Frederick Joseph Dyer was born on 11 October, 1875 in Lambeth, Surrey, England to John Dyer (1842 – 1884) and Mary Ann Winton (1845 – 1915). In the 1881 Census he lived at 13 Hartington Road, Lambeth with his father, who at the time was working for the London and South West Railway, his mother and siblings.
On 12 Jan 1884, Frederick’s father, John was killed in a railway accident, bring struck down and run over by an engine and train in transit. Following this it would seem that Frederick’s mother was either unable to cope with 7 children, or to improve the chances of Frederick gaining employment, he with his brother Emmanuel, were sent to The Railway Servants Orphanage, Ashbourne Road, Derby.
Frederick left the Orphanage on his fourteenth birthday in 1889, and apparently moved back in with his family. He appeared in the 1891 Census living with his mother, his sisters, Alice Maud (1872 – ) and Martha (1883 – ), and his grandmother Sarah Winton (nee Tanner) (1811 – 1897) at 13 Hartington Road, Lambeth. Frederick was employed as a Railway Messenger for the London and South West Railway.
On 11 Aug 1892 at the age of 16, Frederick enlisted in the Royal West Surrey Regiment, No. 4070. His age at the time being given as 18 years 9 months, and his occupation being Brass Finisher. He served time overseas and at home, fulfilling his requirement of 12 years service and being discharged from service on 10 Aug 1904.
During his service he served from 31 March, 1893 in Malta, returning home to Britain on 14 November, 1893. On 27 September, 1897 he was appointed Lance Corporal, and was granted the pay of his appointment on 21 October, 1897.
On the 2 April, 1898 Frederick married Rosina Daborn at the Guildford Register Office, giving his occupation as “Lance Corporal, 2nd Battalion The Royal West Surrey Regiment (The Queen’s)”, and his residence as Inkerman Barracks, Woking, Surrey, England.
On 26 July, 1898 Fredrick was tried by the Regimental Sergeant Major and convicted of Insubordination, and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment. He also forfeited his Good Conduct Pay on that date. He returned to duty on 9 August, 1898 as a Private, and his Good Conduct Pay was restored on 9 July 1899.
On 20 September, 1898, Rosina gave birth to Amelia Dyer at 3 Rose Cottages, Knaphill, Woking, Surrey, England.
Frederick was transferred to the 1st Class Army Reserve on the 10 August 1899 on the expiration of his period of Army Service. He was recalled to Army Service under the Special Army Order of 7 October, 1899, and on 19 October, set sail with the 2nd Battalion The Queen’s (The Royal West Surrey Regiment) aboard the S.S. Yorkshire, arriving at Durban on or about the 14 November, 1899.
From ‘Our Regiments in South Africa, 1899 – 1902: Their record, based on dispatches, John Stirling. W. Blackwood 1903.
Before the brigade landed at Durban, Ladysmith had been invested and Estcourt threatened. No time, therefore, was lost in pushing the men to the front. The brigade formed a most important part of the Natal Field Force, taking part in practically all the engagements fought with the object of relieving Ladysmith.
About 18th November, it was seen that there was a chance of the Boers cutting in between Estcourt and Mooi River. Accordingly the 2nd West Yorks were sent to Willow Grange, about six or seven miles down the line from Estcourt; but General Hildyard thought it would be too dangerous to have the battalion there, so he brought them back, and Joubert’s men occupied a position west of Willow Grange on the 20th. General Hildyard determined not to leave them there in peace. On the 22nd he occupied Beacon Hill, half-way between Estcourt and the Boer position, with half of the 2nd Queen’s, the 2nd West Yorks, seven companies 2nd East Surrey, and the Durham Light Infantry, a naval 12 -pounder and the 7th Battery R.F.A., the whole under Colonel W. Kitchener, whose orders were to attack the Boer position on the night of the 22nd. Half of the 1st Border Regiment were to assist from Estcourt.
