**These books contain graphic violence and language
not suitable for younger audiences or sensitive readers!**
Brutal Valour: The Tragedy of Isandlwana
The Anglo-Zulu War Book 1
by James Mace
Genre: Historical Fiction
It is December 1878, and war looms on the horizon in South Africa. British High Commissioner Sir Henry Bartle-Frere seeks to dismantle the powerful neighbouring kingdom of the Zulus and uses an incursion along the disputed border as his justification for war. He issues an impossible ultimatum to the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, demanding he disband his armies and pay massive reparations. With a heavy heart, the king prepares his nation for war against their former allies.
Leading the invasion is Lieutenant General Sir Frederic Thesiger, Baron Chelmsford, a highly experienced officer fresh off a decisive triumph over the neighbouring Xhosa tribes. He and Frere are convinced that a quick victory over the Zulus will negate any repercussions from the home government for launching what is, in essence, an illegal war.
Recently arrived to South Africa are newly-recruited Privates Arthur Wilkinson and Richard Lowe; members of C Company, 1/24th Regiment of Foot under the venerable Captain Reginald Younghusband. Eager for adventure, they are prepared to do their duty both for the Empire and for their friends. As Frere’s ultimatum expires, the army of British redcoats and allied African auxiliaries crosses the uMzinyathi River at Rorke’s Drift into Zululand. Ten days later, the British and Zulus will meet their destiny at the base of a mountain called Isandlwana.
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The sounds of men shouting and horses galloping in the distance forewarned Lieutenant Charles Cavaye and E Company.
“Look alive, lads!”
If there were friendly cavalry rushing towards them at such speed, then the Zulus could not be far behind. Cavaye waved his helmet at the horsemen who turned and galloped frantically towards his position.
“Get ready, boys, they’re not far behind us!” Charlie Raw shouted, as he rode past the company on their far left.
Cavaye kept the bulk of his men over-watching the ground to the north. However he’d earlier detached a section under his lone subaltern, 2nd Lieutenant Edwards Dyson, about five hundred yards to his left to protect his flank. They, like everyone else, heard the shooting coming from Raw’s troop, yet were still oblivious to just how large of a Zulu force they now faced. Cavaye had arranged his men in extended order, with six feet between each man. They readied themselves for the coming fight.
“Over there, sir,” his colour sergeant said, nodding towards Mkwene Hill, seven hundred yards northeast.
Both men scanned with their field glasses. They saw at first a handful, then growing numbers of Zulu warriors.
“What the devil are they doing?” Cavaye asked.
The Zulus were crouching low and moving laterally rather than towards them.
“Doesn’t matter,” the colour sergeant said matter-of-factly. “Shall we announce ourselves, sir?”
The officer commanding nodded and called out, “Contact front! At 700 yards…volley by sections!”
Knowing his company was too spread out to effectively manage alone, he had briefed his sergeants and corporals that, should they come into contact, each section leader would take control of their firing. He had further stressed the need for fire discipline. Each man had only seventy rounds, and Quartermaster Pullen’s ammunition stockpile was nearly two miles away.
Crucible of Honour: The Battle of Rorke’s Drift
The Anglo-Zulu War Book 2
It is January of 1879. While three columns of British soldiers and their African allies cross the uMzinyathi River to commence the invasion of the Zulu Kingdom, a handful of redcoats from B Company, 2/24th Regiment are left to guard the centre column’s supply depot at Rorke's Drift.
On the morning of 22 January, the main camp at Isandlwana, just ten miles to the east, comes under attack from the entire Zulu army and is utterly destroyed. Four thousand warriors from King Cetshwayo’s elite Undi Corps remained in reserve and were denied any chance to take part in the fighting. Led by Prince Dabulamanzi, they disobey the king’s orders and cross into British Natal, seeking their share in triumph and spoils. They soon converge on Rorke’s Drift; an easy prize, with its paltry force of 150 redcoats to be readily swept aside.
Upon hearing of the disaster at Isandlwana, and with retreat impossible, the tiny British garrison readies to receive the coming onslaught. Leading them is Lieutenant John Chard, a newly-arrived engineer officer with no actual combat experience. Aiding him is B Company’s previously undistinguished officer commanding, Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, along with 24-year old Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, and a retired soldier-turned civilian volunteer named James Dalton.
Unbeknownst to either the British or the Zulus, half of the centre column, under Lord Chelmsford’s direct command, was not even at Isandlwana, but fifteen miles further east, at Mangeni Falls. However, with a huge Zulu force of over twenty-thousand warriors between them and the drift, their ammunition and ration stores taken or destroyed, and an impossible distance to cover, Chelmsford’s battered column cannot possibly come to the depot’s aid, and must look to their own survival. The defenders of Rorke’s Drift stand alone.
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By mid-afternoon, the soldiers at Rorke’s Drift were becoming anxious for any news regarding their mates at Isandlwana. The cannon fire had ceased; it was around this time that Major Stewart Smith ordered the guns limbered, that he might redeploy or try to save them from falling into the hands of the Zulus. Rolling volleys of musketry from the six infantry companies of the 24th guarding the camp continued sporadically.
“Something’s wrong,” Second Corporal Atwood said quietly. He sat atop the railing of the stairs leading into the small attic in the storehouse.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Sergeant Joseph Windridge replied, joining the corporal. “Sounds like the lads are giving the Zulus a damn good thrashing.”
Windridge had come to the storehouse to see about acquiring a patch kit for his section’s tent, when he saw the Service Corps NCO looking despondent. The two men were in their mid-thirties, making them substantially older than most of the garrison at Rorke’s Drift. As such, they had formed a friendship over the past few weeks.
“Perhaps,” Atwood conceded. “And if that’s the case, then I suppose we’ll all be raising a toast of the finest whiskey to Her Majesty and Lord Chelmsford…beg your pardon, sergeant.”
Frances felt awkward at the mention of Joseph Windridge’s crippling vice. By his own admission, his want for the bottle was worse than William Allan’s. A former quartermaster sergeant, and previously colour sergeant of 2nd Battalion’s C Company, Windridge was, at one time, considered a potential successor to the battalion’s sergeant major. He managed to confine his drunkenness to when he was not on duty, but in recent years it became an unbearable burden to both he and his family. After his latest stint in hospital for overindulging, Windridge requested a voluntary reduction of two ranks to sergeant, so that he might sort himself out. Though greatly disappointed, the sergeant major relented and recommended Lieutenant Colonel Degacher reduce Joseph back to sergeant, allowing him to command a section of riflemen in B Company. Though Windridge had previously served with C Company, both Degacher and the sergeant major thought it might cause a bit of awkwardness to place him back in the company where he previously served as their colour sergeant.
“Nothing to apologise for,” he said, consoling Atwood. “I know my vices well, and what it’s done to me, my wife, and even my children. Of course, Quartermaster Sergeant Leitch was all-too-happy to accept promotion into my former billet. It may have cost me in terms of pounds and shillings, but returning to the ranks saved my sanity, and possibly my life. Besides, the lads in B Company are a good lot. Even Lance Sergeant Williams, who likely thinks I ‘stole’ his promotion.”
James Mace is a life-long historian and the author of twenty books, including seven Ancient History best-sellers, and two South African History best-sellers. He penned the initial draft of his first novel, "Soldier of Rome: The Legionary", as a cathartic means of escapism while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. His works span numerous eras, from Ancient Rome to the British Empire.