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 Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February

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cam simpson



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PostSubject: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Sat Sep 26, 2015 7:03 am

For those that haven't seen it, the following report is Lieutenant Walter Higginson's original report of 17th February and differs in places to his report of the 18th (WO33/34). This copy was found in the Government House Records of the Cape Archives Repository (GH36-18).


Copy

The Officer Commanding
The forces in South Africa

Rorkes’ Drift
Feb’ 17 / 79


Sir,

I have the honor to hand you the particulars of the Battle of Isandhlwana as I saw it on the 22nd Jan 1879.
The first internation that we received about the Zulus was at 6.am., when Lieut Hon Standish Vereker came into Camp, and said that the Zulus were appearing on the extreme left & nearly opposite his outlaying picket. At the same time an Officer of the 24th Regt rode down to my tent and ordered Capt Krohn to fall in his Company (No6) for outlying picket, to relieve Capt Lonsdale (No9) 1st Battalion, who had been on duty 36 hours. Just as we were going, orders came to stay in camp, as the Zulus were seen on extreme left of the Camp. Soon afterwards Lieut Ardendorff of my Company (No6) was ordered to ride out to the outlying picket on the left, formed by the 2nd Batt, 3rd Regt N.N.C, and bring in a report of what he saw, he returned in about half an our & made his report. Soon afterwards Col Pulleine sent me out & Serjeant Major Williams came with me. We found Capt Barry & Lieut Vereker watching a large force of about 5,000 had gone on around behind the Isandhlwana hill. I remained about three quarters of an hour & then returned to Camp. I found that Col Durnford had arrived and on my going to Col Pulleine to report he refered me to him. Col Durnford then ordered me to send men to the top of the Isandhlwana to keep a look out. In about an hour one came down and reported the Zulus retreating. I then rode up to Col Durnford & told him; he said “Ah! Is that so; well – we will follow them up. He then turned to Colonel Pulleine and said, “Can you spare this Officer?” He said “Yes, certainly”. He then turned to me & said “Lieut Higginson, ride out at once to the mounted Contingent & Carbineers, and tell Capt Shepstone to work round to the right of the Koppia that is on the extreme left, & then we will follow them up”. I did so, and on the way out Sergt Major Williams came up to me and asked permission to come with me. When we got over the hill I found Capt Barry with half of the outlying picket advanced about 2 miles into the plain, and about ½ a mile in rear of the Carbineers & Mounted Contingent. As I came up to him the first shots were fired by the Mounted Contingent at what they thought to be a small body of Zulus, but just as they were getting into Skirmishing Order, about 1,000 men came around the hill and engaged them; they slowly fell back, and as they came up to Capt Barry I left Sergeant Major Williams with him and turned about to ride into Camp to make my Report. I was going along pretty fast, and soon overtook two Officers riding into Camp. One of them was Capt Shepstone; he asked me where I was going and when I told him he said “Oh! I will make a Report to Col Pulleine, as I am going in, will you please ride back and tell my men not to be outflanked”. Before I could say a word he was gone: So I turned round and rode back, but, as I came up I found that they were outflanked, so I ordered them to retire on the Camp. When I got into Camp I found three Companies of the 24th Regt marching out to take up a position on the left, and as I came amongst the tents I met two more Companies and two guns coming out. I made my Report to Col Pulleine, and returned to my Company. The guns were then first getting into action; the first four shells were thrown over the hill on the left o check the Zulus, who were coming over; as it had no effect the others were fired point blank at them, while the 24th men opened fire at about 800 yards. My Company were extended along the front of our line of tents. As the Zulus came over the hill in front, the mounted Contingent & Carbineers came round the side, bringing in Capt Barry, and the outlying picket. The Zulus rapidly extended along the whole of the front of the Camp, and soon the Battle was general. They came on in Columns of Skirmishers, and when the front rank was shot down the rear rank filled their places. They very soon came to close quarters, and the bullets came dropping amongst my men; they stood it very well for a short time, till at last one man had a bullet through his shield. He jumped up and tried to run away, and it was with the greatest difficulty we could get the others to stand. Up to the present time no attempt has been made to strike the Camp. In fact there were no men to do it except the natives, as Col Pulleine had ordered all men out of the Camp who could carry arms. Shortly after this a Carbineer rode into Camp and said Col Durnford was shot; and at the same time two 24th men and one Sergt of Capt Lonsdales Company came in for ammunition. They took two boxes out with them, but that was soon fired away for very soon afterwards the soldiers began to fall back on the centre. Some Zulus by this time had forced their way on the right of the Camp, and getting amongst our men commenced assegaing them. The 24th men then made a sudden retreat on the Camp, but the Zulus ran past them, and cut them off. Capt Krohn, Lieut Ardendorff and myself had been firing for some time on the right of the Companies tents, and when we saw the soldiers retreating we went for our horses, which we had fastened close to us to be ready for anything. I put my arm through the reins of my horse and fired one or two shots more; and as, by this time, we were quite surrounded, I mounted my horse and made a dash for it; I managed to get through with Lieut Cochrane 32nd Regt, & we both rode for the river about four miles from us. How the horses managed to get along is more than I can tell; we rode over ground covered with rocks and stones, and then over a cliff something like this: (DIAGRAME PENCILLED IN) and then up the other side it was the same; Many horses threw their riders coming down to the river, and many, as well as myself were thrown in it. Lieutenants Melville & Coghill were with me as I just put my horse in the river, and poor Melville was also thrown, he held on tightly to the Queens Colours which he had taken from the Battle field when all was over, and as he came down towards me he called out to me to catch hold of the pole; I did so, and the force with which the current was running dragged me off the rock, but fortunately into still water. Coghill, who had got his horse over all right, came riding down the bank to help Melville. As he put his horse in close to us, the Zulus, who were about 25 yards from us on the other bank, commenced firing at us in the water. Almost the first shot killed Coghill’s horse, and on his getting clear of him we started for the bank; we managed to get out all right, and when we had got about 100 yards up the bank two Zulus came after us; when they were within 30 yards Melville & Coghill fired and killed them both. I was without arms of any kind having lost my rifle and ammunition in the river, and I had no revolver. When we had gone a few yards further, Melville said he could go no further, and Coghill said the same (I don’t think they imagined at this time there was anyone following us). When they stopped I pushed on, and on reaching the top of the hill I found four Basutos with whom I escaped by holding on to the horses tail. I never saw either of those ill fated Officers again until we went down to bury them four days afterwards, and the same day we found the Color where Melville and I had dropped it. I got into Helpmakaar as soon as possible. As I got there early in the morning I at once proceeded to Rorke’s Drift, and reported myself to Comd’t Lonsdale.
The above account is, as far as I saw, a correct one of the Battle of Isandhlwana.


