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Rich
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Thanks Mike for the rationale. What I do like in your analyses is the fact that you are looking at it from a "command" point of view. And here's the thing. For example, Patton, if he lived then as the commander, I'd think he also couldn't have saved that situation on the right under the circumstances. Hmmm..now I wonder if analysts would point to defeat because Patton was a guy who liked to do things his egotistical way and noting his conflicts with authority and last but not least that he always wanted to close and run over the enemy...rapid speed and movement was his game..flanks be damned!
From all this, it sure looks like the Colonel had psychological baggage just like everybody else. And it looks like he got on the wrong end of the what could be termed the "tipping" point of the battle. But I just wonder if Durnford's psycho bagggage can be considered one of the determining reasons as to why the British lost at Isandhlwana. Problem is for him it's kind of public but maybe just maybe there are other skeleton's in the closet! Thanks......waiting for LWTTF...
Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Perhaps two quotes from Frances Colenso (via Droogleever's work as I'm still holding off reading either her's or Edward's works for now) would be appropiate as "Nell" would seem to be the single contemporary person in SA who best knew him. The first "that he had led 'a tortured life... for more than 20 years'" seeming to show that AWD had more on his emotional plate than just BRP, and the dichotomy of humanitarian and professional soldier was a difficult balance for him, and R.F.W.'s final quote from Nell- "His life, when he died, was and had long been one of great and constant pain both mental and physical that the two women who loved him best - his mother being one - have always felt, through all their grief, that it is well, that it would be cruel and selfish to wish to have him back."

The above however does not indicate a bad officer. Of AWD's two experiences of combat command the first, BRP, was undertaken as cavalry support for an infantry operation (pre-deja vue perhaps!) where he found himself the only one of three 'columns' who managed to arrive at the right place (albeit to late but unknown to him at the time) and under physical distress that I can personally attest (having suffered multiple instances of traumatic shoulder seperation myself) in a state of mind that could easily blur the nuances of a situation encountered by a mind still hale and hearty. I agree that the best course of action at BRP would have been to 'throw in his cards' (which would have been roundly applauded by the troops then under his command I imagine) I simply can't picture a good Imperial Officer doing that and if, again, he had had steady 'Redcoats' under his command I think he could have pulled it off none the less as the enemy he was facing had nothing further to prove and would not be inclined to risk much as they knew, at that time, the British were not a mortal threat.

Col. Durnford's military competence should also be judged by his performance as a Royal Engineer Officer under which criterion he seems to have been quite exemplary. The return of his mortal remains to Ft. Napier was attended with much the same pomp and circumstance as that of the Prince Imperial. 300 men of the 24th Foot composed the firing party.

Bushman's River Pass didn't seem to amount to much to the people of Natal nor to the Imperial troops involved at Isandlwana and I think it unfair to credit it with more than that for Anthony William Durnford himself.

