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11th November 2003Was Bromhead hard of hearing?
By Dave McTiernan
Hi guys

I've been collecting what I can about these Rorke's Drift men for a friend in the States, so the whole Timewatch thread has been most enlightening.

I noticed in the programme some remark about Bromhead being hard of hearing? He is even described as being "Stone deaf" in other commentary.
Can any of you guys tell me, is there anything to corroborate this, or is this also a popular myth??

12th November 2003John Young

The source for this information was Donald Morris in 'The Washing of the Spears', see page 264 of that work. Morris implies that by the time of the Anglo-Zulu War Gonville Bromhead was '...virtually stone deaf.'

Morris, states in his introduction, page 8, his source for this information was Lieutenant Colonel Sir Benjamin Bromhead.

Hope this helps.

John Y.
12th November 2003Dave McTiernan
Thanks John

Interesting that the story of his impaired hearing actually stems from a family member and not from some official record or one of these senior officers, which the Timewatch programme seems to imply.

Surely if his hearing really was that poor, then someone would have mentioned it at the time?

12th November 2003Clive Dickens
I myself cannot add much more than John as already written but Gonvill Bromhead was nick named "Dummy" Bromhead a rather unkind way of refering to him . Sir Garnet Wolseley also discribed him as "A RartherStupid Fellow" no doubt because of his deafness but I think he more than made up for any shortcomings of no fault of his own with his actions at the battle of Rorkes Drift.
12th November 2003Dave Nolan
Clive. I always understood his nickname was 'Gunny' as this was the 'correct' way of pronouncing the beginning of his forename. Dave
12th November 2003Miguel
Didn't somebody mentioned somewhere that Bromhead was relegated to guard Rorke's drift because of his deafness, and that said deafness was the cause of embarrassing mistakes in parades, being he unable to hear the orders?
12th November 2003John Young

Maybe gentlemen in the polite society didn't want to bring the issue to note.

Many officers had disabilities. Garnet Wolseley was blind in one eye. Benjamin P. Bromhead, Gonville's elder brother, continued to serve despite the loss by wounds of both arms. There are others suchas Sam Browne, who lost an arm. John Dartnell of the Natal Mounted Police was missing most of the fingers of his left hand.

A couple of us made a study of photographs of Bromhead taken in India & Burma, in each of them he has his head tilted at an awkward angle, whether that is an indication that his hearing was better in one ear, would be pure conjucture.

I wonder if there was an record of his deafness in his record of service? If it still exists? Or was that destroyed as he actually died in service?

John Y.
13th November 2003Dave McTiernan
Hi Guys

John , yeah I catch what you say about gentlemen in polite society, but then Clive points out that this Wolseley refers to Bromhead as a "rather stupid fellow", now that ain't exactly what I would call polite.

My brief in this is to try and gain some idea of what Bromhead and a number of other of the defenders were actually like.
The question as to whether he was or wasn't deaf is, therefore, very relevant.

I'm interested in your idea that he may have tilted his head for photographs, although I must say I have known a number of people with impaired hearing over the years, and have never noticed them tilting their heads for photographs or otherwise.

Yeah I guess the people at Brecon could tell us more about Bromhead's service career and records?


13th November 2003Clive Dickens
Yes you are quite correct he was refered to aas "Gunny" but others I beliveve refered to him as "Dummy " my guide in South Afrioca also called him this most unkind , I know how he must have felt , I too am deaf and it is quite unbelieveable even in this day and age people look upon on someone hard of hearing as stupid. in truth it is them who are stupid not the deaf person.
17th November 2003Lee Stevenson
There is one officer, Lt Curling, R.A., who possibly wasn't feeling quite so 'gentlemanly' when he wrote that Bromhead was; "...a stupid old fellow, deaf as a post..."

[source page 122 of "The Curling Letters of the Zulu War" by Adrian Greaves


17th November 2003Mike McCabe
Lord Kitchener's brother, Walter, was also very deaf - but still made Lt Gen, after having commanded a brigade during the Boer War. Gonville Bromhead's career included two stints (and courses at Hythe) as a Musketry Instructor. This might well have affected his hearing, but the one he passed before commanding B Coy 2nd 24th would also have taught him to control and direct the fire of his company to good effect, especially when he had CSgt Bourne as a relatively inexperienced SNCO - rather than one of the other CSgts in other 2nd 24th Coys.