Military history

ISANDHLWANA AND RORKE’S DRIFT, 1879

Four eyewitness accounts

Africa south of the Sahara had, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, scarcely been penetrated by foreigners. A few coastal enclaves were held by slave-traders, European on the west coast, Arab on the east, while a Dutch colony, set up to service ships sailing to the East Indies, had been established at the Cape of Good Hope in the seventeenth century. The rest of black Africa remained in the possession of its native peoples.

Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, however, Europeans arrived to settle the richer and more accessible land in and around Cape Colony, while the Dutch of the Cape, irked by the imposition of British rule, instituted a Great Trek into the interior, to set up what would become the settlements of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. The Africans of the south were not untouched by these disturbances. One small tribe, the Zulus, began to develop an aggressive military system of their own and, under the leadership of Shaka (reigned 1819 — 28), created a local empire in south-eastern Africa which imposed its power over its African neighbours and successfully confronted the Dutch trekkers for control of the region.

The Boers, and later the British, eventually succeeded in confining the Zulus to what would become known as Zululand, part of the province of Natal, but within it the Zulus ruled supreme. Border disputes continued. In 1879 the British in South Africa demanded that Cetewayo, the Zulu king, should grant them a protectorate over his kingdom, which would effectively have reduced it to the status of a British possession. He refused and war followed.

The Zulu military system was formidable. It had no equivalent among any of the so-called ‘primitive’ peoples fought by European armies in any of the imperial campaigns of the nineteenth century. Shaka’s system, sustained and improved by Cetewayo, required all young Zulu males to join an ‘age’ regiment of contemporaries. Once enlisted, they were forbidden to marry — marriage was a reward for proven warriors that came later in their careers - and were hardened to combat by privation and tests of endurance. Shaka’s regiments had been armed with the assegai, a short stabbing spear, alone. By the time of Cetewayo, his impis(armies) had also acquired firearms. The strength of the Zulu army, however, derived from its tactics. Trained to run for long distances, the impis formed crescent-shaped formations on encountering the enemy, the centre advancing to attack, the wings enveloping the flanks. The Zulus pressed forward to hand-to-hand combat, accepting losses however heavy, and overwhelmed the foe by terror and weight of numbers.

In the 1879 war, the Zulus had an early success at Isandhlwana on 22 January, when they discovered part of the invading British army encamped. Attacking off the line of march, 10,000 Zulus swamped the British force 1,800 strong — consisting partly of one battalion of the 24th Regiment (later the South Wales Borderers) and partly of ‘native’ troops under European officers, with a smattering of other units — whose ammunition resupply broke down in the heat of action. Almost all the force were killed. One of the survivors from the encampment was Lieutenant Horace Smith-Dorrien, whose account of his escape to Rorke’s Drift follows. He survived the Zulu War to command II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force in France, in 1914 — 15.

Private Henry Hook of the 24th actually came from Gloucestershire, an English county bordering Wales. He was twenty-eight in 1879, and serving as a cook in the small field hospital set up by his regiment at Rorke’s Drift to care for its sick and wounded, and those of other corps in the Zululand field force; Rorke’s Drift was also a supply post for the British column. For his bravery in the defence of the post, which, on the day and night following Isandhlwana, was successfully defended by eighty-five able-bodied soldiers against a Zulu force estimated to number five thousand, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded for the defence altogether, the largest number ever given for a single action. The other recipients were Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers, commanding, Commissary James Dalton, Corporal Friedrich Schiess, a Swiss citizen serving in the Natal Native Contingent, Surgeon-Major James Reynolds, Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24th, and, besides Hook, five other soldiers of the regiment. Seventeen soldiers of the garrison had been killed in the defence and about four hundred Zulus. The epic is today commemorated both by the lineal descendants of the South Wales Borderers, the Royal Regiment of Wales, and the Zulu nation, who meet to honour each other on the battleground.

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Account of Isandhlwana by a Zuluwarrior

On this day [according to the Zulu], the army which had been marching hitherto in single column divided into two, marching parallel to and in sight of each other, that on the left consisting of the uNokenke, umCijo, and uNodwengu Regiments, under the command of Tshingwayo, the other commanded by Mavumengwana. There were a few mounted men belonging to the chief Sihayo, who were made use of as scouts. On the 20th [January 1879] we moved across the open country and slept by the Isipezi Hill. We saw a body of mounted white men on this day, to our left. On the 21st, keeping away to the eastward, we occupied a valley running north — south under the spurs of the Nqutu Hill, which concealed the Isandhlwana Hill, distant from us about four miles, and nearly due west of our encampment. We had been well fed during our whole march, our scouts driving in cattle and goats, and on that evening we lit up our camp fires as usual. Our scouts also reported to us that they had seen the videttes of the English force at sunset on some hills west-south-west of us. Our order of encampment on the 21 st January was as follows: on the extreme right was the uNodwengu, uNokenke, and umCijo; the centre was formed by the inGobamakhosi and uMbonambi; and the left of the Undi corps and the uDloko.

