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Tuesday, February 10, 2015 AWD The Aftermath Burying the Dead - after 4 months in the elements.

Burying the Dead

THE BISHOP'S OFFER TO BURY THE DEAD (He tried several times)

In March 1879 the people in England were wanting to know about the dead.

In April 1879, John Colenso sought permission from Frere to travel to the site, without military assistance, so that he could bring the bodies back.  As previously he had a good relationship with Cetshwayo and planned on asking him for protection.

Quite some weeks later, Chelmsford and Frere denied that request.

Yet, although a certain number of people in Natal were worked up to take the
erroneous and ignoble view of the case put forward by the writer to the 
unpatriotic petition in the eyes of some.   Again, he had asked permission, 
in April 1879, to go up to Isandhlwana and bury the dead left upon the 
battlefield since January 22nd, and had offered to go without armed force, 
and under a safe-conduct which he would himself obtain from Cetshwayo* 

And, finally. * Lord Chelmsford writes to the Bishop from Utrecht on May 
12th, as follows : — 
" My Lord, — With reference to our conversation held at Government House, 
Pietermaritzburg, on the 20th April last, regarding your Lordship's proposal 
to ask permission of Cetshwayo to be allowed to bury the bodies, 
or rather bones, of those who fell at Isandhlwana, I have the honour to inform you that
 I referred the question, according to our agreement, to H.E.
the High Commissioner. Owing to both H.E. and myself being on the move, the reply,
 dated May 1st, only reached me a few days ago.                    how insensitive
" Sir Bartle Frere considers that a request such as your Lordship proposed 
would not be advisable at the present moment,and I cannot help expressing
my entire concurrence in that view. 
" I need hardly assure your Lordship that the question of burying those who
fell so nobly has been continually in my thoughts, and that I am most anxious
to have it done as speedily as possible. From reports that I have received
I do not believe the work could have been done without risking the health of those
 employed in the task, until quite lately. And now I feel that I could not detach the
 requisite number of troops without seriously interfering with the operations now going on.
 I should feel much obliged if your Lordship would explain to any whom you
may meet who are interested in the application.  
[N.B. It could have been done safely, in every sense, immediately after
 the battle]

It is hardly necessary to point out that the above is a string of weak and worthless excuses. It is a matter of history now that nothing but the utter 
panic which seized upon the leaders of the remaining British army, upon 
discovering the destruction of the camp and troops at Isandhlwana, prevented 
their finding out that the superstitious and national customs of the Zulus
rendered that dreadful battle-field safe from them for many days after the battle. 

Lord Chelmsford might have formed an intrenched camp hard by,and buried his 
dead at once in perfect safety from attack. It may also be remarked in
passing that there was no " requisite number of troops," as the Bishop 
had offered to go with a native working party only.

But the refusal is not surprising. Sir B. Frere would naturally resist any 
attempt to treat Cetshwayo according to the honourable customs of more 
chivalrous warfare, or to consider him in any light but that of a wild beast 
to be hunted down. 

From 'The Ruin"


Timeline to Finding the Bodies

Burying the Dead

The reference is to Zulu:The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879  Saul David.
ebook available

The failure of burying the British dead at Isandlwana, had been the cause of much resentment and controversy since the battle.  According to Captain Harford, the whole of the Rorke's Drift garrison had been "eager to march back to Isandhlwana and bury the dead, but the "authorities" meaning Chelmsford, considered it too great a risk and who on 14th February assured Colonel Glyn that the task would be undertaken once reinforcements arrived.

On 3rd March he asked Glyn how to best "bury the dead at Isandlwana".  But on 18th March Chelmsford changed his mind, and decided that it would have to be deferred until we have completed our work in Zululand.

He saw it, in effect, as a distraction that would seriously delay the advance of his columns. But another fact may have influenced his decision, the danger that a full scale burial party would find incriminating documents, particularly Crealock's order to Durnford of 22nd January.  By postponing the expedition he would increase the likelihood that such papers were either removed by the Zulus or destroyed by the elements.

What Chelmsford did not know was that Colonel Glyn had given Lieut Colonel Wilsone Black of the 2/24th permission to take a small party of horsemen back to Isandlwana on 14th March.  There were 33 men, including 14 of the NMP and a handful of men from 24th Regiment.

Lieut John Maxwell of the NNC reported on the find.  The details are not pretty, but you can imagine the scene. Men, horses mules, ox, belongings, about 100 wagons, bodies only distinguishable by uniforms and the stench.

