Redcoats & Zulus

  • Author: Adrian Greaves
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword
  • Publish Date: April 2004
  • ISBN: 1-84415-063-1
  • Price: 19.19
  • Number of Sales: 3450

Review By : Andy Smith FRGS FCIJ

READ THIS BOOK IF... You've seen the 1964 film Zulu and think you already know all about the Zulu War! When Lord Chelmsford, Britain's commander in chief in South Africa, led British forces into the independent kingdom of Zululand in January 1879, he did so against the wishes of the government back home in England, and in spite of longstanding friendly relations between the Zulu nation and the British settlers in neighbouring Natal Colony. Under-estimating his enemy's military skills, and anticipating a quick and easily winnable war, Chelmsford was in for a huge surprise. Within days of crossing from Natal into Zululand, over 1,000 of his troops had been wiped out at Isandlwana. It was the greatest disaster ever to befall Queen Victoria's army.

Thanks in large measure to the impact of Hollywood movies such as Zulu and Zulu Dawn, the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 is perhaps the best known of all the Victorian 'little wars'. But how much do we really know about this conflict? Published to mark the 125h anniversary of the war, Redcoats and Zulus brings the events of 1879 to life. It looks at the causes of the war, how the opposing sides shaped up to one another - their strategy and tactics, their weapons and uniforms, and the many individual acts of heroism. We read of the Zulu warriors' reliance on drugs and witch-doctors to get them in the right frame of mind for battle, and in contrast the British officers who brought their cricket bats and hunting kit to South Africa in anticipation of slightly less dangerous activities!

The book also details how African native troops, and so-called Blue Jackets from the Naval Brigade, played significant roles in the Anglo-Zulu War, alongside the Redcoats of the British Army. Campaign life for Chelmsford's troops is described: enduring sweltering daytime heat and cold torrential rain at night, having to march, fight and sleep in the same generally unsuitable uniforms (no change of clothes for months!) and risking any or all of a diverse range of diseases and medical conditions, from malaria, dysentery and tuberculosis to sun-stroke and snake bites.

Army discipline was harsh, and during this campaign over 500 British soldiers were flogged - a punishment toll that caused such an uproar back in England that corporal punishment in the army was thereafter banned. Redcoats and Zulus also dispels some of the popular myths surrounding the Zulu War, especially the long-held notion that the loss of so many troops at Isandlwana was down to problems with ammunition supplies. The book's co-authors argue strongly that the Zulu army simply outmanoeuvred and outfought the British that day, so the battle should be seen less as a British defeat than a great Zulu victory. Dr Adrian Greaves, editor of the Journal of Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society and author of several books on the major battles of the Zulu War, has assembled a distinguished group of contributors, including writer and broadcaster Ian Knight, who has written some 25 books on different aspects of the Zulu wars and Major Martin Everett, curator of the South Wales Borderers Museum in Brecon. Each has drawn on extensive archival sources and eyewitness accounts (much of this material in private collections) and the result is overwhelmingly a work of original research, making it one of the most authoritative books in print on this subject. Redcoats and Zulus should appeal not just to diehard Zulu War buffs but to anyone interested in British military or colonial history.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, TRY... Rorke's Drift: By those who were there, by Alan Baynham Jones and Lee Stevenson. With his face to the foe: The death of the Prince Imperial, by Ian Knight. Andy Smith FRGS FCIJ The British Army Review Spring 2005

Thursday 12th of January 2006 08:36:55 PM

Review By : Elizabeth Hogan

A review of the review by Major Mike Snook of the Royal Regiment of Wales. In the British Army Review Spring 2005, Major Snook stated that he was ‘glad to have added this second book to his collection’. The book marked the 125th Anniversary of the war and Adrian Greaves, the book’s editor, has collated a rather good collection of learned articles from the excellent journals of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society. Major Snook describes Redcoats and Zulus as ‘this excellent Pen & Sword production’ and contributors include Adrian Greaves, Ian knight and Brian Best. The book deals with all aspects of the Zulu War from the political causes to the conclusion and capture of King Cetshwayo. Snook writes that the two essential points, in his opinion, are firstly that the contributors all know what they doing, having studied the AZW in depth, ‘unlike some of our revisionist chums’, and secondly, that Dr Greaves has chosen ‘a spread of articles that pretty much cover the AZW from beginning to end, and which address all the major issues along the way’. Snook complements the book by adding; ‘If you are a serious AZW buff, or even if you are coming to the subject for the first time, you are on safe ground with expending your pennies here; thoughtful, original, different, learned and interesting. There is plenty of good meaty history to reflect on here’.

 His advice? ‘Go and buy it now’. Snook generously gives the book a ‘Highly recommended’.

Thursday 12th of January 2006 08:37:27 PM