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DateOriginal Topic
11th January 2005Myths
By Chris
Someone mentioned Hollywood and instilling and propagating myths earlier (I can't remember who it was, forgive me). But I have always wondered about "the last soldier to die at Isandhlwana" the chap in the cave, with I don't know how much ammo.

Was this a fact? How did he get up there carrying so much ammo - especially as I thought the right horn swept around the back of the mountain and so surely would have swollowed anyone there up? Is is possible he did get there earlier then when thought and that there were still, in fact, pockets of resistance still firing on the field, but this chap would have been killed by then?
12th January 2005Coll
Apparently there was a soldier positioned in a small cave just slightly up from the shelf of the mountain where Captain Younghusband's company held out until their ammunition was depleted.
This man is assumed to have been in this company and, for whatever the reason did not follow them on their charge down towards the nek, maybe already injured he wasn't able to follow.
The Zulu right horn did appear from the other side of the mountain, but I think some pursued the fugitives escaping through the nek, while the others attacked the soldiers making last stands behind the tents and at the wagon park.
Whether this individual remained hidden and so was overlooked, until he was spotted by warriors later, possibly seeing his red jacket, which was when he started sniping at the nearest Zulus.
As for ammunition, I don't know, he may have made each shot count, but although he obviously had some cartridges, I doubt he had much more than any of his colleagues.
12th January 2005Ian
Before I went there I was always under the impression that it was an actual cave. The position is more like a small scrape than an actual cave.
12th January 2005Derek C
According to David Rattray's tapes, this fellow had hoarded some ammo and was doing a fine sniping job from that cave. The Zulus eventually killed him by grabbing ammo from the camp and some rifles off the dead and finally killing him. He supposedly was the last man to die on the field. This would be a Zulu account, and they were impressed with his bravery and courage.
12th January 2005Julian whybra
Rattray has no monopoly on the truth, I'm afraid, and though he's a fine story-teller, no-one knows more than the 2 Zulu accounts on which this story is based. Hoarding ammo and detailed minutiae of how he was killed are invention.
12th January 2005Coll
Additionally, in the book, ' The Zulu War: Then and Now ' by Ian Knight and Ian Castle, on page 274, shows a black and white print of a painting by R.T Moynan showing this particular incident. Alongside this illustration is a photograph of the possible location with the author Ian Castle standing where the soldier would have been.
12th January 2005Chris

Are you able to shed anymore light on these 2 Zulu accounts you speak of?
13th January 2005Julian whybra
The Zulu primary sources are given in 'England's Sons'.
14th January 2005Derek C
It is not just Rattray that has "invented" the details. Saul David's book "Zulu" (pub. 2004 Penguin Viking) gives an account of the incident on page 152. An officer of the 2/24 came across the cave, it's floor strewn with empty cases and sheds of a red serge jacket were found. He goes on further to describe that the body/skeleton of this soldier were found about 100 yards down from the cave with a rope around his neck.

Unless this officer was "inventing" stuff, surely certain deductions can be made? I have sat in that cave and it seems plausable that to try and disloge a man with a rifle, when all you have is a spear, shield and raw Zulu courage, is a formidable task.

To refute Bunting & Rattray's account of this battle is no small task. Both men are fluent in the Zulu language and have spent hours and hours speaking not only with direct desendants of the battle, but in Bunting's case, directly with warriors who took part in the battle.

I'm interested in your take, of what happened in that cave?
15th January 2005Michael Boyle
The rather lively disussion that ensued here after the release of Dr.David's latest book was also an unfortunate casualty of the recent server crash, however I do recall it was rather soundly criticized for it's inaccuracies.

I don't suppose anyone out there would care to reiterate some of them,just so we have some record?


15th January 2005Martin Everett
You could try Stephen Coan's review in The Witness which gives a very pithy assessment without dwelling on points of detail which anyone with a smattering of AZW knowledge an pick up. I leave you to find it - you have the Internet.
15th January 2005John Young

There was a very good review of Dr. David's work in 'The Natal Witness', back in December, by Stephen Coan.

