A portrait of William Snell Chauncy (1820–1878)

My 3rd great grand uncle William Snell Chauncy (1820–1878) was an English surveyor who emigrated to Australia in 1840.

He was the half-brother of my 3rd great grandfather, Philip Lamothe Snell Chauncy (1816–1880). Their father was William Snell Brown Chauncy né Brown (1781–1845), the natural son of William Snell Chauncy (1756–1829).

Rose, first wife of William Snell Brown Chauncy and mother of Philip and his sisters Martha and Therese, died in 1818.

William (as William Brown) remarried in 1819, to Anne Curtis (1791–1868). William and Anne had five children. William Snell Chauncy né Brown, born on 11 August 1820 in Addlestone, Surrey, was the oldest. On 16 August 1820, William junior was baptised with the name William Brown at St Peter’s, in Chertsey, Surrey.

About 1834 William junior’s half-sister Martha painted his portrait. This small work on ivory, is in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

William Snell Chauncy about 1834: watercolour on ivory painted by his sister Martha Maria Snell Berkeley.
In the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia Dimensions 12.3 x 9.7 cm Credit line J.C. Earl Bequest Fund 1993 Accession number 936P43

The portrait seems a good likeness. He is rendered very much like a later portrait of him.

William Snell Chauncy

In 1840 William Chauncy junior, while working as an architect and surveyor on a grandstand for Ascot racecourse, met Anna Cox, whom he married at St Michael & All Angels, Sunninghill, Berkshire, on 7 July 1840.

On 23 July the newly married couple and William’s brother Hugh (1823–1900) sailed from Liverpool to Adelaide on the ‘Superb‘. William’s two older half-sisters Theresa and Martha had settled in Adelaide in 1837 and his half-brother Philip had joined them in 1839. (Their father had sailed on the Appoline to South Australia a month earlier.) William and Anna, with William’s younger brother Hugh, arrived at Port Adelaide on 22 November 1840.

In 1844 William returned to England and Ireland via South Africa. In 1849 he came back to Australia. As a surveyor he spent much of his career in northeastern Victoria. He later worked for the New South Wales Government. In 1861 he supervised the construction of the first road bridge to span the Murray River between Wodonga and Albury, New South Wales. In 1868 he was appointed road superintendent at Goulburn, New South Wales; his responsibilities being improvements to the main Sydney to Melbourne road (now the Hume Highway).

In 1878 William Chauncy died in Goulburn at the age of 57..

Related posts and further reading

Obituaries for William Chauncy:


Portrait of Mr J. M. Niall

James Mansfield Niall (1860 – 1941), my first cousin four times removed, was managing director and then chairman of the Australian pastoral company Goldsbrough Mort & Co from 1900 to 1935; he joined the company in 1896 and retired from the board in 1940.

In 1928 his portrait as chairman was painted by W.B. McInnes, a highly-regarded Australian portraitist, seven-times winner of the Archibald Prize.

PORTRAIT OF MR. J. M. NIALL. There was a large gathering of officers of the company and guests at the unveiling by the Lord Mayor (Sir Stephen Morell) yesterday of a presentation portrait of Mr. J. M. Niall, chairman and managing director of Goldsbrough, Mort, and Co. Ltd., for 30 years. The portrait, which was painted by Mr. W. B. McInnes, is shown being unveiled by the Lord Mayor. Mr. Niall is standing on the left of the portrait.
From the Argus, Thursday 1 November 1928, page 5

From the Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Thursday 1 November 1928, page 7:


Unveiling of Portrait.

Friends of Mr J M Niall chairman of the board of directors of Goldsbrough Mort and Co Ltd attended the unveiling of his portrait painted by Mr W. B. McInnes, by the Lord Major (Sir Stephen Morell) at the offices of the company yesterday. Sir Frank Clarke, who is a director of the company, was in the chair.

Sir Frank Clarke remarked that the occasion almost coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of Mr Niall's association with the company. When Mr. Niall first joined the company its finances, in common with those of many other business institutions, were in a rather precarious condition; now the shares were worth on the market two and a half times their face value. It was chiefly due to the ability and efforts of Mr. Niall that the company had been built up in the way it had been.

Sir James Elder expressed the opinion that Mr Niall was the greatest asset the company had. He was a high-minded and honourable gentleman as well as a shrewd and capable business man (Applause).

After the Lord Mayor had unveiled the portrait Mr W Forster Woods (chairman of the Stock Exchange) proposed the health of Mr. Niall. Mr. W. A. Gibson (general manager of Goldsbrough Mort and Company) supported the toast, which was honoured with enthusiasm.

In reply Mr. Niall admitted that he had worked hard in the early days of the company, but one man could not have been responsible for its success; he had had the co-operation of a good staff and the confidence and help of the members of the board. It was a great pleasure to him that the board had unanimously appointed his son Mr. K. M. Niall, to take his place as chairman of the board during his projected holiday trip to England.

Mr Niall was presented with a copy of the portrait, also painted by Mr. McInnes.

In 1962 Elder Smith & Co. took over Goldsborough Mort & Co. In 1981 Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort & Co. Ltd merged with Henry Jones IXL to form Elders IXL. McInnes’s portrait of James Niall as Chairman of Goldsbrough Mort is now in the collection of the National Library of Australia, donated, presumably, by one of the companies involved in these mergers and acquisitions.

The copy of the portrait presented to J M Niall in 1928 is still in the family.

Related posts and further reading

  • My post on The tristate tour February 2021 part 2 – when we travelled to Paringa on the Murray River among other places, includes some reminiscenses of J.M. Niall’s time at Paringa Station
  • K is for Kenneth – In J M Niall’s reminiscences he records: when in 1878 Mr Kenneth Budge (who was manager of Gooyea Station in Queensland) died suddenly from heart disease getting out of bed, and my first cousin, J F Cudmore, on whose Station I was working, hurried me off to Queensland, without notice, to go up and take control.
  • Trove tuesday : Daniel Budge – the death of his brother in law Daniel Budge; J.M. Niall was a partner of Daniel Budge for a time in the 1880s

Wikitree: James Mansfield Niall (1860 – 1941)

Living statues

A year ago, in August, I wrote about two of my great-great grand-aunts, Alice Moore née Mainwaring (1852-1878) and Julia Wilkinson née Mainwaring (1857-1907), who in 1874 appeared in Shakespearean tableaux vivant, static ‘living pictures’ with live models.

Miss Alice Mainwaring of Whitmore appeared as Portia from ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in tableaux arranged by James Sant, a Royal Academy portraitist. Julia Mainwaring appeared as Juliet in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ tableaux arranged by Edward Matthew Ward, also a member of the Royal Academy. In April 1874 Alice was 21 and Julia was 17.

Today I was contacted with more information about these tableaux by a researcher with the ‘Shakespeare in the Royal Collection’, a project funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This project concerns the Shakespeare-related holdings of the Royal Collection, primarily from the period 1714-1945.

The tableaux staged in 1874 were photographed by Alexander Bassano (1829-1913), a society photographer of the late nineteenth century. There are twenty-eight albumen prints of these tableaux in the Royal Collection.

