A Zulu War Journal of H.M.S. “Forester”
By Tom Hyde
HMS Forester was a 455 ton “Forester” Class Composite Gunboat, built with an iron keel and frame, covered with wooden planking. The ship had a length of 125’, beam of 23’ 6” and a draft of 8’ 10”. “Forester”, like many ships of the late 1800s had both sail, as well as steam engines, for propulsion. Her armament consisted of 2 – 6” (64 pound shell) Rifled Muzzle Loading guns and 2 – 20 pounder Rifled Breach Loading guns.
“Forester” was commissioned at Devonport on 15 January, 1878 for service with the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Squadron with Lieutenant & Commander Sidney Glenton Smith serving as her captain. HMS Forester had a total of 8 officers, 58 sailors and 9 marines for her crew. While serving on the West Coast of Africa 10 Kroomen were added to her complement.
4 Feb 1879 – The Gunboat HMS Forester, Lieutenant & Commander Sidney G. Smith, arrived at Ascension Island under orders from Rear-Admiral F. W. Sullivan to proceed to Natal for service there.
15 Feb – HMS Forester departed Ascension Island en route to Natal.
17 Feb – Rear-Admiral Sullivan notified the Admiralty that he had ordered HMS Forester to the Cape from the West Coast of Africa for service in the Zulu War. “Forester” would take over the surveying duties on the Zulu coast. Due to her shallow draft, “Forster” would be able to safely put in close to the shore without suffering the same fate as HMS Tenedos which had run up on a reef in January.
8 Apr – HMS Forester arrived at Natal for surveying duties on the Zululand coast. (At some point 25 additional Kroomen were added to her crew, having been lent from other ship(s). These additional Kroomen most likely came from HMS Boadicea.)
18 Apr – HMS Forester departed Durban for the mouth of the Lower Tugela.
19 Apr – While surveying the coast off the mouth of the Tugela, HMS Forester was caught in a gale resulting in the loss of two of her boats, but no lives, and returned to Durban.
21 Apr – HMS Forester left Durban for her second visit to the Zulu Coast, to take soundings from the mouth of the Tugela to Port Durnford.
22 Apr – HMS Forester arrived off the mouth of the Tugela River where the Captain sent Sub-Lieutenant Theed in a gig to get inshore close to the bar at the mouth of the river where he took soundings to determine the depth.
23 Apr – Off the Zulu coast Captain Smith, on HMS Forester, sent two boats commanded by Sub-Lieutenant Wrey and Sub-Lieutenant Theed to conduct a survey of the beach.
24 Apr – HMS Forester’s boats were engaged in taking sounding off the beach, north of Point Durnford, when fired upon by Zulus. The men in the boats returned fire and up-anchored, returning to the ship. With the landing party returning to “Forester”, the ship’s guns opened up on the Zulu. The Captain then sent the boats back toward the shore to destroy some Zulu cattle that were near the beach. As they did so, the Zulu opened fire on the boats again. The Captain fired on this group with rockets and segment shell, silencing them. Sub-Lieutenant Wrey, was in command of the boats engaged in these operations off the coast of Zululand. On the following day, aboard “Forester”, Wrey wrote his report of the incident: “I have the honour to report the proceedings of the boats of H.M.S. "Forester" detached for service under my command on April 24th.
First. The gig in charge of Sub-lieutenant J. H. W. Theed proceeded to ascertain depth of soundings on a line parallel to the coast, distant about three quarters of a mile, whilst I in the whaler took an inner line, distant about a quarter of a mile.
Secondly. Just before the time allotted for the men's dinner the boats closed for the purpose of comparing notes, and whilst in that position a well directed fire was opened upon us from natives in charge of a drove of a cattle proceeding along the shore to the northward, some of the shots falling within an oar's length of the boats. The boats then separated and returned the fire, forcing the escort to quit their charge and take to the cliffs. Shortly after, a body of natives was observed advancing along the beach to the southward of our position; they also occupied the high ground, and commenced a dropping fire on us. Suspecting a ruse on their part to withdraw our fire from the vicinity of the cattle, I requested Sub-Lieutenant Theed to remain in his present position, whilst I proceeded to return the fire. The natives then continued to advance along the cliffs with the apparent object of joining the cattle party. Having arrived there, the fire temporarily ceased. We then proceeded to destroy the cattle.
Thirdly. At 2.30 p.m., I observed the recall flying on board the ship. The boats then proceeded on board, the natives re-opening their fire as we retired. In pursuance of further instructions, the boats again went towards the beach, opened fire on the drove, and succeeded in destroying 36 head out of an estimated number of 40, during which time the natives kept up a fire, both from the rocks at the foot of the cliffs and the brushwood at their summit. At 4 p.m. the recall was again observed, in accordance with which the boats returned to ship.”
25 Apr – In the morning “Forester” was cruising north along the coastline at about a half mile offshore when several Zulus, armed with rifles, were observed coming down towards the beach. Two shells were fired at them from “Forester’s” guns, and two more shells were fired into an area where kraals were likely to be. Around noon a large number of Zulus were seen heading towards the beach. Again, two shells were fired at them.
