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Lieutenant Godfrey Nettlefold, 16th (Worcestershire) Company, Imperial Yeomanry 4 months 1 week ago #80813

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When I wrote this yesterday morning, Lieutenant Godfrey Nettlefold was the only officer I had been able to find who served in the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War and had connections with working class Smethwick. Yesterday evening I discovered a second.

Godfrey was born in London during the second quarter of 1874 to an industrialist, Edward John Nettlefold. He was the twelfth of thirteen children. One record indicates he was educated at Rugby School. By 1896 he was a Lieutenant in the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars but by the start of the Anglo-Boer War he had left the army and was helping to run the family business, Nettlefolds situated in Heath Street, Smethwick.

Nettlefolds mainly manufactured screws and were a major employer in the town and the Smethwick Telephone (local weekly paper) of 13th January 1900 reported that nearly 3,000 employees had attended a “send-off” for the popular Mr Godfrey Nettlefold, who had volunteered to serve in South Africa. They presented him with a pair of army revolvers.

Godfrey served in the 16th (Worcestershire) Company of the newly formed Imperial Yeomanry. The London Times of 8th February 1900 reported that the 16th Company of the Imperial Yeomanry had embarked at Albert Docks on the SS Kumara and amongst their number was a Lieutenant Nettlefold. The London Times of 17th February reported the Kumara had left Tenerife on its way to the Cape, and the 3rd March 1900 edition reported the Kumara had arrived at Cape Town the previous day – a voyage of 23 days duration.

The Imperial Yeomanry were a volunteer mounted force who went to South Africa in three contingents. Godfrey was part of the first contingent who were mainly recruited from the middle classes. The first contingent fared badly and by the end of March 1901 nearly a third of them had either been killed in action, died of disease, been injured or taken prisoner. Godfrey contracted enteric fever (typhoid) and was seriously ill and when he returned home in July 1901 he was still in a convalescent state.

The Cape Times of the 3rd July 1901 reported that the SS Kinfauns Castle would be sailing for Southampton that afternoon and amongst the military passengers would be Lieutenant Nettlefold. So, Godfrey spent exactly 16 months on South African soil but a significant amount of that was probably spent in hospital and convalescing.

The date the Kinfauns docked at Southampton is not recorded but the Smethwick Telephone of 27th July 1901 reported that Godfrey has arrived back at New Street Station in Birmingham the previous Saturday which would have been 20th July, so Godfrey’s voyage home was considerably shorter in duration than his voyage out.

There was a sizeable welcoming party for Godfrey at the station consisting of relatives, friends, members of the 16th Company who had returned home earlier and old soldiers from the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars. The newspaper report ended by stating Godfrey was one of 40 members of the 16th Company that went to London six days later to receive their war medals from the King.
Medal rolls show Godfrey was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps – “Cape Colony”, “Orange Free State”, “Transvaal” and “South Africa 1901”.

Godfrey returned to working for the family firm and had an interesting number of years – in 1902 Nettlefolds amalgamated with another Smethwick firm, Guest & Keen Ltd to form Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds which was to become known across the world as GKN. Godfrey is recorded as being a Director of this new organisation. In 1903 he married Alice Evelyn Johnson in London. In 1905 he was made a Justice of the Peace and received regular mentions in the Smethwick Telephone handing down sentences to local law breakers. In 1910 his only child was born and the 1911 census found the family living in the nearby Edgbaston district of Birmingham, Godfrey gave his occupation as “Screw Manufacturer”. In 1914 he was elected Chairman of the Smethwick Institute and served for a second year. Sadly, shortly afterwards his health began to fail and he retired to Arundel in Sussex where he died on 30th March 1918 aged only 43.



The Kinfauns Castle was never formally requisitioned as a troopship during the Anglo-Boer War but she did transport quite a number of troops to and from the war. She was requisitioned by the RN in World War I and became H.M.S Kinfauns Castle. The box of cotter pins postdates Godfrey but shows how the name lived on - in itself it is a bit of history and dates back to a time when you could buy such things in boxes rather than impossible to open vacuum packed packages.

I am indebted to whoever spent many hours drawing up the Shipping Records on this site.
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