b. 06/03/1890 London. d. 14/09/1960 Brighton, Sussex.
Frederick Charles Booth (1890-1960) was born at Bowen Park, Upper Holloway, London, on 6th March 1890, the son of Charles Booth. Frederick was educated at Cheltenham College where he was a boarder at Hazelwell.
After leaving college he emigrated to South Africa and joined the British South African Police (1912-18), and was attached to the Rhodesia Native Regiment. During one of the very first actions to take place in August 1914, Booth, then serving as a trooper, was involved in fighting at an outstation in Karonga, at the northern end and western shore of Lake Nyasa, German East Africa. The station included a small block of offices and residences, and was a depot for the Ross-Adam Trading Company. Having been alerted of the likelihood of an enemy attack, a British force of 500 troops together with 200 non-combatants left Fort Johnston by steamer, arriving at Karonga five days later on 22nd August.
Just over three weeks later, on 16th September, Trooper Booth dived into the Zambezi River at Kazungala in order to save the life of a troop horse which had broken loose and had been caught up in some thick reeds. This deed received a commendation in Police Orders on 3rd November 1914. In 1916 Booth, by now a Sergeant, was attached to the Rhodesia Native Regiment soon after it was formed and proceeded to British East Africa.
On 12th February 1917 in Johannes Bruck, German East Africa (now Tanzania), during an attack in thick scrub on an enemy position, Sergeant Booth went forward alone to rescue an injured man. He then rallied the poorly organised native troops and brought them to the firing line. On many previous occasions this NCO had set a splendid example of pluck, and endurance.
After being gazetted for the VC on 8th June 1917, he didn’t receive his medal until 16th January 1918 at Buckingham Palace from King George V. Following the end of the war, Frederick returned to Britain and in 1921, he married Dolores, a widow since 1919 and a lady of substantial means with an income of £10-12,000 a year from the will of her late husband. Half of the money went to her two children. Unfortunately, the marriage was a disaster. They had known each other for years, but the marriage ran into trouble. Booth struggled with alcohol and his temper, and soon Dolores filed for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, but it was dismissed. The couple agreed to separate, but in 1925, Booth planned to visit his wife’s home, The Lodge, Effingham, Dorking, Surrey, and wrote to her about the visit. She replied saying that if he did visit, steps would be taken to stop him.
On arrival, he found the house open and entered and sat in the sitting room. He was asked by three servants to leave the house, but refused until he spoke to Dolores. A police inspector was called and Dolores asked him to remove Frederick from the house. Booth was seized and during the scuffle, he knocked one of the servants down before being forced out of the house.
Later Booth accused the servants and the police inspector of assault and four of the servants were fined a shilling each. Booth himself was bound over for 12 months for using threatening behaviour towards his wife and was placed under court protection, which he felt was unfair. Now homeless, he entered Dorking Workhouse where he stayed for a week. During that time, he sought employment in London. In November 1929, he attended the VC Dinner at the House of Lords, and was involved in the preparations for the May 1937 Coronation of King George VI, with the reception of Rhodesian troops visiting London.
His estranged wife died in France in 1938 and it was discovered that after their separation she had agreed to pay him an annuity of £500 a year as long as “he led a chaste life”. In 1941, he made a claim against his wife’s estate and was awarded £6,547. After the outbreak of WWII, he volunteered for the Army and served with the Military Pioneer Corps in 1940 and was stationed in East Lancashire. He had been appointed 2nd Lieutenant in April and later left for France with the rank of Captain.
At the end of the war, he attended the VE Celebrations in London on 8th June 1946, followed by dinner at The Dorchester. In 1956, he attended the VC Centenary Celebrations in Hyde Park, and also worked as a warehouseman in Bayswater. He died in the Red Cross Convalescent Hospital for Officers in Brighton, on 14th September 1960, aged 70. He was buried in the Red Cross Plot in Bear Road Cemetery, Brighton.
In addition to his VC and DCM, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The location of his medals is currently unknown as it is believed that Booth left them to his Regiment in Salisbury (now Harare), Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but they have not been since in public since 1980.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RHODESIA NATIVE REGIMENT, HARARE, ZIMBABWE.
BURIAL PLACE: BEAR ROAD CEMETERY, BRIGHTON, SUSSEX.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
RED CROSS PLOT ZKZ-36
Booth's cleaned grave courtesy of Steve Davies (March 2021)