Best

Michael
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Peter Quantrill
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Mike,
I appreciate your comprehensive assessment of the BRP or Langalebalei Pass (as it is now called) incident. It is of course conjecture to suppose that this reflected and impacted on his Isandlwana actions some years later. But that is an opinion you hold and must be respected.
There are a great deal of mitigating circumstances in favour of Durnford.
The first is that he was thrust in command of men he had neither trained nor was familiar with. Rather like arriving on parade and announcing,
'Good morning men. I am your new commanding officer, what are your names and ranks' and then take them straight into action.
Second is despite the injuries suffered in the climb, " head over heels like a ball bounding down for about 50 yards. Several of our men ran to him , pulled his shoulder in ..... he was very much bruised and shaken but would not be left behind," he showed immense physical courage when a lesser mortal would have retired and handed over command to Barter.
Third is that the physical hurt sustained may well have effected his mental state, although this is conjecture. The fact remains is that he thought he could talk the amaHlubi into a peaceful withdrawal. As such it probably never entered his head to position his meagre force up and behind rocks.The latter may well have been interpreted as hostile action that may have resulted in an instant fire-fight with many more casualties as the men, outnumbered, would have been separated from their mounts.
Fourth and critically,one must ask what precipitated the action? Would matters have been different had Sgt. Clarke kept his mouth shut? Very possibly yes, in which event the catastrophy would not have happened and Durnford hailed a hero.
Now, as a military man, surely you would agree that it would be totally out of order for your subordinate to shout whilst in action, in a loud voice to those under your command and in your presence, words to the effect that "we will all be murdered" and then for him to lead the retreat with haste encouraging the rest of your command to follow, leaving you to attempt to rally a lost cause?
My understanding of the event is that is precisely what happened.The verification of this lies in Sir Benjamin Pine's despatch No. 105 of 13 November 1873 addressed to the Secretary of State, Lord Kimberly.
" ...But unfortunately, as it turned out, I had, with the view of saving bloodshed, and in the spirit of the scheme, given orders that the Military should not fire the first shot.At first the Indunas and Elders present came forward to hear the proposals of Major Durnford, which were that the tribe should return to their location and to their allegiance, with their cattle ..... They accepted the terms after a long parly....."
The young bloods had other ideas and Durnford, who thought it a done deal, could not have anticipated the decision of the elders being overturned.
Pine continues," Thus hemmed in, the volunteer force, only 37 of whom had reached the spot, intimidated by the shameful behaviour of their drill-instructor, Sergt.Clarke, an old soldier who cried out that they were betrayed etc. were siezed with panic and took to flight."
As we know, the Court of Enquiry that followed on 23 November 1873 held at Government House Pietermaritzburg, heard evidence from Barter, Church, Jackson, Button, Varty and Clarke.
Judgement was given on 12 December, to the effect that the Carbineerswere GUILTY of a disorganised and precipitae retreat, with, however, mitigating circumstances.
Surely were Durnford at fault for any lack of leadership qualities or lack of judgement, the Court would have made note. It did not.
Was Durnford justified in accusing the Carbineers of deserting him? The Court seemed to think so and so did Sir Garnet.
I am not altogether disagreeing with some of your arguments, but am attempting to put forward a more balanced view. With such a verdict Durnford would incur the wrath of the Natal population, but methinks that would only be natural.
Feelings would alter dramatically on 22 Jan 1879.
John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
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For those who haven't seen it may I recommend the late S.B. Bourquin's piece on A.W.D. to be found at http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol065sb.html

Bulwer's opinion of Durnford is most interesting.

John Y.
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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Having mentioned the Bourquin article, I then did a web search on Durnford Bushman's River Pass, I must admit I was amused by some of the findings.

One South African newspaper refers to Durnford as Lord Anthony Durnford; another as Durnford of the 75th Regiment. The Daily Telegraph a British newspaper has him in command of ...75th Regiment of Royal Engineers. Glad to see all the authors of these articles did their homework!

John Y.
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Rich
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Thanks John for the Durnford citation from the SAMHS. I appreciated reading about the man. The pension portion was certainly a window into his character. 100 pounds? What did he care about pecuniary interests?
The brief shows the Colonel in a positive light. Without a doubt controversy surrounded him but in the end I think character shows the clearest truth about men. Ostensibly, what one presents to the world can be interpreted in many ways.
mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
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Peter

Hi. Of course there is a balance to be struck. But people are far too sentimental and charitable about Durnford. I've made my case, so no more from me on this subject, as I said above.

However, you mention the ghastly Garnet Wolseley - if you think I've been too hard on Durnford...for heaven's sake don't get me started on Wolseley!! What a dreadful man.

Here is a picture of Garnet Wolseley Evil or Very Mad

Regards
Mike
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Just received a copy of "Langalibalele and the Natal Carbineers" by Pearse & co. published by The Ladysmith Historical Society in 1973. It perhaps contains a clue to the "75th" business pointed out by John above. It may be that due to the photograph taken in 1874 of Durnford's camp at Giant's Castle showing the large "75" inscribed on a rock by the cook of the company of the 75th Foot which accompanied the expedition led to some identity confusion. The above work also attributes this to the "75th Regiment of Royal Engineers". I imagine one 'redcoat' looked much like another to the colonials and as AWD was in fact in command of a coy. of the 75th Regiment at the time and they were engaged in engineering duties that 'RE' rather than 'Foot' got tacked on. As this book would seem the most authoritative (if not only) work specifically dealing with the affair it seems simply to have been taken at face value. (There is of course a lesson here!)

MAB
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Langalibelele,BRP & "Don't Shoot" Durnford
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