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The SNCO ?
Sapper Mason


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 333
Location: ANGLESEY
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Very Happy ,
Dear forum , as we all know it has been indicated that C / Sgt F Bourne was seen as the SNCO at the mission station , i accept this as the SNCO of the men of the 24th but as C / Sgt GW Mabin had been promoted to this rank some THREE years earlier than FRANK BOURNE surely he must accepted as the SNCO ? and not C / Sgt Bourne ? . Why he has been continually recorded as a Sgt on Jan 22nd 1879 escapes me still . I have the service papers of Mabin and the date is clearly shown , preceding Frank Bourne by some three years . Even more puzzling is the fact Mabin as a Chief clerk was not called upon to compile a roll call , he was not a hospital patient and clearly the most able & suited to produce a roll call , perhaps had he done so we would know exactly how many men were present on Jan 22nd 1879 , " Sapper " Wink
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Bill Cainan1


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 107
Location: Lampeter
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Graham

In answer to your question, I think it’s important to look at who was actually at Rorke’s Drift and how they interacted with each other. B Company, the garrison company, was an entity in its own right, and was commanded by Lt Bromhead, supported by CSgt Bourne. Another entity was the company of the 2/3 NNC under Capt Stephenson (before its defection). Also in situ was the Column’s Field Hospital commanded by Reynolds, and the Column’s forward supply base under the command of Dalton (who had some men from the 1/24th with him) – these too were separate entities. The post, as a whole, was part of the line of communication for the Centre Column and was under the command of Major Spalding. CSgt Mabin was his clerk and his responsibilities included the administration of the lines of communication – listing the comings and goings of units, individuals and stores. There were also other “odds & sods” at the Drift – Padre Smith (the Column’s Chaplain); Assistant Commissary Dunne (the Column’s Commissary Officer); Sgt Millne (building the pont); Mr Daniells (the Ferryman); etc. Chard arrived to check on the state of the pont and to look for likely spots to build a more permanent fort. With the approach of the Zulu, and in the absence of Spalding, Chard was the senior combatant officer present and therefore assumed command (this was confirmed by Spalding before he left). Although Mabin was the senior CSgt he was not from a combatant arm and could therefore have had little major role or influence in the defence, unlike CSgt Bourne. I would suggest that in the subsequent action, he became just another rifleman. Chard and Bromhead were both officers from combatant arms – hence the need to look at seniority. Although Bourne and Mabin were both CSgts, Mabin was not from a combatant arm, so the question of seniority is irrelevant.

At this time there was no officially designated Company Clerks and rolls would have been the responsibility of the Company CSgt. The majority of those present at Rorke’s Drift during the battle were from B Company. It would therefore make sense for Bourne to produce the roll for B Company (who he obviously knew) and “tack on” any odds and sods. It is unlikely that Mabin would have known the names of many of the defenders, and in any case would probably have had quite a lot to do sorting out the mess the Zulus had made to the line of communication that he and Spalding were responsible for ! I would therefore suggest that although both CSgts were equally “able” to produce a nominal roll, Bourne, being B Company’s CSgt, was the better suited to produce the roll for the whole garrison. Although Mabin had a distinguished career as a military clerk, there is nothing to support the fact that had he taken the roll it would have been any more accurate than Bourne’s. I doubt if either would have thought that 128 years later AZW enthusiasts would be picking over the detail of who exactly was at Rorke’s Drift !

Bill

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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 784
Location: Brecon
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To add to what Bill has said, CSgt Bourne - or in modern terms - Company Sergeant Major - would have held the B Company Order/Detail Book - to keep track of the soldiers in his company. There is no reason for Mabin to be involved. I have examples of detail/order book from other periods in the archives - unfortunately the actual notebook carried by Bourne has not survived. Bourne's own separate list/roll was compiled from memory in 1910.

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Sapper Mason


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 333
Location: ANGLESEY
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Very Happy , While ceding to the greater knowledge of such sages as Bill & Martin ,i once again have not been convinced by any point of view to detract from the fact that Frank Bourne on Jan 22 nd 1879 was a C / Sgt , i don`t recall him being acredited the rank of Sgt Major even if seen as a modern equivalent . If indeed Frank had his record of men and this has vanished in the mists of time any lists produced in 1910 will be open to errors in recollection .

What is fact is that G W Mabin was promoted to C / Sgt 3 years before Frank Bourne and Mabin soon after promoted to Sgt Major , an accolade i believe not awarded to Frank Bourne . At 23 / 24 a very young age to be a C / Sgt let alone a Sgt Major ! . All the lists i have seen record Mabin as a Sgt ( Jan 22nd 1879 ) and i accept the fact that Mabin may have been under the orders of MAJ Spalding and Chard , Bromhead and BOURNE may not have seen the need to utilise Mabin . We are expected ( in some quarters that Chard charged Cantwell to produce a list and am i correct in saying the signature on this document was seen to be a forgery of Chards signature ? .

