Something of an enigma, this carte de visite is inscribed " To Mrs. Sheppard from her old friend F. B.".
From the style of the photo as well as its card mount I would date this photograph to sometime after the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. F. B.'s uniform appears very close to that worm by the Natal Mounted Rifles (N.M.R.). It seems likely that F. B. was a member of the N.M.R.
I have still been unable to find any definitive reference as to the actual identity of F. B. even after consulting Eric Goetzshe's work Rough But Ready: The Official History of the Natal Mounted Rifles.
I have been contacted by the great-granddaughter of one Francis John Birkett of Natal Colony who strongly believes that "F.B." is her ancestor.
Francis John Birkett (b. 1846) was a prominent member of Natal Colony society and appears in the 1906 Natal Who's Who. His biographical sketch includes a photograph of an older Birkett who does bear a resemblance to the above pictured F.B. The biography mentions that Birkett took part in the Langalibalele Rebellion, the Anglo-Zulu War, and the Anglo-Boer War but it fails to list the name(s) of any volunteer military unit to which he may have belonged. The bio also states that Birkett was a member of Sir Theophilus Shepstone's escort at the coronation of the Zulu king Chestewayo.
I have independently been able to confirm Birkett's Anglo-Boer War service as a civilian volunteer with the Dundee Rifle Association. The rolls for the Queen's South Africa Medal list Birkett as being entitled to the medal with the "Talana" clasp. An Anglo-Zulu War-era roll for the 1877-79 South Africa Medal list Corporal Birkett of the Isipingo Mounted Rifles as being entitled o the medal with the "1879" clasp. This Corporal Birkett may or may not be the same man as Francis John Birkett.
Additional research is ongoing.
Carte de Visite
J.H. Murray - Photographer
Church Street, Pieter-Maritz-Burg, Natal Colony, South Africa