Tag Archives: Zululand

Shaka Zulu (2)

Last time, I introduced you to Shaka kaSenzangakhona (1787–1828). The Black Napoleon. The greatest military commander in African history. The man who revolutionised warfare on the veldt of Zululand. Shaka, or indeed, Chaka. Either spelling is apparently acceptable.

Chaka was no fool. As the Romans had realised two thousand years previously, he soon worked out that the throwing assegai could be thrown straight back at you. He favoured the “iklwa” or ixwa” which he supposedly invented himself. This was “a short stabbing spear with a long, broad, and sword-like, spearhead.” It had a shaft around two feet long, and a blade one foot in length. Here it is:

The longer spear was not abandoned, but it became a one use weapon which the Zulus would throw in unison at an enemy formation before moving in to attack with the iklwa.

Chaka also favoured the use of a particular shield, the “isihlangu”, which means which means “to brush aside”. Here is one from the internet, which dates from 1879:

In an online shop, their reproduction isihlangu shields measure 38″ by 22″, with a wooden shaft of 48″ which protrudes five inches above and below the shield. As I have learnt, most Zulu artifacts are quite variable.

Chaka taught his warriors to use the isihlangu shield in their hand-to-hand attacks. They hooked the left hand side of their shield under the edge of the opponent’s shield, then spun him sideways to leave his rib cage exposed. The “iklwa” was then inserted between the ribs and into the heart for a death blow. In actual fact, the iklwa acquired its name from the sound it made when you pulled it out of the wound it has made.

Chaka also persuaded his men to fight in formation rather than just charging off, like the beginning of a serious disturbance in a pub car park. He taught them the “bull’s horns” formation and they practiced it in times of peace, so that when war came, they were better organised than they had ever been. Here it is:

I borrowed the diagram from this webpage, although I am proud to say that the Zulu phrases were the only things I didn’t know, having been a huge Zulus fan from a very early age. The enemy are the weedy white rectangle at the top of the diagram. The Zulu for “bull’s horns” by the way, is “impondo zankomo”. Anyway, the warriors in No 1, the “isifuba” charge forward like a group of middle aged women in the first minute of a reduced-to-clear designer handbag sale.  They engage the enemy, isihlangu shields in action and the sound of the iklwa absolutely deafening. Meanwhile, the horns, No 2, the “izimpondo”, move forward quickly and stealthily and encircle the sides and back of the enemy force. If needed, the reserves, the “umava”, the bull’s loins, No 3, wait in case they are needed. Traditionally, they always faced backwards, away  from the battle and looking to the rear, so that they didn’t get over-excited, and then lose their discipline and rush off too soon to join the party. In actual fact, the most frequently occurring time to employ the “umava”, was if the enemy managed to break out of the Zulu encirclement.

All of this manoeuvring could be done because the Zulus had their army divided into regiments. The British in 1879 faced an army of 20,000 men. Their overall commander was Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza with subordinate commanders called Vumindaba kaNthati and Mavumengwana kaNdlela.

The Right Horn was made up of the uDududu and uNokenke regiments, with part of the uNodwengu corps (3,000-4,000 warriors).

The Chest comprised the umCijo, uKhandampevu and uThulwana regiments and part of the uNodwengu corps (7,000-9,000 warriors).

The Left Horn of the bull included the inGobamakhosi, uMbonambi and uVe regiments (5,000-6,000 warriors).

And finally, the Loins, who were the reserves and stood with their backs to the battle were the Undi corps and the uDloko regiment (4,000-5,000 warriors).

The regiments could be distinguished by the colours of the isihlangu shields, and the different numbers and groupings of the marks on them:

Next time we’ll look at some of the other interesting things that the Zulus got up to.

 

 

20 Comments

Filed under Africa, History, military

Shaka Zulu (1)

He was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He revolutionised warfare on his own continent. A huge statue of him now stands in the middle of a restaurant in London :

He was born in July 1787 and he was assassinated on September 22nd 1828. He was the King of the Zulus from 1816 to 1828. His name was Tshaka kaSenzangakhona but he was better known as “Shaka Zulu”.

His enemies said that he had a big nose, that he had two prominent front teeth and that he spoke as though “his tongue were too big for his mouth.” Many people said that he spoke with a speech impediment. He himself admitted that “Shaka himself was ugly, with a protruding forehead”.

We have no photographs, of course, in 1820. Just drawings or paintings:

Two British ivory traders, Francis Farewell and Henry Fynn, introduced other white men to Shaka in 1824. They were appalled by his cruelty to his enemies. At the same time, they could see his obvious leadership qualities, impressive self possession, great intelligence and a genuine sense of humour.

