[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Experts find site of Zulu siege
By Stephen Stewart
BBC Scotland news website

Fort at Eshowe
A soldier's drawing of the besieged fort at KwaMondi
British soldiers fighting the Zulus experienced appalling conditions similar to the muddy killing fields of World War I, it has emerged.

Archaeologists have revealed details of soldiers' battle for survival during a bloody siege in the Anglo-Zulu War.

The colonial war in 1879 was dramatised by Michael Caine in the film Zulu.

Historians lacked detailed evidence of the troops' daily lives, but a team of experts from Glasgow have now uncovered a forgotten British fort.

The site at KwaMondi, Eshowe, in South Africa, has been hailed as a treasure trove of historical information which sheds light on the heroism and skill of the Royal Engineers.

The interior of the fort would have been very wet and prone to waterlogging
Dr Tony Pollard

The group from Glasgow University was headed by Dr Tony Pollard, star of the popular BBC's Two Men in A Trench series, and used metal detectors to survey the site.

The fort was built by the British army following the invasion of Zululand in January 1879 and was besieged by a huge Zulu force for more than two months.

Dr Pollard, Dr Iain Banks and their team brought to light the endeavours of men such as Captain Warren Wynne, who built the fort and surrounding roads under the threat of an overwhelming Zulu attack.

They also discovered that heavy rains during the siege turned the fort into a polluted quagmire leading to an outbreak of typhus which killed large number of men.

Iconic locations

Dr Pollard said: "During the rains of January to March, the interior of the fort would have been very wet and prone to waterlogging.

"The presence of 1,700 men and their horses would quickly turn the soil into a muddy mess, little different from the mud that their sons and grandsons would face in the trenches of Flanders.

"The artefacts provide an insight into the lives of men who lived in the fort for the duration of the siege.

"They show the value of metal detecting as a technique and also of the less well known sites that have been pushed into the background by iconic locations such as Rorke's Drift or Isandlwana."

Excavations at the fort
Experts from Glasgow University examined the site

Dr Pollard said the story of the fort provides a testament to the skill of the Royal Engineers and particularly of Captain Warren Wynne.

He added: "It is a story without the stuff of legend but nonetheless a story of achievement under difficult and testing conditions; the remains of the fort are a memorial to the men who built and served under such trying circumstances.

"My favourite find is undoubtedly a Martini Henry bullet converted into a plumb bob.

"You can imagine the row when it was discovered there wasn't one in the tool box and Wynne the engineer commanding one of his men to make one - if he didn't make it himself.

"Its also interesting archaeologically to have something designed to kill transformed into something constructive."

Before arriving at Eshowe, the relief column under Lord Chelmsford fought off a 12,000-strong Zulu force.

Experts reveal secrets of Zulu siege

County honours Rorke's Drift hero
03 May 06 |  South West Wales
British and Zulus mark battles
24 Jan 04 |  Africa


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific