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From Bosham to the Boer War

From Farming to Fighting

Frederick James Kearvell


Frederick James Kearvell was born in Bosham on 30 January 1876. His mother was unmarried, 27 year old Charlotte Kearvell, the eldest of the ten children of Wheelwright Carpenter Edward Kearvell and his wife, Ellen Ansell. Amongst Frederick's five uncles was Edward Kearvell, who emigrated to Australia in the early 1890s.


In the year following Frederick's birth his mother married widower James Levett, an Agricultural Labourer from West Ashling Funtington Sussex. They have a ready-made family as James has two children from his first marriage, William (10) and Beatrice (7). By the time of the 1881 Census a further two children, Harry (2) and Stephen (2m), have been born. At this time Frederick still retains his Kearvell surname alongside his Levett half-siblings.


By the next Census in 1891 Charlotte is widowed and working as a Charwoman to raise the family which now includes a further two children, Charlotte (7) and Annie (5). Frederick is now aged 15 and working as an Agricultural Labourer. An occupation he has no doubt been following for the past 2 or 3 years to augment the family income. Interestingly, in this Census he is shown using the surname of his step-father. A surname he is to use for the rest of his short life.


At some time later in the 1890s, Frederick enlists in the Army. Whether this was as a result of the "call to arms" at the commencement of the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902) or a desire to 'see the world' ( inspired by his uncle Edward who had emigrated to the other side of the world a few years earlier?), we do not know.


He joins the Royal Field Artillery and serves with the 67th Battery. In South Africa the 67th Battery is involved in the first battle at Talana Hill in October 1899. Further action follows at the Defence of Ladysmith in early 1900 but, sadly, Frederick was to die of enteric fever at Ladysmith on 5 February 1900. Boer War casualty lists show that Frederick James Levett was Gunner 8524 of the 67th Battery, Royal Field Artillery buried at Intombi Camp Cemetery, Ladysmith. No individual grave marker survives but his name is on the cemetery memorial. Frederick would have received the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps for the actions at Talana and Ladysmith.


Over 100 years later it is difficult to appreciate how Frederick, from the peaceful coastal farming community of West Sussex, would have felt in this cruel, bitter and savage war. To help understand please 'Click' on his photo above and this will link you to an Anglo-Boer War website.

Queens South Africa Medal with Talana and

Ladysmith clasps

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