Author Topic: Lieut Charles John Atkinson's Zulu War Telescope  (Read 404 times)

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Niall McLaren

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Lieut Charles John Atkinson's Zulu War Telescope
« on: May 12, 2018, 11:20:48 AM »
The telescope of Lieutenant Charles John Atkinson 1/24th (2nd Warwickshire Regt.) who was killed in action, 22nd January 1879 at Isandlwana during the Zulu War - the same day 150 of his regiment defended Rorke's Drift mission station against 4,000 Zulu warriors (as shown in the 1964 film "Zulu").

Isandlwana was the first major encounter in the war and, when he was killed, Atkinson was a lieutenant in "H" Company, 1st Battalion . The Zulus, numbering around 20,000 warriors attacked part of the British main column of around 1,800 British, colonial and native troops.  Although inferior in weapons, (they used their traditional assegai spears and cow-hide shields, supplemented by muskets and old rifles) their numerical superiority resulted in them overwhelming the poorly led and badly deployed British, killing over 1,300 troops, including all those on the forward firing line. The Zulus suffered between 1,000 to 2,500 killed.

None of Atkinson's company survived and they were eventually buried together on the battlefield. The telescope may have originally been his father's ; Adam Atkinson had been an officer in the Northumberland Light Infantry Militia (Capt., 1846) and in the Newcastle & Northumberland Yeomanry Cavalry (Cornet, 1839; Lt., 1846) and died in 1875.

Isandlwana was one of the bloodiest defeats of the Victorian Army and, when a telegram bearing news of the battle reached Britain, it was thought to be a hoax.

Lord Chelmsford’s column returned to the scene of horror at Isandlwana, camping near the battlefield and it is known that officers and men took items from Isandlwana when they left on the morning of the 23rd... 
"A little bit of something beats a whole lot of nothing." - Little Richard