Friday, October 31, 2014

Anglo-Zulu War: Bloomfield, Quarter Master of the 2/24th

QM Edward Bloomfield
In the film Zulu Dawn we see the actor Peter Vaughan being 'dispatched' as he was dishing out ammunition to the troops at Isandlwana in the guise of QM Edward Bloomfield of the 2/24th. A couple of years ago I was at a disused cemetery in Essex where the wife of Edward BLOOMFIELD and his daughter are buried: the cemetery in question is Lorne Road Cemetery, Brentford, in Essex. I was shown this grave by a descendant of a Rorke's Drift defender whose ancestor was Pte William Henry CAMP of 'B' Coy 2/24th. Upon looking at the headstone I saw that it indicated it was Louisa Maud Bloomfield, Edward's youngest daughter, which by that very definition hinted at other children; I decided to investigate.

A search of the census returns showed me that Edward had married twice and had one daughter with his first wife and two with his second. But I am a little ahead of myself at this point. Edward Bloomfield was born on 7 November 1835 in London. Records show that as a youngster before he was even a teenager he joined the then Scots Fusilier Guards, now known as the Scots Guards. He joined this regiment on 1 Feb 1847 aged 12 years and 3 months. Edward's parents did not get married until 1838 and Edward's father, also called Edward, was a Drum Major in the same regiment. It has been thought that QM Bloomfield, as he became, was of Scottish origin due to the fact he joined a Scottish regiment and had a brother called Alexander Kerr Bloomfield who later became a policeman - more about him later. Both Edward and his father were in fact Londoners, as was Edward's grandfather.

Edward served with the Scots Fusilier Guards until 31 March 1859 when he transferred to the 2/24th regiment of Foot. Was it because his father was a Drum Major he decided to change regiments? We will never know. Edward stayed with the 24th until his death. of course, on 22 January 1879. In 1860 the 24th were posted to Mauritius, in 1862 a daughter was born called Ellen and it's my belief that Edward married in Chatham prior to being sent out overseas.
By 1873, however, Edward was married a second time to a Matilda Relf and had two daughters by her. I have yet to ascertain the name of this first wife and if Edward was a divorcee or a widower. Census returns and other research have cemented these facts. Ellen Bloomfield is shown as living with her Uncle and Aunt in Essex; by this time she had two half-sisters but it appears she either did not get on with them or possibly there was no room for her with her step mother and half-sisters.

Ellen as stated was living with her Uncle who was a Sgt in the police at this time; he rose to the rank of Inspector and eventually died in 1902. Edward Bloomfield senior died in 1878; as he was born in the Windsor area this leads me to believe he decided a life in the army was better than that of a labourer, as was his father before him. Army life suited both Edward Bloomfield and his father: the elder rose to the rank of Drum Major while his son to the rank of Quarter Master in the 24th.

By all accounts Edward Bloomfield was a popular man with both officers and rankers within the 24th. Regular promotions followed from 1859 till Jan 1879 when he reached the rank of QM in 1873, the same year as his second marriage took place. Ellen, his first daughter from his earlier marriage, stayed with her Uncle till she eventually married in 1894. Tragedy had stalked the Bloomfield family, however. Back in 1878 Edward had lost his father; in 1879 QM Bloomfield met his end at faraway Isandlwana. In 1892 the now widow Matilda had died along with her youngest daughter aged 15.

Further research will be needed to locate the offspring of Ellen Bloomfield but the line of Adaline Bloomfield his second daughter has been taken as far as QM Bloomfield's great great grandchildren. This only goes to show that you can never close the book on any person and I'm glad to be able to put the record straight on a man not often written about.

by Graham Mason, AZW Researcher

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Anglo-Zulu War: Records and Frustrations

24th Officer
It was quite common for regiments to take their 'paperwork' into battle with them when on active service, as in the case of the 24th - both elements (1/24th & 2/24th). The 1/24th took well over 1000 sets of papers (enlistment & attestation) into the cauldron that was to become Isandlwana on 22nd January 1879.

When a soldier died in battle, or of disease as so often was the case in Victorian times, service papers were destroyed and vital information about a man was lost forever. The casualties incurred at Isandlwana are a case in point. We know who fell and their names and ranks as listed in regimental returns, effects are returned to next-of-kin, often the effects say 'Claimed by next-of-kin, father' etc, but we do not know the names of these people and tracing their families and history becomes very difficult indeed.

My own research has shown that in those papers held at Kew the ones most researched are held in WO 97 which are service records. Obtaining background information on a person the correct designation of a known man enables you to look into the correct set of papers (assuming of course they survive and are held at Kew). Again research has thrown up an interesting element. The majority of enlistment sheets are missing in sets of papers: there's a good reason for this. To accompany this article I have included below an enlistment sheet that has survived. It belongs to Sgt George SMITH of the 24th who was a defender at Rorke's Drift.

In those days a man joined the army and was then sent to a holding brigade and then to a regiment: in the case of the 24th it was 25 Brigade. Oddly, a man was considered an adult at the age of 18 but in civilian life it was, of course, 21. You could join the army as young as 12 or 13, though, as a boy. However, the crafty recruiting Sergeants had a trick up their sleeves. They knew full well that if you joined the infantry or general service you had to serve a minimum of 10 years if aged 18 or above, 12 years if it was the Artillery or Cavalry. If under 18 you served the shortfall up to 18 then the designated amount of time.

