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 Younghusbands Retreat

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Younghusbands Retreat   Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:04 am

I have for a long time been fascinated by the exploits of Captain Reginald Younghusband and C company 1st 24th. He is of course lastingly famous for his defiant charge down onto the saddle that was described by a Zulu witness as having a sword of flames.
When the right chest spilled over the Tahelane Ridge in pusuit of the fleeing E and F companies they ran into a withering barrage from the guns of C Company that forced them to hurriedly take cover North of the ridge. The volunteer horsemen soon joined C Company, taking up positions in the dongas directly below the ridge. With C Company firing over their heads the Mounted Volunteers where able to extract a fearsome toil from the beleagured Zulu.
Numbers eventually began to count as the balance of the Zulu chest started to spill over the Nyoni ridge and outflank the exposed force forcing a withdrawl onto the left flank of F Company. Its debatable where exactly George Shepstone took station. Commentators have placed him to the left, right and rear of C Company. My own belief is he was on the shoulder of the mountain to the left of C company facing down the valley towards the right horn.
AS the pressure on the line mounted a series of withdrawls was made untill the line had contracted to within a few yards of the camp untill the line broke, the reason? Many and varied, but not really the subject of this essay.

An indicator, no more and no less, to the action on the field of battle has allways been the positions of the cairns. HAving spent a considerable amount of time walking this area, looking at the cairns in relation to the camp, this is my hypothesis.

At a signal, a bugle call, the companies contracted in and formed Cavalry Receiving Squares or as near that defensive formation they could. It has to have been succesful in that virtually no bodies were found with a few hundred yards of the line. So the retreats began at least with a semblance of order and sufficient ammunition to enable these individual pockets of men to hold back the impis pouring through the gaps into the camp.

The line of retreat C Company could have taken is fairly limited, along the back of the tents through the regimental wagon park and cooking areas: up the mountain: or down into the tented area.

Of the three the path of least resistance would be along the back of the tents, unemcumbered by guy ropes etc, towards Younghusbands undoubted first target, the regimental ammunition wagon. That first retreat was no more than two hundred yards, nowhere along that route are there any cairns.

In the area of that wagon we have the first cairn, Ive assumed that a stand was made at this point with the ammunition waggon in close proximity. In this very short time frame the right horn would have started to pour over the saddle and disperse into the camp with some elements heading for the nearest red soldiers, Younghusband.
C companies options would now have been very limited. The hoardes to the front left and right would have forced them upwards to the rear. From this point there are now a series of cairns leadin upwards to the South showing C company was bleeding troops quite badly.

There comes a point when the slope levels out onto a narrow flat area that leads to the Southern shear mountain face. Its my beleif that Younghusband lead his men to this last bastion, backs against the cliff face holding back the by now encircled Zulu impi. There is a cairn some twenty metres higher than this position, indicating that some troops did attempt to scale the walls and escape. In this area as well is the so called 'last suvivors cave'.

History tells us that when all ammunition was spent Younghusband lead his men on a charge down into the saddle. I believe however he charged from his mountain along the flat area to his demise at the site of the cairn erected in his memory. Not down to the saddle.

If he had charged down onto the saddle then why would a burial party have wanted to carry some 60 lots of bones back up the hill? The bones were collected and covered in the generall area they fell. This to my mind lends credence to my essay.

As an aside to my story I firmly believe that George Shepstone fought alongside Younghusband but was either seperated or split once the end point had been reached by Younghusband. He, Shepstone, lead his men around the last buttress on the mountain, there is a trail of cairns that supports my contention, to his eventuall stand and death.

I will as soon as Im able send a series of photos to admin with the route and cairns marked up.

As allways it needs to be pointed out that there are no absolutes on the battle field. Its really all about personal beliefs.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:41 pm

Hi John
There is no reason to believe the Zulu warrior who reported the incident would lie. I do therefore believe it did occur but not in the traditional sense. As my essay says: "from the cliff face across the flats to the present cairn". Not down the slope, thats tradition.
The description of the position the bodies were found in by Major Black also refers to the cairn area.

