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Bayley of the Natal Light Horse 1 year 1 month ago #89538

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Edgar Bayley

Trooper, Natal Light Horse – Anglo Zulu War

- South African General Service Medal (1879) to TROOPR. E. BAYLEY, NAT: L. HORSE

Edgar Bayley’s start to life was an inauspicious one. It could be said that, as he entered adulthood, he attracted attention to himself for all the wrong reasons.

Born in London on 17 April 1837, the son of Thomas, an Agent by occupation and his wife Martha, Edgar was baptised in the parish church of St. George the Martyr in Southwark on 17 May 1837 – at which point his family were living in Goswell Road, St. Luke’s.

According to the 1841 England census, a 4 year old Edgar was at home in Ossulstone in the Holborn Division of London when the enumerator called round. He was not alone with older siblings Elizabeth (15), Thomas (10), and Martha (5) for company.


At the time of the 1851 England census the Bayley family had moved to Eccleshall in Staffordshire where the patriarch of the family had set up a Grocer’s business. They lived at no. 38 in the High Street. Thomas was now 14 years of age and, with exception of sister Sarah (19), was the only child still at home.

Of Edgar in the 1861 census there was no sign although it can be supposed that having come of age, he had returned to the London he knew well. In about 1857, at the age of 20, he gained employment in the firm of George J. Cockerell of Earl Street, Blackfriars – a man who was the appointed supplier of coal to H. M. Queen Victoria for fifty years and who amassed a considerable fortune.

It was whilst thus employed that Edgar strayed from the path. Perhaps the cost of keeping up appearances got to him or being a young chap, he might have fallen in with the wrong crowd – whatever the cause, Bayley found himself in the dock in 1863. Having been taken into custody on 4 April of that year, Bayley, described as a 26 year old Clerk, was tried for his crimes on the 8th by Alderman Conder at the Guildhall. He pleaded guilty to embezzlement and was sentenced to 6 months in the House of Correction, Holloway.

But what was the embezzlement of which he was found guilty? The official records revealed that he had been charged with “Embezzling and stealing the sums of £2.8s, £4.16s and £2.8s, and other sums from George Joseph Cockerell and another.”

Cockerell’s place of business

A report in the London Morning Herald of 6 April 1863 read as follows, under the banner “Police Intelligence of Saturday, Guildhall” provided more detail: -

“Embezzlement of £100. – Edgar Bayley, a clerk and collector in the employ of Mr. ex - Sheriff Cockerell, was charged before Alderman Conder with embezzling various sums, amounting in all, to about £100, within the last two months.

Mr Sleigh, instructed by Mr Farrar, attended for the prosecution, and Mr Lewis for the defence. It was stated that the accused had been in Messrs. Cockerell’s service about six or seven years, his salary being 35s per week, and that recently circumstances transpired which induced certain inquiries, the result of which was that the prisoner admitted his defalcations, and eventually handed over a list of sums which he had received on behalf of his employer and had not accounted for. Upon this avowal he given into custody and evidence having been given of the misappropriation of three sums, amounting to £10, all of which the prisoner pleaded guilty to, he was committed for trial.”

His sentence commenced on 13 April on which date he passed through the prison gates. An inspection conducted on the prison in 1862, the year before Bayley arrived there, tells the reader what fate awaited him.

Holloway Prison

'As we approached the outer gate of the prison by the enclosed entry flanked on our right hand by the chaplain's house, and on the left by that of the governor, both uniform in appearance and of elegant construction, the battlements and lofty tower of the prison rose conspicuously before us, reminding us of some noble castle of the olden feudal times. On our knocking at the outer iron bolted gate, an elderly, modest-looking officer appeared at the grating, and admitted us within the walls of the prison.

We entered the apartment containing the prisoner's own clothing, on the right side of the reception ward. There we found a large quantity of prisoner's garments carefully packed in bundles and deposited in racks around the walls, arranged according to their sentences, each of them labelled with the name, register, number and sentence of each.

Many of the bundles contained ragged and soiled clothing, with a large proportion of respectable and fashionable garments. 'Some bundles.' said the warder. 'belong to rogues and vagabonds, pickpockets and burglars, others to sailors and soldiers. A good number of prisoners have been clerks in lawyer's offices and travellers and warehousemen in commercial houses, brought here for embezzling their master's property;
And some have been in a good position in society and are now under sentence for fraudulent bankruptcy. In addition to these, we have had many tradesmen and mechanics for various offenses.

