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DateOriginal Topic
7th April 2005The flying Adendorff.
By Paul Cubbin
To me Adendorff is still a somewhat shadowy figure and despite current evidence that dispels much of the old controversy about his presence at both battles (Isan & RD) there are still enough questions to cause some chin rubbing.

One of the events that have always raised eyebrows was the speed at which he appeared at RD, well ahead of other survivors. Did he really stay a decent enough time at Isandlwana to merit no dishonour?

It will probably never be put to bed utterly, but a few things did occur to me.
1. He was presumably a local Natalian, fairly familiar with the border region. To me, it is entirely possible that he knew the fastest route to take to RD (not necessarily the road for a single horseman who doesn't have to worry about dragging wagons with him).
2. Also, if he had any dealings with the Zulus, or experience fighting them, he may have been familiar with their techniques in abushing lone travellers. If he was able to spot potential attackers before less experinced refugees he was less likely to be delayed or attacked by them.
3. He would probably have had a bloody good horse compared to the British or NNC riders, who would have been mounted on whatever could be found in the build-up to war.
4. Finally, he would probably have been a very good plains rider, well used to the conditions and vagaries of the veld (his horse would too) and able to navigate safely and swiftly with minimal risk of being unsaddled.

Just a few thoughts.
8th April 2005Julian Whybra
Adendorff's timings and departure from Isan have been covered elsewhere on the site so do a site search - i won't be repeating myself then.
Basically, Adendorff left at about the same as the other fugitives. His route was the same as everyone else's until he reached Fugitives' Drift. He and another man (probably Trpr. Sibthorpe but this has yet to be confirmed) could not swim and so followed the river upstream on the Zulu bank. At one point where the river meanders I imagine they would have 'cut the corner' such that they could arrive at RD from the direction witnessed by Chard.
8th April 2005Andrew Garton
While I can't add anything which would be helpful I did enjoy what you wrote,makes you think.And I don't know if you agree with me but responses to postings seem to be getting ruder by the minute.
8th April 2005John Young

On your points 1& 2 - Gert Adendorff was from Graaff-Reinet, which is in the Eastern Cape, so he was not a local man by any means. The Zulu/Natal border country, I believe, may well as been as alien to him as it was to 'Tommy Atkins'. Sorry to debunk your theories.

John Y.
8th April 2005Colum O'Rourke
I just asked that question myself today. But according to some of my sources Mister Adendorff 'decamped' from RD and wished to join Vane on the journey to Helpmakaar to warn MajorSpalding and Rainforth. I was wondering if anyone could verify if Adendorff remained at the Drift during the action.
9th April 2005Coll

I must admit that in some cases previously there does seem to be a more abrupt manner appearing in a few replies, which has caused me to waver posting any new topics or even replies on several occasions.

9th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Andrew and Coll - c'est la vie boyos. One of the great things about the site is the range of experience and knowledge from its contributors. But I think sometimes the 'old hands' must get a little tired of seeing the same old question appear and prefer to refer (as it were - do you concur?). Of course, the disadvantage of communicating via text is that inflexion, tone and body language are omitted and its very easy for an efficient, fact-finding historian like Julian to appear more abrupt than I think he intended. I take no offence, I think he was pointing me towards the easiest route for finding information.

John - bah! Spoilsport! Okay, no local knowledge, but perhaps a little experience in raids or border clashes? Go on, give me something....

Julian - thanks for the signpost, but I wasn't really disputing Adendorff's movements, just wiggling a quizzical eyebrow - not everyone present seems to have wanted to include him in the party for some reason.