Within the first few pages of the book Dr. David solves a mystery which has puzzled researchers of the campaign since 1879, by telling the reader what John Chard was actually wearing at Rorke's Drift, not only that it was 'tight-fitting'. In the 41 years that I have been interested in the Anglo-Zulu War, I have never been able to discover, for certain what John Chard wore at Rorke's Drift, yet on the second page of Dr. David's text, he has the answer!

Silly things niggle - Helpmekaar is given as 'Helpmakaar' in the text. The Shiyane is rendered variously as 'Oskarberg' and 'Oscarberg', one case in changes from one to the other within paragraphs on pages 170-1.

On page 62 & et sec, the Natal Carbineers become 'Royal' several years before they actually did so in 1935.

Page 66 (& et seq.); Lieutenant Henry Charles Harford of the 99th, is referred to by his later acting rank of 'Captain'.
Which Barton is Dr. David referring to as coming from an 'established colonial' family, surely not William Barton? Who appears to have been an Irish soldier of fortune, rather than one of Natal's elite.

On page 70 every British infantry regiment mentioned has a mistake in their titles, the worst blunder has got to be the 'Royal Warwickshires' the 1st & 2nd Battalions of which were on the other side of the Indian Ocean.

Page 75; another clothing fact from the pen/keyboard of Dr. David, that Lt.-Gen. Lord Chelmsford preferred to wear a dark blue Norfolk jacket, on what does he base this statement? In every sketch, every engraving based on sketches, that I have seen show Lord Chelmsford in a patrol jacket.

Page 76; when can two be referred to as '...a handful' in relation to the number of Gatling Guns available to Lord Chelmsford?

Page 83; Commandant Rupert Lonsdale, only ever a lieutenant in the British Army, is given the rank of 'Colonel'. Commandant Cooper becomes a 'Major'.

Page 85; Lieutenant-Colonel Henry J. Degacher appears to have been promoted to 'Colonel'.

Page 102; George Hamilton Browne appears to have acquired another forename starting with the letter 'A.'

Page 112; Captain Alan Gardner, 14th (King's) Hussars becomes one of Glyn's aides-de-camp, yet he was assigned to No. 3 for 'General Staff Duties'.
From the same paragraph the word Brevet should prefix 'Major Stuart Smith', and give the office his correct rank.
Henry Julian Dyer should correctly be referred as Lieutenant and Adjutant, rather than Dr. David's 'Adjutant Henry Dyer', or why not describe him as Lieutenant H.J. Dyer, Adjutant of 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment.

Page 120; Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Pulleine's rank is given as 'Colonel'.
Lieutenant William Francis Dundonald Cochrane of the 32nd (Cornwall) Light Infantry, is only referred to by his second name

Page 135; How does Dr. David conclude that 'Smith-Dorrien took to smashing the lids with rocks, rifle butts...' this is pure invention of Dr. David's behalf, based on theory, not fact.

Page 142; Dramatic licence has overtaken known fact, rather than Dr. David's pronounment 'The last to perish was a group of sixty foot soldiers...' Surely that would better read: Of the organized resistance amongst the last to perish...

Page 145 (& et seq.): Basutus rather than BaSotho.

Page 148: The classic blunder 'fifty-five Europeans' surviving Isandlwana. F.W.D. Jackson put pay to that suggestion long ago, Julian Whybra & I have made our contributions to facts. Yet still Dr. David gives the reader a figure, still widely banded around in certain circles as correct, when it has long since been disproved.

Page 155; Wilsone Black's rank - Wilsone Black became a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel on 31st December, 1878, the same date that Anthony William Durnford became a Brevet Colonel.

How's that for a starter?

John Y.
15th January 2005Martin Everett
Dear John,

I am not sure why 'Helpmakaar' niggles you? This is spelling in most contemporary accounts about AZW. Helpmekaar is the modern spelling. Same is true of Isandhlwana. This is always going to be a problem when writing about historical events in Africa and India when quoting contemporary accounts. Consistency of spelling in article/publication is the answer - a topic that has been aired many times as you know.

