The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 6 No 4 - December 1984

Memorandum Regarding the Discovery of the Late Prince Imperial's Uniform and Other Effects

Editor's note: A copy of this memorandum was donated to the SA National Museum of Military History by Mrs O.M. Robertson. At the time of going to press the location of the original document had not been established.

On Sept 12th 1879 I received orders at Silverton Drift on the Pongola R. from the Chief of the Staff to disband the column under my command, and to enter Zululand as President of the Boundary Commission. Seeing that this duty would entail a considerable stay in Zululand and that I should have the opportunity of visiting every part of the country, I at once telegraphed to Sir Garnet Wolseley at Conference Hill, requesting to be allowed to make a private search for the Prince's lost uniform and other effects. I had at that time in my camp a Free State Kaffir called 'Clas'. As I had rescued his wife and two children from the Zulus he professed some gratitude to me.

Sir Garnet gave me permission to search for the things, so after careful explanation to Clas as to how he was to proceed in the matter, and giving him some cattle wherewith he might propitiate the Zulus, I started him off on the 14th Sept. 1879, for the Ityityosi Mt., distant about 120 miles. His instructions were as follows:-

He was to go into the district where the Prince Imperial was killed, and pretend that he was only on a visit to some friends who lived in that neighbourhood - he was gradually to learn all he could about the uniform etc.; and if he could gain any certain information to endeavour to exchange the cattle he took with him for the things. I impressed on him not to use threats or attempt violence of any kind as I knew if he did that all chance would be lost of regaining the uniform. In order to give weight to my words, I kept his wife and children as hostages.

The work entrusted to me lay in an Easterly direction, while Clas' path was to the South. I heard nothing more of Clas until the night of the 6th of Oct. I was then in a small flying camp some 25 miles to E. of Infemfe Gham's [?] Chief Kraal at which place I had left the six men of the escort, with my head interpreter and the Doctor. A scrap of paper was brought to me by a Kaffir that night with a few words from the Interpreter, saying that Clas had returned with what was believed to be the Prince Imperial's uniform etc. - I got a fresh Kaffir and started him back for the Infemfe Camp - he took word that I should ride back to inspect the things soon after daylight - 25 miles is no great effort for a Zulu to do in a cool night. The following morning Oct. 7th at sunrise, Capt. Alleyne, R.A. and I started back for Infemfe. Before seeing the things Capt. Alleyne said to me - "If the patrol jacket is there we shall have no difficulty in identifying it, as I noticed two days before the Prince was killed that he wore an obsolete pattern of our jacket, and that he was the only R.A. officer there doing so". The first thing that we examined was the patrol jacket - we found the gold grenade on the inside false collar, not on the collar of the jacket, that is to say the obsolete pattern. The holes made by the assegais corresponded with the description I had read of the wounds in the Prince's body - chamois leather waistcoat probably belonged to the same owner as the jacket - the shirt also the same, on account of the holes. The waistband and pantaloons I had to take on trust, that is to say with only the evidence of the Kaffirs. I had all the things carefully brushed, and whenever there was a ray of sunshine as we journeyed through Zululand, I had the uniform out to air. The revolver, without case, came at the same time - it was covered with rust, and the spring broken in the centre. The evidence about the jacket seemed to me sufficiently conclusive to warrant my sending word home that some of the Prince's things had been found. Clas brought with him two men from the neighbourhood of where the Prince was killed to confirm his story, and to be given presents, if I thought fit. Clas' story is as follows - That when first he arrived on the Ityityosi [?] he stayed with some friends and did not divulge the object of his visit, until he had felt his way a little. There were two other parties out from Natal in search of the uniform - At last he got a clue as to where some of the things were and began quickly and judiciously, according to my orders, to distribute some cattle. Clas soon persuaded the Zulus that it was to their interest to give up the things and when once this was driven into their heads, all that remained was to collect the different articles which were scattered and hid in various kraals and caves [?l . This took some time to do, and only resulted in a partial success, as where were the watch - helmet, belts, etc. - So I gave Clas half his promised reward, and sent him back to search again. I kept one of the men with me that he had brought in order to glean what I could from him regarding the death of the Prince, as he was actually there.

The Boundary Commissioners went on with their work in the meantime and having settled the Chieftains of the East hurried Westward, and on the 5th of Nov. we pitched our camp near Ft. Evelyn (N. of Habanango) [?] . That evening Clas returned to camp with the revolver case and belt - the pouch with the bullets, the knife - the chain and the small compass. Clas brought back with him a Zulu who had been present when the watch was broken up - he said they thought that it contained snuff and as they could not open it they smashed it up between two big stones. Their story on this point was so succinct that I had with regret to abandon further search for the watch. Tho' I offered a considerable reward, if only any debris of it were brought to me - but I knew it was almost hopeless for Colonel Bengough had bivoacked for two nights with his Kaffir Regt. on the very spot where the watch was broken up. I had not time to visit the spot myself, but sent an officer there who found nothing but the faint remains of old campfires. There remained only to secure the helmet. - Nov. 11th my camp was near Ft. Newdigate [?] and we all visited the spot where the poor Prince fell - On our way back to camp we met a Zulu who had come from some distance and who held a helmet in his hand. He told us how he had taken this helmet as his part of the spoil when the Prince was killed - Capt. Alleyne remembered that the Prince had a blue stopper in the top of his helmet which was peculiar and there was certainly the blue stopper in this helmet. My boundary work being finished and the lost items of the Prince's effects having been found, I left Zululand and entered Natal. I was unwilling to send these valuable relics home by any ordinary means, so some delay occured in their arrival in England, for we had to furnish a map of Zululand and a report of all we had done in that country. The moment that the High Commissioner gave me leave I started for England, and reached London on the 23rd of Jan. 1880. - On the 24th January all the things that I had brought back from Zululand were verified by the late Prince's two valets, who had come up for that purpose from Chislehurst. On Jan. 25th and 26th I had the honour of showing the uniform etc. to Her Majesty, and on the 27th carried out the Queen's final orders, and handed the uniform, revolver, chain etc. over to M. Pietre at Chislehurst.

I forgot to add that I dismissed Clas at the Ityityosi [?] R. when the helmet was found - He carried out all my instructions faithfully and with much intelligence, richly earning the reward I gave him.

(signed) George Villiers. Lt Colonel
Gren. Gds.
London. Janr. 29th 1880

1. Lt Col Hon George Patrick Hyde Villiers of the Grenadier Guards served in north-west Zululand under Sir Baker Russell in the latter part of the Zulu War. He was appointed Special Commissioner to Oham's Armed Forces. (Oham was a Zulu chief who had seceded from Cetewayo and surrendered to the British.) When hostilities ceased, Sir Garnet Wolseley appointed Villiers president of the Boundary Commission.
2. The Boundary Commission was instituted by Sir Garnet Wolseley to implement his settlement of Zululand. This settlement divided Zululand into 13 separate territories under 13 chiefs. Each chief was to undertake not to create an army and to accept the arbitration of the British Resident.
3. Bt Maj J Alleyne of the Royal Artillery was also a member of the Boundary Commission. He had served as adjutant to Lt Col Tatton Brown throughout the war.

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