Sergeant Henry Edward Gallagher

Sergeant Gallagher’s grave.

At the front section of the graveyard close to the main road are buried the remains of a veteran of the Zulu Wars, Sergeant Henry Gallagher, he was a survivor of The Battle of Rorkes Drift where eleven Victoria Crosses were won by the besieged garrison troops who held back a far numerically superior force of Zulu Warriors under Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpane. Henry was born in March 1855 at Killenaule, County Tipperary in the South of Ireland. His parents were Henry Gallagher Senior and Mary Gallagher (nee Kennedy), his father was employed as a Merchants’ Clerk. As a young man, Henry got employment also as a clerk but left Ireland for Liverpool where he enlisted into the British Army. He joined up on 16th March 1874 and was sent to the 25th Brigade at Brecon, aged 19. He quickly rose through the ranks in the 2nd/24th Warwickshire Regiment of Foot to Lance Sergeant by 1877 and that same year was married to Caroline Maria Stanley of Dover, Kent, daughter of a North Sea Pilot. Henry was promoted to Sergeant in October 1877 and in February 1878 joined the troopship HMS Himalaya with his Battalion bound for South Africa. They reached East London in South Africa on 9th March 1878 and were loaded onto trains which took them to King Williams Town. the Battalion saw action in what is now known as the Last Kaffir War. In 1878 the 2nd/24th Warwickshire Regiment were part of Lord Chelmsford’s force invading Zululand. In January 1879 Henry as senior Sergeant of B Company was detached with members of the Company to Rorkes Drift a small Mission Station in Natal Province. Henry was aggrieved that he was not with the main force camped at Isandlwana. On the morning of 22nd January sounds of gunfire and battle could be heard coming from the direction of Isandlwana, the troops there were under attack by an overwhelming Zulu Army. Henry and other NCOs quickly supervised a hasty defensive wall from mealy bags, biscuit boxes and wagons. Sharp shooters then took up post at these defences. The troops at Isandlwana were all massacred and the Zulus were heading to Rorkes Drift. The first wave of attack consisted of four hundred Zulus, at the peak of the attack three to four thousand Zulus were involved. The garrison at Rorkes Drift numbering approx one hundred and sixty men eventually repelled the attackers who withdrew. Henry had taken part in an action that would go down in military history for the bravery and tenacity of the defenders that day. Films were later made called “Zulu” and “Zulu Dawn”.

In 1879 Henry Gallagher moved to Utrecht and took no further part in the Anglo-Zulu hostilities, moving to Gibraltar on HMS Orontes in January 1880. After less than a year in Gibraltar he returned to home service and was promoted to Colour Sergeant in 1881. His first child Caroline Lilian was born at Brecon during August that year. Reforms were taking place in the Army and the 2nd/24th Warwickshire Regiment became the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers. Henry had been awarded the South Africa Campaign Medal for his earlier service, remaining in the UK for the next few years. In January 1883 Henry and his small family were posted to India. Serving first in India and then in Burma, the family expanded with the births of two boys and a further two girls by 1890. Henry had been promoted to Warrant Officer (Sergeant Major) in January 1889 and awarded the India General Service Medal with Burma Clasp. The family returned to the UK via Aden in January 1893. His last posting was to Egypt as Garrison Sergeant Major in Cairo in 1895.

Henry returned to the UK in 1897 and was discharged from the Army in May 1897, he settled down at Augustin Road, Drayton near Portsmouth, he had only managed to be a civilian for one day when appointed as Barrack Warden at Hilsea Barracks and Alexandra Hospital and remained as such until 1911, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal. Henry Edward Gallagher died aged 75 on 17th December 1931, of a heart condition. A sad end for a brave veteran of many campaigns. He was buried at Christ Church Portsdown, with semi-military honours. The funeral attended by Officers, Warrant Officers and Men of the South Wales Borderers. His wife Caroline died shortly afterwards and rests with him. “Henry Edward Gallagher, A Rorkes Drift Man”.

Keith Fisher
CCP Historian
With acknowledgements to Mr Roger Lane, Great Grandson of Henry Gallagher