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.

At the time of the 1871 census Henry was recorded as 19 years old, with no occupation, living at Whitmore rectory with his parents and siblings.

Unwilling to follow his father into the Church and, perhaps responding to an urge for adventure, Henry decided to try his luck abroad. He left Whitmore and England (I am not sure exactly when) and took up farming in a remote corner of South America.

Perhaps Henry had heard a lecture on opportunities overseas like the talk on “South America as a Field for Emigration” given by Richard Seymour, who had spent four years in Argentina. Like Henry, Richard was the son of a cleric, the Reverend R. Seymour of Kinwarton, a Warwickshire village. (The lecture was reported in the Alcester Chronicle of 8 January 1870.)

After giving an introduction to the history and geography of Argentina, Seymour mentioned that the expense of travelling to Buenos Aires— £15 to £50— was very reasonable for a distance of 7,000 miles. Seymour and his partner had bought 36 square miles (nearly 25,000 acres) of beautiful grassland for 6 pence an acre. The land was beside the River Saladillo; a drought would not be a complete disaster.

Seymour argued that what Argentina needed was settlers, who would provide a measure of mutual protection. A number of families would not suffer from the monotony felt by solitary settlers. Seymour told his audience that living was cheap and that meat in particular was plentiful. He spoke of the fertile soil which did not need manure for crops to flourish. He ended his lecture by stating that “if he could help in any way any persons who wished to try their fortunes in the Argentine Republic, he should be only too glad to do so.”

Grazing land in the pampas, Argentina. Photographed in 2007 by Maximiliano Alba. Image from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

Argentina’s agricultural colonies

In 1864 a farming colony had established on the western Pampas at Fraile Muerto ‘Dead Friar’ in Córdoba province, Argentina. The area was 300 miles (500 km) north-west of Buenos Aires. In founding this, Anthony Maitland Bell (1834–1876) and Robert Anderson Bell (1835–1881), from Dunbar in Scotland, were following the experience of Scots and Irish immigrants who had, a generation earlier, established large, unfenced sheep runs in the Province of Buenos Aires. The original intention had been to raise cattle and sheep, but crops paid better and the early settlers moved to to arable farming.

Map of the Argentine Republic in 1869. Bell Ville (formerly known as Fraile Muerto) is midway between Córdoba and Rosario. Map by user Jorge_salazar_1. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

From the late 1860s, with the area connected by rail to Buenos Aires 300 miles to the south-east, more English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants began to arrive, attracted by the quality of the land and its low cost.

In 1869 Thomas Large Henly, from Calne, Wiltshire, advertised a scheme in which young men were offered the opportunity to learn farming and eventually own a plot of land in the Santa Fe region of Argentina. In April 1870 Henly sailed on the Royal Mail Steamer Oneida from England with his family and 80 young men each of whom had paid £150 to join the scheme.

The enterprise was generally well regarded, and it had the support of the Argentine President, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. This second colony, however, was doomed to failure. The person with whom Henly had contracted to buy land (some 27,000 acres) near Fraile Muerto turned out to be a con-man. There was no land. Henley’s colony folded and the colonists dispersed.

It appears that Henry Mainwaring probably joined a similar scheme, for he had been living at Los Quebrachos, about four miles south of Fraile Muerto (which was renamed Bell Ville). Sadly, on 3 October 1877, Henry died, only 25 years old (I have not been able to find any record giving his cause of death). Henry was buried the next day in the Fraile Muerto Protestant Cemetery.

Henry Mainwaring was unlucky to die so young so far from home. I hope he enjoyed his brief career as a South American farmer.

Related posts and further reading

Wikitree: Henry Arthur Mainwaring (1852 – 1877)

T is for twin

My husband Greg had a great grandfather named Henry Dawson (1864 – 1929), who served for a short while in the British Army.

He was born on 30 Jul 1864 in Corby, Lincolnshire, the son of Isaac Dawson and Eliza Dawson née Skerrit. Henry had a twin brother, Charles, and at least seven other siblings. 

In the 1881 census Henry, then 16, and his twin brother Charles, both agricultural labourers, were recorded as residents of The Terrace, Corby.  On the night of the census their parents and other members of the family were away from home.

On 5 December 1883 Henry Dawson, labourer, then 19, enlisted at Lincoln as a gunner [private] in the Royal Artillery.

On 28 May 1885 Henry became ill and was found to have a faulty heart; he had had rheumatic fever as a child. Deemed medically unfit for service and discharged on 28 July 1885, he returned to Corby.

His army career cut short, Henry decided to emigrate to Australia.

I have not been able to find any record of his arrival. He may have been the 23 year old Henry Dawson, born Lincolnshire, who arrived in Townsville, Queensland, on 6 April 1888.

 From 7 June 1889 Henry worked on the Victorian railways in various roles, as lampman, carriage cleaner, porter. (See R is for Railways – triennial listing of railways employees in Victoria.)

On 12 December 1889 Henry married Edith Caroline Edwards in Brunswick, a suburb of Melbourne.  They had eight children.

On 30 July 1929, on his 65th birthday he died in Kyneton of pneumonia and heart failure.

My mother-in-law Marjorie talked to me once or twice about her grandfather Henry. She could remember his death in Kyneton on his 65th birthday when he was visiting her family there. She was 9 years old. Marjorie did not mention his brief service in the army, perhaps because she had never been told. She thought that he might have been to New Zealand. He hadn’t enjoyed it.

Henry’s brother Charles remained in England. He became a brickyard labourer then a colliery hand. He married but had no children. Charles died in 1928, a year before his twin.

Image retrieved from a family tree at ancestry.com
The grave of Henry Dawson and his wife in Kyneton cemetery, photographed in 2022

Related post

Wikitree: Henry Dawson (1864 – 1929)

S is for saving a language

Many of my distant relatives were soldiers. One was my first cousin five times removed Lieutenant General George Byres Mainwaring, eighth of the fourteen children of George Mainwaring and Isabella née Byres. He was born on 18 July 1825 and baptised on 21 October 1825 in Banda, Bengal, India. (Three more soldiers were his older brothers, General Rowland Rees Mainwaring, Captain Norman Mainwaring, and a younger brother, Cornet Charles Mainwaring.)

George’s mother Isabella was the illegitimate daughter of Lieutenant-General Patrick Byers of the East India Company’s Infantry, who in 1817 inherited a family estate at Tonley, near Tough, 20 miles west of Aberdeen. Isabella was probably Anglo-Indian, with an Indian mother.

George attended school at Mr Tulloch’s Academy, Aberdeen, not far from the residence of his maternal grandfather Patrick Byers, who took an interest in his grandsons. George was later taught Classics and mathematics at the school of Messrs Stoton and Mayor in Wimbledon, London.

At the age of seventeen, Mainwaring was commissioned into the 16th Bengal Native Infantry regiment, probably through the influence of his grandfather Byers. On 8 January 1842 he sailed for India.

In 1843 Mainwaring fought in the Battle of Maharajpur in the Gwalior campaign, and was awarded the ‘Gwalior Campaign Bronze Star’. He took part in the Sutlej campaign of 1845-46, including the battles of Moodkee, Ferozeshah, and Sobraon. He was awarded the ‘Sutlej Campaign Medal’ and two clasps in 1846.

