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 Melvill's Revolver Cylinder

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WeekendWarrior
Frank Allewell
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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyTue Jun 23, 2020 11:01 pm

"Barker found his still-saddled horse, his fresh horse was writhing in its death throes, and joined a couple of comrades in riding to where they thought there would be a rallying point on the Nek. Here they were met by an overwhelming force of Zulus. Turning back into the camp, Barker and a companion followed the direction that they had seen an artillery carriage go. This was the only point that the Zulus had not yet closed and led to what later became known at the Fugitive’s Trail.
Chased for six miles over extremely rugged terrain, the mounted survivors, for those on foot were soon overtaken and killed, reached the Buffalo River. This fast moving river was in full spate and many who had survived the dangers of the trail, perished beneath the swirling waters. 
Barker managed to cross safely and began to climb the steep slopes on the Natal bank. Here he joined Lieutenant Charlie Raw’s Mounted Basutos, who were giving covering fire. The group then moved out of range of the Zulus on the far bank. The danger, however, was not passed, for discontented relatives of the Zulus, who lived in the vicinity, attacked the survivors as they reached the Natal bank.
Looking back, Barton saw a distant figure scrambling on foot towards them. Thinking it was a friend; Barker left his companions and rode back down the hill. The struggling figure was not his friend but Lieutenant W.C.R.Higginson, the Adjutant of 2/3rd Natal Native Contingent. He had just left Lieutenants Melvil and Coghill on the shore with a promise that he would return with horses. With the hostile natives closing, Barker insisted the officer took his exhausted horse, as it was incapable of carrying them both up the steep slope. He obtained Higginson’s promise that he would wait for him at the top of the hill. Higginson dug in his spurs and rode off to safety, while Barker struggled up the slope pursued by the same natives who had just killed Melvil and Coghill.
Meanwhile, Higginson had reached Charlie Raw and his group, who recognised Barker’s horse. Certain that Barker was now dead, Higginson told them that he had found the horse down by the river. The horse was relinquished in exchange for a spare Basuto pony and Higginson rode off to the safety of Helpmakaar, where he made his report. 
Raw and his companions rode back towards the river to check for any survivors and came upon Trooper Barker still running for his life. He had been pursues for about three miles, managing to fire the occasional round to keep natives at a distance. 
Within a few days the truth of Higginson’s escape and his supposedly humane gesture in searching for horses for Melvil and Coghill became well known. To avoid the shame and ignominy of his action, Higginson left Helmakaar, complete with a black eye, and quietly disappeared into obscurity."
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90th

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PostSubject: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 24, 2020 3:26 am

Hi Weekend Warrior
Pope's Diary is in the hands of a Private collector , many of the recovered items were sent to family , probably still with them today ..hopefully ? . Other items were passed onto Brecon and other Regimental Museums , along with the non Regimental Museums / Institutes etc , over time these items find their way into private collections , some are sold , others given away , broken and lost etc , much worse they end up in the Garbage ! .
90th
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 24, 2020 9:45 am

HIGGINSON Walter Robert: Clerk, General Post Office, Dublin; Lieutenant, Dublin City Militia 23.6.75; Assistant Musketry Instructor; Acting Adjutant for nine months; He obtained a School of Instruction certificate from the 90th Regiment at Richmond Barracks, Dublin 1876; Attached to the 2/2nd, Regiment; Enlisted 23.7.77; Second class-Private, No1 Troop, Frontier Armed and Mounted Police (No559); Ninth Eastern Cape Frontier War (Ngqika and Gcaleka) 1877-78; Discharged (Medically unfit) 4.9.78; Lieutenant and Adjutant, 1/3rd, Natal Native Contingent 6.12.78; Anglo-Zulu War 1879; He was present at the battle of  iSandlwana on 22.1.79 being prominent in the escape and subsequent attempt to save the Queens Colours of the 1/24th Foot although he has also been accused of being a coward for having seized a horse from a soldier;  Mentioned-in-Despatches (L.G. 4.4.79) for attempting to save the Colours; His name appeared in The Cape Mercury on 27.1.79 on a roll (As W. Higgins) of men serving under Commandant R. Lonsdale in the N.N.C.; On 7.2.79 the Eastern Province Herald published Captain G.R. Massey-Hicks 1/3rd N.N.C.’s letter to his father citing Vaines, Higginson and Adendorff (sic) as ‘narrow escapes’ from iSandlwana 22.1.79; Lieutenant, No3 Troop (Bettington’s), Natal Horse 20.4.79; On 9.7.79 he was recorded to have left with 120 men of the Frontier Light Horse and Bettington’s from Durban to join the 1st Division; Action at Ulundi 4.7.79; Captain Claude Bettington wrote on 2.10.79 from Pietermaritzburg in relation to Higginson:

‘Lieutenant Higginson has served with me for the last six months as Lieut of No3 Tp Natal Horse & has always performed his duties most satisfactorily. He’s an excellent drill in both cavalry musketry & while in command of the troop in PMB always turned them out in good order, he also recruited the troop, he joined my troop when Comd’t Lonsdale’s natives were disbanded in march 79, I consider him to be a most useful officer in every way’.

