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TOPIC: A Carbutt's Border Ranger in the Zulu War

A Carbutt's Border Ranger in the Zulu War 1 year 11 months ago #53946

  • Rory
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The Zulu War was all about small locally raised units brought into being to assist the Imperial forces as they advanced into Zululand. None came smaller than Carbutt's Border Rangers - only 27 medals effectively claimed by its men.

Archibald Hope Bailie

Trooper, Carbutt’s Border Rangers – Anglo Zulu War

- South African General Service Medal to Tr. A. Bailie, Carbutt’s Bdr. Rangrs.

Archibald Bailie came from a very distinguished family – his grandfather John Bailie was an original 1820 Settler in the Eastern Cape and had been the Manager of the Natal Cotton Company for many years. The family, of Irish origin, had owned the Townlands of Inishargy in County Down. His grandmother Amelia Crause was the daughter of Captain Crause of the 97th Regiment.

Born on 21 January 1841 Archibald took his father’s names – Archibald Hope Bailie – who had married his mother, Jane Amelia Cumming in Grahamstown in 1835. Archibald senior was badly wounded on active service in the War of the Axe between 1846 and 1847. He had been Wardmaster of Port Elizabeth in 1847 and Field Cornet the following year, later dying of his wounds. His widow was living in Bloemfontein by January 1853.

The aforementioned grandfather, John Bailie, had drowned in 1852 coming to the rescue of a ship off the Pondoland coast. It was presumed that he was a wealthy man but he died intestate and the only property he possessed was found to have been registered in the name of a minor – the very same Archibald Hope Bailie with whom we now concern ourselves.

At some point Bailie made his way eastwards settling in the small hamlet of Harrismith in the Orange Free State just over the border with the Colony of Natal. On 28 October 1876 he was accepted as a “Lidmaat” (Parishioner) of the Dutch Reform Church there.

Natal in the last year of the 1870’s was a powder keg about to explode. War with the Zulus had been brewing for quite some time and conflict with that nation of warriors was thought desirable by some who wanted to expand Britain’s colonial sphere of influence still further. Towards the end of December 1878 the trouble spilled over into open warfare and the call went out to local worthies to raise irregular corps to assist the Imperial effort in subduing the Zulus.

Captain Thomas Carbutt, a farmer near Ladysmith with previous military experience in the Natal Frontier Guard that had been disbanded in 1876, responded to the call and began to recruit volunteers from among the local settler community for the defence of Colonial Defensive District No. 1. His 30 men wore their everyday clothes and carried their own weapons. It was to this small body of men, to be known as Carbutt’s Border Rangers that Bailie, living a short distance away over the border, swore allegiance.

On 22 January 1879 the disaster of Isandhlwana took place, an incident that shocked the British people and establishment to the very core. A day or so after the battle the survivors and those that had missed the battle were holed up at Rorke’s Drift or at Helpmekaar. The only regiment in central Natal thus carrying out its duties was Carbutt’s Border Rangers. We have the 28th February edition of the Port Elizabeth Herald to thank for what we know of the raising of the corps. The article read:

“His Excellency the Governor General has been pleased to accept the services of several of the inhabitants of Klip River country, who have offered themselves into a corps for the purpose of protecting the district.”

Once equipped and mounted the Rangers patrolled the Waschbank Valley, the Sundays River drifts and the approaches to Ladysmith but after the massacre at Isandhlwana they extended their area of operation. They arrived at Rorke’s Drift five days after the battle to find Lieutenant Chard, who had been in command, very ill and in need of medical attention. They escorted him back to Ladysmith where he was nursed back to health. Once in the field the Rangers commandeered a deserted homestead on the farm Doornkraal, between Ladysmith and the Sundays River, as their headquarters and it was reported that a troop of Natal Mounted Police who spent the night there on 20 February found Carbutt’s Rangers dining on “their habitual diet of rum and dampers” – unleavened cakes cooked in the ashes of a fire – and living up to their nickname of the “Blind Owls”

Early in April the Rangers moved to their new camp at Dundee where it is recorded that they were 30 strong on 14 April. Recruiting continued and their number rose to 37. They operated between Dundee and Landman’s Drift and later marched to Rorke’s Drift where they assembled with the other troops brought together to bury the Isandlwana dead. The column crossed the Buffalo River en route for the deserted battlefield on 21 May 1879. At the scene the Rangers found the body of a Wagon Conductor, Phillipe Du Bois, who was well known to all the troop. They took the body to his farm at Helpmekaar for burial.

By the 31st May the Rangers were back in Dundee where they continued to carry out their daily patrols along the vulnerable border astride the Mzinyati River and were called upon to act as guides to the recently arrived Imperial Cavalry. On 1 June the Prince Imperial of France, Louis Napoleon, was killed at the Ityotyozi River in Zululand. This tragic event gave rise to possibly Carbutt’s Border Rangers finest hour - on its way to Durban for shipment to England, the Prince’s body was born on a gun carriage from Itelezi Hill camp via Koppie Alleen to Landman’s Drift and on to Dundee where it was handed over to the Rangers. They guarded the body whilst it lay overnight in Fort Jones. The next morning the small cortege moved off to Ladysmith with the Rangers as escort.

In July 1879 they were thanked for their services and were disbanded to return home. Bailie was one of only 35 men issued the Zulu War medal to Carbutt’s Border Rangers of which 8 medals were returned to the Mint. Having crossed the Buffalo River as was seen above there was some unhappiness that they were not awarded the 1879 clasp to their medals.

His regiment no more Bailie returned to his civilian pursuits in Harrismith where he commenced a legal practise in the town going by the name of “Archibald Hope Bailie, Solicitor, Sworn Translator, General Agent and Auctioneer.” Signing himself “A. Hope Bailie” he wrote to the Resident Magistrate of the County of Klip River (Ladysmith) on behalf of a Mr Frederick Johannes De Jager in respect of a farm claim. This was on 4 December 1883.

His wife, Anne Burnett van der Riet, bore him a number of children – Cora was born on 4 November 1878 and baptised on 16 February 1879 – Bailie must have got time off to attend this ceremony. Her birth was followed by that of Cumming (1881), Estelle Hope (1884) and Ronald. He passed away in Harrismith on 25 May 1908 at the age of 67.








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