Friday, April 3, 2015

Lesser Lights of the Zulu War 1879: Luddington and Attwood

The "lesser lights" I refer to are two men who were amongst the small garrison of RORKES DRIFT. They are THOMAS LEVI LUDDINGTON Army Hospital Corps and FRANCIS ATTWOOD Army Service Corps. Francis won a DCM at Rorkes Drift, one of 5 won that day. Thomas was a Private while Francis was a Cpl, later Sgt. They both ended their days in Plymouth although not from there. Thomas was from Lavendon in Buckinghamshire while Francis was from London it is believed. It would be nice to think they were buried in the same cemetery but this is not the case.

Both men were subject to rededication of their final resting place and this was down to one person in particular, Cpl Tim Needham of the Royal Marines who organised memorials for both these men in Plymouth.

The cemetery a man is buried in is often forgotten and the history of the cemeteries concerned is fascinating. I was fortunate to be shown the cemeteries in Plymouth by the great grand-daughter of JESSE SLEEP later HARPER, later LUDDINGTON. Jesse had married Sgt Arthur Harper who I believe was a member of the Army Hospital Corps who died in 1883. Jesse a young widow was left with a stark choice and as so often happened in Victorian times re-married quickly after the death of her first husband. The second marriage was to THOMAS LEVI LUDDINGTON, a Private in the Army Hospital Corps. Jesse had a son (THOMAS ARTHUR LUDDINGTON) who was quite clearly named after the two husbands of Jesse. Less is known about FRANCIS ATTWOOD however. He died suddenly aged only 38.

Thomas Levi Luddington died on the 23rd March 1934 and Francis Attwood died on the 20th Feb 1884.

Francis Attwood

Their final resting places are the subject of this article. Before the Burial Acts of 1852 (London) and 1853 (Provinces) the majority of people were buried in church graveyards. The Act of 1853 gave local authorities the power to run their own cemeteries. The final resting place of Francis Attwood is Efford Cemetery in Plymouth but prior to this he was interned in Milehouse Cemetery in Plymouth. This was opened in 1871 and consecrated in 1876. During World War II the cemetery at Milehouse was hit by German bombers most likely their target was the bus depot nearby but I was told a story that the cemetery was lit up to draw away the bombers from parts of Plymouth, this story has not been confirmed. On the 29th April 1941 the Northern end of the cemetery was hit and the headstone of Francis Attwood badly damaged.

After the war was over it was decided not to use the cemetery again and it was left to fall into disrepair. By 1967 the bus depot was in need of expansion as did an electrical sub station close by. The Cemetery was sold and the remains of the people buried there were interned at Efford Cemetery on the Northern outskirts of Plymouth, a number of headstones were erected but not the one for Francis Attwood but a photo was taken of the damaged headstone. The location of these reburials is at the top of Efford Cemetery in a tranquil spot. The remains of Francis Attwood were largely forgotten until 2009 when Tim Needham organised two dedications and a blue circular marker set in the rocks of the quarry area of the cemetery now indicate at long last the final resting place of Francis Attwood DCM of Rorkes Drift who died aged only 38.

Thomas Levi Luddington is buried in Weston Mills Cemetery. This was not hit by bombers fortunately. The land required for the cemetery was purchased in 1899 from a Mr Edward St Aubyn for the sum of £25000, a very large sum for that time.The foundation stone was laid on June 6th 1903. The cemetery opened on the 10th Nov 1904.The first burial took place on the 26th and by the end of the year 25 burials had taken place. The night of April 22nd/23rd was the worst time of the bombing, some 72 people were killed in the Portland area of Plymouth. The obvious target for the bombers was the docks and it could be argued that had FRANCIS ATTWOOD who had seen off the Zulu army at Rorkes Drift been buried in Weston Mills Cemetery as was Thomas Levi Luddington his headstone may well have been in a good state of repair to this day. Was the cemetery at MILEHOUSE lit up in 1941 to lure away the bombers from the obvious target, the docks? we can only speculate. 

Thanks to a Cpl in the Royal Marines both men were honoured in 2008 in two different cemeteries in PLYMOUTH.

Aftwood memorial

Graham Mason
AZW Researcher

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