Rorke’s Drift Part 14 – A sad end for a true hero   

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was a very real thing back in the late 19th century just as much as it is today and all through history of course but sadly it was not medically recognised until long after the battle of Rorke’s Drift. In fact it was not recognised until 1980 when it first appeared as an operational diagnosis in medical journals. Therefore there were no services or support for veteran soldiers who had seen action. Even though a stiff upper lip is admirable it’s not always the best approach in dealing with trauma. 

One of the saddest, documented, cases of PTSD from Rorke’s Drift was that of Private Robert Jones. 

Jones was serving with the Second Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot when he became one of the 11 soldiers to win the Victoria Cross for his actions in the defence of the mission. 

Robert Jones, along with another soldier called William Jones, plus dozens of patients found themselves fighting for their lives within the hospital. After running out of ammunition Robert Jones used his bayonet to defend a doorway until the room he was in was filled with dead or dying Zulus. He was stabbed four times with the Zulu assegai and also sustained a bullet wound but continued to fight on bravely. He helped six patients escape the burning hospital via a hole in the walls that he and other soldiers had dug. He then joined Private Hook and William Jones and went back into the hospital to rescue more patients. As Robert Jones fled the hospital, for the second time that night, the building collapsed right behind him meaning he was the last man out. 

After his military service Jones married, had children and became a farm labourer. During the summer of 1898 he had become quite ill and one day asked to borrow his employers rifle to go hunting. Moments later a single shot rang out. Robert Jones was discovered in the forest with a gunshot wound to the head. 

A verdict of “suicide whilst temporarily insane” was recorded after a coroner heard evidence that Jones suffered nightmares following his hand-to-hand struggle at the South African mission station at Rorke’s Drift. 

The story, from here, just gets sadder I’m afraid…

In some religious traditions suicide is considered a sin because it is thought that only God had the prerogative to take a life. In former times those who had died by suicide were not permitted burial in consecrated ground. However, because Jones had been a recipient of the Victoria Cross this absurd rule was overlooked but as a caveat his coffin had to be passed over the wall into the Peterchurch Churchyard instead of being taken through the gates. Also, unlike all the other gravestones that faced the church, Private Robert Jones’s gravestone had to face away from the church. 

There’s so much I want to say on this but my humble little blog about miniatures isn’t the place. Let’s just say that I find that whole thing absolutely deplorable. 

In 2010 an SAS veteran who fought in the Falklands campaigned to get the gravestone turned around only to learn that the family preferred it that way so that it could be seen from the street. 

Here is my version of Private Robert Jones in action with his bayonet. A true hero. 

Cheers

IRO

23 thoughts on “Rorke’s Drift Part 14 – A sad end for a true hero   ”

  1. The cost of war can be very high indeed and that was a sad end after such bravery. I think this mini is a nice tribute to his bravery on that difficult day. I like the signs of battle you’ve added too. It really helps bring the setting to life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. Sadly I have several mates who suffer from PTSD. Fortunately they have great families and great mates but it is still a struggle. Your figure and in fact the whole project is a fitting tribute to those that fought on that fateful day.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great looking model Luke, a fitting tribute to a very brave man, the history is enlightening and also shows the bureaucracy that people have to deal with even today.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Enjoying the narrative as much as the figures mate. A sad tale indeed but alas history is littered with them. Even sadder is knowing that knew stories are being created all over the world, none more so right now than the Ukraine. Put blunty we learn fuck all.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. So only God is allowed to take a life but what about all the lives Jones saved? Does that not count for something? In the event that there is a God his followers really made him look like a bit of a dick there. Top job on the model though, a fitting tribute to a brave guy.

    Talking about soldiers being brave in terrible circumstances you’ve reminded me about a story a bloke named Pete that I used to work with told me. He’d been a soldier most of his life but was invalided out and ended up working as a stocksman herding cattle at the place I was working. One day I came into the office and there was a bottle of whiskey on his desk. He said “It’s my pal’s birthday, he always sends me a really nice whiskey on his birthday, come round to mine after work and we’ll have a drink”.
    So of course I say “Hang about, aren’t you supposed to send him a present on his birthday, not the other way around?” and he tells me the story. Their squad is patrolling and they have to cross a street from one alleyway to the next. When they’re out in the street they’re right in the open. A couple of the lads head across and then Pete and his mate are next. His mate goes first, gets halfway and then the shooting starts. His mate gets hit and is lying in the middle of the road, obviously badly hurt and in full view of whoever is shooting at them. The rest of the squad are in cover but pinned down. Pete says “I don’t think of myself as particularly brave and I know if I’d stopped to think I’d never have done it so I didn’t stop to think, I just ran out, grabbed him and dragged him into the alley. He would have been dead if I hadn’t so every year when it’s his birthday he sends me a bottle of whiskey to say thanks. Of course if the rest of the lads had known he would do a thing like that the poor bloke would have been trampled to death in the rush!”

    Liked by 1 person

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