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Tuesday 5 March 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Captain Frederick Charles Boehmer - Uncle to Agatha Christie

Monument to Captain Frederick Charles Boehmer, All Saints Cemetery, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

"Captn Frederick Charles Boehmer.  Late east Surrey Regiment.  Born ?? 1851 Died 22nd Oct 1909."

Frederick Charles Boehmer was born in Ireland in 1851 to Frederick Boehmer, an Army Officer and his wife Mary Ann West.

In 1861 Frederick Charles appears on the Census living in the Channel Islands at Campbell Terrace with his parents and and younger siblings Clarissa M Born 1854 (later the mother of Agatha Christie) and Ernest E B born 1860.  Sadly the family was to be touched by tragedy in 1863 when Frederick Snr was thrown from his horse an killed while stationed in Jersey.  This left the 27 year old widowed Mary Ann with four children and no means of support.  The elder children Frederick and Clarissa were sent away to live with others.

Frederick aged 11 in 1863 was sent to Wellington College in Crowthorne Berkshire where he studied until 1867.  In 1865 he became captain of the college cricket team.

Frederick soon joined the 51st Foot (South Yorkshire Regiment) where he became a Colour-Sergeant and saw action int he Jowaki Expedition 1877-1878, - "an expedition against the Jowaki Afridis under Colonel Mocatta in 1877. In that year the government proposed to reduce the Jowaki allowance for guarding the Kohat Pass, and the tribesmen resented this by cutting the telegraph wire and raiding into British territory. A force of 1500 troops penetrated their country in three columns, and did considerable damage by way of punishment." - Encyclopedia Britannica.  Frederick was awarded the India medal with Jowaki Clasp.

Next Frederick was to serve in the Second Anglo Afghan War 1878-1880 as a Colour-Sergeant, where he was awarded the Afghan Medal with Clasp.

In 1883 Frederick became a Lieutenant in the Bedfordshire Regiment. In 1884 Frederick married Geraldine Ada Fitzgerald, daughter of Charles Egerton Fitzgerald, a doctor and his wife Julianna in Elham, Kent and the birth of their son Frederick Fitzgerald West followed in 1887 in Jalmapore, Bengal, India.

Frederick was again to serve in India in the January 1887 as an Adjutant of the Madras Railwayd Volunteers and again in the March 1889 as an Adjutant of the East India Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps.  Sometime after the campaigns in India Frederick joined the East Surrey Regiement where he was promoted to Captain in 1889.  However it looks as if military life and foreign travel had taken their toll on Frederick's health as he was placed on half-pay.  The London Gazette reports on 26th May 1896 -

"East Surrey Regiment, Captain Frederick C, Boehmer is placed on temporary half-pay on account of ill-health.  Reported 8th May 1896."

Eventually Frederick was placed on retirement pay in the November 1896.  I can find no record of what that illness may have been. 

In 1902 Frederick was residing at 11 Shewsbury Road, Paddington, London and was the general manager of the People's Refreshment House Association Limited, a temperance movement to promote soberity amoung the people and co founded by the Bishop of Chester and Colonal Craufaud in 1896.

Frederick Boehmer allegedly committed suicide on 22nd October 1909.  The Derby Daily Telegraph reported on Monday 25th October 1909 -

"An Officer Found Shot In A Train

The Maidenhead police succeeded on Saturday in establishing the indenity of the gentleman who was found shot in a first-class compartment in a train at Maidenhead Station on Friday night.  The body is that of Captain Frederick Chalres Boehmer (57) of Twyford near Winchester."

The Manchester Courier reported on 29th October 1909 -

"Train Mystery Solved

The body of a man found in a train at Maidenhead Station has been identified as that of Captain Frederick Charles Boehmer, aged 57 years of Twyford, near Wincester.  Captain Boehmer left an open letter addressed to the Coroner, but the signature was not decipherable.  This letter stated that he was at his wits' end, and had contemplated suicide for four and a half years, but was only now able to commit the act.  He also said that he had a son in the Navy that had cost him a lot of money.  Captain Boehmer had seen service in India and had the medal and clasp for the Jowaki Expedition 1877 and the Afghan Campaign of 1878-1880.  He retired in 1889 and was on retired pay."

