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Medals to the Natal Police 5 years 11 months ago #50878

  • Brett Hendey
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The sad story of Fred Belcher:

SQUADRON QUARTERMASTER SERGEANT F H C BELCHER,
SOUTH AFRICAN MOUNTED RIFLES
(FORMERLY SERGEANT, NATAL POLICE)

Queen’s South Africa Medal with two clasps (Natal, South Africa 1901).
Natal Rebellion Medal with 1906 clasp.
1914/15 Star trio.
Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.


Frederick Henry Cuthbert Belcher was born on 11/5/1877 in Worcester, England, the son of Thomas Henry Belcher and Frances Emily Belcher (nee Fryer) of 3 Bath Road, Worcester. His father was an Articled Clerk to a Solicitor and he had evidently died by 1881, because the Census of that year records Frances Belcher as the head of the household. The family was then residing at Midland Terrace, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Apart from Frederick and his mother, the Census also recorded the following:
Frances Emily J[anet] Belcher (sister of Frederick).
Clara Fryer and Emily M Fryer (aunts of Frederick).

Frederick Belcher joined the Natal Police (NP) on 20/2/1896 (No. 1599). He presented letters of introduction to the Bishop of Natal and the Dean from the Honourable Canon Douglas of Worcester. His next of kin was his mother, who was once again living in Worcester, in Stanley Road. He is recorded as having blue eyes, light hair, a fair complexion and being 5 feet 9 inches in height. He had a snake and two stars tattooed on his left wrist.

Belcher was evidently a sober, steady and competent member of the NP and the following promotions are recorded:
2/2/1897 – 1st Class Trooper.
10/5/1901 – Lance Sergeant.
21/3/1902 – 2nd Class Sergeant.
1910 – 1st Class Sergeant. He was then also recorded as a “1st Class Shot”.

In 1905, Belcher was commended by the Secretary of Native Affairs for the “able manner he conducted investigations in connection with [a] serious faction fight at Nongoma [in Zululand]”.

He served throughout the Anglo-Boer War (QSA with Natal and SA 1901 clasps.) His service number is given incorrectly on his QSA as 1492, the number of F Heathcote, who joined the NP on 11/2/1895 and who was, like Belcher, a Lance Sergeant during the Boer War. Details of Belcher’s service during the War are not known.

Belcher also served throughout the Natal Rebellion (Medal with 1906 clasp). He was stationed at Nongoma and, although this town is north of the main area of operations during the Rebellion, he may well have been on active service.


Natal Police Maxim gun on the Nongoma Courthouse roof during the Natal Rebellion.


On 24/10/1908, Belcher was appointed Assistant Court Messenger in Durban, and on 3/2/1910 he was appointed Chief Messenger, also in Durban.

On 20/11/1911, he was re-engaged after 15 years of service.


Sgt F H C Belcher
Natal Police


Following the disbandment of the NP in 1913 and, in common with most other members of the force, Belcher was transferred to the South African Mounted Rifles (SAMR, No. 721). By 1914 he held the rank of Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant in the 3rd SAMR, which had Dundee as its headquarters. At that time, his second wife (vide infra) was living at the Commercial Hotel in Greytown. The Belcher family base would thereafter be either in Greytown or in Durban.

During World War I, Belcher served with the SAMR in German South West Africa and he was awarded the 1914/15 Star trio of medals. These medals were dispatched to him in 1921 and 1922, by which time Belcher had retired and his private life was in turmoil (vide infra), and they were clearly seldom, if ever, worn.

Belcher was retired on pension from the SAMR on 30/4/1918, having served successively in the NP and SAMR for 22 years and 70 days. His pension was £120-9s-0d per annum. The particulars of his discharge were recorded as follows:
Education – Very good.
Sobriety – Exemplary.
Character – Exemplary.
Efficiency – Very good.

He was awarded the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Belcher’s service in the NP and SAMR was apparently largely untroubled, except for a complaint about poor pay and some health problems during World War I (broken dentures in 1915 and cystitis in 1917). By contrast, Belcher’s private became very troubled.



