The 1879 Group was formed at the Museum of the South Wales Borderers in Brecon in 1998 by a small but dedicated group of people who had a consuming interest in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Many, it must be said, were also inspired by Stanley Baker’s film Zulu made in 1963.
The 1879 Group has over 400 members worldwide, a quarter of whom are descendants of men who fought on the British or Zulu sides during the war. The Group’s annual general meeting is held at their spiritual home, the SWB Museum, and they are immensely proud of our strong relationship with both the museum and the Regiment.
One of the most important aims of the Group is to locate, renovate and re-dedicate the graves of those men who made it back to Britain but whose monuments have fallen into a state of disrepair or even disappeared over time.
The Relatives’ Section aims to locate descendants of soldiers who fought in 1879. Many descendants may be related to the same man. In fact, total strangers have met for the first time over the graves of men from whom they are all descended.
The Research Group specialises in particular aspects of the Anglo-Zulu War. Individual combatants are studied, as are Victoria Cross winners and individual battles such as Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. There are also some who prefer to research the war from a wider angle.
Living History Company:
The Living History Company represent mostly ‘B’ Company of the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot which famously made its stand at Rorke’s Drift on the 22-23 January 1879.
The company is currently about 30 strong, and includes representatives of 1st and 2nd Battalion of the 24th, Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, Army Medical Department and, of course, the company cook! Some members of the Living History Company decided to branch out further and represent civilians of the 1879 period.
The 1879 Group regularly makes trips to South Africa to visit the battlefields and during the 125th anniversary commemorations at Isandlwana members, along with the Dundee Diehards, portrayed Pope’s company of the 24th, and faced several hundred genuine Zulu warriors. All who took part have said how terrifying it was to stand in front of such a fearless charge. We have a fresh contingent excitedly readying their passports and papers for the next visit!
On 7 April 2001, a blue plaque was unveiled at 16 Kings Hall Road, Beckenham, Kent, to commemorate Frank Bourne, Colour Sergeant at Rorke's Drift who was awarded the DCM and later rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
The ceremony was attended by Douglas Bourne, grandson of Frank Bourne, and HRH Prince Shange of the Zulu Royal Household.
Douglas became President of the Group in 2005.
In July 2003, during a fund raising event for the Museum of the South Wales Borderers, the Group was presented with replica Colours of the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot. The original Queen’s and Regimental Colours were lost at Isandlwana and were never found; those of the 1st Battalion are laid up in Brecon Cathedral.
The 2nd 24th replicas were the result of research by two members of the group, Roger Manning and Duncan McDonald, who worked closely with both the Regiment and also the College of Heralds. Funded by Group members themselves, the Colours were produced in Pakistan by military embroiderers.
They were presented to the group by Mrs Shan Legg-Bourke, then Lord Lieutenant of Powys, Mrs Penelope Bourdillon, then High Sheriff of Powys, Brigadier Robert Aitkin (160 Brigade), and the Group’s Honorary Colonel, Timothy Van Rees.
It is a tremendous and unique honour for the Group to hold these Colours.
The Group goes from strength to strength and - as always - they look forward to another brilliant and busy year at events countrywide. The motto of the group has always been ‘Keeping History Alive’ and by doing that we hopefully pay our respects to the past and learn for the future.
The 1879 Group can often be found at events and re-enactments in company with the Diehard Company.
To find out more about the 1879 group – or to enlist -
please visit their web site: www.1879group.org