Death of Major-General Churchill at the battle of Maharajpore. 1844 lithograph from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1854 Mainwaring returned to England. A considerable linguist, fluent in both Hindi and Urdu, he returned to India in 1857 at the time of the Mutiny to serve as an interpreter. He was posted first to Cawnpore (where his brother Charles had been murdered), and later transferred to the Punjab region.

In August 1860 at Chini [Kalpa] in the Valley of the Sutlej River, 125 miles (200km) north-east of Simla, Captain Mainwaring encountered the war-correspondent and artist William Simpson.

Simpson describes his their meeting:

A few days before our departure from Chini a Captain Mainwaring arrived from Simla. Mainwaring had travelled among the Lepchas in the Darjeeling district, and he told me a great deal about that race. The noted peculiarity of this man might be expressed by saying that he was a serpentphil. He seldom went out but he brought back a serpent in his hands, "all alive 0!" He stroked them, expressed his admiration for their great beauty, and wondered how any one could kill such lovely things. He seemed to have acquired some manner of handling the serpents, and whether they were poisonous or not appeared to make no difference to him. Somehow he had the power of a serpent-charmer. We learned afterwards that at some station where he had been quartered he collected some hundreds of serpents, and when a change of quarters took place he could not carry off his pets, nor would he kill them ; they were all set free in his garden, to the horror and fright of every one at the station, particularly of the ladies.

We had now been over two months at Chini, and on the 28th of August we began our march back to Simla. Mainwaring accompanied us.

George Mainwaring, it seems, had earlier been posted to Darjeeling and had travelled widely in Sikkim. For a while he lived with the Lepcha ethnic group of the Lebong area near Darjeeling, before moving to to a village called Polungdong (present day Phalut). Lebong is a valley about 1,000 feet below Darjeeling, a few miles to the north. Phalut is 50 miles north-west of Darjeeling in very remote country.

Lepcha is spoken in Sikkim and the Darjeeling area of West Bengal. In his travels Mainwaring became acquainted with the language, and 1876 published a Lepcha grammar. He had great affection for the Lepchas and their language. ‘Lepcha’, he said, ‘was the language spoken in the Garden of Eden’. Mainwaring also compiled a dictionary of Lepcha, published posthumously.

Phalut, with Mt Kangchenjunga at background Photographed by user Rkb95 2017 Image from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0
A view of the Himalayan peaks of (from the left) Mt.Lhotse, Mt.Everest, Mt.Makalu and Mt.Chomolonzo from Phalut in West Bengal, India. Photographed by user Shilbhadra in 2011. Image from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0
Lepcha man and woman from Dalton’s “Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal,” 1872. Image from Wikimedia Commons
Mainwaring’s Lepcha grammar can be read through GoogleBooks

Mainwaring spent over 30 years among the Lepcha. He has been described as “Lepcha Mad”:

Mainwaring’s involvement with the Lepcha people was not confined to their grammar and dictionary only for he actually lived like a Lepcha and one could almost claim that he thought like a Lepcha. He opened up a Lepcha school at Lebong and has been credited for buying a hundred acres of land for a collective farm for the Lepchas. He dressed in the Lepcha costume and even while attending official matters in Darjeeling he would not shed the Lepcha dress.

In the forward to his 1876 Lepcha grammar Mainwaring wrote that:

“Of the language I cannot speak too highly. The simple and primitive state in which the Lepchas lived is admirably shown by it. It has no primary word (beyond the words for gold and silver) to express money, merchants or merchandise, fairs or markets. Their peaceful and gentle character is evinced by their numerous terms and tenderness and compassion, and by the fact that not one word of abuse exists in their language. Nevertheless the language itself is most copious, abounding in synonyms and possessing words to express every slightest change, every varying shade of meaning, it admits of flow and power of speech which is wonderful, and which renders it capable of giving expression to the highest degree of eloquence. The language also arrests the astonishing knowledge possessed by the Lepchas. I shall here again make an extract from the letter before quoted:- “Of all the almost inconceivable diversity of trees with which the hills are covered ; of all the almost incalculable variety of plants and flowers with which the forests are filled ; the Lepchas can tell you the names of all, they can distinguish at a glance the difference in the species of each genus of plants, which would require the skill of a practiced botanist to perceive ; and this information and nomenclature extends to beasts, to birds, to insects, and to everything around them, animate and inanimate ; without instruction, they seem to acquire their knowledge by intuition alone. The trees and the flowers, and the birds, and the insects have therefore been their friends and companions. But now, this simple knowledge, this beautiful language, this once happy people are fast dying out. The Lepchas have left their woods and innocence and have fallen into sin and misery, and is there no one that will help them, no one that will save?

Mainwaring’s army career continued alongside his involvement with the Lepchas and their language and customs. In 1862 he was promoted to captain, and in 1867 to major with the Bengal Staff Corps. His promotion continued and he reached Lieutenant General on 1 January 1887.

He died on 16 January 1893 at Serampore, near Calcutta. He is buried in the Danish cemetery, Serampore.The gravestone reads:

60 Grenadiers.
Born 18th July 1824
died 16th January 1893.

Obituary in the ‘Englishman’s Overland Mail‘ (Calcutta, West Bengal) 25 January 1893:

On the 16th instant, General G.B. Mainwaring, of the Indian Staff Corps, died at Serampur, where he had lived for many years. On the military authoriteis at Barrackpur being made aware of hte fact, they ordered a public funeral, which took place on Tuesday afternoon. The Commanding Officer at Barrackpur, Lieutenant-Colonel J.D. Douglas, and a number of other officers were present, and the body was conveyed to the grave by Artillerymen. A Battery of Artillery stationed at Flagstaff Ghat, on the Barrackpur side of the river, fired the regulation number of minute guns as the funeral procession set forth. General Mainwaring, whose first commission was in the 16th Native Infantry, was present at the battle of Maharajpur, in the Gwalior campaign. He went through both the Punjab campaigns, and was also on service during the Mutiny. General Mainwaring was a student of Eastern languages, and had published a Lepcha Grammar. For some years he had been employed in preparing a dictionary of the same language. He claimed to have made some remarkable discoveries with regard to the origin of language, or what he called the "powers of letters," and he is supposed to have left some writings on the subject.

Obituary in the Madras Weekly Mail 2 February 1893:

General Mainwaring. 
The death of General G. B. Mainwaring, of the Staff Corps, says the Pioneer, carried off one of the few living students of the little known language of the Lepchas of the Darjeeling hills, For many years of his service General Mainwaring was on "general duty" at Darjeeling, engaged in the work of preparing a Grammar and Dictionary of the Lepcha language. The Grammar he lived to complete, and it was published by the Bengal Government some years ago. The body of the work is admirable, and it remains, and is likely to remain, the standard authority on the obscure language of a tribe which is rapidly dying out. For the Dictionary the General collected and collated very ample materials ; but towards the end of his life his health was weak, and he could not bring himself to face the task of carrying the work through the press. It will not, however, be lost to the scientific world. Some months before the General's death the Bengal Government had entrusted the task of bringing out the Dictionary to Dr. Adolf Grünwedel, Director of the Indian Section of the Museum of Ethnography in Berlin, a well known authority on Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Lepcha, who has already published a small glossary of the latter tongue. The fact that the work is in Dr. Grünwedel's hands is a guarantee that it will be a worthy monument of the labours of General Mainwaring, and of the German savant who has succeeded to the fruits of so many years' toil. 

