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27th August 2005The Queen's colour 1/24th
By Paul Lamberth
Can anyone help me please
What would the procedure(s) be with regarding the “colours” in the case of the camp at Isandlwana and in particular the Queens Colour of the 1 / 24th and the period 20th – 22nd January 1879.
- Who is in charge of the colours?
- Are the “colours” guarded?
- Would they have been displayed (carried) when the 1st / 24th marched into the camp on the 20th? - band playing etc
- Where would they have been kept on the evening of the 20th?
- Where would they have been kept on the morning of the 22nd?
- How are they displayed when in a camp?
- Would Glyn have handed them over to Pulleine ?
- Would they have moved? (Glyn’s tent to Pulleine’s tent)
- Why do colours get left behind, or are only moved under certain circumstances?
- What is the purpose/function of the “Queens Colour” and what exactly does “rallying of the troop” mean?
- Are the colours used in battle?

These are only a few questions I have centered around the colours and to-date I have not been very successful in getting answers
27th August 2005Martin Everett
Dear Paul,
For starters read fact sheets on Colours on the museum web site.
Click on 'contact us' then page down the 24th and SWB Fact sheets - then select B7.
Then ask your revised questions to
[email protected]

27th August 2005Mike McCabe
Is this a DR put up job?
The questions are phrased in such a way as to suggest that you are also capable of finding the answers for yourself.
In addition to Martin's good advice, and taking your points in turn.
Q1. What would the procedure(s) be with regarding the “colours” in the case of the camp at Isandlwana and in particular the Queens Colour of the 1 / 24th and the period 20th – 22nd January 1879.
A1. The Queen's Colour 1st/24th (and probably those of 2nd/24th) would be safeguarded under armed guard according to the practice of the Battalion at the time. It would either be lodged in the Bn HQ tent, or the Guard Tent, in a prominent place so that its presence could be easily checked and seen; though cased - both as a form of protection to the Colour's embroidered silk fabric and Royal Crest crown, and to obviate the need to pay compliments to the Colour on entering and leaving.
Q2. Who is in charge of the colours?
A2. In normal routine, it would usually be the Adjutant ting o behalf of the Commanding Officer, who might delegate the detailed responsibility for its care and security to another person under his diect authority. A formally constituted Colour Party would be formed to carry the Colour on the march, and if and when the Colour was to be deployed operationally.
Q3 Are the “colours” guarded?
A3. Very much so in those days, and when taken into the field, both as a valuable object in their own right and as a powerful symbol of the identity, spirit, honours and traditions of the Battalion and Regiment. Nowadays, Colours are also routinely secured rather than guarded by guards in direct attendance. The form of physical security applied might vary from their display as a cased or uncased stand of Colours in a suitably secure building, or, if necessary by being locked into the unit armoury if better security might result for a short period of time.
Q4. Would they have been displayed (carried) when the 1st / 24th marched into the camp on the 20th? - band playing etc
A4. The Colours would have been carried by a properly constituted Colour Party, but with the Colour(s) being cased to protect them (and to make them easier to carry). The composition of the Colour Party might also be varied and in some Battalions on the march the responsibility for securing the Colours might be given to a Company Commander and his company. Clearly, somebody had been given delegated responsibility for securing the Regimental Colour of 1st/24th at Helpmekaar, presumably intended to be brought forward at some stage (possibly by Upcher) as the second wing of the Bn was reconstituted on arrival. The deision to uncase the Colours, for whatever purpose, is vested in the Commanding Officer. It is unlikely that the Bands of the 24th played as such once the Buffalo was crossed. They were in enemy teritory and would have been diverted to their operational military duties. 'Listening' on a battlefield was an important operational skill, including for any drum or bugle calls, should those for some reason be employed. Playing traditional musical compliments to the uncased Colours as custome required on parade would not be likely in a Battalion going into action in those days. But, you will read mentions of it during the Napoleonic wars.
Q5. Where would they have been kept on the evening of the 20th?
A5. Wherever Bn practice required.
Q6. Where would they have been kept on the morning of the 22nd?
A6. Same place. The Colours would not have had a routoine part to play in any company level camp routines or muster parades.
Q7. How are they displayed when in a camp?
