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 Private William Johnson, 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, one of the few survivors of the massacre at Isandhlwana

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PostSubject: Private William Johnson, 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, one of the few survivors of the massacre at Isandhlwana   Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:20 pm

Private William Johnson, 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, one of the few survivors of the massacre at Isandhlwana, later Sergeant-Major and Drill Instructor to 7th T.F. Battalion Liverpool Regiment.

"The statements, held in the Regimental Museum, of the six private soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment, who escaped from the battlefield of Isandhlwana, 22nd January, 1879, were published for the first time in Medal Rolls of the 24th Regiment of Foot, South Wales Borderers by Norman Holme (J. B. Hayward & Son 1971) and subsequently inThe Silver Wreath by Norman Holme (Samson Books 1979), to whom acknowledgement is hereby given for that reproduced here. The following is the statement of 299 Private William Johnson, 1/24th Regiment:

I was one of the Rocket Battery under command of the late Captain Russell, R.A., which was attached to Colonel Durnford’s Column. We got to Isandhlwana Camp about 11 a.m. on the 22nd January 1879. We halted there about 10 minutes when Colonel Durnford came down from the Camp of the 1/24th Regiment and gave orders that, as the Zulus were retiring fast, the mounted men should advance up a hill about two and a half miles from Camp, and that the Rocket Battery supported by the Infantry of the Native Contingent should follow in rear of the Mounted Basutos. About two miles out we met a ‘vidette’ of the Natal Carbineers who reported that the Mounted Basutos were heavily engaged on the opposite side of a hill on our left, at the same time offering to show us a short cut to the place where the engagement was going on. The Captain galloped up the hill and before he returned to us shouted ‘Action front’.

While we were getting into action the Zulus kept coming out of a kloof on our left, which the big guns had been shelling from the Camp. We had time to fire our rocket when they came over the hill in masses, and commenced to fire on us. As soon as they opened fire the mules carrying the rockets broke away. The Native Contingent, who were in the rear of us, after firing a few shots ran away. I observed that a great number of them were unable to extract the empty cartridge cases after firing, and offered to do so for some of them but they would not give me their rifles. Before this the horses had broken away and I tried to help Captain Russel from the field, but he was shot before we had gone many paces. I made my escape to a donga held by some of the Police, Mounted Infantry and Carbineers. On my way to this place I met Colonel Durnford and he asked me where my battery was; I told him that the battery was cut up and the Captain shot, when he said you had better go back and fetch him. I then pointed out to him that the enemy had already nearly surrounded us. At this time he was mounted as well as his orderly who had a spare horse, and he retired with a few Basutos towards the left of the Camp. Just below the Camp I met Privates Trainer and Grant with Bombardier Gough, they gave me a horse. We then went up to the Camp and found the Police extended in front of it and they were shortly afterwards driven in. The Camp was now almost completely surrounded and I made for the Buffalo following some of the Police and other mounted men, and crossed it below Rorke’s Drift. I afterwards met Major Spalding on the road to Helpmakaar, and turned back and joined the Companies 1/24th under Major Upcher. We met a lot of natives on the left of the road to the Drift but could not make
out what they were for certain"
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