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Lieutenant John Rouse Merlot Chard,V.C. Royal Engineers
1. The purpose of this series of articles is to bring together the known facts and details of the Zulu and Basuto wars of 1877 to 1879,highlighting the involvement of Somerset formations and personalities.
2. The first part will deal with the background and role of John Rouse Merriott Chard, born in Devon of a Somerset father and a Cornish mother, in the defence of Rorke's Drift Natal, on 22nd/23rd.January,1879,when,as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers,Chard commanded a detachment of troops against an overwhelming number of Zulus, in the defence of a former Mission Station, requisitioned by the military as a hospital and stores. The outcome of this successful engagement resulted in the award of eleven Victoria Crosses to the defenders of Rorke's Drift, including Lieutenant Chard.
Background and Personal Details.
3. It is stated that the Chard family is descended from Cerdic, King of the west Saxons. This name has been corrupted to Chard and is recorded as such in the Domesday Book. The line includes Thomas Chard, the last Abbot of Forde Abbey, in South Somerset.
4. John Chard was born at Boxhill, Pennycross, Plymouth, Devon, on 2lst.December,1847. He was the second son of Dr. William Wheaton Chard (1818-1873), of Pathe House, Othery, Somerset and Mount Tamar, Plymouth, Devon and, Jane Chard (1814-1885), the only daughter of Dr.John Hart Brimacombe of Stoke Climsland,Cornwall. John Chard's elder brother, Colonel William Wheaton Chard served with the 7th.Royal Fusiliers. His younger brother, the Reverend Charles Edward Chard, Rector of the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset. The Reverend Chard was also appointed the Honorary Chaplain to the 4th.Yeomanry Brigade, Taunton, on 4th. March, 1894.
5. In addition to two brothers, John Chard also had four sisters. Chard himself never married.
Military Service Prior to 1879.
6. John Chard was educated at Plymouth New Grammar School and before commencing his professional studies at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He spent a brief period with private tutors. On l8th.July,1868,he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. After two years professional instruction at Chatham,he was sent to Bermuda,in October,1870,where he was employed for the next three years, constructing fortifications near Hamilton, for the defence of the Naval Dockyard and anchorage. From February,1874 to April l8'75,he was in Malta engaged on the construction of forts. On completion of home leave, he had short stays at Aldershot and Chatham, before taking up a post at Devonport, from September,1875. In April,1878,he then returned to Aldershot and Chatham, prior to proceeding overseas to South Africa in December,1878.
South Africa, 1879.
7. On 2nd.December,1878,Lieutenant Chard embarked with No.5 Field Company, Royal Engineers, at Chatham, for South Africa. On arrival at Durban,on 4th.January,1879,NO.5 Field Company was ordered to be attached to No.3 Column, under the command of Colonel Richard Glyn,CB; of the 24th.Regiment of Foot, in preparation for the invasion of Zululand.
8. Owing to the shortage of transport,No.5 Field Company could not proceed up-country to join No.3 Column at Rorke's Drift. As a result, Lieutenant Chard the senior subaltern in No.5 Field Company,was detached and along with a few Sappers, including his orderly,12046 Driver Charles Robson, was sent on ahead to Rorke's Drift, on the River Buffalo, where he was made responsible for the operation of a pont system across the River Buffalo, to enable No.3 Column, accompanied by the Commander-in -Chief, Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford and his headquarters, to lead the initial thrust into Zululand.
Invasion of Zululand.
9. On 11th .January,1879,the invasion force, spear-headed by Lord Chelmsford and No.3 Column, successfully crossed the River Buffalo into Zululand. After a brief skirmish with Zulus, at Sihayo's Kraal,on l2th.January, 1879, the Column eventually reached the planned base camp at Isandhlwana, on 20th.January,1879,some ten miles from Rorke's Drift.
Disaster at Isandhlwana.
10. It was here,at Isandhlwana,on 22nd.January,1879 that, the initial invasion came to an abrupt halt. On that fateful morning Lord Chelmsford, accompanied by Colonel Richard Glyn and about half the strength of No.3 Column, departed Isandhlwana on the expectation of making contact with the Zulu army to the south east of Isandhlwana. They left behind a defence force under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Pulleine of the 24th.Regiment of Foot.
11. At about noon on 22nd.January,1879,the unprepared force at Isandhlwana was attacked from the north east,by a Zulu army estimated at 20,000,under the joint command of Tsingwayo and Mavumengwana. In an extraordinary short period of time, the defending force was completely overwhelmed and routed. The defenders suffered extremely heavy casualties, including the annihilation of five Companies of the 2/24th.Regement of Foot and one Company of the 2/24th.regiment of Foot, together with a portion of 'N' Battery,5th.Brigade,Royal Artillery; a reinforcement unit of Natal Native Horse, a Rocket Battery and a Regiment of Natal Native Contingent,all under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Durnford,Royal Engineers. Both Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine and Lieutenant-Colonel Dumford were killed in action.
12. Of a total of 1,774 officers,NCO's and men,52 officers and 806 NCO1s and men of the Imperial forces were killed in action.along with 471 native troops and some non-combatants. In addition, all the Column's stores and transport were lost to the Zulus.
Defence of Rorke's Drift.
13. Meanwhile back at Rorke's Drift, became the object of an attack by a Zulu force, estimated to be 3-4,000 in strength and commanded by Dabulamanzi,a brother of King Cetshwayo. This extension of the attack across the Natal border is stated to have been contrary to the orders of Cetshwayo.
14. The garrison at Rorke's Drift consisted of 'B' Company, 2/24th.Regiment of Foot,with Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in command; a few soldiers from the l/24th.Regiment of Foot, most of whom were on the sick list; Lieutenant J.R.M.Chard, Royal Engineers, responsible for the operation of the pont system across the nearby River Buffalo; an officer and men of the Army Medical Department; Chaplain George Smith; a Swiss NCO from the Natal Native Contingent; one ferryman and a number of sick and wounded personnel. Lieutenant Chard was in overall command, by reason of his seniority in service over Lieutenant Bromhead. No account has been taken of the mounted formations or native units who were at Rorke's Drift before the Zulu attack, but left without orders, as the attack was developing. Altogether, the garrison was made up of 139 officers, NCO's and men, of whom 11 were, in practical terms, non-combatants and 35 were sick and in hospital, leaving a total of two officers and 91 NCO's and men fit for operational duties.
15. Lieutenant Chard was at Isandhlwana during the morning of 22nd. January, 1879, when reports of Zulu movements to the north of Isandhlwana caused him to return to Rorke's Drift,in case there was a threat to his command. He was at the river crossing during the afternoon when Lieutenant James Adendorff, accompanied by Lieutenant Vane rode up to the crossing and gave the news of the defeat at Isandhlwana and the developing attack on Rorke's Drift. Lieutenant Chard set about securing the ponts before setting off for Rorke's Drift. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Bromhead,back at the Mission Station had received similar information and set about preparing for withdrawal to Helpmakaar. Following swift consultation back at the Mission Station, Lieutenant Chard reversed the intention to withdraw and set about planning and building defences, in readiness for the coming attack. Lieutenant Chard's decision to stay, rather than run the risk of withdrawing to Helpmakaar was very much influenced by the advice of Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton, a former Sergeant-Major with a Line Regiment, the 85th. (Kings) Light Infantry.
16. From about 1620 hours on 22nd.January,1879,until about 0400 hours the following morning the defenders of Rorke's Drift were engaged with an estimated 3-4,000 Zulus of the EuthuIwana and Udloko Regiments, part of the Undi Corps, in fierce and sometimes desperate fighting, with many of the small force showing supreme gallantry, under the leadership of Lieutenant Chard and the example of others. At about 0800 hours on 23rd. January,1879,following the appearance of Lord Chelmsford's task force from the direction of Isandhlwana, the Zulus retired,having sustained heavy casualties, estimated in excess of l,000,a spent and defeated force. It is recorded that, the defenders expended more than 21,000 rounds of ammunition, during the engagement.
17. Of the defenders,15 NCO's and men were killed in action. One officer (Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton) and 9 NCO's and men were wounded, two of whom later succumbed to their injuries. An unprecedented number of 11 officers,including Lieutenant Chard, NCO's and men, were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Second Invasion of Zululand.
