Lieutenant Francis Gerald Stapleton Cotton was born in Wimbledon in May 1878 and educated at Repton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. Gazetted to the Royal Engineers as a 2nd Lieutenant in September 1897, he served at Chatham and Gosport prior to embarking for South Africa. Subsequently employed in the Hammersmith and Bethlehem Districts with 11th Field Company, he was advanced to Lieutenant in September 1900 and killed by a mine explosion at Pienaar's River Camp on 6.10.1900. In a letter to his parents, the War Office stated:
'It appears that on 6 ultimo Lieutenant F.G.S. Cotton and a Corporal of Royal Engineers were engaged in laying a mine at Pienaar's River; apparently during the process of tamping the mine exploded, resulting, it is regretted, in the death of Lieutenant Cotton and the Non-Commissioned Officer above referred to'.
Cotton had already laid several mines in the defence of that camp and also at Lindley, and had been present at Pretoria the day the Boers attacked Pienaar's River.