" Fitzroy H S Sewell was born in about 1843, the youngest son of General Sir William Sewell KCB (vide infra). He was commissioned in the Ceylon Rifles in 1863 and later transferred to the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment. He served in this Regiment both in India and in Britain.
Sewell came to Natal in 1870 and, together with Cecil Rhodes, farmed cotton in the Umkomaas valley, near Mid-Illovo. He moved to Pietermaritzburg and, on 15/12/1873, the Lieutenant-Governor appointed him Staff Clerk in the Volunteer Department on the nomination of the Inspector of Volunteers. His salary was £100 per annum. He became a clerk in the Treasury Department in 1876.
He was clearly well acquainted with Major (later Major-General Sir John) Dartnell, another veteran of army service in India, who had founded the Natal Mounted Police (NMP) in 1874. Sewell’s first formal association with the NMP came on 30/6/1875, when Major Dartnell, Commandant of the NMP and Volunteers, requested that Sewell be authorized to act for him during his absence from Pietermaritzburg on inspection duty. Sewell applied for extra pay while acting for Dartnell, but this was refused.
During the Zulu War in 1879, Sewell was Acting Staff Officer in the Volunteer Department and served under Colonel C P H Mitchell at the base of operations, for which he was awarded the S A Medal 1877-79, without clasp (The Nongqai 1909/10: 430).
Sewell was transferred from the Civil Service to the NMP as Pay and Quartermaster in April 1880, with the rank of Sub-Inspector on appointment. In his capacity as Paymaster he was authorized to sign all “Treasury Vouchers, receipts, cheques, paysheets etc connected with the Mounted Police”. He was required to enter into a “fresh Bond for the performance of his duties” as Pay and Quartermaster in 1884.
When the NMP and other law-enforcement agencies in Natal were amalgamated into the Natal Police (NP) in 1894, Sewell was appointed Paymaster of the NP with the rank of Inspector. Hurford (1937: 524) writing of life in the NP during the 1890’s compared Sewell with Commissioner Dartnell as follows:
“Paymaster Sewell was a different type, distinctly of the clerical branch, his face untanned and showing pale by contrast with the sunburnt and weather beaten faces around.”
Sewell served in the NP throughout the Anglo-Boer War and was awarded the QSA with two clasps (Natal, South Africa 1901).
Sewell, like most other members of the NP, was not awarded the South Africa 1902 clasp (Medal Roll WO 100/261 dated 9/7/1908), evidently because the campaign in Natal was over by 1902 and the NP were then considered to be not on active service. This is curiously inconsistent with an earlier Supplementary Roll (dated 14/1/1907), which was compiled mainly to accommodate those men who had joined the NP too late to qualify for either the Natal or battle clasps, since these men were awarded both date clasps. The inconsistency is compounded by the fact that a few men on the 14/1/1907 Roll (e.g. 1929 Trooper O W Pritchard), who were inadvertently omitted from the original Roll dated 8/9/1901, received the QSA with Natal clasp and both date clasps. These men thus gained an extra clasp simply because of their chance omission from the first Roll.
Sewell retired on 15/3/1904 after 23 years with the NMP and NP, and he left Natal for England on 10/5/1905. He died there on 2/1/1910 after a 15 month illness. His obituary in The Nongqai (1909/10: 430) recorded “A pathetic coincidence was that on the very day of his funeral, on the 5th January, his elder brother, General Fane Sewell, late of the Hyderabad Contingent, also died.”
His obituary further recorded that Sewell had married twice:
“(1) Miss Ottley, daughter of the late Canon Ottley, of Ripon, and niece of Bishop Bickersteth, and (2) Miss Moore, of Pietermaritzburg.”
In March 1910, Sewell’s widow requested financial assistance from the Premier of Natal, the Right Honourable (later Sir) Frederick Moor. She cited the expenses incurred during her husband’s “long illness” and his “30 years of faithful service to the Colony”, and requested “a year’s pension as an act of grace”. Not even the exaggeration of his length of service helped and her request for assistance was refused. In typical Treasury fashion it was coldly stated that, “Mr Sewell had at the time of his death already drawn pension in excess of any amount which would otherwise have been awarded to his widow.” In addition, “At the time the late Mr. F.H.S. Sewell was retired he was a widower. He re-married subsequently.”, thereby evidently compounding the folly of his longevity in the eyes of the Treasury. It seems that accountants of a century ago were as inhumane as the modern representatives of the profession.
Hurford, E. 1937. Police life in S.A. in the Nineties. The Nongqai June 1937:
523 – 538.
Medal Rolls under WO 100 for the QSA to the Natal :Police. National Archives,
Obituary. The Nongqai 1909/10.
Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository of the National Archives of South Africa –
Various papers indexed under ‘Natal Mounted Police’, ‘Natal Police’ and
GENERAL SIR WILLIAM HENRY SEWELL KCB
Source: Hart’s Army List 1862
Ensign: 27 March 1806
Lieutenant: 26 February 1807
Captain: 12 March 1812
Major: 3 March 1814
Lieutenant-Colonel: 21 June 1817
Colonel: 10 January 1837
Major-General: 9 November 1846
Lieutenant-General: 20 June 1854
General: 10 November 1861
Colonel of 79th Foot: 24 March 1854
Sir William Sewell was appointed Aide de Camp to General Beresford, and proceeded with the expedition that left England in 1807. Joined the Duke of Wellington’s army in Portugal in 1808. Was present with Sir John Moore’s army in its advance and in its retreat to Corunna. Was with the Duke’s Head Quarters through the Peninsular war as Aide de Camp to Lord Beresford, and was present at the battles of Corunna, Talavera (actions on the Coa and Agueda, with the Light Division), Busaco, the sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo, Badajoz, and St. Sebastian, battles of the Nivelle, Nive, before Bayonne (10th, 11th and 13th Dec.), Orthes, and Toulouse, besides Cavalry affairs and skirmishes. Had six horses killed and wounded under him in general actions. Has received the War Medal with ten Clasps. Served twenty-eight years in India."
Source: Anglo Boerwar.