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Lieutenant Robert Francis Vetch, 2nd Battalion, 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
The pencilled identification of Vetch to the reverse, possibly made by Vetch himself.
(John Young Collection.)
Robert Francis Vetch was commissioned as an Ensign by purchase 25th September 1867, in the 2nd Battalion, 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment. Lieutenant by purchase 3rd September 1870. He served in the Cape, Natal and Mauritius with his battalion. Contrary to the conclusions of some Vetch never served in the Lancashire Fusiliers as that regiment was only created in 1881 under the Army Reforms of that year.
Whilst attending a course at Hythe Vetch got into a spot of bother. Here’s the press report:
The names of the officers whose conduct is now being investigated by a court of inquiry at Shorncliffe Lieutenant Ricketts, of the 56th Regiment, and Lieutenant Vetch, of the 2d [sic.] Battalion 20th Regiment. Lieutenant Vetch and some others were reported by Lieutenant Ricketts for entering his room and destroying his property. In revenge Lieutenant Vetch enticed Lieutenant Ricketts at night on to one of the grass plots on the principal promenade at Folkestone and attacked him. A fight, which lasted through 12 rounds, then ensued, and Lieutenant Ricketts, who had not from an injury recovered the full use of one of his hands, got much the worst of the fight. Both officers were going through a course of rifle instruction at Hythe. A crowd of people were present at the disgraceful scene, and several other officers from Hythe formed a ring.Morning Post
, 30th September 1875.
The findings of the Court of Inquiry were published and here is Vetch’s punishment:
…Lieutenant Vetch, of the 2nd Battalion, 20th Regiment, after being addressed in the severest terms, was informed that he might proceed on leave at once, until gazetted out, her [sic.] Majesty having no further occasion for his services. …The Star
, 19th October 1875.The London Gazette
of 22nd October 1875 duly recorded that Lieutenant Robert Francis Vetch was to be dismissed from the Army on 23rd October.
So where does a disgraced former officer go? To Natal where else.
What does he do there, according to the National Archives of South Africa he would become embroiled in a bankruptcy matter with a certain William Shepstone. He would also marry Eliza Harding, the daughter of Natal’s Chief Justice, a marriage which would end in divorce and a further bankruptcy case.The Times of Natal
of 25th November 1878 records:
The following names of gentlemen selected for appointment as Officers, to serve under Officer Commanding Her Majesty’s Forces in South Africa, have received the approval of His Excellency the High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief:-
…As Captains…R. F. Vetch, Esq.
Vetch was appointed to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, Natal Native Contingent, as part of Durnford’s No. 2 Column. Luckily for Vetch he appears to have remained at Kranz Kop under Bengough’s command.
On 24th May 1879, Vetch transferred from the N.N.C. to Shepstone’s Native Horse. Serving under the command of an officer who he had been involved in a civil court case only months before.
At the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War, Vetch would serve in the reformed Baker’s Horse in the campaign against Sekhukhune in the northern Transvaal.