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Bertram Mitford’s Through the Zulu Country, a wonderfully evocative account of an overland journey by ox-cart in 1882, to visit the battlefields of Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift – a journey I would later make myself (albeit by more twenty-first century modes of transport). A brief extract gives the flavour:
From the brow of the hill just before descending, Isandhlwana comes into view, standing out in rugged boldness from the surrounding heights, towering grim and dark in the summer haze like a huge lion, but the glimpse is little more than a momentary one, and is lost to sight as the road makes a sudden dip. In front the Buffalo [river] threads along, past Rorke’s Drift and the Bashi valley, and the open plain stretches away beyond the Blood River, far into Transvaal territory. A silent and desert expanse; on the right a semi-gloom, where the frowning cliffs overhanging the Bashi valley cast their shadows; not a sign of life anywhere – a lonely and unprotected border…
Then there are the harrowing reminders of what took place on the former battlefield:
"I ride over the camp ground, and although three years have elapsed, there is no lack of traces of the melancholy struggle. In spite of a luxuriant growth of herbage the circles where stood the rows of tents are plainly discernible, while strewn about are tent pegs, cartridge cases, broken glass, bits of rope, meat tins and sardine boxes pierced with assegai stabs, shrivelled up pieces of shoe-leather, and rubbish of every description; bones of horses and oxen gleam white and ghastly, and here and there in the grass one stumbles across a half-buried skeleton"[/color]
As well as his superb travel writing, Mitford published over thirty novels – many of them about his time in South Africa.
No less colourful, with regard to both his life and his prose style, was Colonel George Hamilton-Browne – nicknamed ‘Maori’ on account of the knowledge of that language he had acquired during his service with the British army in New Zealand. His description of the Zululand campaign – in which he commanded a battalion of black auxiliary infantry (the Natal Native Contingent) appears in the splendidly titled A Lost Legionary in South Africa (London, 1912) from which Hamilton-Browne’s impressions of the build-up to the conflict emerge with startling immediacy:
"The morning was very cold, the dense morning fog, for which Zululand is famous, hung close to the ground, and although it was midsummer, the cold bit, causing us to shiver in our thin khaki clothing, whilst the naked natives turned blue, their teeth chattering like stone-breakers at work… Well before daylight in the bitter fog, we came down to the drift. The river was full, rapid and very cold… we hardened our hearts and dashed at it, the natives all linking arms and rushing in en masse. My horse was nearly carried off his feet… I do not know how many of my natives were lost"
Hamilton-Browne goes on to describe the fateful morning of 22nd January, when he and his men arrived at Lord Chelmsford’s camp, which had been set up earlier that day a few miles away from Isandhlwana, to find a scene of surprising tranquillity:
"Never shall I forget the sight of that peaceful picnic. Here were the staff quietly breakfasting and the whole command scattered over the country!
Ordered to return to Isandhlwana and assist commanding officer Pulleine in striking the camp, ‘Maori’ Browne set off across country:
So I kept on down that valley which presently opened out into a big plain and on the far side of it… was a queer-shaped mountain… With my glasses I could discern a long white line which I knew to be tents. The name of that mountain was Isandlwana and the time was then 9 am on the 22nd January 1879"
An even closer view of the action is to be found in General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien’s Memories of Forty-Eight Years’ Service (London 1925) which records, amongst other extraordinary moments of the author’s long and distinguished career, the then twenty-one year-old Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien’s experiences of the battle:
"We could hear heavy firing (to the north) even then (8 am)… At about 12 am the Zulus, who had apparently fallen back behind the hills, again showed in large numbers, coming down into the plain with great boldness, and our guns and rifles were pretty busy for some time… It was difficult to see exactly what was going on, but firing was heavy. It was evident now that the Zulus were in great force, for they could be seen extending (ie throwing out their horns) away across the plain to the south-east…
Within another hour, the situation becomes increasingly desperate, with the advance of the Zulu army upon the camp:
[i]It was a marvellous sight, line upon line of men in slightly extended order, one behind the other, firing as they came along, for a few of them had firearms, bearing all before them. The rocket battery… was firing, and suddenly it ceased, and presently we saw the remnants of Durnford’s force, mostly mounted Basutos, galloping back to the right of our position… The ground was interspersed with ‘dongas’ and in them Russell and his rocket battery was caught, and none escaped to tell the tale"
A grim account of what followed is given by Captain H H Parr, aide-de-camp to Lord Chelmsford, in his book, A Sketch of the Kafir and Zulu Wars: Guadana to Isandhlwana (London, 1880):
"It fell quite dark as we neared the camp, and we could see fires burning near the ridge, where we expected to find the enemy holding it in force. At about two thousand yards the line was halted, while the guns opened and fired two rounds. We advanced to within about twelve hundred yards, and fired two more rounds. Then, with fixed bayonets, we advanced into the camp, and made our way through, men and horses stumbling over tents half-upset, broken wagons, dead bodies of soldiers and of Zulus, dead oxen, dead horse, dead mules, burst sacks of grain, empty ammunition boxes, articles of camp equipment; and on the ridge, amongst the dead bodies of our comrades, formed our bivouac."
