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 The 141st Anniversary

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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7591
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 73
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 4:50 am

Early morning, sitting on the balcony at Rorkes drift.
Mist and drizzle, probably much the same as 141 years ago. Looking across the Mzimyathi at the slopes of Masotsheni its not to difficult to throw the mind back and imagine the hustle and bustle of the Durnford column being packed up ready for the move on to iSandlwana. By this time Smith Dorrien would have delivered his message to Cochrane and it would have been sent on to Colonel Durnford.
Smith Dorrien would in all probability have been sitting with Gunny Bromhead, possibly over a 'cuppa' trying to persuade him to release a few rounds of ammunition.
Later on totad I will be trudging of to iSandlwana for my annual pilgrimage, just to sit quietly on Mahlabamkhosi and reflect on the day, pay homage to the brave men from both sides and raise a glass to toast the many acts of  courage from that day.

Although fictional this essay from a few years back does encapsulate the activities of the day.



Last man alive


Exploring the cave on the Southern Slopes of Isandlwana a few weeks ago I scuffed some of the soil away and saw what looked like an old piece of canvas. Carefully digging around it I found it was an old side pack, once white but now discoloured and rotting. Later back at the hotel I carefully opened the cover, surprisingly easily really. Inside I found a collection of bits and pieces of paper. Old ammunition wrappers in the main, an old letter and a copy of some long faded posting order. I sat down to read the faded pencil writing on the backs and in the margins and came across this amazing story. Apt for todays occasion.

