Edgar Anstey - the first South Australian to die in an overseas war
Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot in the British Army, Edgar Anstey was in South Africa where the British were engaged in a bloody war with the Zulus. On January 22nd 1879 the Zulu army inflicted the greatest ever colonial defeat on a British Army force at the Battle of Isandlwana, killing 1,357 men of the 1st Battalion and the Native Natal Contingent.
Anstey was amongst the fallen, the first South Australian to die in an overseas war.
It is believed that Anstey was one of the last men to die in the battle. During a final rally by three companies of his battalion some kilometres down Fugitives' Trail, Anstey was killed. The survivors eventually fled down the trail to safety. Close by was the outpost of Rorke's Drift where, later that day and into the next morning, 139 British soldiers were to successfully fight off repeated massed attacks by thousands of Zulus in a heroic battle that was to go down in British military history. Two days after his death, Anstey's body was found by his brother, Captain Tom Anstey of the Royal Engineers. Anstey was interred where he had fallen, under a cairn of stones, as the ground was too hard to dig graves.
Anstey's body was still in its uniform. He had been stabbed with assegais and had obviously been leading his men right up until his death. Whilst the Zulu custom in battle was to take no prisoners and to ritually disembowel the enemy dead, Anstey's body was left intact.