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Thread: Why is the British Military so good? ?

  1. #16
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    There was a documentary that looked into this - the packaging crates were screwed together and there was claims that the boxes were not opened before the fighting began (in Zulu you see the QM slowly undoing each box but the soldiers smash them open with the butts after a short while).
    From memory they've also unearthed evidence at some point that the boxes were designed to be bashed open with rifle butts in seconds, so the idea that them being screwed together was an issue sounds suspiciously like a modern idea of "they were all stupid back in the day".
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

  2. #17
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    There was a documentary that looked into this - the packaging crates were screwed together and there was claims that the boxes were not opened before the fighting began (in Zulu you see the QM slowly undoing each box but the soldiers smash them open with the butts after a short while).

    The documentary team visited the battlefield and found parts still there from the battle and the conclusion they made was it would have had no effect on the battle as the troops disposition was bad and they were surprised (they actually found several of the battle lines that were formed).
    Thanks.

    I think I saw that quite some time ago, which is probably why I wasn't sure whether my recollection was reasonably based in some historical knowledge (which is unlikely given my scant knowledge of the Zulu Wars) or something I'd seen on television.

    I have a somewhat better recollection of a similar documentary about Custer's Last Stand, where battlefield debris allowed the historians to reconstruct the final hours.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
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  3. #18
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27 View Post
    From memory they've also unearthed evidence at some point that the boxes were designed to be bashed open with rifle butts in seconds, so the idea that them being screwed together was an issue sounds suspiciously like a modern idea of "they were all stupid back in the day".
    Don't know what the ammo boxes were in the Zulu conflict, but I'm inclined to suspect that they were rather sturdy as that was the nature of the age.

    If not, the design idea of being able to smash them with rifle butts might have been lost by WWII. I used some WWII .303 ball boxes for tool boxes for many years. I've also used the .303 SMLE in the distant past. I've never tried to smash an ammo box open with anything, but the tool boxes I had were pretty sturdy.

    Then again, my recollection of their construction was that they were braced with thicker cleats in various parts, so the main case might have been only about half inch rather than my present impression of it being three quarter inch. The former is in the range of being able to be smashed open a lot more readily than the latter. But I can't see why anyone would need to smash them open in action as they had perfectly openable suitcase type latches, unlike the apparently screwed ones during the Zulu period.
    Perhaps the latch opener was a consequence of difficulties, whether during the Zulu or other periods, in opening the boxes quickly and easily.

    The 7.62 ball boxes during my service were metal and would probably only be deformed rather than opened by belting them with the SLR, although that would have been unnecessary as the clips were easily operated.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 01-11-2014 at 05:06 AM.
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  4. #19
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    The 7.62 ball boxes during my service were metal and would probably only be deformed rather than opened by belting them with the SLR, although that would have been unnecessary as the clips were easily operated.
    The stupid lockwire was more of a problem than the actual lock clip - days before leathermen so most of us RE at the time carried pliers as well as jack-knife
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

  5. #20
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    The stupid lockwire was more of a problem than the actual lock clip - days before leathermen so most of us RE at the time carried pliers as well as jack-knife
    We had bayonets.

    Not much that can't be opened with a bayonet.

    If it can't be opened with a bayonet, attach bayonet to rifle for more leverage and try again

    If is it still can't be opened with bayonet attached to rifle, attach rifle to Trooper Smith (man mountain) and try again.

    On the issue of breaking ammo boxes and other things open with rifle butts, the SMLE and SLR butts were decent timber and could deliver a fair whack, certainly if used in a linear stroke alone the line of the barrel. Probably more susceptible to breaking if used sideways and swung by the muzzle, but still a very effective club against people if things got desperate. Unlike plastic butts.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  6. #21
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Don't know about them having trouble opening ammo box's, but what I do believe, is that after the massacre at Isandlwana, and the victory at Rorke's Drift, which was needed to keep the public back home happy, well their modern army was massacred my a bunch of savages dressed in cowhide or leopardskin, cowhide shields, and held weapons, then after they captured Cetshwayo kaMpande, and put him on show for Queen Victoria. While all this was happening, the British went further into Zulu land, to wipe-out, exterminate a proud Zulu nation.