BELCHER’S PRIVATE LIFE

On 11/6/1907, Belcher married Muriel Grace Kirkman at Nongoma. She was born in Wootton-Bassett in Wiltshire in about 1879. She was the sister of Bruce d’Aguilar Kirkman, who had joined the NP on 10/3/1902 (No. 2751). Their mother was Grace Harriett Kirkman (nee d’Aguilar) of 34 Montpellier Villas, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the town where the Belcher family had been living at the time of the 1881 Census. Their father was Joseph Miller Kirkman, who was evidently deceased by the time of Bruce Kirkman’s enlistment.

The links between the Belcher and Kirkman families are intriguing. The Cheltenham common factor suggests the possibility that the families were known to each other and that Frederick Belcher may have been an influence in Bruce Kirkman’s enlistment in the NP. There can be much less doubt that it was her brother’s presence that brought Muriel to Natal and his service in the NP that led to her meeting Frederick Belcher, an event that was to result in much unhappiness for all concerned.

Frederick and Muriel Belcher had a daughter, Beryl Grace Belcher, who was born on 23/3/1908, while the Belcher’s were still living in Nongoma. Tragically, Muriel was to die less than two months later on 13/5/1908 at the early age of 28 years and two months, leaving Belcher with an infant daughter to raise. Nongoma was then a small, isolated and unhealthy town in the heart of Zululand (it is the same today), a region that had recently experienced a rebellion against European settlers and their rule, and which had already seen the end of Muriel Belcher. It was clearly an undesirable place for a single serving policeman to bring up an infant daughter and in October 1908 Belcher was transferred to Durban, where he became Assistant Court Messenger. A ‘desk’ job in the largest town in the Colony was clearly a far better posting than that of being a mounted policeman in a remote region, where intra-tribal strife was common and hostility towards the few Europeans living there was always a possibility.

Belcher’s connection with the Kirkman family was to continue because on 6/7/1910 he married Beryl Maud Kirkman, the younger sister of his first wife, Muriel. Beryl had also been born in Wootton-Bassett, a few years after Muriel on 22/9/1882. She may have come to Natal to care for her niece, who had evidently been named after her, but in any event young Beryl’s aunt now became her stepmother. It must have been a relief to Belcher to have someone close to his first wife to care for their child, especially during his service with the SAMR, some of which was at war in German South West Africa.

The Belcher family members lived in Durban until February 1914. They then moved to Greytown, where they remained until August 1918. Later they returned to Durban for a few months and then went back to Greytown. Frederick Belcher was to remain there until his death in 1928.

Sadly for the Belcher family, another tragedy was soon to befall them. On 5/2/1918, when she was just ten years old, Beryl Grace Belcher died in Greytown of acute gastro-enteritis. This event was followed soon afterwards on 30/4/1918 by Belcher’s release from uniformed service. He chose to settle in Greytown, probably because that was where his daughter was buried. Judging from events that followed, her death apparently had an adverse affect on Belcher and, after more than 20 years of unblemished service as a policeman and soldier, his character took a turn for the worse.

On 8/9/1922, his wife Beryl left Greytown to spend a fortnight’s holiday with friends at Bellair, near Durban. She did not return to Greytown as arranged and Belcher’s second marriage effectively came to an end. On the grounds of having been “maliciously deserted …. for an uninterrupted period of upwards of eighteen months”, Belcher sued for divorce. The divorce was finalized on 2/2/1925.

Although Beryl was judged to be the guilty party in the divorce because of her desertion, the court records include two letters written by her to Belcher, which put the latter in a very unfavourable light. In a letter dated 17/5/1923, Beryl is adamant that she has no intention of returning to Belcher (or “Fred”, as she called him), in spite of his written pleas for her to do so. She writes that “living with you was quite unbearable” and refers to his “callous behaviour” since leaving him. She asked, evidently in vain, for some financial assistance. In the second letter, dated 17/1/1924, Beryl again begs for financial help, and wrote that she was “absolutely down and out” and relying on charity from friends to survive. Again, Belcher did not respond.

