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An Official Re-Evaluation Of Isandlwana ?
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Has it ever been known, for the details of a historical battle, not fully-investigated at the time by an in-depth Court Of Inquiry, to be re-opened by a modern military or Government body, to study all evidence, from then and what has been proven since, with the aim/possibility, to clearing the name(s) of an officer(s), or the lessening of such blame, in this case at Isandlwana, resulting from a disastrous defeat, which has lead to their names having had a cloud hanging over them, for 130 years ?

I ask out of curiosity.

Thanks in advance.

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Galloglas
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Historically it would appear that there is generally no mechanism or appetitite for retrospective investigations of the type you suggest into long ago 'battles' as such.

However there are occasional signs of the wish to draw modern political conclusions or inferences from the Isandlwana battle based upon which shadings of future relationships might be nuanced.

Those attending at the Isandlwana commemorations of June 1979 and January 2004 will have sensed that.

Without wishing to appear off hand I think one would have to consider what the point of doing so might now be and what left over or new need might be satisfied by doing so in the case of Isandlwana in particular. Simply by reading these pages the scope for differing perspectives can easily be seen and it's very doubtful whether any fundamentally divergent views; whether social, historical, or political or whatever; might be reconciled or meaningfully recognised by doing so.

Practically, who might propose or lead such an initiative. Not military or other historians I fervently hope!

G
peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 865
Location: UK
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On a practical level I would say no for battles but yes to individual events. I'm particularly thinking of the Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994 although I believe the MoD have refused to open a new inquiry (for now).

http://chinook-justice.org/

Peter
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Galloglas
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An interesting red herring, I've no doubt, but a red herring nevertheless!

G
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Galloglas

Thanks for your reply.

Peter

Very interesting.

Thankyou for the link.

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Barbara Grant
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This may sound totally ignorant, as I don't know the status of descendants of the principals involved (or even whether descendants exist) but it would seem to me that a descendant of someone involved in the conflict, who had perhaps a problem with current interpretation (whatever that might mean! Yes, it's obviously argued over) might wish to step in perhaps to "clear the air."

Given that it seems like a tough road to me, but I'm not an historian.

Best,

Barbara
Julian whybra


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
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No.
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Galloglas
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Most of the families of the 'principals' have moved on ages ago and many are now so numerous and diverse that it is very difficult to establish who might be considered as if speaking for them in any representative sense.

Not being a historian is quite nice, I feel. It seldom seems to make people happy - unless they are raking in large publishing proceeds on the back of it.

The Zulu War has yet to produce its Schamas, Starkeys, and Holmes's. as publisghing Goliaths and one cannot be all that sure how its David will ultimately turn out.

G
Simon


Joined: 26 Feb 2007
Posts: 95
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Hi,

I think it would be hard for any modern investigation (be it a Government or military investigation) to come up with any more real facts about Isandlwana.

With the best will in the world, all modern investigators/authors are re-interpreting the facts gathered at the time (along with ‘new’ pieces of archaeological evidence), to support their theory – it’s a perfectly natural thing all books/documentaries and films are produced to make a particular point, sometimes omitting certain facts to support the intended theory (you’ve only got to look at the plethora of ‘conspiracy theory’ books/films about JFK, Diana, 9/11 etc).

For their own reasons the 1879 Court of Inquiry omitted certain facts from the records or at best were careful about who they asked and what was asked, so unless there are some especially stunning private papers found (or something discovered in the Government archives), I think nothing would come of a new investigation.

I'm afraid that the blame for Isandlwana rests squarely with the screwdrivers.... Cool

Cheers

Simon
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Galloglas
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Regarding that last point, and to quote the first Duke of Wellington (though out of context) "If you believe that, then you'll believe anything"

G
rich


Joined: 01 May 2008
Posts: 897
Location: Long Island NY USA
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Simon:

Re: the Court of Inquiry on Isandhlwana..

You know right now if there's one piece of information or book or manuscript or study or pamphlet et etc that I would like to have for my AZW library and to spend some real time with it is that one. Is this locked away or something? Is it in anything I can obtain legally??? It's been spoken about there alot here but have never come across it. Thanks everybody!