On the morning of the 22nd January there was no intention whatever of making any attack on account of a superstition regarding the state of the moon, and we were sitting resting when firing was heard on our right, which we at first imagined was the inGobamakhosi engaged, and we armed and ran forward in the direction of the sound. We were soon told, however, it was the white troops fighting with Matyana’s people, some ten miles away to our left front, and returned to our original position. Just after we sat down again, a small herd of cattle came past our line from our right, being driven down by some of our scouts, and just when they were opposite to the umCijo regiment, a body of mounted men on the hill to the west, galloping evidently trying to cut them off. When several hundred yards off they perceived the umCijo and, dismounting, fired one volley at them and retired. The umCijo at once jumped up and charged, an example which was taken up by the uNokenke and uNodwengu on their right, and by the inGobamakhosi and uMbonambi on their left; while the Undi corps and uDloko formed a circle and remained where they were. With the latter were the two commanding officers, Mavumengwana and Tshingwayo, and several of the King’s brothers, who with these two corps bore away to the northwest, after a short pause, and keeping on the northern side of Isandhlwana performed a turning movement on the right without any opposition from the whites, who from the nature of the ground could not see them.

Thus the original Zulu left became their extreme right, while their right became their centre, and the centre the left. The two regiments which formed the latter, the inGobamakhosi and uMbonambi, made a turning along the front of the camp towards the English right, but became engaged long before they could accomplish it; and the uVe regiment, a battalion of the inGobamakhosi, was repulsed and had to retire until reinforced by the other battalion, while the uMbonambi suffered very severely from the artillery fire. Meanwhile, the centre, consisting of the umCijo on the left centre, and the uNokenke and uNodwengu higher up on the right under the hill, were making an attack on the left of the camp. The umCijo suffered very severely, both from artillery and musketry fire, the uNokenke from musketry fire alone; while the uNodwengu lost least. When we at last carried the camp our regiments became mixed up; a portion pursued the fugitives down to the Buffalo River, and the remainder plundered the camp; while the Undi and uDloko Regiments made the best of their way to Rorke’s Drift to plunder the post there, in which they failed and lost very heavily, after fighting all the afternoon and night.

Another warrior describes the battle

We were lying in the hills up there, when one of our scouting parties came back followed by a number of mounted men; they were most of them natives, but some were whites. They fired upon us. Then the whole impi became very excited and sprang up. When the horsemen saw how numerous we were they began to retreat. We formed up in rank and marched towards the camp. At the top of the last hill we were met by more horsemen, but we were too many for them and they retreated. Here, where we are standing ... there were some parties of soldiers in red coats who kept up a heavy fire upon us as we came over. My regiment was here and lost a lot of men; they kept tumbling over one upon another. [The narrator became quite excited ... and indulged in much gesticulation, illustrating the volleys by cracking his fingers.]

Then the inGobamakhosi regiment, which formed the left horn of the impi, extended and swept round on the south of the conical kopje so as to outflank the soldiers, who, seeing this, fell back and took cover in the donga [dry watercourse], and fired upon us from there. By that time the inGobamakhosi had got among the rockets [besides two field guns, the British force also had a rocket battery] and killed the horses, and were circling round so as to shut in the camp on the side of the river, but we could not advance because the fire from the donga was too heavy. The great indunas [chiefs] were on the hill to the north of the camp, and just below them a number of soldiers were engaging the umCijo regiment, which was being driven back, but one of the chiefs of the umCijo ran down from the hill and rallied them, calling out that they would get the whole impi beaten and must come on. Then they all shouted ‘Usutu!’ and waving their shields charged the soldiers with great fury. The chief was shot through the forehead and dropped down dead, but the umCijo rushed over his body and fell upon the soldiers, stabbing them with their assegais and driving them right in among the tents.