The matter of Belcher’s obligations to his ex-wife ostensibly ceased on 2/12/1928, when he committed suicide by taking cyanide at the comparatively young age of 51 years and 6 months. At the time of his death he had been residing in Bell Street, Greytown, and had been employed by the Greytown Municipality as Superintendent of the Native Beer Hall and Poundmaster. This was an ignominious end to Belcher’s 32 year stay in Natal. His suicide, coupled with the early deaths of his first wife and their only child, his excessive drinking (vide infra) and abuse of his second wife, which culminated in her desertion, all point to a deeply unhappy man.

Beryl Belcher responded to her ex-husband’s death by writing to the Master of the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg on 25/5/1929 requesting that, since he had died intestate, she be considered as a beneficiary of his estate. In defence of her desertion, she wrote that Belcher “was a very heavy drinker, and when under the influence of drink was very abusive and cruel”. Clearly, Belcher was much changed since the time of his discharge in 1918, when his sobriety was recorded as “Exemplary”. There is nothing to suggest that this letter brought her any benefit.

Another letter concerning Beryl Belcher’s financial problems was written to the Master of the Supreme Court on 16/11/1932 by the Solicitors, Satherthwaite & Swanson of Lancaster, England. This letter concerned the Estate of Mary d’Aguilar, Beryl’s grandmother, who had left a sum of money to Beryl’s mother, who was by then also deceased. In terms of Mary’s Will, after the death of Beryl’s mother, this money was to pass to Frederick and Muriel Belcher’s daughter, Beryl Grace. Since she too was dead, the money was tied to Frederick’s Estate. This Estate was still unclaimed in the Guardian’s Fund, so no-one was benefiting from the Mary d’Aguilar bequest (£52-7s-1d), which was deposited in a bank in England.

The Lancaster Solicitors wrote of Beryl’s unhappy marriage and the fact that she had received no support from Belcher from the time of her desertion in 1922 until the divorce became final in 1925. They requested that the Master inform them about the claim, if any, Beryl had on her ex-husband’s Estate. There is no record of a reply from the Master.

There is, however, another addition to the Belcher Estate file. In an affidavit dated 24/12/1935, the Trustee of the Estate of Frances Emily Janet Impey (nee Belcher) of Nairobi, Kenya, informs the Master of Mrs Impey’s death and the fact that she had been the sister and last surviving next-of-kin of Frederick Belcher. Copies of both Belcher’s and Mrs Impey’s Birth Certificates accompanied the affidavit. The Belcher Estate, which then amounted to £305-5s-2d, was paid to settle Mrs Impey’s Estate on 16/1/1936, so in the end his ex-wife received nothing from this source.

The only children of Thomas and Frances Belcher of Worcester, England, Frederick and his sister, both ventured in Africa, the former to Natal and the latter to Kenya, and both died there without leaving living offspring, thus bringing this particular Belcher lineage to an end.

Beryl Belcher continued to live in Durban until her death in 1965. She outlived her ex-husband by 37 years and her older sister, the first Mrs Belcher, by 57 years. She died in Durban on 30/3/1965 aged 82 years and 6 months, an old-age pensioner who had been living at 16 Tralee Court in Mona Road. Her Death Notice reveals that she had not remarried and had no children. Her only possibly surviving sibling was another older sister, Mrs Gladys Mary Colborne-Baber, 88 The Grove, Hammersmith, London W6. It was thought unlikely that she was still alive in 1965.

By the time of her death, Beryl had become a South African citizen and through her own resourcefulness and with the help of friends she was evidently not poverty-stricken. In her 1924 letter to Belcher she mentions the generosity of a friend, Dora, and the “shop girls who live in this house”. She also mentions making some money by sewing. Later, in her 1929 letter to the Master of the Supreme Court, she wrote that she had supported herself since leaving Belcher in 1922, even though she “had no particular trade or profession”.

