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DateOriginal Topic
20th October 2003Rorke's Drift Article
By Andy Lee
For anyone interested there is a feature in today's 'Daily Express' (Page 13) on Rorke's Drift, pre-Fridays timewatch programme.

Andy Lee
Birmingham
DateReplies
20th October 2003neil aspinshaw
I saw it Andy.
The author of the article Paul Callan must have got his info from the penguin book of battles.
Unfortunately Chelmsford really does get a drubbing, "as the terrible news arrived the more inteligent officers were now convinced about the uselessness of his command"...hmmm?.
What about "when the relief colunm arrived at Isandlwana, many of the rifles had not been fired?... or,." many of the bodies were found clutching bibles!"..what substance is this guy on?.
His Rorkes drift portrayal was also badly researched and even more badly written. "the native soldiers were beaten back.. probably because they had fought earlier at Isandlwana."
Was Chard regarded as stupid, and was he deaf? and did Dalton stop Chard and Bromhead from "running away".
If this writer is anything like what we are to be served up with on Friday nights timewatch I think I'm going off to the pub!.
I wish we still got chips in newspaper, as thats about as good as it deserves, yet more bunkum to persuade a readers opinion.

'nuff said
Neil

20th October 2003Peter Ewart
Sounds even worse than the article published in the BBC History mag trailing the programme.

PE
21st October 2003Keith Smith
Neil

I have not seen the article since I live in Oz, but some of the issues you raised about Rorke's Drift are factual. I can send you a paper on the subject if this is your correct email address.

22nd October 2003Miguel
The isandhlwana part sounds like rubbish to me, but as far as Rorke's drift is concerned, if I am not much mistaken, Bromhead was partially deaf (there is some reference somewhere about him being unable to hear commands at parade), not particularly bright, and yes, you can establish in Chard's own account (or was it Bromhead`s?) how Dalton was the one who convinced them that there was no point in running away to Helpmekaar and they should make a stand in RD.

Miguel
22nd October 2003Melvin Hunt
Keith
Could you e mail me a copy of the paper please?
Cheers
Mel
23rd October 2003neil aspinshaw
Mel
drop us you address on an e-mail to me and I'll send you the original cutting before I use it in the bottom of the birdcage!.
p.s. I'll get those pictures for you in Jan that you requested.
Keith
I tried your e-mail adress but it bounced back, We were all aware that as Miguel says Bromhead was partially deaf, but not Chard as the article implied.
Sir Garnet Wolsey described both Chard and Bromhead as "below average soldiers", cetainly not stupid , history does not really stack up to this reality.
Chard arrived at the camp from the Drift to find preparations for the defence already taking place. I am not aware that they contemplated in any seriuosness to "run away" as the article suggested. Apart from the two wagons in the barricade, I believe (info not at hand) that only one other wagon was in the camp, this was left below the ledge adjacent to the Kraal. hardly enough to move the occupants of the hospital.
Mike McCabe's entry on the forum says it better than I could, another article that "casts no light ..only heat!".
I wonder if Julian Wybra who normally has something to say about Isandlwana has any comments about the men "clutching bibles!"
cheers
Neil
23rd October 2003Peter Ewart
Someone passed the cutting from the Express to me yesterday. Overall, not very impressive at all, presumably partly because the paper & the journalist want to present something as lively & controversial, and partly his reading of the TV programme.

There are many eyebrow raisers but mainly it's an article which takes the modern view of the "people's" stance against anyone from the top rank of Victorian society per se, as if we can judge the British Army of 1879 by our standards.

For example, Chelmsford was "wily and arrogant." Well, his post-Isandlwana machinations were dubious and his over-confidence pre-Isandlwana were unfortunate, but arrogant? Almost everyone who came into contact with him described him as charming, generous and a gentleman (in the real sense). Even if the odd soldier did consider him an "old fool!"

I suspect anything which needs to be "good TV" these days cannot also be good history.