A7. Normally, they would not have been, unless there was an operational reason to do so. Even then, a tented Camp HQ was distinguishable by a sentry mounted outside, various local activities, and sometmes the flying of flags or pennants. The obligation to salute Colours in passing would make uncased Colours a practical nuisance. Also, display increases the chance of damage, and in some circumstances might invite theft. It also serves no useful purpose in 19th Century tactics and traditions of the time. Nowadays, you might see one or both Colours (three in a few units) displayed on the way into a Bn HQ. Some units also display painted copies of one or both Colours as part of a unit sign outside the Guard Room. These copies are not saluted as the actual Colours would be.
Q8. Would Glyn have handed them over to Pulleine ?
A8. Pulleine was left in overall command of the Isandlwana Camp in circumstances where command of the main body of 1st/24th also passed to another officer. The latter would simply inherit responsibility for the Colour as part of his Command responsibility. Whatever security arrangements were already in place for these Colours in Isanlwana camp ould, presumably, simply continue. Pope, as defacto senior officer of 2nd/24th would have inherited responsibility for its Colours. But, intriguingly, might possible have not knownn that both Colours were still in Camp.
Q8. Would they have moved? (Glyn’s tent to Pulleine’s tent).
A8. Unlikely, continuity of supervision and security would be the higher priority. However, they might have been moved to whichever location was thought the more appropriate or secure if any real change of circumstance was occasioned by Glyn moving out with Chelmsford.
Q9. Why do colours get left behind, or are only moved under certain circumstances?
A9. For a variety of reasons, and according to circumstances. The Comanding Officer decides, unless the General Officer Commanding has given detailed instructions on the subject..
Q10. What is the purpose/function of the “Queens Colour”
A10. It is the senior Colour and originated as a Colour gifted or approved by the Sovereign, to carry his devices and/or those of the National patron saint into authorised conflicts. The Regimental/Battalion Colour has a slightly different history and associated traditions, with roots in The 'Colonel's Colour' in days when The Colonel and his Captains were effectively the proprietors of a force provided to the State under contract. Because of that customs for the use of the Regimental colour vary enormously to this day, whereas there is much common ground on the traditional use of the Queen's Colour.
Q11. and what exactly does “rallying of the troop” mean?
A11. In extremis, or by design, the Colour(s) would be used to 'rally' (seedictionary) a formed body of men in the attack or defence, and a unit might be told very quickly to form up on its colours, with the layout of the Colour Party indicating the centre of mass and direction. That's why Colours were normally lodged in the same place every night. In some units in camp, Colour Parties would parade under arms before sunset that all might see where the Colours were lodged for the night.
Q12. - Are the colours used in battle?
A12. Not any more, and not (in the British Army) since the 58th at Laings Nek. However, some units carried battle honours and badges on drums,capbadges, pipe banners, and in other forms for many years afterwards. Also, some British units still name certain vehicles after unit battle honours.

The above is all very likely for the two Bns of 24th, but there is no certainty, and, today's unit traditions are not necessarily an exact copy of those of the time - too many years and amalgamations have pased. Also, customes vary enormously from unit to unit, with each convinced that only they do it 'properly'!
27th August 2005Mike McCabe
As to the use of Colours to rally troops in the attack, good rollicking examples come from the Crimean War battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854:
- The Royal Welch Fusiliers’ Queen’s Colour was carried into battle by Ensign Henry Anstruther. Anstruther was shot dead as the regiment stormed the Russian Battery. The Queen’s Colour was taken up by Sergeant Luke Connor and carried through the rest of the battle. Connor was subsequently commissioned and rose to the rank of Field Marshal. Connor is said to be the only soldier to have served in every rank of the army.

- Because of the nature of the attack on the Russian Battery and the importance of maintaining momentum, the use of the regimental colours has achieved prominence in the history and traditions of the battle. Important pictures show the Colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards being carried into battle, Sergeant Luke Connor with the Queen’s Colour of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Colour Party of the Coldstream Guards. Higginson states that the Colours of the Grenadiers were not uncased until just before the assault on the Russian Battery. He says the Colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards were shot through while the Grenadier Colours were largely unscathed.