Shaka was tall. He was muscled. He was strong. His skin tone was dark brown. Petros Sibani, a current historian and tour guide of the Zulu battlefields, has given a sensible opinion about him. He said that there was no doubting that :

“Shaka was a cruel and ruthless man, but these were cruel and ruthless times”

Some historians have called him the Black Napoleon. Fans of the reggae sound system culture regularly chant his name:  “Shakalaka”:

Praise indeed.

As Shaka gradually earned the respect of the Zulu people, they became increasingly willing to adapt his ideas.

Shaka taught the Zulus that if they were to dominate the tribes around them, the most effective strategy was to beat them on the battlefield. Those surrounding tribes had to be conquered and their lands and cattle taken for the Zulus. Any prisoners were given the opportunity of joining his Zulu army.  In this way, the Zulu tribe increased in size extremely quickly and every Zulu soon developed the mindset of a true warrior.

On occasion, though, Chaka made use of other methods as well,  such as diplomatic ties and patronage. The chiefs of friendly tribes became his allies. These included Zihlandlo of the Mkhize, Jobe of the Sithole, and Mathubane of the Thuli. These three tribes were never beaten in battle by the Zulu. Instead Chaka won their hearts and minds by treating them well and repeatedly rewarding them for their loyalty to him.

Initially, the Zulus had fought with a long throwing assegai but to make them more successful, Chaka made radical changes to this traditional weapon. Here is the throwing assegai:

The Zulus had always carried a shield in the left hand. It was a piece of defensive armour designed to deflect enemy spears or assegais and the arrows fired by Hottentots and other non-Bantu peoples . It was often carried also during lion or leopard hunts as protection against such fierce animals. I think that this is the pre-Chaka defensive shield:

Boys would practice with their weapons in “stick fights” with other boys. This activity still exists nowadays:

Chaka would make changes to all of the traditional activities and weapons. He would transform the Zulus into a disciplined army, equipped with weapons that suited the sophisticated new tactics that he had taught them.

He re-organised the Zulu army from top to bottom and transformed it into a fearsome fighting force through a number of  tactical changes. These changes would permit the Zulus to fight against Europeans and, on occasion, to inflict heavy defeats, as happened here at the Battle of Isandlwana:

Next time, the new weapons and the new tactics in more detail, and some more very long Zulu words.

“Sobonana ngokuzayo !”

14 Comments

Filed under Africa, History, military

They win. Zu Lus (2)

As well as the Egyptian quarter, a number of streets in New Basford in Nottingham are named after the Zulu War of 1879.  As far as I can tell, in this area, there are seven of them, namely Chard Street, Chelmsford Road, Durnford Street, Ekowe Street, Isandula Road, Zulu Road and perhaps Eland Street.

What is most amazing about these streets is that they represent, as far as I can tell, a kind of salute to the Zulus, who were, as I mentioned previously, one of the finest and most valiant of all the opponents of the British Army. The Battle of Isandlwana, or Isandula, for example, was the greatest defeat ever suffered by British soldiers against a native force armed with their traditional weapons.

And the Zulus were trustworthy, too. King Cetshwayo tried as best he could to avoid war and told his men not to kill anybody who was not dressed in a red coat and therefore could not be identified with any certainty as a British soldier. He told them not to cross the border into Natal in pursuit of Chelmsford’s defeated forces. The Zulus stuck to both of these promises they had made to their king. Men in dark blue or green uniforms, such as in the Hale rocket battery, were allowed to walk away in peace, and not a single Zulu pursued the remnants of the defeated British army into Natal. If they had done, as Prince Ndanbuko urged them to, there would have been every chance of another stunning victory over the British Empire. Here’s Isandula Road:

So when we walk down Isandula Road, we can all remember that this Victorian street is a memorial to the Empire’s greatest ever native opponents.  Had Isandlwana been an easier word to pronounce, of course, the street would have been called Isandlwana Road.

And I really do stick by the idea that this road was a monument to the Zulu warriors. There is only one Isandula Road in the whole of England so it must have been very important name to whoever made the decision to have a road dedicated to the British Empire’s gallant opponents. The same can be said of Zulu Road. There is only one of those in the whole country too :

I kept my eyes open for a Zulu or Tu, but I saw nothing. Here’s a modern Zulu, dressed up for the tourists, with all his friends:

He’s parked his car on the road in the background, which is quite a long way away. No wonder he’s had to keep his best trainers on.

