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DateOriginal Topic
14th June 2005Bugle boys
By John heffernan
Is there any record of one or two bugle boys being at Rorkes Drift or evacuated beforehand?
14th June 2005Glenn Wade
Hi John

The only person to be 'evacuated' before the battle of Rorke's Drift was Lt Purvis of the NNC who left with Otto Witt. There were not, to my knowledge, any boys at Rorke's Drift just prior to or during the battle.

Hope that helps

14th June 2005Chris John
Hi John

The bugler of B Company 2nd Battalion was sent ahead with Pope's G Company and killed at Isandlwana because G Company's bugler boy was wounded in the previous wars in south africa.

Hope this helps
CJ 289
15th June 2005Sean Sweeney
Previous Topics seem to have established that The Drummer and Bugle 'boys' weren't in fact underage boys ? lists 1/24th 1xDrum Major and 12xdrummers killed at Isandhlwana and 1xBand Master and 2xDrummers from 2/24th.
'Boys' killed are listed as;
Boy Thomas Harrington
265 Boy Robert Richards
1491 Boy D. Gordon
1387 Boy Joseph S. McEwan
but no mention of buglers.
I too was interested in the fate of the 'boys', as my Gt Grandfather and his brother were buglers in the Crimea with the 79th Highlanders,
and the fate of the 'boys' at Isandhlwana prompted the British Army to cease taking them into action.
Sean Sweeney
15th June 2005Michael Boyle
Actually the term "Boys" and "Drummer Boys" seem to have been two different things. Which however could lead together.

From Slelley's "Victorian Army as Home" -

"Boy enlistment was a traditional method of augmenting recruitment. Regiments consisting entirely of boys had been formed at an earlier date, but the last had disappeared in 1802. Between 1856 and 1899 regulations specified that the number was not to exceed 2 per cent per establishment. Boys were taken on from the age of fifteen and served an apprenticeship until they reached the normal age of enlistment. During this time they were taught one or two or three trades. Nearly three-quarters of the boys recruited underwent training as musicians (i.e. drummers and buglers), the remainder as tailors and shoemakers. On reaching the minimum age for enlistment, boys formally joined the regiment to which they were attached."


15th June 2005Michael Boyle
Man my fingers are definetly guilty of dereliction of duty lately. For above read Skelley.

By the way Sean I came across another website that may interest you and anyone concerned with the fate of British soldier's memorials, this one dealing with the Crimea :

Beyond the challenge issued, the site is a plethora of useful information on the Crimean War and contains one of the best narratives I've read.


15th June 2005Sean Sweeney
Thanks Michael,
He's all over the place , with the memorials, isn't he ?
As to the enlistment of 'boys', I wonder what criteria they used as proof of age ?, identity etc ?
And what about parental consent ?
My Gt Grandfather was quite slight, but still managed to attest at age 11yrs, (He lied !), and eventually ended up a bandsman.
(Better than repairing boots or kilts, I suppose !)
But to mistake 11yrs old for 15, stretches the imagination a bit !
Sean Sweeney
15th June 2005Peter Ewart

Some were sons of serving soldiers and part of a family following the battalion "on the strength."

16th June 2005Keith Smith
Micjael B/ Sean

I wrote a paper on this matter several years ago. Let me know and I will email a copy to you.
16th June 2005Michael B.

I seem to be having finger trouble myself today: apologies for my error above.

16th June 2005Sean Sweeney
I'd love a copy thanks Keith.
Sean Sweeney
16th June 2005Adrian Whiting

In 1885 boys could be enlisted between the ages of 24 & 16, for the purpose of training as trumpeters, drummers, buglers, musicians or tailors.

The maximum number for each purpose in an infantry battalion was 8 for training as drummers or musicians and 4 for training as tailors. There were a variety of permitted numbers for other regiments and corps.

The consent of a parent or guardian was required, though I expect the point was stretched rather.

The boys of the 24th would have been trained as drummers, musicians or tailors. The term bugler would have referred to the equivalent of a drummer in a rifles regiment, and the term trumpeter the same for cavalry.

I hope this assists.

17th June 2005Michael Boyle

I tried you off site with no luck, but yes I would like a copy as well. Thanks.

Keith,Adrian and Peter,

Skelley goes into great detail about regimental schools, how they had classes for the children on the strength early in the day and classes for the soldiers afterward, often taught by other soldiers or wives. Do we have any particulars for the 24th? (Boys would have already passed through I suppose being on the strength in their own right and busy with their apprenticeships?)



17th June 2005Sean Sweeney
Thanks for the copy of your paper ref the 'Band Boys'.
I found it very interesting, and informative.
Sean Sweeney
17th June 2005Michael Boyle

Thank you for two reasons, the other being that now I can lay to rest my nascent reinventing of that wheel!

Your article has returned me to the 'did not' extra-multilate fold. It would seem between that and the rumours of the suicide of Durnford / Pulleine that there were many who allowed their imaginations to run rampant. (How many and what else...?) Rather along the later lines of skewering babies and roasting them alive.


19th June 2005Keith Smith

I'm afraid that some of these myths have been perpetutaed by Donal Morris. Another, to be found on page 558 (my pb copy) in which he says that Commandant Montgomery of the NNC died as the result of snake bite at Fort
19th June 2005Keith Smith

Darn those gremlins! To continue ...

Pearson. In fact, he died at his farm, Ismont, on 19th January 1911, aged 71 years and eight months. I refer, of course, to Morris' book TWOTS. Sorry for the mangled grammar.

19th June 2005Michael Boyle

Did he die from a snake bite in 1911 perhaps?

(Or maybe some one else died from snake bite, SA is the worst place for it outside SE Asia.)

No, actually I'm unclear as to where Morris got his rumours, maybe he had access to sources not yet available to us (he seems to have been rather cryptic when pressed!). I've come across newspaper reports both in the 'Red Book' and the 'Graphic' that mention ammunition supply failure as a cause of the defeat well before S-D's memoirs (also with no reference). (Just as a for instance, I don't buy it like I once did!) Perhaps Morris did have access to sources (private correspondence perhaps) that have yet to come to light. It would be nice if someone with some 'horse power' were able to convince his estate to release his notes. (Perhaps with the idea of publishing a revised addition with annotations.)

That aside, there were not only many false rumours but also many false alarms at RD in the time soon after the battle which seem to point towards a situation not well controlled by the officers and NCOs in charge, for what ever reason. Granted they all found themselve's in an unprecedented situation, not only with the disaster but with only the 'clothes they stood up in' in terribly inclement weather. None the less traditional British discipline didn't need precedent to be effective.

In my own experience I've found that after a reversal officers and NCOs keep the men from 'running off at the mouth' by keeping them focused, busy, motivated and informed (as much as possible) but there seems to have been other over-riding concerns, for the officer's at least, at that time.

(It could of course just be the cynicism wrought by 'serving the colors' with Richard Nixon as my C-in-C!)


19th June 2005Glenn Wade
Hi Keith

Is there any chance you could please e-mail me a copy of your paper please? It sounds most interesting!