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Magdala and the downfall of the barefoot Emperor

In March 1866 a British envoy had been dispatched to secure the release of a group of missionaries who had first been seized and held hostage when a letter Tewodros II had sent to Queen Victoria requesting munitions and military experts from the British, delivered by an envoy, Captain Cameron, had gone unanswered. They were released; however Tewodros II changed his mind and sent a force after them and they were returned to the fortress and imprisoned again, along with Captain Cameron.

A dramatic representation of the suicide of Theodore Tewordos, Emperor of Ethiopia
Source : Martin Plaut website.

The British won the battle of Magdala, which was an almost impenetrable mountain top fortress in northern Ethiopia which became the seat of power for Emperor Tewodros I, rather than being subjected to capture, Tewodros committed suicide as the fortress was finally seized.

The explorer and journalist Henry Morton Stanley (famous for his exploration of Central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone) travelled to Ethiopia as a war correspondent for the New York Herald accompanying the British force that was led by Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Napier in 1868.

Many sacred manuscripts were looted after the battle, Ethiopia's ' Elgin Marbles' and are now held in various places, including a boarded up cavity in Westminster Abbey!

The Emperor's son 6 year old Prince Alamayu was brought back to England where he charmed Queen Victoria. Sadly he died in 1879 aged 18 years and is buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor- a haunting account of his years in England is contained in this recent book by Andrew Heavens

For readers interested in a fuller account of the life of this cruel, capricious and charismatic Emperor of Ethiopia, Philip Marsden's 2008 book is highly recommended.

Located close to one of the inner pathways in Ladywell cemetery is the headstone of a Major Joseph Mellor who was born in the village of Soyland, near Halifax Yorkshire in 1838. Details of his military service are presently sketchy. He did serve with the 33rd Regiment of Foot ( East Yorkshire Regiment) and was present at the Battle of Magdala which was was the conclusion of the British Expedition to Abyssinia fought in April 1868 between British and Abyssinian forces at Magdala, 390 miles from the Red Sea coast. The British were led by Robert Napier, while the Abyssinians were led by Emperor Tewodros II. General Napier was subsequently given the title of Baron Napier of Magdala in recognition of his part in the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia

Major Mellor who was married to a Charlotte Mills d.1926 (also interred here) spent his final years living in Brockley and died at 80 Howson road in July 1903. Their son, Cardell Frederick Mellor d.1929.

Image kindly supplied by Grace -Major Mellor's was her Great Great grandmother's brother.

Photograph of Major Joseph Mellor ( undated)

Source: Ancestry UK

The Abyssinian War Medal was awarded for service between 4 October 1867 and 19 April 1868 to those who participated in the Abyssinian Expedition of 1868.  About 14,000 medals were awarded, so is it safe to assume that Major Mellor was one of those awarded the medal seen above?

Headstone of Major Mellor is located in Ladywell cemetery.

Source : Foblc member Phill Barnes -Warden

Another denizen of the cemetery who was also present at the Battle of Magdala, and whose grave is located in the Roman Catholic consecrated section of Brockley cemetery is James Joseph Louis Ratton MD (1845-1924) who was a Lt.Colonel, physician ( Indian Medical Service) and a Catholic with strong anti-Masonic views. After a stint as Professor of Surgery at the Medical College, Madras (India) He published works about the manufacture of salt and was involved in famine relief work. He began to study the Book of Revelation and published a number of exegetical books on the topic. His wife Marie Adolphine Doveton died in 1890 and is also interred in the family burial plot.