Captain Frederick Courteney Selous DSO

After Danny Driscoll, the most colourful character in the Frontiersmen Battalion was Captain Fred Selous. He was the model for Allan Quartermain the character created by the writer H Rider Haggard in King Solomon's Mines. He was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Cecil Rhodes and Frederick Burnham. His father Frederick Slous was chairman of the London Stock Exchange and his mother, Ann Holgate Sherborn was a poet.

He was born on 31st Dec 1851 in London. Frederick was a keen student of natural history and as a young boy of 10 was found bedded down on the floor of his school dormitory. His explanation was that he was training himself to sleep on the ground for the day when he would be a big-game hunter in Africa. At 17 he survived the Regents Park tragedy in 1867 when the ice broke under 200 skaters on the lake and 40 people died.

He travelled to South Africa when he was 19 and was given permission to shoot animals in the land of King Ndebele. In 1890 he worked for the British South Africa Company at the request of Cecil Rhodes. He was a guide to the Mashonaland Expedition and took part in the First and Second Matabele Wars of 1893 and 1896.

In World War 1, at the age of 64, on 23rd Aug 1915 he joined the 25th Frontiersmen Battalion Royal Fusiliers to fight in East Africa. He was awarded the DSO on 26th Sep 1916 for 'setting a magnificent example to all ranks'. On 4th Jan 1917 he was leading his men in a bush war on the banks of the Rufiji River. He went forward to locate the enemy but was shot and wounded by a sniper, the second bullet hit him in the head and he died instantly.

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by Stephen Luscombe