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Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill. Zulu Vanquished: The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom.

Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill. Zulu Vanquished: The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom, Greenhill Books, London (, 2005, ISBN 1-85367-660-8. hardcover with dust jacket, 304 pp, 11 maps, 77 photos (including 14 in colour), 16 x 24 cm, UK25.00 [pounds sterling] plus p&p.

Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill have achieved recognition, indeed fame, for their earlier book Zulu Victory. Zulu Vanquished continues the story with more outstanding military, political and social history and can only add to the stature of the authors. Their meticulous and copious research is enhanced by their first hand knowledge of the area where battles were fought, troops manoeuvred and gravesites identified. This knowledge, combined with interviews of the descendants of combatants on both sides is woven into a history that could act as a guide for all histories, i.e. informative and authoritative, but above all, highly readable and eliciting a desire on the part of the reader to know what happened next.

In brief, the story is about the trials of Lord Chelmsford, the General Officer Commanding HM Forces in Southern Africa, who after the disaster of Isandlwana, on 22 January 1879, had to organise the final defeat of the Zulus under their King Cetshwayo. This event, the battle of Ulundi, took place on 4 July 1879 and the slow march to final victory was no easy ramble.

British reverses were to occur at Meyer's Drift (12 March) and Hlobane (28 March) but were overshadowed by victories at Kambula (29 March) and Gingindlovu (2 April) and the relief of Eshowe (4 April). Reinforcements from Britain arrived but the advance was hampered by bad weather and the logistics of animal-drawn transport.

Aside from the assegai stabbing, there was a fair amount of back-stabbing amongst the British officers that makes fascinating reading, the three principals of the story, Wood, Buller and Chelmsford, not being immune. This is, however, a small part of the web of circumstances, personalities, coincidences, heroic actions, tactics, strategy, politics, military etiquette, weaponry and conditions in the field so ably portrayed by the authors.

A memorable chapter is devoted to the circumstances of the death of the Louis Bonaparte, Prince Imperial of France and great-nephew of Napoleon. As the authors point out, how ironic that this popular, brave and headstrong figure was killed by the warriors of Cetshwayo, the nephew of King Shaka who was known as the Black Napoleon of Africa.

The glossary is a helpful aid to anyone unfamiliar with South Africa, while the colour photos of the terrain mentioned in the text portend a new, welcome and exciting departure from the usual illustrations in serious history books. Thus, for anyone interested in the military history of the Zulu Wars this is an invaluable guide that provides a vast wealth of background information.

Syd Wigzell
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Author:Wigzell, Syd
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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