The 2nd West Yorks led the attack and were the last to retire, suffering most of the casualties. The East Surrey were in the second line, the Border Regiment and 2nd Queen’s being in reserve. After lying some hours in a downpour of rain our men advanced and stormed the Boer position, but the enemy had removed their guns. It was not intended to hold the hill, and while Colonel Kitchener’s troops were retiring Boer riflemen reoccupied the crest and were able to do a good deal of damage. However, Sir Redvers Buller stated that “the operations resulted in a strategical success of the greatest value.” The enemy’s force, “7000 men, led by the commandant-general in person,” was so severely handled that they returned ” at once to Colenso in a manner that was more a rout than a retreat.” Civilian critics have found fault with the handling of the reserves and artillery, and it does seem the case that neither did quite as much as they might have done to keep down the enemy’s rifle-fire during the retirement. The 7th Battery R.F.A. seems to have been kept unnecessarily far back and to have been withdrawn too quickly. The next time our artillery were to be in action they were to err on the other side, and were to be found too close to the enemy’s rifles.
Our total losses were approximately 13 men killed, 1 officer and 64 men wounded, and 1 officer, Major Hobbes, and 7 men prisoners, mostly through staying behind to look after the dead and wounded.
General Buller now devoted all attention to massing his troops about Frere and Chieveley. By 14th December this was accomplished, his force consisting of the 2nd Brigade (Hildyard’s), 4th Brigade (Lyttelton’s), 5th or Irish Brigade (Fitzroy Hart’s), 6th or Fusilier Brigade (Barton’s). The following mounted troops: 1st Royal Dragoons, 13th Hussars, South African Light Horse, Natal Carabiniers, Imperial Light Horse; Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, one company King’s Royal Rifles Mounted Infantry, one company Dublin Fusiliers Mounted Infantry. The following artillery: two (4.7) naval guns, manned by men of the Terrible and Natal Volunteers, two 12-pounder naval guns from the Tartar ‘, and ten from the Terrible. The 7th, 14th, 64th, 66th, and 73rd Batteries R.F.A. and 17th company Royal Engineers.
On 13th and 14th December the Boer positions round Colenso were shelled but no response was made. On the 15th the attack was launched and failed. General Buller in his despatch stated that he intended that Hart’s brigade on the left should cross at the Bridle Drift, up the Tugela from the Colenso Bridge ; Hildyard in the centre should cross at the bridge, Lyttelton being between Hart and Hildyard to support either as occasion required. Barton on the right to move near Hlangwane Mountain, which, although on the south or near side of the river, was known to be held by the enemy. Dundonald’s mounted troops were to seize that mountain, whence “he will enfilade the kopjes north of the bridge.”
Major-General Hart seems to have kept his troops too long in close order, at any rate before extending they came under a heavy rifle-fire and suffered severely. Notwithstanding this, they opened out and advanced towards the river in the most gallant way. No drift was found. General Buller says: ” I heard afterwards that a dam had been thrown below it and the water made too deep. Watching Hart’s advance, I saw his troops pressing on into the salient loop of the river. I saw at once that if he got there he would be under a severe cross-fire, and sent to tell him to recall them. In the interval he had become heavily engaged, and I sent two battalions of General Lyttelton’s brigade and Colonel Parson’s brigade division, R.F.A., two batteries, 64th and 73rd, to help extricate him. This they did, and subsequently, as ordered, came to the right to support the main advance.” The Irish Brigade actually reached the edge of the river. Some men, plunging in with reckless bravery, were drowned ; and it is said in some unofficial accounts that a few actually got across to find themselves in a maze of Boer trenches on the north side, but of this there is some doubt.