- The Scots Fusilier Guards (now Scots Guards) Colour Party led the regiment's attack on the Great Russian Battery. Lieutenant Lindsay carried the Queen's Colour; Lieutenant Thistlethwayte carried the Regimental Colour. Of the party, Lieutenant Lindsay, Sergeants McKechnie and Knox and Private Reynolds were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Queen's Colour received 24 bullet holes and the staff was shot in half.

There are numerous other examples in the history of the Regiments of the British Army.

Get the idea?

27th August 2005Mike McCabe
However, at the later battle of Inkerman, virtually all regiments refrained from taking their colours into this formidably confused battle - less the Grenadier Guards who then spent the battle fervently hoping they could prevent them being captured, which they did.
But, it does demonstrate how very flexible the decision to deploy with or without Colours ultimately was.
27th August 2005Martin Everett
Dear Paul and Mike,
The Colours represented to rallying point in battle - i.e. the centre of the battalion line/position. The background colour of the Regimental Colour was the facing colour of the regiment. For example the 24th's Regimental Colour was grass green so were the soldiers' cuffs and collars. Very much like the colours of a football team.

Paul , you are obviously making a diorama - we have been down this line of questions before.

Mike, Luke O'Connor only made it to Major General (Honorary). Lindsay became Lord Wantage. The staff or pole of the Colour is correctly a pike.
27th August 2005Mike McCabe

I'm not surprised to hear the correction helpfully provided on Luke O' Connor - in my haste I took the detail from which has some fairly iffy Zulu War bits too.

Hitherto, I had thought only Wully Robertson had reached FM, though he had not filled every rank on his way there.

Colour 'pike' properly refers to the staff of the old 'big' colours which had a pierced pike head fixed at the top of the staff, though the term is now colloquial. I'm told that the QM of a Bn receiving Colours is actually issued with a Colour 'staff' for each Colour, made up of the colour pole and its metal fittings. The Crown being one of them.
Recognising that some battalions of infantry were formed after the use of colour pikes had, technically, ceased. Pole, pike and staff are all in use in different parts of the Army,Navy, and Air Force though older Army units and Royal Marines prefer the term 'Pike'.
I'll let you all

I'll let the infantry admonish each other on that one.

27th August 2005Mike Snook

In fact the band of the 1st/24th did play on the march up to Isandlwana on the morning of the 20th. Can't remember my source off the top of my head, but it was an emphatic reference. Unfortunately no tunes were named.


27th August 2005Mike Snook

In fact the band of the 1st/24th did play on the march up to Isandlwana on the morning of the 20th. Can't remember my source off the top of my head, but it was an emphatic reference. Unfortunately no tunes were named.


27th August 2005Mike Snook
Twice! Airhead that I am! Airhead that I am! Mmmmmmmmmmmmedic!

27th August 2005Mike McCabe
Thought we'd fish you in sooner or later.

Are you sure, who would be listening, or marching, in a large 'box' formation of several columns of wagons side by side.
You might be recalling the reference by, I think, Henry Hook to one of the Bands playing on the way up to Helpmekaar - I think "Here's to the Gallant (or Noble) 24th". Buried somewhere in The Red Soldier perhaps. The same source refers to the Band leaving from RD and returning to Durban.
28th August 2005Dawn
Seeing as we're talking about the band. I wonder if the band of the 2/24 that went out with Chelmsford to Mangeni took their instruments. As the bandmaster was left behind, I would imagine they stayed under his care in the camp. However, I cannot get a picture out of my mind of Chelmsford being serenaded at breakfast, sort of Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
28th August 2005George Candale
What while eating his kippers and toast?
Or during the Officers versus the Sergeants Cricket perhaps?
Beam me up Scotty!
George Candale
28th August 2005Mie Smook

I'm quite sure. As in 'quite sure', not as in 'quite' sure!!

