His mother died in 1904 when he was five and his father took him to live at Marlesford Rectory to live with his grandparents. Whilst he was there he attended Oakham School in Rutland. He ran away from home and was sent to HMS Worcester training ship (now Thames Nautical Training College). Shortly after the outset of the First World War, he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman.
He was demobilised in 1920 and went to Join the British South Africa Police in Southern Rhodesia (later Rhodesia now Zimbabwe).