Frederic Creswell

Colonel Frederic Hugh Page Creswell DSO (13 November 1866 – 25 August 1948) was a Labour Party politician in South Africa. He was Minister of Defence from 30 June 1924 to 29 March 1933.[1]

Frederic Hugh Page Creswell
Kolonel Cresswell.jpg
Minister of Defence
In office
30 June 1924 – 29 March 1933
Prime MinisterJ. B. M. Hertzog
Preceded byHendrik Mentz
Succeeded byOswald Pirow
Leader of the South African Labour Party
In office
Succeeded byWalter Madeley
Personal details
Born(1866-11-13)13 November 1866
Died25 August 1948(1948-08-25) (aged 81)
Kuilsrivier, South Africa
NationalitySouth African
Political partyLabour (1910-1933)
Other political
National (1933-1934)

Early life and familyEdit

The son of Edmund Creswell, Deputy Postmaster-General at Gibraltar and Surveyor of the Mediterranean, by his marriage to Mary M. W. Fraser, Creswell was born in Gibraltar and educated in England at Bruce Castle, Derby School, and the Royal School of Mines.[2]

Creswell's brother Edmund (1849–1931) played for the Royal Engineers in the first FA Cup Final in 1872.[3] Another brother, William (1852–1933), became a vice-admiral and is known as the "father" of the Royal Australian Navy.[4]


Creswell worked as a mining engineer in Venezuela, Asia Minor, Rhodesia and the Transvaal before becoming manager of the Durban Deep Mine, at Roodepoort. At the outset of the Second Boer War in 1899 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the newly raised Imperial Light Horse. When mining on the Witwatersrand began again, he became General Manager of the Village Main Reef Mine. After strongly opposing Chinese labourers being imported to the Transvaal, he resigned as manager in 1903, going on to take a leading role in the campaign to end the use of Chinese labour and "became the champion of the white labourer", advocating the use of white labour, and white immigration, as the solution to South Africa's labour problems.[5]

At the general election of 1910 he was elected to the House of Assembly of the Union Parliament, representing the new South African Labour Party, of which he was leader from 1910 to 1929. He remained an Assembly member until 1938.

He was arrested and imprisoned for a month for his role in supporting miners' strikes in 1913 and 1914. The Smuts government suppression of the strikes influenced Creswell and Labour to develop an alliance with J.B.M. Hertzog and the National Party with Labour joining a National Party-led coalition government as junior partner, resulting in Creswell entering the cabinet.[5] As well as serving as the South African Minister of Defence from 1924 to March 1933, Creswell was simultaneously Minister of Labour from 1924 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933.

The alliance with the Nationalists eventually led to a split in the Labour Party when Hertzog dropped Labour MP Walter Madeley from the cabinet in 1928 due to his support for the multiracial Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union. Creswell and his supporters remained in government and became known as the "Creswell Labour" faction while Madeley and other Labour MPs joined the Opposition and became known as "National Council Labour" due to their being supported by the Labour Party's national council. In 1933, the Creswell Labour faction dissolved with its members joining the Hertzog's party.

Following the 1933 general election, Hertzog formed a coalition with Smuts and his South African Party, with the parties merging to form the United Party, resulting in Creswell being left out of cabinet. He remained a member of the House of Assembly until 1938 when he left politics.

In 1935 he was President of the Annual Conference of the International Labour Organization held at Geneva.[2]

First World War serviceEdit

During the South-West Africa campaign of 1914–1915, Creswell was second in command of the Rand Rifles. From 1916 to 1917 he commanded the 8th South African Infantry in the East African campaign, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.[2]

Private lifeEdit

In 1920, Creswell married Margaret, daughter of the Rev. H. Boys, formerly Rector of Layer Marney, Essex, England. They had no children. Creswell died on 25 August 1948[2] in Kuilsrivier. His ashes were interred in the Garden of Remembrance in Epping, near Cape Town.[6]

A Fast Attack Craft of the South African Navy was named after him.[citation needed]


  1. ^ C.J. Nöthling, E.M. Meyers (1982). "Leaders through the years (1912–1982)". Scientaria Militaria. 12 (2): 91.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d 'Creswell, Lt-Col Hon. Frederic Hugh Page', in Who Was Who 1941–1950 (London: A. & C. Black, 1980 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-2131-1)
  3. ^ "1872 FA Cup Final: Wanderers vs Royal Engineers". Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  4. ^ Percival Serle (1949). "Creswell, William Rooke". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Olive Schreiner Letters Online".
  6. ^ Beyers C.J., Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume V, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, 1987
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Defence (South Africa)
Succeeded by