George Paton’s comprehensive book describes the history of the 24th Regiment of Foot from its creation in 1689 to the time when it became known as the South Wales Borderers towards the end of the 19th century. Virtually all British regiments can lay claim to long and glorious histories and the 24th is no exception. However, for most modern readers this regiment is notable for its service during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, during which time men of the 24th fought to the last at Isandlwana and heroically defended the mission station at Rorkes Drift. Readers will be interested to note that a substantial portion of the this book is devoted to the activities of the 24th—ten of whose officers and men were awarded the Victoria Cross in this campaign—both before, during and after these momentous events in South Africa. Although the 24th campaigned all over the world and took an active part under Wellington during the Peninsular War against Napoleon’s French forces, the regiment was perhaps most particularly noteworthy on two occasions prior to the Zulu campaign, during the War of Spanish Succession where it fought at Blenheim, Ramilles, Oudenarde and Malplaquet, and during the Second Sikh War. The Battle of Chillianwallah was a particularly hard fought and savage experience for the regiment which suffered horrific casualties. The 24th also fought at Goojerat and later in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. This is an excellent regimental history and an essential component of every library of the Zulu War.
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The garden must have soon been occupied, for one unfortunate Contingent corporal, whose heart must have failed him when he saw the enemy and heard the firing, got over the parapet and tried to make his escape on foot, but a bullet from the garden struck him, and he fell dead within a hundred and fifty yards of our front wall. An officer of the same corps who had charge of the three hundred and fifty natives before referred to, was more fortunate, for being mounted he made good his escape and ‘lives to fight another day.’
But the enemy are upon us now, and are pouring over the right shoulder of the hill in a dense mass, and on they come, making straight for the connecting wall between the storehouse and the hospital; but when they get within fifty yards the firing is altogether too hot for them. Some of them swerve round to their left past the back and right end of the hospital, and then make a desperate attempt to scale the barricade in front of that building; but here too they are repulsed, and they disperse and find cover amongst the bushes and behind the stone wall below the terrace.
The others have found shelter amongst numerous banks, ditches, and bushes, and behind a square Kaffir house and large brick ovens, all at the rear of our enclosure. One of the mounted chiefs was shot by Private Dunbar, 2nd battalion 24th regiment, who also killed eight of the enemy, in as many consecutive shots, as they came round the ledge of the hill; and as fresh bodies of Zulus arrive they take possession of the elevated ledge of rocks overlooking our buildings and barricades at the back, and all the caves and crevices are quickly filled, and from these the enemy pour down a continuous fire upon us. A whisper passes round amongst the men: ‘Poor Old King Cole is killed.’ He was at the front wall, a bullet passed through his head, and then struck the next man upon the bridge of the nose, but the latter was not seriously hurt.
Mr. Dalton, who is a tall man, was continually going along the barricades, fearlessly exposing himself and cheering the men, and using his own rifle most effectively. A Zulu ran up near the barricade; Mr. Dalton called out—‘pot that fellow,’ and himself aimed over the parapet at another, when his rifle dropped, he turned round quite pale, and said that he had been shot. The doctor was by his side at once, and found that bullet had passed quite through, above the right shoulder. Unable any longer to use his rifle (although he did not cease to direct the fire of the men who were near him), he handed it to Mr. Byrne, who used it well. Presently, Corporal C. Scammel, Natal native contingent, who was near Mr. Byrne, was shot through the shoulder and back; he crawled a short distance and handed the remainder of his cartridges to Lieutenant Chard, and then expressed his desire for a drink of water; Byrne at once fetched it for him, and whilst giving it to him to drink, poor Byrne was shot through the head and fell dead instantly.