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The missing five hours.

 

 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.

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SRB1965

SRB1965

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'What if' Rorkes Drift question. Empty
PostSubject: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptySun Nov 05, 2017 5:06 pm

Hi

A hypothetical question - What do people think, would have happened if the garrison of Rorke's Drift had say four or five hours notice of the impending Zulu attack occurring?

Would Spalding have reinforced RD with the companies from Helpmakker or would the garrison have fell back to Helpmakker and left the stores undefended?

Cheers

Sime

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90th

90th

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PostSubject: '' What If '' RD Question    'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Nov 06, 2017 12:12 am

Hi Sime
Hard to say , they were ordered , I think by Gardner ( Pencil Note ) to hold the position at all costs ? , even then , flight was on their mind at their earliest stage of preparedness , they did stay because they were aware they couldn't out run the zulus . But with 4 or 5 hrs notice , who knows.... they may well have ' Legged It ' ! .
90th Very Happy
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SRB1965

SRB1965

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'What if' Rorkes Drift question. Empty
PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyTue Nov 07, 2017 4:54 pm

Hi,

You have to wonder, was Gardner's order a realistic one, he had just seen the Zulus overwhelm six companies of 24th (+ supporting elements), did not know the strength of the Zulus adavancing on Rorkes Drift (true he did not know the two companies from Helpmakker had not arrived) and he had no idea that the garrison would improvise defences.

I think, if his order had any influence on the garrisons decision to hold and things had gone badly, he would have had to do some soul searching.....
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SRB1965

SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyTue Nov 07, 2017 6:59 pm

SRB1965 wrote:
Hi,

You have to wonder, was Gardner's order a realistic one, he had just seen the Zulus overwhelm six companies of 24th (+ supporting elements), did not know the strength of the Zulus adavancing on Rorkes Drift (true he did not know the two companies from Helpmakker had not arrived) and he had no idea that the garrison would improvise defences.

I think, if his order had any influence on the garrisons decision to hold and things had gone badly, he would have had to do some soul searching.....

Plus, if you think about it - the Officer in charge of RD (as far as Gardner was aware), was Brevet Major Spalding - I do not know much about a Staff Officer's role but could they give orders not from their commander (ie in this case Col Glyn) to an officer superior to themselves?

Hope this last bit isn't too confussing......

Sime
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N.B.Forrest

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptySun Feb 11, 2018 6:15 pm

Do we know what sort of person he was in military terms? Was he the sort to stay put and 'tough it out' or would he have been more cautious and fallen back on Helpmekaar as the best option? Did he have previous military experience that would at least give us a clue?

Given in this scenario that he had a few hours’ notice of what was on its way to him and assuming he also knew about the fate of the main column, it seems likely to me that he may have seen fit to err on the side of caution and evacuate RK as best he could. However, if he had a direct order to hold his position, then I'd like to think that he would have done so.


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90th

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PostSubject: What If RD question    'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 5:09 am

Hi NB Forrest
They could not have evacuated the post even if they wanted to , they had 30 or so sick people in the hospital , they didn't have long before they were attacked , an hour ? ( happy to be corrected ) they would've been cut down on the road to Helpmekaar , it's a steep climb with wagons laden with sick individuals , they would've been easy pickings for the zulu when caught on the open road .
90th
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90th

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PostSubject: What If RD question    'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 5:12 am

also forgot to mention , it was either Cochrane or Gardner ..who did indeed pencil a note to the commanding officer at RD , stating they were to hold their ground .
90th Salute
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SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 7:23 am

Hi 90th

It was a hypothetical question about what if the garrison had 4/5 hours to 'do one'. There is no wrong or right answer, I was just making small talk......

Can anyone tell me what the remit of a Staff Officer was? - Could they issue orders to superior officers (potentially B Maj Spadling) on their own behalf or did they only have the 'authority' to forward their superiors orders?

I am interested in could Gardner issue an order to the garrison to defend the place.

