Personal info

  • Name: William Leslie de la Poer BERESFORD
  • D.O.B: 20th Jul, 1847
  • D.O.A: 3rd Jul, 1879
  • D.O.D: 28th Dec, 1900
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Captain, 9th (The Queen’s Royal) Lancers
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 1
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Near Ulundi, Zululand, South Africa 3 July 1879

3 July 1879

More details about:

At the end of May 1879 Lord Chelmsford mounted a second invasion of Zululand. Cetshwayo was conscious that in a prolonged struggle the British must prevail and tried to reach a negotiated settlement. These attempts were rebuffed. Chelmsford was determined to destroy Cetshwayo’s royal kraal at Ulundi and by 3 July his force was only a few miles from its goal. Lieutenant Colonel Redvers Buller took out the Mounted Volunteer Corps to reconnoitre the site of the approaching battle, accompanied by Captain Lord W L de la P Beresford of the 9th Lancers, together with Captain H C D D’Arcy and Sergeant E O’Toole of the Cape Frontier Light Horse. This patrol was ambushed by a force of 3,000 Zulus. Sergeant Fitzmaurice, 24th Regiment, serving with the Mounted Infantry, was unhorsed and injured. With great difficulty Beresford and Sergeant E O’Toole managed to rescue the massive Fitzmaurice and reach the safety of the river. Fitzmaurice had at first declined to put Beresford’s own life at risk by mounting behind him. Beresford had hotly declared that unless the sergeant did as he was told, he would dismount and ‘punch his head’. Meanwhile D’Arcy tried desperately to rescue Trooper Raubenheim of the Frontier Light Horse but was unsuccessful. Raubenheim was captured by the Zulus and later disembowelled. For their gallant actions Beresford, O’Toole and D’Arcy were recommended for the VC. Lord William Beresford’s award was announced by the War Office on 23 August 1879. However, he intimated that he would not accept it unless the men who shared his danger were also recognized. The following day, 4 July 1879, the Zulu army was decisively defeated at the Battle of Ulundi. The royal kraal was burnt and Cetshwayo fled. He was not captured until 28 August. Lt Gen Sir Garnet Wolseley VC, who had replaced Chelmsford, dismantled the Zulu state and divided the kingdom into thirteen provinces, each under a chief acceptable to the British.


 For gallant conduct in having at great personal risk, during the retirement of the reconnoitring party across the “White Umvolosi River” on 3rd July last, turned to assist Sergeant Fitzmaurice, 1st Battalion 24th Foot (whose horse had fallen with him), mounted him behind him on his horse, and brought him away in safety under the close fire of the Zulus who were in great force, and coming on quickly. Lord Beresford’s position was rendered most dangerous from the fact that Sergeant Fitzmaurice twice nearly pulled him from his horse. 

The London Gazette of 9 September 1879, Numb. 24760, p. 5395

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