Resided at Mrs. Clough’s Boarding House, Pietermaritzburg when on 11.11.79 when he applied for a Clerks position in the Colonial Civil Service; In 1880 he offered to raise a Corps in the event of war with the BaSotho; In 1880 he could not accept a Sub Inspectors position with the Gold Coast Constabulary due to the lack of funds for a sea passage to England; Sergeant, Pretoria Carbineers; First Anglo-Boer War 1880-81 including the defence of Pretoria; On 18.7.81 from Pretoria he applied to join the Cape Infantry Regiment however was unsuccessful; Assistant Inspector, Gold Coast Constabulary, August 1881; Government Secretary and Superintendent of Police Gambia, December 1886; Died in Lagos from Fever in 22.6.1896; His father was Frederick Higginson.

Having spent quite some considerable time researching Higginson my view point has mellowed to a great degree. Like 90th I had deep suspicions of his accounts etc but I believe that he literally lost his head. Having like a lot of his fellow officers escaped with a long arduous ride, lost his horse in the river, almost drowned, been shot at and helped carry an invalid up a monstrous steep slope he eventually cracked. Almost an instant PTSD attack. He had lost his rifle in the river and had no means to defend himself he relied on the other two, M and C, to effectivly defend him against the chasing Zulu. He would have witnessed in very close proximity at least two soldiers just below him on the hill being stabbed to death, at the same time his travelling companions not being able to move anymore. At that point he screams to them to shoot and runs toward them, as do the zulu. I would believe that at that point the self preservation instinct took over. quand tout est perdu son temps pour fuir.'
He ran. Stole a horse, left a fellow soldier to his own devices. Was that cowardice or the last resort of a mentaly broken man?
I suggest the later. We decry his actions but at the same time express sorrow for the American GI insulted and abused by General Patton and called a coward. In the first world war men broke under the strain and were executed in the trenches, again history looks back on those issues and condemns the actions of the establishment.
Possibly Higginson deserves a similar share of empathy.
'ut qui primum lapidem mittat innocens.'

Thanks to Cam for his assistance.
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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 24, 2020 9:52 am

Hi 90th,

Its great to be posting again Very Happy

I understand where you are coming from but both Melvill and Coghill as officers would have been armed with revolvers and the fact Flynn found a cylinder near the bodies does seem to support this.

Even if Higginson had stayed with Melvill and Coghill he would have been killed just as they were given he was unarmed also so I understand why he left them to try and find a horse.

Leaving Barker was obviously wrong but the guy probably just panicked and saw getting the horse as the only option to save his life so he took it. I don't think it should disqualify him as a witness to Melvill and Coghill.

Many thanks,
Sam
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WeekendWarrior

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 24, 2020 4:29 pm

Mr. Alewell, a very insightful post and one that I agree with entirely. I see no reason to dismiss Higginson's accounts. Furthermore, having never faced 20,000 angry Zulu Warriors, I can't say I would have behaved any better.
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WeekendWarrior

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 24, 2020 4:30 pm

Sam,

I've read through a lot of your postings on this site. Some very great stuff, glad you're back on board.

Michael
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SRB1965

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 24, 2020 6:16 pm

WeekendWarrior wrote:
Mr. Alewell, a very insightful post and one that I agree with entirely. I see no reason to dismiss Higginson's accounts. Furthermore, having never faced 20,000 angry Zulu Warriors, I can't say I would have behaved any better.

I've been convinced for many years that we can not look at a persons actions ('heroic' or 'cowardly') from the safety of our safe 21st century lives.

Had an escape route been more easily accessible - would the heroic defenders of the hospital at Rorke's Drift been so liable to stick around....?

At isandlwana potential life or death hinged on a quick decision - thankfully not many of us are faced with that choice (maybe Frank has on one occasion he has told me about)......

I have always said that Brickhill was a brave man - brave enough not to pick up Gamble, brave enough to admit why not.....I'm sure if he had, had chance to carry out a 'Risk Assessment'....it may have been different but it was an instant decision......

Ta

sime

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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyThu Jun 25, 2020 10:05 am

Hi Michael,

Many thanks for your kind comments Very Happy

I've been off the forum for many years but its great to be back on it.

Many thanks,
Sam
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptySat May 01, 2021 6:58 pm

Sam
I've been re-reading this thread for reasons of my own. Despite credit due for his contribution toward making the ZW a part of popular history, Morris is responsible for a great many unsourced and misleading comments (which nevertheless make for a great story). Sadly many of these were untrue and, to be kind, it may be said that he was guilty of 'artistic licence'. But he wasn't the first and certainly isn't the last to do this.
I am still trying to find a source for a remark of Hamer's which Morris claimed he'd found. He told me of this in a letter written to me in 1968 when I was 15. Here I am, fifty odd years on, and I still haven't tracked it down. I'm reluctant to think Morris invented it. I'd like to think he can be trusted even if only sometimes!!
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Drummer Boy 14

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 02, 2021 10:14 am

Hi, Julian apologises for the late reply!

Yes I do not believe Morris at all with most things given the volume of stuff he clearly just made up for dramatic purposes.

In this instance, I believe the revolver cylinder was found near his body and Morris misread that to mean it was found in the camp. Maybe as Frank suggested he tried to reload it and the cylinder fell out but regardless I no longer believe it was just found in the camp.
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WeekendWarrior

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PostSubject: Re: Melvill's Revolver Cylinder    Melvill's Revolver Cylinder  - Page 2 EmptyWed Jun 02, 2021 4:17 pm

Fynn's account is exceptionally clear that the cylinder was found among the rocks near his body. I for one, though, don't entirely dismiss Morris as a historian. His papers are held at UCLA Library and as their COVID restrictions roll back, I plan on going through them to try to find (among other things) an unpublished account from James Hamer that was lost from the Killie Campbell library.
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