Zulus in Defence

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by CutLunchCommando, May 13, 2010.

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  1. Bluntly, How did they do It? (If at all).
    I read a reference to a Zulu general (Shaka?) being forced to fight a defensive action. It struck me that in any of the popular media that I'd seen or read the description of Zulus as fighters is always as attackers (Horns of the bUll and all that). In fact the only defensive action I could think of was the Stand of the Greys in King Solomons Mines and they are a) fictional and b) based on the Matabele ISTR!

    Anyone with any knowledge better than having watched Zulu repeatedly care to comment?
  2. With ref to Shaka, is he not credited with controlled formations and deployment – as opposed to someone shouting ‘go’ and all pile in – and, the value and use of a reserve? In respect of the latter, important, I believe, in inter-tribal conflicts where his force was being attacked. As in, chose the high ground to receive the attack and hold the reserve till the forward tiered ranks had tired and depleted the enemy.

    Of course, in our last great battle with them (Zulu War), Ulundi which is another one we’re not supposed to mention, we expected an attack and advanced in defensive formation. The Zulu’s could pick time and place, but attacked anyway – and were creamed of course :omg:

  3. By Tiered Ranks do you mean a multi-layered shield wall? That would be similar to my interpretation of description of the Greys tactics in KSM.
  4. No idea :omg: Long time since I read KSM and quite a while since reading Shaka tactics. However, from memory (can't remember the tribal battle), Shaka chose/was obliged to defend - which suggests his the smaller force. He chose a hill-top and divided his force into three. Outer tier ringed the lower hill, second tier he placed in spaced 'Coys' about half way up, with remaining men on the hill-top with him. At the top a small number of men stood and formed a ring while the bulk sat behind them with shield etc lowered so as to give the appearance Shaka only had some ‘personal guard’ with him at the top.

    When the enemy attacked, a mid-way Coy/s could be deployed to reinforce the outer line where needed. If half the mid-way Coys became deployed, the remaining mid-way Coys would deploy to form a new ring, where after the outer ring would fall back and add to the new ring.

    As such a point he decided the enemy was fully committed, and had been tired enough or his new ring was breaking down, the fresh third of his force from the hilltop would be committed and attack on a downhill run.

    Sounds pretty good to me ;)


    ps. don't try this against firearms :D
  5. I've read 'The washing of the Spears' by Donald Morris a number of times now and it's quite heavy going but touches on the early years of the formation of the 'proper' Army under Shaka as does the film 'Shaka Zulu' with Henry Cele as the eponomous leader. Not a well known film but with loads of British talent. Quite surprised it slipped through the 'epic' net.

    Most things I have read and seen, don't touch on defensive tactics and yet I remember marvelling at how very clever Shaka was in dealing with a Ndwande tribe (under Zwide) of 18,000 that came to batter his lot. He 'retreated' and as he went, he took all the herds and emptied the grain pits and left nothing of importance/value that could be used. This went on for a while, just staying one step ahead and literally starved/ belly rumbled them. Being tactically cheesed off, after a week of this, the Ndwande retreated themselves and camped up for a night only to be hassled by small parties of Shakas gang all night, introducing a lot of sleep deprivation. Next morning the Ndwande were attacked and well and truly duffed up over a couple of days. Just to rub a bit of salt in, Shaka sent a fresh Army into Zwide's camp, over 70 miles away, singing a Ndwande victory song in the dark for 'confusion' It paid off and many a camper was parted from their life.
    Hardly battlefield defences but worthy of mention perhaps... As the OP says,(sorry, No.9!) bit more to it than "Pile in!!"
    Think I'll have another look for something! However, I claim to know nothing as I've only read what I quote and just have a great interest in all things Zulu.
  6. Yes fascinating. Millions of years and they hadn't progressed beyond spears and clubs. No slings, bows, blow-pipes, pikes, distance throwers, cavalry, war wagons or, of course, M61 Vulcan :roll: However, it's believed they were off their heads on weed, juice and/or mushrooms during battle, and, if they didn't perform Uncle Shaka had them topped for cowardice ;) Eventually Shaka himself was topped by his own :omg: