Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Sergeant of the Buffs: Anglo-Zulu War 1879

Quite often when making a film, due to various restrictions various events and personalities are left out, such is the case of the man of this article. There is no doubt that he was at Rorke's Drift and what his duties were: his story would make a cracking film all by itself. However in 'ZULU' he does not even get a mention. Recall the scene where Cpl Allan upon orders of Chard launches two soldiers into the river, one being David Kernan who portrayed Pte Hitch later to win a VC on that fateful afternoon of 22 Jan 1879. Cpl Allan never threw Pte Hitch into the Buffalo River nor indeed was he there himself. No: what would have been factually correct was that two men, one a civilian and the other a Sgt in the regiment known as The Buffs (3rd Regt of Foot), who were employed in the repair and maintenance of the Ponts (ferries), should have been included, in this author's opinion in the film.

The two men in question were Mr Daniels, a ferryman, and one Sgt Frederick Augustus MILLNE of the Buffs. Millne, whose very name has caused much argument over the years, was under orders from Lt McDowell of the Royal Engineers, later killed at Isandlwana. Just why a single Sgt of the Buffs was there at all is not known even to this day. I can confirm that MILLNE and not MILNE is the correct spelling of this man's name. Millne's birth certificate was the very first one I purchased at the Family Record Centre in Islington, London. As it turned out it was the wrong certificate as later I obtained the correct one. In 1853 in Lincolnshire a Frederick Augustus MILNE was born: in my ignorance I thought I had the right certificate but in fact there was a birth on 18 February 1854 in London of Frederick Augustus MILLNE confirmed later by his service papers and subsequent wedding in 1889.

Frederick, son of David George Millne and Mary Ann Slate, joined the army on 4 June 1872. He was allocated to the 2nd Battalion 3rd Regt of Foot known as the Buffs. In civilian life he was a clerk. Pte Millne was given the number 2260, his age indicated as 18 years and 2 months. In 1857 Frederick lost his mother and his father later married the sister of Mary Ann Slate (Louisa Maria SLATE)* which later gave a twist to the life and circumstances regarding Frederick. By 24 February 1873 he was promoted to Cpl, by 1 April 1876 he was a Lance Sgt followed shortly by promotion to full Sgt on 6 July 1876.

Frederick was involved in a shipwreck - he read later of his own reported demise in this. He was aboard the troopship 'St Lawrence' when it went aground on route to Durban in 1876; the ship foundered off Paternosters Reef at Cape Town. ** There was no loss of life but it was a facet of the sort of life Frederick led.

By January 1879 Millne found himself at the mission station assisting Mr Daniels with the ponts used to ferry supplies across the river. When the news of the disaster at Isandlwana filtered through to Lt Chard RE, now in charge, Millne offered to tie the ponts off in mid-stream and defend them against the now advancing impi, they being the reserve of the Zulu army, of course. Chard refused this foolish but brave offer due to the lack of men available for the imminent battle in the afternoon of 22 January 1879. Millne did get a mention in dispatches for his part in the defence. The Senior Sgt (24th) under the command of C/Sgt Frank Bourne, one Sgt Windridge, had been ordered to put a guard on the cask of rum at the station. Being a tad fond of the amber liquid, Windridge re-allocated this task to Millne who to his credit took this duty seriously, not allowing the rum to be issued till the next day.

A promotion to C/Sgt followed, then a reduction to Sgt at his own request with another promotion to C/Sgt on 11 January 1883. He was sent to Singapore then to Hong Kong where two significant events occurred: he won a lottery to the tune of $40,000 and on 15 December he decided to purchase his discharge from the army for the princely sum of £3; he was but 29 years of age. His intended place of residence was Shanghai where he gained employment as an instructor to the local police.

You will recall that Millne's father had now married Frederick's aunt (Louisa Slate *) and a child was a result of this union - Catherine. In 1888 Millne lost his father and was back in the UK. The money in his pocket was burning a hole, no doubt. On 2 April 1889 Frederick married Catherine Millne in London whom he knew was not only his cousin but also his half sister, making his aunt also his mother-in-law. It was most likely this set of circumstances that led him to leave London and set up a grocery business in Derbyshire, which failed, prompting a further move to Manchester. A number of children were born and some died at an early age, one daughter called Ada Rorke Millne was born on 22 January 1902.

At the outbreak of World War I, Millne once again served his country as a training NCO rising to the rank of RSM (Regimental Sgt Major). Ill health forced him to retire in 1919. Millne eventually died on 5 June 1924 in Manchester and is buried in Southern Cemetery, Manchester, where his grave lay unmarked till July 2001 when a cross was erected at his grave in a ceremony led by the 1879 re-enactment group whose archivist and record-keeper I was at that time. This marked the first non-24th soldier to get a dedication by the group mentioned. Thus ends the story of the Sgt of the Buffs.

Buffs memorial

Graham Mason
Anglo-Zulu War Researcher

* Kris Wheatley ('Legacy' vol 1)
** Troopship 'St Lawrence' information from Rosemary Dixon-Smith Papers: The National Archives, Kew

Regimental Museum (Canterbury) The Buffs.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fort Hubberstone nr Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. Anglo-Zulu War

As every serviceman will confirm there are barracks and postings they both love and hate: in the USA we have West Point, in the UK we have Aldershot, Colchester and Catterick. In Wales there was a place called Fort Hubberstone, where recruits to the 24th Regt of Foot were often sent when enlisting. 

Compared to the exotic locations of India, South Africa and Mauritius it was a place to be avoided if at all possible. Warts and all this is the story of Fort Hubberstone. Fort Hubberstone is close to the town of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire and formed part of the defences of the Milford Haven waterway. The Haven is a drowned river valley where the Cleddau River meets the sea and is a wonderful natural harbour, one of the deepest in the world, and provides excellent shelter. The only harbours that are of similar size are Kowloon in Hong Kong and Columbo in Sri Lanka. Lord Nelson himself thought it second only to Trincomalee (Columbo) and its size has resulted in it becoming the UK's largest oil port.

The location of this excellent natural harbour is also of great strategic importance to Britain as it commands the sea lanes of the South Western Approaches and would provide safe anchorage from a very large fleet. This importance was recognised as early as 1485 when Henry V11 landed on its shores with an invasion fleet from France and by 1590 the entrance was defended by a pair of forts. These were converted into Napoleonic blockhouses in the early 1800's.

In 1812 the Admiralty established a Royal Dockyard on the shores of the Haven at what became Pembroke Dock. It developed into the main construction yard of the Navy during the first half of the 19th Century, building the first Royal vessel (Victoria & Albert) in 1842 and the largest ever wooden man-o-war, the Duke of Wellington, in the 1850's. It was clear that an area of such importance needed defending and the reason for the defences came in the mid 1840s with a resurgence in French military activity. The French had landed an invasion force at Fishguard, some 15 miles from the Haven in 1797: the Royal navy soon sorted that incursion out!

Plans were drawn up to defend the Haven with a major system of large heavily armed forts designed to have an interlocking field of fire: a young Royal Engineer officer named Gordon planned the forts, we know him as Gordon of Khartoum.

Hubberstone was built as part of the defensive system of fortifications and was one of the last to be constructed being built between 1863 and 1865. The programme of construction began in 1849 with Fort Hubberstone being one of the last started. It was sited in an excellent location on a headland near Milford on the north bank some halfway between the mouth of the Haven and Pembroke Dock. From its position its guns dominated the seas as far as the mouth of the Haven enabling it to rake the bows of approaching vessels, a tactic known as 'bow raking'. The warships could not return fire from the bows and any shot which penetrated the bow would travel the length of the gun deck causing much carnage. Hubberstone's guns could also operate in a crossfire with the guns at Fort Popton on the opposite bank. The Haven forts were all built with the idea of this crossfire in mind as wooden hulled warships could not accommodate crews to fire at both port and starboard batteries at the same time. If engaging against one fort a vessel would be open to fire from the other fort.

Hubberstone was the last layer of Haven defences before the dockyard at Pembroke, which had its own guns in Martello like tower structures. To enter the Haven an attacking fleet had to pass between the East & West blockhouses on either side of the mouth on the site of the old Tudor and Napoleonic positions. They then would arrive between Fort Dale and Fort Thorn Island firing from the front and the forts at Hubberstone, Stack Rocks and South Hook firing from the front. A chain could be placed across the Haven at this point to halt ships at that point. Beyond this point they again faced a crossfire from the fort at Chapel Bay on the south bank and the fort at South Hook on the north bank with Fort Stack Rocks in the Haven itself and all the while getting pounded from Fort Hubberstone and Fort Popton. Once past this obstacle the artillery towers in the Dockyard would be engaged, supported by Fort Scoveston which was some way inland.

To counter an attack by land Fort St Catherine's was built some 10 miles to the East at Tenby, the nearest good landing beaches to the dockyard. Pembroke Dock had a garrison of some 2000 troops as well as the fortified dockyard with its garrison of Marines and a Volunteer defence battalion. Hubberstone was one of the largest of the Haven forts and it mounted a formidable battery of coastal artillery. It was built with 28 9 inch guns and by 1872 8 7 inch rifled muzzle loaders were added on Montcrieff, Disappearing Carriages to absorb the recoil. The guns were mounted on a half circle of rail to the rear of each gun position to enable them to traverse. Finally in 1881 the guns appear to have been replaced with 10 inch weapons in barrette mountings. As well as an artillery platform, the fort served as a defensible barracks with some 250 men.

The gunners to man these forts were supplied by the Welsh militia regiments. In 1853 the Pembrokeshire Militia were converted to Artillery Militia to be joined in 1861 by the Carmarthen Militia and in 1877 by the Cardigan Militia. Together with the Glamorgan Artillery Militia they formed the 4th Welsh Division of the Royal Artillery serving as garrison troops in the Haven forts. Live firing was part of the routine in this bleak location each battery was allocated 90 charges and 45 projectiles to fire against floating targets in the Haven. Practice was needed as there were many complaints from local farmers that shells were screaming low over the roofs of local farms, on one occasion shells were fired into a local wood bringing trees down onto the road; it remains unclear if the area was cleared before the shelling commenced!
In 1885 the Royal Pembrokeshire Artillery Militia relocated from Haverfordwest to Fort Hubberstone; it was also a recruiting area for the 24th Regt of Foot. Of note is that in the Western Mail (a Welsh newspaper) in 1900 problems of recruitment were pointed out in the use of Fort Hubberstone as compared to recruitment towns in South Wales. The fort had a negative effect on recruits who, seeing it for the first time, did not like what they saw. The paper states 'where preliminary drill is carried out on the billeting system, young men naturally prefer the freedom of such places as Aberystwyth, Swansea and Carmarthen to being brought straight into barracks. Barracks are advantageous to drill and discipline, but are countered by bad recruiting'.

(Western Mail 16.7.1900).
During its active life the fort saw considerable activity with recruiting and militia training. During the 1860s and 70s there were a series of intensive exercises involving the Haven's defensive system. In May 1894 Hubberstone was used in experiments to illuminate targets with searchlights so they could be engaged at night. In 1875 Lt Walter of the militia was murdered by a Doctor Alder in a drunken brawl. The active life of the fort came to an end in 1908 when the Haldane Army Reforms were introduced and the militia regiments were disbanded, being replaced by the more flexible Territorial Army.

In 1919 there was a proposal to use the now derelict Fort Hubberstone to house homeless working class families during a housing shortage. Due to the grim and bleak location this proposal was never taken up. The 24th (SWB) served in Pembrokeshire from 1897 to 1899 when they garrisoned Pembroke Dock and were based at the formidable barracks overlooking the town. The County history refers to their arrival in detail.

'When the Devons left they were replaced by the 2nd Battalion of the 24th South Welsh Borderers (24th Foot). Every Pembrokeshire schoolboy knew about this regiment and its heroic defence of Rorke's Drift mission station in Natal during the Zulu war eighteen years earlier. The 24th marched through South Wales to Pembroke Dock and was given a tumultuous welcome all along the route by thousands of people. When approaching Pembroke Dock the marching soldiers detoured to Pembroke, where a vast crowd in the castle gave them a rousing reception and regaled them with refreshments. There was an official welcome from the Mayor, Councillor Samuel J Allen, who accompanied by officials in a four horse break, members of the Corporation on foot and the band of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Welch Regiment (E COY), then proceeded the regiment to Pembroke Dock. There the streets were lined three or four deep with cheering crowds as the 24th, bayonets fixed and colours flying, marched past'.

* The 24th ceased to exist in that name in 1881 when after the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the Regiment became known as the South Welsh Borderers. Many a recruit shuddered at being sent to HUBBERSTONE but it is part of the rich tapestry of this time.

Graham Mason
Anglo-Zulu War Researcher

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In memoriam: Eleanor Dixon-Smith nee Hamilton

Eleanor Anne Dixon-Smith nee Hamilton
16 September 1945 - 25 March 2015
In loving memory.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The 58th at Ulundi; Anglo-Zulu War 1879

The Anglo Zulu war of 1879 is full of "Roy of the Rovers" stories and anecdotes, the Victorian penny dreadfuls with heroic stories of the magnificent defence of Rorke's Drift and the slaughter of men at Isandlwana. Often forgotten were regiments in other actions during this campaign. (Even the battle on Jan 22 at Inyezane is largely neglected by historians, which is wrong in my estimation.)

After the Cardwell reforms of 1881, the 58th regiment of Foot became the Northampton regiment and, of course, other foot regiments then changed name as well. After the debacle at Isandlwana and the some say "pumped up" significance of Rorke's Drift (it is on record that a very eminent expert has called Jan 22/23 1879 a side issue of the war) the somewhat arrogant attitude to the Zulu warrior had changed. It goes to show that the Zulu intelligence system was really sharp and on the ball. Cavalry and bayonets were two elements that the Zulu warrior was not too keen on. The battle of Ulundi, the home of the royal kraal, was fought on July 4th 1879 just two months before the end of the war. The most significant aspect of this battle was the use of a well tried British tactic, The Square.

Again, this was a tactic used as a result of finally realising that the Zulu would never be defeated if fought on his terms. On the 22nd June 1879 "A" and "D" companies of the 58th were left as the garrison of Fort Evelyn on the Umhlatosi river. This reduced the regiment to 4 companies as "C" company was at Durban and "H" company was at Ladysmith. On the 25th June 1879 the division stopped at Entonjaneni which is about 20 miles from Ulundi, the site of Cetewayo's kraal. Finding themselves in this position Zulu envoys were sent out to talk peace terms . The response? The Zulu were to return captured weapons and lay down their arms as an act of submission.

A time limit of the date of June 29th was set for the Zulu to act, this elapsed and the advance continued . Come July 2nd 1879 the force had reached the White Umvolosi river . A large force of Zulu were seen and some sniping occurred on the 3rd but there was no attack. A square was formed and it consisted of the following elements. If you can visualise a map of the square it was constructed thus: Top left (90th regt) 4 x 9 pounder guns; Top right (58th regt) companies commanded by Captains MORRIS, ANDERSON, ST JOHN and HESSE. A single cannon on the end. Right leg (21st regt) 2 x cannon in centre of the leg, at the corner a single cannon. Bottom leg (94th regt) 2 x 7 pounders (13th regt), a single cannon. Last leg (80th regt) 2 x cannon in centre of leg and a final single cannon to complete the square. Inside the square, dragoons, mounted irregulars, carts, native contingent and finally the 17th lancers, quite a force.
What follows is an account (from a Journal of the Northamptonshire regiment) by an officer of the 58th concerning the 3rd and 4th July:

"We got our orders on the morning of the 3rd to fall in an hour before daybreak, and after being shown our places we all lay down to sleep. Officers were in front of their respective companies, which were posted all round the lager. Our rest was soon disturbed by the Zulu army singing their war song . The noise appeared to come from about 2 miles the other side of the Umvolosi river in the direction of the Unodwengo kraal. It had a wonderful effect, about 20,000 men all joining in, they kept it up for about an hour and then all was silent. It looked like business for the morrow.

No bugle sounded the rouse, but we were all awake and had breakfast in the early morning. Luckily it was brilliant moonlight, and in about an hour the division was formed up and ready to start. It was broad daylight when the order to advance was made. The formation was a square, the English infantry forming the sides. The irregular cavalry went in front, the artillery, native troops and ammunition carts in the centre of the square and the 17th Lancers brought up the rear. In this order the Umvolosi was crossed, and then had about a mile of very irregular and bushy ground to get over before getting onto the plain of Ulundi.

Luckily we were not opposed here or our loss might have been very heavy. No sign was seen of the enemy. We went steadily on until we had passed on the left of the Unodwengo kraal, a large Kaffir town with hundreds of huts: not a Zulu was there. The square was halted and the cavalry sent forward to reconnoitre, some of them being sent to burn Ukandampanivu kraal which was in our left rear. This was soon in flames. The Zulu were now seen coming down the sides of the hill to our left about 3 miles off. Our square was advanced a little to about one thousand yards beyond the Unodwengo kraal and a position was taken up on top of some gently rising ground. Now we had time to look about us and we began to think we should not be attacked after all. 

Our doubts were soon dispelled. Down the hillside on our left and front they began to move in beautiful formation. It seemed like endless companies in line all marching at regular intervals.
Our place was in the rear of the square, so I can only describe what took place on our side which was in the direction of our camp. Soon the very ground we had marched over coming from the river was swarming with Zulu. As yet they were not within rifle range, but the cavalry began to retire on the square. Suddenly a heavy fire began from where as yet we had seen no enemy, namely from the right of the Unodwengo kraal, and the irregular cavalry were seen coming over the brow of the hill and firing as they retired. In another minute the ground they had just left was covered with a swarm of Zulu who opened fire on us. The bullets began to whistle about us and one of our men fell back and was carried away on a stretcher.

The men were ordered not to fire until the cavalry had retired, which they did in good order, openings being made in the square for them to pass through. While this was being done the Zulu opened terrific fire upon us from all sides. Our artillery now began on them and sent their shells bursting where they were thickest, but they still came on in swarms, shouting and yelling. We now sent volleys into them by sections at six hundred yards range and mowed them down. This did not check their advance however and they made a rush for a hollow piece of ground about 200 yards from our side of the square and were lost to sight.

They must have been collecting for their final rush, for in another minute I could see (being mounted) a great mass of them, all bending nearly double to avoid our fire and making a rush for our corner of the square. As soon as they appeared our men opened on them such a murderous fire that nothing could live before it; guns at the corner also blazing canister (shot) into them as fast as they could. In a few minutes we ceased fire and when the smoke cleared the Zulu were seen flying in every direction. We sent up such a cheer, and helmets went flying into the air, such was the delight of our men.

Now was the time for the cavalry, and in a minute they were out of the square and pursuing the Zulu, cutting them down, spearing and shooting them. Numbers of them turned at bay and fired, killing and wounding a good many horses and several officers and men. The Zulu were in full retreat and got onto the hillsides where the cavalry could not follow, so the guns kept on shelling them till they got out of sight. We now got the order to advance to Ulundi. Cetewayo's enormous kraal and 2 other military kraals about a mile beyond Ulundi were burnt and soon the sky was black with smoke. The men were now allowed to rest and have dinner, so we lay on the grass and watched the burning kraals and began to count the casualties.

Our Major (Maj W D BOND) was shot through the arm, and LIEBENROD, who was aide-de-camp to Col GLYN, was wounded slightly in 2 places. One of our men was killed and 10 wounded. The loss of the whole force was about 13 killed and 70 wounded, wonderfully small considering the converging fire we were exposed to for more than an hour. The bullets hummed and whistled all about us and there were many narrow escapes. Luckily the Zulu as a rule cannot shoot and trust to close quarters and the assegai. If we had been in the Zulu's place and they in ours not a man of them would have got away. Our men were very steady and confident of beating off the attack. They knew, as we did that defeat was death. The strength of the Zulu is estimated at about 20,000, our strength was 5000. It looks rather heavy odds to contend with, but nothing could touch us in square with our deadly musketry fire. After halting for about an hour, we began to retire towards our camp about sunset, tired but rejoicing at the result of the day's work."

The 58th were commended by Col GLYN and Major General NEWDIGATE ( CO 2nd Division ). Col Glyn stated "All the Brigade behaved with great steadiness, and I specially wish to bring to your notice the companies of the 58th regiment posted near the guns at the corner." General Newdigate stated: "Col WHITEHEAD, officers and men of the 58th regiment, I have to thank you for your gallant behaviour on July 4th. I have never seen troops steadier under fire. Your fire was excellently directed and the consumption of ammunition very small, proving the value of firing in volleys. It was a great victory. I shall make a most favourable report of the 58th regiment."

During the battle the regiment's strength was 19 officers and 407 men, casualties were 1 man killed, 1 officer and 10 men wounded. In addition Lt C C WILLIAMS, 58th in command of the native levies (Uhamu`s People), was killed at Inhlobana on March 28th 1879. The night of July 4th was passed at the laager by the White Umvolosi and the following day the force moved back to Fort Newdigate halting on the way at Entonjaneni. On the night of the 6th a storm of bitterly cold wind with drenching rain fell upon the troops, through the 8th and 9th it raged, stopping movement and destroying a large number of transport oxen. The Zulu were spent and surrendered en masse, Cetewayo was still at large in August and when eventually he was captured by a squadron of the King's Dragoon Horse and sent to Pietermaritzburg the war was over. Thus ends the story of the 58th regiment at the battle of Ulundi.

Footnote: In the film "Zulu" Cpl ALLEN is seen kicking Pte HITCH into the river - strange that, as neither men were on the ponts, the river at the time was supposed to be in full flood (a mere trickle in the film sequence) and there is no mention of Sgt Frederick Augustus MILLNE 3rd Buffs who was in command of the ponts and offered CHARD to tie off the ponts in mid-stream and defend them, an offer declined by Chard.

British Gatling Guns AZW

Graham Mason
Anglo-Zulu War Researcher.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mounted Infantryman: Anglo-Zulu War 1879

Even after many decades the Anglo Zulu War still throws up many unanswered questions. The subject of this article is one such item. 

Among the four known versions of the roll calls at Rorke's Drift is a reference to a Pte Frederick EVANS of "H" Coy 2 /24th, a mounted infantryman listed as amongst the defenders on Jan 22nd 1879. In my studies I have the number of men at the mission station as 152: this figure is my own interpretation of who was there. It still baffles me why Lt CHARD RE VC did not call upon C/Sgt G W MABIN at the end of the battle to get a complete and accurate return of the men at the station. Mabin's job as a Chief Clerk would have been to compile a list for future reference but this did not happen. I still do not know if the original CO, Major SPALDING had a list of the men at the station prior to riding off to look for help.

Read the version of events as described by C/ Sgt Mabin:
"It was about 3:20pm when I saw a horseman spurring furiously towards the camp. Drawing rein at the tent he demanded to see the Commanding officer. The senior is absent, he has gone to Helpmekaar, what's up? I said. Good God man! the men in camp at ISANDLWANA have all been killed by the Zulus who are coming on here." 

If this account is true then Mabin was the first to learn of the impending onslaught. I thought to myself, all I have to do is next time I am at the now renamed National Archives at Kew, is to seek out the papers of this Frederick EVANS whose regimental number was 953. I searched for his papers and none were found, however I did come across a set of papers for 954 Pte Thomas EVANS of the 2/24th. Details show he was involved in the Zulu War of 1879 and gained the South Africa campaign medal with clasps for 1877,78,79, indicating he engaged against the Zulus.

I then checked the medal roll and both are shown in the 2/24th with Frederick EVANS shown as a mounted infantryman in "H" Coy. Lt Chard RE also recounts horsemen coming into the camp, one being Lt ADENDORFF. No mention is made or refuted about C/ Sgt Mabin's claim to having spoken to a horseman; Mabin recounts that it was 3:20 pm when he saw the rider and Chard recalls it being 3:20pm. Remember Chard was not the officer in charge of the men until Maj Spalding left and the next in command, Lt BROMHEAD was not asked to produce a roll call. The actions attributed to Adendorff are according to the book by Dr Adrian Greaves down to Cpl Attwood, a case of mistaken identity I feel.

Four horsemen were known to have ridden to Rorke's Drift, these being Lt VANE, Lt ADENDORFF (Natal Native Horse), Pte Frederick EVANS attached to the Mounted Infantry and one other and it is he I believe was the EVANS we are looking for, more about him later. As stated, Frederick EVANS was in "H" Coy 2 /24th. Before I reveal the identity of the fourth horseman, a little background on the Mounted Infantry. Due to a shortage of cavalry, mounted infantry were recruited on loan from regular battalions. The 24th were the first such unit raised alongside with elements from the 88th. It was the 1st/24th that supplied nearly 100% of the men from the 24th; both regiments served in the 9th Frontier War. In 1878 1st and 2nd Squadrons were formed with 150 men in each divided into two troops and drawn from the 2/3rd, 1/24th, 1/13th and 80th regiments. 20 Mounted Infantry were in action at Isandlwana with a loss of 13 of their number. As Frederick EVANS 953 is shown on the Chard roll (no number mentioned) and the Bourne roll (amended) and the Maj Dunbar roll, it is quite clear that this man must be severely in doubt as to his participation in the defence on Jan 22nd 1879.

The vast majority of 1/24th men as Mounted Infantry are listed in No 1 Squadron and Frederick EVANS was in the 2/24th. Very few were listed in the 2nd Squadron if at all. In his book "Rorke's Drift", Dr Adrian Greaves on page 106 states: "the dreadful news from Isandlwana had been re-confirmed by three more breathless horsemen, all survivors from the battle including Pte Frederick EVANS 2/24TH on loan to the Mounted Infantry (he may have been in the 2nd Squadron). Having made their report they then rode off to Helpmekaar". Now if Frederick EVANS rode off as stated he could not have been at the defence as seems to be the case due to the confused recording of the facts. Remember Chard did not know any of these men except the sappers under his command and of these four had been killed at Isandlwana early on the 22nd Jan, Bourne included EVANS on his amended roll and Maj Dunbar who compiled the fourth known list was not even at the battle!

A letter in Welsh was allegedly written by Frederick/Thomas EVANS to his wife:
"Dear wife, I send you these few lines to inform you I was not amongst the unfortunate men belonging to our regiment who were killed on Jan 22nd of this month, the camp was left in charge of some 850 privates and officers, and when they were out they were attacked and all killed, excepting 20 (note: the actual number of known survivors was in fact 55). The Zulus crossed into Natal, and attacked another station with such fire against them that they failed to force an entrance, and when they saw what number of men amongst them was being killed they set fire to the hospital and then retreated. I was in the midst of this fight, and about 100 of us killed about 600 of the enemy with only a loss of 15 men among ourselves (2 more died later on making 17 in all). On the following morning, what remained of our regiment came to us, and we are now waiting for the others to come and take our place, because we have neither clothes nor anything else. I do not suppose we shall go to battle again because our companies are so cut up that it will be hardly possible to form us into a regiment. I shall write again when that is possible, and will give particulars.
Your affectionate husband Thomas Evans."

The plot thickens! Listed as a survivor of Isandlwana was a man called Edgar EVANS of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Buffs, also a Mounted Infantryman! Could it be that he was the rider that C/Sgt MABIN saw and spoke to while Chard saw Lt Vane and Lt Adendorff alongside Pte Frederick Evans 2/24th "H" Coy 2/24th and as stated 4 men on horseback rode into camp (Rorke's Drift) and then according to Dr Greaves rode off to Helpmekaar? Did Chard vaguely remember an EVANS and remember on his roll EVANS was shown as having no number. Did Bourne in his amended roll recall an EVANS and was he told it was Frederick EVANS? Or was it the fact that 954 Pte Thomas Evans was the man already at the drift and with the regimental numbers being so close and both called EVANS did Bourne recall the wrong man? Did Mabin speak to EVANS of the Buffs whilst Chard spoke to 953 Pte Frederick EVANS and is it possible that 954 Pte Thomas Evans was in fact the man at the drift and that no Mounted Infantrymen were in fact amongst the defenders on that fateful day? 

I aim to locate a copy of this letter written by EVANS and also see if the service papers still exist for 726 Cpl Edgar EVANS 2/3rd a Mounted Infantryman who survived Isandlwana and is most likely one of two people named EVANS who were Mounted Infantry who both survived the trauma of Isandlwana, rode into Rorke's Drift, made their report to two different men (Chard and Mabin) and then rode off to Helpmekaar.

The papers of Pte Frederick EVANS and Cpl Edgar EVANS may have furnished clues. On my next trip to Kew it is my intention to seek out (if they are there) the papers of Cpl Evans to see if they can assist. I believe that Bourne and Chard (who did not know these men) remembered the wrong man and although Bourne has an EVANS it is on his amended roll and could well have been 954 Pte Thomas EVANS who in fact should be remembered as the man at Rorke's Drift and not 953 Pte Frederick EVANS.

In closing, can anyone tell me what became of Lt VANE and, more importantly, Lt ADENDORFF, whose roll in both battles is still hotly disputed?

Graham Mason
Anglo-Zulu War Researcher.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Campbell of the Guards: Anglo-Zulu War 1879

My topic this time concerns a man who fought in the Zulu War but not at Isandlwana nor indeed at Rorke's Drift. The piece could also have been titled "Denied a VC?" because in many eyes he was denied this highest honour. The person concerned was born on the 30th of Dec 1848, baptised on the 5th Feb 1849 at Stackpole Elidor in Pembrokeshire, son of John Frederick Vaughan Campbell and Sarah Mary Cavendish.

His name was Ronald George Elidor Campbell whose father was the Earl of Cawdor. A memorial plaque to this man can been seen at the Holy Trinity Church in Windsor. Ronald joined the Coldstream Guards but the regiment did not in the main participate in the Zulu War though individuals certainly did. The legend on the plaque reads as follows, "Sacred to the memory of Lieutenant and Captain and for 7 years Adjutant of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards. He fell on March 28th 1879 leading an assault on a strong position on Zlobane [sic] Mountain Zululand and was buried under fire by his comrades. The two men that followed him received the Victoria Cross".

These men were Pte Edmond Fowler and Lt Henry Lysons both of the 2nd Btn, The Cameronians. Ronald was educated at Eton and joined the Coldstream Guards in 1867; by 1871 he had reached the rank of Captain and was appointed Adjutant to the 1st Btn. By Nov 1878 he was seconded to Col Sir Evelyn Wood as his Chief of Staff. Zulu snipers were laid up in caves on Hlobane mountain and Capt Campbell was in the vanguard of a party of men sent to flush them out. The snipers opened fire killing Capt Campbell instantly, Lysons and Fowler just behind Campbell then followed in and took care of business.

It was in October 1881 that Sir Evelyn Wood recommended that Fowler and Lysons were to be awarded the VC. The London Gazette (5th April 1882) has the following:
"On the 28th March 1879, during the assault of the Inhlobane mountain, Sir Evelyn Wood ordered the dislodgement of certain Zulu (who were causing the troops much loss) from strong natural caves commanding the position in which some of the wounded were lying. Some delay occurring in the execution of the orders issued, Captain the Honourable Campbell, Coldstream Guards, followed by Lt Lysons, Aide de Camp, and Pte Fowler, ran forward in the mass of fallen boulders, which lay between walls of rock, which led to a cave in which the enemy lay hidden. It being impossible for two men to walk abreast, the assailants were consequently obliged to keep in single file, and as Capt Campbell was leading, he arrived first at the mouth of the cave, from which the Zulus were firing, and there met his death. Lt Lysons and Pte Fowler, who were following close behind him, immediately dashed at the cave, from which led several subterranean passages, and firing into the chasm below, succeeded in forcing the occupants to forsake their stronghold. Lt Lysons remained at the caves mouth for some minutes after the attack, during which time Capt Campbell's body was carried down the slopes".

There was no suggestion as in other cases that had the nominee lived he too would have received the Victoria Cross. The answer to this is in the records at Kew in a recommendation dated October 15th 1881 by Wood:

"Awards to Lt H Lysons and Pte E Fowler."
"I did not recommend them at the time the acts were performed, as they did not, in my opinion, come under the category of acts of valour included in the warrant (Royal Warrant of 1881). As an explanatory interpretation which has been made public has changed my opinion I trust that the gallant conduct of these soldiers will now be deemed a sufficient reason for my now submitting the cases for Her Majesty's gracious approval.

Without wishing to take away in the slightest degree from the bravery evinced by Lt Lyons and Pte Fowler, I should add that if Capt Ronald Campbell had survived, I should have recommended him for the Victoria Cross before the others, as in the assault of such a cave, as I have attempted to describe, the greatest danger is necessarily incurred by the leader".

It is well known that Melvill and Coghill received posthumous VCs in 1907 in carrying the Colours from the field of battle at Isandlwana, a heavy object which meant seeking them out and carrying them at full flight; they were at first indicated as had they lived they would have won the Victoria Cross why not Capt Campbell who actually engaged the enemy in the fashion described earlier? In WO 32/ 7834 at Kew is a note which states "General W does not wish this question raised", this refers I am sure to General Wolseley and a possible posthumous award to Campbell. There was a big time gap in the incident and award recommendation: had Wolseley had enough of Zulu War incidents? Remember of the 11 VCs won at Rorke's Drift only one was actually received there in August of 1879 - to Pte Hook who had been in camp there since January 1879. Was there a time limit for such awards? Can you imagine the hue and cry had Lysons and Fowler been deprived of their VCs?

It also could be argued that Pte Williams (Rorke's Drift) for his actions should have received the VC but he died at that battle and another defender there (C/Sgt GW Mabin) should have been awarded a LSGC (Long Service Good Conduct Medal) for 30 years unblemished service, not once even on defaulters' parade and gained the rare distinction of being awarded the maximum (6) good conduct stripes. The chances of these three men getting such belated awards are virtually nil but look at the 306 men shot for 'cowardice' in World War I: pardons are being granted as I speak. I would invite world opinion as to a campaign to hopefully grant these well-deserved medals. 

John Vaughan Campbell son of Capt Campbell joined the Coldstream Guards and in September 1916 won a VC at Ginchy during the battle of the Somme: some justification for the family, possibly.

Graham Mason
Anglo-Zulu War Researcher

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Remembering Captain Elton, liberator of slaves, on this Human Rights Day

James Frederic Elton was born 3 August 1840,  second son of Lieutenant-colonel Roberts W Elton of the 59th Regiment, Bengal army. Elton himself joined the Bengal Army at the time of the Mutiny in 1857 and saw much active service, obtaining the Indian medal with two clasps.
After serving in China and Mexico he went to Natal in 1868, travelling around the country until 1879 when he visited the Tati the mouth of the Limpopo, publishing a volume of his adventures.
In 1871 Elton was sent to make reports on the gold and diamond fields, and was also employed on a diplomatic mission to settle differences with the Portuguese authorities. In 1872 he was appointed government agent on the Zulu frontier. After some months he returned to Natal to recover from an attack of fever. While at Natal, he acted as protector of immigrant native labour and became a member of the executive and legislative councils.
In 1873 Elton left Natal with various missions: one of which was to treat with the governor general of Mozambique and the sultan of Zanzibar, regarding the laying down of a telegraph cable from Aden; a second, to inquire into the emigration of native labour from Delagoa Bay and to confer with the governor-general of Mozambique; and the third, to meet Sir Bartle Frere at Zanzibar, and assist in considering the slave-trade question.

Elton was appointed by Sir Bartle Frere assistant political agent and vice-consul at Zanzibar, with a view to assist in the suppression of the East African slave-trade.

In March 1875 he was promoted to the office of British consul in Portuguese territory, with residence at Mozambique.. He was here engaged in many expeditions for the suppression of the slave-trade from this and other parts of the east coast, in the course of which he made numerous journeys by sea and land, to the south as far as Delagoa Bay and over the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles and Madagascar.
After many further travels and adventures, he died 19 December 1877, aged 37, and was buried under a large baobab tree which overlooks the plains of Usekhe. His four companions, Messrs. Cotterill, Rhodes, Hoste, and Downie, marked the spot by a large wooden cross, and carved his initials on the tree which overshadows his grave.

