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DateOriginal Topic
28th March 2005If not original tunics, what about the rifles?
By Bill M.
I note from the post below, that original Isandhlwana tunics are apparently not known to exist. However, are there any Martini-Henrys around that might be linked to the battle? Surely the Zulus did not leave any of those behind, and it seems reasonable to assume that many of those were later recovered. But then what happened to them?
28th March 2005Coll

I think in a previous topic that it mentions they are stored in the National Armoury (or somewhere like that).

I was surprised in a previous topic I started about revolvers taken at Isandlwana, that not many, if any, turned up in later battles and I often wonder where they went, especially Col. Durnford's, which may have been an American Colt.

29th March 2005Neil Aspinshaw
There was a Martini at Firepower last august, I believe Adrian Greaves had it, Reputedly from Isandlwana.Myself and Dave Fox doubted it, it was a Mark II, it had been downgraded 2nd class. (highly unlikely for front line service, also even if colonials had it, 4 years service was nothing, so why the downgrade?.).
The nearest MH I have seen is one at Fugitives Drift Lodge, If it is to be believed, It was given to D.Rattrays family by a zulu family for safe keeping as an hierloom, apparently it was taken by their great grandfather, but hard to proove.
Alot of martinis were collected off dead zulu's after subsequent battles, One would presume these just went back into service elsewhere. As the regimental records were lost, it would be folly to try and prove any gun "was there".
The serial number on a Martini is under the forend timber and cannot be seen unless the thing is taken apart.
In my recent sales list of martini's I had a colonial use rifle with 1-80 (Intombe fame?) on it. This was unusual as only carbines tended to have specific ownership marks on the, (brass roundel). If I could prove it was a 1-80th gun than its price would doubtless be more. For an original 1/24th Martini, just add a couple of noughts!.
I had two Martini's with Allalabhad arsenal roundel and 11/88 (1888) on them. The SWB were in Allalabhad then as Bromhead died there. SWB got their Lee-mets around that time, were these 24th Martinis downgraded?..... I wish!.
1st April 2005Adrian Whiting

Some of the issues surrounding MH rifles used at Isandlwana were covered previously on this Forum, but I think much of the material may have been lost.

To try and assist, I can add that I think it very likely that both 24th Battalions were equipped with MkI rifles which may have been locally upgraded to MkIIs. If you contact me off forum I can provide a summary of the issue arrangements for the Battalions - as best I have them - and the details concerning upgrades - which were completed by Armourers attached to battalions.

I also have a summary of how rifles were Regimentally marked. It will most likely be difficult to identify a 24th MHR by Regimental marking, since these were stamped into the butt of the rifle, and have usually worn away, unless the rifle saw much storage.

Brass discs, to overcome this, were a later development.

I have been able to examine one rifle claimed to have "been there" - it features in one or two books with such a claim. The claim seems to be mainly based on the fact that the rifle has a number stamped into it, which is the same as a Regimental service number of a soldier killed at the battle. The rifle is a MkII, which to me makes it an unlikely candidate in the first place. However it is a mistake to believe that the soldier's service number would be stamped onto the rifle and used as his identifier.

Rifles were numbered consecutively in each battalion and then issued to a soldier. The rifle serial number - used by the manufacturer, was not employed because it was difficult to look at (see Neil's entry above), and mainly because the original intent of local "rack numbers" was to allow a quick and thorough check to confirm each rifle was accounted for - hence they started out sequentially, which would not have been possible using either the manufacturer's serial number or the soldier's service number.

So each Company kept a simple record of who had each rifle - Martin Everett very kindly supplied a copy of an example of one such list the museum has in the collection. Because rifles went in and out of service - defects etc - the issue list soon lost its sequential properties, but it was still easier than using the soldier's service number, as otherwise the number would keep having to be changed.

Quite simply, the "rack number" on the rifle does not indicate to whom it was issued, and in any event, each battalion would have had a rifle "100" for example, so to claim that the number relates to a soldier with a service number of "100" is incorrect.

In my view, the best indicator of a 24th MHR will be the provenance of the item, as best it can be documented.