Obituary in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 26 January 1893:

The late Lieutenant-General G.B. Mainwaring, of the Indian Army, whose death is announced this week, was a cousin of our fellow citizen, Lieutenant-General R.Q. Mainwaring. He was born in India and nearly the whole of a useful life was spent among the natives of our great dependency. For many years he dwelt among the hills in West Calcutta, and became so conversant with the language of the Lepcha tribe that by direction of the Government he prepared and wrote a Lepcha dictionary. He rarely visited England, but once when he went to Reading to see a sister, an amusing incident occurred. He left a hamper in the cloakroom at the railway station and told the porter in charge of heard anything moving, to pour a little warm water on the basket. When he returned, and inquired after his deposit, he found the official, having detected mysterious movements in the hamper, had deluged it with boiling water and administered an effective quietus to a rare and valuable snake. The deceased, who was in his 68th year, entered the army in 1842, and was placed in the Indian supernumerary list in 1884. He served with distinction in the Punjab and Indian Mutiny Campaigns.

The Danish cemetery is heritage listed by the West Bengal Heritage Commission. The listing of the cemetery in the Hooghly district mentions General Mainwaring, author of Lepcha language dictionary, who died at Srirampur.

It has been suggested that Mainwaring’s studies of the Lepcha grammar and lexicon helped save the language from extinction. He is still remembered by the Lepchas:

  • The Sikkim Lepcha Youth Association confers the ‘G.B.Mainwaring Award’ annually to recognise and encourage contributions to the field of Lepcha language in Sikkim.
  • The Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA), Kalimpong, celebrates the G.B. Mainwaring Birth Anniversary.


Wikitree: George Byers Mainwaring (1825 – 1893)

George’s grandparents, Rowland Mainwaring (1745 – 1817) and Jane Mainwaring née Latham (1755 – 1809), are my 5th great grandparents.

R is for Railway Accident

My first cousin five times removed Norman William Mainwaring, son of George Mainwaring and Isabella née Byres, was born on 21 July 1821 and baptised on 10 October in Benares, Bengal. He was the fifth of their fourteen children. Norman’s mother Isabella was the illegitimate daughter of Lieutenant-General Patrick Byers. She was probably Anglo-Indian, with an Indian mother.

Norman Mainwaring was educated in both classical and mathematical subjects by a Mr Tulloch at Bellevue school, Aberdeen, Scotland. His brothers Rowland, Harry, and George also attended this school. Norman was later a pupil at Kings College, Aberdeen; it is probably not a coincidence that his maternal grandfather Lieutenant-General Patrick Byers lived nearby.

On 26 August 1840 Mainwaring, 19 years old, petitioned to join the East India Company as a cadet in the Bengal Infantry. He was nominated by William Butterworth Bayley Esq, director and chairman of the British East India Company, to whom he had been recommended by his mother.

His application successful, Mainwaring joined the Company’s Bengal army. By 1841 he was firmly established in the 73rd Native Infantry regiment. In 1843 he was promoted to lieutenant, and in 1854 to captain.

Mainwaring served in the Punjab campaign of 1848-49, which ended in its annexation by the British.

On 21 April 1849 Norman Mainwaring married Jane Kent in Lahore, at that time the capital of the Punjab region. Jane Kent was the illegitimate Anglo-Indian daughter of Robert Kent of the Bengal Army, quite likely Lieutenant Colonel R. Kent of the 18th Regiment Native Infantry, who had died at Lahore in 1848.

Norman Mainwaring and Jane Mainwaring née Kent had seven children:

  • Isabella Jane Mainwaring 1850–1934
  • Georgeanne Agnes Emma Mainwaring 1852–1863
  • Robert Byres Mainwaring 1854– died young
  • Norman Hawthorn Mainwaring 1855–1856
  • Rowland Kent Mainwaring 1855–1938
  • Edward Currie Mainwaring 1856–1914
  • Norman Hall Mainwaring 1857–1910

In 1851 Mainwaring, at the time a Lieutenant of the 73rd N.I. was seconded to a civilian engineering project, placed at the disposal of the director of the Ganges irrigation canal for employment as assistant executive engineer. He was attached to the 2nd division of the Ganges Division of the Canal Department of the Bengal Department of Public Works.

The Ganges Canal was constructed between 1842 and 1854 in response to a disastrous famine, the Agra famine of 1837–38, in which some 800,000 people died. The British East India Company sponsored the project; the driving force behind it was Colonel Proby Cautley (1802-1871), British palaeontologist and engineer.

Hindu priests opposed the canal, believing that it would imprison the waters of the holy river Ganges. In response Cautley undertook to leave gaps in the dams through which water could flow unchecked. He further appeased the priests by  repairing  bathing ghats along the river, and he inaugurated  dams by ceremonies honouring Lord Ganesh, the god of good beginnings.

The Canal opened on 8 April 1854. When irrigation commenced a year late,r over 3000 square kilometres, encompassing 5,000 villages, were able to draw on Canal water.

The Ganges Canal at Roorkee in the Saharanpur District of Uttar Pradesh, watercolour by William Simpson dated 1863. Image from the collection of the British Library.

In 1854, recently promoted to Captain, 73rd Native Infantry regiment, and with the civilian title of Deputy Superintendent Second Division Ganges Canal, Mainwaring resigned pleading poor health, and asked to be permitted to rejoin his regiment. A sceptical newspaper, the Indian Standard, commented “that any one acquainted with the late and present ongoings of that division of the canal would be able to form their own opinion as regards this excellent officer’s resignation”.

Two of Captain Mainwaring’s children were baptised in St. John’s Anglican Church Wynberg, Capetown, South Africa: Edward on 2 February 1857 and Norman on 14 March 1858. I cannot find any record of Norman Mainwaring serving in South Africa, however. He may have been passing through, for Captain N.W. Mainwaring of the 73rd Regt. B.N.I. [Bengal Native Infantry] was reported to have arrived on 21 September 1857 in Calcutta on HMS Belleisle. The Belleisle had sailed from Plymouth, possibly stopping over in South Africa.

In January 1858 the Indian News and Chronicle of Eastern Affaires reported that Captain N.W. Mainwaring of the 73rd N.I. was to remain at the Presidency (Calcutta, the capital of Bengal) from 1st November 1857 to 1 January 1858 on a medical certificate. I know nothing about the illness or the injury covered by the medical certificate.

On 21 April 1858 Captain N. Mainwaring 73rd N.I. was appointed to act as a probationary assistant in the Department of Public Works in the Hyderabad assigned districts, also known as Berar Province.

