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 LT COL. MONTGOMERY.

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90th

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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:01 am

Hi all.
Not sure if we have mentioned LT- COL MONTGOMERY on the forum before , according to W.H CLEMENTS
in his book " THE GLAMOUR AND THE TRAGEDY OF THE ZULU WAR ". He was part of Newdigate"s staff
for the 2nd Invasion 3RD Column. He has the distinction of being bitten by a Black Mamba near Fort Tenedos
after the war and subsequently died . He is the only officer I can recall dying from snake- bite.
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:33 pm

From: "Zululand and Cetewayo; containing an account of Zulu customs, manners, and habits, after a short residence in their kraals, with portrait of Cetewayo, and 28 illustrations from original drawings"

"Adams always carried a small phial in his pocket, and although never bitten himself, he had been the means of saving the lives of many people. His brother had been bitten by a green mamba in the thigh. He had accidentally trodden on it in the grass, and rearing itself up it bit him through the trousers, just above his long riding boots. Adams
administered Eau de Luce to him every fifteen minutes for ten hours, and in addition, he frequently gave him neat gin and rum. When he found him getting weaker, the quantity of spirits was increased. At one time his legs were quite cold, and he was almost in a state of
collapse, when large doses of raw spirits were administered, and in the end he completely recovered. It is marvellous, what a large quantity of spirits a man bitten by a snake can take, without getting intoxicated. When the alcohol begins to affect him, and he has a fair amount of strength left, then there is a chance of his recovery, but excessive doses of alcohol must be taken Into the system to counteract the effect of the poison."

Linktofulltext:http://www.archive.org/stream/zululandandcete01ludlgoog/zululandandcete01ludlgoog_djvu.txt
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:53 pm

The Puff Adder ? Well ! Yes ! It was on board the Ros/yn Castle. The snake was on its way from the wilds of Bechuanaland to " The Zoo." I was giving a lecture on thanatophidians in the ship's smoking saloon, and had the puff adder in my hand while I was explaining the mechanism of its poison apparatus, fangs and idiosyncracies generally to the surrounding listeners. The snake was very cross indeed, quite
extraordinarily so. In returning it to its box I got bitten. I must have been very clumsy, for I was in the constant habit of handling snakes of all descriptions. I did not die, but I believe I am the only man who has survived the bite of a puff adder. The puff adder died. It lingered for three months, after biting me, without meat or
drink, became very pale and emaciated, and then died. My friend's state of alcoholic poisoning ! I was a very sick man for a long time. Indeed, the ship's doctor nice, kind, ladylike fellow reported me dead and, still worse, wanted to have me buried. My much kinder and wiser pal, Walter Lockhart God bless him ! thought not, and prevented that same watery sepulture. That's all !

from: "Reminiscences of an old 'un"
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:54 pm

" by Capt. Walter Robert Ludlow, 1st Battalion, R.V., Royal Warwickshire Regt., 1882 -

"...I was very much annoyed on opening my valise to find a bottle of Eau de Luce broken. Eau de Luce, or spirits of ammonia, is said to be a certain cure for snake bites, provided it is given immediately after the bite. The dose is fifteen drops every quarter of an hour, and I was told of many extraordinary cases of recovery from the bite of the mamba, the most poisonous snake in Natal. Adams always carried a small phial in his pocket, and although never bitten himself, he had been the means of saving the lives of many people. His brother had been bitten by a green mamba in the thigh. He had accidentally trodden on it in the grass, and rearing itself up it bit him through the trousers, just above his long riding boots. Adams administered Eau de Luce to him every fifteen minutes for ten hours, and in addition, he frequently gave him neat gin and rum. When he found him getting weaker, the quantity of spirits was increased. At one time his legs were quite cold, and he was almost in a state of collapse, when large doses of raw spirits were administered, and in the end he completely recovered..."