  7. #22
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chunky View Post
    Don't know about them having trouble opening ammo box's, but what I do believe, is that after the massacre at Isandlwana, and the victory at Rorke's Drift, which was needed to keep the public back home happy, well their modern army was massacred my a bunch of savages dressed in cowhide or leopardskin, cowhide shields, and held weapons, then after they captured Cetshwayo kaMpande, and put him on show for Queen Victoria. While all this was happening, the British went further into Zulu land, to wipe-out, exterminate a proud Zulu nation.
    The British (with a large amount of native help as well as Boers who really started the antagonism that led to Chelmsford invading without authority) did not really wipe out or exterminate the Zulu Nation, it split it up between puppet chiefs/chiefs that could see better deals or had axes to grind against Cetshwayo.

    This of course led to tribal wars between the various factions and chiefs opposed to and supporting the old king Cetshwayo.

    As a note

    One of the columns stayed in Zululand at Kambula and defeated a large attacking Zulu force (bigger than the one that attacked Rourkes Drift) causing many of the Chiefs to take their warriors home.
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

  8. #23
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    From what I had read, the British Infantry cannot open more than one ammo crate at a time because of strict regulament. And for the same reason there is a shortage of tools for crates opening.
    So when the fight began, the Britains didn't prepare themselves with the crates already opened. That can explain why Zulu can conquer about 400.000 rounds of ammunition.
    Pauci sed semper immites!

  9. #24
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    The British (with a large amount of native help as well as Boers who really started the antagonism that led to Chelmsford invading without authority) did not really wipe out or exterminate the Zulu Nation, it split it up between puppet chiefs/chiefs that could see better deals or had axes to grind against Cetshwayo.

    This of course led to tribal wars between the various factions and chiefs opposed to and supporting the old king Cetshwayo.

    As a note

    One of the columns stayed in Zululand at Kambula and defeated a large attacking Zulu force (bigger than the one that attacked Rourkes Drift) causing many of the Chiefs to take their warriors home.
    Its not the first time, and is still happening, when you take out the main power, you are left then with a lot of minority parties who want to take over, the country his left then with no structure, the country then falls apart, ruining what once was a proud Zulu Nation/People.

  10. #25
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Thanks to the marvels of Google, it seems that there was no problem with ammunition supply due to a pedantic quartermaster or inability to open the ammunition boxes without a screwdriver.

    The Ammunition Boxes at iSandlwana
    Submitted by Ian Knight on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 10:40
    Martini-Henry ammunition box
    Opening of Martini-Henry ammunition box
    Peter Vaughan in Zulu Dawn

    The disastrous British defeat at iSandlwana is still sometimes attributed to a failure of ammunition on the part of the unit most involved in the defence - the 24th Regiment.

    This is variously ascribed to the unwillingness of Quartermasters to issue rounds without due paperwork, to the difficulties of opening the ammunition boxes themselves - which were supposedly bound tight with copper bands - and even to a lack of screwdrivers with which to do so.

    In fact, any careful analysis of the evidence doesn’t support any of these claims. While it is true that some of the Colonial units - those under the independent command of Col. Durnford - did run out of ammunition and have difficulty replenishing their supplies, there is no evidence whatever to suggest that shortage of ammunition influenced in any way the tactical decisions of the officers of the 24th Regiment, whose men constituted the main element in the British firing line.

    There were huge quantities of rifle and carbine ammunition in the camp at iSandlwana - about 400,000 rounds in all. General Lord Chelmsford had taken the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, out on reconnaissance, but left their reserve of ammunition in the camp, with orders that it be made ready to send to him if he requested it. The camp was guarded by the 1st Battalion, 24th, whose reserve supply was also in the camp. The ammunition itself was stored in the Mark V ammunition box, which was a stout wooden thing, lined with tin, and held together with two copper bands. Obviously, such boxes were designed to take rough treatment on campaign - no point in them bursting open every time they were dropped - but access to the rounds was via a sliding wooden panel in the centre of the box. This was held in place by just one screw, and in an emergency it could be opened by the highly unorthadox method of giving the edge of the panel a hefty clout. This had the effect of splintering the wood around the screw.

    When the battle first began, one of the Staff Officers collected a number of men not engaged in the fighting, and set about ferrying ammunition out to the firing line - this was the standard procedure at the time. One rather over-enthusiastic young officer attempted to requisition the 2/24th’s supply, but was sent away with a flea in his ear by the quartermaster, who was quite rightly mindful of his responsibilities to Lord Chelmsford. At that stage, the camp was not in serious danger, and in fact fresh supplies were organised from the 1/24th’s reserve. Later, when things started going badly, the 2/24th’s supplies were also broached, so that when - at the climax of the battle - the 24th companies abandoned their forward positions and fell back on the tents, they were still firing heavily. The reports of survivors - including half a dozen Zulu eye-witnesses - were unanimous on this point.

