"Frederick Dart Rathbone Inspector, Native Labour Corps – Anglo Boer War-Queens South Africa Medal – no clasp.
Frederick Rathbone, the “Dart” in the name seems to have been dropped from an early age, was born on the island of Mauritius on 6 March 1844 and baptised in Port Louis, the capital. The second son by his first wife of Ephraim Frederick Rathbone and Josephine Emilie Modet. Ephraim was a character in his own right who had spent about 16 years in Mauritius mastering the intricacies of sugar cane planting before emigrating to Natal, South Africa on the Rosebud in 1848 where he threw his lot in with one of the pioneers of the Sugar Industry, Edmund Morewood.
It is not known what happened to Frederick’s mother but, after giving birth to him and older brother Thomas Brittania in Mauritius, she might well have passed away.
Ephraim went on to marry Anne Williamson who bore him a further nine children (it is rumoured that there are another three illegitimate offspring but this cannot be verified) The quirky Ephraim gave the names of ships to all, bar one, of his children:
John Mexican, Harriet Ponguin, Caractacus Reliance, Boadicia Industria, Alfred Legionier, Flora Blaide Natalia, Ann Alicia Chieftan, Constance Rosamund and Elizabeth Edith.
Having made their home in Natal, at the time a colony and settlement in its very infancy, the Rathbones settled down to farming and trading pursuits. Old man Rathbone was trading in the Zulu country by 1850 and had become friendly with the Zulu Monarch, Mpande, who gave him land in 1852 which he promptly named “Mauritius”. Rathbone was never officially given transfer to the land and, after Mpande’s death his son Cetewayo fell out with him forcing him to leave his farm in 1862.
Frederick Rathbone joined the Greytown Mounted Rifles in the Umvoti area in October 1869 at the age of 25 and, the records show, was issued with an Enfield rifle. Being surrounded on all sides by what were sometimes perceived as hostile Zulu savages, almost every able bodied man or youth was a member of some outfit or other, primarily pieced together for protection should the need arise.
In 1878 as preparations were being made for the Zulu War, Frederick and his brother Thomas were recommended by Col. Evelyn Wood to Lt. Col. John North Crealock since they both spoke Zulu and Dutch fluently and knew Zululand well. The Natal Mounted Rifles history has, on page 21, the muster roll for the Victoria Mounted Rifles and gives, as members who responded to the mobilisation call, the name of Trooper F. Rathbone. If this were he, he certainly never received a medal for his efforts according to the various rolls issued in this connection.
Later that year (1879) Rathbone was a storekeeper in the Victoria (now known as Tongaat) area.
On 8 May 1883 he married Sarah Warren the youngest daughter of Charles Warren of Mauritius. Life for Rathbone continued as usual. By this time, or shortly thereafter, he took a partner, Horning, into the business and the trading name became Rathbone and Horning.
With the advent of the Anglo Boer War in October 1899, Rathbone was ideally suited to play an active part. Although deemed possibly too old for a combatant role, his knowledge of Zulu and of the terrain around Zululand, made him almost indispensable to the British forces who were reliant on the manual labour of thousands of Zulu men to perform the many arduous functions of an army on the march. Soldiering was to be left up to the soldiers whilst menial tasks could be performed by an almost endless supply of cheap labour.
Rathbone joined the Native Labour Corps and was made an Inspector of that outfit with no. 460. In the parlance of those days this would have been equivalent to the most junior officer’s rank.
The N.L.C. itself was created and administered by the Public Works Department under the auspices of the A.S.C. and came into existence in December 1899. Initially the labour employed would be - nominally at least – voluntary and, within a short period over 1000 men had been recruited, supplied largely by chief Ncwadi and indirectly by the magistrates in Weenen and Estcourt.
The men were usually engaged for three months and paid 40s a month, double the rate for isibalo labour. A small number of Indians were also enlisted, some of whom acted as overseers and were paid 60s a month. As the war progressed the corps gradually became dispersed throughout Northern Natal, the Orange River Colony and the south eastern Transvaal.
For his efforts Rathbone was awarded the Queens South Africa Medal issued off the Director of Supplies, Native Labour Corps roll. The medal was issued on 22 December 1905 but returned and re-issued on 11 August 1909.
Post war Rathbone resumed life as a storekeeper in Tongaat. He was next heard from in 1907 when he wrote to the Colonial Secretary of Natal on 7th August as follows:
“Sir, I beg to present the enclosed petition for your honourable consideration. Both the European and Indian population have felt the want of a J.P. (Justice of the Peace) in the village, the two J.P’s in the vicinity are generally away, one attending to his duties on the Land Board and the other on private business, so that the inhabitants are put to great inconvenience.
The petition referred to read as follows and was signed by 31 people:
“We the undersigned residents of Tongaat are experiencing great difficulty in getting documents signed before a J.P. and have been for some time past as both of the Officials who fill this capacity are very rarely to be found and are practically non-residents. We suggest that Mr. Edwin A. Woolbridge who is a suitable person and a permanent resident be appointed a Justice of the Peace for the convenience of local residents.”
Both the letter and petition were responded to by the Under Secretary who replied that “I cannot recommend this application” Rathbone and Co. were to have some relief however, with the Under Secretary writing on 26th August 1907 that “I have the honour to inform you that His Excellency the Administrator has been pleased to appoint MR. J.J. Chapman, the Station Master at Tongaat, to be a Commissioner of Oaths, and it is considered that this will meet all requirements”
Frederick Rathbone passed away at the age of 83 years 3 months at his residence in Tongaat in the Inanda Magistracy on 2 June 1927. He was recorded as a Retired Farmer on his Death Notice and was survived by his wife, Sarah and children Charles Frederick Rathbone, Natalie Laura Ladlau, Mabel Lucy Rathbone and Flora Mildred Franks.
A man of considerable property he bequeathed a number of farms and land valued at £10 846.00.
Source: Anglo Boerwar.com