Henry Charles Harford - ‘The Beetle Collector’
Hero of the Zulu War, Soldier and Entomologist.
By Dr David Payne and Emma Payne. Edited by Dr Adrian Greaves FRGS
“Henry Charles Harford was my friend”
David Rattray FRGS
Entomologist and noted Zulu War Lecturer
The Royal Geographical Society
Henry Charles Harford was an entomologist and a vibrant personality of the Anglo Zulu War. Harford had always fascinated David Rattray, the world famous lecturer on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and himself a qualified entomologist. David gave countless world-wide presentations and always wove the story of ‘Charlie Harford the beetle collector’ into his enthralling lectures. David was especially excited when the new material was discovered and he was delighted to hold and present Harford’s medal to his audience during his final Royal Geographical Society lecture in London - just four months before his untimely death.
With 151 new pictures, photographs and sketches
Publication date 9th May 2008
© The Ultimatum Tree Limited
Much is known about Henry Charles Harford because he came from an eminent family linked through marriage to the Scott family (Captain Robert Falcon Scott – Scott of the Antarctic - was Harford’s cousin). Charlie Harford, as he was known, played a significant role in the Anglo Zulu War of I879 and as a Lieutenant attached to the Colonial Natal Native Contingent from the 99th (Wiltshire) Regiment, he led the first attack against the Zulus under the watchful eye of the British Commander, Lord Chelmsford. Even in this early engagement, Harford earned the respect and admiration of his fellow officers for his calm bravery but did cause some confusion in the heat of battle by pausing to collect a rare beetle. Harford was well known to his colleagues for his intense interest in nature, especially of beetles, butterflies and moths, an interest which matched his enthusiasm for military life.
Harford participated in a number of important actions during the Zulu War and was at Rorke’s Drift until the invasion of Zululand. He led the first attack against the local Zulu Chief Sihayo and accompanied Lord Chelmsford on his ill-fated reconnaissance which left the main British camp at Isandlwana unprepared for a full Zulu attack the following day. He witnessed the result of the Zulu victory at Isandlwana and went on to see the aftermath at Rorke’s Drift; he then supervised
the disbandment of the Natal Native Contingent. At the same time his senior officer, Commandant Lonsdale, gave Harford custody of two officer deserters, Lieutenants Higginson and Stephenson; both officers had abandoned their men in action against the Zulus and the situation caused Harford some perplexing moments.
Following the Zulu defeat on the 4th July 1879 Harford was part of the force that searched for King Cetshwayo and he was personally given the custody of King Cetshwayo following his capture until the king was imprisoned at Cape Town.
Harford was lucky to have survived to old age, he eventually died at the age of 86. He was born in India where he immediately developed fever and was given into the care of an Indian family as he was not expected to survive. He was subsequently returned to his parents fit and well only to fall out of an upper window and impale himself on railings – and he was not yet two years old. Again, he was expected to die of his injuries but he survived and recovered.
His childhood was spent largely hunting and shooting, both in England and then in Natal, and his written accounts are both illuminating and exciting. Harford possessed a wonderful sense of humour which shines through his writings. His accounts of fishing and hunting trips in the then unmapped areas of Natal in South Africa make wonderful reading, as do the escapades and pranks which were a feature of his life. Throughout his writings, he expresses his love of nature and wildlife yet at the same time he begins to note the way of life of the native population he mixed with. His childhood friends included such notables as Cecil Rhodes, Spencer Drake (descendent of Sir Francis Drake), Bishop Colenso’s children and John Dunn, as well as numerous army officers, and so he was drawn to an army career at an early age. As a youth he learned to speak fluent Zulu and when in his twenties, as the Adjutant of his regiment then serving in England, he was well aware of the looming war in Zululand. He offered his services to the War Office, services which were promptly accepted and he soon found himself back in Natal.
After service in Zululand, Harford remained in the British army and served variously in the UK, Bahamas and India. He retained his interest in collecting rare specimens and he meticulously recorded these and sent the best exhibits to the Museum of Natural History in Durban. A number of rare items were also presented to the British Museum in London (then latterly to the Natural History Museum). Being a dedicated officer, he married late in life but soon lost his wife to fever in India. He was left with an infant daughter and never re-married.
This book is the result of two years of reading, deciphering, transcribing and careful compilation of Harford’s journals, diaries, numerous manuscripts, sketches and photographs. These documents give a remarkable insight into the life and times of a Victorian gentleman who specialised in the study of the natural world. He was also a successful and dedicated army
officer and a devoted family man.
The book is limited to 1,250 copies only.
Hard Cover - £66 plus p&p
Postal rates are; UK £12 Europe £20 Worldwide beyond Europe £30.
Copies can be ordered via the Society at no extra cost or by contacting the publishers:
The Ultimatum Tree Ltd.,
121 Marina heights
LONDON E14 7JB.