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The Battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift
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 Captain Percival Tatham Armitage.

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littlehand

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PostSubject: Captain Percival Tatham Armitage.   Tue Dec 24, 2013 12:24 am



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"Isandlwana interest. A most interesting, and at times poignant, 36 page letter written by Captain Percival Tatham Armitage to his mother. Written from Koppie Allein, Zululand and dated 2-8-1879 the letter begins

“Dearest Mother, For many a long day I have been waiting anxiously to hear news from home, in reply to the long letter I wrote you from Cape Town, but, although by every mail, both officers & privates have been receiving letters from England, I have always had to turn away without one..” Armitage then goes on to tell of the journey over difficult terrain before joining up with Capt. Marshall’s Troop of the Frontier Light Horse. He later tried to rejoin his own company under Captain Williams at Rorkes Drift but instead was attached to Capt Harvey’s company and “we received orders the same evening to march next morning to Koppie Allein” “I stayed at Koppie Allein about three weeks and then received orders to join my own company at Rorke’s Drift. First, though, I must tell you, the second day after arriving at Koppie Allein we heard of the Princes death. ...”, “..we ... were, in fact, almost within sight of where the Prince was killed. His body was brought down in an ambulance wagon escorted by a few lancers & we had to furnish an escort half way to Landman’s Drift.....it was very sad.” it goes on “Major Black commanded at Rorke’s Drift...there were 3 companies there. Up to this time the bodies of the poor fellows who were killed at Isandlwhana (sic) were lying unburied but Major Black received permission to go in and bury them. Shortly after I arrived there a force composed of 2 companies 2/24th, 1 squadron of dragoons, half dismounted and about 500 native contingent commanded by Major Black marched in to fulfil the melancholy duty that had been so long delayed. I had command of a burying party, composed of some of our own men & some natives, with picks and shovels. We started at 3 o’clock in the morning & crossed the Buffalo into Zululand. It was bitterly cold & we marched the 11 miles to Isandlwhana getting there about day break. The scene was frightful. Bodies lying about in every direction... This is the dark side of war.”; the following pages give an account of the scene and burial work at Isandlwana, and notes poetically “And the Lion Mountain reared its head majestically over the field, an overlasting monument on the spot where 800 British soldiers died whilst fighting bravely against overwhelming odds. After burying for about 2 or 3 hours we marched back to Rorke’s Drift. It took about 4 days to bury the dead but altogether I have been in 9 times to Isandlwhana with Major Black, bringing out the wagons & other things. We brought out £6,000 worth of wagons and ought to get salvage for them but I am afraid there is no chance of doing so. I found 2 or 3 officers’ bodies, amongst them that of poor Anstey , instead of whom I came out. I found poor Cavaye’s diary on the field...” he then talks of trophies picked up on the battlefield, of regaining some kit, etc. “After I had been about a month at Rorke’s Drift, orders came one day that William’s Company was to proceed to Koppie Allein. Next morning we started & after 3 days marching arrived here, where we are still.” more talk of family life then he gives his address as “Percy T. Armitage 2/24th Regt, Natal, South Africa is the proper address. Of course you will have all heard about the glorious battle of Ulundi...” he then talks more about family life before signing off “your affectionate boy, Percy” Housed in an envelope inscribed “letter from Capt Percy Tatham Armitage 24th Regt on Active Service Zulu Campaign 1879”. Generally in good condition, the pages stitched at the top corner (some now unattached, one or two splits along creases, the last page with some wear and tears.) Plate 12 Note: Percival Tatham Armitage was born in Oldham Lancashire in September 1859, at the time of writing his letter he was 19. He was appointed Ensign in the 76th Regiment in 1878. He transferred to the 2nd Battalion 24th Foot on 26th March 1879 and served in South Africa from April 1879 until January 1880. Promoted to Captain in November 1885, and saw service in the Burma campaign of 1887-1889. He died near Brecon in September 1893, a week before his 34th birthday. Anstey referred to is Edgar Oliphant Anstey Lieutenant 24th Regiment (2nd Warwickshire) who was engaged under Captain Mostyn at Isandhlwana. Cavaye is Lieutenant Charles Walter Cavaye Lieutenant 24th Regiment (2nd Warwickshire"

Source:The Saleroom.com
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90th

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PostSubject: Capt Percival Tatham Armitage   Tue Dec 24, 2013 6:02 am

If anyone is wanting to bid on this you'll find it in the Wallis & Wallis Auction on the 22nd Jan . I have posted the entire auction on here I think in the Memorabilia thread  scratch 
90th  Merry Christmas 
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Captain Percival Tatham Armitage.   Tue Dec 24, 2013 8:15 am

90th We know where it's from. but when the collection is sold. The link you posted will not work. And all that wonderful information will be lost.
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90th

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PostSubject: Capt P.T. Armitage   Tue Dec 24, 2013 10:57 am

Thanks ctsg , never thought of that !  Rolling Eyes 
90th  Merry Christmas 
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PostSubject: Captain Percival Tatham Armitage   Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:10 pm

Hi Bill
I've been reading with great interest the proposal on the Rorke's Drift VC Forum site regarding the Armitage letter , to produce a transcript , , I for one certainly hope this takes place , as I'm sure many others with an interest in the AZW are hoping it comes to fruition , it would certainly be a wonderful gesture on the owners behalf . Also hopefully a few extra ' Pennies ' for the museum , I'm sure Bill you will keep us in the loop .
Cheers 90th
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PostSubject: Re: Captain Percival Tatham Armitage.   Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:34 pm

hear hear 90th, and again. what a truly remarkable
altruistic gesture! goes to show there could be
masses in private collections yet to be revealed!  Salute 
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Captain Percival Tatham Armitage.   Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:31 pm

" 19-year-old Captain Percival Armitage, who was sent to the site of the Isandlwana battle five months later, has been put up for auction.

In it the young captain describes the scene when he was ordered to help bury 800 bodies. His 36-page letter home to his mother in Lancashire describes how he struggled to identify the corpses so long after fighting ended. Sometimes he resorted to checking the numbers on their boots.

“The scene was frightful. Bodies lying about in every direction and every position. Some features calm, others distorted with all the agonies of a painful death. This is the dark side of war,” he wrote.

“Although the bodies have been lying for five months the clothes were not rotted away.

It is not true about the mutilation of bodies that we have heard so much of in the papers at home.”

Capt Armitage went on to explain how he struggled to cope with the horror.

“The smell was frightful. I had to do all in my power to identify bodies and sometimes, in taking hold of a boot to try and find the number of the man to whom it belonged, the foot came off with it.

Source: Walesonline
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