The Shakespearean tableaux vivants were performed on 21 and 22 April 1874 in a small theatre at Cromwell House in South Kensington, the home of Charles James and Eliza Freake, to raise money for the National Orphan Home and the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children. The scenes were presented by noted artists, including the Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais. There was music too, with original compositions by Arthur Sullivan. Henry Irving gave dramatic recitations. The guests of honour were the Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, and the newly-wed Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred and his wife the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.

The album of prints came into the Royal Collection from the collection of Prince Alfred, quite likely presented to him as a memento of the event to which he and his wife had given their patronage.

Scene from The Merchant of Venice: “What find I here, fair Portia’s counterfeit.”

A group of four performers recreating a scene from The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, scene 2. They are Alice Mainwaring as Portia, Sarah Fanny Sant as Nerissa, Arthur Ram as Bassanio and Alfred J. de Sterne as Gratiano. The tableau depicts the moment when Bassanio successfully passes the casket test by locating Portia’s miniature. Bassanio is on one knee, studying the miniature; Portia stands behind him with her hands clasped, perhaps in prayer, while Gratiano and Nerissa observe. Like the other tableaux in this set, this scene includes some elaborate early modern costumes, but this scene uses a backdrop and furniture resembling a Victorian interior, and Portia’s costume combines a mixture of Victorian and Renaissance fashions.

Scene from The Merchant of Venice: “This house, these servants and this same myself are yours, my lord”

A group of four performers recreating a scene from The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, scene 2. They are Alice Mainwaring as Portia, Sarah Fanny Sant as Nerissa, Arthur Ram as Bassanio and Alfred J. de Sterne as Gratiano. The caption directs primary attention to Bassanio and Portia on the right hand side: Bassanio is on one knee, holding Portia’s hands and evidently proposing marriage. To the left, Gratiano and Nerissa are apparently engaged in a different kind of negotiation: Gratiano leans in eagerly, one hand rested on Nerissa’s shoulder, while she recoils and fends him off with both hands.

Scene from The Merchant of Venice: “How far that little candle throws its beam…”

Sarah Fanny Sant and Alice Mainwaring posing as Nerissa and Portia from The Merchant of Venice Act 5, scene 1. Both figures are elaborately costumed; Portia wears a voluminous travelling cloak and Nerissa is clutching a book. Portia gestures towards the left of the frame. Behind the figures, a trompe-l’oeil backdrop portrays the exterior of a large house.

These three tableaux were ‘arranged’ by the Royal Academician James Sant, who was well known for his portraits of women and children.

The Daily Telegraph of 21 April 1874 reported: “In Mr. Sant’s scenes from “The Merchant of Venice” the colouring is once more most effective, and there will be praise in store for the Portia of Miss Alice Mainwaring of Whitmore, and the most effective Jessica of Miss Tennant.”

Scene from Romeo and Juliet: “Do thou but close our hands with holy words”

G.V. Boyle, Julia Mainwaring and Colonel Henry Armytage posing as Romeo, Juliet and Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet Act 2, scene 6—the wedding scene. The young lovers kneel facing one another and holding hands, while the friar stands over them with his hands over them in blessing. All three figures wear sixteenth-century costume. Behind them, a trompe-l’oeil backdrop suggests the interior of a stone building, with sunlight beaming through a window.

Scene from Romeo and Juliet: “Take thou this phial”

Julia Mainwaring and Colonel Henry Armytage posing as Juliet and Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet Act 4, scene 1. Juliet sits on a bench, one hand clutched to her chest in alarm, as the friar, standing, passes her the potion that will allow her to appear dead.

The Daily Telegraph commented “An innovation has been suggested by Mr. E. M. Ward, R.A., by clothing his Juliet in startling colours of green and orange, instead of the conventional white satin: but the scenes from the well-known play were heartily applauded and appreciated.”

These two tableaux were ‘arranged’ by the Royal Academician Edward Matthew Ward, an artist specialising in historical and genre painting. He had painted two pictures of scenes from Romeo and Juliet and the tableaux reproduced these paintings.

I am pleased to have more information about these tableaux and the photographs to add to my posts of August last year.

Related posts and further reading

  • Shakespearean Tableaux enacted at Cromwell House, 1874, in the presence of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh; photographed by Alexander Bassano: album in the Royal Collection Trust
  • “Shakespearian Tableaux at Cromwell House.” Daily Telegraph, 21 Apr. 1874, p. 5. The Telegraph Historical Archive
  • “SHAKSPERIAN TABLEAUX AT CROMWELL HOUSE.” Morning Post, 22 Apr. 1874, p. 6. British Library Newspapers
  • “Shakespearian Tableaux.” Times, 23 Apr. 1874, p. 7. The Times Digital Archive
  • “TABLEAUX VIVANTS AT SOUTH KENSINGTON.” Era, 26 Apr. 1874. British Library Newspapers



The motto of the Royal Artillery is the single word ‘Ubique’, ‘Everywhere’. It would serve as well for my family, whose members seem to have a talent for being on the spot whatever is going forward, wherever something is happening. Recently, in a series of British Empire posts I found relatives, distant and close, in all the red parts of the map. Today, I’m pleased to say, I’ve turned up a cousin who was part of an expedition to Antarctica.

This was Hugh Mainwaring Millett (1903–1968), my first cousin twice removed. He was born in Gibralter in 1903, the son of Helen Millett née Cavenagh (1877–1918) and Thompson Horatio Millett (1870–1920), a Royal Navy paymaster. Hugh had one brother, Guy (1907-1978).

The 1921 census records Hugh Mainwaring Millett as a naval cadet at Rosyth near Edinburgh on HMS Thunderer, a decommissioned Orion class Dreadnought used a training ship.

He did well. In 1934, Hugh Millett, now an Engineer Officer with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander (roughly equivalent to an Army Major), joined the British Graham Land Expedition. This small group of sixteen men under the leadership of an Australian John Rymill , was the first full-scale British expedition to winter in the Antarctic since Shackleton’s expedition of 1914-1917. Graham Land is an Antarctic peninsula, the closest point to continental South America.

Research yacht Penola under sail from Southern lights; the official account of the British Graham Land expedition, 1934-1937 by John Rymill published 1938. Image from State Library of South Australia.

Hugh Millett was responsible for the expedition’s engines, an important and technically challenging task. A fellow member of the expedition described him as “a man of great mechanical ingenuity”, in the circumstances no doubt highly valued.

