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Advance to Eshowe - Battle of Ginghilovo

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines (RMA/RMLI)


Location: Ginghilovo - South Africa


Period/ Conflict: Zulu Wars


Year: 1879


Date/s: 2nd April 1879


Reinforcements were now arriving; HMS Shah, on her way home from South America embarked one Company of the 88th and a battery of artillery at St. Helena and reached Durban on 6th March, where she also landed her Naval Brigade of 400 including her RM detachment under Captain J Phillips RMLI and Lieutenant Lambert RMA; HMS Boadicea also landed her Brigade of 200 including the RM under Lieutenant Robyns RMLI, on the 15th.


The total Royal Marines numbered about 100.

Wagons crossing Amatikulu drift on the way to Eshowe (Durban Local History Museum)

Heavy floods in the Buffalo and Tugela Rivers had stopped the Zulus. A column was at once formed for the relief of Etshowe; it was assembled at Fort Pearson and consisted of the 57th, 91st, 2/60th and 99th Regiments, with 2 companies of the Buffs and the Naval Brigade from the Shah, Tenedoa, Boadicea, with mounted volunteers; they had two 9 pdr guns, two Gatlings and 4 rocket tubes.



The troops were divided into two Brigades.


On 28th March they were on the left bank of the Tugela and on the 29th the advance commenced near the coast and over more open country; heavy rain on the 27th and 28th had made the progress slow; an entrenched camp was formed at the Inyoni River. On 30th they moved to the Amatikulu River, crossing on the 31st.


On lst April they made an entrenched camp one mile from the Inyezane River close to the Gingihlovo stream, which was free from bush, but the long grass gave cover to the enemy, large numbers of whom were seen. At dawn on the 2nd, mounted men went out to reconnoitre and at 6 am the Zulu army was reported to be advancing; two columns appeared on the further bank of the river.


nside the laager at Ginghilovo during the Zulu attack. From sketches by Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien, R.N. . Illustrated London News. 24 May 1879. A British Naval Brigade fighting during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879 at the Battle of Ginghilovo [Gingindlovu] on 2 April. The battle saw a Zulu impi of 11,000 men try and destroy an encamped British force of 6,000. At Ginghilovo, the British lost only eleven men killed, while the Zulus lost over a thousand. Source: Illustrated London News between pages 843 and 846.

One column attacked the south and west faces and in spite of the heavy fire the Zulus pushed on to within 20 yards of the shelter trench, but at last recoiled; mounted men then attacking their right flank they turned and fled, incurring heavy loss in the ensuing pursuit.


The Naval Brigade had 6 wounded; the Zulus - who were about 10,000 strong - lost about 1,200. The 2nd April was spent in lager, and on the 3rd, a portion being left in camp, Lord Chelmsford moved on with a force including 190 Seamen and 100 Royal Marines who belonged to the 2nd Brigade; they marched 15 miles and did not reach Etshowe till midnight; the other 350 of the RN Brigade were attached to the lst Brigade.


On 3 April, the relief column entered Eshowe, led by the pipers of the 91st Highlanders. The two-month siege had been lifted.


On 4th April a small force including the Royal Marines destroyed Dabulmanzi's kraal about 8 miles away and the whole force then returned to the Tugela.


Chelmsford concluded that Eshowe did not need to be retained, and the laboriously constructed defences were demolished. Bivouacking on the first night after their departure from it on 6 April, Pearson's men could see that the Zulus had set Eshowe alight.


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