THE PIONEER, SATURDAY, MAY 23, 1914.
OLD MERTHYR SOLDIERS REWARD
HERO OF RORKE'S DRIFT IN LODGING HOUSE.
John Jones an old soldiers, living in a common lodging house at Riverside, Merthyr, is one of the few remaining heroes of the defence of Rorke's Drift in 1879. Jones who is a man of 60 years of age, has found that, like many of his fellows who serve their country faithfully in other walks of life , his reward has been poverty.
Jones spent most of his life in the army, having joined the Warwickshires in 1876 at Merthyr, served in the Zulu war, served in India, took part in the South African war, for which he received two bars. For his service in the Zulu war he obtained a medal and clasp. He has however, been assisted by friends who have helped the old man to avoid the taint of pauperism.
It was about four o'clock on an afternoon in January 1879, when we were informed of the advance of the Zulus by an Aide-de-camp from Isandlwana, where the company had proceeded on a detour in pursuit of the main column , who, unhappily, had missed the course of the enemy. Time was short and we had no trenches.
"Necessity compelled us to move, and move rapidly. Taking a different course from that of our main column, the enemy had attacked the advance party, and slaughter followed in ruthless fashion.
A number of men were massacred, but some escaped and made a desperate rush to the camp.
We were practically ready to meet the oncoming enemy, but we had to fight under difficulties. "With no fortifications save a hospital and a storeroom and hopelessly out numbered, we erected a defence of biscuits boxes and mealies. It was an anxious time. What were we to do? We were all possessed with pluck of the Britisher, and observing the advance of the Zulus, who flitted from the hillside in all directions. We set ourselves ready for the task. The air was soon rent with bullets , the Zulus fell in hopeless numbers, but, dexterous as we proved to be , the cunning Zulus protected themselves in many ways. They concealed themselves in the ravines, some lay prostrate, others of the more reckless type rushed towards us indiscriminately.
One of them even advanced towards the hospital and set fire to it, but the blaze only helped us to detect the enemy.
A MERE HANDFUL
" Night had fallen when they came into touch with us", continued the old soldier, and here he paused to correct an account given by another surviver" True, they were upon us," he went on, "but they did not grip our bayonets". We were a mere handful in comparison to their numbers, and had they been so near we would not have lived to tell the tale.
We kept them away by ceaseless gre, and, In spite of their wily methods, the dead being held up as objects of attack, with an endless repetition of their hideous yells-cries which meant to inform us of their advance while they were concealed in the crevices of the hill, the object being to reduce our ammunition.
We succeeded in ploughing them down. We lost but a few comrades, and when our column returned they had to take their rest amongst the dead and dying. The enemy had by now retreated, and we waited by the dawn.
Daylight revealed to us the tragedy of the night, the dead were huddled on the ground, the number being close upon a thousand. Some of the column returned in the morning, and thinking they were the Zulus, we were ready for another shot, but we soon found that they were our own chaps.
These were the trials of Rorke's Drift!"
And Lord Comer received a present of £50,000 and an annual pension for his services in Egypt. But then, he was one of the boys" and John Jones is only an old Welsh soldier who has served truly and we'll, and received a present of a few bars, a medal and clasp, and a pension of poverty.