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6th June 2003Col.Durnford's medal/s
By David Glynne Fox
Hi All,
Does anyone know of the whereabouts of Colonel Anthony William Durnford's campaign medals? As these are very precious, I can well understand that a collector would wish the exact location kept secret. This is fine, it would just be interesting to know if they/it still exists. According to the South Africa Campaign medal roll, Col. Durnford was entitled to the South Africa Campaign medal with clasp 1879. No other medals are listed on this roll. It is fairly certain that this medal is not lodged with the Royal Engineers museum at Chatham, Kent, (but it would be desirable at some stage in the future for it to be presented to this great institution) so it would be purely a matter of historical interest to know if it still exists. Is it in South Africa, a museum somewhere, or in a private collection? It would be nice to know what happened to it after all this time and that it is still in safe hands. Perhaps one day the owner would like to put in on temporary display at a future Zulu War event so that it could be enjoyed by many, as the owner of Lt. Chard's VC has seen fit to do in recent years. It would be interesting just to see a photo of it. Regards to all. David
6th June 2003Ian Woodason
Hi Dave!

According to the Royal Engineers museum 'Red Earth' booklet AW Durnford's campaign medal is in their collection - accession number 6107.2 - a photograph of it is the frontispiece and final page of the booklet in front and rear views.

6th June 2003Mark Hobson
Durnford's campaign medal is very definately at Chatham - I've held it in my hands. There is also a lead slug said to have been removed from his body, the plans for the galvanized sheds at Helpmekaar, Lt Chard's service revolver and water bottle, and - most bizarrely - a print of Cetshwayo's foot which was used to make him a pair of shoes for his visit to England. The Royal Engineers Museum has many more items either on display or held in the back rooms, and is very much worth a visit.
9th June 2003David Glynne Fox
Hi Ian and Mark,
Thanks very much for the information. I have a copy of Red Earth but hadn't read it for some time. I checked it and found that indeed the Durnford medal should be at Chatham. I saw Lt. F.H.McDowels medal when I was at Chatham for the zulu week but Durnford's was not on display. I saw the bullet too Mark which is said to be extracted from Durnford's body. There is also another interesting bullet on show. This was presented by Lt. Col. Mike McCabe was was given it by an old Zulu who's father received it from the barrel of a Martini Henry at Rorke's Drift. Apparently this poor old warrior was in some agony for years until it worked it's way out. The son wished it to go to a good home and gave it to Mike when the latter was still a youngster. This is a very interesting and virtually unknown story from the epic of Rorke's Drift and one from an ordinary Zulu warrior. It is exceptionally generous of Mike to present this to the RE Museum, especially at a time when battlefield relics command high prices. Mike wanted tthis story to be told and remembered, and this presentation ensures that it will be. Well done Mike, it is much appreciated. There must be many similar parallels from many wars including the two world wars where ordinary soldiers have fantastic stories to be told but are never written down. This is slightly off topic I know but gives a graphic view of what I mean. I recently visited the air museum at East Kirby in Lincolnshire where I met a pilot of a Lancaster who flew during the second world war. He had been shot down four times and regaled me with a fascinating insight into events during that time. I asked him if he had ever written this down for posterity. He said that he had thought about it and may do so one day. He was in his eighties and I just had to ask how much longer he planned to wait!! If he died, it would all be lost. His wife promised to get him to work on it. I know of the lost opportunities personally. My father also fought in the second world war in Burma against the Japanese. I still have his Burma Star. He was in five different regiments and was responsible for mapping the aeriel reconnaisance photographs for the raid on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What a thing to have carried with one. Like he said, what else could the maps have been for. He had fascinating stories to tell of the jungles of Burma and South East Asia Command and I never wrote them down. He died in 1998 and all those memories are lost. If more could be persuaded to write their memoirs, historians would be able to piece together many mysteries much more easily and build a bigger picture. The same with the Zulu War, much "evidence" is fragmentary and often controversial because of the lack of written accounts. I know many were perhaps illiterate and many perhaps though it unimportant at the time, but all these little items weave the bigger picture. Any old soldiers reading this may perhaps be inspired to put their experiences into print, it is after all, our history we are throwing away. An absolute classic was a newreel featuring the intrepid reporter John Irvine in Iraq only last week. He visited one of Saddam Hussein;s bunkers and picked up a letter address to one of the latter's relatives and what did he do with it/ He threw it back down amongst the rubble again. In a few years, when historians are writing up this latest conflict, that letter may have held a small but inportant part of the history of that conflict. Today I am much more aware of such minute details. We perhaps see too much of the syndrome so comically scripted in "Only Fool's and Horses" with the remark "During the war........... where Uncle Albert is groaned out of the room. This I know is meant to be comedy, and it is funny, but it also carries, for me anyway, an important message, and that message is that we lose so much because many do not care or wish to know about war. This is a shame, because without the Uncle Albert's of the world, we may today have been facing a very different set of values. That old Zulu warrior, although attacking Rorke's Drift, was merely defending his homeland from an aggressive invader who was doing no differently from us if we ourselves were being invaded. I am glad that at least that part of the Zulu War has been remembered. Good on you Mike!!