My regiment and the uDloko formed the centre of the impi. When the soldiers in the donga saw that the umCijo were getting behind them, they retreated upon the camp, firing at us all the time. As they retreated we followed them. I saw several white men on horseback galloping towards the neck, which was the only point open; then the uNokenke and uNodwengu regiments, which had formed the right horn of the impi, joined with the inGobamakhosi on the neck. After that there was so much smoke that I could not see whether the white men had got through or not. The tumult and the firing was wonderful, every warrior shouted ‘Usutu!’ as he killed anyone, and the sun got very dark like night. The English fought long and hard, there were so many of our people in front of me that I did not get into the thick of the fight until the end. The warriors called out that all the white men had been killed, and then we began to plunder the camp. We found tywala [drink] in the camp, and some of our men got very drunk. We were so hot and thirsty that we drank everything liquid we found, without waiting to see what it was. Some of them found some black stuff in bottles [ink], it did not look good, so they did not drink it; but one or two who drank some paraffin, thinking it was tywala, were poisoned. We took as much plunder as we could carry, and went away home to our kraals [villages]. We did not reassemble and march back to Ulundi [the King’s kraal]. At first we had not intended attacking the camp that day, as the moon was wrong, but as the whites had discovered our presence the indunas said we had better go on.

Account of Isandhluwana by Lieutenant Horace Smith-Dorrien

Since I wrote the first part of my letter a dreadful disaster has happened to us. It seems to me a pure miracle that I am alive to tell you about it. On the 21 st January an order came to me, then stationed at Rorke’s Drift, to go out to advanced camp [at Isandhlwana] to escort a convoy of twenty-five waggons from there to Rorke’s Drift and bring them back loaded with supplies. Accordingly I slept in camp. At about three a.m. on the morning of the 22nd the General sent for me and told me not to take the waggons, but to convey a dispatch to Colonel Durnford, who was at Rorke’s Drift, with about 500 mounted black fellows, as a battle was expected. He (Colonel Durnford) accordingly started off with his men to join the camp. I did not return with him, but came out an hour afterwards by myself.

When I arrived in camp, I found the greater part of the column gone out with the General [Lord Chelmsford] to meet the Zulu force, so that there was really only a caretaking force left in the camp - viz., five companies of the ist Battalion of the 24th, two guns, about 600 Native Contingent, and a few servants looking after the tents; the Army Hospital Corps (thirteen men), and the sick in the hospital tents. The first Zulu force appeared about six o’clock in the morning. Two companies of the 24th were sent out after them. The Zulus seemed to retire, and there was firing kept up at long ranges. At about ten-thirty the Zulus were seen coming over the hills in thousands. They were in most perfect order, and seemed to be in about twenty rows of skirmishers one behind the other. They were in a semi-circle round our two flanks and in front of us and must have covered several miles of ground. Nobody knows how many there were of them, but the general idea is at least 20,000.

Well, to cut the account short, in half an hour they were right up to the camp. I was out with the front companies of the 24th handing them spare ammunition. Bullets were flying all over the place, but I never seemed to notice them. The Zulus nearly all had firearms of some kind and lots of ammunition. Before we knew where we were they came right into the camp, assegaiing everybody right and left. Everybody then who had a horse turned to fly. The enemy were going at a kind of very fast half-walk and half-run. On looking round we saw that we were completely surrounded and the road to Rorke’s Drift was cut off. The place where they seemed thinnest was where we all made for. Everybody went pell-mell over ground covered with huge boulders and rocks until we got to a deep spruit or gulley. How the horses got over I have no idea. I was riding a broken-kneed old crock which did not belong to me, and which I expected to go on its head every minute. We had to go bang through them at the spruit. Lots of our men were killed there. I had lots of marvellous escapes, and was firing away at them with my revolver as I galloped along. The ground there down to the river was so broken that the Zulus went as fast as the horses, and kept killing all the way. There were very few white men; they were nearly all mounted blacks of ours flying. This lasted till we came to a kind of precipice down to the River Buffalo.

I jumped off and led my horse down. There was a poor fellow of the mounted infantry (a private) struck through the arm, who said as I passed that if I could bind up his arm and stop the bleeding he would be all right. I accordingly took out my handkerchief and tied up his arm. Just as I had done it, Major Smith of the Artillery came down by me wounded, saving, ‘For God’s sake get on, man, the Zulus are on the top of us.’ I had done all I could for the wounded man and so turned to jump on my horse. Just as I was doing so the horse went with a bound to the bottom of the precipice, being struck with an assegai. I gave up all hope, as the Zulus were all round me, finishing off the wounded, the man I had helped and Major Smith among the number. However, with the strong hope that everybody clings to that some accident would turn up, 1 rushed off on foot and plunged into the river, which was little better than a roaring torrent.

