Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead VC


Gonville Bromhead was born in France on 29th Aug 1844. He joined the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment as an ensign on 20th April 1867 and became a lieutenant on 28th Oct 1871, serving in the 9th Cape Frontier War of 1878. In 1879 he commanded B Company of the 2nd/24th which had been ordered to garrison Rorke's Drift on the Buffalo River between Natal and Zululand. On 22nd Jan, when news came of the disaster at Isandhlwana he and Lieutenant Chard set about preparing to defend the post. When the Zulus attacked he conducted himself well and inspired his men to fight as hard as they could against overwhelming odds. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was also promoted immediately to captain and brevet major, both dated 23rd Jan 1879. He became a major on 4th April 1883. He continued to serve with the regiment, in Burmah (1887-89) and India. He died in Allahabad on 10th Feb 1891, aged 46. The photo was taken around 1870 and shows him in the undress blue frock and peaked forage cap which at this stage did not have the Sphinx badge above the 24.

He had an older brother, C J Bromhead, who joined the 24th in 1859, served in the Ashanti War of 1873, the Zulu War and the Burmah campaign, retiring in 1891. There seems to have been a strong family connection to the 24th, as a John Bromhead served in the regiment from 1795 to 1807 the son of another John Bromhead who also served in the 24th along with his brother Benjamin.

A report written about Gonville Bromhead after the siege reveals a very modest man who did not excel at soldiering, also it suggests that Bromhead was, unsurprisingly, traumatised. It was compiled by Major Francis Clery, on the instructions of Lord Chelmsford:

'Bromhead is a great favourite in his regiment and a capital fellow at everything except soldiering. So little was he held to be qualified in this way from unconquerable indolence that he had to be reported confidentially as hopeless. This is confidential, as I was told it by his commanding officer. I was about a month with him at Rorke's Drift after Isadhlwana, and the height of his enjoyment seemed to be to sit all day on a stone on the ground smoking a most uninviting-looking pipe. The only thing that seemed equal to moving him in any way was an allusion to the defence of Rorke's Drift. This used to have a sort of electrical effect upon him, for he would jump up and off he would go, not a word could be got out of him. I used to find him hiding away in corners, with a friend helping him to complete this account.'


Regimental details | Soldiers at Rorke's Drift




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by Stephen Luscombe