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 Col Durnford's demise

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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:06 pm

The fact is, we will never know exactly how Durnford met his maker, but the important thing to remember is to keep an open mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:25 pm

Umbiki wrote:

. He lay on his back - for some reason the Zulus had not stripped off any of his clothes - on the nek close to the stony kopje,

Thats intresting, for Shepstone always claimed his coat had been removed Suspect

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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:28 pm

Perhaps these thories were going through his mind. (D) Seemes about right
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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:34 pm

Hi All



There is no report of a bullet wound to Durnfords head, thats where he would have shot, and if he did its safe to assume that his head would have been blown off from that range. His face was found intact, there is no report of him missing half of it.

He was killed by the Zulus, thats why his body was covered by spear stabbs.


I dout he was worried that he was going to be shot by the british, thats the last thing on his mind :lol!: :lol!: :lol!:

Look at the facts avaible Idea Idea Idea Idea

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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:44 pm

The incidence of suicide in the Anglo-Zulu War
By Ian Knight
On 21 February, just under a month after Colonel Pearson’s column had occupied the
old Norwegian mission station at Eshowe, Private W. Knee of the 99th
Regiment slipped out
of his bed in the hospital quarters, set up in the mission church, and made his way through the
perimeter lines. Pearson’s column was, at that time, isolated from the outside world, the
mission heavily fortified and the surrounding countryside full of parties of Zulus who had cut
the lines of communication to Natal. Private Knee, however, had been ill for some time, and
the doctors had come increasingly to think him unstable - and certainly on this occasion he
did not behave like a rational man. After dark he managed to slip past the sentries guarding
the outer lines, and disappear unnoticed into the night; his comrades were astonished to find
his body lying face down in a nearby stream the following morning. His death was officially
listed as suicide, as it almost certainly was; there was nothing in the condition of the body to
suggest that the Zulus had killed him.

Quite why Private Knee behaved as he did remains a mystery, as is the case with many
of the suicides which took place in Zululand in 1879. Suicide was not a common occurrence -
on either side - but when it happened to the men in the ranks the causes which drove them to
such despair were seldom recorded. Mostly, like Knee, they were probably the result of
depression or temporary instability brought on by the effects of fever; sometimes they were
rather more rational, the result of a letter from home with bad news - a ‘dear John’ or a report
of some family disaster or financial catastrophe - but even then the reasons usually went

Quite why a Sergeant Stratton, of the 2/24 , had killed himself during a skirmish on the
Cape Frontier, six months before the battalion marched to Zululand, is, for example,
unknown; Stratton had appeared cheerful to his men, but in the midst of a desultory fire-fight
with the Xhosa - in which he was at little obvious risk - he had suddenly called out a brief
farewell, then blown out his brains with his own rifle. The strangeness of his death had been
underlined the following morning when he was found sitting bolt-upright in his grave, as if he
had changed his mind; on close examination, it turned out that someone had disturbed the
body while trying to deprive Stratton of his boots.
Strange, too, was the death of a private of the 99thregiment during the Zulu campaign.

He was in the hospital tents at Fort Pearson, suffering from fever, when on 13 March he
suddenly dragged himself out of his sick-bed, ran down the hill-top towards a steep cliff
which dropped down into the Thukela river - and threw himself off.
Less bizarre, but no less mysterious, was the death of Lt Robert D’Ombrain of the 1/1st

NNC on 8 April 1879 near Fort Cherry at Kranskop, above the Middle Drift. D’Ombrain had
arrived in Natal from Kent in July 1877, and had accepted the hospitality of a family friend, a
former regular officer who had become one of the settler gentry, Alexander Montgomery.
Later, when the Natal Native Contingent was raised in late 1878, Montogomery offered his
services and was given command of the 1st Battalion of Durnford’s own 1stRegiment.

D’Ombrain himself volunteered and was accepted as a lieutenant in the same unit.
Montgomery’s role in what followed is not clear; he was a strong-willed and rather restless
officer whose personal life after the war the subject of a later scandal. Although he was
married - his wife bore him nine children - Montgomery on that occasion was alleged to have
had an affair with a young house-guest who later bore him a child. The child later died and
Montgomery was implicated in an investigation of infanticide.

