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Could the camp at Isandhlwana have been defended at the rear
Andrew Garton


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 25
Location: Larimore North Dakota
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Col.Durnford sent Shepstone back across the saddle to escourt his wagons into the camp,knowing that the Zulu right horn might try and cut them off before they could reach the camp. And this would have been at the early stage of the battle,so why was there no attempt too to defend the saddle by Col.Durnford until it was far to late?
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Julian whybra


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 436
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Andrew,
Durnford did not do quite as you wrote. He sent back Lieut. Vause's NNH troop and Capt. Stafford's NNC E coy to escort the waggons into camp. Stafford eventually left 16 men under Lieut W. Erskine and Vause with the waggons and hurried on to the camp with the remainder of E coy. He thought there might be a danger of attack but not of being necessarily cut off (he did not know the extent of the danger at that time).
Later on, the passage to the rear of the mountian from the plateau was watched over by Dyson and then Younghusband as well as by NNC sentries posted on top of Isandhlwana for that purpose. Towards the end of the battle it does seem as though someone (Pulleine or more probably Durnford) placed an NNC coy (Lonsdale's?) there under Shepstone's supervision to make a last defence of the west side of the saddle.
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Dawn


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 610
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
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To add to Julian's excellent answer, it's down timing. Durnford came into camp approx 10.30am, leaving the wagons to make their labourious way in. He then decided that the main impi were ahead of him, towards the rear of Chelmsford's column. He sent reinforcements to escort the wagons in as he had heard reports of small parties of Zulus up on the plateau, which extended towards the back of Isandlwana, and he thought they could attack the wagons from the rear. He was thinking of the wagons and not the camp. I don't think it occured to him that the camp would be attacked from the rear as he thought the main impi force was in front.

The right horn swung it's way around the west of Isandlwana much later in the piece, about 1pm, or there abouts, as it would have taken a long time for the warriors to work their way around, long after the 'chest' had attacked the front of the camp.

I would think the British soldiers would have been totally caught by surprise at this encircling movement of the Zulus. While it was noted in intelligence of the time, no one seems to have taken any notice of it.

I once posted a thread on this forum asking if Durnford had stayed in camp and been able to recognise the encircling manoeurve, would he have been able to raise a defence? No one took me up on it and I would have to presume, as has been done in the past, that the camp at Isandlwana was undefendable, (or should that be indefensible?)

Dawn
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a.j


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Thornaby-On-Tees, Great Britain
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I'm going to make my answer very short in my opinion the camp could have been defended from the rear but was not because Chelmsfords orders had stated how the camp was going to be defended if an attack did come.

If not then they would have formed their camp into Lagaar or at least a square.
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Dawn


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 610
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
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AJ
Chelmsford did not leave precise instructions on the defence of the camp so no inference could be gained on the defence of the rear, or the front or sides for that matter.

A laager would only work if said laager was formed around the ammunition supply otherwise the outcome would have been the same as on the day.

Dawn
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Laager
Robert John


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 205
Location: The Netherlands
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I don't think any self-respecting General would leave their ammunition supply outside the laager, would they?

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R J Jones
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Dawn


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 610
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
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And neither would a self-respecting General leave most of his ammunition in camp when he went out to advance on the enemy in hostile territory. And yet...

Dawn
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Could the camp at Isandhlwana have been defended at the rear
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