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Mystery at a KZN forge
Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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Location: Wales
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Ken Gillings recently stayed over at a lodge deep in the Thukela River valley, downstream of Colenso in KwaZulu-Natal and was shown several incredibly well preserved Zulu forges.

The owner’s son discovered what appears to be a belt buckle quite close to one of the forges. He hadn't been able to measure it but it is about 35mm x 30mm and appears to have a regimental number embossed on it.

One of his UK based academic friends feels that it could have belonged to a Colonial serviceman. There is speculation that it might have belonged to someone whose remains were taken to the spear-maker as an ingredient to strengthen the ‘muthi’ – which he thinks is not impossible.

Also attached are photos of one of the forges, some bellows and a stone that was used to sharpen imikhonto (spears).

Any theories will be read with great interest.


1. The mystery buckle close-up



2. Ken with the spear sharpening stone
3. Two pieces of the same bellows
4. One of the forges

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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Melbourne Australia
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Alan,
I don't want to be a wet blanket but the "buckle" is clearly embossed "ER" with the crown, not "VR", so would date from 1953 - later than anything "colonial" - unless, of course, it was lost by one of Francis Drake's companions on his circumnavigation voyage.
Rob
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Alan
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I have raised that point with Ken. Could always be Edwardian with Victoria's crown.

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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Hi Alan
Didn't think of Edward VII - shouldn't post in the middle of the night!
Cheers,
Rob
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Kiwi Sapper


Joined: 05 Mar 2009
Posts: 125
Location: Middle Earth & Home of Narnia; (Auckland, New Zealand)
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Alan wrote:
I have raised that point with Ken. Could always be Edwardian with Victoria's crown.


Really? Surprised

To extrapolate your hypothesis a little further, I feel obliged to ask why Edward, as King, (because it does have E.R, with the "R" standing for Regina / Rex,) use his mother's Crown on military accoutrement's? Surely as "King" the King's Crown would be used?

Er , also his Coronation wasn't until 1901, isn't that a bit late for for an 1879 event......... perhaps?

Now, please, I'm not "taking the wee wee", it just seems illogical and what I want ( really really want Laughing ) is to be told that there is a precedent for this.

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It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.
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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Location: Melbourne Australia
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KS and Alan,

Having had a look at representations in Wikipedia of "St Edward's Crown" - whose image has been used since 1953 to represent Royal authority - and the "Tudor Crown" which it replaced in that role, I'm now more certain that the artifact is post-1953 and the "ER" stands for "Elizabeth Regina".

I can't embed the images from Wikipedia here, but you can find them at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crown_of_Saint_Edward_%28Heraldry%29.svg

Cheers,
Rob
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Kiwi Sapper


Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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I do thank you for your home work. So, the question now "may" be , what does AF6381 denote?

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It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.
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Ken Gillings


Joined: 23 Apr 2006
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Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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Many thanks for the comments. The buckle (?) is clearly very old and it was discovered quite close to a very small spear-head. We believe that this is most likely a sacrifical instrument - i.e., iw would have been used to cut the throat of a goat or a beast, and added to the 'muthi'.
The fact that the crown is a Queen's crown but has an "E" embossed onto it, has us guessing. Bear in mind that the Colonial Regiments probably weren't all that clued up when it came to differences between a Queen's Crown and a King's Crown. WRT Rob D's comment, this could of course be true and I'll try to follow it up, but by then we were well and truly into the reign of the Nationalists, who were trying to remove anything with a crown (after coming to power in 1948). For example, I think it was in 1961 that all crowns were removed from badges etc. In the case of my old Regiment, the Natal Field Artillery, the crown was replaced with the Lion of Batavia but the government allowed us to retain the crown on condition that it didn't feature prominently. It was placed on the hub of the gun's wheel!
Please keep the theories flowing.
Regards, Ken

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Alan
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On 31 May 1961, following a whites-only referendum, the country became a republic and left the Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state, and the last Governor-General became State President.

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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Interesting! Of course, the buckle could have been brought there at any time by anyone from any other location, so the place of its find may or may not be relevant. Identifying this item (by the crown or the number AF 6381, or at least narrowing down the period of its manufacture or use) would be a fascinating achievement.

The lodge is described as "deep in the Thukela Valley" and also "downstream of Colenso." Is this meant to indicate that it is reasonably close to Colenso? If so, it would be well inside former Natal and therefore some distance from the former Zulu border. Or is it far enough downstream to be along the stretch of the river which formed the border itself? Of course, British military forces were crawling all over both Natal and Zululand in the 1880s & '90s, and colonial units at all times. And quite a bit occurred in the vicinity of Colenso in 80/81 and 99/02!

