James Phillip Archbell was born on the 13th October 1853, at Pietermaritzburg. He studied at the High School during the years 1863 and 1864, and twice obtained the Good-Fellowship Prize by the
vote of his schoolfellows. After leaving school, he first became a clerk in Pietermaritzburg, and subsequently engaged in agricultural pursuits. He volunteered as a non- commissioned officer in the Natal Native Contingent, raised for the defence of the Colony during the Zulu war. As Colour-Sergeant of the 1st Native Contingent, he died at
Isandhlwana, 22nd January 1879.