A Soldier-Artist in Zululand

A Soldier-Artist in Zululand

  • Author: David Rattray
  • Price: De Luxe £870 Subscribers £85

Review By : Dr A W Greaves

This remarkable book features the previously unpublished watercolour paintings and sketches of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War, by Lieutenant William Whitelock Lloyd, with accompanying commentary and explanation by Zulu War expert, David Rattray. The book is truly special as David Rattray has painstakingly toured Zululand, in Lloyd’s footsteps, to trace each and every location featured in the book. As an officer in the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot, (the Warwickshire Regiment) Lloyd saw active service throughout the Anglo-Zulu War, he was also, like many officers of his time, an artist of considerable talent. So much so that, on his return to civilian life, he became the official artist for the P&O and Union Castle shipping Lines, and several books were published of his artwork. But the watercolour paintings and sketches he produced during the Anglo-Zulu War remained unpublished and unknown for more than a century. All the pictures and sketches were kept in an album at the home of the Becher family in England and only saw the light of day in January 2000 when copies were taken to Fugitives’ Drift in South Africa and shown to David Rattray, an acknowledged authority on the Zulu War, who immediately recognised their significance as a unique pictorial record of the conflict. The pictures begin with Lloyd’s first sea voyage to Cape Town in July 1878 and continue throughout the campaign until Lloyd’s departure for England in September 1879. The pictures give a graphic rendition, as accurate and informative as it is beautiful, of key events in the campaign, including the aftermath of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, the death of the Prince Imperial, and the final battle of Ulundi. The accompanying text, carefully prepared and researched by David Rattray, gives full details of the progress of the 24th Regiment in parallel with the wider story of the campaign. The use of original diaries and primary source material infuses the stories of various individuals with life, and the paintings shed new light on many events of the war. Having seen these pictures and the text at their pre-printing stage, I confirm that this book will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Anglo-Zulu War. Dr Adrian Greaves Chairman – The Anglo Zulu War Historical Society.

Thursday 28th of December 2006 12:12:59 PM

Review By : Ian Knight

A year after the tragic death of David Rattray - gunned down by intruders in front of his wife at his house in his world-famous tourist lodge at Fugitives’ Drift - it remains impossible to apply any normal critical criteria to this, his first serious book, and one which now carries the unwitting burden of his legacy. Ironically, while David was above all a communicator - he brought the story of iSandlwana and Rorke’s Drift to more people around the world than anyone except arguably Sir Stanley Baker - his art was very much of the present. It lay in the extraordinary power and eloquence of his story-telling, of his ability to mesmerise his audience, and it was best appreciated live and at first hand, sitting on the stones beneath the Younghusband cairn at iSandlwana, or wrapped in blankets against the evening chill at Rorke’s Drift as he brought the quiet landscape alive with the turmoil of more than a century ago. With his passing, much of the power of David’s art has been lost, leaving too little that is tangible to suggest the extraordinary impact he made in the field. David often said he was not a historian; with this book he dipped his toe into those dark and murky waters, and it offers us a hint of what he might have become - a promise, like all the others, cut brutally short. At the core of the book lies the story of William Whitelock Lloyd, a lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment, who arrived in southern Africa in 1878 and served throughout the invasion of Zululand. That Lloyd was an artist was well-known; a number of his sketches had been engraved and published in the Illustrated London News, while in 1890 he published a collection of largely humorous sketches of military life under the title On Active Service. It was obvious enough that his published works were based on sketches he produced in the field, but it is only with this book that the truly prolific nature of his work is revealed; something in the order of 150 of his original sketches from Zululand are published here for the first time. These represent an extraordinary historical find, a fresh resource probably unequalled in Anglo-Zulu War studies in recent times, and one which might not have come to light had not the present owners - Lloyd’s descendants - stumbled across David Rattray’s reputation and chanced their arm to contact him. Copies were sent to him for his appraisal; this book is the result. Lloyd’s sketches provide the framework through which David’s text explores the course of the war, but there is no doubt that, eloquent though the text is, it is the sketches which make the book invaluable. Lloyd sketched almost every aspect of his experiences in Natal and Zululand, and did so with wit and a fine eye for detail and topography. Some of the sketches are in pen and ink, but most are finely executed in delicate water-colours which conjure up not only the subtle hues of the landscape but also the shifting moods of the African light. Lloyd sketched life on board ship, the views off Cape Town, his brief encounter with the Eastern Cape and his voyage to Durban. He sketched the 24th on the march through the spectacular Mooi and Thukela valleys, and he sketched the breathtaking views from Helpmekaar. He sketched, too, the tense dawn alerts - the soldiers huddled in greatcoats, straining against the barricades to see signs of the approaching Zulus against the pink of the sun-rise - that followed the disaster at iSandlwana. Later he would sketch the entire length of the advance made by the 24th during the second invasion of Zululand, the spot where the Prince Imperial was killed, or views of great columns of men and marching companies in the lee of Babanango mountain, or the sweeping panoramas from the Nhlazatshe heights. He sketched too the incidents of campaign life, of the rush for water by hot and thirsty men at the end of a long day’s march, of the officers’ at dinner in their improvised mess, or of a wagon overturned on the road. Many of his sketches are humorous - an officer falling into an ant-bear hole while checking picquets at night, or a race of Sotho horsemen - and indeed among those included here are many of the originals of those familiar from On Active Service. Poignantly, he sketched distant views of the battle of Ulundi from his vantage point in the camp on the White Mfolozi river, of the Zulu army deploying through the bush on its way to attack Lord Chelmsford’s square, of the same Zulus under shell-fire as they retreated, and finally of the great royal homesteads, including oNdini, in flames. It is inevitably his pictures of iSandlwana and Rorke’s Drift which remain the most breathtaking, however, captured as they were within weeks of the conflict. He sketched iSandlwana mountain from a vantage point on top of the Shiyane hill at Rorke’s Drift, viewing it through field-glasses to produce a close-up of Zulus wandering through the wagons and debris still scattered on the nek. He sketched the fort built around the storehouse at Rorke’s Drift after the fight, including in one the telling detail of a butcher’s scaffold where at least one Zulu prisoner was hanged by the vengeful British after the fight. And on 21 July, not long after the final British victory at Ulundi, he accompanied a group of officers who visited the stricken field at iSandlwana. The sketches he produced on that occasion have a rawness undiluted by the passage of time - of the decomposed body of a wagon-driver, lying unburied beside a rock, and of the debris scattered behind the forward British positions, including opened ammunition boxes. That the successors to the 24th - now the Royal Welsh - are justifiably proud of their connection with the Zulu campaign, and with David Rattray, is clear from the Foreword contributed by the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, H.R.H. Prince Charles, and by useful biographical notes added by Major Martin Everett of the Brecon Museum. By way of comparison there are also included a number of modern photographs of the sites, many of which can be precisely identified from Lloyd’s careful recording of them. Only the final chapter - on how the book was prepared - troubled me. Under other circumstances it might have seemed unnecessary - the ’then and now’ format is not new, even within the Anglo-Zulu War context, and the effort expended by the author and his team is obvious enough from the results. Since David did not live to see the publication of the book, however, it serves instead as a brittle reminder of the fragilility of human hopes, and a eulogy to the man and to the landscape of which he will forever now be a mythic part.

Wednesday 30th of January 2008 07:13:02 PM