Heritage: Soldier, scholar and elder statesman was great loss to borough

Author Frederick Brereton moved to Heath Barn, Boxmoor, where he made extensive alterations after 1923 to the old farm in St John's Road

Author Frederick Brereton moved to Heath Barn, Boxmoor, where he made extensive alterations after 1923 to the old farm in St John's Road

0
Have your say

The life and times of books for boys author and Dacorum resident Frederick Sadlier Brereton.

Frederick Sadlier Brereton was born in 1872 in Surrey and married Ethel Mary Lamb on 5 January 1898 at St James’s Church, Birkdale, Lancashire.

He was still in Lancashire in 1901 but by the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his wife and daughter Olive at the Manor House, Ham, near Hungerford.

He is listed as a retired R.A.M.C. Captain. At some stage he moved to Boxmoor and became involved in the life of the district.

F.S. Brereton studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital, before gaining first place in the entrance examination to join the Army Medical Staff in 1896.

He was promoted to Captain in 1899 and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.) as a medical officer to the 2nd Scots Guards during the Boer War.

At the outbreak of the First World War, he again served with the R.A.M.C. attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. A highly decorated individual, he was awarded the C.B.E in 1919 and was also appointed a Commander of the chivalric Portuguese Order of Aviz.

Brereton began writing his famous adventure books for boys prior to the First World War, when he was living in Stockport, Merseyside. His experiences allowed him to write gripping tales, with such accuracy and attention to detail that one can almost hear the roar of guns and feel the sun beating down on the soldiers in their tropical dress uniforms. In total he wrote more than 50 books, such as The Great Airship: A Tale of Adventure (1914). Many of his books are in the archives of Dacorum Heritage Trust at the Museum Store in Berkhamsted.

His links to the Dacorum area stem from his residence at Chaulden House but he then moved to Heath Barn, Boxmoor, where he made extensive alterations after 1923 to the old farm in St John’s Road. It is a Grade II Listed late 16th or early 17th century timber framed building with old tiled roofs. Hertfordshire County Council bought the farm in 1963 and it nowadays serves as the Music Centre of Hemel Hempstead School, but in Brereton’s day part of the premises was used by him to make anatomical models for the medical profession. In 1927 he became Mayor and Bailiff of Hemel Hempstead.

Brereton wrote Hemel Hempstead Through the Ages and later, in collaboration with F.S. Badcock, teacher at Boxmoor St John’s School, produced the popular B and B Geographies, published by Wheaton between 1928-31.

Lt. Col. Brereton became involved in the Boxmoor Defence League, formed to protect part of the Box Moor Trust lands from local authority ownership and control. He chaired a public meeting on 30 November 1930 and the ‘Hands off the Moor’ campaign eventually won the day. He married Isobel J. Murdoch in Chelsea in 1953 but died four years later.

William Crook, Alderman and local headmaster, wrote: “In the passing of Lt. Col. F. S. Brereton, the Borough has loses one of her most distinguished citizens – a soldier, a scholar, an elder statesman of sound principles strongly held.

“As an author of boys’ books of manly adventure in the line of Ballantyne and Henry he met with great success. He was gifted in so many ways.”