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DateOriginal Topic
20th May 2005Mentally Fit For Duty - Do we know, Can we find out ?
By Coll
On a previous topic it was sort of suggested that Col. Durnford was, I think I'll use the word 'troubled' mentally, at the time of the battle at Isandlwana.

Do you think it is possible, even after all this time, using confirmed evidence about what was going on in his private life as well as his military life, that we could gather all this information together for a modern professional psychiatrist or psychologist, to make an in-depth study of him ?

This way we could maybe get some sort of insight into discovering what may have been his mindset as he entered the Isandlwana battlefield.

A bit far-fetched, but I'm sure I seen this kind of research used on a documentary, however, there is no guarantee that it would work, or even be right.

Might be interesting to try though.


PS. I'm sorry this is another one of my unusual suggestions.
20th May 2005Coll
Further to the above.

A 'Psychological Profile' I think was the term used to describe it.

I remember the documentary that I mentioned above, which was studying the mindset of an officer at Waterloo (Ney ?) and how it might have affected the decisions he made on the battlefield.
20th May 2005Mke McCabe
A curiosity of Victorian military service, at least at the time of the Zulu War and its force structures, was that - by messing together - officers were often probably more easily observed by military doctors and civil surgeons than on later, more dispersed battlefields. We know from their various writings what a gossipy and carping bunch many of the officers in the AZW were. Durnford's officers, the majority of whom appear to have been 'natural survivors', included individuals very ready to criticise him - viz Lt Henderson. Others conducted themselves with a profound sense of duty and/or loyalty - either because of Durnford, or despite him, or as men of quality and considerable self respect.
If we think that we can retrospectively identify flaws in Durnford's character now - based on the increasing number of writers attempting to do that - then it's also reasonable to accept that some of these were known to the army and civil chains of command at the time. But, then as now, there was no 'blank sheet of paper' free choice, and the most qualified and available were generally appointed. One of the reasons of course that ambitious commanders like Garnet Wolseley went to such lengths to secure the appointment of his own tried and trusted 'ring'.
The modern (and informal) technique of 'psychological profiling' makes various assumptions based upon the more orthodox theories of psychology/psychiatry - few of which had been developed or commonly accepted by mainstream general practice medecine by the late 1870s.
AS Colonel Durnford might, with some justification, not have thought much of some of the opinions and notions expressed on these discuss, so we should be careful of trying to measderations and 'benchmarks' - and particularely nort military ones, it having taken another 125 years of evolution to arrive at them.

20th May 2005Mike McCabe
The last paragraph (written before going to the pub and not after) ought to read:
"As Colonel Durnford might, with some justfication, not have thought much of some of the opinions and notions expressed in these discussion pages, so we should be careful of trying to measuiderations and benchmarks. And, particularly not modern military ones, it having taken another 125 years to develop them."
20th May 2005MIke Mccabe
I give up, it just won't type in properly.
20th May 2005Mike Snook

If you are reffering to something I said, then you are misinterpreting me I didn't even begin to hint at him being off his trolley - I am talking about frustrated ambition and personal agendas not mental or emotional problems. You'll see what I mean.


20th May 2005Coll
Mike McC and Mike S

Thanks for your replies.

The use of the word 'mentally' wasn't meant to suggest that he was unstable, but more to do with his frame of mind, as in what he was thinking as he entered Isandlwana.

Although I did consider starting this topic after other comments made on previous topics, it really was to do with an all round view of what could maybe have been causing Durnford to be 'distracted', whether it be to do with his private life or events within the military, or a combination of both.

There is quite a lot known about Durnford's life and career before Isandlwana, but, having remembered the documentary mentioned above, I thought it would be fascinating to amass details, confirmed as genuine, about his private and military lives, for a professional psychiatrist/psychologist, with no prior knowledge of Durnford at all, to study the evidence thoroughly, before drawing up a psychological profile, based on the facts about his life beforehand.

However, I'm well aware this would not be considered accurate, but it would be interesting to see what conclusions someone in the above profession would come up with, regarding Durnford's mindset on the day of the battle.

It was just an alternative approach to try and understand the man a bit more, even if it was using a modern method of studying him.

It was an just an idea.