Thursday, 30 May 2013

Donors of Reptiles to London Zoo 1914/15: 6. Charles Edward Colston Frost

Again, in this series of posts, this is what Clin Keeling wrote in A Short History of British Reptile Keeping:

...while C. Frost, who lived at 213 Bexley Road, Northumberland Heath, Bexley, Kent, made a handsome gift of no less than eight long-nosed Crocodiles which, it was recorded, had come from the Great Kwa River in Nigeria.

I searched the 1911 Census and found that the occupier of 213 Bexley Road was Charles E.C. Frost, aged 37, a gun fitter working for a gun manufacturer. Could be him but how did he come to have eight crocodiles from Nigeria? Or was it another Frost, a father or brother perhaps? Only very recently have I found the answer. On the offchance a Google search might show up something, I typed in Charles E C Frost. On the first page of results I found the solution. A family history website showed that Charles Edward Colston Frost of the above address had ‘worked in Africa for Crown Agents’. So that’s how he got the crocodiles. He was born in Bristol in 1873 and died in 1942 in Bexley, aged 69.

Unfortunately, the e-mail link to the compiler of the family history is dead so I do not know if the family has any more information on when he worked in Africa and why, or of his job with the Crown Agents. A search of the Zoo’s records would also show if he was a regular donor of Nigerian animals.
NOTE ADDED 23 January 2016
I was contacted by a friend of his daughter, Betty, who was able to provide further information. Charles Edward Colston Frost was an engineer who worked for Vickers in Erith (now part of London); Vickers sent him to Africa. He later became a Crown Agent. When World War I started, he joined the army in Africa and was eventually invalided home with malaria. Betty, who was born years after the war ended, says that her father loved Africa and lived there for seven years.

I have been able to find something about his goings to Nigeria. Shipping records show his departure from Liverpool to Lagos on 17 May 1911 on the SS Mendi; he is shown as a Government Servant (i.e. he worked for Crown Agents). He is to be found leaving Liverpool for Lagos again on 20 September 1916 on board the SS Elmina; he is shown as an Armourer Sergeant. Army medal record show that he was an Acting Sergeant in the 3rd Nigeria Regiment. I presume he fought with the 3rd Nigerians in the East Africa Campaign to which they were transported by sea. I wonder if he was the 'armourer-sergeant' referred to in With the Nigerians in German East Africa by W.C. Downes (London: Methuen, 1919):

     Sleep in the afternoon was often a little difficult at the after end of the good ship "Berwick Castle", owing to rifle fire being carried out on one side, machine-gun fire on the other, and bugle practice by all the buglers of both battalions in the centre. These were the main disturbing elements, but there were lesser troubles to compete with, such as the armourer-sergeant hammering on what sounded like a tin tray...