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Monday, January 26, 2015 Anthony Durnford in South Africa - Friends and SA friend John Colenso First Anglican Bishop of Natal Dispelling more myths

Before his posting to South Africa, Anthony spent time in Scotland, and then later in 1864, he was posted to China, but became ill on the way.  Gen Gordon, assisted him in his recovery.

In case you are wondering just what significance this has in relation to Anthony's life, much has been written about his "bad" traits, but not too many reflected on his relationship with two of his friends from his days in the Royal Engineers.     So before another preposterous story emerges, the facts.

At the Royal Engineers with Anthony, were two young men, Howard Elphinstone, and Charles Gordon.  All three were friends and in their careers became brave soldiers, and shared many of the same qualities.   Was that from their teachings? or simply their philosophy.  Was it these same qualities that ensured their friendship?

Howard Elphinstone                   

Born in Livonia, Elphinstone joined the Corps of Royal Engineers as a gentleman cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in December 1847.

With the outbreak of the Crimean War, Elphinstone was posted to the Crimea and it was during the Siege of Sebastopol that he won the Victoria Cross.

Victoria Cross

On 18 June 1855, he was 25 years old, and a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

His citation read:
For fearless conduct, in having, on the night after the unsuccessful attack on the Redan, volunteered to command a party of volunteers, who proceeded to search for and bring back the scaling ladders left behind after the repulse; and while successfully performing this task, of rescuing trophies from the Russians, Captain Elphinstone conducted a persevering search, close to the enemy, for wounded men, twenty of whom he rescued and brought back to the Trenches.

Further honours

With the end of the war he was decorated by both Napoleon III, Emperor of France being appointed as a Knight of the Legion of Honour; and Abdülmecid I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire who appointed him to the 5th class of the Order of the Medjidie.

Subsequent career

Elphinstone ended the Crimean War as a brevet Major and as a substantive second captain in the Royal Engineers but was promoted to the substantive Army (but not Corps) rank of Major in 1858.

In 1859 he joined the Royal Household of Queen Victoria as governor to Prince Arthur, the third son of Queen Victoria, and later also governor to Prince Leopold, Her Majesty's fourth son. In 1865 the Queen rewarded him for his service as governor by appointing him as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (Civil division).

In 1868 he was appointed a brevet Lieutenant-Colonel and in 1870 he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

Further honours came Elphinstone's way when Prince Arthur obtained his majority in 1871, firstly in May he was appointed Comptroller of the Household to Prince Arthur, the same month he was made a Companion of the Military Division of Order of the Bath, and finally in July was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the Bath.

He married Annie Frances Cole (1856-1938) and they settled at Pinewood, Bagshot, close to Prince Arthur's home at Bagshot Park. Lady Elphinstone lived at Pinewood until her death in 1938.

 They had four daughters: Victoria (1877-1952); Irene (1878-1957), Olive (1882-1968) and Mary (1888-1965). All four married army officers. Mary married Colonel Robert Singleton McClintock, son of Francis Leopold McClintock.

Promotions also followed; in 1872 his substantive promotion to Major was confirmed  and the following year he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.

Returning to military service Elphinstone served as an Aide-de-camp to the Queen in 1877 and was promoted to Colonel at the end of 1881 and was appointed as Officer Commanding Royal Engineers in Mauritius, a post he was reluctant to take up, so much so that he was prepared to resign from the army; however under customs then allowed in the British Army, a posting could be avoided if an other officer was prepared to take the posting instead.

Normally this involved payment to the substitute officer but Elphinstone was fortunate to meet fellow Royal Engineer officer, Colonel Gordon (Gordon of Khartoum) who was willing to take the posting to Mauritius without payment. During 1884–5 he served as military attache in Berlin In 1887 he was promoted to Major-General but drowned in 1890 when he fell overboard while on a trip to Madeira.


There is a brass plaque to his honour in the Nave of Exeter Cathedral. It names the people who attended Elphinstone's memorial service in the cathedral - a large number were royalty and Queen Victoria sent a representative. His VC is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London.

  • Sir Henry Elphinstone was Queen Victoria's Aide-de-camp at the time of the Zulu Wars.
  • One of his friends was Col Anthony Durnord
  • He worked with Queen Victoria's son Prince Arthur, who also was at the Royal Military Acadamy
  • Another of his friends Col Gordon stepped in and offered to take his place in Mauritius
  • His actions of bravery earned him a Victoria Cross
  • He put his own life in danger in order to save others.
Now how interesting is his story, another who risked his life and thought of his fellow men.

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
KG KT KP GCB GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO GBE VD TD (Arthur William Patrick Albert; 1 May 1850 – 16 January 1942) was a member of the British Royal Family who served as the Governor General of Canada, the 10th since Canadian Confederation.

Born the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Arthur was educated by private tutors before entering the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich at the age of 16.

Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the British Army, where he served for some 40 years, seeing service in various parts of the British Empire. During this time he was also created as a royal duke, becoming the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, as well as the Earl of Sussex.

He was appointed as Governor General of Canada in 1911 by his nephew, King George V, on the recommendation of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom H. H. Asquith, to replace the Earl Grey as viceroy, occupying the post until succeeded by the Duke of Devonshire in 1916.

Given his military service, the selection of Arthur proved to be prudent, as he acted as the King's, and thus the Canadian Commander-in-Chief's, representative through the first years of the First World War.

After the end of his viceregal tenure, Arthur returned to the United Kingdom and there, as well as in India, performed various royal duties, while also again taking up military duties.

Though he retired from public life in 1928, he continued to make his presence known in the army well into the Second World War, before his death in 1942. He was Queen Victoria's last surviving son.

