Dr. Russell, the special correspondent of the “Daily Telegraph” who was accompanying General Wolseley, gave the following account of Wolseley’s attempted landing at Port Durnford.
“The two surf-boats were at their moorings when the little steam tug Kuddoo, having steamed to the transport Natal and taken on board the commander, Captain Twiss, R.N., came alongside the Shah. Sir Garnet Wolseley, having taken leave of Captain Bradshaw, was embarked, the band playing a few strains and the guard being mounted in his honour, and the steamer put off towards the shore, from which we were distant about one and a-half miles, anchored in less than seven fathoms, Captain Twiss, with a surf-master, was in charge. With many varied ups and downs, the Kuddoo wobbled within working distance of the surf-boat, which was pitching in a manner which one of the party thought ‘must be a caution to rattlesnakes.’ After repeated attempts to get comfortably alongside her, Captain Twiss turned his attention to the other craft then astern of us, and further from the shore. As the Kuddoo rounded to get back to the other surf-boat, the sea had its will, and once there was a lurch over, which was all but ‘turning turtle,’ and put the party, holding on as they were, into a state of great tension on the slippery deck. Major M’Calmont, who was left on board the Shah with Lieutenant Creagh, R.A., to look after the horses, at one moment thought we had sunk, and exclaimed, ‘My God! They’re all gone.’ It was a work of skill and patience to place the steam tug alongside the surf-boat, and still more did it need the quick eye, sure foot, and strong hand of Captain Twiss to jump his passengers from time to time from the Kuddoo to the deck of the small craft in which we were destined to pass a very bad quarter of an hour. The Kroomen stood by ready to catch the jumpers. As each passenger was safely landed or ‘boated,’ he was ordered down below, and Sir Garnet Wolseley led the way, stooping under the hatchway into a hold stowed full of commissariat boxes, whereon he sat with outstretched legs on the top of them, with head stooped, for there was not space between the boxes and the roof of the hold. Colonel Baker Russell, Lieutenant-Colonel Brackenbury, Captain Bushman, Captain Maurice, and Mr. Herbert were passed down in succession; and when Captain Haynes, 60th Rifles, and the servants had been added to the stowaways, the congregation became somewhat dense, and, as Sir Garnet said, ‘was very like what the Black Hole of Calcutta must have been.’ But worse was to come, for when all were thus packed in the obscurity of the agitated craft, like so many Jonahs in the whale’s belly, the horrid words were heard, Put on the fore-hatches!’ On they went, and there came on an utter darkness till the eye was accustomed to the place, and outlines of gold-laced caps and faces grew clearer, for Captain Twiss, in his beneficence, was moved to let us have one glimpse of sea and heaven at the after hatch, which Colonel Russell and captain Bushman immediately took advantage of to stick their heads out of the hold and enjoy the scenery. Presently the hawser from the Kuddoo was made fast, and the surf boat, which had been playing the most curious freaks, was fastened on; but in a few moments the big rope parted, and the boat was drifting down on a transport, when the crew put sail to her and got steerage way. Then a new hawser was bent, and the surfer pursuing her pranks was towed ahead, and renewed a serious contest with the sea, which was fast becoming unmistakably higher and more truculent. Once our tow rope snapped - much oftener than once we seemed to be rolling right over, or going to stand on our heads. It was 9 a.m., I think, when we left the Shah, it was 9.30 a.m. when we reached the surf boat, and at 10.10 a.m. the Kuddoo began to move towards the shore, but she was obliged to steam very gently, so strenuous was the sea. How long the struggle had been going on I cannot say, when Captain Twiss put his head under the hatchway and said, ‘They have signaled, ‘Annul the landing.’ Here was a blow, indeed. A gun from the Shah called attention to the signals which she repeated from the commodore ashore, and, indeed, the utter madness of persisting in the attempt was demonstrated by the sea around us, which was an unmistakable index to the state of the beach. After some counsel with the captain of the surf boat, Captain Twiss resolved to run her alongside the Shah. By turn the voyagers clutched the side ropes of that vessel and clung to the steps till they came within the grasp of the sailors and were ‘fisted in’ through the port, and at last an arm chair was slung for Sir Garnet Wolseley, and he was whipped up over the side.”
(Source: The Banbury Advertiser, August 14, 1879)
Petty Officer Tom