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3rd August 2005WAR CRIMES
As the Zulu wounded were killed at the end of the battle should Chard have been charged with war crimes?

3rd August 2005Glenn Wade

John Chard has suffered at the hands of that 'historian' Hastings and now you're asking if he should have been charged with war crimes? In the entire AZW Campaign, neither side displayed quarter nor expected it. If we are to say that any Officer who was in command of troops whom killed wounded should be charged with war crimes, then most, if not, all Generals and Commanders on both sides are guilty.
Let us not put a 21st Century slant on 19th Century happenings


3rd August 2005Martin Everett
This has been covered before in the forum. Stop applying 21st century attitudes to 19th century conditions.

Basically the medical services were non-existent. You could apply the same charge at the Zulus after Isandhwana.
3rd August 2005Paul Cubbin
Something that appeals to me about British military experiences in the latter half of the nineteenth century is way in which completely different doctrines collided with each other in colonial warfare. The British/Western European psyche in general and British military psyche in particular still ran along lines concerned with that elusive philosophy, HONOUR.
It is something that still exists in the modern British army in the generally sympathetic manner in which defeated soldiers and civilians are treated. We harp on about the alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners - and perhaps rightly so - yet do not seem too surprised when they behead theirs live on the internet. Please don't tell me the regulars and the 'irregulars' are different, they simply weren't and aren't. Back to the point.
To my understanding, the honourable treatment of prisoners was subject to their compliance with certain stipulations. What these exactly were is beyond my ken, and surely was really due to the judgement of the officer on the ground. However, the manner in which defeated opponents were treated by Zulus really does fall outside of anyone's judgement of what can be described, to a Westerner, as honourable or merciful. This is not because I think they were inherently evil, it was just how things were done in Zulu warfare - absorption or annihilation. Besides, there are many (aprocryphal?) stories of how 'dead' Zulus suddenly took potshots at men of the 24th searching the battlefield; one can hardly blame the commander who decides that the lives of his own men are too valuable to risk.
I don't think we are applying 21st century morality in asking the question so much as Western European 19th century morality. It is a question that perhaps should be asked, but perhaps also one that has an immediate and indefatigable answer.
4th August 2005Keith Smith

Chard's treatment of the Zulu wounded at Rorke's Drift is but one of a number of similar incidents. Consider, for example, the activities of the pursuit after Khambula, which was justified by the Hlobane disaster the previous day. All these matters were raised at the time by the Aboriginal Protection Society and were investigated by Parliament. Details can be found in Hansard, British Parliamentary Papers and the magazine "The Aborigine's Friend" in 1879/80.
4th August 2005Paul Cubbin
I think the incident to which you refer is (from a purely militay point of view) utterly justified and entirely indicative of the attitiude of South African settlers of the time. Let's not forget that these are the forefathers of apartheid. Now, without causing too much controversy, the attitude of these 'European' farmers/frontiersmen was probably shaped by their experience with their Zulu and other African neighbours. How many of us would be prepared to show tolerance towards a terrorist bomber today if we caught them? I for one would sleep soundly if they 'accidentally' got their necks broken whilst I tried to restrain them. From a Natalian perspective, this was Old Testament justice, from a Zulu perspective it was simply expected. A defeated enemy had no rights. Ironically, it was the very Victorian, British, liberal factions, fuelled by sensationalist press, that bewailed the Zulu situation, not the Zulu warriors themselves.
4th August 2005Paul Cubbin
PS. I should have added it to the above, but I have to do it. Dawn - as a New Zealander, amy I offer you the welcome of Wales to the upcoming Autumn Internationals. Rugby is a beautiful thing, and the whole of Wales is awaiting the All Blacks arrival with glee (we think we might just win) as for once we are the dominant force in british (European?) rugby. Besides, I cannot help but feel that there has always been a bizarre link between our two nations - both rugby-mad, both next to the 'rich' neighbour. Please read this before the site administrators erase it for being off-topic!
4th August 2005Bill Harris
On what grounds could John Chard have been charged with war crimes?

Britain had signed on to the 1864 Geneva Convention in 1865. Article 6 of the convention says (among other things) "Wounded or sick soldiers shall be entertained and taken care of, to whatever nation they may belong."

But the convention as a whole was an agreement between the signatory states, of which kwaZulu was not one, and at any rate was not a legal document. In fact, Guillaume Dufour, one of the organizers of the convention, stated, "There can be no outside dictation or pressure exercised to compel any Government to execute any stipulation covering this ground."