Cheers

Sime
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90th

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PostSubject: What If RD question    'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 8:23 am

Hi Sime
I was replying to the question asked by N.B. Forrest , actually not to your post Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy , to answer your question about staff officers issuing orders to superior ranked officers , I suppose they could in certain circumstances , seems they did ! lollll .
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SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 8:38 am

I will get to bottom of the Staff Officers role......and was Gardner exceeding his authority (as he shot of towards Dundee or where-ever).....if it kills me......

Ta

Sime

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N.B.Forrest

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 9:04 am

Thanks for the reply 90th, in actual fact my question was continuing the 'What if' scenario of extra time being available before the onset of attack. Yes, I was aware of the sick in the hospital and the nature of the track back to Helpmekaar. Just wondered what sort of experience Spalding had which may (or may not) have coloured his decision to either chance an evacuation or stay put!

I will be intrigued to hear what you discover about the military validity or otherwise of the Cochrane/Gardner note.

Thanks again
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SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyMon Feb 12, 2018 9:11 am

I may put the Gardner question as a separate thread, the fact there are two questions here - a hypothetical discussion one (with no 'answer') and one that there must be an answer to (and someone on the forum will have it) is perhaps confusing.

Cheers

Simon
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KJH



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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 17, 2018 8:53 am

Hi all am new to the group and after reading the reply’s I would say 5 hour head start not a chance, it would have taken a good hour to get the wagons hitched up 10 to 16 oxen need to pull the wagon depending on the weight, then getting all the injured/loaded plus provisions is maybe another hour, we now have 3 hours left. I have driven that dirt road from Rorkes Drift to Helpmakaar and I think it’s about 10 km to the camp, just to get to the bottom of the Biggersberg mountain range would take them a further 2 hours if the road is in good condition. Don’t forget the Buffalo river in flood, so there must have been plenty of rain in the area. So roads could be in a bad state. Sorry guys it’s definitely 3 hours. Time up and we haven’t even started the accent of the Biggerberg range with the wagons yet, I drove up that track with a 4x4 and only just made it up on to the Top of the escarpment., this took me about 30 minutes. You than have a further plus minus 2 km to the post of Helpmakaar. I think you would have needed minimum of 8 hours so my advice stay and fight. Am actually going to the natal battlefields tomorrow’s for 5 days, attending the Talana festival in Dundee over the weekend but will be visiting Isandlawana, Rorkes Drift so I Weill drive that Helpmakaar road and pace it out. Also hoping to visit Ladysmith and Spion Kop.

Thank you so much for letting me join the group
Cheers
KJH
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SRB1965

SRB1965

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'What if' Rorkes Drift question. Empty
PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 17, 2018 4:29 pm

Hi

Welcome and thanks for the insight, I picked on 4 or 5 hours just of the top of my head.

So given your times and the conditions you describe - the garrison would have to have began evacuating before the attack on the camp had began in earnest.

What about the second part of my question - could Spalding have sent for or gone for the two companies of the 24th and reinforced the camp given the advanced warning of the attack.

This is of course assuming he hadn't left RD when he did.....

Ta

Sime

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 18, 2018 7:24 am

Sime.
The 5 hour time frame is a tad off. Try 90minutes or so. And that's no where near enough time to get a message to Helpmakaar and get troops back to RD.
Chard had no options other than to stay, and that's what Wolsleys point was.

Cheers
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SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 18, 2018 4:13 pm

Hi Frank,

Please see the opening post......

Cheers

Sime....... Rolling Eyes
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 18, 2018 4:19 pm

Sorry Sime, didn't go back that far. Salute
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SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyFri Oct 19, 2018 5:40 am

Frank Allewell wrote:
Sorry Sime, didn't go back that far. Salute

No worries mate..... Wink
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Herbie



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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 2:00 pm

Interesting question Sime. If the other event times are unchanged and the Zulu attack on RD still took place at about 5.30, a 5 hour warning would have been received about 12.30 at which time the battle at Isandlwana had only really just got started (although the Rocket Battery had already been lost). I guess if a message had been sent immediately at say 12.00 just after the Impi was discovered, it could just about have reached RD by 12.30 or a little later with a fast rider?