I was being carried down the stream at a tremendous pace, when a loose horse came by me and I got hold of his tail and he landed me safely on the other bank; but I was too tired to stick to him and get on his back. I got up again and rushed on and was several times knocked over by our mounted blacks, who would not get out of my way, then up a tremendous hill with my wet clothes and boots full of water. About twenty Zulus got over the water and followed us up the hill, but I am thankful to say they had not their firearms. Crossing the river, however, the Zulus on the opposite side kept firing at us as we went up the hill and killed several of the blacks round me. I was the only white man to be seen until I came to one who had been kicked by his horse and could not mount. I put him on his horse and lent him my knife. He said he would catch me a horse. Directly he was up he went clean away. A few Zulus followed us for about three miles across the river, but they had no guns and I had a revolver, which I kept letting them know. Also the mounted blacks stopped a little and kept firing at them. They did not come in close, and finally stopped altogether.

Well, to cut it short, I struggled into Helpmakaar, about twenty miles off, at nightfall, to find a few men who had escaped, about ten or twenty, with others who had been entrenched in a waggon laager [literally, camp, but meaning a defensive circle of wagons]. We sat up all night, momentarily expecting attack. The next day there was a dense fog all day, nearly as bad as night, and we could not make out what had happened to everybody. I was dead beat of course, but on the 24th I struggled down to Rorke’s Drift, my former headquarters, which had been so gallantly defended for a whole night against the Zulus by a single company, to find that the General and remainder of the column had arrived all right. I am there now in a laager. We keep a tremendous look-out, and sit up all night expecting attack. It has been raining for the last three hours, and did so all last night. We have not a single thing left. The men have no coats or anything, all being taken by the Zulus. We shall have another dreadful night of it tonight, I expect, lying on the wet ground. I have just had to drop this for a minute for one of our numerous alarms. I have no time for more now. What we are to do for transport I have not the faintest idea, the Zulus having captured 107 waggons and about 2,000 oxen, mules, horses, etc. However, we must begin to work again to get fresh transport together. I thank God I am alive and well, having a few bruises. God bless you.

P.S. We are expecting pestilence to break out here, to add to our enemies, what with the rain and the air tainted with dead bodies, as there were about 350 Zulus killed here and some are buried in the ruins.

Account of Rorke’s Drift by Private Henry Hook, VC

Everything was perfectly quiet at Rorke’s Drift after the column [Durnford’s force] had left, and every officer and man was going about his business as usual. Not a soul suspected that only a dozen miles away the very men that we had said ‘Goodbye’, and ‘Good luck’ to were either dead or standing back-to-back in a last fierce fight with the Zulus. Our garrison consisted of B company of the 2/24th under Lieutenant Bromhead, and details which brought the total number of us up to 139. Besides these, we had about 300 men of the Natal Native Contingent; but they didn’t count, as they bolted in a body when the fight began. We were all knocking about, and I was making tea for the sick, as I was hospital cook at the time.

Suddenly there was a commotion in the camp, and we saw two men galloping towards us from the other side of the river, which was Zululand. Lieutenant Chard of the Engineers was protecting the pontoons over the river and, as senior officer, was in command at the drift [ford]. The pontoons were very simple affairs, one of them being supported on big barrels, and the other on boats. Lieutenant Bromhead was in the camp itself. The horsemen shouted and were brought across the river, and then we knew what had happened to our comrades. They had been butchered to a man. That was awful enough news, but worse was to follow, for we were told that the Zulus were coming straight on from Isandhlwana to attack us. At the same time a note was received by Lieutenant Bromhead from the Column to say that the enemy was coming on, and that the post was to be held at all costs.

For some little time we were all stunned, then everything changed from perfect quietness to intense excitement and energy. There was a general feeling that the only safe thing was to retire and try and join the troops at Helpmakaar. The horsemen had said that the Zulus would be up in two or three minutes; but luckily for us they did not show themselves for more than an hour. Lieutenant Chard rushed up from the river, about a quarter of a mile away, and saw Lieutenant Bromhead. Orders were given to strike the camp and make ready to go, and we actually loaded up two waggons. Then Mr Dalton, of the Commissariat Department, came up and said that if we left the drift every man was certain to be killed. He had formerly been a sergeant-major in a line [infantry] regiment and was one of the bravest men that ever lived. Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead held a consultation, short and earnest, and orders were given that we were to get the hospital and storehouse ready for defence, and that we were never to say die or surrender.

