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 Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April

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Tig Van Milcroft




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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptySat Dec 03, 2022 2:59 pm

Curling's letter of 7th April to his brother Willy contains the following statement.

"I wonder if you will ever hear the true account about Isandlwana, we lost in killed 930 white men and 500 or more natives." The Curling Letters p121.

By this time Curling had had much opportunity to speak to and quesiton other survivors, had testified to the Court of Inquiry and written home letters of his experience of the Battle.

I do not doubt accuracy of his account, insofar as he recalled it. The events of the day are not in any great dispute in principle.

What did he mean when writing of the "true events" what could he be referring to?
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Eddie




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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptySat Dec 03, 2022 8:18 pm

He was probably refering to a true account by someone who was there, rather than what the government wanted the people to hear and believe.
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Frank Allewell

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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptySun Dec 04, 2022 3:19 am

Tig
The following was a comment from Lt. WW Lloyd:

“ We and a good many other boys know certain things concerning lord Chelmsford’s actions on the 22nd January which if they were raised abroad would simply down him in the eyes of the world and cause his recall in double quick time.”

Regards
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell


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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptySun Dec 04, 2022 3:23 am

This is a small article I wrote a number of years ago, unfortunatly never had the time to follow through on it, hopefully one day. It may be relevant to your point


The blame game probably started as early as the night of the 22nd of January with Lord Chelmsford’s gasp of ‘I left 1000 men here’. The wonderment that a bunch of natives could devastate one of the finest fighting forces in the world in its own campsite was beyond comprehension.
Who had got things so badly wrong that such a cataclysmic event could overtake the invading column? A column composed of fine hard fighting men, well seasoned in the art of chasing elusive natives unwilling to stand and fight, for surely this was the enemy envisaged by Lord Chelmsford and staff. A vision so entrenched that even on the 22nd of January from a breakfast picnic under the shadow of the Silutshane hill Lord Chelmsford’s Military Secretary was heard to comment: “Attack the camp? How amusing”.

As the days unfurled and survivor’s tales started to be told and retold the actual aspects of the battle started to get confused. As William Penn Symonds recorded at the time:
“It was very remarkable how their accounts afterwards varied. Men forgot what they saw and did amidst great excitement, and mixed up what others told them with their own experiences and reminiscences.”

One thing was common ground however was without a doubt the universal manner of protecting their individual selves from criticism of running from the battle field. From the 5 imperial officers the handful of redcoats and the colonials that did reach the safety of Natal, some after the hair raising gauntlet of the Fugitives trail a sorry tale of mismanagement started to emerge and as Symons pointed out small individual issues started to become more widely accepted as universal fact.

An imperial regiment could not have been defeated by stick wielding natives unless something or someone had made a disastrous error. Various issues were seized upon, the lack of an ammunition supply chain, no screw drivers, zealous quartermasters were all offered but that wasn’t enough. Blame had to be laid at the door of someone. The obvious party was the outsider, the Irish Engineer, the Maverick, the man most unpopular in the colony. Anthony Durnford.

The higher echelons of staff seized on the story of him disobeying the orders given to the camp commander Col Henry Burmeister Pullein from Col Glynn, even though Lord Chelmsford had no knowledge of these orders.

But that wasn’t enough, Colonel Richard Glyn was column commander and as such it was his responsibility to ensure the safety of the camp. This was the burden now put upon his shoulders in letters written by Colonel JN Crealock, from mid February to mid March Crealock told anyone that would listen that it was Glynn’s command. On the 2nd of March he reiterated this position and despite the caveat of not wanting to shift blame unequivocally pointed the finger at Glynn.
The war of words heated up with Glynns assistant Major CF Clery taking up the cudgels in defence of his superior. Issues came to a head and as reported by Clery in a letter of the 18th March:

“PS Things do not seem to be going smoothly at head quarters. I enclose here a scrap I have received from a colonel commanding regiment writing from headquarters. Our friend C. (Crealock) has I fear done a lot of mischief out here.”
The ‘scrap’ reads as follows:
‘I hear from trusty sources that Crealock wrote ‘a blackguard enemy’-the very words used-about Glynn, then Bellairs took it up and spoke hotly against it and the General took his view.
There are hot words about, which show how the wind is blowing. The other day there were hot words in the general’s sanctum, H. E. (His Excellency) saying to Crealock, “I will not allow you to speak thus: at any rate if you must express such sentiments, speak them like a gentleman.’

