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DateOriginal Topic
14th August 2003A day in the life of a Gentleman
By Josh Rambdin
What exactly did an officer and a gentleman(bromhead etc.) do in South Africa besides work in the army. Could they have gone to any of the bigger cities in SA and leave the army for a day or 2? Or go hunting/fishing for a day off? They did have to do something else besides work in the Army the whole time. There wasnt a war the whole time they were there right?
Josh R.
21st August 2003Martin Everett
Dear Josh,
It is interesting that no one else replied to you. This suggests that there is not sufficient information on this topic in the public domain. Firstly all travel in those days was difficult (by today's standards). The railway between Durban and PMB only reached Bothas Hill (about 8 miles short). Movement was on horseback, wagon or on foot (about 8 miles a day). Yes, officers did go hunting/fishing locally to improve their daily menu. Letter writing was important as was mail from England. Junior officers did seem to spend as least two days a week on Field Courts Martial. Such was the discipline in the Army in those days.

However, we do have the daily diary for 1879 of an officer of 1/24th which we plan to publish within the next 18 months - 2 years which will give a greater insight to life on campaign.

I trust this helps.
26th August 2003Mike McCabe
Once deployed in the field with their companies, even in those days officers would have had little in the ways of privileges and 'perks', except for a larger baggage allowance, and a soldier servant or orderly to look after their kit and to make sure that they had somewhere to sleep and got something to eat. As realists, most officers would have deployed into the field with fairly small amounts of their kit and personal belongings, largely due to the very high risk of these becoming lost or damaged. They would generally have shared the discomforts and hardships of their men considerably more than you might suppose. 'Local leave' would not normally be granted during operations, and the opportunity to visit towns would only have arisen in the course of military duty. In a large static tented camp, as in Pietermaritzburg, officers would have messed together as a battalion, with better food and facilities. At a large temporary camp like Isandlwana, the clumn and battalion staff probably messed together, and most of the battalion officers when they could do so. However, the officers would still have spent most of their time with their companies, including eating with them whenever away from the centre of the camp, such as on picket dutues. High value was also given to officers being physically hardy, and able to shift for themselves. The manner of snotty behaviour of Michael Caine in the film Zulu would have left most soldiers feeling emarassed, and any officer behaving in that way - then as now - could hardly expect to be respected or loyally followed.
29th August 2003Diana Blackwell
You might enjoy a fascinating book callled Mr. Kipling's Army by Byron Farwel ( W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 1981, ISBN 0-393-01386-3). This book contains only a few specific references to the Zulu War, but on a more general level it describes day-to-day life for officers and other rank in the 19th C British army. Topics include the regiments, ranks, uniforms, food, passtimes, punishments, sleeping accomodations, pets, and much more.
29th August 2003Diana Blackwell
Sorry, that's Farwell with two L's.
30th August 2003Peter Ewart

The nature of the officer's day fascinates me too, whether in garrison, on the march or on campaign. As far as the AZW is concerned, Coghill's diaries and letters and Curling's letters are superbly informative but there are many other accounts which elaborate on officer activities.

Although on campaign (& during the hurried preparations for the campaign), the opportunities for sport (shooting/hunting etc) would obviously be limited, it does seem that they never quite gave up hope of finding such entertainment. Even in the immediate aftermath of Isandlwana, with excited officers all over this country rushing to make their preparations for embarkation to S Africa as part of the huge reinforcements, "The Times" offered them careful advice on which sporting gear to take with them & what wildlife they'd be likely to meet.

But the thing I've always wanted to discover is when and where the original invasion force expected to play their cricket matches. On campaign? After their victory? Or against their foes, perhaps? (If Capt Neville could dribble balls across No-Mans-Land on the first day of the Somme, "chucking one up" to Ntshingwayo in the shadow of the Conical Koppie is not so far fetched at all).

The 24th liked their cricket in the '70s, whether at Secunderabad, in Dover or among the Kentish hopgardens - & one or two of them managed games in S Africa. I suppose sometimes they'd have used borrowed kit when overseas, but doesn't the evidence point to the 24th having carried all their cricketing gear with them? If they carted it all to India, why not Africa? (Or did they all have their own individual cricket bag? Unlikely).

The batting pad which survived the looting on the afternoon of the 22nd proves conclusively that at least one officer thought there would be cricket to look forward to, but the stump which was found surely indicates that some team gear, too, had been transported on campaign - all the way from Durban or PMB (perhaps even the Cape?) via Helpmekaar and/or Greytown & on to Rorke's Drift, via quagmires for tracks and up & down steep Natalian hills, hauled across the Buffalo itself, then along the "road" which No 3 Column spent over a week making passable for the huge ox wagons, up the slope to the nek and finally parked, presumably, among the tents of either the 1/24 or 2/24.