Norman Mainwaring’s career as a engineer, however, and as a soldier, came to a sudden end on 3 June 1858, when he was accidentally killed in a railway accident at Howrah station near Calcutta:

A dreadful accident happened at the Howrah Station on the 1st of June. Captain Mainwaring of the 73rd N. I. was a passenger by the down train. When the train stopped at Howrah that the guard might collect the tickets, Captain Mainwaring attempted to get out under the impression that the train was to go no further. The train moved on, there was no standing room between the door of the carriage and a brick work buttress. Horrible to relate, Captain Mainwaring was thus crushed and dragged between the train and the brickwork till the bones of the pelvis had been almost reduced to powder, and other frightful lacerations had been inflicted. Captain Mainwaring lingered for forty-eight hours in great agony and then expired.

Friend of India and Statesman of 10 June 1858
‘Railway station near Calcutta’ photographed in 1895 by American photographer, William Henry Jackson (1843-1942). Image retrieved puronokolkata.com : Howrah Railway Junction Station, Howrah, 1854 – https://puronokolkata.com/2015/11/18/howrah-railway-junction-station-howrah-1854/ The present very grand station building at Howrah was built in the early 20th century.

Mainwaring was 37 years old when he was killed. His widow Jane née Kent received a pension and the five surviving young children were provided with assistance by the Bengal Military Orphan Society.

Not long after her husband’s death Jane Mainwaring took the children to England. At the time of the 1861 census she and the children, aged 3 to 10, were living in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The household included a cook and a nurse.

Jane died in 1870 in Exeter, Devon. One daughter had died in 1863. Isabella married an English clergyman. Rowland emigrated to Queensland, Australia. Edward Mainwaring emigrated to America. Norman Mainwaring lived in Yorkshire.


  • H is for Haileybury about Norman’s father George Mainwaring
  • I is for Indian Mutiny Norman’s brother Charles was killed at Cawnpore and his brothers, Rowland and George, were caught up in the mutiny. I do not know about Norman’s experience in the mutiny.


  • Norman William Mainwaring, born at Jaunpore and baptised 1821 at Benares, was killed in 1858 in a railway accident at Howrah. Son of George Mainwaring (1790 – 1865), and grandson of Rowland Mainwaring (1745 – 1817) and Jane Mainwaring née Latham (1755 – 1809), my 5th great grandparents.

Q is for Quebec

One of my sixth great grandfathers was a Scottish nobleman, James Duff, Earl Fife of Banffshire (1729–1809). He had at least three illegitimate children, my fifth great grandfather William Duff (1754–1795), his brother James, and a daughter called Jean.

James Duff acknowledged them as his own and all three received a good education at his expense.

William Duff was sent to the Royal Military Academy Woolwich in southeast London, a training college for officers of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. On 11 December 1770, William graduated with a commission as Lieutenant in the 7th Royal Fusiliers.

On 15 April 1773, William Duff embarked with his regiment for Canada, the journey taking 11 weeks. He was still in Canada when the American Revolutionary War began in 1775.

When in that year American forces invaded Canada, most of Duff’s regiment was forced to surrender. He was taken prisoner in the capture of Fort Chambly by Rebels on 18 October, and though it was hoped that he might soon be returned in an exchange of prisoners he was not released until early 1777.

The King’s Color of the British Seventh Regiment of Foot. It was captured by American forces at Fort Chambly, Canada, in October of 1775. As the first flag captured by the new American Army it was sent to Congress as a trophy. It is now in the West Point Museum. (Photo from West Point Museum Facebook page).
Fort Chambly in the 1840s. Image from watercolourworld.org

In February 1777 he wrote to his father from Staten Island, New York, about the purchase of a company in a regiment. William left the 7th Regiment and on 9 April 1777 was promoted to captain in the 26th Regiment of Foot (the Cameronians). Men of the 7th and the 26th regiments had been together at Fort Chambly.

On 4 January 1786 Duff was promoted to Major; at that time the 26th Foot were stationed in Ireland.

On 9 April 1787 at Redmarshall, county Durham, Major Duff of the 26th Regiment married Dorothy Skelly (1768–1840), of Yarm a few miles south. She was the daughter of a naval Officer, the late Captain Gordon Skelly.

In May 1787 William and his new wife sailed for Quebec, where he was put in command of the regimental headquarters. In 1789 the regiment moved, first to Montreal, and then in 1790 to frontier posts along the Niagara River. In 1792 the regiment moved back to St. John’s (Fort Saint-Jean) in Quebec.

A view of St. John’s (Saint-Jean, Québec) upon the River Sorell (Rivière Richelieu), Taken in the Year 1776. Image from the Toronto Public Library.
A southwest view of St. John’s, Quebec about 1790. Image from Toronto Public Library.

In 1790 Dorothy gave birth to their daughter Sophia Duff. She was my fourth great grandmother.

William Duff retired from the army in March 1793. On 5 July 1795 he died aged 41 at Fulford, near York.


(I had relatives on the other side of the American Revolutionary war too: George III: my part in his downfall)

  • Carter, Thomas (1867). Historical Record of the Twenty-Sixth, or Cameronian Regiment. London: W.O. Mitchell. p. 84 and pages 94 ff.


P is for palanquin

Colonel George Wymer (1788 – 1868), husband of my 4th great aunt Emily Crespigny Wymer née Hindes (see F is for Ferozepore and A Passage to India), was a colonel of the 27th Regiment of the Bengal Army. In 1840 he was attacked and robbed on the road between Ferozepore to Loodianah, a section of the Grand Trunk Road.

Rudyard Kipling has a marvellous description of this great highway in ‘Kim’ (1901). Kim is travelling with a lama. The speaker is an old soldier:

“And now we come to the Big Road,” said he, after receiving the compliments of Kim; for the lama was markedly silent. “It is long since I have ridden this way, but thy boy’s talk stirred me. See, Holy One—the Great Road which is the backbone of all Hind. For the most part it is shaded, as here, with four lines of trees; the middle road—all hard—takes the quick traffic. In the days before rail-carriages the Sahibs travelled up and down here in hundreds. Now there are only country-carts and such like. Left and right is the rougher road for the heavy carts—grain and cotton and timber, fodder, lime and hides. A man goes in safety here for at every few kos is a police-station. The police are thieves and extortioners (I myself would patrol it with cavalry—young recruits under a strong captain), but at least they do not suffer any rivals. All castes and kinds of men move here.

“Look! Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and bunnias, pilgrims and potters—all the world going and coming. It is to me as a river from which I am withdrawn like a log after a flood.”

And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. It runs straight, bearing without crowding India’s traffic for fifteen hundred miles—such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world. They looked at the green-arched, shade-flecked length of it, the white breadth speckled with slow-pacing folk; and the two-roomed police-station opposite.

The robbery was reported the Asiatic Journal And Monthly Register of 1840:

Col. Wymer, of the 27th regt. was travelling from Ferozepore to Loodianah; when near Dummkot, a dozen or more fellows, in appearance Affghan apple-merchants, stopped his palanquin. The Colonel immediately dashed out with a walking stick, but was knocked down and pricked with their spears. The ruffians then helped themselves to a few articles, and threw away others with contempt; made him strip off his upper garments, to see if any valuables were concealed in them, and on being told that the Banghy petarrahs contained eatables, let them pass without examination. Col. Wymer lost a good deal of blood.

