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 A Private Letter From An Officer Of HMS Boadicea

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Petty Officer Tom

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PostSubject: A Private Letter From An Officer Of HMS Boadicea   Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:51 pm

An extract from an officer’s letter describing the doings of the Naval Brigade on its way to the relief of Ekowe:

“Although numbers of our poor fellows have fallen victims to the climate, or rather to the fever and dysentery it creates, I have reason to be thankful that my health has been excellent.  The very first night we landed we were thoroughly drenched through, having the few things we brought with us entirely spoilt.  Next day we started to march to the Lower Tugela, forty miles, and overtook the 91st Highlanders.  Capital fellows, they are, especially the major commanding the regiment, who is a most charming, genial man.  Our march occupied five days, the weather being fiercely hot, although for two days we had rain, which greatly impeded the progress of the oxen and wagon.  We had but little to eat or drink on the march except biscuit and dirty water.  When we arrived at Ginghlovo, and I was just thinking of having a meal in the shape of some tough ham, looking forward to a pipe afterwards, down came terrific rain, with thunder and lightning, which lively state of things continued far into the night.  I clambered to the top of an ammunition wagon with my great-coat and water-proof sheet to try and get some sleep.  I soon found myself in a pool of water, so, jumping up, I wandered about the laager, every one else doing the same, wretchedly cold and shivering.  At four a.m. we manned the trenches, and set cooks outside the laager to light fires and boil the tea; the rain having ceased, I once more mounted to the top of an ammunition cart, and was just beginning a most welcome slumber when the alarm sounded, and, looking up, I saw as pretty a sight as could well be presented to the view.  It was clear, beautiful morning, just daylight; and we could see immense numbers of Zulus sweeping down the slopes of the opposite hill and running along at their usual swift pace, and in their peculiar form of attack.  In less time that it takes to write, myself with sixty of our men commenced the battle at the corner of the laager, with the Gatlings at 800 yards.  In a few moments the firing was tremulous.  There were over 6,000 of us and 2,000 of our native allies, all blazing away.  The Zulus, as a rule, fire high, and I could hear their bullets whistling over head, but, thank God, I had no closer intimacy with them . . . . We gave the Zulus a frightful thrashing, as indeed we could hardly have done otherwise, considering our numbers, our arms, and above all our entrenchments.  The Zulus are brave and splendidly made athletic people, tremendously fast runners; indeed, they go more like wild deer than men.  One poor young Zulu fellow was wounded in the leg very badly about twenty yards from the spot where I was stationed, and was brought in to us.  He was a mere boy, about 16 or 17, armed with a Martini rifle, and the usual assegai and shield.  After the battle we sallied forth to relieve Ekowe.  This accomplished, most of the troops have been left encamped in a fort about twenty miles on this side of Ekowe.  I was sent down last week with the 99th to garrison this fort (Tenedos) with 150 blue jackets, and in command, pro tem., on this side of the river.”
 
(Source:  The Western Morning News, May 31, 1879)

Tom
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