It is all a matter of interpretation i think, if you consider the fact that both BOURNE and MABIN were C / Sgts and not any other rank on Jan 22 nd 1879 then the proven point that MABIN was a C / Sgt some three years before Frank attained this rank then in terms of seniority he was the SENIOR C /SGT or SNCO on Jan 22nd 1879 . I am glad that two such " heavyweights " have opiniated my submission in this fashion .

Let`s notb forget the fact that when Maj Spalding ceded senior officer status to Chard there was no outcry that a Royal Engineer took charge over a serving line officer called Bromhead of the 24th . Mabin did not get a medal fro his actions on that day whereas BOURNE , Bromhead and Chard did of course . What is not in dispute is the fact that Mabin even to this day is recorded as a Sgt ( Jan 22nd 1879 ) when in fact he was a C / Sgt , later Sgt Major , offered i believe 4 times to take a commission and served 30 years without one blemish on his service record .

Due to the medal allocation at the time he did not get a LSGC medal , rather a special ( one of two only struck in GOLD ) medal , Gunner Hollis getting the other of course . Thank you both for such positive inputs .

Bill , i have written to you, re bayonets , " Sapper Wink
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Graham,

Wouldn't his Meritorious Service Medal have superceded a Long Service Good Conduct Medal though? Wasn't this in addition to the Cape of Good Hope Gold Medal for Distinguished Conduct that he received in 1897?

I'm pretty convinced I have a photograph of him whilst he was still serving in the Rifle Brigade, when holding the rank of Corporal. I could put it up should anyone be interested?

John Y.
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GlennWade


Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 151
Location: Swansea
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Hi John

I certainly would be interested to see the picture.

Cheers,

Glenn

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Lee Stevenson


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 48
Location: England
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Something for the pot then...

Extract from the Epsom District Times c. 1932

"...and he [Bourne] related that, on the day succeeding the fight, Bromhead wrote a despatch which he (Col. Bourne), had to copy. Not a man's name was mentioned in that despatch. Later, however, it was discovered that Chard was senior, and another despatch was written in which the names were mentioned..."

Presumably the second despatch was Chard's first official report on the battle, dated Rorke's Drift 25th January 1879 which includes a return of the numbers present at the battle [139 in total - although this was amended to 141 in subsequent rolls].

So clearly then the first 'roll' of defenders was taken/compiled on or around the 25th January - by persons unknown!! Not forgetting that Reynolds would have been obliged to complete a return of casualties - naming those killed & wounded for his CO, Surgeon Genl Woolfryes.

There are two versions of Chard's first report at the National Archives [WO32/7710 & WO32/7737 respectively]. One is identified as a "True Copy," and witnessed as such by Col. Crealock on the 7th Feb 1879. However, and whilst the bulk of the second version is written in one hand, certain details including the date - "Rorke's Drift 25th January 1879" and certain amendments - and the signature appear to have been written by Chard himself.

There are no clues as to who actually wrote either version of this report. So it could have been Bourne (who, it is stated, had been detailed to make a copy of Bromhead's despatch), it could equally have been Mabin or indeed any of the sergeants with a 2nd class certificate of education - (For the record - Henry Gallagher upon reaching the rank of colour sergeant, earned extra duty pay as a "Company Accountant.")
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Lee, that's interesting and to many of us novices rather curious. I was unaware that Lt.Bromhead had ever written anything about the defence so the supposition would be that either that despatch didn't survive or that Col. Bourne was somewhat confused. The quote that "Later, however, it was discovered that Chard was senior" could lead one to the latter supposition as it seems to be a given today that Maj. Spalding unequivacably placed Lt. Chard in command before he left for his supply-line duties. Of course that is based on Chard's accounts. Could it be that the situation that afternoon was a wee bit more indistinct than we now credit?

[I'm not one to blanketly impose a sentence of senile dementia on all those that exceed statistic life-span norms. Although my eighty-five year old father quite recently (successfully) tested my heart attack response skills and continues to confuse my sisters' names, not to mention where he left his car keys, he still remembers the assigned number of every MAW, MAG, VMB. VMTB, VMSB, all his crew mates names and duty stations as well as the serial no. of his first rifle at Parris Island. War-time military experiences can tend to burn memories into one's mind that in a civilian context would easily escape. Of course there's always the 'Granpaw stories' effect but that is usually reserved for the kids' entertainment! I'd need a lot more information on Bourne's 'golden years' before I could form an opinion.]

