Brutal Valour: The Tragedy of Isandlwana
The Anglo-Zulu War Book 1
by James Mace
Genre: Historical Fiction
Leading the invasion is Lieutenant General Sir Frederic Thesiger, Baron Chelmsford, a highly experienced officer fresh off a decisive triumph over the neighbouring Xhosa tribes. He and Frere are convinced that a quick victory over the Zulus will negate any repercussions from the home government for launching what is, in essence, an illegal war.
Recently arrived to South Africa are newly-recruited Privates Arthur Wilkinson and Richard Lowe; members of C Company, 1/24th Regiment of Foot under the venerable Captain Reginald Younghusband. Eager for adventure, they are prepared to do their duty both for the Empire and for their friends. As Frere’s ultimatum expires, the army of British redcoats and allied African auxiliaries crosses the uMzinyathi River at Rorke’s Drift into Zululand. Ten days later, the British and Zulus will meet their destiny at the base of a mountain called Isandlwana.
Add to Goodreads
Amazon * B&N
“Look alive, lads!”
If there were friendly cavalry rushing towards them at such speed, then the Zulus could not be far behind. Cavaye waved his helmet at the horsemen who turned and galloped frantically towards his position.
“Get ready, boys, they’re not far behind us!” Charlie Raw shouted, as he rode past the company on their far left.
Cavaye kept the bulk of his men over-watching the ground to the north. However he’d earlier detached a section under his lone subaltern, 2nd Lieutenant Edwards Dyson, about five hundred yards to his left to protect his flank. They, like everyone else, heard the shooting coming from Raw’s troop, yet were still oblivious to just how large of a Zulu force they now faced. Cavaye had arranged his men in extended order, with six feet between each man. They readied themselves for the coming fight.
“Over there, sir,” his colour sergeant said, nodding towards Mkwene Hill, seven hundred yards northeast.
Both men scanned with their field glasses. They saw at first a handful, then growing numbers of Zulu warriors.
“What the devil are they doing?” Cavaye asked.
The Zulus were crouching low and moving laterally rather than towards them.
“Doesn’t matter,” the colour sergeant said matter-of-factly. “Shall we announce ourselves, sir?”
The officer commanding nodded and called out, “Contact front! At 700 yards…volley by sections!”
Knowing his company was too spread out to effectively manage alone, he had briefed his sergeants and corporals that, should they come into contact, each section leader would take control of their firing. He had further stressed the need for fire discipline. Each man had only seventy rounds, and Quartermaster Pullen’s ammunition stockpile was nearly two miles away.
Seven hundred yards was an astounding distance to try and hit a stationary target from, let alone nimble, fleet-footed Zulus moving with much speed and purpose. Still, Cavaye could not sit idly and watch them, not when they were technically within range of the Martini-Henry Rifle. Shots rang out from his various sections. He watched through his glasses and could see the puffs of dust and breaking rocks from his men’s bullets. Occasionally a Zulu would fall. One warrior was smashed in the hip, the force of the bullet’s impact kicking his legs out from under him.
“Mister Cavaye!” a voice called from behind him. It was Captain Edward Essex, the senior transportation officer for the column. He was mounted on a horse and appeared very excited.
“Captain,” Cavaye replied calmly.
“Compliments of Colonel Pulleine. It would seem we are dealing with the entire Zulu impi, and not some renegade ibutho.”
“That would explain their bizarre movements,” the colour sergeant said, watching the long line of Zulus manoeuvring gradually southwest. They were now within four hundred yards, and section leaders were shouting at their men to adjust their sights.
Captain Essex observed the bounding mass of enemy warriors and gave a nod of understanding. “That means these men are one of the horns.” He then grimaced. “By God, the way they are formed up they even look like a bloody horn! Captain Mostyn’s F Company is coming up to support you. He was on foot, but sent me ahead to inform you. They should be on the field in just a few minutes.”
“Good to know, sir.” Cavaye’s demeanour was unchanged, yet his stomach turned. His men were facing an enveloping horn of the main Zulu army! If the enemy to his front was one of the horns, then the ‘Chest’, which was certainly headed straight for Isandlwana, would eventually be behind him. The thought of being cut off from the rest of the battalion did not sit well.
As promised, Captain Mostyn and F Company soon arrived. They climbed up the slope just as the Zulus to Cavaye’s left-front came under fire from Dyson’s detachment. They were much closer now, just two to three hundred yards from their adversaries. The young officer’s men were having much better success at finding their targets. However, despite the losses they were suffering, the Zulus were making no attempt to attack the company of redcoats, but instead pressing on towards the west.
