SIR RICHARD LOSELY AND LOBANGU

by Mark Hodder

  • An introduction to these popular old characters for the benefit of new readers.
Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu

British explorer Sir Richard Losely and his friend, the mighty chief of the Etbaia tribe of Zulus, Lobangu, were created by Cecil Hayter. They made their debut in a story entitled THE SLAVE MARKET, which appeared in the Union Jack, issue 171, in 1907. Probably inspired by H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain and real-life Victorian explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, Losely is a giant of a man, both in physique (6' 4") and in personality, but even he is dwarfed by the gigantic Lobangu.

Losely plays a special part in the Sexton Blake saga, as he is the only recurring character who has known Blake since childhood. A couple of years Blake's senior, he attended the same schools — initially St. Ermin's and then St. Anne's College — where he was known by the nickname "Spots". Blake was his 'fag' and was nicknamed "Blackamoor", or more usually "Blackie". In adulthood, the two men would continue to refer to each other by these nicknames. At school, Losely helped to bring to justice the gang who murdered Blake's guardian and parents. It is highly likely that the explorer is the only man who knows the true secret of Sexton Blake's background.

After a young life of adventure and exploration, Sir Richard Losely settles into the position of Her Majesty's Governor of the Province of Musardu and the Bambarra hinterlands in East Africa, where he is responsible for maintaining peace and British rule. Though it's explicitly stated that he's married and has a young son named Leonard, we never meet his family, so must assume that they remain in England.

Early in his new career, Losely is captured by a slaver named the White Death. Lobangu (who is aged 37) works for this man but hates him and, with assistance from Blake and Tinker, helps Losely to escape. He then joins forces with the Governor on a permanent basis. Some months later, it's discovered that the giant Zulu is descended from the union of an African explorer of the Losely clan and a half African/half Arab native. He is thus related to Sir Richard and becomes Lord Averstock, sixth baron of Averstock and Marne, inheriting a large English estate. On his initial trip to England, Lobangu isn't impressed and so opts to return to Africa to be at Losely's side. Also to this end, he leaves most of his duties as chief of the Etbaia to his brother, N'Kobe.

Losely and Lobangu appeared in a number of non-Blake tales in the Brave and Bold Weekly, Cheer Boys Cheer and a number of other magazines. After Cecil Hayter's death in 1922, author Rex Hardinge became responsible for the further tales of this adventurous duo.

Chronology

1. The Slave Market UNION JACK issue 171 (1907)
Sir Richard Losely has been captured by a slaver named the White Death. Sexton Blake and Tinker travel to Africa to rescue him. Tinker is taken prisoner but Blake meets Lobangu and together they manage to free the captives. Blake learns that the slaver intends to attack the Marani tribe, which guards remote mountains veined with priceless rubies. Losely, Lobangu, Blake and Tinker race ahead of their enemy, gathering friendly tribesmen as they go. By the time they reach the Marani, they have amassed a small army and are able to defeat the White Death's forces.

2. Sexton Blake's Zulu UNION JACK issue 181 (1907)
Sexton Blake, Tinker and Lobangu help Sir Richard to trace a long lost relative; a man descended from the union of an African explorer of the Losely clan and a half African/half Arab native. Eventually evidence proves that Lobangu is, in fact, the man Losely has been looking for. The giant Zulu becomes Lord Averstock, sixth baron of Averstock and Marne and inherits a large English estate. Lobangu reveals that diamonds lie in sacred mountains near where his brother rules the Etbaia. They are guarded by a vicious tribe descended from Egyptians. Blake & Co. manage to defeat these guardians and lay claim to the fortune, thus ensuring the security and prosperity of the Etbaia tribe.

3. The Sleeping Sickness UNION JACK issue 201 (1997)
A Chinaman named Li Yen develops a potent form of beri-beri — the sleeping sickness — which he intends to release into Britain's reservoirs. Blake, Tinker, Losely and Lobangu travel to the villain's base on an African lake but the white men find themselves infected with the disease. They fight the enemy and the overpowering urge to sleep while Lobangu races to find an antidote. He succeeds and Li Yen is defeated.

4. Sexton Blake, Whaler UNION JACK issue 206 (1907)
During negotiations with a tribal chief, Losely, Lobangu, Blake and Tinker are ambushed. They flee to the coast and escape by boat but are swept out to sea by a storm. Eventually they are picked up by a whaling ship brutally run by the aptly named Captain Savage. After being mistreated and forced to join the crew, they begin a campaign of revenge and are soon masters of the ship. Sailing far to the north, they leave the vessel and cross pack ice, living like Eskimos until they are rescued by a far friendlier whaler.