Colum - I think, like everything to do with RD, the 'truth' is not to be found in cold, hard facts, rather a logical decision based on the assumption that a man could be present and noticed by only a few people (he was an outsider and not under the supervision of any NCO). If ten men say he wasn't there up to the end and one says he was, the chances are he was, but just wasn't seen by most (for whatever reason).
9th April 2005Julian whybra
Andrew -
I can assure you that I had no intention to be rude in my response - indeed, I look at it again and still don't think it rude - nor to give offence to Paul. The previous coverage of this topic was extensive and all-encompassing and it would be ridiculous to repeat it. I was simply trying to re-direct Paul to the argument. As others will tell you I give freely of my time and knowledge to all those who have an interest in the AZW (and not just on this website) and do so willingly.
Colum -
Your 'sources' i imagine are simply Morris and its spin-offs i presume since there are no primary sources which would support the view.
Paul - it is not tiring seeing the 'same old questions' occurring; it is heartening to see that people are still fascinated by and interested in the AZW but it does save time if you can refer contributors to a site search. As I'm sure you are aware I intended no offence.
9th April 2005Melvin Hunt
Having reported to RD to warn of the Isandlwana defeat, was Adendorff then duty bound to stay or could he have ridden away, (perhaps with the intention of warning Spalding), without facing a charge of desertion?
9th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Melvin - interesting. As a volunteer Adendorff probably had less restrictions than a regular as far as duty was concerned. It could be argued that with the absence of any commanding officer, his duty was to return to base (wherever that may be). Certainly none of the defenders seemed too judgemental at those who fled straight from the battle at Isandlwana to RD and then kept going. Of course, NNC members at the post had no such excuse and received the condemnation they deserved.
9th April 2005Julian whybra
Adendorff could have ridden further (to Helpmekaar for example) if he'd so wished without stain on his reputation. I think it a question of how far was it reasonable to retreat - I know of at least 3 survivors who simply kept going, reported their survival, then deserted. Almost all the survivors went to Umsinga, Kranz Kop, or Helpmekaar and two or three (carrying messages) further to PMB and Dundee.
9th April 2005Melvin Hunt
Julian and Paul,
Thanks for the replies.
Has any one any thoughts on why, having just witnessed the destruction at Isandlwana and the seemingly unbeatable power of the Zulu Impi, Adendorff decided to stay and help in the (seemingly unlikely?) defence of RD.
If, indeed, he did stay why was he not feted and given more recognition for having fought at both battles rather than ending up being the more "shadowy" figure he is perceived to be today?
10th April 2005Paul Cubbin
This is the kind of thing I love - I can't compete in the research line (having no patience for all that) but I love the human angle.

Perhaps Adendorff recognised RD as a defendable stronghold, something that was all but impervious to the Zulu light infantry if held by riflemen (with ammunition - even with a full company reserve available, the post had about 9 shots per man left by morning!). The battle of Blood River was a famous boer masterclass of defence that had been a legend in Southern African presumably since Adendorff had been a boy. The Zulus had no answer to massed firearms behind barricades. Or maybe he was just a brave man who had seen his comrades slaughtered and wanted vengeance. Perhaps a bit of both.

As to his apparent side-lining in many accounts; maybe we have to look at the Victorian psyche here. They lived in a very jingoistic age where the British were potrayed as fatherly, if stern, demi-gods striding the globe and bringing christianity and the bullet in equal measure to the poor heathen peoples of the earth. For a 'Johnny Foreigner' to jump up and voluntarily partake in another battle, where every other British survivor declined to do so, after surviving Isandlwana was possibly too much for the traumatised British chroniclers to accept. Perhaps he put some noses out of joint with derogatory comments as to the British generalship, perhaps he just didn't 'fit in', the history of the nineteenth century is certainly rife with class prejudice and injustice.
Or perhaps a simpler explaination is true - he wasn't on any roll of men at the post because he wasn't stationed there and left soon after the battle. Perhaps he was overlooked when it came to putting things down on paper. Things were hectic in the run up to hostilities and its entirely possible that he was simply ignored and told to do what he liked - "Its your country, isn't it? Go where you like."
10th April 2005Julian whybra
Paul - Once the Zulus left and RD was held Adendorff didn't hang around - he seems to have left pretty sharpish. Although he is mentioned in Chard's report he seems to have been 'overlooked' to a certain extent though no less I would say than the other colonial participants or for that matter than the ordinary private soldiers. As for British prejudice against the 'Johnny Foreigner' or class your theory doesn't sem to hold up in the case of Schiess (or Uys or von Stietencron at Hlobane) does it? They all seem to have had their 15 mins of fame. And there are plenty of other such examples from the AZW and other wars which clash with the Victorian stereotype so often rammed down our throats from school onwards. Ask yourself was Durnford typically Victorian in his values, was Bloomfield the typical British officer? How surprising it is once you delve into their backgrounds how many of the many of the 'colonial' NMP and redcoats do not fit the traditional Victorian stereotypes either. For me, one fascination of research is discovering how little the past seems to resemble what I was taught as a child. Isn't it easier to teach that all Victorians were racist, arrogant, jingoistic exploiters of the world? It saves on details and explanations.
10th April 2005Peter Ewart

I appreciate the human angle most as well, having comparatively little knowledge of the technical matters of military life such as weapons, uniforms etc (although enjoying all contributions on these matter son this forum).

I also like to surmise - but only on the possibilities arising from the facts. Facts come from sound research - and are far more fascinating, I always feel, than any surmising or fanciful stories. The AZW is a prime example of this.

I don't see anything at all shadowy about Adendorff - not compared with many other characters involved in the AZW, anyway. He was mentioned by Chard but not by Smith, but then far more than 100 of the total of 150 or so went unmentioned in all the reports and accounts, so he was in the majority there. If he pushed off early from RD, he wouldn't have been interviewed by Chard or Smith.

I don't think he has been sidelined at all, he was just one of the minority who merited only a brief mention in the offical report. Most didn't even get that. The fact that he was the only European to serve in both battles was probably hardly noticed at the time and this curiosity has been picked up subsequently by historians. I shouldn't think, at the time, anyone was looking for a note for the record books.

