you are currently viewing: Discussion Forum


The Rorke's Drift VC Discussion Forum
(View Discussion Rules)


PLEASE NOTE: This forum is now inactive and is provided for reference purposes only. The live forum is available at

(Back To Topic List)

DateOriginal Topic
By Alan Critchley
As mentioned previously, RDVC are planning to arrange a get-together of enthusiasts, amateur and other for a week-end. It would be an informal gathering where like minded people can air their views, give talks, take part in discussions etc. Topics can be as required with no invited speakers. Volunteers for that would be welcome. It is meant to be a non-aligned gathering with anyone or any Society welcome. The broader the range of opinion the better.
Initial thoughts are to have accomodation and conference room (depending on numbers) at a hotel in Lichfield the second week-end in October, during the Saturday and Sunday. Each attendee would be responsible for their own costs with, if needed, a contribution to the cost of conference facilities.
To gauge interest, please contact me. I hope that a wide range of people respond to make this possible. You never know, we might answer all those questions which have puzzled us for so long.

Alan Critchley
[email protected]
5th May 2004David Glynne Fox
Hi Alan,
I would be very interested in a weekend discussion programme. Lichfield is more central than London too. For a number of years I have been taking photographs (slides) of Zulu War memorabilia and memorials and could perhaps cobble together something for a short talk if you think it worthwhile. It should be a very interesting meeting. Regards
Hi Alan
I would be very interested indeed Lichfield not far from where Ilive. so go for it
6th May 2004Bill Cainan

Is there not a clash in dates here ? The second weekend in October (9th and 10th) is also I believe the date scheduled for the Victorian Military Fair in the National Army Museum (on the Sunday only ?).

7th May 2004Neil Aspinshaw
great! at last something a a little closer to Long Eaton.
I have finished the slideshow on powerpoint now of the lesser seen images we took in 2003 & 2004 of the RD and Isandlwana area, (covered maily on foot). I happy to do presentation on that.


7th May 2004John Young

No "Sappers' Cairn" though, please!

10th May 2004Neil Aspinshaw
Go take a walk in the Buffalo until yout hat floats ha ha!.
Ok no cairn, but seeing as you mention it, I do have some sources looking into it.

Are you coming to the do?

10th May 2004Alan Critchley
Having received some feedback, there are, of course, some problems with the date suggested. Close to other events etc. I am going to now suggest Sat. 30th. and Sun. 31st. of October. I would appreciate feedback and an idea of interested people. I don't want to issue anything like a formal invitation to any one in particular but it would be good if some of our more expert visitors were to participate. Perhaps they would consider contributing to the programme with a talk or dicussion topic. We have some ideas already but look forward to a variety. We will have multi media facilities with projector. This will all allow presentations, maps and films to be viewed. Look forward to responses. (Bear in mind that this whole event is for enlightenment and fun and not profit.)

11th May 2004Mike McCabe
I hope that JY will not mind if I say that, given the current low state of the Buffalo River, he would have to walk a considerable way downstream to get his hat to float. So, I think Neil needs to invent a more imaginative - or more effective - insult than that above.
We can, I feel sure, look forward to usual the 'wishful thinking' rationale for the Sappers' Cairn.

11th May 2004Julian whybra
The revised dates look much more feasible for me. I would be happy to contribute something toward the content if required.
13th May 2004Neil,Aspinshaw
If John was to go and wade at the "Crack" half a mile upstream from Fugitives Drift, he'll find it deep enough, (6 feet at least), we watched the zulu kids fishing there this year.But anyway I am sure if John saw more into my "insult" then he would have sent me a choice e-mail in response.
Anyway that cairn. I have asked for the "locals" thoughts. Who still stand by the Royal Engineers thoery. I e-mailed Rob Caskie from Fugitives drift to enquire what the local lore is, Zulu or Imperial?
his response dated 11.5.04
"quickly asked rob to look at the attached pic and he says it is a grave of
imperial troops. it is a group of royal engineers that were killed by the
right horn of the zulu's before any of them were able to fire a single shot.
(this is now confirmed)."
So chaps, here we go agian
14th May 2004Mike McCabe
Yes, here we do go again. The local version is simply that perpetuated by guides (like Rob Caskie, and there are many others too) - possibly to have something interesting to say as the fleet of FDL 4x4s whizz past the bridge. Time unsubstantiated story telling of this kind was roundly seen off. There's too much 'lore' on this website.

16th May 2004Julian Whybra
May I ask contributors to refer to the information previously provided on this site. Insisting on the reproduction of local misinformation in direct contradiction to evidence to the contrary is ridiculous. It says more about the lack of knowledge of local guides and their ability and willingness to spin a good story than it does about history. 'Standing by' their story is not good enough. Try asking them how many Royal Engineers. Try asking which coy of the RE they came from. Try asking how come Chard records accompanying his 4 men from 5th coy RE to camp. Try asking them to find these supposed missing men in the pay lists and muster rolls of the unit concerned. They have no PROOF because there isn't any - it is time to admit to an honest mistake. Insisting on fiction as fact is positively mischievous. Yes Mike, I agree with you, there is too much 'lore' on the site.
16th May 2004Julian Whybra
Apologies to the Critchleys, I am obliged in my work to be giving a lecture that weekend.
16th May 2004Mike McCabe
And another thing! The wagon 'road' was at least 50-90 yards further downhill in 1879, and, the 'bright, big, white cairn' on the site is both much bigger than the one to be found there in the 1970s - and slightly separate from it (look hard, and you'll find both), and, tracing the known and assessable information on JRM Chard's four junior ranks it is extremely unlikely that they would have been tasked within any reasonable timeframe to work on the 'road' in that particular area. Even allowing for 125 years of erosion, the greater part of the old drift accoss the stream is both gently sloping at the entrances and exits to the selectable crossing sites and largely founded on exposed rock beds.