." by Gen. Cunynghame, 1880, [How happy must he have been a year after being relieved?] -

"There can be no doubt that the mamba is a snake of a savage and violent nature. One of my staff officers, engaged in purchasing horses, frequently passed the same spot, where a large snake, dashing out of its hole, cast itself many times against the carriage-wheel ; but on one occasion, being prepared, he shot it.

Kaffirs are by no means delicate eaters. When they have killed a snake they are sure to rip it up and extract a long, green bag, which they swallow with great relish.

The subject of snake-bites is one of no small interest in this country.



Percy Frankland, 1904 -

"In South Africa snake poison is actually taken as a protection against snake-bites, and if we turn to the Lancet of the year 1886, we shall find a letter from Mr. Alfred Bolton stating that while in South Africa cattle and horses frequently died from the effect of snake-bites, the natives themselves seldom or never appeared to suffer from any inconvenience from such injuries other than would follow any accident which would set up local inflammation. On inquiry he found that they were in the habit of extracting the poison gland from the snake immediately after it had been killed, squeezing it into their mouths and drinking the secretion, thereby apparently acquiring absolute immunity from snake-bites."
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:56 pm

I believe Crealock had a lucky escape when asleep in his tent; a puff adder had got under his pillow during the night. In the Morning he ask an officer to get his watch that he kept under his pillow, when the officer lifted the pillow there was a Puff Adder curled around the watch. He killed it with a tent mallet. Very lucky man. !!!

But I cannot find the book its in. Been looking since 90th started this discussion. Its now driving me mad.. Mad
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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:24 pm

hi john.
Read the same somewhere , but not sure which book , I have a copy of Harford"s journal and certain the
same thing also happened to him !!!!. Dont you hate it when you cant remember where you have read
something. Suspect . will try and ferret out the Harford story if I get a chance. :)
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:55 am

hi john.
The Crealock snake story is in I. KNIGHTS .... " Companion to the Anglo Zulu War "
I thought the same thing happened to Harford but not quite, this is the Harford encounter.
" On reaching a kraal where we intented to sleep the night , Stewart and I were lying on the ground
just at the edge of the zereba ( fence or pallisade ) outside , cooking our meal, when only a few feet from
us stretched almost to full length in the dried scrub, was a snake that i had often heard of and wanted to see,
and that very few white men had come across, it was the idhlozi of the ( zulu), a beautiful creature , vivid green
with jet - black markings , between 2 and 3 feet long , and thick like a puff-adder. I would have given anything to
bottle it , and the opportunity was such as could scarcely ever occur again, no ( zulu ) either men or woman being
about. Being held sacred , and looked upon as the incarnation of some ancestor of the kraal , to kill one , if it
became known would certainly mean an assegai put through you , so having no collecting material we left our
friend alone ". according to notes by Knight ..... The snake itself is known as isizulu , and is a harmless grass - snake.
cheers 90th
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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 4:19 am

hi all.
Here is the full version of Montgomery"s demise , from COMPANION TO THE ANGLO ZULU WAR by I. KNIGHT.
" IN 1883. The 1st Batt the Welsh Regiment , commanded by W.G. MONTGOMERY . On the 25th Sept , while based
at Fort Pearson Montgomery crossed the river with his Adjutant , to shoot birds on the zulu bank , near the remains
of the old Fort Tenedos . Montgomery was walking through waist high grass when he suddenly complained of a sharp pain
on the inside of his thigh , within minutes he began to feel ill , and his ADJ helped him to his horse . By that time Montgomery
was exhibiting signs of paralysis , could hardly speak , and was in danger of falling unconscious. The ADJ managed to get him to the pont and he was ferried to the Natal bank where he fell from his horse . He was carried to the hospital tent and attended by a doctor
the wound inside his leg was identified as a snake bite , probably from a Black Mamba . Montgomery became delirious and was unable
to move his limbs before finally becoming unconscious , despite the doctor"s best efforts , he died some hours later . He is , curiously,
remembered in two monuments nearby , both of which have been regarded as his grave . A stone memorial erected by his regt stands
near the site of FT TENEDOS on the zulu bank: his name also appears on a cross in one of the cemeteries near FT PEARSON. The
most likely explanation is that the regimental memorial was erected in remembrance near the spot where he was bitten , since he died
in camp on the Natal bank , he was presumably actually buried in one of the existing 1879 graveyards closer to hand.

cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:30 am

90th wrote:
.
" IN 1883. The 1st Batt the Welsh Regiment , commanded by W.G. MONTGOMERY . On the 25th Sept ,

Hi
So what are we saying here scratch That W.G. Montgomery died in 1883? Was he Zulu War or not ?
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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:55 am

hi 1879graves.
The companion to the anglo zulu war states montgomery did die of snakebite on 25th sep 1883.
From what I can gather according to Clements in " The Glamour and the tragedy of the zulu war " , Montgomery was
a LT-COL during the second invasion of zululand, and he states he died of snakebite after the zulu war. So it seems
the date of 25th sept 1883 is correct. It seems to be the same person.
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:58 am

Hi

Ken Gillings posted this on another forum

"During the Civil War (1883-1888) that followed the Anglo-Zulu War, Lt Col W G Montgomery of the Royal Welsh Regiment was bitten on the leg by a Black Mamba and died on the 25th September 1883. He is buried above Fort Tenedos near the mouth of the uThukela (Tugela) River (photo available for anyone who would like to see it)."
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:24 am

Let's remind Ken to post the photo.

Quote :
(photo available for anyone who would like to see it)
i will send him a P/M
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:27 pm

In reply to Daves P/M To ken.

Lt Montgomery’s grave. He actually has two; one near Fort Tenedos (on the Zululand side of the Tugela River) and the other in the officers’ section at the military and naval graves a few hundred metres from Fort Pearson (not to be confused with the other military graves in the immediate vicinity of the fort).

Lt Montgomery's grave, Tugela
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Zulu Civil War-Lt Montgomery's grave near Fort Pearson
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Photo's Supplied By Ken Gillings.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:42 pm

Thanks Ken. Much appricated.

Dave.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:54 pm

I’m lost here. Why did he have two Graves? (Did he have a split personality?
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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:55 pm

hi all,
Just to confuse things the Montgomery bitten by the mamba wasnt the same one that saw action in zululand,
1879graves and I have been going crazy over this , it was W.E .MGOMERY who was at ulundi and he died in
Ireland in the 20"s . It is W.C MGOMERY according to I. KNIGHT who was bitten 25th sep 1883 near FT TENEDOS.
But I think KEN GILLINGS has him down as W.G . M" GOMERY. scratch
Time to go to sleep and start counting Montgomery"s :lol!:
cheers 90th.

24th read my post from 4.19 am , it will clear up the two memorials.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:35 am

Hi Ken

Many thanks for posting the Montgomery Photo's, they are great.

I do have one request, could you please tell me what the inscription says on the first photo of Montgomery's grave at Tugela. scratch

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PostSubject: LT COL. MONTGOMERY. all is revealed.   Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:43 am

Hi all.
Here are the answers we needed , I asked I. Knight if he could clarify the M" gomery"s. And he kindly emailed me
with the following information.
" There were 3 distinct individuals , the one referred to by Clements is W.E. of the Scots Gds , a special service officer
who went out with the re-inforcements after Isand , and served as A.Q.M.G to the 2nd div and was present at Ulundi.
Leaving zululand after the war he took no further part in the regt"s history.
Commandant A.N. M"gomery was a settler , a former regular who owned an estate in sthn Natal. In 1879 he commanded
the 1ST BATT N.NC. which spent much of its time at FT. CHERRY near Kranskop, this M"gomery was the first man to climb
the Kop at Kranskop . According to J.L. SMAIL in his " WITH SHIELD AND ASSEGAI " it was this M"gomery who was bitten by
the snake and died at FT. TENEDOS , but , this is a mistake on his part , which Clements before him also added to the confusion.
The officer bitten by the snake ( Mamba) was LT-COL W.G. M"gomery commanding the 1ST BATT THE WELSH REGT ( formerly
the 41st ), who were not in zululand , but arrived in Natal in March 1881 and were deployed to guard the Natal Border in respect
of the growing friction between those who wanted CETSWAYO restored and those who didnt. One mystery cleared up, if only
they were all that easy. :lol!:
Thanks very much to Ian Knight .
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:33 am

Hi 90th

I agree with Ian Kinght apart from who Commanded the Welsh Regt.