One record of her improved financial state is in the Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Mary Stewart Hamilton (nee Beatson), who died on 10/4/1958. She was the widow of Lieutenant James Hamilton of the SAMR and formerly a Sub-Inspector in the Natal Police. Mrs Hamilton, who was also childless, was a woman of independent means from a prominent Scottish family and her Will suggests that she was something of a philanthropist, there being several bequests to women in addition to Beryl Belcher, who alone inherited £300, a not inconsiderable sum at that time.

The Association of Past & Present N.P. & N.M.P. (later N.M.P. & N.P. Association) was founded in July 1911 and the branch in Durban was still active in the late 1930’s. It is possible that this organization was involved in assisting Beryl Belcher and other women in her position, since the NP in its various guises had been a body of men with great esprit de corps and the care of their own, even ex-wives, can be well imagined.

In her Will dated 24/10/1953, Beryl Belcher’s nephew, John d’Aguilar Kirkman was to inherit her Estate of £59 in trust for his son Jonathan d’Aguilar Kirkman. At the time of her death in 1965, John Kirkman was employed by the Anglo American Corporation in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). It is probable that this branch of the Kirkman family was descended from Bruce d’Aguilar Kirkman, Beryl’s brother, who had joined the NP in 1902.

Frederick Belcher’s decline after his retirement from a good and sober policeman into an abusive and drunken husband can probably be ascribed to the double tragedy of losing prematurely both his first wife and their only child. His second marriage may well have been one of convenience that was simply to provide his young daughter with a stepmother. If this was indeed the case, then the marriage may well have been doomed by the death of young Beryl Grace Belcher. The subsequent drinking and abuse were then the spur for the break-up. While Belcher’s behaviour towards his second wife cannot be condoned, there may be poetic justice in his early unnatural death, and her living to a ripe and apparently not uncomfortable old age.

REFERENCES

Archives of the South African National Defence Force, Pretoria.

Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository of the National Archives of South Africa –
Various papers indexed under ‘Natal Police’, ‘Belcher’, ‘Kirkman’ and
‘Hamilton’.
15/03/2008

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Medals to the Natal Police 5 years 11 months ago #50879

  • Brett Hendey
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My apologies, the pictures included in the text did not print. I will try to post them separately.

Brett

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Medals to the Natal Police 5 years 11 months ago #50880

  • Brett Hendey
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I could not find the portrait photo of Belcher, but here is the NP Maxim gun on the Nongoma courthouse roof during the 1906 Rebellion:



Might one of the men have been Sergeant Belcher?

Brett
Attachments:

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Medals to the Natal Police 5 years 11 months ago #50883

  • QSAMIKE
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There are a couple of Natal Police for sale on dealers list (Dixon and Medal Center) one a QSA/1906 and Bar pair (SAC & NP)......

Mike
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Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591

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Medals to the Natal Police 5 years 11 months ago #50884

  • Frank Kelley
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Hello Brett,
I really don't think I can add anything to that, it is an absolutely super group!
Regards Frank


Rory wrote: A wonderful group Brett and one which does the topic proud.

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Medals to the Natal Police 5 years 11 months ago #50897

  • Frank Kelley
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Well, I don't know that a biography can ever be too long, certainly the more interesting ones are always rather long, I was interested to see all the truly bewildering entries in WO100/261, I have to say, I was also, particularly interested to note he had clearly been a member of the Victoria Club, from memory, that used to be on Long Market Street, was it not, I think it certainly was when I was a boy?
Kind regards Frank



Brett Hendey wrote: Frank, I did not post some of my biographies, since I believed they were too long for this forum. However, since you asked, I will try one with this post, and another in a later one. Apart from being colleagues in the NP and SAMR, Hamilton and Belcher were linked by their widows in a surprising way.

Beatty's biography is much shorter, so I suspect I must have already posted it, I will try to find the link and post it later.

LIEUTENANT J HAMILTON, SOUTH AFRICAN MOUNTED RIFLES
(FORMERLY SUB-INSPECTOR, ZULULAND POLICE & NATAL POLICE)

Queen’s South Africa Medal with two clasps (Natal, Transvaal) &
King’s South Africa Medal with two clasps (South Africa 1901 & 1902)
(Sub-Inspector, Natal Police).
Natal Rebellion Medal with 1906 clasp (Captain, Natal Police).
1914/15 Star trio (Lieutenant, S A Mounted Rifles).
Silver War Badge (replacement).

