Thanks 90th. I may be reading ths wrong. Have a look see what you make if it.
Chritian Richard Sharpe (Born 1855)
1 Family history
2 Early Years
3 The Zulu Wars
4 Prince Louis Napoleon
5 First Boer War
6 In England
CRS is the grandson of Lt Colonel Richard Sharpe of the Prince of Wales Own Volunteers (formerly the South Essex Regiment). During the peace following Napoleon's abdication in 1815, Sharpe meets the widow Lucille Castineau (nee Lassan), the sister of a French Captain he had previously battled. The couple settle on her family estate and have two children, Patrick-Henri in 1815 and Dominique in 1816.
Dominique settles in Europe, marries an aristocrat and has several children. Patrick-Henri follows his mother’s wishes, (his father wanted him to join the infantry), and joins the French Imperial Cavalry. In 1843, he marries the Scottish widow, Mary Rives (nee Carmichael) of a fellow officer and two children are born, Bernard (1845) and Annalise (1846), as a result of the union. In early 1855, Mary unexpectedly falls pregnant for a third time, shortly before receiving news of her only sibling’s death in a mining accident in the settlement of Edendale in the Crown Colony of Natal. In the absence of any recognised offspring, her brother’s will names her as the sole beneficiary and she inherits a substantial farm in Natal in addition to mining stock and bonds which represent financial independence. Patrick-Henri, a career soldier, is unwilling to resign his commission at short notice. After the birth of CHRISTIAN in 1855, his grandfather (RS senior), recently widowed and now aged 78, accompanies his daughter-in-law, children and Spanish maid in emigrating to Natal in 1857. Patrick-Henri remains deeply loyal to his wife and whilst appreciating the
opportunity the inheritance represents, resents the dilution of his family role. In the absence of their natural father, grandfather RS, assumes the paternal mantle.
Patrick-Henri rise to Colonel in the Imperial Guard Cavalry when in 1861, he is sent to America as a neutral observer of the Union and Confederate Armies during the American Civil War. The next year his horse is wounded by a stray musket ball and falls, crushing the Colonel’s leg and pelvis. Patrick-Henri is
invalided out of the Imperial Guard on a modest pension and rejoins his family in Natal to convalesce.
When he arrives in Natal in 1862, he finds the family settled and reasonably prosperous. Mary’s inheritance has funded a loyal workforce and a competent farm manager. The eldest child, Bernard, is now a broad shouldered 17 and playing an active role on the farm. His sister, Annalise, is 15 and the cause of constant scuffles amongst the local youth. CHRISTIAN is an unruly 7 years old, already a good rider and excellent shot thanks to his grandfather’s indulgence.
His mother is less appreciative of the number of grandfatherly vices he also seems to be acquiring….
The next few years pass uneventfully. Bernard becomes the solid farmer he always wanted to be and the farm prospers. Annalise is sent to stay with friends in Paris to further her education (and find a better class of husband). Patrick-Henri continues to make as few references as possible to his military past in this, the most British part of South Africa. As titular family head, he runs the family with a firm but fair hand. He makes a good recovery from his injuries but is left lame and cannot ride for more than an hour without great pain, a poignant loss for the ex-cavalryman. Nevertheless, he takes over CHRISTIAN’s riding instruction and teaches him all he knows, including the use of the cavalry sabre, both light and heavy. Blended with the instinctive rough bush riding practiced almost daily, this cavalry lore turns CHRISTIAN into a formidable rider. Mary takes an increasingly background role as her health begins to fail,
showing flashes of a famous temper when she catches Grandfather Sharpe introducing CHRISTIAN to the varied habits and tricks acquired during his long and often rough and violent life. CHRISTIAN gradually and effortlessly acquires a wide range of veldt and backcountry skills ranging from tracking and hunting to driving teams of oxen and mules. Most importantly, Grandfather Sharpe imbues in CHRISTIAN an uncanny understanding of, and skill with firearms, particularly the rifle, laying the foundation for his later development into one of, if not the, best shot in the Empire.
In 1870, the idyll ends. Grandfather Sharpe, aged 93, is murdered by a drunken voortrekker who takes offence at his deeply derogatory opinion of the late Prince of Orange (whom he attempted to kill after the spectacular debacle and unnecessary loss of life engendered by the Prince’s disregard for professional advice during the battle of Waterloo). To compound the crime, his
Baker rifle – the one used in the above attempt and a weapon CHRISTIAN is particularly fond of – is destroyed. Aged 15, CHRISTIAN avenges the murder by tracking the culprit down and, picking him out of a crowd of cronies, kills him with a single shot to the head from a range of over 400 yards. The distance give CHRISTIAN an initial advantage, but the smoke from the black powder discharge betrays his position and he is forced to flee a vengeful mob. Only his superior riding skills allow him to escape. The lesson on concealment would be remembered.
