Ferdinand Schiess

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Christian Ferdinand Schiess
Defense of Roark's Drift by Alphonse de Neuville - Detail - Possibly Ferdinand Schiess.jpg
Detail from Alphonse de Neuville's 1880 "The Defense of Roarke's Drift" reputedly depicting Ferdinand Schiess.
Born 7 April 1856
Burgdorf, Switzerland
Died 14 December 1884 (aged 28)
South Atlantic
Buried Buried at sea
Allegiance Colony of Natal
Years of service 1877 - 1879
Rank Corporal
Unit Natal Native Contingent
Battles/wars Anglo-Zulu War
*Rorke's Drift
Awards Victoria Cross
Memorial to Friederich Schiess
Depiction of the Defence of Rorke's Drift by Lady Butler
Depiction of the Defense of Roark's Drift by Alphonse de Neuville

Christian Ferdinand Schiess VC (7 April 1856[1] – 14 December 1884) was a Swiss recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He died in poverty at just 28.

He was 22 years old, and a corporal in the Natal Native Contingent, South African Forces during the Zulu War. On 22 January 1879, at Rorke's Drift, Natal, Corporal Schiess, in spite of having been wounded in the foot a few days previously, displayed great gallantry when the garrison had retired to the inner line of defence and the Zulus had occupied the wall of mealie bags which had been abandoned. He crept along the wall in order to dislodge one of the enemy and succeeded in killing him and two others before returning to the inner defences.[2][3]

Schiess was the first man serving with South African Forces under British Command to receive the VC.

After the volunteer forces were disbanded, he failed to find work, even from British authorities. In 1884, he was found on the streets of Cape Town suffering from exposure and malnutrition. The Royal Navy found him, gave him food, and offered him a passage to England on board the Serapis. He accepted, but became ill during the voyage and died. His remains were buried at sea at approximately 13°00′S 07°24′W / 13.000°S 7.400°W / -13.000; -7.400 (Christian Ferdinand Schiess (burial at sea)). It is unknown if there was a portrait of Corporal Schiess. According to some, in Lady Butler's painting of "Rorke's Drift" he is shown lying at left against the mealie bags.[citation needed]

The Medal[edit]

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the National Army Museum.[4]


External links[edit]