Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO
31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917….Part 2
During this second stint in Africa, Selous formed an association with Cecil Rhodes, whom was at the time one of the richest men in the world and was premier of the Cape. Selous used his knowledge of the area to lead an expedition of pioneers up in to Mashonaland and formed a colony in the area and was later instrumental in the formation of Rhodesia. Working under the employ of Rhode’s chartered company he was paid in De Beers shares and hence need not worry about money anymore.
Selous returned once more to England during which time he married Gladys Maddy with whom he had two sons. However Selous soon went back to Africa to fight in the first Metabele war. He was shot and injured but survived a flesh wound to the chest. This uprising was eventually quashed and Selous bought land near Bulawayo and settled there with his wife in 1896 – though not for long.
When Leander Jameson, with the full knowledge of Cecil Rhodes, attacked the Boers (Colloquial term for the Afrikaner people) in the Transvaal, with whom Selous had always kept good relations, in an attempt to gain control of the area where gold had been recently been discovered. Selous was disgusted with Jameson and Rhodes.
Then the Mashona (tribe) uprising along with the 2nd Metabele war, which Selous fought in, put Selous and his family in great danger and resulted in a disappointed Selous moving back to England. It was though during this time that Selous met 2 men of consequence fighting alongside them in the 2nd Metabele war. One Robert Baden Powell and Frederick Russell Burnham, who were both extraordinary men in their own right and were the inspiration for and in essence the founders of the International Scouting movement.
Upon Selous’s return to England he and his wife settled on an estate in Surrey, where Selous continued to write and enjoy the life of an English country gent. His writings found their way into the hands of US President Theodore Roosevelt and the pair became firm friends.
This friendship lead to his return to Africa through Mombasa as he accompanied Teddy Roosevelt, beginning his famous African hunting safari in 1909. Selous did not lead the safari as he felt the party was too large, but was involved in its logistics and out-fitting in addition to joining as a member from time to time along the way.
In 1914 the First World War began and Selous was repeatedly turned down in his requests to be drafted. It is said that even Lord Kitchener himself turned him down.
However in February 1915 following a disastrous attempt to land near 10,000 men at the coastal settlement of Tanga and the ensuing slaughter by 120 Germans aided by 1,000 local Askaris (soldiers), Selous was eventually accepted into the 25th Battalion of Royal Fusiliers, or as they were otherwise known: “the old and the bold” this description however is a bit misleading – these may not have been young recruits (although some were) but they were a wide range of adventurers, bushmen, outdoorsmen and overall tough characters. Selous was initially brought in as Lieutenant and company commander. The Fusiliers first mission together was a success, even though they took heavy casualties, when they attacked a German radio station way up in the North East of Tanzania in a place called Bukoba and remained this the only British victory in East Africa for months.
Selous now promoted to Captain and having been in early 1916 awarded the Distinguished Service Order for excellent service, moved south, marching from Morogoro and then Kisaki and crossing the Mgeta river arrived to our beloved Beho Beho area. The engagements that followed have had many versions told about them, however what we know for sure is that:
On 4th January at around 1030am, Selous, in the area we now call the battlefields and leading his men from the front, moved slightly out of cover to scout a nearby wooded ridgeline with his field glasses (binoculars) whereby he was shot by a German soldier in the neck the projectile hitting his field glasses on the way.
He was buried were he fell.
He was in life awarded:
The Founders Medal of the Royal Geographic Society for his surveys and explorations over: 20 years in Zambesia.
The British South Africa Medal.
Distinguished Service Order.
In 1922 several smaller sections of game reserve were amalgamated into one and named Selous Game Reserve posthumously in his honour. Frederick Courteney Selous’s death was greatly and sincerely mourned, such were the man’s achievements in life and his character.
His legacy lives on here in Selous G. R.
Two quotes I like pertaining to Selous and his death are as follows:
Theodore Roosevelt said of him:
“There was never a more welcome guest to the White House than Selous. He told us stories of his hunting adventures. He not only spoke simply and naturally, but he acted the part, first of himself and then of the game, before the whole scene was vivid before our eyes. He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, and he closed his life as such a life ought to be closed, by dying in battle for his country, while rendering her valiant and effective service”
Major Philip Jacobus Pretorious DSO was Chief Scout for General Smuts (then in overall command of the British East African campaign) and in his book Jungle Man Pretorious wrote:
“Captain Selous, of the 25th Royal Fusiliers, who had hunted big game north of the Zambesi even before my time, was buried close to were he fell in the African wilds, where the lions serenade the spirit of a great shikaree. I think he would have liked to die, in the face of the enemy, and to be buried where he sleeps his long rest in the remote jungle land”
The picture in this blog contains Selous’ actual field glasses, which he was lifting to his eyes as the fatal bullet hit, first the binoculars and then Captain Selous. The binoculars were picked up by Frontiersman Jonathon Taylor whom was with Captain Selous at the time.
Taylors grandson (also a Jonathon) and his wife Rosalind, we are privileged to have as our guests this week, they brought the binoculars with them and we have spent the day today piecing together the events of those fateful days, on site at the battlegrounds and at Captain Selous’ grave. What we have pieced together really is deserving of another blog in the next weeks.