A QUEEN’S SCARF

Two documentaries recently shown on television about kopjies and the part they play in the lives of wild creatures on the plains of East Africa remind me of one special kopje which I visited in 1947. It is situated in front of what was, at that time, the headquarters of the Tsetse Research Department at Old Shinyanga and is the last resting place of some remarkable men including C.F.M. Swynnertol1, C.M.G., Director of Tsetse Research and B.D. Burtt, Botanist, who were killed in a flying accident at Singida in 1938. Also Captain V.A.C. Findlay, Field Officer, who was killed by a rhinoceros whilst on duty in 1946.

One other grave in this unique little cemetery is of a person who was not a member of the Tsetse Department but died at old Shinyanga in 1940. His tombstone is inscribed “Major A.H. Du Frayer, Q.S., O.B.E.” It is the oddness of this Q.S. decoration which prompts me to set out the story, such as I have been able to glean it, from press cuttings given to me by Mrs. G. Harrison whose husband worked in the Tsetse Department for many years.

Major Du Frayer was born in Australia in 1871 and joined the New South Wales Mounted Rifles as a trooper and fought in the Boer War,

Shortly before her death Queen Victoria knitted four brown scarves, with V.R.I. embroidered in red in one corner, and these were sent to Lord Roberts in South Africa to be awarded to soldiers who had joined the forces as rankers and had first been recommended for the Victoria Cross for an outstanding act of bravery.

The scarves were broad woollen to be worn under the shoulder straps of the uniform, across the chest and buckled on the right hip, By order of King Edward VII the holders of the award were to be distinguished by the affix Q.S.; further, all troops were required to present arms and salute the scarf or its equivalent, a gold star medal, later sent by the King for more convenient occasions.

Du Frayer gained his award for rescuing a wounded comrade and carrying him on his horse to safety under heavy fire. The scarf was presented to Du Frayer in Australia, after the War, by the Duke of Cornwall (later to be King George V) to whose personal staff Du Frayer was attached.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 Du Frayer joined up as a Captain in the Machine Gun Brigade and later served in Tanganyika where he commanded a battery of ten maxims and captured two German patrols.

After a spell in the then Nyasaland Du Frayer eventually retired to Shinyanga and died there in 1940 aged 70. He had been mentioned four times in despatches and had been awarded the O.B.E. in 1919.

So the Queen’s Scarf must be one of the most remarkable decorations ever awarded to a soldier for meritorious conduct in the field of war; remarkable also for the personal, almost sacred associations with which the object is surrounded and for its extreme rarity, as it can never be repeated.

The Du Frayer Scarf was handed down to his son, Alec Du Frayer, who showed it to my son-in-law at Arusha in 1960.
J.T. Purvis

1 Comment »

  1. Tanzanian Affairs » 36 YEARS OF TANZANIAN AFFAIRS – PART 1 said,

    September 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

    […] and Kenyan Fadhili Williams who both claim to be the author of the legendary song “Malaika”. “A Queen’s Scarf” by Mr J.T.Purvis recalls how puzzlement over a grave inscription on a grave in Old Shinyanga led […]

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