What could have caused this escalation over a two week period from a gentile and polite ‘not wishing to pass blame’ to a full blooded accusatorial situation?
It is possible that Captain W P Symons has the answer.
In his hand written manuscript he concludes with the following:

“Again efforts were made to place responsibility on those from whom it had been entirely removed. At first this seemed likely to be successful; but the discovery of order books, official memoranda, etc, on the battlefield on the 14th March, many of which I read, and from which I freely took extracts, stopped all attempts of this nature.”

There is no record anywhere of any documentation being retrieved on the 14th march from the battlefield.

What was it, where is it?

My readers may draw their own conclusions but is it coincidental that Major Black of the 24th lead that party and subsequently it was Major Black that located Crealocks order book in May? Is it coincidental that the attempts to pass the blame to Glynn ceased?

If it was indeed Crealocks notebook then the truth of the order to Durnford had to have been widely known. Is it possibly that this was the information that Lt WW Lloyd referred to when he wrote:
“ We and a good many other boys know certain things concerning lord Chelmsford’s actions on the 22nd January which if they were raised abroad would simply down him in the eyes of the world and cause his recall in double quick time.”

Is it just possible then that the exact order relayed by Crealock was shown or communicated to him causing the outburst referred to above? If indeed that order had been made public so soon after his evidence at the Court of Enquiry it could have been very detrimental to his career, as it was the eventual time of its release had no effect on him save and except histories view point of him.

Crealocks notebook eventually was handed back to him but what were the other documents referred to by Symonds? He very definitely uses the plural ‘books’ in his manuscript so whose were they and where they are now? What of the Memoranda referred to?

For a senior officer of the 24th to admit that there was a cover up, and that’s exactly what this is confirms the speculations of years by authors and historians alike. But was it the cover up by Lord Chelmsford so often alluded to or was it a cover up by the Regiment?

Frank Allewell
Cape Town
2016/08/11
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Tig Van Milcroft




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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptySun Dec 04, 2022 10:25 am

Eddie wrote:
He was probably refering to a true account by someone who was there, rather than what the government wanted the people to hear and believe.

Eddie, I take your point, but it seems to me that as he is writing to his brother, it is within his power to advise him of all that Curling knows. This suggests to me that there is other information above Curlings paygrade that is known to others, but he fears, will not be shared.

You attribute this motivation to the Government, it may be so, but I think in this case with him writing early April and a three week delay in communication, there and back, it is too early for a Government "view" to be formulated or promulgated. This then suggests to me it is local issue to the command.

I write having read Frank's response as well which contains some information that is new to me. Curling himself was to become no stranger to controversy, and he later is critical of Chelmsford's leadership.

We assess the events based upon the information and knowledge that we have, it may be that Curling's comments, if true, call into question the validity of the informaition as presented and therefore the conclusions drawn from it. Hence my question.

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Tig Van Milcroft




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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptySun Dec 04, 2022 8:18 pm


Frank, thanks for the article, I will refresh my mental library, before responding. In doing so, I was re reading today Penn Symons and the History of the 24th. I came across another comment which does not accord with Lord Chelmsford's recollection of the day of the battle. I know this book has been quoted thousands of times and articles written as a result about the messages sent and received etc. So there is probably an explanation out there.

On p235 a "mounted police" orderly (do you happen to know if he has been identified?) delivers a message to LC shortly after nine, this is the famous message sent by Pulleine. There is then some chat between the men of the 2nd 24th and the NMP Trooper and the men were getting worked up by the information "the camp is being surrounded and attacked" given by the NMP Trooper but not in the message, . Degacher is aware of this and presumably the extra information delivered, enough to say "if true" "we should all be marching back…"

Shortly after 10-00am orders were given to Bivouac at the new camp site at Mangene, Officers were sent back to arrange transport Hamilton Browne also and LC left (to go over Magogo hill) towards the Mangene stream, thence to the camp site, where he arrived c 1-00pm. The Pulleine note was timed at 9-30am for receipt, it was probably read before being file timed, that leaves 30 mins for Milne, if it were he, to go up Silutshana and have a look at the camp and to report and accompany Chelmsford, if he so did. It also means that LC took the decision to remain at Mangene overnight before he had information as to the security of the Isandlwana campsite.

The route Chelmsford took also ensured (or did it?) that he would be out of contact for those critical 2 - 3hrs at least to receive messages and reports. Russell at this time was checking the Valley between Silutshana and Phindo ridge.

