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Colonel William Royston

Colonel William Royston, of English birth, rose from a trumpeter in the Natal Carbineers in 1872, to command the regiment in the Zulu War, for which he received medal and clasp, retaining the command from 1881. He served in the operations against Langalibalele in 1873, and in 1881 commanded the escort of Sir Bartle Frere, High Commissioner, on his visit to the Transvaal. In 1889 he was appointed adjutant of Volunteers, and in 1897 he despatched to England the Diamond Jubilee Contingent. On 1st January, 1898, Colonel Royston became Commandant of Natal Volunteers; and, after passing scatheless through the siege of Ladysmith—one bullet passed under his arm—he suddenly succumbed in Maritzburg to fever and pneumonia, on 6th April, 1900: receiving a memorable funeral in the Military Cemetery, Fort Napier, amid tokens of universal grief.

The death of this gallant officer was the severest loss Natal sustained. For 20 years Colonel Royston was held in esteem and affection. His ability in administration was equal to his capacity in command. There was hardly a detail in artillery, infantry, or cavalry upon which he was not competent to advise and judge. He was the inventor of the Royston revolving target, the combined bandolier and cross-belt, and a useful gun-bucket, which the military commended. Himself a capital shot, no man did more to encourage shooting; and under his watchful eye the volunteer system1 was made ready for war. At Ladysmith he held the post of defence from Caesar’s Camp, across the flat, to the railway line; and his conduct in the attack of the 6th January, 1900, won the admiration of the G.O.C., who placed two batteries in his command. He and General Hunter alike were indefatigable, ever cheerful, never tired, an inspiration and example to rank and file; and together, Colonial and Imperial, they planned and led the notable night capture of the guns at Gun Hill on1 8th December, 1899.


General George Dartnell, Commanding Natal Volunteer Brigade.

John George Dartnell, C.M.G., became ensign in the 86th Regiment in 1855; lieutenant 1856; captain 1859; brevet-major 1865. He exchanged from the 16th to the 27th Regiment, 1862, and retired by sale of commission, 1869. He served with the Central India Field Force, under Sir Hugh Rose in 1857-8, and was present at the capture of Chandaree, and led the successful escalade attack on Jhansi—severely wounded, mentioned in dispatches (medal and clasp, captain, and brevet of major). He also served in the Bhootan Expedition in 1865 as A.D.C. to Sir H. Tombs, and was present at the recapture of Dewangiri (medal and clasp).


Major Dartnell became commandant of the Mounted Police and Volunteer Forces of Natal, 1874 ; member of Defence Committee, 1887; was granted the rank of colonel commanding the local forces of Natal, 188S. He served through the Zulu War, 1879 (medal with clasp), on the staff of Lord Chelmsford; and served in the Transvaal Campaign of 1881, being present at the battle of Lang’s Nek, and was then made C.M.G. He was entrusted with the reorganisation of the Police Forces of Natal, and became Chief Commissioner of Police, 1894. He is a J.P., and has acted as secretary for native affairs, commissioner of mines, and inspector of prisons.


Colonel Dartnell was on the staff of General Penn-Symons at Talana, bringing the G.O.C. out of fire after he was wounded, and took a prominent part in the retirement of the troops to Ladysmith. He was at Lombard’s Kop, at Gun Hill, and at Caesar’s Camp, being through the siege of Ladysmith as colonel-in-chief of the Colonial Forces. He was appointed brigadier-general in command of the Volunteer Brigade, and was at the capture of Helpmakaar and in the advance to Charlestown; returning with the brigade to Dundee to command the forces there.

Parent Category: Books
Category: Anon: Natal Volunteer Record
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