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 Various Eyewitness Accounts

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littlehand

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PostSubject: Various Eyewitness Accounts   Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:35 pm

Robert Black Fell 90th Light Infantry. wrote some very informative letters, full of zest.The plentiful wild life appealed to his sporting instinct as he marched up-country (carrying the regimental colour) from Pietermaritzburg in the early days of November1878.

"The buck we have seen since landing are hartebeest near Sundays River and on the Buffalo flats, also reebok, oribi, duiker, and some wildebeest. The Hartebeest is a splendid animal, the reebok is the commonest, they utter a bark like a dog.The reebok were hard to find, but have pretty horns.The only herd of wildebeest we saw are
curious looking beggars, on seeing us they went off flourishing their heels and tails and cutting wonderful capers.The buck do give a jump when the rifle bullet comes under. . .Utrecht [where Fell's march ended] has a laager for the Beers in case of a Zulu war, a few houses and a big store and a court-house.There is a vlei close by and a
stream comes down from the Burghers' Pass, whichis thickly covered with thorn trees.There isan infernal duststorm blowing now,itis an awful place for sand storms, and seemsto be always blowing a gale.The sandflies are in such swarms that one can hardly see two feet in front of you. The Boers say there are still occasional lions on the veldt between here and the Pongola bush.I made friends with a Boer called Uys living at Uys Kop, and he took me out guinea-fowl shooting but also shot reebok".


New Year's Day1879 found Fell stationedat Van Rooyen's farm and getting ready to make war.

"A n old hunter named Rathboneand the Dutch leader Piet Uys, who has joined us with his clan, toldus all about the Zulus.This little farm is in a comfortable position and has a very good orchard, garden,and an avenue of eucalyptus trees.The old Boer owneris a famous hunter, of course we eat whatwe want as he has trekked with his family too,
gone into laagerto avoid the Zulus. We have been havingth e most terrific thunderstorms lately.At Balters Spruit theother day tents were struck, the lightning running down the tent-poles, splitting the rifles, fusing cartridges, destroying pouches and belts, and knocking men over.None of them were killed by it".


Fell soon had something to say about the Zulus, on returning to Bemba's Kop from a raid down the Buffalo valley:

"We revenged our troubles in a way by taking 8,000 head of cattle besides sheep and goats from the scattered kraals around.Itissimply marvellous what herds these kraals possess.I was on day picquet by one of them, the Zulus seemed friendly and gave me some milk.They were fine looking people. Zululand as far as we have seen it is destitute of wood and undulating, some of the hills pretty high, and covered with luxuriant grass on which our cattle and horses fatten splendidly".

Again, while in the fortified camp at Kambula towards the end of January, he describes the landscape as "a boundless expanse of green grass, as far as the eye can reach, the Hlobane Mountain away to our front".He complains about the rough diet heand his soldiers had to accept, although some relief came when a canteen waggon brought the officers tinned lobster, salmon, and two bottles of champagne apiece.Fell's father had asked him what he thought of Natal's prospects and if it was worth buying land there.

"I think it will take a little time to recover; undoubtedly the presence of so many troops has brought in money and given itan impetus. The telegraph has been brought within 30 miles of Utrecht now, the railway will soon be completed to Maritzburg and 1 have no doubt will be continued to the coal depositsat Newcastle and Dundee.There is no doubt the countryis full of coal and mineral, and said to be gold, and as soon as itis opened up by rail traffic will become valuable. An old farmer and hunter called Rathbone told me that from the day the British troops crossed the Blood River his farm near Luneberg trebled in value.Before they never were safe from threatened
Zulu incursion. You can grow any fruit you like about a farm, the soil seems very rich, gum trees grow like smoke; the climate is very healthy.It wants railways, population, and capital to push it ahead"


Source: Farnk Emery.


Last edited by littlehand on Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Various Eyewitness Accounts   Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:38 pm

2/24th, Lieutenant Willie Lloyd was out with Chelmsford's half-column on the dayof Isandlwana. Afterwards he spent the next few months bottled up "in this cursed hole" at Helpmekaar, whence he wrote on 6th May:

"The difficulties of this country are something enormous.The transport is all oxen,to drive them you must employ Kaffirs, andwe have just heardthat Wood's foreloopers and drivers haverun away. New ones will have to be got from the old colony (British Kaffraria), as the ones here can't be trusted, so that's another delay.The roads are fearful.
Food thereis none,and the great danger now is the grass whichis about 8 or 9 feet high, and in a strong wind the grass burnsat the rate of about 6 or 7 milesan hour. I have had a little shooting here, snipe, partridge, dikkopdiekap-otherwise known as the Cape thick knee.Ed., buck of all sorts, rock rabbits, pigeons, etc.To give you some idea of the changes that come round in 24 hours, in the middle of the day a thermometer would be 115 or 120 in the sun, and when you turn out at reveille thereis often a thick white frost.The cold has been something fearful here.We are on a high ridge and the wind whistles over it sometimes enough to take the skin off even a Kaffir. I have never been so cold at home but it's mostly dry, the only dampis the mists and clouds that come roaring up a high kloof near the camp".

Not all the letter-writers were fully military men.Ralph Busby had joined Chelmsford's column as a civilian surgeon, and also witnessed the carnage at Isandlwana.He found himself in the fort built at Rorke's Drift after the fight there, and less than a fortnight later had this to say:

"All the farmers seem to have gone into laager, and left their houses. I had a five and twenty miles ride too Fort Pine (between Rorke's Drift and Dundee)-a few days back to see some who were sick there; the few farms passed on the road were all deserted and cattle driven off to near the laager.It's a queer sight inside, cramful of waggons, women, and children.But I got a good square meal, some tender mutton, fresh milk, with my coffee and butter, and had a good sleep in a covered waggon. . .It's very hot and cooped up in this place (Rorke's Drift), very much troubled with flies which swarm everywhere; they worry the horses frightful, I have now lost both mine.I expect the expense to the country before this war is over will be enormous; and of all the useless lands I have ever been in, South Africa the chief."

Source: Frank Emery
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