Montgomery’s men were stationed at Fort Cherry, on the escarpment above the
Thukela at Middle Drift. This was an important strategic position - there was considerable
Zulu activity at the drift throughout the war - but it was a dull duty, and many of
Montgomery’s officers apparently alleviated their boredom in drink. What impressions
D’Ombrain had formed of Montogomery’s character during those months of ennui above the

Thukela border is not at all clear - except that a woman played on D’Ombrain’s mind
somewhere along the line. At the beginning of April life was enlivened by the visit to the post
of Montgomery’s 16 year-old daughter, who was apparently accompanied by a local admirer.
Miss Montgomery was still in the area when, on the afternoon of 6 April, Lt. D’Ombrain
apparently reported to the fort’s medical officer suffering from a hangover. He was duly
prescribed an appropriate remedy, and D’Ombrain retired to his tent. Over the following two
days, however, he complained of feeling ill, and friends who visited him said that he spent
most of his time on his bed, smoking. He could not stomach solid foods, and under the
doctor’s guidance D’Ombrain’s servant fed him on beef tea. He seemed restless and fretful,
and told a fellow officer that he was concerned lest the nature of his illness became common
knowledge. He seemed verging on paranoia, becoming convinced that the men of the
regiment were talking about him in isiZulu, a language he could not understand. He warned
one visitor that ‘they are coming’, and to another confided that ‘there was only one woman
who had threatened him’; both comments were regarded as being the product of an insipient
fever. Early that afternoon D’Ombrain was in his tent when a shot rang out; Montgomery and
his officers rushed over to find that D’Ombrain had shot himself with a Martini-Henry rifle.
He had placed the barrel in his mouth, wedged a riding crop across the trigger, then pulled it
with his foot. He had died instantly from massive head injuries, and the bullet had afterwards
torn a great split in the canvas of the tent.

D’Ombrain was buried nearby - undoubtedly one of the most remote and poignant of
the lonely graves relating to the war of 1879. Montgomery held an inquiry into the cause of
his death, but no evidence emerged of what had been troubling D’Ombrain, and his suicide
was put down to the effects of his fever. Years later, the local story had it that D’Ombrain had
received a note shortly before his death from a woman breaking off her relationship with him;
whether that was connected with the visit of Miss Montgomery is not at all clear.
Rather more common was an attitude among many serving soldiers that suicide offered
a means of escape from the threat of worse horrors should a battle go badly wrong. The war
correspondent Melton Prior was riding one day with the Reverend George Smith, of Rorke’s
Drift fame;
… when he asked me, ‘Why do you carry a revolver, Prior?’
‘Well,’ said I, ‘for a very good reason. If I unfortunately get into a tight corner I
intend five shots for the enemy and the last one for myself, for I am never going to be
taken alive by a Zulu’.
‘Oh, do you think that very brave?’ he smilingly asked in reply. ‘Do you really
mean that? Would you really wantonly and with premeditation take a life that had been
given you? Would it not be better to suffer a little agony, that you might have to bear if
you fell into the hands of the enemy, than to take the life which God gave you?’
I had never looked at it in that light before, but so much was I impressed with his
seriousness and the nice way in which he put the matter, that I in turn looked at him and
said, ‘Smith, you are right, and I promise you that I will never take my own life.’

Yet the idea of ‘saving the last bullet for yourself’ was quite a common one. It had little
basis in rational fears - there is no evidence that the Zulus ever tortured to death anyone
during the battles of 1879 - but it was perhaps the inevitable result of a mind-set in which
British and Colonial troops saw themselves engaged in a war of civilisation against savagery.
Suicide in the last moment of defeat, when death is anyway inevitable, offers a last desperate
trace of comfort, a sense of retaining control even in extremis, and of a last gesture of
defiance, of depriving the enemy of the satisfaction of your death. It is something which has
often occurred in battles across the ages, and it occurred in Zululand in 1879. Psychologically,
it is a product of isolation, despair and terror, and it tends to occur more among troops whose
esprit de corps has either been badly shaken during an action, or was never highly developed
to start with. Suicide in battle, in other words, is a symptom of men and their units falling

Melton Prior, Campaigns of a War Correspondent , London 1912.

apart, and it is no coincidence that at the battle of the Little Big Horn in America in 1876,
when George Custer’s command was famously overwhelmed - an action which had much in
common with some of the Zulu War engagements - American Indian eyewitnesses
commented on a high number of suicides among the men of the 7th
cavalry, a unit which had a
high proportion of new and foreign recruits.
There are remarkably few references from Zulu sources of British troops at iSandlwana
killing themselves under similar circumstances. There are two possible reasons for this.
Firstly, the infantry of the 24th

Regiment (both battalions) were experienced men who had
served together, under officers they knew intimately, for a long time before-hand, and who
had developed a strong sense of the regimental family. Such a feeling, even under such drastic
conditions, tends to draw men together for psychological comfort and the hope of survival
rather than causing them to break down into panic-stricken individuals. The second reason is
rather more pragmatic; as Lieutenant D’Ombrain would discover, it is a difficult thing to kill
yourself with a long Martini-Henry rifle.

