WRATHALLS OF AFRICA
WRATHALLS OF RHODESIA
John James Wrathall (1913-1978) of Southern Rhodesia served in a number of governmental positions prior to and after declaration of independence from the United Kingdom. William G. (Bill) Eaton of California , a family friend of the Rhodesian Wrathalls, provides some information on John Wrathall's background and personal life:
John Wrathall was a friend of my father (they attended the same school in
England - as I did) and we had several school reunions in Government
House in Salisbury ( I have a photo of the last one over my desk as I
write). I think John must have been born around 1911 or 1913 if he was a
contemporary of my father.
[Bill is currently doing research on Rhodesian history, and can be reached at wge(at)usa.net.
We all attended The Royal Grammar School in Lancaster, U.K. This was a
public school in both the English sense (ie. private with fee-paying
boarding students) and in the American sense (free education for local
boys). I emigrated to Rhodesia in 1968 - my family remained in England, [where] my father was a small businessman in Lancaster all his life.
John Wrathall emigrated there sometime in the thirties. He had obtained
a post in the equivalent of the I.R.S. in the Bulawayo office. Later he
started his own firm of accountants (CPA) called Wrathall & Dyer-Smith.
John Wrathall's mother [remained in England] in Milnthorpe, or actually in Beetham - a small hamlet on the outskirts of Milnthorpe rather than Milnthorpe itself (a village [north of] Lancaster in southern Cumbria ) in her later years. She died in the early 70's. His widow Doreen in Durban must be in her 80's. Glad to hear she is still alive - my last letter to her was condolences on John's death.
I am not sure if you are aware that the situation between Britain and
Rhodesia from 1965-1980 was similar to the U.S. & Cuba today. John was
prohibited from visiting the U.K. but he told me confidentially that the U.K.
government allowed him to visit his mother clandestinely once. They gave
him a U.K. passport under a false name (valid for the exact duration of the
trip), plus a red hair wig, and he was accompanied by an agent of MI5
everywhere he went. Shades of James Bond!
For a map showing points of interest in southern Africa, click HERE .
John Wrathall's career in Rhodesian government is described by Mike Reeler of Cape Town , who has an interest in Rhodesian history and politics, and confirmed by another expatriate, Dr. S. P. Field of Johannesburg :
[As well as earlier serving as deputy Prime Minister and minister of finance], John Wrathall was also State President of Rhodesia, his term of office having been cut short by his untimely death.
[ Mike Reeler has provided a scan of a photo of John James Wrathall from the book "Contact", by John Lovett. To view a reduced version, click HERE .]
It was only a few years after the advent of majority rule in Zimbabwe [Rhodesia] in 1980 that the post of Prime Minister ceased to exist with Mugabe, who became PM when he came to power, assuming the post of State President. The position was essentially a "non-executive" post following independence....
Following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965 [by Ian Smith], I believe it would be correct to say that the post of "State President", initially referred to as "Officer Administering the Government", replaced that of the former "governor".
In the case of Clifford Du Pont, who was John Wrathall's predecessor, his
having been awarded this office was no doubt due to his contribution to
politics and the Rhodesian Front Party.
Doubtless, John James Wrathall would have been accorded similar recognition
for his contribution as Minister of Finance for something like 14 years,
Speaker of the House and also a Senator. Having held the purse strings
throughout the dark years of sanctions must have been an achievement in
In April 2005, Colin Fairclough, Lieutenant-Colonel of The Salvation Army (Retired), who can be reached at colin(at)look4them(dot)fsworld(dot)co.uk, provided the following information about his experiences with John J. Wrathall of Rhodesia:
From 1975-1979 I was responsible for The Salvation Army's main congregation in Salisbury, Rhodesia. On a number of occasions, John Wrathall (as President of Rhodesia) with his wife attended our morning service - the first time at his particular request. His next visit to a service at The Salvation Army was due to take place the Sunday after he died.
In May 2005, Colin Fairclough sent some documents concerning the funeral of President Wrathall:
I was invited to meet with President Wrathall at Government House following a letter I sent to the newspaper, suggesting that there should be a national Day of Prayer for Rhodesia. He followed this up, and services were held in a number of churches.
As a fellow Lancastrian, I was also able to converse with John Wrathall about the schools we had each attended, and other points of native interest.
The Salvation Army band was invited to play at Government House several times, including Christmas time. I am attaching a photo of the welcome I received from John Wrathall on one of those occasions. [Pres. and Mrs. Wrathall on the left, Lt. Col. Fairclough on the right, unidentified aide in background]
After his untimely death, and following the state funeral service in the cathedral, I shared in the cremation service with the Chaplain-General to the Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Wood.
.... regarding John J Wrathall: as you
will appreciate, my few meetings with him were on an official or formal
basis. Apart from the occasions I have mentioned, my wife and I (once with
my mother, who was visiting the country) were also invited twice to attend
Beating Retreat at Government House. On the second occasion, I was seated
on the front row of the guests. Because there were a number of visitors
from overseas present, I was approached by a member of the household staff
and asked to stand immediately the band began playing the adopted National
Anthem! This was because relatively few of those present would have been
aware of it! (The tune, of course, was Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy'.)
