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Just like the battle of Lsandlwana, the battle of Rorke’s Drift was a battle against the Anglo-Zulu by the British. With 150 troops, the British Empire managed to defend their stronghold against over 4,000 Zulu warriors.
This outcome contradicts with the Isandlwana battle where the British troops succumbed to a massive defeat from the Zulu warriors leaving the world in awe (Knight & Hook, 2002). The Zulu warriors became the first ‘native’ army to defeat a western troop in a substantial manner. Considering that both battles took place on the same day, how comes one battle was won while the other was lost?
Zulu’s Fighting Tactics
Zulu warriors at Rorke’s Drift battle used poor fighting tactics thus giving room for the British troop to attack and defeat them. They easily made their war intents and positions known thus prompting the officers in charge to hastily hold a meeting and decide on the war strategy to use (whether to retreat or defend themselves in the position they were already in).
However, the Zulu warriors in Isandlwana battle used new fighting tactics. Unlike the British troops, Zulu warriors were concentrated and did not make their war intent or their position known. This enabled them to get close to the British troops and give them a tactical surprise that was below their expectations and was unprepared for (Knight & Hook, 2002).
British Troop’s Readiness
The officers in charge of the Rorke’s Drift battle were alert and quick to act and therefore managed to organize and position the troops. The British officers used mealie bags to construct a defensive perimeter, which consisted of a fortified hospital and storehouse. The troops made Firing holes through the buildings walls and used furniture to obstruct the doors.
This concealed the British troops while allowing them to aim and fire at the Zulu warriors. However, at the Isandlwana battle, tactical surprise did not give Chelmsford, the officer in charge time to organize or give commands to the defending troops.
This made the troop unprepared; had difficulty unpacking and distributing ammunitions on time and therefore, the men fighting ran out of ammunition thus making them prone to attacks (Knight & Hook, 2002).
Underestimation of the Zulus
British troops at Rorke’s Drift battle did not underestimate the Zulus and this explains why they took their time preparing and organizing for the war prior to the attack. However, troops at Isandlwana underestimated the Zulus capability. After Chelmsford heard of the Zulu’s over 20,000 warriors, he opted to move with ‘force’ underestimating the fact that Zulus outnumbered the British troops.
He relied on the idea that firepower could compensate for his inadequate troops. Unfortunately, even with a heavy guard at Isandlwana camp, Zulu warriors were able to slip around the British forces and choose a strategic spot that helped them win the battle. The British firearms could not save them from the Zulu warriors’ traditional buffalo chest and horns (Knight & Hook, 2002).
Even thought both battles were on the same day, different incidences that led to differing outcomes took place. While fighting the Rorke’s Drift battle, the troops won because they were organized, ready and did not underestimate the Zulu warriors. However, at the Lsandlwana battle, the troops were disorganized, unprepared and underestimated the capability of the Zulu warriors thus culminating to their defeat (Knight & Hook, 2002).
Knight, I., & Hook, A. (2002). Isandlwana 1879: the great Zulu victory. Long Island City, NY: Osprey Publishing