As far as I can see, no state was obligated to follow any particular legal code until the 1899 Hague Conference, outlining the "Laws and Customs of War on Land", which in Section I, Chapter III, Article 21 states "The obligations of belligerents with regard to the sick and wounded are governed by the Geneva Convention of the 22nd August, 1864, subject to any modifications which may be introduced into it."

Now I'm certianly no lawyer, so if I've got this all backwards feel free to let me know! Similarly, if anyone can mention any grounds on which Chard, or anyone else in the nineteenth century could have been charged with "war crimes", please also feel free to do so.

Bill H.
4th August 2005Clive Dickens
I agree with Martin .Also we have enough of the PC people and their barmy ideas persecuting our present day army.This rubbish makes me sick people with these idea's need to have ago themselves at the sharp end then I can guarentee they would soon view things in a different light.
4th August 2005Trevor
DID Chard give the order? Is there any PROOF?
Does Chards report after the battle state that he gave that order?
Was Chard in charge at the time of the killing of the Zulu wounded?
As i understand it, the killing took place after the relief column arrived. So was Chard still in command of the Drift? There must have been many more senior officers there once the relief column arrived!!!
4th August 2005Paul Bryant-Quinn

If we're asking whether, in 1879, Chard should have been charged with war crimes, then the answer must be an emphatic No. And in my view, considering the question from the perspective of 2005, even as an academic exercise, is virtually pointless. Whether or not we personally approve of what happened I just don't think we can start downloading 21st-century moral imperatives into the historiography of a situation which obtained in the century before last — even though some of us here in Wales might have a bone or two to pick with Æthelstan and Edward I ...

However, it's also useful to remember that the conduct of what had become a deeply unpopular war was a matter of considerable discussion as 1879 drew on; and loath though I am to venture disagreement with Paul C (our esteemed historian!), not only by `liberal factions, fuelled by sensationalist press'. Keith has already drawn attention to the questions raised by the Aborigines' Protection Society and Parliament's investigations of these; but consciences were becoming uneasy, and newspapers right across the board, the Telegraph among them — hardly an example of the `sensationalist press' — were asking serious questions about what was happening in Zululand. The fact that Wood and others later defended their actions as vigorously as they did was presumably because they felt they had to. But as others here have pointed out, some of those who were asking the hard questions after Khambula were viewing events from a very distant perspective, and it's also worth noting that the critics themselves hadn't always been exactly consistent in their opposition to the war. Nothing is ever that simple.

4th August 2005Edward Bear
Though Chard and Bromhead had taken some measures to clear and consolidate their perimeter against the possibility of renewed Zulu attacks, it was not until the return of Chelmsford that any wider action was taken to check, disarm, or dispose of Zulu wounded. By that stage, Chard was no longer in command of Rorke's Drift, command having passed to the senior then present - probably Glyn for all practical purposes.
4th August 2005Paul Bryant-Quinn

Well, well: could the redoubtable *Edward Bear* be the alter ego of none other than our very own Mike McCabe??

: )

4th August 2005Dawn
Did anyone ever give the command in spite of who was in charge? Is there ever a note of such an order? Or did perhaps the soldiers take matters into their own hands and decide that they would take it on themselves to get retribution for the slaughter at Isandlwana? Who knows what their state of mind was like afterwards. Another heat of the battle thing, like the reported mutilations at Isandlwana?
4th August 2005Melvin Hunt
Was I not correct?!!!!
5th August 2005Steve Moore
Hi Mel, well I still think it was a jolly interesting tea stain, it looked a bit like a moth or perhaps even a butterfly... Best be careful if you go down to the woods today, they can give you a rather nasty bite if they get angry. Take a stick and poke about a bit in the undergrowth. Who knows what or who you might find!
Cheers Steve
5th August 2005Mike McCabe
Ho, Ho, Ho Edward Bear, very funny.

It should occur to everybody that impersonation is ridiculously easy on this site as any name and e-mail address can be typed in by anybody at any time.

Edward Bear is not me, I'm sorry to disappoint you!