Regarding origins, John Wrathall was from the city of Lancaster itself. I
was from a little further south. His school (Lancaster Royal Grammar
School) played my school (Hutton Grammar School) at both rugby and cricket.
I believe he told me that he had played rugby against Hutton. He was quite
a number of years older than me, of course. I do recall that my first
English master at school had moved to my school from Lancaster RGS (CHC
WRATHALLS OF SOUTH AFRICA
Mike Reeler relates that President Wrathall (1913 -1978) is survived by his widow Doreen Wrathall (who lives in Durban), and his sons Christopher and Jonathan (who both settled in Johannesburg). Christopher's son Michael James lives in Johannesburg, and Jonathan's children are Michelle and Nicholas. Mike tells the following about Christopher's service:
.... Chris served with the Support Unit - the paramilitary wing of the British South Africa Police. The BSA Police had its origins about 100 years ago in the British South Africa Company, formed by Cecil John Rhodes, for the purpose of colonizing what became known as Rhodesia.
Bill Eaton passes on the following information:
An armed contingent accompanied the pioneer column settling Fort Salisbury, and became known as the Mashonaland Mounted Infantry, out of which, I believe it would be correct to say, the British South Africa Police later emerged. This outfit was anything but South African; recruitment prior to UDI was almost exclusively from the U.K. Interestingly enough, when I joined the force in 1969 (four years after UDI) I am quite certain that the oath of allegiance was to Her Majesty the Queen and the crest on the regimental badges and buttons still bore the Crown.
The 'British' bit was later played down, so that the force became simply the BSA Police, which is probably the best way of describing the outfit Chris served during his National Service (BSA Police -Support Unit). Christopher's brother Jonathan may have served with the Rhodesia Light Infantry, which in addition to the three infantry commandos also comprised a Support Unit or Commando.
I believe that one of John's sons [either Christopher or Jonathan] might have served in the Rhodesian Light Infantry during the war in Rhodesia. This was an assault regiment similar to the U.S. Marines or Army Rangers.
Derek Wrathall of Skipton, Yks. , who can be reached at DWrathall(at)Totalise(dot)co(dot)uk, had this to add about the above item:
I do remember seeing in a "Men on the Move" column in the Johannesburg
Sunday Times that a Wrathall had been promoted to a job in the Export
Credit Guarantee Company (or something similar) but this was at least 9
Bill Eaton referred to seeing an item under "Men on the Move" in a Johannesburg newspaper about a Wrathall working for Credit Guarantee. This Wrathall was not a descendant of John Wrathall but was my son, David Martin Wrathall, who was working and living in Randberg at that time. He returned to England in 1991 and now lives in Colchester.
Rob Lewin of Texas , another Rhodesian expatriate, relates the following:
I had the honor of knowing [John Wrathall], as I grew up and went to school with
his sons. John's sons are Chistopher, who attended Falcon College just outside Bulawayo, and Jonathan, who attended Mount Pleasant School in Salisbury. Both were born in Rhodesia, and are now living in South Africa.
In November 2001, Jonathan Wrathall , who can be reached at jwrathall(at)tiscali.co.za, contacted me with some corrections to earlier information, as well as further data on his family and service:
John James was born in Lancaster in 1913 and was educated at the Lancaster Royal Grammar School. He emigrated to Rhodesia in 1936. His widow Doreen Wrathall (née Robinson) was born in Durban, South Africa.
Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Jonathan (aka Jon)
Wrathall, the elder son of John James Wrathall (the late President of
Rhodesia). Having visited the Wrathall web site on a few occasions, I must
congratulate you on the detail contained in the site. If there is anything we, i.e. my brother Chris and/or I, can do to assist in contributing to the site, please do not hesitate in
contacting us; we will do what we can.
Jon also sent several family photos in Nov. 2001:
With regards some of the information contained in the site, please allow me
to supply the following data:
- My brother and I were both born in Bulawayo, Chris in June 1955
and me in November 1953. As mentioned by Rob Lewin, I attended Mount Pleasant School in Salisbury, but I also went to Falcon College, in 1967, with Chris following a year later.
- With regards my military service, I would like to add the following:
I completed my National Service with the Rhodesian Air Force, serving from
January 1973 to February 1974, at New Sarum, Wankie and Thornhill Air Force
Bases. After that, and due to the escalation of the war, I was transferred
to the Rhodesian Army. Whilst there, I completed two call-ups with 3 Reserve
Holding Unit (3 RHU), based at King George VI Barracks in Salisbury, on
counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. This was during the early part of
- I then volunteered to do another 12 months of National Service and was
posted to 2 (Independent) Company, Rhodesia Regiment in Kariba. It was
during this time, in December 1975, that I decided to join the Regular Army.
