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 That was no Mance heliograph - how Lt. Haynes signalled to Ekowe

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PostSubject: That was no Mance heliograph - how Lt. Haynes signalled to Ekowe   Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:23 am

That was no Mance heliograph - how Lt. Haynes signalled to Ekowe by "heliographer"

The most popular depiction of the sun-mirror signaling to the besieged British troops in Ekowe in March 1879 shows signalling performed by a Mance heliograph - a round tripod-mounted mirror with  a diameter of roughly 5 inches, with a crosshairs aimer on a short arm from the head of a tripod.

That never happened.

The actual instrument used by Lieut. Haynes to signal to Ekowe consisted of three pieces:

  1. a 18"x14" bedroom mirror with a hole in the centre
  2. a crosswire aiming frame 10 yards in front of it
  3. a flag in a frame used as a shutter for creating the flashes beyond that.

 Those three pieces can be seen behind the telescope in this watercolor done on March 25, 1879 by Colonel Crealock of the device and Lord Chelmsford (far right) ([1] http://goo.gl/FZM8kJ )

Lieut Haynes described his device in detail in a Nov. 1879 letter to an Australian correspondent. This letter was not published until Nov. 1899, and is reproduced with his correspondents' cover letter below ([2] http://goo.gl/hWLwXS ).

Note that Haynes refers to his instrument as a "heliostat", not a "heliograph". British signal manuals described two types of sun-mirror telegraphs: heliographs (like Mance's) where the flashes were produced by rocking the mirror, and heliostats (like Hayne's) where the flashes were produced by interrupting the sunbeam.

The origin of the image showing signaling to Ekowe with Mance heliographs is  a fanciful engraving from the April 26, 1879 Illustrated London News:
< http://www.old-print.com/mas_assets/full2/P1740879/P1740879387T.jpg >
This  engraving saw wide republication, and and used for postcards to this day. Little wonder Haynes complained that: "the report that was current in the English newspapers was entirely unauthorised and erroneous"[2].

This initial error is somewhat understandable - most of the accounts I've seen that correctly mention that Haynes employed a bedroom mirror and crude construction were published after April 26. However, many such accounts had appeared by Sept. 1879, when the Illustrated London News persisted in stating that the Mance heliograph was employed "by Lord Chelmsford to flash messages to Colonel Pearson when shut up in Ekowe".[3]

In fact, by June the fact that Haynes had not used a heliograph, but rather improvised from a bedroom mirror had been widely reported. The report correctly stated:

"Thereupon it occurred to Lieutenant Charles Haynes, of the Royal Engineers, that by means of the heliograph the rays of the sun might be made to do duty. On suggesting this to Lord Chelmsford the general was far from sanguine, while his staff were more than incredulous. Nevertheless permission to try was given. The difficulties were formidable. In the first place no mirrors were obtainable, and a small bedroom looking-glass had to do duty. There were no mechanical workers at hand, and all the apparatus was of the roughest. " [4-6].

Other eyewitnesses testify that it was a bedroom mirror, not a heliograph, that was used to signal to Ekowe;

Bosun Henry William Eason, diary 16 March 1879: "We used a bedroom looking-glass"[7]

Fitzroy Hart-Synnot, letter to wife, 21 March 1879:

" But the most successful means of communication has been by flashing the sun upon Ekowe with a looking-glass. This has been so far perfected within the last few days, that now we hold conversation with Ekowe all day when the sun shines. We signal from a hilltop in about two miles in advance of this.

    From the hilltop Ekowe can be distinguished with a telescope, sixteen miles distant, in a straight line.

    It is done in this way. A frame with two wires crossing in the centre is set up, and behind it a looking-glass fixed upon a stand by a screw, as well as vertically upon its own hinges. Then a little hole is scraped in the mercury, at the centre of the looking-glass, and the stand is arranged so that on looking through the hole in the mercury, the cross-wires and Ekowe are in one line. Then the glass is moved, so that the sun is reflected on the cross-wires, and we are sure then that it is reflected on Ekowe. One man keeps altering the glass as the sun moves, so as to keep it reflected on the cross-wires; and another, by passing a screen across in front, makes long and short flashes, by which letters of the alphabet are made, as in the telegraph code."[8]

It is a nice image, though.

{ Mance heliographs were used quite a bit during the AZW, but not in this case.}


[Addendum (11/22/2015): I was remiss in not mentioning Lt. Colonel David Mulllineaux's comprehensive 12-page paper on the sun-flash signalling to and from Ekowe[9]. That 2004 paper may represent the first publication of the most detailed description of Haynes' apparatus - a sketch by Haynes himself in the very log book Haynes used to log the messages to and from Ekowe. I was moved to write my paper because [9] does not cite the detailed descriptions in [2],[7] and [8], which reinforce Mulllineaux's conclusion that the Illustrated London Times erred in crediting Mance's heliographs with the signaling to Ekowe from the Tugela.]