Not a minute was lost. Lieutenant Bromhead superintended the loop-holing and barricading of the hospital and storehouse, and the making of a connection of the defences between the two buildings with walls of mealie-bags and waggons. The mealie-bags were good big heavy things, weighing about 200 pounds each, and during the fight many of them were burst open by assegais and bullets, and the mealies (Indian corn) were thickly spread about the ground.

The biscuit boxes contained ordinary biscuit. They were big square wooden boxes, weighing about a hundredweight each. The meat boxes, too, were very heavy, as they contained tinned meat. They were smaller than the biscuit boxes. While these preparations were being made, Lieutenant Chard went down to the river and brought in the pontoon guard of a sergeant and half-a-dozen men, with the waggons and gear. The two officers saw that every soldier was at his post, then we were ready for the Zulus when they cared to come.

They were not long. Just before half past four we heard firing behind the conical hill at the back of the drift, called Oskarsberg Hill, and suddenly about five or six hundred Zulus swept round, coming for us at a run. Instantly the natives — Kaffirs who had been very useful in making the barricade of waggons, mealie-bags and biscuit boxes around the camp — bolted towards Helpmakaar, and what was worse their officer and a European sergeant went with them. To see them deserting like that was too much for some of us, and we fired after them. The sergeant was struck and killed. Half-a-dozen of us were stationed in the hospital, with orders to hold it and guard the sick. The ends of the building were of stone, the side walls of ordinary bricks, and the inside walls or partitions of sun-dried bricks of mud. These shoddy inside bricks proved our salvation, as you will see. It was a queer little one-storeyed building, which it is almost impossible to describe; but we were pinned like rats in a hole, because all the doorways except one had been barricaded with mealie-bags, and we had done the same with the windows. The interior was divided by means of partition walls into which were fitted some very slight doors. The patients’ beds were simple rough affairs of boards, raised only about half a foot above the floor. To talk of hospital and beds gives the idea of a big building, but as a matter of fact this hospital was a mere little shed or bungalow, divided up into rooms so small that you could hardly swing a bayonet in them. There were about nine men who could not move, but altogether there were about thirty. Most of these, however, could help to defend themselves.

As soon as our Kaffirs bolted, it was seen that the fort as we had first made it was too big to be held, so Lieutenant Chard instantly reduced the space by having a row of biscuit-boxes drawn across the middle, above four feet high. This was our inner entrenchment, and proved very valuable. The Zulus came on at a wild rush, and although many of them were shot down they got to within about fifty yards of our south wall of mealie-bags and biscuit boxes and waggons. They were caught between two fires, that from the hospital and that from the storehouse, and were checked; but they gained the shelter of the cookhouse and ovens, and gave us many heavy volleys. During the fight they took advantage of every bit of cover there was, anthills, a tract of bush that we had not had time to clear away, a garden or sort of orchard which was near us, and a ledge of rock and some caves (on the Oscarsberg) which were only about a hundred yards away. They neglected nothing, and while they went on firing large bodies kept hurling themselves against our slender breastworks. But it was the hospital they assaulted most fiercely. I had charge with a man that we called Old King Cole of a small room with only one patient in it. Cole kept with me for some time after the fight began, then he said he was not going to stay. He went outside and was instantly killed by the Zulus, so that I was left alone with the patient, a native whose leg was broken and who kept crying out, ‘Take my bandage off, so that I can come.’ But it was impossible to do anything except fight, and I blazed away as hard as I could. By this time I was the only defender of my room. Poor Old King Cole was lying dead outside and the helpless patient was crying and groaning near me. The Zulus were swarming around us, and there was an extraordinary rattle as the bullets struck the biscuit boxes, and queer thuds as they plumped into the bags of mealies. Then there were the whizz and rip of the assegais, of which I had experience duringthe Kaffir Campaign of 1877 — 8. We had plenty of ammunition, but we were told to save it and so we took careful aim at every shot, and hardly a cartridge was wasted. One of my comrades, Private Dunbar, shot no fewer than nine Zulus, one of them being a chief.