Nothing in the wikipedia sources indicate any relationship to Col Anthony Durnford, however another book, has been written and reviewed, providing the details of that friendship.

Saul David reviews The Queen's Knight: The Extraordinary Life of Queen Victoria's Most Trusted Confidant by Martyn Downer

The inside story of the late-Victorian court has been told before, most recently in William Kuhn's life of Henry Ponsonby, the queen's private secretary from 1870-95. But this new biography of the colourful but relatively unknown Sir Howard Elphinstone, military governor to the queen's favourite son Arthur, has several key advantages: it spans a broader period (including, crucially, the last few years of Prince Albert's life); it contains more new material; and its central character is far more interesting than Ponsonby.

Born in 1829 on a Latvian country estate, the great-grandson of a Scottish naval officer who distinguished himself in the service of Catherine the Great, Elphinstone was 15 when his cosmopolitan parents settled in Devon. For reasons of economy his three elder brothers were serving in India, but Elphinstone was allowed to join the Royal Engineers because a young officer in that corps 'could now live on his pay'.

He was posted to Edinburgh and lodged for a time with another young Engineer, Anthony Durnford, who would go down in history as the man responsible for the disastrous British defeat at Isandlwana in the Zulu War of 1879. Most historians regard Durnford as hard done by; Downer is not so sure. 'Durnford's Celtic blood and bouts of heavy drinking', he writes, 'could make him short-tempered and prone to melancholy; and his dangerous love of gambling was to lead directly to his violent and celebrated death.'

One of the oddities of Elphinstone's life is the number of times his path crosses that of famous but ill-fated soldiers. Another was the Prince Imperial, the son of the deposed French Emperor Napoleon III, who was also killed in Zululand; but the spookiest connection was with Charles 'Chinese' Gordon who found God in Elphinstone's house, and who later agreed an exchange of postings that was to lead inexorably to his death at Khartoum in 1885.

Not that Elphinstone's own military career was without merit. He won a retrospective Victoria Cross for rescuing wounded soldiers in the Crimea - though the role of court 'influence' cannot be discounted - and later rose to the rank of major-general.

How much further this talented and resourceful officer (he passed out first at Woolwich) could have gone if he had not joined the royal household in 1859 is open to speculation. But soldier-courtiers rarely reached the top of their profession because they had so few opportunities to distinguish themselves in battle.

While working at Sotheby's in 2001, Martyn Downer had the good fortune to come across the cache of Nelson artefacts and papers that formed the basis for his excellent debut book, Nelson's Purse. That luck continues, because his wife is Elphinstone's great-great-granddaughter, a family connection that gave Downer access to the hitherto unseen Elphinstone papers.

To quote:

"Howard and Anthony lived together in Darnaway St Edinburgh, not only had they gone to Royal Military College together, but they were also in Germany at school.

Anthony's Irish ancestry gave him charm, but his Celtic blood and bouts of heavy drinking made him short tempered and prone to melancholy, his dangerous love of gambling was to lead directly to his violent and celebrated death in the Zulu Wars".

Irish ancestry?          King William was his 22nd g.grandfather - of our great grandparents, Sir                                          William Creagh was the only Irish ancestor in 22 generations. Anthony
                                was born in Ireland to British parents. His ancestry is English     Not true.

Celtic blood?           Just because his parents, had lived in Ireland doesn't mean they speak Gaelic. 
                               In his blood?    Signifys a long tradition.                        Not true.   

Bouts of heavy drinking - something the Irish are well known for, and why Guiness was invented
                                 We have two young people living together in Edinburgh, probably both                                            getting up to what many young men do, and have a pint or two. 
                                 Was Ephinstone also prone to bouts of heavy drinking?        Not mentioned.

Gambling lead directly to his violent and celebrated death?   What an unqualified statement to make.

Celtic . (Languages) a branch of the Indo-European family of languages that includes Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton, still spoken in parts of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Brittany. Modern Celtic is divided into the Brythonic (southern) and Goidelic (northern) groups

Printed material is around for a very long time, in today's modern world, researching and finding fact is not difficult, the dead cannot speak for themselves, the living can.

So this very same, young Irish man, who drank excessively and made rash decisions and had a short temper was the very same man, who risked his life in the cold waters of the north near Inverness, to help rescue those involved in a boating accident.

Once, while stationed in Scotland as a young lieutenant, he had shown great courage in helping rescue the crew of a small craft which had run aground during a heavy storm between Berwick and Holy Island

later, when serving in Ireland, he was involved in a railway accident and nearly lost his life, but notwithstanding his own injuries he persevered in assisting a mortally injured fellow-passenger.

Fort George

"If it is not the truth, why write it"  

While researching the Elphinstones, even poor Queen Victoria is mentioned, did she have a secret?


Major-General Charles Gordon

It baffled me as to why so many people made mention of the fact that Gen Gordon, helped Anthony recover from his heat apoplexy, called heatstroke; most of us in Australia have probably suffered once or twice in our lifetime.  Comes from living in a hot climate.  It requires managing and hydration, but not enough for someone to have to spend time assisting with recovery.  Anthony had lived in Ceylon, he would have known all about the heat.

Nervous breakdown? - a mental breakdown is defined by its temporary nature, and often closely tied to psychological burnout, severe overwork, sleep deprivation and similar stressors, which combine to temporarily overwhelm an individual with otherwise sound mental faculties. A mental breakdown also shares many symptoms with the acute phase of post-traumatic stress disorder.

PSD - well recognised today, and not something that indicates any weakness in one's personality.

