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DateOriginal Topic
28th February 2004African Native troops at RD
By Chris
Where there any black African defenders at Rorkes Drift?
28th February 2004John Young

The first shots were fired by men of the Natal Native Horse, survivors from Isandlwana, but then they rode past the post and made off.

There was a hospital patient from the Natal Native Contingent, who had been wounded at Sihayo's umuzi, who was in the same room as Hook. When Hook left the room, he heard the Zulus questioning him, before that killed him. He was certainly a casualty of the action, but whether he actually contributed to the defence I can't say.

John Y.
28th February 2004Martin Everett

The Rev Smith had a native servant - who again probably was not involved in the defence but may have helped his master distribute ammunition. Who knows?
28th February 2004Chris
I knew about the NNH survivors, the hospital patient and Rev Smiths servent were a first. Where any of the 3 Natal Mtd Police constables or the single NNC private black?
28th February 2004John Young

The N.M.P. were Europeans, although there is some evidence to suggest they did have African troopers/guides at the time of the Anglo-Zulu War.

By virtue of the fact N.N.C. was a private, indicates he was an African, a native of Mkhungu’s people, recruited from Weenen County, near Weenen.

John Y.
28th February 2004Peter Ewart
Reynolds was quite clear that Smith's "Kafir groom had bolted" when Smith was apparently looking for his horse immediately before the attack & after returning from the top of Shiyane.

This suggests that (a) the servant was black, and (b) was not at the defence (unless Smith had been hasty in his assumption) but that (c), had Smith had the opportunity, he might well have departed too, denying himself the acclaim which he later received and - it has to be admitted - enjoyed, for the remainder of his life.

Reynolds' account has been published more than once but I have taken the above from "Rorke's Drift by Those Who Were There", the recent book by Lee Stevenson & Alun Baynham Jones.

29th February 2004Julian whybra
Peter, you are correct about Smith's native groom bolting but his native servant remained at Rorke's Drift
29th February 2004Peter Ewart

I'd assumed (a very dangerous thing to do!) that his servant & groom were the same. Shoddy work - should have referred to "The Roll Call" first! Thanks.

1st March 2004Simon Copley
Peter, I don't think Rev Smith's courage is undiminished by the fact that he was forced to stay. Having faced the inevitable, he then behaved heroically.

It has been said that true courage is not the same as being fearless but behaving courageously in spite of fear.

All the regular soldiers were also at RD under some kind of "compulsion" and their bravery has been recognized.

As the parable in the good book says: those who say they will not serve but then do so are to be commended...

Here endeth the lesson.
1st March 2004Peter Ewart

Can't disagree with a word you write & it is absolutely true that in the circumstances in which Smith found himself he acquitted himself very well indeed. And of course he had already shown his mettle during the Langalibalele affair five or six years earlier.

I suspect my remarks hint just a little uncharitably at the fact that he came out of the whole affair smelling of roses (and why shouldn't any of those involved do so, of course) and landed a plum job (compared with his last) with regular pay and tolerable conditions, not to mention a lifetime's supply of acclamation.

That sounds even more uncharitable but I am mindful that only seven and a half years earlier he had vowed to serve as a missionary for the rest of his life and while still a comparatively young man he suddenly left that service to become a CF. He was still in the same business in a way but there was a world of difference between his struggles of the 1870s and his later career. It is just that I often wonder why he left the missionary service so soon, although must admit at the same time there were many others couldn't stick it out and that he had given it a very good shot since his mid-twenties.

To be fair to him, I have seen nothing written by his old college nor his missionary society which showed disappointment in his decision - quite the opposite in fact, as both "milked" his fame for some years afterwards, even trying to secure him a medal. I have undertaken a fair bit of research on his young life and especially on those who influenced him during his time at his college in London, when he was a typically earnest student doing parish work in the city with a determination & fervour to become a missionary to "convert the heathen" wherever he was sent.

Like many missionaries in Natal & Zululand, he then found it easier said than done. The McCrorie/Colenso business certainly didn't help, although he had already been primed on that before leaving Kent & he took the orthodox line. His correspondence & reports to the SPG and his old college began to dry up in the late 70s, and I suspect possible disillusionment - or overwork. If that was the case he wouldn't be the first or last. I also have to acknowledge that he was putting himself into a position of danger again by joining the forces, and he certainly saw action again.

What I do firmly believe, especially as a youth and young man, is that he was a most remarkable, unusual and strong character, and in fairness it has to be said that all who met him in later life appear to testify to his wonderful personality.

It is just that, while his contemporaries in the mission field of the 1870s were still struggling gamely on into the 20th century in their old age, often with broken health, he was swanning around the globe on round-the-world cruises in between his comfortable hotel retirement.

Now I'm becoming cynical!

2nd March 2004Simon Copley
Thank you so much for going to the trouble to reply at such length. It was really informative and interesting. It was especially interesting for a Kentish man and ex clergyman enjoying a bit of a break after burning out!!. Where was Smith in Kent? I was born and lived in Chislehurst (home of the Prince Imperial) and worked in Cwmbran in Gwent - so lots of RD/Zulu connections.

It always disappointed me that "Zulu" portrayed the token Christian present as a naive and weak man who did his utmost to undermine the defenders. The truth is much more interesting but probably too unpalatable.
2nd March 2004Peter Ewart

Smith was in Canterbury from 1868 to 1871, sailing to S Africa that summer. (Not every publication reports the year of his sailing accurately). He had studied in London for a couple of years or so beforehand.

Yes, it is a shame in many ways that Smith was omitted entirely from the film - just one of the "changes" which have galvanised us all on the other thread, but there you are. I suppose it was compounded by replacing him with the other missionary who wasn't there. Again, a bit of licence being used by the film makers, but when you think of Smith's role in the defence - handing out ammo and exhorting the men to stop swearing but to keep shooting if the eye-witness accounts are to be believed - you'd think the drama was ready-made for the screen. I believe it is widely held that a pacifist's role (Hawkins/Wit)was very much in keeping with the flavour of the 1960s.

Ironically, Hawkins was appalled at the end product and was less happy with how his performance was portrayed than with any other film he made.

As for Smith, I still have two disappointments (so far): I have not yet located an unpublished photo of him (and as far I'm aware nor has anyone else, but of course could be wrong) but still have some untapped potential opportunities there. And I have found no report of any interest he might have had in cricket, whereas I have very many accounts of South African missionaries & their congregations and pupils doing so, as well as AZW participants.