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Helpmekaar defenders
diagralex


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 208
Location: Broomfield, Essex
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Driver Elias Tucker in a letter to his parents, stated that when the fugitives from Isandlwana arrived at Helpmekaar, they found the stores there being guarded by 6 men of the 13th regiment.
This is hard to understand, as the 13th regiment were part of Wood's column and had moved from Utrecht across country to the Blood river at the start of the invasion.
Can anyone give an explanation as to how 6 men from that regiment may have been detached and marched down country to guard the stores of another column. Was Tucker correct or could they have possibly belonged to the 24th?

Graham
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Location: Brecon
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Dear Graham,

At the time of the battle of Isandlwana, there were two companies of the 1/24th at Helpmekaar - viz D (Upcher) and G (Rainforth) - this was probably close to 180 men. These two companies remained there until the 1/24th was reformed at Dundee on 8 May 1879.

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Martin Everett
Brecon, Powys
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diagralex


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 208
Location: Broomfield, Essex
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Martin

I believe Tucker is referring to the time between Major Spalding arriving at Helpmekaar (3.45 pm ) when he moved the two companies forward to Varmaarks, and their return to Helpmekaar at about 9pm. The fugitives arrived and found just 6 men left guarding the base. I just wondered why men from one column were guarding the supplies of another regiment.
Surely it was the responsibility of the 24th to find a guard for their own stores. It seems strange that these men had been detached from a column based many miles away.

Graham
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Location: Brecon
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Dear Graham,

Major Spalding was DAQMG and responsible for this section of the lines of communication - therefore controlled the store depots at Helpmekaar and Rorke's Drift. The disposition of guarding troops was his. The stores were Column stores not specially 24th. As far as I know there is no roll of those left in Helpmekaar on 22 January when the two 24th companies marched on Rorke's Drift to confirm whether Tucker was correct in his observations.

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Martin Everett
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 784
Location: Brecon
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Dear Graham,

What would be more interesting to know is that G Company was entrusted with the Regimental Colour of the 1/24th. Did they take it with them when they set out for Rorke's Drift?

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Martin Everett
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diagralex


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 208
Location: Broomfield, Essex
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Martin

I do not think that there is any written evidence to confirm or deny if the colour was taken in the advance to Rorke's drift. However, my instinct is to suggest that it probably would have been.
When Major Spalding collected the two companies from Helpmekaar, it was his intention to bring them back to Rorke's drift. He was completely unaware at this time that Rorke's drift was under attack by the Zulus. The move was intended to be final, as no members of the 24th were left behind at Helpmekaar. The chance of him leaving the battalion colours behind, under the guard of another regiment (13th) is most unlikely. Unless someone has evidence to suggest otherwise then I think that they would have been taken.

I have been able to answer my own question about the six men of the 13th regiment being at Helpmekaar. The 13th regiment provided drafts to the Royal artillery and mounted infantry before the invasion. It is probable that these six men were part of the mounted infantry and this would also explain how they had travelled the 40 miles from Utrecht so easily. It would also have been most logical to use them as guard for the stores of number 3 column, instead of using infantry from the 24th.

Graham
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Helpmekaar defenders
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