The issue I have is there is no W.G. Montgomery listed for the Welsh Regt (41st) in Hart's Army List for 1882, but there is a Nathaniel Montgomery. Now if we look closely at Ken's first photo of W.G Montgomery's grave, you can see it say N Montgomery.

Now the other issue I have, is that I cannot find a W.G. Montgomery in any Army List. scratch
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:05 pm

Quote :
N Montgomery.
Well spotted. Do we have yet another mystery.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Wed Dec 09, 2009 7:47 pm

Hi John

I am now going to stick my neck out here and say the following.

W.G. Montgomery, He never was, the history books have got it wrong and people have continued with the this mistake.

The person who died of a snake bite in 1883 was Lieutenant-Colonel Nathaniel Montgomery, Commanding 1st Battlion Welsh Regiment.

Like I say, I have put my neck on the block and willing to be corrected.
Idea
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:14 pm

"


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An unusual Victorian campaign group of three awarded to Commandant A. N. Montgomery, 1st Natal Native Contingent, late 7th Royal Fusiliers, and latterly Colonial Commander of the Natal Levies for District No. 1

Canada General Service 1866-70, 1 clasp, Fenian Raid 1866 (Capt. A. N. Montgomery, J.P., 2/7 R. Fus.); South Africa 1877-79, no clasp (Coll. Comdr. Captn. Montgomery); South Africa 1877-79, 1 clasp, 1879 (Commdt. A. N. Montgomery, 1st Nat. Nat. Comgt.), this last with edge bruise, otherwise generally good very fine (3) £2500-3000


Alexander Nixon Montgomery was born in Dublin in March 1839, the only son of Handcock Montgomery of Bessmont Park, and was educated at Marlborough College.

Obtaining an Ensigncy in the 6th Dragoons in June 1855, he appears to have been embarked for the Crimea but too late to witness active service. Having then transferred to the 7th Royal Fusiliers, and been advanced to Captain in July 1864, he was present in operations in Canada during the Fenian Raid of 1866 (Medal & clasp). In 1872, however, he emigrated to South Africa, where he served as a J.P. for Maritzburg and for Upper Umkarnaas, and subsequently as a Resident magistrate for Richmond.

During the Zulu War of 1879, he held two appointments, firstly as Commandant of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of Natal Native Contingent, and secondly as Colonial Commander for District No. 1 of the Colonial Levies. The former corps served in No. 2 Column under Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford, R.E., and six of its officers and 240 of its men were present at Isandlhwana, although Montgomery, apparently a restless man with a quick temper, was not among them, having halted at Kranskop with the remainder of the Battalion. His unit subsequently manned Fort Cherry and assorted outposts at Krantz Kop, near Middledrift, following which he took his leave to serve as Colonial Commander for District No. 1 of the Colonial Levies (Medal & clasp); see standard references and websites for frequent mention of Montgomery.

In The Washing of the Spears by Donald Morris, reference is made to Montgomery dying at Fort Pearson after being bitten by a snake, but if he was indeed bitten he survived the ordeal, and in fact died at his farm “Ismont” near Langford, Natal in 1910."

