Travellers' Impressions
Stories & Articles from around the World


Part 9


Following the news in Britain of the ISandlwana disaster, the press, the political opposition party and the public, began to harass Disraeli’s Government. Headlines in the press appeared Who are these Zulu people and why are we fighting them? The grand old man of the Liberal Party, Gladstone, asked in Parliament What crime have the Zulus committed?

The problems in Southern Africa were increasing. The Boers in the Transvaal, having beaten the Zulus at Blood River in 1838, now thought they could beat the British following the British defeat at ISandlwana, and were on the verge of revolt, and some Afrikaners in the Cape Colony supported them, and small disturbances were occurring. The Colony was in a state of crisis and too many people were responsible for making decisions and none saw eye-to-eye. Sir Bartel Frere, as High Commissioner, had overall authority, but the general opinion at home was that he’d rushed Britain into what was now considered an unjust war. He’d been rebuked, but not recalled. Sir Redvers Bulwer was Lieutenant Governor of Natal and was in constant opposition to Frere and Lt. General Lord Chelmsford. Chelmsford was in command of the military, and had called for re-enforcements, which were in the process of arriving, but Bulwer would not help with general supplies for the 2nd Invasion Force. The European population of Natal amounted to about 25,000, of whom about 7,000 resided in Pietermaritzburg and 6,000 in Durban, the remainder were farmers. During Chelmsford’s preparations for the 1st Invasion of Zululand, huge demands had been made on the tiny population for supplies of every conceivable type, including wagons. Hundreds of farmers had left their farms to join the army. Produce was scarce and prices were rising. Prior to the 2nd January nearly 25,000 soldiers had to be fed and Bulwer was concerned about the enormous expenditure of the war. Colonel Lanyon had replaced Shepstone as Administrator of the Transvaal and was well aware of the unrest that existed amongst the Boers. In addition, at home Disraeli had lost faith in Chelmsford.

General Sir Garnet Wolseley was High Commissioner in Cyprus and had been summoned to London. On the 27th April he arrived, by which time the government had learnt the news of Hlobane and Khambula, and were also aware of Chelmsford’s intentions once all the re-enforcements had arrived. But Disraeli considered change was necessary. On the 26th of May Garnet Wolseley was officially appointed as Governor of Natal and the Transvaal, and High Commissioner for Native and Foreign Affairs, much to the annoyance of Queen Victoria and the Duke of Cambridge, who disliked him because of his arrogance. But he knew Southern Africa having spent a brief period as the Governor of Natal in 1875. In addition he was a brilliant General and administrator and his appointment delighted the British public.
The Foreign Secretary, Hicks Beach, was given the unpleasant task by Lord Salisbury of informing Frere by letter, in which he hastened to stress that Frere would remain the Administrator of the Cape. Colonel Stanley was told to write and inform Chelmsford of Wolseley’s appointment, and to stress that he was not being relieved but that he would be subordinate to Wolseley. As it transpired both letters would be received some time after Wolseley’s arrival in the Cape. But Frere had learnt by telegram of Wolseley’s probable appointment and advised Chelmsford, which galvanized him into action. His reputation was still at stake and he wanted to rectify that. Lord Chelmsford’s plan was to march to Cetshwayo’s kraal at Ulundi, with 2 Columns in a pincer movement.

The 1st Division would be commanded by Major General Henry Crealock CB, the elder brother of Lieutenant Colonel Crealock, Chelmsford’s military secretary. They would assemble at Fort Pearson, proceed up the coastal road, and eventually establish a fortified base at St. Paul’s, about 25 miles from Ulundi. Here they were to await further orders. The 1st Division would consist of the 2/3rd, the 88th, and 99th, 57th and 3/60th and 91st Regiments, the Naval Brigade and 160 of John Dunn’s Zulu scouts, 560 mounted volunteers and 15 Field guns.

Major General the Honourable Clifford VC CB of the Rifle Brigade was appointed Inspector General and would command the force that would be left in Natal and assumed responsibility for lines of communication throughout Natal. Clifford had won his Victoria Cross as a Major at the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimea in 1854. At 52 he was a brilliant administrator and Clifford had awarded Dalton of Rorke’s Drift fame his Victoria Cross at Fort Napier.

Major General Newdigate would command the 2nd Division, which would spearhead the assault at Ulundi and which consisted of 6 Companies 2/21st, 6 Companies 58th, 6 Companies 94th, 7 Companies 1/24th, 12 Field guns, 800 NNC and 210 mounted volunteers.

Major General Marshall commanded the Cavalry Brigade, consisting of the 17th Lancers and the 1st Dragoon Guards – the Kings.

Evelyn Wood now held the field rank of Brigadier General and the Northern Column would henceforth be known as the Flying Column. Although attached to the 2nd Division, Wood would remain independent of Newdigate’s command and move separately.

Redvers Buller sorrowfully handed over command of the Frontier Light Horse to D’Arcy and took command of the entire mounted force of 790 men in the Flying Column.

Lord Chelmsford and his staff moved with the 2nd Division and was thus the de facto commander. The total fighting force amounted to about 8,800 men. In addition there were large numbers of conductors to drive the 660 wagons and 7,000 oxen.

By the second week of May the mounted force of the 2nd Division had reached Dundee in northern Natal and established laagers at Landman’s Drift, Doornberg and Kopje Aleen. Here they were to wait for nearly 6 weeks for hundreds of wagons and much of the Infantry to arrive with much needed supplies before marching 86 miles to Ulundi.

On the 20th May Major General Marshall led a force from Landsman’s Drift, consisting of the 1st Dragoons, 19th Lancers, 5 Companies 2/24th and a large number of mounted volunteers, to ISandlwana to bury the dead of the Royal Artillery, Carbineers, Police and volunteers. Colonel Glyn had asked Marshall to leave the bodies of the 24th where they lay. He wanted the 24th to conduct their burials themselves and that would now only occur at the end of June. Having completed the morbid task, that night they departed for Rorke’s Drift with 40 wagons that had not been destroyed and returned to Landsman’s Drift the following day.

On the 31st May, Newdigate crossed the Blood River, the traditional border of Zululand, and set up camp at the iNtelezi Hill and the Flying Column moved south to within a couple of miles and bivouacked on the side of the Ncenci Hill. Chelmsford was ready to commence his march to Ulundi.

Sunday the 1st June was a day of rest for most of the 2nd Division. Only recce patrols were sent out to finalize sketches of routes that would be taken in the General Advance the next day. Wood and Buller were scouting the area for water; the supply at Ncenci Hill had proved inadequate, when they saw Lieutenant Carey, galloping towards them from the iTyotyosi River area.

Pearsons Advance

Rob Gerrard FRGS, the resident historian at ISandlwana Lodge, relates these events of all the battles of the Anglo Zulu War with passion and knowledge as if he had been there. Battles themselves have limited interest, but he brings the characters involved on both sides to life and relating information found in trunks and archives, his audience is spell-bound.

Next Month : The Death of the Prince Imperial

For permission to use all, or any part, of text, maps or pictures, contact Robert J. Gerrard at

Copyright © Robert J. Gerrard 2003