If that was the case Maj Spalding would still have been at RD and would have been the man to decide whether to evacuate or stay. My view is that they would still have stayed given the responsibility of defending the stores and as they would not have evacuated until it was known that the battle at Isandlwana was lost.

If Spalding remained it would probably mean a VC for him and maybe not for Chard. No reason why Bromhead (as OC of B Coy notwithstanding his other heroics) wouldn't still have earned his VC though.

Presumably the message to hurry up the troops from Helpmekaar would still have been sent, carried by one of the other officers. Chard and Dunn definitely had horses, not sure about the others. If the message was sent to Helpmaaker at about 12.30 that would give at least an hour and a half extra notice for the 2 Coys there and they may well have got to RD in time to participate in the battle. Mind you they could well have become the focus of the Zulu attack as they would clearly have been a more inviting target than the defenders barricades. Would they have been cut down in the open?

Given more time the defences would no doubt have been better prepared, probably including stronger and higher mealie bags walls, maybe with a fire step. That might mean that there were no bags left for the redoubt though. Better defences (or walls harder to jump over!) may have encouraged the NNC to stay?

More time would have been available for the mouseholes in the hospital to be knocked through and the doors barricaded better. The extra time available may well have been used to remove the thatch from both the hospital and store roofs, in which case maybe no fire in the hospital, maybe no evacuation, and maybe a lot less VCs for the hospital defenders?

Overall I think a stronger chance of a successful defence, maybe less VCs, although with the possibility of the reinforcements from Helpmekaar being cut down in the open.

Cheers. Phil
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 3:26 pm

I think there is a perfectly possible "what if" that might have changed events even more fundamentally. What if Chelmsford had taken C (telegraph) Troop RE with him on the first invasion as he did on the second?

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 3:57 pm

That Sir becomes a three pipe question !
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 4:30 pm

Puff away boys!
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 4:41 pm

Interesting series of possibilities Steve.
Would Durnford have got an early morning phone call? How would that have affected his arrival time.
Would Chard have had to travel to iSandlwana?
Possible call around 9 to tell RD what was happening so Spaldings moves?
The mind boggles.
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 4:49 pm

All for want of a bit of copper wire and a brain that wasn't stuck in the Crimea.
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 6:55 pm

Stuck in the Crimea, I can’t think what you mean.

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John Young Collection.
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 7:44 pm

Eloquent John.
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SRB1965

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'What if' Rorkes Drift question. Empty
PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyWed Oct 24, 2018 11:04 pm

rusteze wrote:
I think there is a perfectly possible "what if" that might have changed events even more fundamentally. What if Chelmsford had taken C (telegraph) Troop RE with him on the first invasion as he did on the second?

Steve

Hi Steve,

Just how useful were telegraphs at the time - I understand that between towns etc they were very effective - but an army on the march? Did the engineers just run the wire across country (like in WW1) - no laughing please - I dunno.

I feel that between say RD and Helpmaaker (established bases), for example, they would work just fine but it seems a awful lot to put line following the army, to have 'up to the front' communication.

How was it used in the second invasion? In conjunction with messenger and Heliograph posts?

Cheers

Sime
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 12:31 am

C Troop had specialised equipment to lay the lines and recover them into wagons designed for the purpose. They could lay lines on the ground where appropriate, or what they called "air lines" using poles (often bamboo) and insulators. No they would not go with the fighting line, but I think it would be perfectly possible to have had a line from Helpmakaar to RD (all in Natal) and probably to Isandhlwana camp which we know was intended to be a post on the lines of communication. I am currently transcribing the daily log of C troop for the 2nd invasion, here is an example from 21 May 1879.

