This is an essay I put together a few months ago, there have been further elements added over this period but as the subject has been raised, I thought it apt to post the following purely for discussion purposes rather than a solid theory.
In researching the Rocket Battery personnel, I came across a reference to Lieutenant G F Andrews being present in charge of a section of men, approx. 20 strong, belonging to E Company.
“Lieut. Russell with his Rocket Battery, and who lost his life that day, was ordered to the extreme right, supported by a few mounted infantry and twenty of my men under Lieutenant Andrews.”
This statement has generally been dismissed as the poor recall of an 80-year-old and the man in question here was confused with Wally Erskine, he had in one statement mentioned Erskine in this context so that possibility does exist. However, there is the possibility that Stafford sent out two separate groups, Erskine and Andrews.
It has also been argued that Lieutenant Andrews was a member of the Natal Native Pioneers under Captain W J Nolan and left the camp that morning with Chelmsford, one commentator places him left behind in camp with a squad of ten men to assist in moving the tents. This would seem strange as the decision to move camp was only made much later in the day.
In his masterful work, ‘Hill of the Sphinx’ the late David Jackson places Andrews back in the camp having returned with Alan Gardner with orders to assist in packing up the camp.
This conclusion has been drawn from an interview with a Mr. Alexander by Colonel Bray and assuming that Alexander is incorrect and the interview was actually with Lieutenant Anderson.
Following from that misidentification support is given to the concept that Stafford was wrong in his identification of Andrews.
However, Stafford does mention Andrews in one other context.
Stafford on the night of the 21st at Rorkes Drift
‘I was ordered to place a picket and after having done so was summoned to the Colonels tent. Colonel Durnford and Shepstone and ‘Tom’ the Colonels cook were present. I was surprised to see Wally Erskine who was on picket duty in the tent also.’
‘Colonel Durnford informed me that the native picket in Erskine’s charge had refused to remain at their post. Although this was disagreeable it was not altogether a surprise to one who had been brought up amongst the Natal Natives.’
‘The terror of the Zulu Impis held them spell bound and to their minds the Zulu army was invincible. After placing Lieutenant Andrews in charge of a fresh picket the rest of the evening was spent over a game of cards.’
This puts Andrews with the Durnford column No 2 rather than with Chelmsford and combined with the first quote raises the possibility that he could very well have been with the Rocket Battery. It also mentions Erskine and Andrews in the same location, critically to dispel thoughts that he, Stafford was again confused.
The question then arises why would Colonel Bray confuse Lieutenant Andrews a member of the Colonial force with a ‘Mr. Alexander’? And why would David Jackson suggest that possibility.
Possibly the answer would be to offer an explanation why Andrews was in the camp for the battle?
From the Colonial Engineer Pietermaritzburg 19th June 1884
“ Certificate regarding the services of Lieutenant GF Andrews Late of the Natal Native Pioneers organized by Capt. Himes R.E. Colonial Engineer, served in No1 Company (Under the command of Captain W.J.Nolan) of the above Corps from 3rd Dec 1878 until 6th Oct 1879- This company was with Lord Chelmsford’s column in Zululand.”
The company was out with Chelmsford but was Andrews with them, or was he detached?
From the Royal Engineers Museum: Corps History Part 7
Officers of the Royal Engineers 1879: Who's Who
Two field companies of the Engineers (the 2nd and the 5th) embarked for South Africa on December 2nd, 1878, and landed at Durban on January 4th, 1879, for the reinforcement of the Corps in South Africa. This had previously only consisted of the 7th Company, commanded by Major F W Nixon, who had under him Lieutenants, F H MacDowel and J Clarke.
Colonel A W Durnford, assisted by Captain A H Hime, who was at the time Colonial Engineer, had organised and equipped three Companies of Native Pioneers. These each consisted of a Captain and 2 Subalterns (European), and 4 Sergeants and 96 Sappers (African). In each company 25 men were armed with the Martini-Henry rifle, the remainder bearing assegais and shields. Each man also carried a tool slung. The equipment of tools, forges, dynamite, etc, was loaded in two-wheeled ox-carts. The officers were employed in the Colonial Engineers department.
