As the Zulu numbers increased and more pressure was placed on the British Commander his perfect square formation began to full apart. The ‘want’ to come to grips with the enemy proved to great and units began to break the square formation and form out into line or stopped moving forward in order to engage small units of Zulu warriors hiding in the underbrush.
Like most wargamers, you have that great passion to relive the great battles and conflicts of the past, but you are always stopped by what scale and how many figures will you require to do the job. Our club is no different, however with a couple of like minded gentlemen with similar interests in certain periods we can certainly put on a decent sized game and come close to at least a representation of one of those great battles from the past.
So the game we had decided on this week was the great battle of Ulundi in 1879, which was fought between the great Zulu Nation and the British Empire. It was also to be the last great battle of the war and involved thousands of troops on both sides….but for us this was impossible, however, we did manage to field a good number:
On the British Empire side:
12 x Companies of Infantry
4 x Natal Native Contingent Companies
2 x Troops of Imperial Mounted Infantry
1 x Troop of Dragoon Guards
1 x Troop of Natal Native Horse
1 x Troop of Mounted Natal Police
2 x Royal Artillery 7pdrs
1 x Royal Artillery Gatling gun
Then on the Zulu side, we had at least 17 regiments of Zulu and a couple were recycled just to bring up the numbers.
The initial deployment for the British was as close as I could do to the actual formation the British Army first deployed in on the day, which was to have the infantry deployed in a massive square and all supporting troops placed inside. The deployment of the Zulus I also tried to keep close to the events on the day with allowing the Brian (the Zulu player) to deploy his troops randomly and at the various time all around the advancing British square. This certainly worked well and keep the British player (Dave) guessing where the next attack might come from.
Our British player also had to advance at least half his deployed units at any one time as his overall mission was not only to destroy the Zulu Army but also to occupy the Zulu Capital. This proved to be a more difficult task as with each passing turn the Zulu warrior number increased.
Then after a number of turns, the Brutish Commander decided to send out his only cavalry formation a troop of Dragoon Guards to harass some Zulus. They were effective at the start and soon over ran the warriors however the Zulus seem to have laid a well placed ambush…….the Dragoons were soon attacked by two Zulu units in the flank. They lost half their number in the ensuing melee and then routed from the field to find a nice quiet place at the rear of the British formation.
Finally, after the British had reached the middle of the table and their square was out of formation the Zulu commander released the main Zulu Army and a massive and impressive attack on the front left hand side of the British formation. In the ensuing melee British Infantry was pushed back and sustained heavy casualties, the Natal Native Contingent suffered heavily and a troop of Imperial Mounted Infantry were cut off and destroyed.
However British cold steel and the iron discipline of the Infantry soon stopped regained control and shot down wave upon wave of brave Zulu warriors. In the end, the firepower of the Martini Henry proved to much for the Zulus and they retreated from the field. The final outcome of our game ended very similarly to the actual day however were missing the Lancers to follow up on retreating Zulu.
The initial deployment of the British. Infantry in a square with supporting units safely inside.
Empress Miniature Royal Artillery Gatling Gun and crew, painted by Brian Buskell
Half the British deployed (6 x companies) we these very nicely painted plastic Warlord Games British Infantry. Again painted and based by Brian Buskell.
The first attack came only in the second turn of the game and was easily defeated by a couple of quick volleys.
Natal Mounted Police deploy out of the square to scout out the ground on the British left.
Lead by veteran NCO two companies of Natal Native Contingent advance with the British square.
Imperial Mounted Infantry waits for the command to advance, just behind the colours of the 24th Foot.
Eager to come to grips with the Zulu and also to prove themselves in their first battle the Dragoon Guards charge forward into a group of Zulu warriors
However, in doing so the infantry has to break formation and thus the square.
A good view of the British deployment at the beginning of turn four. The Infantry has advanced on the left and changed formation opening up the square and allowing the guards to charge out.
Mounted infantry deploy to up cover the widening gap in the British formation
The NNC and Royal Artillery also deploy forward in hope of shoring up the line.
But just to top it all off the Zulu Commander charges two Zulu warrior units into the rear of the British square. They are soon either shot down or received a bit of cold steel, but it has the desired effect and places more strain on the already broken square.
The Dragoon Guards soon come to grips with the Zulu warriors and deliver a devastating charge.
The closer the British move to the Zulu village the more Zulus spring from the hidden ground and charge the thin red line.
Soon the there are Zulu warriors on three sides of the broken square, catching some British companies out in the open.
However, the British infantry seemed to hold their own well…but they do take some very heavy casualties.
The Dragoons are caught in the flank and soon lose half their number.
British SNCOs and Officers stand fast and direct devastating volleys into the brave Zulus.
The final great charge of the Zulus
Hand to hand combat is seen all across the line
Round after round in fired into the dense waves of Zulu warriors.
British infantry are forced back after the initial charge
Steady lads…watch your fire.
A troop of Mounted Infantry is caught exposed on a flank and destroyed to a man.
But still the resilience of the British soldiers stands firm and steady against a seemingly endless mass of brave Zulu warriors
The fighting was desperate and fierce on both sides..one side eager to rid their home of the invader and the other for the Glory of the British Empire and Queen Victoria
Even the guns were charged but the brave gunners stood their ground and fire double canister, decimating the Zulu warriors caught in front of this deadly fire.
By the second last turn, the game could have gone either way. The British commander Dave Lowe was very troubled but manoeuvred his final reserves well and into good positions in order to support the tried troops of the front line.
But in the end, the British soldiers ability to stand firm and support his brothers on either side of him enable them to slowly but surely gain the upper hand.
Casualties were heavy on but sides during the second last turn but the Zulus were slowing losing heart and unit by unit started to fall back.
With the last desperate charges being defeated the brave Zulu warriors withdraw back into the hills.
With the British line now secure the regiments formed back into line and advance pushing the last warrior units away
Never had the Zulus fought so hard to win the final victory over the invaders…but no matter how hard they tried or how bravely they fought they could not beat the hard steel of a British bayonet nor the punishing firepower of the Martini Henry.