Colonel Frederick Forsyth MC

In the trenches near Wieltje. Captain F.R.G Forsyth with periscope, August 1915 (from Great War Diaries of Brigadier Alexander Johnston)

Frederick Richard Gerrard Forsyth was born in Netherleigh, Leamington in November 1882, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Arthur Forsyth, late 5th Fusiliers, and was educated at Sandroyd School and Wellington College. He was in the Murray from 1897.

Appointed a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Scottish Rifles, in April 1901, he witnessed active service in South Africa, where he was present in operations in Cape Colony, Transvaal and Orange Free State – and injured on the occasion of the derailment of No. 12 Armoured Train for which he was awarded the Queen’s Medal & 5 clasps.

The latter incident is mentioned in a letter of recommendation for a Regular Army commission from General G. T. Pretyman:

‘I recommended him for one when I was at Kimberley. The lad was badly shaken in an armoured train accident which occurred up by Taunga some months ago. I knew all about the accident. Young Forsyth was working in the train under Grant of the Black Watch, who was one of the best captains of an armoured train we had … ’

Duly granted a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers in May 1902, Forsyth won the Royal Humane Society Medal for rescuing one of his men who got into difficulty while bathing in a river at Fenit, Co. Kerry, in July 1905 (R.H.S. Case No. 33,996).

In February 1908 after transferring to the Seaforth Highlanders as a Lieutenant he quickly witnessed further action on the North West Frontier in Mohmand country.  Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, attached as a Captain to the Army Signals Service, he served in France and Flanders from October 1914 until September 1915, including a brief stint as an ADC to the GOC 4th Division.

He was wounded several more times: in the face by machine gun fire in June 1915 and again in the head by high explosive in September of the same year and was awarded the MC

He went on to witness further action on the Salonika front from January 1916 until June 1917, latterly in the 4th Dragoon Guards, and again in France and Flanders, but was invalided after being gassed in the Ypres Salient in November 1917. In addition to his MC he had a brace of Mentions.

Forsyth was made Lieutenant-Colonel in the 51st Highland Division, Royal Signals in which capacity he served until resigning his commission in October 1928. He was however recalled on the renewal of hostilities in September 1939 and served as an Honorary Colonel in 51st/52nd Scottish Divisional Signals from November 1941.

He joined the Lodge in 1912, having been initiated into Triune Brotherhood Lodge No 2121 in Kasauli (or Hirsar) in the Punjab, India, another of those Empire-era lodges that is now part of the Indian Constitution.

Forsyth, who was a Deputy Lieutenant of the City and County of Aberdeen, died in 1962.

He was the eldest and only one of five brothers, four from the Murray, to survive in what has been described as a “real life Private Ryan” story: Arthur Roney was in the Royal Norfolks and died of Malaria from service in Nigeria in 1909. His brothers John Cusack and Samuel Sanford were Gunners, killed in action in France in September 1914 and September 1915 respectively. The youngest, Cusack Grant, who was not an OW but a Malvernian, was a Northumberland Fusilier and the “youngest and brightest commanding officer in the army” leading the 6th Bttn the Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) and was Killed in Action in September 1916. That the three brothers should all have been killed in consecutive Septembers adds a cruel twist to the story.

Frederick was an initiate of Triune Lodge No 2121 in Kasauli (or Hirsar) in the Punjab, India, another of those Empire-era lodges that is now part of the Indian Constitution. His brother John Cusack Forsyth was a member of Ubique Lodge No 1789.