The following letters are part of a collection of correspondence kept by Colonel Harry Fanshaw Davies, Grenadier Guards, who commanded the draft of reformed 1st Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) sent to the seat of war, after the disaster of Isandlwana.
Mackinnon & Shadbolt’s South African Campaign of 1879 records details of his service thus: ‘Proceeded to the Cape in March, 1879, in command of drafts for the 24th Regt. Served in Newdigate’s Divis. During the war, commanding the garrison at Landsman’s Drift in May.’
The following letters relate to a rather large flock of sheep which to have appear to have simply disappeared whilst in transit as a moveable feast for the troops still in the field after the defeat of the Zulu at Ulundi on 4th July, 1879. They highlight, I feel, the attention to seemingly unimportant detail, which some say beset the British Army during the course of the campaign. That aside I feel the correspondence inject a humorous side to the serious business of war.
All punctuation; spellings & words used are as the original text.
Baltee Spruit 13-7-79
On Friday last the contractor sent out a flock of sheep here for pasturage number not stated,on the same afternoon a Kaffir brought in a flock from the direction of Doornberg & some more on Saturday and beforeI could get down they were all mixed up with those previously here, I wrote into Utrecht &told them a number of sheep had been brought in today the Landdrost sent for them &have sent in about 1890 but I cannot tell whether I have kept the right number till I hear from the contractor how many he sent out.
Sub.Asst.Comm. R. Howland
Captain Hon R. Cotton
Please send me all the information you can
about forwarding these sheep.
Col. Fort Newdigate Com Fort Newdigate 10/7/79
(Cotton replies on the same note.)
Colonel Davies Gren. Guards 13-7-79
I recollect some sheep arriving at Conference Hill which I was told were for the use of the Flying Column. I gave no orders about them as they had left for Koppie Allein before I saw them.
I beleive you told me at the time that our escort had been sent on with them & that you had sent a memo to O.C. Koppie Allein
Lieut & Capt
Private Fort Newdigate
My dear Webber
I am delaying my answer about the 1600 sheep until I have received letters from three or four people that may throw some light on the subject. But I wish at once tell you privately, what I cannot state officially for want of evidence that I feel confident that there has been some rascality in the matter & I believe that either the contractor or his servants have had something to do with the loss. I presume if he can prove that the sheep were carried off by Zulus he would get some compensation, where as if they were not the loss (if any) will fall entirely on the contractor, because of course they were his property until delivered to the person they were consigned to viz S.C.VO of Flying Column. He does not state where his servants are who were doing the sheep. Mr. Hughes does not state in his memo how many sheep he received at Koppie Allein. The sheep were never given over to me but only passed thro my station. My sole duty was to see that the road was safe. It is perfectly ridiculous to suppose that the sheep were taken by Zulus. I passed twice down the road that day & people\were constantly going & coming. If the sheep are to be found you must make inquiries not in Zululand but in the opposite direction. I want full instructions about prize animals. Two days ago I got an amasuto pony, May I put it up to auction if so who is the money to be sent to of course eventually it will belong to the troops here. Prize cattle I have handed over to Com. Off. & when he can add the prices to the receipts I will send it ? on. I am making a searching enquiry into the loss of boots & trousers & will report shortly.
(sig) H. F. Davies
Dear Col. Davies
I have asked the officers of the Det. whether they remember anything of 1600 sheep passing through to K. Allein. I am sorry to say that some of us know anything about them nor did any of the men of my Det. go with the escort. I am quite certain it was impossible for Zulus to have captured 1600 and killed the Kafirs in Charge without us having heard something about them particularly as at the time Gen. Wood was at K. Allein escorts & convoys were constantly on the road.
Col. Davies Gren. Gds,
I beg to inform you that I remember 1600 sheep arriving for the S.C.O. Flying Column at Conference Hill about midday 11th June. to the best of my belief they were forwarded on to Koppie Allein at once with a convoy I was then starting. I remember seeing the sheep on the way to Keppie Allein.
Lewis A. Hope
Army Commisariat Dept.
July 19, 79
The Officer Comdg.
. I remember perfectly that the 1600 sheep were passed on from here on the 11th June. I have made enquiries but cannot find out anything further--no escort came to the station with the sheep.
Acknowledgement: Private Collection.