"The furniture of the cell.' said the reception warden, 'consists of a small deal table, attached to the right-hand side of the cell' which he folded down, like the leave of a table; 'also a water-closet, fixed into one of the further corners of the cell, which has a wooden lid and serves as a set to the prisoner; a wash-hand basin and a tub for washing the feet.'

Above the table is a gas-jet, over which the prisoner has no control. The chief warder observed, 'It is lit at dusk and extinguished at nine o'clock at night, when the prisoners retire to rest.'

On the right-hand corner, beside the door are three triangular shelves. The bedding, rolled firmly up and fastened with two leather straps, is generally laid on the upper one; containing a pair of blankets, a rug, a pair of sheets, a horse-hair mattress and a pillow, which at night are put into a hammock, suspended on two strong iron hooks on each side of the cell. 'On the second shelf. ' Added the governor, who had just entered the cell, 'is a plate, together with a tin jug for gruel, a wooden salt cellar and a wooden spoon. On the lower shelve are deposited a Bible, prayer-book and hymn-book; two combs and a brush, a cocoa-nut fibre rubber for polishing the floor and underneath the lower shelf is a small drawer, containing the materials for cleaning the window of the cell.'

'On the right-hand side of the door,' continued the governor, 'there is a small handle of easy access to the prisoner, by which he is able to ring at any moment when he requires the attention of an officer.' This handle communicated with a bell outside which is in hearing of the officer in charge. On the officer coming to the door of the cell he opens this wooden trap, which is about nine inches by seven.

The walls of the reception cells, like those in the corridors above, are whitewashed. There are six altogether, ranged on both sides of the ward. In the wide passage between these cells we saw a number of ladders, placed along the wall on our right hand which are used in cleaning the windows and repairing the prison.

There is a wooden machine in the same ward to which boys are fastened when whipped by order of the magistrates. The governor observed to us, "I am happy to record that no prisoner has been flogged in this prison for the last ten years since its opening. None have been punished except those ordered by the magistrates at the police courts."

When the prisoners arrive they are taken down to the reception warder into his office and the prison rules are read and explained to them. They are examined by the Medical Officer in the office of the Reception warder, who certifies as to their state of health and notice is taken of any ailment as to their ability to perform the labour enjoining their sentence.

The prisoners are again placed in the reception cells, where they are carefully visited by the governor in his daily inspection of the prisoners are which they are removed into the body of the prison to undergo their sentence. They are then committed to the care of the principal warder to undergo their sentence. They are then committed to the care of the principal warder in charge at the central hall when they are again examined by the chief warder and appointed to their respective cells in the various corridors.

'At the expiry of their sentence,' continued the reception warder, 'they are placed in the reception cells where they are stripped of the prison clothing and their own garments are returned to them. They are weighed in the weighing machine and their weight duly entered, to ascertain if they have gained or lost during their imprisonment.'

They are afterwards examined by the governor in the reception office in the manner we have recorded in the presence of the chief warder and the clerk of the prison when their case is carefully considered and clothing and money given to them as the case may require. They are sometimes sent to a home in the metropolis or employment is found for them and an outfit supplied at the expense of the city.

'After the prisoners are bathed in the reception ward, they are inspected by the surgeon on the following morning, who certifies as to their fitness for labour, independent of what their sentence may be. I then receive them from the reception warder. I find if the register number put on their arm corresponds with the number in the receipt book for male prisoners, together with their name, age, occupation, previous conviction (if any), with the date of their discharge. I insert the whole of this on a card, which is given to the prisoner and is hung up in his cell, together with a copy of the prison rules and dietary.' The prisoners are allotted to their respective wards according to their criminal character, sentence and occupation.

We entered one of the adjoining cells which is 7 feet wide and 13 feet long at the top and 9 feet at the bottom of the arch. It is floored with asphalt as all the other cells are and carefully polished and whitewashed. The furniture consists of a small folding table attached to the sides of the cell, a copper basin and water closet and a water tap covered with pipes inside, communicating with the water closet and wash basin, a soap-box with soap, a nail brush and a small piece of flannel for cleansing. In a corner beside the door is a small triangular cupboard with three shelves on the top of which is the hammock trolled up and bound together by two strong leather straps. The furniture here is exactly the same as in the cells in the reception ward except that here there are several library books for the use of prisoners. In the cell we entered we saw two or three volume.

