Friday, 15 July 2011

Battle of Intombe

The Battle of Intombe

With Jose coming over to my house for a return match. I said I would put on a Colonial game. We have started to play "The Sword and the Flame" rules and so I started to look for a good game to put on, to rekindle our interest. Looking through my books I realised an interesting game could be made from recreating The Battle of Intombe.
Less famous than the actions at Rorkes Drift and Isandhlwana this battle still has everything, British Soldiers being massacred, Heroic deeds such as Sergeant Booth being awarded the VC for forming a rearguard, Supposedly cowardly acts, Lt Harvard deserting his command to fetch help and one of the great quotes of the war by Capt Moriarty saying "I’m done, Fire away boys".
This meant rebasing all my Zulus as the rules for TSATF work better on single bases. My Idea is to base them singularly on 2 cent pieces and then put 10 figures onto a magnetic base, so they can be moved around easily. With having collected over 400 Zulus over the last few years, this isn’t going to be an overnight job.
Although some contemporary account exaggerate the number of Zulus in the battle, most seem to say it was around 800, so I set the figure ratio to 2 men = 1 figure. The Zulus were organised 9 fig units with 1 leader. I know in TSATF it should be 20, but with still not being able to mark the bases correctly, it was the easiest way to manage a large Impi. The British were organised in 10 man units as well.

Order of Battle


40 units of 10men


Capt Moriarty
Lance Segt Johnson Platoon of 10 men
Lance Segt Sansam Platoon of 10 men
Corporal McCoy Platoon of 10 men
3 Civilians
Civil Surgeon Cobbin

Lt Harvard
Segt Booth’s Platoon of 10 men
Segt Etherington´s Platoon of 10 men

The Battle site, Captain Moriarty´s force are on the North bank of the river Intombe sleeping soundly in their tents. On the south bank Lt Harward´s force is encamped in two tents.

A close up of Capt Moriarty´s camp, his tent is front of the wagons out of the mud. A sentry keeps watch between the wagons.

3.30 a.m The sentries on the South Bank hear a gun shot,

Lt Harward calls all his men to stand to and sends a messenger to Capt Moriarty. For some reason Capt Moriarty doesn´t call his men out to stand to and goes back to bed.

Around 5.00 a.m through the mist the sentries spot a huge mass of Zulus advancing onto the camp.

Some of the men were up in a moment. But over half are still in their tents collecting their rifles etc. Capt Moriarty opens his tentflap in a bad temper due to being waken the second time tonight. Just then the zulus fire a volley killing one soldier.

Captain Moriarty and the sentry next to his tent, Pvt Dutton , face the hordes of Zulus alone, as all his platoons decide to retreat to the southern side of the river.

The head and loins of the zulu formation crash into the camp, Lt Harwards force moves forward to give covering fire as Lance Segt johnson´s platoon reaches the river.

On the farside of the camp Pvt Hodges acts as rearguard whilst Corporal McCoy´s Section reaches the riverbank.

Capt Moriarty kill two Zulus with his revolver before being beaten back and then killed in close combat. Pvt Dutton retreats back to the wagon.

The Zulus catch Coporal McCoys platoon and after stiff resistance kill all the men apart from Pvt Hall who being a good swimmer manages to swim across the river.

On the other side of the camp Lance Segt Johnson´s platoon jump into the river, 4 soldiers drown in the deep fast waters including Lance Segt Johnson. With the Zulus hot on their heels Lance Segt Sansam´s Platoon also dive into the river and also Lance Segt Sansam is drowned, so both platoons are now leaderless.

Lt Harward´s force gives covering fire to their comrades who are swimming for their lives across the river.

The civilians are caught in the ford by the Zulus, Surgeon Cobbins drowns in the river before the Zulus arrive. The remnants of Lance Segt Johnson´s Platoon make it to the far bank of the river and move towards Lt Harward´s force. Lance Segt Sansam´s platoon reach the far bank.

After killing the civilians in the river. The Zulus begin to cross the ford

The Zulus cross the river to attack Lance Segt Sansam´s Platoon.

Seeing the situation as hopeless and not wanting to get involved with the Zulus at close combat, Lt Harward orders both of his platoons to march towards Luneberg.

But Sansam´s platoon are still fighting for their lives on the river bank.

They manage to beat the zulus in front, but there are only 3 of them left and more Zulus have crossed the river either side of them.

The Zulu turnaround and fall onto the survivors killing 2 the only one that survives is Pvt Harper with the colours. He retreats back into the river and is drowned with the colours floating downstream in true "Zulu Dawn" fashion.

The Zulu Army win with all the camp and supplies in their possession. There are a few British survivors from the North Bank, five from Lance Segt Johnson´s and only Pvt Hall from Corporal McCoy´s Platoon. Lt Harward didn´t cover himself in glory, he might have saved his command but didn´t wait for the survivors to catch up with him and will probably face an inquiry.


This was a fun game to play, the rules worked well. With using 15mm figures I was going to half the movement in inches, but Jose´s tape measure was only in cm´s so we decided to substitute cm´s for inches. This made the Zulus move a little slowly than I anticipated, and due to Jose, who was playing the British, not putting up much of a defence. I thought the British may have reached the South Side of the river more or less intact.
Because the Zulus were attacking we counted all hits on them basically as kills to keep the record keeping down. There wasn´t any Regimental Colours at the battle(as far as I know) this part was purely fiction on my part. I think my next game may be Isandhlwana if I can finish painting my British.

1 comment:

  1. You may have had too many Zulus. I generally use a 3-1 ratio, so 150 would probably have provided a fair game, especially as they also have the element of surprise.