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    ID colonial photo

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    A friend of mine (not registered here) askes me to show this photo. Here is his text:

    This photo shows members of the Colonial Service and two navy officers as well a a civilian. It might have been in the possesion of a German, as there is a hardly legible pencil note on the back side of the photo reading [illegible]gisberg´s Abreise [departure]. The photo itself is printed on english paper stock.
    The gentleman with his feather sunhelmet might be a governor and seems to wear the order of the British empire, as does the gent next to him [?]. Both seem to be highly decorated, the man in the middle (Governor) could be Knight Commander des Order of St. Michael and St. George? The gentleman next to him seems to have been awarded a similar honour. Can anybody identify the gentleman, the medals or the ranks of the Colonial Service members? Any ideas of where the photo was taken?
    Thanks a lot!




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    Andy, who’d have thought it’d be so difficult to find British General Officer ranks when searching online. I’ve found a site for some Canadian ranks http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/ranks/generals.htm As the photo was obviously taken (going by the WWI trio being worn) in the 1920s/30s the rank system would have been similar if not the same throughout the Commonwealth/Empire.
    The breast decoration does look like the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George doesn't it. See just over half way down this page https://www.dixonsmedals.co.uk/single-medals-c-2.html
    I suppose the photo could have been taken anywhere in countries like Hong Kong, India Australia, NZ or even the Caribbean.
    Sorry I can’t answer your question but I’m sure someone here can.
    Edited by Tony
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    Notice the Aide de Campe on the extreme left, and the African in his fez in rear,high definition might better expose his fez badge which would appear to bear a crown over circlet,I would say West or East Africa,bearing in mind the German connection,most likely the latter. Any advance on this ?

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    Suspect the principle uniformed men are officers of the British colonial or consular or diplomatic service.  Clearly they are in tropical dress.   British colonial, diplomatic and consular officials serving in 'hot climates' wore civil [court] uniform through the first half of the twentieth century on formal occasions, including a Wolseley pattern helmet with a gilt badge of the royal arms at the front.  When worn by Governors and Governors-General the helmet was topped by a 10-inch red and white swan-feather plume. (sources include Wiki)   The gent with the KCMG, however, seems to be wearing a safari or French style rather than a Wolseley helmet.  Man on his left has a CBE at his neck and a campaign medal.  As to the collar insignia, Holding's Uniforms of the British Army, Navy and Court likely would offer guidance though it was published in 1894.  British colonial, consular, and diplomatic officers wore court uniforms or slight variations of court uniforms.  Saw Holding somewhere in the internet but cannot now locate it.     

    Flags in background may be useful in locating venue.  They appear to be a tricolor [most likely French or Italian] and a cross on a field [Swedish?].  



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    I notice that the Governor [?] is also wearing a DSO and what looks like a Croix de Guerre with his Great War trio of medlas, but that won't narrow the ID down very much.  The gent to his left has a Victorian campaign medla on -  India Medal 1896 at a guess - and the Governor's aide - the one with the fancy aiguelette also wear a WWI trio.  Yes, East or West Africa is first choice.

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    I could be wrong, but I believe that the gent to his left is wearing an African General Service Medal with a clasp, vice the India Medal 1896 pointed out by Peter. In any case, this still points to an African location.


    Edited by JPL
    Mis-spelled word
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    The original post mentions ' Gisberg's Departure ',who was Gisburg ? The man in plain clothes,or The Believed Governor. Also mentions ' 2 naval officers ',my take on these grandees,by reference to their gorgets,would be along the descending line of Governor,Provincial Commissioner, District Commissioner. and District Officer. Also unusual to see a Colonial Governor in White Jodphurs, Riding Boots and spurs,would normally wear short wellington boots (inside trousers) with spurs.May indicate his (military ? )background.

    Keep at it !

    Gotcha !

    Brigadier General Frederick Gordon GUGGISBERG

    Born Canada 1869  dec 1930

    In 1914 was Director of Public Works,GOLD COAST,in  Great War commanded 94th Field Coy Royal Engineers and other similar units, MID 5 times,in 1919 appointed Governor and Commander in Chief,Gold Coast.

    Still doesn't explain the jodphurs.

    Find more on Google/Army Lists etc.

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    My friend wants to say thanks to all of you for your help.

    He wrote:


    Dear Gentlemen of the Military Interest Club,

    thank you so much for helping identify Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg KCMG DSO  as central figure in the photo posted. Throught your identification of the medals, I was able to determine, that the Governor was made KCMG in 1922. So the departure note on the back of the photo could relate to either his departure from the Gold Cost in 1927 or from British Guiana in 1929. As a starting point of my further research I presumed, that the succesor of the departing governor would see his predecessor off and be next to him on the photo in question. And: Lo and behold a name and a face came together. To the right of Sir Frederick is, I believe,  Sir James Crawford Maxwell KCMG, KBE, MD (1869 – 1932)  a British physician and colonial administrator who served as colonial secretary  - and after Guggisberg -  as acting governor of the Gold Coast, before appointed Governor of Northern Rhodesia the same year.

    He was awarded the KBE in 1925 and the West Africa Medal and a clasp for his role in the Hut Tax War of 1898, seen in the photo on his chest.

    There is a photo of him with the same pair of glasses and the medals, taken during his time at the Gold Coast here:


    To the left of Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, in civilian clothes could be Sir Albert Ernest Kitson a veteran geologist, who helped Guggisberg survey the colony.

    The photo could therefore be placed to the Gold Coast around but not later than the 27th April 1927.

    Thank´s again!

    PS: With regards to the jodphurs: There is a photo dated 1925 showing the governor with the Prince of Wales at the Gold Coast:


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    Excellent sleuthing!

    BTW, I expect that the explanation for the jodphurs [non-uniform] was the same as the explanation for Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery's famous beret with two badges on it:  That's what he chose to wear and there was no one around of sufficient rank to tell him not to!

    Edited by peter monahan
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    • 10 months later...

    The gentleman in the middle is my relative Brigadier-General Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, KCMG, DSO, RE, governor and commander-in-chief of the Gold Coast from 1919 to 1926. In 1925 the Prince of Wales visited the Gold Coast and this photograph appears to be from that event. I own several similar photographs.

    Gordon was a native from Galt, Ontario, Canada, of Swiss ethnic background. He came to England around 1883/1884, spent his early years there in Southsea, near Portsmouth. He is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy of Woolwich, served in various places in the British Empire (Singapore, Nigeria and the Gold Coast), returned to England in 1914 to serve in the war. In 1919 he was appointed governor of the Gold Coast, in 1922 attained knighthood and in 1928 was appointed governor of British Guyana, a term he had to resign the following year due to ill health. He returned to England where he died in Bexhill-on-Sea on the 21st April 1930. 



    Something else, being a kin, you mention some writing on the reverse side on the photograph, any chance that I can see it? I am fluent in German. Around 1927 Gordon traveled with his daughters by road from England to Switzerland to visit the place where the family had originated from (Guggisberg in Canton Bern). During that visit me met and connected with several persons from his distant family who would have been German speaking and the photograph your friend has might have come from them. Alternatively, the Basel Mission (Basler Mission), a Swiss missionary society was active in the Gold Coast at the time of Gordon's tenure as governor, the photo might have originated from one of their members.


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    Californian, welcome to the GMIC!

    From Galt!  That's just down the road from where I live.  Well, an hour or so.  Pity the reflection from his glasses gives such an odd look to the photo.

    Where did he serve in Nigeria?  I was lucky enopugh to spend two years there, many many years ago.

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