18. Lieutenant Chard was promoted to the rank of Brevet-Major, with effect from 23rd.January,1879 and remained in the Rorke's Drift/ Helpmakaar area, rejoining No.5 Field Company, which had managed to reach Helpmakaar,on 26th.January,1879. Major Chard was most probably engaged in rebuilding the defences at the Misslon Station at Rorke's Drift, or constructing the new forts at Helpmakaar or, Nelvill on the River Buffalo. Like many of the troops working and living in the area, Major Chard was struck down with enteric fever and was sent to Ladysmith, by ambulance, on I7th.Feb-ruary,1879,where he was nursed back to good health by a Dr. and Nrs.Hyde, who, incidently came from Aller Park in Somerset. It is notable this illness was reported in the local newspaper, "Natal Colonist",as causing his death in May,1879 and, the rumour gained wide credence at first. However, Major Chard made a good recovery and on 27th.April,1879,he left Ladysmith to rejoin No.5 Field Company,at Landman's Drift, on the River Buffalo, near Dundee, on 29th.April,1879.
19. He was then engaged in preparations for Lord Chelmsford's second invasion of Zululand. Major Chard, together with No.5 Field Company, accompanied the Ulundi Column, on its strike into Zululand, commencing on 3rd.June,1879 and took part in the final defeat of the Zulus, at Ulundi, on 4th.July,1879.
20. On l5th.(some sources say 16th) July,1879 whilst returning from Ulundi, Major Chard was met by the new Commander-inChief, General Sir Garnet Wolseley, at Inkwenken Camp, St.Pauls Nission Station,in Zululand and, at aspecial parade, Major Chard was decorated with his Victoria Cross.
21. He was later to receive his South Africa Medal,1877-1879, with the '1379' clasp, in recognition of his services, during the Zulu campaign.
22. It was at this stage of Major Chard's career that service jealousy and the issue of uncalled for critical comment came to the surface. It is stated that, privately, the new Commander-in Chief, General Sir Garnet Wolseley had little time for either Major Chard or Major Bromhead, but in public, was more than willing to bask in the adulation they attracted. This can be clearly seen from the comments he made in his journal. On recording the award of The Victoria Cross to Major Chard, at Inkwenken Camp, St.Paul's Nission Station,Zululand, he wrote - "A more uninteresting or more stupid looking fellow I never saw. Wood tells me he is a most useless officer, fit for nothing. I hear in their camp also that, the man who worked hardest in defence of Rorke's Drift Post was a Commissiariat officer,who has not been rewarded at all. The only one who behaved badly was the Doctor and reports say he was a coward. Bromhead of the 24th. Regiment, who was the second-in -command of the Post, is a very stupid fellow also". He also wrote in his journal on llth.September,1879,when he presented Majoor Bromhead with his Victoria Cross, at a parade held at Utrecht, Transvaal - "I have now given away these decorations to both the officers who took part in the defence of Rorke's DrIft and two duller,more stupid,more uninteresting men or less like gentlemen it has not been my luck to meet for a long time".
23. Another unkind and possibly unfair attack on Major Chard's character and ability came from the Officer Commanding No.5 Field Company, Royal Engineers, Captain Walter Parke Jones, Royal Engineers, with whom, Major Chard had served as his senior subaltern.
24. Captain Jones was a close associate of Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Durnford, Royal Engineers and, in his own right was a recognised expert on military engineering in South Africa, having a considerable working knowledge of natives, in both Natal and Zululand; hence his selection to command No.5 Field Company, Royal Engineers.
25. No.5 Field Company arrived at Durban, Natal, on 4th.January,
1879 and was assigned to No.3 Column, to which the Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford had attached his Headquarters, for the initial invasion into Zululand. No.5 Field Company was frustrated in its urgency to get to Rorke's Dtift, in time for the start of the invasion on llth.January,1879,by the lack of transport for the troops and equipment. Captain Jones therefore sent his senior subbaltern, Lieutenant Chard, with a small party of men on ahead, to advise and assist No.3 Column. Despite the lack of transport and the most horrendous difficulties of the terrain and inclement weather, Captain Jones managed to get his unit from Durban to Helpmakaar, via Pietermaritzburg and Greytown, a distance of some 150 miles, by the 26th.Jan-uary,1879. He was too late for the invasion and., of, course. missed the disaster at Isandhlwana and the heroic success of the Rorke's Drift engagement.
26. In a letter home from Helpmakaar, on l6th.March,1879,Captain Jones wrote:
"Owing to the deaths at lsandhlwana, Bromhead, the second in-command at Rorke's Drift got his Company by promotion and he gets a brevet. This makes my Chard, who was in command, quite sure of a brevet, when he gets his Company, a year hence. Chard is in great luck, he left us at Durban, came up here quickly and comfortably, without all the bother of men sick, wagons sticking, etc. He leaves Isandhlwana camp an hour before the disaster, being ordered to look after the ponts over the Tugela, at Rorke's Drift. (writer's comment: an error; for Tugela, read Buffalo. It is also incorrect to say that, Lieutenant Chard was 'ordered to return to the ponbs". He actually returned on his own accord, after watching developments at Isandhlwana, which he read as possibly endangering his responsibilities at Rorke's Drift and returned there, to carry out the command duties that he had been given by Major Henry Spalding that very morning, before he , Major Spalding, set off for Helpmakaar, to bring up reinforcements for Rorke's Drift. "He there becomes a hero, gets fever and goes away on sick leave to a comfortable and hospitable house near Ladysmith, 60 miles off and vegetates there ever since. Not one iota of the work or drudgery does he get"..
27. In another letter, dated at St.Paul's, Zululand, on 2nd. August,1879, Captain Walter Jones wrote:
"Chard got his orders to leave No.5 Field Company for good and departed yesterday. He is a most amiable fellow and a loss to the Ness, but as a Company officer, he is hopelessly slow and slack. I shall get on much better without him, and with Porter (Lieutenant R.da C. Porter) as my senior Sub. - Chard makes me angry, with such a start as he got, he stuck to the Company doing nothing. In his place, I should have gone up and asked Lord Chelmsford for an appointment, he must have got it and if not, he could have gone home soon after Rorkes Drift at the height of his popularity
and done splendidly at home - I advised him, but he placidly smokes his pipe and does nothing. Few men get such opportunities
28. In a letter from Cape Town, written on l6th.November,1879, Captain Walter Jones made his last reference to Major Chard: "Yesterday, we R.E's had a grand picnic up Table Mountain. Colonel Hassard( Colonel F.C.Hassard, CB; C.R.E. Pietermaritzburg) and family,five daughters,suppiied the grub, Lt.Cameron,R.E. (Lieutenant J.Cameron,No.7 Field Company, Royal Engineers) and self unlimited champagne and and drinks. The mountain 15 3680 odd feet high, a climb for the ladies. We started at 6 am and got home at 8.30 pm, a good long day. It was most enjoyable. The eldest Miss Frere (daughter oF Sir Henry Bartle Frere, Governor of Cape Colony and High CommIssioner in South Africa),one of our guests, had a letter from Princess Beatrice (a daughter of Queen Victoria),saying that Chard's modest, unassuming demeanor had put him in high favour with her Majesty etc. - it may lead to more good things for him. He is really in luck."
Return to England.
29. On the morning of 2nd.October,l879,HMT Egypt (a National Line passenger/cargo steamship of 4500 tons, built in 1871),berthed at Portsmouth. On board were Major Chard VC; Surgeon-Major J.H.Reynolds,MB; VC. (of Rorke's Drift fame),Lieutenant E.S.Browne,VC. (Hiobane on 28th.March, 1879) and l/24th.Regiment of Foot, under the command of Colonel W.R.Glyn,CB; together with other representative Corps.
30. Shortly after the 'Egypt' had berthed, the Commander-in Chief, H.R.H.The Duke of Cambridge, arrived with Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar. A telegram from H.M.Queen Victoria was delivered to Major Chard, welcoming him home and asking him to visit her at Balmoral. The 1/24th.Regiment of Foot were paraded on the quay, where they were inspected by the Duke of Cambridge. There was great interest shown at the display of the much faded and tattered Queen's Colours, for which Lieutenants T.I Melvill and N.J.A.Coghill lost their lives in attempting to save them ,after the defeat at Isandhlwana and for which they were both awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in 1907. Following an address by the Duke of Cambridge, the 1/24th.Regiment of Foot returned aboard HMT. 'Egypt' for the midday meal and to prepare for disembarkation.
