Thursday 4 January 1917 – We Lost 246

by greatwarliveslost

Frederick Courtney Selous

Frederick Courtney Selous

Manfred von Richthofen’s sixteenth victim is a Sopwith Pup piloted by Flight Lieutenant Allan Switzer Todd of the 8th (Naval) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.  Todd rashly attacks three Albatros biplanes, one of which is flown by von Richthofen.  While he is hotly engaged with two of the German aircraft, the Baron closes in behind his Pup and shoots it out of the air killing Todd at age 21. With this victory the Baron is awarded the Blue Max.  Flight Lieutenant Edward Rochfort Grange (Royal Naval Air Service) attacks, during one flight, three hostile machines, all of which are driven down out of control.

Three officers, including Flight Sub Lieutenant John Roland Devlin (Royal Naval Air Service) carry out a bombing attack on the Kulei Burges Bridge south of Adrianople on the Maritza River, Balkans.  They score several direct hits and considerable damage is done. Their machines are exposed to anti-aircraft, rifle and machine gun fire during the attack, and also on the return journey.

Captain Frederick Courteney Selous is killed in action near Kissaki during the Battle of Behobeho, in German East Africa at age 65.  His son will be killed in action on the Western Front one year to the day serving in the Royal Flying Corps.  Frederick Courtney Selous is an explorer, hunter, and conservationist famous for his exploits in Southern Africa. His real-life adventures inspire ‘Sir’ H. Rider Haggard to create the fictional Allan Quartermain character. During the Great War Selous participates in the fighting in East Africa as a Captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers, a unit he joins when he is 64 years of age. He is killed by a German sniper a minor engagement at Behobeho where his troops are trying to encircle a detachment of Germans under the command of General Paul von Lettow Vorbeck, along banks of the Rufiji.

Selous is one of the first conservationists. In none of his expeditions is his object the making of a big bag, but as a hunter-naturalist and slayer of great game he ranks with the most famous of the world’s sportsmen.  In leading so many hunting expeditions, Selous notes over time how the impact of European hunters is leading to a significant reduction in the amount of game available in Africa. In 1881 he returned to Britain for a while, saying;

Every year elephants were becoming scarcer and wilder south of the Zambezi, so that it had become impossible to make a living by hunting at all.

The Selous Game Reserve in southeastern Tanzania is a hunting reserve named in his honor. Establish in 1922, it covers an area of more than 17,000 square miles along the rivers Kilombero, Ruaha, and Rufiji. The area first becomes a hunting reserve in 1905, although it is rarely visited by humans due to the strong presence of the Tsetse fly. In 1982 it will designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature. He is killed within the confines of today’s reserve.  A simple concrete sarcophagus with a small brass plate indicates the spot where he falls.

Selous is a good friend of Theodore Roosevelt.  He was born in London, and educated at Rugby and in Germany.  His love for natural history leads him to resolve to study the ways of wild animals in their native habitats.  Going to South Africa when he is nineteen, he travels from the Cape of Good Hope to Matabeleland, reaching it in early in 1872, and is granted permission by Lobengula to shoot game anywhere in his dominions.

From then until 1890, with a few brief intervals spent in England, Selous hunts and explores over the then little-known regions north of the Transvaal and south of the Congo basin, shooting elephants, and collecting specimens of all kinds for museums and private collections. His travels add largely to the knowledge of the country now known as Zimbabwe. He makes valuable ethnological investigations, and throughout his wanderings – often among people who have never seen a white man – he maintains cordial relations with the chiefs and tribes, winning their confidence and esteem, notably in the case of Lobengula.  In 1890 Selous enters the service of the British South Africa Company, acting as guide to the pioneer expedition to Mashonaland. Over 400 miles of road are constructed through a country of forest, mountain and swamp, and in two and a half months Selous takes the column safely to its destination. He then goes east to Manica, concluding arrangements there which bring the country under British control. Coming to England in December 1892, he is awarded the Founder’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of his extensive explorations and surveys, of which he gives a summary in “Twenty Years in Zambesia”.

