Richard Phillip "Dick" King, was born in 1813 in Chatham, England, and his
family emigrated to the Albany District of the Cape Colony in 1820 as part of a
settler program. In 1828 when Dick was fifteen years old, the Kings again
relocated, this time to the then frontier region of Port Natal. His first
employment was as a wagon driver for the pioneer traders in the area, and he
went on to become a trader himself at the colony of Port Natal.
Years later in 1842 the English annexed Port Natal by sneding a garisson under the command of Captain Charlton Smith. The Boers however, had already settle in the area, and had established the Boer Republic of Natalia, and were intent on expelling all British form the region, and securing the strategic bay area. The tension between these two opposing forces eventually led to the Battle of Congella where the English suffered massive casualties, and the loss of their artillery. The English were forced to retreat to their tented camp , and fell under siege. With their only defenses being their trenches and earthworks, the British soldiers defended the camp against an aggressive and continuous artillery and small arms assault launched by Boer commander Andries Pretorious.
While on the vessel The Mazeppa, Dick King heard of the siege at Port Natal, and by daybreak the next day was met by his sixteen year old servant Ndongeni who was waiting for him, ready with two fresh horses. The horses were tied to a boat and swam alongside it from Salisbury Island, the site of the Naval base at present day Durban harbour, to the Bluff from where the two riders escaped and moved southwards towards Grahamstown.
From Port Natal, King and Ndongeni embarked on their 960 km epic horse ride to Grahamstown, where they were to request military reinforcement for Captain Smith's garrison. After the first 200 miles of the journey, Ndongeni was forced to turn back as riding conditions were made difficult due to the fact that he had no saddle or bridle. The remaining 400 miles of the route, King covered alone in seven days. The entire ride lasted ten days and required King to ride through unforgiving terrain inhabited by hostile native tribes who had attacked him near the Umzimkulu River. After escaping the attack, King stopped for two days as he had fallen ill, and was too sick to travel. Over the course ten days he covered an average distance of 75 miles a day and crossed 120 rivers between Port Natal (Durban) and Grahamstown only stopping occasionally at mission stations along the route for rest.
A month after leaving Port Natal King returned on the 26th of June 1842 with reinforcements shipped from Port Elizabeth. They arrived at Port Natal on one of the British relief vessels, The Conch and were just in time to end the siege and save the British camp from imminent surrender or starvation. For his remarkable and enduring effort, the government rewarded Dick with the handsome sum of fifteen pounds sterling and both King and Ndongeni were later each granted a portion of land. An equestrian monument to Dick King and his horse Somerset, was erected on the corner of Gardiner street and Durban's Victoria embankment in 1915, and stands alongside such famous Durban memorials as the John Ross Statue and the Da Gama Clock.
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