"Soon after 1-00pm" Chelmsford received a report from a native to the effect that the camp was under attack. The narrative continues on p236 with Chelmsford and staff galloping up a nearby hill to observe the camp, but seeing nothing amiss concluded that "this report like a previous one, received from a native source was unfounded." Contrast this with the Chelmsford's response Q6 of Sir Charles Ellice series of questions regarding events at Isandlwana on behalf of Horseguards, when he states (from p267 Zulu Victory RLPQ) "I received no report whatever……that led me to suppose that an action was going on near the camp, or that it was in danger."

Many participants in the events of 22nd Jan 1879 would have still be alive and active in 1892 the year of publication of The History, not least Chelmsford himself. The book provides evidence or at least two reports reaching Chelmsford, prior to Lonsdale's return from camp in direct contradiction of Chelmsfords contemporary assertions.

This above along with the fact that Chelmsford had decided during his breakfast stop to remain Mangene overnight of 23rd/24th and to establish another camp there is very suggestive that this was a pre meditated plan rather than one hatched over breakfast. Chelmsford had visited the new site at Mangene on 20th Jan, probably rather than a transit camp like Isanadlwana this would be a defended camp, a secure base of operations, one look at the site establishes it's credentials as a defensive site far superior to that of Isandlwana.

If that was Chelmsford's intention, it also suggests that his later reason for the excursion, i.e. solely to support Dartnell must also be questioned.

Too many "ifs" or course, but too few "truths" as well. This might be to what Curling was referring, alternative to, or in addition to your submission.
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell


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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptyMon Dec 05, 2022 12:56 pm

Tig your becoming quite the Horologist.
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Tig Van Milcroft




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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptyMon Dec 05, 2022 11:12 pm

Frank, I lay no claim to horology, though it has to be said, if they had paid more attention to the products of that field of science, it would have helped us a lot to sorting out the chronology.

With your equestrian hat on would you have taken on Milne's Hill at a gallop?
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Frank Allewell

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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptyTue Dec 06, 2022 3:53 am

Morning Tig, its doable but would take a lot more skill and deringdo than I could conjure up.
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell


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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptyTue Dec 06, 2022 4:04 am

Tig its an interesting concept you have raised over the Mangeni camp site. As said the site would have made a brilliant defensive position.
Chelmsfords whole tactic was to bring about a situation where he could force the zulu to charge onto the massed guns of 2 infantry battalions. That could easily suggest that Mangeni would have been a chosen site to bring that about and with his, Chelmsfords, wishes.
The area was well enough advanced into zululand to irritate Cetswayo and (subsequent events proved the point) force him into sending the impi to attack.
Who knows, an attack 2 days later onto a Mangeni camp well dug in could have destroyed the zulu army within hours.
Cheers
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Tig Van Milcroft




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Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April Empty
PostSubject: Re: Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April   Incongruouse comment in Curling's letter f 7th April EmptyTue Dec 06, 2022 9:53 am

Frank, to take this concept a little further.

When Chelmsford marched down to Mangene, he left Isandlwana sure that his base camp was in no imminent danger, for proof, he took the main firepower of the camp with him, he also felt it was secure enough to pass over the information from three messages indicating the contrary position later in the day. He had no confident knowledge of the actual position of the Zulu main force, other than that it was on the move towards his force, and contact likely imminent. Critically he had only one days rations and 70 rounds per man ammunition. By doing so increased the vulnerability of his whole force by reducing concentrated firepower and stretching critical lines of communication.

By breakfast time he had secured Dartnell's force and could have marched back to Isandlwana. He chose to stay and move the camp to Mangene.

Generals like to choose the field of battle, Mangene may well have been his pick for that site. His early departure possibly to secure it before the Zulu army he believed to be there could deploy effectively to prevent his seizing it. His decision to stay, at breakfast, may as you point out be to bring the Zulus on to his massed guns. He was probably keenly aware of the limitations of the Isandlwana site and the vulnerability of the stores and waggons there. His firing line at Mangene would have been shorter than the one necessary to defend Isandlwana and proportionately more effective. The site also prevents by it topography the use of the Zulu encirclement tactic, it would have to be a full on assault. This is all supposition of course. But there is one fact we do know which strongly supports this supposition. Chelmsford bet the house that his standalone force at Mangene with four artillery pieces and 70 rounds per man could resist the entire Zulu impi. Actually, he made two bets over that breakfast, be also bet thAT Isandlwana could.



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» From The Oldham Chronicle, 26 April 1879 Letter from an Oldham Soldier in Zululand
» Henry Curling comment.

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