They Fell Like Stones

They Fell Like Stones


  • Author: John Young
  • Publisher: Greenhill Books
  • Publish Date: 1991
  • ISBN: 1-85367-096-0
  • Price: 14.95

Review By : Elizabeth Hogan

Firstly, please note that I have not checked every name in the book, as this would be far too time-consuming. As a general comment, however, it is worth noting that a book, which is essentially a list of names, is only credible as long as one can have confidence in that list. Certainly, casualty rolls are inherently problematic, because the evidence in the various original rolls is often incomplete and contradictory, making the job of collating them especially difficult.

 However, this book does not attempt to address these anomalies, and merely presents a list as definitive – which it isn’t. It might have been better to be more honest about the problems involved, and to include some of the well-known suspect names (for example, of Rorke’s Drift defenders) with appropriate reservations. In fact the lists given in this book simply avoid problematic entries, and present the issues as being far more fixed than they actually are – a major fault when names are really all it has to offer. The author also applies arbitrary criteria for his selection of material to include. Quite rightly, he includes the names of those who died during the siege of Eshowe – but he excludes those who died of illness and disease elsewhere in the war, nor does he include those who were killed and wounded in the false alarm at the eMvutsheni mission on 6 April 1879, who were clearly as much casualties of the war as any of the above.

The book is also weak on the Zulu perspective. Clearly – and quite rightly – the author never intended to give equal coverage to the British and Zulu armies, as there are no casualty rolls for the Zulu side. Nevertheless, it would have been useful to include at least a list of Zulu regiments who took part in the various actions, while in some cases the existing references to the Zulu forces are not helpful (for example, ‘the abaQulusi, who were of Zulu stock’ is particularly meaningless – p. 104).

Specific points –

p. 25 – ‘Batse’ River should be Batshe.

p. 31, final paragraph – the sequence of events here is confusing. Captain Hart was adamant that he led the attack on the Zulu centre with the European NCOs of the NNC, with the Naval Brigade coming up in support – not the other way round, as here.

P. 38 – Krooman Duckleweis is a misprint in the original sources for Krooman Jack Lewis, who is listed as a separate casualty here.

 P. 41 – What is the evidence for the assertion that Durnford sent Barton’s detachment onto the heights above Isandlwana thirty minutes before riding out himself? Lt. Cochrane said that ‘Colonel Durnford now sent two troops on the hills to the left … and took with him to the front the remaining two troops’, which suggests the two movements occurred at roughly the same time.

p. 47-48 – the sequence of events given here suggests that Pulleine ordered the 24th to retire as a result of the NNC breaking; in fact survivors’ evidence suggests that the cause and effect was the other way round; the NNC abandoned their positions because they lost confidence when they saw the 24th companies retreating.

 p. 49 – Lt. Harry Davies of the Edendale Troop is given as Davies here but Davis on p. 69.

p. 50 – the portrait of Smith-Dorrien is a modern sketch; it is the only one in the book that is not contemporary – why try to pass it off as such?

p. 51 – while the officers of the regular British units are listed by name, the officers of the colonial units are not identified, despite the precedent established earlier in the book (p. 29), and the fact that their identities are recorded.

 p. 82 – the caption to this picture perpetuates an error in the original publication. It is not a portrait of Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande, who commanded at Rorke’s Drift, but of his brother, Prince Sikhotha kaMpande.

p. 83 – this account places Trooper Lugg in the hospital – but by his own account Lugg was in the storehouse.

p. 96 – author states that the convoy only reached the northern bank of the Ntombe on 11 March – in fact it arrived two days earlier (9 March).

p. 100 – this account specifically states that Capt. Moriarty’s body was among those found disembowelled; Major Tucker’s account of burying the dead specifically states that Moriarty had not been disembowelled.

 p. 110 – the list of Staff fails to mention that among the ‘friendly Zulus’ with Wood was Prince Mthonga himself – a significant omission.

p. 119 – this account credits Lt. Browne with winning his VC at Hlobane, whereas he won it for an incident at Khambula, the following day.

p. 139 – A.S.F. Davison – not Davidson.

 p. 146 – Col. Northey did not return to his command, but apparently sat up in the hospital area and cheered his men on from a distance – the effort of which brought on his haemorrhage.

p. 158 – Bettington’s Horse were commanded by Claude Bettington, not his brother Rowland.

p. 171 – the account categorically states that Raubenheim (whose rank is given as Trooper in most contemporary rolls) of the Frontier Light Horse was captured alive and tortured to death, whereas a close reading of the evidence suggests he was killed immediately, and his body later mutilated, perhaps for the purpose of obtaining body parts for ‘muti’.

Thursday 12th of January 2006 08:23:33 PM