I then entered regular service with the 1st Battalion Rhodesia Light
Infantry, in January 1976, spending some time in 13 Troop, 3 Commando and
the rest in the Regimental Police, and retired in 1982.
- The Unit had, by
this time, changed its name to 1 (Zimbabwe) Commando Battalion. 1 RLI was
comprised of the following: 1, 2, and 3 Commandos, Support Commando, Base
Group (comprising of Headquarters, Motor Transport, Quartermaster Stores
and, of course, the Regimental Police) and Training Troop. As already
stated, my brother completed his National Service with the BSA Police; most
of his time was spent in the Police Support Unit (The Black Boots) and the
rest in Uniform Branch.
- My two children, Michelle and Nicholas, are still in the USA with
their mother Patricia (Paddy). Michelle is a mother and her daughter's name
is Jordan. Nick has been accepted into the US Army and should be commencing
his basic training soon - if not already.
At one point, based on info forwarded by Bill Wrathall of Inuvik , we believed that Jonathan and Christopher Wrathall and Robert Wrathall of Cumbria shared a common great-grandfather, Robert (Bob) Wrathall of Skipton (1856-1925?), a large-scale cattleman of Yorkshire, who was in charge of restocking Europe after World War 1. Bob was Bill's great-grand-uncle.
Now, however, based on info from Derek Wrathall of Skipton, we know J. J. Wrathall's paternal grandfather was James Wrathall of Lancashire (1849 - ?), whose line is shown in the Descendants of John Wrathall and Anne Pickersgill of Linton . Derek recently contacted me with new info he has gathered that clears up the ancestry of J. J. Wrathall. Click HERE to read it.
Derek forwarded a newspaper article from a British newspaper, published at the time of J. J. Wrathall's death, containing a short biography; click HERE to read it. Derek also sent a reproduction of the photo insert from a Christmas card sent by Doreen and John J. Wrathall during his presidency of Rhodesia; click HERE to view it.
Derek came across the data on J. J. Wrathall in the course of his research on Wrathalls of Lancashire and Yorkshire; click HERE to review his findings so far.
I was recently contacted by Susi Wrathall (Jonathan's wife), and Christopher Wrathall (of Wrathall & Associates), who mentioned that they would do some research on their side of the family , and then pass along that info, once it was complete. We'll be interested in seeing their records of J. J. Wrathall's ancestry.
Derek Wrathall has also been in contact with John James' sons regarding his research into their lineage. Jonathan sent him some family photos in Jan. 2001:
[Here are some] Wrathall family photos as sent to me by Jonathan, as well as a photo of the plaque presented to John's father, Thomas, when he was captain of the John O' Gaunt Rowing Club of Lancaster in 1924. As yet, I have not had a reply from the club with regard to any historical data or photos they may have, but I live in hope. In the family photo, Jonathan is on the left (next to his first wife, Patricia), and Christopher is on the right.
In March 2001, Derek mentioned the following on John James' father Thomas:
I have had another short e-mail from Jonathan Wrathall with a photograph of his grandfather, Thomas, in Fireman's uniform. I have asked if he can tell me more about that occupation.
In December 2001, after returning from a world tour, Derek sent further information about Jonathan Wrathall's grandfather, Thomas; click HERE to read it. In Nov. 2004, Derek Wrathall sent the obituary of Thomas Wrathall, along with extracts from newspaper items in which John James Wrathall is mentioned.
I have contacted the Secretary and Chairman of the John O' Gaunt Rowing Club by 'phone, only to find that they passed all their old documents to the Lancaster Reference Library last year. I rang the library and they were unable to find them, but they promised to do a more thorough search and eventually found the John O' Gaunt rowing club minutes etc. Unfortunately, there is an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in that area so low priority visits are not welcome at the moment.
Wikipedia article on John Wrathall.
In January 2009, Jon Wrathall [jwrathall(at)tiscali(dot)co(dot)za] notified us of the passing of Doreen Jesse Wrathall on Wednesday January 14, 2009:
It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you that Mom passed
away in her sleep at 04:15 hrs this morning.
Also in January 2009, http://www.flf-rasa.org/ had the following:
DEATH NOTICE: DOREEN J. WRATHALL
From BUITENPOSTEN-L Archives, citing "The Mercury", Friday 16 January, 2009:
Posted Saturday, 17 January 2009 by John Redfern
Doreen Wrathall, widow of the late John Wrathall (former President of Rhodesia), passed away in Durban on Wednesday 14 January 2009.
The funeral will take place at the Musgrave Methodist Church, Musgrave Road, Durban at 13:30 (1.30 PM) on Wednesday 21 January 2009.
WRATHALL Doreen Jessie 14 Jan 2009. Suster van Pat , Eunice, Thora en Joy; Henry , "Nephew" en Ellwyn.
In March 2009, Derek Wrathall sent a scan of a page from "Focus on Rhodesia" showing John James and Doreen Wrathall in the former Rhodesian parliament.