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DateOriginal Topic
1st June 2003Fugitives Drift
By paul naish
Can anyone shed ligjht on the identity of the member of the 24th of Foot who was killed at Fugitives Drift along with Lt's Melvill and Coghill?
Mention is made of tghis in Bartle Frere's report to the Queen - quote: "in swimming the river Lieut. Melvill's horse was shot and he called to Lieut. Coghill who had got through, . to help him. Lieut Coghill swam back to him, when his horse was also shot.; they both got to shore with a single soldier of the 24th, and all 3 were found about 300 yards from the stream..."
3rd June 2003Julian Whybra
No-one else mentions the 24th soldier. Higginson, Barker say nothing at all. It could be an error by Frere, it could be Pvte. E. Turner, M.I. or any 24th soldier that jumped on a spare horse. If true, I wonder where he was buried?
3rd June 2003neil aspinshaw
In January we visited the memorial to Melville & Coghill. There are two more cairns in close proximity to Melville & Coghills' Grave.
One large cairn is less than 6 metres away, the second about 20 metres away, just down the path . I will e-mail David Rattray at Fugitives Drift Lodge to see if there was any identification.
presumably Wilson Blacks recon to the Drift to recover the colours interred these men. If Melville & Coghill were still recogniseable I presume they would be too?.
3rd June 2003Ian Essex
I was under the impression that the cairns you pass on the way up the hill to Melville and Coghills grave are that of Zulu's who chased them?
3rd June 2003John Young
Maybe it was this person 'Melville', that the correspondents are talking about above!

I hate to be a pedant here, but the man who died alongside Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill, was Teignmouth Melvill.

Private 139 John Williams, 1st/24th, Col. Glyn's groom, features in some of the later renditions of the event. He obviously survived, though. Can his statement be considered as reliable? Some things he mentions just don't quite mesh with other accounts. Henry Hallam Parr weaves him into his later account that appears into 'Recollections & Correspondence'.

It think it is possible that Hallam Parr, may be the unidentified correspondent who wrote the piece which appears on page 290, of the 29th March, 1879 edition of 'The Illustrated London News'. The only other dead he mentions are Zulu dead.

Henry Charles Harford only mentions two bodies in the edited version of his journal.

Brevet Lt.Colonel Wilsone Black, in his interview ("yarning") with Norris-Newman, only mentions two bodies.

I think Julian may have hit the nail on the head -perhaps Frere, is again, at fault.

John Y.
3rd June 2003Martin Everett
Dear John,
Julian and I did discuss this - if the Frere report is true then 25B/946 Pte Edward Turner 1/24th attached Mounted Infantry is a possible. He was the only MI man killed at Isandhlwana.
5th June 2003Neil Aspinshaw
Paul and Ian
I knew there were several other cairns, it appeared that Melvill and Coghill were not alone. I read a passage in the exellent book "zulu victory", Lieut Hillier commented Melvill and Coghill "lay behind the bodies of two soldiers most likely IMI" where they had "made a stand". The names were not recorded.
5th June 2003paul naish
Thank you all! This is most revealing.
There are other mysteries which keep cropping up and I hope I can share these with you in the future.
Yours aye, Paul.
6th June 2003neil aspinshaw
Final footnote, just had my e-mail back from Rob, Guide at Fugitives drift lodge, apparently cairns are of at least one white soldier and a small number of black NNC.
6th June 2003Ian Essex
Can you tell me where Rob gets this information from?
8th June 2003neil Aspinshaw
From David Rattray, possibly the authority on the battle. As you might know the graves are on his property.
David took us a tour down to the graves in January. In the 1970 the graves were dessicrated and vandalised by relic hunters, David orgasnised the re-burial of remains, via the war graves commission and the south african army. What was interesting is that the corpses were remarkably well preserved. I believe several photographs had been taken, but, and quite rightly so, remain private.
Rob informed me though that the white soldier was most likely colonial, rather than 24th. I will forwarda copy of his e-mail to you. Debate aside, the memorial to Melvill and Coghill, to me was a very emotional experience, bit like RD really. in the golden sunlight of a Natal evening we stood for a few moments deep in our own thoughts, such a lovely place, but also so lonely???.

8th June 2003John Young

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission take no responsibility for pre 1914-1918 soldiers' graves so I doubt their involvement.

As to the South African Army assisting in the re-burials, they more than likely did, but at a price! The soles of boots of either Melvill or Coghill, I can't place my photograph of them to be precise, now reside in the South African Military History Museum. Rest in Peace, but we'll have your boots away!

John Y.
8th June 2003neil aspinshaw
Befor our the visit I would have been inclined to agree with you, but the commission apparently were very interested in this one. As it representent such an important change in thinking iwith regards to historically important memorials. I do recall money being paid to the Spion Kop site (again pre 1914), Their is a plaque on the wall of the gatehouse saying how money for the upkeep is paid, I cant recall exacylt what it says,perhaps some of the Boer war specialists will be able to tell us more.
Money to refurbish the grave and memorial was allotted. I must check my photos, I think their is some script engraved on the marble slab.
the boot photo appears in the then and now book (castle and Knight). David Rattrays comment that " this represents one of the most important imperial war graves in the world", does carry some (if not alot) of creedance, with its postumous V.C implications. A regular stopover for the royals I suppose it is the same as the queen thinking the world smells of new paint!!, it has to look good. An I don't mean that at all being derogatory.

Cheers , Neil
9th June 2003neil Aspinshaw
I have checked my photo's, M & C grave is engraved South African War Grave Board 1974.
Also I have had e-mail from Les Reed, who tells me Spion Kop is jointly funded by "British Ministry of defence", not CWGC. they also paid towards the refurbishment, the M & C grave was re-instated with a military ceremony with S.W.Borderers representatives, thanks for that Les