28th August 2005Peter Ewart
Mike Mc

Thanks for those superb contributions on the administration relating to the Colours. I learnt a great deal from them.

It reminds me again of the perennial debate about the potential reliability (or otherwise) of the brief claim in the Kaffrarian Watchman, which has been discussed before but can't be proven - that is, the account of Pulleine's order to Melvill, which derives from that letter alone (if one accepts that Glyn's report itself was no more than surmising).

Reading your description of the round-the-clock care of the Colours and the fact that there seem to have been formal arrangements in hand whenever and wherever they were kept, it occurs to me that any order to leave the camp to save the Colour was less a spontaneous act borne of desparation, but that, at some stage of the denouement, such an order would sooner or later have to have been made anyway, and that the two Colours' vulnerability may even have been drawn to his attention by someone responsible at the time.

As far as I can see, all things being equal (in other words, bearing in mind all the other long-discussed points in that debate) I'm now a bit more of the opinion than I was before that the order took place as claimed in the KW letter.

For a military man who was aware of all the finer points of the protection and admin already, it may not make much difference, but for a civvie the picture is now clearer and it therefore pushes the argument more that way as far as I'm concerned. (Even if we'll never know for certain!)

28th August 2005Mike McCabe
We don't get very far with this topic before we get onto unprovable (and unsafe) ground, and I'm rather hoping that Mike Snook might explore it to the limits of balanced probability.

If we take the 2nd Bn Colours first, we cannot be sure whether Lt Pope would even have been aware that they were still in camp. It's reasonable to assume that whatever arrangements had been made to safeguard the Bn Colours continued until they were simply over-run or no longer tenable. Pope himself would have been unlikely to have any opportunity to address the problem. A 1st Bn officer or soldier would be unlikely to lay hands on a 2nd Bn Colour, but one simply cannot know whether any desperate attempt might have been made by any member of either Bn to prevent the capture of the silk flags of the Colours themselves (which are the actual consecrated 'Colour') - possibly even by burning them, which was considered a desperate act though a better alternative to their actual 'loss' at the hands of the unit. There are various accounts of ingenious and extreme actions being resorted to to avoid the actuall 'loss' of a Colour to an enemy in the 18th and 19th C.
The 1st Bn Queen's Colour would have been safeguarded under whatever arrangements were considered usual. The mode of tactical employment of the rifle companies of the 1st Bn provided no operational cause to deploy the uncased colour - rather the opposite. Also, the fluid nature of the battle would have prevented the Colour being used in an organised way to rally troops, especially as there was no reserve or effective defensive line on which a rally might have been based. At company and section level there was also no expectation of the Colour being used to define a forming up place for the Bn at some later stage. Lt Melvill would have realised fairly early that the Colour might soon be at risk. Whether he was definitely ordered to save the Colour by Lt Col Pulleine is almost immaterial as he would have had the personal duty to do what he could to save it. Also, leaving the slopes to the East of Isandlwana was hardly some sort of 'passport to safety' and Melvill would have known that his chance of getting away at all was fairly slight, the moreso as the situation to the southwest of Isandlwana became apparent to him.
Melvill, remember, was trying to break clear of the Zulus with the Colour. THat he would end up in the river would have ben unforseen by him until the courses of action open were limited by the Zulus. Depending on when he left, it's even conceivable that he might have been trying to get direcly to Rorke's Drift, or even away to Chelmsford.
Conceivably, of course, Pulleine might have taken that decision when the chances of escape were still good - as might Melvill.
It's fairly unlikely that Melvill would have tried to use the Colour to rally any element of the 24th - it was cased, and he would have had his work cut out even hanging on to it as he rode.
Notwithstanding the events at the Fugitives Drift, Melvill getting that far was an impressive effort of stamina, horsemanship and determination. In ensuring that the Colour did not fall into Zulu hands Melvill had de facto 'saved' it. But, after it slipped from his grasp he was indeed very fortunate that it was not recovered by the Zulus, and was recovered at all. Nor do we really know what actually happened to the Colours of the 2nd Bn. A Colour 'staff' was found, but their fate is actually a mystery.
Pulleine actually ordering away the Queen's Colour is both a fine story, and very possible. But, we could not be sure and, in sime ways, it does not matter - except as a piece of information suggesting that he was taking decisive steps to do what he could to reduce the worst effects of the likely collapse of the camp, showing commendable presence of mind in evidently desperate circumstances.
29th August 2005Michael Boyle
I concur with Mike 100% on Melvill having done the right thing regardless of orders. The 1/24 would have been particularly sensitive to losing their Colours, having lost them a generation before. Mike's detailed reply above will perhaps allow modern readers to appreciate how important Colours were then and, to a lesser degree, now. (In that they no longer go into battle.)