31. In the afternoon of 2nd.October,1879,the l/24th.Regiment of Foot were disembarked and marched to their barracks at Gosport, during which they were enthusiastically welcomed by large crowds lining the route.
32. Major Chard, apparently in excellent health, also disembarked, intending to proceed to North Curry, near Taunton, Somerset to visit his sister and brother-in-law,Major and Mrs.Barrett of Moredon. Besides the Royal invitation to attend Balmoral, Major Chard was asked to attend functions at the Wanderers Club, London, Chatham, Bury, Taunton, Langport, North Curry and Plymouth.
Reception in Taunton.
33. Following prior arrangements, Major Chard arrived at Taunton, on the 1.20 pm train from Bristol, on 3rd.October 1879. He was met at the Railway Station by a large crowd of townspeople ,relatives and friends, including an official welcoming party, made up of the Mayor of Taunton, the Town Clerk and most of the members of the Corporation. Major Chard was accompanied by his brother-in-law, Major William Barrett and his batman,12046 Driver Charles Robson of the Royal Engineers, the young soldiers carrying Zulu assegais and other trophies of the campaign.
34. Taunton Borough Town Clerk Nr.T Meyler read the following address, in the open space , in front of the downside of the Railway Station, before a large gathering:
"To Major John Rouse Merriott Chard,R.E.: VC. - We the Mayor, Alderman and the Burgesses of the Borough of Taunton ,most cordially welcome you on your return amongst us; more especially we do so as in you we recognise the officer whose promptitude, skill and energy organised and carried out the defences which enabled a small but courageous body of British soldiers to withstand the furious onslaughts of the Zulu army, flushed with victory and fearless of danger. To you,to Major Bromhead, and your gallant companions, your country owes her gratitude and thanks for averting the horrors of an invasion of her Colony of Natal. As long as the annuals of our times exist, so long will the names of Chard, Bromhead and Rorke's Drift be inseparably connected and be recorded and remembered in one of the brightest pages of our national history.
Given under the common seal of the Borough of Taunton, this third day of October,1879.
Thos.Meyler, Town Clerk. Meyer Jacobs, Mayor.
35. In his speech of welcome,the Mayor of Taunton said:
"Major Chard in asking you to accept this tribute of our admiration for the courageous conduct you displayed during the late war, J am sure it will be no idle compliment to see we are proud of the distinction which you have won. Conduct such as you have displayed is common almost to every English officer, when placed in trying circumstances. We are proud of the gallantry you and your noble band showed on that occasion and welcome you back to Taunton with feelings of heartfelt gratitude that your life has been spared and we hope that the honours that have been conferred upon you and cheerfully accorded to you, will not in any manner, prevent you still carrying on the duties of your noble service. We feel quite sure that, the thanks of the Corporation of Taunton will be the earnest of many to follow, for it is no compliment for me to tell you that, your conduct has met with the admiration of the whole of your countrymen. We are proud of the distinction you have won, and we feel additionally proud in knowing that you are associated by families ties with this immediate neighbourhood. We are pleased at being the first to welcome you back to your native land, and we shall ever retain a pleasant recollection of the fact that we were the first to offer you are thanks on the one part and our congratulations on the other, for the nobility of conduct you have displayed in defence of our country. Nay you retain this address for many years and have pleasant recollections of the fact that, we have the first of welcoming home to your native country:'
36. Major Chard,who was received with prolonged cheering, replied:
"Mr.Mayor and gentlemen - I am too much overcome by my own feelings and by the novelty of the position I find myself in to find words in which to sufficently express my thanks for the kind welcome you have given me today, and the honour you have done me on this occasion. It is always one of the pleasantest episodes in a soldier's career, when he is returning once more to England after foreign service, especially when that service has been a campaign where there have been hard knocks and hard work knocking around. Especially has it been pleasant to me on this occasion coming home, as I have with the gallant 24th.Regiment,whose name will live forever in the history of the country. I shall ever be proud myself of being associated with that Regiment at Rorke's Drift, and on landing in England, it was especially gratifying to me to find that even after the lapses of so long a time and after so many other stirring occurences had taken place, and so many other gallant deeds have been done, that what happened in January last, in a little obscure corner in Natal, is still remembered, although it might well be forgotten. I am deeply grateful for all that has been said. I shall never forget the kindness you have shown me on this occasion. As a West Countryman, this address from you, the Chief Magistrate of Taunton, is particularly gratifying to me and the kindly welcome I have received from the people of Taunton, J shall never forget as long as I live. I thank you very sincerely.
37. Colonel Rawlins, whose son served in Natal during the war said:
"I think it ought to be known that, Her Majesty the Queen has just sent to welcome Major Chard home, and I am sure we all rejoice in it. There is a young officer, who was almost the first to shake hands with Major Chard at Rorke's Drift - Lieutenant Walsh -let us give one cheer. There is another gallant fellow on the box. He was at Rorke's Drift and distinguished himself in a gallant manner. Let us give him one cheer. And now God speed them".
38. A procession led by the Mayor's carriage, followed by Major Chard, proceeded through the streets of Taunton and were given a tremendous reception from the townspeople, as they passed. On arriving at the Borough boundary, in East Reach, the Mayor's party left the procession and Major Chard was driven on to North Curry, where elaborate preparations had been made for his reception.
Reception in North Curry.
39. When it was known that Major Chard would be staying with Major William and Mrs.Charlotte Barrett, his brother-in-law and sister, at Moredon just out-the village of North Curry, a committee under the Chairmanship of the Vicar of North Curry, the Reverend R.C. L.Browne, with Nr.William Pyne as Secretary, set about organising arrangements for the welcome of Major Chard.
40. The village of North Curry was extensively decorated with flags, flowers, banners and decorative arches by the morning of Friday,3rd.October,l879 Approaching the village from the direction of Taunton, a large arch had been erected across the road at Borough Post, with the words "Welcome to North Curry ",highlighted on it. Opposite the house of Mr.J.A.Rouse, in Windmill Road, was another arch, with a shield on top ,bearing the Chard crest - "Nil perandum", surmounted by an eagle. Opposite the Wesleyan Chapel, was another arch, with the inscription "Long Life to Major Chard". Nearby, at the begining of Greenway Road, was another arch, displaying Major Chard's initials "J.R.N.C",with the letters "VC" beneath. Outside the residence of Dr.Olivey, were two banners inscribed, "God Save the Queen" and "God Bless the Prince of Wales", all set off with a display of flowers and an arch, with the words, "Honour to the Brave". In front of Mr William Foster's house, there was a coloured portrait of Major Chard. At the village centre of Queen's Square, the fir trees and nearby houses were bedecked with flags and flowers. Outside the Bird-in-Hand Inn was an arch made up of replica mealie-bags and rows of biscuit and meat tins, bearing the names of Chard and Bromhead and the inscription, "Joy to the Defenders of Rorke's Drift". The Post Office was decorated and close by was an arch stating, "The Natal Preservers" and "Health and Happiness". In front of Nr.Lockyer's residence was a banner bearing the words. "Welcome to The Gallant Major Chard - The Hero of Rorke's Drift" and there was a similar banner set up over the entrance to Mr.R.Batten's premises. On the Stoke Gregory road, leading to Moredon, were two arches bearing the messages, " Health and Happiness "and "Peace and Prosperity". By Mr.Wescombe 5 residence was a banner inscribed, "welcome to the Brave" and leading towards Moredon was another arch - "Ulundi and Home". Opposite the lodge entrance to Moredon was a substantial archway, bearing the words, "Welcome to Moredon"and a representation of the Victoria Cross.
41. Long before 2pm.on a fine October afternoon, a huge crowd of people began to congregate in the open space around Borough Post, a short distance outside North Curry, on the Taunton road. They came from North Curry Parish Othery and neighbouring parishes. The people came on on horseback, in carriages and in other forms of transport, to witness the reception and it soon became apparent that, the estimated 3,000 people in attendance,in including at least 100 on horseback, was causing serious overcrowding. As a result, the organising committee had to get the gathering to move back to higher ground, so that all could see the reception. This was achieved with the cooperation of a happy crowd, in a holiday mood.