The real MC McC
5th August 2005Julian whybra
Personally I think we should charge with war crimes the Republic of India following the treatment of prisoners at Cawnpore in 1857, the Republic of Afghanistan in the light of the treatment of wounded during the Retreat from Kabul, the King of Zululand following the Mfecane, the Republic of Bangladesh for the Black Hole of Calcutta, the Federal Republic of Germany for the treatment of prisoners after Dunkirk, the Republic of France for the evil baggage train attack after Agincourt, and umpteen million other examples from all round the world. Silly, silly, silly but very 2005.
5th August 2005Keith Smith

Oh, Julian, what would we do without you? Welcome back.
5th August 2005Paul Cubbin
Where there's blame, there's a claim. Yes, we do unfortunately now live in a world where we appear to have the right to charge for the mistakes of others without any responsibility to learn from them.
6th August 2005Graham Mason
In response to this " chaps " , i feel that we are missing the point somewhat . The soldier of 1879 is somewhat different from the man who fought at the SOMME or on Pork Chop Hill . Had the actions of Jan 22 1879 happened today then inquiries to the end of the century would be taking place .

It was 1879 and the sensibilities of today did not apply then . Your typical foot soldier would not have known the Zulu way of thinking and saw the apparent " butchery " of wounded and killed men as a terrible act and gave no quarter when he came upon a wounded warrior in the course of battle . Perhaps as Max has Chard as a buffoon and butcher of Zulu`s he could conduct a mock trial on TV and sentence Chard as a result of his findings .

Those more versed than me in these matters may have a more definitive arguement against Chard but as an ex-Royal Engineer myself perhaps i look upon the officer in command on Jan 22 nd 1879 in a different light . Chard was there some 125 years ago , we were not , how easy is it to denegrate the dead who can`t defend themselves as was the case with Lord Baden Powell , Kitchener and Gordon of Kartoum , thank you and apologies for any spelling mistakes , " SAPPER " .
6th August 2005Michael Boyle
I was going to stay out of this one but as it's the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing and the fact that second guessing of an event only sixty years past continues to build controversy simply baffles me. Ask any surviving veteran of the Pacific or CBI theater, who actually fought the Japanese (or was interned by them), what would have happened if we had to invade their home islands. Then listen to what he or she has to say. The Japanese never surrendered in combat, and neither did the Zulus. The concept was anethama to both, perhaps because they saw themselves as warrior nations and failure was not an option. If we've become too 'touchy-feely' to understand what it was like only a generation ago (depending on one's age) what chance do we have to understand what it was like in 1879?

History is replete with horrible acts but the modern concept of "war crimes" was only codified at the end of W W II after the mind numbing atrocities committed during that conflict. In the 19th century war had a different complexion. Western armies were trained to fight western armies. In that type of conflict battlefield wounded were either tended to after dark, during a cease-fire or by the advancing army, one needn't risk one's life during a battle to save them because one knew they would be seen to rather than killed. It was only in colonial warfare that summary execution of the wounded was encountered (perhaps accounting for the many VCs awarded during the era for bringing in the wounded and isolated). Killing wounded was of course morally repugnant to western sensibilities but the norm for those of different cultural backgrounds.

We know of at least one instance at RD where a wounded Zulu did try to carry on the battle, perhaps there were others but speaking for myself it would only take the one to steel my resolve. Those Zulus who were too wounded to fight were most likely too wounded to survive anyway even if there was a proper hospital, medical supplies and staff available. It should be remembered that at the time Chard's men were out reconning they didn't know the battle was over, all they knew was that they were woefully short of ammunition.

After what they'd been through that night I doubt that any of the defenders gave a thought to what happened at Isandlwana and only thought "Thank you God for getting me this far, please keep up the good work". As "God helps those who help themselves" who are we to pass judgement on those trying to even the odds for their own survival?


6th August 2005Julian whybra
What would you do without me? Well, for a start, there'd be one less person to point out all the inaccuracies of recent books (e.g. the most recent of which has 'Private' William Barker; the Durnford Papers being only recently found in '2001'; the wrong company order in the Isandhlwana camp perimeter; and umpteen other errors), so I suspect you'd all be a lot happier but less enlightened.
7th August 2005Keith Smith


I hope you didn't take my light-hearted remark above too seriously. I'm sure you know that I hold your opinions in very high regard. As a matter of fact, I have stopped buying recent publications for the very reasons which you (and JY) spell out so assiduously from time to time.