I've always wondered why the fate of the 2nd Bn. Colour is so rarely mentioned. We know the fate of the pieces of 'staff' or 'pike, the case and the (can't recall the proper name!) 'emblem' on top (it being mentioned as having been carefully unscrewed). I believe the bits were found in a nearby 'kraal', indicating that they were destroyed on the field. If the method of removing the Colour from the staff required the unscrewing of the 'staff head' then perhaps that indicates that an attempt was made to save the Colour itself as had been done famously before by wrapping it around one's body. (I know it's a stretch.) The lack of contemporary comment in an age when the loss of one's Colour was a tremendous blow leads me to think that someone must have known what happened to the 2/24 Colour. Of course one can't 'demand' the return of one's Colour as with guns and rifles because honour demands they be won back.

That said, I recall reading a reference to an officer on a red horse attempting to save the 2/24 Colour. I've only run across it once and as it's 0300 after a long weekend I'll have to look it up later.
29th August 2005Mike McCabe
In all this we also have the curiosity of the Charles Fripp painting 'The Last Stand at Isandhlwana'. Fripp would have been aware of the general view of the fate of the 2nd Bn Colours, yet chose to depict (by implication) its Regimental Colour in the left mid foreground. Close observation shows some avoidable errors in depicting uniforms, yet Fripp would have had enough campaign experience and general military knowledge to be aware of the 'statement' he was making by including a Colour. Though, viewed more bleakly it does serve the useful purpose of correcting the composition and confirming somewhat flaky overall colour perspective in that part of the picture.
Has anybody got more background on how and why Fripp chose to do what he did. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885. Was Fripp simply trying to make his work more noteworthy and commercially attractive to the increasingly sentimental Victorians?
Anybody got more collateral?
29th August 2005Mike Snook

As you rightly indicate Mike McC covers this ground admirably - the one thing I would add is that by the conventions of the British infantry, the Colours cannot leave the field of battle, (or be destroyed to prevent their capture), except on the express say-so of the CO. They are HIS colours - they are such sacred objects that ONLY the CO says what is to be done with them. If the CO had been killed this authority would pass automatically to the next senior officer still alive - the acting CO in other words. The Adjt is important - but he is only the adjutant and must defer to the senior surviving officer. In a scene of chaos, which most popular histores imagine, it ibecomes easy to assume that the Adjt might make a spur of the moment decision to save the colours on hios own authority. BUT this was NOT a scene of chaos at this stage - (time and space and cohesion arguments at HCMDB refer). Since we have source evidence to say that Pulleine was still alive when Melvill left, (Coghill breaking the news to him on the FT that the CO had been shot), it follows that Melvill must have been ordered to go by the CO. There is other circumstantial evidence (derived from reconciling the geography of the camp with eyewitness testimony) to support such a notion, which of course I cover at length in HCMDB.


