Allan Wilson (army officer)

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For other people of the same name, see Alan Wilson (disambiguation).
Allan Wilson
Allan wilson.jpg
Born 1856
Glen Urquhart, Ross-shire, Scotland
Died 4 December 1893 (aged 36–37)
Shangani River, Rhodesia; buried at Matopo Hills, Rhodesia
(both today in Zimbabwe)
Allegiance British Army
Years of service 1878–1893
Rank Major
Commands held Victoria Column; Shangani Patrol
Battles/wars First Matabele War:
Shangani Patrol

Allan Wilson (1856 – 4 December 1893), was born in Scotland. He is best known for his leadership of the Shangani Patrol which resulted in his death and made him a national hero in Rhodesia.

Upon completion of his apprenticeship at a Fochabers bank, he went to the Cape Colony and joined the Cape Mounted Rifles. He fought in the Zulu War and the First Boer War and was promoted to Sergeant. After taking his discharge he became a trader and gold prospector, and he earned a commission in the Basuto Police. Later he joined the Bechuanaland Exploration Company as Chief Inspector and was sent as their representative to Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) in Matabeleland, serving as the senior officer in the Victoria Volunteers. He became a major and was killed while leading the Shangani Patrol during the First Matabele War. Wilson is buried, along with most of his patrol and with Cecil Rhodes, in Matabo Hills, Zimbabwe. He is considered a national hero and one of the founding fathers of Rhodesia. The date of his death was a national holiday in Rhodesia.

Shangani Patrol[edit]

Main article: Shangani Patrol

When the First Matabele War broke out, Wilson given command of the Victoria Column and appointed the rank of major. He led the Shangani Patrol in search of King Lobengula and, on 4 December 1893, he and 33 of his men were cut off from the main column and killed by the Ndebele warriors. In desperation and only hours before his defeat, Wilson sent Frederick Russell Burnham and two other scouts to seek reinforcements from the main column commanded by Major Patrick Forbes. The battle raging there was just as intense and there was no hope of anyone reaching Wilson in time. The incident achieved a lasting, prominent place in Rhodesian colonial history and is considered to be roughly the British equivalent to Custer's Last Stand.[citation needed]

Wilson's Last Stand[edit]

A patriotic play[by whom?] called Wilson’s Last Stand was produced on the stage and ran in London for two years.[when?] In the play, based on some embellished facts, it is said that in the killing of Wilson and his thirty-one men, Lobengula lost 80 of his royal guard and another 500 Ndebele warriors. Wilson was the last to fall and the wounded men of the Shangani Patrol loaded rifles and passed them to him during the final stages of the defense. When their ammunition ran out, the remaining men of the Patrol are said to have risen and sung "God Save the Queen". Once both of Wilson’s arms were broken and he could no longer shoot, he stepped from behind a barricade of dead horses, walked toward the Ndebele, and was stabbed with a spear by a young warrior.

References[edit]

  • History of Rhodesia, by Howard Hensman (1900) -- the full-text of the book can be found online for free PDF
  • Scouting on Two Continents, by Major Frederick Russell Burnham, D.S.O., Autobiography. LC call number: DT775 .B8 1926. (1926)
  • A Time To Die, by Robert Carey, the story of the Patrol (1968).
  • Shangani Patrol, a feature film, docudrama by David Millin, based on Robert Cary's book. Filmed on location by RPM Film Studios. Stars Brian O'Shaughnessy as Major Allan Wilson and co-stars Will Hutchins as Fred Burnham. Internet Movie DataBase (1970)
    • 35mm copies and publicity stills of this film are preserved at the South African National Film, Video and Sound Archives, Pretoria. [1]
  • Major Wilson's Last Stand – a silent film produced in 1899.