The Queen's Colours

Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill

One of the many stories of heroism arising from the Battle of Islandlwana is the story of the attempt to save the Queen's Colours by Lt. Teignmouth Melvill. Although no one is exactly sure of the events that took place, the following in D. C. F. Moodie's History of the Battles and Adventures of the British, Boers and the Zulus, Adelaide, 1879, is typical:
When the loss of the camp seem quite certain Colonel [Henry] Pulleine [in command of the 1st Battalion, 24th Warwickshire Regiment] called Lieutenant Melville [sic] and said - "Lieutenant Melville, you, as senior lieutenant, will take the colours, and make the best of your way."
Near Fugitives' Drift Melvill met up with Lt. Nevill Coghill, who had also managed to escape from Isandlwana. Melvill lost the colours as he tried to cross the Buffalo River, and as he and Coghill were climbing Mpethe Hill on the Natal side, they were set upon and killed.
At this point, the story becomes muddled. A group of about 20 Zulus was seen on the Natal side at this time, and they are often thought of as the men who killed the two lieutenants. However, there is a strong local tradition that claims the Melvill and Coghill were killed by Natal natives who feared the Zulu reprisals should Natal be invaded. The colours were found in the river a few days later.

At the time of the Zulu War, the Victoria Cross was not awarded posthumously. In 1906, Melvill's widow was among several who petitioned King Edward VII to recognize the principle of posthumous awards. In January 1907, the London Gazette published a list of names of those so honored, and among them were Teignmouth Mevill and Nevill Coghill.

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Created 26 FEB 2000; Modified 15 MAY 2001