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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:17 pm

My post above is the chap involved in the  Lieutenant Robert D’Ombrain Shot himself thread. He to was bitten by a snake but lived until 1910. Or is this the chap the original post was based on?
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PostSubject: Lt Col Montgomery    Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:23 am

Hi All
Just to clarify the Montgomery thread , Graves post of Dec 2009 is certainly correct , it was Nathanial Montgomery who was bitten by the Mamba and died in 1883 , he is buried near Ft Tenedos . Alexander Nixon Montgomery is the man who is correctly linked to Lt Robert D'Ombrain , who suicided at or near Kranskop .
90th
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:26 am

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A.N.Montgomery on the left with the moustache
(Courtesy of 90th and his friend.)
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:28 pm

Interestingly Montgomery was very critical of Durnford after the Bushmans Pass episode and then finds himself been appointed to the NNC which was formed by Durnford.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:36 pm

Better the devil you know!
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:28 pm

Thought I remembered Montgomery. He was a bit of a Cad really. Seduced a young lady, he was married at the time, with threats to kill her and himself. Did it again while out riding on the threat he would make it known and ruin her reputation. Broke into her fathers house to get to her, she had a baby as a result and he had it sent of to a local village with one of his Grooms. The baby died after a few weeks. Charges were levelled, he never denied it at all but as it was a womans duty to report Births and deaths she was fined 5 pounds.

Interesting man to be sure.
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PostSubject: Re: LT COL. MONTGOMERY.   Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:54 pm

"For those members who enjoyed my Letters from Charlie, here is a second paper on another unusual aspect of the Zulu War. Enjoy.
The Lonely Grave at Kranskop

This paper owes its origin to a visit I made to Natal in 2004, one of whose objectives was to visit Fort Cherry, which stands high on a hillside near Kranskop in KwaZulu-Natal. The farm manager whom I met, and on whose property the fort lies, took me to see the farm’s owner, then engaged in tending another property. After a brief chat he took me to see something else of interest nearby.(1) In the midst of waving sugar cane, a small unplanted area conceals a little-known grave. A quite new headstone, erected by the owner to replace one which had been damaged by time and other causes, reads simply:

ROBERT
D’OMBRAIN
LIEUT. N.N.C.
DIED
8TH APRIL 1879

Together with the nearby overgrown outline of an earthen Fort Cherry, this is all that remains of the presence of the 1st Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent (NNC) during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

From January to September 1879, the area was the centre of great activity and excitement. On the farm of W.H.F. D’Almaine, on the Greytown side of Kranskop village, Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Durnford RE first set up the headquarters of his Second Column, preparatory to the first invasion of Zululand by the forces of Lord Chelmsford. Kranskop lies close to the Thukela River, then the border between Natal and Zululand. There was a river-crossing at Kranskop known as Middle Drift, hence the presence of the NNC regiment.

Unlike the other two NNC regiments, the 1st Regiment NNC consisted of three battalions. The 1st battalion was led by Commandant Alexander Nixon Montgomery, a restless man with a quick temper. Born in Ireland, he had been a captain (by purchase) in the 7th Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) and after resigning his commission had emigrated to Natal some years earlier. The other two battalions were under the command of Major Henry Mortimer Bengough and Captain Charles Edward le Mesurier Cherry, both special service officers of the British Army on assignment to the South African command.

Captain Geoffry [sic] Barton, also a special service officer from the 7th Regiment, was appointed as Durnford’s Staff Officer. Born in February 1844, Barton joined the regiment in 1862. While Montgomery had been serving as a captain with the regiment Barton was still only a lieutenant and was Adjutant in 1870.(2) They were thus well known to each other. At the commencement of the Zulu War the three commandants were of similar ages: Montgomery and Cherry were both 39 and Bengough was 41 years old. At 35, Barton was the youngest of the four men.

In addition to Durnford’s 1st Regiment NNC, there was also to be found there two squadrons (six troops) of the Natal Native Mounted Contingent led by Captain William Barton and Captain G. Ayliff.(3) There was also a rocket battery commanded by Brevet Major Francis Broadfoot Russell, RA, the only British unit in the column.