Of course, it may well be that a number of men did commit suicide at iSandlwana, and
their stories are simply not recorded. By contrast, however, there were a significant number of
self-inflicted deaths among the Irregular corps during the battle of Hlobane on 28 March. The
Irregulars were by their nature largely anonymous; they were raised for temporary service in
the campaign, had no long history of traditions to sustain a sense of belonging and identity,
and were recruited from men who were often rootless in their civilian lives. And, of course,
the carbines they were armed with were a much handier weapon.
The Irregulars had performed well enough during the battle, but once the British
attempted to retire off the mountain, under pressure from the abaQulusi on the summit and
threatened by a large army coming from oNdini in the valley below, a sense of panic set in. A
detachment of the Frontier Light Horse under Captain Barton and Border Horse under Col.
Weatherley descended at the eastern end of the mountain but ran into the vanguard of the
uKhandempemvu ibutho coming in the opposite direction. There was a brief fight and several
of the Irregulars were killed before they were forced to turn about; at this point Trumpeter
Reilly of the Border Horse - an Irishman - dismounted from his exhausted horse, fired several
shots at the enemy at close range, then killed himself. Later, when the survivors of the same
party had crossed the precipitous Ityenka Nek, still under pursuit, the Zulu induna Sitshitshili
kaMnqandi, saw one man ‘as he approached, turning his carbine and shooting himself’ .

Perhaps the most graphic account of a suicide at the battle, however, was given by George
Many glancing sights had I seen that day of the Zulus with some of our men,
who had fallen into their hands - whether dead or alive, I do not know! It is not good to
write about such sights; all I can say is that it was a horror! Perhaps the man at my side
had seen that which induced him to act the way he did.
I knew him well, but will not mention his name.
‘Do you think there is any chance of pushing through?’ I asked him. I was
obliged to shout to make myself heard. The din was terrific.
‘Not a hope!’ he replied, and placing the muzzle of his carbine in his mouth he
pulled the trigger. A lot of his brain or other soft stuff splashed on my neck.
It was the last straw! I gave one yell, let go the bride of my pony, and bounded
down into the pass.

Of course, the damaging effects of exposure to the horror and violence of the war
continued to afflict the participants for decades afterwards. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
was certainly not recognised in 1879, but its effects were real enough, and many of those who
played a prominent part in the war were troubled for years with flash-backs, nightmares and

Account recorded by Evelyn Wood in From Midshipman to Field Marshal, London 1907.

George Mossop, Running the Gauntlet, London 1937.

feelings of guilt. That was, perhaps, why Cecil D’Arcy of the Frontier Light Horse - who
survived Hlobane and earned the VC for the skirmish on 3 July before oNdini - acted as he
did. D’Arcy had continued to serve with colonial forces after the Zulu campaign, and had
seen action in the BaSotho ‘Gun War’, but by early 1881, although still a young man, his
health was suffering from the rigours of his active life. He was a life-long asthma sufferer and
had contracted both malaria and bilharzia. In August 1881 he went to stay with friends on the
Eastern Cape, hoping the bracing winter air would help him. His friends found him tense and
depressed, however, and on the morning of 7 August his room was found to be empty and his
bed not slept in. Despite a search over the following days, no trace of him was found until 28
December when the skeleton of a man was found in the hills nearby. The remains were
identified as those of Cecil D’Arcy; he had apparently wandered off alone, quite deliberately,
and died of exposure.

There were strong psychological reasons, of course, why the British invaders were
more likely to suffer self-inflicted deaths than the Zulus. The Zulus were fighting for the
defence of their way of life in their own country - their sense of belonging and purpose could
not have been greater. Nevertheless, as individuals they were subject to the same stresses in
battle as the invaders, and there are suggestions that numbers of their men, too, killed
themselves rather than face capture by the British. At least one man was seen clearly to stab
himself with his own spear rather than fall to a British sortie in the closing stages of the battle
of Khambula, and Mossop certainly noticed a degree of resignation - even defiance - in the
face of inevitable death;
When we overtook small bodies they made no attempt to resist; they were beaten,
and that was the end. Many a man just turned, exposing his broad chest, saying ‘Dubula
M’lungu’ (‘Shoot, white man’) - and the white man shot. The Zulu gave no quarter, and
expected none.