From the introduction to British Graham land expedition, 1934-37. Scientific reports volume 1:

THE British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-37, under the leadership of Mr. John Rymill, an Australian, was the first full-scale British Expedition to winter in the Antarctic since Shackleton’s men returned in 1916. It was mainly financed from funds at the disposal of the Colonial Office. In addition, it received substantial monetary help from the Royal Geographical Society and many private benefactors, chief amongst whom was Lord Wakefield.
The Expedition sailed in the three-masted topsail schooner, R.Y. Penola, of 150 tons nett, which was manned entirely by the members of the Expedition, who were all volunteers. The following in brief is the story of their travels. On 10 September, 1934, the Penola sailed from the Thames; a fortnight later she touched at Madeira and reached the Falkland Islands at the beginning of December. 
Port Stanley was left at the new year and the Argentine Islands on the west coast of Graham Land were finally reached on 14 February, 1935, after considerable trouble with the ship’s engines, troubles which had far-reaching effects on the Penola’s subsequent capabilities. At the Argentine Islands a base was established and there too the ship wintered.
Owing to poor winter ice conditions work during that first year was limited, apart from flights by a small Fox Moth aeroplane, to the islands and mainland coast within a hundred miles of the base. Then, in January 1936 the Penola, with the ship’s party on board, visited Deception Island. Her next task was to transport the whole Expedition in mid-February to the Debenham Islands in Marguerite Bay where a new base was erected. Here the shore party was left while the ship sailed north to the Falklands and South Georgia for a refit.
The main geographical work of the Expedition was carried out from this southern base between March 1936, and February 1937. The chief result of this part of the work was the proof of the peninsularity of Graham Land and the discovery of King George VI Sound.
The Penola returned to Marguerite Bay in February 1937, and the whole Expedition sailed for home.
A general narrative of the Expedition has been provided by its leader in his Southern Lights, published by Chatto & Windus in 1938.

In 1939 members of the expedition including Hugh received the Polar Medal, awarded by the Sovereign, worn higher than campaign Medals and Stars. In 1955 a glacier was named after him.

from the UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls. The Polar Medal is octagonal in shape and features an image of the monarch on the obverse. It’s accompanied by a clasp that’s placed on the ribbon of the medal in order to signify which region or regions service was completed.

Hugh served in World War 2. He was mentioned in despatches in 1942 and received an O.B.E. in 1944 for distinguished service during the landings of Allied Forces in Normandy.

Hugh retired from the navy with the rank of Commander.

Related posts and further reading

  • N is for Naval husbands: Hugh’s mother Helen was one of six daughters, five of whom including Helen married naval officers


Painting the map red

The British Empire provided direct employment for several of my forebears and relatives, as administrators, soldiers and sailors, and magistrates and missionaries.

For others of them, the Empire (like the Pax Romana of earlier times), meant an imposed peace, which gave opportunity for trade and enterprise somewhere within the shelter of the red on the map.

The territories that were at one time or another part of the British Empire. The United Kingdom and its accompanying British Overseas Territories are underlined in red.
Map from Wikimedia Commons

Many of the relatives I have written about for this year’s A to Z Challenge were younger sons. With no prospect of inheriting an estate they were obliged to find a career and an income. In doing so, they, with other builders of the Empire, ‘conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.’

Many died young, but more than a few managed to make a good living abroad, with large families and substantial incomes unachievable by those who stayed in England. Their success often required some small help, often a patron’s initial influence. A good education was useful. From then their success depended on their own endeavours and a touch of good fortune.

My posts in 2023:

  • A is for Agra: George Symes (1859 – 1920), father of my step grandfather, served as a gunner in the Royal Artillery. His infant son died in Agra.
  • B is for Buntingdale: Francis Tuckfield (1808–1865), married to Greg’s third great grand aunt, was a Methodist minister, who in early colonial times set up an Aboriginal mission near Colac, in Victoria.
  • C is for Ceylonese coffee: my great great grandfather Wentworth Cavenagh (1822–1895) who in the 1840s left his home in Ireland and travelled the world becoming, successively, a farmer in Canada, a coffee planter in Ceylon, and a gold miner in Victoria.
  • D is for died in Dacca: Edward Henry Mainwaring (1781–1807), son of my fifth great grandparents Rowland Mainwaring (1745–1817) and Jane Mainwaring née Latham (1755–1809) was my fourth great grand uncle. He  served in the Bengal Army for ten years before dying suddenly in Dacca on 22 July 1807, at the age of 25.
  • E is for emigration: a summary of my ancestors and those of my husband who emigrated to Australia, leaving their homes permanently in search of a better life.
  • F is for Ferozepore: birthplace of my 1st cousin four times removed, George Bannatyne Wymer (1839–1908), who was the third child of my third great aunt Emily Crespigny Wymer née Hindes. George was born on 10 December 1839 and christened on 5 January 1840. His father was a soldier in the East India Company.
  • G is for garden at Dapuri near Poona: my third cousin four times removed Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny (1821–1895), by profession a medical practitioner, was a keen amateur botanist who became Superintendent of the Government Botanical Gardens at Dapuri [Dapodi] near Poonah [Pune] in India.
  • H is for Haileybury: my 4th great uncle George Mainwaring (1791–1865) was the youngest son of my 5th great grandparents, Rowland Mainwaring and Jane Mainwaring née Latham. In December 1806 he petitioned to join the clerical and administrative arm of the Honourable East India Company and a year later, at the age of fifteen or thereabouts, George was accepted as a Writer [junior clerk]. George’s career began with two years training—1807 to 1809—in the East India Company’s College. This had been temporarily accommodated in the Gatehouse buildings of Hertford Castle; by 1809 it had moved to new quarters, known as Haileybury College, in Hailey, Hertfordshire.
  • I is for Indian Mutiny: at least three relatives were killed in the 1857 Mutiny:  my second cousin five times removed Lieutenant Matthew Hugh Reveley of the 74th Native Infantry; my first cousin five times removed Captain Rowland Mainwaring Smith of the 54th Bengal Native Infantry; my first cousins five times removed, Cornet Charles Mainwaring of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry.
  • J is for Jamaica: my fourth great uncle Karl Heinrich August Mainwaring (1837–1906) was tenth of the seventeen children of Rowland Mainwaring (1783–1862), eldest of the eight children of Rowland’s third wife Laura Maria Julia Walburga Chevillard (1811–1891). Karl joined the navy and served in Jamaica. After retirement from the navy he was harbour master in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • K is for Retreat from Kabul: Mrs Georgiana Mainwaring, wife of my first cousin five times removed, and her 3 month old son Edward, were caught up in the disastrous 1842 retreat from Kabul but survived.
  • L is for languages: my first cousin five times removed Alliston Champion Toker (1843-1936) was a soldier in the Bengal Army and translator into Indian languages.
  • M is for medals: my step grandfather George Symes (1896–1980) had a collection of medals awarded to soldiers of his regiment, the York and Lancaster, which were awarded to commemorate campaigns in which the regiment and its predecessors took part.
  • N is for New Zealand: my first cousin five times removed was a soldier named Arthur Branthwayt Toker (1834–-1866). He fought in the Crimea and in the Māori Wars.
  • O is for Opportunities Lost and Found: the career in the East India Company of Joseph Sherburne, the husband of my 4th great grand aunt (1751–1805), had its ups and downs
  • P is for palanquin: Colonel George Wymer (1788–1868), husband of my 4th great aunt Emily Crespigny Wymer née Hindes was attacked and robbed while travelling by palanquin on the road between Ferozepore to Loodianah, a section of the Grand Trunk Road.
  • Q is for Quebec: my fifth great grandfather William Duff (1754–1795), was taken prisoner by Rebels in 1775 during the American Revolution in the capture of Fort Chambly near Quebec. After the war he again served in Quebec.
  • R is for Railway Accident: my first cousin five times removed Norman William Mainwaring(1821–1858, son of George Mainwaring and Isabella née Byres, was a soldier in the Bengal Army. He died in a railway accident at Howrah station near Calcutta.
  • S is for saving a language: my first cousin five times removed, Lieutenant General George Byres Mainwaring (1825–1893), was a soldier in the Bengal Army and a linguist who studied the little known language of the Lepchas of the Darjeeling hills.
  • T is for twin: Greg’s great grandfather Henry Dawson (1864 – 1929) served for a short while in the British Army. He later emigrated to Australia. His twin brother stayed in England.
  • U is for unlucky in Argentina: my 1st cousin four times removed Henry Arthur Mainwaring (1852–1877) was the fourth of the ten children of the Reverend Charles Henry Mainwaring (1819–1878), rector of Whitmore, and his wife Jane née Delves-Broughton (1824–1873), daughter of a Staffordshire baronet. He emigrated to Argentina but died there as a young man.
  • V is for Vitoria and for Van Diemen’s Land: my second cousin six times removed, Frederick Jemmet Mainwaring (1796–1858), served in the 51st Regiment of Foot during the Peninsular War and was later deployed with the regiment to Tasmania then known as Van Diemen’s Land.
  • W is for the wrath of Wellington: Lieutenant Colonel John Montagu Mainwaring (1761–-1842), my first cousin seven times removed, during a battle in the Peninsular War burned the regimental colours. The Duke of Wellington, the commander of the British army, was greatly displeased.
  • X is for Xiānggǎng: the Royal Navy had a base in Hong Kong. My fourth great uncle Karl Heinrich August Mainwaring (1837–1906) served there and his younger brother Guy (1847–1909) visited the base.
  • Y is for younger sons: the sons of my fourth great grandfather, Rowland Mainwaring (1782–1862), who were not destined to inherit land or wealth, were helped in the first steps of their career, some were educated for the Church, and some found a place in the army or the navy. Their ongoing success depended on their own endeavours and good fortune.
  • Z is for Zagazig: my first cousin five times removed Alliston Champion Toker (1843-1936), was with the Indian contingent at the 1882 battle of Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt. That battle was followed by a pursuit of the enemy to a town called Zagazig.