Burn out - Would a person with drive and determination with a high work ethic who worked long hours in difficult conditions make a good candidate?.

Stressors   This "breakdown" happened some time around November or December in 1864. Two of his children had died, he had spent time in Gibraltar, in command of the 27th Company of Royal Engineers, he had by now separated from his wife, and his daughter, were these the stressors?

But he faced all these factors and  many more in South Africa without his health suffering.


Anthony's brother Col Edward Durnford, made mention of Charles Gordon assisting with his recovery, why then was this worthy of such a mention in nearly all stories relating to Anthony's life ?

Charles Gordon's story is quite amazing, and then the penny dropped!  Veiled implications.

Major-General Charles George Gordon, CB (28 January 1833 – 26 January 1885), also known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, was a British army officer and administrator.

He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. For this service he was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the Government of France on 16 July 1856.

But he made his military reputation in China, where he was placed in command of the "Ever Victorious Army," a force of Chinese soldiers led by European officers. In the early 1860s, Gordon and his men were instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion, regularly defeating much larger forces. For these accomplishments, he was given the nickname "Chinese" Gordon and honours from both the Emperor of China and the British.

He entered the service of the Khedive in 1873 (with British government approval) and later became the Governor-General of the Sudan, where he did much to suppress revolts and the slave trade. Exhausted, he resigned and returned to Europe in 1880.

A serious revolt then broke out in the Sudan, led by a Muslim reformer and self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. Gordon was sent to Khartoum with instructions to secure the evacuation of loyal soldiers and civilians, and depart with them. After evacuating about 2,500 British civilians he retained a smaller group of soldiers and non-military men.

 In the buildup to battle, the two leaders corresponded, each attempting to convert the other to his faith, but neither would accede. Besieged by the Mahdi's forces, Gordon organized a city-wide defence lasting almost a year that gained him the admiration of the British public, but not the government, which had not wished to become entrenched (as Gordon was instructed before setting out). Only when public pressure to act had become too great did the government reluctantly send a relief force. It arrived two days after the city had fallen and Gordon had been killed.

Gordon was born in Woolwich, London, a son of Major-General Henry William Gordon (1786–1865) and Elizabeth (Enderby) Gordon (1792–1873). He was educated at Fullands School in Taunton, Somerset, Taunton School, and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

 He was commissioned in 1852 as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, completing his training at Chatham. He was promoted to full lieutenant in 1854.

Gordon was first assigned to construct fortifications at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales. When the Crimean War began, he was sent to the Russian Empire, arriving at Balaklava in January 1855.

He was put to work in the Siege of Sevastopol and took part in the assault of the Redan from 18 June to 8 September. Gordon took part in the expedition to Kinburn, and returned to Sevastopol at the war's end. For his services in the Crimea, he received the Crimean war medal and clasp.

 Following the peace, he was attached to an international commission to mark the new border between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire in Bessarabia. He continued surveying, marking off the boundary into Asia Minor. Gordon returned to Britain in late 1858, and was appointed as an instructor at Chatham. He was promoted to captain in April 1859.

In 1860 Gordon volunteered to serve in China (see the Second Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion). He arrived at Tianjin in September of that year. He was present at the occupation of Beijing and destruction of the Summer Palace. The British forces occupied northern China until April 1862, then under General Charles William Dunbar Staveley, withdrew to Shanghai to protect the European settlement from the rebel Taiping army.

Following the successes in the 1850s in the provinces of Guangxi, Hunan and Hubei, and the capture of Nanjing in 1853 the rebel advance had slowed. For some years, the Taipings gradually advanced eastwards, but eventually they came close enough to Shanghai to alarm the European inhabitants. A militia of Europeans and Asians was raised for the defense of the city and placed under the command of an American, Frederick Townsend Ward, and occupied the country to the west of Shanghai.

The British arrived at a crucial time. Staveley decided to clear the rebels within 30 miles (48 km) of Shanghai in cooperation with Ward and a small French force. Gordon was attached to his staff as engineer officer. Jiading, northwest suburb of present Shanghai, Qingpu and other towns were occupied, and the area was fairly cleared of rebels by the end of 1862.

Ward was killed in the Battle of Cixi and his successor H. A. Burgevine, an American was disliked by the Imperial Chinese authorities. Li Hongzhang, the governor of the Jiangsu province, requested Staveley to appoint a British officer to command the contingent.

Staveley selected Gordon, who had been made a brevet major in December 1862 and the nomination was approved by the British government. In March 1863 Gordon took command of the force at Songjiang, which had received the name of "Ever Victorious Army."

Without waiting to reorganize his troops, Gordon led them at once to the relief of Chansu, a town 40 miles north-west of Shanghai. The relief was successfully accomplished and Gordon quickly won the respect of his troops. His task was made easier by innovative military ideas Ward had implemented in the Ever Victorious Army.

He then reorganized his force and advanced against Kunshan, which was captured at considerable loss. Gordon then took his force through the country, seizing towns until, with the aid of Imperial troops, the city of Suzhou was captured in November.

 Following a dispute with Li Hongzhang over the execution of rebel leaders, Gordon withdrew his force from Suzhou and remained inactive at Kunshan until February 1864. Gordon then made a rapprochement with Li and visited him in order to arrange for further operations.

Chinese tidu
The "Ever-Victorious Army" resumed its high tempo advance, culminating in the capture of Changzhou Fu (see also Battle of Changzhou) in May, the principal military base of the Taipings in the region. Gordon then returned to Kunshan and disbanded his army.                    

