I accompanied the main body of the 3rd Column as Acting Staff Officer to Officer commanding 3rd Column when it left the camp at Isandlwana on the 22nd January, 1879.
I was sent back with an order from the General between ten and eleven A.M. that day into camp, which order was addressed to Colonel Pulleine, and was that the camp of the force out was to be struck and sent on immediately, also rations and forage for about seven days.
On arriving in camp I met Captain George Shepstone, who was also seeking Colonel Pulleine, having a message from Colonel Durnford, that his men were falling back, and asking for reinforcements. We both went to Colonel Pulleine, to whom I delivered the order.
Colonel Pulleine at first hesitated about carrying out the order, and eventually decided that the enemy being already on the hill on our left in large numbers, it was impossible to do so. The men of the 24th Regiment were all fallen in, and the Artillery also, and Colonel Pulleine sent two companies to support Colonel Durnford, to the hill on the left, and formed up the remaining companies in line, the guns in action on the extreme left flank of the camp, facing the hill on our left.
I remained with Colonel Pulleine by his order. Shortly after, I took the mounted men, by Colonel Pulleine’s direction, about a quarter of a mile to the front of the camp, and loft them there under the direction of Captain Bradstreet, with orders to hold the spruit.
I went back to Colonel Pulleine, but soon after, observing the mounted men retiring, I went back to them, and, in reply to my question as to why they were retiring, was told they were ordered by Colonel Durnford to retire, as the position taken up was too extended This same remark was made to me by Colonel Durnford himself immediately afterwards.
By this time the Zulus had surrounded the camp, “the whole force engaged in hand to hand combat, the guns mobbed by Zulus, and there became a general massacre. From the time of the first infantry force leaving the camp to the end of the fight about one hour elapsed. I estimated the number of the enemy at about 12,000 men.
I may mention that a few minutes after my arrival in camp, I sent a message directed to the Staff Officer 3rd Column, saying that our left was attacked by about 10,000 of the enemy; a message was also sent by Colonel Pulleine.
The Native Infantry Contingent fled as soon as the fighting began, and caused great confusion in our ranks. I sent messages to Rorke’s Drift and Helpmakaar Camp that the Zulus had sacked the camp and telling them to fortify themselves.