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 Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions

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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 11:44 am

Morning all.
I have a question for members.
Flicking through a recent book purchase "Zulus at Bay a colonial chronicle" by Denis Barker (ISBN 0620334173-4.The grandson of Tpr. William Walwyn Barker of the Natal Carbineers), I came across the following statement on page 230 were he states:-

"He tells of how he and his friend Villiers Hawkins were on outpost or vidette (as he calls it) duty on Qwabe hill about six miles to the left and in front of the camp."

Trooper Barker however does not mention specific geographic features by name in his account but only uses distances.
"We left camp at about 4a.m., and the Carbineers were posted to the direct front and left of the camp,from three to five miles away. Hawkins, my bosom friend, and myself were posted on a hill to the extreme front, quite six miles from camp, and arrived on the hill about sunrise."

From further research Denis Barker seems to have got his information from the late Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill's "Zulu Victory"(ISBN 978-84832-848-8) which is mentioned in his bibliography. See their map on pages 88 to 89.
Lock and Quantrill have Whitelaw on Nyezi and Barker and Hawkins on Qwabe.

(Though I appreciate this information could have been passed down orally from grandfather to father to son, indeed in the introduction on page 1 he states "I never tired of listening to my father's unforgettable account of his father William Walwyn Barker,..."  Then on page 3 he writes:-
"Further details in this book have there source from numerous books on the battle together with stories that my father, Wyn Barker and his brother Basil related to me. They were both fervent enthusiasts of the Zulu War and in 1974 attended the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana. there they met a Zulu veteran of the battle and, being fluent Zulu linguists, they were able to have some intriguing discussions with him about the incidents as seen from the Zulu perspective")

However the use of the words in this particular statement  "He tells of how he.." looks as if Denis is using Barker's written account as reference.

Looking at the distances on a 1:50 000 scale map, from the middle of the camp to the spot height on Nyezi is 5.29 miles and Qwabe 3.55 miles as the crow flies.
Using only these two named features and if we are to believe Barker's distances this would put him on Nyezi.
(In my opinion Whitelaw could then have been on iThusi which is three miles out, is still to Barker's left and would still fit with Barker's later details of the subsequent fall back, though this post is NOT about the whole X marks the spot controversy)
To the best of my knowledge Barker's account is the only detailed narrative of those early morning movements.

My question to the forum is does anyone know of any obscure or recent accounts that, at the time of the battle, specifically name the geographical features of Nyezi or Qwabe, positioning of the vedettes on them or even would the British have known of their names at the time?
Sorry that's three questions
Thanks chaps.
Kate Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 12:02 pm

They maybe some information here.


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gardner1879

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PostSubject: Re: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 12:55 pm

Thank you Salute
Will have a look
Kate Very Happy
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 1:19 pm

There are no accounts which mention the two Zulu hills Qwabe and Nyezi by name.
Personally I don't believe L&Q are correct in siting vedettes there. I think they are transplanting their hindsight into Dartnell's and Scott's minds in the siting of vedettes.
What would be the point? They give no advantage.
They could see more and further from the plateau's edge and its high points (like Itusi) and have better and more direct communication with the camp.
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PostSubject: Re: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 2:09 pm

Kate
I was fortunate enough to spend some time chatting with Denis Barker. Probably 90% of the book came from Ron. My biggest issue was the so called "black eye" incident with Higginson. There is no mention of that incident save and except the 'family history', none of which was in writing, so just folk law.
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PostSubject: Re: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 2:44 pm

Family History account.

“ ""Barker found his still-saddled horse, his fresh horse was writhing in its death throes, and joined a couple of comrades in riding to where they thought there would be a rallying point on the Nek. Here they were met by an overwhelming force of Zulus. Turning back into the camp, Barker and a companion followed the direction that they had seen an artillery carriage go. This was the only point that the Zulus had not yet closed and led to what later became known at the Fugitive’s Trail.
Chased for six miles over extremely rugged terrain, the mounted survivors, for those on foot were soon overtaken and killed, reached the Buffalo River. This fast moving river was in full spate and many who had survived the dangers of the trail, perished beneath the swirling waters.
Barker managed to cross safely and began to climb the steep slopes on the Natal bank. Here he joined Lieutenant Charlie Raw’s Mounted Basutos, who were giving covering fire. The group then moved out of range of the Zulus on the far bank. The danger, however, was not passed, for discontented relatives of the Zulus, who lived in the vicinity, attacked the survivors as they reached the Natal bank.
Looking back, Barton saw a distant figure scrambling on foot towards them. Thinking it was a friend; Barker left his companions and rode back down the hill. The struggling figure was not his friend but Lieutenant W.C.R.Higginson, the Adjutant of 2/3rd Natal Native Contingent. He had just left Lieutenants Melvil and Coghill on the shore with a promise that he would return with horses. With the hostile natives closing, Barker insisted the officer took his exhausted horse, as it was incapable of carrying them both up the steep slope. He obtained Higginson’s promise that he would wait for him at the top of the hill. Higginson dug in his spurs and rode off to safety, while Barker struggled up the slope pursued by the same natives who had just killed Melvil and Coghill.
Meanwhile, Higginson had reached Charlie Raw and his group, who recognised Barker’s horse. Certain that Barker was now dead, Higginson told them that he had found the horse down by the river. The horse was relinquished in exchange for a spare Basuto pony and Higginson rode off to the safety of Helpmakaar, where he made his report.
Raw and his companions rode back towards the river to check for any survivors and came upon Trooper Barker still running for his life. He had been pursues for about three miles, managing to fire the occasional round to keep natives at a distance.
Within a few days the truth of Higginson’s escape and his supposedly humane gesture in searching for horses for Melvil and Coghill became well known. To avoid the shame and ignominy of his action, Higginson left Helmakaar, complete with a black eye, and quietly disappeared into obscurity."
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PostSubject: Re: Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions   Qwabe and Nyezi Vedette positions EmptySun Jan 31, 2021 2:54 pm

Thanks Julian that's the answer I was after. Salute
Having looked with boots on the ground myself, I'm also very sceptical about their use on the day though I can see were L and Q's ideas have come from as they are two high points that are at roughly the same distances from the camp as those given by Tpr. Barker at the beginning of his account. However then putting Barker on Qwabe three miles out contradicts his account.

Are we therefore assuming that Barker's distances are completely inaccurate?

Thanks Frank for that insight about where he got his information from.
Funnily enough, I was reading more of his book this morning (with a nice glass of port) and on page 208 he does say the first time he went to the battlefield was with the Rattray's in May 1992, thus discounting any ideas of him and his father wandering the battlefield with his father pointing out key areas.
Kate Very Happy
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