You asked what Milne was doing at Rorke’s Drift ?
It’s basically a question of engineering tasks and the number of Royal Engineers (REs)involved in the invasion of Zululand. The main tasks of the Sappers (REs) were to get the troops across wide stretches of water and to lay-out (but not necessarily construct) defensive field works. In the January invasion, there was certainly a shortage of Sappers, and those that were available were concentrated with Pearsons column. This column in progressing initially along the coast would have encountered the greater water obstacles, especially the Tugela river. However, it was recognised that further inland there were still water obstacles to be negotiated – notably the Buffalo River at Rorke’s Drift. A prefabricated pont (essentially a raft) was sent to Rorke’s Drift to address this problem. The pont was assembled under the direction of Sgt Milne 2/3rd Foot. Now clearly Milne was not a Sapper, but he had gained a certificate as an instructor in field works at the RE depot in Chatham. In the absence of “true” Sappers, Milne was given the job – certainly something his certificate qualified him to do. A smaller, improvised, raft was also constructed. The Sapper representative with the Central Column was Lt Chard, and he returned to Rorke’s Drift on the 22nd January to ensure the pont and raft were working correctly and also to lay out a defensive earthwork to command the Drift itself. This earthwork was to be constructed by one of the two 24th Regt companies on their way up to join the column from Helpmekaar.
If you want an idea of what a pont looked like – there is a fair representation of one in the film “Zulu Dawn”. It is essentially a raft linked to a hawser stretched across the river and is pulled backwards and forwards by teams of oxen on each bank. It is not to be confused with a pontoon bridge – which is a different beast altogether.
In the course of time, Milne would have rejoined his battalion and the ferry would have been operated by the civilian ferryman – Mr Daniells.