Parr’s account is one of several (Bernard Mitford’s retrospective view being another) which includes the Zulu version of what took place. Here is Parr’s:
"‘The red soldiers who had been on the left,’ said an officer of the Umcityu, ‘they killed many of us with their bayonets. When they found we were upon them, they turned back to back. They all fought till they died. They were hard to kill; not one tried to escape.’" This is from Mitford’s translation of the words of a warrior of the Umbonambi regiment:
"My regiment and the Umpunga formed the centre of the impi. When the soldiers in the donga saw that the Kandampemvu were getting behind them, they retreated towards the camp, firing at us all the time. As they retreated we followed them. I saw several white men on horseback galloping towards the ’neck’, which was the only point open; then the Nokenke and Nodwengu regiments, which had formed the right horn of the impi, joined with the Ngobamakosi on the ’neck’. After that there was so much smoke that I could not see whether the white men had got through or not. The tumult and the firing was wonderful; every warrior shouted ‘Usútu!’ as he killed anyone, and the sun got very dark, like night, with the smoke"
Some powerfully evocative accounts of the battle and its aftermath are also to be found in Frank Emery’s seminal work about the Zulu wars, The Red Soldier (London, 1977), which collects together the hundreds of letters written by officers and private soldiers in the months leading up to the conflict.
This is from a letter written by Richard Stevens.Trumpeter. Natal Mounted Police. Regiment. Corrected 22nd November 2010
"The order was given to get into camp. We got there, and I went all over the place looking for a gun, but could not get one; my revolver was broken… The Zulus were in the camp ripping our men up with their assegais. They were not content with killing, but were ripping the men up afterwards. Never has such a disaster happened to the English Army. There were no means of sending to the General [ie Lord Chelmsford] who was out of the camp. Well now, about myself. I got out of camp somehow, I don’t know how, and went through awful places to get to the Drift, where… I was as nearly drowned as could be… I have not told you all of it, as I have not time or paper… There were 537 of the 24th Regiment killed in camp… so you can imagine what it was. The Zulus have all our wagons, with stores and ammunition. There will be an awful row at home about this."
