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 Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 9:49 am

While clearing out some computer files I came across this small essay. It has been on the forum a few years ago but possibly for the newer members it may warrant a repeat viewing.
In view of the resurgent interest in the movements of Col Durnford on the 21st and 22nd January 1879

The sources I’ve used to compile the following are:
Various statements Lt WFD Cochrane including WO32/7726/079/1472 8th Feb 1879
The COI evidence Blue books C2260 27th January

Statements by Captain Walter Stafford Jan 1939 plus one other undated.

The COI evidence of Major Clery
Report by Major Clery for Dep Adj General 7th Feb
Letter from Major Clery to Sir Archibald Anderson 18th March 1879

The COI statement of Captain Essex

Letter Glyn to Bellairs 16th April 1879

REM Durnford papers 4901.44.2 Jabez Molife
REM Durnford papers 4901-31/7 Undated summary of evidence.

20th January
The No2 column under Durnford was ordered to Rorke’s Drift and made camp on the ridge some two miles inside Zulu land. In letters from Chelmsford the plan of action into Zulu land had been laid out and Durnfords Column roll within that framework. Those orders have been quoted ad nauseum and I’m not re typing them.
On the morning of the 21st George Shepstone was sent to Isandlwana (Cochrane) for further orders.
In Zulu Rising Ian Knight says that Shepstone meets Chelmsford as he and staff are riding through Gandams deserted kraal. Again according to Ian Shepstone reports that Durnford is still at Msinga accordingly Chelmsford tells Shepstone to hurry Durnfords arrival at Rorke’s Drift. This doesn’t fit the available evidence, Durnford was already at Rorke’s Drift and Shepstone knew that having just left him there.
So any orders issued by Chelmsford that day are lost, we can’t even begin to speculate what they were.
Around 1.30 on the morning of 22nd January Major Clery was awoken by a messenger from Dartnell indicating the enemy were in greater numbers than his force could handle and requesting reinforcements. Clery took the letter to Glyn (Clery statement) and was told to take it on to Chelmsford.
After reading the contents, with difficulty Clery says, Chelmsford ordered Clery to cancel the wagons return trip to Rorke’s Drift and to send word to Col Durnford to “move up from Rorke’s drift with whatever men he had there to reinforce the camp”.
In his COI evidence Clery elaborates that he was told initially by Chelmsford to issue that order but was interrupted by Crealock who questioned his right to issue an order to a Column Commander.
Chelmsford concurred and said to Crealock “you do it.”
The order found later in Crealocks diary on the battlefield and kept by Crealock until he gave sight of it in July 1882 to Edward Durnford and sent a copy to Major Jekyll in 1886, makes no mention of the sentence quoted by Clery, “reinforce the camp”.
Crealock did not give evidence at the COI but did append a statement to Chelmsford’s report of the COI. In that report he mentions specifically that he ordered Col Durnford to “take command”. A patent inaccuracy.

With this background Clery issued orders to Pulleine (another example of Clery issuing orders to a senior officer). And told him he would remain in charge of the camp and that Col Durnford was ordered up to the camp. That in itself is confusing as the one statement cancels out the other.

When Durnford arrived at the camp, as senior officer he automatically took command.
A conversation took place in Pulleine tent, witnessed by two key people who left descriptions.
Captain Stafford and lt Cochrane.

Lt WFD Cochrane
Having made all the arrangements for his column Colonel Durnford took over command from Colonel Pulleine of the 1/24th regiment.
Captain WH Stafford
Col Durnford and Captain Shepstone entered Pulleines tent while I remained outside. From what I could hear an argument was taking place between Pulleine and Durnford as to who was the senior. Col Pulleine appeared to give way and I heard Colonel Durnford say” You had orders to draw in the camp.”
In a second statement Stafford changed the wording slightly, but significantly. “Pulleine in admitting Durnford was the senior handed him the written instructions.”
“In looking over the orders Colonel Durnford remarked you have orders to draw in the camp.”

From Both those statements it’s pretty clear that Colonel Durnford did take command, if only briefly.

Lt Cochrane had this to say of the same meeting
“I’m sorry you have come as you are senior to me and will of course take command.” Colonel Durnford replied “I’m not going to interfere with you. I’m not going to remain in camp.” (Or words to that effect)

So Durnfords camp takeover was there but very briefly.

