By Tomas Valasek

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As these became worn, men resorted to cutting holes in the ends and sides of mealie sacks, and wearing them as makeshift greatcoats. The weather remained bad, and the area around both forts soon became a sea of mud, although at Rorke’s Drift B Company were accorded the honour of sleeping under the eaves of the storehouse, protected by the tarpaulins. The general bad smell produced by too many human bodies in close proximity, and by the rotting sacks of provisions, was exacerbated at Rorke’s Drift by the number of unburied Zulu corpses which lay undiscovered in the long grass or hidden in crannies and hollows, and which decomposed rapidly.

Moreover, those who had survived the battles – and even those of Chelmsford’s command who had seen too much of Isandlwana on the night of the 22nd – were suffering the effects of trauma, and disturbed the sleep of the garrisons at night by crying out in their sleep. The fear of a sudden Zulu attack was very real, and false alarms at night were common. Africans found in the vicinity of either camp who could not account for themselves were shot as spies. Fort Melvill By March, it was clear that this situation could not prevail indefinitely, and the Engineers were ordered to construct a new fort closer to the river, which would both house the garrison and protect the Drift itself.

Whether this was to provide a sheltered access for watering parties or for drainage – Fort Chelmsford was notoriously wet, due to the clay – or both remains unclear. At Fort Napoleon, a wooden bridge was constructed across the Mlalazi River, while the earthwork itself was largely square in design. The 2nd Division and Flying Column; forts Whitehead, Newdigate, Marshall, Evelyn and Nolela The designated point of assembly for the new 2nd Division was Landman’s Drift on the Mzinyathi River, some 15 miles north of Rorke’s Drift, and throughout April a large quantity of supplies was accumulated there to feed the troops.

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