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Rich
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Rich

No conclusions were arrived at nor opinions given in the body of the enquiry by it's president or two members, so the very description "Court of Enquiry" is a bit of a misnomer as we'd understand it today.

Three officers, the president chosen by Chelmsford, sat at Helpmekaar only five days after the battle and took down witness statements from eight Column 3 officers (including one NNC officer) - Clery, Glyn, Gardner, Essex, Cochrane, Smith-Dorrien, Nourse and Curling. I think Crealock's thoughts were appended afterwards and one or two supplementary statements from within the original eight were also added. Chelmsford himself said the commission had "very properly abstained from giving an opinion" and he would do likewise!!! He also added, when despatching the "findings" to London, that he wished far more statements had been taken by Hassard and his assistants and that he had ordered more witnesses to be found and asked to give their own accounts. "But, meanwhile, have a look at what we've collected so far", so to speak!!! And that was it.

One or two of the eight officers simply handed in a written statement, but it is important to realise in reading most of these officers' accounts that (as was perfectly normal in the recording of witness statements in the 19th century) they were not necessarily set out exactly as the officer had conveyed the information, as these details were originally offered as answers to questions asked by Hassard, and a clerk would knock up a statement reflecting his answers - but one doesn't see the questions! This is why witness statements often seem to be a bit puzzling, disjointed and non-chronological, and most of the Isandlwana accounts are no different.

The only real enquiry of any detail took place in correspondence between Chelmsford and Ellice (on behalf of the Duke of Cambridge) before Chelmsford was replaced, other than (publicly this time) in the parliamentary debates and in the newspapers and journals of the times.

Hassard declined to take down much of the detail which he decided was repetitive or trivial, and you won't see any NCOs or men represented in the original eight, either.

The statements (or "findings") were published in the London Gazette (the government's vehicle for announcements), which you'll find online. You'll recognise much of the material as soon as you read the statements, as they have been published in part or in full in many AZW works - and quoted on this forum. Do you have Keith Smith's Select Documents: A Zulu War Sourcebook? You'll find the enquiry on pp109-119, plus further statements in the following pages. It may also appear in full in other works, the titles of which escape me at present, and certainly in part in many works.

With regard to Coll's original question, the most recent (and longest after the event) attempt to "interfere" with military history in the light of modern day values that I can think of was the blanket pardon granted to all executed British servicemen of 1914-18 - about five years or so ago, was it? Even allowing for the undoubted harshness of many of those sentences and the fact that the children of some of the executed were still alive, it was surely as misguided as any attempt at an official enquiry (the very thought!) into Isandlwana would be five generations after the event.

Peter
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Galloglas
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The blanket pardon in the recent Forces Discipline Act included a number of individuals who had been sentenced for murder.

That's amongst the varuious things that can happen when modern popular politics takes a retrospective view of the past.

G
peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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the most recent (and longest after the event) attempt to "interfere" with military history in the light of modern day values


A more recent example would be the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, although perhaps it's best not to let this hare run.

Peter
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Peter E.

Yes, but isn't that another area entirely ?

Re-evaluating Isandlwana, is more to do with the aim/possibility, of removing the inaccurate conclusions, of the farcical C.O.I. at the time, as there wasn't/isn't enough proof, to say, without question, a specific person/persons, was/were to blame for the defeat.

It surely is not right to continue this way of thinking, when it can't truly be proven one way, or the other, so therefore should not be used to cloud modern interpretations, which as we have seen, can't really judge from ' a 21st Century telescope', so I've been told, but yet has been put into print.

Col. Durnford (and Col. Pulleine), through lack of thorough examination in the aftermath of Isandlwana and their decisions/actions during it, should officially be recognised as having been wronged, then and since, in the studying of the campaign, as nothing can fully justify either of them being labelled in this way.

It was wrong to lay blame at the time with not enough investigation into the matter, and it is wrong to continue this view.

Two wrongs do not make a right !

However, this is only my opinion, but I feel, it really should be the opinion of all.

The Zulus won the day, from the get go, so I say, it is theirs, give it to them, they deserved it, just like the two British officers in command deserve to finally rest, their names cleared.

I'll say no more on the matter, as I've annoyed enough people already.

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An Official Re-Evaluation Of Isandlwana ?
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