1860-1899 | South Africa | Wounded killed



The ‘Battle of Kambula Hill’ as depicted in the London Illustrated News, 24 May 1879, p. 482.

[ 30 March 1879 ]

On 30 March 1879, private John Snook of the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry, recalled that his company had ‘found (at Kambula Hill) about 500 wounded (Zulus), most of them mortally, and begging us for mercy’s sake not to kill them; but they got no chance after what they had done to our comrades at Isandhlwana.’1 Two months earlier, in the first major battle of the Anglo-Zulu war, 1,800 well armed British troops had been overwhelmed by a Zulu assault on their encampment at Isandhlwana. Only a small number of Redcoats had escaped with their lives. They, like Snook, had formed a part of a massive British invasion of the Zulu homeland in South Africa.

Brigadier-General Sir Evelyn Wood, the commanding officer of the 90th Light Infantry, was adamant there was ‘not a shadow of truth’ in Snook’s allegation of a revenge massacre at Kambula Hill, but he failed to make any mention of how the previous day he had ordered British troops under his command at the battle of Kambula, just eight miles away from the hill, to take no prisoners.  In a carefully phrased response, he declared ‘I believe that no Zulus have been killed by white men except in action.’2

The Tiverton Gazette had originally published Snook’s account on 27 May although it was later wrongly attributed to the North Devon HeraldThe Gazette did not hesitate to stand up for its source, reminding its readers that ‘the information of the slaughter is furnished by a Tiverton soldier who states he was an eye-witness to the alleged butchery, who could have no object in sending home false news.’3


  1. John Snook quoted in “Alleged Massacre of Zulus at Kambula Hill,” The Gloucester  Citizen, 2 September 1879 p. 4.
  2. Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood quoted in “Alleged Massacre of Zulus at Kambula Hill,” The Gloucester  Citizen, 2 September 1879 p. 4.
  3. The Tiverton Gazette and East Devon Herald, 17 June 1879, p. 8 and ‘Alleged Refusal of Quarter to Zulus at Kambula,’ The Dundee Advertiser, 13 June 1879, p. 7.

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