Hobson-Jobson the glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases explains some of the terms:

PALANQUIN, A box-litter for travelling in, with a pole projecting before and behind, which is borne on the shoulders of 4 or 6 men — 4 always in Bengal, 6 sometimes in the Telugu country.
a. A shoulder-yoke for carrying loads, the yoke or bangy resting on the shoulder, while the load is apportioned at either end in two equal weights, and generally hung by cords. The milkmaid’s yoke is the nearest approach to a survival of the bangy- staff in England. Also such a yoke with its pair of baskets or boxes. — (See PITARRAH).
b. Hence a parcel post, carried originally in this way, was called bangy or dawk-bangy, even when the primitive mode of transport had long become obsolete. “A bangy parcel” is a parcel received or sent by such post.
PITARRAH, A coffer or box used in travelling by palankin, to carry the traveller’s clothes, two such being slung to a banghy. The thing was properly a basket made of cane ; but in later practice of tin sheet, with a light wooden frame.

DAWK was transport by relays of men. To travel by palanquin one ‘lay a dawk‘ which was to order relays of bearers, or horses, to be posted on a road. As regards palankin bearers this used to be done either through the post-office, or through local chowdries (headman of a craft in a town, and more particularly to the person who is selected by Government as the agent through whom supplies, workmen, &c., are supplied for public purposes) of bearers.

George Dodd’s History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China and Japan 1856 explained how the system worked:

There are so few good roads in India, that wheel-carriages can scarcely be trusted for any long distances. The prevailing modes of travel are on horseback or in a palanquin. … as it is almost impossible to travel on horseback during the heat of the day, the more expensive but more regular dâk is in greater request.
The dâk is a sort of government post, available for private individuals as for officials. A traveller having planned his journey, he applies to the postmaster of the district, who requires from one to three days’ notice, according to the extent of accommodation needed. The usual complement for one traveller consists of eight palkee-burdars or palanquin-bearers, two mussanjees or torch-bearers, and two bangey-burdars or luggage-porters: if less than this number be needed, the fact must be notified. The time and place of starting, and the duration and localities of the halts, must also be stated; for everything is to be paid beforehand, on the basis of a regular tariff. The charge is about one shilling per mile for the entire set of twelve men—shewing at how humble a rate personal services are purchasable in India. There is also an extra charge for demurrage or delays on the road, attributable to the traveller himself. For these charges, the postmaster undertakes that there shall be relays of dâk servants throughout the whole distance, even if it be the nine hundred miles from Calcutta to Delhi; and to insure this, he writes to the different villages and post stations, ordering relays to be ready at the appointed hours. The stages average about ten miles each, accomplished in three hours; at the end of which time the twelve men retrace their steps, and are succeeded by another twelve; for each set of men belong to a particular station, in the same way as each team of horses for an English stage-coach belongs to a particular town. ...
The palanquin, palankeen, or palkee, is a kind of wooden box opening at the sides by sliding shutters; it is about six feet in length by four in height, and is suspended by two poles, borne on the shoulders of four men. The eight bearers relieve one another in two gangs of four each. ...
On account of the weight, nothing is carried that can be easily dispensed with; but the traveller manages to fit up his palanquin with a few books, his shaving and washing apparatus, his writing materials, and a few articles in frequent use. The regular fittings of the palanquin are a cushion or bed, a bolster, and a few light coverings. The traveller’s luggage is mostly carried in petarrahs, tin boxes or wicker-baskets about half a yard square: a porter can carry two of these; and one or two porters will suffice for the demands of any ordinary traveller, running before or by the side of the palanquin. The petarrahs are hung, each from one end of a bangey or bamboo pole, the middle of which rests on the bearer’s shoulder. The torch-bearers run by the side of the palanquin to give light during night-travelling; the torch is simply a short stick bound round at one end with a piece of rag or a tuft of hemp, on which oil is occasionally dropped from a flask or a hollow bamboo; the odour of the oil-smoke is disagreeable, and most travellers are glad to dispense with the services of a second torch-bearer.
Palanquin from “The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China, and Japan 1856-7-8.” by George Dodd
Firozpur (formerly Ferozepore) is close to the present day border with Pakistan and 75 km to Lahore. Map shows the road from from Ferozepore to Loodianah and Dummkot (now known as Dharamkot) where Colonel Wymer was attacked.

Firozpur to Ludhiana (Loodianah) is more than 100 kilometers, a 25 hour walk. Dharamkot (Dummkot) is about half way. When I read about Wymer’s palanquin I thought it would have been silly to travel such a long way in a large carried box. Why not ride? After reading Dodd’s explanation of the system of relays of bearers and avoiding the heat by travelling overnight it makes more sense to me. I can understand why Colonel Wymer was not on horseback and why he had no escort.

Related posts and further reading

Wikitree: George Petre Wymer K.C.B. (1788 – 1868)

O is for Opportunities Lost and Found

Joseph Sherburne, the husband of my 4th great grand aunt (1751–1805), was born in 1751 in Falmouth, Cornwall. His father, also named Joseph (c. 1721–1763), was a seaman, captain of the pacquet “Hanover” (a ‘pacquet’ or ‘packet’ was a small-to-medium mail, passenger, and general-cargo boat, usually coastal). In 1763, when young Joseph was twelve, the Hanover” was wrecked in a hurricane and his father drowned.


In 1767 Joseph Sherburne junior, aged 16, was appointed a writer (junior clerk) in the East India Company. He quickly rose to Head Assistant in the Accountant’s Office, and in 1870 was promoted to Assistant under William Harwood, the Collector of two Districts, Rajemehal [Rajmahal] and Boglipore [Bhagalpur], 200 miles north of Calcutta. Hoping to succeed to the collectorship, Sherburne took the opportunity to study the local language and the administration of collections.

A Collector was head of a district’s revenue management, responsible for the registration, alteration, and partition of holdings; the settlement of disputes; the management of indebted estates; loans to agriculturists, and famine relief. A Collector also served as District Magistrate, exercising general supervision over inferior courts and directing police work.


In 1773 Sherburne missed out on promotion to Harwood’s position, superseded by another candidate, James Barton. Sherburne claimed that Barton was his junior in the service and less experienced. He ‘returned to the Presidency‘—was moved to Calcutta. For the next five years he held no substantial position in the Company and received only a small monthly retainer.


In 1778 he gained an appointment, becoming Superintendent of Police in Calcutta under Charles Stafford Playdell. When Playdell died in 1779 Sherburne was again passed over for promotion, superseded by a Mr Motte who, Sherburne noted, was not at the time even in the Company’s employment.

In 1781, Joseph Sherburne, Deputy Jemedar [a police rank, roughly equivalent to army Lieutenant] was a Member of the Grand Jury in the Calcutta trial of Mr James Augustus Hicky, printer of the Bengal Gazette. Hicky, a strong critic of Governor Hastings, was found guilty of libel and sentenced to jail. The newspaper was shut down.


In 1784 and 1785 Sherburne, by then senior merchant at Fort William, Calcutta on the Bengal Establishment wrote a series of memorials to John Macpherson, acting Governor General, to Warren Hastings, the Governor-General, and to “The Honorable Court of Directors for the Affairs of the Honorable United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies”, giving a history of his employment with the Company and petitioning to be appointed again, in a different capacity.

