Lieutenant-Colonel F A Weatherley

Frederick Augustus Weatherley had trained at the Dresden Military School for 4 years and held a commission in an Austrian Hussar regiment. When the Crimean War started he applied for a commission in the 4th Light Dragoons and went out to the war with the regiment. He also saw action in the Indian Mutiny with the 6th Dragoon Guards, fighting in more that a dozen battles. While in India he met his wife Maria, described by one officer as 'a flashy little woman who accompanied her husband on campaign, rode well, carried a revolver, and used her whip on the natives'. Weatherley, however, was described as a charming man who was fluent in French, German and Italian.

In 1868 he inherited great wealth, so he sold his commission and lived in Brighton where he commanded the 1st Sussex Volunteer Artillery. After 9 years he moved to South Africa with his wife, 2 sons and a daughter. In Pretoria, Weatherley was the unwitting dupe of a rogue calling himself Gunn of Gunn (an old Scottish title) who attempted to remove Sir Theophilus Shepstone from office and put Weatherley in his place, using a forged petition. Gunn also had an affair with Mrs Weatherley which resulted in a scandalous divorce.

At this time the invasion of Zululand was being prepared and Lt-Col Weatherley used his money to raise a troop of cavalry which came to be called the Border Horse. The troop numbered 138 men, including 8 officers, one of whom was the younger of his two sons, 14 year-old Rupert. They had no uniform as such so looked very much like a Boer commando. They joined Colonel Rowlands' column which trekked south to Utrecht, attacking native villages and capturing cattle. At Utrecht, Rowland's Column was disbanded and some of the Border Horse returned to Pretoria. Weatherley and the remaining 70 men, with the other mounted units, joined Evelyn Wood's column. They were then ordered to attack the abaQwalusi on Hlobane Mountain. This disastrous battle caused the deaths of many men, including most of the Border Horse. Whilst on top of the plateau, Weatherley and his men tried to escape pursuing tribesmen but were cut off by the main impi of 23,000 Zulus.

The Border Horse and Frontier Light Horse were riding together at this stage, caught between the abaQwalusi and the Zulu impi. There was nothing for it but to turn and ride through their pursuers. Weatherley had his 14 year-old son up on his horse, behind him. The ride through the abaQwalusi was a forlorn hope and they were stabbed repeatedly until they died, and their bodies were thrown into the valley below. The only survivors of the Border Horse were Captain Dennison and 5 others. One man, trooper Grandier, was captured but later escaped.

The Death of Weatherley

This poignant print of Colonel Weatherley desperately trying to save his son from the abaQwalusi tribesmen at Hlobane was published in the Graphic in 1879. They both died from multiple stab wounds.

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by Stephen Luscombe