Z is for Zagazig

When I was a girl, in a gloomy corridor of my grandmother’s house in Adelaide there was a lithograph of Tel-el-Kebir, the 1882 battle that won the Anglo-Egyptian War for the British. It probably came from my step-grandfather, George Symes, whose regiment, the Yorks and Lancs, had a part in the victory.

1890 Bird’s eye view of the battle of Tel-el-Kebir drawn by G. W. Bacon. Image retrieved through Geographicus Rare Antique Maps: a zoomable image is available through the link.
Zagazig is shown on the horizon. The Bengal infantry are to the left on the other side of the canal, the Cameronian Highlanders are in the front of the charge to the left. The 84th Regiment (York and Lancaster) are to the right, being led by an officer with a raised sword and next to the cannon.
The picture of Tel-el-Kebir hanging in my brother’s house

In 1882 Alliston Toker (see L is for Languages) was D.A.A.G. [Deputy Assistant Adjutant General] to the Indian contingent at Tel-el-Kebir and subsequent pursuit to Zagazig; he was mentioned in despatches, receiving the brevet of Lieut.-Colonel and the 4th class of the Order of Osmanieh

13th Bengal Cavalry at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 retrieved from BritishBattles.com

The Anglo-Egyptian war was fought over who should control the Suez Canal.

From 1879 Colonel Ahmed ʻUrabi (or Orabi or Arabi) sought to depose the Khedive Tewfik Pasha and end British and French influence over the country. Egypt had been bankrupted by interest payments on loans incurred to fund an over-ambitious programme of infrastructure projects. The country’s finances were controlled by representatives of France and Britain.

In June 1882 there were riots in Alexandria, and the British bombarded the city.

The British were afraid they might lose control of Egypt, forfeiting loans and interest repayments. They were also concerned about the security of the Suez Canal which, since its opening in 1869, had become a vital part of the global communications of the British Empire.

Garnet Wolseley‘s 24,000 British and 7,000 Indian troops was the largest Imperial overseas force since the Crimean War in the 1850s. On his arrival Wolseley took control of the Suez Canal, secured his communications, created a strong base, built up stores, and concentrated his forces.

To defend Cairo the Egyptian forces dug in at Tel El Kebir, north of the railway and the Sweetwater Canal, both of which linked Cairo to Ismailia on the canal. The defences, though hastily prepared, included trenches and redoubts.

Wolseley planned to approach the position by night and attack frontally at dawn, hoping to achieve surprise, and a final, decisive victory.

Night marches are risky but the approach march of the main forces was made easier because the desert was almost flat and unobstructed.

Orders to prepare for battle were issued at 3pm on the afternoon of 12 September. One hundred rounds and two days’ rations were issued to every man. The orders instructed “Commanding officers are to be very particular about the fitness of water-carts, which will be filled and follow in rear of the battalions, and to make sure, by the personal inspection of company officers at 5 p.m. to-day, that every man has his water-bottle filled, if possible, with cold tea.”

The troops were told to maintain strict silence on the march; orders were to be given in whispers and rifles would be unloaded to avoid chance shots. No lights were to be shown; smoking was banned. Tents were left standing until dusk, campfires burning thereafter, so as not to alert the enemy to the fact that the British were on the move.

The advance from Ismailia began at 1.30am. An estimate of one-mile-per-hour average speed was calculated for a dawn attack. Navigation was by the stars. There were frequent halts to check direction and alignment. The march from the perspective of the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders was described in the regimental history:

“The weird night march, long to be retained in the annals of the regiment and the country, can never be forgotten by those who took part in it ; the monotonous tramp, the sombre lines, the dimly discerned sea of desert faintly lighted by the stars, were at once ghostly and impressive. The pace was necessarily slow ; one halt was made, and shortly afterwards the directing star having become concealed another one was chosen, and the direction slightly changed to the right. The 42nd, 74th, and 75th, did not at once conform, and the consequence was that a halt had to be made as these regiments found themselves almost facing each other.
This line was quickly and silently re-formed, and the advance continued.
Just as dawn was breaking two shots were fired from the left front, and Private James Pollock of the regiment fell dead. It was now evident that the regiment was close upon the enemy. Bayonets were at once fixed.”

At 5.45 a.m. Wolseley’s troops were six hundred yards from the entrenchments and dawn was just breaking, when Egyptian sentries saw them and fired. The first shots were followed by multiple volleys from the entrenchments and by the artillery. British troops charged with the bayonet. The Highlanders charged “to the shrill music of the pipes, and cheering as they ran”.

Wolseley had written in his 1871 “Soldier’s Pocket-Book for Field Service:

“A ringing cheer is inseparable from charging. I do not believe it possible to get a line in action to charge in silence ; and were it possible, the general who would deprive himself of the moral assistance it gives the assailants, must be an idiot. It encourages, lends nerve and confidence to an assailant : its very clamour makes men feel their strength as they realise the numbers that are charging with them. Nothing serves more to strike terror into a force that is charged than a loud ringing cheer, bespeaking confidence.”
Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, 1882; painting by Henri-Louis Dupray. In the collection of the National Army Museum.
The painting depicts the moment at first light when the Highland Brigade, having advanced within 150 yards of the Egyptian trenches and fixing bayonets as they went, stormed the enemy at bayonet-point.

