S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Willoughby, Major Sir John Christopher (archaeology)

Born: 20 February 1859, London, England.
Died: 16 April 1918, London, England.

John C. Willoughby, English soldier and businessman, was the eldest son of Sir John P. Willoughby and his second wife, Maria Elizabeth Fawkes, and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1879 he entered the military as a lieutenant in the Oxford Light Infantry and the next year obtained a commission in the Royal Horse Guards. During the early eighteen-eighties he was on active duty in Egypt and Sudan. He was a keen hunter and in 1889 published a book, East Africa and its big game, in which he related a hunting expedition from Zanzibar to the borders of the Masai country. In 1890 he took part in the occupation of Mashonaland, in present Zimbabwe, and became second-in-command of the British South Africa Company's forces, with the rank of captain

Late in 1892 Willoughby conducted excavetions at the Zimbabwe ruins, but before he could do so he had to mediate between two tribes, the Nemanhwa and Duma, which both claimed the ruins as theirs. He excavated the Camp ruins, the No. 1 ruins, and the Great Enclosure. An account of his work was published as A narrative of further excavations at Zimbabye (London, 1893, 43p). Though he threw some doubt on the findings of J.T. Bent*, he did not offer an alternative explanation of the origin of the ruined buildings.

During the war in Matabeleland in 1893 Willoughby served as military advisor to the administrator of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Dr L.S. Jameson. He was promoted to major in January 1895. A year later he accompanied Jameson on his raid into the South African Republic in a failed attempt to overthrow its government. As a result he served a short jail sentence and temporarily lost his commission. Meanwhile he had established a large mining and land company, Willoughby's Consolidated Co., in Rhodesia in 1894 and, as chairman or director of several other companies, became a pioneer of mining development in the territory. During the first year of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he served with the British military in South Africa and was awarded the Queen's Medal with two clasps. During World War I (1914-1918) he was on active duty in East Africa, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in June 1917. However, he contracted malaria, which led to his death shortly after his return to England.

List of sources:
Creagh, O'M. and Humphris, E.M. The Distinguished Service Order, 1886-1923. London: J.B. Hayward, 1978.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 4, 1981.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

South African who's who, 1908.

Summers, R. Ancient ruins and vanished civilisations of southern Africa. Cape Town: T.V. Bulpin, 1971.

Standard encyclopaedia of southern Africa (SESA). Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Who was who, Vol. 2, 4th ed. London: Adam & Black, 1967.

Compiled by: C. Plug