While the Irish Brigade was advancing on the supposed drift General Hildyard’s 2nd Brigade was moving on the bridge. According to all accounts, they were handled in the most faultless way. In his despatch General Buller says: “General Hildyard was advancing on the bridge, and as I was proceeding in that direction to superintend the attack and also ascertain what Colonel Long’s brigade division (R.F.A.), which was heavily engaged on the right, was doing, I received a message that he had been driven from his guns by superior infantry -fire. I believed at the moment that the six naval guns had shared the same fate, and that without guns it would be impossible for me to force the passage. I directed General Hildyard to divert the right of his two leading battalions to the east of the railway and direct it upon the guns, his left battalion to advance on Colenso but not to become too hotly engaged” It was difficult to restrain officers and men who did not know all that was passing in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief, and the 2nd Queen’s and 2nd Devons actually pushed into and held Colenso village. This was the farthest point the infantry were destined to reach. The general’s attention was now engrossed with Colonel Long’s artillery, which instead of a help had become a hindrance, or at least a responsibility. In General Clery’s orders occurs the sentence, “No. 1 Division, RF.A., less one battery detached to the Mounted Brigade, will move at 3.30 a.m. east of railway, and proceed under cover of the 6th Brigade to a point from which it can prepare a crossing for the 2nd Brigade (Hildyard’s). The six naval guns will accompany and act with the brigade division.” Colonel Long, acting outwith those instructions, took his field batteries away from their infantry and away from the naval guns, “and coming into action under Fort Wylie, a commanding trebly intrenched hill, at a range of 1200 yards, and I believe within 300 yards of the enemy’s rifle-pits. 9” The result was that the 14th and 66th Batteries were put out of action, the gunners being mostly killed or wounded. In his despatch General Buller says, “The men fought their guns like heroes and silenced Fort Wylie ; but the issue could never have been in doubt, and gradually they were all shot down.” Many attempts were made to withdraw the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries. Captain Schofield, RA., Captain Congreve, Rifle Brigade, Lieutenant the Hon. F. Roberts, King’s Royal Rifles, and Captain H. L. Reed of the 7th Battery with drivers did all that men could do. The severity of the fire may be gauged by the fact that Lieutenant Roberts was hit in three places, dying of his wounds; Captain Reed was wounded; with him were 13 men, 1 of whom was killed and 5 wounded; Captain Congreve was hit in four places and his horse in three places. These three and Corporal Nurse, 66th Battery, were recommended for the V.C., and Captain Schofield subsequently also got the cross. Two guns were rescued but ten were left. Fortunately the naval guns, not being quite so far forward as the 14th and 66th Batteries, were got away by hand. When the general saw that further attempts to rescue the guns would only result in loss of life he ordered a retirement. This was carried out with little molestation, the big naval guns keeping down the enemy’s shell-fire.
Towards the close of his despatch General Buller remarks: “Considering the intense heat, the conduct and bearing of the troops was excellent. I especially noticed the Royal West Surrey, the Devonshire, and the Border Regiments, but all were good.” Our losses were approximately 9 officers and 140 men killed, 45 officers and 709 men wounded, and 21 officers and 220 men missing or prisoners. The 2nd Queen’s had 2 officers wounded, 3 men killed and 88 wounded (4 of these died next day).
Frederick was one of the wounded, however, he was only slightly wounded.
On 7 September, 1900 Frederick was tried by a Field General Court Martial, and convicted, of “when acting as sentinel leaving his post”, he was sentenced to 28 days Field Imprisonment. He also forfeited his Good Conduct pay.
He was again imprisoned on 17 September, 1901, and forfeited his Good Conduct pay.
He returned from South Africa on 5 August, 1902. On 3 April, 1903 he was transferred back to the 1st Class Army Reserve, and discharged on 10 August, 1904.
Whilst in South Africa in 1902, Frederick received a ‘communication from the War Office’ that Rosina ‘had been delivered of twins’, of which he, by virtue of being posted in South Africa, could not have been the father, although the birth certificate of the surviving child, Minnie, does show Frederick to be the father. After returning to England, Frederick got Amelia ‘away from her’ (Rosina), and did not see Rosina until 1907.
Frederick joined the Metropolitan Police Force and in 1906 was living at 80 Norfolk Road, Walston, (Probably Walthamstow) and his profession was listed as Police Constable. Frederick, married again on 30 October, 1906 at the Registry Office, Mare Street, Hackney to Florence Adelaide Hall.
On 28 June, 1910 Frederick appeared at the Old Bailey, on trial for bigamy, at which time he stated he hadn’t ‘cohabited with her since going to South Africa’. He was found guilty. At the end of proceedings, Frederick was not sentenced but was ‘bound over to come up for judgement if called upon, …in the Judge’s opinion, if it were possible, the prisoner ought not to suffer as a man who has been convicted of bigamy,’. Frederick was then released on his ‘own recognisances in £10 to come up for judgement if called upon.’ In today’s terms, he was placed on a good behaviour bond of £10.
In the 1911 Census, Frederick is shown to be residing at 148 Second Avenue, Manor Park, West Ham, Essex, with his wife Florence, daughter Amelia, and son Frederick born in 1909, his occupation was shown to be Metropolitan Police Officer.
NOTE: Still to be determined Frederick’s date of death.