Lieutenant Thomas Purvis 1st Battalion 3rd Regiment of Natal Native Contingent was the first officer and one of only three Military men to be wounded on the first day of the campaign in Zululand, at the capture of Sirhayo’s Kraal, 12.1.1879, ‘There was a short, sharp melee among the boulders, and then Sirhayo’s retainers broke and fled into the depths of the gorge, leaving 20 dead men behind. Two of Mvubi’s Zulus had been killed, Lieutenant Purvis had been shot through the arm and Corporal Mayer behind the knee, and Corporal Scheiss [shortly to win a V.C. at Rorke’s Drift] in the thick of the fight, had been struck by a lunging assegai which ripped his boot open and slashed his calf. They were joined in the ambulance for the trip back to the hospital at Rorke’s Drift by two wounded survivors of Sirhayo’s party, one
with a thigh broken by a rifle bullet.’ (The Washing of Spears refers) Whilst being nursed at the hospital Purvis also started to suffer from an acute form of dysentery. Luckily for Purvis, however, he left Rorke’s Drift with Captain Stevenson’s Natal Native Contingent just before the legendary action took place, a statement from Lieutenant W.R. Higginson N.N.C. offers further insight, ‘We got into Helpmaaker about 7pm. I found that Captain Stevenson of the 2nd Battalion 3rd Regiment N.N.C., had brought Lieutenant Purvis up from Rorke’s Drift, where he had been in hospital as he had been wounded in the arm in the cave fighting on Sunday, 12th January; he asked me to help him take Purvis to Ladysmith..... so at 9pm we started for and got to Dundee at 3am, from there we pushed on to Ladysmith and got there on Friday, being obliged to go slowly on account of Purvis. On Saturday morning the General and his staff arrived, and he was kind enough to see me. I told him all that I have stated here. Major Buller then saw Lieutenant Purvis and took a seat for him in the post-cart for Maritzburg.’ At Maritzburg, Purvis had a medical examination in which it was concluded that his wound was the equivalent to the loss of a limb and that he would be unlikely to be fit enough for military service again.