In the first Local General Order of 1879, the appointment of a number of officers to the 1st Regiment NNC was announced. Among those assigned to the 1st Battalion were ‘R.D. Ombrain, A. Hornby, from 26 December, 1878.’(4) Robert D’Ombrain had also emigrated from England, arriving in Natal in July 1877. He quickly contacted a friend of his family, Captain Montgomery, who had a property called ‘Ismont’ in Mid-Illovu, not far from Pietermaritzburg. Montgomery at that time was a Justice of the Peace for the district. With Montgomery as a sponsor, D’Ombrain applied for a position with the Natal government and awaited the result of his application.(5) With the approach of war, it was certainly Montgomery’s influence which enabled the young D’Ombrain to be appointed to his NNC battalion instead.

Montgomery had already been the subject of public attention. In 1878 one of his house guests, Robert Huskisson Marr, found himself in impecunious circumstances and, beset by his creditors,(6) attempted to take his life by cutting his own throat.(7) Robert D’Ombrain, also a house guest at the time, was a witness at the subsequent magistrate’s enquiry. Marr was not prosecuted for his offence and even managed to outlive his host.(8)

On 10 January Durnford led out the 1st and 2nd Battalions NNC, five of the six troops of the NNMC and Russell’s rocket battery. These were left at Sandspruit while Durnford, receiving fresh orders from Lord Chelmsford after riding up to Rorke’s Drift, returned to Kranskop with seven companies of the 1st Battalion, leaving the remaining three behind. These were combined into two over-size companies under two captains, the third captain having remained at Kranskop as paymaster.

On 17 January, Durnford left Kranskop for the last time, riding to Sandspruit. There he left Bengough’s 2nd Battalion and took the remainder of his force on to Rorke’s Drift, arriving on the 20th, the same day that Lord Chelmsford and the 3rd Column marched out for Isandlwana. Captain Geoffry Barton, his Staff Officer, was left at Kranskop in command of the troops remaining there. They were the 1st and 3rd Battalions, under Montgomery and Cherry, and the last troop of the Mounted Contingent, Jantze’s Horse under Captain Ayliff.

The remainder of the 1st and the under-manned 3rd Battalions whiled away their time at Kranskop. Montgomery displayed his unpleasant nature by indulging in arguments with both his commanding officer and Captain Cherry.

Capt. Montgomery calls in sometimes – he did … yesterday and told me of a dispute with Captain Cherry. He is always getting into them and was with Barton too, when he was here.(9)

Montgomery and Barton may have formed a dislike for each other during their service together in England. Perhaps more likely, Montgomery resented the fact that Barton, his junior in both years and, in Montgomery’s mind, rank, should now be placed in command of him.

On the other hand, Jonathan Eustace Fannin, Special Border Agent for Umvoti County and based at Kranskop, became very friendly with Cherry, for whom he had an increasing affection:

I have not told you much about Capt. Cherry. I like him exceedingly–a thorough soldier and gentleman. We get on splendidly–he what you call ‘jumps’ with me always, does anything I recommend.(10)

The more I see of Capt. C., the more I like him, a perfect Gentleman, a thorough Soldier, has seen a lot of the world – he is not very clever but is capital company.(11)

After receiving news of the disaster at Isandlwana on 22 January, an added sense of urgency pervaded the NNC camp and Captain Cherry commenced construction of a fort on the summit of a nearby hill which was to bear his name. The extremely wet summer had caused the Thukela river to run in full spate and there was little chance of any Zulu incursion by that route. In February, Captain Geoffry Barton was given command of the Greytown district, and Cherry, being senior by virtue of his being a serving British officer, assumed the command at Kranskop.(12)

As summer eased into autumn,(13) the urgency waned and boredom set in. The restless and energetic Montgomery arranged a ‘sport’s day’ on 12 February in which the officers and men of the regiment competed in various events. In accordance with the mores of the day, Africans and white men did not compete in the same event.(14) He even arranged for himself and a group of friends to climb the previously inaccessible Kranskop itself, and proved his success by lighting a fire on the summit, to the astonishment of observers.(15)

