Search for zulu war hero's folks

A RECENT tribute to Ilkeston's own Rorke's Drift war hero has initiated a search for the brave man's descendants.

Caleb Wood, who lived on Willoughby Street and then Lower Chapel Street in Ilkeston after the Zulu War, was one of only 130 British soldiers who defended their station against an onslaught of thousands of African warriors in 1879.

Their brave standoff has gone down in military history as one of the most outstanding battles ever fought and was the subject of the overwhelmingly successful film 'Zulu'.

Caleb, who died in 1935 at the age of 77, lay buried in an unmarked Ruddington grave for almost 70 years but last month he and fellow Rorke's Drift defender Robert Tongue were given the recognition they deserved with new headstones and a service of rededication at Ruddington Cemetery.

The Ilkeston Advertiser ran a story about Caleb earlier this year following news that the re-dedication service was to go ahead and, after reading the article and attending the moving service in Ruddington, local man John Davies has stepped up the hunt for Caleb's descendants.

Mr Davies, of Ash Street, Ilkeston, said: "When you get something like this - a local link to a huge event like Rorke's Drift - it's just magic.

"Caleb was an amazing chap and he deserved to be remembered for his bravery."

Mr Davies said that in Caleb's obituary in 1935 it read: "He leaves three sons, a daughter, three grandchildren and a great grandson."

From his own knowledge he knows that Caleb, who married Emily, brought up sons William John, Arthur and Wilfred and step-daughter Catherine in Ilkeston after the war. Catherine went on to take the name Bowley when she married.

One of Caleb's great grandchildren Kristine Wheatley attended the Ruddington service where more than 500 people turned up to remember the men.

Mr Davies said: "One of Kristine's dreams - a headstone for Caleb's grave - has now come true.

"But she has a second dream. She would dearly like to discover any of Caleb's descendants who may still be living in this area."

The re-dedication was attended by the Prince of Wales Division Band who sang 'Men of Harlech' by the gravesides, echoing one of the most famous scenes in the film 'Zulu' which has become synonymous with the battle.

Mrs Wheatley said: "Young and old alike, hardened veterans and completely unrelated spectators all unashamedly dried their tears. One hundred and 25 years after the battle, the families were joined together once again to remember these remarkable men."

Mr Davies added: "Caleb himself would have loved every minute, from the marching band in their scarlet uniforms to the rifle volleys at his graveside."

If you can shed any light on the whereabouts of Caleb's descendants or you know anything about Caleb and his family give us a call on 0115 9444411.