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DateOriginal Topic
30th June 2004Trooper Thorne at RD
By Ray Thorne
Following a visit to RD in Dec. 2001 where I saw the grave to my namesake in the cemetary there, I posted a query asking if anyone had any biographical details on this man who was in the 6th Dragoons and drowned in the river on 25th Oct 1884. Martin replied with details of the Reg. museum - although the correct one was in York not Edinburgh, Martin. They tell me he was a member of the military escorting Cetshawo back to be reinstated on his throne, but could give no further details.
I am just repeating my query now in the hope that the 125th anniversary visits and interest may have resulted in some more info being discovered on this poor soldier, who could just be a relative? anyone know anything?
1st July 2004Martin Everett
Dear Ray,
One of difficulties is that in tohse days the papers of soldiers who died in service were not kept - no pension to pay. The only answer to to track down a newspaper report of Tpr Thorne's death in a local newspaper - the starting point has to be Natal. This may give a reference to his home town.
1st July 2004John Young

Try the Pay & Muster Roll for the "Skins" at the time, held at the National Archives, Kew, there may be an entry for effects and/or details of his next of kin.

John Y.
3rd July 2004Peter Ewart

As Martin says, there may well be a report of the fatality in one or more of the Natal papers. You can research these - Mercury, Witness, Colonist, Watchman, etc - at Colindale.

The Muster Rolls & Pay Lists for the 6th Inniskillings for that period should be found in the "New Series" covering 1878-98, under WO16/1-3049. (In the National Archives, as John says above).

The 6th Inniskillings did accompany Cetshwayo back into Zululand, but not from England to S Africa, as they had been garrisoned in Natal since 1881 and remained until 1890. The drowning of Thorne took place nearly two years after the reinstatement itself, of course.

Various squadrons of the "Skins" were deployed separately throughout Zululand during the 1880s so I think it unlikely to be able to pin him down precisely from published references to their actions without referring to the regimental returns at Kew, unless a published account actually mentions the accident itself.

When they restored the King they crossed into the Reserve at the Lower Tugela & proceed to Port Durnford, where they met him on disembarkation and accompanied him inland. Thorne may have been one of this party (in Jan 1883). This was a detachment of 140 only, and an illustration of their crossing appeared in The Graphic of 10 Feb 1883, although doesn't (to me, at least) seem to agree with the written description of the event provided by the officer who made the sketch. A copy of the finished illustration appears on p40 of Prof Laband's excellent "Atlas of the Later Zulu Wars, 1883-88" (UNP, P'maritzburg, 2001).

One can, in fact, follow some of the movements of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons during this period from the same publication, although because they were deployed mostly in single or double squadrons here, there & everywhere, one can't keep tabs on all of them easily.

In June 1884 the Northmapton Reg't began to build Fort Northampton on the Zulu side of the river at Rorke's Drift. Because of Usuthu trouble in the Nkandla in July, a detachment of 6th Inniskillings was sent up to Fort Northampton on 14 August & in Sept the fort was further strengthened. It would seem that Thorne may well have been one of the detachment based at Ft Northampton during this period, when he drowned.

Is he buried in the little 1879 cemetery at Rorke's Drift? Is the source for the drowning an inscription on the stone? I'd think it likely that the correspondence or even reports of the Swedish Missionary Society may have mentioned it, and even possibly Charles Johnson's correspondence from St Augustine's, half a dozen miles away, and if I see anything I'll come back. He did mention the presence of local military quite often. But for genealogical clues, the muster rolls/pay lists are probably the best chance, given that there'll be no surviving army service record in WO97. Or a newpaper report covering the depot town, which may well contain background details on the casualty, once news arrived in England or Ireland. I don't suppose his age is given on the stone? That would, at least, help to narrow down the genealogical task too.

4th July 2004Martin Everett
Hi Peter,

From my local knowledge:

OCT 25TH 1884

Pte Thorne is buried in SE corner of the 24th cemetery.

5th July 2004Ray
Thankyou Martin & Peter for your interesting replies. I'll keep chipping away, but will come back to the site from time to time to see if there are any more replies. The Regt. museum sent me the regt. diaries for 1883/4 but the only deaths mentioned are two officer's horses!! Priorities!! They also said I was the 4th person to enquire about him, and they would be interested to have any concrete info. Thanks again.
6th July 2004Martin Everett
Dear Ray,

Sounds as if you are giving up too easily.
It is worth trying local Natal Newspapers. You really need a first name - then try 1871 and 1881 census. The latter is on searchable CD-ROM.