29th August 2005Paul
Thanks all for the immediate response. It is greatly appreciated, and certainly helped to clear a few questions. I am trying to form a picture in my own mind as to what would have possibly been the norm on the morning of the 22nd.
29th August 2005Mike McCabe
I am not underestimating the profound nature of the conventions applied to Colours. However, I would contend that the Colour(s) in Bns of infantry in those days were items much more integrated into the daily routine of a unit than they perhaps are today, and their circumstances were considered as a day to day practicality and with a more utilitarian approach than might now be the case.
I have not seen HCMDB (as an aside, a good new unit title, with applications in Scotland perhaps), and it is interesting to hear what might be unveiled by it.
Can we asume, by implication, that the acting CO of the 1st Bn was therefore not in a position to give such an authority, and it fell to Lt Col Pulleine - effectively the CO as far as Col Glyn would have considered it.
If, as is very possible, the episode of Pulleine ordering away the Colour never actually took place (cherished though the story clearly was) then Melvill's actions would still be rational and reasonable if he had to act urgently in the absence of Pulleine or the acting CO.
Though one would sensibly assume that Melvill stuck closely to Pulleine they could easily have been separated from each other at some stage, and it would (surely) be unlikely that an experienced officer like Pulleine exercised command of such a desperate battle from the inside of a tent.
I would argue, that Melvill would not in all conscience have let the Colours be captured by any omission.
And, is HCMDB going to argue that a unified and methodical defence held together long enough to have allowed the Colour to be sent away in some temporary relative lull?

If so, what of the 2nd Bn Colours, which Pulleine (at least as Acting Column Commander) might also have been expected to accept general responsibility. Or, as might easily have been possible, could he too have not been aware that they were still in camp?
Does HCMDB navigate from possibility to possibility as if from fact to fact?
29th August 2005Mike Snook

By CO I mean Pulleine - I discount any idea of Wm Degacher as acting CO - in my view this is a modern-day invention with no grounding in the sources - and is militarily improbable. I quite agree that Pulleine was nowhere near a tent - he was commanding his battalion like Victorian battalion commanders did, and not like Donald Morris might have imagined they did. He was on the firing line.

No, HCMDB does not imagine the colours being sent away in away in a lull - that's the wrong word - it argues that tactical cohesion (i.e. the retention of a 'front', or a 'bold front' if you will) was retained longer than is traditionally imagined - allowing some relatively level headed decision making to take place - cripes we're on to a loser here and we're going to die - better do something about the Colours - that sort of thing

The question of the 2nd Bn Colours is interesting. There is every possibility that Pulleine and Melvill would not have known whether the 2nd/24th Colours were in camp or not. People talk about 'the' guard tent as if they was only one, but in my view both the 1/24 and 2/24 would have had one.

The most likely scenario is that the 2/24 Colours would have been left theoretically in Charlie Pope's charge, but in actuality in the charge of the 2/24 guard commander, who would have been a sergeant. 2/24 guard that day (almost 20 men) was drawn from A Coy (part of the reason for the 170+ parade state of the 2/24 in camp). But there is no reason why Pulleine and Melvill would have known one way or the other whether Henry Degacher had taken his colours with him when he marched in the pre-dawn.

Of course there was somebody present who did know - Dyer the Adjt of 2/24, who having returned with Gardner etc would certainly have been concerned for the 2/24 colours. He was killed with Wardell's company, and so must have fought his way back with them from the original firing line. I don't think (as far as any of us can tell) that he had the opportunity to save his colours. I don't really rate the officer on the roan horse story and have not included it in HCMDB. When the situation finally became irredeemable any of the 24th soldiers may have attempted to move the 2/24 colours to safety (ie to the safety of the nearest troops - not necessarily away down the FT.) In this case it is not entirely inconceivable that one or both of the colours found their way into a 1/24 rallying square - hence the interesting possibility that Fripp's picture might have real validity.

I agree with your point about M not allowing the colours to be captured by omission - and tyhe same principle applies to any member of the 24th - but moving them to safety - ie to nearest friendly mass of troops - is not the same thing as them leaving the field. Sending the colours from the field is an act of last resort and is a decision for the CO alone. If Melvill was acting at discretion he would have ridden the colours to the central mass of the troops that they might be defended.

That's what I think anyway!!

29th August 2005Coll
What about Degacher (Acting Major) would he not have been near to Pulleine (and Melvill) during the battle and be involved in any decisions regarding the Colours of both battalions ?

Could he have maybe attempted to retrieve the 2nd Btn Colours himself, when the situation worsened, possibly being the officer described emerging from a tent, in an area where no soldiers were left still fighting, ending up making a stand from the top of a wagon ?

