Fred Hitch was born in Edmonton, London on 28th Nov 1856. He enlisted in London in 1877 and was stationed at Rorke's Drift with the rest of B Company 2nd Battalion 24th at the time of Lord Chelmsford's first invasion of Zululand. On 22nd Jan 1879 Hitch was placed on the roof of the storehouse to watch out for the approach of the Zulus. He was the first to see them coming and they shot at him, but missed. He fired back and these were the first shots fired by the men of the garrison. When the attack was under way Hitch and Corporal Allen managed to keep the communications with the hospital open in the face of imminent danger. In his narrative he tells how a Zulu grabbed the bayonet and barrel of his rifle and they had a tug of war but he managed to put a bullet in the breach and shoot him. Both he and Allen were wounded but helped to take most of the patients to a safer place. He suffered a terrible thirst and did not expect to survive the battle, telling of an offer from Private Deakin to shoot him 'if it comes to the last', but he said he would let the Zulus finish him. He then served out ammunition for the rest of the battle which lasted until the next morning.
Fred Hitch's wound rendered him unfit for further military service and he was discharged in August 1879 at the age of 22. He had been a patient at Netley Hospital where the Queen presented him with the Victoria Cross on 12th Aug. He joined the Corps of Commissionaires during which time he had his VC medal stolen from his coat. Lord Roberts later presented him with a replacement, in 1908. He also worked as a London cab driver (you can imagine the conversations he had with his passengers!). He died of pneumonia on 7th Jan 1913 and is buried in St Nicholas' Churchyard, Old Chiswick in London. The photo shows him in his dress uniform with his Martini Henry rifle. He is wearing his medals so the photo must have been taken after his discharge or at Netley Hospital soon after the Queen's visit.
Regimental details | Soldiers at Rorke's Drift