The biggest slip - the background colour of the Regimental Colour of 24th.

I am glad you bought the book. You probably missed the article in last Sundays Telegraph Business Section about Penguin and the Saul David book.
15th January 2005John Young
Dear Martin,

I didn't buy the book, it came gratis from Penguin.

I haven't seen The Sunday Telegraph's article can you elaborate?

John Y.
15th January 2005John Young
Dear Martin,

Don't worry I found it!

'...critically-acclaimed...' Who are they kidding? Does it help to mention Dr. David write reviews for The Telegraph group?

John Y.
15th January 2005John Young
Dear Martin,

Nothing wrong with Dr. David's description of the Regimental Colour on page 143, he has already referred to the 24th as a 'Royal' regiment, hence his description of 'dark blue' is correct for that designation!

Who was it that welcomed the book, despite its limitations?

John Y.
17th January 2005Peter Quantrill
May I take the liberty of quoting relevant extracts from not only The Witness, but also from the national paper, The Citizen, who published a review on 5 January. And here I am ignoring the plethora of mistakes correctly listed by John Young.

Stephen Coan---Witness--20 December.
" After reading David's Zulu myself I couldn't help wondering if the above reviewers" [Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times] " had actually read any book on the subject, let alone Morris's ground breaking book published three decades ago."
" Does little than plunder recent works on the subject, notably Zulu Victory by Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill, The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Kingdom by John Laband and various books by Ian Knight."
" This section of the book [ Zulu Victory] relies heavily on Lock and Quantrill's contention that the Zulus conducted a deliberate strategy to bring the British force to battle.This is open to debate but David happily plunges right in and presents it as a given, selectively quoting sources that support this view."
" The cover up attempts by Lord Chelmsford to divert blame for the defeat at Isandlwana to the conveniantly dead Colonel Durnford -- another theme to be found in Lock and Quantrill's book."
" Meanwhile, back in Zululand David does a quick sprint through the Prince Imperial, drawing mainly on Knight's ' With His Face to The Foe.' "
" John Young, author of 'They Fell Like Stones' and an acknowledged expert on the minutiae of the war, says he found 452 errors and that was before he'd finished the book."
" Perhaps I'm just angry at reviewers in the British quality press swallowing David's work hook, line and sinker."

The Citizen,--Paul Kirk.
" Zulu came out towards the middle of last year. Almost immediately the controversy started when.Doctor Adrian Greaves, a well known author on the Zulu War, refused to review the book ---- Greaves then stated publically that he could hardly review the book as that would be tantamount to reviewing his own work."
" Ian Knight, a well known author on the Zulu War --- eventually reviewed the book--and pulled few punches-- anyone with an interest in the war will easily spot the influence of recent specialist books on the subject, such as Lock and Quantrill's study of Isandlwana, for example Adrian Greave's Rorke's Drift and The Curling Letters, my own National Army Museum and Prince Imperial."

Sadly, nothing further needs to be either said or added.
17th January 2005Julian whybra
Derek C, in reply to yours of the 14th, Saul David has no monopoly on the truth either. His 'officer' is a fiction. He is simply one of several modern popular history writers of the last few years and the same could be said of their work too. I'm sorry, but Rattray cannot be relied upon. Taking 'hearsay', allegedly, from Zulus alive in 2005 about what their great-grandfathers did in 1879 (despite the wonders of Zulu oral tradition) and not properly verifying (let alone recording) it, is NOT an acceptable historical analytical technique. As I've said Rattray is a fine storyteller and no doubt a good hotelier BUT he's no historian and as such should be treated with excessive caution. If you prefer fiction, read T.H. White.
18th January 2005Mike Snook