S Crowder & Sons, Landing and Shipping Agents, Phoenix Wharf, Point, Port Natal,
To Landing 77 Liberated slaves at Port Natal 23 April 1879

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thomas Holmes, 17th Lancers: Anglo-Zulu War 1879

Pte Thomas Holmes 17th Lancers,
Dublin ca 1875
Another shadowy figure of the Anglo Zulu War steps into  the light. I now know more about a man who in the main would have been forgotten except by members of his family. My thanks go to his descendant (Denise Neufeld) for the information on Thomas Holmes.

Thankfully the story of Thomas is shrouded in much mystery: a bland story would not be of interest at all. It starts back in 1856 in Wiltshire England. Even before he joined the army Thomas was in trouble having been labelled an habitual criminal prior to enlistment, however I am ahead of myself.

Thomas was born to Sarah BUY/BYE: the spelling of her surname remains uncertain. The 1841 census shows her as being born c 1833 Daunstey, Wiltshire, daughter of James and Ann Buy (Bye). Thomas was born in 1856 and baptised on 27 July 1856. It is worth noting that the father of Thomas Bye (Buy) was not recorded on the baptismal records of Wiltshire. Sarah did get married - to one James Holmes but this was in 1858, March Qtr in Chippenham. Shortly after the marriage the newly-weds moved to Wandsworth in London as shown on the 1861 census.
Thomas is indicated as Thomas HOLMES son of James Holmes. Despite research it has not been confirmed if James Holmes was in fact the father of Thomas, as Thomas was baptised as Thomas Buy. Young Thomas drifted into trouble in Wandsworth and was jailed more than once. I learnt via his criminal records that if anyone committed more than one offence they were classed as an habitual criminal.

Despite the uncertainty re his father Thomas kept the name (Holmes) for the rest of his life. As an example of his criminal life there's an entry concerning Thomas in Wandsworth prison.
'Calendar of Prisoners Wandsworth Prison. Dated 4 March 1872. General Quarter Sessions of the Peace Holden by Adjournment Saint Mary Newington.
No 28 Thomas Holmes. Previous Convictions * 14 days 18th Aug 1870, 21 Days 7th Oct 1870,21 Days 3rd May 1871 (2 Months) Criminal Justice Act 13th July 1871.Age 16 Trade or Occupation, Labourer. Committing Magistrate J Bridge Esq. Wandsworth Police Court. Committal date 19th Feb 1872. In Custody 19th Feb 1872.Offence: Feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling house of William Price and stealing therein one pistol and other articles, his property. Tried 5th March 1872 before W Hardman. Pleaded Guilty of Housebreaking and Larceny, after a previous conviction of Felony. Particulars of previous convictions charged in the indictment and proved in Court. Two Calendar months Hard Labour for Larceny, Wandsworth Police Court 13th July 1871. Sentence of Court: 12 Calendar Months hard labour.'
Thomas left Wandsworth Prison on 3 March 1873 and after a few months decided to enlist in the army. This he did on the 2 September 1873, he joined the 17th Lancers, the 'Death and Glory' Regt. 

By 17 November he had been admitted to hospital with gonorrhoea, during the course of his career he also contracted syphilis. Even on his enlistment details he gave false information, stating he came from Somerset: a check of his papers confirmed it being the right man. Old habits continued and on 9 January 1877 he was in military prison for receiving stolen money, released on 10 Oct 1877. In all he was in the regimental defaulters book seven times and was court martialled once. Thomas saw service in India and in South Africa. In South Africa he is believed to have taken part in the Battle of Ulundi and to have been in the party that recovered the body of the Prince Imperial who was killed on 1 June 1879.

Army life especially on horseback did not agree with Thomas and soon he was up before a medical board suffering from varicose veins, so badly that he was discharged from the service on 4 January 1881. He gave as his intended place of residence as his parents' home in Wandsworth. 

On 17 April 1881 he married Mary Elizabeth SANDHAM.  On 12 October 1889 he was present at the death of his father (?) when in a drunken brawl James Holmes struck his head on a curbstone. One W Chance was charged with manslaughter. Thomas and Mary had five children, twin boys born in 1898; both died shortly after they were born, part of the horrendous infant mortality rate in Victorian London. [Sarah 1882, Violet 1894, the twins in 1898 (Tom and James) and Tom in 1900.  The boys all died shortly after birth.]

At this moment I have been unable to confirm precisely when Thomas entered Canada but a search revealed that in August 1906 a Thomas Holmes left Liverpool on the SS Luconia arriving in New York on 25 August 1906, passenger Thomas Holmes b 1856 England; however, this may not have been the correct individual. It is possible, though not definite, that he went to the USA thence to Canada where his wife and daughter followed the next year. Thomas found himself in Oakville, Manitoba, a labourer on a farm. He eventually moved to Oakville as the Canadian census shows. In 1914 despite dyeing his hair he was turned down when trying to re-enlist.

At the time of his death he was a Caretaker in a local bank. Thomas Holmes late 17th Lancers departed this earth on 2 April 1923 in Oakville, Manitoba. Cause of death, Cerebral hemorrhage and Lung abscess aged 66 years 9 months and 7 days.

This is his obituary:
At his home last Sunday Mr Holmes passed away and in his passing another of that fast dwindling army, the soldier empire makers of the Victorian era went to his reward. The late Mr Holmes was an ex-member of that very famous regiment the 17th Lancers, the Death or Glory Boys, and with them saw much service. He served with Chelmsford in the Zulu war of 1879, and doubtless took part in most of the big engagements of the campaign, when this was over he accompanied his regiment to India where after several years service he was invalided home. The deceased was born in Wiltshire, England, coming to Canada in 1907 and was followed a year later by his wife and family. He resided in Oakville for many years where he was much loved and respected by members of the community.
Mr Holmes is survived by his wife and two daughters , Mrs House of Winnipeg and the other in London (Wandsworth, England). The sympathy of the whole community is with the family in their recent bereavement.'

So concludes the story of Thomas Holmes - or was it Buy/Bye?

