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Blood's Pontoons
Dewi Evans


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 177
Location: Chwilog, North Wales
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Does anyone know whether there are any books detailing Blood's Pontoon as used during the Zulu War Question

Thanks,

Dewi Evans.
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 954
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Dewi,

Do you mean the technical description of the pontoons, or the actual use of the pontoons on the Tugela?

John Y.
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Dewi Evans


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 177
Location: Chwilog, North Wales
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Hi John,

Yes I mean the technical description of the pontoons i.e. plans, drawings etc, etc Exclamation

Regards,

Dewi.
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Bill Cainan1


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 107
Location: Lampeter
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Dewi

Aha, at long last a Sapper question !

The Blood Pontoon was designed by Lieutenant Bindon Blood (later General Sir Bindon Blood”). I quote from his reminiscences “Four Score Years and Ten” published in 1933.
“In 1865 I was appointed to one of the Troops of the Royal Engineers, of which the speciality was the transport and rapid construction of floating bridges in ‘First Line’. In November 1866 I marched to Chatham with this Troop, and we spent an instructive and very pleasant year there, returning to Aldershot on November 1867.
While my troop was at Chatham in the summer of 1867, our higher authorities decided that our pontoon bridge equipment was unsatisfactory in some particulars, and invited officers to submit designs for a new pattern. So I submitted a new design which was approved for trial, and some time after my troop returned to Aldershot in November 1867, I was sent back to Chatham to carry out the necessary manufacture and experiments under the orders of the R.E. Committee, which then attended to such matters. I remained at Chatham, with a short interval at Aldershot in 1870, until I went to India in 1871, the new pontoon equipment being finally adopted in 1870.”

The “Blood” Pontoon (Mk II) replaced the Blanshard Pontoon (Mk I) and remained in use until 1889. Because of shortage of Mark II pontoons, it is believed both were employed during the Zulu war.

The “Treatise on Military Carriages and other manufactures of the Royal Carriage Department” by Major W Kemmis RA published in 1876 gives the following detail on the pontoon:

“The pontoon can be used either as a pontoon on a bridge or as a boat: Its outside dimensions are 21’1” x 5’1” x 2’6.5” in depth; its weight is 7cwt 1qr 0lbs., and its tonnage 9.685 tons. In horizontal section it is rectangular, its sides are nearly straight and vertical, and its ends rounded. The framework, which is very light, is of yellow deal and rock elm, the straight parts being made of the former, and the bent of the latter. The frame is boarded over with yellow pine, and each side of the boarding covered with canvas attached by India rubber solvent. The canvas is covered with marine glue before the pontoon is painted, and the bottom protected by four longitudinal ribs shod with iron friction plates. The pontoon has eight wooden handles along each side, about half way up, six attached by rope grummets and two by wire, the latter serving as eyes to receive lashing ropes, it has also a ring at each end for a cable, and is fitted with four rowlocks along the gunwale at each side, and at each end with one for a steering oar; it also has fitments for securing the saddle beam.”

The Treatise has a 1/48 scale drawing of the Mk III Pontoon wagon with the pontoon in place (The Treatise was reprinted in 2004 by D.P & G Publishers).

There is an Illustrated London News engraving entitled “The Zulu War : New trestle and pontoon bridge over the Tugela River”. This illustration has appeared in a number of recent publications (eg on Page 204 of “The 1879 Zulu War through the eyes of the Illustrated London News” compiled by Ron Lock & Peter Quantrill).

However, if you want to see exactly what one looked like, there is a large scale model of one in the RE Museum in Chatham (probably originally used for instructional purposes), plus a model of the Mk I pontoon. The MkII is on its wagon.

The Pontoon equipment had been sent to South Africa with 2 Field Company RE, though because it had not arrived on the Walmer Castle (with the Company) as expected on the 3rd January 1879, there is reference to Lt Hayes and 20 men (of 2 Fd Company RE) being left behind at Durban to receive it. However, the delay in receiving it can not have been long as the OC of 2 Fd Coy, Captain Warren Wynne, mentions in his diary on the 7th January 1879: “The stores etc of half a pontoon troop, besides other bridge equipment, follow for me in two or three days time.” The crossing of the Tugela was achieved by Lt Main (2 Fd Company RE) constructing a pont (ferry) and barrel raft. It is not clear if the Pontoon Troop crossed the Tugela with Pearson’ column. It is likely it was left in the vicinity of Fort Pearson.

The pontoon bridge across the Tugela was not constructed until June 1879 when it replaced the pont. Construction was overseen by Capt Bindon Blood (its designer) who had arrived with his 30 Field Company RE as reinforcements for the second invasion.

Bill

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Bill Cainan
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Damian O'Connor


Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 76
Location: Essex, UK
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And Churchill served under Bindon Blood on the Malakand field Force!
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Dewi Evans


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 177
Location: Chwilog, North Wales
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Bill,

Thank you very much for the excellent information. I'll look up the publications you've mentioned with interest. Furthermore I hope to be at Chatham for the Zulu Weekend next month, and can't wait to see the large scale models. Thanks again for your detailed response.

Very Happy Dewi.
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 954
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Dewi,

In case you can't wait there's a model of one of the pontoons on its wagon on Zulu War link of http://www.remuseum.org.uk/rem_his_campaign.htm#null

John Y.
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Dewi Evans


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 177
Location: Chwilog, North Wales
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John,

Thanks very much for the link, great.

Very Happy Dewi.
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Blood's Pontoons
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