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Friday, January 30, 2015

43.3.2.1.h Anthony Durnford - Langalibalele - 1873 Bushmans Pass


Bushman's River Pass  1873                              


In November 1873, Anthony Durnford was involved in a Battle at a place called Bushman's River Pass.   Their mission was to blow up the pass, and not to fire a shot. The story of the Buhman's Pass is contained in the book History of the Zulu Wars written by Frances and Edward.

It was during this battle that Anthony suffered a dislocated shoulder and a spearing in his left arm.  


The South African Military History Society presented this article
 

Photo from Frances' book The Chief and I as per her chapter

Military History Journal     Vol 14 No 2 - December 2007

Durnford, 'Long Belly' and the Farce at the Pass    by David Saks





On 3 November 1873, a short, confused skirmish took place in the heart of the Drakensberg between Chief Langalibalele's amaHlubi warriors and a small Colonial column under Major Anthony Durnford. From a military point of view, it was a trifling affair, but it was nevertheless to have far-reaching repercussions, both for the amaHlubi and for the young colony of Natal.

Giant's Castle
This amaHlubi Colonial forces clash, which took place at Bushman's River Pass near Giant's Castle, is also of interest from the point of view of Durnford himself, given the important role he would play in the much more well-known black/white showdown at Isandlwana a few years later, in 1879.

Durnford's distinguished, if often controversial, military career has been admirably addressed in these pages by Steve Bourquin, 'Col A W Durnford' in Military History Journal, Vol 6, No 5, June 1985.

This article will provide a more detailed focus on the Bushman's River Pass engagement itself, based on the first-hand accounts of some of those who had the dubious privilege of being caught up in it.



                 
The Drakensberg only fit for mountain goats
http://digitalgallery.nypl.orgd



  The trouble with Chief Langalibalele of the amaHlubi, nicknamed 'Long Belly' by the British, began when the Resident Magistrate of Estcourt, J MacFarlane, ordered him to comply with the terms of the Gun Law by having all firearms in his people's possession sent in for registration.

Langalibalele failed to comply, reluctant to press his subjects to surrender their hard-won weapons, even for a temporary period. Many believed that it was all a ploy to disarm them and, in practice, it indeed happened that guns brought in were retained indefinitely or rendered useless before return.

Had the Natal authorities been less heavy-handed and the amaHlubi less panicky, the controversy need not have got out of hand. Instead, the initial incident led to a rapid deterioration of relations between the two, causing a chain reaction of accumulated misunderstandings that left each party convinced that the other was intent on war.

Losing patience with the recalcitrant Langalibalele, Lieutenant-Governor Sir Benjamin Pine eventually decided to mobilise a large force to bring him to heel. This force comprised the Pietermaritzburg and Karkloof Troops of the Natal Carbineers, two companies of the Gordon Highlanders, the Richmond Mounted Rifles and some 8 000 Natal Native Levies.

Langalibalele's response was to retreat to the relative safety of the southern Drakensberg passes, accompanied by his warriors and his people's cattle. His flight was considered an act of secession and was therefore treasonable.


To prevent the amaHlubi from leaving Natal, Pine decided to detach part of the Natal force and use it to turn them back at the Bushman's River Pass, near Giant's Castle.

The Karkloof Troop under Captain Barter received their orders to turn out on 31 October. The next day, they mustered at Fort Nottingham where they were joined by the Pietermaritzburg contingent.

The combined force was made up of 55 white troopers (including two officers and six NCOs), 25 mounted baSotho auxiliaries and a baSotho interpreter, Elijah Kambule. Maj (later Col) A W Durnford of the Royal Engineers was in overall command.

 Born in Ireland in 1830 and a professional soldier since the age of sixteen, he had arrived in South Africa in 1871 and been transferred to Natal a few months previously.