Graham Mason
Anglo-Zulu War Researcher

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Further links for SA research

Surnames included in the Cape of Good Hope Exchange Gazette so far transcribed, ships Dalhousie, Zenobia, Collingwood and Diadem - arrivals dated between June 1850 and February 1851, transcribed by Allan Beeby

The eGGSA Passenger List Project

To search the Passenger Listzs go to:

SA Gravestones

Renishaw Private Cemetery

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More useful links for South African Research

Natal Civil Marriages 1845-1955

An image of your ancestor’s marriage certificate can be viewed and downloaded, free. (See example below.)

These marriage records generally contain the following information
  • Date of marriage
  • Full name of bride and groom
  • Ages of bride and groom
  • Occupation
  • Residence at the time of marriage
  • Name of Judge
  • Names of witnesses


Anglo-Boer War    

  • Biographical information on many people who were involved in the Boer War
  • Details of the medals awarded for the Boer War and other contemporary and South African campaigns
  • Information on the Imperial, Colonial, South African and Boer units that participated
  • Information on David's current and future publications and research projects
  • Forum


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bandmaster Robert William Sweeney's Story

By Sean Sweeney

On board the ill-fated SS St Lawrence was my Great Grandfather, Robert SWEENEY, and his family - wife Agnes, and three young children, George, Agnes, and baby Kate - with the 2nd Bn 3rd Buffs. The Buffs had embarked from Dublin, on 4 October, 1876, where they had been garrisoned between Ireland and England since 1866, and where my Grandfather George William Sweeney was born 1868.

Robert William Sweeney, the son of illiterate Irish/Scots was born 'in the Regiment', in Stirling Castle Barracks, on 15 February, 1835, where his father William was a private in the 79th Highlanders Depot Companies. William was 19yrs a private, and discharged to Pension in 1846, having enlisted at age 16.

Robert was the third generation to serve in the British Army, when he enlisted into the 79th Cameron Highlanders at Bellturbet, Ireland on 29 May, 1846, at the age of 11 years, giving his age as 14, and was one of five brothers and two brothers-in-law to serve in the same regiment.

His first overseas posting was with the Regiment in Canada, as a Band Boy. He and his younger brother John then went with the Regiment to the Crimean War, in 1854, as 'bugler/drummers', where Robert was wounded at the Alma, and present at Balaklava and Sebastopol, also taking part in the successful expedition to Kertch and Yenikali with the Highland Brigade.

He was briefly nursed at Scutari, and in later life he mentioned his memories of Florence Nightingale, although he did not say if she had anything to do with his nursing.
His brother John was invalided out of The Crimea, from Balaklava, and died at Fort George on 20th April 1855.

My Great Grandmother Agnes's brother, John Brown, was a trumpeter with the 17th Lancers, and was present at the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, and subsequently wounded.

He was posted with the 17th Lancers to Natal in 1879, and was present with them at Ulundi, later transferring to the 79th Q O Cameron Highlanders, and eventually retiring as a Lieut Colonel, having been present at, and awarded campaign medals, for Crimea, Indian Mutiny, Zulu War, Egypt and Sudan.

At the end of The Crimean War, now a Lance Corporal, Robert having shown promise as a musician was enrolled into the newly created Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, on 3 March, 1857, where he successfully completed the first ever 'pupils' class held. He subsequently graduated as BandMaster, and when appointed to the 2nd Bn 3rd (East Kent) Regiment of Foot, 'The Buffs', on 25 August, 1860, was the youngest BandMaster in the British Army, at the age of 25yrs.

Robert served with the Buffs in Malta, Gibraltar, the West Indies, and Ireland. He told his family a tale that while at Gibraltar with the Buffs, he took wine with the ill-fated Hapsburg Emperor Maximillian and his Empress wife Charlotte (Carlota) on their way to Mexico on the Austrian Naval Frigate SMS 'Novara'. It is possible that the Buffs Band entertained the Emperor. It's believed that Queen Victoria had given orders for Maximillian to be accorded a Royal Salute by the Garrison when passing through the Straits of Gibraltar.

Robert later served in The Cape of Good Hope, and Natal. The only reference passed down is that the family arrived in Natal in 1878, and Robert remembered sleeping at The Old Fort on the night of their arrival in Durban.

He finally retired to pension with his family in Pietermaritzburg, (confirmed 'Horse Guards' on 25h February, 1879), at the end of his 'Second Period of Limited Engagement', having served over 32 years in the British Army, and been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct silver medal, together with his'Crimea, and South Africa campaign medals.

The Military Board members of Robert's Discharge hearing in December 1878, were from the ill-fated 1st Bn 24th Regiment: Capt W E Mostyn, Lieut E O Anstey, and Lieut J P Daly - all killed by the Zulu at Isandhlwana in January 1879.

Robert's brothers Donald and James served with the 79th Cameron Highlanders at The Indian Mutiny, where James was invalided out, and subsequently died as a result.
Nephew Richard Sweeney of the 1st Bn Q.O. Cameron Highlanders was killed in action at The Aisne on 14 September, 1914, part of 'The Old Contemptibles' of the British Expeditionary Force.

Richard is remembered on the 'La Ferte Sous Jouarre' memorial for those brave heroes of the BEF who have no known grave.

In his retirement, Robert William Sweeney taught music and entertained the boys at Maritzburg College, the first of five generations to date to be involved with the school. He also directed the band of the Natal Royal Rifles. Robert William Sweeney died at Pietermaritzburg on the 14 September, 1922, at the grand old age of 87, having lived a lie about his birthdate and age for a good proportion of them! My Grandfather, George William Sweeney was College dux in 1885, and Captain of cricket, and captained a Natal XI v W.W. Read's England XI. He taught at College before graduating BA LLB, and eventually becoming Under Secretary in the Natal Government, before Union.

My Grandmother Alice Jex (Chapman) was a descendant of 1820 settlers John Lake and Sarah Griffin.Great Great Grandson of Robert William Sweeney, Lieut Alistair Sweeney (BA), of the Royal New Zealand Army is currently the 7th generation Sweeney to have served Queen (or King) and Country.

© Sean Sweeney