Off to Cavaye’s right, he had forgotten about the company of NNC on picquet duty. Their riflemen were firing wildly, burning through their paltry lot of ammunition and hitting nothing.
Captain Mostyn, meanwhile, was directing his company to fill the gap left between Cavaye and Dyson. His men unleashed a savage volley of musketry into them. The Zulus, losing men all the while, continued to move laterally, refusing to engage directly. This troubled the officers far more than if the enemy had attacked.
Cavaye’s concerns about the Zulu ‘Chest’ getting behind him were soon shared by Lieutenant Colonel Pulleine. He was near the artillery, trying to observe the effects of their fire, when he realised the danger to his companies. With the amabutho of the ‘Chest’ now in full view, Henry knew that E and F Companies were at serious risk of being flanked and overrun.
“Ride like hell and get them back,” he ordered Melvill.
The adjutant, realising the danger as well, galloped away with all haste.
“Sir?” the young officer replied. Unable to walk with his injured knee, yet able to ride, he was anxious to do his part. The pain in his leg was temporarily forgotten.
“Ride to Captain Younghusband. Advance his company far enough forward to cover Mostyn and Cavaye’s retreat. They will dress off C Company’s right, once returned to the firing line. The NNC and Zikhali Horse will support.”
“Very good, sir.”
The soldiers of C Company had watched the departure of Mostyn’s F Company and were concerned about their mates. It was about a mile to Mkwene Hill from where they stood. They could see very little, but the thunder of continuous volleys could be plainly heard. They then watched Lieutenant Melvill riding with all haste towards the forward companies. Reginald knew they would be withdrawing soon, and this was confirmed by Coghill’s arrival.
“Captain Younghusband!” the ADC shouted, riding up to him. “Colonel Pulleine needs you to advance far enough to cover Mostyn and Cavaye’s withdrawal, sir. They will fall in on your right, once returned to the main firing line.”
“Thank you, Mister Coghill,” the captain acknowledged before shouting, “Company will advance three hundred yards!”
While many of the officers were mounted, like Captain William Mostyn, Reginald Younghusband preferred to fight on foot. He was also very fond of his horse, Nikki, and the thought of her being killed by a Zulu musket did not sit well with him. He also wanted there to be no doubt in the minds of his soldiers that, should matters take a turn for the worse, he would fight and die beside them.
Given the need for haste, there was no formal marching order given, only a series of NCOs shouting, “Follow me!”
As he, Richard, Bray, and the others of their section followed Sergeant Edwards, Arthur’s gaze was fixed on the hilltop to their direct front, over a mile distant. It formed the western edge of the Nyoni Ridge, and he could see bands of Zulus lurking in the saddle between the hilltop and the ridge. It was these enemy warriors they needed to supress in order to cover E and F Companies’ withdrawal. They soon reached the Nyogane Donga and faced towards the saddle to the northeast.
“Mister Melvill!” Captain Younghusband shouted to the adjutant riding back towards them. “Inform Captain Mostyn that we are set. Once he reaches us, we’ll bound by companies back to the firing line.”
“Sir,” Melvill acknowledged, turning his horse about once more.
Arthur nervously palmed his rifle, his hands sweaty from both the heat and apprehension.
“Load!” the captain ordered.
Arthur took a few deep breaths to calm his nerves. He opened the breach and shoved a round into the chamber. Like Bray had shown him, he kept the rounds in his ready pouch layered in rows with a folded cloth wrapping around each row. He quietly prayed for no jams or malfunctions from his weapon this day. His first battle, which had seemed all-consuming at the time, was little more than a schoolyard scrap by comparison. The Zulus here were far more numerous, and they were anxious for a brawl.
The sounds of firing kept coming from the north. Within minutes, Lieutenant Melvill came riding down the slope at a brisk pace. It was not just the two companies of redcoats retreating in the adjutant’s wake. Charlie Raw, who had paused to help support the two companies, was leading his troop of Zikhali Horse, after their harrowing ride down the nine miles of ridges and hills. They were down to their last few cartridges and in desperate need of resupply if they were to do any more good that day. The Zulus surging over the ridge near Mkwene Hill spotted them. Sensing a ripe target, they were hurdling towards the company from the cover of the ridge.
“At four hundred yards!” Captain Younghusband shouted. “Present…”
Arthur quickly double-checked his sights and brought his rifle up to his shoulder. He shifted his feet slightly, bringing his rear foot back slightly. He slowed his breathing, allowing his front sight-post to rise and fall with each breath. He placed it around the centre of the mass of Zulus, who were now sprinting to the next piece of cover, hoping to flank Cavaye and Mostyn’s companies.
