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DateOriginal Topic
6th February 2005Three queries - can anyone help please?
By Steve

I have three queries and wondered if anyone could help or give a view:

1) Was the order given to fix bayonets at Isandhlwana before the firing line was broken. Re-enactment films I've seen indicate not. If not, why not?

2) Do any 24th uniforms from Isandhlwana or Rorke's Drift exist in museums in the UK?

3) The website report of the battle of Isandhlwana says 'only two bandsmen and a groom of the 24th survived. Three serving with the rocket battery and four with the Mounted infantry had also survived'. Who were these men and are there any accounts of the battle from them?

Thanks in advance.

6th February 2005Julian Whybra
1. Given the extended nature of the line, the order to fix bayonets was heard by several men on different parts of the field genraly speaking at the time of the withdrawl toward the tents.
2. There was an RD uniform at the RRW Museum back in the mid-70s. Martin will tell you if it's still there.
3. bandsmen Wilson and Bickley, groom Williams, RB attached Grant, Johnson, Trainer - all left statements (sourced in 'England's Sons' - see elsewhere on the site) IMI 1st Squadron Power, Parry. McCan, and Davis - no statements recorded (as far as is known).
6th February 2005Julian Whybra
Apologies for typos - late night, i'm tired.
6th February 2005Peter Ewart

2) I have a feeling Brecon can help there but can't be sure, so will leave that to others. (As with [1])

3) Ptes Bickley, Grant, Trainer, Johnson, Williams & Wilson all left fairly detailed accounts - see Holme in "The Silver Wreath" & "The Noble 24th" etc, as well as numerous other comprehensive publications on the battle.

I'd strongly recommend you get hold of a copy of Julian Whybra's "England's Sons" for comprehensive information on who was present, who died, who survived etc at RD & Isandlwana in great detail (incl units) together with every (so far found) relevant primary & secondary source for such information. Not expensive, incidentally.

6th February 2005Martin Everett
Dear Steve,
I do not hold any uniforms worn at Isandhlwana or Rorke's Drift. I do have the serge flock jacket worn by Capt Alfred Godwin Austen (OC B Coy 2/24th) when he was wounded in the Eastern Cape in June 1878. Also in the collection are the full dress tunics of Coghill VC and Franklin (2/24th - died 20 Feb 1879) but they were not worn on the campaign.

The soldiers wore 5 button tunics whilst in South Africa which were not worn in the UK. Most of the uniforms were in a pretty poor state at the end of the campaign so most were replaced. One of the best figures - wearing uniform (not 24th - 80th I think) and buff equipment of the period is in the National Military Museum in Johannesburg.

The original hand written accounts of the survivors from the 24th are in the museum archives.
7th February 2005Julian Whybra
Martin is referring to the six accounts already mentioned. To me it is almost inconceivable that the 4 IMI soldiers did not write similar accounts. They may well have done of course and been rejected as being too similar or irrelevant for inclusion in Chelmsford's report as enclosures (and afterwards disappeared) but I live in hope of one day opening some seemingly unimportant file manuscript in the NAM or PRO and finding a Statement by Cpl McCan!
7th February 2005Julian Whybra
PS Does anyone else who visited the 24th Museum in 1972-73 remember seeing a 24th Rorke's Drift red coat on display? I certainly do. Or am I going crazy?
8th February 2005gerry hall
you are correct i saw that uniform back in 1961 when the museum was in the opposite block,it had blood on it from a spear wound in the back
9th February 2005Julian Whybra
Martin, any thoughts?
9th February 2005Martin Everett
As i said I do have the red serge flock jacket worn by Capt Alfred Godwin Austen (OC B Coy 2/24th) when he was wounded in the Eastern Cape in June 1878. It has the spear wound in the back. it is currently NOt on display - but anyone wishes to see it just ask.