The British advance was shielded from view by the smoke from the Egyptian artillery and rifles. Arriving in the trenches at the same time, all along the line, the resulting battle was over within an hour. The Egyptians fought strongly, Sir Archibald Alison, a Highland commander, reported in ”The Highland Brigade” by James Cromb, recalled:

‘Retiring up a line of works which we had taken in flank, they rallied at every re-entering angle, at every battery, at every redoubt, and renewed the fight. Four or five times we had to close upon them with bayonet, and I saw these men fighting hard when their officers were flying.’

It was a crushing defeat for the Egyptians. Official British figures gave a total of 57 British troops killed. Approximately two thousand Egyptians died. The British army had more casualties due to heatstroke than enemy action.

British cavalry pursued the broken enemy towards Cairo, which was undefended.

The regimental history of the 79th states:

“At 4.30 p.m. the same day the regiment, with the 74th and 75th, marched about five miles towards Zagazig and bivouacked for the night. The following day it moved on to Zagazig, 13 miles distant.
On entering Zagazig, about 6 p.m., the 72nd Highlanders were seen encamped on the other side of the canal, and raised many a cheer as the regiment passed. They formed part of the Indian contingent, and had pushed on in front of the Highland brigade.”
Occupation Of Zagazig, after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir from Recent British battles on land and sea by James Grant, page 492 retrieved through Google Books
On the road to Tel-el-Kebir – Zagazig (looking towards the Battlefield) by F Murdoch Wright. Watercolour dated 1882 – 1890 in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum
The British were at Ismailia and marched to Tel el Kebir. Fugitives from the battle fled to Zagazig.

Zagazig, is situated in the eastern part of the Nile delta. It is just under 60 km west of Tel el Kebir and 70 km north of Cairo. Many fugitives from the battle fled there.

Organised Egyptian resistance collapsed after Tel el-Kebir and the puppet regime of the Khedive was restored by the British. ʻUrabi was captured and eventually exiled to the British colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Egypt became a British colony in all but name.

Also serving in the battle was Tyrrell Other William Champion de Crespigny (1859 – 1946), brother of the 4th baronet and a distant cousin. I wrote about him in ‘U for Unregistered in 2021‘.

Related posts and further reading


Y is for younger sons

In “Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England” the historian Rory Muir wrote:

Not all gentlemen were rich; indeed, many had little money of their own and had to pursue a career. The eldest son would normally inherit the family estate, while the daughters and younger sons would receive no more than a start in life. The girls would be introduced into society where they might find a husband, and they would receive some money either as part of their marriage settlement or as capital on which they might contrive to live as a spinster. The younger sons would be helped in the first steps of their career, educated for the Church or the law, or found a place in the army or the navy, and they too would be given or inherit a little capital. Their father, and when he died their eldest brother, would continue to use whatever influence he possessed to help them along, but their success would largely depend on their own endeavours and their good fortune. 

Muir argues that younger sons had few choices:

  • The Church. This was safe for the unambitious, but life for most clergymen was humdrum and often poorly rewarded financially.
  • The law offered better rewards but competition was fierce and it was often a struggle in the early years.
  • The navy was a cheaper choice. Boys joined at the age 14 or so without the expense of school or university.
  • The army was more expensive as commissions for each rank were purchased, though this was sometimes waived in times of war.
  • Manufacturing and trade were socially acceptable.
  • Medicine in the early nineteenth century had a lower status than the law.
  • There were desirable positions in Government service, but for these there was fierce competion.
  • India and the colonies were unlikely to produce great personal wealth although there were exceptions

My Georgian and Victorian male relatives, at least most of those I have written about, made their careers as officers in the army and navy or in the colonies as settlers and administrators. The younger sons, prevented by the custom of primogeniture from inheriting any large part of their father’s estate, gave their talents and energies to building the Empire.

There were risks in this, and many died young, but more than a few managed to make a good living abroad, with large families and substantial incomes otherwise unachievable.

My Mainwaring ancestors provide a good example. Rowland Mainwaring (1782-1862), my 4th great grandfather, was the younger son of a younger son. His father was an army officer. Rowland joined the navy at the age of 12 as a ‘young gentleman’ midshipman. His three brothers all joined the East India Company. Four of Rowland Mainwaring’s sons joined the navy, two became clergymen, two joined the East India Company or the India Civil Service, three joined the army, six emigrated to New Zealand, South Australia or India. None chose the occupations of law, trade, manufacturing, or medicine.

As for Mainwaring’s daughters, two died young, one married an army officer and the other a clergyman, so allying themselves, unsurprisingly, with the class occupied by their brothers.

Rowland Mainwaring married three times and fathered 17 children:

  1. Rowland Mainwaring (1811-1826) entered the Royal Navy aged 13. (He died in Sydney of dysentery at the age of 15.)
  2. Sophia Henrietta Mainwaring (1815–1871) married an army (militia) officer.
  3. Edward Pellew Mainwaring (1815–1858) joined the navy at the age of 15 (he left when he was 20). He was the heir apparent to the family estate ‘Whitmore’.
  4. Gordon Mainwaring (1817–1872) was first a cadet at Addiscombe Military Seminary, military school of the British East India Company. He then joined the the 53rd Bengal Native Infantry Company, but soon resigned and emigrated to South Australia. In 1858, his elder brother died with no sons and Gordon became the heir to the family estate ‘Whitmore’, which he inherited in 1862.
  5. Paulina Mary Mainwaring (1818–1825) died young.
  6. Charles Henry Mainwaring (1819–1878) clergyman became rector of Whitmore.
  7. William Arthur Mainwaring (1822–1854) joined the army, becoming a Captain of the 79th Highlanders.
  8. George Mainwaring (1824–1850) joined the army, became a Lieutenant of the 85th Light Infantry, then emigrated to South Australia.
  9. Mary Anne Mainwaring (1828–1865) married a clergyman.
  10. Karl Heinrich August Mainwaring (1837–1906) joined the navy, rising to the rank of Captain. He became harbour master in Jamaica. He retired to the island of Jersey.
  11. Randolph Mainwaring (1839–1902) was educated at University College, Oxford. In 1865 he emigrated to New Zealand, where he worked with several of his brothers for a few years on Manipouri Station, South-West Otago. He became a journalist.
  12. Eugene George Henri Mainwaring (1841–1911) was articled to a Civil Engineer. He farmed with his brothers in New Zealand and then worked as a civil engineer in New Zealand.
  13. Laura Chevillard Mainwaring (1843–1843) died young.
  14. Frederic Mainwaring (1844–1922) went with his brothers to New Zealand. He became a Council clerk there.
  15. Guy Mainwaring (1847–1909) joined the navy, where he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral.
  16. Horatio Mainwaring (1848–1913) entered the Indian Civil Service in its Woods’ and Forests’ Department.
  17. Algernon Mainwaring (1852–1926), educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, became a Clerk in Holy Orders.

As Muir suggests, some of the sons of Rowland Mainwaring were indeed helped in the first steps of their career, some were educated for the Church, and some found a place in the army or the navy. They inherited very little capital from their father. Their success did depend on their own endeavours and good fortune.

