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Medals to the men of Rorke's Drift 3 years 1 month ago #66501

  • David Grant
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He is on the roll for the 1879 clasp but not for Rorke's Drift or Isandlwana. I would agree a late draft.
Looking for Salutries, Salootries and Veterinary Duffadars.
I collect primarily QSAs to Indian Recipients.
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Medals to the men of Rorke's Drift 2 years 7 months ago #68983

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SAGS (1) 1877-8-9 (447. Pte. J. Waters. 1/24th Foot.)

Provenance: Wallis & Wallis auction 1971, bought by J. B. Hayward; Peter Minns Collection, from Hayward, February 1972; Norman Rigg Collection, from Minns, and thence to the present vendor in May 2002.

John Waters was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in January 1840. A Clerk by trade, he enlisted into the 24th Foot at Westminster, London,on 8 March 1858, aged 18 years 2 months. After a spell of duty in the United Kingdom, the 1st Battalion, to which Waters had been posted, moved to Malta where, on 8 September 1867, he re-engaged to serve for a full 21 years.

Waters was promoted to Corporal on 10 January 1871, by which time he was in possession of three good conduct badges. However, on 16 September 1874, he was placed under close arrest and four days later was tried by a court martial for neglect of duty. Found guilty, he was sentenced to be reduced to the ranks, but shortly afterwards this sentence was rescinded and Waters escaped with the loss of just one of his good conduct badges. On 27 February 1875, he was again in trouble, being placed under arrest for another offence of neglect of duty. On 2 March he was court-martialled and reduced to the ranks, also losing another of his good conduct badges. This time the sentence was allowed to stand and Waters remained a private for the remainder of his service.

By March 1875, Waters was with his regiment in South Africa. During 1877 and 1878 he saw service against the Gaikas and other Kaffir tribes who were in armed revolt. During 1878 relations with the Zulu kingdom had deteriorated and early in 1879 war broke out. The 1st Battalion of the 24th Foot formed part of the central column which advanced into Zululand in January 1879. Waters, however, was in some way sick and was left with 9 other men of the 1st Battalion, who were mostly ambulatory like himself, at the hospital of the tiny rearguard base at Rorke’s Drift which was manned by just one company of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot.

Of the ten men of the 1/24th present at Rorke’s Drift, five, including Waters, defended the hospital, which was the scene of the most savage fighting and the greatest deeds of heroism during the defence. Four of these 1st Battalion men were killed and two, including Waters, were wounded. The full story of Waters’ part in the defence of the hospital and his miraculous escape can be found in The Washing of the Spears, by Donald R. Morris, from which the following extracts are taken:

‘The next room over [in the hospital]in the centre of the back of the building, was a windowless storage compartment with only a single door to the outside. It held a large cupboard with the Witt’s spare clothing and one patient, Private Waters, had been bedded down here. He was ambulatory, and he barricaded the door, which opened outward, and punched a hole through it, more for air than defence.’

‘It [the storage department] was isolated from the rest of the building, and Private Waters was defending the single door to the outside through the loophole he had made. Williams [later awarded the V.C.] started to pass the patients through, pushing them into the opening while Waters pulled them the rest of the way... There were now 14 men in the centre room, and the Zulus were hammering the door to the outside and firing through the hole by which the men had escaped. Waters stayed by the loophole and Hook [later awarded the V.C.] knelt by the hole in the wall, sending an occasional shot ricocheting off the floor into the room beyond and jabbing with his bayonet at the hands which reached through after him.’

‘Hook yelled at Waters to follow him but Waters refused to leave. The door to the outside had started to sag, but the entire building was now outside the defence perimeter, and Waters preferred the dubious safety of the blazing hospital to the unknown perils of a run in the open. He turned away from his loophole and crawled into the wardrobe at the back of the room, pulling the door shut behind him and burrowing down into the Witt’s winter clothing. Hook sent a last shot into the room and raced for the next opening.’