The Last Man Alive.
I’m going to die soon, it’s only a matter of time that the Zulu climb up to the cave and spot me. When the lads charged downhill screaming like banshees I thought I would be clever and sneak into this little cave. I didn’t reckon on the heathens below systematically working their way round all my dead comrades and friends gutting and robbing them. There’s a fare number of the lads bodies just outside the cave where we made our stand, so they will be picked clean like the rest and then I will be discovered.
Maybe I will have enough time to set down the day and the events that lead to me being in this predicament.
When we awoke this morning it was to find the 2/24th, except Mr Pope’s lot, all gone out of the camp. Seems like the General got a letter in the early hours of the morning and left to go and help Mr Dartnell. Colonel Pullein was left in charge so after getting a quick splash and a tidy up we started to line up for breakfast but bugger me I had no sooner got to the serving bench when the stand to was sounded and we had to run and grab the boondocks then onto parade, just in front of the 2/24th lines.
There were Zulus spotted on the hills to the left of camp, after a while lots and lots of them. We moved out in companies to the left of the camp to wait and see. Funny they weren’t interested in hiding at all, thousands of them streamed across the ridge right in front of us going from the east.
Nobody seemed worried though, except for my mate next to me, moaned like hell he did cause he had missed breakfast. After a while though we were fallen out and told to go and eat. On the way back I spotted a lot of mounted colored men had arrived and that Colonel of Engineers with them.
We were told to stand down around the tent area but keep our kit on. Wasn’t to long and we saw the mounted men split up into a few groups, two went up the hill to our left and seemed to move of in different directions. Fine smart bunch of lads they were an all.
The Engineer Colonel with the funny arm and the big pair of moustaches then rode off to the East with the rest of his men. Tagging along behind was a bunch of the Native lads guarding what looked like an artillery company. Funny that, cause they had no chance of catching up. But soon we saw them veer of to the left behind the pointy shaped hill in front of us.
We started to hear a popping noise, couldn’t tell where it was from, seemed to bounce around the hills. Then a horseman came galloping into the camp from the hills, and a couple more from the plain. I was close enough to hear so I listened in like. The officer from the plain wanted Colonel Pullein to start packing up the camp, but the other one, think his name was Shepstone or such like, said that the whole Zulu army was coming and we had better look sharp.
The bugle sounded and we formed up. A couple of the companies doubled up onto the ridge in front of us. We took station next to the end of the mountain on the flat. Lower down I saw the Guns with some of our troops around them and just in front the Native lads.
Things started to heat up on the hills with lots of firing and horsemen galloping down the slope. Then brushing past me went that officer of transport dashing up the hill.
Weren’t long before he was coming back down again pell mell with all the troops running for their lives. Captain Younghusband called us to attention and we marched forward to cover the retreat. We marched towards the bottom of the slope, pretty damned quickly, fare puffed I was. We loaded up and waited, calming the trembles, then over the hill came the Zulus. Did we give it to them, they were cut apart in seconds and ran back over the ridge squealing and squawking. The other two companies from the hill now lined up to our right and as the Zulu came streaming back towards us we opened fire in volleys, nothing could have stood up to that fire, there were bits of leg and body flying all over. A lot of the horsemen had got into the big ditch in front and were blasting away wily nilly. No idea of control those lads. Couple of the bandsmen were dishing out ammunition and not before time, I grabbed a couple of packets and stuffed them in my jacket, the bullets tended to bounce out of the ball bag. But by ‘ell, fire as we did, the Zulus just got more and more; we started to retire back towards the tents, through the native areas. I glanced to my right to check on the other companies and was pretty narked to see the Natives legging it away. That’s it I thought now the fight starts.
The bugle sounded the retreat, not before bloody time says I. Mr Hodgson screaming at us to close up; we retreated by line across the bottom of the mountain till we got to the 2nd Battalion supply wagons. A few of us were told of to break open some ammo boxes, I looked around to make sure no Quartermaster was watching me before giving the box the back of my heel, breaking open the slider. The ammo was eagerly pulled from my hands. Then as I stood up I fare messed my trousers, we were surrounded by thousands of black faces, contorted like with ‘ate lots of ‘ate. The Captain was a brave man; he stood tall and had us move back in a sort of square, slowly moving up the slope all the time firing. Half way up we got the order to fix bayonets, me hands were shivering so much I like to dropped it.
Eventually we could get no higher, our backs were to the rocks, the Zulu stayed a few yards in front of us, they didn’t like the bayonet. We taunted them, “Come on then ye bastards, come and get it, what you waiting for”.
They howled and threw spears and rocks at us, but they wouldn’t approach the cold steel. Our fire started to slacken, my pouch was empty. Just the few rounds left tucked in my jacket. I risked a look down the hill, a sea of black with three or four stands like ours. But no sign of the General at all. The Captain strode behind us scorning the attempts of the Zulu to get him. “Men”, he shouted, “do we stay here and die like animals or do we show them how British soldiers can fight.” The men howled their response. I looked down; it was a long way to that group fighting of the flats by the wagons. Bugger all chance of getting there I thought. Couple of my mates looked at me and I could see they had the same thought as I. “CHARGE” was the bellow, every man moved, some backward along the ridge, I towards the small opening behind me. But the rest, ah those magnificent lads, they went down the hill after the Captain and the Lts straight into the heart of the Zulu.
It was epic that fight, bloody 'eroic' the Zulus ran like buggery, hell I thought their going to do it? But then the Zulu closed around those mighty men it was all over in minutes, I could see the stabbing spears going in and one big sod with a stick that add a great ball on the end, that accounted for a few of the lads it did. But the Captain, well, took a lot to bring him down it did. That sword was a thing of beauty flashing and slashing. The Zulu were feared of it till one got him in the back. Then it was done, but you could see the respect they had for ‘im.
I had stood gaping at the action, now a leap up to the opening and over the rock and I was in the cave, small little thing it is about the size of a coffin. “Ah well” beggars can’t be chooses I thought. I settled down to wait, hopefully for rescue.
After a short while the sounds of battle died down and I risked a look over the rocks. The killing was still going on. I saw a young boy, must have been from the band, standing on a wagon waving a club of sorts till a Zulu speared him. He fell off the wagon, catching his legs and just hanging there. A passing Zulu speared him again and then to my horror ripped him from groin to chest. I watched as the intestines bubbled out to land over his face. All the bodies were being stripped then ripped. A big sergeant down in front of me was done like that, and then I saw a Zulu slash at his face to remove his beard. I was scared but determined that I would rather kill myself. I pulled out my spare ammunition. 16 rounds I lined up on the rock. 15 for them one for me.
The smell rose up the mountain gagging, creeping into my flesh, the occasional screams told me that the wounded were being dispatched. The sky dulled, smoke and the smell of black powder covered the ground below me. One man was dragged out of a wagon screaming for mercy, it made no difference at all they still gutted him like a fish and watched him wriggling on the floor desperately trying to hold his insides in place. Were'nt no good though they got bored quickly and spiked him with his own bayonet through the mouth and into the ground.
The noise has gone; the sun seems to be a bit brighter as the dust and smoke clears. Zulus are everywhere ransacking the wagons and tents or just sitting exhausted. Far away in the distance down the slope towards the river I can still hear a few rounds being fired of and way away on a far hill I can see a couple of horsemen riding for their lives, one is carrying a sort of pole.
The afternoon wears on, then I hear a shout and looking across to the small hill on the other side of the flat, there is a soldier running, he turns and fires and is almost instantly engulfed in howling black bodies. The screams tear through my sole as he is ripped apart. The tears roll down my cheeks and I shout with rage.
They have heard and seen me now and are coming, oh God their coming……………..