42. As soon as the carriage bringing Major Chard, accompanied by Major and Mrs.Barrett and Major Chard's elder brother, Captain William Chard,Royal Fusiliers, came into sight, the Band of the 3rd.Somerset (Taunton)Rifle Volunteers, struck up with "See the Conquering Hero Comes" and prolonged and loud cheering from the crowd. Eventually, some semblance of order was achieved and the Reverend R.C.L. Browne, mounted on horseback was able to open the proceedings by reading and presenting a formal address:
"To Major John Rouse Merriott Chard,R.E; V.C. We the inhabitants of North Curry, Othery and neighbourhood, with which you and your family have been and are connected, whilst thankfully acknowledging the goodness of Providence in specially preserving and sheltering you from the dangers to which you have been exposed, cordially and affectionately welcome you on your safe return to your family and country, and take this opportunity of respectively expressing our heartfelt admiration of your self-devotion, talents and gallantry in the Zulu War, and particularly during that trying night at Rorke's Drift, when,with only a handful of brave soldiers and merely extemporised defences, you kept at bay an almost overpowering force of the enemy; and this probably, under the Divine providence, saved the Colony of Natal from destruction, and defended the honour of your country. "It is an additional cause of gratitude to us that her most gracious Majesty has recognised your services as well by the promotion which you have so well earned as by investing you with the Victoria Cross, the highest distinction for personal bravery which can be conferred upon the British soldier or sailor, whatever the rank he may hold in the service of his Sovereign.
"And in conclusion, we may wish you health and happiness, and pray that your valuable life may long be spared to enjoy the honours you have gained, and to be of further benefit to your family and country".
Signed: Robert Charles Lathom Browne,Chairman.
The Address was signed by the following members of the Committee:
Reverend R. C. Lathom Browne (Chairman) ,Reverend E.
Godson, Reverend W. Codrington, Reverend C.N. Gilliam, Dr.
H.P.Olivey and Messrs. C.R.Norris,T.Hellard,W.W.
Lock, H. Lockyer, G. Goodson, J. Badcock, J. H. Dunning, C. E.
H. Barrington, J. Hembrow, Charles Lockyer, F. J. Coo~bs,
J.Meaker,H.N. Hunt, W. House, R. Turner, J. F. Collier, C.
Glyde and William Pyne,Secretary.
43. Major Chard remained standing in his carriage throughout the address and, in response, commented that, he recognised so many faces in the gathered crowd and he was so overwhelmed by the honour he had been granted. He recalled that ,on arrival at Taunton earlier in the day, one of the first to meet him was Lieutenant H.A.Walsh of the l3th.Regiment of Foot, who also happened to be the first man who rode up to him after the defence of Rorke's Drift. He said he was personally glad to see members of the l3th.Regiment of Foot, so well represented as they excelled during the campaign in Zululand, when serving with General Wood's Column. He was very happy that he had survived the fighting and the dangers of disease, and specifically mentioned Dr. Hyde and his wife, who come from nearby Aller, in Somersetshire, who unquestionably nursed him back to good health after he had fallen sick with enteric fever shortly after the fight at Rorke's Drift. He regretted that, Major Bromhead, who was still serving in South Africa and Surgeon-Major Reynolds,who had accompanied him home to England,were not with him that day,to share in the wonderful reception he had been given in Somerset. However, he pointed out that,12046 Driver Charles Robson, his orderly, was present and would note how well their services in South Africa were appreciated. He ended his speech with his sincere thanks for all their kindness.
44 After Major Chard's response and when all the cheering and handshaking had finished, the horses were removed from his carriage and ropes fastened to it, by which volunteers, including a number of soldiers in the uniform of the l3th.Regiment of Foot, could pull the carriage along the route to be taken. The procession was formed up in the following order:
The Union-Jack - Carried by Nr.J.Balch,a former Guardsman;
The Band of the 3rd.Somerset Rifle Volunteers;
Ancient Order of Foresters:
North Curry Friendly Society;
Townsmen, four abreast;
The Reception Committee, on horseback;
Major Chard's carriage, with escort;
Other tenantry, on horseback; and,
North Curry and other tenantry, on horseback.
45. The procession left Borough Post and made its way down Windmill Hill, past the junction with Greenway and theWesleyan Chapel, taking the road through the centre of
North Curry, passing the Bird-in-Hand Inn and the Post Office and then on to the Stoke Gregory Road,heading towards Moredon. Along the whole route, heavily decorated with arches, banners, flags and garlands, cheering crowds competed with the crack of anvils being fired and the music of the Military Band. The whole scene was one of boisterous happiness, pleasure and earnest welcome for a peoples hero. There is the delightful story of Major Chard being rather overawed by the occasion, and Mrs. Charlotte Barrett chastising her younger brother, by telling him to remove his hat and wave!
46. On arrival at the Lodge and entrance to Moredon, Major Chard was met by his mother, who he embraced affectionately, whilst the Band played "Home Sweet Home" and the gathered crowd expressed appreciation for this public act of affection.
47. As the Band played "The Noble Twenty-Fourth",Major Chard returned to his carriage, at which point, the call went up for a speech from Major Barrett. Major Barrett said he could not find words to properly express his appreciation for the reception accorded to Major Chard. He was most pleasantly surprised at the demonstration given in the village, which had surpassed all his expectations. He assured the crowd, it was a very proud moment in his life to witness such a day at Moredon. In welcoming home his brother-in-law, he said, it would always remain impressed on his memory, as long as he lived and wished to say how grateful he was to the organising committee and all those who had contributed and participated in the day's welcome.
48. Sir Percy Douglas, a former military commander in South Africa, was then called to address the crowd. He explained the hardships and dangers met by soldiers serving their country in South Africa. He was convinced that Major Chard fully merited the honours and awards he had earned for his leadership and the example he had set at Rorke's Drift. He felt very proud to be associated with Major Chard and the people of North Curry and the surrounding villages, who had shown their full appreciation, in welcoming Major Chard, on his return to Somerset.
49. Following Sir Percy's speech, Major Chard was taken to an adjoining field, under the tenancy of a Nr.Jeanes, together with all those who had taken part in the procession. In the field, several large marquees had been erected by Mr.Jeffrey Denman of Bridgwater,in which large quantities of sandwiches, beer and tea were provided for all concerned.
50. The day's proceedings were interrupted by an interesting ceremony, in which Mrs. Charlotte Barrett presented a bronze medal, awarded by the Royal Humane Society to a young boy named Frederick Brewer, who,risking his own life, had gone to the assistance of two other boys, who had got themselves into difficulties, whilst bathing in the River Tone. Whilst in the act of saving the two boys, Frederick Brewer himself got into trouble and was in danger of drowning. Two other boys, named Charles and Henry Hayes, at considerable personal risk to themselves, managed to save young Brewer and, for their bravery, both received a Royal Humane Society parchment citation. Apparently, Mrs.Barrett had witnessed these events and the awards were secured through the efforts of Dr. Olivey.
51. Further speeches were then delivered by the Reverend E. Godson of Burrow Bridge and the Reverend C.M.Gillam of Othery, speaking as representatives on behalf of those external to the Parish of North Curry. Both Reverend gentlemen spoke highly of Major Chard's courage, devotion to duty and bravery. Both were proud of Major Chard's association with this part of Somerset and all were profoundly pleased he had been rewarded for his valour by the award of the Victoria Cross.
52. Festivities continued throughout the afternoon and in the evening there was a firework display, including coloured fires, roman candles and sky-rockets, all supplied by Nr.Curry of Fore Street, Taunton.
Further Tributes and Receptions.
53. So ended a memorable day in the life of Major Chard. It was also a day, typical of the simple splendour, an appreciative British public will always salute a brave man.
54. The following editorial, taken from the Somerset County Gazette, on Saturday, October 4th. 1879, is indicative of the high esteem, in which Major Chard was held throughout Devon and Somerset, if not the whole of the United Kingdom:
"There is a danger just now of carrying popular demonstration to an excess, and one cannot help thinking that the people fail occasionally to discriminate between notoriety and fame. The same honour has been paid to the notorious and un-deserving, as to the deserving hero. Taunton made no such mistake, however, when she sought to do honour to Major Chard, the hero of Rorke's Drift. Major Chard, of whom Somerset people are justly proud, for they regard him as a Somerset man, has won the nations gratitude and acclaim by deeds of genuine heroism. He has shown that a man's value is best shown in an emergency, and we no doubt owe it to him and the brave fellows who fought with him, that the Colony of Natal was not, after the disaster of Isandula (sic),over-run, and every colonist butchered. England does well to do him honour, for he has deserved well of his country; and Somerset does well to do him honour, for Somerset men like to recognise in him the ideal Somerset coolness and courage. Taunton, with limited opportunity and North Curry with its limited resources could not, perhaps, rise to such an imposing demonstration as the men of Devon gave in Colonel Buller's honour; but what Taunton and North Curry have done is none the less a genuine and hearty welcome of their countryman. It is a matter for congratulation that the town is now in a position to take official cognizance of such occasions as these. With the Mayor representing the municipality, a move can be made in matters of that kind which would have, under the old system of local government, perhaps been neglected, and Taunton would have acquired a reputation for apathy and want of appreciation which it certainly does not deserve. The town, under the new regime, has been singularly happy and successful in its public receptions, and this reception of Major Chard by the town authorities is no exception".
