The Drape – The Homestead History Collection

The Homestead sits on land rich with history and amazing stories from both sides of the many battles that happened in the surrounding area. The Homestead’s founder Wayne Scholes believes that The Homestead should be a place where these stories are told, and the artifacts can be available for all to see.

The most recent artifact to be found is a drape that was carried into the Battle of Ulundi on July 3rd 1879.

The following is an account of the officer, Lieutenant John Pleydell-Bouverie, who carried the 17th Lancers drape into the Battle of Ulundi.

The Honourable John Pleydell-Bouverie was born in 1846 at Longford Castle in Wiltshire, the fourth son of the Earl of Radnor. He was commissioned Lieutenant into the 17th Lancers in 1869 and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1877. He commanded "A" Troop of the 17th Lancers in South Africa during 1879 and was a member of the court that examined the conduct of Lieutenant Jahel Carey, whose seven-man patrol was ambushed with the loss of Napoléon, Prince Imperial on 1 June 1879. Public opinion on both sides of the English Channel demanded that someone be held accountable for the prince's death, and Lieutenant Carey became the scapegoat. He was found guilty of fleeing in the face of the enemy rather than aiding the prince and was condemned to be expelled from the army. However, the judgment was subsequently overturned by the Duke of Cambridge. Pleydell-Bouverie was present at the funeral of the Prince Imperial.

He was afterwards present at the action of Zuinguin Mountain and at the final defeat of the Zulu army at the Battle of Ulundi on 3 July 1879 where he led his Troop in the charge and wrote of the action in his diary where he states: I killed 5 myself, one ran his assegai into my cloak, nearly did for me, I ran him right through the body and he fell dead. Poor Edgell was shot dead through the head in the charge. 9 horses were killed, 5 men wounded, one I am afraid mortally, Farrier Sergeant Taylor killed ...". He soon after penned a sketch of the battlefield in great detail.

Pleydell-Bouverie accompanied his regiment to India where he married in 1882 Grace Harriet, daughter of Lieutenant General Robert Mallaby, late Bombay Staff Corps. After retirement the Pleydell-Bouveries purchased Blackmore Hall at Sidmouth, Devon, a large house with splendid gardens. Colonel Pleydell-Bouverie died at Blackmore Hall in 1925. His widow sold the house and gardens to Sidmouth council in 1952. Blackmore Hall was demolished in 1953 to make way for a municipal car park. The only part of the house surviving is the tiled floor of the veranda, which now serves as the plinth for the row of benches just inside the public gardens.

The Homestead History Collection blog series will highlight many Zulu, Boer and British artifacts, from this battle and others, that have been curated for The Homestead Understanding room to help us tell of the history of KwaZulu-Natal and the people in it. Subscribe below to be the first to receive updates from The Homestead Team.