The cutter from HMS Forester, which had been lost in the recent gale on the 19th, was found on the beach near the Bay of St. Lucia. Captain Smith sent a party in the ship’s gig to the beach to destroy the cutter which had been damaged.
27 Apr – HMS Forester returned to Durban.
29 Apr – HMS Forester, with Captain Bradshaw of HMS Shah, on board, left Durban on her third trip to examine the coast near Port Durnford.
1 May - HMS Forester returned to Durban where Captain Bradshaw gave his assessment of the feasibility of landing supplies at Port Durnford.
3 May – HMS Forester departed Durban on her fourth trip, and returned to the Zululand coast off the mouth of Emlalazi River to conduct soundings.
4 May – Captain Smith on HMS Forester sent two boats in towards the Emlalazi River to take soundings. While the men in the boats were working near the shore, a party of Zulu, approaching the area where the boats were, was observed by the Captain. “Forester” fired shells into the bush where the Zulus were advancing. Sub-Lieutenant Wrey later told the Captain he saw three distinct groups of Zulus, and that there appeared to be a large number on the crest of a hill. It was the opinion of Captain Smith that the Zulu were amassing a large force in the area.
5 May – HMS Forester had two boats out conducting soundings about three miles north of the Emlalazi.
6 May – HMS Forester returned to Durban where Captain Smith reported that the Zulu were in force on the north side of the Emlalazi River.
10 May – HMS Forester departed Durban on her fifth trip up the coast. This time “Forester’s destination was St. Lucia Bay.
11 May – HMS Forester arrived at St. Lucia Bay.
12 May –HMS Forester travelled south to Richards Bay where two boats were dispatched to conduct soundings.
13 May – HMS Forester proceeded to Port Durnford where, around 9:15 am, Captain Smith put two boats off to continue conducting sounding of the water’s depth. Around 2:00 pm the boats were recalled.
15 May – Captain Smith sent Sub-Lieutenant Wrey in the ship’s gig to go in close to the shore off the mouth of the Emlalazi to see if there were any Zulus in the area. Two Zulu scouts were spotted, who when fired on, disappeared into the brush. These were the only Zulu seen on this trip, although several fresh foot prints were observed on the beach. After a trip back up to Richard’s Bay, “Forester” cruised along the coast back to the Emlalazi, where Captain Smith had a rocket fired into the area where the Zulu scouts had been seen that morning.
16 May – HMS Forester returned to Durban from the Zulu coast.
23 May – At the mouth of the Tugela River, Captain Smith took “Forester” in close to the bar and determined that it would be possible to cross the bar in small boats. His pilot, Mr. Le Clercq agreed that the Tugela was passable.
27 May – HMS Forester returned to Durban from Port Durnford.
19 Jun – HMS Forester left Durban for Port Durnford with the Correspondent Norris-Newman on board. Norris-Newman later wrote: “Meanwhile, in pursuance of previous arrangements, I had availed myself of the privilege offered me of a berth on board H.M.S. Forester, engaged on the naval duty of the expedition. The Forester, a composite gunboat of 455 tons, with engines of 60 H.P., was commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Sydney Smith, her armament being of four guns, namely, two 20-pounder breech-loaders fore and aft, and two 64-pounder converted 8-inch muzzle-loaders in centre of main deck, one forward, and the other abaft the mainmast, and her crew numbering 60 all told. Leaving Durban on the 19th June, she reached the selected site on the following day; but it was not till Monday, the 23rd, that the arrival of the Column took place, and communications were opened up with General Crealock. The Forester was then sent back to Durban, to prepare the transports and await orders for the final trips.”
23 Jun – General Crealock and Commodore Richards left Fort Napoleon for the coast where HMS Forester was anchored. “Forester” steamed in close to the shore and sent a boat out 200 yards off shore. Commodore Richards ordered Captain Smith to return to Durban with instructions for transports, which had been previously detailed, to be at Port Durnford on
30 Jun – HMS Forester, with transports “Natal” and “Tom Morton”, a tug, and two surf boats, anchored off Port Durnford, a sandy stretch of beach. The Naval Brigade, and other troops, were sent down to beach to assist in landing stores and to clear a place where surf boats can be drawn up. Communications were established between the beach and the ships. About 18 tons of stores were landed that first day, each surf boat making two trips apiece.
11 Jul – HMS Forester and the transport “Natal” arrived at anchorage off Port Durnford, but, due to heavy surf, were unable to communicate with the shore, or unload.
4 Sep – After his capture Cetewayo was brought to Port Durnford where he was taken on board a surf boat, accompanied by Captain R. Poole, R.A., his military escort, and Commander Crawford Caffin, R.N. The surf boat took him out past the breakers to the hired transport “Natal.” The embarkation was supervised by Commander Caffin. Escorted by HMS Forester, “Natal” departed for the Cape with Commander Caffin in military charge of her. With her departure from Port Durnford, HMS Forester ended her service in the Zulu War, and was the last of Her Majesty’s ships to leave those waters.
