Personal info

  • Name: Edmund O’TOOLE
  • D.O.A: 3rd Jul, 1879
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Sergeant, Cape Frontier Light Horse
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 1
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Near Ulundi, Zululand, South Africa 3 July 1879

3 July 1879

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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 his conspicuous courage and bravery on several occasions during the campaign, and especially for his conduct on the 3rd July, 1879, at the close of the reconnaissance before Ulundi, in assisting to rescue Sergeant Fitzmaurice, 1st Battalion 24th Mounted Infantry, whose horse fell and rolled on him, as the troops retired before great numbers of the enemy. When lifted up behind him by Lord William Beresford, the man, being half stunned by this fall, could not hold on, and he must have been left had not Sergeant O’Toole, who was keeping back the advancing Zulus, given up his carbine and assisted to hold Sergeant Fitzmaurice on the horse. At the time the Zulus were rapidly closing on them, and there was no armed man between them and Sergeant O’Toole. 

The London Gazette of 10 October 1879, Numb. 24769, p. 5830

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