Peter
28th October 2003barry collins
watching the programme I began to wonder if it had been written by an employee of the CRE? It was stressed that only 3000 zulus attacked, instead of the usually quoted number of 4000 odd, and the mutilations of the dead at Islandhlwana excused as being a quaint local custom. No mention was made of the fact that the primitive savagery of the zulu kings before the campaign against their own people would seem to have been worse than anything we had to offer in the way of exploitation of them afterwards, and also no mention was made of the amount of rounds fired during the conflict, - 20,000 -which would have seemed to argue against the small number of zulus mentioned in the programme. Are the Timewatch people following some kind of rewrite history agenda?
28th October 2003barry collins
one further thing about Lt. Chard - later Col. Chard - There is a plaque to him in Rochester Cathedral, somewhat discreetly placed, on the north wall, if anyone is interested...
30th October 2003Peter Booth
Re. the recent ‘Timewatch’ programme on Rorke’s Drift’. I wish to focus on a few aspects, namely the treatment of Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead. I must declare an interest at this stage since John Chard was my great-great uncle. However since I have been a teacher of History for over thirty years I feel can apply historical objectivity to my viewpoint. I feel that they were hard done by.

In the programme, the case against Chard and Bromhead seems to consist of several points. Firstly that they were ‘well-bred’. Secondly that ‘their first instinct was to do a runner’. Thirdly that Dalton should have got more credit. Fourthly that both Chard and Bromhead were very stupid and therefore by implication incapable of running the battle let alone fighting with any courage.


· The first comment, that they were ‘well-bred’ and was accompanied by a carefully selected photo from the many that exist of John Chard, is a piece of twenty-first century inverted snobbery which should have no place in a piece of serious historical investigation. They were simply both officers in the army of 1879.

· No evidence was offered to substantiate the suggestion that John Chard wanted to flee Rorke’s Drift. When the news from Isandlwana first came he was at the pont. When he arrived at the army camp he had to assess the options - flight from a superior enemy force that had just destroyed an entire British army was one. After discussion with Bromhead and Dalton it was soon rejected.

· ‘Dalton should have got more credit.’ Indeed in his report John Chard goes to some lengths to stress the importance of Dalton’s contribution to the initial plan for the defence of Rorke’s Drift. Chard says that by the time he reached Rorke’s Drift, ‘Dalton was actively superintending the work of defence and I cannot sufficiently thank him for his valuable services. I entirely approved of the arrangements that were made’. Later Chard writes of ‘Acting Commissary Dalton, to whose energy much of our defences were due and who was severely wounded while gallantly assisting the defences'. It was certainly through no fault of John Chard if it took some time to recognise the importance and courage of Dalton’s part in the battle.

· ‘One man described Bromhead as ‘a stupid old man – deaf as a post’. Another described Chard as was ‘hopelessly stupid – incapable of the most menial of tasks’.’ These comments are unsubstantiated but seem to echo the words of Sir Garnet Wolsey. However Wolsey had his own motives to be critical of any aspect of the war that reflected credit on Chelmsford. In addition the comment about Bromhead seems to equate the two characteristics of stupidity and deafness, which is certainly insulting to the deaf and is another sweeping and unsubstantiated smear. It is quite clear from all the evidence that the British soldiers fought with exceptional courage and expertise. They needed leadership and they got it. Edmund Yorke, also a lecturer at Sandhurst, in his book, ‘Rorke’s Drift 1879’, makes a very interesting military evaluation of the quality of Chard and Bromhead’s military decisions in the battle – they both emerge with flying colours. John Chard’s career did not end at Rorke’s Drift. He went on to be colonel of the Royal Engineers in Scotland. This was not just a politically assisted career but one of some distinction.

The men involved at Rorke’s Drift on both sides emerged with huge credit. All of them, officers and men, rose to the occasion. Whether in different circumstances so many V.C.’s would have been awarded is a different matter. So too is the question how much criticism Chelmsford deserves. What should not be denied is that all at Rorke’s Drift acted with immense effectiveness and courage

Peter Booth