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TOPIC: ..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police

..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police 2 years 11 months ago #51943

  • Rory
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Edward Lorne Lowe

Trooper, Natal Police – Anglo Boer War
2nd Class Sergeant, Natal Police – Bambatha Rebellion
2nd Class Sergeant – Water Police, Durban


- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Natal, Orange Free State and South Africa 1901 to 1928 Tpr. E.L. Lowe, Natal Police
- Natal Medal (Bambatha) with 1906 clasp to 2nd Cl. Sgt. E.L. Lowe, Natal Police


Edward Lowe was born on Portsea Island in the county of Hampshire on 15 December 1870 the son of John Hunt Lowe and his wife Isabella, born Rogers. Lowe senior, although only 30 years old was a pensioned-off Civil Servant. At the time of the 1871 England census young Edward was only 3 months old and living at 3 Little Britain Street in Portsea along with his parents and siblings John Rogers Lowe (9), Charles Frederick Lowe (7), William Lowe (5) and George Lowe (2). Mrs Lowe must have had quite a time of it in a house filled with boys.

A number of tragedies were to befall the family over the years the first coming in 1878 when, on 6 March at the Assizes in the Castle of Winchester in Southampton, Mr Lowe was brought up on a charge of perjury. Fortunately the records indicate that he was acquitted and discharged! The second tragedy was the death of Edward’s mother on 16 February 1887 when he was about 17 years old. The family were living in Trinity Street, Southampton at the time of her death and Mr Lowe, with almost unseemly haste, married again on 22 March 1887 – just over a month after his wife had passed away. Whether or not Edward and his siblings got on with his stepmother, Alice Eleanor Williamson, is unknown although he might have been away from home. The third and final tragedy to befall the family was the death of Mr Lowe on 15 December 1889, a mere two and a half years after his remarriage and, distressingly, on Edward’s 19th birthday.


Lowe is second from the right in this 1909 photo of the Durban Water Police

With nothing in the way of family encumbrances to tie him down Edward made for South Africa where, on 15 March 1897 he enlisted with the Natal Police at Pietermaritzburg. Assigned no. 1928 and the rank of Trooper he was taken on strength. According to his papers he was a Protestant by way of church affiliation and was physically 5 feet 6 inches in height with a dark complexion, dark brown hair and brown eyes. He had a cut on the left side of his head by way of distinguishing features. His brother Charles might well have joined him in South Africa for it is this worthy that he provided as his next of kin, stating that he was “c/o The Union Steamship Company” and currently employed in the “Athenian”.

Promotion to the rank of 1st Class Trooper came on his service anniversary – 15 March 1898 and things were, to all intents and purposes, going swimmingly for Lowe as he went about his duties. The peace and equilibrium of the quiet Colony was about to be disturbed however. The two Boer Republics to the west and north of Natal, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (or Transvaal) declared war on Imperial Great Britain with hostilities commencing on 11 October 1899. Natal was invaded a few days later and the militia and police forces of the Colony were called up to assist in the effort to repel the Boers from the borders and to prevent them from reaching the sea.

The Natal Police were split up into a number of contingents – some joined General Buller and were present in the actions leading up to the Relief of Ladysmith. Another contingent were caught up in the Defence of Ladysmith whilst by far the majority continued with their policing duties and were confined to Natal where they were also utilised as support for the Imperial forces in their fight with the Boers. Lowe was among this latter number but with an important exception in that he was one of only 33 who were sent to serve in the Orange Free State alongside the Imperial Light Horse.

Interestingly his record of service indicates that he took his discharge from the Natal Police on 26 May 1900 only to rejoin on 9 October 1900.

On the 27th August 1900 General Dartnell had taken command of the Imperial Light Horse Brigade, to which were attached a body of the Natal Police. The brigade marched up to Harrismith near the border of the Free State, and from there took a large convoy of provisions for Bethlehem. All the natives having been evicted from their kraals on the route, no information was available concerning the movements of the enemy; but while the transport was crossing the Eland's River, about 400 Boers charged down upon the advance guard, retiring when the Imperial Light Horse dashed up. Slight opposition was offered on one or two of the following days, and the column marched into Bethlehem on the 8th September.

From there a combined movement was made in the Brandwater Basin, the enemy again coming in contact with the column on the 18th September. It would have been whilst the column were thus engaged that Lowe joined them.
As it was reported that the Boers intended making a raid into Natal from the north, the column marched back to Harrismith, being in touch with the enemy almost the whole way. At Harrismith it was learnt that 1500 Boers were moving down into Natal by way of the Nkandhla district in Zululand and the force moved down to cut them off.

Lowe was one of only 33 Other Ranks to be awarded the Orange Free State clasp to the Queens Medal he received for his efforts and this because they were collaborating with the Imperial Light Horse.

