Isandlwana, the battle that rocked Victorian Britain; at which the Zulus wiped out a substantial British force including the 1st Battalion, 24th Foot.
Causes of the War: The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and then gold in 1871 changed South Africa overnight from a backwater to a colony with prospects. Britain was approaching bankruptcy, having financed incessant wars for many years and also, watching with envy the rising power of the United States and Germany. The British Government however, was faced with two British colonies, two independent Boer republics and several independent African states. The answer - to the British - was confederation, all under the Union Jack.
22nd January 1879
Isandlwana, eNquthu, KwaZulu-Natal
Zulu army against a force of British troops and Natal units.
Lieutenant Colonel Pulleine of the 24th Foot and Lieutenant Colonel Durnford commanded the British force at the battle. The Zulu Army was commanded by Chiefs Ntshingwayo kaMahole and Mavumengwana kaMdlela Ntuli.
Size of the armies
: The British force comprised some 1,200 men. It is likely that they were attacked by around 12,000 Zulus.
The British force was wiped out by the Zulu Army.
The battle at Isandlwana stunned the world. It was unthinkable that a “native” army armed substantially with stabbing weapons could defeat the troops of a western power armed with modern rifles and artillery, let alone wipe it out. Until news of the disaster reached Britain the Zulu War was just another colonial brushfire war of the sort that simmered constantly in many parts of the worldwide British Empire. The complete loss of a battalion of troops, news of which was sent by telegraph to Britain, transformed the nation’s attitude to the war.