   On Sunday, 2 November, Durnford and his 80 mounted troops set out from Fort Nottingham to intercept Langalibalele. Simultaneously, Border Agent CaptainAllison and 500 black auxiliaries were instructed to ascend via the 'Champagne Castle Pass' and then proceed southwards along the escarpment to link up with Durnford at the head of the Bushman's River Pass early on the following Monday morning.

 As subsequent events were to prove, it was an absurdly simplistic and over-optimistic plan, casually conceived as if all that was required was a canter over a few undemanding hills. Negotiating the mighty ramparts of the Drakkensberg was not a job to be undertaken lightly under any circumstances.

To expect Durnford's men to proceed all the way from Fort Nottingham to one of its highest summits in a mere ten hours or so was unrealistic, to say the least. Military Intelligence had also done a poor job of reconnoitring the country, with the result that Allison never made it to the summit at all.


 Champagne Castle on the left, enveloped in clouds in the background.
 (It might have helped had 'Champagne Castle Pass' actually existed). Durnford, meanwhile, took the wrong route and reached their objective a full day later than was intended. Had he known that the planned rendezvous with Allison would not take place, he almost certainly would have abandoned the expedition. Durnford's expedition started to go wrong almost from the outset.

The night was foggy, with the result that those in charge of the pack horses, lagging in the rear, lost their way in the gloom, depriving the column of most of its supplies and much of its ammunition.'

The baSotho men were asked to share their rations, which they did willingly. Morale remained high, despite this setback, It was already clear that this was not a routine patrol and the largely untried volunteers were eagerly anticipating their first taste of combat.


At daybreak on 3 November, the column advanced up the Game Pass, a spur of the main range. From there, they had a clear view of the Bushman's River Pass leading up to Basutoland (present-day Lesotho) and of amaHlubi herdsmen driving cattle up the steep, rocky slopes.

 It was then that the men strayed off course. Instead of attempting to ascend via Giant's Castle, they proceeded up the Hlatimba Pass, some ten kilometres further south. The Hlatimba route, apart from its extra distance, entailed a nightmarish trek through some of the most difficult terrain in the country, a veritable maze of deeply cut valleys, cliffs and ridges calculated to daunt even the staunchest of mountaineers. Even so, for all its difficulties, it was at least passable - just - for mounted men.

This was certainly not the case with the precipitous slopes leading up Giant's Castle. The exhausting day-long climb, which began at daybreak and continued until well into the night, effectively crippled the Carbineers as an effective fighting force long before the first shot was fired.

Even those who managed to struggle through to the summit were to be too wretched and exhausted to be of much use. During the ascent, Durnford's horse, Chieftan, lost his footing and dragged his master over a steep incline. As a result, he fell about fifty metres, 'head over heels, like a ball', breaking two ribs, dislocating his left shoulder and sustaining severe lacerations.

Chieftan, by remarkable chance, escaped largely unscathed. Badly shaken and in considerable pain, Durnford would have been justified in handing over command to someone else at this point, but he decided to press on.

 Some of his men, overcome with exhaustion, were unable to match his soldierly stoicism and dropped out, one by one, as the day progressed. Those who persevered made a pitiful sight as they clambered, yard by yard, up the forbidding mountainside, leading their horses and frequently slipping as they sought to avoid colliding with them.

Trooper Henry Bucknall later recalled how he and his comrades were able to cover no more than twenty to thirty metres at a time before being forced to rest. Durnford's second-in-command, Captain Barter, more advanced in years than the men under him, was reduced to crawling and had to be helped along.

He later described the spectacular but wild and forbidding nature they encountered: 'The scene before us was savage in the extreme. Down the bare side of the Mountain hung ribands of water, showing the spot to be the very birthplace and nursery of rivers; above, huge krantzes frowned, while the masses of unburnt dry grass, hanging like a vast curtain, gave a sombre and malignant aspect to the scene.'