The Emperor promoted Gordon to the rank of tidu (提督: "Chief commander of Jiangsu province"), decorated him with the imperial yellow jacket, and raised him to Qing's Viscount first class. The British Army promoted Gordon to Lieutenant-Colonel and he was made a Companion of the Bath. He also gained the popular nickname "Chinese Gordon."

Gordon returned to Britain and commanded the Royal Engineers' efforts around Gravesend, Kent, the erection of forts for the defense of the River Thames. Following the death of his father he undertook extensive social work in the town including teaching at the local ragged school and donated the gardens of his official residence Fort House (now a museum) to the town.

In October 1871, he was appointed British representative on the international commission to maintain the navigation of the mouth of the River Danube, with headquarters at Galatz. In 1872, Gordon was sent to inspect the British military cemeteries in the Crimea, and when passing through Constantinople he made the acquaintance of the Prime Minister of Egypt, who opened negotiations for Gordon to serve under the Khedive, Ismail Pasha.

 In 1873, Gordon received a definite offer from the Khedive, which he accepted with the consent of the British government, and proceeded to Egypt early in 1874. Gordon was made a colonel in the Egyptian army. The Egyptian authorities had been extending their control southwards since the 1820s.

An expedition was sent up the White Nile, under Sir Samuel Baker, which reached Khartoum in February 1870 and Gondokoro in June 1871. Baker met with great difficulties and managed little beyond establishing a few posts along the Nile. The Khedive asked for Gordon to succeed Baker as governor of the region. After a short stay in Cairo, Gordon proceeded to Khartoum via Suakin and Berber. From Khartoum, he proceeded up the White Nile to Gondokoro.

Gordon remained in the Gondokoro provinces until October 1876. He had succeeded in establishing a line of way stations from the Sobat confluence on the White Nile to the frontier of Uganda, where he proposed to open a route from Mombasa. In 1874 he built the station at Dufile on the Albert Nile to reassemble steamers carried there past rapids for the exploration of Lake Albert.

Considerable progress was made in the suppression of the slave trade. However, Gordon had come into conflict with the Egyptian governor of Khartoum and Sudan. The clash led to Gordon informing the Khedive that he did not wish to return to the Sudan and he left for London. Ismail Pasha wrote to him saying that he had promised to return, and that he expected him to keep his word.

Gordon agreed to return to Cairo, and was asked to take the position of Governor-General of the entire Sudan, which he accepted. He thereafter received the honorific rank and title of a pasha in the local aristocracy.

Governor-General of the Sudan

As governor, Gordon faced a variety of challenges. During the 1870s, European initiatives against the slave trade caused an economic crisis in northern Sudan, precipitating increasing unrest. Relations between Egypt and Abyssinia (later renamed Ethiopia) had become strained due to a dispute over the district of Bogos, and war broke out in 1875.

An Egyptian expedition was completely defeated near Gundet. A second and larger expedition, under Prince Hassan, was sent the following year and was routed at Gura. Matters then remained quiet until March 1877, when Gordon proceeded to Massawa, hoping to make peace with the Abyssinians. He went up to Bogos and wrote to the king proposing terms. However, he received no reply as the king had gone southwards to fight with the Shoa. Gordon, seeing that the Abyssinian difficulty could wait, proceeded to Khartoum.

An insurrection had broken out in Darfur and Gordon went to deal with it. The insurgents were numerous and he saw that diplomacy had a better chance of success. Gordon, accompanied only by an interpreter, rode into the enemy camp to discuss the situation. This bold move proved successful, as many of the insurgents joined him, though the remainder retreated to the south. Gordon visited the provinces of Berber and Dongola, and then returned to the Abyssinian frontier, before ending up back in Khartoum in January 1878. Gordon was summoned to Cairo, and arrived in March to be appointed president of a commission. The Khedive was deposed in 1879 in favor of his son.

Gordon returned south and proceeded to Harrar, south of Abyssinia, and, finding the administration in poor standing, dismissed the governor. He then returned to Khartoum, and went again into Darfur to suppress the slave traders. His subordinate, Gessi Pasha, fought with great success in the Bahr-el-Ghazal district in putting an end to the revolt there. Gordon then tried another peace mission to Abyssinia.

The matter ended with Gordon's imprisonment and transfer to Massawa. Thence he returned to Cairo and resigned his Sudan appointment. He was exhausted by years of incessant work.

In March 1880, he recovered for a couple of weeks in the Hotel du Faucon in Lausanne, 3 Rue St Pierre, famous for its views on Lake Geneva and because celebrities such as Giuseppe Garibaldi (one of Gordon's heroes, possibly one of the reasons Gordon had chosen this hotel) had stayed there.

 In the hotel's restaurant (now a pub called Happy Days) he met another guest from England, the reverend R.H. Barnes, vicar of Heavitree near Exeter, who became a good friend. After Gordon's death Barnes co-authored Charles George Gordon: A Sketch (1885), which begins with the meeting at the hotel in Lausanne.

Other offers

On 2 March 1880, on his way from London to Switzerland, Gordon had visited King Leopold II of Belgium in Brussels and was invited to take charge of the Congo Free State. In April, the government of the Cape Colony offered him the position of commandant of the Cape local forces.

In May, the Marquess of Ripon, who had been given the post of Governor-General of India, asked Gordon to go with him as private secretary. Gordon accepted the offer, but shortly after arriving in India, he resigned.

Hardly had he resigned when he was invited by Sir Robert Hart, 1st Baronet, inspector-general of customs in China, to Beijing. He arrived in China in July and met Li Hongzhang, and learned that there was risk of war with Russia. Gordon proceeded to Beijing and used all his influence to ensure peace.

