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 Zulu prisoners

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Lee Stevenson

Posts : 51
Join date : 2013-10-29

PostSubject: Zulu prisoners   Tue May 29, 2018 1:05 pm

From the Snowy River Mail (Victoria, Australia) 22/1/1915

Rorke's Drift

A Charge against the British Disproved

We at home are not the only people who are too prone to doubt the humanity of our Colonists. There are always in the Colonies some 'cranks' who take it for granted that the majority of their fellow Colonists are always in the wrong.

A case in point comes back to my memory.

After the relief of Rorke's Drift, in the Zulu War, some Zulu prisoners had been taken and were put under guard. There was no enclosure of any kind in which to keep them confined, for the space inside the stone walls held so gallantly by the company of the 24th was required by the hospital authorities.

The prisoners were warned by the interpreters and by some of the Natal Carabineers who spoke the Zulu language that if they attempted to escape they would be shot.

The sight of the Blood River and Zululand on the other side was too much for two of the prisoners. They watched their chance and ran for freedom. They were both shot dead before they reached the river bank.

I heard the shots, and saw what had happened. Many months later, when the war was ended, I found myself at a dinner party in Pietermaritzburg, sitting next to a lady who, when she found out that I had been at Rorke's Drift at the time of its relief began to cross examine me as to the shooting of the prisoners.

I soon found that an attempt was being made to entrap me into some support of a statement made by the lady that the prisoners had been told to run away in order that their guards might fire at them. I protested very earnestly against this, for it so happened that some of the men who had been on guard over the prisoners were personal friends of mine. I knew them to be humane men, and they had told me how much they regretted that duty had compelled them to shoot the escaping men.

The accusation was afterwards made in print, and was at once authoritatively contradicted but the incident at the dinner party showed me how ready some people in Natal were to impute bloodthirstiness to the men who were defending the Colony from invasion and massacre. 'Sketch'
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