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Sunday, 30. April 2017

Anglo-Zulu War enquiry

Battle of Isandlwana painting by Charles Edwin Fripp (1854–1906) Wikipedia

Back in November, the Local History Group email inbox received an enquiry relating to the 1879 battle of Isandlwana, the massacre immediately preceding the better known Defence of Rorke's Drift, in the Anglo-Zulu War. Over 600 men from the Brecon based 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot were lost on the 22nd January in what was the first major encounter of the six month long campaign. Many of the men came from Wales, and the enquirer was keen to trace memorials to those killed in action which might be in churches, chapels and cemeteries across the Principality.

The enquirer was advised to contact the Regimental Museum in Brecon, and also the Museum's former Curator, Bill Cainan, a great source of information on the subject. We also sought the advice of eminent Montgomeryshire historian David N Peate. Mr Peate was reasonably certain that there are no former 24th Regiment soldiers buried or the subject of memorials in Montgomeryshire. He recommended contacting the Family History Societies in Wales, who are undertaking the recording of gravestones and memorials. Without the names of individual soldiers or their families, finding memorials or inscriptions becomes a matter of chance. With a name, it would be possible to check a range of records, including the excellent National Library of Wales digitised searchable local newspapers collection at http://newspapers.library.wales/

In mid-February, the enquirer made contact again, this time with the name of one of the soldiers who was killed at Isandlwana, whose name he had come across in the course of his research. The soldier was Private John Hughes whose family was from the Llandinam area. Armed with this information, LLHG committee member Peter Brebner has been able to search the census records from 1861 onwards, and has also checked the Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society's index of memorial inscriptions.

Peter's research has revealed that John Hughes senior was born in Llanllugan, Montgomeryshire in 1835. His wife Margaret was born in Llanfair, Montgomeryshire in 1836. They appear to have lived in Llandinam since at least 1858 because all of their 7 children were born in Llandinam. In 1861 John Hughes senior was a railway labourer and the family lived at Graig, Llandinam. In1871 they still lived at Graig and his occupation was a platelayer. In 1881 he was a farmer living at Highgate, and in 1891 he was a railway platelayer again, still living at Highgate. Mary was the first child born in 1858, and their son John was their second child born in 1862. The enquirer has discovered that John Hughes senior died in 1895 aged approximately 61. His wife remained at Highgate after she was widowed, dying there in 1912, aged approximately 75 years. The graves of Pte Hughes' parents and elder sister are to be found in St Llonio's churchyard.

The Zulu War was in 1879, so Private John Hughes was around the age 17 when he was killed. In the 1871 census he was shown as a scholar aged 9 and just 8 years later he was fighting a war in South Africa, a long way from his home in Llandinam!

If anyone reading this has more information on Pte Hughes or his family which they would like to share with the enquirer, please get in touch (Helen Edwards 01686 688953, or email local.history@llandinam.org.uk)