During the Anglo-Boer War, Hamilton was one of only seven members of the Natal Police to be Mentioned in Despatches, and one of only 11 to be awarded the KSA.


James Hamilton was born on 30/3/1869 in Stoke, Devonshire, the son of Thomas Bramstone Hamilton and Margaret Cragg Hamilton.

Hamilton was appointed a Sub-Inspector in the Zululand Police at Eshowe on 7/5/1896. Nothing is known of his former occupation but, in a Report by Medical Board dated 11/11/1915, it was given as “Gentleman”.

When Zululand was absorbed into Natal in 1897, officers in the Zululand Police, including Hamilton, “became members of the Natal Police, with seniority according to the date of appointment” (Holt 1913: 182). The date of the transfer was 30/12/1897. Hamilton’s Zululand experience was to result in several postings to this part of the Colony during his service with the Natal Police (NP).

During the first phase of the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1900), Hamilton was a member of the Melmoth Field Force that was charged with the “Defence of Stations and Outposts” (Anon. 1900: 91).

Holt (1913: 175,176) records that in 1901 a “detachment of Natal Police was constantly patrolling and searching the farms in the Babanango district and a portion of the Vryheid district, sometimes by themselves and sometimes with the 5th Mounted Infantry. A post was established at Emtonjaneni (sic), and there a considerable number of police remained for over a year until peace was declared.” The detachment at Mtonjaneni was commanded by Hamilton and it was encamped in the Transvaal and was on active service until the end of the War, facts that were to be significant in Hamilton’s later claim for the KSA. His service at Mtonjaneni, one of the most elevated and wettest places in Zululand, had an adverse effect on his health, a fact that was to emerge during his service in World War I.

Hamilton was Mentioned in Despatches by Kitchener (23/6/1902).

The eligibility of members of the NP for the award of the KSA was the subject of much controversy and the cause of much dissatisfaction amongst the men who believed they had earned the Medal.

Holt (1913: 177) dealt with the matter as follows:
“A good deal of disappoinment was created amongst the police on account of the fact that though many of them were in the field until the close of the war, only one or two, attached to General Dartnell’s Staff, received the King’s Medal. The conditions laid down for this decoration were that men must have completed eighteen months’ service in the field, some portion of which must have been outside the colony in the year 1902, and that they must have been under the command of a General Officer. The medal was given to the Cape Police and the Cape Volunteers; and the volunteer staff in Natal also received it, although they did not complete eighteen months’ service, and saw no service after September 1901. The detachment under Sub-Inspector Hamilton at Emtonjaneni were actually encamped within the Transvaal border, but the General Officer Commanding in Pretoria contended that these men were not under a General Officer. A great deal of correspondence passed on the subject of the medals, but without avail.”

Hamilton did eventually receive the KSA, a fact recounted by Drooglever (1993: 22, 23), who repeats Holt’s observations and goes on to record:
“Sub Inspector J. Hamilton received a K.S.A. finally in 1927, though his men who had served with him in the Transvaal appear not to have been granted the same concession.”
Droogleever goes on:
“I therefore have record of only 11 recipients of the Natal Police who received the K.S.A. with two bars. Claimants who had perhaps received the 1901 and 1902 clasps with their Q.S.As, had to return them to the War Office to be reissued on their K.S.A. I have seen only one K.S.A. to the Natal Police and the naming is according to the normal impress, even though he was a Sub-Inspector.”