  Hungry, exhausted and dispirited, the remaining 32 men who eventually reached the head of the pass were in no state to fight a battle the next morning. Too cold to get much sleep, they off-saddled and waited wretchedly for morning, smoking their pipes in lieu of dinner.

Durnford, his left arm in a sling, had understandably lagged far behind the rest of the horsemen, fainting away completely at one point. Without the attentions of Trooper R H Erskine, who loyally attended to his stricken commander throughout the day, he would never have made it to the summit.

It was only at 03.00 on Tuesday that he finally caught up with the column.

It was soon reported to Durnford that Langalibalele had already succeeded in escaping into Basutoland, but that many of his people had yet to cross the border. Durnford had no intention of allowing them to do so.

There was no sign of Captain Allison, only thousands of head of cattle attended by about a hundred young amaHlubi herdsmen. Durnford strung his tiny force in a long line across the mouth ofthe pass, dismounted and at intervals of six paces, and gave strict instructions not to fire unless confronted with an overt act of aggression.

 In this, he was only following the instructions of his superior, Lieutenant-Governor Pine. Many embittered troopers strongly criticised the order afterwards, claiming that, had they been given a freer hand from the outset, things might have turned out differently.

If Durnford's intention in deploying his men in an extended line had been to stage a show of strength, he failed. Instead, the thin line showed the amaHlubi, who were making their way up the slopes, how few white men there were against them and their confidence grew as the morning wore on.

Since the troops were ravenous by then, Barter ordered one of the Hlubi animals to be slaughtered. Durnford insisted that the animal be stabbed rather than shot, as he was afraid of the potential effect of a gunshot on the bristling tribesmen.

A farcical scene ensued, at the end of which a cow was finally dispatched, but the watching amaHlubi had probably become even more agitated from watching the melee than they would have been, had the animal been simply shot. Some of the Karkloof men, for reasons best known to themselves, then dissuaded Durnford from paying for the kill, something that would have gone a long way towards appeasing its owners. So famished were the troops that several ate their meat raw.

At 08.00, some mounted black troops appeared near the summit of the pass. Thinking that they might be Allison's men, Durnford, accompanied by some of the baSotho auxiliaries and the interpreter Kambule, rode up to them.

A long parley ensued between him and Mabuhe, commander of Langalibalele's forces. It was a tense time for all concerned, but especially for the straggling band of inexperienced Colonial troopers exposed on the mountainside.

By then, scores of amaHlubi were streaming up the slopes and lining the rocks on either side of their pitifully thin line. Those who had firearms - a not inconsiderable number - sighted them at the troopers at little more than 80 yards (73m) range and waited.

Others climbed to the rear of the column, completely surrounding them. Under these circumstances, Durnford's orders to turn back any amaHlubi moving up the pass looked increasingly ludicrous. Before long, the latter began to push their way past the Carbineers on their way to the summit, ignoring any feeble attempts to stop them. Those on the flanks became progressively more menacing, ostentatiously sharpening their assegais on the rocks or jeering at the nervous troopers, telling them to bring out their real army.


By 09.00, 400 to 500 amaHlubi were positioned around the head of the pass and at least half of them carried firearms of some sort. Even seasoned professional troops would have been hard-put to maintain their discipline under such circumstances.

Many had lost faith in Durnford, who seemed oblivious of the fact that the situation was on such a knife-edge and that, at any moment, the amaHlubi might rush down and annihilate them. Certainly, Kambule had no doubts on that score. He practically begged Durnford to allow his men to open fire, but Durnford was determined to stick to the letter of his directive not to fire the first shot.



  The behaviour of Sergeant Clarke, the Carbineers' drill instructor, helped to turn the uneasiness into mutinous panic. As a veteran of the Eighth Frontier War and a long-serving regular soldier, it had been hoped that his experience and age would serve to stiffen the resolve of the men of the column.

