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The Battle of Holkrans – 6 May 1902

I stumbled apon this small battle last year when I had started to research the uniforms for painting my Boers for the Anglo-Boer Wars and thought that it would make a great little wargame. The battle itself was against a small Boer Commando of roughly 73 men and a Zulu Impi of between 300-1000 (depending on which report you read). The dispute started when the Boers started to raid into Zululand for cattle and other food stuff. The Zulus as you could imagine were not that happy so one tribe, the abaQulusi, retaliated and caught the Boer Commando unawares. The Boers put up a good fight but were evenly overrun and 56 members of the group were killed. So last night I decided to re-play the battle almost one for one.
On the Boer Commando side, played by Dave Lowe, were four units of Boer infantry and one of skirmishers, plus three units of Boer Cavalry coming on as a flank attack and reinforcements. The Zulu Impi, commanded by Brian Buskell, had two skirmisher units, six warrior units and two elite warrior units. The initial deployment was for the Boer Infantry to start the game in a central position on the table in waiting for the expected Zulu attack. For the Zulus I allowed them to advance on any side of the table but with a minimum of two units or a maximum of four units on any particular side. Brian came in on three sides.

With three large Zulu attacks coming in on three different directions it would have been daunting for any player but Dave’s thin line of Boer infantry managed to fend off the first two attacks on three fronts with some very well placed marksmanship. However by turn four the Zulu numbers began to tell and the Boers were push back on most fronts.

Turn four and five however saw Boer reinforcements appear in the form of a flank attack by two mounted Boer units and a reserve Boer mounted unit coming onto the table. These three small reinforcements were a welcomed addition and helped relieve the pressure on the Boer left flank but in the long run prove a little to late to stop the eventual collapse of the Boer Commando right flank and centre positions. In all the gamed played very well with Boer marksmanship causing some heavy casualties to the Zulu Impi but Zulu weight of numbers eventually won the day…a repeat of history.

Zulus about to charge one of the Boer positions on a small knoll

Another Zulu attack from another flank, this time the Boer left flank

Four large Zulu units charge the one Boer infantry unit. The Boers managed to stop two such attacks on this front through fire power alone, but were eventually overwhelmed on their flank and front by sheer weight of numbers.

Zulus attacks were coming in strong and fast

All three flanks were hit also most at the same time through well co-ordinated Zulu attacks

Boer Cavalry charge in from the flank, catching Zulu riflemen in the rear

Soon the Boer right flank in over run by multiple Zulu attacks

The last stand of the Boer infantry seeking the only cover left – a wagon tried in vain to stop the Zulu over running the camp.

There were too many Zulu and not enough riflemen to cover all fronts…..the camp is over run and the Boer survivors limp away to count their loses. 

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