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DateOriginal Topic
4th January 2005Evacuation of hospital
By luke
How were the people in the hospital evacuated accross the yard
4th January 2005Chris
I attended the David Rattray lecture in Nottingham last year. He describes that very well. The men had retired to the final redoubt, leaving the area around the hospital under Zulu occupation. A ladder was hoisted up to a window in the hospital (on the outside wall) and Hook et al (who had dug through the walls room by room, ferrying the sick men through as they went) basically lifted the men out and a volunteer from the redoubt carried the men on his back...back and forth he went rescuing all (supported by rifle fire from the soldiers in the redoubt...)
5th January 2005Paul Cubbin
Makes you wonder why the hospital sick weren't evacuated before the Zulus arrived and moved to the storehouse. Chard, Dalton & Bromhead all knew there was a possibility of having to abandon it. Surely garrisoning it with fit men would have made more sense. Maybe they just didn't have the time, or maybe they simply forgot in all the bustle.
5th January 2005Michael Boyle

I believe the decision was made prior to the native contingent and their officer and nco deciding it was a fine day to run a marathon, thus reducing the defending force by more than half at a time when it was too late to re-consider alternatives, having thus over-built their perimeter for the number of remaining troops.

When you look at plans and reconstructions of RD it really is amazing how they managed to save so many under such circumstances when the fit men could more easily have simply saved themselves.Truly a feat worthy of the V.C.s awarded.

Speaking of the marathon, was the European nco who was reportedly shot at the starting line buried in the RD defender's cemetary or simply added to the Zulu mass graves?


5th January 2005Peter Ewart

Yes, lack of time, with the hasty preparations needing all available manpower to build barricades. How many men would have to be used carrying patients to an area of (doubtful?) safety?

The initial availability of far more men (before they decamped) also naturally encouraged Dalton, Chard & Bromhead to consider an overall perimeter which included the hospital, connecting the two main buildings. Indeed, had the NNC not left, where would they have put all the original numbers if the smaller (later) perimeter been originally set up?

The hospital was defended by fit men such as Hook, Hitch etc., with the assistance, when it mattered, of the sick & walking wounded, thereby using the hospital as a loopholed perimeter wall. They could hardly predict how the fight would proceed, so the plans and preparations which were put together in such a short time, in the face of the shock of the news of the column's demise and the realisation that they were suddenly in the front line, were astonishingly effective. To start work immediately, maintain discipline & improvise cleverly without knowing exactly how much time they had before the enemy arrived, was a remarkable feat. There were several tasks they simply didn''t have time for, as Chard mentioned in his report, but they managed to keep things simple and, even then, didn't complete the barricades before the enemy arrived.

One also wonders whether Chard, new on the scene, out at Isandlwana all morning and then working & resting down at the Drift, had any notion at all of the interior layout of the "hospital," although Dalton & Bromhead may have.

5th January 2005Paul Cubbin
I heard (don't know if its true) that Hitch's shoulder blade was shattered by a bullet and that he subsequently helped those climbing from the hospital window to step onto his hip since he couldn't hold them properly. If true, it makes me queasy to imagine the agony he must have felt, not to mention his helplessness had he been attacked in that state. Surgeon Reynolds reportedly removed a sackful of bone splinters from him....uuurggh.
5th January 2005Julian whybra
Corporal W. Anderson was buried just outside the cemetery at RD, ie with the others but not of them to borrow a Churchillian phrase!
6th January 2005Michael Boyle
Thanks Julian. Has there been any speculation that he may not have been deserting but simply trying to chase down his troops in an attempt to rally them and return?(That is part of an ncos duty.)
7th January 2005Mike Snook
Paul - a little too much imagination I fear! It is clear from the sources that Hitch and Allen were wounded after the evacuation of the hospital. They were nowhere near the gable end wall of the hospital at the time of the evacuation - their VC citations are not well expressed and are responsible for the confusion on this. They may have been giving covering fire - but from the retrenchment barricade not from within the yard itself. Three of the patients had to crawl unaided across the yard, incidentally. There was nobody in the piggy back or fireman's lift game. This was because everybody emerged from the window in dribs abd drabs - The Jones's were still defending an interior doorway at bayonet point when the first of the patients dropped down from the window into the yard. (Actually Trooper Sidney Hunter who was stabbed and killed - his assailant was then shot down from the retrenchment barricade.) The fit fighting men (John Williams, Hook, and the Jones's) would have been covering the abandoned south wall at a range of less than 5 yards with rifles poised at the present - hence they were quite unable to help any of the patients in crossing the yard. Their job was to protect the sick as they did so. Last man out incidentally was Robert Jones, not Harry Hook as is commonly believed (due to the movie).

Anderson was certainly deserting. He wouldn't have been shot in the back otherwise. Firewas not directed en masse at the blacks. He was singled out because he was a fellow Brit - whilst little was expected of Stevenson's levies, the (Anglo) Europeans were expected to play up and play the game. It was Stevenson who said he was going to rally his men - and jumped onto a saddled horse - interesting and potentially very unsettling for his men that he had a saddled horse so close at hand. Of course he was lying, otherwise he would have offered some sort of legal defence to that effect in the aftermath.