When they were leaving they were fired upon by Zulus, but returned to Rorke's Drift.  Black brought with him several of the generals papers, which were returned to their owner in Durban.  

Chelmsford still refused to allow a large scale operation to recover them with using his excuse as being "the sickening stench"


On 15th May 1879, Crealock's notebook was found by Major Black who visited the field twice,  and who gave Crealock his notebooks when he returned to Durban.

* another report says he found that on 21st May, but found Crealocks in the first trip on 15th May either way it was found..

Crealock returned to England around the end of 1879, he would have followed events which were being reported in the press.

According to most stories written or discussed, the next mention of the notebook is in 1882, but that is incorrect from reports in the press of August 1880.

Major Black also found Lieut Pope's papers on the second visit to the sit on 21st May, 1879


Major Black and the First Burials.

On 15 May Lieutenant Colonel (promoted from Major) Black and a small party rode to Isandlwana. A Zulu force, estimated at thirty to forty, followed the party as it returned by way of Sotondosi’s (‘Fugitives’) Drift, where its crossing was covered by part of Bengough’s battalion.

Then, on 19 and 20 May, General Marshall concentrated the mounted imperial and colonial units at Rorke’s Drift. The imperial units were the Lancers and the King’s Dragoon Guards; a section of N Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Artillery; and some of the Army Service Corps.

 The colonial units were the Natal Mounted Police, the Natal Carbineers, Carbutt’s Rangers, probably the Buffalo Border Guard, and the Newcastle Mounted Rifles, and some native scouts. At 04h00 on 21 May Colonel Drury Lowe led a wing of the Lancers, and another of the Dragoons, along with ten Carbineers and some scouts, across the drift and up the Batshe valley, then over the Nqutu ridge into the valley beyond, in a wide sweep around and on to the Isandlwana battlefield. 

At 05h30 Marshall led the rest of the Lancers and Dragoons, Bengough’s battalion, and some of the colonial troops, across, and followed the advance as far as the high ground, which his force then swept down to a junction with Drury Lowe’s cavalry on the battlefield. 

Meanwhile Black posted the four companies of the 2/24th (which were the garrison at the drift) at the head of the Batshe valley to secure the return route. The main forces reached the battlefield about 08h30. 

Troops searched the site and buried some of the dead, and they burnt abandoned kraals in the area. There was no opposition, although a Zulu force was reported later to have gone to meet the expedition and reached the field too late. Marshall brought back the troops in the early afternoon. 

The next day he returned to Dundee, but the troops remained at Rorke’s Drift while a squadron of the Lancers scouted across Sotondosi’s Drift. On 23 May the units returned to their original posts.

Within the week those which comprised the invading column gathered at Landman’s Drift and moved across the Buffalo to Koppie Allen, whence they advanced into Zululand on 31 May 1879.


21st May General Marshall set off  again to visit the battlefield and this time included in the party  were War Correspondents, Archibald Forbes of the Daily News and Melton Prior of the Illustrated London News.

Forbes wrote a graphic account of what he saw.  "mere bones, some dismembered, men disemboweled, some scalped and other ghastlier mutilation.

Some papers were removed from Durnford, his body then wrapped in a piece of canvas possibly part of a tent and buried under a cairn of stones, as were the rest of the non-24th dead.  Those were not buried until June.

It appears it was Shepstone who was seen taking papers, he insisted that Durnford was found coatless, however in a statement from Longhurst, he advised "he wore a coat" (blue)

 Archibald Forbes wrote in his article which appeared in the London Press, that Shepstone took articles from Durnford's pocket.

John Young has done extensive research, and been recognised
for his historical knowledge relating to the period.


But General Marshall and his men, were not the first to remove something from Anthony Durnford.


Could anyone imagine what it must have been like, to spend the night sleeping in the Battlefield, surrounded by dead men, dead animals and the like?

Bright fires were seen in the distance, so the horses were not unsaddled but were ringed,
and stood uneasily all night with the bodies of dead men lying round them.

” I had charge of thirty of the horses during part of the night,” writes Colonel Clarke in his diary.
‘ There were the corpses of four men of the 24th Regiment in the ring, and others under the horses*
legs, which caused the animals to surge to and fro so that it was almost impossible to control them.

At one time we were on top of the adjoining ring, which brought curses on my head. I was not sorry
to be relieved.

‘ There were several false alarms, with some firing. In the middle of the night some one found
a commissariat wagon and called out ‘ Roll up for biscuits/ but there was no response so far as we were concerned.

