Frederick C. Cornell

Frederick Carruthers Cornell was born in Devon, England on 6th May 1867. As a young man he commenced his mining career in Brazil and then Mexico. Before coming to South Africa in 1901, he ran a hotel in Madeira, where he met his wife.

He made many prospecting trips in the course of his 20 years in South Africa: to Namaqualand and the Richtersveld and South West Africa (now Namibia). He searched for gold, copper and diamonds but was never fortunate enough to make a significant find.

During the First World War he served with the South African Native Labour Corps, but his asthma prevented him from active service. It was he who first advised the Government that the Germans had crossed the border into Cape territory in 1914. His services obtained for him the O.B.E. In 1917 he was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1920 he travelled to England to accept a Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society and to find a backer for further exploration of the lower reaches of the Orange River. He gave several lectures during the trip, including the Royal Geographical Society.

His tragic death resulted from an accident when he was thrown out of the sidecar of a motorcycle. He died two days later (6th March 1921) of a fractured skull.


“In Delville Wood – in Delville Wood,
The German foe in thousands lay,
And no-man’s land, with British blood,
Ran red as wine that summer’s day –
We’d sworn to take it – and we would!
God help the Bosche in Delville Wood!

“In Delville Wood – in Delville Wood.
As inch by inch the ground we gained,
With bullet, steel, and smashing butt,
We fought and fell, till few remained;
But Boer and Briton steadfast stood,
For Freedom’s sake – in Delville Wood!

“To Delville Wood, to Delville Wood,
We faced his fire, and forced our way
To where his grim machine-guns stood,
And where he fiercely turned at bay –
We’d sworn to beat him – and we would!
We’d turn him out of Delville Wood!

“In Delville Wood – in Delville Wood,
‘Midst splintered trees and shattered wrack,
From morn till night we still made good
‘Gainst shot and shell and massed attack,
We’d sworn to win, so firm we stood –
Or died like men – in Delville Wood!

“In Delville Wood – in Delville Wood,
The shattered trees are green with leaves,
And flowers bloom where cannons stood,
And rich the fields with golden sheaves –
Sleep soft ye dead, for God is good –
And peace has come to Delville Wood!”

Delville Wood in the Summer of 1916
Delville Wood in the Summer of 1916

The South African Memorial at Delville Wood
The South African Memorial at Delville Wood: The Battle of Delville Wood was a subsidiary attack of the Somme Offensive and was fought from July 15 to September 3, 1916. The cemetery located opposite the memorial contains 5,493 burials, almost two-thirds of these are unknown.