I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obed’t Servant
(Signed) Walter Higginson – Lieut:
1/3 Regt N.N.C.
___________________________________________________

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Sat Sep 26, 2015 12:14 pm

Thanks Cam, that's very interesting. There are quite a few differences, for example there is no sketch diagram, or any reference to it, in the account written on the 18th held at Kew. It makes you wonder how many other accounts have an earlier version that may have said something rather different.

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 1:46 pm

It seems that Higginson was wrong about the death of Durnford...
Durnford certainly lost his life later.
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 2:52 pm

Hi Frederic
I don't thing Higginson reported Durnfords death just that he had been shot.

Steve
Coming back to my comments on the firing line topic, Higginson also says 'some Zulus had forced their way on the right of the camp.' At last we have two statements that support each other. This also puts a time stop on both statements.

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:12 pm

He does seem to be reporting the same sequence of events as Davies in terms of some zulus from the left horn entering the right of the camp, and that after he mentions being told Durnford was shot. Could he actually see the right side of the camp? And does this mean that Durnford was shot while returning to his men through the gap?

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:51 pm

Frank,
Thank you: the accuracy is indeed important! ("Durnford was "shot" and not dead).
It does not exist in French language a verb for "shot"...
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:12 pm

Ah. The answer is Franglais!

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:09 pm

Frankglais?
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:17 pm

Steve/Frederic
ive got to the point rather than just reading documents Im looking at every word, hence finding these common points. Enough points are linked we get a line of thought and reasoning. Probably pedantic I know but we have to use what we have.
Linking Davies with Higginson is useful to start/confirm the sequence of events. Issues such as the belief that because the Umbonambi was credited with being first into the tents conjures up that erroneous image of a 1000 warriors arriving at the same time.

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:26 pm

I see that the Laurel and Hardy duo is back among us ... good news Very Happy Salute
Amitiés à tous les deux.
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:53 pm

All together now! "In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia - on the trail of the lonesome pine".

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:10 pm

amazing: none of them has any South African accent... Very Happy  Very Happy
One of them sings off, I would not say who... Not getting involved
Do you know that they assured themselves dubbing in French films released in France. This is one of the reasons why they were so popular in France: their accent was "so British" for the French!
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:10 am

Frank is on the left. Another hard day at Isandhlwana.

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

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:37 am

Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
The Foreign Legion...
I don't see your bag Steve...
I suspect that the bag of Oliver contains some Chardonnay bottles...
I understand now why we lost the battle of Camerone against an army of "peones"....

Steve and Frank, specially for you (refrain of the official march of the Foreign Legion):
"Tiens, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin
Pour les Alsaciens, les Suisses et les Lorrains,
Pour les Belges, y en a plus, pour les Belges, y en a plus,
Ce sont des tireurs au cul. »

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:41 am

Why are they singing about puddings?

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:44 am

Nothing at all wrong with a bag of Chardonnay and a cool place to sit overlooking the battlefields. Very Happy Very Happy Allthough Gary prefers a case of bear and feet up on the Lodge balcony.
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:45 am

Small text explanation to understand the words of the chorus of the march of the Foreign Legion. First, the sausage: for the fans, it's not here deli but the tent or the package that the legionnaires put shoulder whose shape reminded the pudding.

Regarding the Alsatians, Swiss and Lorraine, this is an allusion to a ministerial decision of March 6, 1871, recalled by a circular of November 27, 1873, which suspended generally voluntary commitments and foreign specified the Alsatians, the Lorraine and the Swiss could only obtain authorizations.