The Zulus failed to find Waters when they burst into the room but eventually the burning roof of the hospital forces his next move. Morris continues:

‘When the heat in the hospital became oppressive, Waters opened the door of the wardrobe and peered out. The room was empty but the back door had been smashed in. The fire had eaten through the thatch, and the rafters were alight, and Waters decided to chance the Zulus after all. He fumbled through the clothing in the wardrobe and eventually extricated a large black cloak. Pulling it over his head and his red tunic, he burst out of the building. The flickering flames lit up the night, and Waters collided with several Zulus, one of whom stabbed him in the arm but he reached the ditch by the field ovens and flung himself into it, pulling the cloak completely over him. Zulus waiting to attack the rear of the storehouse were sheltering in the ditch on either hand, but no one paid him any attention. Hardly daring to breath, he wondered how long it would take for someone to discover him.’

Miraculously Waters was not discovered, but because of his wound he was discharged on 27 May 1879 at Landsman’s Drift, South Africa. His discharge papers clearly state ‘Severely wounded in the shoulder at the Defence of Rorke’s Drift, South Africa, 22nd January 1879’, while the medical report gives more detail:

‘Gunshot wound (right arm). Wounded at Rorke’s Drift 22/1/79 - bullet entering outer side of arm 6 inches from point of shoulder and lodging. It was cut out behind shoulder 12 hours after - distance traversed through fleshy part of arm 4 inches. The joint not injured and bone uninjured.’ Despite this last comment, ‘He has fair power of motion of the injured arm in all directions but complains of pain in the track of the wound and shoulder when exerting himself.’

Waters’ own brief account of the action was published in the Cambrian News on 13 June 1879:

‘I was special orderly at the hospital at Rorke’s Drift, and at this time have seen twenty-one and a quarter years service. I was in the hospital when Private Evans rode into camp and reported that the Zulus had massacred the whole column at Isandhlwana. We would hardly believe this at first, but very soon had reason to understand it was only too true. Between half past four and five, as near as I can remember, the Zulus came over the hill and I saw about fifty of them form a line in skirmishing order, just as British soldiers would do. Their main body was in their rear over the shoulder of the hill. They came about twenty yards, and then opened fire on the hospital. Some of them came in and set fire to it.

While I was there I took refuge in a cupboard, and Private Beckett, an invalid, came with me. As they were going out I killed many of them, and as I could not stay there long, the place being suffocating, I put on a black cloak which I found in the cupboard, and which must have belonged to Mr. Witt, and ran out in the long grass and lay down. The Zulus must have thought I was one of their dead comrades, as they were all round about me, and some trod on me. Becket had gone out half an hour before me, and he, poor fellow, was assegaied right through the his stomach, and went into laager next morning. Dr. Reynolds did all he could to save him, but did not succeed. I got up at daybreak, having expected every minute my life would be taken, and then saw my comrades on top of the mealie sacks, and I said, “Thank God I have got my life”. I had been shot early in the engagement in the shoulder and knee, and here’s the bullet., which was taken out next morning by Dr. Reynolds. I knew many poor fellows who fell at Isandhlwana. I saw Private Robert Horrigan killed. Poor Becket was buried next morning properly. Round the hospital dead Zulus were piled in heaps.’

One further account of Waters at Rorke’s Drift can be found in the account by Major J. R. M. Chard, V.C., R.E., written at the personal request of Queen Victoria, and submitted to her Majesty at Windsor Castle on 21 February 1880:

‘During the fight there were some very narrow escapes from the burning Hospital. Private Waters, 24th Regiment, told me that he secreted himself in a cupboard in the room he was defending, and from it shot several Zulus inside the Hospital. He was wounded in the arm, and he remained in the cupboard until the heat and smoke were so great that they threatened to suffocate him. Wrapping himself in a cloak, or skirt of a dress he found in the cupboard, he rushed out into the darkness and made his way into the cook-house. The Zulus were occupying this, and firing at us from the wall nearest us. It was too late to retreat, so he crept softly to the fireplace and, standing up in the chimney, blacked his face and hands with soot. He remained there until the Zulus left. He was very nearly shot in coming out, one of our men at the wall raising his rifle to do so at the sight of his black face and strange costume, but Waters cried out just in time to save himself. He produced the bullet that wounded him, with pardonable pride, and was very amusing in his admiring description of Dr. Reynold’s skill in extracting it.’

