SAGS (1) 1877-8-9 (954. Sergt. J. Carkson. 1/24th Foot.)
Sergeant John Clarkson was killed in action at Isandhlwana on 22 January 1879.
Clarkson attested on 21 April 1864, aged 18 years, and re-engaged at Malta on 21 March 1871. He was promoted to Corporal in April 1873, and to Sergeant on 1 October 1874. His effects were claimed by his father. A brief mention is made of him in The Road to Isandhlwana, by Philip Gon:
‘‘A’ Company was told to move up in support of the guns. With William Degacher commanding the battalion, Francis Porteous was its only officer, but his men were veterans of the Trasnkian campaign and his sergeants, Brown, Clarkson and Heppenstall, were all old soldiers...’
SAGS (1) 1877-8-9 (1890 Pte. N. Kempsell, l/24th Foot).
Nelson Kempsell was bom at Chipstead, Surrey in early 1855, the son of Kennard Kempsell, a carpenter, and his wife, Patience. He was baptised at ‘Kingswood by Reigate’ on 18 March 1855; the 1871 census reveals that young Nelson originally found employment as an agricultural worker and that his family was living at 91 Charlwood’s Bottom at Chipstead.
Shortly after his enlistment in the 24th Foot, he was posted to the 1st Battalion in Gibraltar in April 1872. His career got off to an unhappy start, regimental musters revealing a spell in hospital, followed by two days in a military prison.
In early 1875 the Battalion was embarked for the Cape of Good Hope, where Kempsell again found himself in confinement at Simon’s Town, losing his recently acquired Lance-Corporal’s stripes. Otherwise employed on garrison duties at Cape Town or King William’s Town, he was called to arms in the operations of 1877-78.
As stated, he was subsequently killed in action at Isandhlwana on 22 January 1879. His effects were claimed by his father.
Picture courtesy of Spink
The marble wall plaque erected to his - and Edward Flint’s memory - at St. Margaret’s, Chipstead was paid for by J. G. Cattley, Esq., a former employer of both men. Cattley, a Yorkshireman and a director of Royal Exchange Assurance, owned the nearby 500-acre Shabden Estate.
This presents the likely scenario that Kempsell and Flint were onetime employed as agricultural workers on his estate and indeed fought side-by-side - and fell together - at Isandhlwana; sold with copied research, including muster rolls.
SAGS (1) 1877-8 (Lieut: C. Erskine Queenstown Vol: Contgt.)
Captain Erskine is also shown on the roll of the 2/3rd Natal Native Contingent for the medal with clasp ‘1879’ which implies the possibility of a second medal having been issued.
Charles Alexander Erskine was born at Grahamstown in about 1846, the son of Alexander Erskine and Mary-Ann. He served as a Lieutenant in the Queenstown Volunteer Contingent against the Gaikas, Galekas and other Kaffir tribes during 1877-78 (Medal). In late 1878 he joined the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, Natal Native Contingent, and was killed in action at Isandhlwana on 22 January 1879.
His ‘Death Notice’, obtained from the National Archives in Cape Town, confirms ‘Charles Alexander Erskine, Captain, Natal Native Contingent, killed in action at the battle of Isandhlana (sic), Zululand, 22nd January 1879. In 32nd year.’ He left his estate to his brother W. G. Erskine, who signed the Death Notice at Grahamstown on 28 May 1879. Appended to the Death Notice is an interesting letter written by Captain Erskine to his Mother, dated Sand Spruit, 29 December 1878:
My dear Mother,
Just a few lines to let you know how I am getting on. We arrived here about 15 days ago and encamped to get our men together we have now got almost all now and as soon as the others come we move to where the soldiers are waiting for us about 20 miles from here. We are getting on fine as yet with the men. They are picking up the drill better than I expected as they are taught just the same as the soldiers.
As soon as we join the soldiers we are to move into Zulu country in three divisions each division being 5000 strong with two Batteries of Artillery & 2 Batteries Rocket Guns to each division so I think we ought to do a little execution with 15000 men altogether. Old Cetywayo can bring out about 70000 trained men against us.
This place is called Sand Spruit and it is a Sand Spruit for as soon as the rain is over the water all soaks away but by digging about 3 feet in the sand we get any quantity of water. This country is the worst place ever I saw for rain every afternoon we have a thunderstorm. We had Regimental sports the day after Xmas they passed off very well. As yet our Camp is in a healthy state and I hope it keeps so.
This sort of life seems to agree with me, and another thing it and don’t care how long it keeps on especially as the pay is good. We have lost a few more horses since I last wrote of sickness.
I hope you received my last in case you did not I will let you know again that I have lodged in the Standard Bank Pieter Maritzburg a little money and will also place all I can there so that if anything happens to me you must see and get it for your use. I would like you to keep these two letters in case of accidents.
As I have no more news I will now close with Love to all Relations & Friends and accept same,
From Your Son,
P.S. when you write address as follows:
c/o Comdt. Lonsdale
2/3 Regt. N.N.C.