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DateOriginal Topic
22nd December 2004Black as hell, thick as grass
By Robert Jones
I have always been led to believe that it was Bob Hall, a civilian meat contracter, who had escaped from Isandlwana, who shouted this warning {Ian Knight,s Zulu-Isandlwana and Rorke,s Drift} but now I am told in the December issue of the Anglo-Zulu War Hitorical Society,s Journal that it was Sergeant Gallagher who spoke these words after Fred Hitch had told him that the Zulus were coming.
I tend to stick by my original belief that it was Bob Hall----can anyone help to clear this slight hiccup up?
22nd December 2004Peter Ewart

I believe the source for this occurrence is Lugg, a hospital patient, whose account of the engagement (as published) is as imperfect as those from the other defenders, but probably as good as can be expected, given the circumstances. If it was shouted by anyone, he was probably heard but not seen by Lugg.

Other accounts suggest the words may have come from Padre Smith, civilan Hall (or Pte Wall!) or Henderson. There seems to be some confusion as to which group included the man who was supposed to have shouted it, as Lugg and others appeare to have confused the pair (Henderson & Hall?) who rode out to assess the Zulus' whereabouts, and Smith, Reynolds & Wit, who also arrived hurriedly from the Shiyane shouting a warning. Morris suggests Wall, Ian Knight explains how Morris may have mis-identified him but in other accounts doesn't repeat the exact exclamation.

Lugg apparently thought Hall a Natal Mounted Police man, or his native Devonian newspaper may have misread his letteer, as Stevenson & Baynham Jones point out that The Times prints PMB instread of NMP. The latter would at least identify Hall correctly, as he wasn't in the NMP.

Although the quotation has become well known, I suspect it may have been embellished by Lugg or by the press, as Henderson is reported to have used the phrase apparently calmly, when asked the position of the Zulus upon his return.

Establishing exactly who may have said it, if it ever was said, would be difficult, given the many conflicting accounts.

22nd December 2004Robert Jones
Many thanks for the quick reply----your answer just about sums it up.
I had noticed that Ian Knight does not repeat the exact words in his later books.