John Waters settled in London after his discharge, at Courtfield Gardens, South Kensington, and it was there that he received his campaign medal for South Africa, on 15 October 1880. His prospects in civilian life must have been bleak. As his discharge papers note, ‘From length of service and age 39, and wound, his capacity to earn a living will be in a considerable degree impaired - no trade.’
Dr David Biggins
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Medals to the men of Rorke's Drift 2 years 6 months ago #69367

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The hammer price for Waters' medal was £44,000 yesterday.
Dr David Biggins

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Medals to the men of Rorke's Drift 2 years 4 months ago #70874

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SAGS (1) 1877-8-9 (968. Pte. T. Moffatt. 2-24th Foot.)

Provenance: J. B. Hayward & Son, June 1971.

Thomas Moffatt was born in 1855 and attested on 13 December 1876, being posted to 2/24th Foot on 22 January 1877. He served in “B” Company at the defence of Rorke’s Drift, and transferred from “B” to “G” Company on 29 January 1879. He afterwards served in India and returned home to England on 27 January 1883. Precise details of his services and date of discharge have not been traced. He later lived in Runcorn, Cheshire, and on the occasion of the Royal Visit in 1925 he, together with Thomas Taylor, a comrade from Rorke’s Drift, was introduced to King George V. He died on 19 November 1936, aged 80, and is buried in Runcorn Cemetery, where the grave marker bears his name together with that of his wife Martha and son John. His death certificate gives his occupation as ‘retired canal lock tender (Army Pensioner)’. His obituary in the Runcorn Weekly News carries a photograph of him wearing his medal under the headline: ‘The Last Survivor - Passing of a Zulu War Hero - A Runcorn Man’s Distinction - Took Part in Historic Defence.
Dr David Biggins
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Medals to the men of Rorke's Drift 2 years 3 months ago #71290

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Purchased just now for a total of £36,064.
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Medals to the men of Rorke's Drift 7 months 2 weeks ago #82783

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Picture courtesy of Spink

SAGS (1) 1877-8-9 (987. Pte. R. Adams. 2/24th. Foot.)

Purchased: Spink, 12 December 1994 (the original bill of Sale accompanies the Lot).

Robert Adams attested on 21 December 1876 and had previously served with the East Middlesex Militia. Posted to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot on 22 January 1877 and was thence sent to the General Depot from 1 November-21 December 1878. He served with 'D' Company and was a patient at Rorke's Drift at the time of that epic Battle. Adams shared the left-front corner room of the hospital building with Gunner Howard, as recalled in The Washing of the Spears which confirms the location of Adams and the fact that he gave vital effort to the Defence of this particularly vulnerable sector of their perimeter:

'Although their room represented a blank wall to the side, a window opened to the front and a door gave onto the inset veranda. The men [Adams and Howard] were both ambulatory, and they barricaded the door and the window and knocked loopholes out to the side.'

A letter penned by Howard on 7 February gives his own take on the opening shots, which rang out from around 1630hrs:

'Just a line to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. I daresay before you get this you will have heard of the massacre [Isandhlwana]. They killed just half of our battery and nearly all the 1/24th Regiment. The awful black devils watched the General out of the camp, and then, as soon as his command had got clear away, they came down like bees out of a hive, and there was awful slaughter.

I was not in the camp, for I had the diarrhoea and was left behind at a place they call Rorke's Drift, where there was a temporary hospital. One company of the 24th, ninety strong, was left to protect it.