While researching the above I found in Jabez Molifes statement this little titbit.
A sentry had come into the camp reporting seeing Zulus on the ridge, questioned he came up with a figure of 400.
Molife says “He at once sent out scouts in all directions to find out whether any large army was at hand.” And this was before sending out Raw Barton etc.

My personal viewpoint.

It’s pretty obvious that Chelmsford was a hands on type of person. He took control of the column, no matter what he said later.
That morning, the 22nd, I have no doubt he was woken from slumber with the news that, possibly, the Zulu army was at the Mangeni. Imagine, mind racing adrenalin pumping issuing orders for the start, who was going, who was staying, what was need what wasn’t etc. He was going to do battle, the very reason he was in Zululand, the very reason he was in the army. He didn’t have a big enough staff to handle the details as a result the instructions he issued to Clery re Durnford reinforcing the camp are possibly not what Crealock had fully heard or comprehended, he was in an adjoining tent. From Clerys subsequent letter it was very apparent that Chelmsford wanted Durnford in the camp, but was that passed to Crealock, I don’t think it was. Crealock wrote what he thought he had heard and left out the ‘Reinforce the camp’. With a professional military secretary may have been avoided. Clery had shot of to organise the force so Crealock was left to send of the messages, get himself a messenger and get himself organised for the march. Things were happening very fast, hence no instruction to Pulleine, that was left to Clery.
It’s been postulated that Clery never issued any orders to Pulleine, Stafford and Cochrane kill that idea.

Durnford to my mind is totally blameless up and till the time he ordered the Rocket Battery to follow him. After that he has a lot to answer for.

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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 1:30 pm

Frank,
I saw at least three intriguing points in your essay...
Cheers
Fred
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 1:34 pm

Only three fred? Shocked Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 1:41 pm

I haven't remark about your comment on Shepstone and Msinga.
In the past, you have developed on the forum this argument successfully Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 1:55 pm

Your last point ( "After that he has a lot to answer for") could be developed.
Have you got all the pieces of the jugsaw puzzle?
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 2:41 pm

Fred I dont think anyone will ever get all the pieces, but there are enough to be able to join the dots .
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 3:02 pm

About your first remark, I hope really that you are wrong.
About your second point, as you know, two theses exist, one in favor of Durnford, the other against him ("Durnford the cowboy").

You wrote, "Durnford to my mind is totally blameless up and till the time he ordered the Rocket Battery to follow him".
Durnford also asked to Pulleine the support of two Imperial Coys.
Please what do you think of the following point: "Summary of instructions for Officers Commanding Columns..."
"... Unless supported by British troops this column is not to engage seriously a large force of the enemy."
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 3:52 pm

Your last point first. The thrust of my essay is that Durnford thought he was chasing 400 zulu. Not really 'a large force', possibly odds of 2 to 1?
In terms of what i believe Durnford can be blamed for, the Rocket Battery had no business moving through the countryside on its own. Even IF it was adjudged to be safe they had marched 11 miles from RD. They were then expected to march an indeterminate distance and potential turn around once they had got 'there' and march back. Dont forget all there supplies were in the wagons on the saddle. So my levelling of blame would be the decision of Durnford to order them to follow on. Their destruction could hardly have been forcast but it was as a direct result of that incomprehensible decision.
The Cowboy thesis comes from such a biased source its ignorable.

I still maintain, I got savaged last time I said this, 4 columns invaded Zululand not three and as an independant column commander Durnford had to make up his mind based on ground conditions. Thats what he did. Blame others for not giving him an explicit brief/orders.

Hope that makes sense Fred.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 3:58 pm

Sorry as a last point, Chelmsford gave Dartnell the freedom to attack a potentially large force, and that with a very small 'column'.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 4:13 pm

Frank,
I am agre with your two last points.

You wrote, " The thrust of my essay is that Durnford thought he was chasing 400 zulus. Not really a large force...".
If your hypothesis is correct, why did he ask the support of two Imperial Coys ?
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 6:04 pm

Belt and braces? A just in case position maybe.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyTue Jan 15, 2019 9:18 pm

In the case of Durnford you are right that it is unlikely that we have all of the jigsaw. But I think it is important now to weave into the essay the observations by Penn Symons on Durnford's actions. Not so much his view that Durnford disobeyed orders (Symons was not in a position to know the truth at that point) but particularly in relation to whether or not Durnford took command in any practical sense. We have the reported conversation that Durnford told Pulleine he did not intend to interfere - but we now know that it was Durnford who sent the 24th company up onto the spur and of course he instigated the sweeps over the ridge and plateau that discovered the Zulu army. It is surely arguable that Durnford did more to command the actions of the defenders than Pulleine ever did. At that point Pulleine had done no more than stand to and stand down the companies. So while I can accept that Durnford said he did not intend to stay, it is stretching it quite a lot to say he did not intend to interfere.