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90th

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PostSubject: Younghusbands Retreat   Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:19 pm

Hi John.
I agree with Springbok , the zulu or zulus had nothing to gain by telling lies , I'm of the opinion if they said it happpened it did .
Maybe not strictly in the manner in which it was translated .
Cheers 90th. Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:27 pm

Welcome back Springbok. You know it makes sense Salute Excellent review.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:33 pm

I like the theory regarding George Shepstone, sounds plausible. However before we can comment on Springbok's Hypothesis, it would only be fair to get a better understanding of the terrain. The question was could he have charged down the rocky slope, we think not.

Springbok states " I believe however he charged from his mountain along the flat area to his demise" This would make more sense than what the history books summised took place. Hopefully the photos will help to decided which area was more plausible from where this supposed charge took place.

As regards to the Zulu accounts, my opinion will remain the same, the Zulu witness accounts are based on what the British wanted them to say with a twisting of words. It was a humiliating defeat, and these last stands were only drummed up for the sake of the public back home.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:56 pm

Tasker'
Quote :
Not sure if there are very many people who'd be qualified to debate or argue this with you, but your theory certainly appears to me.

Wouldn't be to sure on that. :lol:
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:19 am

[Bonsoir Springbok


Very happy to read you again.

Bon rétablissement

Bien à vous

Frédéric
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:32 pm

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Photo By Springbok.
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Dave

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:05 pm

Admin, is there any explanation as to what's taking place in the photo.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:14 pm

The photo is published to be read with the essay above, the one explains the other.

Cheers
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90th

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PostSubject: Younghusband Retreat    Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:04 pm

Hi Springbok .
Thanks for posting the pic , much appreciated mate .
Cheers 90th. Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 5:31 pm

Great photo Springbok. You show where Younghusband ended up on the ridge. And I take down the slope is where they were killed, did you manage to get a photo from where they were standing looking down to where they were killed. This would give us a better understanding of the ground he supposedly charged down. It just seems impossible to get a photo showing this.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:41 pm

Impi, I'm not sure we are going to get a photo of the area you mentioned. I personally believe that the ground in question was riddled with boulders impossible to charge down without falling head over heels.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:57 pm

"At last the soldiers gave a shout and charged down upon us. There was an induna in front of them with a long flashing sword, which he whirled round his head as he ran."
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:24 pm

This has been posted many times. But a photo of the area and ground the Zulus claimed the soldiers charged down hasn't, I could be wrong and the slope is nice and even and would allow a rapid charge down into the Zulus.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:02 am

Hi Guys
Sorry its taking a little time to arrange the photos. I do have the photos your looking for LH, I will send them through to Admin today. I fully agree with DB, the charge did take place. There again I agree with LH, not in the historical place. I will post photos later.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:44 pm

These photos show the cliff Younghusband backed up against and the slope he charged down towards his present cairn. The individual cairns are on the way from the ammo wagon up the slope of the mountain

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Photos and text by Springbok.
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:42 pm

Thanks Springbok-Admin.
Photo 4. If that is the slope they charged down, I think is fair to say the charge down, would not have been how we imagined it to be. Devils pass comes to mind, perhaps Younghusband and men were forced down the slope but the Zulus advancing on them. And as they had no ammuntion left, I guess they got to the bottom and were killed to a man.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:16 am

Photo 2 is standing with my back to the Younghusband cairn looking up at the cliff face. Thats the face that I believe was the site of his stand before the charge down to where the phot is taken.
On the left of this slope are photos 3 and 4 showing that lone cairn, the highest on the mountain. Seems to indicate that not all the troops charged, possibly a few elected to try and climb over the ridge and where either chased or ran into the zulus fighting Shepstone. His grave is just the other side of that ridge.
The other photos are t a selection of cairns on the way down to the ammo wagon area.