Arguably, a party of Natal Nataive Pioneers might have been caught in the open there (no proof either), but then who of the various military burial parties in 1879 would have troubled to bury them (supposing they remained recognisable).
One could postulate circumstances in which Chard's four men and 2nd Cpl Mansfield (7th Fd Coy RE) might have met and stayed together to the west of Isandlwana saddle, but it would be pure conjecture (though interesting in its implications).
One intriguing survival from Isandlwana is the Royal Engineer helmet plate held in the Talana Museum Collection. Supposing that 2nd Cpl Mansfield was still wearing his (as Durnford's groom and wagon driver) then there were only five on the battlefield. The plate is both mangled in its lower parts and, might possibly show signs of fire damage. It was part of the collection of many items gifted to the Museum by George Buntting. Sadly, no substantive information on how it was found has survived. Yes, I've checked, it isn't a Royal Ar6tillery helmet plate.

17th May 2004Julian whybra
Mike, on the west side of the saddle Chard got his four men out of the waggo, told them to accompany Durnford's men (passing by at the time) into camp and then returned himself to RD with their waggon which was of course looted at RD being outside the perimeter. There is no possibility that the 4 men could have been sent out again to work on the Manzimnyama stream (a) because of the danger and (b) they had no tools to work with.
17th May 2004Neil Aspinshaw
hey chaps, just sit back and relax a bit, life too short.
I have several last things to say on this issue. I am firmly on the fence to who is buried there..fact. I do not know and since the last thread I would like to know, I name my info sources, thats all I can do.
a) without a study of the remains of the men it is doubtful that anyone actually knows who it is, african, colonial or Engineer for that matter. so where to now?
b) does anyone know what the last order from Chard was to his men, presumably there was one? so what did they do or were expected to do with their time.(I do not know so I merely play devils advocate.) thier remains are out there somewhere?
c) Burial of remains / bones would no doubt have been done by someone, the eroding cairn excavated by Pollard and the team recently found horse bones intermixed with human, so someone really didn't care about what or who they buried. So Mike your claim that nobody would have troubled to bury them at all is also unsustained.
17th May 2004Julian Whybra
You will be thankful that this is my final comment on this matter. Please read it carefully along with the previous comments - the points raised on the 17th have all been answered already. I don't mean to be rude but repeating the same unsubstantiated opinions is really rather pointless.
Chard's Report states that he accompanied his 4 men to Isandhlwana. He rode ahead and went into camp. He became aware of the Zulus on the plateau. He realized that there was a danger to the road west of the saddle. He decided to return to RD. As he went over the saddle's western side he passed Durnford's party and passed the message down the line re the Zulus' presence. He then met his own 4 RE men in their waggon.
"I made them get out and walk up the hill with Durnford's men" into camp. "I brought the waggon back with me to Rorke's Drift."
I was quoting Chard's report. By some miracle the waggon did not suddenly reappear, near where this now-famous cairn is, filled to the brim with imaginary Royal Engineers who, since they had nothing better to do, decided to do a day's digging. Chard is quite clear.
Next, the Native Pioneers! Lieut. Andrews and 10 men were sent back by their c/o from Chelmsford's reconnaissance to pack up their Pioneers' camp - this is recorded!!! They accompanied Gardner's party. They would not have decided to pack up and go back to Natal on the spree and would not have been on the western side of the mountain.
Neil, the remains of the men were not cairned where they fell. They were collected together and cairned (at least three times as rains washed them away and exposed the bones). The bones in this cairn are obviously one such collected mass burial from the surrounding area. I cannot understand why you are persisting in this matter if you are "firmly on the fence". You are quite right in one matter though (which does not require sourcing), life IS too short.
17th May 2004Mike McCabe
By the time of the first, May 1879, burials field hygeine (a recognised consideration in conducting field burials) would no longer have been an issue. The burial parties under Maj Gen Marshall would not have made serious attempts to bury remains not recognisable as (white) Colonial Volunteer or non-24th dead. The 24th dead (largely but not exclusively recognised by red coats) were buried by the Regiment later in 1879. Though all bone fragments and remains were suposed to have been buried by Alfred Boast in 1883, and there were other smaller efforts, it really is unlikely that a burial of recognisably black NNC/NNP dead took place in 1879. Partly through culutural and religious considerations, partly through prioritisation of time, partly because burying the remains would have been a horrible job and any excuse not to bury any particular bones or remains would have been seized upon. Apart from at Rorke's Drift (which remained in military occupation for some weeks after the battle) there are few records of any serious attempt being made to bury Zulu (or 'Native') dead.