Sherburne’s memorials were published and can be read through GoogleBooks


In the early 1780s Sherburne established Sherburne Bazar in Calcutta, where the Chandni Chawk now stands. Sherburne and two other merchants separately petitioned the Governor General and Council for permission to build market places in accordance with a 1781 Bye Law. They pledged to set up bazaars with pucca (lit. ‘ripe’, here, ‘well-constructed’, ‘permanent’) buildings, tiled shops and stalls instead of the straw huts of the desi (native Indian) bazaars.

Sherburne’s was a private bazaar, specialising in articles catering to European demands. Of the private bazaars his is said to have stocked the largest number of articles.

A view in the Bazaar, leading to the Chitpore Road in about 1815 by James Baillie Fraser from his ‘Views of Calcutta and its Environs’ . Image retrieved from the British Library.
Chandni Chowk Street, Kolkata 2008 photograph by P.K.Niyogi Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons


In June 1785 Joseph Sherbourne was appointed” Scavenger of Calcutta” under the Commissioner of Police. “Scavenger” is derived from “Scavage”, a tax levied upon goods offered for sale subject to duty. A Scavenger was an officer charged with inspecting the goods and collecting the tax. In 1786, when he joined the Freemason Provincial Grand Lodge of Bengal, Joseph Sherburne described himself as “Scavenger of the Town of Calcutta”.

It seems Sherburne’s persistence in his memorials petitioning to be re-employed by the Company paid off, for in April 1787 Joseph Sherburne was appointed Collector of Beerbhoom [Birbhum] and Bishenpore [Bishnupur], 80 miles north-west of Calcutta.


In histories of rural Bengal, Sherburne’s appointment of April 1787 as Collector of Beerbhoom and Bishenpore is regarded as the beginning of a new period of order and prosperity in those districts. Sherburne is said to have ruled sternly, “as a governor of a newly subjected frontier ought to rule”. During Sherburne’s brief administration—a year and a half—“the capital of the united district was transferred from Bishenpore, on the south of the Adjii, to Soorie [Suri] the present headquarters in Beerbhoom, on the north of the river; the larger bodies of marauders were broken up, and two hereditary princes reduced to the rank of private country gentlemen.”

Under Sherburne’s administration of Beerbhoom and Bishenpore, “the two frontier principalities had passed from the condition of military fiefs into that of a regular British district administered by a collector and covenanted assistants, defended by the Company’s troops, studded with fortified factories, intersected by a new military road, and possessing daily communication with the seat of government in Calcutta.”

In November 1788 Sherburne was removed as Collector, recalled on suspicion of corruption. With the charge no longer an impediment to his employment in the Company, however, 12 years later, in 1801 he was again employed by the East India Company.

Water-colour painting of the Fort of Rajanagar in the district of Beerbhom [Rajnagar, Birbhum] dated 1790, during the third Mysore War, by Colin MacKenzie (1754-1821). Image from the collection of the British Library.


Discussing the ruinous interest rates that debtors in 18th century Calcutta sometimes incurred, the memoirist William Hickey, who knew Sherburne, recounts that he, “upon his first arrival from England, borrowed from a Bengal sitcar [probably sowcar, a native banker] nine hundred sicca rupees [coined money] for which he executed a bond and warrant of attorney to confess judgment, payable in six months, and not having a command of money he continued to renew the security every six months ; I myself [Hickey] saw this gentleman prosecuted in the Supreme Court for fifty-eight thousand odd hundred rupees, to which enormous amount the comparatively trifling sum of nine hundred had swelled in the manner above mentioned.”

(On these figures, Sherburne was being sued for 65 times the original loan.)


At some point in the twelve years between his removal as Collector in 1788 and his re-employment in 1801, Sherburne appears to have left India to travel to Boston Massachusetts, where he had distant cousins. He was possibly hoping to find a wife. There, on 7 July 1793, Joseph Sherburn married Frances Johnstone Dana (1768–1832). She was the older sister of my 4th great grandfather William Pulteney Dana, and the aunt of my 3rd great grandmother Charlotte Frances Dana. The marriage record is annotated “of Great Britain”. Frances Dana’s father had been born in Cambridge, Massachusetts; presumably she was visiting her cousins there.

Joseph Sherburne and his new wife returned to Bengal.

In June 1802 Joseph Sherburne was appointed Collector of Boglepore (present day Bhagalpur in Bihar).

Water-colour drawing of the Hill House at Bhagalpur by Sir Charles D’Oyly (1781-1845), September 1820. Image from the British Library. Hill House was built by Augustus Cleveland (1755-84) of the Bengal Civil Service who was Collector and Judge at Bhagalpur.


In 1785 Eldred Thomas Sherburne, son of Mr. Joseph Sherburne, Senior Merchant, was baptised in Calcutta. His mother was ‘a Brahmin’. In the early years of the nineteenth century Thomas Eldred Sherburne kept a school in the Chitpore Road.

Joseph and Frances Sherburne had two children, both baptised in Boglepore [Bhagalpur]. Their son Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne was baptised on 16 December 1802 and their daughter Frances Henrietta Laura Sherburne on 3 October 1803.


Joseph died 54 years old on 15 July 1805. His death notice in the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of 10 February 1806 states that he was late Judge Magistrate of Purneah (Purnia, a district in the Baghalpur Division of Bengal), and Senior Merchant on the Bengal Establishment. He died intestate; administration was given to his widow.

Frances stayed in India for a number of years but eventually returned to England, probably in 1819 after 14 years of sorting out Joseph’s affairs and then the affairs of her brother Charles Patrick Dana who died in India in 1816. Frances died in England in 1832.


Wikitree: Joseph Sherburne (1751 – 1805)

N is for New Zealand

One of my first cousin five times removed was a soldier named Arthur Branthwayt Toker (1834–1866). Born at Eaton Place in London on 18 July 1834, he was the second son of Philip Champion Toker (1802–1882) and Elizabeth née Branthwayt (1808–1889), the third of their eight children. Alliston Champion Toker (1843-1936) (see ‘L is for languages‘) was Arthur’s younger brother.

Arthur’s father was a proctor of Doctors’ Commons, a London society of civil-law lawyers. Proctors were like attorneys in common-law courts and solicitors in the courts of equity.

In 1854 Arthur joined the 65th Regiment of Foot as an ensign by purchase.  He served first in the Crimea, then in 1860 he was transferred to New Zealand.

From 1860 to 1865 the 65th Foot had 41 officers and 940 other ranks stationed there, all on the North Island, at Auckland, Wellington, Wanganui, Napier, and Taranaki.

Toker fought in the Māori Wars from 1860 to 1861 and in further hostilities in New Zealand from 1863 until his departure in 1865.

The War began with a dispute between the government and Māori landowners over the sale of a property at Waitara. The result was inconclusive. Although there was a ceasefire  neither side explicitly accepted the peace terms offered to it. The British claimed that they had won the war, but it was widely held that they had suffered an unfavourable and humiliating defeat.