Related posts

Wikitree: Rowland Mainwaring (1782 – 1862)

Rowland Mainwaring married three times and had 17 children

Rowland (28) married Sophia Henrietta Duff (~20) (~1790 – 1824) on 31 Dec 1810 in Stoke Damerel, Devon, England. Their children were:

  1. Rowland Mainwaring (1811 – 1826)
  2. Sophia Henrietta (Mainwaring) Coyney (1813 – 1871)
  3. Edward Pellew Mainwaring (1815 – 1858)
  4. Gordon Mainwaring (1817 – 1872)
  5. Paulina Mary Mainwaring (1818 – 1825)
  6. Charles Henry Mainwaring (1819 – 1878)
  7. William Arthur Mainwaring (1822 – 1854)
  8. George Mainwaring (1824 – 1850).

Rowland (43) married Mary Anne Clark (41) (1785 – 1835) on 15 Nov 1826 in Preshute, Wiltshire, England. Their daughter was Mary Ann (Mainwaring) Vaughan-Hughes (1828 – 1865).

Rowland (53) married Laura Maria Julia Walburga Chevillard (~24) (~1812 – 1891) on 11 Nov 1836 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Their children were:

  1. Karl Heinrich August Mainwaring (1837 – 1906)
  2. Randolph Mainwaring (1839 – 1902)
  3. Eugene George Henri Mainwaring (1841 – 1911)
  4. Laura Chevillard Mainwaring (1843 – 1843)
  5. Frederic Mainwaring (1844 – 1922)
  6. Guy Mainwaring (1847 – 1909)
  7. Horatio Mainwaring (1848 – 1913)
  8. Algernon Mainwaring (1852 – 1926).

X is for Xiānggǎng

Xiānggǎng, with an X, is the modern, pīnyīn, transcription of 香港 ‘fragrant harbour’ pronounced in Mandarin.

The name first came to Western notice in the so-called ‘First Opium War’, a series of skirmishes fought between Britain and imperial China from September 1839 to August 1842 over British insistence on their ‘right’ to trade opium in defiance of a Chinese ban.

The 1842 Treaty of Nanking ended the war in favour of the British. The Chinese were forced to make concessions; one was the ceding of Hong Kong island and, later, following the Second Opium War of 1856 to 1860, Kowloon Peninsular. On 26 January 1841 Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer raised the Union Jack and claimed Hong Kong as a colony. Construction of a naval base began. In 1898 Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories.

China Station‘, which referred both to the Royal Navy naval base and the admiral in command, was created in 1865. It had as its area of responsibility the coast of China and its navigable rivers, and beyond this to the western part of the Pacific Ocean and the waters around the Dutch East Indies.

In 1866 my fourth great uncle Karl Heinrich August Mainwaring (1837–1906) was stationed in Hong Kong as a naval lieutenant in the China Squadron, on HMS Princess Charlotte.

HMS Princess Charlotte painted 1838 by James Kennett Willson. Image from Wikimedia Commons
Kellett’s Island, looking west across Wanchai towards Central and the Peak, with HMS Princess Charlotte on the right (1869 – 71). Image from BlouinArtinfo

HMS Princess Charlotte was a receiving ship, a harbour-bound hulk used for stores and accommodation in lieu of a permanent shore base at Hong Kong in 1858.

In July 1866 Lieutenant Mainwaring was given charge of HMS Opossum, a 4-gun screw gunboat with a crew of 38. Given the task of destroying Chinese pirates Mainwaring was notably successful. (See ‘X is for destruction of a piratical fleet near Xiānggǎng (Hong Kong)‘)

‘Expedition against the Chinese Pirates’ from The Illustrated London News of 23 October 1865 page 409 with illustration: Fleet of Chinese junks, with HMS Opossum, preparing to attack pirates at How-Chow.

Karl Mainwaring was promoted to commander in 1867. In 1868 he transferred to Jamaica where he served on HMS Aboukir, a receiving ship used for stores and accommodation in lieu of a permanent shore base. (See (J is for Jamaica)

In 1869 Karl Mainwaring’s brother Guy (1847–1909) passed through Hong Kong as a lieutenant on HMS Galatea, a steam-powered wooden frigate, under the command of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria.

HMS Galatea, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, during the visit of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. Tuesday 2nd November 1869.
Photograph by John Thomson, first published in Thomson’s ‘Illustrations of China and Its People‘.
Image from Historical Photographs of China, University of Bristol.
A fellow officer on the GalateaLord Charles Beresford, danced the hornpipe. While in Hong Kong, Guy Mainwaring and Charles Beresford were photographed together in costume. (This is the Charles Beresford who as Admiral became notorious for his bitter dispute with Sir John (Jackie) Fisher, First Sea Lord.)
Guy Mainwaring is in the striped shirt.
Photographed by William Floyd of Hong Kong; from the Library of Nineteenth Century Photography

In 1941 China Station was merged with the East Indies Station in December 1941 to form the Eastern Fleet.

Related posts


W is for the wrath of Wellington

It is easy to criticise the decisions made by a soldier in the heat of battle, and it can be a difficult task to establish just why he took this or that action. Consider the case of Lieutenant Colonel John Montagu Mainwaring (1761–1842), my first cousin seven times removed, who during a battle in the Peninsular War burned the regimental colours.

John Montagu Mainwaring was the second son of Benjamin Mainwaring (1719–1782), an attorney.

In 1784, at the age of 23, he joined the 67th Regiment, where he was promoted to lieutenant in 1789, captain in 1794, and major in 1800. In 1804 Mainwaring transferred to the 90th regiment as lieutenant-colonel, then, in 1808, to the 51st regiment. (John’s older brother also served in the army and his younger brother was a naval officer.)

In the Walcheren Campaign in the Netherlands Mainwaring commanded the advance at Flushing. With two companies of the 51st Regiment and two of the 82nd, he repulsed a French sortie, taking 600 prisoners and capturing two nine-pounder guns.

Early in 1811, he accompanied his Regiment to Lisbon, and commanded it in the three-day-long battle of Fuentes de Oñoro.

Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro painted by Henri Dupray (public domain)

During the fighting, standing on defence behind Poço Velho, Lieutenant Colonel Mainwaring, believing—falsely, as it turned out—that his men were soon to be defeated and over-run, deliberately burned the Regimental Colours. This was a grave matter. The flags and banners unique to a regiment, symbol of its identity and history, were always defended, at any cost. His supporters explained that these precious objects had been destroyed to prevent them falling into enemy hands. Wellington, the commander of the British army, greatly displeased, had Mainwaring court-martialled, and when Mainwaring was wounded in a later engagement had him returned to England.

John Colburne, Field-Marshal and a colonial governor, who during the Peninsular War commanded the 52nd Foot, gave his account of what happened:

Colonel Mainwaring, of the 51st, was placed in a position [Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro] in which he thought he was sure to be surrounded by the French. So he called his officers and said, ‘we are sure of being taken or killed; therefore we'll burn the colours.’ Accordingly, they brought the colours and burnt them with all funeral pomp, and buried the ashes, or kept them, I believe. It so happened that the French never came near them. Lord Wellington was exceedingly angry when he heard of it, as he knew well enough where he had placed the regiment. So he ordered Mainwaring under arrest and tried him by court-martial. An old colonel, who undertook his defence, said, ‘I believe it was something to do with religious principles.’ ‘Oh,’ said Lord Wellington, ‘if it was a matter of religious principles, I have nothing more to do with it. You may take him out of arrest; but send him to Lisbon.’ So he went to Lisbon, and was never allowed to command his regiment again; he was sent home.