Gordon returned to Britain and rented an apartment on 8 Victoria Grove in London. But in April 1881 he left for Mauritius as Commanding Royal Engineer. He remained in Mauritius until March 1882, when he was promoted to major-general. He was sent to the Cape to aid in settling affairs in Basutoland. He returned to the United Kingdom after only a few months.

Being unemployed, Gordon decided to go to Palestine, a region he had long desired to visit; he would remain there for a year (1882–83). After his visit, Gordon suggested in his book Reflections in Palestine a different location for Golgotha, the site of Christ's crucifixion. The site lies north of the traditional site at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and is now known as "The Garden Tomb," or sometimes as "Gordon's Calvary." Gordon's interest was prompted by his religious beliefs, as he had become an evangelical Christian in 1854.

King Leopold II then asked him again to take charge of the Congo Free State. He accepted and returned to London to make preparations, but soon after his arrival the British requested that he proceed immediately to the Sudan, where the situation had deteriorated badly after his departure—another revolt had arisen, led by the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Mohammed Ahmed.

The Egyptian forces in the Sudan were insufficient to cope with the rebels, and the northern government was occupied in the suppression of the Urabi Revolt. By September 1882, the Sudanese position had grown perilous. In December 1883, the British government ordered Egypt to abandon the Sudan, but that was difficult to carry out, as it involved the withdrawal of thousands of Egyptian soldiers, civilian employees, and their families. The British government asked Gordon to proceed to Khartoum to report on the best method of carrying out the evacuation.

Gordon started for Cairo in January 1884, accompanied by Lt. Col. J. D. H. Stewart. At Cairo, he received further instructions from Sir Evelyn Baring, and was appointed governor-general with executive powers. Traveling through Korosko and Berber, he arrived at Khartoum on 18 February, where he offered his earlier foe, the slaver-king Sebehr Rahma, release from prison in exchange for leading troops against Ahmed.

Gordon commenced the task of sending the women and children and the sick and wounded to Egypt, and about 2,500 had been removed before the Mahdi's forces closed in. Gordon hoped to have the influential local leader Sebehr Rahma appointed to take control of Sudan, but the British government refused to support a former slaver.

The advance of the rebels against Khartoum was combined with a revolt in the eastern Sudan; the Egyptian troops at Suakin were repeatedly defeated. A British force was sent to Suakin under General Sir Gerald Graham, and forced the rebels away in several hard-fought actions.

Gordon urged that the road from Suakin to Berber be opened, but his request was refused by the government in London, and in April Graham and his forces were withdrawn and Gordon and the Sudan were abandoned. The garrison at Berber surrendered in May, and Khartoum was completely isolated.

Gordon energetically organized the defense of Khartoum. A siege by the Mahdist forces started on 18 March 1884. The British had decided to abandon the Sudan, but it was clear that Gordon had other plans, and the public increasingly called for a relief expedition.

 It was not until August that the government decided to take steps to relieve Gordon, and only by November was the British relief force, called the Nile Expedition, or, more popularly, the Khartoum Relief Expedition or Gordon Relief Expedition (a title that Gordon strongly deprecated), under the command of Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley, ready.

The force consisted of two groups, a "flying column" of camel-borne troops from Wadi Halfa. The troops reached Korti towards the end of December, and arrived at Metemma on 20 January 1885. There they found four gunboats which had been sent north by Gordon four months earlier, and prepared them for the trip back up the Nile.

On 24 January two of the steamers, carrying 20 soldiers of the Sussex Regiment wearing red tunics to clearly identify them as British, were sent on a reconnaissance mission to Khartoum, with orders from Wolseley not to attempt to rescue Gordon or bring him ammunition or food. On arriving at Khartoum on 28 January, they found that the city had been captured and Gordon had been killed two days previously (two days before his 52nd birthday). Under heavy fire from Dervish warriors on the bank the two steamers turned back up-river.

The British press criticized the relief force for arriving two days late but it was later argued that the Mahdi's forces had good intelligence and if the camel corps had advanced earlier, the final attack on Khartoum would also have come earlier. Finally, the boats sent were not there to relieve Gordon (who was not expected to agree to abandon the city) and the small force and limited supplies on board could have offered scant military support for the besieged.

Governor General's palace
Gordon was apparently killed about an hour before dawn, at the Governor-General's palace.

As recounted in Bernard M. Allen’s article "How Khartoum Fell" (1941), the Mahdi had given strict orders to his three Khalifas not to kill Gordon.

However, the orders were not obeyed. Gordon died on the steps of a stairway in the northwestern corner of the palace, where he and his personal bodyguard, Agha Khalil Orphali, had been firing at the enemy.

Orphali was knocked unconscious and did not see Gordon die. When he woke up again that afternoon, he found Gordon's body covered with flies and the head cut off.

 A merchant, Bordeini Bey, glimpsed Gordon standing on the palace steps in a white uniform looking into the darkness. Reference is made to an 1889 account of the General surrendering his sword to a senior Mahdist officer, then being struck and subsequently speared in the side as he rolled down the staircase. When Gordon's head was unwrapped at the Mahdi's feet, he ordered the head transfixed between the branches of a tree "…where all who passed it could look in disdain, children could throw stones at it and the hawks of the desert could sweep and circle above."

His body was desecrated and thrown down a well. After the reconquest of the Sudan, in 1898, several attempts were made to locate Gordon's remains, but in vain.

In the hours following Gordon's death an estimated 10,000 civilians and members of the garrison were killed in Khartoum. The massacre was finally halted by orders of the Mahdi.

