I discovered the following story about this soldier and his family on the Flickr website.
First thing to say is that it took a bit of detective work to identify the soldier as 2219 Pioneer Sergeant John Morgan of the 2/24th. You will see from the narrative family history that follows that the soldier is never named. But the marriage details were enough to track down the husband and the service papers helpfully posted by Graves confirm we have the right man. For interest I have attached a number of documents that corroborate the details in the narrative.
The next thing to say, for those eagle eyed amongst you, is that the photograph shows John Morgan in his later ASC uniform.
Finally, I turn to some interesting statements in the narrative about John’s time with the 2/24th. Note his medal is still in the family, as is an assegai he brought back (love the name they have given it “the one that missed”).
But the story about him and a small group of men going forward into Zululand, ahead of the central column, to level some ground for tents. - then going missing, believed dead, is intriguing. Has anyone come across anything like that? Could it be something to do with the companies under Major Dunbar 2/24th clearing bush to protect the work parties on the road (page 228 of Zulu Rising). Or is it just a bit of confused story telling about Chelmsford later leaving the camp?
Note that the copyright for the photograph remains with the poster on Flickr, but it has been there for 7 years and had over 3000 views (how have we missed it?).
“The fellow in the uniform is my great grandfather. He was born in Castlewellan (County Down) Ireland in 1849. Military records describe him as a "labourer" in 1869 when he enlisted in the British Army in Preston, Lancashire at the age of 19. Preston is across the Irish Sea, some 150 miles east of Castlewellan. In the Ireland of those days, emigration and the army were among the few viable alternatives to poverty and hunger.
In December 1870, the young soldier set sail for India, and arrived in Secunderabad with a case of pneumonia.
In 1873, he was transfered back to Britain, and spent the next five years posted in Netley, Brecon, Warley, Aldershot, Dover, and Chatham. In 1876, he graduated from the School of Military Engineering in Chatham.
On January 4, 1978 he married the 18-year old Rose Eccles at the Parish Church in Newry, Ireland. She is depicted in the photo above c.1894.
The soldier rapidly attained the rank of Pioneer Sergeant. Six months after his wedding, he was shipped off to southern Africa to participate in the invasion of Zululand.
The debacle at Islandlwana shocked the British Empire, for such a loss to a spear-carrying indigenous population was without precedent in the 19th century. The two girls in the photo informed me years later that the Pioneer Sergeant missed the slaughter because he and three colleagues had been sent a day ahead of the invading army, deep into the heart of Zululand, in order to build tent platforms for the upper-class officer corps. The wily Zulus decided to let these four little fish pass, and wait patiently for the big one, which they then decisively dispatched. Meanwhile the four “engineers” were lost behind enemy lines for three weeks. Rose was informed, erroneously, that her husband had been killed.
The soldier's South Africa Medal is in our possession, as is an assegai (a Zulu spear). We refer to the assegai as the one that missed… And it’s a good thing too, otherwise this Flickr story would have ended abruptly in 1879.
In 1880, the Pioneer Sergeant was transferred to Gibralta. Eight months later, he was sent back to Secunderabad, this time with the wife in tow. Four years later he was transferred to Madras where the little boy in the photo (my grandfather) was born in 1885.
The Pioneer Sergeant was discharged from the Army in August 1887. Of his remaining life we know little, except that the youngest child in the photo (Alice) was born in Devonport in 1890. UK census records indicate that the retired soldier signed on with the Army Service Corps, and that in April 1891 the family was residing in Ford Staddon just east of Plymouth. They accounted for five of the fort's eight residents. The census refers to the soldier's position as Barrack Sergeant.
The Pioneer Sergeant passed away at the age of 47, shortly after this photo was taken.”
[i]On August 13, 1895, Rose and the children arrived in New York aboard the SS Berlin, then caught a train to Lawrence, Massachusetts where they took up residence with two of her brothers near the Arlington Mills. The three children worked in the textile mill.