There is very little surviving evidence, of course, to determine whether Zulu veterans of
the war suffered long-term psychological damage. In some respects the attitudes and beliefs
of traditional society as a whole may have mitigated against the sense of isolation and taint
which characterises post-traumatic stress. In their belief that the shedding of blood causes
supernatural damage, and in their willingness to acknowledge the role of veterans within the
community, Zulu life offered a framework of understanding which may have explained and
eased the sense of recurring horror brought about by the visceral nature of Zulu combat.
Nevertheless, here and there the odd snippet has surfaced to suggest that the events of 1879
left their mark, too, upon the soul of the Zulus who took part. A noted warrior named Muthi
Ntshangase, who killed at least one white man at iSandlwana, is said to have been troubled by
the spirits afterwards, and went mad soon after. Cetewayo was told of this incident. Muti was taken down
to Ulundi from Isandlwana under control at Cetewayo, who thought a lot of him, sent
for some Shangane Doctors, to try to make him right again, and they succeeded.

Or had he? Oddly, in 1925 a Mr V.G. Sparks was captaining a cricket match
in Newcastle, Natal, when he claimed to recognise a dishevelled bystander as D’Arcy.
Confronted, the man admitted his identity and claimed that he had stumbled across a
body in the hills that night and had changed clothes with him and had lived
anonymously ever since; he begged Sparks not to disclose his identity as ‘he wished
to remain dead to the world’. How Sparks was so confidant of his identification after
forty years is not certain; probably the bystander told Sparks what he wanted to hear.

Mossop, Running the Gauntlet.

Account of Mangwanana Mchunu, Bowden Papers, KZN Museum,
Pietermaritzburg, reproduced in Ian Knight (ed.), Kill Me In The Shadows,
Soldiers of the Queen, no. 74.
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PostSubject: Extract from Drooglever   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:50 pm

Hi Umbiki,

Thanks for the post quoting Drooglever on Col Durnford.

Does this author quote his sources as his statement that the body was shot throught the heart is very categoric, and if correct, is also significant.

As mentioned in earlier posts the other significant fact is that the body was intact other than multiple stab wounds which would have been been the resultt of the Zulu ritual geza Mkonto and would have probably been done post decease.


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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:51 pm

There is no evidence of Col. Durnford doing that.

It doesn't add up with the facts avaible. Please look at them first and then decide.

It isn't possibe.

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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:19 pm

As Isandlwana is aliken to Little Big Horn. I thought i would post this.

"Custer was found with shots to the left chest and left temple. Either wound would have been fatal, though he appeared to have bled from only the chest wound, meaning his head wound may have been delivered post-mortem. He also suffered a wound to the arm. Some Lakota oral histories assert that Custer committed suicide to avoid capture and subsequent torture. Several Indian accounts note several soldiers committing suicide near the end of the battle. The account of Custer's suicide is usually discounted since the wounds were inconsistent with his being known as right-handed. His body was found near the top of Custer Hill, which also came to be known as "Last Stand Hill."

Of course we could say " Suicide By Zulu"
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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:35 pm

Hi Impi

Thats a good post and surports my views

Had Durnford been found with bullet wounds it could be possible.

He was however only found with many stab wounds.
Hope this clears it up

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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:40 pm

Col Durnford's demise. Gents this topic seems to wandering all over the place. There have been a number of personal attacks towards each other. To me this topic seems to be going no-where and has run its course. With that in-mind can the following provide the source of information relating to their posts.

Barry) The Zulu interviewed said that he, Col Durnford, shot himself with his own pistol, and that he was not killed by a Zulu.

Barry. What concerns me the most is why this information is only mentioned in the “Princess Eugenie, ex Empress of the French and Lady Wood's tour of Zululand” It seems unlikely that an important piece of information like this would only been briefly referred to in this publication. (By the way which page is this on)

Pascal) Maybe Durnford did not want the Zulus eat one of his eyes, as they do to Bonaparte, later in the war?

Pascal looking forward to this source.
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PostSubject: Re: Col Durnford's demise   Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:42 pm

I can see we can't move forward with this. This topic will be locked.
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