Location: A crossing over the Buffalo River downstream from Rorke’s Drift
Coghill, who had got his horse over alright came riding back down the bank to help Melvill, and as he put his mount in close some Zulus who were about twenty-five yards distant on the other bank commenced firing at them. Almost the first shot killed Coghill's horse, and on his getting clear they started for the Natal bank and managed to get out alright, but when they had covered about a hundred yards up the steep bank they noticed two Zulus following them. Melvill and Coghill fired at them with their revolvers and killed them both.
Worn out and faint with their exertions, both men were unable to climb the last 30 yards to comparative safety and were caught up and killed by their inexorable pursuers. The bodies, as reported by Capt. Penn Symons, were found lying close together, and were buried on February 4th. A few days later the Queens Colours were recovered and the tattered remnants were taken back to Helpmekaar and handed to Colonel Glyn.
A month later the bodies of Lieuts. Melvill and Coghill were exhumed, placed in coffins, and reburied a few yards away from the spot where they fell. Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of the Cape, to whom Coghill had acted as aide-de-camp, presented a memorial cross which was erected to mark the grave, and still stands on a rock above their resting-place.
In Queen Victoria's time there was no provision for the Victoria Cross to be awarded posthumously, but during the reign of her son, Edward VII, this was rectified and the first two acts of gallantry to be rewarded posthumously were those of Melvill and Coghill.Back