29th August 2005Mike Snook

It is of course all but impossible to deal in certainties at this distant point in time - we are now left largely with balance of probability, to fill in the countless gaps in the primary sources. So you could be right and nobody can say that you are wrong. My balance of probability view, however, is that Degacher had returned to his duties as the officer commanding A Coy. I explain at HCMDB of course, but if he was not commanding A Coy where was he when Pulliene, Durnford, Melvill and Cochrane were interacting at Pulleine's tent in advance of Durnford's (ill-advised) foray? (Thought I'd put the ill-advised bit in to set you off!!)


29th August 2005Mike Snook
...and to finish off that line of thought, if he was with A Company, he is unlikely to have been in a position to do anything with the colours.

29th August 2005Coll
Mike S

I must have posted my above reply the same time as you.

I guess the image of an officer retrieving the 2nd Btn Colours, positioning himself on top of a wagon, the Colours at his feet, defending them from being taken by the Zulus that encircled him, appealed to me.

As for Durnford, well, I've had some therapy and now accept the occasional bit of criticism of him without throwing a tantrum and stamping my feet as much as I used to.

However, I've not seen your book yet !

29th August 2005Mike McCabe
As for Durnford, a big subject in its own right, it's still instructive to read the manful attempts by the author of the 1937 revision of the Regimental Records of the South Wales Borderers to evaluate them. I do not recall the exact words but he thrust of them is to express puzzlement at his behaviour and to fail to find a rational interpretation of his actions and intentions. Bleak though that might appear, and there is much more to the surrounding circumstances, it has nevertheless always struck me as a restrained and fair point of view.
30th August 2005Michael Boyle
I can't help but agree that Durnford's action was rash but I still don't agree that it was ill-founded, given the lack of intel. When Durnford arrived (already knowing that Zulus were moving about the country side from Chard's report) Pulliene still had most of his own troops 'standing to' without having sent out any aggressive mounted patrols to find out what the Zulus were up to or, seemingly, to have made any decision on what he should do. Durnford, after a stand up lunch, actually did something, even if his actions were based on wrong assumptions. (Had he been right and the Zulus seen were threatening Chelmsford rather than Pulliene, he would have been commended for his actions.)

That said, I am finding this discussion on 'Colours' to be too interesting to continue the diversion.

Am I correct in assuming that the Union Flag reported to have been pulled down and torn up by the Zulus was altogether seperate from the Battalion Colours? If so what is the assumption on the fate of the 2nd Bn. Colour?

30th August 2005Mike Snook

Yes. You are quite right - that was a run of the mill Union Flag of no special significance (other than being the national flag of course) - its purpose was to indicate the position of the headquarters to despatch riders etc. The only ceremony that might have been afforded to it, was that it might have been lowered at sunset and riased by the General's soldier servants (he had three) at first light.

It is said that Pte James Williamson, his Lordhsip's 24th Regt orderly, an Irishman, died defending the flag (as it hung from the pole). It is my presumption that this story has its origin with the location of Williamson's body - presumably at the door of the GOC's tent/foot of the flagpole. The body may have been observed by lamplight on the night of the 22nd, or on the morning of the 23rd, or may still have been recognizable during the later returns to the battlefield. Chelmsford himself and or members of the staff are certain to have visited the headquarters tents to see if the GOC's correspondence etc was recoverable. Thus one can imagine them having to step over poor old Williamson's mortal remains in order to do so.

30th August 2005Mike Snook

Sorry - part 2 of your question - you mean colours in the plural. Both Queen's and Regimental Colour of 2/24 were lost in action - circumstances unknown, though most probably during the post-battle looting of the camp. Interestingly, the 2/24 officers wanted to search the camp on the ni 22/23 Jan for their Colours but were refused permission to do so by the staff. I imagine this ruling to have been made by the GOC himself as Glyn is certain to have agreed to a search. This opens up the possibility that the colours might at that point have been lying discarded in the grass, in the wreckage of the camp, inside a tent, under a wagon, amidst a mound of 1st/24th dead, whatever, and that they were subsequently removed during follow up looting of the camp which went on for days afterwards, once the British had cleared out.