For example, if aged 16, you served 10 years plus the extra 2 for the shortfall to 18. By 'losing' the enlistment sheet a large proportion of men served an extra 2 years by signing up for 12 which was only, as stated before, applicable to the Artillery and Cavalry. Often original papers were lost and replacements made up; men who did not like a particular regiment often enlisted in another without legally leaving a current regiment first; very frustrating when trying to trace a man and his family.

The 24th had a reputation for bad paper work and this caused immense problems even to this day. As is so often the case, officers' records are quite easy to trace but the common soldier is another story. 

At Isandhlwana one Pte James CAMP of the 1/24th was killed; at Rorke's Drift one of the little garrison was Pte William Henry CAMP of the 2 /24th. Were they related? William indeed did have a brother but was it Pte James Camp? Research has thrown up many relatives of Pte William Henry Camp but not his final resting place: he died in 1900 but his grave is not known.

When papers survive, to the trained eye the clues are immense when trying to trace a man and his family. Having established the place of birth and local district, the task of looking for his family begins and in the first instance the census returns from 1841 to 1901 are a great start.

Take the case of Fred HITCH VC for instance. For many years it was believed he had only six children: investigations have shown that in fact he had 11 children of which 8 survived, and so on. Contact with families often results when research is undertaken but you can imagine how frustrating it must be when researchers such as myself are faced with well over 1000 sets of papers taken into battle by the 1/24th on Jan 22nd 1879 - and by 4 o'clock in the afternoon lost forever. Papers are a treasure-trove of information - only if they survive and are accessible to the researcher.


by Graham Mason AZW Researcher

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Anglo-Zulu War: Looking back on LUGG in Natal

Trooper Henry Lugg of the Natal Mounted Police was only 19 years old when he carried dispatches from Helpmekaar to Pietermaritzburg, shortly after the attack on Chief Sirayo's stronghold. In the aftermath of this the first battle of the war of 1879, the country was swarming with Zulus but Lugg covered the distance of 113 miles in 11 hours, riding ten horses in relays. After a brief respite he made the return journey, re-crossing the Buffalo River where his horse had a fall, crushing its rider's knee against a rock. This chance accident had remarkable repercussions: it led to Trooper Lugg's temporary disablement, his enforced stay at the only hospital in the vicinity i.e. at Rorke's Drift, and an unexpected role in the heroic Defence of this post against a large Zulu force, thereby earning himself a permanent place in the history books.

Lugg was one of three Natal Policemen present at this action and the only one of those three to survive. (The others, Green and Hunter, fell beneath the assegais.) His eye-witness account of the battle, originally written as a personal letter to his fiancée Mary Camp, was published in the Bristol Observer and still never fails to impress, its unemotional style throwing into sharp relief its riveting content.

Hampered by his swollen knee and armed with a small hunting-knife and a Swinburn Henri carbine, the bent stock of which was hastily tied up with a piece of rein, Lugg remained calm and resolute in the face of the overwhelming odds and reported that after 'seeing the first I fired at roll over at 350 ... my nerves were as steady as a rock.' He was even able to comment that 'There was some of the best shooting at 450 yards I have ever seen.'

Henry Lugg's talent for drawing led to the sketch which accompanied his letter being sent to the artist Alphonse de Neuville, who used it as essential background information for his own now-famous painting of the Defence of Rorke's Drift - the one we all know so well, with the burning thatch of the hospital providing dramatic lighting for the scene.

In the book A Natal Family Looks Back, Trooper Lugg's son H.C. Lugg (Harry Camp Lugg) tells us that 'The firing was so fast and furious that rifle barrels got red hot, and in proof of this, the forepiece of the carbine, still in my possession (1970), will be found to have been badly scorched, so badly in fact that a couple of inches at the end had to be cut off to prevent it splintering.'  [A Natal Family Looks Back by H.C. Lugg: T.W. Griggs & Co. (Pty) Ltd. Durban 1970]

After all this excitement and danger, hotel-keeping on the Natal South Coast must have been tame by comparison, but that was Henry Lugg's choice of occupation at the end of the Zulu War. He and another Devonshire man, Camp, left the NMP and bought a store and hotel at Umbango in the Port Shepstone area. In 1881 the two friends celebrated a double wedding in Durban, Henry Lugg marrying Mary Camp, and Edwin Camp marrying Marion Lugg. Both girls had journeyed out from England together; the Lugg and Camp families had been closely acquainted for some years.

The quiet life soon palled for Henry who seems to have hankered after soldiering as he became active in the formation in 1884 of a local volunteer regiment, the Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles. This corps, consisting mainly of Norwegian immigrants, was later amalgamated with the Alexandra Mounted Rifles which in turn by the early 1890s re-formed as the Border Mounted Rifles with Captain Henry Lugg as second in command to Major Bru de Wold. In 1895 both became District Adjutants on Col W J Royston's Staff (Royston then commanding Natal Volunteers and not to be confused with Brigadier John Royston, or "Galloping Jack" as the latter was known). Lugg held an intriguing variety of Government posts around that time, including Conservator of Forests, Field Cornet and, last but not least, Collector of Dog Tax.

Lugg and his wife Mary had several children: Harry James Camp Lugg (i.e. H.C. Lugg, b 1882, author of Historic Natal & Zululand 1947 and A Natal Family Looks Back 1970; he never used the James part of his name); Alfred John (Jack) Lugg; Cyril Edwin Lugg; Barrington Kingsley Camp Lugg and Garnet Evelyn Lugg (no prizes for guessing after whom he was named). There was a sister born in 1887 but, like so many infants in the colonies, she didn't survive more than a few hours.

H.C. Lugg, an acknowledged Zulu linguist and authority on Zulu customs and tradition, was a man of nearly ninety when I met him in 1971. 

Tall and spare, he was remarkably fit and was planning another book. At that date he was probably the only person living whose father had fought at Rorke's Drift. His fund of anecdotes held us spellbound during a long and leisurely braaivleis (barbecue) at our Smith family home on the Natal South Coast. When, in the midst of luncheon, I spied a green snake coiled around the leg of a chair, Mr Lugg was prompted (once the ensuing furore was over) to share some of his renowned snake stories - mambas of incredible length, pythons of amazing size etc. - dating from pre-urbanised Natal before dense natural bush gave way to tarred roads and traffic. During his long lifetime he had seen enormous changes in the province which became known affectionately as The Last Outpost of the British Empire.  

He was proud of his family heritage and in particular of Trooper Lugg, Defender of Rorke's Drift. H.C.'s reminiscences are required reading for anyone interested in this topic or
in colonial Natal in general. The author paints a vivid pen picture of his own childhood and youth, and gives modest glimpses of his distinguished career in the Natal Civil Service - he held among other posts that of Chief Native Commissioner of Natal and President of the Native Appeal Court of Natal and the Transvaal. It is no exaggeration to say that, highly-regarded by the Zulu people and with his enviable command of their language, he was uniquely placed to collect and preserve valuable nuggets of Zulu oral history which might otherwise have been lost.

© Rosemary Dixon-Smith
This article previously appeared on the website Genealogy World and is repeated here by popular request.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Post Anglo-Zulu War: heroes who returned to South Africa

This is a story of a Scotsman, an Irishman and an Englishman - no, not one of those stories, but of three men from different backgrounds who found themselves together on a very hot day in South Africa at the end of the first month of 1879, far from home. The men in question were George William MABIN from Bristol, Charles DUNBAR from Scotland and John CANTWELL from Ireland. Fate conspired that they were comrades on 22 Jan 1879 at Kwajimu, and these three had something else in common as well.

When the hostilities had ended they all came back to live out their lives in South Africa. One could be called the "Indiana Jones" of his time: this was Pte James DUNBAR No 1421 of B Coy 2/24th. In the various reports of the time regarding the engagement at Rorke's Drift, Dunbar was attributed as felling 9 Zulus with 9 shots, quite a remarkable act when considering the heat and conditions at the time - one Zulu was a Chief on horseback.

As far as is known he was born James Dunbar in Scotland around 1857 or 1858. His service papers are missing from the National Archives at Kew so making life very difficult for anyone researching him. To make matters worse it was known that he used variants of his Christian names throughout his life. He attested into the army on 20 June 1877 at Newport in Wales and by 15 March 1878 he was promoted to Corporal but come 22 July 1878 he was demoted to Private and given 28 days hard labour for a crime I have yet to ascertain. James Dunbar certainly got about. In Chiswick on the 1908-1909 electoral rolls it indicates a James Dunbar as living at 58 Duke Road Chiswick, at this time the person living at No 56 Duke Road was FRED HITCH VC! - was this Dunbar the man at Rorke's Drift I wonder? Dunbar gave his intended place of residence as Newport in WALES but when he left the army in 1883 I believe he came back to South Africa and lived the life of a miner, did prospecting and eventually became an overseer there.

The most we know about him was at the end of his life: in 1938 the Natal Mercury interviewed him at his last address, the Centenary Home for aged men in Durban; he was known then as Charles Dunbar. He had run away from home aged 13; it is not known if he ever returned to Scotland. Ex Private Dunbar died at Hillcrest Pinetown in Durban on 29 Jan 1940 aged 82 one of the last survivors of Rorke's Drift. He is buried in Stellawood Cemetery in Durban and his grave has been used again; he has no marker and, but for a few enthusiasts, totally forgotten - which is probably how he would have wanted it.

The next man I refer to is an Irishman who went by the name of John CANTWELL. John was born in Dublin about May 1845; his father we believe was called John as well, and he had a sister, Mary, who emigrated to Australia (Melbourne). He joined the Norfolk Regt on 6 Nov 1868 but transferred to the Royal Artillery on 1 April 1872. He was married in St Helena on 6 August 1876. By 21 Jan 1879 the rank of Gunner having reverted from Bombardier, he was the artillery storeman at Rorke's Drift. After the battle he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Cantwell's army career ended on 19 July 1887 and he gave as his intended address No 2 Phillipa St., Woolwich. Cantwell had defective eyesight but he managed to secure a job at the Gunpowder factory at Waltham Abbey in Essex. He somehow survived but on 5 November 1897 he went to South Africa as a Prison Guard; he lived at No 8 Loop St, Pietermaritzburg. He was stationed at Durban prison, where on 8 August 1898 he was seriously assaulted by a life prisoner called DUBOIS and suffered a ruptured spleen. He soon left this job on medical grounds and despite many letters which upset his employers he got a job as a toilet cleaner - he gave that up quite quickly. By 14 August 1900 he had died in Addington Hospital in Durban and as a Catholic is buried in a Catholic cemetery in Durban but to this day his grave has not been located or verified. A sad end to a brave man.

My last name is George William MABIN, born in Bristol If anyone could be called a perfect soldier it was this man. In 30 years of service he was never on defaulters parade and finished his career as a Sgt Major. Mabin first saw light on 5 October 1848. He joined the army on 29 May 1868 into the Rifle Brigade. He transferred to the General staff of the army as a Clerk on 19 May 1872. Rapid promotion followed and by June 1880 he was promoted to the rank of Sgt Major. At the time of Rorke's Drift he was the senior NCO having been promoted to C/Sgt in 1875 - some three years earlier than C/Sgt Bourne. Mabin was married on 3 Jan 1872 to Mary Elizabeth Ranger; they had 11 children, a number of them being born in South Africa. What Mabin was doing at Rorke's Drift in 1879 we do not know as he was not a hospital patient and his duties have never been stated. As a clerk he should have been called upon to produce a roll call but was not. He came back to South Africa in 1900 and lived there till his death in 1938. Mabin briefly went to live in Bristol in 1898 but came back two years later to live in William Street Woodstock Cape Town. George William Mabin who died in 1838 is buried in Maitland Cemetery Cape Town and only C/Sgt BOURNE outlived him and he died in 1945 on VE Day.

 I had intended to add to this list the name of James Langley DALTON, who also came back to live in South Africa. This man was the architect of the defence of Rorke's Drift and merits his own story.

by Graham Mason AZW Researcher

Anglo-Zulu War Medal

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tracing a Military Man 3

Finley Gibson was entitled to the Afghan Campaign Medal (without clasp) having served in that conflict in 1879. A dubious family anecdote suggested that he had participated in the famously grueling march from Kabul to Kandahar, in which case Finley would have been eligible for the Kandahar Bronze Star. This might have added an interesting chapter to Finlay’s story but it is unfortunately without foundation.

When he was discharged from the army on 22 June 1880, he had four good conduct badges to his credit. He was 39 years old and gave his intended place of residence as Stevenston, Ayrshire.*  

Map showing The Three Towns, including Stevenston

All becomes clear in the 1881 Census for Stevenston, where Finlay (as well as his brother William) are listed at the home of their widowed elder sister, Margaret McIntyre, in Schoolwell Street. Margaret is described as a Pauper Sick Nurse, not an occupation holding out much hope of large remuneration and Margaret, since her husband's death, had been the sole breadwinner.

She had four children ranging in age from 15 to 8 years and it makes sense that taking in her two brothers, both at that stage army pensioners, would have been to the whole family’s benefit. William snr and his wife Ann were deceased by this time and the brothers had no other home to go to. The 1881 Census entry satisfactorily solved the mystery of Finlay’s appearance in Stevenston.  It would be his place of residence until his death and here he would also find his life partner, Annie Bell.

* TNA WO97/1735/105

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: colonial Natal - a snapshot in time

Natal Colonial group early 1900s: a relaxed all-male occasion (a stag party?); attendants include two Africans and one Indian wearing a turban. There are several different kinds of hat in evidence among the group,  Some trouser turn-ups indicate date after 1902 when this fashion feature became trendy. Facial hair is 'in'. The wicker chairs are of an easily-recognisable design much seen gracing Natal verandahs. Photographer unknown.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Anglo-Zulu War: new look at Fripp painting

Battle of Isandhlwana by Charles Edwin Fripp

Having a copy of possibly the most famous painting of the Anglo Zulu War, by Charles Edwin Fripp (1854-1906), a picture that has adorned my wall for a good number of years, I thought it time to look at it in a different way and hope to invite you to draw your own conclusions much as I did when I re-examined this picture. Fripp arrived in Zululand in March 1879 as an artist for the Graphic so was not a witness to this event but I suspect painted it with a Victorian eye to the dramatic.

The painting made little or no impact when it was shown in 1885 at the National Academy but as the years rolled by and interest grew in this campaign, the painting took on more significance. It could be said that the film Zulu catapulted the Fripp picture into the spotlight. So let us look into the various aspects and see what there is on offer.

The first thing that comes to mind is the imposing mountain of Isandlwana which is both central to and the background of the painting. Somewhat shortened in its composition it still is a striking feature of the overall picture. Flanked at each end by either clouds or smoke it is hard to distinguish, and from various accounts the action took place much nearer the base of the mountain. To convey the eclipse on that date must have been a difficult task for Fripp as he portrays blue skies with cloud.

The action scenes fall into three groups with the main section left of centre. Perhaps it was Fripp's intention to highlight the mountain because we see a necklace of cloud right across the front of Isandlwana. Some tents can be seen at the left of the painting and at the left edge we see a redcoat on his knees about to meet his sad end at the hands of the Zulu army. On the right hand side we see a similar scene but this time a redcoat is in fierce battle with his opponent totally unaware that a fatal blow is about to end the life of this unknown soldier. Two Zulus can be seen stripping another soldier of ammunition and his tunic, whilst a third, adrenalin pumping, exults at the scene before him.

We move closer to the centre of the picture where another soldier has extended his rifle at arms length, bayonet firmly stuck in the shield of a Zulu warrior, perhaps mercifully he does not see the raised arm of another warrior about to dispatch him with a blow of his battle axe. One thing is very noticeable: there are no officers shown. Is this a deliberate policy on the part of the artist to indicate that once again the private soldier was left to his fate due to the action of so-called superiors? It is known that pockets of soldiers fought like tigers in various sized groups to the very end. In the foreground the field is quite clear of fallen Zulu and soldier alike. Yes, there are casualties and two badly wounded soldiers with one in possibly his final action offering a last round to dispatch another enemy, of which there were many.

This group are defending the Colours so was this before Melville and Coghill left the battle? Does the drummer boy point to a possible exit or another wave of determined warriors at hand? The man behind him wild-eyed at the knowledge that their lives are near the end, perhaps contemplating whether it would be kinder for him to dispatch the boy before the terrible fate awaiting the youngster? Although a very moving painting was there a hidden agenda by Fripp in his portrayal of events that day? We see the wounded Sergeant standing square onto the foe, in the full knowledge that he did his duty and very soon all his lads that he drilled at Brecon would be no more and he would meet his fate bravely to show an example as to how a man should met his end. There is an awkwardness in the fallen as they lie on the ground, life expended as though death is mocking them in their posture. I would like to think the Sergeant was the last to fall in this group trying to save the life of the drummer boy.

by Graham Mason, AZW Researcher.

