- The Natal Rebellion followed on from a number of natural catastrophes, including East Coast fever which spread to cattle and a severe hailstorm which had a devastating effect on farming. With the economy in a poor state, the Government collapsed and was replaced by a new Government that introduced new tax laws including a poll tax on all adults. This hit the African population hard and most chiefs failed to collect the tax. Chief Bambata led his people in the Greytown district in resistance, following which a large sum was offered for his capture. Other chiefs joined him but eventually the rebels were driven out of the forests into the mountains and by 8th July were totally defeated at Izinsimba.
- The Natal Rebellion Medal (above / below) awarded to Trooper HC Maw, Transvaal Mounted Rifles who on May 13th was the TMR’s 1st casualty whilst searching for his horse on the edge of the Kombe forest, was mortally wounded in a lone clash with a Zulu scouting party.
- Over 11,000 medals were issued with less than 20% being issued with out the 1906 Bar representing less than 50 days service. The Natal Government refused the help of Imperial troops and as such was only awarded to local units.
1906 – The 1906 Bar was awarded to those who served 50 or more days
In the years following the Anglo-Boer War white employers in Natal had difficulty recruiting black farm workers because of increased competition from the gold mines of the Witwatersrand. The colonial authorities introduced a £1 poll tax in addition to the existing hut tax to encourage black men to enter the labour market. Bambatha, who ruled about 5,500 people living in about 1,100 households, was one of the chiefs who resisted the introduction and collection of the new tax.
The government of Natal sent police officers to collect the tax from recalcitrant districts, and in February 1906 two white officers were killed near Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. In the resulting introduction of martial law, Bambatha fled north to consult King Dinizulu, who gave tacit support to Bambatha and invited him and his family to stay at the royal homestead.
Bambatha returned to the Mpanza Valley to discover that the Natal government had deposed him as chief. He gathered together a small force of supporters and began launching a series of guerrilla attacks, using the Nkandla forest as a base. Following a series of initial successes, colonial troops under the command of Colonel Duncan McKenzie set out on an expedition in late April 1906.
Once they succeeded in getting face to face with and surrounding the rebels at Mome Gorge, the British victory in the unequal battle was inevitable, given the vast disparity of forces. As the sun rose, colonial soldiers opened fire with machine guns and cannon, on rebels mostly armed only with traditional assegais (spears), knobkerries (fighting sticks) and cowhide shields.
Bambatha was killed and beheaded during the battle; however, many of his supporters believed that he was still alive, and his wife refused to go into mourning. Bambatha’s main ally, the 95-year-old Zulu aristocrat Inkosi Sigananda Shezi of the amaCube clan (cousin and near-contemporary of the Zulu king Shaka) was captured by the colonial troops and died a few days later.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 Zulus were killed during the revolt (some of whom died fighting on the side of the Natal government). More than 7,000 were imprisoned, and 4,000 flogged. King Dinizulu was arrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment for treason.
The war cost the Natal government GB£883,576 :550 (equivalent to £370,000,000 in 2010).