    Once the Zulus penetrated the British line and over-ran the camp, however, there was no possibility of anyone renewing their supplies. The various groups of 24th - and others - therefore stood back to back and fired off what ammunition they had, after which the Zulu closed in. And therein lies the origin of all those reports which refer to the 24th being ’overwhelmed when their ammunition was expended’.

    Of course, even now it is far easier to believe that a modern, Western, industrialised army could be defeated through some folly of its own, rather than that it could be out-generalled by a part-time civilian army armed primarily with spears - an army, moreover, consisting entirely of Africans.

    But such a view is based on false assumptions of racial and technological superiority, and a misunderstanding of the tactical realities. In a funny way it slights the memory of the 24th - suggesting that, experienced battalions though they were, they had not managed to work out their own resupply, nor open their own ammunition boxes - and it is a view which denies the tactical skill, discipline, and sheer raw courage of the Zulu people. The battle of iSandlwana was more than just a British defeat - it was, after all, a Zulu victory.
    http://www.ianknightzulu.com/node/6

    See also http://www.1879zuluwar.com/t165-ammunition-boxes

    The ammunition boxes were, from the final post in the last link, indeed made of sturdy wood and as shown in a picture in the first link were banded with metal, but as explained in the first link the boxes didn't need to be broken open, only the slide held by a single screw.

    I'm pretty confident from these links that I got my idea about a difficult quartermaster and or problems in opening the boxes from the film Zulu Dawn, despite having no recollection of seeing it.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 01-12-2014 at 03:55 AM.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  11. #26
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    My opinion as a non Brit: As a US Army NCO I was fortunate to spend some time with the Brit. Army in Germany during the 70’s and I have great respect for the professional Brit. NCO. Their traditions have been developed over centuries and they are serious about maintaining them. The Brit. Officer, lately, is highly professional as well - but that is relatively new, historically speaking.

  12. #27
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    The story about the ammunition boxes problem at Islandwana seems to have obtained currency originally from the observations of the future general and senior WW1 commander, Horace Smith-Dorrien who, by virtue of having a horse, escaped the battlefield (with great difficulty - he was recommended for a VC for his conduct in attempting to save fellow fugitives, but it was never awarded). Smith-Dorrien observed that, as demand from the firing line increased, it became necessary to open additional ammunition boxes, which were robust wooden boxes bound with two copper bands, each held in place by, I think, 7 screws. The process of opening the boxes was slow enough; delays, according to Smith-Dorrien, were compounded by the unwillingness of quartermasters of the individual companies to issue ammunition to men from other companies, even as the pressure on the British position increased. Smith-Dorrien - who was no fool - attributed to the ammunition box problem a significant portion in the blame for the centre column's defeat.
    The movie "Zulu Dawn" followed the views of historians who put weight on Smith-Dorrien's account.

    Other historians have questioned Smith-Dorrien's opinion in the matter, and have rather laid emphasis on the disastrous positioning of the British firing line, which was positioned too far away from the camp, and the supply wagons, to allow rapid resupply of ammunition. As it was, soldiers ended up running back to their companies with helmets full of bullets. This situation clearly had a major influence on the outcome of the battle, one with which Smith-Dorrien, in the camp, may not have been well placed to observe. That having been said, I see no reason to question the accuracy of his observations in relation to the distribution of ammunition from the wagons, difficult ammo crates and all; nor would I question that this had at least some significant influence on the outcome of the battle. In this regard, it should be noted that the British introduced more user-friendly ammunition boxes in the later part of the war. Also significant, I think, is the fact that when they became aware of the approach of Zulu impis, the men at Rorke's Drift took the step of opening a large number of ammunition boxes in anticipation of the pending attack. Best regards, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 01-13-2014 at 11:34 AM.

  13. #28
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Ummmm, not one rebuttal from the person who started this thread. From all the answers I've read, it seems the British military while competent and having a great military tradition, wasn't so good after all. They've certainly lost their share of engagements.

  14. #29
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Laconia View Post
    Ummmm, not one rebuttal from the person who started this thread. From all the answers I've read, it seems the British military while competent and having a great military tradition, wasn't so good after all. They've certainly lost their share of engagements.
    Who has not
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

  15. #30
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    I don't thing they were ""great"" they were okay. The way some things were set up were very ineffective and quite noticeable

    Life is short... We should then cherish every sec of it.

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