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Frederick Selous

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A Tribute:  Extract from "Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in The Great War Vol IV" ( J.M. Wilson)

FREDERICK COURTENEY SELOUS was the eldest son of Frederick Lokes Slous, Deputy Chairman of the Stock Exchange, 1853 and 1854, and Chairman 1864-65, and of Ann Holgate his wife. He entered the School in January, 1866, and left in July, 1868. During these years he gave many indications of the originality and daring, the love of adventure and contempt of danger, the keenness of perception and power of observation and the resolute determination that were to be so eminently developed in later years. These qualities are well brought out in a paper on "Reminiscences of his School Days at Rugby" contributed to The Meteor of February 7th, 1917, by his House-master, Canon Wilson.


After leaving Rugby he continued his education at NeucMtel and Wiesbaden, and in 1870, at the age of 19, he left England for South Africa with the intention of earning his living as a professional elephant-hunter. He obtained permission from Lobengula to enter Matabeleland, then a jealously guarded privilege, in consequence, as he himself used to tell the story, of that Chief's contempt for him as a beardless boy. He travelled over the whole of the  outhern part of Central Africa, collecting, in the course of his hunting, many valuable specimens of big game, the finest of which he presented, with characteristic generosity, to the Natural History Museum at South Kensington.


In exploring Central Africa he carried on the work begun by another old Rugbeian, William Cotton Oswell, the friend of Livingstone, whose portrait hangs by the side of Captain Selous' in the Temple Speech Room at Rugby. He led the pioneer expedition of the Chartered Company into Mashonaland in 1890, and took part in the Mata– bele Wars of 1893 and 1895. Hunting tours in Asia Minor, in the Rocky Mountains, in Newfoundland and in Canada, followed in the next ten years, and later he turned to British East Africa and the Nile. "A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa," "Travel and Adventure in South East Africa," "Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia," and (( African Nature Notes and Reminiscences," were among the books of travel and sport which he published.


He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1893. In 1910 he was the British representative at the International Big Game and Shooting Congress at Vienna. "Throughout his career," says a writer in The Time], "he was much more than merely a successful game shooter. Wherever he went he took the deepest interest in the habits and personality of the animals he encountered. Keen observation, indefatigable patience and a retentive memory combined to make him a field naturalist of very exceptional excellence; and these qualities, together with his enormous experience, raised him to the position of acknowledged doyen of the whole tribe of modern hunters."


When the War broke out he offered his services to the War Office, and served in East Africa from the beginning of that campaign. He was gazetted Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers in February, 1915, and Captain in the following August. After a year's service he had to return to England for an operation, but went out again after his recovery, when he received an ovation from his men. While leading them to the attack on Behobeho he was wounded, but continued to encourage them to advance until he fell shot dead, January 4th, 1917. Age 65. He was twice mentioned in Despatches, and was awarded the D.S.O., September 26th, 1916, the official record for which was as follows :-

"Captain Frederick Courteney Selous, Royal Fusiliers. "For conspicuous gallantry, resource, and endurance.  He has set a magnificent example to all ranks, and the value of his services with his Battalion cannot be over–estimated."

The Colonel Commanding his Battalion wrote :-

"He died a most glorious death, and he has left a void which can never be filled. We feel his loss deeply; I especially do so, as he was such a grand example of all that an Officer should be. He was simply worshipped by his men."


A Corporal in his Company wrote :-

"We shall always remember the lectures and good advice given to us on board ship, and more especially the manner in which he looked after his Company as regards rations and the proper cooking of the same. Fearless of danger, Captain Selous would march in front of his Company and at a pace which told on younger men, and his bravery and kindness will ever be remembered by Frontiersmen."

A Lance-Corporal wrote :-

"He was always full of consideration for his 'boys,' as he called us, and he has saved us many an ambushing by his thorough knowledge of the bush and the country generally. We lose a grand sportsman, a brilliant leader and, more than that, a friend-for such he was. I am proud to have had such a man for my Officer. He cannot be replaced."

The following are extracts from an article in theCornhill Magazine of November, 1917 :-

"How nobly he did his duty in East Africa has been told in the despatches of General Smuts. Much more, unknown to the public, remains in the memories of his brother Officers and men. His cool and shining courage was always conspicuous; his strength and staying powers were remarkable; in a climate where fever, dysentery and other ailments wrought havoc among our men, he never went sick. At the end of a long day's march, under tropical heat, when his fellows were glad to rest, he would sally out with his butterfly net as fresh and eager as a schoolboy, absorbed in the pursuit of that beloved natural history which was the passion of his life. He ' was the wonder and admiration of the British Army in East Africa.

"Truth, honour, courage and freedom were the things which before all others he valued most in the world; and for these great things and for his beloved England he gave his life freely and gladly. He was a great Englishman, and he leaves behind him a name that will endure for generations among those who cherish bravery, the spirit of adventure, and a stainless record."

Captain Selous married, in 1894, Marie Catharine Gladys, daughter of Canon Maddy of Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire, and left two sons, of whom the elder, Captain F. H.B. Selous, M.C. (O.R.), of the Royal West Surrey Regiment and the Royal Flying Corps, was killed in action on January 4th, 1918, the first anniversary of his father's death. The record of his services will be found in Vol. VI of these Memorials.

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