The window of the cell is 3 ft 6 in. by 18 in. similar to those in the reception ward. On the wall is suspended a card containing the prisoner's registered number, his age, etc as already referred to and alongside is a copy of the prison regulations as to the disposal of his time from 5.45 am to 9 pm, specifying how he is to be occupied in his cell, as well as out of it, in chapel, at school, on the exercise ground, etc. Corridor A is divided into four wards. No’s 1,2,3, consist of felons guilty of their first offense and number 4 of parties tried summarily.

Once Bayley had departed from the hallowed portals of Holloway, he put as much distance between himself and London as circumstances would allow. Maintaining a London address, he sought and obtained a position as a Traveller (most likely with his father who was now pursuing that occupation as well). This meant that he could be out and about in the countryside for most of the time.

On 18 August 1869 he wed Eleanor Ward Wallis, the 22 year old daughter of Clergyman, Charles Hubert Wallis. The ceremony took place in St. Mary’s, Edge Hill, West Derby. The bride’s address was given as 55 Broughton St. West Derby whilst Bayley’s was given as 46 Hatton Garden, London. He was 32 years old. One can only speculate whether or not his incarceration was ever divulged to her or her family. Reverend Wallis made it to his daughter’s wedding with only a few months to spare – he passed away on 26 November 1869.

Two years later, at the time of the 1871 England census, Bayley and family were ensconced in Fulham, London. Mrs Bayley had given birth to Ada Louisa who was a baby of 9 months. Louisa Wallis, the mother-in-law and now a widow of 68 was employed as the House Keeper. Edgar was described as a Commercial Traveller.

Bayley must have felt that his every effort was dogged by failure – on 1 June 1875 he was committed to a London Workhouse by a Mr George. Although only an inmate for a week (he was released at his own request on 8 June) this must have been indicative that he had fallen on hard times. He was to enjoy another short sojourn at a workhouse – on this occasion the Strand Union, St. Giles Workhouse, a little later that month when he spent from 18 to 21 June there before being released at his own request once more.

No doubt tiring of England and the misfortune he seemed to experience there, Bayley set sail for South Africa and a new, perhaps brighter, future. The odd thing was that he did so without his wife and daughter.

Having landed in the country he set about making a life for himself in the interior of the Eastern Cape where he took up residence at Grahamstown – setting himself up in business as a Picture Framer and Furniture Dealer. It could be argued that, as he went about his day he would never have imagined that he would be involved in a war in a few years hence as a Trooper with the Natal Light Horse.

A sketch of a Natal Horse trooper - a N.L.H. man would have been similarly attired

Natal, after the debacle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 and the face-saving action at Rorke’s Drift a few days later, was a jittery place in which to find oneself. According to popular rumour the Zulus were literally “at the gate” of the Colony and, without much effort, were likely to cross the Buffalo River and invade the towns plundering and killing all in their path.

The N.L.H. would never had been formed were it not for the fact that the recruiting efforts made to supplement the numbers of the Frontier Light Horse were overly successful. During the period January- February 1879 the F.L.H. had lost a number of men, Time Expired. An aggressive recruiting drive in the Eastern Cape yielded better than expected results and the new recruits headed for Pietermaritzburg before being moved up to Kambula with Wood’s Column and the Front Line. A 41 year old Bayley was one of these recruits.

After the battles of Hlobane and Kambula the F.L.H. was brought up to full strength again and two of their officers, Captain G. Marshall and Captain T. McDonald were authorised to each raise a troop of mounted men intended as replacements for the F.L.H. McDonald was asked to raise a troop in Pietermaritzburg which duly achieved – a report in the Durban press of 16 March 1879 alluding to their existence appeared:

“The Governor General ….… accompanied by a bodyguard of McDonald’s Maritzburg Mounted Contingent, a body of men who have recently been raised here, and who presented a striking appearance in their picturesque costumes……”

McDonald’s Maritzburg contingent were in Utrecht a month later, the intention being that these men would replace the losses incurred by the F.L.H. at Hlobane. Quite when they arrived at Wood’s Kambula camp is unknown but, on arrival, it was found that the F.L.H. were no longer in need of additional manpower and no one knew what to do with them. McDonald’s men were already being put to use doing patrol work but common sense soon prevailed and both McDonald’s and Marshall’s troops, 140 men combined, were brought together and a regiment, the Natal Light Horse, was formed under the command of Captain Watt Whalley.