The war ended on 31 May 1902 and for Lowe it was back to normal policing duties. On 7 February 1903 he took a transfer to the Water Police based in Durban. This body of men were specially enlisted to patrol the harbour in boats or launches. The Docks were in charge of the Water Police, whose duty also consisted in preventing contraband goods being passed through. They were closely connected with the Customs Department and could also assist in cases of emergency with the lifeboat and life-saving apparatus. Its strength was about 53 constables and 4 officers and non-commissioned officers. The pay the men received was on the same scale as the Railway Police, a constable receiving seven shillings a day. The whole charge of the wharves was left to them – they were totally spate to the Borough Police of Durban who had no jurisdiction at the Port.

On 12 May 1903 at Addington on the Durban beachfront, Lowe married Annie Sayer. He was recorded as being employed in the Water Police. Life chugged along for Lowe and his abilities being recognised he was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant on 1 January 1904. Following rapidly on the heels of this was a further promotion to 2nd Class Sergeant on 4 July 1904. This was barely three weeks after the birth of his first child, Arthur. But 1904, despite its highlights, was going to be remembered by Lowe for altogether different reasons. On 27 January 1904 a complaint was received from the Outside Officers of the Immigration Department at the Point, Port Natal with reference to “certain alleged statements of Sergt. Lowe of the Water Police concerning the writers.”

The Principal Immigration Officer wrote to Superintendent Tatum, Water Police saying,

“This is one of the matters as to which I spoke to you yesterday. If Sergt. Lowe has anything of a serious character against my officers, you will, I am sure, agree with me that he ought not to keep it shut up in his notebook nor make common talk of it with his subordinates, but should pass it on for enquiry. I shall be glad to learn the tenor of these “notes against the official actions”, provided they are not in the nature of schoolboy gossip.”

To this Tatum replied, “As I am given to understand that Acting Superintendent McCarthy has had a personal interview with you today on this matter, and gone into the whole matter of the correspondence, I do not see that any good can be obtained by carrying it any further, and I think that a mutual agreement to allow the matter to drop is the right course to pursue.”

But what had occasioned this inter-departmental strife and what role had Lowe to play in the whole affair? The best way is to look at the various statements obtained from the role-players in the matter. First up was Lowe’s statement addressed to his Superintendent on 31 January 1904 it read as follows,

“Sir, I have the honour to report with reference to complaint made by Outside I.R. Officers Wickenden and Callachor. On the 26th instant I.R. Officer Callachor met me on the Wharf and accused me of having stated to Constables in the Water Police that I made reference in my note book against him and Outside Officer Wickenden which I intended to use against them should occasion arise.

This statement seemed to me so ridiculous that I did not treat it seriously, and I replied “yes I have”. Callachor then said that “you need not think because you have got your stripes up that you are everybody. I shall put all the blame on to you for losing those two men from the S.S. “Safari” on Christmas Day and also for being absent from your duty, and you nearly crapped yourself when you found that they had gone.”

I had no idea that Outside Officer Callachor would listen to nonsense of that description and I assure you that if any misdemeanour on the part of any Government Official at the Point came to my notice which I thought it was my duty to report I should do so at once to my superior officer. I think Outside Officer Callachor is actuated by malice in telling Outside Officer Wickenden what he had heard and also in reporting this matter as he has frequently clashed with me in my duties and is always making complaints of a frivolous nature and is never satisfied.

I am pleased to say that Outside Officer Wickenden is quite the reverse and it is a pleasure to work with him – also with P.C. Cumming who has been acting. The Constables too are frequently complaining of the actions of Outside Officer Callachor – by worrying them and interfering with them unnecessarily and this I have reported from time to time to the Superintendent and Sergeant. If Outside Officer Callachor listened to less scandal, and was less bumptious in his manner I don’t think there would be any friction.”

Of course there are two sides to every story – Callachor was up next with his statement addressed to his superior,

“Sir, it has come to my knowledge that Lance Sergeant Lowe of the Water Police has stated to several Constables of the W.P. that he has notes recorded in his note-book against several “official actions” of both the Outside Officers of this Department and intends to make use of them should the said officers cause him any trouble. On the morning of the 26th instant I had an opportunity of speaking with Sergt. Lowe and I accused him of making the above statement and he did not deny it – on the contrary he said “I have done so and what is more I have the “notes” here now but I refuse to tell you or anyone what they are”

I certainly must join Mr Wickenden in protesting against Sergt. Lowe’s action in this matter, as I maintain it is Lance Sergt. Lowe’s duty to report these said “notes” to the head of the Department. I must also join Mr Wickenden when he asks you to cause Sergt. Lowe to lay any complaint he has to make against “official actions” before you.”

Wickenden too climbed on the bandwagon, his statement reading thus,

“Sir, please accept the following complaint preferred by me against Lance Sergt. Lowe of the Water Police, in that I am informed through Mr Callachor, Outside Officer in this department, that Lance Sergt. Lowe has been telling several Constables of the Water Police that he has made notes in his pocket book against the actions of both the Outside Officers.”

Lowe, it would appear had been “stirring the pot” but the story wasn’t quite over yet. Other interested parties made statements which clarified things (depending on whose view of events you supported). I am unable to determine from the signature who wrote the following but it was a fellow Sergeant in the Water Police to his Superintendent,

“Sir I have the honour to report that some time ago Outside Officer Callachor was at the station and was speaking to P.C. Pritchard in a very insolent manner. I remonstrated with him by saying “What do you mean by bullying P.C. Pritchard? If you want anything done, you must ask in a proper manner, and if I hear you use such language again I shall put you out of the office.”