By 1880, people in England were well aware of whose fault the calamitous defeat at Isandlwana was. It was Lord Chelmsford’s, so a road named after him must have served as much as a reminder of his failures and his shortcomings as a monument to his military genius. I would think that nowadays Chelmsford would be more famous as the uncle of Ernest Thesiger, the actor (left) who worked with James Whale in the latter’s Frankenstein films :

Here is Chelmsford Road, with Lord Chelmsford making good his escape from Isandlwana on his trusty bicycle:

Chelmsford Road may not look as if it is 140 years old, but it does have one feature that is straight from the 1880s. That is the arrangement of four, or perhaps six, houses, in a short row, all of them typical small working class “two up, two down” terraced houses. These four/six houses are opposite  an identical set of houses, with, in this case, a concrete courtyard between the two rows. The more usual pattern was to have the outside lavatories situated in the middle of that courtyard, equidistant from each set of houses. In the golden days of the earth closet, this must have given life a very distinctive flavour, particularly in the summer.

This particular set of houses is called “Chelmsford Terrace” in honour of the great man.  This particular section of Chelmsford Road has other sets of houses like these, one called “Rene Terrace”, and another, “Iris Terrace”:

Here is Durnford Street, all of it:

Anthony Durnford was one of the two subordinate commanders killed at Isandlwana (the other was Henry Pulleine). Chelmsford was quick to blame Durnford for disobeying his superior’s orders to set up a proper defensible camp, although there is actually no hard evidence whatsoever that Chelmsford ever issued such an order. Nevertheless, Durnford can be regarded as a rather unsuccessful soldier, just like Chelmsford. He was also Irish, so, by the racist attitudes of the time, he was an easy man to blame. He was also dead, so he couldn’t argue with any of Chelmsford’s lies.

Chard Street is not always marked on street maps for some reason. It runs at right angles to Isandula Road, Chelmsford Road and Zulu Road. It is marked by the Orange Arrow’s “New Friend”, the Red Hot Air Balloon:

Here is Chard Street. It certainly has a Zululand feel about it:

John Chard is really the only heroic figure in this war to have a street named after him. He was the commander at Rorke’s Drift. He was played by Stanley Baker :

Chard’s second-in-command was Gonville Bromhead, now better known as Sir Michael Caine. Sadly, there was no street named after him. Bromhead was, in actual fact, an Old Boy of Magnus Grammar School in Newark-on-Trent:

There is also an Eland Street fairly close by.  This street probably fits in with all of these other South African links. An Eland is a large antelope which would surely have provided food for members of both armies.

Here is the map for Eland Street, which has an Orange Assegai at its northern end.

Ekowe Street is named after another incident in the Zulu War of 1879…….

On the very same day as the defeat at Isandlwana,  6,570 British soldiers armed with rifles, rockets and field guns managed to defeat a Zulu army of around 10,000 men armed with assegais and cowhide shields. They occupied Ekowe, where they were then besieged by the Zulus for ten weeks before a British army of 5,670 men came to the rescue with their two 9-pounder guns, four 24-pounder Congreve rocket tubes and two Gatling guns. You can see a rocket being fired in this picture:

Incidentally, I cannot find any connection for Liddington Street, Monsall Street or Pearson Street.

Just look though, what rich roots many English street names have.

Just look at the map above. “Ford Street North” where one of Henry Ford’s brothers was probably born. “Camelot Avenue” where Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot first fell in love. “Langtry Grove”, probably the  birthplace of Lily Langtry, the mistress of the future King Edward VII and the woman who had a saloon named after her by Judge Roy Bean, “The Only Law West of the Pecos”. Here’s the judge, and the saloon. You can just see the bottom of the letters of “JERSEY LILLY” at the very top of the picture:

And last, but certainly not least, Springfield Street, where Homer Simpson used to live before he left for his new life in television.

17 Comments

Filed under Film & TV, History, Humour, Nottingham, Wildlife and Nature

“A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (1)

The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa. The British Empire owned Cape Colony and the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.

Alexander Frederic Wallis was born on January 18th 1867. Nottingham had seen its worst floods for fifteen years on January 9th. Two feet of water washed over the railway tracks at the station. On the 14th, a recently constructed factory on Carlton-road (sic) had caught fire. On March 14th, the Mechanics Hall was completely destroyed by fire. On March 20th an enormous fire destroyed the premises of William Smith, a “chenille and gimp manufacturer”. On April 2nd, the council agreed to order a steam fire engine, at a cost of £650. This type of thing. A combined fire engine and smoke screen generator:

Alexander Frederic Wallis’ father was Alexander Bruce Wallis, the Captain and Adjutant of the Robin Hood Rifles. In 1879 the family’s address was 1 Goodwin Street, near All Saints’ Church in the area to the west of Waverley Street, more or less directly opposite the bandstand in the Arboretum Park. Goodwin Street is very, very striking, with its tall tenement houses like you might find in Edinburgh or Glasgow. They all have four floors including one for the servants.Here it is. Look for the orange fire engine arrow.