Graham, if C/Sgt Mabin was Spalding's senior NCO then perhaps if Spalding had remained in command Mabin,as the CO's right-hand man, would have been credited as SNCO at RD. As it turned out of course Chard was in command with no NCOs of his own and B Coy 2/24 under Bromhead as the assigned defence unit with C/Sgt Bourne as his SNCO who actually effected their orders. Although senior ranking commissioned officers are appointed command the same does not apply to senior ranking NCOs as I'm sure you know. Think about it, if you were the SNCO of a combat Coy who had been responsible for his men for God knows how long how would you feel if a more senior Non-Com from a support command who hadn't lived and trained with your men assumed responsibility for their lives? That's why it rarely happens for Non-Coms in combat with intact units.

There seems no question that Mabin achieved C/Sgt before Bourne but if Maxwell (had he been a C/Sgt) achieved that rank before Mabin he could have been the SNCO at RD!

Best

Michael
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Lee Stevenson


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 48
Location: England
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Bromhead did write one 'despatch,' dated 15th Feb 1879, in which he put forward the names of several men of his company worthy of further recognition....this despatch, with some minor alterations, later formed the basis for the VC citations for Allan, Hook, Hitch, J Williams, R Jones and W Jones.

Bromhead's despatch also survives at the National Archives in Kew, [WO32/7390]. It could be read that this is in fact an abridged version of a more lengthy report...or not perhaps!
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Glenn,

Here's the image, which depicts a Corporal of the Rifle Brigade, in the early 1870's, with one Good Conduct stripe.

Facially I can see a marked likeness to later image that Lee used in his article, especially around the eyes and nose.

John Y.

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GlennWade


Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 151
Location: Swansea
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Hi John

I always find that images of people and events from the war always get the interest burning at it's height. I would put my money on that being Mabin.

Thanks for posting,

Glenn

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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Glenn,

Not a problem.

Does anyone have Mabin's physical description; height; eye and hair colour etc?

John Y.
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I wonder ?
Sapper Mason


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 333
Location: ANGLESEY
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Very Happy ,
Dear John Young ,
While this is clearly a member of the Rifle Brigade i cannot say with certainly ( if at all ) if this in fact GW Mabin at all ( ? ) , i have a picture of him as a very young rifleman taken in 1868 prior to his transfer to the Army Clerks , sadly i have not come across any picture of Mabin as a Clerk despite his eventual rise to Sgt Maj , i wrote an article for Medal News on Mabin which shows him with his brother and the young rifleman i described .

Yes the medal issued in 1897 , the Gold Meritorious one could seen as the equivalent or superior ( ? ) of the LSGC MEDAL , medals are not a subject i have any authority on John but i believe the newly created rank of Warrant Officer did not " allow " a LSGC medal for Mabin at the time . In some eyes the Gold medal Mabin got along with Gunner Hollis was as is known only two such medals ( gold ) struck .

In seniority Mabin was the longer serving C/ Sgt having attained this rank in 1875 whereas Bourne got this rank in 1878 . Because Mabin was not in the infantry Bourne is seen i guess as the SNCO because Mabin was not A COMBAT SOLDIER . I have Mabins papers and will look to see if there is a description of him there . I am only argueing the point that Mabin was the SNCO and not that he should of been in charge , this was down to Bourne via Chard & Bromhead of course .

In truth John i cannot say with conviction that this is a picture of Mabin , the picture i have shows a much slimmer Mabin as a very young Rifleman , picture taken as said in 1868 . Good picture John though and gets us away from if the men had oats or porridge before being killed and i guess if eggs were had were they FREE RANGE or not ??? , i suppose they had "soldiers" with this ? . " Sapper " Rolling Eyes Wink Rolling Eyes
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Graham,

If you can give me the details of the magazine your article was published in I will endeavour to make my own comparsion.

But in the meantime, if you can give me a clue as to Mabin's eye colour? I may be I can discount this image, as I know the eye colour of the Rifle Brigade corporal with one GC stripe, photographed circa 1871. If you could I'd be obliged.

It was actually the M.S.M., that by rights should have superceded his L.S. & G.C. medal, for a good site explaining the medal and its award please see http://www.lightinfantry.org.uk/graphix/medals/meritorious_service_medal_msm.htm Given the choice between the M.S.M. and its annuity and the L.S. & G.C. Medal, I'd opt for the former.

My thanks in anticipation,

John Y.
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 784
Location: Brecon
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John,

In those days, a soldier (or pensioner) awarded a MSM had to return the LS&GC. They were NOT allowed to wear both medals. This was changed in Nov 1902. After that date when both medals were worn, the LS&GC took precedence. In 1979, the order of precedence was reversed.

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The SNCO ?
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