Crucible of Honour: The Battle of Rorke’s Drift
The Anglo-Zulu War Book 2
On the morning of 22 January, the main camp at Isandlwana, just ten miles to the east, comes under attack from the entire Zulu army and is utterly destroyed. Four thousand warriors from King Cetshwayo’s elite Undi Corps remained in reserve and were denied any chance to take part in the fighting. Led by Prince Dabulamanzi, they disobey the king’s orders and cross into British Natal, seeking their share in triumph and spoils. They soon converge on Rorke’s Drift; an easy prize, with its paltry force of 150 redcoats to be readily swept aside.
Upon hearing of the disaster at Isandlwana, and with retreat impossible, the tiny British garrison readies to receive the coming onslaught. Leading them is Lieutenant John Chard, a newly-arrived engineer officer with no actual combat experience. Aiding him is B Company’s previously undistinguished officer commanding, Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, along with 24-year old Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, and a retired soldier-turned civilian volunteer named James Dalton.
Unbeknownst to either the British or the Zulus, half of the centre column, under Lord Chelmsford’s direct command, was not even at Isandlwana, but fifteen miles further east, at Mangeni Falls. However, with a huge Zulu force of over twenty-thousand warriors between them and the drift, their ammunition and ration stores taken or destroyed, and an impossible distance to cover, Chelmsford’s battered column cannot possibly come to the depot’s aid, and must look to their own survival. The defenders of Rorke’s Drift stand alone.
Add to Goodreads
Amazon * B&N
“Something’s wrong,” Second Corporal Atwood said quietly. He sat atop the railing of the stairs leading into the small attic in the storehouse.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Sergeant Joseph Windridge replied, joining the corporal. “Sounds like the lads are giving the Zulus a damn good thrashing.”
Windridge had come to the storehouse to see about acquiring a patch kit for his section’s tent, when he saw the Service Corps NCO looking despondent. The two men were in their mid-thirties, making them substantially older than most of the garrison at Rorke’s Drift. As such, they had formed a friendship over the past few weeks.
“Perhaps,” Atwood conceded. “And if that’s the case, then I suppose we’ll all be raising a toast of the finest whiskey to Her Majesty and Lord Chelmsford…beg your pardon, sergeant.”
Frances felt awkward at the mention of Joseph Windridge’s crippling vice. By his own admission, his want for the bottle was worse than William Allan’s. A former quartermaster sergeant, and previously colour sergeant of 2nd Battalion’s C Company, Windridge was, at one time, considered a potential successor to the battalion’s sergeant major. He managed to confine his drunkenness to when he was not on duty, but in recent years it became an unbearable burden to both he and his family. After his latest stint in hospital for overindulging, Windridge requested a voluntary reduction of two ranks to sergeant, so that he might sort himself out. Though greatly disappointed, the sergeant major relented and recommended Lieutenant Colonel Degacher reduce Joseph back to sergeant, allowing him to command a section of riflemen in B Company. Though Windridge had previously served with C Company, both Degacher and the sergeant major thought it might cause a bit of awkwardness to place him back in the company where he previously served as their colour sergeant.
“Nothing to apologise for,” he said, consoling Atwood. “I know my vices well, and what it’s done to me, my wife, and even my children. Of course, Quartermaster Sergeant Leitch was all-too-happy to accept promotion into my former billet. It may have cost me in terms of pounds and shillings, but returning to the ranks saved my sanity, and possibly my life. Besides, the lads in B Company are a good lot. Even Lance Sergeant Williams, who likely thinks I ‘stole’ his promotion.”
The call of a sentry distracted them. They were puzzled when they saw no signs of horsemen coming from the road that led northeast to the drift.
“Over there,” Atwood said, pointing south.
“Who the bloody hell is that?” Windridge asked, squinting and using his hand to shade is eyes from the sun. His face was suddenly ashen, as he too was filled with the same sense of dread as Francis Atwood.
Lieutenant Bromhead and Commissary Dunne were enjoying a late lunch in the shade of Bromhead’s tent, when they were alerted by the same call from the southern sentries.
“That’s odd,” Dunne remarked.
“Riders coming up from the south,” the commissary answered. “Why did they not come via the ponts?”
“No idea,” Bromhead remarked dismissively. With his hearing impediment, it was difficult for him to ascertain the origins of most noises. For all he knew, the sentries’ reports could have come from the northeast rather than the south. He took a bite of tinned beef and suddenly paused mid-chew. “There’s another drift, ten miles to the south. But why in God’s name would anyone use it?”