When the expeditionary force was organised, Colonel Durnford took command of the entire Natal Native Contingent, consisting of three battalions of 1,000 men each, with 450 mounted men and a rocket battery under Captain Russell RA. From long residence in the area and from having command of similar contingents during previous outbreaks, Colonel Durnford had acquired great influence over the indigenous peoples of Natal and Basutoland, and it was felt that no-one else was so well qualified to lead this auxiliary force.
Colonel F N Hassard was Commanding Royal Engineer, and Lieutenant J C Baxter was Adjutant. The other officers and companies were divided amongst the three columns which were intended to penetrate into the district from different points.
Colonel E Wood commanded that which was to start from Utrecht; with him was Major C J Moysey.
Colonel Glyn's column was to start from Helpmakaar and Rorke's Drift; with him was the 5th Field Company Royal Engineers, with Captain W P Jones, Lieutenants J R M Chard, R Da C Porter, and C E Commeline, also two Companies of Native Pioneers commanded by Lieutenant F H MacDowel.
Significantly no mention of Lieutenant Andrews.
However there was a ‘Mr Alexander’ with the NNC.
Order No 224, dated 14th December 1878. Times of Natal 18th December 1878.
9. The following appointments in the Natal Native Contingent will take effect viz.
Lieut.C.A.Bettington, 2nd Battalion 1st Regiment, to be Adjutant, to bear date from date he assumed duty.
Mr AC Alexander, to be Paymaster and Quartermaster, 3rd Battalion 1st Regiment , from this date.
Confirmed Order 229, dated 19th December 1878, Times of Natal 23rd December 1878.
Could Colonel Bray be some how confusing this Alexander with Andrews, it’s a possibility but unlikely, Mr Alexander died a few days before the battle.
Correspondence Bray/Bartle Frere Sandspruit January 23rd 1879.
Mr Alexander was with the General, and was sent back by his Captain to assist in moving camp. It was being struck when the fight began, he assisted in firing at the enemy as they poured round hills A and B in sketch plan, and drove our troops pell mell before they all mixed up.
“I then rode for the river. When I left the plain was black with Zulus: they were advancing through the camp. The Zulu loss must have been very heavy. Three horsemen swam over with me, and a mixed lot of soldiers and natives were trying to get over.”
Lieutenant Alexander was later listed as arriving at Helpmakaar as a fugitive.
There is, it seems, to be a reasonable call for doubt in Mr Jacksons theory and if that is the case there would also be a reasonable call for the inclusion of Lieutenant Andrews in the Rocket Battery support. I know I’m going to take some flack for that statement but it does exist as a possibility.
E B Skottowe has never appeared on any list of personnel in the NNC and yet there is incontrovertible proof that he was there. Gunner Taylor likewise.
Skottowe was in D Company under Captain Nourse along with Lieutenant Lister. Skottowe also says that elements of E Company were also present and states there was a Captain and two lieutenants from E Company , One of those is identified as Lieutenant N D Black leaving one unidentified. But again according to Skottowe he survived along with himself and Lister as Lieutenants, the possibility is then that Andrews must be considered as that missing fourth officer. Skottowe likewise doesn’t mention the Captain by name but if there was a second Captain present the name of DM Smyth must be considered.
Captain DM Smyth was appointed on the 27th November, Order No 208 to the 1st Battalion 1st Regiment Natal Native Contingent. He was at iSandlwana and was reported to have escaped from the battle, Times of Natal 15th August. He is also mentioned as being one of three NNC Captains to arrive at Helpmakaar that evening, the others being Stafford and Nourse. (See posts Sat April 6th 2013)
Just a thought for discussion.