Well, the same day as the other affair happened about which I have just told you four thousand or so of them paid us a visit at the hospital. But we had about three hours' notice and plenty of sacks of oats with which we threw up a temporary fortification round this old place. When the Zulus arrived, about five in the evening, they did not find it quite as comfortable as they thought, for they had expected us that they would have nothing to do but assegai us at their pleasure and possess the place, but we had knocked holes through the house to fire through. Boxes of ammunition were placed behind us.

Forty men were in the hospital, and nearly all able to fight when it came to the pinch. I had a rifle belonging to the Sergeant which was too ill to use it. The Zulus made short work of him [Sergeant R. Maxfield, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment].

When waiting for the approach of the enemy we would see them half a mile before they got to us. But I was wrong, and we all agreed to fight till only two were left, and these were to shoot themselves. Well, we all got behind our rampart, and when the Zulus were about four hundred yards off, like a wall coming on, we fired the first volley. The rifles being Martini-Henrys our firing was very quick, and, when struck by bullets they would give a spring in the air and fall flat down. The enemy advanced to within three hundred yards, and then it did not seem healthy to come any nearer, so we continued to fire at them until it got dark. Then, as the roof of the hospital was of thatch, they crept up and set it on fire. When the flames burst out it was all the better for us, for we could see them and their movements, though they could not see us. Didn't we give it to them, anyhow!'

As the day rolled on, the situation for the Defenders grew more desperate. The attacks from the Zulu's came from all angles and whilst they fired out across the rock ledge which laid to the north of the Hospital, the constant fear of the inevitable break-in rose. The chant of thousands of Zulu warriors giving 'uSuthu' at the top of their voices, amongst the sound of rifle fire, cannot be imagined and a deafening crescendo would have formed. The Washing of the Spears continues:

'Only Howard, Adams and Private Horrigan were helping on the far side, where hundreds of Zulus were massed, waiting to join the attacks on the front wall.'

The hospital by now was alight, its straw thatch adding further to the plight of those who remained. With the front of the building now abandoned, those who remained were in grave danger of being overran. In the adjacent room to the south along the wall, Joseph Williams met his death, in the same grim fate which would shortly befall Adams. Gunner Howard made his call to try to save his life and that of Adams, but his sick and exhausted state meant he could not make the same dash which Howard made:

'A few men were still alive in other rooms. The roof was about to go, and Howard opened the door a crack to peer out. The Zulus on the veranda were all pressed in the far corner, taking shelter from the storehouse fire, and none was watching behind. Adams refused to leave, so Howard pulled the door open, hurtled out across the veranda and sprang over the mealie bags into the welcome darkness below the ledge. He rolled through the shrubbery, fetching up against four dead horses that the Zulus had killed tethered in the trees.'

Gunner Abraham Evans recalled the final vision of Adams in The Rorke's Drift Men: Heroes of the Zulu War:

'I was then standing in the doorway of the hospital, and witnessed five Zulus come in front of the doorway, jumping in their mad frenzy and flushed with their late victory. Just at this moment my newest mates were Adams and Jenkins of the 24th Regiment. What became of these men I can't say, I never saw them again after'.

According to Private Hook '...John Williams had held the other room with Private William Horrigan for more than an hour, until they had not a cartridge left. The Zulus then burst in and dragged out Joseph Williams and two of the patients and assegaid them'. These two men were Private Adams and Drummer Hayden of 'D' Company.'

The death of Adams would have followed that of the brutal ritual death with befell his comrade:

'The Zulus spread-eagled Joseph Williams on his back, pulled away his belt and tore his tunic open. An assegai ripped down through his exposed belly, a dozen blades plunged into his body, and the maddened warriors quartered him and tore the corpse to bloody shreds.'

His remains were buried with his comrades in the cemetery at Rorke’s Drift and his name inscribed on the memorial which stands there to this day.

The actions of Private Robert Adams are forever carved into the history of perhaps 'The Greatest Defence of All'.

His effects, which included his Medal with clasp '1877-8-9' were claimed by his family.
Dr David Biggins
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