Note: Charles Edwin Fripp was the fourth son of artist, George Arthur Fripp, and his wife, Mary Percival. He was also the grandson of Captain Nicholas Pocock, the marine artist. Charles was born at Camden Town, London on 4th September 1854. Like his father and grandfather, he made his mark in the world through his paintings and illustrations. He studied at the Royal Academy of Munich and Nuremberg and was employed by The Graphic (London) in 1875. After years covering the wars in South Africa, he was made special artist for The Graphic from 1885 - 1900, also covering other conflicts in Sudan, Japan and the Philippines.

He is most well known for his painting of the Battle of Isandhlwana, which depicts the last stand of the 24th Regiment of Foot (South Wales Borderers) during the Zulu War on 22nd January 1879. It was completed six years after his initial sketches and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885. It is now displayed at the National Army Museum. The image is regularly used by battle enthusiasts to reenact the scene of this courageous event. He was with Lord Chelmsford's column later in 1879, when he witnessed an attack on the British camp on 2nd April and Chelmsford's successful relief of Pearson's force at Eshowe. He was also in the column when the body of the Prince Imperial was discovered, and at the battle at Ulundi, which he sketched as he lay on the leather roof of an ammunition cart.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Survivors of Rorke's Drift

What happened after?

As the Autumn mists swirl round the coast of Anglesey, I often think of what it must have been like months and years after the battles of the Zulu war were over. What pressures were felt by the surviving participants as they tried to pick up lives torn apart from the rigours of campaign. What long-term effects did those 9 months have on the men who came back home? Upon further research I have found out, especially in the case of the men who fought at Kwajimu in that intense 12 or 13 hours back in January 1879, that a great deal did happen to those soldiers when they arrived back in the UK .

The British army does not like two disasters in one day and hence the, some would say, unwarranted attention covering the action at Rorke's Drift. As in any battle there are casualties not seen or felt until well after the engagement was over. With the advances in medical practices, I feel the mental strain on the men under CHARD and BROMHEAD would have had the term syndrome (post traumatic stress?) applied to the undoubted after-effects of keeping a determined foe at bay for so many hours. Even today after 125 years many graves of the men who fought at Rorke's Drift are still to be discovered and a public grave with no marker is often the case .

There are groups and organisations who amongst their activities search out these final resting places and hopefully leave a marker behind. In Ruddington in Nottinghamshire TWO headstones were laid in one cemetery as both men came from Ruddington and were mates, these being Pte Caleb WOOD and Pte Robert TONGUE both of B Coy 2 / 24th Foot. The final resting place of one Pte John SMITH is proving a tad difficult to locate, but I try! I do have his birth details, however, and am in the process of obtaining his birth certificate (he was born in Wigan). The other fact which has come to light is that many soldiers who were not in any of the prominent engagements suddenly stated they were at Rorke's Drift on that fateful day when in fact, after careful checking, it was found they were not. One example being Pte COMBERTON 1/24th whose glowing account of his actions on Jan 22/23 is to be found in a publication printed in 1966 and which has been found to be false from the outset. Had he done any of the things mentioned he would have been awarded 2 VCs at the very least! Pte Comberton, by the way, did not arrive in South Africa till April 1879.

Another example was a certain 'Sgt JONES VC' who was at the training camp in Pochefstroom and in contemporary papers of the time is shown quite clearly as being at Rorke's Drift and winning a VC there. Careful research revealed this was not the case. I have avoided mentioning one Lt ADENDORF because that is a whole different set of circumstances to go into. I am intrigued, however, that after his arrest for assault and desertion he vanished and to this day we do not know the full story. Apologies to any of his descendants, but that is one mystery I would love to resolve. Back to the main theme.

Research has proven that nearly all who took part in the campaign on Jan 22/23 1879 were affected in a mental capacity. To a man, any mention of those terrible 12 hours brings out anger or denial if mentioned in later years. 

Pte William COOPER who was over eighty gassed himself in the 1940's because, coupled with his physical condition and memories, his mind could take no more. Pte William JONES VC was seen towards the end of his life wandering the streets of Manchester with his granddaughter in his arms to protect her from the Zulu, quite obviously suffering from the pangs of that terrible day. Another VC winner (Pte Robert JONES VC) allegedly shot himself with a shotgun while the balance of his mind was disturbed. Quite how he managed to shoot himself twice is a fact I find difficult to accept. What is true is that the gun he was carrying was known to have a hair trigger, that the area where the accident took place was uneven and that Robert was not concentrating on his business at the time as it was proven that he was disturbed about events back in 1879 and this fatal combination resulted in him losing his life. To add insult to injury his coffin was taken over the cemetery wall and when buried the headstone faced the other way round! I feel a campaign is in order to investigate the true causes of his death and to reverse the suicide verdict raised against him. 

Fred HITCH VC on the other hand was known to have been quiet and unobtrusive when he lived the remainder of his life out in Chiswick, London and never once boasted that he won this highest honour. There is even a case where a defender was assaulted by fellow soldiers for just being part of that little garrison that day, jealousy I believe was the cause that resulted in that particular assault. One figure I recall sticks out in particular: this was the sad story of Sgt Joseph Lenford WINDRIDGE. First promoted to Sgt in 1862 he suffered various demotions and promotions during his career but at the time of Rorke's Drift was the senior Sgt. Incidentally, the majority of the men promoted shortly after the battle lost that rank for all sorts of reasons and Windrige even went down to a Pte at some stage. Recent research has proved that he married twice and his first marriage ended as he lost his wife, with his second he had no less than 13 children, 6 died within three weeks of each other. It was thought at one time that his wife poisoned them but it was proved not the case. Can you imagine what must have been going through his mind at this stage? Windridge eventually died in 1902 in Birmingham and is buried in this city under an unmarked grave. One day it is hoped that he too will get a marker to show he was at Kwajimu on that day so long ago. 

It was said that Pte DUNBAR dispatched 8 Zulus with 8 shots, quite a remarkable feat considering the pressure and heat on that day. He saw his last days out in South Africa, as did C/ Sgt George William MABIN the Fighting Clerk as he became known, the sad case of Gunner CANTWELL DCM, buried somewhere in Durban, who after winning the Silver Medal, as it was known, became a Prison guard in Durban goal, was assaulted by a lifer (DUBOIS) and eventually left the service, became a toilet cleaner and eventually died in Addington Hospital in August 1900, an oft-forgotten hero of that fateful day on the Buffalo River. Maybe one day his grave location will be found and a marker placed at the site, 'Here lies John Cantwell DCM , hero of Rorke's Drift.'

by Graham Mason, AZW researcher

Anglo-Zulu War Memorial,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Was Your Ancestor at Rorke's Drift 1879?

The Defence of Rorke's Drift by Alphonse de Neuville

The list below was compiled from the following sources:

1. Lieutenant Chard's list (at the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales, Brecon).
2. Colour Sergeant Bourne's list (also at the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales, Brecon).
3. Bourne's amended list.
4. Major Dunbar's list of January 1880.


1st Battalion, 24th Foot
Sergeant Wilson; Privates Beckett, Desmond, Horrigan, Jenkins, Nicholas, Parry, Payton, Roy, Turner, Waters.

'A' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Drummer Meehan; Privates Lyons, Manley, Scanlon, Sears.

'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Lt. Bromhead; Colour Sergeant Bourne; Sergeants Gallagher, Smith, Windridge; Lance Sergeant Thomas; Corporals Allen, French, Key, Lyons, Saxty; Lance Corporals Bessell, Halley; Drummers Hayes, Keefe; Privates Ashton, Barry, Bennett, Bly, Bromwich, Buckley, Burke, Bushe, Caine, Camp, Chester, Clayton, Cole, Collins, Connors, Timothy Connors, Davies, Davis, Daw, Deacon, Deane, Dick, Dicks, Driscoll, Dunbar, Edwards, Fagan, Gee, Hagan, Harris, Hitch, Hook, Jobbins, Evan Jones, John Jones (970), John Jones (1179), Robert Jones, William Jones, Judge, Kears, Kiley, Lewis, Lines, Lloyd, Lockhart, Lodge, Lynch, Marshall, Martin, Mason, Mireham, Moffatt, Augustus Morris, Frederick Morris, Morrison, Murphy, Neville, Norris, Osborne, Parry, Pitt, Robinson, Ruck, Savage, Shearman, Shergold, Smith, Stevens, Tasker, Frederick Taylor, Thomas Taylor, Thomas, Thompson, Michael Tobin, Patrick Tobin, Todd, Tongue, Wall, Whetton, Wilcox, John Williams, Joseph Williams, John Williams, Thomas Williams, Caleb Wood.

'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Drummer Galgey;
Privates Adams, Chick, Haydon.

'E' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Lance Sergeant Taylor;
Private (934) John Williams.

'G' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Sergeant Maxfield;
Privates Conolly, Partridge.

'H' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Private Evans
General Staff
Colour Sergeant Mabin.

'N' Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Artillery
Bombadier Lewis; Gunners Evans, Cantwell, Howard.

Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Chard; Driver Robson.

2nd Battalion, 3rd Foot
Sergeant F.A. Millne.

90th Perthshire Volunteers
Corporal Graham.

Commissariat and Transport Dept.
Acting Commissariat Walter Dunne;
Assistant Acting Commissariat
James Langley Dalton;
Acting Store Keeper, Louis Byrne.

Army Service Corps
Second Corporal F. Attwood.

Medical Staff Corps
Surgeon James Reynolds,
Mr William Pearse.

Hospital Corps
Corporat Rowland Miller;
Privates Luddington, McMahon.

Natal Mounted Police
Troopers Green, Lugg and Hunter.

1st Battalion, 3rd Natal Native Contingent
Lieutenant Adendorff; Corporals Anderson, Doughty, Mayer, Scammell, Schiess, Wilson; Private Umkungu.

Rev. George Smith
Daniells (Ferryman)
Unnamed servant to the Revd. Smith.


Killed in action:
1861 Private William Horrigan
1st Battalion, 24th Foot
841 Private James Jenkins
1st Battalion, 24th Foor
625 Private Edward Nicholas
1st Battalion, 24th Foot
623 Sgt. Robert Mayfield
'G' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
987 Private Robert Adams
'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1335 Private James Chick
'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
969 Private John Fagan
'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1769 Private Garret Hayden
'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1051 Private John Scanlon
'A' company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1398 Private Joseph Williams
'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
801 Private Thomas Cole
'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
Louis Alexander Byrne, Assistant Storekeeper
Trooper Sydney Hunter,
Natal Mounted Police
Corporal Michael Anderson, 2nd Battalion,
3rd Natal Native Contingent
Private Umkungu, 1st Battalion 3rd Natal Native Contingent.

