Zulu War Volunteers, Irregulars Auxiliaries

Zulu War Volunteers, Irregulars Auxiliaries

  • Author: Ian Castle
  • Publisher: Osprey Men-at-Arms-Series

Review By : Ian Knight

The contribution made by Colonial troops to the British victory in Zululand in 1879 remains an area that is often overlooked, particularly in mainstream studies of the war. Indeed, there is still a good deal of confusion as to the differences between Irregulars (full-time troops raised for a specified period by the Crown), Volunteers (part-time units maintained by the Colonial administration) and auxiliaries (units raised from among the African chiefdoms of Natal, and occasionally the Transvaal).

This book should, therefore, be required reading, as it clearly sets out those differences, and charts the history and often problematic appearance and weapons of those units. Contrary to popular belief, most of the Natal Volunteer units were enlisted among the settler gentry, the sons of wealthy farmers who had a stake in the colony’s security, and despite their often tiny numbers, they strove to achieve a smart standard in both their training and uniforms. Most favoured blue or black uniforms with distinctive facings, and designed and paid for their own badges and buttons.

Many of the Irregulars, however, were recruited from unsuccessful diamond diggers, adventurers and drifters, and were issued with hard-wearing yellow cord uniforms that were in plentiful supply in Government stores, and which gave them a shabby yet workmanlike appearence; even units like the famous Frontier Light Horse, who started their career on the Cape Frontier in smart black and braided uniforms, had long since learned to be content with makeshift replacements by the time they reached the Zulu border. Thousands of black Africans took to the field alongside the British redcoats, too, and their role was often ignored by white observers, although their contribution as scouts, as light cavalry and infantry, and even as a military labour gang was invaluable. All of these units are covered in the usual brisk Men-at-Arms style, and profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs, with rare illustrations of surviving arms and equipment, and with Raffaele Ruggeri’s atmospheric colour plates. Recommended. Ian Knight

Thursday 12th of January 2006 08:43:12 PM