The most consistent activity of both officers and men to relieve their ennui was the consumption of alcohol. They gained a reputation for drunkenness and the medical officer was so frequently inebriated that he could not attend to his patients and was reported for his excesses. Paul Thompson suggests that so crapulous were the white officers (and presumably the NCOs) of the regiment that the officers on occasion drank until their company was obnoxious. The ditch around the fort was filled with broken bottle glass – ostensibly a defensive measure.(16)

In late March and early April 1879, the two battalions engaged in ‘demonstrations’ along the border in support of Lord Chelmsford’s relief of Eshowe, involving several sallies across the Thukela, but, other than this brief diversion, boredom still prevailed. It was in this atmosphere that Lieutenant D’Ombrain took his own life on 8 April. Captain Cherry convened a court of enquiry on the same day. Its findings were so unacceptable that Cherry then convened a second enquiry on 16 April at which a number of officers gave evidence.(17)

Civil Surgeon John R. Ryley stated that he had seen D’Ombrain on the afternoon of the 6th, when he presented with what D’Ombrain referred to as the results of ‘a glass too much & that he felt nervous & out of sorts’.(18) Ryley thought it might have been ‘incipient delirium tremens’ but there were none of its symptoms and he finally treated it as ‘drunkard’s dyspepsia’ by prescribing a laxative. The lieutenant declined to be admitted to the nearby tented hospital.

On Monday 7 April, D’Ombrain’s friend Lieutenant George Hornby, whose brother Arthur had been appointed to the battalion in the same General Order as D’Ombrain, returned from leave and visited his sick friend in his tent. Robert said that he was feeling much better and remembered little of the previous day. Hornby gave him a book before he left.

Later that same day the medical officer visited him again, found that the aperient had not had any effect and that Robert had had a sleepless night. He went away and returned later, requiring a Corporal Wood to give him an injection and a sedative.
Lieutenant Grantham gave evidence that he had visited Robert several times on both the Sunday and Monday (6 and 7 April) and that he had noticed nothing untoward.(19) D’Ombrain’s servant, Cherabanya, reported that he had been ordered by his master not to go too far away as he might be wanted at any time; his master had taken nothing but a little toast and some beef tea.

On Tuesday the 8th, Grantham again visited him about 10 a.m., D’Ombrain asking him what the African soldiers nearby were saying about him. Grantham replied that they were not talking about him, to which Robert responded that he ‘must be a little light-headed’. Shortly after Grantham had left, Civil Surgeon Ryley and Corporal Wood visited him, and again D’Ombrain reported having slept badly and had taken neither his food or beef tea. Ryley reported that D’Ombrain had looked gloomy and ‘had a morbid fear of his brother officers knowing the cause of his illness’. Again, Ryley urged him to go to the hospital, but D’Ombrain declined until evening, lest he be seen by anyone. He also ordered that Corporal Wood and another assistant return to care for him during the afternoon, and for Cherabanya to make more beef tea and not to leave him. Ryley later send Wood back to administer a draft of the sedative chloryl hydrate.

About 11 a.m., George Hornby, Grantham and Hornby’s brother Arthur visited and noticed nothing unusual. Grantham and Arthur Hornby left after some thirty minutes but George remained behind smoking. He reported that the conversation was rather curious, saying that D’Ombrain made some odd statements, although he had given little thought to them at the time. On one or two occasions Robert rose from his bed and left the tent for brief periods, and on returning to the tent after one of these excursions, told George that ‘they were coming’. When asked who was coming Robert simply repeated his statement. On another occasion Robert said that ‘there was only one woman that had ever threatened him’, which Hornby dismissed as ‘irrelevant to the conversation at the time and I did not think much of it’. He then left, intending to return later in the day.

Some time later, reported as noon by Ryley and 1.30 p.m. by George Hornby, both men were in their tents when they heard a shot. Hornby, whose tent was next to that of D’Ombrain, immediately went to it and found that Robert had shot himself. Hornby then went to report the incident to his superiors. When Ryley, accompanied by Montgomery, who had been with him when the shot was heard, arrived, they found the body on a bed opposite his litter. He had fired his rifle into his mouth, pulling the trigger with his feet by means of a riding crop placed horizontally through the trigger guard. The bullet had broken his jaw, smashed his skull and then ripped through the fabric of the tent.

