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A poem by Brian Everett

From east came Zulus forth, meeting Boers trekking north
To get away from British ruled and taxed terrain:
A classic power clash of two great people's dash
To claim the sparsely settled land as their domain

About this time men found diamonds there in the ground,
And British merchant statesmen saw a golden chance
To raise her majesty's great glory overseas,
With their new wealth if they could break the Zulu lance

Sir Bartle Frere beat his drum and gave an ultimatum:
Cetshwayo must, within just thirty days, disband his force
Or in the name of peace the British would call in his lease.
They knew that he could not comply with this demand, of course

He failed to play the game, but played it just the same,
And so with those few troops that England would afford
They came at him with prongs to crush him in their tongs,
With overall command given to Lord Chelmsford

But Chief Cetshwayo fought the three-pronged troops with thought.
He blocked the progress of the columns north and south,
And winged his main impi north-west from Ulundi
To cut right through the throat behind the hungry mouth

Dartnell's forward scout troop he lured from the main group
And then attacked so strongly that they sought relief,
But then when Chelmsford came to rectify this blame
The impi gained the chance to bring his Base to grief

With Pulleine and Durnford, there were, so thought Chelmsford,
Seventeen hundred at Isandhlwana Base Camp:
Certainly not enough to serve as a rebuff
To a massed Zulu attack on their sloping ramp

But he could not conceive - it is hard to believe -
That the Zulu force - far more than twenty thousand -
Had passed around his flanks, unseen by all his ranks,
And was waiting its time to leap upon the stunned

Matters were compounded when Colonel Durnford sounded
Out the Zulus, lying low there in the savannah.
Raw found them there at large, which but provoked their great charge,
Stranding Durnford far from the camp at Isandhlwana

Thus at about midday began the bloody fray.
He held them at a Donga with his mounted guns,
Till ammunition failed, then sent back men who railed
For more, but were not helped by priggish English sons

Ammunition boxes were kept by old foxes,
The quartermasters who, for every company
Had paperwork to sign for men from the front line,
But where his ammunition was they could nor see

While Durnford was falling back with his acute lack
Of rounds Major Pulleine, alerted at the camp
To the pincer Zulu movement, posted his few
Soldiers too far out, giving their great rout the stamp

The col at Isandhlwana stares at the savannah
From a high raised brow which makes the place defendable
Of sorts. Had he massed his men around their tenting then,
Though still too bare, it would have been more commendable

Instead he drew his line at the north of the incline,
Where they briefly held the Zulus with their with'ring power,
But both horns had rounded them when the retreat sounded
To the tents, and thus began the Zulu butchers' hour

With Durnford forward east, the open gap north east
They'd plugged with native levies - more expendable -
Who fled at the war cry - and need we wonder why ?
While sparta's men fought on and died dependable

Pushed hard now up the hill, in a tight formation still,
Company for company, till ammunition failed,
To duty devoted and superbly red-coated,
They volleyed their shots, then bayoneted, kicked and flailed

Attacked at front and rear, unable to get near
Their cartridges - too late the tricky lids were raised,
They bravely went down back to back and pair for pair,
Yet no medals were given here, nor no one praised

Later at Rorke's Drift a hundred poor men made short shrift
Of Zulu thousands: for the loss of barely twenty,
Six hundred were slain and many left in awful pain,
And here the valour medals awarded were plenty

Much later Zulu braves recalled how small enclaves
Of red fought on and on, and one such man in red,
Tall and laughing out loud, defied the Zulu crowd
With his bayonet till they shot him in the head

Another climbed the col and fired down on the knoll;
He'd got his hands on ample cartridges, it seems;
For some three hours or more he fought a lonely war
Until at last a massed attack soured all his dreams

Thirteen hundred men of ranks died without a word of thanks:
Eighty fled, most mounted (not in red?) ; just three foot was all.
Of Zulu braves two thousand lay unmoving in the sand
In this worst debacle British history can recall

In the night Lord Chelmsford returned among the gored
And bivouaced with their ghosts during that moonless night,
Which showed how Rorke's Drift glowed down where the river flowed,
Where, as he gazed, scorching Martinis blazed their might

And brave men on both sides endured the endless tides
Of hope and fear. It was the hospital which burned,
And for saving the place, along with British face,
Eleven VC's and five DCM's were earned

Some five months later he successfully returned ,
Better prepared, and at Ulundi had his say,
When with his gattling guns he mowed the Zulu sons,
Which brought much joy, it being Independence Day