What baffles me is that for years there has been continued heated discussion about the exact position of colonial & imperial ammo supplies, wagon parks, firing lines, company positions, picquets & vedettes, tents, guns, union flags and all - and yet no-one ever asks (or answers) the all-important question:

Where on that field was the regimental - or battalion - cricket bag?

And secondly, bearing in mind that Chelmsford's major logistical problem before and during the campaign was none other than transport (it's acute shortage and its cumbersome nature):

Does the fact that at least one creaking but valuable wagon must have been piled high with stumps, bails, pads, gloves, bats and balls (and perhaps boots, the odd smelly "box" or two and no doubt a light roller) demonstrate to us that the Empire was gained and held by wistful optimists such as these - or despite them?

1st September 2003Mike McCabe
Assuming that you are unaware of committing the one unforgiveable sin on this site (that of being slightly light hearted and faintly humorous) can I perhaps add an opinion that might both settle into the same vein and add credence to your point of view. Basically, I believe that the officers of both battalions of the 24th Foot would have been fully alert to the problem of keeping their soldiers active and in good spirits. Probably having left most of the battalion heavy backage in Pietermaritzburg or Greytown (that is: items simply not needed on campaign) they would, sensibly, have found space in the battalion and company wagons for a small selection of sports equipment - as their predecessors had done during the Peninsula Wars, and elsewhere. Whereas the odd bat and ball probably found their way into the wagon loads - especially in a West Midlands regiment such as theirs - it would have been surprising if much else did. However, there will have been the odd fishing rod, and perhaps a shot gun or two tucked away, primarily for the purpose of supplementing the tinned rations with something more palatable - though local rivers would have been known to offer fairly iffy fishing (as they generally do now). A leather football might, on the other hand, have been a very rare thing in South Africa generally - ditto, golf clubs (White ants eating club shafts, etc). And, quite whether loosing the toss might have resulted in the Zulus being asked to change ends and fight uphill is another matter!
2nd September 2003Peter Ewart
I think you're right, Mike. The absence of any reliable account of the remaining cricket gear turning up in some homestead miles from Isandlwana (like the various guns, colour poles & other accoutrements such as Harford's lost boot, for example) tends to suggest that the amount of cricket gear in the camp at the time of the attack may have been very small after all - and perhaps limited to one pair of pads and a stump or two (and surely a bat & ball somewhere, which may have been recovered during one of the many subsequent burial parties but not recorded).

Of course, I've never investigated the possibility of Dartnell's party or the General's half-column leaving the camp armed with the rest of the gear, as they travelled extremely light and may have considered their chances of getting a game fairly small, given the undulatory nature of potential pitches around Mangeni !!!

More to the point, the pad(s) and stump(s?) may have been brought along to Isandlwana by colonials instead of the 24th; the late Capt Bradstreet of Newcastle was apparently a very keen player, and we know that the cricket played by Pearson's column during the siege at Eshowe was with gear which had been carried all the way up the coast & over the Tugela by the mounted colonials, then abandoned - which makes our imperial officers looks just a trifle less eccentric than hitherto. The 57th were in (cricketing) action after oNdini, but had to improvise with equipment as they had brought nothing with them from Celyon in March.

My (only half tongue-in-cheek!) suspicions that the Zulu were aquainted with cricket before 1879 is based mainly on circumstantial evidence but has received a boost this summer with the publication in RSA of Andre Odendaal's "The Story of an African Game", which comes with plaudits from every quarter & which I'm looking forward to seeing. I assume the title is a "play" on Olive Schreiner's first best-seller but it apparently includes details of cricket played by Africans in the Eastern Cape as early as 1850. So, when we read accounts of the news of Isandlwana somehow reaching Africans in Jo'burg and the Cape in less than 24 hours, I find it difficult to believe it took nearly 30 years for cricket to travel north - particularly as at least one British missionary in Zululand before 1879 enjoyed the game.

I do have several other theories but they might stretch the patience (& credulity!) of other contributors ...

PS - Losing the toss would not trouble the Zulu as I'm sure they'd be happy to play anywhere. Much more worrying to them would be any ambiguity over the designated limits of the proposed playing field - their own experience of "boundary disputes" with the English had not thus far been encouraging!
3rd September 2003Mike McCabe
Steady on old chap, or you'll have Diana or 'Edward Bear' on to you!
If we can teach the Greeks to play cricket in Corfu (and the Welsh) then I, too, cannot see why the Zulus might not have been possessed of a very good first XI. However, it would appear that pioneers such as Francis Farewell and John Dunn did not really go to 'proper' schools, so one wonders who might have coached them. Was part of the reason that King Cetewayo wished to visit England based on a long-concealed desire to watch the Eton and Harrow matchn at Lords; did he attend and did Lord Chelmsford invite him? Peter Tinniswood, where are you when we really need you! Still dead, I suppose?
3rd September 2003Peter Ewart

You've virtually hit the nail on the head. I wasn't going to reveal all, but I will now. You'll have to wait, though, as I'm just off out. Yes, Peter Tinniswood would have had a field day if only he'd known!