10th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Julian and Peter - so perhaps what we have here is analysts looking at battle reports and accounts, putting two and two together and coming up with three? Is the site consesus (whatever that may be) leaning towards the fact that Adendorff was sidelined by later readers as opposed to his contemporaries?
Julian - as far as the Victorian attitudes thing - I was obviously boiling up a confusing and complicated subject in one line for the sake of convenience. For its time, the British attitudes towards different races were extremely progressive, perhaps a side effect of Imperialist mixing. Of course us humans have always had different views and personalities, I was attempting to explain the possible unjustified shunning of Adendorff by higher authorities. Even today, unfortunately, the 'Old Boy' network is still to be found in higher ranks.
The original point of this post was not to open up old 'was he/wasn't he' Adendorff debate as I think its already been put to bed. It was really a little exercise in (yes, Peter, unsupported!) conjecture as to how he got from one battlefield to the other so swiftly without apparently ducking early from either.
10th April 2005Coll
I feel (I'm probably wrong) but if Adendorff had arrived from Isandlwana and had stayed at Rorke's Drift, there would have been more attention or even praise given to him, considering the fact he went from one battle to another, to fight again, even though he knew what to expect after witnessing the earlier confrontation.

If he was the only man to arrive from Isandlwana, surely that would be noted more, whether he was a Colonial or not, especially if he did stay and fight at Rorke's Drift ?

If he wasn't at RD, why mention him at all, apart from him actually warning RD before the battle started, then basically no more word about his actions.

In the film Zulu, although you see the character of Adendorff occasionally, you never do see him actually fighting at any specific point of the battle, but quite willing to give advice on the Zulu methods of fighting, but not really placed at any particular location during the Zulu attacks.

As you can tell from above, I don't know much in the way of details, it really is just based on my own observation of the events and therefore it is only my opinion.

Sorry to be a bore, but if I only talked about AZW incidents I definitely know precise details about, then I wouldn't have much to say, as I am vague about most things at the best of times.

I can't believe how much I've wrote in this post, to basically say nothing.

My apologies.

10th April 2005Melvin Hunt
I don't think it was just a case for some one looking for a note for the record books. The man had just escaped from the horrors of Isandlwana and he then chose to stand and fight again behind a few mealie bags and biscuit boxes! That surely must have warranted some praise and diary entries from the defenders of RD.
Is Chard the only RD defender primary source to mention Adendorffs participation at RD?

Further more, if Adendorff had stayed to fight, why was he not, upon Chelmsfords return, immediately bought to the attention of Chelmsford so that he could relate the events at Isandlwana?
11th April 2005Julian whybra
I think that what we have here iare popular authors trying to make something out of nothing to add a bit of 'dirt' to a superb tale.
I don't think Adendorff was particularly shunned as I and Peter have already said any more than any of the other RD defenders by the 'Authorities'.
I think you're looking at this whole episode too much through a 21st Century telescope. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Chard/Bromhead/Chelmsford even didn't have time for it on 23rd Jany. Also don't put any reliance on anything you see in a film.
Adendorff is mentioned as having stayed at RD by Chard (in more than one report) and Mabin (both at RD), Higginson and Stafford (both fellow survivors of Isan, the former being Adendorff's adjutant), Maxwell (with Chelmsford but writing in his diary, and from Adendorff's regt), Norris-Newman (writing in his newspaper espatch on 26th Jany.
Adendorff may have been brought to Chelmsford's attention, we don't know. Chelmsford discarded a lot of survivors' evidence as repetitive or having no bearing on the reaon for the diaster or as too personal to be of use. alternatively Adendorff may have left before C arrived or very soon afterwards (was there a reason to remain? He also had family to inform he was still alive).
11th May 2005Michael Boyle
Again another two cents and a month late.

Adendorff's horse could have been blown, the sight of a number of fellow Europeans who were actively engaging in a prepared defence or just plain lethargy (a common effect of post adreneline shock) could have played into his descision to stay. We will never know the man's personality.

As for the discrepancy in the rolls, I rather imagine they all had more pressing concerns at the time. No one had any idea what was to come next. True the remains of Chelmsford's column had passed some Zulu's without incident (except for a lone warrior who behaved rather strangely), after the shock of Isandhlwana I doubt anyone was thinking particularly lucidly and certainly they felt very vulnerable (they'd lost all their ammunition supply at Isandhlwana and the RD defenders had expended most of their's).They had no idea what the Zulus would do next ,at the the time they had no idea there was no 'next'. I imagine their primary consideration was continued survival not who was where and when. Altough 'spin doctoring' seemed to follow shortly after they got their breath and Chelmsford found it fortuitous to continue on, it seems clear to me that there was no cohesive plan beyond improving the RD defences and issuing some uncharacteristicly dire warnings to the other two columns.

(The above bit may be a touch too cynical.)