The Relief of Fort Stalwart, Zululand, 1879
Well, yes, if you young chaps would like to hear of another of my adventures, there was, of course, the rather famous one in Zululand. A rum do that one and no mistake.
I was in command of a relief column moving up to Fort Stalwart. I had a company and a half of the RSSF and a company of the Natal native Contingent. The latter were of dubious value but one should give them a mention. We were escorting a long train of ox-wagons and thus were quite spread out. As we approached an area with a ridge either side of us, I drew on my experience of the North West Frontier and sent parties out to take the ridge tops. No idea why but captains Casey and Robinson seemed to get the idea to take their entire commands up.
Casey was caught by a Zulu horde just as he breasted the crest of the ridge but, as I heard it from him later, he cunningly lured the Zulus forward by a feigned retreat. It was during that exploit that he engaged in personal combat with one of the Zulu chiefs and came off the better. Anyway, the upshot was that he made it back to a position beside Captain Robinson.
Robinson, a sound chap, had halted at the foot of the ridge as per my orders and then provided valuable fire support to myself and Capt. Casey. I’m a bit hazy on the details as I’d wheeled my command to the left to fight off yet another Zulu horde. It was some sharp work at bayonet point, I’ll tell you. You’ll be familiar, of course, with the painting which hangs in the regimental mess showing me wounded but continuing to encourage the men. And, I suppose, modesty should not prevent me from mentioning, winning the V.C.
We soon weathered the crisis and beat off the Zulus. They did, however, inconvenience us by driving off some of the oxen. The NNC under Lt. Luft played a significant role in helping get the wagons through to the fort by replacing the oxen.
All that, of course, was nothing compared to my experiences in the Sudan a few years later…
The above is a pretty straightforward account of the action played out at the January 2019 meeting in which I had the honour to take the role of Major Cameron.