Many of Gordon's papers were saved and collected by two of his sisters, Helen Clark Gordon, who married Gordon's medical colleague in China, Dr. Moffit, and Mary, who married Gerald Henry Blunt. Gordon's papers, as well as some of his grandfather's (Samuel Enderby III), were accepted by the British Library around 1937.

In his memory

In 1888 a statue of Gordon by Hamo Thornycroft was erected in Trafalgar Square, London, exactly halfway between the two fountains. It was removed in 1943. In a House of Commons speech on 5 May 1948, then opposition leader Winston Churchill spoke out in favour of the statue's return to its original location: "Is the right honorable Gentleman (the Minister of Works) aware that General Gordon was not only a military commander, who gave his life for his country, but, in addition, was considered very widely throughout this country as a model of a Christian hero, and that very many cherished ideals are associated with his name? Would not the right honorable Gentleman consider whether this statue [...] might not receive special consideration [...]? General Gordon was a figure outside and above the ranks of military and naval commanders." However, in 1953 the statue minus a large slice of its pedestal was reinstalled on the Victoria Embankment, in front of the newly built Ministry of Defence

The Corps of Royal Engineers, Gordon's own Corps, commissioned a statue of Gordon on a camel. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1890 and then erected in Brompton Barracks, Chatham, the home of the Royal School of Military Engineering, where it still stands. Much later a second casting was made. 

His memory lives on all over the world, something probably not widely known.  His statues are in England, and Melbourne, a portrait in University of New England, the suburb of Gordon in the ACT, Gordon Park in Queensland, a bomber Fairey Gordon Bomber, a school in Vancouver, a rugby club in Gloucester, statue in Aberdeen, in St Paul's Cathedral, in Westminster Abbey, the Gordon Institute of Technology in Geelong are all testament to his ability as a soldier.

There is of course one clue, and many additional theories -  "he never married".   

Gordon, who never married, was 5-feet 5 inches tall; the Rev. Reginald Barnes, who knew him well, describes him as "of the middle height, very strongly built"

 He was a Christian evangelist who visited the sick and old and set up a boys' club in Gravesend in Kent.

He was an ardent Christian cosmologist who believed, amongst other things, that the Earth was enclosed in a hollow sphere with God's throne directly above the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Devil inhabiting the opposite point of the globe near Pitcairn Island in the Pacific.

He also believed that the Garden of Eden was on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles.

Gordon believed in reincarnation. In 1877, he wrote in a letter: "This life is only one of a series of lives which our incarnated part has lived. I have little doubt of our having pre-existed; and that also in the time of our pre-existence we were actively employed. So, therefore, I believe in our active employment in a future life, and I like the thought."

Another brave soldier dedicated to saving the lives of those around him

  • Served in Africa
  • Another immortalised in a film
  • A friend of Anthony Durnford
  • Prepared to put his life in danger in order to save others
  • Met with a horrifying death

While he also was at Military College with Anthony, they were both re posted there at the same time Anthony in 1859, Charles in 1860.  They both applied for service in 1860.

Charles was in England, after Anthony's death and it would be hard not to think that he also would have been a strong force in questioning the circumstances of Anthony's death, and the loss to the Zulu's.

Frances Colenso was an avid supporter of his, and rued the day that Africa also killed him.

Khartoum is a 1966 film written by Robert Ardrey and directed by Basil Dearden. It stars Charlton Heston as British Gen. Charles "Chinese" Gordon 


The commander of the Khartoum Relief Expedition 1884-1885, Sir Garnet Wolseley, lies buried beneath the effigies of Gordon and Stewart in the crypt of St Paul's.

"Two years later he was sent to Natal in southern Africa to induce the colonists to surrender some of their political rights to promote federation in South Africa. When calamity struck the British forces battling the Zulus in 1879, Wolseley was given command in South Africa. After restoring order in Zululand, he moved on to the Transvaal, where he discouraged rebellion among the Boers.

Back in Egypt in 1884, Wolseley organized and headed an expedition to the Nile to rescue his friend General Charles (“Chinese”) Gordon, besieged at Khartoum in the Sudan."


When Anthony was posted  to Pietermaritzburg, in 1873 he became friends with the Colenso Family

John William Colenso (1814–1883), first Church of England Bishop of Natal, mathematician, theologian, Biblical scholar and social activist. Colenso was born at St Austell, Cornwall, on 24 January 1814.

His father (John William Colenso) invested his capital into a mineral works in Pentewan, Cornwall, but the speculation proved to be ruinous when the investment was lost following a sea flood.

His cousin was William Colenso, a missionary in New Zealand.

Family financial problems meant that Colenso had to take a job as an usher in a private school before he could attend University. These earnings and a loan of £30 raised by his relatives paid for his first year at St John's College, Cambridge where he was a sizar scholar.

 In 1836 he was Second Wrangler and Smith's Prizeman at Cambridge, and in 1837 he became fellow of St John's.Two years later he went to Harrow School as mathematical tutor, but the step proved an unfortunate one. The school was at its lowest ebb, and Colenso not only had few pupils, but lost most of his property in a fire.

He returned to Cambridge burdened by an enormous debt of £5,000. However, within a relatively short period of time he paid off this debt by diligent tutoring and the sale to Longmans of his copyright interest in the highly successful and widely read manuals he had written on algebra (in 1841) and arithmetic (in 1843).


Colenso's early theological thinking was heavily influenced by Frederick Maurice to whom he was introduced by his wife and by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In 1846 he became rector of Forncett St Mary, Norfolk, and in 1853 he was recruited by the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, to be the first Bishop of Natal

Life in Africa

Colenso was a significant figure in the history of the published word in nineteenth century South Africa. He first wrote a short but vivid account of his initial journeying in Natal, Ten Weeks in Natal.
A Journal of a first tour of Visitation among the colonists and Zulu Kaffirs of Natal (Cambridge, 1855).