5. Sexton Blake at School (parts 1 to 25) THE BOYS' HERALD issues 238 to 262 (1909)
This serial tells the story of Sexton Blake's childhood. It begins with Blake as an unnamed boy living in mysterious circumstances with his mentor, Dr. Lanchester. When the latter is murdered, the boy finds a letter which directs him to two of Lanchester's colleagues. These men arrange for him to attend St. Anne's college. There he befriends an older boy, Richard "Spots" Losely. Together they defeat two villains, Francois and Jean, who have been blackmailing the headmaster. Blake discovers that Francois was the man who murdered his parents.

6. By Order of the Foreign Office UNION JACK issue 229 (1908)
An anarchist named Hermann is threatening to contaminate England's reservoirs with an unknown poison from the Abara district near Liberia. Blake is commissioned to stop him and is joined by Losely and Lobangu. They follow Hermann through a subterranean passage under a mountain range and into unknown territory where they are captured by the Abari; a lost tribe descended from Roman Jews. These people are ruled over by a ruthless sect of priests with whom the anarchist has allied himself. The detective's party is sentenced to death but the Abari soldiers rebel and save them. Blake kills Hermann in a duel.

7. Through the Enemy's Country UNION JACK issue 244 (1908)
Sir Richard Losely is helping the besieged Matanga tribe, which is surrounded by the hostile forces of King Ubukosi. Sexton Blake, Tinker and Lobangu journey into the region with a shipment of guns but when their bearers desert they are left stranded. Lobangu tames two elephants and uses them to carry the guns to Losely while Blake and Tinker act as decoys. The two detectives are captured and enslaved but escape and are pursued until they collapse from exhaustion. Lobangu finds them and leads them back to the Matanga camp where they help fight off Ubukosi's forces.

8. The White Chief UNION JACK issue 290 (1909)
Sexton Blake, Tinker, Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu travel to the Pacific island of Fiawai to end a tribal war and annex the island for Britain before the Germans claim its rich deposits of gold. They ally themselves with one tribe while the Germans, led by a man named Wernher, join the opposition. The battle develops into a race to register a claim for the island, which Blake & Co. win.

9. In Deadly Grip UNION JACK issue 302 (1909)
Sir Richard Losely makes a very brief appearance in this tale by Ernest Sempill (aka Michael Storm), coming to the aid of Sexton Blake when the detective finds himself once again confronted by the machinations of the master crook George Marsden Plummer.

10. The Mammoth Hunters THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY issue 88 (1909)
In the Artic Circle, Sexton Blake, Tinker, Losely and Lobangu hunt for mammoths, which are rumoured to still exist in a remote valley. After many adventures and mishaps, they encounter their quarry and engage in a ferocious battle. Ultimately, they kill and skin one of the animals and ship their trophy back to London.

11. The Flying Column UNION JACK issue 404 (1911)
After a year away from the pages of the UNION JACK, Losely and Lobangu are back in action when the Etbaia come under attack from a neighbouring tribe which is led by Hassan, brother of the White Death (from the first Losely story). Lobangu's brother, N'Kobe, is taken hostage, along with others of the Etbaia, and with Losely recalled to England, Lobangu has no choice but to ask his replacement, Sir Henry Marsden, for aid. When his request is refused, he prays that Losely, Blake and Tinker will come to Africa. Somehow, they hear this call and journey to his rescue. Losely is reinstated as Governor.

12. The Long Trail UNION JACK issue 504 (1913)

13. The Land of the Golden Beetle UNION JACK issue 565 (1914)
Lobangu asks his friends to help rescue a man named Buchan who has been abducted by the secretive Wassulu tribe. The team head into unknown territory where they encounter the Snake People, servants of the Wassulu. They then traverse a mountain range to a hidden city where they are trapped and imprisoned. A nobleman named Kala sets them free and explains that the populace is ruled over by vicious and hated priests. When Lobangu fights and kills a gigantic sacred beetle, it sparks off a revolution and the priests are overthrown. Buchan is rescued.

14. The Holding of the Kana Pass UNION JACK issue 592 (1915)
At the outbreak of the First World War, Losely, Lobangu, Blake and Tinker are called upon to defend the Kana Pass — on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. They befriend a tribe named the Mokala and train them in the techniques of modern warfare. With the Germans supported by the Sangala tribe, the battle is joined. The small group of Englishmen and their allies hold their ground against overwhelming odds until the arrival of British Army forces.

15. The Abbey Mystery UNION JACK issue 605 (1915)

16. The Place of Fire UNION JACK issue 652 (1916)

17. The Mystery of the Inari Treasure UNION JACK issue 672 (1916)

More to come ... ...