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Gilbert Torlage

    This year seems to bring one sad loss after another. On 15 April this year Gilbert Torlage sadly passed away from cancer at the age of 67. Gilbert will be better known to students of the Anglo-Boer War than those of the Anglo-Zulu War; he worked for many years in Museum services, was a former Chairperson for the South African Museum Association in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and contributed to a series of booklets published in South Africa to commemorate the centenary of the Anglo-Boer War. He left his mark on Zulu history too, however, as he also did a lot of primary research into the 1856 battle of 'Ndondakusuka  - 'The Battle of the Princes', one of the most destructive battles in Zulu history between Cetshwayo and his rival Mbuyazi - an extract of which I had the privilege of publishing during my tenure as the Editor of the Victorian Military Society Journal, Soldiers of the Queen. We talked about his field research into that battle, and I was spellbound when he told me that workers he had interviewed in the cane-fields on the site had told him that they had unearthed human bones during the ploughing season until quite recently. I also have fond memories of Gilbert from the early '90s, when I spent a lot of time in South Africa and had some dealings with Museum Services; I remember him as a man who had both a dry sense of humour and an air of quiet authority about him, one who took historical research seriously and was not swayed by sudden historiographical fads or rivalries. In 1992 I spent a day with him and David Rattray visiting the Anglo-Boer War battlefields along the Thukela river; Dave was thinking of expanding his tours into that area, and Gilbert had kindly agreed to show us round. Many of those battles had remained until then a mystery to me, particularly those for the Thukela Heights. I hadn't seen much of Gilbert in recent years but I shall always remember him, now, as he talked us through the events of Wynne's Hill and Pieter's Hill in such a way that not only did it all click suddenly into place but the shadows between the warm rocks around us seemed to stir with the shades of those combatants of long ago.