The “education facility” in the middle at the top is the High School. Raleigh Street (west of the Arboretum Lake, and south of the orange arrow) was where the history of Raleigh bicycles started in 1885. That is why the brand was called “Raleigh”.

In the same year, Captain Wallis had moved to nearby No 3 Burns Street, a magnificent Victorian house with that eccentric, almost random architecture of the wilder Victorian architects of the period, including huge gables, oriel windows, patterns made with darker bricks and a pointed archway to the front door. Here is the house today:

By 1894, now Major Wallis rather than Captain, he and his family were living at 50 Forest Road West, extremely close to the High School. On the map above,  Forest Road West is to the west of the small lemon yellow coloured circle which represents the High School’s tram stop. Four years later in 1898-1899, Major Wallis and his family had moved to Neville Terrace at 15 Wellington Square, directly off Derby Road just after Canning Circus. This must have been much more convenient for the Robin Hood Rifles’ Orderly Room in Castle Yard. The family were still there in 1904, but after that, I was unable to trace them.

Their son, Alexander Frederic Wallis entered the High School on September 12th 1879 as Boy No 583. He was 12 years old. His career remains a blank because the majority of the School Lists have not survived and the rest are just lists of boys’ surnames with no distinguishing initials. The School played soccer then but Alexander does not figure in the reports we still have, nor indeed, in the records of the cricket team. He left the High School at the end of the Christmas Term in 1882. Here is the High School during that era, captured in a high quality albumen print:

At this time the Headmaster was Dr Robert Dixon, nicknamed “Dido” and the staff would have included Mr Bray or “Donkey”, Mr Seymour or “Donkeys”, Mr Jennings or “Jigger”, Mr Corner or “Sammy” and his younger brother, Mr J Corner or “Jig”, Mr Townson or “Benjy” , the Reverend Easton or “Jiggerty” and Mr William Edward Ryles or “Jumbo” and Mr Wilfrid Tyson Ryles or “Nipper”.

Nicknameless staff included Herr Altorfer, Monsieur Brunner, Monsieur Durand, Mr Jackson, Mr Small and Sergeant-Major Vickers the Drill Sergeant. There was also Mr Leopold Compline Wilkes or “Demi”, who went to South Africa in 1893 to be Headmaster of Kimberley Public School, only to die of typhoid, or enteric fever, on May 16th 1899, aged only 37. Here they all are. Still shocked by the recent death of General Custer:

Like poor “Demi”,  young Alexander Wallis, now 33 years of age, was also destined to die in South Africa, but as a soldier during the Second Boer War. He was just one of the 23,000 who paid the ultimate price of other men’s greed. Here is his epitaph taken from “The Forester” as the first School Magazine was called :

“Captain Alexander Frederic Wallis, killed in action near Arundel, near Colesberg, in Cape Colony, on February 24th 1900, was the second son of Major AB Wallis, formerly of the 33rd Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment and late adjutant of the Robin Hood Rifles. He entered the High School on September 12th 1879 and left at Christmas, 1882, being afterwards educated at Derby and Sandhurst. Captain Wallis entered the 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment as a second- lieutenant and obtained his lieutenancy in 1889 and his captaincy in 1896. He served in Bermuda, Halifax, Jamaica, St Helena, Natal and Zululand. On the outbreak of the Matabele war in 1896 he proceeded to Mafeking where he served at the base and on lines of communication. At the finish of the war he went to Malta and was then quartered with the regiment at Dover in Kent. The regiment then went out to South Africa, Captain Wallis being in command of the Mounted Infantry Company. On his arrival in Cape Town he joined Major-General Clements’s (sic) Brigade at Arundel. He had just celebrated his 33rd birthday, and had 13 years’ army service. In Nottingham much sympathy is felt for Major Wallis in his bereavement.”

The village of Colesberg saw many battles and skirmishes during the Second Boer War. They brought into opposition the British and the Boers of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. This is the view looking towards the village:

A day-by-day timeline of the war listed the day of Alexander’s death as an “engagement” rather than a skirmish or a battle.

24 Comments

Filed under Africa, History, military, Nottingham, Politics, The High School