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
19th December 2003Christmas 1878/79
By Arthur Bainbridge
Would the soldiers have celebrated Christmas before the campaign got under way, or would it have been just another day.May I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year,good health to you all.
20th December 2003Peter Ewart

A number of the participants (soldiers as well as officers) tell us in their letters home what they were doing at Christmas time, 1878. Several companies were still on the march all that week on the way to Helpmekaar. Not surprisingly, the one constant thread in all their accounts is the awful weather & the frustrating delays it caused to oxen transport, horses and footslogging. Rain, more rain and yet more rain, mud and sheer exhaustion had much of the infantry absolutely deadbeat and soaked to the skin, day and night, by the second half of December. Then the awful conditions at Helpmekaar. More mud - and rivers of water washing under the tents, soaking much of their gear all over again.

Not surprisingly, one chap wrote rather sourly that he would never forget his Christmas of 1878! A week or so later most of them were in action somewhere. The amusing (but hardly surprising) thing is that all this seems to have been ignored in films, contemporary engravings & later paintings, etc. The infantry are portrayed in pristine uniforms straight out of the quartermaster's store, instead of looking like refugees who had been marching & sleeping rough in filthy clothes for weeks and would be doing similarly for several months yet.

Only the occasional photograph betrays the situation, reminding us that officers on campaign anywhere tended to improvise and, I suppose to a lesser extent, so would Tommy too. Experts on military uniforms (which excludes me) frequently point out these little differences in the captions to published photos & I find these realistic little gems fascinating.

In 1878 Christmas was, in fact, not far removed from just another day to much of the British population anyway.

6th January 2004rai england
Over this period the 24th played cricket against the colonials in Pmberg, both teams were decimated at Isandlwana.