4th September 2003Peter Ewart

I'm sure Tinniswood would have made much of the story had he known.

Cetshwayo spent much of 1881 and 1882 pleading for a chance to go to England, didn't he? Even when it was agreed, the trip was delayed again & again. I don't doubt that he genuinely wanted to argue his case in London for restoration, but - given his penchant for a few overs of the noble game, which I have alluded to before on this site - is there, perhaps, evidence here that his real agenda involved attending a county game; or even a Test?

His party included Henrique Shepstone, who appears to have conspired to defeat the King's wishes & who controlled some of the early itinerary. Why else would the vessel conveying him to England be forced ashore on 5th August at Plymouth - in the middle of the season but, alas, in only a minor county? No chance of a game there.

His lodgings were not that far from Lord's as the crow flies - coincidence? After Cetshwayo's audience with Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight (who was a constant target for Tinniswood!) and the presentation of the cup, the political bartering with Lord Kimberley continued for a fortnight and the King enjoyed the adulation of huge crowds in London.

He could have gone home right then, but he hung on and on. What for? He knew of something going on in London at the end of the month, some time after the negotiations were completed. So where else would Cetshwayo have been on 28th & 29th August 1882, but south of the river at the Kennington Oval, where one of the most famous - and certainly the most far reaching - events in international sporting history too place.

The antipodeans walloped the Poms in front of a big crowd & next day that famous obituary appeared in the Sporting Times & the legend of the Ashes was born. He couldn't read the papers and what Cetshwayo thought of the palpable shock which pervaded the Empire's capital on that penultimate day of August is not recorded, but we can be sure he noticed the sense of outrage all around him. Moreover, "I put it to you" (as a well known AZW story-teller would say!) that the King himself had been in that very crowd on this momentous day. Having come all this way, he had waited for the only Test of the summer since the day he had landed. Why else would he have held on in London until the end of the month and then boarded his ship for home on the very next day, the 1st September? "If only we'd had Spofforth at Ulundi" he might well have pondered on that return journey.

5th September 2003Mike McCabe
Or, was he just out each day with the heavy roller in an effort to keep in trim? I can't really see him going to the Oval as you say. It's an awful long way to go just to meet a few Australians!
7th September 2003John Young

I have no doubt that King Cetshwayo ventured south of the river, during his trip for his daughter followed in his footsteps! When she appeared in the cast of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' less than a mile away from where the boys are doing their stuff this weekend. Information courtesy of the Lambeth Library Services.
7th September 2003Peter Ewart
Yes, Mike, but anyone who was anyone would have been there that day. And you know that famous anecdote about the spectator who frantically chewed right through his brolly handle on the second afternoon, when the excitement became impossibly intense? Well, my information is that it may have been a knobkerrie, not a gamp after all.

Of course, Cetshwayo may not have been taught the game directly by the British at all, but by other Zulus, as I still have a strong suspicion that they knew the game much earlier. Allen Gardiner (not to be confused with Alan Gardner, the Isandlwana survivor) may have left us a clue.

During his missionary period in Zululand and his spell as a pal of Dingane, he often observed the King's subjects making animated representations to Dingane and his indunas on various occasions such as indabas, etc. Like all commentators on Zulu custom, he was amazed at their famous loquaciousness and their wonderfully energetic & persuasive mimes. And Gardiner had no doubt about the parallel he instantly recognised - he said that when a man called Tambooza rose to address the King, he took a run-up at great pace as if about to release a cricket ball! Now when else were such skills required unless on the sloping pitch at Unkunginglove?

And all this was recorded in the 1830s! (See p48, A.F. Gardiner: "Narrative of a Journey to the Zoolu Country" [William Crofts, London 1836]).

Nice to think that the spiritual descendants of Dingane, Uys & Gardiner are this weekend "doing their stuff", as John puts it, on the very same spot where Cetshwayo realised his ambition 121 years ago last week. And that the climax tomorrow is likely to be equally brolly-chewing! The cricketing King would still recognise the place today - or at least the charming gasometer - but must be turning in his grave at the thought of the dreaded Mexican Wave lapping over the very seat he occupied.

Whatever tomorrow afternoon brings for Cetshwayo's countrymen (and we hope it's not much) it is only fair to say that they have won many friends and admirers this summer.