"228 Pte T. Westwood 80th Foot served in Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel H. B. Pulleine’s No. 3 Column, which force was decimated at Isandhlwana on 22 January 1879. He had earlier seen active service in Perak 1875-76, and in operations against the Sekukini in 1878.
At which point Westwood decided to make his escape from Isandhlwana remains unknown, but presumably shortly after midday on the 22nd, when the right flank gave way - hot on his tail was Private Samuel Wassall, also of the 80th Foot, attached Mounted Infantry, riding a Basuto pony. Unbeknown to either of them was that subsequent events at “Fugitive’s Drift” on the River Buffalo were to be witnessed by Captain William Barton of the Natal Native Horse, who, on learning of their survival, submitted the following statement:
‘As I approached the river, a man of the Mounted Infantry [Wassall] was riding in front of me, and I also saw at the same time another man of the Mounted Infantry [Westwood] struggling in the river and he called out his comrade’s name; he was apparently drowning. The Zulus were at this time firing at our people from above us, others were down on the bank of the river stabbing others of our people on both sides of where I was. The man from the Mounted Infantry, who rode down in front of me, dismounted, left his horse on the Zulu side and sprang into the river to save his comrade. I consider this man performed a most gallant and courageous act, in trying to save his comrade at almost certain risk of his own life. I crossed the river myself about the same time and did not think it was possible that either of these two men could have escaped alive; indeed I spoke some days afterwards to Lieutenant Walsh of the Mounted Infantry, of circumstances which I had witnessed and spoke of it to him as evidence of my having seen two of his men lost at the Buffalo River.’
How Barton came to learn of Mounted Infantrymen’s survival was a remarkable story in itself. A few days after Isandhlwana, while visiting the hospital at Helpmekaar, he described to a fellow officer the act of gallantry he had witnessed at Fugitive’s Drift, an account that was overheard by a soldier lying in a nearby bed - none other than Westwood, who was happy to identify his rescuer as Private Samuel Wassall. Barton’s subsequent submission, as cited above, in addition to a sworn statement made by Westwood before the District Magistrate at Pietermaritzburg in April 1879, resulted in the gallant Wassall being gazetted for the Victoria Cross, the only such distinction won by an Isandhlwana survivor.
‘For his gallant conduct in having, at the imminent risk of his own life, saved that of Private Westwood of the same regiment. On 22 January 1879, when the camp at Isandhlwana was taken by the enemy, Private Wassall retreated towards the Buffalo River, in which he saw a comrade struggling and apparently drowning. He rode to the bank, dismounted, leaving his horse on the Zulu side, rescued the man from the stream and again mounted his horse, dragging Private Westwood across the river under a heavy shower of bullets’ (London Gazette 17 June 1879 refers).
That October, an issue of the children’s magazine Aunt Judy included a story entitled Jackanapes, written by Juliana Horatia Ewing, an army officer’s wife, a tale said to have been inspired by real events in the Zulu War. Indeed the rescue of the character Tony by his friend Jackanapes, after he falls from his horse, is believed to be based on Westwood’s rescue by Wassall - “Leave you? To save my skin? No, Tony, not to save my soul!”; moreover, the same story inspired Rolf Harris’ song Two Little Boys, which went to No. 1 in the charts 90 years after events at Fugitive’s Drift on the River Buffalo."
Source: Dixnoonan Medals