As suspicion begins to focus on him through his acknowledged skill and relationship with his murdered grandfather, much to his mother’s distress, CHRISTIAN, now 16, leaves the family farm to enlist as a Cornet in the Native Carbineers. Over the next few years, his skills and aptitude for patrol to company scale command are honed and practiced. During this time, his mother’s health continues to decline until she dies in 1876. At her funeral, he is approached by Major AW Durnford, RE for advice as to the potential for raising
a regiment from the Edendale native population. He joins Durnford, who orders him to raise a small mounted unit from amongst the Christian natives of Edendale.
“..When the Government asked the Elders of Edendale to raise a mounted troop, there was no hesitation. 'We all know the cruelty and the power of the Zulu King', they told their people, 'and if he should subdue the Queen's soldiers and overrun this land he will wipe out all the native people who have dwelt so long in safety under the shadow of the Great White Queen. Shall we not gladly obey her, when she calls for the services of her dark children?'..”
The Zulu Wars
When Durnford, now a Lt Colonel, receives the order in November 1878 to raise 7000 native troops, the Edendale contingent is already formed and well-drilled under CHRISTIAN and a fellow officer. While the bulk of the NNC consisted of infantrymen, the Natal Native Horse constituted the NNC's cavalry force. Formed of five squadrons of fifty men each, the NNH was largely recruited from the amaNgwane, a Natal tribe traditionally hostile to the Zulus. The black troopers of the NNH were much better-equipped than their infantry counterparts; NNH troopers were issued with tan-coloured European uniforms, a horse with full equipment, and each trooper was issued with a rifled Snider carbine, later replaced by shortened Swinbourne-Henrys, in addition to traditional African spears. Units of the NNH were led by white officers dressed in conspicuous sky-blue uniforms. In addition to a carbine, the officers were armed with swords and usually carried a privately purchased handgun.
The British High Commissioner in South Africa, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, believed that the robust and economically self-reliant Zulu kingdom was a threat to the British goal of bringing the disparate British, Boer and African groups under common control. In December 1878 he presented an ultimatum to the Zulu king, Cetshwayo kaMpande, in the belief that the Zulu army - armed primarily with shields and spears - would soon collapse in the face of British Imperial might. The Zulu nation declined to submit and Frere had his excuse for war. In January 1879, three columns of British troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand.
On 22 January, Lt Colonel Durnford and 5 troops of Natal Native Horse (with CHRISTIAN in command of 5 Troop, the Edendale Contingent) were directed by Lord Chelmsford to reinforce the temporary camp at Isandlwana. Durnford reached Isandlwana about 10h00. As senior officer on the spot, he had to take command of a totally unprepared camp, already closely threatened by the main weight of the Zulu army. The disaster which followed is now part of history. As the best of the NNH, the Edendale Contingent were given a key position. Despite heavy casualties they held it courageously against repeated attacks. Soon the units around them broke before the Zulu horde, and it was clear that the battle was lost. Critically short of ammunition, the NNH retired from the field. During the retreat, CHRISTIAN lost contact with the Troop when he paused to rescue Lt. Smith-Dorrien, Transport Officer for the RA (later a close friend of Lord Kitchener).
Prince Louis Napoleon
Following the defeat at Isandlwana, CHRISTIAN is furious at the military incompetence demonstrated by Lord Chelmsford and is only prevented from causing serious trouble for himself by the intervention of Lt Bigge of the RA (later the 1st Baron of Stamfordham and Private Secretary to Queen Victoria). The remnants of the NNH, now reformed in 3 Troops as the Natal Horse, are assigned as scouts for the punitive Second Invasion of the Zulu homelands, led once again by Lord Chelmsford. This is a role for which they are admirable suited and they acquit themselves with distinction. On 17 April, Chelmsford moves his command upcountry to Pietermaritzburg. He is accompanied by the Prince Imperial of France, son of Napoleon III, recently graduated from Sandhurst and attached as an aide-de-camp to Lord Chelmsford. At Kambula, Louis met his great friends from Sandhurst, Lieutenants Arthur Bigge and Frederick Slade. These two men had served their guns in the open during the attack on the Kambula Camp on March 29th. They moved on, travelling via Conference Hill and Balte Spruit to Utrecht where Chelmsford set up his headquarters on 8th May, 1879. Louis was now attached to the staff of Colonel Richard Harrison, RE, who was acting Quarter-Master General and whose major concern was to find a suitable way south and east from the Blood River into Zululand.