Instead, he began to shout, at the top of his voice, that they were all about to be murdered. He would be severely censured for this 'shameful and mutinous' conduct, in the words of Lieut-Governor Pine. His defence would be that he had only been trying to show his obstinate commander how perilous their position had become.


Sensing that his men were on the point of breaking, Durnford called out dramatically, 'Will no-one stand by me?' Three of the troopers, Erskine, C D Potterill and E Bond, responded, rallying to his side. He then gave the order for a slow withdrawal to higher ground and the men, forming fours, moved off at a walk towards the gully through which they had entered.

 They did so in fairly good order, considering how jaded and scared they were at this stage, but matters had already gone too far.

"'Whiz" came a bullet,' recalled Trooper H Bucknall, 'Then they poured in thick like the pattering of a hailstorm.' There was no thought of answering the fusillade. Durnford turned to see his men disappearing at a gallop around the shoulder of a stony hill, the orderly retreat instantly transformed into a rout. Durnford's men now had to run the gauntlet of at least 200 muskets fired at them at close range while their tired horses attempted to negotiate the treacherous slopes.

The flanking hills were wreathed in smoke and swarming with excited amaHlubi warriors running back and forth to get a clearer shot. Their firearms were too antiquated and their marksmanship too poor for them to do much damage, but the skirmish was destined to claim a few lives before it was over.

The first to fall was the gallant Trooper Erskine, followed soon afterwards by Bond and by Katana, one of the baSotho levies. Potterill was next. One of the amaHlubi later recalled seeing him, dismounted and possibly already wounded, being pursued by three warriors. He managed to shoot one of his assailants before the other two caught and dispatched him.

Durnford nearly shared the fate of the three loyal young men who had answered his call for support and had paid for it with their lives. He had hung back to allow Kambule, whose horse had been wounded by an assegai thrust, to mount behind him and this delay enabled two warriors to rush in and seize Chieftan's bridle.

Before he could draw his pistol and shoot them, Durnford received two assegai wounds, one through his already injured left arm that severed a nerve and left the limb permanently disabled. Kambule was killed in the flurry, shot through the head.

All that Durnford could do was to follow the retreating horsemen down the gully, which he did, almost weeping with rage and frustration. He recalled how, at the time, his main concern was not so much to ride free as it was to shoot his cowardly men when he caught up with them. Sergeant Varty also had a narrow escape during the retreat

His own horse was shot and he was only able to cover another hundred metres or so on Erskine's horse, which Trooper R Spiers had been able to catch for him as it careered down the slopes, saddle turned almost under its belly, before it was also wounded. Fortunately, Durnford's spare charger was available. While Sgt Varty was getting it under control and remounting, under heavy fire, several of his comrades hung back to support him.

  The Carbineers were thoroughly shown up by the mounted baSotho auxiliaries who, rallied by their young chief, covered their precipitous retreat and kept the amaHlubi at bay. Durnford tried to rally the Carbineers, but they broke again as soon as the first pursuing amaHlubi came into view and did not stop until they reached the camp. The miserable drill instructor, Sergeant Clarke, led the way, thereby putting the seal on his ignominious day's performance. The amaHlubi followed on foot for as long as they could down the Hlatimba Pass until their quarry were finally out of range and then returned in triumph, singing their war song.

Durnford and his ragged force returned to Fort Nottingham on 5 November, three days after their departure. Their arrival sparked a bitter furore of recriminations, accusations and counter-accusations that would take a considerable time to die down.

 Few emerged with much credit from the whole fiasco and at least one career - that of Sergeant Clarke - was ruined because of it. Clarke tried in vain to clear his name, writing a series of letters to the local newspapers and beseeching, without success, the Natal Governmentto institute a commission of enquiry.

 Later, when he was dismissed from the army altogether, he chose to leave Natal rather than be identified forever as a coward. Two weeks after the abortive expedition, Durnford, accompanied by some men of the 75th Regiment and several hundred mounted levies, returned to Bushman's River Pass to bury the five men who had fallen in the skirmish.