Here is Private Henry Moses’s letter:
"I take the pleasure of writing these few lines to you, hoping to find you well, as I am, so far. I know what soldiering is now. We have marched 200 miles and haven’t had a night’s sleep this month. We are in fear every night, and have had to fight the Zulus, who came on us and killed 800 of our men. I wish I was back in England again, for I should never leave… It is nothing but mountains here; all biscuits to eat. Dear father, and sisters, and brothers, goodbye. We may never meet again. I repent the day that I took the shilling"
From Patrick Farrell’s letter, describing the same events:
"I write you these few and sorrowful lines to let you know that I am still living. Dear brother, on 11 January we crossed into Zululand, and all went well until 22nd… We slept that night amongst dead bodies… In the morning, to look at the camp, what a state! 1,000 white men, and 5,000 black men killed! Wagons broke! Bullocks killed! Tents all gone! It was the most horrid sight that was ever seen by a soldier, dear brother"
John Price, of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, wrote to his parents:
"We arrived in camp about nine o’clock at night, and all the tents were burned to the ground, and where we had to sleep was a very uncomfortable place among the dead bodies all night… Tell Harry not to enlist for God’s sake, or else he will be sorry for it"
Sergeant W Morley [‘H’ Company] wrote to a comrade at Brecon, bleakly listing the dead from his company:
"Our loss is Lt. Dyer, Pope, Austen, Griffiths, Quartermaster Bloomfield, QM-Sergeant Davies, Sergeants Limes, Reeve, Shaw,Watkins, Ross, Carse, Chew, Maxfield, Haigh, McCaffrey, Williams; in all five officers, ten sergeants, nine corporals, two drummers and 159 privates of our company. Sergeant Shaw, Corporal Sims, Privates Byard, Joe King, Nokes, Tamer, MacCracken, Hill, Neagle, Machin, Quelford, Farr, Fitzpatrick, Watson, General’s Staff Bishop. There was five companies of the 1/24th in camp… and only seven escaped"
Major Francis Grenfell (60th rifles) expressed the bitterness felt by officers and men alike at the loss of so many comrades:
"All my dear old friends of the last four years dead and gone, and we have not even been able to bury them… Officers and men behaved splendidly – dying back to back – and at the last rallying round the colours, not a man of the regiment attempted to escape till all was lost"
Whilst Grenfell’s account – like those of many of his fellow officers – offers a perhaps more conventionally heroic depiction of the battle than that which emerges from the letters of the private soldiers, it expresses a similar mixture of emotions. Anger at what was widely perceived to have been the incompetence of the commanding officer; sadness at the waste of life; shock – how could it have happened? – are uppermost.
This was a mood quickly seized upon by several of the journalists sent to cover the story. They, too, left their record of events – much of it filled with powerful detail, and wonderfully evocative turns of phrase. The doyen of war correspondents during this period was Archibald Forbes, a former soldier in the Royal Dragoons during the Franco-Prussian war, who filed stories for the Daily News from Spain and Turkey, Afghanistan and Burma, before he was sent to cover the Anglo-Zulu conflict. With his no less extraordinary colleague, Melton Prior, of the Illustrated London News, he visited the battlefields of Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift six months after the disaster, and wrote this memorable account:
"In the ravine dead men lay thick – mere bones, with toughened, discoloured skin like leather covering them, and clinging tight to them, the flesh all wasted away. Some were almost wholly dismembered, heaps of clammy yellow bones. I forbear to describe the faces, with their blackened features and beards blanched by rain and sun. Every man had been disembowelled. Some were scalped, and other subject to yet ghastlier mutilation. The clothes had lasted better than the poor bodies they covered, and helped to keep the skeletons together."
"All the way up the slope, I traced, by the ghastly tokens of dead men, the fitful line of flight. Most of the men hereabouts were infantry of the 24th. It was like a long string with knots in it, the string formed of single corpses, the knots of clusters of the dead, where, it seemed, little groups might have gathered to make a hopeless stand and die"
Posts : 17 Join date : 2010-11-21 Age : 70 Location : Melbourne, Australia
Subject: Re: Eye Witness Accounts Isandlwana. Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:01 am
You have a quote on this page from Richard Stevens who is listed as being of the 10th Essex Rifle Volunteers. Richard Stevens is my great grandfather and he was in fact a Trumpeter with the Natal Mounted Police. He remained in camp when Dartnell took the main NMP force out to the Hlazakazi and was co-opted into Durnford's column on the day of the battle. The quote is from a letter he wrote home to his father. Could you please correct his regimental attribution. Thank you.
Posts : 4304 Join date : 2008-11-01 Age : 63 Location : KENT
Subject: Re: Eye Witness Accounts Isandlwana. Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:16 am
Hi Alun. Thanks for you reply. As you rightly point out we have Richard Stevens, with the 10th Essex Rifle Volunteers:
"Richard Stevens is my great grandfather and he was in fact a Trumpeter with the Natal Mounted Police."
Could you please correct his regimental attribution. Thank you. Alun Stevens
We would only be too glad to amend the Regiment, Richard Stevens served in. (There is nothing we like more than putting the facts right.)
Would really appreciate if you could provide evidence that shows he served with the NMP.
