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 The Mystery of Mansells sighting.

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:40 am

On the way back from Mangeni, late afternoon on the 22nd. Inspector Mansell saw smoke rising from the left front, high up, of the camp. A few tents were standing but no sign of musketry firing. One of his Sgnts reported: 'There go the guns sir!' "I could see the the smoke but could hear nothing. In a few seconds we distinctly saw the guns fired again, one after the other sharp. This was done several times. A pause then a flash-flash. The sun was shining on the camp at the time. and then the camp looked dark, just as if a shadow was passing over it. The guns did not fire after that, and in a few minutes all the tents had disappeared.
Mansell reports the timing of this at around 3 oclock.

Its a strange set of circumstances because of a few known facts.
1 The force didn't start to move back to camp till 4 oclock and this sighting would have been from closer to the camp so well after 4.
2 The fact that he, Mansell says he sent a man back to report to Dartnell shows that he was quite advanced of the column returning.
3 The guns had fired there last shots at least 2 hours before then.
4 At that time the guns were laying half in a donga/chasm the other side of the saddle, out of sight of the plain.
5 He seems to describe the eclipse, but again that occurred a couple of hours earlier.

To me this is probably the biggest single mystery of that day.

Any solutions?

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Ray63

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:58 pm

You don't half find them! Can Barry sheds some light on this?
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littlehand

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:07 pm

Springbok, where this from!
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:51 am

LH
Its Mansells statement in regards to the conversation itself, the timing is based on all the evidence itself that comes from the return to camp. Then there was Curlings account of the guns retreating, being abandoned and pointedly being in the same position when he returned to the battlefields.
Ive kicked this around for a while and really cant come up with a scenario that covers all the issues.
Possibly Mansell got the time wrong and he was there at 1 when the guns were firing. Doesn't work because all the tents were still standing, and he would have seen the guns.
The darkening of the battlefield, does that relate to the eclipse? Sets possibly another time frame.
There were no mounted men on the plain before, 3.30/4 oclock.
Could the Zulus have been experimenting with the guns? They were hanging over the chasm according to Curling.
If none of the above and we accept the timing, then what were the 'explosions/guns firing noises' ?
Ive tried to get really creative in looking for an explanation, any bloody explanation ! Would welcome any input.

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:52 am

I was hoping Barry could shed some light Ray.

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PostSubject: The return of the Dartnell patrol   Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:14 pm

Hi Springbok.
I reproduce below a transcript from Tpr Clarkes diary.  Timings are not clear but could be worked out. I think the darkening of the sky was the eclipse and this could be ascertained from the records.


January 22, 1879. Return to Isandlwana camp by the Dartnell Patrol.
Transcript from NMP Trooper Clarke’s diaries,  Vol 1, pages 25-29

January 22nd, 1879

Never in my whole life was I so thankful  for daylight as this morning.
At about 6am we met Lord Chelmsford who was with some guns,  Mounted Infantry and   Infantry  (2/24th) who were ordered to get between the enemy seen yesterday and Matinyana’s stronghold. We accomplished this without seeing any enemy and at about 11am had dismounted to blow the horse a bit, when firing commenced . We mounted and galloped to the scene, but found a few Zulus running up a high mountain and on them we opened fire.
The Carbineers who had been in advance of us,  were skirmishing along the top of that mountain  and drove the Zulus down to us  and into some caves,  where about 60 of them were killed. We offsaddled shortly afterwards but were not allowed much rest for news had just  arrived that the camp had been attacked and we were ordered to retire with the Infantry and some NNC to bivouac at the foot of the Isipisi mountain, where our next camp was to formed. After offsaddling Lord Chelmsford with some Volunteers,   set off for Isandlwana,  but before going Lord Chelmsford promised to send food out to us , and also to bring on the camp the next day. In less than half an hour after Chelmsford’s departure , Maj Gosset, ADC, galloped up and ordered the whole force to retire on  the camp immediately and I was heartily glad to hear that as there was some prospect of us getting some food tonight.
Shortly  after that, on our ride back to the camp, we caught up with the 4 guns of the  no 5  Battery, Royal Artillery, and then learned that the camp had been attacked by dense masses of the enemy. We immediately volunteered  to  gallop ahead with the guns and attack the enemy in the rear  and it is possible, had this scheme been carried out that, that we might have saved the camp, but the General  would not allow us to leave the Infantry who were very tired having marched 40 miles since 3am that morning  each  with  great coats and 70 rounds of ammunition, in their bandoliers.
Col Lonsdale, NNC, met us soon afterwards and reported that he had tried to enter the camp at Isandlwana but found it occupied by the enemy .  Having learned the worst, the General formed us up in the order of attack and stated that the camp had been captured by the enemy who had been present in overwhelming force , but that he relied on us to retake it at the point of the bayonet.
When we arrived within 2 miles of the camp it suddenly became dark, and I feared something dreadful would happen . The column then halted and the silence was awful.  We could hear the orders been given to load the guns of the RA and 4 RML rounds were fired into the camp in an attempt to scare the enemy away. At this time we were in half sections  on the left flank of the column  and the even numbers were dismounted  in order to repel any attack that might be made on us from that side.
Strict orders were given for us to remain silent but I had to make sure that my half section companion (Tpr Day) and I kept calling him in a low tone of voice  for fear that is event of an attack, that he would bolt with my horse.
The 24th then advanced into the camp with bayonets fixed  and after firing three volleys charged  the  nek and   seized the kopje on the left of it .
The NNC , hearing the 24th’s 3 volleys imagined that we were being attacked and commenced blazing away at an imaginary foe. Their bullets whistled over our heads but no one was hit. The darkness was so intense that I fell into several holes , in one of them being several dead bodies of the enemy. Finding myself among the dead bodies nearly drove me mad  and I would have given anything just then, to be back in Natal and out of this mess.
The bodies on the ground were so thick that we were constantly riding over them  and our ambulance wagon delayed  our progress because the horses were shying at the sight of the bodies and they had to be moved before progress could be made.
The gunners of the RA had to pull bodies out of the way as well so as to enable the advance of their equipment. At last, we reached the Nek and the order was given to keep the horses saddled and bridled all night and every man was to be on constant alert.
I was sent to mind a ring of horses and to my disgust found several bodies of the dead 24th within the ring. Biscuits were found during the night  but no one could eat, at such a time and tired as I was, I dared not go to sleep. I found a portion of a tent and lay down alongside the body of a 1/24th man  with 5 badges., but he was cut open (disemboweled) with an assegai, which was anything but a pleasant sight.
Shortly after midnight we had a false alarm through the NNC getting scared  by a white dog seen in the darkness  but fortunately no one was injured despite the firing away of many rounds at the terrified  animal . As  I had been on patrol without spurs  I made an attempt, on the battleground, to find where my tent had been  so as to recover my own, but met our Major whilst doing so, and was promptly ordered back to my place.  

