of combustion, as the case is in the way, fouling does build between the soulders of the case/chamber, but this does take many rounds to do as the Boxer case is relatively loose fitting. The boiling linseed which does come out of the wood is another matter, so is the heat transfer thorugh the transverse split pin which holds on the forend.

Just a few factual points, to ponder. Oh and by the way, the dude firing the MH of the Secrets of Zulu dawn, obviously did not know thr tricks of the trade, I would have had it cleared in five seconds, with the clearing rod, which comes on all rifles.

Neil

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HARMAN
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Neil.
Thatís fair enough clear concise detailed information.

Just a quick question Neil.

How many rounds have you fired off in one session before you starting have problems with over-heating Jamming ECT?

I know the rounds you used are of a more solid construction compare to those days, however its black powder so no doubt cause some problems.

By once again thanks for the information very interesting.
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Neil,
Jeez Louise, Neil! I was wondering when and if you were going to lend your expertise and experience to this thread! Thanks for the "larnin'" that's obviously come from sending more than a few rounds down the range from an MH, not just from a book or documentary.

Regarding the sighting issue at RD, my feeling is pretty much summed up by the trite axiom that "even a broken clock is right twice a day". The Zulu may not have hit who they were aiming at, but obviously they did occasionally hit someone-- at least enough to concern the defenders and probably enough to compel the abandonment of the initial perimeter as well.

What are your thoughts about the ammunition expenditure by the British? Does the alleged 25,000 rounds fired (give or take) sound plausible?
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Harman.

In one session about 70 Rounds over a two hour period. (then its three hours reloading). In a shirt!. 40 in the Mk1 and about 30 in the IC1 carbine.

Heat is not a real problem, it does effect sighting as the barrel haze obscures your view. You get used to the fact the barrel is hot, but I wouldn't fancy bayonet figthing with it at that heat!!.
If you do not use a beeswax cookie (the original load had one) fouling effects accuracy to about 100mm over a 100 yard, the melted wax is there to line your bore for then next shot, fouling is reduced with paper patching as the scrubbing effect of the paper clears for the next round. But most modern shooters use a .462" plus dia all lead bullet to this effect.

Fouling is not a great issue as it is only the last rounds debris that is left in your bore, leading is the real issue, but that is not the case with the original paper patch round as the lead of the bullet barely touches the bore. If you dissect an original Mk2 round it is .450" nominal, paper patched to .459". The paper is cotton fibre, lubricated with beeswax then pushed though a .459 heated die for conformity. The MH bore is .450, but across the rifling it is .459-.462 Nominal.

Powder quality affects your shooting, I use Swiss, a very clean burning RFG2, the original was either Curtis and Harvey's No6, or Waltham Abbey No2. Both very good quality for its time, I have got some C & H No6 which I shoot when I am feeling nostalgic, that is 80 years old and still shoots like a dream. Poor powder leaves debris and soot in your bore.

Depending on atmospherics. The day was overcast, but warm. A damp day, or evening dew I find most favourable, as the old trick, was blow down your barrel, the moisture from your breath softens the black powder debris, a time immimortal black powders trick. Look at the enclosed image at what this Nottinghamshire Robin Hood rifles volunteer is doing here at Trent range Long Eaton... blowing down the bore.

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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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Neil,

Re-your comment:
Oh and by the way, the dude firing the MH of the Secrets of Zulu dawn, obviously did not know the tricks of the trade, I would have had it cleared in five seconds, with the clearing rod, which comes on all rifles.


Let's just say he did, and let's just say the camera can play tricks.

'Nuff said.

John Y.
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
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John

I suspected the proverbial poetic licence!. the worrying bit is when the rifle goes "click" the round doesn't go off due to a dodgy primer, an then it jams! then you worry.

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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
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Neil

Now there is some pretty concrete evidence of the role that real experts like yourself can play in reconstructing history. Excellent informative stuff. (What a refreshing change!) Thank you.

All

I see the old chestnut of Dyson's section has reared its ugly head. There is no evidence that Dyson was lost and every reason to believe that he was not. Why would the right horn break its line of march which it was obviously not prepared to do for the rest of Cavaye's company? The two parts of E Company were only a few hundred yards apart. And do we also imagine that young Dyson was completely stupid? 'OK half of Africa coming from my right (which Cavaye is covering anyway and the job he gave me was to look out to the left) so I think I'll just stay here and get these brave lads needlessly killed.' Or might he have said himself 'ooo - hello.....here's a bit of trouble - Cavaye won't be able to hold his ground over there for long - better start slipping back a bit, so that I can get down that slope in a hurry and rejoin the rest of the coy when it comes it.' And even if he didn't think of it, through some comination of youth and adrenalin, I'll bet the sergeant section commander told him pretty damned quick what he should be thinking!!

In fact Edward Essex went to get him and would have known if he did not make it back. He was a captain on a horse - he would not have ridden up to twenty men on foot, said 'quick lads, leg it', and then have ridden away and left them to their fate. He would not have left them until he saw them safely on their way down the reverse slope. And he then felt sufficiently safe to ride back along the high ground to rejoin the Cavaye/Mostyn crowd - that is to say the spur was not under attack from the direction at issue. Cavaye/Mostyn withdrew because of the onset of the chest over the top of Mkwene Hill, not because they were attacked by the right horn, which obviously knew exactly where it was going, why it was going there, and why it was important not to be distracted from its task merely because it had been brought under long range fire.

Come on guys - let's just think some of these scenarios through properly. Dyson was not killed on the spur. It's an old wives tale. Cue Peter....

....only joking.

Wink

Mike
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
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Sawumbona
25,000 rounds is plausible, rough average 250 rounds, over what? ten hours. 25 rounds per hour, this isn't gatling territory for 100 men.

My expenditure on a range, OK this isn't with screaming Zulu's in my face is about 25 in an hour period, the rifle is hot, but not unworkable. Now, heres an intersting note, in lulls in the fighting, withodd volleys being fired into the dark, there is nothing to stop the rifles being given a quick pull through, a five second job.

The rifle cools if not fired, for say ten minutes , to a managable temp. If anything the barrel will expand when hot.

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Based on 25,000 rounds fired. (Don't think so)
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