Skip to content ↓

View entry

Back to search results

Name: BUTLER, Stephen Seymour 'Sammy' CB, CMG, DSO (Major-General)

image of individual

Nee: son of Rev. George Hew Butler

Birth Date: 6.10.1880 Berkhamstead

Death Date: 16.7.1964 Southampton

First Date: 1905

Profession: KAR

Married: In Okehampton 1913 Phyllis Margaret Vallancy Critchley-Salmonson b. 1889 Fermoy, d. 22 Dec 1963 Hambledon

Children: Hew Dacres George (1922)

Book Reference: Rhino Link 17, Drumkey, EAHB 1906, DSO, Nicholls, North, EAHB 1907

War Service: Major South Staffordshire Regt.

School: Winchester

General Information:

Rhino Link 17 - 'Bush Whacking and Big Game Safaris in BEA 1905-07' ' ........ my bank account and my heart being both the worse for wear, I applied for the WAFF or KAR and was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the King's African Rifles in BEA, (as Kenya was then called) in August 1905. ...... My ship was a funny old German tub called the "Koenig" on which were lots of German officers going out to German East Africa. ........ On the whole I was not sorry to see Kilindini, a most beautiful harbour, where I was met by Mr Wilson, the Government representative, and taken up to the club at Mombasa. In those days everyone in Mombasa went everywhere by trolley, which had a green hood and was pushed by a couple of Swahilis (natives) on narrow railway lines. Everyone had a trolley and natives to push it and lines up to their houses. The Club I found comfortable and in a most attractive setting. After about 3 days I went up to Nairobi to join the 3rd KAR ....... The military lines to which I was taken on arrival at Nairobi were, and I believe still are, upon the high ground above the town, which was then a tin town. A certain number of shops were doing good business, the principal one being, as far as I can remember, Souza Junior & Dias (Goanese). The Europeans' houses were up on the high ground, where were also the club and Government offices. The British civilians lived in well-built brick bungalows. The military lines were of corrugated iron, but there was a good mess. .......... There was an excellent mess room and ante-room and the cuisine was first class. On mess nights the band played. Comfortable and well run though everything was, it was not what I came out to Africa for as I was longing for the "wide and open spaces". However, I was in luck, as shortly after my arrival I was posted to a company of the regiment up the line at a place not far from Lake Victoria Nyanza called Kibigori at the foot of the Mau escarpment and the Nandi country. I was lucky in being posted to a Sudanese company. This sounds rather peculiar in East Africa, but I must explain. After the battle of Omdurman there were some thousands of Dervish prisoners. Troops were needed for the KAR in BEA and so Lt. Col. Harrison was sent up to Khartoum and enlisted some hundreds of Dervish warriors, and stouter-hearted soldiers could never be found. As one Sudanese soldier once said "Any war is better than no war". They were completely fearless and wonderfully loyal chaps. I was awfully fond of my old warriors. I joined the company just in time to take part in the expedition against the Nandi tribe, which had been beating up friendly tribes and generally defying the Government. They were a large and very war-like tribe living in the salubrious highlands. ........... (more on Nandi expedition) .......... I wrote home "This is a ripping life and I love it". I was then only 25 years old. ......... The expedition against the Nandi tribe went on for several months and eventually they gave in and were put into a specially arranged reserve. A large number of their cattle were captured and casualties inflicted on them. ................ The native levies (Masai) were a picturesque looking lot with their head dresses (sometimes of lions' manes) spears and shields, but oh! how they smelt of the red mud and fat with which they covered themselves. They are supposed to be such fearless warriors but, in those days, we found there was more brave talk than brave deeds and they were pretty scared of the Nandi. In my letter to my father ........ "and now an awful affront and insult to the Government and its officials by the white colonists headed by a man called Grogan, a Wykehamist, (the man who walked from the Cape to Cairo). He beat up an African in front of the Town Hall. It was said that the native had insulted Grogan's wife and sister. The Town Magistrate was booed and mobbed when he tried to remonstrate and a white policeman was knocked off his bike and hustled when he tried to stop the flogging. Most of the leading settlers were in it and were all armed with rifles ready to shoot anyone who attempted to interfere. There were about 200 white men in this affair, and it was said that they had declared that if any of the offenders were imprisoned, they would pull down the prison and shoot all officials trying to stop them. I expect, therefore, we shall have rather a hot time." I was the unlucky one sent down with my company to the Court House when the trial of Grogan took place. My Sudanese had fixed bayonets and live