W. V. Amey. - Photographer
253 Commercial Road, Portsmouth, England
John Francis Dunne was born to Michael and Lizzie Dunne on the Isle of Man in 1884. John Francis' service records are
incomplete but they mention that his father Michael was also a member of the 1/Royal Dublin Fusiliers which means that the
younger Dunne was in fact a "son of the regiment".
John Francis Dunne attested with the 1/Royal Dublin Fusiliers as "Boy" on 18 July, 1898. He arrived with his battalion at
Durban, Natal on 1 December 1900. His only action took place not long afterward at the Battle of Colenso when the Fusiliers
were ordered into charge across the Tugela River into the face of entrenched Boers positions.
As is the case with such Victorian set pieces, there are several version of what happened during the crossing of the Tugela
that led to young Dunne's later notoriety. Regardless of which tale one chooses to believe it is without doubt that the young
man was fearless in the face of enemy fire.
My personally favorite version of the tale has the crafty Boers attempting the trick the advancing Dublins in withdrawing by
having one of their buglers sound "retreat". Sensing the ruse Drummer Dunne responds in kind by sounding "charge" on his
bugle. Soon after Dunne in wounded in his bugle arm by Boer fire and drops his bugle in the river. His gallant attempt to
recover his lost bugle are thwarted by the stretcher bears who remove him unwillingly from the battle field.
Invalided home Dunne was discharged as medically unfit for further service on 17 March, 1902. For his service in South
Africa Drummer Dunne received the Queen's South Africa Medal with the clasp "Relief of Ladysmith" and a £5 war gratuity.
After his discharge from hospital, Dunne was granted an audience with Queen Victroria at Osborne House where he was
received wearing the same khaki field uniform he wore at the Tugela. The Queen presented her young knight- errant with a
new silver mounted bugle that was inscribed: "Presented to Bugler John Francis Dunne, 1st Battalion Royal Dublin
Fusiliers, by Queen Victoria, to replace the bugle lost by him on the field of battle at Colenso, on the 10th December, 1899
when he was wounded." Many years later Dunne himself related how Madame Tussaud's had offered him for £3,000 for the
Queen's bugle which he refused. Perhaps he should have taken Madame Tussaud's offer since in the same interview Dunne
stated that his bugle was stolen three years later - and apparently has never been seen again.
John Francis Dunne later moved to Australia and made a living as a ship's steward. He died at Sydney, New South Wales in