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the address of their father in Essex as noted in the NMP enlistment register). The two brothers soon found themselves in the thick of it, as the NMP was sent as part of the invasion force into Zululand under General Lord Chelmsford.
Having moved towards the frontier the British, Colonial and Native forces arrived at Isandhlwana, and against the advice of Inspector Phillips - the NMP Second in Command, the camp was made with their backs set towards the foot of the monumental rock formation there, and critically without making the recommended defensive ‘laager’ of wagons on the perimeter. Archer Secretan was subsequently sent with his NMP Commanding Officer Major John G Dartnell as part of a small reconnoitring force to track Zulu movements roughly 10 miles to the South East, leaving his brother Francis and a remaining 33 men of the NMP to remain at the camp with the majority of the British Forces, set against the eastern side of the foot of the hill at Isandhlwana.
Lord Chelmsford also personally led a larger force of approximately 1200 British and Native soldiers (further dividing his troops) to reconnoitre, leaving the camp under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pulleine of the 1st/24th Foot, taking seniority over Lieutenant Colonel Durnford of the colonial Natal Native Contingent. It was here on the 22nd of January, 1879, that Francis Louis Secretan was killed in action. At roughly 11.00am the ‘head and horns’ of the Zulu warrior force swept around and directly into the British camp, and despite desperate resistance for as much as three hours, the British and Colonial and Native forces were vastly outnumbered and routed by the attacking Zulu forces, estimated at between 12,000 and as many as 20,000. To summarise, according to contemporary reports, the British and Colonial forces near the camp stood in lines two deep with their rifles, initially taking a heavy toll on their attackers. However these tactics left them very exposed, and through a combination of weight of enemy numbers and a possible lack of readily available ammunition, the Zulus closed extremely quickly to get within stabbing range of their assegais, and despite attempts to form squares of resistance and mount desperate fighting retreats and ‘last stands’, the British and Colonial force in the camp was killed virtually to a man, suffering approximately 1,300 dead including Pulleine and Durnford, with Zulu casualties considered to be in the region of 2,000 to as much as 6,000.
Only a reputed 55 British and Colonial men successfully escaped (those mostly with horses) along the so-called ‘Fugitive’s Trail’, but many more died en route. Amongst these men, Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill managed to escape as far as the Buffalo River in an attempt to save their regimental colours, only to tragically lose them into the river (where they were subsequently recovered downstream) and be killed after crossing. These two soldiers were awarded the VC.
As recorded by A J Secretan in his letter home as printed in The Standard