Died of wounds
135 Private William Beckett,
1st Battalion, 24th Foot.
1328 L/Sgt. Thomas Williams,
2nd Battalion, 24th Foot.

Wounded in Action:
568 Private Desmond.
447 Private Waters,
1240 Corporal Allen,
1112 Corporal Lyons,
1362 Private Hitch,
1812 Private Tasker,
James Langley Dalton,
Corporal Scannel,
Corporal Schiess,
1373 Private Hook,
Drummer Keefe.


Victoria Cross
Eleven defenders won the Victoria Cross -- the highest number ever awarded for a single action.
Lieutenants Chard, Bromhead; Corporal Allen; Privates Hitch, Hook; R. Jones, W. Jones, J. Williams, Surgeons Reynolds, James Langley Dalton, Corporal Schiess.

Distinguished Conduct Medal
Colour Sergeant F. Bourne; Privates W. Ray; Gunner J. Cantwell; Second Corporal F. Attwood; Private M. McMahon (awarded 15th January 1880 but cancelled as he was later found guilty of theft and being absent without leave on 19th January 1880).

The defenders of Rorke's Drift: 
B Company 2/24th Warwickshire Regiment

Graham Mason, AZW Researcher, who compiled this list from the sources given above.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spot the mistakes in this shot from the film ZULU

A tense moment during the battle of Rorke's Drift
as portrayed in the film Zulu

The actors seen in the photo, L to R, are Nigel GREENE (with mutton-chop whiskers), Glynne EDWARDS (slumped figure centre) and David KERNAN (lying back against the bags).

Nigel GREENE (who appeared with Michael CAINE - also starring in this film - in 'The Ipcress File') is portraying Frank BOURNE. The actor is clearly much older than BOURNE would have been at the time. Frank Bourne was 5 feet 4 inches tall - played by Nigel Greene who was 6 feet 2 inches. Nigel Greene is showing wearing 3 white chevrons (on the left arm i.e. the 'wrong' arm) which indicates the rank of a Lance Sgt, something Bourne never was. Bourne, despite his age (23) was a C/Sgt and would have worn, on his right arm, three gold chevrons with crossed colours surmounted by a crown (in Full Dress Uniform) and in undress uniform no crossed flags but three gold stripes surmounted by a crown.

The medals worn by Nigel Greene, as seen in this photograph, are the King George V Coronation medal of 1912 and the Ashanti War Medal of 1896-7 - obviously, neither of these medals had been struck in 1879.

Glynne EDWARDS (who appeared as the barman at the Winchester Club in the TV series "Minder") is portraying Cpl ALLEN. The actor in 'Zulu' was about twice the height of Cpl ALLEN, a small feisty Geordie from Newcastle, not a Londoner as played by EDWARDS.

David KERNAN (a singer in the BBC show The Black and White Minstrels) is portraying Fred HITCH. No wound is visible, yet HITCH was shot in the right shoulder - 39 pieces of his scapula were later removed.

The tunics as seen here are in pristine order without a blemish after 9 months in the field.

The pith helmets are white - in service conditions these would have been stained with tea or mud to present a less easy target in the surrounding terrain.

The Shako plates -i.e. the badge on the front of the pith helmets - have not been removed from the helmets (as they would have been to prevent their glinting in the sun and presenting a target for the enemy).

The white webbing at the front of the uniforms is shown as straight rather than crossed in the front, as it should have been.

The unit badge (24th Regt) is not shown on the shoulder tabs.

The rifles are right - though for the film they were probably fibreglass copies of those used in 1879. The film itself (made in 1964) contains some glaring errors, a few are listed below:

Cpl Allen is shown as wearing chevrons on the wrong arm, and worse, wearing a post-1881 Silver sphinx on his collar; this should have been of brass.

In the film, BOURNE is asked by a hospital patient wearing a leather neck brace: "What's that shooting C/Sgt?" Reply: "A rifle, Hughes." Strange, since there was no person called HUGHES at Rorke's Drift.

Natives friendly to the British are not shown in the film wearing the Red Puggaree on their foreheads as would have been the case on January 22 1879. This is noticeable in the scene where they are pushing ponts on the river.

Pte HOOK is shown as a hospital patient: incorrect, he was the company cook and HITCH was the tea-maker.

In the sequence showing BROMHEAD about to shoot an animal this was a cheetah, but when we see the "dead" animal it becomes a leopard.

CHARD's helmet badge is of the Royal Monmouthshire Volunteer Engineers and silver - this should be a Royal Engineers badge and in gilt, as worn by officers.

It was Sgt MILNE (3rd East Kent Regiment, the "Buffs") that tied the ponts up midstream, not Cpl ALLEN and he did not kick Fred HITCH into the trickle of a stream which should have been the Buffalo River in full spate.

In the opening sequence of the film, CHARD is shown wearing a post-1881 full dress tunic, his collar should be decorated with a crown and not a flaming grenade, indicating he is a lieutenant. In 1879 his rank would have been shown on his collar but he is wearing it on his epaulette, his white cross belt is of Royal Artillery pattern. A Royal Engineer would wear a black cross belt with gold edging and gold centre zigzagging. Most likely, though, he would have been wearing a blue patrol jacket.

In 'Zulu', actor Ivor EMMANUEL says to Stanley BAKER: "every Welsh regiment has a choir." In 1879 the 24th Foot were the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment, an English Regiment. It is a commonly-found error to refer to the regiment as the South Wales Borderers, which in 1879, they were not.

