Thursday, October 15, 2015

The 1879 Zulu War: through the eyes of the Illustrated London News




By now you have finished reading the last book that I gave you... The Horns of the Buffalo and you are itching to get your teeth into the next exciting bit of literary drama.

Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill have put together an amazing collection of drawings all executed during 1879 by field artists working for the Illustrated London News and they have woven their tales of war around these images that so graphically took their news to the world at the time.

Amazon describes the book as follows:

The fascination of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 continues unabated. It was impassioned almost 40 years ago by the film Zulu, starring Stanley Baker and a yet-to-be-discovered Michael Caine. Zulu has been shown—and continues to be shown—on British television more than any other feature film. In the USA and elsewhere it has become a cult movie. Moreover, it created a near avalanche of books, articles, lectures, documentaries and websites that has come close to being an industry. But the basis of all this activity was, in fact, generated 120 years ago by the weekly magazines of Victorian England such as the Illustrated London News.

Although copies of the original magazines are much sought after and have become collectors’ items, the compilers have painstakingly acquired every issue pertaining to the conflict and, having extracted every report and illustration on the subject, have produced, with an index, and in chronological order, a unique record of the Anglo-Zulu War, albeit through the eyes of a colonial Victorian age.


This is a book that is in our collection and we often flick through its pages and have even been known to try and identify whether the terrain has changed much over the last 136 years and it is so amazing to see how solid the earth is and how unchanged the landscape that has not been corrupted by man and the march of time.

The book is unfortunately not available on Amazon but the authors Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill market their own books.

Ron Lock's email address  where you can contact him for any of his publications.

We hope that you enjoy the experience as much as we do.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Books About Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana Battles





After 12 years of navigating the battlefields of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana it was time to start updating and revamping our information. First in line has been our List of books on the Battles and we were amazed how that list has grown over the years.

We are also sure that our guests, past and present would benefit from this update and what better way to do this than through our blog. Over the next few weeks I will give you lists of the books, a few at a time with a little bit of background of each one.

This is of course so that you can start your own collection of books, or start a reading marathon or even use the subject for a book club.

For your convenience I am linking each one of the books to the place that you can buy it online, most of which will be Amazon and if its not available on Amazon I will try to track down where it's at.

First on our list is  The Horns of the Buffalo by John Wilcox  a fiction novel and the write up on Amazon describes the book as follows:

British redcoats confront the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift.
In 1879, the British redcoats are universally regarded as the finest fighting force in the world. Among them is Lieutenant Simon Fonthill, dispatched to South Africa with much to prove: for Colonel Covington, his former Commanding Officer, has slanderously branded him a coward. In the Cape, tension is high. The Zulus, an independent nation of magnificently militant tribesmen, threaten the colonial government’s vision of a united South Africa. And Simon has been chosen for a particularly dangerous mission: to travel deep into Zululand to discover the intentions of the king. Simon encounters violence and imprisonment before he is faced with his greatest challenge. Escaping from the massacre at the Battle of Isandlwana, he must warn the tiny garrison at Rorke’s Drift of the threat posed by advancing Zulu impis. He has a chance to prove Covington a liar, but he may pay the ultimate price.
In the tradition of C.S. Forester and Bernard Cornwell, this rousing 19th-century British army adventure introduce Lieutenant Simon Fonthill, a hero fit to stand shoulder to shoulder with Hornblower and Sharpe.

Well worth a read if one sees the other novels by John Wilcox that seem to take the reader around the world's historical conflicts.

Pour a glass of wine, look for a couch, get your feet up and enjoy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 - Queen Victoria



In our series of Who’s Who in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and hopefully introducing some of the players to the readers of our blog I have decided that it is prudent to start at the top and introduce those of our readers who do not know all the in’s and out’s of the Wars.

We should therefore start with the two Monarchs who, although they did not take an active part in the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift themselves were certainly instrumental in the shaping of the events that took place.

We start with Queen Victoria, whose reign lasted from 1837 to 1901. Strangely enough, at birth she was only the fifth in the line of succession yet at age 18 she was crowned the Queen of the British Empire. Until recently she was the longest reigning British Monarch but that, of course, has now been eclipsed by Queen Elizabeth II.