55. Although it may have been the end of a momentous day for Major Chard, it was not the end of the receptions and presentations, both formal and informal, held throughout the country. Besides Taunton and North Curry formalities took place at:
(a). A public celebration and presentation at Langport Somerset, held on 1st. November, 1879,when Major Chard was given an Illuminated Address.
(b). Public celebrations and Illuminated Addresses were presented at Chatham and nearby Brompton,on 9th. October,1879. During the same evening, Major Chard was dined, by his colleagues, at the Royal Engineers Officers Mess,Brompton Barracks
(c). A dinner was given by the Wanderer's Club,Pall Mall,London,during the evening of l7th.October, 1879,for both Major Chard and Surgeon-Major J.H. Reynolds, VC.
(d). A Grand Reception was held at the Guildhall, at Plymouth, Devon, on l7th.November, 1879,at which a huge crowd witnessed the presentation on behalf of the people of Plymouth, of an Address, a Sword of Honour and a gold chronometer to Major Chard.
(e). A prize-giving ceremony at Bury, Lancashire,at which Major Chard presented prizes to the 8th. Lancashire Rifle Volunteers, in a crowded Athenaeun on 13th. December, 1879
(f). An Illuminated Address was presented to Major Chard, by the Worshipful Master and Brethren of Freemasons, of St. George's Lodge, Exeter, Devon. The date of presentation is not known.
(g). Towards the end of 1879,Najor Chard attended the Plymouth Free School, in Plymouth, Devon, where he gave a talk on "My Life in Zululand", before a large crowd.
56. he highlight of his return home must have been the invitation to attend Balmoral,Scotland on l2th.to 14th. October,1879,for an audience with Her Majesty,Queen Victoria, during which,he related the story of the defence of Rorke's Drift,to Her Majesty. He created a very favourable impression with Queen Victoria, for his modest demeanour and unassuming character. In later years, he was again to be invited to attend upon Queen Victoria, but on each occasion, he was too ill take the journey and fulfil the invitations.
Military Service and Promotions, 1879 onwards.
57. So after a well earned leave, during which he was feted and welcomed up and down the country, it was back to work for Major Chard. He resumed duty at Devonport at the end of January,1880,before proceeding to Cyprus in December, 1881 and returning home in March,1887. In England, he was posted to Preston in April,1887,remaining there until ordered to Singapore in December,1892. He returned to England in January,1896 and, in September of that year, he assumed his final post of Chief Royal Engineer at Perth, Scotland.
58. His promotion record in the Royal Engineers was:
(a). Captain and Brevet Najor,23rd.January,1879.
(b). Regimental Major, l7th.July, 1886.
(c). Lieutenant Colonel 8th January 1893.
(d). Colonel, 8th. January, 1897.
Illness and Death.
59. It was whilst serving as C.R.E.Scottish Command that, he was found to have cancer of the mouth. In November,1896 he underwent an operation in Edinburgh. A second operation was necessary in Narch,1897,during which his tongue was removed and, it is reputed that , although he had no tongue, he was able to converse to a considerable degree. He made a third visit to Edinburgh in August, 1897, from where he returned to the Rectory at Hatch Beauchamp, in Somerset, the home of his younger brother, The Reverend C.E.Chard. The final medical examination had revealed that, the cancer was terminal and, his retirement to Hatch Beauchamp, where he was attended by Dr.Brown of Taunton and Dr.Hatherall of Hatch Beauchamp, was acceptance of the fact that, all hope of recovery had been abandoned.
60. Despite terrible suffering and great distress over the last fortnight of his life, borne it may be added, with remarkable fortitude and strength of character,Colonel Chard passed peacefully away, in his sleep, shortly after 9.30 pm; on Nonday,lst.November,1897.
61. Colonel Chard's death brought an immediate response from all over the country and his passing was widely reported in the Press, with many telegrams of condolence being directed to Hatch Beauchamp. Queen Victoria had asked for, and received, reports on his progress and was always solicitous in her attention to his illness. In July,1897,Her Majesty despatched her Diamond Jubilee Medal to Colonel Chard, companied by an exceedingly kind letter from General Sir Fleetwood Edwards. It was as recent as 3Oth.October,1897 that, Her Majesty had sent a message to Reverend C.E.Chard, asking for a report on his brother's progress and expressing sympathy for his suffering.
62. Other messages of sympathy were sent to the Reverend C.E.Chard,by H.R.H.The Duke of Connaught, an old friend and colleague of Colonel Chard in their early days, as young officers at Woolwich; and Lord Chelmsford, the former Commander-in-Chief, South Africa, at the time of Rorke's Drift engagement.
63. The funeral service and burial took place on Sth.November,1897,at the Parish Church of St.John the Baptist, situated near Hatch Court,Hatch Beauchamp,Taunton, Somerset. It is of interest to note that, the Church site dates back to the l2th.century and the present building is mainly late medieval,with some l9th.century additions, in matching style. Colonel Chard's brother, the Reverend C.E.Chard was Rector of Hatch Beauchamp from 1885-1911 and both he and Colonel Chard, lie buried in the Churchyard.
64. The day was in keeping with the occasion; a rather dull November afternoon, not raining, but beautiful autumn weather, in a quiet graveyard situated in a setting of magnificent trees and surrounding countryside.
65. The grave had been prepared on the south east side of the Church, close to the wall of the Transept Vestry. It was lined with moss and smilax creeper and studded with white chrysanthemums, white geraniums and violets. At the head was a large cross of white chrysanthemums. The presentation of the grave was carried out by Nr.J.Shute, gardener to Major William Barrett, at Moredon; Nr.W. Bellringer, gardener to Mrs.Raban of Beauchamp Lodge; Mr. Walter Durman, gardener to Nr.Hardstaff , at Hatch Court and Nr.Lewis Faulkener, gardener to the Reverend C.E. Chard, at the Rectory, Hatch Beauchamp.
66.There was a great number of wreaths delivered to the graveside, producing a magnificent floral display. Her Majesty Queen Victoria sent a wreath of laurel leaves tied with long streamers of white satin,bearing a card in Her Majesty's own handwriting:
"A mark of admiration and regard for a brave soldier From his SovereignVictoria R.I."
67. It is worthy of note that, Queen Victoria's wreath lay for many years beneath the Chard Memorial Window, installed in 1899 and located in the south side of the Chancel, near the the altar of the Parish Church, Hatch Beauchamp.
68. Other principal wreaths were from the Deputy AdjutantGeneral,R.E.on behalf of the Corps of Royal Engineers, "In sorrow for the loss of their gallant brother officer"; from Colonel Browne and the Officers of the Depot, South Wales Borderers, 24th. Regiment, "With deep sympathy"; from the officers of the Royal Engineers Scottish District; Colonel Walter Dunne, A.A.G.York; the Countess of Camperdown, "With heartfelt sympathy"; Lady Frere, widow of Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Cape Colony and High Commissioner in South Africa during the time of the Zulu campaign, "In memory of the heroic defender of Rorke's Drift"; an anonymous wreath, bearing the words, "In rememberance of Rorke's Drift,22nd.January,1879 -That day he did his duty"; The Bishop of Bath and Wells sent a beautiful wreath by John Marshall, himself a Crimean veteran, wearing a medal with four clasps. The following is a complete list of wreaths sent for the funeral:
Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Colonel Bridgman,
Malta,Nr.G.Maudesley Williams,London; Nr.W.R.W.Upjohn,
Hastings; Misses Beryl and Coral Montague,Bath; Mr and
Mrs.Peel; Lady Bovill; Mrs.Sykes,Ayr; Major and Mrs.