Two points emerge from the above comments:

Firstly, although Hamilton was on active service until the end of the War, his QSA had, in addition to the Natal and Transvaal clasps, only a single date clasp (South Africa 1901) to return to the War Office. His KSA was nevertheless issued with both South Africa 1901 and 1902 clasps. This anomaly was due to the fact that Hamilton and almost all other Natal Police who had served throughout the War, were issued with only the South Africa 1901 clasp in addition to state and/or battle clasps issued earlier (Medal Roll WO 100/261, dated 8/9/1901), the entry for the 1902 clasp having been deleted from the supplementary Medal Roll (dated 9/7/1908). This deletion is made more curious by the allocation of both date clasps in another earlier supplementary Roll (dated 14/1/1907), which was compiled mainly to accommodate those men who enlisted after 8/9/1901 and who did not qualify for the Natal and battle clasps. The confusion is compounded by the fact that a few men on this Roll (e.g. 1929 Tpr O W Pritchard) received the QSA with Natal clasp and both the South Africa 1901 and 1902 clasps, because their names were “Omitted on previous Roll” (i.e. the one dated 8/9/1901). These men thus gained an extra clasp simply because of their chance omission from an earlier Roll. Like those denied the KSA, members of the NP who were unfairly denied the South Africa 1902 clasp also had reason to feel aggrieved with the arbitrary decisions made in the allocation of Anglo-Boer War medals and clasps. It is worth noting here that members of the Zululand Police received no medals, in spite of loyal and sometimes gallant service (e.g. Sgt Gumbi of the ZP was Mentioned in Despatches by Kitchener [8/10/1901], “For gallantry and good service in defence of Fort Prospect”.)

Returning to Droogleever’s observations, it can be recorded that Hamilton’s KSA also has impressed naming, rather than the engraving that is usual for officers. This also applies to the KSA of Sub-Inspector A G Abraham and, probably, all others issued to the Natal Police officers. However, the lettering on Hamilton’s KSA is smaller than that on his QSA and all those QSA’s and KSA’s issued before about 1920. Another difference that is ascribed to the late date of issue (1927) is the fixed, rather than swivelling suspender on Hamilton’s medal.

These facts combine to make Hamilton’s KSA a medallic rarity.

Holt (1913) records that at the end of the War, Hamilton and his men moved from Mtonjaneni to Dundee and then, together with the Natal Border Police, to Vryheid, where they remained until October 1902. Thereafter, they moved to various centres in southern Natal to quell faction fights and other disturbances and later “they were engaged far away in the northern districts, the natives there being in a very unsettled state” (Holt 1913: 179). Hamilton’s detachment returned to Pietermaritzburg in December 1903, having been on active service for four years and four months without a break, a claim that can probably not be made for any other military unit serving in South Africa at that time. It is no wonder that Hamilton persisted in his claim for the KSA for so long; it was well-deserved.

In 1904, Hamilton served in Utrecht and in 1905 he was back in Zululand at Nongoma. It was while he was stationed at Nongoma that he married Elizabeth Mary Stewart Beatson (vide infra).

When the Natal Rebellion broke out in 1906, Hamilton was given the military rank of Captain and he served throughout the campaign and was awarded the Natal Rebellion Medal with 1906 clasp.

He continued to serve in Zululand after the Rebellion ended and in 1907 he was based at Nkandla.

In 1908, while on leave in England he gave his address as the Old Manor House, Hythe, Kent.

Following the disbandment of the NP in 1913, Hamilton was appointed a Lieutenant in the 2nd South African Mounted Rifles. On 10/3/1914 he was recommended for promotion to Captain by the Inspector-General of the Union Defence Force but, after a lengthy correspondence, the promotion was not granted.

Following the outbreak of World War I, Hamilton served with the SAMR during the early part of the German South West Africa campaign, but was invalided home because of rheumatism contracted during his Anglo-Boer War service. His withdrawal from active service resulted in him being awarded the Silver War Badge, in addition the 1914/15 Star trio of medals.

After his return, Hamilton was appointed Officer Commanding No. 47 S A Police District at Kokstad. He applied for a transfer to the S A Police, but in fact continued to serve in the SAMR and on 21/12/1916 he was transferred to the 3rd SAMR.

He was retired as medically unfit on 14/10/1917.

