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 Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence

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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptyFri Dec 28, 2018 6:12 am

A small paper I wrote a few years back.

The Fortification of Rorke’s Drift

At around three in the afternoon various refugees from the battle of iSandlwana started to appear at the mission buildings manned by B Company 2/24th Regiment under the command of Gonville Bromhead. At A similar time two other fugitives arrived on the banks of the river opposite the workings of John Chard RE.
Lt Chard rode to the camp to find that activities to fortify were already under way. As senior officer present he concurred with the decisions taken and after taking precautions at the punts proceeded to assist in those presentations.
When the NNC abandoned the small command, Chard ordered the splitting of the ‘fort’ into two with a cross wall.

So history tells us began the defence of Rorke’s Drift an action that was to go down in the annals of history as a great British Victory, albeit on the heels of a great British defeat.
Historians have since extolled the contributions of Acting Commissary James Langley Dalton generally at the expense of Gonville Bromhead the man labelled as an ‘unconquerable indolent’ and ‘capital at everything except soldiering’.
From these descriptions of him by Francis Clery history has tended to put his contributions to the battle preparations as secondary.
However this from the manuscript of Penn Symons tends to obviate those descriptions:

“Lieutenant Bromhead stated to me that on the 10th January when he and his company to their intense disappointment were ordered to remain behind and occupy and guard Rorke’s Drift Commissariat Store and Base Hospital, he twice asked permission to place the post in a state of defence, but that sanction was refused him by Lord Chelmsford’s Staff. Afterwards when the Column had moved on, he became so persuaded of the sick and danger of inaction that he made up his mind what to do if occasion should arrive. Hence followed on the sudden alarm, the promptness and correctness of his preparations, which had the warm approval of lieutenant Chard, an Officer of the Royal Engineers.”

Penn Symons goes onto describe the preparation and give measurements of the distances involved and then carries on with:

“(Lt Chard)………made the best of his way back to where Lieutenant Bromhead and Acting Commissariat Officer Dalton were doing their utmost to make the post defensible.”

Chard and Bourne’s sketches of ‘the fort’ show two wagons in the rear wall Penn Symons describes it as three with their wheels interlocked and below sacks of grain and boxes packed. I mention this to show that just because it’s written down in history doesn’t necessarily show its correctness. Caution always has to be taken
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SRB1965

SRB1965

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Join date : 2017-05-13
Age : 54
Location : Uttoxeter - the last place God made and he couldn't be bothered to finish it.....

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptyFri Dec 28, 2018 9:25 am

Frank Allewell wrote:

Chard and Bourne’s sketches of ‘the fort’ show two wagons in the rear wall Penn Symons describes it as three with their wheels interlocked and below sacks of grain and boxes packed. I mention this to show that just because it’s written down in history doesn’t necessarily show its correctness. Caution always has to be taken

It sort of harks back to a debate that was had on the forum earlier in the year, that a 'primary' source can be wrong, for whatever reasons.

All writing/film/TV shows are produced with an agenda and sometimes it is hard to work out what that agenda is.

When I was soil scratching, it was hard not to 'retrospectively re-interpret the facts'

When did Clery write is assessment of Messers Chard & Bromhead? Was it before or after the PS manuscript?

I assume that the fact Gunny thought fit to mention it, meant that either verbally or in writing there had already been some criticism into his actions or lack off actions.

Perhaps one of Bromhead's 'faults' (not saying it is a fault, mind) was his modesty and unassuming nature - maybe if he had been a bit louder in blowing his own trumpet.....

Cheers

Simon
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

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Age : 72
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptyFri Dec 28, 2018 9:55 am

Post traumatic stress I believe Sime.
Its no coincidence that both officers were 'put down', Chard was described as dullard. And yet the defence was made to good effect without any complaints against their officers by the men present. The interesting part about that snippet though is the conversation Bromhead had with PS about being refused permission to strengthen the base by Chelmsfords STAFF.
Didn't Chelmsford say that he thought he had given orders for the mission to be protected? If that where the case then his orders were overruled and really his only staff member was Crealock. Interesting conatations there.

Cheers
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rusteze

rusteze

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Join date : 2010-06-02

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptyFri Dec 28, 2018 10:40 am

Penn Symons criticism of Chelmsford's staff is a theme that runs throughout his report, praising Bromhead is a way of making that point. He criticises the staff in relation to the camp on the Bashee, on the defence of RD and on the lack of scouting and patrols at Isandhlwana. I think the key to understanding Symons is still hidden from us. It is in the reason he completed his report and what happened to it subsequently - I don't buy the argument that it was purely for his own records. And what about the strange sequencing of the account - preliminary description of the invasion, a little on Isandhlwana - then we are into the detail of the RD defence - finally the detail of Isandhlwana. Not the most obvious way to describe events, so what prompted him to do it that way?

So far as subsequently crediting Chard and Bromhead is concerned, they are both some considerable way down the pecking order at time when very high ranking officers were present and could perhaps have done rather more than they did. Giving too much credit to junior officers might raise a few awkward questions?

Steve
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptyFri Dec 28, 2018 2:45 pm

I agree the, "for my own records" is a red herring. Im pretty sure he forsaw repercussions and scribbled his way through copious notes ( Version 1 of the manuscript). Those were then refined into a 'report'. It could be extrapalated that his superiors demanded sight and a report was produced excluding the second section of iSandlwana. THAT being added at a later point and sent to HM amongst others. Again just wild thoughts, possibly caused by day 3 of Gammon and Turkey. Don't forget that Higginson produced 2 reports within 48 hours with some significant differences. There also that cryptic comment about documents ( plural) being recovered from the battlefield. It was an interesting time with all and sundry desperately searching for spare nappies.
By the way Steve my best present is the original report produced by Fannin for Chelmsford. That and my wine cooler.

Cheers
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ymob

ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptyFri Dec 28, 2018 11:12 pm

Bonjour,
I was also intrigued by the same comment written by W.P. Symons about Bromhead and the defense of Rorke's Drift.
The remark written by Frank about Higginson's reports  makes sense to me:  Sonia Clarke wrote something similar about Gardner's reports. Apparently, Gardner was not happy because  some comments have been  deleted in his first report by the COI. Again, apparently, it is the reason which explains why he wrote a second report.
But, on another side, I keep in mind the "esprit de corps" amongst the Officers of the 24th Regiment (I have a "proven" example in head about the realiy of this "esprit de corps"). In this hypothesis, WPS could have "exaggerated" the role of Bromhead in the defense of the mission.
It seems to me that the study of the orders sent in particular to Upcher before the 22 January could bring a beginning of answer about the "alleged" refusal  to place the post in a state of defense which would have been given by LC's staff .
Cheers
Fred
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7236
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Age : 72
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptySat Dec 29, 2018 6:26 am

Morning Fred
Harford seems to support Bromhead, he mentions prepatory work being done on the defence in his diary.

Regards
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ymob

ymob

Posts : 2239
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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptySat Dec 29, 2018 8:40 am

Bonjour Frank,
You are right about Harford.
But WPS evoked only "mental preparation" about the defense of the post, not work already done.
On the other hand, I suppose that WPS would not have dared to write that Bromhead disobeyed LC's orders.
Cheers
Fred
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7236
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 72
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence   Bromhead and Rorkes Drift defence EmptySat Dec 29, 2018 12:07 pm

Dartnell also had something to say about the defences.
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