Using the printing press he brought to his missionary station at Ekukhanyeni in Natal, and with William Ngidi he published the first Zulu Grammar and English/Zulu dictionary.His 1859 journey across Zululand to visit Mpande (the then Zulu King) and meet with Cetshwayo (Mpande's son and the Zulu King at the time of the Zulu War) was recorded in his book First Steps of the Zulu Mission.

Mpande (1798–1872), was monarch of the Zulu Kingdom from 1840 to 1872, making him the longest reigning Zulu king

The same journey was also described in the first book written by native South Africans in Zulu – Three Native Accounts (with accounts written by Magema Fuze, Ndiyane and William Ngidi). He also translated the New Testament and other portions of Scripture into Zulu.

1866 From a painting in Natinal Gallery
Colenso was a significant figure in the history of the published word in nineteenth century South Africa. He first wrote a short but vivid account of his initial journeying in Natal, Ten Weeks in Natal. A Journal of a first tour of Visitation among the colonists and Zulu Kaffirs of Natal (Cambridge, 1855).

Using the printing press he brought to his missionary station at Ekukhanyeni in Natal, and with William Ngidi he published the first Zulu Grammar and English/Zulu dictionary.

Religious debate

Through the influence of his talented and well-educated wife, Colenso became one of only a handful of theologians to embrace Frederick Maurice, who was raised a Unitarian but joined the Church of England to help it "purify and elevate the mind of the nation".

Before his missionary career Colenso's volume of sermons dedicated to Frederick Maurice signalled the critical approach he would later apply to biblical interpretation and the baleful impact on native Africans of colonial expansion in southern Africa.

Colenso first courted controversy with the publication in 1855 of his Remarks on the Proper Treatment of Polygamy; one of the most cogent Christian-based arguments for tolerance of polygamy.

Colenso's experiences in Natal informed his development as a religious thinker. In his commentary upon St Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1861)  he countered the doctrine of eternal punishment and the contention that Holy Communion was a precondition to salvation.

Colenso, as a missionary, would not preach that the ancestors of newly Christianised Africans were condemned to eternal damnation. The thought provoking questions put to him by students at his missionary station encouraged him to re-examine the contents of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua and question whether certain sections of these books should be understood as literally or historically accurate.

His conclusions, positive and negative, were published in a series of treatises on the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, over a period of time from 1862 to 1879. The publication of these volumes created a scandal in England and were the cause of a number of anguished and patronising counter-blasts from those (clergy and laity alike) who refused to countenance the possibility of biblical fallibility. Colenso's work attracted the notice of biblical scholars on the continent such as Abraham Kuenen and played an important contribution in the development of biblical scholarship

Colenso's biblical criticism and his high-minded views about the treatment of African natives created a frenzy of alarm and opposition from the High Church party in South Africa and in England. As controversy raged in England, the South African bishops headed by Bishop Gray pronounced Colenso's deposition in December 1863.

Colenso, who had refused to appear before this tribunal otherwise than by sending a proxy protest (delivered by his friend Wilhelm Bleek), appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. The Privy Council eventually decided that the Bishop of Cape Town had no coercive jurisdiction and no authority to interfere with the Bishop of Natal.

 In view of this finding of ultra vires there was no opinion given upon the allegations of heresy made against Colenso. The first Lambeth Conference was convened in 1867 to address concerns raised by the Privy Council's decision in favour of Colenso.

His adversaries, though unable to remove him from his episcopal office, succeeded in restricting his ability to preach both in Natal and in England. Bishop Gray not only excommunicated him but consecrated a rival bishop (W.K. Macrorie), who took the title of "Bishop of Maritzburg" (the latter a common name for Pietermaritzburg.

The contributions of the missionary societies were withdrawn, but an attempt to deprive him of his episcopal income and the control of St Peter's Cathedral in Pietermaritzburg was frustrated by another court ruling. Colenso, encouraged by a handsome testimonial raised in England to which many clergymen subscribed, returned to his diocese.

A rival cathedral was built but it has long been sold and moved. The new Cathedral of the Nativity, beside St Peter's, honours both Bishop Colenso and Bishop Macrorie in the names it has given to its halls.

Anglican cathedral built in circular shape to symbolise unity of two cathedral parishes 
(St Saviour's and St Peter's) which were joined together.             

Advocacy of native African causes

Colenso devoted the latter years of his life to further labours as a biblical commentator and as an advocate for native Africans in Natal and Zululand who had been unjustly treated by the colonial regime in Natal.

In 1874 he took up the cause of Langalibalele and the Hlubi and Ngwe tribes in representations to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon.

 Langalibalele had been falsely accused of rebellion in 1873 and, following a charade of a trial, was found guilty and imprisoned on Robben Island.

In taking the side of Langalibalele against the Colonial regime in Natal and Theophilus Shepstone, the Secretary for Native Affairs, Colenso found himself even further estranged from colonial society in Natal.

Colenso's concern about the misleading information that was being provided to the Colonial Secretary in London by Shepstone and the Governor of Natal prompted him to devote much of the final part of his life to championing the cause of the Zulus against Boer oppression and official encroachments.

He was a prominent critic of Sir Bartle Frere's efforts to depict the Zulu kingdom as a threat to Natal. Following the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War he interceded on behalf of Cetshwayo with the British government and succeeded in getting him released from Robben Island and returned to Zululand. Colenso's campaigns revealed the dark, racist foundation underpinning the colonial regime in Natal and made him more enemies among the colonists than he had ever made among the clergy.