"May 21 The remainder of No. 1 section marches under Lieut. Bond to Pinetown, Pietermaritzburg and Ladysmith and joins Lieut. MacGregor on Sunday 7 June at Dundee having marched 202 miles through a very rough country. On the same day Major Hamilton having ridden from Durban to General Crealock HQ on the lower Tugela and having followed the border road, joins at Dundee.The following day a cable line (12 miles) is laid to Landsmans Drift and the HQ of the troop established there."


Steve
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ymob

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'What if' Rorkes Drift question. Empty
PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 5:57 am

rusteze wrote:
I think there is a perfectly possible "what if" that might have changed events even more fundamentally. What if Chelmsford had taken C (telegraph) Troop RE with him on the first invasion as he did on the second?

Steve
Bonjour Steve,
The three messages sent by Pulleine and Gardner between 8.05 a.m. and noon were not alarming. At Isandhlwana they were not awareness of the danger of the Zulu presence around the camp. When they understood that the military situation in camp was precarious, it was to late.
It seems to me that the use of an heliograph (for example) would have changed nothing, don't you think?
Cheers
fred
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Frank Allewell

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'What if' Rorkes Drift question. Empty
PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 7:09 am

Ymob
Possibly Durnford would have arrived 2 hours earlier?
But as Spalding would have been made aware of the conflict, would that have changed his mind about visiting Helpmakaar?
And would that extra hour or so notice that the camp had/was falling have made a difference in the mind set?
Interesting speculation Fred.
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 8:03 am

Hi Frank

Its all 'ifs buts and maybes' but what do you think AWD actions would have been (having arrived a couple of hours earlier)?

Carried on with 'his' plan to join Lord C (probably escaping the battle but possibly being able to influence it with his mounted troopers from the rear of the Zulus) - possibly keeping his command united at a easier pace with no need to scout the plateau or leave the RB behind)

Waited and sent to Lord C for clarification (which given the distances etc - probably would have ended in the historical scenario - the Zulus influencing his decision prior to orders returning)

Took command of the camp (fully) as maybe was Lord C's intention...maybe....and ended up 'chopped' still

Obviously we cannot get 'into his head' on the day but I like to try to look at alternate scenarios - just for discussion purpose.

Ta

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 8:11 am

Frank,
I did not take this assumption (I.E: Heliograph between isandhlwana and rorke's drift) because there are too many uncertainties for my brain (I'm not comfortable with the "what if"!).
About Spalding, I tend to believe that the news would have precipitated his departure for Helpmekaar; After all, he left for Helpmekaar after Chard informed him of the Zulu presence around Isandhlwana.
Amitié
Fred
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 8:29 am

Durnford would have arrived around 8:30 am, after the report of the Zulu presence by Pulleine to Chelmsford. Pulleine's (first) message would have been identical. Durnford would probably have acted in the same way with the same conséquences (but two hours earlier). Same scenario as the historical reality for Isandhlwana.
For Rorke's drift, maybe the scenario would have been different...
Cheers
Frédéric
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 8:53 am

Hamilton Browne would not have been able to join Isandhlwana before the attack. Even in the opposite hypothesis, his presence at Isandhlwana would have changed nothing.
About Durnford's action; No major events occurred at Isandhlwana between 8.05 and 10.30 (arrival of Durnford at Isandhlwana). So if Durnford had arrived earlier (at 8.30 am), he would have acted in the same way.
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 9:11 am

Ultimately, about Isandhlwana: only one hypothesis could have had (maybe) major consequences: If Durnford had receipted the answer (by heliograph) to his message to Chelmsford (Hamer) before leaving Rorke's Drift.
But as we don't know the content of this message...
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 10:24 am

It is difficult to get down into the detail of what might have happened because there are too many variables - at the end of the day the sheer weight of Zulu numbers would still have governed the outcome at Isandhlwana. But so much hinges on the clarity of orders and the intentions behind them. I think you need to go back to the early hours of 22nd and what Chelmsford might have said to Durnford over an instant communications link. Much potentially flows from that. Equally, Spalding would not have needed to travel to Helpmakaar to get a message to them - he remains in command at RD.

