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Home » War and Rebellion » People » South Wales Borderers

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A company of the South Wales Borderers, c. 1895
  • After advancing into Zululand, early on 22 January 1879, Lord Chelmsford split his force and went in search of the main Zulu army, leaving half in camp at Isandhlwana under the command of Colonel Henry Pulleine 1/24th.  The Zulus attacked the camp with a force of 25,000 warriors.  Out of 1,700 British and Colonial troops in the camp, 850 were killed.  The 24th Foot - later the South Wales Borderers - lost 596 men that day.  Colonel Pulleine's last message to Lord Chelmsford reads as follows: 

'Staff Officer - Report just come in that Zulus are advancing in force from the left front of the cam (8.5 am).  H B Pulleine, Lt. Col'.

The message was received at 9.30 am by Captain Hallam Parr, a Staff Officer in the field with Lord Chelmsford.
Colonel Henry Pulleine's final message from Isandlwana, Zululand, 22 January 1879
  • Military representatives from all over the Empire took part in the Grand Parade to celebrate sixty years of Queen Victoria's reign in London.  The members of the 1st Volunteer Battalion came from towns and villages in Breconshire.  From 1,000 men serving in the Battalion at the time, only the 22 smartest soldiers were selected.  The men lined the route near Westminster Bridge for eight hours and the procession itself took two and a half hours to pass.  This picture was photographed by Charles & Bell, Brecon.
A detachment of the 1st Volunteer Battalion, The South Wales Borderers, representing the Battalion at Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee Procession in London, 22 June 1897
  • Soldiers of Brecknockshire territorials were mobilised in August 1914 at the start of the First World War.  The battalion was sent to Mhow in India as a garrison battalion.  The Calcutta Cricket & Football Club had introduced Rugby in 1872 and the club provided a Challenge Cup for teams in India.  The Brecknocks XV, containing a number of Welsh rugby club players, won the cup in 1917.  The same Calcutta Cup provided the trophy which is annually awarded to the winners of the England and Scotland international match.
1st Brecknockshire Battalion South Wales Borderers: winners of the All India (Calcutta) Rugby Challenge Cup, 1917
  • The movie 'Zulu' tells the story of a significant event in Welsh military history - the defence of Rorke's Drift on the 22nd and 23rd of January 1879.  Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded, seven to soldiers of the 24th Foot, later the South Wales Borderers.  The movie was co-produced by Stanley Baker and Cy Endfield.  The film was premiered in Wales at the Olympia Cinema, Cardiff.  (Sir) Stanley Baker from the Rhondda Valley played the part of Lieutenant John Chard VC and (Sir) Michael Caine that of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead VC.
Programme of the Welsh Premeire of the film 'Zulu', front cover, 23 March 1964
  • John (Jack) Henry Williams was born at Nantyglo, Monmouthshire, in 1886.  He worked as a colliery blacksmith and enlisted in the 10th South Wales Borderers in November 1914.  This photograph is signed and dated 12 February 1924.  Williams' citation for the award of the Victoria Cross states

'For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty on the night of the 7th-8th October, 1918, during the attack on Villers Outreaux, when, observing that his company was suffering heavy casualties from an enemy machine gun, he ordered a Lewis gun to engage it, and went forward under heavy fire to the flank of the enemy post, which he rushed single-handed, capturing fifteen of the enemy.  These prisoners, realising that Williams was alone turned on him and one of them gripped his rifle.  He succeeded in breaking away and bayoneting five enemy, whereupon the remainder again surrendered.  By this gallant action and total disregard of personal danger he was the means of enabling not only his own company but also those on the flanks to advance'.
Company Sergeant Major John Henry Williams, the most decorated Welsh First World War soldier, 12 February 1924