John Mainwaring’s nephew, Frederick Mainwaring (V is for Vitoria and for Van Diemen’s Land), was with his uncle and the 51st at the battle. He wrote an account of the Peninsular War, published in 1844. Of Fuentes de Oñoro he said:

Day broke at last; and I well remember , in the early grey of a summer’s morn, as the men stood to their arms, how my eyes stretched to see the French; but they were hidden generally from view by the woods, and I could only just discern two or three dark heavy columns, as quiet and apparently as motionless as ourselves. Soon, however, the musketry began with the attack upon the village, then the deep heavy roar of cannon, and we saw troops in our front, the 3rd Light Division, smartly engaged. We were kept in reserve all this day, remaining under arms, but doing nothing. During the night we were moved to the right on account of some movement of the enemy; but with the dawn of day we were back in our places, and deploying into line, were formed with our left thrown back; a Portuguese brigade was immediately behind us, lining a long broken stone wall, and they began a heavy straggling fire, which would have done us considerable harm, had it not been for the presence of mind and gallantry of our Colonel, (my uncle,) who rushed up, and at the imminent risk of his own life, knocked up their muskets with his sword, and succeeded in stopping (to us) this most dangerous fire. We had not as yet seen the foe; soon, however, a round shot whizzed over our heads, and went bounding away far behind us. I made a most polite bow as it passed: it was the first I had ever heard. I was but a boy, and breathing a short prayer to Heaven, for I was then young and innocent, and such prayers we are told never ascend in vain, I murmured to myself, whilst my heart beat most violently, “Now, I am in earnest in battle;” not that it was fear, --it was a mingled emotion of awe and pleasure, and I know not what, I have never felt it since, and cannot now describe it. I looked towards my uncle, heard I him steadily and coolly giving his orders; then came the heavy gallop and rush of cavalry, an immense column of horse advancing at full speed; again the deep manly voice of the Colonel, “Steady, soldiers; ready--present--fire! In a second all this passed; the regiment, all young soldiers, stood in line like a solid rock, poured in a deadly volley; and when the smoke cleared away, horses were to be seen galloping wildly about without riders, and the enemy’s column were moving, much thinned, round our left flank, to attack the regiments posted there; from them they met the same warm reception, and were repulsed with great loss.

We now retired from the right by companies through a small wood, and reformed again in line on some rising ground, exposed to a heavy cannonade. The officer who commanded out brigade, was not to be found; and upon our commanding officer asking the General of the Division what was to be done, his reply was, “Do whatever you please, Colonel M----g.” This officer then taking the command, retired over a plain, in the presence of a large cavalry force, in the most judicious manner, showing, through the whole operations of the day, the greatest possible skill, judgment, and bravery, and yet his honourable breast has been denied the medal he so nobly earned on that field, as an action two days afterwards, in which this officer took the greatest responsibility upon himself, and which ought to have reflected credit upon him rather than annoyance, was misrepresented to the Great Duke, who, with all his bright qualities, is said (if report does not greatly belie him,) never to alter an opinion or a resolution once formed, and thus a brave and distinguished old General is deprived of an honour he so justly deserved…
Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro (3–5 May 1811). Watercolour in the collection of the National Army Museum.
An ensign and colour sergeant of the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment, 1812.
Aquatint in the collection of the National Army Museum.

The Regimental Colours acted as a rallying point in the heat and smoke of battle, so that soldiers could easily find their unit by its Colours. Losing the Colours to the enemy was a great disgrace for a Regiment. The loss betokened complete defeat.

In The Life of a Regimental Officer During the Great War 1793-1815 by A. F. Mockler-Ferryman published in 1913, Mockler-ferryman writes:

Now, as a matter of fact, Sir John Colborne was wrong in saying that "the French never came near them," for it is perfectly certain that the 7th Division was posted in a most perilous position, and was very seriously attacked, although certainly the 51st was not so desperately engaged as were some of the other regiments. The division, numbering some four thousand infantry (of whom the 51st and 85th were the only British regiments), and supported by fourteen hundred cavalry, was detached two miles from the main position, on practically open ground, and every one in the division knew that since Wellington's left flank was impregnable, Massena would, of necessity, direct his attack on the right flank. Wellington himself was well aware of this, but either he did not anticipate so vast a turning movement as his adversary eventually launched, or he had intended that the 7th Division should only hold the outlying position assigned to it long enough to induce Massena to develop his attack against it. Be that as it may, the fact remains that, at one time, the 7th Division was threatened by twenty thousand of Massena's infantry and nearly the whole of his masses of cavalry, and for a while was in imminent danger of being cut off and annihilated. Wellington, of course, set matters right as soon as he realised that the situation was becoming critical, but there were some who imagined that he was intensely annoyed at having made faulty dispositions in the first instance, and that he endeavoured to justify himself in the eyes of the 7th Division by venting his wrath on the colonel of the 51st. At the same time the burning of the colours was an extraordinary procedure on the part of the colonel, and it is not easy to understand how it was that the other senior officers of the regiment acquiesced in it, if, indeed, they did so. When the circumstances became known to Wellington, he was bound to take notice of what had occurred; but apparently the officers of the 51st considered that he was unduly severe in treating their colonel's action as anything more than an error of judgment, for which a reprimand might have been sufficient. As it was, they always maintained that the commander-in-chief had been harsh and unjust, because it had been represented to him that Colonel Mainwaring had doubted the wisdom of his dispositions.

Years afterwards his nephew, Frederick Mainwaring, who, when only fourteen years of age, fought as an ensign of the 51st at Fuentes d'Onor and elsewhere, wrote very strongly on the subject, and referred to the incident of the burning of the colours, though without actually mentioning what had occurred, in the following words:—

"An action, in which this officer took the greatest responsibility upon himself, and which ought to have reflected credit upon him rather than annoyance, was misrepresented to the great Duke, who, with all his bright qualities, is said (if report does not greatly belie him) never to alter an opinion or a resolution once formed."