Cairns at the top of the pass - now known as the Langalibalele Pass - mark their graves and climbers in the area will be familiar with the adjacent peaks that today bear their names: Erskine, Bond, Potterill, Kambula and Katana. For good measure, there is also a Mount Durnford and a Carbineer Point.

Durnford's career survived the debacle, although he, too, came in for much criticism

In particular, he was accused of having ignored the advice of the Colonials, who, after all, knew the country and its people better than he did. Judging by the accounts of some of those who had served under him, Durnford does appear to have been profoundly out of touch with the feelings of the amaHlubi and of his own troops.

His blunt assertions that the Carbineers had failed in their duty further enraged the colonial population, who took this as a slur against the local militia. Someone even went as far as to poison his dog. Nevertheless, on 11 Dece:mber, Durnford was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, a vindication of his personal performance in the otherwise disastrous affair.

The final chapter in this gallant soldier's career - and the one for which he is primarily remembered - would be written a few years later on the blood-soaked field of Isandlwana.

For Langalibalele, the story does not have a happy ending. Four flying columns were organised to capture him and, on 11 December, coincidentally, the day on which his adversary was promoted, he was handed over by the baSotho chief, Molapo.

Following a mockery of a trial in Pietermaritzburg, he was sentenced to banishment for life. He returned in 1887, after the British Government intervened on his behalf, and died two years later.

The amaHlubi also paid dearly for their defiance.

Over a hundred were killed in a series of punitive attacks and their land and cattle were confiscated by the Natal Government.


BaSotho Troopers, just after the Langalibalele Uprising, stationed in Bushman's Pass. All appear to armed with Terry's carbines, save for the standing figure, who appears to have an Enfield carbine, hence the cap pouch. 

http://www.rorkesdriftvc.com


Although he was prone to rash decisions, he was considered a kind and considerate commander; his African troops were fiercely loyal to him.  This did not make him popular among his fellow officers. His superb troops of Mounted Basuto guides were soon know as "Durnford's Horse." He was sympathetic towards the native population, having served on the Boundary Commission that had found in favour of the Zululand claims versus those of the Boers. Shortly before the war he wrote of King Cetshwayo of the Zulus, "Poor devil! He is doing all he can to keep peach, but the white man wants his land, and alas for Cetshwayo!"

Towards the end of 1873 he was appointed Chief of Staff to a Field Force under the command of Colonel Miles which was sent as a reconnaissance to deal with a rumoured native rising under Chief Langalibalele.  Durnford was ordered to seize and hold the Bushman's River Pass to prevent the escape of Langalibalele. After a difficult march up the pass Durnford met with an accident by being dragged backwards over a precipice by his horse, sustaining a dislocated shoulder and 2 injured ribs. He succeeded in reaching his destination where he was surrounded by hostile natives. 

 Having been ordered by the Lieutenant-Governor "not to fire the first shot," he went forward attended by his native interpreter, and endeavoured to pursued the natives to disperse peacefully which they refused to do.  The natives opened fire and they retreated.  The native interpreter's house was shot, and Durnford rode to his assistance. 

While helping him to mount behind them the interpreter was shot and two of the natives seized Durnford's bridle.  He was able to escape but received an assegai through his already helpless left arm.  In spite of his severe injuries, he led out a rescue party.  
The local wildlife have no problem!

He permanently lost the use of his left arm from the assegai wound.  In 1873 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.  He returned to England 1876 returning to South Africa in 1877.   


To tackle the Mountains, must have been a huge task for the men!  


Lt Governor Sir Pine knew how to take responsibility!

