Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Rhodes, Francis William

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1542087Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 3 — Rhodes, Francis William1912William Benjamin Owen

RHODES, FRANCIS WILLIAM (1851–1905), colonel, elder brother of Cecil John Rhodes [see above], born on 9 April 1851 at Bishop Stortford, entered Eton in 1865, where he was in the army class and in the cricket elevens of 1869 and 1870. After passing through Sandhurst he was gazetted lieutenant of the 1st royal dragoons in April 1873. He saw service in the Sudan as a member of the staff in 1884, and was present at the battles of El Teb and Tamai. He was mentioned in despatches, received the medal with clasp and bronze star, and was promoted captain in Oct. 1884. He accompanied the Nile expedition in 1884-5 for the relief of Khartoum as aide-de-camp to Sir Herbert Stewart [q. v.], and distinguished himself at the battles of Abu Klea and El Gubat, where his horse was shot under him. He was mentioned in despatches, and received two clasps and the brevet of major and lieutenant-colonel (Sept. 1885). Stewart described Rhodes as the best A.D.C. a general could have. He next served in the Sudan expedition of 1888, and was present at the action of Gemaiza (20 Dec.); he was again mentioned in despatches, and received the clasp and the order of the Medjidie (3rd class). He was made colonel in Sept. 1889. From 1890 to 1893 he was military secretary to his schoolfellow. Lord Harris, governor of Bombay; he received the D.S.O. in 1891, and in 1893 accompanied as chief of staff the mission of Sir Gerald Herbert Portal [q. v.] to Uganda. On this perilous journey Rhodes nearly succumbed to blackwater fever. On his recovery he went out in 1894 to the South African territory of Rhodesia, which, through his brother Cecil's exertions, had just been placed under the control of the newly incorporated British South Africa Company. He was made military member of the council of four in the new government of Matabeleland, of which Dr. L. S. Jameson was first administrator (18 July 1894). In Dr. Jameson's absence in Europe he acted as administrator that year. Next year he went to Johannesburg as representative of the Consolidated Goldfields, of which his brother was a director. In Sept. 1895 he was at Ramoutsa negotiating on behalf of his brother for the cession of native territory close to the Transvaal border, which soon came under the jurisdiction of the British South Africa Company (Sir Lewis Michell, Life of Cecil Rhodes, 1910, i. 197). As one of the members of the Johannesburg reform movement for the protection of the Uitlanders he was one of the five signatories of the undated letter (Nov. 1895) to Dr. Jameson which ostensibly led to the Jameson raid. On the failure of the raid, he was arrested by the Boer government, tried for high treason, and sentenced to death (April 1896). The sentence was soon commuted to fifteen years' imprisonment. After being in prison in Pretoria until June, Rhodes and his companions were released on payment of a fine of 25,000l. each and on promising to abstain from politics for fifteen years. This latter condition Rhodes alone of the ringleaders refused to accept, and he was banished from the Transvaal. For his encouragement of the Raid, Rhodes was placed on the army retired list. In July he joined his brother Cecil in the war in Matabeleland.

In 1898 he went with General Kitchener's Nile expedition as war correspondent to 'The Times,' and was wounded at the battle of Omdurman. For his services in that campaign his name was restored to the active list (Sept. 1898).

On the outbreak of the war in South Africa in 1899 Rhodes went thither and served in the early battles in Natal. He was besieged in Ladysmith, where by his optimism and geniality he helped to keep his companions in good spirits (L. S. Ameby, The War in South Africa, iii. 175). In the fight on Wagon Hill (5-6 Jan. 1900) Rhodes displayed great courage, and took Lord Ava, who was mortally wounded, out of fire into cover (ibid. iii. 194). In May following he was intelligence officer with the flying column under Brigadier-general Bryan Thomas Mahon, which hurried to the relief of Mafeking (4-17 May 1900) (ibid. iv. 222). For his services in the war he was created a military C.B. In Jan. 1903 he was Lord Kitchener's guest at the Durbar at Delhi. In the same year he retired from the army, and was till his death managing director of the African transcontinental telegraph company. Rhodes had a great knowledge of the continent of Africa, and aided with his experience of the Sudan Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill in preparing his 'The River War' (1899; new edit., by Rhodes, 1902). He also contributed an introduction and photographs to 'From the Cape to the Zambesi' (1905), by G. T. Hutchinson, whom he accompanied in that year to the Zambesi. The strain of this journey brought on the fatal illness of which he died, unmarried, at his brother's residence, Groote Schuur, Capetown, on 21 Sept. 1905. His body was brought to England for interment at Dalham, Suffolk. A memorial tablet was placed by his friends in Eton College chapel in October 1906, and prizes for geography have been founded at Eton in his memory.

[The Times, 22 Sept. 1905; Broad Arrow, 23 Sept. 1905; Anglo- African Who's Who, 1905; Official Army List; Amery, Hist. War in South Africa, esp. i. 163 seq. (portrait); Sir Lewis Michell, Life of Cecil J. Rhodes, 1910; Eton School Lists.]

W. B. O.