7th August 2005Dawn
To all
Just come across this in Smith-Dorrien's report; "I saw two Zulus hanging on my gallows and was accused by the Brigade Major Clery of having given the order. I was exonerated, however, when it was found it was a case of lynch law performed by incensed men, who were bitter at the loss of their comrades. Other incidents of the same sort occured in the next few days before law and order were re-established." Sounds to me like no order was ever given by Chard, Glyn or otherwise. No one person could be answerable to 'war crimes' anyway, even if such a thing was around then.
7th August 2005Dawn
To all
Just come across this in Smith-Dorrien's report; "I saw two Zulus hanging on my gallows and was accused by the Brigade Major Clery of having given the order. I was exonerated, however, when it was found it was a case of lynch law performed by incensed men, who were bitter at the loss of their comrades. Other incidents of the same sort occured in the next few days before law and order were re-established." Sounds to me like no order was ever given by Chard, Glyn or otherwise. No one person could be answerable to 'war crimes' anyway, even if such a thing was around then.
7th August 2005Dawn
Sorry, sent it twice by mistake.
16th August 2005Martin Heyes
"The Japanese never surrendered in combat" is a generalisation somewhat removed from reality. Oh, I grant you that the Japanese soldier tended to fight on past a point where a western soldier would surrender, but to say the Japs never (with the emphasis on the never) surrendered in combat is grossly inaccurate.

A study of that excellent documentary "Hell in the Pacific" will provide you with many examples of Japanese combat infantrymen being winkled out of foxholes with hands raised on Iwo Jima; Guadalcanal; Saipan and Guam by Americam Marines and infantry.

And the latter, by their own admission, rarely accepted the offered surrender. But don't think for one minute I am going to sit in moral judgment of those men.
17th August 2005Rich
You pose a very interesting question regarding moral judgment. What would be wrong in judging their conduct under fire?Now I'd think in the case of those servicemen they had to be vindicated in their actions for the reason that they were fighting a just war against an implacable and absolutely relentless enemy. If we do not morally judge fighting men how can we go on and conduct war against an adversary? Those who fight must have sound reasons that have to stand up under scrutiny when they're asked to go out and kill.
20th August 2005Michael Boyle

Actually being a third generation Marine who served with the last of the W W II veterans and with my father and two uncles having fought through the Pacific war, I was (like it or not!) brought up on the history. It's true that individual Japanese did, rarely, surrender. However to my knowledge no Japanese unit ever did and there was no reason to believe they ever would. You can't win a war by trying to get the enemy to surrender individually. The horrors witnessed on Saipan with even the civilian population throwing themselve's over cliffs gave every reason to believe that even the non-comabants on the Japanese home islands would die before they admitted defeat. (After all, to them, we were the 'barbarians'.)

One can argue philosophy til the cows come home but without actual combat experience one lacks the neccessary insight to understand what happens when 'philosophy hits the fan', so, as you pointed out, one should leave the moral judgements to a higher authority.

By the way,I recently caught part of a show on the History Channel where it aledges that MacArthur was the only senior member of the US command structure who didn't want to drop the bomb. He seems to have thought it was only fitting and proper for him, history's greatest general [!], to command history's greatest battle and so he felt cheated ! ( A true product of the Victorian Age?)

24th August 2005Rich
Not sure if you read about this.I thought it interesting.
A Japanese writer recently called for a healing meeting between the US and Japan after all these years after the War. Also, that there should be a "no-fault' disclaimer between the two countries. I certainly take issue with that after some atrocious Japanese behavior during the war. As another who commented, I'd say just be sorry and that's it. In that vein, I'm not sure of the state of Anglo/Zulu state relations today but it would be interesting to note the reactions of the Zulu if the British spoke in the same way as the Japanese.
25th August 2005Peter Ewart

I suppose the fact that the war with the Japanese is still within living memory makes it a raw issue. It certainly is here with many former POWs & detainees.

One rarely comes across evidence of anything less than admiration or even affection for the Zulu on the part of a British speaker these days, although I suspect that is not necessarily always with first-hand knowledge of the modern inhabitant of KZN, or of the country's history since 1879.

We can only hope that the affection is mutual but I expect only South Africans or very regular GB travellers to KZN will have any idea of that - if , indeed, there is a general view at all. Certainly the RSA (& especially KZN) politician of today tends to exercise his/her right to reserve judgement at times - don't be surprised if reparations are demanded at some point. (In fact, I'm not sure if one of them hasn't already done so in recent times, even if only speaking for domestic consumption!)