…end of transcription


barry
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Thu Jul 10, 2014 4:16 pm

Hi Barry
Mansell distinctly mentions sending a messenger back to Dartnell. The inference then being he was ahead of the returning column. We do know from other sources that the bivvie mentioned by Trp Clark was next to the Mangeni and they were roused to return to the camp in the late afternoon.
Mansell does mention a time of 3 o clock but to all intents and purposes the battle was over by then and very definitely the guns weren't firing, or in a position to be fired so what else could Mansell have seen or heard that he could have mistaken for them? That's the key for me.
Thanks for posting these excerpts they really do bring issues to life.
Now time to get of your backside and get that book out mate.  Very Happy 

Cheers
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90th

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PostSubject: The Mystery of Mansells sighting    Thu Jul 10, 2014 4:39 pm

Hi Barry
Where Trpr Clark said it got dark , when they were two miles from the camp , was actually sunset , not the eclipse . When Chelmesford and his force got to the camp it was already nighttime , the Eclipse was around 3 pm from memory , I know it's on here somewhere the actual records from the day , stating the time of day it occurred at various places around the country .
Cheers 90th  Salute 
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Thu Jul 10, 2014 6:12 pm

Bonsoir Springbok,
I have asked thé same question to Ian Knight on this forum in Octobre 2013.
Do YOU have read his answer?
Cheers
Frédéric
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Thu Jul 10, 2014 6:35 pm

Frederic
No I don't recall it, I will try and locate it.

Regards
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Chard1879

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:07 pm

We know for certain an eclipse did take place on the 22nd Jan 1879.
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barry

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PostSubject: The eclipse   Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:22 pm

Hi 90th /Springbok,
I think too that Mansel, with a small party of his men,  was detached from the main column and engaged in some forward recon work. Thus, what he saw may have not been seen by the members of the main column ( Clarke was left flank guard in that main column). There was volleying going on however and that may account for the firing noises Mansel heard, in general.
The timeline is bothering me as I know that sunset is long and slow in Zululand at that  latitude one month after the summer solstices and would be at about 18h00 and half light continuing for another 15mins after that.
Now Clarke writes that , quote, "it suddenly got dark", which suggests the eclipse, at which time he was tripping over dead enemy bodies. Now considering the range of the MH, this must have been  within hundreds metres of the camp.,,,, at 15h00? If so, the question is begged why did it take them three  + hours to cover a relatively short distance and enter the camp.

regards

barry
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90th

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PostSubject: The Mystery Of Mansells sighting    Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:04 am

This will hopefully clear up the time of the Eclipse

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Cheers 90th
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barry

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PostSubject: The Eclipse   Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:11 am

Hi 90th,

Thanks for that very useful link on eclipse timings through time.

What comes out of that is that;

* the eclipse had a very short duration, measured only in minutes.
* the obscuration of the sun was partial.
* it occurred quite early in the afternoon, ie between 14h00 and 15h00.

