The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 16 No 5 - June 2015


Addendum - Ian Uys, 'A Boer Family', published in
Military History Journal, Vol 3 No 6, December 1976 and
'The Battle of Italeni' in Military History Journal, Vol 4 No 5, June 1979.

As a past president of the Society I wish to update the above article, which is available on your website (http:// At the time I wrote: 'The precise site of the ensuing Battle of Italeni is today a matter of dispute. In the author's opinion the most likely site is that pinpointed by the Rev H C de Wet ie approximately five kilometres southwest of Dingaanstat in a narrow pass.'

An extract of the relevant section of the 1976 article is included here for the benefit of readers: ' ... Approximately 7 500 Zulus awaited the Commando in this area, dispersed on the two hills flanking the valley, and hidden in the valley. Hendrik Potgieter chose to attack the left-hand hill. Piet [Uys] left his brother Cobus in charge of the packhorses and attacked the righthand hillock successfully. Potgieter's men made a half-hearted attack on the left then withdrew, allowing the Zulus to encircle Piet's force.

Two brothers, Johannes and Jacobus Malan, who had ridden ahead of Piet's party were ambushed. Piet called for volunteers and rode to their rescue, leaving one of his party, Koos Potgieter, to concentrate the fire power and blast a way out of the encircling Zulu impis.

Piet reached the Malan brothers and was shepherding them back when a flung assegai caught him in the small of his back. His grey horse turned red as the blood pumped out of his back. He nevertheless retained his seat and rejoined his small party of volunteers. Piet begged them to leave him as he said that he was mortally wounded.

This they refused to do and holding him upright began the retreat. The Malan brothers were killed and shortly afterwards their father with Gert and Louis Nel were trapped in a donga - the last seen of them was their swinging rifle butts above the heads of the Zulus. These rifles were later retrieved at Dingaanstat and that of Louis Nel is at the Pietermaritzburg Voortrekker museum. On a number of occasions Piet fainted and fell off his horse. Each time his concerned followers revived him and brushed aside his protests to be left. Eventually, as the Zulus closed in, they were compelled to do so ... '

The 1979 article describes the attempt by Piet Uys's force to bypass the rock face thus: ' ... The tired horses had to jump a stony donga ... '

In October 2014 a local farmer in the Melmoth area and fellow Society member, Paul Smith, revisited the site with me. He pointed out that the site was on the Nzololo Stream, a tributary of the Mkumbane River. This site is south-west of Dingaanstat at the farm, Doornkloof (the coordinates are 2823'19 and 3117'8 E).

The author at the Nzololo Stream rock face
(Photo: By courtesy Ian Uys)

The terrain matches the description of Cmdt Piet Uys and Hendrik Potgieter attacking the Zulu impis on adjoining hills. A local Zulu woman resident in the valley told us that we were on the ancient route to Umgungundlovu, Dingaan's kraal, and that her father had informed her of the battle which had taken place there according to their ancestors. Then Paul pointed out the graves of six of the Trekkers who were killed. Further up the Nzololo Stream we came across the rock barrier (per attached photo) which the fleeing Trekker party had to bypass. At that site a small stirrup was found by a local, which had probably belonged to Dirkie Uys, 15. Further up the ridge he pointed out the likely site of Dirkie's grave.

While this additional information comes almost 40 years late, a policy of 'better late than never' is surely acceptable. It could be of great historical value if the local KwaZulu authorities exhumed the graves and did a display of their findings at the Dingaanstat Museum nearby. As this is one of the few Zulu victories against the Trekkers there should be no objection thereto!

Ian S Uys

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