Henry Burmester Pulleine was in command of the camp at Isandhlwana when it was attacked and wiped out by the army of 20,000 Zulus on 22nd Jan 1879. Brevet Colonel Durnford RE was more senior to Pulleine but he spent his time patrolling beyond the camp limits until the last hour when he returned and was killed. Pulleine was 40 years old at the time and had been with the regiment since 1858 when the second Battalion was raised. He had been an ensign in the 30th Foot since 1855 and joined the new battalion of the 24th as a lieutenant. He reached captain in 1861 and major 10 years later. In the 9th Cape Frontier (Kaffir) War he had raised an irregular cavalry unit called Pulleine's Rangers and had served as an administrator in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
His leadership in the battle has been criticised, mostly because the defences of the camp were non-existant and the men of the 24th were placed to far forward and unable to be re-supplied with ammunition. But Lord Chelmsford had ordered him not to make the usual laagering arrangements because of the temporary nature of the camp. The attack by such a large Zulu force was totally unexpected especially since Chelmsford was 10 miles away dealing with what was thought of as the actual Zulu army. The Natal Native contingent was unreliable and in fact most of them deserted the camp, so the situation was very hard to assess.
Pulleine came from Yorkshire and there is a memorial to him at St John's Church, Kirby Wiske. He was born on 12th Dec 1838, the son of a vicar, and was married to Francis Bell of Fermoy. In the film 'Zulu Dawn' he was played by Denholm Elliott.
Regimental details | Soldiers at Isandhlwana
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