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Hidden Gem
Mark Hobson


Joined: 18 Sep 2005
Posts: 106
Location: Halifax
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Came across a bit of a hidden gem on TV yesterday, whilst off work sick and flicking with the remote control.

The Travel Channel - 251 at 3.30pm. Admittedly, it was a cooking programme, with the presenter travelling around South Africa, but this particular episode found him touring the Zulu War battlefields and the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal.

He visited Isandlwana where he met up with Rob Gerrard at Isandlwana Lodge. There was some superb footage around the Lodge (which looked beautiful on tv, especially the rockpool and terrace), and then they went down to the battlefield, where Rob Gerrard took him through the course of the battle. There was some stunning shots of the mountain and the monuments, including Younghusband's cairn.

Later they both went to Rorke's Drift, with a lengthy telling of the defence, and some shots of the hospital, the well-built cattle kraal and the rocky terrace. Rob Gerrard had a bit of a dig at certain modern-day historians for suggesting the 11 VC recipients shouldn't have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

There was also time for the presenter to visit the Drakensbergs on horseback as well as Durban.

It was only a 30 minute quickie but all in all worth catching if it's repeated - which most programmes are on Sky.

Mark Hobson
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Rusteze


Joined: 05 Oct 2009
Posts: 56
Location: Hampshire UK
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Called "Flavours of South Africa". Episode on Kwazulu Natal showing again on Tuesday 14 February at 02.30.

Steve

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Rusteze
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Occasionally we Yanks dream of how different things might be were it not for the likes of Saratoga and Yorktown-either we'd be watching documentaries like this one or you'd be watching "Jersey Girls" on the telly. Another one I'm sorry to have missed.
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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
Posts: 548
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This post has nothing whatsoever to do with the thread, so do please shoot me for going off-topic, but It's interesting to note that the soldiers serving in Zululand were reading accounts of the war in the newspapers they were being sent by their families. One of of the men I have been researching comments on seeing his letters home published in a newspaper. I've often wondered what was the men's reaction to what they were reading, and to the coverage of the AZW.
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Mark Hobson


Joined: 18 Sep 2005
Posts: 106
Location: Halifax
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An interesting point. I'd suspect they'd have felt quite a lot of pride that they had not been forgotten mixed with anguish at reading of lost colleagues. Reading of events as they were viewed back in Britain might have increased their homesickness and a wish for a home posting! Especially with all the night scares after Isandlwana.

Of course the reality they were experiencing first-hand would have been somewhat different to the sanitized version in the papers.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Paul

The interesting thing is that in many cases - or most cases, I'd think - the serving officer or soldier had no idea their letters would appear in the press, as their families generally forwarded them to the local paper without referring to the writer (as happened in later wars, too). In fact I'd be interested to learn whether, in your newspaper research, you have come across any cases in which the writer suggests his letter should be forwarded to the press? (But if this is covered in your NAM offering, I'm happy to wait!)

So not only might they have been surprised to see their letters published in papers they eventually had access to themselves, but there would have been plenty of scope for embarrassment or even unpleasantness, whenever a comrade disagreed with, or objected to, something said. One can imagine the reaction, whether officer of ranker: "Don't blame me - I never dreamed my good lady/the missus would send the thing to the papers, and anyway that's not at all what I wrote or how I worded it."

Offhand, I can think of a couple of instances where the repurcussions were very unpleasant. I think it was Curling (but correct me if I've mis-remembered) who was furious at his family for sending his letter to the press, so that he was highly embarrassed at the result. And, of course, Snook's effort caused a bombshell in the press, Parliament and the upper echelons in Zululand, with his claims about the Khambula aftermath. Only sleight of hand by Wood (again!) appears to have got him out of that tight corner.

Peter

P.S. Why not a separate thread for your post?
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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
Posts: 548
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Good morning Peter,

Not sure if my little aside deserves a thread of its own, but as you know, families sent out newspapers to the men serving in Zululand on a regular basis, and their letters home comment on how glad they are to receive them. Which is why, as the war progressed to its later stages, the men would have been reading not only the sometimes garbled accounts in the British press of what was going on in the war, but also other soldiers' letters. I take your point about the officers, but among the OR I sometimes wonder if this pastime didn't acquire a certain momentum of its own: 1933 Pte 'Charles Roberts', 2/4th, for example, commented with amusement on reading one of his letters in the local paper which his father had sent him, and then proceeded to fire off at least a further six (we know of eight of his letters), all of which were published. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of this activity got a little competitive, with details becoming (how shall we put it?) embellished, or rumour being reported as fact.

Letter writing itself, of course, was something of a minor industry during the AZW - as it probably is in any war, come to that - but while not all of the men either could or did write, the extent of the documentation which has not survived can be guessed at from an aside in a letter Owen Ellis wrote to his father in Caernarfon on New Year's Eve 1878:

[You said that] you were worried at not having had a letter from me for about six weeks prior to the 20th of November. I can't remember exactly when I wrote, but you should have had at least one or two during that time. I sent several letters together from Durban, Port Natal, sometime around the middle or the end of October, and after that I sent four letters from Pietermaritzburg round about the end of November. Not only that, I posted two letters in Helpmekaar, and the one I am going to try to put together now is the third from this place. So, as you see, I have written some nine or ten letters, including this one, since about the end of October. I can see why you were worried, not knowing the reason, but thanks be to God, my dear Father, I'm glad to be able to tell you that I am as fit as a fiddle ... [my translation]

If that is in any way indicative of the letter-writing activities of even some of the literate soldiers during the AZW, then a substantial amount of primary source material is either out there in private hands, or has simply not survived. Of course, not everything that was penned by these men is going to revolutionise our view of the AZW. Many of them wrote missives along the lines of:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Hope this finds you well. I am OK. We were in a big battle on [...] and thanks be to God I'm still alive. Please send socks.

Your loving son [...]

One could sometimes wish that they had used their time to give us something a little more substantial; but then again, of course, our interests and concerns were not theirs.
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Galloglas
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Tells us a lot about human optimism; the hope of still being alive by the time that a long haul postage chain actually delivered the required socks.

I'm sometimes left wondering how authentic these things are. Many soldiers could knit and darn, and, Natal was hardly a world without socks.

Unless, of course, it was passing through a hitherto undocumented pre-sock era.

G
Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
Posts: 548
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I think I was being a little tongue in cheek about the socks, G ...

Confused
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Galloglas
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Thank heaven for that, I thought it was just me doing it.

G
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