Graham Mason, AZW Researcher

Monday, October 20, 2014

Passengers to Natal per Dreadnought 1849: a Byrne Settler ship

Natal Witness 2 November 1849

The Dreadnought, 377 tons, under Captain Bidder, took a somewhat circuitous route to Port Natal, as the captain lost his bearings on more than one occasion. This isn't as impossible as one might imagine. Later steamers ploughed a straight furrow across the seas. Navigation in the days of sail could be very hit and miss and if weather was bad "dead reckoning" had to be relied on, plotting compass bearings, prevailing current and the vessel's speed. So the position of the ship after storms or cloudy skies could bear little relation to that plotted on the chart. Gales could spring up and blow the ship off course, and being becalmed was another hazard. Sometimes, much tacking had to be done back and forth without gaining many sea miles. Dreadnought was an old ship, and not in the best condition. She left London on 17 August 1849 and arrived at Natal on 2 November, having run out of drinking water supplies.

One of her passengers was destined to be closely involved in the development of the port: John MILNE, a widower travelling with his daughter, Jessie. Milne, a Scottish engineer, had worked for John Rennie (who built Plymouth breakwater) and on harbours such as Leith. This experience would stand him in good stead when fighting the Battle of the Bar at Natal.

The VINNICOMBE family also arrived on this ship, bringing with them an assortment of musical instruments: George Vinnicombe was to build the first pipe-organ in the colony. His brother, Valentine, coming out to join the family later, was among those shipwrecked on the Minerva.


Nov 2nd - Dreadnought, bark, 338 tons, Capt. G Bidder, from London, with 114 passengers. Left the Downs 17th August. 
Nov 4th - The Rosebud crossed the bar.

Oct 30th - Lalla Rookh, brig, Henderson, with cattle to Mauritius.

Outer Anchorage 
Henry Tanner, bark, for Mauritius. GC Cato, Agent.
Dreadnought, ditto.

Gem, for Cape Town. H Jargal, Agent.
John Gibson, for Mauritius, to sail in a few days. GC Cato, Agent.
Rosebud, for Cape Town.

Archimedes, from Port Elizabeth.
Douglas, from Cape Town.
Aliwal, from London.


Dr Taylor and family 
Mr Inchstone and family 
Mr and Mrs Dawson 

Intermediate and Steerage: 
Thomas Hudson 
G Vinnicombe and family 
Robert Humphry and family 
DJ Price and family 
R Smith 
Edward Goodwin and family 
T Hind 
E Tomlinson and family 
G Tomlinson and wife 
R Whitehorn and wife 
J Robson 
H Vertue 
P Vertue 
WH Roberts 
J Puttarill and family 
J Jacob and wife 
F Jacob and family 
F Corbit and family 
R Harwen 
EC Whitworth 
W Whiting and family 
G Waddelove 
WH Fenton 
Alfred Hubbard 
William Smith and wife 
John May and wife 
John Dykes 
T Hannah 
F Stott 
RL Brooke 
Jabez South 
W Hill 
C Wakelin 
J Harrison 
D Paterson 
J Paterson 
F Ashford and wife 
John Rogers 
J Blackwood and wife 
J Crowder and family 
Isabella Masterman 
John Bull 
E Campbell and wife 
WA Emerson and wife 
WF Baths 
E McFarlan 
SV Phillips and wife 
C Florey and family 
R McLachlan 
T McLachlan 
John Eagle and family 
Isaac Adams and family 
FW Good 
J Milne and family 
Walter McFarlan 
J McLauchlan 

In all 65 males, 27 females, 22 children. Total 114 Persons.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tracing a Military Man 2

Finlay Gibson is at various dates during his career at the explosives factory described as ‘searcher’, ‘cartridge foreman’ and ‘gatekeeper’. A remarkable photograph shows the very gate where Finlay would have been positioned as gatekeeper. 

The loading gates at the Nobel Factory in Ardeer circa 1900. 
The employees are all wearing Tam O’Shanters except of course for the foreman with his bowler hat. North Ayrshire Council photo collection/

Fascinating as I found his years at Nobel’s, the mystery was what he had been up to before that. How had Finlay had ended up in an obscure spot in Ayrshire, because his death certificate revealed he had been born in England. Several vital details were provided by this record. These in turn led to finding that long before his Stevenston phase he had been in the British Army. 

Born in the parish of St George’s East, in the district known as Borough, London, in 1841 to William Gibson and Ann Morgan Jenkins, Finlay was a parasol maker by trade. He had at least two siblings, Margaret and William jnr. 

How long Finlay practised his civilian occupation is not known, but the proceeds from parasol making were probably limited. For hundreds of young men in Victorian England, the army provided a reasonable alternative to poor living conditions in civvy street. William Gibson snr. was a soldier, and in due course both his sons would march in his footsteps, though neither very willingly - particularly the younger - judging from their army documents.

William jnr, joined, as Private No. 1265, the 2nd battalion of the 4th Regiment of Foot (the Buffs).  He would turn out to be, so to speak, a loose cannon. More about William and his colourful career in due course.

Finlay Gibson's Army Discharge papers
 give his civilian occupation  as
parasol maker

To be continued
Finlay went into the Army Service Corps, 15th Hussars, as Private No. 448, and served in colonial wars in India and Afghanistan. On 22 June 1880, he was discharged at the age of 39. His army records describe him as 5’6” tall, hair grey and eyes brown. 

From service records it was possible to build up a fairly comprehensive picture of Finlay’s career. There were clues as to his later life when his army days were over. 

These together with Census records offered a wealth of information as well as a welcome explanation of Finlay’s popping up so unexpectedly in a small Ayrshire town by 1881, as he entered his forties.