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Vryheid

Khambula Battlefield – Turning Point in the Anglo-Zulu War

Near the town of Vryheid, a battle considered by many to be the turning point of the Anglo-Zulu War, ensued on 29 March 1879. This historical area is the Khambula Battlefield. What makes visiting this battlefield so incredible, although somewhat difficult to find without a guide, is that the Khambula Battlefield has remained unspoilt. When standing on the Battlefield, eyes closed, feeling the grass brush past your legs, and the wind gently tugging at your clothes, you can hear the Zulu cries carried on the breeze, smell the gunpowder, and taste the fear of each soldier, British and Zulu.

On 22 January 1879, the British suffered a catastrophic loss and
defeat
at Isandlwana, and morale amongst the British troops invading Zululand plummeted. And on 12 March 1879, the British again suffered a
great
loss at the hands of the Zulus. A supply train and an ox wagon were
stuck,
waiting for the flooding Ntombi River to subside. Captain Moriarty
formed
wagons into a defense position, facing away from the river, whilst
waiting
for a chance to cross the raging water. Commanded by Mbilini, a force
of 800
Zulus, unseen due to morning mist, approached the camp until with 50
meters,
then rushed the defenses killing 60 men, including Moriarty. Men on
the
south bank fired on the Zulus, forcing them into retreat, and pursuing
them
for some distance. But the fleeing Zulus turned around and despoiled
the
train.

Zulu warriors are incredibly courageous fighters, launching
themselves
into battles in a mann that many would think to be suicidal. Warriors traditionally
went
into battle carrying spears and shields, which proved to be ineffective
against the firepower of the British. In an effort to level the playing
field, King Shaka Zulu purchased thousands of poor standard muskets and
rifles, which still did not aid the Zulu Warriors, as they where
ill-trained
in the use of these weapons. Typically, Zulu Warriors attacked in
formation, as the “chest” which was the frontal attack, and the “horns”
which spread out from the “chest” to flank the enemy or attack the
enemy
from the rear.

An early morning British patrol unit came across a Zulu defector,
who
warned them of the coming battle at midday. The British Patrol
confirmed
the information on seeing the approaching Zulu Army. The British
immediately assembled their positions, a 1st/13th Light Infantry of 1
200
and 800 irregular troops with the 90th Regiment. Along the rear of the
line, ammunition reserves were established.

Briefly, the Zulu army paused, but the Warriors were ready for war,
and
soon the sea of Zulu Warriors, were increasing their speed toward the
British Camp. The Battle officially began at 1:30 on the afternoon of
29
March 1979. By 5:30 that evening, the Zulu Warriors began to fall
back, and
the British kept firing into the withdrawing Zulus. The horsemen
mercilessly killed fleeing Zulus, which they pursued relentlessly for
miles.
The wounded Zulus were slaughtered by British foot patrols, and under
this
pressure, the Zulu Army collapsed, and warriors were left fighting
their way
home.

British troops suffered only 83 casualties, while the Zulu Army lost
3,000 men, either in the battle or from the wounds inflicted on them. This
battle severely crippled the Zulu Armies, trying to defend their
homeland
from invasion. They were finally defeated at Ulundi.