Posts : 17 Join date : 2010-11-21 Age : 70 Location : Melbourne, Australia
Subject: Richard Stevens Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:53 am
I have no primary documents showing him as a member of the NMP. I can provide the following references. Firstly, the quote you provide on the page is an excerpt from his letter to his father which is reproduced in Full in Frank Emery's 'The Red Soldier' at the bottom of page 91. The text is as follows: "Richard Stevens of Witham Essex, well known in the neighbourhood as a cricketer and member of the 10th Essex Rifle Volunteers, had left home a year previously to join the Natal Mounted Police ...."
Secondly, I refer you to Holt HP, The Mounted Police of Natal, John Murray, London 1913. On Page 61 it states: “Of the 34 members of the Natal Police who had been left in camp by Major Dartnell only 9 escaped. The men who escaped were: Lance-Corporal Eaton, Trumpeter Stevens and Troopers Collier, Doig, Dorehill, W Hayes (died of fever at Helpmekaar ), Kincade, Shannon and Sparks.”
On Page 62 it states: “Each man dashed into the stream as he reached it. Trumpeter Stevens, of the police, was washed off his horse, which swam across. The Trumpeter owed his life to a native constable, who caught the animal and bravely took it back, enabling Stevens to cross the river before the Zulus attacked him.”
Thirdly, I refer to Ian Knight, Zulu Rising on page 452 where he quotes: "Trumpeter Stevens of the Mounted Police also lost his horse in the river, and found on reaching the Natal bank that an African was making off with it ‘and it was only by threatening him with his revolver that he regained his mount’. Later Stevens noticed that the chamber had fallen out midstream, and that his revolver was useless – ‘it was fortunate that the native did not notice’ ”
Fourthly, I refer to the inscription on Richard Stevens' Zulu War medal which states "254. TRMPTR . R.W. STEVENS N.M.P." I can provide a photograph of the medal and inscription if you provide me an address to which I can email it.
Posts : 7077 Join date : 2009-04-24 Age : 54 Location : Down South.
"I am almost afraid to tell you all the dreadful news I know, but I think it is better to let you know all. I will commence from the day of our entrance into Zululand. It took two or three days for all of our column to cross over the river. There was not a Zulu to be seen for some distance. Patrolling parties were sent out, and they came back with a lot of cattle, and said there were not any niggers to be seen. We pitched camp over the river, and stayed there some time. On Sunday, 12 January the outposts reported the enemy in great force at the back of the hill in the distance. We all turned out, and went to the hill, but could only see a few of them. We saw them following us. We did not think they meant to do anything, so we went right close to them, and when we were about 100 yards off they fired on us. We all dismounted, and let them have it. They hid away in the stones; we turned them out and killed most of them. That's the greater part of that affair.
I must go on to the most dreadful case. We were ordered to move the camp further up into the country , so we went ten or twelve miles and pitched camp again. The next day patrolling parties (in fact, the greater part of the camp) went out. I could not go; my horse was sick. A message came in that they had seen the enemy, and were going to be out all night, so we sent biscuits and greatcoats out to them. The next morning our camp outposts came and reported the enemy in sight again. We had only about 600 men in camp altogether. Well, we all formed up ready for action, and at that time seven or eight Zulus came in and gave up their arms, and the Colonel let them go, and soon after that we saw the hill black with them coming on in swarms. They were estimated at 20,000
We went out and held a ditch as long as possible, until we were outnumbered. The order was given to get into camp. We got there and I went all over the place looking for a gun, but could not get one; my revolver was broken. I stopped in camp as long as possible and saw one of the most horrid sights that I ever wish to see. The Zulus were in the camp ripping our men up, and also the tents and everything they came across, with their assegais. They were not content with killing, but were ripping the men up afterwards. Never has such a disaster happened to the English Army. There were no means of sending to the General, who was out of the camp. Well now, about myself. I got out of camp somehow, I don't know how, and went through awful places to get to the Drift, where my horse was taken away from under me, and I was as nearly drowned as could be. I just happened to catch hold of another horse's tail, which pulled me through. Thus we came on to this place and threw up a fortification, and here I am, thanks to the Almighty , all safe as yet, and I hope to see you all again. I have not told you all of it, as I have not time or paper. I will write again the first opportunity . I do not think the people of Natal will let us cross the border again. There were 537 of the 24th Regiment killed in camp, and twenty-six of us, and several others, so you can imagine what it was. The Zulus have all our waggons, with stores and ammunition. There will be an awful row at home about this.
