you are currently viewing: Discussion Forum


The Rorke's Drift VC Discussion Forum
(View Discussion Rules)


PLEASE NOTE: This forum is now inactive and is provided for reference purposes only. The live forum is available at

(Back To Topic List)

DateOriginal Topic
26th June 2003A Trivia for JY
By A.Maniac
I hope I will not appear to be carping if I ask you to clarify something from your excellent article on Rorke’s Drift, which I have just re_read.
You write, ‘Others decided to take their chances outside, Privates John Waters and William Beckett hid for a short time in a wardrobe, before rushing outside. Beckett was seen by a Zulu, who stabbed him in the stomach, inflicting a wound that would prove to be fatal, he staggered off and collapsed. Waters was luckier….’
At my initial reading of this I understood it as meaning that they both hid in the same wardrobe and went outside in the same direction, but from Chard’s report, which I also just re-read I see that Beckett left in the same direction as Howard, i.e. to the front of the hospital. This seems to be hinted at by Reynolds too.
May I assume then that your statement means that Beckett and Waters respectively hid in wardrobes, not necessarily the same one? Or is my understanding of this issue not yet correct?

27th June 2003trevor
perhaps they weren't hiding! They may well have been getting changed?
27th June 2003John Young
No your assumption is incorrect, both of them appear to have hidden in the same wardrobe, see Lee Stevenson's 'The Rorke's Drift Doctor', James Bancorft's 'Rorke's Drift' & Ian Knight's 'Nothing Remains But To Fight'.

See Private John Waters' own account in Norman Holmes 'The Noble 24th' or 'The Red Soldier' by Frank Emery, where both authors quote from his letter/interview with 'The Cambrian' newspaper of 13th June, 1879.

Just clarify Waters states that Beckett left the wardrobe '...half an hour before me,...' But I cannot vouch for the accuracy of his time-keeping given the conditions.

Hope that helps,

27th June 2003A.Maniac
Many thanks John.
Now a subsidiary question about Waters since it will be some time before I can obtain the reccommended reading. Was he shot in the hospital while defending his loophole (as I imagine) ?
28th June 2003John Young
I would say so as he states that:- 'I had been shot early in the engagement in the shoulder and knee...'

28th June 2003John Young
I have checked two other recent books on the action at Rorke's Drift - Edmund Yorke's 'Rorke's Drft 1879...' & Adrian Greaves' 'Rorke's Drift' for their comments on the subject of Waters & Beckett. Ed Yorke using Chard's report and Waters' interview to explain the situation. Adrian Greaves seems to take a different line; he has Beckett leaving in the same direction as Cole - towards the front of the hospital, where he receives his mortal wound. This obviously follows Chard's report

Waters, according to Greaves, hides in the wardrobe, yet he makes no reference to Beckett sharing the hiding-place.

Now I have extreme trouble in believing Chard's comment, let alone Greaves'. I had always concluded that Waters & Beckett must have been in the same room, and I adjudged that room to have been the centre of the five rooms to the rear of the hospital. That room had one exit, a door which faced towards the Oskarberg. It was not until the wall was breached to the left side of that room by John Williams, was there any other entry or exit. If we believe Chard/Greaves then Beckett would have had to have crawled through that breach, knowing that room had already been lost, go through two other doors before he could reach the verendah. An action of which I'm not convinced. Questions and theories, don't you just love them.

28th June 2003A.M.
Thanks for going to all this trouble John.
I had had the same thought on the unliklihood of the sick Beckett crawling through the hole in the wall towards the Zulus (unless he was delirious and could not think straight). It does seem much more likely that he would have rushed out through the door, probably at a time when he felt the main Zulu attack had shifted away from the south side.
Chard himself did not go out with the men early next morning and therefore would not have seen the actual spot where the wounded Beckett was found. Thus, I am quite willing to believe he misunderstood the information in this regard, possibly thinking he had left the hospital with Howard.
The more trivial the more interesting it becomes!
28th June 2003Samuel Smithington
Its very interesting that no one knows exactly what happened that Jan. Night. Not even the defenders as they were so busy that Jan. Night! So many questions to be asking!!!