So, considering these details, more questions are raised about timings, than answered.

regards

barry
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:53 am

In an analysis done by Keith Smith the following times were pinpointed: Eclipse began 13.10, Maximum Coverage 14.35 Ended 15.51
At its outset it wouldn't have been very noticeable and the same as it ended so we are probably looking at a time frame of 2 till 3. And that fits in with Mansells timing. The demolition of the tents also fits in, its the guns that don't. Essex puts the Guns retreat at around 1.30. Mansells sighting of the guns came as Chelmsford decided to return to the camp, Mansell was ordered forward to recce by Dartnell.
When around 6 miles from the camp they saw a light paul of smoke, likened to musketry smoke and a few tents still standing. At that point they saw, but didn't hear the guns firing, and that's pretty impossible. But he did see something, the question is what?

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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:49 pm

When around 6 miles from the camp they saw a light paul of smoke, likened to musketry smoke and a few tents still standing. At that point they saw, but didn't hear the guns firing, and that's pretty impossible. But he did see something, the question is what?

Cheers[/quote]

From Ian Knight / October 2013

What do you really think of Inspector Mansel's account that he heard the guns firing in the camp when he was on the way back from Mangeni in the afternoon.?

Mansel of course says that, after Chelmsford had ordered his command to return to iSandlwana, he was near the front with the Mounted Police when a sergeant directed his attention to the sound of the guns - and that he subsequently saw the flash of the guns ’several times’. He outs the time at around 3 p.m., although this was probably a ’guesstimate’ after the event, and David Jackson is right to point out that the context (Chelmsford’s return) puts it later. The mystery of course is that the guns at iSandlwana were over-run significantly before this.
I think there are a number of factors to consider. For one thing, the acoustics at iSandlwana are odd in that sound tends to reverberate around the hills and echo back from different directions. Brickhill draws attention to this on the day, and mentions a discussion between himself and some Carbineers as to the origin of gunfire they could hear in the morning - it was probably Chelmsford skirmishing at Mangeni, but it appeared to come from so different a direction that Brickhill’s group wondered if it could be Wood’s column in action. I’ve certainly noticed myself at various iSandlwana re-enactments, when the sound of volleys bounces back, sometimes after a noticeable delay, from somewhere else entirely. It’s not been properly investigated, but it is also possible there might be acoustic shadows in the countryside between iSandlwana and Mangeni, which might distort the passage of sound over that distance, and could even have prevented Chelmsford hearing much of the battle. The wind direction, too, would be a factor. None of which really explains the flashes seen by Mansel, however, nor the apparent regularity of the shots. One possibility is that his memory of the timing was at fault - that he heard the shots at some other point of the day, and that either consciously or unconsciously he transposed them to the return to the camp. That may sound implausible but memory does often play odd tricks, especially after a traumatic event - people often remember incidents in the wrong sequence. However, given that his account is quite precise, I think it is more likely that he and his men simply saw something else, and mistook it for cannon-fire - perhaps confused by echoes, perhaps not. The most likely thing to my mind is that they were witnessing munitions exploding in the camp - we know that the Zulus set fire to some of the tents after the battle, and indeed Mansel himself mentions this in the context of his story. We also know that the Zulus broke up much of what they found in the camp - it’s possible, I think, that somewhere in all that destruction some munitions exploded. Neither the two guns of N/5 Battery over-run in the battle, nor certainly the Rocket Battery, fired off all their ammunition during the fighting, and there were in any case reserves in the Artillery camp. Were some shells or rockets - or even perhaps boxes of rifle rounds - ignited either by the burning tents or by Zulu interference? The repeated flashes might have been a stockpile of munitions exploding, and the apparent repetition a trick of the echo. Ultimately, though, we are never likely to know, and any suggestion remains speculative!

Hope that help
Cheers
Frédéric
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barry

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Fri Jul 11, 2014 4:26 pm

Hi Ymob,

Thanks for posting that.
I thoroughly concur with the suggestion that whatever was heard  by Insp Mansel  could be a distorting in direction and sound amplitude, all created by deflection and reverberation within the surrounding rolling hills. I have had experience of this same "echo" phenomenon in recent years and can relate to what has been said on the matter. Certainly any  MH volley firing, even a small one, could  be confused with the firing of the 7 RML  The clouds of smoke would not be out of place either.

I have been further checking on the eclipse data that day and the computer animations'  11h15 start,
to 13h45  finish, with a period of only minutes  of total darkness in the middle of that timespan and found that the times quoted were UT, thus putting the local eclipse time at  13h15 - 15h45 , on 22/01/1879. This settles some of my query and ties in somewhat with  others have already written on the matter.

regards,

barry


Last edited by barry on Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: The Mystery of Mansells sighting.   Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:47 pm

What we need to remember Is that Mansell specifically says they could not hear the guns, it was a visual thing.

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