Letter written at Helpmakaar on 27th January 1879 by Richard Stevens (Natal Mounted Police)" Source: Unknown. (If anyone knows the source please post)
Posts : 10613 Join date : 2009-04-07 Age : 66 Location : Melbourne, Australia
Subject: Trmpr Stevens . NMP Tue Nov 23, 2010 6:09 am
Hi pete . This I can tell you , the letter dated 27 th Jan 79 was published in ' The Colchester Mercury and in ' Essex Express 15th March 1879 . Hope this helps , courtesy of Julian Whybra's work , England's Sons . cheers 90th.
Posts : 17 Join date : 2010-11-21 Age : 70 Location : Melbourne, Australia
Subject: Re: Eye Witness Accounts Isandlwana. Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:44 am
Thank you for the correction.
The letter was published as indicated by 90th. The same reference is provided by Frank Emery
Posts : 3315 Join date : 2009-03-03 Location : Devon
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] Evening Post, Volume XVII, Issue 506, 10 May 1879, Page 1
Posts : 17 Join date : 2010-11-21 Age : 70 Location : Melbourne, Australia
Subject: 256 Trumpeter R W Stevens NMP Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:19 pm
It is a while since I last posted to this forum. In the meantime I and my wife (who is an historian) have been doing some investigating. I now have a deeper insight into my Great Grandfather. Let me list what I now know:
Firstly, his name. I was told by my father that his name was Richard William Stevens. This, it transpires, is incorrect. His name was in fact RICHARD WALFORD STEVENS although online searches show him as Richard Watford Stevens for the 1861 UK Census.
He was born on 17 October 1858 at Newington in London - although at that time Newington was in Surrey. It is not clear where his family lived at that time, but for the 1851 census, they are shown as residing at 19 Bennett Street, Southwark, London. This street no longer exists, but it was in the area behind Christ Church, Blackfriars Road, South Bank. As best I can tell from historic references to this area it lay to the south of Stamford Street, between Colin Street and Duchy Street. Newington is a little further south around Elephant and Castle.
His father was Richard Stevens and his mother was Eliza A Clark. Eliza was born in 1816 in Witham, Essex. Richard was born in 1818 in Islington, Middelesex. They had a fairly large family and Richard Walford was their youngest child. The children were Emma (1843), Janette (1845), Louisa (1847), Clara (1849), Charles Richard (1851), William (1854), Arthur Partridge (1857) and Richard Walford. Eliza died either in childbirth with Richard Walford or soon afterwards because the 1861 census shows the family living in Newland Street, Witham without Eliza and Richard listed as a widower. Richard also married again in June 1861 to Frances Matilda Claude (nee Hewitt). They had three children - two girls who appear to have died in infancy and a son Francis Hewitt Stevens. Frances Matilda died 5 days after his birth.
They clearly lived a more than comfortable lifestyle because all the boys were borders at Felsted School in Dunmow. The school was founded in 1564 and numbers Oliver Cromwell's four sons amongst its alumni. Modern fees are some UKP25,000 per year and I suspect they would have been equivalent in the mid 1800's.
The Stevens' were a seriously legal family. Richard's brother Frederic was also a lawyer and three of his sons went on to be lawyers too - Charles Richard, William and Francis Hewitt. Louisa also married a lawyer Frank Postle Bawtree who was in partnership with Charles Richard and Francis Hewitt (yes you guessed it - Stevens, Bawtree and Stevens!) Louisa and Frank's son Lewis interestingly also went to South Africa as a policeman in the northern Cape and is buried at Sutherland.
I now have to start doing some digging regarding Richard Walford's life in South Africa which, unfortunately, is not as easy as the UK because of the shortage of online databases. I have stated this elsewhere on this forum, but I know that Richard Walford married Kate Norton of Barkly East although I don't know when. I have her date of death as 18 September 1946. She was the daughter of Benjamin Norton and F Muller. Benjamin Norton was the son of the Jewish 1820 settlers John and Sarah Norton who interestingly travelled to South Africa on the same ship as my wife's 1820 ancestor Rev John Ayliff. Kate's uncle was the very interesting Joshua Norton I, Emperor of the United States (look him up) who made a name for himself in the early years of San Francisco. The Felsted School archives indicate that Richard Walford was living in Germiston at the time of his death, but I do not know when this occurred although it must have occurred after 1941 when he was photographed by the Natal Mercury.
