Black Soldiers of the Queen: The Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War

Black Soldiers of the Queen: The Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War

Black Soldiers of the Queen: The Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War

Black Soldiers of the Queen: The Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War

Synopsis

Africans who fought alongside the British against the Zulu king.

Excerpt

In 1964 the release of the film Zulu, starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine, and in 1965 the publication of the book The Washing of the Spears, written by Donald Morris, generated a popular interest in the Anglo-Zulu War which has endured to the present day. Numerous books and television documentaries have appeared, and at the time of the centenary another movie, Zulu Dawn. By this time the Anglo-Zulu War is probably the best known of Queen Victoria's small wars of empire. Zulu has attained iconic status. The Journal of the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society is in its seventeenth year.

Why is this so?

Apart from the real dramatic appeal in the events of the war, some of them vividly if not always accurately captured in the books and films, there are certain intrinsic factors underpinning the popular interest. The war was short – just eight months long – and the course of it was simple: British invasion, defeat, invasion again, victory (and the reverse, of course, for the Zulu). There were half a dozen short, pitched battles, and a dozen or so attractive or intriguing personalities to reckon with. It was a case of imperialism (or colonialism) against an indigenous people defending their independence, Europe against Africa, white against black. The average reader easily grasps the outline and main features and then fits in the dramatic details.

Yet in all the literature on the war simplification has resulted in an omission. The war was not simply one of white against black, colonial against native. Over half of the fighting men in the invading British army were blacks from the Colony of Natal, and they served the Queen willingly. They have not fared well at the hands of popular or scholarly writers.

This book tells the story of the Natal Native Contingent, those Africans in the imperial service. It arose out of research on the Colony of Natal in the war and a desire to develop fully the role of the black soldiers of the Queen. It was written for a local readership, with the intention of providing a comprehensive narrative in painstaking detail, for it seemed unlikely any other would appear, given the prejudices of the day. I hope that it has served the memory of these soldiers well, and am pleased that their deeds may become known to foreign readers as well.

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