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DateOriginal Topic
6th May 2005Captain Shepstone's Grave
By Coll
I know that several individuals were identified and buried on the Isandlwana battlefield, but I wondered why Captain Shepstone's family, which apparently was well-known, and possibly quite powerful, didn't exhume his body from the location on the western slope of the mountain and re-bury it in the family plot at a private cemetery.

I'm surprised to see, if they were indeed, a powerful family, why he remained on the battlefield with a simple white cross to mark his grave, when maybe he should have had something more, or even, as mentioned above, be laid to rest in the family plot.

I don't know very much about the family, or Captain Shepstone himself, but I just thought I'd question the reasons for him to be left where he fell, basically.

7th May 2005Mike Snook

It has always been the military norm to bury the bodies of the fallen at the site of their death. Repatriatrion of bodies to be buried is a modern practice. Lt Edgar Anstey 24th was repatriated home by his brother - who from memory was a RE officer, serving in SA. But this was very unusual for the day.

By leaving Shepstone where he fell, the point is made that he died fighting alongside the many other brave men, buried around him.

Even General Colley for example still lies at the foot of Majuba, buried alongside most of his staff officers in one of the most pretty and poignant military cemeteries I have ever visisted.

Regards as ever

7th May 2005Geoff
The messy consequences of repatriation were seen when the Prince Imperial's body was returned,
7th May 2005Coll

Thanks for your reply.

I guess I was comparing this situation to that of Col. Durnford's body being removed from the battlefield and placed in a cemetery.

I thought this would initiate a reaction from Shepstone's family to do the same, especially if they had the sort of 'power' to maybe accomplish it.

However, I really do understand leaving him where he fell, but, unless I am mistaken, his grave is only marked by a small cross.

Do you not think they could have, at least, put a more significant marker at his resting place, like an obelisk or something similar, if they had the finances to fund such a memorial ?

7th May 2005John Young

Some of the colonial dead were returned from Isandlwana and re-buried in PMB. In one instance that I have personally knowledge that of Trooper George T. MacLeroy, Natal Carbineers, his father George Snr. insisted that his son's body remain buried at Isandlwana, where he had fallen. However, on the death of George Snr. his widow made a request George's body be exhumed from Isandlwana and buried alongside his father in PMB.

His original grave marker, an even simpler one than that of George Shepstone, makes the spot where his body was found on the Fugitives' Trial.

Despite the fact that Sir Theophilus Shepstone held a number of high offices in the colonial adminstration, his upbringing was simple and obviously influenced by his missionary father, the Rev. William Shepstone. What need did he have to raise a sepulchre to a lost son?

John Y.
8th May 2005Peter Ewart

It was a little more than "only a small cross" and I suspect that the "more significant marker" you suggest might well have jarred a little, when one remembers that many hundreds of men died on his side in the battle and were marked by rudimentary cairns only.

Most of the memorials seen on the battle site today were raised by subsequent generations, with even the obelisk to the 24th being erected only 35 long years later.

Shepstone's resting place was marked by "a pretty, sculpured cross" and the plot was enclosed by a low stone wall - more or less what he'd have got in PMB churchyard, I imagine. The protective wall may have guarded it from animals (there was a zebra close to that same western slope when I was there!) and it certainly protected it from the annual grass burning.

When Mitford was there about three years after the battle, he noticed that "a grass fire had blackened and laid bare the whole slope, but the flames had left untouched the grass inside the enclosure, which stood out, a green spot, with its white cross in the centre, against the surrounding blackness." ("Through the Zulu Country", p43).

8th May 2005Coll
John and Peter

Thanks for your replies.

The term 'simple stone cross' which I used in the initial topic entry, was from The Zulu War : Then and Now. by Ian Knight & Ian Castle, in the chapter - The Lonely Graves of Zululand, as I myself have not seen it personally, although I do appreciate the significance of it.

I was really trying to think what his family might have considered doing, with the fact that his body was identified and the site of his grave known, whether out of grief for their loss, or to mark the location of his heroic last stand along with those who were with him.