Littlehand.
Sorry for the wait in posting these shots, hope they are the ones you wanted.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:20 am

Would it had been possible, that the Zulus that engaged Shepstone, came around to engage Younghusband. Therefore some of the troops from Stepstone company tryed join Younghusbands compaines are the ones Bury in the lone cairn you mentioned. looking at the photos, my opinion is that Younghusband was forced to retreat down the slope, because there was no where else to go. Perhaps they charged at the last miniute because there was nothing else to do. But as far as the famous charge down the slope I don't beleive that took place, regardless of what the Zulu says about the tall man with swirling a sword around his head. Did the Zulu witness arrive at the last minuites and saw Younghusband fighting with his sword just before being killed.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:36 am

Littlehand
Yes its a possibility. We dont know, never will, which of the stands ended ended first. However to get from Shepstones stand to Younghusbands involves climbing over that ridge. Coming from either side the zulu would have no idea that a stand was on the other side so it wouldnt seem a practical thing to do really.
I do beleive that there was a stand or some form of resistance under that cliff. Spent rounds have been found there, I have a number that Ive personally picked up there. The line of cairns ( not the best of indicators) does point to the cliff face and that location is just as accesable from the North as the area that Younghusbands body was found. So assuming that my theory is correct that the cliff face was the area of the stand the distance down to the cairn is probably 20metres. There could easily have been a charge.
I know your disbelief in the testimonies of the zulus but unless Im mistaken the story of the flashing blade was recorded by Mitford so not an official interview.
There is absolutly no reason to not believe that the incident took place., or if you do have some reason I would love to hear it,

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:51 am

I just can't see how it's possible for a group of men to charge down a slope that is covered with boulders, and holes. As i have said, I beleive they were forced down to the area where they are buired, and where they probably put up a gallant fiight. That's my opinion, and I hope you respect that,as I yours. Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:27 pm

Littlehand
Always respect mate.

Cheers
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impi

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:57 pm

I'm going with LH on this one. Salute I for some reason have devils pass in mind. Probably used up what little ammuntion they had going down.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sun Sep 09, 2012 1:53 pm

Of course most of those rocks may well have broken away from the cliff face over the past 133 years.
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PostSubject: Younghusbands Retreat   Sun Sep 09, 2012 11:42 pm

Hi All .
We also have to remember that the whole area from the camp down to the river has suffered badly with soil erosion , those rocks that we see exposed around the Mtn of Isandlwana may not have been so exposed 133 yrs ago . Ian Knight has been going to zululand for many years and has noticed the degradation of the battlesites , Devils Pass at Hlobane he says is a prime example , the rocks and boulders there are far more exposed now to what they were 30 yrs ago when he first started going there . So one can imagine how much of the soil has been eroded over the course of 133 yrs . Isandlwana is another case of terrible soil erosion over the 133 yrs .
Cheers 90th. Salute


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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:13 pm

Archeology (apart from being difficult to spell) is probably the science that relies more on deductive reasoning than any other. And really thats what we do when trying to analyse iSandlwana. Thats what Ive tried to do in my essay, what Ive said fits all the known facts and doesnt rely on a gut feel yes or no issue. The cairns point the way, the artifacts support the reasoning. The positions of the bodies and the eye witness accounts do so as well. To assume the charge never took place would rely on a few precepts.

Younghusband tried to defend an undefendable piece of the mountain and died there.
This while an emminently suitable position would have been a few yards away.
The conversation between a veteran of the impi and a well respected author/diarist was either made up or lies, all for no real reason.
The spent cartridges found under that mountain face were from a second unrecorded stand that left no bodies.

Just my humble opinion.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:08 pm

Quote :
undefendable piece of the mountain
because they ran out of ammuntion. And on that day, no part of Isandlwana was defenderble. The Zulu victory is testiment to that.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:44 pm

I must admit I hesitated before adding this post as I am much driven my by heart as by my head when it comes to Younghusband and his final charge. So please take that into account ..
Head - I just feel that a Victorian Officers instincts when faced with a situation of overwhelming odds and no available retreat, as well as an absence of ammunition would prefer to be proactive and attack rather than stay in an untenable position to be whittled down in ones and twos.