On several occasions Callachor has interfered with my men and has spoken to them in a very offensive manner. I beg to request you to forward this report to the Principal Immigration Officer with a view to putting a stop to further interference.”

On 1 February 1904 Constable Charles H. White wrote to the Superintendent of the Water Police,

“Sir, I have the honour to report re the conduct of I.R.O. Callacher when at the Station on 30 November 1903. This time he started abusing P.C. Pritchard in the Charge Office re a matter connected with the S.S. “Harmonidies” at which time you will remember, you remonstrated with him for his conduct.

At other times he comes to the station, he speaks to members of the Force as if they were so much dirt beneath him, as the attached report will show.
I respectfully ask, now that an opportunity has occurred, that you be good enough to bring the matter to the attention of the P.I.R.O. as it is at times unbearable, and should be stopped, as it is obvious, that while this state of things exists, the two Departments cannot be expected to work in harmony.
I may add, that as far as Wickenden is concerned; you could not ask for a more congenial man to work with.”

The much maligned Pritchard also contributed to the fray with this statement,

“Sir, I have the honour to bring to your notice the following complaint preferred by me against Mr Callachor, I.R. Department, Outside Officer.
On the morning of the 30th November 1903 Mr Callachor came into the Charge Office at the Station, of which I was in charge, and spoke to me in reference to a matter connected with the S.S. “Harmonides”, which vessel arrived that morning.

His manner and tone in speaking to me on that particular occasion was unbecoming that of an Officer of the I.R. Department and a gentleman, and it was on the same morning that he was shown into your office by P.C. White and I believe you remonstrated with him on his behaviour.

I might add that this was by no means the only occasion on which Mr Callachor made himself objectionable. Against Mr Wickenden I have nothing to say whatever. He has always been polite and ready to assist me at all times.”

There were many more statements from “interested parties” and it was apparent that Lowe had done his homework well. The last worthy of quoting was from Constable A. Labine of the Water Police who wrote that, “on the 26th instant I went in company of Sergt. Lowe to the end of “E” Shed where the S.S. “Africa” was lying. Outside Immigration Restriction Officer Callacher turned round to Sergt. Lowe and said that he would put all the blame on him for losing the two men off the S.S. “Safari” and that he was absent on Christmas Day. He also said that Sergt. Lowe nearly crapped himself when he knew the two men were gone. Callachor also accused Sergt. Lowe of having notes concerning the I.R. Department in his note book which he said he would compel him to show.”

With that parting shot the “war of words” came to an end. It is worth noting that both Callachor and Wickenden had previously been in the Water Police before transferring to the Immigration Department – was it a case of old rivalries resurfacing?



Lowe is seated to the right of Supt. McCarthy in this 1913 named photo - his Sergeant stripes are very discernible

Two years later the Colony of Natal was up in arms again. On this occasion it wasn’t to be Boer versus Brit but rather the antics of a little known Zulu Chief, Bambatha, who was the problem. Natal so soon after the Boer War was in financial difficulties and hit upon the idea of a Hut Tax to be levied against every Zulu male above the age of 18. This would swell the coffers but would also have the effect of igniting a dormant powder keg among the black people. Many chiefs grudgingly obeyed the instructions to pay the tax to the Magistrates as they did their rounds but Bambatha was having none of this and went about the land fomenting rebellion against the white man. Inevitable there were deaths and the Natal Government called out the Militia to supress the rebellion which was beginning to spread. Lowe, still with the Water Police but now seconded back to the Natal Police for the duration of the imbroglio, was in action against the Zulu hordes although it is not known exactly what role he would have played. For his efforts he was awarded the Natal (Bambatha) Rebellion Medal with the coveted 1906 clasp.

After exactly 15 years service Edward Lowe took his discharge, time expired, from the Police on 15 March 1912 at the age of 42. He passed away in Durban on 8 January 1959 at the age of 89. His wife, Annie, had predeceased him in 1935


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..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police 2 years 11 months ago #51949

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Rory
I am pleased that Sgt Lowe's story has finally been told, and in a most comprehensive manner. I enjoyed meeting him again.
Regards
Brett
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..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police 2 years 10 months ago #52450

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An extensive browse through the volumes from 1913 to 1920 of the Nongquai (Police) publication proved very rewarding as it unearthed two photographs of Lowe - one in 1909 and one in 1913.

I have added them to the post.

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Rory

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..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police 6 days 12 hours ago #67599

  • VanDad
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Thank you for all the info. Edward Lorne Lowe was my great grandfather
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..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police 6 days 12 hours ago #67600

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Hello VanDad

Do you possibly have any photographs of your great grandfather?

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Rory

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..not in the nature of schoolboy gossip - E.L. Lowe of the Natal Police 6 days 11 hours ago #67601

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Hello

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of him, sorry

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