Steve
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 5:59 am

I think there needs to be a definition between 'taking command' and issuing an order to a subordinate. it would seem that Durnford saw gaps in the organisation of Pulleine and took steps to fill them. Would that be defined as taking command? Im not so sure. If on the other hand Durnford had requested a meeting with the senior officers and given instructions then most certainly that would be construed as the actions of a man in charge.
Yet again what did Durnford do? He asked for a lookout to go to the top of the mountain, he recomended that a company be sent onto the plateau, he suggested the troops be stood down. Could those actions not come under the heading of 'advice'?
The men that were sent to patrol the plateau and the scouts that were sent out were all actions taken by his own command, no usurping of control there.
It would be a rather poor officer that didnt attempt to assist a fellow officer in the performance of his duties surely?
Just some thoughts for debate.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 7:37 am

Hi,

One thing I have wondered about was (and I am going to be very accurate here!) - Durnford was reported to have said something about "not surviving the shame" - I can't remember who mentioned it.....maybe someone who didn't like him.....

Assuming he said it........(and had not 'lost his head' - as someone said) what was the 'shame' - the whole of the British force - Lord C, Pulleine, and AWD himself, had all been humbugged by the Zulus to some degree (either by Zulu design, pure bad luck or combination of the both), was it just the idea of Bushmans Pass Part 2.......was it the 'shame' of being in command and loosing the camp....

Cheers

Sime
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 8:29 am

Sime
That was Nourse. Said long after the battle, the rest of that paragraph doesnt make sense in that he, Norse, says that Durnford aproached him and asked where the RB was. This after meeting with Johnson on the plain and having been told of its demise. It just doesnt ring the right bells for me Im afraid.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 8:32 am

In an account published in the Natal Witness, January 1929 on the 50th anniversary of the battle Captain Nourse recorded the following:

“I was in the camp with four of my men. It was then that Colonel Durnford, who had been forced back, rode up to me and asked where Major Russell and the rocket battery were. I told him of the fate of the Battery and Major Russell. The Colonel appeared very distressed and spoke about surviving the disgrace. I concluded the disgrace lay in exceeding his orders which were to defend the camp. He had made an attack, which had failed, and he feared being made a scapegoat.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 10:44 am

I am mistrustful of the reported conversations between Durnford and Pulleine. Much is made of Durnford's supposed comment about "not interfering" - but we really do not know the context and what else might have been said. He certainly identified gaps in Pulleine's arrangements but I don't go along with the idea that he confined his orders to his own column. The fact that he sent his own men to scout the ridge and plateau was simply because they were the only unit at the camp capable of doing it. I must say I cannot reconcile his deployment of the 24th up onto the spur (which he doesn't seem to have simply "requested") and his half - hearted plea for two companies to support his sweep towards the Quabe. Which incidentally could have been the saviour of the RB. For my money Durnford took command despite himself and his actions were arguably closer to what was required than the dithering Pulleine.

I agree that Nourse is simply casting around for explanations of Durnford's actions long after the event. Dredging up connections to Bushman's Pass is easy to do and has the effect of casting doubt on Durnford's character - all very convenient.

Steve
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ymob

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 11:52 am

Bonjour Steve,
Please, why cannot you reconcile Dunrford's deployment of two Coys onto the spur and Durnford's request for the support of two Coys?
Fred
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 12:10 pm

Morning Steve. I would disagree on your comments as to why Durnford sent his own men. There were 146 mounted men left in the camp that could have been used by either Pulleine or Durnford, Buffalo Border Guard, Carbineers Police etc.
I would believe that Durnford sent his own men because they were his own. That tent meeting is certainly an enigma. Stafford mentions a disagreement as to who had seniority and so does Drummond in one of his translations. Cochrane is the reporter who said there were no high words.
But looking at the time line, Durnford arrives meets up and apart from making the comment that 'he had orders to pull in the camp' then tells Pulleine hes not there to interfere. There is no testimoney that says Durnford gave orders at that point for a force to move up the hill.
The potential then would be as more reports came in of activity (Cochrane) on the plateau Durnford could easily have 'suggested' Pulleine covers his backside.
If Durnford issued an order would Melvill have stood for it? He did at a later point disagree over troop movements. If again there were that sort of disagreement why doesnt Cochrane note it? To a casual listener a senior officer offering an opinion could easily seem like an order, or not,possibly thats why there is the level of confusion
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 2:22 pm

