Frederick was educated at Ayr Academy and it was from there that he decided that his future lay in becoming a vet. He first moved to Kirkcudbright to become a student of Mr. T. Campbell F.R.C.V.S. From this initial experience of veterinary medicine, Frederick travelled to London to take up his studies at the Royal Veterinary College, graduating in May 1889.
On the outbreak of the Boer War (1899-1902) Frederick obtained permission to take leave of his post and joined up as an army veterinary surgeon, training at Aldershot before accompanying a squad of the 8th Hussars and mounted Infantry to the Cape. On 26th December 1899, the 8th Hussars was at the Curragh, a flat open plain of almost 5000 acres of common land in County Kildare, Ireland, when orders were received and on 13th February 1900 the regiment embarked for Queenstown, South Africa. On board the ship were 19 officers, 586 WOs, NCOs and men and, most importantly for Frederick, 487 horses. During the voyage 11 horses and one crew member died. They arrived in Cape Town on 10th March 1889.
Along with the 7th Dragoon Guards and the 14th Hussars, the 8th Hussars formed the 4th Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier General Dickson. On 1 May 1900, the Boers made a stand in a strong position at Houtnek, where the forces of Ian Hamilton faced stiff competition. In a telegram of 2 May Lord Roberts said: "Hamilton speaks in high terms of the services of the 8th Hussars under Colonel Clowes and a made-up regiment of Lancers, which came into Broadwood's brigade and assisted in making the Boers evacuate their position".
The 8th Hussars then marched from Machadodorp to Heidelberg with the 14th Hussars and M Battery, under the command of Colonel Mahon. On 13 October, Mahon "became heavily engaged near Geluk with a body of 1100 men with four guns." Mahon succeeded in holding his position until the French came to his assistance, when the Boers were driven back in a south-easterly direction, having sustained some losses. The 8th Hussars lost 2 officers, Lieutenants P A T Jones and F H Wylam and 7 men, with 2 officers and 8 men wounded. Eight officers and 8 non-commissioned officers were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatches of 2 April and 4 September 1901. In the first three months of 1901, the 8th Hussars was in the column of Colonel E C Knox, at one point sweeping to the Swazi border.
During the later phases of the war, the Eastern Transvaal to the borders of Zululand were the principal scenes of the regiment's operations. One officer and 1 non-commissioned officer were mentioned by Lord Kitchener during the war, and in the final despatch, the names of 4 officers, 2 non-commissioned officers, and 1 private were added. Colonel Le Gallais of the 8th Hussars had done splendid service as a leader of Mounted Infantry, and he fell on 6 November 1900 after he had inflicted a defeat on De Wet at Bothaville. Colonel Mahon, also an old 8th Hussar, was celebrated for his conduct of the Mafeking Relief column. The regiment had fifty four soldiers killed in the war. For his services in the Boer War, Frederick received both the Queen's and King's medals with 5 bars for battles at Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, Orange Free State and Cape Colony.
During his time fighting in the Boer War, South Africa got into Frederick's blood, so much so that it become his home. He was appointed to the position of Manager of the Sanitary Department in Johannesburg in 1902 and was responsible for the improvement of animal welfare with the opening of a public abattoir and a livestock market. Before this, stock sales of animals "were conducted from railway trucks in an atmosphere of dust accompanied by brutal handling including non-provision of drinking water for long periods. Regarding arrangements for slaughter stock, there were several private "Slaughter Poles" scattered over a wide area, a most
unsatisfactory state of affairs."
Frederick was very well respected and due to his business methods and professional skills his duties were extended to overseeing municipal animal transport and from 1911 he took over as Municipal Veterinary surgeon in Johannesburg and his title changed to Manager, Transport and Cleansing Department, and Municipal Veterinary Surgeon.
In 1903 a Warrant created an Army Veterinary Corps of NCOs and men employed in veterinary duties and in 1906 it combined with the Army Veterinary Department that had comprised the officers. At the outbreak of World War One there were 364 AVC officers (Regular and Reserve) and during the war a further 1,306 were commissioned. In addition to officers, the expansion of Other Ranks rose from 934 to 41,755. During the Great War the AVC handled 2.5 million equine admissions, 80% of the injured animals admitted were treated and returned to active service.
1914 Recruitment Notice: "Men who have been accustomed to horses and are able to ride are required. Ages 40 to 47 years. Standards of height and chest measurement to be waived provided the men are organically sound"
The top of the rear of the card has been annotated "Number 7 Veterinary Hospital" so that confirms the ID. The Number 7 Veterinary Hospital was at Oliver's Battery, Winchester, in Hampshire where Frederick spent time in training. During World War I Frederick saw active service in Belgium and France as a Major in the SAVC and was awarded the D.S.O.
On reaching the age limit of 60, Frederick was presented with atestimonial bearing the Common Seal of the Johannesburg Council. It was said tht Frederick Gavin was possessed of that organising ability and business acumen so characteristic of the Scot. Frederick retired to Swaziland to farm and later settled in Kloof, a leafy upper-class suburb and small town in the greater Durban area of KwaZulu Natal. On the death of e. Wilson on 6th June 1932, Frederick succeeded him as Veterinarian to the Johannesburg Turf Club. He also took over the Johnston's Veterinary Vaccine Agency in 1929.
Clothilde lived on for another 14 years, dying on 28th November 1964 with an Estate of £370.
I am so delighted that I have discovered the life of this remarkable man and to find out how much he was respected during his lifetime. Quite an achievement for a boy whose grandfather was a miner from Ayrshire.