THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

23 August 2016

Gone for a soldier

The British Army was a popular career choice for young men in the late 1800s, however not everyone was ideally suited to it. Take James Henry Baker and Harry Baker, who both enlisted in the Army in 1890, as examples:

James Henry Baker, born 1872 in Islington, London. He enlisted in the 4th Hussars in December 1890.  His statement of service states:
• 22 December 1890: Attested as a Private in 4th Hussars
• 16 February 1891: Awaiting trial
• 20 February 1891: Tried by Court Martial and Imprisoned
• 20 March 1891: Returned to duty
• 1 April 1891: Imprisoned by the Crown
• 1 May 1891: Returned to duty as a Private
• 5 June 1891: Imprisoned by the Crown for making false answer on attestation
• 29 June 1891: Discharged from service

 

 British soldiers at play [France] 1915

British soldiers at play [France]. Photographer: H. D. Girdwood.Photo 24/(320)  Noc

 

Harry Baker, born 1872 in Birmingham. He enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in July 1890. His statement of service states:
• 17 July 1890: Attested as a Private in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment
• 20 July 1890: Absent from regiment
• 28 August 1890: Awaiting trial
• 3 September 1890: Trial
• 4 September 1890: In prison
• 25 September 1890: Returned to duty as a Private
• 14 November 1890: Transferred to 1st Battalion as a Private
• 29 December 1890: Awaiting trial
• 30 December 1890: Tried by Regimental Court Martial and sentenced to 28 days imprisonment
• 26 Jan 1891: Released from imprisonment
• 29 Jan 1891: Awaiting trial
• 3 February 1891: Tried by Court Martial and sentenced to 6 calendar months imprisonment
• 3 August 1891: Released
• 19 February 1892: In confinement
• 25 February 1892: Tried by Crown Prosecution, convicted of felony and sentenced to 9 calendar months imprisonment
• 23 March 1892: Discharged the service on conviction by the civil power of felony

The circumstances around their respective decisions to enlist in the Army in the first place are unknown, but clearly they either did not wish to be there, or were simply not cut out for a life of military service given their records as shown above.
In the case of James Henry Baker, the false answer on his attestation, for which he was discharged from service, appears to have been in relation to his age.  He had declared himself to be 18 years old and born in 1872, whereas birth records suggest he was probably only 16 at the time and born in 1873/1874.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records Cc-by

Further Reading:
British Army Service Records,  1760-1913 via findmypast for James Henry Baker and Harry Baker
David Scott Daniell, Fourth Hussar: The story of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars 1685-1958 (Aldershot, 1959)
Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, The Story of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, formerly the sixth foot (London, 1921)