Rusteze/Frank
Re Durnford's 'interference' in terms of ordering a coy up on to the spur...I think too much is made of this.
Durnford certainly requested borrowing Barry's coy on the spur - why not? They would be fresh having been on the spur for some hours and not tired out by a climb. It made sense. In doing so, Durnford realized that it would have to be replaced (to maintain the picquet). It was simply Cavaye's coy's turn and so they got the task.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 3:30 pm

Hi Julian
I think its more about the context rather than the action. Its being discussed relative to Durnford taking command rather than the tactical issue.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 4:18 pm

That's true but in essence what Durnford did was NOT to order about Imperial coys (he tried to I admit by asking for a couple of coys). He only commandeered a native coy that was already in a good position to aid him.
There had to be a picquet on the spur. It was a wise decision to ensure it was a 'strengthened' one i.e. E coy.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 5:12 pm

If you think about it he didnt command or order Pulleine to give him the companies, more of a request that Melvill stopped.
What Im trying to isolate is a point that Durnford actually issued an order that could be construed as him taking command. I dont think that happened. Small point yes but large pictures are built from pixels.

Now in the absence of Game of Thrones its getting time to switch to Sky and Westminster.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 6:41 pm

I suppose what I am saying is that Durnford exercised a degree of decisiveness in deploying some of Pulleine's resources that seems to have been totally absent from Pulleine himself. In my view, it is significant that it took Melville's intervention to rebuff the request for two companies - Pulleine appears to have been much more docile. A later example of Pulleine's natural dithering is his response when Gardner arrives with the orders from Chelmsford to send on the wagons. He seems to be unable to firmly say, "sorry we are in the midst of a major attack it will have to wait". Rather, he seeks the approval, advice and support of Gardner.  I think Durnford realised that Pulleine was lacking in flair and initiative and tried to take a grip of the situation - in the first instance by trying to establish exactly what the risk to the camp was. This is interpreted by some as a gung-ho attitude with links back to his experience at Bushman's River Pass - I disagree. It may be he did not take formal command and dressed it all up as suggestions and advice, but I think there is little doubt about who exercised practical control during the short time he was there.

Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 10:10 pm

rusteze
A 'big' man with a big ego, to be sure.
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 10:22 pm

Julian,
English humour?
Fred
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyWed Jan 16, 2019 10:32 pm

Frank,
If you think that Durnford has not tried to take command, ultimately that means
-that he did not think that his order was to stay at Isandhlwana,
-Durnford was the Commandant of an independent column with margins of initiative.
Fred
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyThu Jan 17, 2019 4:26 am

Steve
A pretty good synopsis. Cant argue to much with that.
Defacto control without command?
Fred
Those two points are exactly what I think. Hence my often excoriated view that 4 columns invaded, not three.
Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyThu Jan 17, 2019 5:46 am

Frank,
I suppose the point about the "forth column" explains -in your view- why Durnford took the direction of the Qwabe valley.
Steve,
You may be right but I keep in mind:
-Nobody at Isandhlwana expected a Zulu attack of the camp (Curling):They wrongly thought that the main Impi was in the Mangeni chased by LC,
-Pulleine's personality seems to have been very diplomatic and consensual (see the anecdote in Hill of the Sphinx about the recruitment of an Officer in Pulleine's Rangers).
Fred
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PostSubject: Re: Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana   Durnfords arrival at iSandlwana EmptyThu Jan 17, 2019 11:13 am

Frank/Fred

I agree that four columns were involved and not three. But, unlike, the other three, Durnford's column had been seriously reduced in numbers before it entered Zululand. In any practical sense it was not really at column strength by the time he left for the Quabe. He may have been more successful in resisting the left horn (at least for longer) had he got the numbers.

I also agree that the regimental officers did not expect the Zulus to attack the camp - even though they were told to prepare for just that eventuality. But I am not sure Durnford thought that way - I don't recall him commenting on the possibility one way or the other.

Steve
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