She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Colburg & Gotha in 1840 and had nine children. Famously Prince Alfred died in 1861 which set off a new fashion trend as the Queen proceeded to wear only black for the rest of her life. She also changed the traditions and practices around mourning and burial that affected all her subjects.

The Victorian Era was marked by her strict standards and personal morality that resulted in a prudish society obsessed with “moral” values.

The British Empire expanded exponentially under her reign. However, this expansion and annexation of countries was only done, according to the Queen, in order to protect the peoples of those countries from other warring nations.  The official stance was that expansion was not undertaken  “unless we are obliged and forced to do so.” 


She was succeeded by her son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Private Frederick Hitch

Private Frederick Hitch



2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot

"It was chiefly due to the courageous conduct of these [Allen and Hitch] men that communication with the hospital was kept up at all. Holding together at all costs a most dangerous post, raked in reverse by the enemy's fire from the hill, they were both severely wounded, but their determined conduct enabled the patients to be withdrawn from the hospital, and when incapacitated by their wounds from fighting, they continued as soon as their wounds had been dressed, to serve out ammunition to their comrades during the night."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Corporal William Wilson Allen

Corporal William Wilson Allen



2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot

"It was chiefly due to the courageous conduct of these [Allen and Hitch] men that communication with the hospital was kept up at all. Holding together at all costs a most dangerous post, raked in reverse by the enemy's fire from the hill, they were both severely wounded, but their determined conduct enabled the patients to be withdrawn from the hospital, and when incapacitated by their wounds from fighting, they continued as soon as their wounds had been dressed, to serve out ammunition to their comrades during the night."

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead


Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead


24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment

"For their gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke's Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd January, 1879. The Lieutenant General, commanding troops reports that, had it not been for the fine example and behaviour of these two officers under the most trying circumstances, the defence of the Rorke's Drift Post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterised it. The Lieutenant General adds that its success must, to a great degree, be attributable to the two young Officers who exercised the chief Command on the occasion in question."

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Private William Jones


Private William Jones


2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot.

"In another ward, facing the hill, Private William Jones and Private Robert Jones defended the post to the last, until six out of the seven patients had been removed. The seventh, Sergeant Maxfield, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, was delirious with fever. Although they had previously dressed him, they were unable to induce him to move. When Private Robert Jones returned to endeavour to carry him away, he found him being stabbed by the Zulus as he lay on his bed."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Corporal Christian Ferdinand Schiess

Corporal Christian Ferdinand Schiess



Natal Native Contingent

"During the battle of Rorke's Drift, Lieutenant Chard had observed Schiess taking aim at some of the enemy. He bayoneted a Zulu who had fired at him at almost point blank range, then shot another and bayoneted a third. Despite being wounded he continued fighting. Frederick Schiess was the first man serving with a locally raised force to be awarded the Victoria Cross."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Lieutenant John Rouse Merriot Chard

Lieutenant John Rouse Merriot Chard



5th Company Royal Engineers

"For their gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke's Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd January 1879. The Lieutenant General commanding troops reports that, had it not been for the fine example and behaviour of these two officers under the most trying circumstances, the defence of the Rorke's Drift post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterised it. The Lieutenant General adds that it's success must, to a great degree, be attributable to the two young Officers who exercised the chief Command on the occasion in question."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Private John Williams


Private John Williams


2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot

"Private John Williams was posted with Private Joseph Williams and Private Horrigan, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, in a distant room of the hospital, which they held for more than one hour, so long as they had a round of ammunition left; as communication was for the time cut off, the Zulus were enabled to advance and burst open the door; they dragged out Private Joseph Williams and two of the patients, and assegaied them. Whilst the Zulus were occupied with the slaughter of these men, a lull took place, during which Private John Williams, who with two patients, were the only men left alive in this ward, succeeded in knocking a hole in the partition, and in taking the two patients into the next ward, where he found Private Hook."