Geraldine Ada Boehmer passed away in 1926

In 1911 Frederick Fitzgerald West Boehmer can be found on the HMS Mutine as a lieutenant.  In 1942 Frederick married Alice M Brown. 

In 1946 Frederick Fizgerald West was Court Martialed accused of receiving Navy furniture.  On 5th April 1946 The evening Telegraph reported -

"Commander Charged

Commander Frederick Fitzgerald West Boehmer R.N. (retired), formally maintainance officer on the staff of the flag offcier in charge at Southampton, pleaded not gulity on four charges of receiving furniture belonging to the Navy. He denied receiving four single wardrobes, sever framed mirrors, five chests of drawers, one dressing table, three mattresses, three single iron beds, four reclining chairs, two tables, two windsor strong chairs and one easy chair.  He also denied having them for his personal use.

When seen by Detective-Sergeant John Quinlan, of Southampton Police, at his flat, Commander Boehmer was alledged to have said, "I only had it on loan.  when I got some furniture I intended to return it.  I did not intend to steal it.  I admit it is very irregular, but that is it not stealing, is it?"  It is alledged that later Commander Boehmer said, "I have been trying to get furniture,but you have to wait for months.  when I got all this stuff I signed for it, and they knew that I was having it for my own use."

On 6 April 1946 the Western Morning News reported -

"Officer Cleared

A retired naval commander stood at attention in the wardroom of Nelson's flagship H.M.S Victory, last night, and heard letter after letter read from admirals, rear-admirals, and other hight ranking officers telling of his good character

For more than seven hours the commander, Frederick Fiztgerald West Boehmer R.N, 58 , had faced a court-martial accusing him of receiving Navy furniture.

At the end he was told the courts decision - (1) "Not guilty" and acquitted on two charges alleging fraudulent receipt of the stores - which included wardrobes, mirrors, chairs, beds and mattresses; and, (2) "guilty" and severely reprimanded for acting prejudicial to good order and naval discipline in receiving the goods at his private residence for his personal use."

Alice died in 1965 and Frederick in 1966, both in Southampton.


  1. That was really interesting. I can tell you loads about Agatha Christie's books (well, not her Mary Westmacott ones though) but almost nothing about her private life, so these details about her uncle were all new to me.

    1. I think they're new to everyone. I contacted the college he attended and they had very little information on him. He was even absent from the Second Anglo Afghan war website until I asked them if they had any information on him. It seems as if the man is a mystery.

  2. I managed to find some information on a Frederick Charles Boehmer on Google Books, but it was very scant.

  3. As always, so interesting to read your posts. Thanks for sharing on Taphophile Tragics!!

  4. He married Alice Brown in 1942 and their daughter Sister Geraldine Gerda Boehmer was killed on active service in Algeria at 24 years old so was,Alice her mother? Records show,her mother was maiden name Berry and she was,born in Barnet, N London in 1919 and her father was living on his own several miles away so who was,Miz.Berry,

  5. You can read what l researched on him in my book 'Living above shoe shops' which details all Agatha Christie's relatives back to 1786 and dispels a lot of the myths about her. Frederick 'Dreadnought' Fitzgerald West Bulmer was continuously in trouble with the naval authorities right up to the end of the 2nd WW. His father committed suicide on a train in 1909 and cited in his suicide note his son's finances as part cause. His mother,He never left him any money in his will leaving it to his brothers. He had a daughter to a woman in Barnet, N.london called Geraldine Gilda Boehmer who was killed on active service in N.Africa in 1942. This was when Frederick actually got married but when he died in 1947 he left his money to a married woman called Courtney in Southampton.


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