A Soldier-Artist in Zululand:William Whitelocke Lloyd and the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879
review by Jill Gowans, published in Sawubona, in-flight magazine of South African Airways - January 2007
A significant find of previously undiscovered Anglo-Zulu War Paintings has led Battlefield fundi David Rattray on the hunt to locate those same landscapes today.
On return from holiday in early 2000, David Rattray found copies of several paintings in a large envelope among the pile of correspondence on his desk.
The artist was Lieutenant William Whitelocke Lloyd and he had painted them on active service with the 1st Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.
'I was blown away,' says Rattray. 'I immediately recognised their significance as a unique pictorial record of the war, and on my next trip to England I met the Becher family who had left the copies while staying at our lodge.'
He was shown the originals of 116 watercolours and sketches, unknown during all the intervening years, and kept by the family in a leather-bound album. They were given to them by Lloyd's daughter, Winifred, in thanks for their care of her in old age.
Rattray needs little introduction. He spent childhood holidays on his family's farm at Fugitives' Drift on the Buffalo River, across which the few surviving British and colonial soldiers fled after the battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879.
He tramped the battlefields with his father, Peter Rattray, and Zulu historian, the late George Buntting, listening to stories of those tumultuous days told by old Zulu men.
Isandlwana was the first battle of the war and a great Zulu victory that gave the British their worst defeat in the colonies. It was followed the same day by the successful defence of Rorke's Drift - told in the film Zulu.
In 1989, Rattray and his wife, Nicky, settled on the farm where they built Fugitives' Drift Lodge. He began to offer battlefield tours. Thousands have visited these remote, far-off places on the road to nowhere and been enthralled by his passionate and moving accounts of the war that caused the destruction of the old Zulu Kingdom. He also gives his talks all over the world.
The discovery of the paintings inspired him to publish them and to write his first book: A Soldier-Artist in Zululand, available next month.
What also intrigued him were Lloyd's acute powers of observation. So he resolved to find the places depicted by the soldier-artist, and to-compare them with how they are today.
Accompanied by Rob Caskie and Satchmo Mpanza, who work with him, Rattray drove thousands of kilometres over rough terrain, lugging heavy cameras, 'blundering around from koppie to koppie' as he puts it. They found all but one.
So in the book, for instance, there is a painting called Midday Halt, with redcoats resting next to a koppie. After four days' searching, there was the same koppie with aloes in bloom as they were then. And it was the anniversary of the day, 17 June, that Lloyd painted the scene 125 years earlier. One craggy rock feature on the vast Helpmekaar plateau that Lloyd painted is as it is today: the same fissures, the same lichens.
'It took an incredible amount of searching, but then I spotted it and sat down next to it: says Rattray. 'I then realised I was sitting on the same warm rock Lloyd had sat onů'
William Whitelocke Lloyd was a member of an Anglo-Irish upper-class family and after being educated at Eton and Oxford, he obtained a commission in the 1/24th Regiment, sailing shortly afterwards to South Africa on the Balmoral Castle.
He wrote regularly to his sister, Selina, in Ireland, and it is his letters and other eyewitness accounts by fellow officers that enabled Rattray to follow in the footsteps of Lloyd and his battalion.
This is L1oyd's description of Isandlwana, painted in July 1879, six months after the battle: 'It is impossible to tell officer from soldier as in a very short time the vultures and crows pick any dead thing clean'.
He sketched the body of a wagon driver lying on a rock high up on Isandlwana; Rattray found the rock.
After leaving the army in 1882, Lloyd married and became official artist for the P&O and Union Castle Lines, travelling all over the world sketching shipboard life and foreign places. He published three books on these, but his Anglo-Zulu War works had never seen the light of day. He died in Ireland aged 41 after falling from a tree he was pruning.
But this is much more than a book of paintings. Rattray writes as beautifully and vividly as he talks. He describes the origins of the war and takes one through the seminal events leading to the final battle of Ulundi and the later capture of King Cetshwayo who was exiled to Cape Town.
'Victorian soldiers were taught how to sketch accurately but Lloyd had a serious talent,' he says. 'There is the Zulu postman who ran up from the coast carrying the letters which contributed so much to this book.'
One soldier wrote on 2 June: 'It was one of those undefined rumours of ill' as news swept the camp that the Prince Imperial of France, the last of the Bonapartes, had been killed by Zulus close by on the day before.
As the British torched the abandoned kraal where the ambush happened, Lloyd sketched an old woman left behind. The British fed her green mealies but she died and they gave her a decent burial, he wrote.
'Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift will always steal the limelight but I've tried to provide much more information on the later part of the war,' Rattray says. 'As the British crossed the White Imfolozi en route to Ulundi, Lloyd painted the river with some cattle on the banks. When we got there, a herd of cattle was in the same place.'
Extensive biographical notes on every character mentioned have been done by Major Martin Everett, curator of the Royal Regiment of Wales museum in Brecon, Wales. HRH The Prince of Wales, who visited the battlefields in 1997, has written the foreword.
Says Rattray: 'The great attraction of some of these Zulu battlefields, these remote and evocative places, is that they are unchanged. What an asset for the people of this region.'
'And what a reminder of how careful we must be in preserving them.'