The Roll of the Officers of the York and Lancaster Regiment” (George Alfred Raikes, 1885) records Toker’s service in New Zealand:

present in the following Engagements and Skirmishes, viz.: —Kohea Pah, March 17th and 18th, 1860 ; Expedition to Warea, April 20th to 30th, 1860, Chief Officer in Command, Colonel C. E. Gold ; Mahoetahi, November 6th, 1860 ; Kairau,December 29th and 30th, 1860 ; Huirangi, February 10th, 1861. … Served also at the Storming and Capture of Rangirui, New Zealand, November 20th and 21st, 1863 ; Mentioned in a Despatch from Lieutenant-General Sir D. A. Cameron, K.C.B., to the Secretary of State for War, dated Rangirui, November 26th, 1863.
From The New Zealand Wars vol. I, by James Cowan. 1922. frontispiece retrieved from archive.org

In the Battle of Rangiriri on 20 and 21 November 1863 more than 1400 British troops defeated about 500 Māori warriors. This battle cost both sides heavily, more than any other engagement of the New Zealand wars. A hundred and eighty Māori prisoners were taken, a loss which sharply reduced Māori capacity to oppose the British.

A Despatch from Lieutenant-General Sir D. A. Cameron, K.C.B., to the Secretary of State for War, dated Rangiriri, November 26th, 1863 was published in the London Gazette of 19 February 1864 (pages 770-2).

Cameron described the enemy position:

The enemy's works consisted of a line of high parapet and double ditch, extending, as I have before stated, between the Waikato and Lake Waikare, the centre of this line being strengthened by a square redoubt of very formidable construction, its ditch being ] 2 feet wide, and the height from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the parapet 18 feet. The strength of this work was not known before the attack as its profile could not be seen either from the river or from the ground in front. Behind the left centre of this main line and at right angles to it, there was a strong intrenched line of rifle pits facing the river and obstructing the advance of troops from that direction.

Toker led a detachment of 72 men with scaling ladders and planks. Cameron planned that “The skirmishers of the 65th Regiment were to cover the advance of the ladder party, and when the latter had succeeded in escalading the entrenchment, were to follow with the support”. Cameron noted the enemy defended with great tenacity and resolution. Cameron praised his officers, including Toker and the ladder party, for gallantly leading their men.

The repulse of the Royal Navy storming party, Rangiriri Pa. (20th November 1863). From The New Zealand Wars page 323 retrieved from archive.org
Earthworks of Rangiriri Pa, taken 20th Nov. 1863 watercolour by Charles Heaphy
Looking along the top of an earth wall at right. There is a trench to the left of it, and the left wall of the trench has regular arched niches in it. In the right background is a lake with canoes on it. Two cabbage trees are on the left.
The defence works were built on the ridge between July and November 1863, by the Waikato supporters of the Maori King movement, in preparation for a confrontation with British troops under General (Sir) Duncan Alexander Cameron.
Image from the National Library of New Zealand.
From The New Zealand Wars page 321 retrieved from archive.org

In 1865 the 65th Regiment was recalled from active service in New Zealand where it had been stationed for 19 years. The ‘John Temperley‘ was chartered to transport the troops home. It left Auckland on 25 October 1865 with 267 troops of the 65th Regiment, including Lieutenant Toker and his fellow officers and their families and “7 staff sergeants, 1 schoolmaster, 14 sergeants, 5 drummers, 150 rank and file, 18 women, and 29 children”.

On 6 December, with the regiment still at sea, the London Gazette announced the promotion of Lieutenant Arthur B. Toker, from 65th Foot, “to be Captain, without purchase, on half-pay”.  By going on half-pay he was effectively retiring from active service.

Sadly, Toker was never to enjoy a peaceful retirement. On 1 January 1866, just before reaching England, he died of typhoid fever.

Arthur Toker never married.

Included in a series of photographs of officers of the 65th regiment in the collection of the National Library of New Zealand

Related post

Wikitree: Arthur Branthwayt Toker (1834 – 1866)

M is for medals

My step grandfather George William Symes (1896 – 1980) enlisted in the British Army in 1915 at the age of nineteen. Soon afterwards he was commissioned in the field and in June 1915 he joined the Durham Light Infantry with a war service commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

On 22 February 1916 he was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps and sent to France the next day. Nine months later, on 1 November 1916, George was promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant.

On 21 June 1917 granted a regular commission with the rank of Second Lieutenant he became an officer in the York and Lancaster Regiment.

After the war he remained in the army in the York and Lancs and continued to rise through the ranks. In 1946 he became Colonel of the regiment, serving in that role until his retirement from the army in 1949.

In 1949 he emigrated to Adelaide, South Australia.

On his death in 1980 George Symes left a large bequest to the Regimental Chapel of the York and Lancaster Regiment, in Sheffield Cathedral.

The York and Lancaster line infantry regiment was created in the Childers Reforms of 1881 by the amalgamation of the 65th (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot and the 84th (York and Lancaster) Regiment of Foot. The regiment served in many minor conflicts and in both World Wars. When the army was reorganised in 1968 the regiment chose to be dissolved rather than merge with another regiment, one of only two infantry regiments in the British Army to refuse amalgamation.

When the regiment was disbanded George Symes bought some regimental memorabilia, including a drum and part of the Regimental Silver.

George left a large collection of medals, his own and medals belonging to soldiers who had fought in the Yorks and Lancs and its predecessors, the 65th and 84th Regiments of Foot. I do not know how he acquired these medals. Perhaps they became available for purchase, with the drum and silver.

Most of the medals were awarded to commemorate campaigns in which the regiment and its predecessors took part.

Campaign medals were awarded by the British army to recognize general military service in war, in contrast to decorations for merit, which were issued in smaller numbers for acts of heroism and bravery.

George Symes’s medal collection:

Top row: Military General Service, Indian Mutiny, New Zealand, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Egypt, Khedive’s Star
Middle Row: Egypt, Khedive’s Star, British South Africa Company, Queen’s South Africa, King’s South Africa, 1914–15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
Bottom row: Military Medal, 1914–15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, 3 Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medals

  • Military General Service Medal awarded to James Eccles 2/84th Foot – bars show Nive and Nivelle
    •  the 2nd Battalion of the 84th Foot took part in the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November 1813 and the Battle of the Nive in December 1813. The medal roll records James Eccles served with the Light Company.
    • the Military General Service Medal (MGSM) was a campaign medal approved in 1847 as a retrospective award for various military actions from 1793–1814; a period encompassing the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. It was issued to officers and men of the British Army in 1848 but only to surviving claimants. A total of 26,089 medals were awarded. Only about 10 per cent of those who served received the medal.
  • Indian Mutiny Medal awarded to J Driscoll 84th Regt bar. Bars show Lucknow and the Defence of Lucknow.
    • The 84th regiment was sent to Burma in 1842 and was in India in 1845. The regiment fought in the Siege of Cawnpore and the Relief of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny. The regiment was the only formation ever to receive a salute from the battery at Fort William, Calcutta, and honoured with that acclaim when it left India in 1859.
    • Jeremiah Driscoll was a private in the 84th Foot (service number 34). He was born about 1834 at Drenwigh Dunnanway Cork and in 1876 at the age of 42 he was admitted as a Chelsea Pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement home and nursing home for former members of the British Army He died in 1904.
  • New Zealand War Medal awarded to J. Cook of the 65th regiment. This is most likely J Howlet Cook; Service Date: 1845-1866; Campaign or Service: New Zealand; 65th Regiment of Foot; Regimental Number: 2294.
    • The regiment saw action in the First Taranaki War of 1860 to 1861 and in the Waikato campaign of 1863 to 1864. The regiment returned home in October 1865.
  • Egypt Medal with clasp El-TebTamaai awarded to  2549 Lce Sgt H Haycock 1/ York & Lanc regt 29th Feb 1884; also his Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Khedive’s Star (All recipients of the Egypt Medal were also eligible for one of the four versions of the Khedive’s Star)
    • Lance Sergeant Henry Haycocks received the Distinguished Conduct medal for assisting in capturing a battery of four guns, and being among the first to rush the pits sheltering the enemy at El Teb.
    • Queen Victoria presented the medal to Haycocks and nine other soldiers, in person at Windsor Castle on 3 July 1884. For each of the ten soldiers in turn the record of service was read out by an equerry and then the Queen pinned the ribbon of the silver distinguished conduct medal to his breast.
    • 1904 Private 2nd battalion Joseph Witt also was awarded the Egypt Medal with bar showing Tel-el-Kebir. As well as the Egypt Medal he was awarded the Khedive’s Star
  • The British South Africa Company Medal was awarded to 2891 Pte E Havron 2nd battalion for operations in Matabeleland and Mashonaland (Rhodesia now Zimbabwe).
    • The roll, compiled in 1897, noted Havron had died in Bulawayo (Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). Edward Hevron was buried in Bulawayo General Cemetery, with a death date of 25 June 1896. The record has “Trooper “C” M.R.F., Bulawayo Hospital, dysentery“.
  • The Queen’s South Africa Medal and clasps for Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, and Laing’s Nek, was awarded to 4651 Pte J Edley 1/ York & Lanc regt. In 1902 he also received the King’s South Africa Medal with clasps for South Africa 1901 and 1902; this second medal was never awarded singly, but was always paired with the Queen’s South Africa Medal.
  • Many men received World War 1 medals: 1914–15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. 7806 Pte Costello Y & L Regt received the three medals and the 1914 bar.
  • In addition to the three World War 1 Medals, the Military Medal was awarded to 15728 L/Cpl. J. Priestley Y. & L. Regt. in December 1917
    • The Military Medal was established on 25 March 1916. It was awarded to other ranks including non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, and ranked below the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).
  • The Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was issued to Clr-Sgt Robert Brobson of the 65th Regt  in 1845. He had served for 21 years. Quartermaster Sergeant Dennis Heneghan of the 84th Regt was awarded the medal in 1877 having served for 18 years.  Sergeant John Henry Kaye of the York and Lancaster Regiment was issued the medal on 1 July 1907 having served for 20 years.

Related posts


L is for languages

My first cousin five times removed Alliston Champion Toker (1843-1936) was a soldier and translator.

He was born on 10 December 1843, third son and youngest of the eight children of Philip Champion Toker (1802–1882) and Elizabeth née Branthwayt (1808–1889).

Educated at Brighton College, Sussex, and Victoria College, St Helier, Jersey, Toker was nominated as a cadet for the Bengal Infantry by a distant relative, Major General Sir Robert Vivian KCB, the step-son of a sister of Toker’s paternal grandmother. He attended Addiscombe Military Seminary, military school of the British East India Company. In 1860 Toker entered the Bengal Infantry as an Ensign, the lowest grade of commissioned officer. (Beside Addiscombe, Toker also attended the School of Musketry, Hythe, and trained in army signalling at Aldershot.)

Toker had a distinguished career in India. In 1864-5 he served in the Bhootan Expedition (the Anglo-Bhutan War). In 1882 he was Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (a senior staff officer) to the Indian contingent at Tel-el-Kebir and the pursuit to Zagazig (an incident of the Anglo-Egyptian War); he was mentioned in despatches, brevetted as Lieutenant-Colonel and awarded the Order of Osmanieh, 4th Class. He was made a CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath), for services in the Burmese Expedition of 1886-7. He became a Colonel, Bengal Staff Corps, in 1886 and from September 1887 to August 1892 was Departmental Secretary to the Military Department of the Government of India. He was promoted to Major-General in 1897. In 1906 Toker was made Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB).

In the course of his career Toker became proficient in Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Urdu, and was Official Translator to the Government of India for 14 years. He oversaw the translation of all Indian Army military textbooks into Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi. It was said he spoke seven Oriental languages, as well as five European. At the age of 72 he thought he would like to get his degree in Oriental languages and went to Cambridge as an undergraduate, only to find that the tutor was a man he had coached for the job. He had no special privileges at the university, except that he was allowed to sit at the dons’ table.

During World War 1, when he was in his 70s, Toker was employed in France as a translator in the 1915-16 Indian Expeditionary Force and from 1916 to 1919 he served in British Postal Censorship.

Sir Alliston Champion Toker by Lafayette 1 March 1928
NPG x42362 © National Portrait Gallery, London

When Alliston Toker died age 92 in Bedfordshire, England, obituaries appeared in newspapers around the world. Even a small country newspaper in Yass, Australia noted his passing. All mentioned his university studies at Cambridge in Oriental languages when he was in his 70s.

From the Yass Tribune-Courier (NSW, Australia), Monday 24 August 1936, page 6:

Sir A. C. Toker Dies Aged 92
Ninety-two years of age, a general who could not be retired died the other day. He was Major General Sir Alliston Champion Toker, and his death occurred at his Bedford home.
A relative stated: "He was probably the oldest general in the Indian Army, and was on the active list the whole time. He could not be retired.
"Sir Alliston carried out a survey of the Chindwin district in Burmah in 1886-7. For that he received from the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts, the honour that he could never be retired from the active list. It is a very uncommon honour, and I think probably only two others hold it.
"At the age of 72 he thought he would like to get his degree in Oriental languages and went to Cambridge as an undergraduate, only to find that the tutor was a man he had coached for the job!
"He had no special privileges at the university, except that he was allowed to sit at the dons' table.
"He was in France for 11 months during the war in 1915 until the Indian Division, to which he acted as interpreter, returned to India.
Bent For Languages 
"He was the first officer to translate any military text-books into Indian languages. He had a natural bent for languages, and spoke at least seven Oriental tongues, as well as five European.
"In effect, he retired 40 years ago, and after his retirement was awarded the K.B.E."
At the India Office it was stated that the official description of Sir Alliston's position was that he remained until his death on the unemployed supernumerary list of the Indian Army.
Sir Alliston was born at Hendon, Middlesex, and entered the Bengal Army in 1860. He became captain in 1872, major in 1880, brevet lieutenant-colonel two years later, colonel in 1886, and major-general in 1897.
Sir Alliston was twice married. His first wife died in 1878, and his second, in 1926.

Related posts

Wikitree: Alliston Champion Toker KCB (1843 – 1936)