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By John F. Connors


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Ian Knight has estimated that at long ranges of 700–1,400yd, volley fire was no more than 2 per cent effective in killing or wounding a charging adversary. At a medium range of 300–700yd, Knight claims that the effective percentage only rose to 5 per cent and at close range of 100–300yd, volley fire was 15 per cent effective. Knight believes that even this figure might be optimistic, for a huge amount of smoke would have obscured targets and adrenaline would have reduced accuracy further (Knight 2002: 4).

Only a very few mounted men managed to successfully flee the carnage. Of more than 1,700 men who had been in the British camp, only 60 white and about 400 black troops survived. Zulu losses are difficult to evaluate for there was never an accurate count, but it is clear that they were numerous. The Martini-Henry rifle had claimed at least 2,000 warriors, and scores, with terrible wounds, must have dragged themselves from the battlefield to die miles away. When the news of the Zulu victory and his nation’s losses reached Cetewayo, he was heard to say: ‘An assegai has been thrust into the belly of the nation… There are not enough tears to mourn for the dead’ (Morris 1965: 387).

It was a complete British victory. Over 260 warriors were found dead near the British position, and it is thought a similwar number died in the bush of their wounds. The British lost not one man. Cunynghame was delighted by the performance of both the 1/24th Regiment and the Martini-Henry. He wrote of the troops’ ‘high state of drill and discipline and instruction’ (quoted in Gon 1979: 140), which had made such a decisive victory possible. The Governor of the Cape, Sir Bartle Frere, wrote to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon, to assert that the ‘24th are old, steady shots whose every bullet told’ (quoted in Gon 1979: 140).

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