As a fluent French speaker with similar interests, CHRISTIAN was a natural companion. The Prince proved to be an impetuous and inexperienced officer and was reprimanded on several occasions by senior officers for his behavior. Louis was in fact sent out on two patrols into Zululand. The first, on 16th May 1879 from Koppie Alleen under Colonel Harrison, was a day patrol only. The second, under Commandant Bettington leading Troop '3' of the Natal Horse, penetrated into Zululand as far as the headwaters of the Nordwent River and then returned to the base camp at Conference Hill. On Sunday 1st June, the Second Division moved towards its new camp just north of the Itelezi Hill (Fort Warwick), The day's orders called for a patrol to proceed about ten miles south east to select a suitable site for the advancing Second Division. Louis volunteered to lead this patrol but, since he was not officially an officer, he could not command the patrol. Lieutenant Jaheel Brenton Carey applied for permission to join the patrol to verify some observations made previously. At 9.15 a.m., they left the Koppie Alleen camp. In his eagerness to depart, the Prince refused to wait for Lt CHRISTIAN and six additional troopers of Bettington’s Natal Horse who had been detailed to join the patrol. Later that day, the under strength patrol was ambushed and the Prince and two troopers killed.
CHRISTIAN was refused permission to mount a rescue detail that evening as it was deemed too dangerous to expose further men to an unknown number of hostile Zulu at night. The next day, he led a troop of Natal Horse in accompanying no less than 2 full cavalry regiments and a battalion of African infantry in a search for the body.
The body was placed on a blanket, carried to a nearby ambulance and taken to the camp on Itelezi Hill. Here the viscera were removed and buried in a biscuit box while the body was crudely embalmed by the surgeons as well as possible with the materials (mainly salt) available. The body was sent back to Natal accompanied by an escort of Natal Horse. By 11th June the cortege had reached Durban where the whole town turned out to pay their last respects. The coffin was taken aboard HMS Boadicea and conveyed to Cape Town where it was transferred to HMS Orontes which arrived in Plymouth on July 10th. CHRISTIAN accompanies the body to Britain to convey the respects of the Natal Horse. Empress Eugenie requests that he stay for a few months. 1880 she travels to South Africa and in the company of Sir Evelyn and Lady Wood and Lts Bigge and Slade, retraces the Prince’s last movements. She visits the donga where he was killed on the anniversary of his death, spending the night alone in prayer. Shortly afterwards, she returns to Europe.
First Boer War
CHRISTIAN rejoins the Natal Horse and, following the breakdown in negotiations with the Transvaalers after the British invasion of the Dutch South African Republic in 1877, finds action and promotion to Captain in the First Boer War in 1881. There were 3 major engagements, all of which followed the same disastrous pattern for the British. In the last of these, the Governor of Natal, Major-General Sir George Pomperoy-Colley, lost his life. The stealthy tactics and accurate long range sniping tactics of the loosely organized Boer commandos made a lasting impression on CHRISTIAN. He begins to experiment with the smokeless propellants that have been recently developed for the Lebel rifle and his interest in gunsmithing rekindled, he customises a Gewher 80 with an 8 shot tubular magazine to take hand-loaded 7.92mm smokeless cartridges. Subsequently, his actions in the field earned him a fearsome reputation amongst the Boer. These feats come to the notice of his superior officers and in 1884 he is offered promotion to Major and a posting to School of Infantry as an instructor. CHRISTIAN accepts on the condition that facilities will be made available to progress his interest in ballistics and small arms propellants. Although unusual, this is arranged through the several contacts he has now made in the Royal Engineers.
In 1884, CHRISTIAN arrives in Britain to take up his post. He develops an early training program for snipers, based on his experiences in Natal, the Zulu and First Boer Wars. He develops, in conjunction with several talented engineers, a number of advanced small arms. All are too complex for mass production but their accuracy and rate of fire are unequalled. He perfects a more powerful variant of the smokeless propellant introduced by Lebel with better, more even, burning characteristics. Lastly, he experiments with hand moulded bullets and progressive grooving of the barrels. 1990 finds Major Sharpe, aged 35, at the peak of his powers as a soldier yet denied a theatre in which to exercise them. He is an outstanding rider, proficient with both sabre and sword, an incomparable shot and amongst other skills, is an excellent woodsman and scout. He has successfully commanded small combat units up to 100 strong and is an excellent student of military strategy and tactics. He speaks English, French, Afrikaans and kwaZulu like a native, his Dutch and Spanish are more than reasonable. He is an inspiring instructor but is now bored with the lack of genuine action. The New Year brings news of further unrest in South Africa where his brother has maintained a wide range of contacts. Is it time to head for home and the war?