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Private Henry Hook

Private Henry Hook


2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot

"These two men [Hook & Williams] together, one man working whilst the other man fought and held the enemy at bay with his bayonet, broke through three more partitions, and were thus enabled to bring eight patients through a small window into the inner line of defence."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton

Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton



Commissariat & Transport Corps

"For his conspicuous gallantry during the attack on Rorke's Drift by the Zulus on the night of the 22nd January, 1879, when he actively superintended the work of defence, and was amongst the foremost of those who received the first attack at the corner of the hospital, where the deadliness of his fire did great execution, and the mad rush of the Zulus met its first check, and whereby his cool courage he saved the life of a man of the Army Hospital corps by shooting the Zulu, who, having seized the muzzle of the man's rifle, was in the act of assegaaing him. This officer, to whose energy much of the defence of the place was due, was severely wounded during the contest, but still continued to give the same example of cool courage."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Victoria Cross - Its Origins


The Victoria Cross Medal made by Hancocks of London
Queen Victoria, during her reign, had instructed the War Office to strike a new medal that would not recognise birth or class. The medal was meant to be a simple decoration that would be highly prized and eagerly sought after by those in the military services. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to soldiers who have served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some single act of valour or devotion.
It was originally intended that the VCs would be cast from the cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol. In 1990 Creagh and Ashton conducted a metallurgical examination of the VCs in the custody of the Australian War Memorial. Later, the historian John Glanfield, wrote that, through the use of x-ray studies of older Victoria Crosses, it was determined that the metal used for VCs is from antique Chinese guns and not of Russian origin. Many theories abound, with one theory being that the cannons were originally Chinese weapons but the Russians captured them and deployed them at Sevastopol. 
It would appear, from the investigation, that they are indeed Chinese cannon: Creagh noted the existence of Chinese inscriptions on the cannon which are now barely legible due to corrosion. It was also thought that some medals made during the First World War were composed of metal captured from different Chinese guns during the Boxer Rebellion. However, this is not so. The VCs examined by Creagh and Ashton both in Australia (58) and at the QE II Army Memorial Museum in New Zealand (14) spanned the entire time during which VCs have been issued and no compositional inconsistencies were found. 
It was also believed that another source of metal was used between 1942 and 1945 to create five Second World War VCs when the Sevastopol metal "went missing". Creagh accessed the Army records at MoD Donnington in 1991 and did not find any gaps in the custodial record. The composition found in the WW2 VCs, amongst them those for Edwards (Australia) and Upham (New Zealand), is similar to that for the early WW1 medals. This is likely to be due to the reuse of material from earlier pourings, casting sprues, defective medals, etc.

The barrels of the cannon in question are on display at Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich. The remaining portion of the only remaining cascabel, weighing 358 oz (10 kg), is stored in a vault maintained by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at MoD Donnington. It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception.

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Private Robert Jones

Today we meet PRIVATE ROBERT JONES
2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot.




His Citation reads as follows:

"In another ward, facing the hill, Private William Jones and Private Robert Jones defended the post to the last, until six out of the seven patients had been removed. The seventh, Sergeant Maxfield, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, was delirious with fever. Although they had previously dressed him, they were unable to induce him to move. When Private Robert Jones returned to endeavour to carry him away, he found him being stabled by the Zulus as he lay on his bed."

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Defence of Rorke's Drift - Surgeon James Henry Reynolds

Every day on the dusty plains of Zululand the story of the Defence of Rorke's Drift and the Battle of Isandlwana are retold by inspired storytellers. Grown men are known to shed a tear or two at the retelling of this emotive tale. The shadows of the men who died on that fateful day in 1879 still linger in the air, they embrace all who come to hear and each person leaving these desolate African spaces feel their presence.

It is then, only fair, that before discussing any aspects of this day of victory, defeat, tragedy and triumph that one gets to know a little about those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who remained to account for the day's events.

It is fitting that one should start with the men who were singled out for their bravery although in reflection of the battle perhaps each and every participant should have received an award and not just the select few.





Today I introduce SURGEON JAMES HENRY REYNOLDS as per his citation for his Victoria Cross Award.

"During the battle Surgeon Reynolds treated the wounded in a makeshift redoubt in front of the storehouse. When he was not tending the wounded he delivered ammunition through the window of the hospital. He received the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous gallantry. After the battle he remained at Rorke's Drift and took part in the second invasion of Zululand."