Colonel Mainwaring was not the only commanding officer in the Peninsula who was troubled by the presence of his regimental colours in the field, for there were occasions upon which the colours hampered the movements of a regiment very considerably. In action they could never be neglected, since they were held to contain, as it were, the soul of the regiment. Originally used as the rallying-point, they had gradually come to be regarded as what nowadays would be termed the mascot of the regiment, so that their loss in battle was thought likely to lead to the most dire consequences. The officers who carried them knew that they were in honour bound to defend them to the last, and when a whole regiment was ordered to skirmish to the front, it was often necessary to leave a company behind to guard the colours. As the war in the Peninsula went on, light infantry regiments realised that their colours were an encumbrance, and observing that rifle regiments were not provided with colours, some of them got permission to place theirs in store. But this was exceptional, and most regiments continued to carry their colours into action. At Waterloo they were everywhere conspicuous, and even in modern times their defence in the field has led to fierce fighting and the performance of signal acts of gallantry. Now, however, the extended battlefield has made their presence an impossibility, and they are no longer taken on active service. Perhaps, in this way, the sentiment attached to the "flag that bore the battle and the breeze" has been rudely crushed; yet the colours of to-day, emblazoned with numerous battle honours, are useful in reminding the young soldiers of a regiment of the victories won by their ancestors.
The Colours of the 51st Foot that were carried at the Battle of Waterloo 1815.
John Mainwaring was not present but his nephew Frederick was a lieutenant with the 51st and present during the battle.
Image from British Light Infantry Regiments: The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

On his return to England John Mainwaring was appointed Commandant of the Depôt at Hilsea near Portsmouth. Afterwards he was appointed Commandant of the Isle of Wight. He was promoted to Major-General in 1819 and was placed on Staff in the West Indies, where he commanded the Army forces for several years. He was appointed Governor of Saint Lucia in 1825.

He retired to the Isle of Wight and died at Cowes in January 1842.

Related posts and further reading

  • A Record of the Services of the Fifty-first (Second West York), the King’s Own Light Infantry … by William Wheater, published 1870, The battle of Fuentes de Oñoro is mentioned on page 76 but there is no mention the loss of the colours
  • The Royal Military Calendar, or Army Service and Commission Book. Containing the Services and Progress of Promotion of the Generals, Lieutenant-generals, Major-generals, Colonels, Lieutenant-colonels, and Majors of the Army, According to Seniority: with Details of the Principal Military Events of the Last Century. by John Philippart, published 1820, Major-General John Montagu Mainwaring pages 12-13
  • The Annual Biography: Being Lives of Eminent Or Remarkable Persons, who Have Died Within the Year 1842 by Charles Roger Dod, published 1843 page 420 Lieutenant-General John Montagu Mainwaring

Wikitree: John Montagu Mainwaring (1761 – 1842)

V is for Vitoria and for Van Diemen’s Land

Many of my Mainwaring cousins served in the British Army. One of note was my second cousin six times removed, Frederick Jemmet Mainwaring (1796–1858).

Frederick Jemmet Mainwaring

Frederick Jemmet Mainwaring was the fourth of the six sons of Edward Mainwaring (1744–1803) and Elizabeth Judith Reeves (1769–1837). During the American War of Independence Edward served as an officer with the King’s Rangers, a British provincial military unit raised in Nova Scotia in 1777. All six of Edward and Elizabeth’s sons were in the army or the navy.

Frederick was born on 15 September 1796 in Shepperton, Surrey. His middle name was probably chosen in honour of his uncle Jemmett Mainwaring (1763–1801), a naval officer.

On 5 April 1810, Frederick, aged 13, joined the 45th Regiment of Foot as an ensign without purchase. Later that year, still an ensign, he transferred to the 51st Regiment of Foot, where his uncle John Montague Mainwaring (1761–1842) was Lieutenant-Colonel. Frederick was promoted to Lieutenant in 1813 and Captain in 1828. He became a Major by purchase in 1838 and finally a Lieutenant Colonel without purchase, unattached, in 1849.

In the Napoleonic war Frederick Mainwaring served in the Iberian Peninsula for three years, at Fuentes d’Oñoro, the siege of Badajoz, Salamanca, the siege of Burgos, San Marcial, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, and the Nivelle. He returned to Britain in early 1814, one of an escort guarding French prisoners of war.

‘Battle of Vittoria, 21st June 1813’
Coloured aquatint from the collection of the National Army Museum.


Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815.  The 51st embarked for Ostend the following month, and were at the Battle of Waterloo in June. Among its achievements the regiment prevented 100 French cuirassiers from escaping.

Frederick, a lucky soldier, took part in all these many battles without ever suffering a wound.

In 1844 he published his memoirs of service, anonymously, in the ‘United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine’ as ‘Four years of a soldier’s life, by a field officer’. Although written many years after the events he describes, the memoir is a convincing portrait of a young subaltern’s adventures in the Peninsular War.

Escorting convicts to Van Diemen’s Land

In 1837 detachments of the 51st Foot were given the task of escorting convicts on their voyage to Australia.

Early in the following year, on 18 January 1838, Captain Mainwaring arrived in Hobart on HMS Neptune with his wife, two children and a servant. In command of an escort of an ensign, two sergeants, and 27 soldiers of the 51st regiment, he had overseen the transportation to Tasmania of 358 male convicts.

Not long after arriving in Van Diemen’s Land Mainwaring was appointed a Justice of the Peace and a Coroner; it was usual for officers of regiments posted to the colony to be assigned these roles.

In October 1838 Captain Mainwaring was promoted to major by purchase. The following year, with this rank, he was appointed Commandant at Launceston.

From the Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas.), Saturday 20 June 1840, page 2:

Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.— On Thursday last, being the 18th of June, our Commandant, Major Mainwaring, held a field day of the Troops stationed here, in commemoration of that day, in which the British army covered their arms with laurels, and on which occasion, our Commandant and Captain Austin were present, being the only Officers stationed here who wear the Waterloo Medal. The detachment on service in Launceston, was divided into two sections, for the purpose of an engagement, which, with all the necessary evolutions, attacking, firing, retreating, forming squares, &c, finished with a hurrah for old England, to the great amusements of a number of spectators.

A few weeks later Mainwaring was replaced as Commandant. He returned to headquarters in Hobart.

Coal mine Commander

In 1843 Major Mainwaring was appointed to command the coal mines at Port Arthur.

From 1833 to 1848 the Coal Mines at Plunkett Point, 20 miles (30km) north of Port Arthur, were a convict probation station and the site of Tasmania’s first coal mine. The mines served as a place of punishment for the ‘worst class’ of convicts from Port Arthur. In 1839 there were 150 prisoners and a detachment of 29 officers stationed at the mines. Large stone barracks, which housed up to 170 prisoners, as well as the chapel, bakehouse and store had been erected. On the hillside above were comfortable quarters for the commanding officer, surgeon and other officials. By 1847 the main shaft was down over 300 feet with an extensive system of subterranean tunnels and caverns. The work of extracting the coal was carried out by convicts in two eight hour shifts. The men had to extract 25 tons in each shift to reach the day’s quota.

The settlement at the coal mines near Port Arthur, Tasmania.
Photographed in 2012 by Andrew Matthews. Image from flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)


In 1846 Mainwaring left Van Diemen’s Land, travelling with the 51st Regiment to India. Sadly his wife Catherine died in Madras in January 1847, only 41 years old. They had 4 surviving children.

On 4 September 1849 Frederick became a Lieutenant Colonel without purchase, unattached. He later left the 51st Regiment and joined the 59th.

At the time of the 1851 census Frederick Mainwaring, occupation Lieutenant Colonel unattached, was living in Guernsey with his three younger children. His oldest daughter had married in 1848.

About 1852 Frederick married again. He and his second wife had one son. In 1858 he died on Jersey at the age of 62.

Related posts

Other relatives on my family tree who went to Van Diemen’s Land to guard convicts:

Wikitree: Frederick Jemmett Mainwaring (1796 – 1858)