As for charging down the slope - Is it possible that desperate men who knew they were going to die and wished to take as many enemy with them - didnt stop to think and worry about the boulders or the steepness of the slope which was presumambly screened by a large number of Zulus.

having walked the battlefield as I am sure a large number of this forum have the slope from the ledge whilst difficult is not unsurmountable and for professional soldiers pumped full of adrenelin certainly not sufficiently steep to stop them charging when ordered.

And finally Heart - this is all conjecture and we have all read a lot of conflicting books, sources and accounts on the battle. It just strikes me from a military perspective and from how I would like to think that I would react in such a situation ,That I just cannot see them waiting supinely to die.
There is a comment further back in this strand that implies that there were no last stands and this was all part of some cover up. I myself would prefer (and indeed i think there is sufficient evidence to suggest) that wether it was G Company 2/24th left Isolated by Durnfords withdrawal,Anstey and his band of men fighting down towards Fugitives drft and indeed Younghusband and the remnants of his command that the men of the 24th fought and died couragously, sold there lives dearly and at the end of the day surely that is why we are so intrigued by this battle .
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:57 pm

Brickhill sums it up in his account. "Panic everywhere"
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:33 pm

Sergio click on li below.

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Page 4. I guess this would have been the same over most of Isandlwana.
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:23 pm

This from Ian Knight. He to says the poistion could have been defended. By like LH pointed out, they ran out of ammuntion.

"     As the 24th fell back on the nek, Captain R. Younghusband’s company, originally on the extreme left of the line, retired up onto the shoulder of Isandlwana itself.  It is not clear quite how they reached this position, but the location of the graves suggest that they retired up the slope from the northern end of the mountain, and certainly Zulu accounts refer to a  company falling back behind the tents.  The stand made by Younghusband’s men on the shoulder impressed many witnesses at the time, and all accounts agree that they held a good position, and were able to keep the Zulu back for as long as their ammunition lasted.  As for their demise, the main source is an account by a warrior of the uNokhenke - who would have encountered them as they entered the camp - reported by Bertram Mitford, in his delightful travelogue; (20)
 ..... a lot of them (i.e. soldiers) got up on the steep slope under the cliff behind the camp, and the Zulus could not get at them at all; they were shot or bayoneted as fast as they came up.  At last the soldiers gave a shout and charged down upon us.  There was an induna in front of them with a long flashing sword, which he whirled round his head as he ran - it must have been made of fire.  Wheugh! {Here the speaker made an expressive gesture of shading his eyes}.  They killed themselves by running down, for our people got above them and quite surrounded them; these, and a group of white men on the “neck”, were the last to fall .....”
      One might wonder why Younghusband’s men abandoned such a good position, but of course once they had run out of ammunition, they were effectively trapped, with no chance of replenishing it, and nowhere to go.  Although some accounts suggest that the charge down the hill-side was a last heroic death-or-glory- gesture, it was probably more pragmatic, an attempt to link up with the rest of the 24th, still struggling below. It is possible that they made it, for Younghusband’s body was found among a large clump of dead on the nek.  According to Black; “about sixty bodies lay on the rugged slope, under the southern precipice of Isandlwana, among them those of Captain Younghusband, and two other officers, unrecognisable; it looked as if these had held the crags, and fought together as long as ammunition lasted”. (21) This makes the popular story - that Younghusband climbed into a wagon-bed and defended it to the last -unlikely.  That particular story, similar to an incident referred to by Mehlokazulu kaSihayo, (22) was first described in The South Africa Campaign 1879, a collection of eulogies for dead officers. (23) The book was compiled quite soon after the war, however, and many of the details given in it are based on hearsay; that a soldier died as described need not be doubted, but the association with Younghusband is tenuous, and is not supported by burial reports, which suggest that he was found at the centre of a large concentration of the dead, rather than alone."
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:31 pm

Littlehand says he doesn't think the final charge of Younghusband company took place, because of the terrain of the slope they supposedly charged down. Came across this photo, I'm starting to think LH could be right.

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90th

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PostSubject: Younghusband's Charge    Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:42 pm

Hi John .
Off course you would ! , please read my post at the top of the page and maybe , just maybe you may change your mind .
90th.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:49 pm

90th I did read your post, but I don't think the terrain would have changed that much, those massive boulders must have been there at the time.
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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:40 pm

John

Than why did the Zulu say there was a charge ? Rolling Eyes




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90th

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PostSubject: Younghusbands Charge   Sat Dec 22, 2012 9:44 pm

John.
The boulders have always been there , but erosion means soil ! , in other words there was much more soil around the boulders therefore not as much of the boulder / boulders were exposed . Ian knight and others have mentioned this happening also at Hlobane where the rocks in the Devils pass were not as exposed 30 yrs ago as they are know . The same thing has happened at Isandlwana , there was much more soll there 30 yrs ago when he was first going there , so surely you can imagine the change in the terrain over 133 yrs ! .
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:02 pm

DB. It was said the Zulus allowed Younghusband to shake hands with his men, before they charge to their deaths.. Do you think that happened...
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90th

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PostSubject: Younghusbands Retreat    Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:14 pm

Littlehand .
Can you prove it didnt happen ! , why would the zulu even mention it in the first place , come on , its not something they surely would make up and for what reason would they ?? . They had nothing to gain by it either way . Lets not forget the zulu were more than likely keeping their distance while the trrops were still firing at them , once they fired their last volley whose to say a few of them didnt shake hands before advancing to their deaths down the slope ! . It doesnt neccessarily mean they all shook hands ! , possibly a few , no more , it doesnt take long to do so . A couple of seconds is all that would be required . I cant imagine the zulu would even think of that unless some of the poor souls did actually do so .
90th
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:19 pm

No I can't prove it didn't happen.. But can you prove it did!
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:25 pm

In the film Zulu Dawn.There is no mention in the film to Capt.Younghusband, who with his men, they made a last stand on the side of Isandlwana. When he went round his soldiers, the Zulus ordered a halt to the attack to allow him to shake hands with his men who he knew were about to die. You can't get more British than that?
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90th

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PostSubject: Younghusbands Retreat    Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:25 pm

Well at this stage I do have the testimony of the zulu who did actually witness it , hence his describing the gesture , its up to you to disprove it !.
90th. Shocked
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PostSubject: Younghusbands Retreat    Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:31 pm

Dave .
scratch scratch . Zulu Dawn as you surely realise wasnt a documentary ! , look at the death of Vereker , he didnt get near the river did he ! . It's called artistic licence . Not to sure what you are trying to say in the first place ??.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:38 pm

New Watercolour – Capt. Younghusband at Isandlwana?

Once open click on photo to enlarge.

 Click Here for Watercolour.
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:43 pm

LH

I'm confused, the Zulu interviewed by Mitford does not mention hand shaking anywhere Suspect



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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:04 pm

DB, there are various stories connected with Younghusband. We just need to weed out the truth.

I still maintain, that the terrain of slope would have prevented a charge.

I do believe, they made it to the area where the Cairn is today. And I don't doubt they did stand back to back and fought with whatever they had in their hands. Perhaps Younghusband was using his sword, natural thing to do if you had no ammuntion. I guess he would have been slashing away like a madman like anyone would in that situation. Giving rise to the Zulu account. ?
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:08 pm

LH

The only story that should be trusted is the accaount of a Zulu interviewed by Mitford that stated the soliders held out
as long as they could before they charged down, maybe as Springbok suggested they charged to a better posistion or
were trying to link up with another group on the Saddle.

The hand shaking i think was an invention of Morris or Rattery.


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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:24 pm

Quote :
The only story that should be trusted is the accaount of a Zulu interviewed by Mitford
Your entilted to do that!
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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:26 pm

LH

What i ment to say is there is no other source on the matter, Morris made up that Younghusband shook hands with everyone.



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PostSubject: Re: Younghusbands Retreat   Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:46 am

DB, how do you know, it came from TWOTS.
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