Patrick William Forbes

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For the Scottish churchman and Bishop of Aberdeen, see Patrick Forbes.

Patrick William Forbes (1861 – 1918), was born in 1861 at Whitechurch, England. He was educated at Rugby, Warwickshire and commissioned to the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. In 1880, he went to Cape Colony and in 1889 he was made second-in-command of the British South Africa Police. Promoted to Major in 1890, Forbes went on to command the Salisbury Column in Mashonaland, and later he was selected by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) as the Mashonaland Magistrate. In 1893, the First Matabele War broke out and Forbes was selected to command all forces in the region against the Ndebele. He proved to be an indecisive leader and tried to compensate his shortcomings with a "by the book" attitude. Nonetheless, Forbes later became Commissioner to the BSAC territory in North-Western Rhodesia (now Zambia), from 1895–1897. He died in 1918.

Shangani Patrol[edit]

Main article: Shangani Patrol

Cecil Rhodes and Leander Starr Jameson hoped to capture the Ndebele King Lobengula and quickly end the 2000X war in Matabeleland. After reaching Bulawayo, Forbes received a tip about the whereabouts of the Ndebele King. Indecisive and reluctant to risk his men in unknown territory, he sent Major Allan Wilson and 12 men to pursue and capture Lobengula. Wilson's patrol found Lobengula, but they also found themselves greatly outnumbered—the small patrol had been led into a trap. On the night of December 3, 1893, knowing the Ndebele would not attack in the dark, Wilson sent back Captain Napier with 2 men with an urgent message requesting that Forbes come to his aid immediately and bring his 2 Maxim guns before daybreak. But Forbes again hesitated. He refused to move his column until daylight and instead sent only Capt Borrow and 21 men to Wilson as reinforcements.

The next morning, Wilson and his men discovered that the Shangani river was now completely flooded due to rains and it could not be navigated without extensive fire cover, and Forbes was nowhere to be seen. The patrol was cut-off from the main column and Wilson had no choice but to make a last stand. In desperation, Wilson sent the Americans Frederick Russell Burnham and Pete Ingram, and an Australian named Gooding, to cross the Shangani and seek reinforcements. Miraculously, the 3 scouts succeeded, but when they reached Forbes the battle raging at the main column was just as intense as the one they had just left. There was no hope of anyone reaching Wilson in time and all 34 men were killed by the Ndebele warriors. The Shangani Patrol incident achieved a lasting, prominent place in Rhodesian colonial history and is considered to be roughly the British equivalent to Custer's Last Stand.

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)
  • Shangani Patrol, a feature film, docudrama by David Millin. Filmed on location by RPM Film Studios. Stars Brian O'Shaughnessy as Major Allan Wilson and co-stars Will Hutchins as Fred Burnham. Adrian Steed plays Major Patrick Forbes. Internet Movie DataBase(1970)
  • A Time To Die, by Robert Carey, the story of the Patrol.
  • 35mm copies and publicity stills of this film are preserved at the South African National Film, Video and Sound Archives, Pretoria. [1]
Political offices
Preceded by
Francis William Rhodes
Magistrate of Mashonaland
1893–1894
Succeeded by
None; incorporated into Southern Rhodesia
Preceded by
None
Administrator of North-Western Rhodesia
1895–1897
Succeeded by
Henry Lawrence Daly