In a despatch dated 13th November 1873, Lieut Governor Sir B.C.C. Pine who accepted 
the responsibility of the orders not to fire the first shot, and said of Major Durnford  "He behaved, by testimony of all present in the most gallant manner, using his utmost exertions to rally his little force, till left absolutely alone he was reluctantly compelled to follow them - wounded"

For consideration


During the course of the skirmish a spear had pierced Durnford's already injured left arm at the elbow severing the nerve, and a bullet had grazed his cheek.  His baptism of fire was hardly an auspicious event, although he had attempted, in vain, to save the life of Elijah Kambule, and had shot two amaHlubi, his command had quit the field in disarray.

 Nearly a fortnight after the skirmish Durnford led a burial detail to the Bushman's River Pass.  The bodies were recovered and buried, the committal service being conducted by the Reverend George Smith, the Vicar of Estcourt and Honorary Chaplain of the Weenen Yeomanry, 

After this the local tribes were displaced.

At the time of the battles with the Langalibalele so many women were injured in dislodging them from the caves, that on his second return from the mountains Anthony instituted a hospital tent where they might be attended to; but such humanity was by no means the general rule


   Durnford was in the meantime tasked with blocking the Drakensberg passes, in order to prohibit in order preventing a repetition of the amaHlubi incident, and any possible incursion from the BaSothos on the other side of the mountains.  He had an available labour force in the amaPutini men who had unjustly been accused of conspiracy with the amaHlubi.  

Durnford bargained for the rights of these tribespeople, urging the Colonial Administration to repatriate to their dispossessed lands.  Having successfully completed the task of blocking the mountain passes, the amaPutini set to road work, and the reputation of the work gang grow, so much so that Africans were actually volunteering to work for Durnford.  

The took up the cause of the injured and innocent people. At the time of Bushmans Pass there was a problem with getting some of the tribes back to their villages,  he paid the full wages of free labourers for the time during which they had worked. The mounted Basutos where were with him at Bushmans River Pass accompanied remained his devoted followers for the rest of his life.

He had a caring nature, and as his Isaacson family included so many learned Bishops scholars, and clerics that this trait of caring for people is more likely in his genes, and it is one of ours as well!)


Anthony's Report.


Having reached the Bushman's Pass at 6.30 a.m., on the 4th November, with one officer, one sergeant, and thirty-three rank and file of the Carbineers, and a few Basutos, I at once formed them across the mouth of the pass, the natives in charge of cattle already in the mountain flying in every direction.  Possibly there may have been one hundred at the outside, about half of whom were armed with shooting weapons.  

Having posted my party, I went with my interpreter to reassure the natives.  Calling for the chief man, I told him to assemble his people, and say that Government required their Chief, Langalibalele, to answer certain charges; that his people who submitted to Government should be safe, with their wives, children, and cattle; that all loyal people should go to Estcourt, where Mr. Shepstone, Minister for Native Affairs, was, and make submission, and they should be safe.  My interpreter was recognised as one of Mr. Shepstone's attendants, and the Induna thanked me in the name of the people, saying they would all go down and tell my words to the tribe, who were not aware of the good intentions of Government and were afraid.

 I told them to take their cattle and go down.  The Chief said they would, but begged me to leave them, as he could not answer for the young men, who were excited, and might injure me.  I left him exerting himself, so far as I could judge, in carrying out my wishes.

 Seeing that the natives were getting behind stones commanding the mouth of the pass, I turned their position by sending my small party of Basutos on the one side, I taking half the Carbineers to the other - the other half guarding the mouth of the pass.  All were then in such position, that had a shot been fired, I could have swept the natives down the pass.  Their gestures were menacing, but no open act of hostility was committed.

  About this time I was informed that many men were coming up the pass, and, on reaching the spot, found it was the case.  On ordering them back, they obeyed sullenly.  Matters now looked serious, and I was informed by the senior officer of volunteers present that the Carbineers, many of whom were young men, could not be depended upon.  

They said they were surrounded, and would be massacred.  I have reason to believe that this panic was created by their drill instructor, an old soldier of the late Cape Corps, up to whom they naturally looked.  Upon this, as the only chance of safety, and in hopes of saving men's lives, although perfectly aware that it was a fatal line of policy, I drew in my outlaying party, and gave the order to retire. 