He returned to Africa to take part in the First Matabele War (1893), being wounded during the advance on Bulawayo. While back in England he marries, but in March 1896 settles with his wife on an estate in Matabeleland when the Second Matabele War breaks out.  He takes a prominent part in the fighting which follows, serving as a leader in the Bulawayo Field Force, and publishes an account of the campaign entitled Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia (1896).

Following the consolidation of white rule in Rhodesia, Selous settles in England. He continues, however, to make shooting and hunting expeditions, visiting Asia Minor, Newfoundland, the Canadian Rockies and other parts of the world.  Contrary to popular belief, while Selous was a member of this expedition from time to time and helped organize the logistics of the safari Selous did not lead Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 expedition to British East Africa, the Congo and Egypt.  This is possibly the largest safari ever, with a retinue of some 300 people. The official purpose of the expedition was to collect specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. During the trip, Roosevelt and his son Kermit shot over 500 animals. Roosevelt wrote of Selous;

Mr. Selous is the last of the big game hunters of Southern Africa; the last of the mighty hunters whose experience lay in the greatest hunting ground which this world has seen since civilized man has appeared herein.

Today’s losses include:

  • The 16th victim of the Red Baron
  • A man whose son will be killed one year from today
  • An International Explorer, hunter and African Conservationist
  • A good friend of Theodore Roosevelt
  • A battalion commander
  • The brother of a General
  • A man whose brother lost his life in the Great War
  • An Australian Rules footballer
  • A member of the Melbourne Cricket Club
  • The son of a member of the clergy
  • A family that will lose four sons in the Great War
  • A crewman who survived the sinking of S S Lusitania

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Allan William Leane (commanding 28th Australian Infantry) is killed by shrapnel at Delville Wood at age 44. He is the brother of Brigadier General Leane and has another brother who will be killed in April 1917.
  • Lieutenant Bruce Moses Farquhar Sloss (Australian Machine Gun Company) is killed instantly, behind the lines near Armentières, when a German shell lands near him, exploding and showering him with white-hot shrapnel at age 27. He is a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and 1911 Champion of the Australian Colony and is an Australian rules footballer who played as a follower with Essendon and South Melbourne in the Victorian Football League and with Brighton in the Victorian Football Association. When just 18, Sloss was invited to train with Essendon. He played his first match in round 2 of the 1907 season against Melbourne. He played one more senior match for Essendon that year, against Geelong, in round 8; and he played his third and last senior game for Essendon in round 2 of the 1908 season. Having left Essendon after that second round match he went to the VFA Club, Brighton. He played for Brighton for the remainder of the 1908 season, the entire 1909 season, and the first half of the 1910 season. In his last VFL match, the 1914 Grand Final against Carlton – which Carlton won 6.9 (45) to an inaccurate South Melbourne’s 4.15 (39) – Sloss ran himself into the ground, and nearly won the game off his own boot; and, despite South Melbourne losing, many considered Sloss to be the best player on the ground. Sloss was employed as a maintenance engineer at a jam factory. He invented (and patented) a method for cutting melons into cubes that involved revolving circular wheels (instead of fixed knife blades) which prevented the fruit being reduced to a pulp. An article in The Recorder reported that his invention had “revolutionized the jam-making industry”. Sloss enlisted in 1915, and is trained as a machine-gun officer. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 17 January, 1916, and is assigned to the unit in which his oldest brother Roy also serves. The Unit arrives in England in July 1916. While the Unit is in camp (on 3 September), Sloss is promoted to Lieutenant. On Saturday 28 October 1916, an Australian Rules football match is held between two teams of Australian servicemen in aid of the British and French Red Cross at Queen’s Club, West Kensington. Sloss is the captain of the victorious Third Australian Divisional Team which beat the Australian Training Units team.
  • Second Lieutenant William Maberly Fatt (Royal Flying Corps) is accidentally killed at home when he falls from his plane while training at age 24. He is the son of the Reverend Frederick Helling Fatt.
  • Private Noel Finucane (Liverpool Regiment) is killed in action at age 26. He was a crewman on the Lusitania when she was sunk and later served on the Aquitania until the evacuation of Gallipoli.
  • Private James Davidson (Gordon Highlanders) is killed at age 23. He is the first of four brothers who are killed this year.