January 26, 1879.
From Lieutenant Curling to Officer Commanding No. 8.
I HAVE the honour to forward the following report of the circumstances attending the loss of two guns of N Brigade, 5th Battery Royal Artillery, at the action of Isandlwana, on January 22.
About 7.80 A.M. on that date, a large body of Zulus being seen on the hills to the left front of the camp, we were ordered to turn out at once, and were formed up in front of the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment Camp, where we remained until eleven o’clock, when we returned to camp with orders to remain harnessed up and ready to turn out at a minute’s notice.
The Zulus did not come within range and we did not come into action. The infantry also remained in column of companies. Colonel Durnford arrived about ten A.M. with Basutos and the rocket battery ; he left about eleven o’clock with these troops in the direction of the hills where we had seen the enemy.
About twelve o’clock we were, turned out, as heavy firing was heard in the direction of Colonel Durnford’s force.
Major Smith arrived as we were turning out and took command of the guns, we trotted up to a position about 400 yards beyond the left front of the Natal Contingent Camp, and came into action at once on a large body of the enemy about 3,400 yards off.
The 1st Battalion 24th Regiment soon came up and extended in skirmishing order on both flanks and in line with us. In about a quarter of an hour, Major Smith took away one gun to the right, as the enemy were appearing in large numbers in the direction of the Drift, in the stream in front of the camp. The enemy advanced slowly, without halting; when they were 400 yards off, the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment advanced about 30 yards. We remained in the same position.
Major Smith, returned at this time with his gun, and came into action beside mine. The enemy advancing still, we began firing case, but almost immediately the infantry were ordered to retire.
Before we could get away, the enemy were by the guns; and I saw one gunner stabbed as he was mounting on to an axle-tree box. The limber gunners did not mount, but ran after the guns. We went straight through the camp but found the enemy in possession. The gunners were all stabbed going through the camp with the exception of one or two. One of the two sergeants was also killed at this time.
When we got on to the road to Rorke’s Drift it was completely blocked up by Zulus. I was with Major Smith at this time, he told me he had been wounded in the arm. We saw Lieutenant Coghill, the A.D.C., and asked him if we could not rally some men and make a stand, he said he did not think it could be done.
We crossed the road with the crowd, principally consisting of natives, men left in camp, and civilians, and went down a steep ravine leading towards the river. The Zulus were in the middle of the crowd, stabbing the men as they ran. When we had gone about 400 yards, we came to a deep cut in which the guns stuck. There was, as far as I could see, only one gunner with them at this time, but they were covered with men of different corps clinging to them. The Zulus were in them almost at once, and the drivers pulled off their horses.
I then left the guns. Shortly after this I again saw Lieutenant Coghill, who told me Colonel Pulleine had been killed. Near the river I saw Lieutenant Melville, 1st
Battalion 24th Regiment, with a colour, the staff being broken. I also saw Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien assisting a wounded man. During the action, cease firing, was sounded twice.
H. T. CURLING,