He was known as Sobantu (father of the people) to the native Africans in Natal and had a close relationship with members of the Zulu royal family; one of whom, Mkhungo (a son of Mpande), was taught at his school in Bishopstowe. After his death his wife and daughters continued his work supporting the Zulu cause and the organisation that eventually became the African National Congress.


Colenso was a polygenist; he believed in CoAdamism that races had been created separately. Colenso pointed to monuments and artifacts in Egypt to debunk monogenist beliefs that all races came from the same stock.

Ancient Egyptian representations of races for example showed exactly how the races looked today. Egyptological evidence indicated the existence of remarkable permanent differences in the shape of the skull, bodily form, colour and physiognomy between different races which are difficult to reconcile with biblical monogenesis.

Colenso believed that racial variation between races was so great, that there was no way all the races could have come from the same stock just a few thousand years ago, he was unconvinced that the climate could change racial variation, he also with other biblical polygenists believed that monogenists had interpreted the bible wrongly.

Colenso said “It seems most probable that the human race, as it now exists, had really sprung from more than one pair”. Colenso denied that polygenism caused any kind of racist attitudes or practices, like many other polygenists he claimed that monogenesis was the cause of slavery and racism. Colenso claimed that each race had sprung from a different pair of parents, and that all races had been created equal by God.

Later life and death

Colenso died at Durban on 20 June 1883.

 His oldest daughter, Harriette E Colenso (b. 1847), took up Colenso's mantle as advocate for the Zulus in opposition to their treatment by the authorities appointed by Natal, especially in the case of Dinizulu in 1888—1889 and in 1908—1909.

His daughter Frances Ellen Colenso (1849–1887) published two books on the relations of the Zulus to the British (History of the Zulu War and Its Origin in 1880 and The Ruin of Zululand in 1885) that explained recent events in Zululand from a pro-Zulu perspective.

The life of John William Colenso, Bishop of Natal by Cox, George W. (George William), 1827-1902Published by W Ridgway in 1888

John William Colenso married Sarah Frances Bunyon in 1846,and they had five children

Harriet Emily Colenso     b   1847  -   1932
Frances Ellen Colenso     b   1849  -   1887
Robert John Colenso        b   1850  -   1926   m  Emily Kerr   He was a Medical Doctor
Francis  Ernest Colenso   b   1852  -   1910   m   Sophie Frankland   He was a Barristor-at-law
Agnes Mary Colenso       b   1855  -   1932

He did some remarkable things, wrote books, translated the Zulu language, questioned, as he had every right to, the morals and the principals of his religion and of the British Colonial attitude to the people of South Africa. Anyone who understands algebra and maths has to be rather smart!

He would not be the first to do so, nor the last, his sentiments were shared by his family and numerous others both in South Africa and in England.

The Cathedral of St Peter's

Completed and consecrated in 1857, this historic building became Bishop John William Colenso's "cathedral" following the schism in the Church of England congregation in the Colony which led to William Macrorie's appointment as "Bishop of Maritzburg" in 1869. Bishop Colenso is buried
in front of the altar, where the inscription reads:

"John William Colenso D.D. Bishop of Natal Sobantu Died June 20th, 1883 Aged 69"

The church's beautiful stained-glass windows are believed to be of Flemish
origin. The church is now a meeting place and repository of the treasures of two parishes - St Peter's and St Saviour's.

 The adjacent new Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, dedicated in 1981, contains crosses from Lincoln, Coventry and Canterbury cathedrals."

Pinetown grew from a few scattered homesteads in the valley between what is now known as Kloof and Cowies Hill. Early church services were held in the "Parkhouse" in New Germany, with the Revd. Posselt of the Lutheran faith, the only ordained minister in the area, conducting services. Bishop Colenso, passing through Pinetown in 1854, was offered 5 acres of land by Mr Murray for the erection of a small church. Funds were raised, and on 3 December 1856, St John's, a little white-washed, thatched church was consecrated by the Right Reverend John William Colenso, first Bishop of Natal. Archdeacon Mackenzie was appointed to care for Pinetown and other coastal parishes with Reverend James Walton the permanent Vicar. This little church became the focal point of village life.

During the latter half of the 19th Century, St John's was prominently involved in the dispute between the newly formed Church of the Province of South Africa under Bishop Grey of Cape Town and the supporters of Bishop Colenso's Church of England in South Africa. There were thus two churches in Pinetown claiming to be the Anglican Church, until the rift was healed in 1884 when Reverend William Bromilow became Vicar of St John's on 1 October.

With the outbreak of the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, thousands of British troops were rushed to Natal to protect the area from invasion by the Zulus. Military camps were set up and Pinetown became an important garrison village. This changed the social and economic life of the village, besides increasing the Church congregation. Troops and family members who died, often through illness, were buried in St John's graveyard. A graveyard dedicated to those soldiers is sited within the cemetery.  One of the soldiers buried in this gravesite was a defender of Rorke's Drift.  The Sons of England were responsible for having a granite memorial erected to their memory.  After the war, many of the soldiers and their families stayed in the area.

The picturesque little town of Colenso is situated on the banks of the Tugela River (Thukela) in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, 20km south of Ladysmith and 40km north of Estcourt.

The town was named after John William Colenso.

The Battle of Colenso on 15th December 1899 was a major battle in the Boer War.

It forms part of the Battlefields Tours in South Africa.

The biography of John Colenso introduces new facts, and the Zulu Chief  Cetshwayo becomes a very important story in this series about Col Anthony William Durnford.

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