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 10:56 am

Bonjour Steve,
About your point on LC / Crealock order's, it seems that we are agree (my post of 10.11 a.m.).
Please, Why Spalding would have remained at Rorke's drift ? (unless in your hypothesis there is a telegraph between Helpmekaar and Rorke's drift)?
Apparently, you also think that the number of Zulus at Isandhlwana would be diffrent between 8.30 a.m. (arrival of Durnford in Fank's hypothesis) and 10.30 (arrival of Durnford at Isandhlwana in the "real event").
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:00 am

Hi Fred
I can't say for sure but I think he might have been clearer about what action he wanted Durnford to take. As you say, Durnford/Hamer could have sought clarification at the time if needed.

PS Yes, I am assuming there would be a line to Helpmakaar.
Steve


Last edited by rusteze on Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:01 am

Steve,
Totally agree.
The major point is here.
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:10 am

About Spalding, in your hypothesis, I am also agree with you (IE: I did not say or think that Spalding was a coward!!! ).
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:16 am

With an earlier warning of Zulu activity I wonder if Spalding might have opted to defend the drift to prevent them crossing into Natal?
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:22 am

Personnally, I doubt.
When Chard told to Spalding the possible risk of Zulu arrival in the area , Spalding didn't give instructions for the defense of the mission (or the drift).
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:41 am

That could then suggest that the briefing given by Chard wasn't heavy on urgency or threat? After all he then had his lunch and possibly an after lunch nap. Again look at that timing of Chards departure from iSandlwana, between 10 and 10.30. and the potential phone call at around 11.30 -12 ish.
Would have been a different accent on events?
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:57 am

Just a taster from C Troop archives. This is a little later than AZW, but impressive or what! Not sure it was standard practice.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Steve
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PostSubject: What If RD question    'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:57 am

I'm not a fan of the What Ifs , but here goes , Chard probably never had any urgency when mentioning the Zulus , why would he ? , let's not forget that the command structure at RD would believe the Zulus had to wipe out the camp at Isandlwana to get to RD ! , and we all know the British didn't think they'd be attacked in the first place , and certainly wouldn't have thought for a moment that the camp at Isandlwana would , or could , be overrun .
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 11:57 am

I suppose the answer to these questions would have been a crucial point if the mission had been destroyed...
I wonder more about the possible (?) arrival of two additional infantry companies from Helpmekaar in support (Hypothesis: telegraph between Rorke's drift and Helpmekaar) before the end of the fight.
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 12:03 pm

Not sure they would assume the camp had to be destroyed first. Perhaps they might think it too strong and it was being bypassed for an attack on Natal. Was that not Chelmsford's fear?

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 12:12 pm

Fynn thesis it seems to me: Isandhlwana would be attacked in the rear
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PostSubject: What If RD question    'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 12:13 pm

Hi Steve
I'm fairly certain those at RD never in their wildest dreams anticipated an attack upon themselves , THEY surely would've believed the camp at Isandlwana would have to fall for that to happen . LC couldn't have been to worried as he didn't leave much in the way of orders to anyone , anywhere . Although... he mentions he's worried about an incursion into Natal .
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PostSubject: Re: 'What if' Rorkes Drift question.   'What if' Rorkes Drift question. EmptyThu Oct 25, 2018 12:25 pm

You might be right, but Chelmsford's desire to protect the border is reflected in his initial deployments - particularly of Durnford's column. It explains his rebuking Durnford for planning to cross the river. But then he seems to change his mind and draws Durnford up to RD and across to Isandhlwana to follow him deeper into Zululand in pursuit of a phantom Impi. This exposes the border should the main Zulu army bypass his line of advance - which they could easily have done. He is taking risks in his anxiety to bring the Zulus swiftly to battle.
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