[1]  "Signalling to Ekowe by sun flashing" 25 March 1879 by Colonel Crealock
'THE ROAD TO ULUNDI' Zulu War Water-Colour Drawings of John North Crealock

[2] "Heliographic Communication"  Marlborough Express, Volume XXXIV, Issue 281, 30 November 1899, Page 3 <http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=MEX18991130.2.30>




Sir,— On looking over some old papers lately, I came across a letter written to me by Lieut. Haynes, of the Royal Engineers, dated at Pretoria, Transvaal, 9th November, 1879— over 20 years ago. As it deals with the matter of heliography, or sending messages by sun-flashing with a looking-glass, I thought it might be interesting to compare notes with operations going on at present. I see in the Express tonight that General Methuen, near Belmont, has established heliograph communication with Kimberley. The distance between these two places in a straight line is nearly 60 miles. I might state that in 1879 I was engaged in flashing signals, with a home-made heliograph, from one trig. station to another for various distances up to 50 miles. It was in 1879, also, that the British were beleaguered in Fort Etchowe, where they had been hemmed in for 8 weeks by the Zulus, when Lieut Haynes first attempted to establish communication by flashing signals from Fort Tenedos, on the north bank of the Tugela River, Fort Tenedos was about 25 miles due south of Etchowe, and I was curious to know what sort of apparatus they used. I therefore wrote a letter to Lieut. Haynes, but it was several months before I got a reply, as the letter was sent to England, where he had gone on leave of absence, and then sent back to the Transvaal, whither he had returned. On comparing notes with Lieut. Haynes, I came to the conclusion that my own method was somewhat superior to his, and if any of your readers are curious to see the apparatus used by the Survey Department, I shall be very happy to show them, as we have a set at present in the Survey Office, Blenheim.— I am etc.,
   C. W. Adams.
28th November, 1899.
              Pretoria, Transvaal,
              November 9th, 1879.
G. W. Adams, Esq.,
   Christchurch, New Zealand.
   Sir,— I received your letter by last mail and was much interested in the account of your heliostat. In answer to your question concerning sun flashing signals from Fort Tenedos to Fort Etchowe, I beg to point out that the report that was current in the English newspapers was entirely unauthorised and erroneous. In the first place an answering flash was received from Etchowe about three hours after first attempting to call them up— their signals were, however, unreliable for more than a fortnight. The apparatus used consisted of a rough heliostat, the reflected ray from which was continuously kept up on the Etchowe station during any sentence by one man, a second man made the flashes by means of a falling flag of canvas, by which the pencil of light could be out off and exposed at will. The duration of the short flashes was about one-third second, long flashes one eeoond, i.e., when the operators had become accustomed to the action ; of course at first the time was very slow, as the heliostat was very imperfect and no intelligible answer could be obtained from Etchowe. The chief difficulty in keeping up proper communication after the mechanical means were provided lay in the fact that our station lay first eight miles, then four miles, beyond Fort Tenedos into Zululand, so everything had to be carried out every morning also we were just in the end of an unusual rainy season. An escort of about twenty of John Dunn's Zulus were usually provided, who carried the gear. The glass was about 18in x 14in square, pivotted like your heliostat on its centre. The glass was carried separately and the stand taken to pieces and carried in a sack. When brought into action the bed-plate was screwed to a plank about ten feet long to keep it steady in the wind. A hollow canvas screen with cross wires was used about three yards to the front for directing the flash; when the centres of screen and glass had been adjusted in a true line with the Etchowe station the man in charge of the mirror never had to look beyond the screen. It was lashed by ropes to a rough frame of stakes. The canvas frame was found to be weak and unsteady and was afterwards replaced by a wooden one. The hole in the centre was similar to the shape of the mirror and was slightly smaller so that the edges of the reflection were always caught on the screen, and with a little care kept in a symmetrical portion with the crosswires. The falling flag was of a square form, and was used as a blind with a thin batten along both top and bottom ; the lower batten was lashed to another frame of stakes in such a position that when the other end is raised the whole pencil of light is intercepted. The rate of signalling thus depends solely on the skill of the flagman and the weight of the flag. By the application of this flag principle a heliostat can always be used for transmitting messages of any sort. The mirror was adjusted by a hole in the centre and was in correct position when the centre of this hole was in line with the distant station and the crosswires of the screen. The size of the glass compensated for its inferior quality. The glass at Etchowe was applied in a somewhat less effective way— a subsidiary glass was used when the sun was in an unfavourable position, and a good pencil of light obtained by a double reflection— but the principle of moving the mirror (as in the Mance's heliograph) to produce the flashes, was here presented with great disadvantage. On account of the cumbrous nature of the heliograph it was almost impossible to swing the glass without spoiling the adjustment and consequently the glass had to be adjusted at the end of a very short series of letters. The maladjustment of the glass was notified at the other station by a long flash which denoted "adjust and repeat." Communication was frequently interrupted by the smoke from grass fires. Signalling as a rule used to begin from 10 a.m. till 12 noon and end at 4 p.m. It was not until a detachment of troops were advanced to the Tenedos station that an earlier start m the morning could be effected. The stakes etc. which were left on the ground were never interfered with by the Zulus they probably never visited the place at night or they had a wholesome dread of sticks etc. after the effect of a torpedo that was applied with great success by an Etchowe road party to one of the poles placed to mark the road. The Zulus had been in the habit of removing these marks but they never tried to again. In the Mance heliograph the glass is adjusted by a sight hole in the centre and a small platinum plate which is placed about six inches in front of the glass the platinum plate has a black spot on it which is adjusted in the line of sight. In directing the ray the reflection of the sight hole shows black on the platinum plate and should be made to coincide with the black spot. The adjustments are all made with the greatest ease by adjusting screws. The flashes are made by pressing a small key at the back of the glass which throws the mirror through a small angle and diverts the flash ; a spring brings it back. The glass is adjusted so that when this key is down the flash is made. As this is a subject that I am rather interested in, I should be glad to receive a description of your new hellostat. Yours truly,
       C.E. Haynes, Lieut. R. E.
 Note.—The description is I am afraid rather crude, but all my notes etc. are with my heavy baggage a few hundred miles away and so I have to trust entirely to my memory.

