- Queens South Africa Medal with clasp Relief of Ladysmith to Tpr. L.E. Barber, Colonial Scouts
Frederick George Franklin Barber, a Carpenter and Builder by trade, was the adopted son of John Henderson, a Byrne Settler, and accompanied the family to Natal on the “Justina”. In March 1867 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert Logan whilst living at Blackburn, Great Umhlanga. As was typical (and almost a necessity) of the times the family they set about making was a large one – when Louis Edgar first saw the light of day he was fourth in line after siblings Charlotte Alice, Ernest James and Robert Frederick. After him came Lizzie Emeline, Lillian Frances and Mary Catherine.
At the time Louis was born the Barber family were living in St. George’s Street, Durban before moving to Bellair – at that time a village among the farmlands on the outskirts of Durban. By 1894 they had moved closer to town and were resident in Stamford Hill.
Louis wasn’t about to follow in his father’s footsteps and, having acquired a rudimentary education, he gained employment as a Book Keeper. Durban towards the end of the 19th century was a thriving and industrious port city – far removed from the dusty village it had been a few decades before.
By the time the Anglo Boer war broke out in October 1899, Barber had removed himself from the bosom of his family and was living in Eshowe in Zululand. On 21 December 1899 he attested for service with “F” Squadron of the Colonial Scouts for service in the war against the two Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, both of whom had sent a force to invest Natal within days of hostilities being declared.
Within a matter of weeks the Imperial forces, hopelessly inadequate in number, were on the back foot and Ladysmith was under siege. The call went out for the creation of local outfits to assist the war effort and, one such, the Colonial Scouts, was raised by the Natal Government in answer to this call. Five squadrons strong, this force was commanded by Colonel F. Addison, M.L.A.
For part of 1900 they were chiefly employed in Zululand, and on the border of that country and the Transvaal. The corps did not see much fighting, but their presence in this district was very valuable. Barber was a member of F Squadron under Captain W Knott – together with “G” Squadron they were part of the Melmoth Field Force and were also known as the Zululand Scouts.
On 31 December 1899 they left Pietermaritzburg to patrol the border between Mtonjaneni and Nkandla in Zululand. Another of their functions was to escort convoys and gather intelligence. They were also part of the first force to enter the Transvaal on 25th February 1900 with a reconnaissance towards Babanango following next day. On the 27th, hearing that 900 Boers were advancing, they retired on Melmoth."
"On 13th March, at 5 a.m., Capt. Knott, with 65 officers and men, and 80 Nongqai (native police), attacked the stronghold of Babanango. The Boers escaped in the mist, but all the livestock were captured. At 9 a.m. the Boers rallied to attack, but were repulsed with a loss of killed and wounded, our casualty being Sergeant Cheesman's horse wounded."
The squadron's only casualty was F. Glen, who died in hospital. An entry under the Natal Police records that Glen and a Natal Policeman, Tpr Salter, contracted enteric while serving with the Melmoth Field Force and both died.
Their task complete the Colonial Scouts were disbanded in Pietermaritzburg on 4th April 1901. The question now arose as to what to do next. The war showed no signs of abating, if anything the Boers were changing their tactics to accommodate the change in their circumstances as they were slowly but inexorably pushed back and out of Natal. Many of Barber’s “F” Squadron comrades became “G” Squadron of Bethune’s Mounted Infantry – another of the Natal-raised units.
After a six month sabbatical Barber chose to join the 2nd Imperial Light Horse, another of the locally raised units under the command of Colonel Duncan Mackenzie, completing the Attestation forms at Eshowe on 12 October 1901. Confirming his three months service with the Colonial Scouts he described himself as being 23 years of age with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was 5 feet 6 inches in height and weighed in at 140 pounds. By way of occupation he stated that he was a Book Keeper and that he had been born at Phoenix near Durban. His next of kin was his father, Mr F.G. Barber of Stamford Hill near Durban.
Assigned no. 1069 and the rank of Trooper he commenced operations with the I.L.H. in the Eastern Transvaal where they had done good work under Major-General Smith-Dorrien, Major-General F. W. Kitchener, and other leaders. The 2nd Regiment had fighting on many occasions and sometimes losses. On 25th January 1901, at Twyfelaar, Major Maude and Lieutenant Briscoe were wounded. On 6th February, when Smith-Dorrien's force was fiercely attacked by Botha at Bothwell, Lake Chrissie, the regiment had 2 killed and 4 wounded. The attack was driven off, the enemy leaving 25 dead.