There was nothing else to be done.  I had no support.  As I was about to retire by alternate divisions, the first shot was fired by the natives, followed by two or three, when, seized with panic, the Carbineers fled, followed by the Basutos.

 My interpreter and three Volunteers were killed.  There were probably two hundred natives present at the time the  first shot was fired.  The firing was never heavy, and their ammunition soon became exhausted.  The orders I received were "not to fire the first shot." I obeyed.  

   A.W. DURNFORD,
Major Royal Engineers.





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The British Press Reported the stories

18 December 1873   The Falkirk Herald

Kaffir Revolt at the Cape  -  The chief item of news brought by the South African mail relates to an outbreak of Kaffirs in Natal.  It seems however to have been confined to a  single tribe the chief, which refused to submit to a regulation requiring him to have his arms registered.  A troop of Carbineers was sent to intercept the tribe at a mountain pass, but was surrounded and three Europeans including a son of Major Erskine the Colonial Secretary were killed and the commander of the troop Major Durnford, wounded.  The others took refuge in the hills until the natives withdrew i is supposed into Basutoland.  One report speaks of 90 Kaffirs being killed.

The Bath Chronicle enlarges on the story.

The native chief named Chief Langalibalele who commands 10,000 followers and whose location is at the foot of the Drakensberg mountains, defied a Government order to have firearms registered.  2000 men of his tribe returned from the diamond fields armed with guns.

The 30 Carbineers, under Major Durnford, had occupied a pass unsupported, and for some time almost without food; that they were at last obliged to kill a beast and eat it raw; that a strong party of Kaffirs came up the pass, with a number of cattle.  There was an encounter and the following casualties  Privates Erskine, Potterill and Bond, Privates, and three natives killed, 5 horses killed.

A letter from Colonel Mills to Major Erskine says"  "Your son behaved gallantly and but for his saddle turning round he would have returned safe

Langalibalele has escaped. his camp empty.  Another letter from Drill Instructor Sergeant Clark  - 

 The facts are we arrived at the top of the Bushman's Pass just as the Kaffirs were taking their cattle up, and stopped them; but they soon surrounded us and killed the 3 privates horse and natives.  

The troop is now  up the mountain and are all right.  We were three days on the top without food for horse or man.  The troop has performed wonders in marching.  We were in the saddle on Sunday evening and Monday 18 hours and 21.5 hours, from Tuesday to last night coming of the berg.

The Kaffirs are well arrmed and well drilled.  I shall be in town on Friday and let you know all about the affair.  We have 5 horses killed and three natives, one of the Mr Shepstone's man Elija Kanbule a fine brave fellow.  We are glad to hear that a rumour about town that Mr Shepston is wounded is without foundation.



Mr W E Shepstone has letters from both his father and brother both of whom are well.  From him we learn that Major Durnford was endeavouring to release Elijah from his horse, which was shot and fell upon him, when the Major was himself attacked, and for for shooting both his assailants would probably have been killed; likewise we learn that Major Durnford is wounded, and Captain Boyes had a very narrow escape.




There was an Enquiry 

The BRP Court of Enquiry was held at Pietermaritzburg from October 1874 to mid-December. Sadly, the official records of the COE were destroyed on instructions from, probably, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 

The very detailed information relating to the incident was therefore extracted by Drooglever from the Natal Witness. Durnford's own evidence was printed in that newspaper on 11 December 1874. 

It may not help you too much but for those in the UK, copies of the Natal Witness (and other contemporary Natal papers) can be found in the British Newspaper Library at Colindale, London. Incidentally, the terms of reference were 'to enquire into all aspects of the expedition relative to the [Natal] Carbineers and to decide whether those on the Pass "merited censure" '.

 (Here I am quoting Drooglever.) 



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