I agree of course with the great majority of what is said above, and quite understand the passions aroused, but to be just a tadge even handed - it is not wrong, having at the first mention of an individual made it plain that his rank was a brevet one, to then discard the brevet designation subsequently. For example Melvill did not greet Pulleine in the mornings with 'Good Morning Major.' He would have said 'Good Morning Colonel.' Nor is it wrong, having made it plain that Henry Degacher's substantive rank was Lt-Col, to subsequently refer to him en passant as Colonel Degacher. That is how his own officers would have referred to him. To insert Lt Col every time he is mentioned is unnecessarily pedantic. If Wilsone Black was gazetted at the same time as Durnford - then that is why you get repeated mentions of Major Black in the January sources, and a shift thereafter to Lt Col. Chelmsford's correspondence to Durnford is proof positive that Durnford's Dec 78 promotion to Col was not known about in SA in Jan 79 - just so with Black.

Brevet rank counted - it was worn as a rank badge and was used as a form of address. The key difference was that the tax payer didn't pay the bloke in the higher rank but in his substantive one. Hence Major Smith, Major Russell, Major Upcher, Colonel Pulleine etc etc.

Interesting to examine this in the context of the Little Big Horn. We all know that Reno and Benteen were a major and a captain respectively - but in fact they were addressed in the regiment by their wartime ranks - as Colonel - Colonel Benteen and Colonel Reno. (But as far as I know wore badges of rank apertaining to their respective substantive ranks). I believe (but could be wrong American cousins?) that Reno had commanded a brigade in the ACW. So too was the Adjutant a Colonel!! Lieutenant WW Cooke - was actually Lt Col Cooke. Quite an interesting conundrum if you are Custer - the regimental commander. You are only one of a number of Colonels in your own regiment!! Not surprising really that he insisted on being addressed as General and wore crossed swords on the points of his collar- and not surprising that a single regiment with so many former regimental commanders functioning as company commanders was not exactly the most unified fighting force ever to take the field!! But I digress.

For those who are interested, my review of Saul David appears in the spring edition of British Army Review. I wouldn't say it's a whole lot different from some of the observations here!! But for God's sake be gentler with me in my turn....I tried my best!! (and it's original!) Mercy you sharks!!

Regards to all


18th January 2005Mike Snook
PS. And I agree with John on the NNC Commandants - their equivalent rank regular service was captain nothwithstanding commands of regimental and battalion sized bodies of troops.

Not sure on Harford though - I think he was a local captain in Jan 1879. This to faciliate his role as a regimental level staff officer to Lonsdale (one up from Browne and Cooper's battalion adjutants who were colonial commissioned lieutenants). Prepared to be corrected on this however. Local Capt might have come later.

18th January 2005Keith Smith

If I may be pedantic - Durnford's promotion to Bevert Colonel was announced
18th January 2005Keith Smith

Still being pedantic - sorry for the glitch.

Durnford's promotion to Brevet Colonel was announced post mortem in Local General Order No. 30 dated 9th February 1879, "Times of Natal", 12th February 1879. The promotion was made effective from 11th December 1878.

With regard to commandants of the NNC, your comments apply only to those who were not special service officers; Bengough and Graves were both Majors and were addressed as such.
19th January 2005Mike Snook

Quite so. You support my point - that in Jan 1879 Durnford was still a Lt Col as far as he knew or as far as anybody else in SA knew, and Black was similarly still a Major in SA but a Lt Col in London! In my view it would be quite wrong to refer in history books to Lt Col Black in the Isandlwana campaign, (even though he was one), if he nor anybody else knew it, and he was not acting as one or regarded as one.

Yes, of course I refer to the colonial commissioned commandants, not the SSOs.

Regards as ever,

19th January 2005Mike Snook

By the way - no need to apoligise for being pedantic - I am as pedantic as the next man!! Hence my points.

19th January 2005John Young

Re-your point on the brevet ranks, you could add a footnote to that effect.

Obviously there was another person later in the campaign, who was also unaware of his promotion to a higher rank - J.B. Carey.

John Y.