[TMP] "British childrens at Isandlwana battle." Topic (2022)

Tango0128Jun2012 8:58p.m.PST

Seeing these beautifull miniatures about the Zulu Wars, took my atention that on the last row at the end of the page, first on the left were a little boy point the advancing enemy to his sargent.


Well, I had seen boys like that in the movies and in some paitings.

But in the real Isandlwana battle were there little boys who died along with veteran troops?
Or is only a leyend?

The list of casualties included children-soldiers at Isandlwana?

Thanks in advance for your guidance.


the trojan bunny28Jun2012 9:32p.m.PST

Yes, there were some young bugler boys who were killed at the battle. If I remember correctly one of the young boys' heads was found pinned to a wagon wheel.

Rrobbyrobot28Jun2012 11:16p.m.PST

Not uncommon at all back then. I often wonder at modern sensibilities. Have these people no historical knowledge. Would they drive a car without a rear view mirror?

6sided29Jun2012 2:59a.m.PST

There were, I remember from memory so it may not be 100% correct that there were a handful (maybe only 2) young musicians with the Battalion. Children as musicians was common for hundreds of years, so please don't muddy the waters with some sort of African child soldiers comparison.

I also believe the mutiliated bodies bit was a myth or at least not proven?


Deserter29Jun2012 3:18a.m.PST

There is a thread about the subject here:


[TMP] "British childrens at Isandlwana battle." Topic (1)Artilleryman29Jun2012 4:11a.m.PST

The drummers were mostly in their mid to late teens and were not combatants. Whatever the reality of the mis-treatment of them, dead or alive, their wholesale death at Insandlwana did lead to their removal from campaigning.

Dr Mathias [TMP] "British childrens at Isandlwana battle." Topic (3)29Jun2012 4:45a.m.PST

Thanks for the link Deserter, interesting.

Sane Max29Jun2012 5:27a.m.PST

Mutilation of bodies was absoultely the rule for Zulus – they believed unless it was done, they killer would be afflicted by the spirit of the killed.

Since the 'boys' were men by any Zulu standard, focusing on their death is a bit of a red herring.


6sided29Jun2012 6:26a.m.PST

Moomin – slitting the belly to release the spirit was the custom, not hanging them from hooks.

It is evidently a myth as I thought I had read. The link above clearly show the drummer "boys" were all actually adults, and so the recollections:

"He saw an ammunition wagon, and noticed the Zulus were too busy in the tents to bother about this wagon. He rode up with his men, and found no one there but a little drummer boy who sat on top of the wagon and said he was in charge."


"One sight, a most gruesome one, I shall never forget. Two lads, presumably two little drummer boys of the 26th Regiment, had been hung up by butcher hooks which had been jabbed under their chins, then they were disemboweled: all the circumstances pointed to the fact they had been subjected to that inhuman treatment while still alive."

are evidently total bobbins, or the boys were not durmmer boys but lads from the supply columns.

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Rrobbyrobot29Jun2012 6:41a.m.PST

Might I be allowed to speak my own words and not have any put in my mouth? How does a legitamite point of view become muddying the waters? Were these lads not in uniform? As a veteran I know that whatever looks like it might be a threat is bullet worthy in a firefight. That haveing been said, I would feel truely horrible if I knew I had killed a child.
While in Korea I was driving an M113 down a road. We were, as usual, in a big hurry. A unit of M.P.s were parked alongside the road across from a small built-up area. As I zipped along, a child ran across the road to take some treat the M.P.s were handing out. I very nearly ran the little guy over! I got us out of the area. Went as far as I could. Then pulled over, threw my CVC away and wept for some time. And this was only training!
Bad things happen. In war and otherwise.
Besides, were these musicians not child soldiers in Africa? I understand the difference between musicians and kids toting AKs. And yet…

Old Jarhead29Jun2012 7:07a.m.PST

Kipling, who did know a bit about the army in India, described some of the "boy" musicians in Drums of the Fore and Aft

Sane Max29Jun2012 8:01a.m.PST
How does a legitamite point of view become muddying the waters? Were these lads not in uniform? As a veteran I know that whatever looks like it might be a threat is bullet worthy in a firefight. That haveing been said, I would feel truely horrible if I knew I had killed a child.

Because none of them were children.. Drummer-boy is a job, not an age-classification.