And the Belgians? According to the accepted version in 1870, when the Franco-Prussian war broke out, France decided that the Foreign Legion must participate. The Belgian King Leopold II, formally request that the nationals of his country legionnaires are not involved in this conflict because of the neutrality of Belgium. The French Government agreed to this request and departing legionnaires sing to their unfortunate Belgian comrades forced to leave the ranks of those words somewhat derogatory.

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:52 am

Apart course French, Belgians, even those Dutch-speaking, were the most numerous among foreigners in the Foreign Legion to be familiar with the French language. Thus many of them found themselves assigned to administrative duties, considered by others as sinecures. From there, the hint, bluntly, that the Belgians "are shooters in the ass" (IE: it is a contemptuous rudeness which means that these are not real soldiers)
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:40 am

Does anyone know anything about Sergeant Major Williams; his full name etc. Is he Sergeant F. Williams 1/3NNC as many Sergeant's in the Colonial sphere were referred to a Sergeant Majors when in fact they were Sergeants.


Cam.
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:54 am

Hi Cam
It would make sense for him to have been 1/3 NNC. According to Higginson it was Williams that approached him to accompany him on the ride up onto the plateau, would a Sgnt do that to an officer from another battalion?

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Wed Sep 30, 2015 2:26 pm

Agreed has to be 1/3

The reason I'm questing William's being a Sergeant Major is Harford records the Sergeant Major of the 1/3 NNC as being C.V. Fisher from King William's Town who was most likely out with Hamilton Browne and the rest of the Battalion.

Interestingly in the Cape Mercury when they published the 3NNC Roll features no NCO Rank above Sergeant and Fisher is being a Sergeant.

Up for the Archives on Friday?

Cam.
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PostSubject: Lt Walter Higginson's report 17th feb    Wed Sep 30, 2015 3:20 pm

Hi Cam
In Terry Sole's book ' For God , Queen & Colony ' Sgt C.Fisher is listed as serving with the 3rd Regt You need to study mo . Does that help ?
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Wed Sep 30, 2015 3:27 pm

Cam try looking at the Mercury middle of May, could be 16th. Higginson had some correspondence around then, part of it was about Youngs so called escape. Might just be something there.
Cant do Friday but will try for next week.

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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Wed Sep 30, 2015 4:35 pm

Cheers 90th…confirms he's in the 3rd NNC then. Frank, will have a look at the Mercury, no problems about the archives of Friday, I'll be in their late morning.

A late development today was accidentally discovering that Peter Judge 'B' Coy, 2/24th joined the Cape Infantry Regiment in 1882 and in June, 1887 had a failed attempt to join the Cape Police in Kimberley (He presented discharges from both the 2/24th and CIR). It looks like he hung around in Kimberley and their'd a possible file in the Archives on him in 1905 requesting leave and being late Kimberley Regiment…..just brilliant isn't it; these guys just keep popping up.

For those that don't know the CIR was raised in 1882 to garrison the Transkei and was manned by Imperial Reservists and Officered by colonials. It was disbanded a few years later. The Colonial Government paid for it but had recruiters in London; they even brought out families. Looking at the discharge book there are more Afghanistan veterans serving that holders of the SAGS. Maybe the SA Vets knew what garrisoning the Transkei was going to be like.


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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:34 pm

According to Chelsea Hospital records 2437 Pte. Peter Judge was discharged from 2/24th on 12 May 1882 to join the Volunteer Cape Inf. On the same day 729 Charles Cleaver 24th did the same thing. They were followed on 26 May 1882 by 700 William Shewring 24th and 195 Walter Hedges 24th. None of the others were at Rorke's Drift. Interestingly, Norman Holme in The Noble 24th has Judge returning to England from India on 29/1/1883 - can't be right can it?

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:13 am

Hi Steve, yes noticed the return from India date and agree that it cannot right. The Chelsea records are quite clear about him and others transferring to the CIR and his previous service confirmed in the Cape Police records in 1887.

Cam.
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Sat Oct 03, 2015 2:16 pm

Getting back to C.V. Fisher, Harford's Sergeant Major, 1/3NNC there was a C.V. Fischer who served as a Corporal with Bettington's Horse and probably fits the bill as being the same man.

I also found the following other Fischers:

1. C.V. Fischer, Private, Samson's Horse, Ninth Frontier War 1878.
2. Charles V. Fischer, Jansenville Yeomanry, Ninth Frontier War 1878.
3. C.V. Fischer, Transport Conductor, Commissariat Department, Gun War 1881.
4. C. Fischer, Frankfurt, King William's Town Voters Roll 1872.
5. Charles Fischer, Captain, German Volunteers, Ninth Frontier War 1878.

There are a number of applications with the Cape Government in the 1880's so hopefully we'll find a reference to the 1/3NNC.

Cam.
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PostSubject: Re: Lieutenant Walter Higginson's report of 17th February   Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:49 am

Sergt.-Maj. J. Williams 1/3rd NNC
His account is quoted in a letter from Lieut. H. Hillier 2/3rd N.N.C. to his father printed in the
Telegraph and Eastern Province Standard, 28th February 1879.
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