Martini Henrys’ “A Hobby out of Control”

People know me as Martini or "Zulu" Neil, I am a native of Derbyshire, England, and an avid Victorian History fan, extremely proud of what this small group of Islands' acheived in its' illustrious past.  My Grandfather Samuel fought in the 3rd Highland Light Infantry in France in 1917, my maternal Grandfather, Bill, in the Derbyshire Yeomanry in Libya in 1942, and my dear Uncle Don of the Durham Light Infantry,  mentioned in despatches in Korea in 1953. My Dad did his national service in Germany in 1954, he's a crack shot, he had his crossed rifles marksman badges with a No4 Lee Enfield, so I'd like to think hes pretty proud of the fact I can outshoot most with an 1889 Martini Metford!. 

 

For 30 years my "Victorian Historian" hobby grew, excavating long lost household refuse dumps for bottles and pot lids, but  you could say the catalyst to my interest in the Martini Henry started 40 years ago when I saw a clip of the 1964 film “Zulu” on a British TV programme called “Clapperbord”, in which kids watched a piece of cinema film and had to answer observation questions on the clip, I nearly fell off the sofa, wide eyed and in amazement when I saw red coated British soldiers blasting furiously, “Front rank fire!, second rank fire!” as endless hoards of Zulu warriors poured over the flimsy barricade of boxes and mealie bags, then the eerie silence, “cease firing” …. Pan to the front, piles of dead and dying warriors, pan to the back to see down the muzzles of Martini Henrys, who in the words of Kipling

“Sloshed you with Martinis, but that ‘ain’t ardly fair”.

 

For twenty five years my interest grew in the British Tommy, and in particular the Anglo Zulu wars of 1879, I longed to own a Martini Henry, and in 2002 I acquired my first example, a Mk4, the rest they say is history, I now own 16 examples, which I own as an avid collector but I also live fire them most weekends, you can only understand the Victorian British infantryman in Zululand, marching across the desolate desert of the Sudan or the cold mountains of Afghanistan, by firing the weapon he fired.

Myself and Terry Schappert, Rorkes Drift 2010 filming for the History Channel

 

My interest has led me many times to the battlefields of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Wandering around the whitewashed cairns at the place the Zulu’s call “I-Sand-L-wan”, Isandlwana, scene of the disaster on the 22nd January 1879, you cannot help marvel at the stunning Zulu victory, as they rushed into the muzzles of the 24th regiments Martini Henrys’. Today the bones are now long gone, but the ghosts, those in red serge and leopard skin still watch your every move. In 2009 I got to live fire my Martini Henry for the Warriors TV program, at Rorkes Drift, to hear that Martini’s report drift out amongst the valley of the Mzinyathi River valley and echo long into the rolling hills, a sound which reverberated here nearly 130 years before, was a lifetime ambition fulfilled.

Isandlwana, the grass whispers a thousand names, those in Red serge and leopardskin who still lie here

 

As armourer for the Diehard Company, the UK’s premiere C1880’s living history company, I can tinker endlessly with Martini’s. look out for me TV’s History Channel “Warriors” program, and BBC4’ s Regimental Stoires http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiimkNl-91E , living out my passion for anything Martini Henry.

“it’s a joke if it don’t make smoke”, myself in the Diehard Company. 

 

I hope you enjoy the website, take a browse through my shop for Clothing, spare parts and go-withs. All the images in the website are those taken or owned by me, and most are from rifles and artefacts in my collection. I've really no problems with visitors using the images, but please credit the site. 

I'd like to personally thank, the Staff and Trustees of the Royal Armories at Leeds, the staff and curators of the Royal Armories Pattern Rooms at Leeds, Peter Webb, the Royal Welsh Regimental Museum for access to thier extensive collections.

The information, and much more previously unseen and unpublished will be available in my forthcoming book on the Ordnance Martini Henry