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As part of the main Zulu impi (uNdi corps), the uThulwana ibutho were concealed by the Ngwebeni River on the night of 21/22nd January. They were undetected within five miles of Lord Chelmsford's main British force, which consisting primarily of the 24th Regiment of Foot camped in front of Isandlwana. Shortly before noon on the 22nd, Lieutenant Raw with a small piquet of the Natal Native Horse stumbled onto the Zulus. Massed warriors sprang out of hiding and swarmed towards Isandlwana.
The uThulwana's were to encircle the enemy to the west. As battle began they moved round to the rear of the British. Fearing loss of face from the other more junior regiments for not having fought, their commander Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande decided to attack Rorke's Drift Mission in Natal.
At about 4.30pm, 3-4000 Zulus including the uThulwana's attacked the mission buildings which by then had been fairly well fortified by B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment. The initial Zulu frontal attack was led by the iNdluyengwe ibutho, the uThulwana's behind swung round the mission to attack through the gardens from the North. Fierce fighting ensued with the defenders grimly holding onto every inch of the defences. By last light the situation was critical. With casualties rising, the Welshmen held on throughout the night and at dawn on the 23rd the Zulu force began a general withdrawal into Zululand.