Draft:William James Calverley

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William James Calverley (Aug 1864 – 16 January 1938) was a South African Staff sergeant major of the Zululand Mounted Rifles, a unit of the Umvoti Mounted Rifles. He played an important role in the 1906 Bambatha Rebellion.

Early life[edit]

William J Calverley was born at Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His father, John W Jones died when William was young and he was raised by his mother, Jane Calverley. His first job was as a bullock wagon driver in Natal, and he eventually conducted a group of wagons. He then worked, in the Durban mining syndicate and managed a small gold mine below the Nkandla forest at Nkunzana. He spoke isiZulu fluently and made many connections with Zulu people when managing this mine. He also managed a store in Ndikwe.[1]

Military Career[edit]

William joined the British Colonial forces at the start of the Second Boer War and was slightly injured as a private in 1901[2]. He was eventually promoted to Staff sergeant major and due to his understanding of the Zulu language and culture worked in intelligence for the British colonial forces.

He earned three medals during his military career:[1]

Bambatha Rebellion[edit]

William recruited a large group of Zulu levies, through his Zulu friends and connections. He used the levies to infiltrate the ranks of the Zulu rebels and gain information for the British colonial forces.[1][3]

During the 1906 Bambatha Rebellion, while trying to track down Sigananda kaSokufa, a notable Zulu aristocrat, one of William's levies informed him of Chief Bambatha's location.[1][3] This information was passed on to Col Duncan Mckenzie who was the commander of the set of forces tasked with ending the Bambatha Rebellion.[4] Col Mckenzie set up an ambush at the Mome Gorge on the basis of this information and many Zulu people were killed.

Bambatha was reportedly killed during this battle and on 13 June 1906 a party led by William was sent back to obtain proof of Bambatha's death[3]. A body was found, partially decomposed, and identified as that of Bambatha. The body was decapitated, the head placed in a horse's nosebag and taken to the British camp in Nkandla where it was identified.[3]

Some maintain that Bambatha escaped during the battle and fled to Mozambique where he lived until the end of his life.[5]


  • Scheub, Harold (1996). The tongue is fire: South African storytellers and apartheid.
  • Bosman, Walter (1907). The Natal Rebellion of 1906.
  • Stuart, James (1913). The History of the Zulu Rebellion 1906.
  • Binns, C.T. (1968). Dinizulu: The Death of the House of Shaka.

Category:1864 births Category:1938 deaths Category:People from KwaZulu-Natal Category:British colonial army soldiers