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9th June 2004Return to Rorke's Drift?
By Peter Ewart

Just a thought. The recent pilgrimages to Normandy led me to wonder whether any of the defenders of 22/23rd January ever returned to Rorke's Drift after 1879.

Presumably none of the 24th were likely to have managed it, the men anyway - other than, perhaps, the one or two who remained or ended up in South Africa, and the non-24th who also did (Cantwell etc)? Or the odd colonist or two? Adendorff perhaps?

I wonder if Penn Symons found time to revisit RD or Isandlwana in 1899, or whether he was too busy with the worsening situation before the fighting & his death.

Parson Smith, by then a full CF, served again in S Africa for a year from Nov 1903, only 60 miles or so (perhaps a bit more) as the crow flies from RD. In Oct 1904 he intended to spend 3 weeks looking up old friends in Estcourt/Weenen before returning to England but RD would have been just as near, with a railway now as far as Dundee. I wonder.

Anyone come across any recorded visits, or possible/likely returns? One or two old Isandlwana men made it in 1929, so who knows?

9th June 2004Martin Everett
Dear Peter,
It is interesting point. I did some research when preparing an article for our Regimental Journal to cover the 125th events. I have not found in the archives any reports of the 24th defenders revisiting Rorke's Drfit.

Of course, 2nd Battalion returned to South Africa for the Anglo Boer in 1900; only three members had seen service in AZW - the CO - Lt Col Roche, 2i/c Major Palmes and the QM - Capt Burrows. None were at Rorke's Drift. Did they pay a visit to the mission station?

As you say, a likely candidate could be Major General Sir William Penn Symons, although not a defender, died of wounds on 23 October 1899 at Dundee - he could have visited Rorke's Drift

The only account I hold is one from Brig Gen Henry Mainwaring - F Coy 2/24 on 22 January 1879 who revisited Rorke's Drift on 8 March 1921.

There is an accounts of veterans (I think there was one 24th veteran) being present on the 50th anniversary in the Natal Witness (I have a copy somewhere) in 1929.

Of course, a number of soldiers purchased their discharge and settled in South Africa. Who knows?
10th June 2004Martin Everett
Dear Peter,

In 1929 during the 50th anniversary events the 3 members of the 2/24th party were shown around Fugitives' Drift by a 'Mr Power' who was present when bodies of Melvill and Coghill were found in 1879. Who is 'Trooper Power'?
11th June 2004Philip Pearce
Know for a fact that my gt grand father (R. Jones) didn't return so you can cross him from the list
11th June 2004Ian Essex
Good question, was thinking about that myself.
Further to this, I seem to recall seeing a photo of a re-enactment of some part of Rorke's Drift by 'surviving old soldiers'.
Can anyone give any more info:
Who was in the photo?
Where was it held and when?
Where can we see the photo?
11th June 2004Martin Everett
Dear Ian,
I am sure that Peter will not mind me stealing his thunder.

There were two re-enactments staged by 2/SWB. The first when they were station at Agra, India (without my notes to hand) in about 1926. The second which i believe it is the one you refer to at the Northern Command Tatto at Ravensworth Castle, Gateshead 7-14 July 1934. No survivng RD soldiers took part but they visited the tattoo, namely Saxty, Wood, Bourne, Jobbins and Cooper. The photo is reproduced in 'Images of Wales' - see 'Shop'