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 A Romance of Rourke's Drift

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Kenny




Posts : 588
Join date : 2013-05-07
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A Romance of Rourke's Drift Empty
PostSubject: A Romance of Rourke's Drift   A Romance of Rourke's Drift EmptyTue Dec 20, 2022 8:55 am

Over these months there have been many postings relating to the AZW stories which have appeared in newspapers over the years. Forum enthusiasts, who have on-line access to the many newpspaper digital archives, have been extremely diligent in bring these stories to our attention. Was he there on 22/23 January 1879?

This story about a 1894 article from Singapore Free Press appears in the latest Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (Winter 2022 No. 403). I am sure that it keep our keen forum enthusiasts amused over the Christmas holiday period:

2056 A ROMANCE of ROURKE’S DRIFT – in reading through old newspapers on-line recently I came across the feature below. Seemingly the Singapore Free Press had invited its readers to write in and tell them about unusual romances and their responses had appeared in the paper’s column called ‘Answers’. The Hong Kong Daily Press had evidently syndicated the feature on 26th September 1894.

We (Singapore Free Press) feel pretty sure that one gallant friend of Lt. Col. Chard R.M., on that eventful night at Rourke’s Drift when he and Gonville Bromhead repelled the Zulu assault after the disaster as Isandlwana, had little idea that that heroic night of struggle was to be the dawn of a soldier’s romance. Answers, in its competition for the most interesting “Romantic Marriage” gives this as one example selected for publication in the issue of 18th August 1894:-

INTRODUCTION ON THE BATTLEFIELD
I was introduced to my wife on the awful field of that fight at Rourke’s Drift, when we (a handful) of the gallant 60th Regiment, under that young lion Jack Chard (God bless him as one of the bravest heroes Britain has ever produced!) made a stand against 3,000 Zulus.

It was at that heroic defence that a chum of mine “bit the dust” while gallantly fighting at my side in one of the six hand to hand tussles when the Zulus rushed our barricades of bags and biscuit tines.

Almost the last words [he spoke] were “Poor Emily” She was his sweetheart, and he gathered his breath to gasp just a few words, a message of love to her. That message I delivered myself, with a piece of his hair which I had cut off, and her photo, which was in his pocket at the time of his death.

I have seen some sorrowful sights in my time, and it takes a good deal to bring tears to a soldier’s eyes, but I am not ashamed to say that they came to mine when I saw her grief as I told her his last thoughts were of her.

Poor chap! He might well grieve to leave such a girl; I fell in love with her while I was telling her the story, and we had been married now for over nine years.


The report is somewhat frustrating as, apart from anything else, it does not even mention the narrator of this tale, but it also poses a number of other questions. Afficionados of the Zulu War of 1879 may know the answers to the questions below off the tops of their heads, but I should be interested if any members or readers of the Journal could provide answers to the following to suggest books in which answers might be found. Responses should be sent to the Hon. Editor – editor@sahr.org.uk – so that they can appear in the Journal.

There was clearly a contingent of the 60th Foot or King’s Royal Rifle Corps at Rourke’s Drift, though one usually associates that the garrison exclusively with the South Wales Borderers – 24th Foot.

Why were the Rifles there? How large was the contingent, and are the names of the individual soldiers recorded anywhere? How many casualties did the Rifles suffer and who were they?

If there were only a few casualties from that Corps, where did these men come from? One can assume the casualty’s sweetheart came from the same town or village as he did and therefore that her place of birth ad declared, eventually, on her marriage certificate would match up with the place of birth of one of there casualties.

Of those who survived that engagements, is it possible to trace the marriage of one those survivors to a woman called Emily in about 1885, i.e. nine years before the piece was published.

And, as the romantic tale was originally published in a Singapore newspaper, one might suppose that the narrator of the story was (A) still serving and (B) his battalion of the KRRC was in, 1894, stationed in Singapore.

The story is so intriguing that it would be nice to ‘close the loop’ and fill in all the gaps.

RICHARD J. GARRETT
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