From the very first the enemy tried to rush the hospital, and at last they managed to set fire to the thick grass which formed the roof. This put us in a terrible plight, because it meant that we were either to be massacred or burned alive, or get out of the building. To get out seemed impossible; for if we left the hospital by the only door which had been left open, we should instantly fall into the midst of the Zulus. Besides, there were the helpless sick and wounded, and we could not leave them. My own little room communicated with another by means of a frail door like a bedroom door. Fire and dense choking smoke forced me to get out and go into the other room. It was impossible to take the native patient with me, and I had to leave him to an awful fate. But his death was, at any rate, a merciful one. I heard the Zulus asking him questions, and he tried to tear off his bandages and escape.

In the room where I now was there were nine sick men, and I was alone to look after them for some time, still firing away, with the hospital burning. Suddenly in the thick smoke I saw John Williams, and above the din of battle and the cries of the wounded I heard him shout, ‘The Zulus are swarming all over the place. They’ve dragged Joseph Williams out and killed him.’ John Williams had held the other room with Private William Horrigan for more than an hour, until they had not a cartridge left. The Zulus then burst in and dragged out Joseph Williams and two of the patients, and assegaied them. It was only because they were so busy with this slaughtering that John Williams and two of the patients were able to knock a hole in the partition and get into the room where I was posted. Horrigan was killed. What were we to do? We were pinned like rats in a hole. Already the Zulus were fiercely trying to burst in through the doorway. The only way of escape was the wall itself, by making a hole big enough for a man to crawl through into an adjoining room, and so on until we got to our inmost entrenchment outside. Williams worked desperately at the wall with the navvy’s pick, which I had been using to make some of the loop-holes with.

All this time the Zulus were trying to get into the room. Their assegais kept whizzing towards us, and one struck me in front of the helmet. We were wearing the white tropical helmets then. But the helmet tilted back under the blow and made the spear lose its power, so that I escaped with a scalp wound which did not trouble me much then, although it has often caused me illness since. Only one man at a time could get in at the door. A big Zulu sprang forward and seized my rifle, but I tore it free and, slipping a cartridge in, I shot him point-blank. Time after time the Zulus gripped the muzzle and tried to tear the rifle from my grasp, and time after time I wrenched it back, because I had a better grip than they had. All this time Williams was getting the sick through the hole into the next room, all except one, a soldier of the 24th named Conley, who could not move because of a broken leg. Watching for my chance I dashed from the doorway, and grabbing Conley I pulled him after me through the hole. His leg got broken again, but there was no help for it. As soon as we left the room the Zulus burst in with furious cries of disappointment and rage.

Now there was a repetition of the work of holding the doorway, except that I had to stand by a hole instead of a door, while Williams picked away at the far wall to make an opening for escape into the next room. There was more desperate and almost hopeless fighting, as it seemed, but most of the poor fellows were got through the hole. Again I had to drag Conley through, a terrific task because he was a very heavy man. We were now all in a little room that gave upon the inner line of defence which had been made. We (Williams and Robert Jones and William Jones and myself) were the last men to leave the hospital, after most of the sick and wounded had been carried through the small window and away from the burning building; but it was impossible to save a few of them, and they were butchered. Privates William Jones and Robert Jones during all this time were doing magnificent work in another ward which faced the hill. They kept at it with bullet and bayonet until six of the seven patients had been removed. They would have got the seventh, Sergeant Maxfield, out safely, but he was delirious with fever and, although they managed to dress him, he refused to move. Robert Jones made a last rush to try and get him away like the rest, but when he got back into the room he saw that Maxfield was being stabbed by the Zulus as he lay on his bed. Corporal Allen and Private Hitch helped greatly in keeping up communication with the hospital. They were both badly wounded, but when they could not fight any longer they served out ammunition to their comrades throughout the night. As we got the sick and wounded out they were taken to a verandah in front of the storehouse, and Dr Reynolds under a heavy fire and clouds of assegais, did everything he could for them. All this time, of course, the storehouse was being valiantly defended by the rest of the garrison. When we got into the inner fort, I took my post at a place where two men had been shot. While I was there another man was shot in the neck, I think by a bullet which came through the space between two biscuit boxes that were not quite close together. This was at about six o’clock in the evening, nearly two hours after the opening shot of the battle had been fired. Every now and then the Zulus would make a rush for it and get in. We had to charge them out. By this time it was dark, and the hospital was all in flames, but this gave us a splendid light to fight by. I believe it was this light that saved us. We could see them coming, and they could not rush us and take us by surprise from any point. They could not get at us, and so they went away and had ten or fifteen minutes of a war-dance. This roused them up again, and their excitement was so intense that the ground fairly seemed to shake. Then, when they were goaded to the highest pitch, they would hurl themselves at us again.

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