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 Recovering the missing 24th Colours, NMP records, Tpr Clarke reporting

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barry

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PostSubject: Recovering the missing 24th Colours, NMP records, Tpr Clarke reporting   Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:28 am

Hi All,

I thought this account, first hand, would bring new insight into the retrieving of the missing Colours of the 1/24th Regiment and the recent Fugitives Drift discussions on this forum.

Verbatum transcription from the records of the NMP ;

Ten days after the Isandlwana battle and the day before my party was to be relieved at Rorke's Drift, we were turned out long before daylight to make a dash for Isandlwana, to seek the missing colours of the 24th Regiment. We were highly elated at the prospect of being the first party to return to the battlefield at Isandlwana , but it was not until we had left the Rorke's Drift laager, that Major Black of the 24th Regiment , who commanded the expedition, told us where we were going.

We made a quick passage and saw no Zulu's until we reached the scene of the massacre, when a few Zulus appeared on the hills around us and watched our movements.

The dead bodies of our men lying on the battlefield were not nearly so decomposed as we expected to find them, owing tho the fact, I presume, that the Zulu's had made the normal incision ( disembowling) in the stomach.
The skins on the faces had dried like parchment and the features of each man remained almost lifelike.
We were desirous of seeing our dead comrades but were called away to search among the dead bodies of the 1/24th infantry near where the guard tent had been standing, and where we expected the colours would be found.

Our efforts were not rewarded with success , but we found a good sum of money lying about , for it appears the Zulu's had no value for coin.

As the Zulu's increased in numbers on the surrounding hills , Major Black was compelled to hurry the search and retire , but we dare not return to Rorke's Drift by the same route , lest an ambush had been prepared by the Zulus for us.

Tpr Cyril Hamilton and I were left on the Isandlwana Neck ,with orders to remain there until Major Black of the 24th, fired a "retire" signal gun shot from the point of a hill in the direction of Fugitive's Drift. We watched the party under Major Black disappear around the corner and on hearing no gun shot, the sound of which could not have reached us in any event, once Black's party were around the hill, we disobeyed orders and cleared for all we were worth.

The Major told us afterwards that he dare not fire the signal shot because the Zulu's were too close to him and he was afraid that the enemy would take the shot as a sign of attack.

We followed the route taken by the fugitives on 22nd January last, and having ridden over the country with no enemy after me , I can only marvel that anyone succeeded in reaching the Buffalo River on that fateful day. We were perhaps in nearly as great a hurry to get away as the fugitives were , but so rugged and stony was the country which we travesed that a fleet-footed Zulu would have had no difficulty in keeping up with us.

We passed numerous dead bodies on the route and at one place I found a dead European NCO of the Natal Native Contingent, with an assegai piercing his chest and a dead Zulu lying by his side. That assegai was displayed for some years in the NMP Head Quarters officers canteen in Pietermaritzburg , but was later stolen from there .

The descent to the Buffalo River from the ridge along which we had ridden , was appalling and I quite expected that we would lose some of our horses on the path down . The river at this point was unfordable , even if it had not been in flood , so were were compelled to swim across it, exactly as the fugitives had.

Once across the river and in Natal we had no fear of pursuit and were able to examine the banks of the river where we were fortunate enough to find one of the missing colours . Traces of the retreat on the 22nd were to be seen everywhere, dead horses, clothing, a few dead men, assegais's , shields etc and the bodies of Melville and Coghill were found a little above the river, on the side of a hill.

A messenger having being sent on ahead to announce our success , we made our way back to Rorke's Drift, and were much astonished at the excitement there. The troops in the laager turned out and presented arms , old soldiers came up with tears in their eyes and kissed the colour , so that one was able to understand how soldiers fought for the standard, or colours, in the Napoleonic wars.


Transcription ends


Last edited by barry on Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:33 am; edited 4 times in total
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old historian2

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PostSubject: Re: Recovering the missing 24th Colours, NMP records, Tpr Clarke reporting   Fri Dec 09, 2011 6:48 pm

Just about says it all. Idea

Quote :
old soldiers came up with tears in their eyes and kissed the colour , so that one was able to understand how soldiers fought for the standard, or colours, in the Napoleonic wars.
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Brett Hendey

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PostSubject: Re: Recovering the missing 24th Colours, NMP records, Tpr Clarke reporting   Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:09 am

Barry

As you know, I have long been an admirer of Tpr (later Chief Commissioner) Clarke as the NMP/NP's unofficial historian. This post, and your other recent diary excerpts, have greatly increased my respect for this man. Future Zulu War historians will be paying more attention to his writings.

Regards
Brett
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: Recovering the missing 24th Colours, NMP records, Tpr Clarke reporting   Sat Dec 10, 2011 8:27 am

The full account, now completed should be posted in the eye witness section.
Thanks Barry for sharing this with us a remarkable insight from someone who was there.
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barry

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PostSubject: Tpr Clarke's diary transcripts   Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:24 pm



Hi OH2, Brett Hendey and Impi,

I am pleased that you found the various transcripts interesting. I have one more of the daily transcripts to finish, ie the final part of 23/01/1879.
I will then give Tpr Clarke's account of the terrible conditions in the Rorkes Drift hospital, in which he was given up for dead.

regards,

barry
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