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DateOriginal Topic
20th May 2005Melvill & Coghill
By Michael Kent
Were Melvill and Coghill's bodies stripped of their clothes? The paintings suggest not, although I know they are works of fiction and if not why not?
20th May 2005Mike Snook

No they were not. When Black and Harford found them they opened Melvill's tunic to see if the Queen's Colour was wrapped around his waist. Harford also mentions searching trouser pockets. Don't know reason why.


21st May 2005Coll
Could they have been searching the pockets for any written orders ?

Does the possibilty of orders in their possession exist, but were maybe lost on the trail or more likely while crossing the Buffalo river ?

I would imagine this has been covered before.
22nd May 2005Michael Boyle
My bet is they were searching for personal effects to be returned to the next of kin. Holmes specifies the practice, and sometimes the recipients, in "Noble 24th" for the O.R.s but doesn't mention it for Melvill or Coghill, though presumably the practice still held (as it always has).


22nd May 2005Mike Snook
No, I meant I dom't know why they weren't stripped as per Michael K's original question, not why their pockets were searched!!

The Light Brigade will advance....

That'll teach me to be specific in my meaning!

Yes, Melvill's watch for example was found during the search.


22nd May 2005Michael Kent
I would just like to say thank you for all your input into my questions. It really is much appreciated.

22nd May 2005Michael Boyle

Should have realized, however this could take us back to the discussion on who actually 'did the deed'!


22nd May 2005Coll
Sorry Mike.


Although, maybe not responsible for killing Melvill and Coghill, I'm sure I read an account in one of my AZW books, that natives in the N.N.C., tore their red headbands off and trying to escape in the confusion, pretended to be warriors and actually attacked fleeing soldiers on the trail.

If any of these 'rogue' N.N.C. men had not yet managed to fully escape from the river, or possibly have been hiding in the surrounding area, could any of them, in fear of the Zulus at the river, turned against these two officers ?

22nd May 2005Michael Boyle

If any of the NNC had managed to reach the other side of the river in that manner I would be surprised if they would then have stopped for anything!

I was referring to the report that held some 'friendly' tribesmen had been intimidated by Zulus on the other side to chase M & C down. If that were the case it could explain why the bodies were not stripped.

Of course not all the bodies at Isandhlwana were stripped either, Col. Durnford seeming to be a case in point.


22nd May 2005Michael Boyle
Actually I just came across a rather intriguing footnote in "Hill of the Sphinx" that indicates Chief Zibhebhu may have personally shot both Melvill and Coghill. Any idea as to where this reference stems?


23rd May 2005Mike McCabe
Gosh, 'The Four Mikes'.
I would have thought that the clothing was searched simply to discover any personal possessions or effects that might be returned to the families. Professional interest would have been taken in any papers, but there would have been few places where these might be secreted - even in the skillfully structured uniform garments of the time. Anybody searching for papers was probably looking for private letters, wills, or bank drafts.
I recall a lunchtime conversation with Arthur J Konigkramer in the early 1990s, in which he recalled going to the Melvill-Coghill grave just after it had been broken open some years previously. It was at this time that parts of boot soles were removed - still now on display at the South African Military History Museum in Johannesburg. Arthur recalled that quite a lot of the fabric of the trousers of both corpses was surprisingly still present in the grave. The remains were arranged in as dignified a way as possible before the grave was securely closed, care being taken to re- compose what remained as two distinct sets of remains, to the extent possible. Some people alledge that other small items from the grave found their way into the 'collection' of the Dundee MOTHS.
28th May 2005Steven Sass
Ok, I've been looking for the right post to pose this question and although a tad late, perhaps it will still produce some good speculation.

In my collection I have a uniform button from an officer of the 24th. Oddly enough as the story goes, this button came not from the immediate area around Isandlwana but closer to the greater area of Fugitive's Drift and the place in which the bodies of Melvill and Coghill were found. (Now for those ready to call the secret relic police so they may truncheon me bloody and seize my prized button, the previous owner has assured me and can provide proof this object was obtained legally pre-1960--sorry to dissapoint, plus I may have fought back!!) Anyway this strange find is affecting the part of my brain that dabbles with an occasional desire to believe in UFO's , Bigfoot, Nessie etc.

Although their bodies were, according to report found clothed, are there any references to just how intact their uniforms were? I suppose the easiest explanation is that is was lost or discarded by a Zulu but what kid of a story does that make? Anybody care to voice an opinion?

Thanks in advance,

28th May 2005Mike McCabe
You simply cannot be sure of attributions of artefacts to any particular site. I recall visiting Khambula once in the 1980s, when some Zulu children appeared from the far ridges very excitedly offering for sale an absolutely pristine 13th Foot Officer's gilt tunic button. Beyond reasonable doubt it was attributable to the 1879 battle - how else could it find its way into their hands - but few professional archaeologists would unreservedly accept that attribution.

Even in the 1960s, lifting things off the Isandlwana battlefield was strongly deprecated by the National Monuments Council. That did not stop many locals - black or white - from retrieving them. Many of the 'white' finds ended up in local domestic private collections (and the Talana Museum, Dundee MOTHs), many other finds were sold to bypassers- often to the bigger tour operators and for tiny sums - especially as local poverty deepened.
It's still possible, though unusual, to discover 'surface' finds - especially after rainwash. However, the 24th were also in garrison in South Africa for several years and there will be buttons about that have nothing to do with the AZW.
Caveat emptor!

29th May 2005Steven Sass
Thanks for the potential "rainwash" on my parade Mike!! Am I assuming then that after 1881 when the 2nd Warwickshires became the SWB's (and of course traded "The Warwickshire Lad" for "Men of Harlech"), that the officer tunic buttons remained identical to those of 1879 and before?

As always I am appreciative for the help.