A Southern Rhodesian Hero
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
Serjeant Frederick Charles Booth VC DCM
British South Africa Police attached to The Rhodesia African Regiment
Frederick Booth was serving in the British South Africa Police (Zimbabwe’s Police Force before Independence) when during World War I the Rhodesia Native Regiment (RNR) was formed in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Frederick was posted into the RNR and went on operations with his African soldiers into southern German East Africa (GEA), now Tanzania.
Frederick soon displayed bravery and military prowess on the battlefield and he was awarded an Imperial Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) with the citation:
For conspicuous gallantry on many occasions. He showed a splendid example of courage and good leadership, inspiring confidence in his men. He twice carried despatches through the enemy lines.
But this was only the start of Frederick’s rise to fame. On the 12th February 1917 at Johannes Bruck, near Songea in GEA, he was again fighting against German units in thick bush when he realised that one of his badly wounded Askari needed help quickly. The acts of bravery that followed resulted in the Askari being rescued and Frederick receiving the highest British gallantry award – the Victoria Cross.
His citation read:
For most conspicuous bravery during an attack, in thick bush, on the enemy position.
Under very heavy rifle fire, Serjeant Booth went forward alone and brought in a man who was dangerously wounded. Later, he rallied native troops who were badly disorganised and brought them to the firing line.
This Non-Commissioned Officer has on many previous occasions displayed the greatest bravery, coolness and resource in action, and has set a splendid example of pluck, endurance and determination.
This was the only Victoria Cross awarded to local forces in the East Africa Campaign of World War I.
The Rhodesia Native Regiment continued fighting effectively until the end of the war and two African soldiers were awarded the Military Medal for acts of gallantry – one of these acts was when an African Corporal went out under fire and rescued a wounded Serjeant named Frederick. C. Booth VC DCM! (This Corporal will be the subject of a separate posting on this site.)