Whiteside,Preston; Mrs.and the Misses Birley,Preston:
Mr and Mrs. Bird,Garstang: Mr and Mrs.Calvert,Perth;
Major and Mrs. Barrett, Moredon; Captain and Mrs. Heycock,
Cheltenham; Messrs.W, A and C.Barrett,Moredon; Mrs. Ring,
Hatch Beauchamp; the Misses Ring,Hatch Beauchamp;Mrs.
Baker,Hatch Beauchamp; Mrs.Trevor,St.Leonards; The Dean
of St.Andrews,Perth; the Servants at Moredon; Miss
Dorothy Barrett, Moredon; Sergeant-Major Selby, R. E.
and Mrs.Selby; Maurice Bovill; The Deputy Adjutant-
General R.E.on behalf of the Royal Corps of Engineers;
Mrs. Cuthbert, Perth; Reverend Wand Mrs. Strong, Somerton;
Mrs.Barrow; The officers of Royal Engineers,Scottish
Command; Colonel Browne and the officers of the Depot,
South Wales Borderers, 24th. Regiment; Mrs.Mullins,WestonSuper-Mare; Mr. Mullins, Weston-Super-Mare; Mrs. Garland
Harrison; Mrs.and Miss Agnes Watson,Perth; Mr and Mrs.
Frank Hollins,Preston; Mrs.Chard,Mount Tamar; the children of Mrs.Chard,Mount Tamar; Mr and Mrs.Napier,Singapore; the Lodge of St.George,Exeter; Mr.L.W.Reynolds;
Colonel Walter Dunne,Assistant Adjutant-General,York;
The Countess of Camperdown; Major F.C.Mein; Nr.Thomas,
Perth; Mrs.Farquhar,Perth; Colonel and Mrs.C.Birch;
Captain J.B.Nair,R.E.Clifton; Reverend J.E.G.and Mrs.
Farmer; Mrs Hyde,Ladysmith; Mrs J.Nills; Mrs.Tref fry,
Cornwall; Mrs.Elliot Square, Plymouth; Lady Frere;
Garland W.C.Harrison; Nr.W.Bellringer and Servants at
the Rectory,Hatch Beauchamp; The Bishop of Bath and
Wells; Reverend R.C.and Mrs.Lathom Browne; Mr and Mrs.
Wilfred Marshall; Honorable H.P. and Mrs.Gore-Langton, Hatch Park.
69. The tolling of the Church bell at half past two in the afternoon, signalled the departure of the funeral cortege from the Rectory, a little over half a mile from the Church. The coffin was borne on the North Curry bier and the procession was entirely on foot. The coffin had previously reposed in the hall of the Rectory, with Queen Victoria's wreath laid upon it, along with an anonymous wreath and a wreath from the Rectory servants, at either end of the coffin. On the hall table lay Colonel Chard's cocked hat and sword; his Victoria cross and South Africa Medal,1877-1879 and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Medal,1897,along with a signed Jubilee portrait of the Sovereign, presented by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. The coffin of polished oak, with brass mountings, was made by Mr.James Mills of Hatch Beauchamp and bore the following inscription:
Born 21st. December, 1847
Died lst.November, 1897.
70. On each side of the coffin, walked a deputation of Royal Engineers in full uniform. These Included:SergeantMajor Gibbs, Torquay; Sergeant-Major Faulkner, Exeter; Sergeant-Instructor Carter, Weston-Super-Mare and Quartermaster Fryer, Bristol.
71. The following officers attended in uniform: Colonel
Main,Plymouth; Colonel Rogers,commanding lst.Battalion
Gloucestershire V.R.E; Major Bagnold,Exeter; Major
Cregan, Cheltenham; Captain Mair, Bristol and Lieutenant
Dobbs,Exeter. Colonel Bell,VC;CB;ADC;R.E.Commanding'
Engineers in the Western District, sent to say that, duty unfortunately prevented his attendance.
72. Among the military officers present, other than those mentioned above, were: Brigadier-General H.B.Patton, CB; Commanding the Severn Brigade; General England,CB; MajorGeneral Emerson; Colonel Orange and Major Poynton of Taunton Depot, Prince Albert's Somerset Light Infantry and,Major Smith,late of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment and others.
73. The Chief mourners were: Reverend C.E.Chard and Mrs. Chard of Hatch Beauchamp Rectory, brother and sister in law; Major and Mrs.William Barrett of Moredon, brother in law and sister; Mrs.Chard of Mount Tamar, Plmouth, sister in law, widow of the late Colonel Wheaton Chard and former Officer Commanding the 7th.Royal Fusiliers; Master WIlliam Wheaton Chard, nephew; Reverend R.C. Lathom-Browne and Mrs.Browne of Hever, Kent, brother in law and sister - The Reverend Browne will be remembered as a former Vicar of North Curry; Captain and Mrs. Heycock of Cheltenham,brother in law and sister; Mrs. Bond,sister; Mr.W.Barrett,Mr.A.G,Barrett and Mr.C.J. Chard Barrett,nephews and Miss Dorothy Barrett,niece.
74. The Clergy and Ministers were represented by: The Dean of St.Andrews, Perth ,a personal friend of the deceasedColonel; the Reverend Prebendary Buller,Vicar of North Curry; The Reverend A.H.A.Smith,Vicar of Lyng and Chaplain to the West Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry; the Reverend A.D.Reece,Vicar of West Hatch; the Reverend W.Rouse,Rector of Enmore; the Reverend F.C.Kingslake, Rector of West Monkton and the Reverend E.Curtis, Baptist Minister of Hatch Beauchamp.
75. There was also a large gathering of local personalities present, representing not only Taunton, but many of the villages and hamlets in the surrounding countryside. The more notable included: Mr.C.E.Lance,Stoke Court; Mr.C.W.Norris, North Curry; Dr.Olivey, North Curry, Dr. Lyddon Green,North Curry; Mr.E.C.Dare,North Curry; Mr. R.B.Taylor,Capland; Mr.R.Bulpin,Churchwarden of Hatch Beauchamp; Mr.W.R.W.Upjohn,Hastings; Mr.T.Grigg,Mr.V. Owsley,Mr.T.Hart,Mr.Thomas Hunter,Mr.Richard Hurford, all of Hatch Beauchamp;Mr John Smallridge,StationMaster of Hatch Beauchamp; Mr.Burnell,Oakfield; Mr. F.N.Greenslade,West Hatch; Nr.William Jeffrey,Beercrocombe; Mr. Chambers, Othery; Messrs. Lockyer, North Curry, Mr. Jeanes, North Curry; Mr. Haycraft, Mr. Quick and Mr.Samuel Slade,Hatch Beauchamp; Mr.E.C.Prew,Li1lesdon; Mr.Penny,Curry Ma1let; Mr.A.Yule,Hatch Beauchamp; Mr.W William Waterman, Taunton; Mr. A. E.Witham, Taunton and others.
76. The Dean of St.Andrews conducted the whole of the Service. He recited the opening sentences of the Burial Service, as the cortege made its way up the Churchyard path and as the mourners took their places, Miss Alice Rich, the Organist, played the aria - "0 Rest in the Lord". The Dean then proceeded with the Service and read the Lesson. The only hymn sung was - "Days and Moments Quickly Flying" and as the procession left the Church,the Organist played the "Dead March". The remainder of the Service was completed at the graveside and closed with the Benediction and thanks on behalf of the Reverend C.E.Chard, to the gathering for all their kindness and sympathy shown on the occasion, by their presence at the Church.
77. In due course a headstone was placed on the grave. Some years later, this headstone was replaced by the present headstone, which consists of a cross on a three tiered plinth, surrounded by a rail and all in rose coloured marble. The headstone is inscribed:
Col.J.R.N. Chard,VC, RE. 'The Hero of Rorke's Drift"
Born 21 Dec.1847. Died lst.Nov.1897.
Son of W.W.Chard of Pathe,Somerset and Mount Tamar,Devon.