Dedicated to the brave men of: the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot
and the Colonial forces that died with them on the field of iSandlwana.
Wednesday the 22nd January 1879

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90th

90th

Posts : 10137
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 64
Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 8:30 am

Hi Frank
Wish I was there ! , have to wait till June ! . This time last year some of us were at Isandlwana at about 4am , and went back to the RD Hotel for Bfast at 7am , it was emotive to be there at that time , we went back again the same time next day the 23rd Jan . I've heard the same moon phase from 22/23 rd Jan 1879 is the same for the same nights this year ! .
90th Salute
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Julian Whybra



Posts : 2358
Join date : 2011-09-12

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PostSubject: Re: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 10:31 am

A special day for me that I remember every year.
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7591
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 73
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 11:39 am

Just got back in from iSandlwana. im going through this evening for sundowners. There are two very large tents erected ready for celebrations on saturday, but as usual for Gugu nobody has a clue whats happening.
The 'building site' has virtually ceased to exist, even the site huts are steadily being dismantled. The 'rememberance' garden is having a clean up, first time since last year.
The area has had a lot of rain over the last few weeks so everything is looking green and healthy.
I will crack a couple for you at the bar later Gary.

ive spent a few interesting hours at Killie campbell, come up with some interesting new articles, maps and photos. One photo in particular proves that the iron cross in the volunteers area has been moved from much closer to the saddle. Starts to reinforce the concept that Bishop Schroeder planted it as a marker for the church he wanted to build. One to explore.
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90th

90th

Posts : 10137
Join date : 2009-04-07
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Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 11:44 am

Hi Frank .
Yes have a couple for me , are you going to be there with us in June ? . I couldn't believe the difference in the Rememberance Garden from the day of the Commemoration , to when I went back in May , although I was expecting it to be so !
90th Salute
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7591
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 73
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 12:07 pm

Yep, planning a June trip as well.
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sc-em

sc-em

Posts : 14
Join date : 2020-01-02
Age : 55
Location : Cannock

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PostSubject: Re: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 7:04 pm

I am new to this forum and have only just developed an interest in these events. Well apart from watching Zulu as a kid. I am currently reading the excellent Zulu Wars Despatches and of course the date is certainly pre-eminent in my mind as a date worthy of commemoration.
Is it a big deal over in SA? I can't ever remember it being mentioned on the news here in the UK, although I will be sure to listen more carefully to the news over the next couple of days.
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7591
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 73
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 8:41 pm

Hi
It isnt a huge issue except for the AZW community. On Saturday there will be a large rally at iSandlwana with in all likelyhood the King being present.
Todays celebrations centred around the RD Hotel with a football match between the Brits and Zulu, Brits won 1 nil.
I personally spent a lot of time on the battlefield, wondering around and depositing a flowery tribute for a UK friend who lost a relative.
There was an atmosphere today, strange and undiscribable, but very pervasive. One of the local guides asked me if I felt anything? We put it down to the aproaching storm and the hightened ozone from the lightning. But who knows?
Im going through to the battlefield tomorrow at 4 am then take a slow drive back to RD, try to re create Smith Dorriens ride.
But right now, in the hotel library, video is on and Zulu Dawn is about to start, Zulu afterwards. Gotta get them in the right order.
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sc-em

sc-em

Posts : 14
Join date : 2020-01-02
Age : 55
Location : Cannock

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PostSubject: Re: The 141st Anniversary   The 141st Anniversary EmptyWed Jan 22, 2020 9:28 pm

Thank you for those evocative thoughts on the day. I can imagine your 4 am walk will be an emotive experience, too. Something I really should add to my bucket list.
I have just received a copy of Zulu, having watched Zulu Dawn a few weeks ago. I think the whole campaign would make for a great film, but fear that would be a pipe dream.
Is the area built up to the extent that the ambience is lost? I did look on Google maps and saw quite a bit of development.
Enjoy your early stroll through the battlefield!
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