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DateOriginal Topic
4th January 2005The Search for Major Smith, R.A.
By Coll
Although many of the casualties at Isandlwana were never identified, especially the british troops.
However, reading books on the flight from the battlefield down Fugitives' Trail, and some accounts by survivors, in particular Smith-Dorrien, of the whereabouts, roughly, that Major Smith of the Royal Artillery was killed, including an account by a later burial party that discovered Major Smith's body and buried him near the Buffalo river and a precipice which he had been moving down when attacked by the pursuing zulus.
Although his last resting place has never been found, an idea of the area where he is buried does.
Therefore, having been made aware of the battlefield archaeology being done on various areas of Isandlwana and other Anglo-Zulu war battlefields, makes me wonder, with the use of modern technology and professional archaeologists, no matter how remote the chances may be, that a serious search for Major Smith's remains will ever be mounted, considering the fact that he was the senior officer in charge of the guns during the battle.
Accomplishing this, not only would his descendants know the exact location of his grave, but also a memorial could be erected at the site dedicated to him.
4th January 2005Mark Hobson
The problem is that the area where Major Smith died is now very overgrown with bush and thorn trees, making most of the hillside there impenetrable. Even if this cover was burnt away the terrain itself - very steep and rocky - would make archaeology there very difficult, even using ground penetrating radar such as they use on Channel 4's TimeTeam. And you're not just talking about a small area to search but an entire hill. If I seem to remember right, his grave was marked with a cross but what with land slippage this might be lost forever.

Another area I often wonder about is the location of Lieutenant Anstey's last stand near the Manzimyama, a fair way down the trail. Does anybody know whether any archaeology has been done there?

By the way Coll, at the Firepower Museum at Woolwich they have the actual cape that Major Smith was wearing during the battle on display, complete with assegai holes in it.
4th January 2005John Young

Just to correct you on your last comment. Yes, Firepower does have Brevet Major Stuart Smith's cape. But to my knowledge the cape was rolled and attached to Smith's horse's saddle, which someone, other than Smith, decamped on. I'll try and trace my source on that when I get the chance.

John Y.
4th January 2005Coll
Thanks for your reply Mark confirming that the area may be just too difficult to mount such a challenging expedition as I personally have seen no photographs giving a detailed image of this location.
However, with regards to archaeology around the area of Lt Anstey's last stand, I saw on Channel 4 a programme called 'Secrets of the Dead' in which, not only did they do some archaeology on the main battlefield, but also much further down the Fugitives' Trail at a cairn right at the edge, I think, of the Manzimyama. Although I don't know if the individuals buried under it were part of that final stand.
Additionally, in 'Rorke's Drift' by Edmund Yorke there is a photograph on page 78 showing several cairns at what seems to be a significant stand a fair distance away from the main battlefield.
Also, in the book 'British Infantryman in South Africa 1877-81' by Ian Castle, inside the front page, it states that the above author is involved in an archaeological project working on the zulu war battlefields.
4th January 2005Melvin Hunt
Adrian Greaves has said that he is confident that he has located the immediate area (very overgrown and snake infested apparently) and hopes to be able to soon identify the grave site of Major Smith.
5th January 2005Coll
Thankyou very much Melvin. Today is the first time I have used this site, and this particular subject of Major Smith's last resting place has been on my mind for some time. I hope, after hearing this great news, that his grave may soon be found and marked at last.
Thanks again.
5th January 2005Neil Aspinshaw
I was talking about Smith's whereabouts to Mel last week, the last incline to the buffalo is unbelievably thick in thorn and bush, the only way down off the track is through a near tunnel of bush. Myself and Mel were actually pondering how far off that route the fugitives actually took. One person who probably would know the "rough" position is David Rattray who's family have lived and worked the area for decades.
Last Jan we spent quite a while "bumbling" about along the Fug trail, we found more and more cairns in various stages of repair, you know it is quite obvious that more fighting took place back along the trail than expected. I know that cairns are not the "be all", but a fire had exposed a large area of Malhabamkhosi and this showed alot more than we encountered the first time we did it in 2003.
I suppose a GPS survey of all know cairn positions would give a better idea. The nearest approximate guide can be found in "The Hill of the Sphinx" .
The downside to the cairns is that bones were colloected from the outling area so this may encompass a wider spread.

we will never know.

5th January 2005Mark Hobson
Like everybody else I'm eagerly awaiting the results of the archaeological work that's been ongoing over the last few years. Having spoken to a number of people closely involved with this work it seems that quite a few "discoveries" have been made. For me, the two which stand out was the discovery of some buried horse bones near the ravine at the back of Blacks Koppie which are thought to have been the horse teams of the 2 seven-pounder guns. The other was the find of several tunic buttons layed out in a neat row behind a rock on the rocky knoll near where Lt Wardell's company were positioned. They were positioned so precisely that it seems they show the remains of a soldier's tunic (which in the intervening years rotted away). Very close to these the team discovered a small cluster of spent cartridge cases, possibly fired by the soldier who used this rock to shelter behind.

However, some finds for me fail to clear up some aspects of the battle. The exact position of the firing line for instance, which over the last 126 years had moved back and forth somewhat. Even the discovery of ammunition boxes near the rocky knoll (the boxes were supposedly taken to the line before it retreated and was overrun) don't clear this up for me. After all, once the battle was over the Zulus looted the camp for several hours dragging all manner of things here there and everywhere, discarding many things along the way. For instance, a chamber pot was found close to where the ammunition boxes were unearthed. The many mysteries of Isandlwana might remain just that... unsolvable. It's doubtful if the same level of conclusions will be drawn as were when a similar archaeological survey was done at Little Big Horn a number of years back where it was possible, by tracing the trajectories of hundreds of individual rounds of ammo, to tell who exactly fired which shots and where they were standing at the time they did so.

