Lieutenant Frederick William Stephens


Frederick William Stephens was born at St Winnow, Cornwall, on 2 October 1876, son of farmer Jacob Littleton Stephens and his wife Elizabeth Jane (nee Sanders).

As a young man he travelled to South Africa and on 17 December 1896, at the age of 20, enlisted in the 3rd Regiment, South African Mounted Rifles (No.1011). He remained with the regiment for the next twenty years, rising to the rank of regimental sergeant-major.

He saw action in the Boer War from 1899 to 1902 and in the Natal and Native Rebellion of 1906, and carried the scars to prove it – one on the left side of the head, and three assegai wounds to his back and buttocks. Following the declaration of war in August 1914 he took part in military operations in South Africa and German South-West Africa.

At the end of 1916 Stephens travelled to England for officer training, send direct by the officer commanding the Reserve Brigade, South African Infantry. He reported for duty at the No.1 Cavalry Cadet Squadron, Netheravon, on 6 December.

On 17 February 1917 Stephens was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 1st Reserve Cavalry Regiment at the Curragh. On 27 March he embarked for France, joining the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment in the field at Boeschepe ten days later. He was posted to B Squadron.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and most of its officers and men were transferred to the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Stephens was posted to the battalion, but a medical board on 24 September found him physically unfit for frontline service. He was classified as 'PB' – Permanent Base.

On 2 November 1917 Stephens was transferred to the Labour Corps and soon after was posted to the Chinese Labour Depot at Boulogne. He joined 108 Company in the field on 23 November.

From 3 May to 2 August 1918 he commanded a company of the Chinese Labour Corps, with the rank of acting captain. He was promoted to lieutenant on 17 August.

Stephens was released from service on 22 August 1919. He relinquished his commission on 20 November 1920.

After the war he returned to South Africa.