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|Subject: A pair of Zulu War letters from Sergeant J. Coffey, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot to Jacob Edwards, whose brother fell at Isandhlwana. Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:56 pm|| |
Remember the letters were written after the 22nd of January!!!!!
"Estimate: £800 - £1,200 Sold for £800 on the 25th March 2015
The first letter written in ink on two folded sheets of paper, eight sides in all, and dated at ‘Zulu Land, South Africa, 28 Feb. 1879’, with related envelope addressed to ‘Mr. J. Edwards’ in Hackney, London, the reverse of which bears a Natal G.P.O. date stamp for 3.3. 1879 and two London stamps for April 1879, the letter including the following statements:
‘I hope ere now that you have partly recovered from the shock of my last letter, written about the 24th of last month in which I gave a brief sketch of the action of the 22nd January 1879, the fateful day on which your beloved brother fell ... Your deeply lamented brother came over to me the night before the action, we had lots of pleasant talk about home and the prospects we had of having a spree together with you and the old folks at home but little did we think what the next day was to bring forth ... He told me that his wife was at Port Elizabeth, their child died but that she is was pregnant again. I don’t know whether her people belong to Port Elizabeth but I think they must as all the women in the 1st Battalion were in Cape Town at the time, now the women of both Battalions are in Cape Town and the widows and orphans are to be sent home in a few days, but as she belongs to South Africa I don’t suppose she will go to England. I can’t send you her address but I think if you want to correspond with her you could write to the Officer Camp 1/24 and have your letter forwarded, there has been a subscription throughout Natal and Cape for the widows and children out of which they now receive the rate of 1/ per women and 6d per child per diem and I think they will all receive a good bit of money as there has been a lot collected for them even amongst the troops. Our Regt. subscriptions is about £200 ... ’
‘I mentioned that we lost our camp kits and everything we possessed so you can see that we are in a nice state, ever since the 22nd January we have not had a change of clothing nor had we our clothes or belts or boots off. It may look absurd but it's a positive fact we were stationed in a farmyard with the sky for a roof. And wet or dry we have to stick if ever since we are really in a most deplorable state. Deaths from cold and other diseases are of daily occurrences. We cannot move until we get reinforcements from England which I hope will be out before you get this. We have to remain on the defensive night and day as there are about 20,000 of the enemy around us, we have made a sort of fort here so we are pretty safe at present, but must not come out until we get reinforcements from home ... My dear Jacob it would take one a week to write what I should like to tell you about this sad affair, so I think I must postpone the most of it till I see you myself that is if the Zulus don’t take charge of me ... ’
The second letter, in ink on two folded sheets of paper, eight sides in all, and dated at ‘Natal, 25 May 1879’, includes the following statements:
‘I suppose it will be of some satisfaction to you to know that I am still living. I am very well, but the sooner this campaign is over the better. I’d like it, for it is beginning to tell on the regiment fast and we have been so much exposed to cold and hardships for the last 18 months that it has brought many to an untimely grave. I am writing from a fresh station where we arrived yesterday from that far famed station Rorke’s Drift where we have been stationed since the fatal 22nd of January without taking off our clothes, boots or belts, but, last night after being situated in this way for over 21 months we were permitted to remove our accoutrements something which appeared very strange. I suppose you would scarcely believe when you used to fit a chap with a suit of clothes at the quartermasters store, that he could keep them on till they were completely worn out but such has been the case with us. I got a new suit in February but on account of wearing accoutrements night and day they are completely worn out long ago. I believe they won’t send out anymore clothes for us so that looks like shortly going home ... ’
‘When we come home I will be able to tell you some good stories about the war such as you might find difficult to believe, especially about the kind way the Zulus were treated by our fellows ... I have seen them kill scores with picks ... on one occasion [they] made a fellow get up who was only wounded in the leg and limp along to his own grave, and walk in and lay down amongst his dead comrades and be covered up alive - of course this was after the 22nd of January so you could call it returning good for evil. On another occasion one of them was taken with one of our rifles in his position, so an escort was sent to have him tied up to see that no one interfered with him, so these lads very kindly marched him to a tree, broke all his limbs and then hung him ... "
John Coffey was advanced to Sergeant in ‘F’ Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, on 23 January 1879, following the death of Sergeant Henry Carse at Isandhlwana (Orders Book - Rorke’s Drift, refers). In one of the above cited letters he refers to his intention to purchase his discharge, a process duly completed in Natal on 14 November 1879, The Noble 24th adding that no trace exists of him having been issued with his Medal for 1877-8-9.
Posts : 7077
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|Subject: Re: A pair of Zulu War letters from Sergeant J. Coffey, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot to Jacob Edwards, whose brother fell at Isandhlwana. Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:06 am|| |
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|Subject: Re: A pair of Zulu War letters from Sergeant J. Coffey, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot to Jacob Edwards, whose brother fell at Isandhlwana. Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:21 pm|| |
The second letter certainly backs up what was said in another thread. !
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|Subject: Re: A pair of Zulu War letters from Sergeant J. Coffey, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot to Jacob Edwards, whose brother fell at Isandhlwana. Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:35 pm|| |
Wow, that is so great. I would love to have those but I am very happy I was able to read them. Will have to beat up a uniform to try and simulate what they must have looked like in the months proceeding January 79'. Maybe camp out in the woods for a week to get just a taste of they're pain and discomfort.