Zulu warrior, Boer War commander could be UK’s most formidable foe

2012-03-16 14:41

Napoleon Bonaparte, Zulu warrior Ntshingwayo kaMahole and Afghanistan’s Muhammad Akbar Khan may seem strange bedfellows but they are united by one thing – they all gave the British a bloody nose.

And they are now among 20 enemy commanders included in a poll by the National Army Museum in London to find Britain’s most formidable foes since the modern army came into being in the 17th century.

The favourites from the online survey so far are Irish republican Michael Collins, French emperor Napoleon and Germany’s field marshal Erwin Rommel.

Other contenders include US president George Washington, Boer War commander Louis Botha, Japanese World War II general Tomoyuki Yamashita, Indian war leader Tipu Sultan and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Political leaders such as Adolf Hitler are excluded from the poll, which highlights commanders with a good grip of strategy and tactics and who were “a major thorn in the side of the British”, said museum spokesperson Julian Farrance.

He denied the aim was to glorify Britain’s military past, telling AFP: “All of them had a degree of success.

“Napoleon for example personally doesn’t fight against Britain apart from at the very beginning of his career at Toulon, where he is successful, and at the very end of his career at Waterloo, where he fails.

“(Zulu leader) Ntshingwayo had an immensely successful battle against Britain where a whole battalion of modern British infantry are wiped out by guys carrying spears, clubs and shields at the battle of Isandlwana in 1879.”

Farrance hopes that Akbar Khan makes it into the top five by the time the poll closes on March 30, when historians will make the final choice.

“In the first Afghan war of the early 1840s, there’s no denying the fact that Britain gets a bloody nose and doesn’t really get what they want out of the situation. And a lot of that is down to Akbar Khan,” he said.

The poll contenders and results can be found at www.nam.ac.uk.

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