At the second court of enquiry Hornby deposed that he had ‘known the deceased for more than a year, and from my knowledge of him consider him incapable of taking his own life, in his proper senses’. Ryley said that D’Ombrain might have been ‘labouring under some delusion’ at the time he had fired the shot but he [Ryley] had ‘failed to detect any sign of insanity during life.’ The board of enquiry did not ‘consider that any blame is attached to the Senior Medical officer but regrets that Lieutenants Hornby and Grantham did not report the result of their interviews to him, but think that they showed no culpable negligence in not so doing.’

The incident was duly, if incorrectly, reported by J. Eustace Fannin in one of his many letters to his wife Ethie:

One of the officers of Native Contingent who had D. Tremens shot himself yesterday in the hospital tent here. He was buried by Capt. Montgomery in the afternoon.(2)

Whilst Victorian sensibilities precluded the explicit mention of sexual matters or even inclinations, it does seem that Commandant Montgomery had a proclivity for the company of young men. This is amply demonstrated by his relationship with Marr and D’Ombrain, both of whom lived at his house. He also cultivated a friendship with George and Arthur Hornby. The extent to which Montgomery’s friendships were innocent, however, merely reflecting the close relationships enjoyed by the men of that time, cannot be known and it may be unjust to attach any darker meaning to them.

If indebtedness was apparently the cause of Marr’s failed suicide, we have no real clue as to the reason for D’Ombrain’s successful attempt. In a later paper, we will also discover that Montgomery had an even more overt, and aggressive, appetite for young ladies. But that episode must wait for a while.


© Keith Smith, 2005.

Notes

1. The owner invited me to lunch after my visit and his wife showed me a folder which she had compiled on D’Ombrain which included a photocopy of several pages from an unnamed book. I later found that the book was John Laband and P.S. Thompson, War Comes to Umvoti, University of Natal: Pietermaritzburg, 1980, which first put me on the track of details of the incident related here.
2. Colonel H.G. Hart, New Annual Army List for 1870, London 1871, p. 243.
3. Captain William Barton should not be confused with Captain Geoffry Barton. See my earlier paper The Several Captains Barton,
4. General Order No. 1 dated 1 January 1879, Times of Natal, 3 January 1879.
5. Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, (PAR) CSO 696, No. 1879.
6. PAR, RSC 1/5/91:Thomas Meikle v Robert Hankison [sic] Marr, 1878.
7. PAR, AGO 1/4/21, pp. 93-114.
8. Marr was, in fact, a beneficiary of Montgomery’s will; being virtually bankrupt at his death, Montgomery left nothing of substance – even his farm Ismont was owned by his son-in-law as the result of an earlier mortgage on the property. (PAR, MSCE 40/166.)
9. PAR, A863J, Fannin Letters: 5 March 1879.
10. Fannin Letters: 3 March 1879
11. Fannin Letters: 9 April 1879.
12. General Order No. 38, dated 20 February 1879, Times of Natal, 24 February 1879.
13. In the southern hemisphere, of course, the seasons are reversed.
14. The Natal Colonist, 18 February 1879: ‘With The Native Contingent’.
15. Fannin Letters: 19 February 1879.
16. Laband and Thompson, War Comes to Umvoti, p. 111.
17. Much of the following information can be found in PAR, CSO 698, No. 2097.
18. Civil Surgeon Ryley was posted to Kranskop in General Order No. 48 dated 4 March 1879, Times of Natal, 7 March 1879.
19. Grantham was appointed to the 3rd Battalion in General Order No. 231 dated 21 December 1878, Times of Natal, 25 December 1878.
20. Fannin Letters: 9 April 1879.

Source: Victorian War Forum. Artical by Keith Smith.

http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=6244#p24997

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