rorkesdriftvc.com Forum Index


rorkesdriftvc.com
Discussions related to the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879
Reply to topic
Alan
Site Admin

Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1418
Location: Wales
Reply with quote
I only started visiting in 2001 but already it's nearly long enough ago to think about producing a 'Then and Now' set of pictures.

_________________
View user's profileSend private messageSend e-mailVisit poster's website
Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 784
Location: Brecon
Reply with quote
Alan,

How time flies since we first met at RD in 2001.

As you know, I (and of course you) have been very privileged to visit the AZW battlefields many times and in doing so I am constantly reminded by the courage of those on both sides who took part in the campaign. Even driving up from PMB through Tugela Ferry and Greytown now difficult to imagine today that the soldiers marched the same route on roughly made tracks with all their baggage and stores, - yet we can drive it in 3 hours.

During recent years I have 'crossed the Alma' in the Crimea as my great grandfather did in 1854, stood on the spot where they beached the River Clyde at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 - and 6 VC were awarded to LF 'before breakfast'.

But sitting on the veranda at the little museum at RD when the sun is going down trying to put yourself in the minds and thoughts of those young men on 22 Jan 1879 defending the mission station is awe inspiring. No chance of rescue - Chelmsford's force decimated - the only option to fight to the death. Thus we have one of the iconic moments of British military history. I would not of wish to be present there on 22 January.

Then there historians who say - the VCs were not justified - they have no soul - no understanding - but resort to petty sensationalism in order to sell their book. On this forum a good deal of energy and words on put into the movies 'Zulu' and 'Zulu Dawn' - these are just but mere entertainment - you really wish to understand the AZW - spend time in thought on the veranda at RD or on the battlefield of Isandlwana - and remember the brave men who gave their lives on 22/23 January 1879.

_________________
Martin Everett
Brecon, Powys
View user's profileSend private messageSend e-mailVisit poster's website
AG


Joined: 14 Sep 2005
Posts: 12
Location: Bristol, UK
Reply with quote
Martin
I know exactly what you mean, I am lucky enough to have visited RD & Isandlwana at least once a year for the last 10 years, and will hopefully continue to do so.
Isandlwana, whenever I am there, it always stirs the imagination of the events of that day. I look at the concentration of cairns on the nek, and I picture the fierce fighting & mayhem that took place there. The place never ceases to be quite atmospheric, no matter how many times I visit.
Brave men indeed.
View user's profileSend private messageSend e-mail
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
Reply with quote
Is there anyone with more knowledge than I who can tell me whom was the "officer at regimental level" who recommended the VC's and whom might have been the "three witnesses"?
View user's profileSend private message
Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 784
Location: Brecon
Reply with quote
Hi Sawubona

As you are aware the procedures surrounding the award of gallantry awards have developed over 150 years. Initially these awards were to give recognition to soldiers in the form of a pension (there being no Welfare State in those early days). Nowadays, with the continued real rarity of awards, it is the award itself which tends to make an icon of the recipient. Each generation applies the procedures and makes awards based on information available and current dogma. This is why there cannot realistically be any retrospective awards which you often see called for in the media these days. Basically, a soldier’s actions have been judged by his peers at the time. Remembering that Rorke’s Drift involved hand-to-hand fighting which rarely now occurs on the modern battlefield. Conditions, weapons, training etc., differ from generation to generation – yet the award is constant and increasingly fetches higher monetary value when the decoration is sold.

It would be nice if the personal files containing all relevant papers for all the Rorke's Drift VC recipients had survived in the National Archives so we could study them and make a modern assessment. You will see from other threads on the forum we are even struggling to find detailed and comprehensive accounts of the defence of Rorke’s Drift after all these years. I have searched the National Archives at Kew with no success – there is a personal file on CSgt Frank Bourne however – which I was given special permission to examine – I discovered it contained little – no recommendation for the DCM from officers in South Africa – only the official approval of the award signed by the Duke of Cambridge and Queen Victoria – even then this document had been mutilated with the Queen’s signature cut off. I suspect this desecration occurred when the documents were still held by the War Office.

Back to Rorke’s drift defenders who were awarded the VC. We know that Gonville Bromhead submitted the six names of the soldiers from the 24th Foot. His document containing the recommendations has not survived. We know that Lord Chelmsford added the names of Chard and Bromhead himself to the recommendation to the HQ Army in London. These names were published in the London Gazette on 2 May 1879 together with the memorandum entry for Lts Melvill and Coghill. I suspect the entry in the London Gazette largely contains the words of Bromhead’s recommendation. Given the state of communications at the time was quite a swift process. For the other awards at Rorke’s Drift, as the recipients have not a regimental direct chain of command naturally the recommendation and processes took a little longer.

Finally, going back to my original post on the forum. I was suggesting that you derive great benefit in sitting on the veranda of the museum building at Rorke’s Drift and getting ‘into the soul’ of what happened on 22/23 January 1879. Most of those questioning the number of gallantry awards given after the action – have never had real advantage of quiet contemplation at the Drift.

_________________
Martin Everett
Brecon, Powys
View user's profileSend private messageSend e-mailVisit poster's website
Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
Reply with quote
I suppose it is the nature of conflict itself that will always ensure many acts of genuine heroism take place without witnesses; or without sufficient witnesses according to the demands of the period in question (the current dogma, as Martin puts it); or are witnessed but eventually - after due consideration - go unrecognised or are rewarded with a "lesser" award.

If the only witness and/or "recommender" is a junior officer, it would presumably have to be a pretty open & shut case to progress through all the various WO levels without being "watered down" or refused altogether. My own grandfather was recommended for the Victoria Cross in South Africa by a cavalry lieutenant who would eventually lead a brigade on the Western Front but who had simply not been senior enough at the time to push the case further. Or perhaps a lieutenant himself doesn't recommend the VC specifically, only suggesting that some recognition is due and leaving the "push" to whoever is compiling the despatches from the front and, later, to the big wigs in London? Grandfather ended up with the next best (the DCM) and probably benefited from the prestige in later life, but the officer himself was clear: "...but honestly, you deserved the VC ... you earned it if anyone did ..."

There must have been countless such cases - including on 22 Jn 1879.

Peter
View user's profileSend private messageSend e-mail
Some pictures
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
All times are GMT  
Page 2 of 2  

  
  
 Reply to topic