9 Sep – “Natal” and “Forester” arrived at Simon’s Bay where they remained until the authorities in Cape Town were ready to receive Cetewayo.
15 Sep – “Forester” escorted “Natal” to Cape Town to deliver the Cetewayo over to the civil authorities. Later the same day “Forester” returned to Simon’s Bay.
The “Forester’s” dates of service for entitlement to the South Africa Medal were from April 8 to September 4, 1879. All the officers and men of HMS Forester received the “South Africa Medal” with the “1879” clasp.
Names of the officers and men of HMS Forester who served during the Zulu War:Officers
Engineer James Bowman
Surgeon William Percival Mager Boyle
Gunner George Manley
Engineer Edward W. Marsh
Assistant Paymaster-in-charge Russell Osborn
Lieutenant & Commander Sidney Glenton Smith
Sub-Lieutenant John Henry Waters Theed
Sub-Lieutenant Robert Bourchier Sherard Wrey Civilian
Pilot J. J. Le Clercq Sailors
Able Seaman Henry Thomas Adams
Able Seaman Thomas Barnes
Able Seaman Edward Barry
Domestic 2nd Class Michael Barry
Ordinary Seaman Henry Beatty
Stoker William Broad
Leading Seaman James Butler
Ordinary Seaman F. Cardwell
Signalman 3rd Class Edward Carrick
Signalman 2nd Class William Carroll
Yeoman of Signals John Cleary
Stoker D. Connolly
Signal Boy Augustus Cooper
Stoker Robert Creeber
Able Seaman John Day
Engine Room Artificer John Fitzjohn
Petty Officer 1st Class / Boatswain's Mate Henry Godden
Ordinary Seaman William Gore
Ordinary Seaman Robert J. Graham
Petty Officer 1st Class George Hammond
Ship's Cook 2nd Class George Hardy
Skilled Carpenter's Mate Henry Hicks
Domestic 2nd Class William Hicks
Ship's Steward's Assistant Herbert Titheridge Hine
Boy 1st Class Francis. J. W. Hines
Able Seaman W. H. Hodskins
Writer 2nd Class G. W. Ireland
Domestic 2nd Class Richard Johns
Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Jordan
Stoker Samuel Keast
Domestic 2nd Class Issac Ledlum
Leading Stoker John Joseph Moxley
Engine Room Artificer David Murray
Ordinary Seaman Thomas Allen Parramore
Able Seaman Henry Patey
Ordinary Seaman John Paton
Writer 1st Class Edward Pepperell
Stoker Henry Perry
Stoker John Thomas Quance
Armourer's Crew Harry Leo Raddon
Stoker William Reardon
Ordinary 2nd Class George Roberts
Signal Boy James L. Sewell
Petty Officer 1st Class / Gunner's Mate Charles Share
Sailmaker's Crew Thomas Richard Skinner
Domestic 2nd Class H. J. Smith,
Ordinary Seaman James H. Smith
Petty Officer 2nd Class William Streeter
Signalman 3rd Class James Tinsley
Domestic 3rd Class Zaccheus Thomas
Petty Officer 1st Class / Quartermaster Richard Tucker
Petty Officer 2nd Class George Twomey
Able Seaman Albert Walker
Domestic 1st Class Robert Western
Domestic 3rd Class George Whitelock
Able Seaman Thomas Wills
Able Seaman Robert Wolseley
Assistant Sick Berth Attendant Henry Wood Marines
Corporal Thomas Billington
Private James Birch
Private James J. Coen
Private Robert Cummings
Private F. J. Fife
Private Thomas Griffin
Private John Charles Harrison
Private William Hooper
Private James Stratton Kroomen
Krooman John Bull
Krooman Tom Coffee**
Krooman William Cole**
Krooman Jack Danae**
Krooman John Davis**
Krooman Jim Do**
Krooman Jack Everyday (1)
Krooman Jack Everyday (2)**
Krooman Jim Flow
Krooman Flying Jib**
Krooman Jack Foreman**
Krooman Jim Freeman**
Krooman Tom Freeman
Krooman Joseph Gabbidon**
Head Krooman Jim George (1)
2nd Head Krooman Jim George (2)**
Krooman Jacob Johnson**
Krooman Elijah Joseph
Krooman Tom Lewis (1)
Krooman Tom Lewis (2)**
Krooman Henry MacFoy**
Krooman Tom Peter**
Krooman Tom Poorfellow**
Krooman Prince of Wales**
Krooman Tom Punch**
Krooman Tom Richards
Krooman Jim Robert**
2nd Head Krooman Jack Ropeyarn
Krooman Jim George Samson**
Krooman Jack Smart**
Krooman Tom Toby
Krooman Tom Tree**
Krooman John Wilson**
**Kroomen lent from other ship(s)
1878-79 [C.2374] [C.2454] Further correspondence respecting the affairs of South Africa (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1879).
“In Zululand with the British, throughout the War of 1879”, By Charles L. Norris-Newman
“The South Africa Medal Rolls, 1877-8-9”, WO 100/50
“The Navy List, 20th June, 1879” by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode