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 Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story

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Dave

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PostSubject: Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story   Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:59 pm

Private Wassall (Original text)

‘"The only way to escape was by the Buffalo River, six or seven miles away and we had to get cross it into our own territory, Natal. A main road led to the river but the road was cut off by the Zulus and I had to take a road across the veldt, I knew nothing about. But, I was not in the mood to care which way I went so long as it took me away form the enemy, and so I furiously went on, stumbling over the rough rocky ground, expecting every instant that my horse, a Basuto pony, would fall. In that case I should not have had a chance for the Zulus would have been upon me before I could have got up again. To this day, I cannot understand how a living soul got away from Isandhlwana, because we were seriously harassed by the savages, shots came after us and clouds of spears, but I did escape from the field of the massacre and reached the Zulu bank of the river, and saw on the other side of the Natal territory, where my only hope of safety lay. I knew how dangerous the river was, there was a current running six or seven mile an hour, no ordinary man could swim it. But, the Zulus had a curious ways of using there elbows which made them able to get across. I drove my horse into the torrent, thankful even to be in that part and was urging him to the other side, when I heard a cry for help and I saw a man of my own Regiment, a Private named Westwood was being carried away. He was struggling, desperately and was drowning. The Zulus were sweeping down to the river bank, which I had just left and there was a terrible temptation to go ahead and just save one’s self, but I turned my horse around on the Zulu bank, got him there, dismounted, tied him up to a tree and I never tied him more swiftly. Then I struggled out to Westwood, got hold of him and struggled back to the horse with him. I scrambled up into the saddle, pulled Westwood after me and plunged into the torrent again, and as I did so the Zulus rushed up to the bank and let drive with their firearms and spears, but most mercifully I escaped them all and with a thankful heart urged my gallant horse up the steep bank on the Natal side and then got him to go as hard as he could towards Helpmakaar about fifteen miles from Isandhlwana, where our main camp was. I ought to have gone straight onto Rorke’s Drift after escaping from Isandhlwana but the Zulus were already surging on towards the Drift, which was held by a mere handful of men of the 24th, they expected to wipe out its defenders as they had wiped out the camp at Isandhlwana. At this time I was very lightly cold, I had thrown my helmet aside and my red tunic off, the British soldiers fought in the good old red in those days and not in khaki, so that I was clothed in just my shirt and trousers with my bandolier over my shirt and so I rode on as hard as I could, with a few of the fugitives from Isandhlwana."
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PostSubject: Re: Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 3:55 pm

What do we know about "Westwood"
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PostSubject: Re: Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:01 pm

What do we know about "Westwood"

He was born in the parish of Birmingham, Warwickshire circa August 1864. He attested at Birmingham on 20th February 1874, aged 19 years and 6 months. He was five feet seven and a quarter of an inch tall with a sallow complexion, dark brown eyes and dark brown hair. Trade - Screw Maker. He joined the regiment at Singapore on 23rd February 1876. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 25th June 1880.
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PostSubject: Re: Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:31 pm

Did he ever aknowledge his rescue!
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PostSubject: Re: Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:10 pm

An important Isandhlwana survivor’s Perak and South Africa pair awarded to Private T. Westwood, 80th Foot, whose rescue from the Buffalo River at Fugitive’s Drift resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross to his comrade Private Samuel Wassall, also of the 80th and attached to the Mounted Infantry India General Service 1854-95, 1 clasp, Perak (228 Pte. T. Westwood, 80th Foot); South Africa 1878-9, 1 clasp, 1878-9 (228 Pte. T. Westwood, 80th Foot), edge bruising, otherwise very fine or better (2) £12,000-15,000 In his capacity as a member of the Mounted Infantry, Westwood served in Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel H. B. Pulleine’s No. 3 Column, which force was decimated at Isandhlwana on 22 January 1879. He had earlier seen active service in Perak 1875-76, and in operations against the Sekukini in 1878. At which point Westwood decided to make his escape from Isandhlwana remains unknown, but presumably shortly after midday on the 22nd, when the right flank gave way - hot on his tail was Private Samuel Wassall, also of the 80th Foot, attached Mounted Infantry, riding a Basuto pony. Unbeknown to either of them was that subsequent events at “Fugitive’s Drift” on the River Buffalo were to be witnessed by Captain William Barton of the Natal Native Horse, who, on learning of their survival, submitted the following statement: “As I approached the river, a man of the Mounted Infantry [Wassall] was riding in front of me, and I also saw at the same time another man of the Mounted Infantry [Westwood] struggling in the river and he called out his comrade’s name; he was apparently drowning. The Zulus were at this time firing at our people from above us, others were down on the bank of the river stabbing others of our people on both sides of where I was. The man from the Mounted Infantry, who rode down in front of me, dismounted, left his horse on the Zulu side and sprang into the river to save his comrade. I consider this man performed a most gallant and courageous act, in trying to save his comrade at almost certain risk of his own life. I crossed the river myself about the same time and did not think it was possible that either of these two men could have escaped alive; indeed I spoke some days afterwards to Lieutenant Walsh of the Mounted Infantry, of circumstances which I had witnessed and spoke of it to him as evidence of my having seen two of his men lost at the Buffalo River.” How Barton came to learn of Mounted Infantrymen’s survival was a remarkable story in itself. A few days after Isandhlwana, while visiting the hospital at Helpmekaar, he described to a fellow officer the act of gallantry he had witnessed at Fugitive’s Drift, an account that was overheard by a soldier lying in a nearby bed - none other than Westwood, who was happy to identify his rescuer as Private Samuel Wassall. Barton’s subsequent submission, as cited above, in addition to a sworn statement made by Westwood before the District Magistrate at Pietermaritzburg in April 1879, resulted in the gallant Wassall being gazetted for the Victoria Cross, the only such distinction won by an Isandhlwana survivor. “For his gallant conduct in having, at the imminent risk of his own life, saved that of Private Westwood of the same regiment. On 22 January 1879, when the camp at Isandhlwana was taken by the enemy, Private Wassall retreated towards the Buffalo River, in which he saw a comrade struggling and apparently drowning. He rode to the bank, dismounted, leaving his horse on the Zulu side, rescued the man from the stream and again mounted his horse, dragging Private Westwood across the river under a heavy shower of bullets” (London Gazette 17 June 1879 refers). That October, an issue of the children’s magazine Aunt Judy included a story entitled Jackanapes, written by Juliana Horatia Ewing, an army officer’s wife, a tale said to have been inspired by real events in the Zulu War. Indeed the rescue of the character Tony by his friend Jackanapes, after he falls from his horse, is believed to be based on Westwood’s rescue by Wassall - “Leave you? To save my skin? No, Tony, not to save my soul!”; moreover, the same story inspired Rolf Harris” song Two Little Boys, which went to No. 1 in the charts 90 years after events at Fugitive’s Drift on the River Buffalo.
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PostSubject: Re: Escape from Isandlwana 22nd January 1879 – Samuel’s Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:36 pm

Funny old game life? Captain William Barton witness the event but wasn't prepair to help in anyway. Still if he hadn't witness the event I doub't Wassall would have got a VC.

Graves, thanks for information.
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