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Numbers of Welsh at Rorke's Drift
John Davies


Joined: 01 Jan 2006
Posts: 1
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I have often seen it suggested that, despite the film 'Zulu', there were in fact few Welsh at Rorke's drift. This seems to arise from figures supplied in 'The Noble 24th. by Norman Holme'.

He apparently gives the figures as 49 English, 18 Monmouthshire, 16 Irish, 1 Scottish, 14 Welsh, 21 others.

However, despite historic uncertainty, and Victorian snobbery, Monmouthshire was in reality always part of Wales, which makes the number of Welsh 32. Some of the Irish too may have been second generation, sons of immigrants to Wales in the potato famine, and therefore in fact despite culture and surname were Welsh by birth.

I would love to know where Mr. Holme got his data - was he working by origin of surname, address at time of enlistment or just a plain entry of 'Welsh', 'Irish', 'other' etc. in the Regimental records, which could be very suspect on its own as people enlisting years ago would often give their ethnic origin as opposed to their place of birth?


Thanks for an excellent website.

T. John Davies

(Editor's note: Mr. Davies, Please note spelling of "Rorke's". Not with a "u" as in your original)
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 783
Location: Brecon
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Dear John,

Idea that County Regiment recruited solely in their recruiting areas was probably reinforced by the need for large numbers men in the Great War - when service battalions were raised in quite small communities - hence the Pals battalions.

Turning to Victorian times - there is new book on the regimental system by David French. This quotes the 24th (or SWB) as only 28% recruited from Monmouthshire, Brecknockshire, Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire in 1880s. The Royal Welch Fusiliers were only 19% local men as this period.

Norman Holme worked from the enlistment papers and place of birth where the papers have survived. I am not sure that is really matters - for the 24th have honourably served this country for over 300 years - and soon will be 'The Royal Welsh'. Stanley Baker used the Welsh factor to produce a good enduring film - with some inaccuracies.

I have lived in Monmouthshire for over 30 years and will always contend that it only truely became part of Wales in 1974.

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Martin Everett
Brecon, Powys
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Kris


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 21
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Dear John,

I have for the past 15 years been researching the lives of these men myself. I work from: service records, birth - baptism - marriage - death certificates, school reports, electoral lists - census returns, post mortem reports, burial reports, newspaper reports etc. nothing is left to chance. I have found during my own research that Norman Holme is seldom 'off target'.

Kris
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Steve G


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1
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Hi John and everyone,

I have been a very passive observer on this site for some time. I have never posted but have read every single entry and am constantly in awe of the knowledge displayed here and the debates are always entertaining and informative.
I have been prompted to post because I was given Norman Holmes book for Christmas and have been avidly reading it.
Looking last night I noticed that, in his summary, the Monmouthshire men are actually included in the Welsh total and the 49 English are all just that!

Regards to everyone and thanks for a wonderful site.

Steve
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Julian whybra


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 436
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The topic of Monmouthshire and nationalities has appeared a number of times on the forum. Suffice it to say that my own researches do not differ from Holme's (or Kris's) and that Monmouthshire was inhabited by Englishmen as well as Welshmen, so the 'Monmouthshire' label means nothing. The individual research required for each Monmouthshire 24th soldier would all seem rather pointless. The 24th was a regiment in the British army; it was a British regiment.
A relative of mine was kia on the Somme in the Royal Welsh (with an 's') Fusiliers but he was born in Camberwell, lived in London, and had no Welsh connections. It matters not one whit to me, as an Englishman, whether he was in the RWF or the Coldstream Guards. It shouldn't matter to Welshmen what the origins were of the RD defenders.
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Numbers of Welsh at Rorke's Drift
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