A golden crown (the adornment at the top of the pike) and a length of pike/pole/staff were both separately recovered in the vicinity. I can't remember which way round it was, but one of these items was found in a local homestead/kraal, and the other by the later Brig Gen Mainwaring (a sub in 2/24 in 1879), on the slopes of Mahlabamkhosi/the stony koppie/Black's koppie.

The cavalry patrol that found the items in the kraal rather thoughtlessly put the place to the torch before a thorough search could be conducted.

Of course, the 1st Bns Regimental Colour was at Helpmekaar with D and G Compnaies as we all know - except of course D and G Compnaies weren't at Helpmekaar were they? They were on the road to RD and only turned back on the front face of the Biggarsberg. The Regimental Colour is certian to have been with them - cased and carried over a shoulder by a subaltern or a sergeant. The Colours would not ever have been carried aboard a wagon - this is part of the special treatment they are invariably afforded.

As a matter of passing interest on the subject of colours in transit - if Colours go abroad today they are never carried in the hold of an aircraft. The silks are removed from the pike, specially packaged and carried by hand by duly assigned subaltern officers, with a couple of burly colour sergeants in attendance.


30th August 2005Julian whybra
Sorry for joining the discussion late. A few odd comments to chip in:
Mike S
Both battalion bands were left in camp and the 1/24th band played on the night of the 21st before night fell. The last tune played? why Home Sweet Home of course!
Mike S
The sentry guarding the flag was surely Pte Michael Fitzpatrick not James Williamson?
Higginson's report of the entrusting of the flag to Melvill always (to me) has a ring of truth about it and I wonder if in fact Higginson wasn't "the gentleman whose testimony may be relied upon".
30th August 2005Mike Snook
Gosh Julian, now you mention that conspicuously Irish name, I am filled with self-doubt - I hope I haven't bolloxed that up and accredited Willamson where it should have been Fitzpatrick. Back to me notes! If it's wrong I'll publish a correction in Like Wolves on the Fold - there is some advantage to writing books in pairs!! Thanks for the alert.

On the subject of bands - 2nd Bn band was to have stayed behind but was called out at the last minute by H Degacher when he heard that the GOC had ordered no wagons were to go to Mangeni. Bandmen 2/24 fell in with companies as stretcher bearers less bandmaster and three boys. Nobody told Surg. Maj Shepherd about the GOC's order and 2 wheeled ambulances with Dr Thrupp tagged along to Manegni anyway.

Home sweet home. It's another powerful and poignant moment in this extraordinary tale isn't it.

Regards as ever

30th August 2005Julian Whybra
Mike S
Well, I happen to know it was Fitzpatrick from another source. Williamson was a Yorkshireman and Chelmsford's waiter. And, my memory was at fault, you are quite right about the 2/24th band. And just in case there's any doubt, the tune the 1/24th band played I meant the one that finishes "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home..."
30th August 2005Mike Snook
Quite so my friend.

30th August 2005Mike McCabe
The original 'issue' was not whether they had played at all, but whether they had played on the march forward of the drifts at RD.
31st August 2005Rich
Fascinating thread...
And regarding Fripp..I did come across a reference to Fripp in the Independent a while back where it was noted that Fripp's picture wasn't exactly a big hit with the public..."It's heroic aesthetic misfired completely". Perhaps Isandhlwana was still fresh in their minds from the Ill London News and eyewitness reports.
31st August 2005Julian Whybra
Mike McC
I've never come across a mention of their having played en route to Isan from RD. Up to RD certainly, at RD certainly, and at Isan certainly.
31st August 2005Mike McCabe
That's what I thought too, but I also vaguely recall mention of them playing as the ponts were hauled back and forward on 11 January.
I read, but cannot recall where, of a band playing 'Here's to the Gallant (or Noble) 24th' on the route up to RD, and of mention of part of a Band being sent back to Durban from RD. I had thought it was a reference made by Henry Hook, and included in 'Red Soldier' or some similar compilation but cannot find it again.
It's like the Isandlwana London bootmaker anecdote!