Interestingly I was born in Germiston in 1952 and my parents lived in and around this area after the war as did my paternal grandmother. She was Richard Walton's daughter-in-law. My grandfather, Arthur Percival Stevens had died some time before the war.
And now cricket. The Essex newspapers of the day make a point of noting that Richard Walford was a noted cricketer. There is some chance that this was a case of mistaken identity. All the Stevens boys had a keen interest in cricket as all are shown as having been in the First XI at Felsted. The standout was Francis Hewitt who had a long career at Essex and is mentioned in the official history of Felsted School as their greatest cricketer (in 1882 he scored 132 out of a score of 250 for the school against Essex and then took 8 for 47 to have the county all out for 128). His eldest brother Charles Richard also played for Essex although not as extensively. This was in the period 1873 to 1880. There is no record of any of the other brothers having played for Essex. Whilst it is clear that the brothers were all cricketers, it is possible that Charles Richard's fame as a cricketer at the time might have rubbed off on his younger brother with the journalists.
And finally a report of a letter from Richard Walford that I have not seen quoted anywhere (although I would not be surprised if the historians amongst you have not found it before now). This is a transcript of an article published in the Essex Standard of 15 February 1879. The full reference is at the end. The scan has a couple of significant blurs that make it illegible in places, but other than that It reads as follows:
AN ESSEX MAN IN ZULULAND _____ The following letter from the seat of war in Zululand will be interesting to our readers as coming from the son of Mr Stevens, solicitor, of Witham:- Natal Mounted Police Camp, Helmekaar, Feb. 15, 1879. My dear _____, You will see by the heading of my letter that we have been driven back to our starting place by the Zulus, and to tell [indistinct: you the] truth, I feel ashamed to own it. I have written home [indistinct: twice] since the awful day, 22nd January, but I will give you an account all to yourself. I will commence from the start, from the first camp the other side of the river. We left Rorke’s Drift camp, that is the name of the drift wh[indiscinct: where we] crossed over the Buffalo river, which divides Natal from Zululand, on the 19th January to advance about twelve miles into the country. It was a pretty sight to see the column going along, the waggons stretching over five miles, besides the troops. My little horse was sick that day, so I had to walk and lead him all the way. I was very tired when I came to the end of the journey; it was a broiling hot day. Well, we got to the place for camping, right in the centre of two hills, a very bad place indeed, and we pitched camp, and had a good sleep that night. The next morning , most of our men went out patrolling, and were to return the same evening, but about tea-time an order came in that they had seen the enemy out a good distance from the camp, and that they were going to stay out all night, so we sent out their food and great coats. Early the next morning the General took out most of the column with him, leaving in camp about 800 white men and several native contingents, and two big guns. This was the morning of the 22nd. Well, about 9 o’clock the men of our corps who were out on out-post duty, came in and reported the enemy in sight. We all turned out ready for action. We saw a few of them come [Indistinct] to the top of a big hill to our left, but they went away again. Then they sent some mounted niggers up the hill to see w[indistinct] presently we heard heavy firing over in that direction, [indistinct] these mounted men retiring slowly, closely follow[indistinct] of Zulus. Then they came down in heaps, you could not see the grass for them. The fight began then properly. I and a few more of us were sent out to skirmish in front of the [indistinct]p, we kept them at bay for some time, then we had the order [indistinct] retir[indistinct]g camp, and then they came on in thousands. I got into camp and went all over the place trying to get a rifle; my only weapon (a revolver) was broken, so I had no arms. I could not get any in the camp, so I had to stop there without any. I was in the camp until the Zulus were in as well, stabbing men right and left, and ripping the tents up with their assegais. They were destroying the second or third tent up the row, when I looked around , and saw a lot of men making their escape, so I thought that as I was of no use in the camp without arms I would go too, so I went. The sight in camp was something awful. They were not content with killing the men, but they ripped them up, and mutilated them horribly. They were so disfigured that when the remainder of the column came back they could hardly recognise one of them. The way we escaped was something marvellous. I was on a very small grey pony; there was no road, simply the rough ground covered with tremendous stones. I