However, solving the riddle of the crown itself would appear to be crucial. With the Victorian period apparently ruled out, deciding between Edward VII and Elizabeth II will be interesting - each of them covering only about nine years. I'm no expert but there seems to be plenty of "grey area" involving the use of Victoria's & Edward's (or the so called King's and Queen's) crowns. I can also certainly see merit in Ken's suggestion of a rather vernacular or confused rendering of the crown and intials by a colonial unit. Is it too early to rule out an Edwardian buckle? After all, Ken describes it as very old, although I suppose a 1950s buckle could also degrade considerably in nearly 60 years.

If Edwardian, then the second half of the ABW or the 1906 rising seem the obvious military events to give rise to the buckle, although of course no particular event is really needed at all - just a force and a soldier/trooper. An expert on army numbers and/or the relevant colonial units is required. I have considered all the Natal forces involved in 1906 and AF suggests nothing to me. I haven't done so for 1899-1902 - rather a lot! (But still feasible). Or might AF stand for something else altogether? But AF 6381 has surely got to hold the answer!

Peter
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Here are my two bits and my first two paragraphs might be mooted by first asking oneself "What would a post 1952 British buckle be doing in the SA bundoo "? The cypher of the currently reigning monarch typically has that "two" somewhere on it of course, in either Roman or (more rarely) in Arabic numerals. Elizabeth II of England is thought of as Elizabeth I of Scotland to some nationalistic Scots though, so perhaps the "II" is occasionally ignored as well in the UK as well? Equally the cypher of Victoria's son should include a "VII", so the whole number thing seems to have been ignored entirely with this buckle unless it's a QVC . That suggests to me right there that this is a colonial manufactured artifact. Also, the wings on the crown of Elizabeth II don't dip down in the middle quite as much as those on the QVC nor are they splayed quite as wide (they are of course modeled on two different crowns). Although the two are very similar, they are different and that looks to be a QVC to me.

Most modern British metalwork after EII's ascension is also "Staybrite" and although it's silly to think some rural Zulu smith would collect Staybrite metalwork to render, it's equally unlikely he'd find any "regulation" British metalwork that wasn't Staybrite . Again, what would a post '52 British buckle be doing here in the first place, "Staybrite" or not? What is the material of that buckle? Steel with gilt or brass plating almost completely worn or polished off? White metal? It appears to be malleable.

Two regiments at least sport the Queen Victoria crown on their kit to this day-- the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, although I believe the former was awarded that honor only after The Great War.

I'm going for a regionally made buckle intended for use by a colonial unit during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The existing mold originally had the Queen Victoria Crown with a "VR" but upon the ascension of Edward VII in 1901 the "V" in the "VR" of the mold was replaced with an "E" thereby producing an incorrect but passable cypher. The buckle was either lost (perhaps along with it's wearer) or stolen and given/sold to a Zulu smith who for whatever reason chose not to melt it down, was interrupted before he could do so, or simply misplaced it. I wonder was the attendant spear point also part of his cache of articles intended for re-smelting?
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Yes, that all makes sense to me, Saw.

P.
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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Melbourne Australia
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I'm starting to think now that the "buckle" appears to be somewhat bent (as shown by the shadow at the top) and the degree of bend may be enough to have distorted the appearance of the crown so that what was originally an accurate "Edwardian" crown now appears to be more "Elizabethan".
Perhaps if we could get a side shot to see just how bent it is?
Or a look at the reverse to see if there's anything significant there?
I'm sure that, within the constraints of the resources available to them, colonial units would have tried to make sure their accoutrements were as accurate as possible.

Rob
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Kiwi Sapper


Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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And, another small worm for the can.
Why would any armourer, quartermaster, or issuer of any part of "Her Majesties property" deface it by stamping a series of alpha numerics across the face of it. Such an abhorrence would drive any RSM into a rage, were he to encounter it whilst carrying out an inspection.

I would be interested to hear the size of the "buckle" as there is surfacing from the depths of my mind, ( and it can be several fathoms five) a feeling that the buckle may have been of no consequence whatsoever, but as a result of the British Army's attitude of NEVER throwing anything away, been recycled as part of an attachment for a piece of equipment which required a recording number.
Hence the defacement.

Wotcha fink?

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It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Now that's some finkin' outsida box and I like it, Kiwi! How about taking this scenario a step further and having a colonial produced shipment of buckles delivered with the correct initials but the wrong crown? Since they're no use for issue as buckles, we simply stamp them (rather unattractively) with a number for our records, issue them for use as tags for some mundane article or another and not pay the supplier! And if a few of them get lost somewhere around Colenso, who cares?

Do we even know that this is a belt buckle? It obviously isn't of the common two piece style (whatever that clever circle-through-a-slot thing is called) and I don't see any hint of any attachment loops. And the dimensions suggest a pretty narrow belt for military issue. 30 mm translates to something like 7/8", doesn't it? Hardly a belt from which I'd want to hang a sword or a revolver. It's sized more like a fitment for a rifle sling, although I've never seen a plate like that on any sling. Seriously, am I missing something or is this thing just WAY too small to be a belt buckle? Isn't that less than an inch by an inch?
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Mystery at a KZN forge
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