Extracts from the journal of Lieutenant Robert W. Craigie of the Naval Brigade serving with Colonel Person in No. 1 Column.
(Printed in The London Times, March 18, 1879)
Jan 6 (Lower Drift)
“Got wire hawser over the river, made fast to a tree on this side and an anchor on the other, for the purpose of working the large pont we had built; and which carries two loaded wagon. The pont works on a traveler attached to the hawser, with a rope at each end to haul it from shore to shore. Forty men from Tenedos arrived today.
“8th. River came down and dragged the anchor into the middle of the stream.
“9th. Endeavored to get anchor and hawser across, the river running from 6 to 7 knots. While I was hauling the old pont up the stream by a hawser, she took charge and capsized four of us into the water – three men and myself. I managed to get back to the pont with two men, but the third was carried away by the current and, unfortunately, drowned.
“10th. The river having fallen, we paid the wire hawser across and made it fast to a tree.
“12th. Crossing the river commenced at daylight, our men going over in boats and then hauling the pont over. She had three trips an hour, each taking a company of infantry or a troop of cavalry.
“13th. Remainder of troops and Naval Brigade crossed today.
“14th, 15th, 16th, 17th. Naval Brigade working the pont day and night, getting wagons, provisions, stores over, the oxen swimming the river. By the 17th we had 120 waggons on the Zulu side.
“18th. This division was divided into two columns, the first being ourselves, the Buffs, Lloyd’s guns, 1st company Engineers, one battalion Natives, and 50 wagons. Our two guns, under Lieutenant Heugh, were in the 2nd column.
“22nd. I was looking after the wagons in the center of the column, when about 8 o’clock, I heard firing at the front. I immediately pushed forward, where I found the advanced guard hotly engaged. The Staff, Lloyd’s guns, some of the Buffs and the Bluejackets occupied a large knoll to the right of the road; in front of them was a high hill overlooking our position in possession of the Zulus. When I arrived both of our companies were engaged on the left of the knoll; the Zulus
annoyed us very much from a kraal to the left; but a couple of rocket dislodged them, and the Native Contingent took it. The Zulus advancing on our left, the Bluejackets were ordered there, and being very exposed moving up the road, four of our men were wounded; driving the enemy along the road, and being supported by two companies of the Buffs under Col. Parnell, we charged up the hill, when the Zulus took to flight.
23rd. Marched at daylight and arrived at Ekowe in the afternoon, where we are to remain for 10 days, waiting for convoys of wagons, with stores and provisions. This is a beautiful place for a camp, on top of a high hill with a mission chapel and house.
Jan 25.Commenced work on the fort, which is to enclose the church and all the mission houses.
Jan 26. Church parade at 10am. Capital sermon from Mr. Robertson, our parson, who has been a missionary in Zululand for 20 years.
Jan 27. Working at the fort all day, and finished one side; the church is to be used for a hospital.
Jan 28. Heard that Col. Durnford and 200 white men had been killed while in charge of Col. Glyn’s camp and that the other columns had retreated. Great scare, and talk of the whole force retiring, but better counsel prevailed, the Native Contingent and mounted men only going. Everybody else moved into the fort and worked hard at the ditch, which was got into good order by sunset. Our force consists of six companies of the Buffs, three companies of the 99th Regiment, one company of Engineers, and Naval Brigade. We are told off for the east end, just in front of Oftenbrow’s house, our two guns on our left and the Gatling on the right.
Jan 29. All hands working at the ditch, which is getting on well. The usual night alarm, which is getting monotonous.
Jan 30. Our tents are put on the wagons, so we have to make a bivouac of it. We are, however, pretty comfortable, as we mess on the verandah of the house.
Feb 1. A large party of us rode out, burned a couple of kraals, and saw a few Zulus.
Feb. 2. Two runners arrived last night with news of the disaster to the 2nd column, 23 officers and 500 men massacred, only a few mounted ones escaping. This news has created a great impression on us all. The whole Zulu army will probably soon attack us, as we are quite alone in Zululand; but as the fort is nearly complete, we ought to give a good account of ourselves. Heard that 200 men were going to land from the Boadicea. This has been a pouring wet day.
Feb 3. Church parade at 9am. Capital sermon about the late events. Ditch getting on, being 7 ft deep and 10 ft wide.
Feb 4. This brings my journal up to today. As for here; what I am most glad about is that we did not go back to Natal as if we had been defeated. All our men wounded in the action at Inyezane are getting well except one, who has a bullet in his thigh, which the doctors cannot find.”
Petty Officer Tom