During February and March Smith-Dorrien's column was one of those acting under General French when he swept the Eastern Transvaal, driving the enemy to the borders of Zululand, and capturing all his artillery and many prisoners. In January 1901 many troops were sent from the Transvaal to Cape Colony in consequence of the reinvasion of the Colony by De Wet's men.
About the end of January a portion of the 2nd Regiment ILH was railed from the Eastern Transvaal to the south, and in the beginning of February detachments of ILH, South African Light Horse, and Nesbitt's Horse came in contact with the enemy about Colesberg. Between 3rd and 23rd February there was almost constant skirmishing, and many stiffly contested rearguard actions.
The enemy was driven to the west of the railway on the 16th, and having failed to cross the Lower Orange he turned east again. On the 24th Lord Kitchener was able to wire: "Plumer reports Colonel Owen, with detachments King's Dragoon Guards, Victorians, and Imperial Light Horse, captured De Wet's 15-pr and pom-pom. Enemy in full retreat and dispersing. He is being vigorously pursued. De Wet's attempt to invade Cape Colony has evidently completely failed".
In his despatch of 8th September 1901 Lord Kitchener said, "A third mobile column, which will work from Bethlehem (Orange River Colony) as a centre, has just been organised at Harrismith: it will be under the command of Brigadier-General Sir John Dartnell, and will consist of the two regiments of ILH specially equipped with a view to securing increased mobility".
In September it became apparent that Botha was about to attempt a reinvasion of Natal; and in the despatch of 8th October, after describing certain operations about the Brandwater Basin, east of Bethlehem, in which the ILH took part, Lord Kitchener mentioned that Brigadier General Dartnell, with the 2nd ILH, was ordered to Eshowe on the Zululand Border to assist in keeping the enemy out of Natal. Barber would of course, have felt quite at home in this environment.
About the middle of November both regiments were again in a big operation, but few of the enemy were found. On the 24th the 1st and 2nd Regiments "surprised Laurens' commando between Eland's River Bridge and Bethlehem, killing 2 Boers in their attack and capturing 12 prisoners". This success was followed up on the 27th by a combined force of the 1st and 2nd ILH under Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Briggs, in which 24 prisoners, 150 horses, and 800 cattle fell into our hands.
The despatch of 8th January 1902 describes further operations under General Elliot, in some of which the ILH took part. When returning to Eland's River Bridge General Dartnell was hotly attacked. "After leaving Bethlehem on the morning of 18th December the latter officer found himself opposed by a large force of Boers under De Wet, who, occupying a position along the Tyger Kloof Spruit, disputed his further advance, whist he vigorously assailed General Dartnell's flanks and rearguard; sharp fighting was maintained throughout the day.
Every successive attack was gallantly repulsed by the two regiments of the ILH until the approach from Bethlehem of the column under Major-General B. Campbell, who had established signalling communication with General Dartnell during the progress of the fight, finally compelled the enemy, about 3 pm, to beat a hurried retreat" in the direction of the Langberg. A few days after this, before dawn on the morning of the 25th December, the enemy surprised and captured the camp of a battalion of Yeomanry at Tweefontein, inflicting great loss. As soon as the disaster was known the ILH were ordered to the spot, but the Boers, who had got a good start, were not overtaken. It says a very great deal for the watchfulness and care of the ILH that they were so long in this difficult country, surrounded by a cunning enemy in great strength, but without giving that enemy a chance of doing damage by surprise.
All told the ILH was in the field until the very end of the war and Barber, who took his discharge on 16 April 1902 was with them for almost every step of the way. For his efforts he was awarded the Queens South Africa medal named to his first unit – the Colonial Scouts.
After peace was declared Barber returned to his civilian occupation and was next heard from when he tied the marital knot with 21 year old Elizabeth May Dove in the Stamford Hill Wesleyan Church on 16 June 1904. 25 years old at the time, he was a Clerk by occupation.
Fast forward to the year 1925 and Barber, described as a Merchant resident at Eshowe, compiled his Last Will & Testament.
This document was to hold good until his death at 3 Pavo Court, Bulwer Road, Durban on 23 April 1941 at the age of 62 years 10 months. He was survived by his wife and six children – Lilian Maud, Walter Kelson, Dorothy May, Edgar Francis (an adopted child), Florence Beatrice and Gladys Elaine.
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