78. The Editorial on page 9 of the Somerset County Gazette, dated 6th.November,1897 records the death of Colonel J.R.N.Chard and his feat in defending Rorke's Drift and begs the following question:
"We should not especially at such a moment as this, willingly strike a discordant note. But if we refer to the fact that the funeral was not a military one, it is because a sense of journalistic duty compels such a reference. Assuredly, some one has blundered. It may be said, and with perfect truth, that Colonel Chard was a modest as he was brave, and that by nature he was strongly averse to pomp and exceptional display. From this point of view, the impressive final rites of yesterday afternoon were, it may be urged, appropiate. But it will we think, occur to many, if not to all who read the account of the mournful proceedings, as it must have done to the majority of those present that, something-was wanting by reason of military accessories proper to the occasion. The Service uniforms among the congregation might have almost been counted on the fingers of both hands. Her Majesty's wreath bore the words - "A mark of admiration and regard for a Brave Soldier from his Sovereign". And the "Brave Soldier",whose loss we are now all mourning, was unquestionably entitled to a soldiers funeral, conducted upon a grand scale. We shall say no more."
79. So ended the life of John Rouse Merriott Chard, the modest and caring Royal Engineer, who by his example and qualities of leadership, courage and endurance, ably supported by Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24th. Regiment of Foot and, all those present at Rorke's Drift, Natal,on 22nd/23rd.January,1879,gave Britain and, in particular the British Army, a hero who will remain in history forever.
80.Memorials to Colonel J.R.M.Chard,VC; R.E. were provided at Rochester Cathedral ,Kent; Plymouth Guildhall,Devon and the Parish Church, Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset.
81. All three memorials took the form of stained glass windows. The window in Plymouth Guildhall was destroyed during a German air raid on the City, in 1941.
82. In 1899,a three light memorial window was installed in the south-east wall of the Chancel, near the Altar, of the Parish Church of St.John the Baptist, Hatch Beauchamp. The central window depicts an angelic shepard, with the words -"In Memoriam Colonel J.R.M.Chard, VC,RE ob,lst,Nov.1897",flanked by two windows to St. George and St.Alban. Above the main windows are four small stained glass windows, depicting:
(a).The Victoria Cross, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Medal,l897 and the South Africa Medal,1877-1879.
(b). The Chard family crest, originated by Colonel Chard's father, William Wheaton Chard of Pathe House, Othery, Somerset.
(c). The emblem of the Royal Engineers.
(d). An inscription commemorating the defence of Rorke's Drift and the battle for Ulundi on 22nd/ 23rd. January,1879 and 4th.July,1879 respectively.
Memorabilia, Medals Etc.
83. For many years,the wreath sent by Her Majesty Queen Victoria,at the time of Colonel Chard's funeral in 1897, lay beneath the stained glass memorial window, in the Parish Church at Hatch Beauchamp. Its removal and present whereabouts are not known.
84. A bronze bust of Colonel Chard,by G.Papworth was unveiled in the Shire Hall,Taunton,by Lord Wolseley,on 2nd.November, 1898,who commented; it was fitting that,
a bust of Chard should be placed along side those of Blake and Speke, as representative of the County of Somerset. The bust is currently in the care of Major Guy and Mrs.Elizabeth Ward, who reside at the former home of Chard's father, at Pathe, near Othery, Somerset.
85. His service sword and a ceremonial sword given to Colonel Chard, by the people of Plymouth, in 1879,are retained at the Royal Engineers Museum, at Chatham, Kent, together with other memorabilia, such as a second bust, in marble, previously kept at Moredon, North Curry,Somerset; his ash-tray; sword belt plate; officers cane; service water bottle; .38 Webley Revolver,serial number 4O9l6 carried at Rorke's Drift, which together with other Zulu and Chard memorabilia, Illuminated Addresses from Chatham and Brompton, engravings, drawings,portrait and paintings,are all retained at the Museum. In addition,the Royal Engineers Library,also situated at Brompton Barracks contains a wide range of books and photographs.
86. The whereabouts of his Souvenir Bible, given to him by the ladies of Natal; the book,"Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands"and a valuable Waterkloof diamond ring, both given to Colonel Chard, by Queen Victoria; his uniform and other service accoutrements, are not known. The whereabouts of the medals he was awarded,.ie; Victoria Cross,South Africa medal,l877-l879,with clasp '1879' and the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Medal,l897,has also not been determined.
87. It has been ascertained that, a named cast copy Victoria Cross to "Lieut.J.R.Chard Royal Engrs,22/23 January, 1879" and a South Africa Medal,l877-l879,with clasp '1879',to "Lieut.J.R.N.Chard VC.RE." were auctioned by Glendinings of London,on l7th.Nay,1972 and sold for £2,700, to Sir Stanley Baker, the film actor who played the part of Lieutenant Chard in the film 'Zulu' in 1964 and, who, incidently, also died of cancer.
88. The whereabouts of the original Victoria Cross and the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee medal,l897,has never been established. As a group, his three medals were last recorded as being seen, along with his sword and cocked hat, with a signed portrait of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, on a side table in the hallway, at the Rectory, at Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset, alongside his coffin, on the day of his funeral,Sth,November,1897.
39. In his Will,made at Edinburgh on l4th.June l897,in which his younger brother, Reverend Charles Edward Chard was named the sole executor, the majority of his personal estate was left to the Reverend Chard, including the following items, which are relevant to this article:
(a).Pictures (portrait?) given by Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
(b). The sword and watch given by the people of Plymouth.
(c). Sketch by De Neuville. Not identified.
(d). Illuminated Addresses. Not identified.
(e).Engravings and photographs of Rorke's Drift; Bromhead and Chard.
(f).Books containing letters and newspaper cuttings made up by Colonel Chard's elder brother, William Wheaton Chard.
(g).The Victoria Cross,South Africa Nedal,1877-1879 and Regimental sword.
90. As stated, the above items of personal property were left to the Reverend C.E.Chard for his "life use only". On the death of his younger brother, it was designated that, the same items would pass to Colonel Chard's nephew,William Wheaton Chard of Mount Tamar,Plymouth, Devon.
91. Amongst other property mentioned in the Will, the following items are of interest:
(a). A gun to J.C.C.Middleton,son of Judge Middleton, of Nicosia,Cyprus.
(b). A telescope to Humphrey,son of Frank Hollins of Grey Friars, Preston, Lancashire.
(c). Diamonds (quantity not specified) in the possession of Colonel Chard's sister in law,Annie Chard, to his friends,Sir Elliot and Lady Bovill.
(d) Minlature Victoria Cross and South Africa Medal, 1877-1879,a gold pencil case and a plain gold ring - "I shall be wearing when I die" - to Lady Bovill.
(e). A collection of Cyprus antiquities to the Brassey Institute, Hastings, Kent.
(f). His property at Moredon~ to his sister,Charlotte Barrett. North Curry, Somerset,
92. The gross value of his Estate was f8,617.16.lld (net value £8,165.O.lOd),was granted Probate on 28th. December, 1897.
93. During the course of an exhibition, held in conjunction with the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Defence of Rorke's Drift, held a Hatch Beauchamp, on 2lst.Jan-uary,1979,a number of items of Chard memorabilia, either from the Royal Engineers Museum or given by Colonel Chard's great-nephews, Colonel Michael Chard, Royal Fusiliers (retired) of Kent and Mr.Donald Phillips of Somerset, were on view at nearby Hatch Court.
94. In March,1979,a similar exhibition was mounted by Somerset County Museum Services, at Weir House,Staplegrove, Taunton, under the direction of Mr.Nicholas Tweddle of the Museum Service
95. It was at this time that, a South African military Medal, known as the John Chard Medal, impressed with the figure '15' and believed to have been awarded to a Lieutenant-Colonel D.C.Robertson was discovered in the wooden case containing the Plymouth presentation sword along with ribbon for the medal and an explanatory pamphlet. How the medal came to be in the wooden case is not known.
Centenary,1879 to 1979.
The Corps of Drums of the royal Nonmouthshire Royal Engineers.
The Royal Engineers Association,with contingents from Bristol, South Wales,Taunton, Weston-Super-Mare and Plymouth.
The British Legion.
The Army Apprentices College, Chepstow, Gwent.
Field Squadron Royal Monmouthshire,Royal Engineers.
Somerset Army Cadet Force.
By the Chief Royal Engineer,Lieutenant-General Sir David Willison,KCB,OBE,NC; on behalf of the Corps of Royal Engineers.
By Her Majesty's Lieutenant for Somerset, Lieutenant-Colonel G.W.Luttrell,NC,JP; on behalf of the County of Somerset.
By Captain W.Bailey,Royal Engineers~; on behalf of 5 Field Squadron,Royal Engineers. This is the successor to the Royal Engineers Company, Lieutenant Chard served with in South Africa, in 1879.
By the Chairman of the Royal Engineers Association, Major-General R.W.T.Britten,CB,NC; on behalf of the Royal Engineers Association.