To have results like this would be great, but unlikely.
5th January 2005John Young

Rather than horses, it was mules that were used to pull the cannon of the section of N/5 left at Isandlwana. Ian Bennett (Eyewitness in Zululand) & I, did tell Dr. Pollard of this fact at the National Army Museum, when he discussed these finds.

John Y.
5th January 2005Coll
A few months ago I obtained a copy of David Rattray's book ' Guidebook to the Anglo-Zulu War Battlefields'.
On page 64 there is a map showing the locations of specific incidents near the Buffalo river, including the main route of the fugitives and where Major Smith was killed.
Unfortunately, being such a large area, it would be difficult to pinpoint the exact site, especially of his later burial.
However, I am hopeful that Adrian Greaves is successful in his quest to find the grave.
8th January 2005Coll
Having looked again at details of Colonel Harness's account on the discovery of Major Smith's body, it was mentioned that Melton Prior accompanied him and took four sketches of Major Smith's burial.
Apparently, during the battle at Ulundi, these sketches and others were lost.
Wouldn't it be great if a participant in this battle had discovered them, for some reason or other held onto them, for to be recovered many years later in the attic in the house of one of his descendants ?.
Hardly likely I know, but the thought of it and the chance that details within the drawings assist in the search for Major Smith, I think would be just incredible.
9th January 2005Michael Boyle

It would also be great if someone could re-discover lost correspondence from Chelmsford discussing the campaign or lost memoirs of Chard or Bromhead (though they both died prematurely making that rather unlikely).(However I find the fact that Lord Chelmsford never left a memoir in an age when they seemed de riguer rather telling.)

Prior to the fiftieth anniversary of the Second World War 'Dear Abby' (an advice to the love-lorn columnist in the US) began a campaign to encouraging people to sort through their attics and basements for letters and documents pertaining to that conflict which produced untold riches. Perhaps with the anniversary of the AZW rapidly approaching an editorial campaign through local newspapers or even persuading the BBC to produce a segment in that regard could yield a similar effect?


9th January 2005Peter Ewart

Paul Bryant-Quinn recently turned up in some archives in Wales a semi-personal letter written by Chelmsford just before the invasion, in which he complained about the response to his request for additional forces. It is unlikely, however, that much more will yet turn up for the more senior figures of the war, although one never knows. Material relating to or written by the "lesser" figures continues to emerge.

Correspondence from Chelmsford originating from later in life would be interesting, but presumably less reliable to historians because of its "retrospective" nature. Additionally, Chelmsford's views are pretty well known as a result of various public statements to the House and his own correspondence with the WO.

His correspondence, papers & reports from just before & during the AZW are voluminous, however. In his editorial note at the beginning of his "Lord Chelmsford's Zululand Campaign 1878-79" (Army Records Society/Alan Sutton Publishing, 1994) Prof Laband says that there are "thousands of documents relating to Lord Chelmford's conduct of the Zululand campaign preserved in repositories both in the UK and in SA." These include government papers and, of course, the Chelmsford Papers in the Nat Army Museum.

Their value is presumably in their contemporary nature. Laband could obviously use only a tiny fraction of those in his book (which still runs to more than 300 pages) and excludes all correspondence inwards. The volume does, however, give one an idea of how much correspondence Chelmsford was firing off in all directions to all and sundry during 1878 and 1879 (when the written word was his only means of communication) and it is hard to imagine that a complete idea of his intentions and views can't be gained from existing surviving papers.

I agree wholeheartedly, however, on the excitement to be felt on the discovery of hitherto unknown primary sources, however mundane the contents. (I'm just off up to the attic ...)

9th January 2005Coll
Michael and Peter
During the making of a zulu war documentary, was it not the well-known author Ian Knight who was contacted by a friend of his about documents discovered relating to this campaign, and on looking through them found out he had a family connection to a soldier killed at Isandlwana.
If such information can still be found after all this time, the possibilities are endless.
I'm also thinking of the antiques shows that are appearing on television lately advising people to check through belongings, long forgotten about, stored in their houses and garages, etc.
Knowing this and the thought of AZW treasures that may still be uncovered, well all I can say is :

Let the adventure begin !

Cheers guys.
14th January 2005Coll

After viewing comments made on this topic, I thought more about your last suggestion, regarding an editorial campaign to encourage people to search for items and documents connected to the Zulu War 1879.

If enthusiasts from areas all around the U.K. did just that, by contacting their local, or main newspapers, informing them of this project, maybe having an article in the papers drawing people's attention, the more publicity it gets, the better the chance of eventually succeeding in obtaining Zulu war material that was long forgotten about.

Should this issue be mentioned on a new original topic on this site to see what the response is ?.

14th January 2005Michael Boyle

Needs a wide focal interest point to be most effective and since none of the recent publications seem to fit the bill nor is it likely that Ken Burns could be induced to produce and air a twelve part documentary in the next nine days an alternative would need to be found.

I do however have an idea, I'll check it out and get back to you.


14th January 2005Coll

I started a new topic early this morning titled ' Campaign to find Zulu War items' to get an initial reaction.

I hope there will be a positive feedback from other enthusiasts.

You could leave a message under this new heading.



17th January 2005Coll
Adrian Greaves

Please could you give any further details about the progress you are making with regards to finding Major Smith's grave.

I would appreciate any information.