ammunition and we made a cordon round the Court House and had orders to shoot if there was real trouble. Grogan was tried and sentenced to imprisonment, which he did  I believe in a private house but there was no attempt to release him, I'm glad to say. Another excitement about this time was the visit of the Duke of Connaught and "Princess Pat". The Duke was received by a Guard of Honour in the Public Gardens and my company, commanded by Barratt, was chosen to find the Guard. We sweated hard to put up a good show and I think the turn out was very satisfactory. The Duke inspected the battalion on parade also. We all of us fell heavily for Princess Pat! In those days there was only a tin church for the Church of England population, the parson a Rev. Falloon ............. I did my first and only pig-sticking while in Nairobi, out on the Athi Plains and got a terrific thrill out of it. I was once out with a brother officer, one de Crespigny, after wart hogs (pig sticking) and the one we were after went to ground down a hole. De Crespigny, I well remember, went down the hole after him till only his legs were visible! Most de Crespignys are like that I fancy! I also got my first taste of polo at Nairobi on nice little ponies. I was madly keen on it then, and have been ever since when I could manage to play. ........... While up in Embu I pitched my camp on the Rupingazi River and lived in a small grass banda. While there i had a visit from the Governor of Kenya (Hayes Sadler), his wife, ADC Hinde (Commissioner of the Province), his wife, the Colonel of the KAR, Secretary, OC the Escort, and the Assistant Commissioner of that part! All my troops and porters had to spend several days clearing the bush for a huge camp and building grass Bandas for the multitude to eat and sleep in. ........... At last we heard in the distance the chant of the porters as they came along. Lady Hayes Sadler, Mrs Hinde, the Governor and all the outfit rushed out from the shelter I had provided for them and where I had been dispensing drink, and with shouts of joy of "here at last come the porters and our baggage" stood in a group watching the spot where the path issued into the open clearing. The chanting and singing got louder and a huge, quite naked, savage, leading the line of porters, dancing with huge leaps and bounds, suddenly appeared from the path into the clearing in front of us all, and on his head - worn as a hat (his only garment) was a huge white jerry - belonging to Lady Hayes Sadler and her husband, we all burst into roars of laughter! ................. (more - Embu) In the beginning of June I was transferred from No 3 Coy in Nairobi to Jubaland, to command No 2 Coy (a Sudanese Company) ............ Jubaland in those days was completely isolated from the rest of BEA by about 300 or 400 miles of trackless country and the only form of communication was the "good?" ship "Juba" - a small 500 ton craft that was infamous from Port Said to Cape Town for its rolling! It caught the full swell of the Indian ocean going up the coast and its British Officers and everyone on board always expected it to roll over completely. It anchored off Kismayu, a most picturesque old place of white Arab houses, fort and mosque, and a few Indian shopkeepers. It was a great port for the Arab dhows in the old days. ......... There were only 5 Britishers in the whole Province; two, (ex Army) civil officers in Kismayu, one with a camel company at Gobwen, and two with a Sudanese company at Yonti. ......... In those days the country was nominally, administered from Kismayu by the two British Officers there but, in actual fact, the Government of BEA had very little authority indeed over the nomad tribes and the country itself was virtually unknown for more than about 100 miles up river ........... There was one other officer at Yonti for some of the time, de Carteret, my Subaltern. ...……
DSO - … served S. African War, 1899-1901 (Queen's Medal with 5 clasps); BE Africa, Nandi Expedition 1906 and Embu Exped. 1907 (African GS Medal and 2 clasps), Sudan, Tagoi Patrol, 1911 (Sudan Medal and clasp); European War, Egyptian Exped. Force 1914-15; Dardanelles 1915-16; France from Feb 1916; promoted Colonel on Staff 1918; Despatches 3 times, 1914-15 Star; Bt. Lt.-Col. 3/6/18; Croix de Guerre with Palm; Order of the Nile 4th Class; Sacred Treasure 3rd Class.
Nicholls - An administrative post was established at Embu in 1906, in response to African raiding of caravans from the north. The young Stephen Seymour Butler was left alone there for months with his KAR company, and experience he described as the most enjoyable of his life. He shot to feed his men, walking 20 miles every day through this vast natural zoo where lions were two a penny. One day 3 naked Embu girls, wanting to see a white man, went into his banda, 'their mouths open and eyes as wide open as they could go. They stood thus, silent, for about a minute and then, all together, burst into screams of laughter and rushed from the hut.'
Drumkey 1909 - Subaltern and Asst. Adjutant, 3rd  K.A. Rifles; Lieut. Royal Warwickshire Regiment; S.A. Queen's Medal with 5 clasps.

Back to search results