just got through the enemy as they were surrounding us, by the skin of my teeth; another few minutes and I should not have been able to have got through at all. After that there was a most awful hill to go up, then (worst of all) a precipice to go down – how we got down is a wonder to everybody. Then we came to the River – no end of poor fellows were drowned there. I went at it; my horse was taken away from under me. I managed to get my feet out of the stirrups somehow and swam for it. I was just being carried away by the current, when I saw a horse swimming in front of me all right, so I caught hold of his tail, and he pulled me through safely. When I got out I saw my pony further down the River standing high and dry, so I got on him and rode on to this place. We made what they call a laarger of the waggons – that is, the waggons are put so they form a square, and I spent two nights watching for the enemy, and I had no sleep; then the remainder of the column came up, and I can tell you we felt greatly relieved. We have been stationed up here ever since – it is most unhealthy. It is a small laarger, with about 11,000 men in it – bad water and weather, and you can imagine the amount of sickness there is – there is an average daily of about 500 men who see the doctor with dysentery and rheumatism. I am happy to say I have been pretty well up to the present, but I can feel rheumatism coming on in all my joints. The Zulus have taken every thing away from us. I have only what I stand up in. When I go to wash my short or socks, I have to sit on the bank and smoke until they get dry – there is one thing to be said, when the sun is out it does not take long. Our winter months are just beginning to come on, and we shall have it awfully cold up here, 7,000 feet above the level of the sea. Our waggons have just come up with our outfits, so we shall jog along a little better now. My poor little horse was killed, poor boy – I regret that as much as anything, he was such a pet and so affectionate. I should have been on him and got away with him if he had been well; but he had a sickness on him; he was so weak he could not bear the weight of the saddle on him, and he was stabbed going along the road trying to escape. Fancy, there were 16 officers of the 24th Regt. , and 3 companies of men cut up, and it was just one day later than the battle of Chilianwallah in 1849 was fought, when 23 officers and 500 rank-and-file of the same Regt. Were cut up, as you will see in the paper I send you. It is dreadful to think of, and you can imagine how sick of talking and writing about it I am. This is the third letter I have written. My watch, I am sorry to say, was spoilt whilst I was swimming across the river, but I have sent it down to be repaired. I must say good-bye, so with love to all, and hoping this dry epistle won’t tire you, I remain, Yours ever affectionately, R. W. Stevens
Reference ESSEX MAN IN ZULULAND. The Essex Standard, West Suffolk Gazette, and Eastern Counties' Advertiser(Colchester, England),Saturday, April 19, 1879; pg. 5; Issue 2523. Category: News Sourced from the British Library Gale Document Number:R3208618474
All the records of the 10th Essex Rifle Volunteers were destroyed in the 70s. When clearing out a cupboard a sergeant asked an otherwise-engaged officer of the RAR what he wanted him to do with all the records and ledgers and was told "Oh, just get rid of them somewhere", by which, he intended to convey, find somewhere to put them. Instead the sergeant took them out and burnt the lot! So, we have nothing regarding Stevens in that unit.
All the records of the 10th Essex Rifle Volunteers were destroyed in the 70s
Might be wrth starting a new thread relating to information concerning this regiment.. who knows what we might find...
Posts : 947 Join date : 2011-10-21 Location : Algoa Bay
Subject: Trumpeter Stevens, NMP Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:15 pm
Hi Alun, Thanks for a great post. For those wishing to see a picture of Trumpter Stevens, NMP, he appears in a photo posted recently by me of the 19 NMP troopers who formed the Princess Eugenie escort .
Re Stevens and Essex CC, county cricket was not established at that time, so there was never an 'official' cricket team. However, for those who want to try to research it, you'll need to plough through newspapers. Essex CC museum in the Chelmsford ground hold no records of matches pre-the setting up of county cricket matches.
Posts : 17 Join date : 2010-11-21 Age : 70 Location : Melbourne, Australia
There is this online archive that we used (links below), plus the newspapers for which there is now an extensive online archive, but for which you need to be registered. It now contains a large number of local/county newspapers and not just the big nationals. This is where I (my wife) got the article I refer to in my post.
Charles Richard Stevens http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Players/239/239395/239395.html
Francis Hewitt Stevens http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Players/213/213918/213918.html