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 (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)