” The night seemed endless, but at break of dawn we were able to realize the horrors of our situation.
Mutilated bodies were lying everywhere, some naked, some only in shirts; and nearly all without
boots. The Zulus had done their plundering very thoroughly.”

Most of the fallen men were mutilated, but with few exceptions the members of the police had been
killed with one or two stabs. Everything in the camp was broken ; sacks of mealies and oats were ripped open, tins of bully beef were stabbed, bottles were broken and tents destroyed. Even the wagons had been overturned into dongas in the mad carnival of wrecking.


Gloucestershire Chronicle 28 June 1879, blames General Durnford!  Well he must have been a pretty good witness to the events, because General Durnford was safely in England, but probably very concerned with events.


From the Grantham Journal 28 June 1879   The Dead at Isandula   From the special correspondent of the Daily news.     The contents of this are included in the book mentioned above and the report and description is quite gruesome and graphic.   Available to download, however

 "In a patch of long grass, near the right flank of camp lay Durnford's body, the long moustache still clinging to the withered skin of the face.  Captain Shepstone recognised him at once, and identified him yet further by the ring on his finger and a knife with the name on it in the pocket, which relics were brought away.

 Durnford had died hard - central figure of a knot of brave men who had fought it out around their chief to the bitter end.  A stalwart Zulu covered by his shield lay at the colonel's feet.  Around him, almost in a ring lay about a dozen men, half being Natal carbineers, riddled by assegi stabs.

These gallant fellows were easily identified by their comrades who accompanied the column.  Poor Lieut Scot was hardly at all decayed.

 Clearly they had rallied round Durnford in a last despairing attempt to cover the flank of the camp and had stood fast from choice, when they might have essayed to fly for their horses.   Close behind the dead at the picquet line, a gully traverses the ground in front of the camp.  About four hundred paces beyond this was the ground of the battle before the troops broke from their formation, and on both sides this gully the dead.  He very thickly.  In one place nearly fifty of the 24th.  He almost touching, as if they had fallen in rallying square.  The line of straggling rush back to camp is clearly marked by the skeletons all along the front"                                   (exact wording)


Alwick Mercury 23rd August 1879  Reported on the burial of the members of the 2/24th on 22nd June.  

What horrific scenes they witnessed, because these poor men had been lying on the field for 5 months!

Questions were being asked in Parliament about the Enquiry.

But where was Crealock and what was he doing in South Africa after 18th May when his book was recovered, and when did he return to England?  Again the newspapers reveal those facts.

Before they left South Africa, all did not seem well between Chelmsford and Crealock.

Perhaps missing papers, has another meaning,
when they are found washed up on a beach!
Telegrams from Fort Durnford Sept 1879
found February 1880

 By August 29th 1879, of the newspaper they are back in England, almost all of those Colonels and Generals  who were at Isandhlwana and now enjoying the welcome from the citizens.

Newspapers were full of the stories. and included here are proof of what had been recorded.

In early September 1879 shortly after his return from South Africa, Lord Chelmsford was given an audience with the Queen. She recorded the conversation in her journal:

'Ld. Chelmsford said no doubt poor Col. Durnford had disobeyed orders, in leaving the camp as he did... Ld. Chelmsford knew nothing, Col. Durnford never having sent any message to say he was in danger... This much is clear to me: viz. that it was not his fault, but that of others, that this surprise at Sandlwana took place... I told Ld. Chelmsford he had been blamed by many, and even by the Government, for commencing the war without sufficient cause. He replied that he believed it to have been quite inevitable; that if we had not made war when we did, we should have been attacked and possibly overpowered.'

"Most of what Chelmsford told the Queen was a pack of lies. Durnford, as we have seen, did not disobey orders. And Chelmsford ignored at least two warnings to the effect the camp 'was in danger'. In addition, the war was not one of self-defence but of conquest. Queen Victoria, however, would not see the truth"

Lieut Col Crealock

During the Austro-Prussian War he was military attaché at Vienna, and from 1874 to 1877 he served as quartermaster-general in Ireland. In the Anglo-Zulu War he commanded the first division, and for his services was created C.M.G. and received a medal with a clasp. He was also created C.B.
Crealock retired from the army on 4 September 1884 with the rank of lieutenant-general

Crealock was an accomplished draughtsman, who made sketches of scenes in the Indian mutiny and China campaign are valuable records. He furnished many sketches of the Zulu campaign to the Illustrated London News.


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