The N.L.H. now formed, alongside the Frontier Light Horse, part of Wood’s Flying Column which had the sole objective of taking the fight to Ulundi and the destruction of the Zulu war effort as it went along its way. The N.L.H. played a prominent part in the engagement on 5 June 1879 of which much was made in the press of the day.

Schematic of the square at Ulundi

On the morning of 3 July parties of men fetching water were fired on with the action developing into a brisk little skirmish. By noon of that day Chelmsford’s ultimatum to the Zulu King had not been met and he ordered Buller to take all his mounted men across the river, to clear the bluff of any snipers and to reconnoitre for a suitable location for the final battle that was to come.

At lunch time Buller left camp with, among other regiments, the Natal Light Horse. Ahead of his force lay the vast Mhlabatini flats with the Royal Kraal at Ulundi a few miles away in the distance. Buller ordered his men to dismount as they went along preparatory to firing a volley into a group of herdsmen herding goats ahead. He did not realise, until it was too late, that he had been led into a trap. No sooner had the men dismounted than 3000 Zulus rose from the long grass a 100 yards away and rushed forward.

Buller ordered the retreat but as his men turned hundreds of Zulus rose on either side. The retreat turned into a neck and neck race for the drift, when the last of the men were safely across the river they dismounted at the river’s edge – they had not come away unscathed – Trooper Peacock of the N.L.H., among others, lay dead in the grass.

Before first light the next day all the mounted men of the Flying Column had splashed through the drift and taken up position on the Zulu side. By 8 a.m. the force had been formed into a hollow square. As the square readied itself for battle, the mounted troops moved away from it in search of the impi. The mass of Zulus sat silently until they rose and moved forward until, from all sides, the square was surrounded. The mounted men would fire, reload, circle, and fire again in the face of the oncoming masses, all the while drawing the Zulus closer to the square.

The battle of Ulundi as portrayed by an artist present

The mounted men then retreated to the square and, once within, the battle proper began. It is said that it took less than half an hour of sustained fire from the Gatling gun, the artillery and the rapid fire of the Martini Henry’s to make the Zulus halt, hesitate and break ranks leading to an all-out uncontrolled retreat. All the mounted men then burst forth from the square in pursuit of the fleeing Zulus, mowing them down as and when they encountered them. They then raced on for Ulundi and put the deserted Royal Kraal to flames.

The N.L.H. lost one killed and one wounded in the Battle of Ulundi. That night was spent in camp before the march back to St. Paul’s (the principal base) was commenced. By 9 July the Zulu War was a thing of the past and the men of the Natal Light Horse went their separate ways. It is not known when they were officially disbanded.

Bayley, having earned the General Service “Zulu War” medal with 1879 clasp, returned to his life in Grahamstown. Having married (remarried?) he became a pillar of the establishment, a Free Mason and a man about town. He passed away at his residence in Somerset Street, Grahamstown on 15 April 1896 at the age of 56 by his own hand through the medium of strychnine poisoning, survived by his wife, Louisa and children – Lilian, Nina and Colin. Colin went on, in WWI, to earn the Military Medal and bar with the Royal Fusiliers. A remark in a Free Masons publication, referring to Bayley’s passing, read as follows: -

“We learn that Bro. Edgar Bayley, of Grahamstown, who died on the 15th April 1896, had served through the Zulu War with that famous regiment Buller’s Horse. “serving his country well and faithfully, and distinguishing himself on many occasions by conspicuous gallantry.”

As far as I could ascertain, Bayley was not mentioned in dispatches leaving his “conspicuous gallantry” mention open to question.

But what of his original wife and child? Ada’s marriage in 1893 referred to her father as being “Edward Bayley, Commercial Traveller, Deceased.” Whereas we know him to have been Edgar Bayley and he was very much alive at the time of her nuptials. Perhaps what truly transpired will forever remain a mystery.

The following user(s) said Thank You: David Grant, jim51, Moranthorse1

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