Hi, Crew, this is your new Captain speaking. I notice from my ships roster we have several powder-monkeys on the strength. Call me old fashioned, but there is no way we should be entrusting the distribution of powder in the midst of battle to bloody monkeys. I want the person who made the decision to recruit..….(What? Stop Interrupting, I am in the middle of an announcement to my new crew? Huh? oh…Oh Oh, i See. Errrrr…) Hi, this is the captain again – ignore that last anouncement. Everyone?


Rrobbyrobot29Jun2012 8:24a.m.PST

Let's see… Drummer boy is a job., not an age classification. Please define boy? The figure in the photo I took my cue from was clearly a child. He was also in uniform, so also clearly a soldier.
How can one seriously see the term Powder Monkey as literal?
Looks like something from a comedy to me.
The cadets from the Virginia Militay Institute in the ACW were child soldiers. They were in uniform, they carried and used weapons. And many, if not quite all of them, were children. Is cadet a job classification? Well sure. Were they kids, again yes.

YouRebelScum29Jun2012 9:01a.m.PST

Drummers were not always boys – most in general were adults. In fact, boys (recruited officially between the ages of 14-16) need not have been musicians at all (although three-quarters of those recruited were), and between 1856-1899 up to two per-cent of a unit's establishment could be made up of boys. Those who were not musicians were trained as tailors or shoemakers.

Tango0129Jun2012 10:16a.m.PST

Many thanks Deserter for your data.
So, the youngest "boy" was 16 years old.
Not as the figures, movies or paitings which show boys of 10 or 12 years old.

Many thanks for your guidance.


Highland Guerilla29Jun2012 4:15p.m.PST

Rrobby,you never drove an M-113 down a road in Korea.Vietnam,sure,Korea no.I've got a boatload of hours behind the tiller bars;fell asleep once,scared the crap out of me briefly.

This is not an effort to out yer arse,merely to clarify yer street cred wi'the rest of us vets.

Cincinnatus29Jun2012 11:21p.m.PST

reccerat – Are you trying to tell us the US Army never deployed M113s to Korea during the 1970s, 80s, 90s?

I don't have any first hand knowledge of what we had in Korea during that time (too young) but I'd be willing to bet there were a bunch of them over there.

Edwulf30Jun2012 2:24a.m.PST

The title is just Drummer. Or Bugler.

The boy is only used if they are actual boys not men. They were usually men but it was not uncommon for them to be boys 12-14 years old. Mostly they were men and could be any age really.

Edwulf30Jun2012 5:58a.m.PST

Drummer Adams, W. H. 2003 was aged 19 when killed
Drummer Andrews, C. 267 was aged 23 when killed
Drummer Dibden, G. 1786 was aged 22 when killed
Drummer Haynes, Jno. 542 ( Pte. on the roll) was aged 18 when killed
Drummer Osmond, C. 1226 ( G. on despatch ) was aged 31 when killed
Drummer Orlopp, J. F. 2 was aged 19 when killed
Drummer Perkins, T. 1-24/1 was aged 36 when killed
Drummer Reardon, T. 501 was aged 18 when killed
Drummer Stansfield, S. 114 was aged 22 when killed
Drummer Thompson, Jno. 1787 was aged 21 when killed
Drummer Wolfendale, A. 2004 was aged 19 when killed
Drummer Wolfendale, J. 1399 was aged 26 when killed

Our colleague,"Isandlwana" has cited the names of five Boys serving with the 24th who died on 22nd January, 1879:

Joseph S McEwan (16),
Daniel Gordon (17),
James Gurney (16).
Thomas Harrington (age unknown)
Robert Richards (age unknown).

Perhaps Drummer Sweeney was thinking of Joseph McEwan (who may have been the youngest British casualty).

We know that twelve Drummers between 18 and 36 died at Isandlwana (Four*[edited] of them under 20) together with five Boys aged between 16 and 17; none likely to be younger than 14. (We are also told of a young civilian who died, Green- the servant of Surgeon Shepherd, and Trooper Jackson (16) who was with the Natal Carbineers).

The above is taken from this website.

On that forum they seem to conclude that any mutilations may have been exaggeration and tall tales.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop30Jun2012 2:10p.m.PST

The Zulus disembowelled the fallen (including their own) as otherwise the trapped spirit would signal its displeasure by making a nasty smell & horrible appearance.

In scientific terms, the rupture prevented bloating & allowed the vultures easier access, which made for faster & therefore pleasanter clean-up.

A decent measure, & not, as often depicted, a sign of Zulu beastliness.

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