[3] "The Mance Heliograph", The Illustrated London News, Sept. 6, 1879, p.218, Col 1, bottom.

[4]     "How Signals to Ekowe were Established." The Singleton Argus and Upper Hunter General Advocate (NSW : 1874 - 1880) 28 Jun 1879: 4. Web. 22 Nov 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78834231>.

   New Zealand Herald, Volume XVI, Issue 5508, 12 July 1879, Page 7

[6] "Signalling by Sunflashes." The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893) 28 Jun 1879: 14 Supplement: Second Sheet of the Maitland Mercury. Web. 22 Nov 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18928254>.

[7] https://books.google.com/books?id=M4moSQxpbL4C&pg=PA347&dq=Ekowe
   ( Diary of Signal Bosun Henry William Eason: H. W. Eason - served on the Shaw, Naval Brigade in AZW, Gingihlovo and relief of Ekowe.
[8]Letters of Major-General FitzRoy Hart-Synnot, London, Edward Arnold, 1912, p. 122
[9] Lt. Colonel David Mulllineaux (retired), Signalling in the Anglo-Zulu War,  1879, Part 2, The Journal of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society, Dec 2004, pp. 14-25

Last edited by heliographer on Mon Nov 23, 2015 1:25 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Add addendum citing the Mulllineaux reference)
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PostSubject: Re: That was no Mance heliograph - how Lt. Haynes signalled to Ekowe   Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:13 pm

Heliographer. Thanks for image.

I have seen it before, but never noticed the signalling set-up at back.
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PostSubject: Re: That was no Mance heliograph - how Lt. Haynes signalled to Ekowe   Sun Nov 22, 2015 11:57 pm

impi wrote:
I have seen it before, but never noticed the signalling set-up at back.

I must confess I had not noticed it either - it was drawn to my attention by this excellent 12-page article devoted entirely to the signalling (both ways) between the Tugela and Ekowe, which is the most comprehensive article I've seen on the topic:

Lt. Colonel David Mulllineaux (retired), Signalling in the Anglo-Zulu War,  1879, Part 2, The Journal of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society, part 2, Dec 2004, pp. 14-25

That article includes a rendering of the watercolor, and points out that Hayne's apparatus is visible.

Mulllineaux's article also reproduces the wonderfully detailed sketch of the setup that Haynes included in the St. Andrews Signalling Station Message book, together with a log of the messages sent to and received from Ekowe, which is held at the museum of the Royal Engineers. That's a document I'd like to see digitized and made available!

My understanding is that back issues of The Journal of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society can be viewed online if you join the Society for £30 per annum: http://www.anglozuluwar.com/join-the-society, though I have not done so myself.

While wonderfully thorough, Mulllineaux's article does not mention the fairly detailed descriptions I found in [2] and [8]. It occurs to me that I should cite this article in mine, for completeness - I'll do so if editing is still open to me.

Last edited by heliographer on Mon Nov 23, 2015 1:12 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Corrected "11 pages" to "12 pages")
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