Anglo-Zulu War Event in Brecon 16/17 June 2012
Here we are at the beginning of June; the year is half over and already several interesting Anglo-Zulu events have passed by without my finding time to mention them. These included a sell-out day at the National Army Museum back in April where I was privileged to introduce a fine selection of speakers including Professor John Laband, on one of his rare trips to the UK from his current teaching post at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada. John gave a gripping analysis of the Zulu attitude towards firearms in 1879, delivered in the piicture gallery where Charles Fripp's famous painting of iSandlwana now hangs. I started the day with a crack asking for volunteers to stand their ground, Zulu War-style, in the event of a fire alarm and of course my flippancy was punished at lunch-time when one went off for real and we all had to traipse out, across the King's Road, and into the park opposite. Fortunately veteran re-enactor Craig Appleton, who was speaking at the time, saved the day by doing an impromptu demonstration, with his colleague Ian Church, of firing the Martini-Henry - startling a few Chelsea yummy mummies who were passing at the time and delighting their young sons!
There was an event, too, at Pluckley, in Kent, on 24/25 March. Pluckley is significant as place where the 24th Regiment were originally raised, and a surprising number of Anglo-Zulu War veterans are buried in the villages nearby, including Charlie Harford and William Knox Leet VC. Although the event itself was rather more low-key, the guests of honour where two distinguished Zulu descendants of the commanders of 1879 - Prince Velekhaya Shange, whose forebear, Prince Dabulamanzi, was an ardent supporter of King Cetshwayo and famously commanded the Zulu forces at Rorke's Drift, and Dr Paul Matawele, whose forebear, inkosi Ntshingwayo kaMahole, commanded at iSandlwana. The weekend culminated in a black-tie dinner in the Pluckley pub which claims the distinction of being the most haunted in Kent. The guests were given the opportunity to see the original Victoria Crass awarded to James Langley Dalton for heroism at Rorke's Drift, specially loaned to Dr Adrian Greaves of the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society for the evening. And, although there was no sign of the infamous 'Lady in White' that night, the whole occassion was an interesting insight into the unexpected way past conflicts continue to haunt us today.
My next event is at Brecon on 16th June when I shall be talking about iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift in the evening in the Cathedral. The event has been organised by Bill Cainan, curator of the Regimental Museum, to launch the new Anglo-Zulu War Room which he has been working upon for some time. A number of other talks are being held at the Museum over the weekend, and the whole event is intended to not only raise the Museum's profile but also boost its revenues at a time when funding for regimental museums has been cut drastically. I hope to see some of you there.