“Especially with the river swollen from the recent rains,” Dunne added. “It’d be a bloody nightmare.”
“And from what I recall, there’s no road,” Gunny remarked. “It would take a madman to try and cross there.”
“Or one under extreme duress.”
The sound of sloshing footsteps came towards them. The commissary peaked around the open tent flap and saw Private William Jones escorting a pair of rather dishevelled soldiers from the Imperial Mounted Infantry. They were completely soaked, hair matted, and both had lost their helmets.
“Beg your pardon, Mister Bromhead, but these men come with an urgent despatch from the column,” Jones reported.
“Good heavens, man,” Bromhead said, as the two battered soldiers stepped into his tent. “What reason could you have to swim down from the column? Couldn’t you have crossed at the ponts?”
“From Captain Gardner, sir,” one of the men reported, handing Bromhead a hastily scribbled note. Alan Gardner was a cavalry officer from the 14th Hussars, serving as one of the column staff officers. Bromhead was well acquainted with him, yet it was baffling that a note would come directly from Gardner, rather than Lord Chelmsford, Colonel Glyn, or even Lieutenant Colonel Degacher.
Gunny’s eyes grew wide in disbelief as he scanned the despatch before handing it to Dunne. It read:
Camp at Isandlwana taken by the enemy. Colonels Durnford and Pulleine dead, Lord Chelmsford cut off at Mangeni. Suspect Zulu impi will next attack Rorke’s Drift. Hold position, if practical.
A. Gardner, Capt.
“We’re lucky to be alive, sir,” the other soldier added. “Can’t say as much for the rest of the camp.”
Like Henderson and his troopers, they had gotten away before the Zulu ‘horns’ sealed off any chance of escape. There was little doubt in their minds that the camp had fallen and everyone within would soon be dead. The two soldiers shuddered as a rifle volley echoed faintly in the distance.
“This cannot be,” the commissary said, shaking his head; even though he recognised Captain Gardner’s signature. “Pulleine and Durnford’s commands gone, just like that?”
The first soldier extended his hand, asking for the message back. “Your pardon, sir, but we need inform Major Spalding and the lads at Helpmekaar. Can’t say for certain, but we believe that is where any survivors will be headed.”
Bromhead said nothing and handed the note back.
Their duty done, the two soldiers quickly backed out of the tent, anxious to ride away lest the officers order them to remain. They nearly stumbled into Assistant Commissary James Dalton. One of the men nervously blurted out, “The camp at Isandlwana has fallen. You’ll want to bugger off as soon as you can.”
Dalton showed little surprise at this news or at the unkempt state of the two men. Nothing was said as the IMI soldiers mounted and rode away towards Helpmekaar. James entered Bromhead’s tent and was rather put out to see his immediate supervisor, Walter Dunne, as well as B Company’s officer commanding sitting in a state of numbing shock. Dunne relayed the message to Dalton who, after a brief pause, clapped his hands together, breaking the men out of their stupor.
“Come on, Mister Bromhead,” he said with emphasis. “No sense sitting around here on our arses.”
The no-nonsense determination on the face of the old soldier gave Gunny the confidence needed to steel himself to his duty. Now was not the time to dwell on the ramifications of the disaster at Isandlwana. It was time to ready his men for battle.
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads
kickoff at Silver Dagger Book Tours
Lukten av Trykksverte
La Libreria di Beppe
Spunky N Sassy
Jazzy Book Reviews
Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
Yearwood La Novela
The Voluptuous Book Diva
WS Momma Readers Nook
XoXo Book Blog
The Bookworm Chronicles
The Authors Blog
Rabid Readers Book Blog
The Book Town
Mello & June
Girl with Pen
Fantasticando sui libri
Deal Sharing Aunt
Teatime and Books
Tales of A Wanna-Be SuperHero Mom
Kimmie Sue's Book Reviews & More
Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin'
Cali Book Reviews
Home for Book Lovers
Brianna Remus Books
books are love
Book Review Virignia Lee
Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
Queen of All She Reads
Loves Great Reads Blog
Lisa-Queen of Random
Meghan's Mindless Mutterings: Reviews & Giveaways
Momma Says: To Read or Not to Read
Bound 2 Escape
Books a Plenty Book Reviews
Book Bangers Blog
A Mama's Corner of the World
AC Squared Book Blog
2 Girls & A Book
Port Jericho – REVIEW BOOK 1