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Walter Dunne - Letter from Rorke's Drift
peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 863
Location: UK
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A truly wonderful lot sold at Lawrence's Auctions this afternoon.
http://www.lawrences.co.uk/Catalogues/FS310114/page006.html
Rorke's Drift. An album compiled by Winifred Warneford, containing drawings, newspaper cuttings, portrait photographs and photograph views, mostly concerning life in Ireland and the Cape Colony between 1872-1900, including a 2pp. ALs written by Walter Alphonsus Dunne to [Gonville] Warneford, dated 'Rorke's Drift, 24 Jan. '79' providing a first hand account of the historic defence of Rorke's Drift, 'About 1000 of the Kafirs came on here + attacked us on the same day (22nd). We had got about 2 hours notice + fortified the place with [...] of grain, Biscuit boxes, etc.' and describing the aftermath, 'The fight was kept up all night + in the morning the Kafirs retreated leaving 351 dead bodies.', contemporary half morocco gilt, folio

Walter Alphonsus Dunne (1853-1908) was Assistant Commissary Officer at the time of the attack on Rorke's Drift. He was mentioned in despatches for his role in the battle and recommended for the Victoria Cross, although he did not receive it. He retired in 1908, having attained the rank of Colonel in the Royal Army Service Corps. Gonville Warneford (1872-1904) was the son of Captain W.J.J. Warneford, resident magistrate at the Cape Colony. Gonville Warneford became Captain of the Indian Staffs Corps and Assistant Political at Aden.


Estimate: 1000-1500

As far as I am aware (and happy to be corrected), this was a hitherto unknown letter, written the day after battle/relief. Rorke's Drift memorabilia does not come much better. The auctioneer's top estimate of 1,500 was blown away, the hammer price of 4,800 falling 200 shy of my guess beforehand. Whoever won the auction has secured a stunning piece which eclipses anything sold in the Wallis frenzy last week.

Peter
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1326
Location: Wales
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Looks like a fascinating collection.

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Mel


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 344
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It's interesting that he puts the number of Zulus at 1000.

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Mel
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Peter Ewart


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

Yes, it seems to be a hitherto unknown letter, especially if it has been in private hands. Presumably coming down the family from the days of Winifred Warneford - and a reminder that original material like this, with its atmosphere and immediacy (even if perhaps relating little new to us) still lurks about. How many others wrote to friends whose families & descendants had no connection with the writer, and - if they survive - are in the hands of those with no interest or connection with the AZW, or military or even family history at all? Not as many as there once were, but undoubtedly some, and they'll surface one day. The scrapbook itself, apparently compiled (or continued until) some years later, was typical of many, with correspondence, photos, invitations & other ephemera pasted in. It's good that it has survived - and at that price it's future is secure now! Some of the photos might have John Young & Ron Sheeley drooling!

Dunne's own reminiscences were published in the Army Service Corps Journal in 1891 (& republished by Greenhill Books 25 years ago) and although very detailed, as well as being very movingly and well written, don't quite have the immediacy of the letter in the album, in which he still lacks knowledge of the fate of some of the fallen. Dunne was one of those who saw action in the AZW, Sekukuni affair & Transvaal Rebellion in quick succession, but was unique in that he survived the Defence of Rorke's Drift and the Siege of Potchefstroom - where he once more found himself behind mealie bags on a site the size of a tennis court! His very uniqueness in this respect may well have helped up the price of this scrapbook.

Thanks for posting the details of this transaction here, Peter!

Peter
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peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 863
Location: UK
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The letter was auctioned again this month, this time reaching 15,500 hammer and being bought by "a museum." So even with buyer's and seller's commission, the February buyer has doubled his money - if that was the sole objective.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2835921/Incredibly-rare-hand-account-Zulu-battle-written-day-actual-paper-Rorke-s-Drift-sells-15-000.html
A rare eyewitness account by one of the British heroes of the Battle of Rorke's Drift - where 150 soldiers fought off 4,000 Zulu warriors - has sold for 15,500 at auction.
Assistant Commissary Officer (ACO) Walter Dunne's letter, dated January 24, 1879, describes how he and a vastly outnumbered group of soldiers successfully defended the outpost in South Africa.
The ACO was recommended for the Victoria Cross for his role in the heroic stand, which was later immortalised in the 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker.
The letter, which was bought by a museum, reveals how, together with a comrade, he fortified the mission station by organising a makeshift barricade from 200lb mealie bags which were stacked 5ft high.
The following day, ACO Dunne picked up a delivery note for the mealie bags and used it to write the letter to friend Capt Warneford in Cape Colony in South Africa.

He describes how, after the Zulus killed 1,500 British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot at Isandlwana, they headed to the outpost at Rorke's Drift, quickly surrounding the troops.
The Rorke's Drift letter was discovered in an album of letters, paintings and other items collected by Captain WJ Warneford's wife Winifred.
The sale at auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, also saw letters from Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, who commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Foot, fetch 1,200 when they went under the hammer. They were bought by a collector who specialises in the Zulu wars.
Lt Bromhead was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the battle.
Letters from Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Durnford, who was killed at nearby Isandlwana, were also part of the sale.
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peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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Location: UK
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Well, who would have thought it?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2883354/Last-remnant-Rorke-s-Drift-Tiny-scrap-paper-gives-rare-hand-account-day-British-redcoats-fought-Zulus-Captain-thousands-them.html

It's a bold step and hopefully some funding might be available as I thought the RRW Museum was struggling financially.

Peter
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AMB


Joined: 07 Oct 2005
Posts: 871
Location: Queensland, Australia
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The letter is now on display at Brecon. An interesting piece on BBC Wales:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-Wales-30824278

AMB
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Walter Dunne - Letter from Rorke's Drift
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