Hamilton and his wife settled in Pietermaritzburg. They had no children. During World War I, Mrs Hamilton is recorded as having lived at, firstly, 290 Prince Albert Street and then at 328 Longmarket Street in Pietermaritzburg. Hamilton also gave the Victoria Club in Pietermaritzburg as his address in 1909 and 1918. The Hamilton’s were living at 21 King Edward Avenue when he died on 27/7/1939, aged 70 years.


ELIZABETH MARY STEWART HAMILTON (nee BEATSON)

Elizabeth Beatson was a Scottish spinster of independent means when she married James Hamilton in 1905. Her family had their origins around the town of Campbeltown at the southern end of the Kintyre Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland (Davidson 2001).

Elizabeth was the daughter of Surgeon-General George Stewart Beatson CB MD (1814 – 1874), who, amongst other achievements, was Honorary Physician to Queen Victoria, and an ally of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, when he was an army Staff Surgeon 1st Class. According to Chichester (2004), Beatson “was considered one of the ablest officers in the Army Medical Service and [was] highly regarded throughout his profession.” Chichester records that his military career started in 1838 when he joined the Army Medical Service as an Assistant Surgeon. He served on the staff in Ceylon from 1839 to 1851. There he married his first wife, the daughter of Colonel Cochrane of the Ceylon Rifles. He was Surgeon to the 51st Regiment in the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852-3, before going on to serve in the Crimean War. After appointments as Deputy Inspector-General in the Ionian Islands and in Madras, he became Surgeon-General in 1863. He became Principal Medical Officer of European troops in India for the customary five years and then took charge of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley. In March 1866 he was appointed Honorary Physician to Queen Victoria. He was gazetted a CB on 2 June 1869. In 1871 he returned to India for a second term as Principal Medical Officer. He died at the age of 60 years in India on 7 June1874, two years after Elizabeth’s birth. He is buried in Simla.

Elizabeth’s mother was Beatson’s second wife, also Elizabeth, who was the eldest daughter of Alexander Hoyes of Bitterne Grove, Southampton.

One of Elizabeth’s brothers was Sir George Thomas Beatson, a pioneer surgeon and a major figure in the history of Scottish medicine (Davidson 2002). After qualifying with an MD in 1878, George Beatson became house surgeon to Lord Lister, Professor of Clinical Surgery at the University of Edinburgh, and the “father of antiseptic surgery”, who had a great influence on his career.

In 1893, George was appointed consulting surgeon at the Glasgow Cancer Hospital, where he dedicated his research to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, especially in women. His work led to the building of a new hospital and research department, which was opened in 1912 by HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, possibly because of Beatson’s family connections.

Apart from his medical achievements, George was famed for his work with the Territorial Army, the founding of the Scottish branch of the Red Cross, and the provision of an effective ambulance service in Scotland through the St Andrew’s Ambulance Association.

He was gazetted CB in 1902 and knighted in 1907. In recognition of his work with the Royal Army Medical Corps and Red Cross during World War I, he was enrolled as a KBE, and he also received the French Legion of Honour.

His name is perpetuated in the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Bearsden, and the Beatson Oncology Centre in the Western Infirmary.

Elizabeth Hamilton outlived her husband by 19 years and died in Pietermaritzburg on 10/4/1958, aged 86 years. She made generous bequests to family and friends.


REFERENCES

Anon. 1900. Natal Volunteer Record. Durban, Robinson & Co.

Chichester, H M. 2004. Beatson, George Steward (1814-1874). Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.

Davidson, M. 2001. George Thomas Beatson, KCB, KBE, MD, DL.
www.kintyremag.co.uk/2002/52 .

Drooglever, R W F. 1993. The Q.S.A. and K.S.A. to the Natal Police: some
facts and figures. Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society.
Spring 1993: 22-23.

Holt, H P. 1913. The Mounted Police of Natal. London, John Murray.

Medal Rolls under WO 100 for the QSA and KSA to the Natal Police. National
Archives, London.

Natal Medal Roll 1906. Uckfield, England: The Naval & Military Press.

Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository of the National Archives of South Africa –
Various papers indexed under ‘Natal Police’, Hamilton and Beatson.

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