By Colonel R.J.Welchman,DSO; on behalf of the Royal Regiment of Wales. This is the modern title for The South Wales Borderers and 2/24th.Regiment of Foot, whose 'B'Company fought alongside Lieutenant Chard, at Rorke's Drift, on 22nd/23rd. January, 1879.
To the Colonel of the Regiment and all ranks of the Royal Regiment of Wales:
"The Chief Royal Engineer,Members of the Corps of Royal Engineers,and the family of Colonel J.R.N. Chard,VC; assembled at Hatch Beauchamp to commemorate the Defence of Rorke's Drift, send warm greetings and good wishes to The Royal Regiment of Wales, on the occasion of the centenary of the most gallant action shared at Rorke's Drift on 22nd.January,1879."
106. The following telegram was received from The Royal Regiment of Wales:
"The Colonel of The Royal Regiment and all ranks of The Royal Regiment of Wales send greetings to the Chief Royal Engineer and members of The Corps of Royal Engineers,on the occasion of the centenary of the immortal defence of Rorke's Drift,on 22nd. January, 1879."
110. The lst.Battalion,The Royal Regiment of Wales, on duty in Armagh in Northern Ireland, were able to celebrate the Centenary, but without the more usual pomp and ceremony of parades. Those that could be spared were able to watch the film 'Zulu',which was followed by a drumming ceremony, performed by the Corps of Drums. Miss Ann Jones,Miss United Kingdom and Miss Wales visited the Battalion on the day. Besides her obvious attractions, her presence was fitting, as her greatgrandfather,25B/1428 Private Evan Jones, who served with 'B' Company,2/24th.Regiment of Foot, at the defence of Rorke's Drift and went on to complete no less than 43 years service in a variety of units. The day ended with a light-hearted cocktail party in the Officers Mess.
111. In South Africa,Zulu war centenary celebrations were organised by the KwaZulu Government and the Natal Provincial Administration. The ceremonies were aimed to commemorate historical events rather than victories by either faction and took place at Isandhlwana,Rorke's and Ulundi.
112.At Isandhlwana,on 25th.Nay,1979,the ceremony opened with a parade of banners of ex-servicemen and other organisations, traditional dancing by the Zulu Regiment and Zulu choral items. There followed a religous service and the unveiling of a memorial plaque by the Hon. Dr,P.G.Koornhof,in the presence of His Majesty, King of the Zulus and the Prime Minister,Chief Gatsha Buthelezi. The ceremony concluded with Retreat, two minutes silence, Reveille and wreath-laying.
113. In the afternoon of 25th.Nay,1979,the ceremony was continued on the actual site of the Rorke's Drift engagement. The defensive position at the Nission Station had been restored to show its original layout and a small museum had been introduced. Proceedings were limited to a religous service, singing by the Zulu choir, plaque unveiling and laying wreaths.
114.The following day,26th.May,1979,ceremonies moved to Ulundi, where massed displays, parade of banners, flag raising, speeches, singing, unveiling of plaques and wreath laying, were the order of the day. Of particular interest was the Zulu singing and a ceremonial footdance, put on by the Zulu Regiment in traditional dress and equipment.
115. On 2Oth.and 22nd.July,1979,at the 3rd.Armoured Division Engineer Regiment base at Iserlohn, West Germany,the successors to Nos.2,5 and 30 Field Companies, Royal Engineers, who were engaged in the Zulu and Basuto wars of 1877 to 1879 and, by strange coincidence, were again serving together with the 3rd.Armoured Division,in West Germany, one hundred years later, in 1979,celebrated the centenary,1879 to 1979.
116. During the evening of 2Oth.July,1979,the assembled Regiment and families, with the Chief Royal Engineer, Lieutenant-General Sir David Willison,were entertained to an illustrated lecture by Major J.N.Lucken,Officer Commanding Sth.Field Squadron,Royal Engineers,on the Zulu War, This was followed by a showing of the film 'Zulu',starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine.
117. On Saturday,22nd.July,1979,at a parade attended by over 700 spectators and, at which, the Chief Royal Engineer took the salute, commemorative flags were presented to the three Field Squadrons. An interesting adjunct to the parade was the attendance of four Chelsea Pensioners namely, Sergeant W. Chalmers, formerly of the 2nd; Sth.and 3Oth.Companies; F.Godfrey and G.Webb,both of Sth.Company and L.O'Donnell of the 2nd. Company.
118. There can be no conclusion to the bravery and leadership shown by Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead and all those who fought at Rorke's Drift,on 22nd/23rd. 1879. Their names will forever remain an example of military success, against overwhelming odds, in the annals of the history of the British Army.
119. The part played by Lieutenant Chard ,at Rorke's Drift, is made all the more impressive by his refusal to claim fame or fortune from the fact he had commanded successfully, much to the envy of a small number of his senior officers. Chard always maintained that, he only did his duty and was frequently embarrassed by the public response he met when he returned home towards the end of 1879. Lord Chelmsford fittingly highlighted Chard's character, when after reading Chard's official report on the defence of Rorke's Drift, he is said to have remarked - "He has spoken of everyone but himself".
120. John Chard was a quiet unassuming man, who was not afraid of work, but shunned the limelight. He was placid and content by nature, but inclined to be rather shy and somewhat of an introvert. The fame which he attracted tributes he endeavoured to minimise on all occasions, concerned him deeply, but he was able to cope with what he saw as unnecessary mass adulation
121. He bore the dreadful illness which was to lead to an early death, with the fortitude of a man of supreme strength of character. His funeral, without all the trappings of military ceremony, which many believed he was rightly entitled, would have been appreciated by the man who liked a quiet life.
122. It would be interesting to have known his reaction to the film 'Zulu' and to Stanley Baker's genuine attempt to portray him. Nevertheless, the genuiness of the centenary celebrations, which took place in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, South Africa and West Germany, would surely have met with his approval.
123. The Royal Engineer and his colleagues from 2/24th. Regiment of Foot were,along with others at the defence of Rorke's Drift, heroes of a past age, but will be remembered forever.
Combe St Nicholas
I am grateful to the following personalities and organisations for providing the initiative and stimulus for my research:
Major-General R.C.A.Edge,CB,NBE,RE; North Curry,Somerset.
Miss Barbara Vickers, North Curry, Somerset.
Mrs. J. Curtis, Taunton, Somerset.
Mr. Peter Birch, Crowcombe, Somerset.
Major and Mrs. Guy Wade, Othery, Somerset.
Mrs. J. Bennett, Moredon, North Curry, Somerset.
Mr and Mrs. William Rollason, Hatch Beaucnamp, Somerset.
The Royal Engineers Museum, and Library, Brompton, Kent.
The South Wales Borderers and Monmouthshire Regimental Museum, Brecon, Powys.
The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Somerset Museum Services, Taunton, Somerset.
Somerset Local History Library, Taunton, Somerset.
The North Curry Society,North Curry,Somerset.
Chard Library, Chard, Somerset.
West Devon Central Library, Plymouth, Devon.
Somerset County Record Office, Taunton, Somerset.
West Devon Records Office, Plymouth, Devon.
Public Records Office,Kew,London.
Family Division, Somerset House, Strand, London.
The Somerset County Gazette.
The London Illustrated News.
The Western Gazette.
The London Gazette.
The Journal of the Orders and Medals Society.
The Devon Life.
The Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research.
The Journal of the Royal Engineers.
The Zulu Study Group,Victorian Military Society.
The Medals Year Book A-Z,Seventh Edition.
Reginald Coupland,"Zulu Battle Piece - Isandhlwana",London,1948. J.P.MacKinnon & Sidney Shadbolt,"The South African Campaign,
1879", London, 1880.
HNSO "Narrative of Field Operations Connected with the Zulu War of 1879",London,1881.
Julian Symons, "Buller's Campaign",London, 1913.
Donald A.Morris,"The Washing of the Spears",London,1966.
Byron Farwell,Queen Victoria's Little Wars",London,1973.
Alan Lloyd, "The Zulu War, 1879",London,1973.
Philip Warner,"Stories of Famous Regiments",London, 1975.
H.Taprel1-Dorling, "RIbbons and Medals",London, 1974.
N.Barthorp, "The Zulu War-A Pictorial History",1984.
Michael Giover,"Rorke's Drift-A Victorian Epic of the Zulu War", London, 1975.