THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

10 posts from November 2018

29 November 2018

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay in 1780

In April 1780, East India Company military cadet William Lambert wrote from Bombay to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England.  He reported on the long voyage from England, his first impressions of India, his hopes of advancement, and a longing for female company.

Tom RawTom Raw gets introduced to his Colonel from Tom Raw, The Griffin (London, 1828)

The letter is addressed to Mr Jonathan Oldman, Bannest Hill, Caldbeck, Cumberland.

Bombay April the 30th 1780

Mr Oldman

Sir
I set me down with a great deal of pleasure to scrawl two or three lines to you.  I hope these lines will find you perfectly Happy in the Arms of your Dear ------ as I hope to be in a short time with one of the Beauties of the East.  I have arrived at the (long looked for) place, at last, after a passage of about Nine Months, which was very tedious time on Board a Ship, but knowing it was only for a time, and not for ever we spent our time agreeably as we could.  I have the pleasure of informing you that India is much pleasanter than I Expected, only the Middle of the day is rather to hold.  I thought when I left England, that I left all the Wars behind me, but have had the pleasure to find it to the Contrary, as the more danger more Honour, for the War is much hotter here than Europe, I have not yet got a Commission but expecting one every day.  I arrived on the Island on the 23rd of February 1780, this part of the World produces every thing one could wish for, the Pay of a Cadet is a Rupee per day, that is equall to half a Crown in England, and as soon as Commissioned more than double the sum; how happy I should be to be with you in Cumberland was it only for one day. 

We should have a pleasant [w]alk and an evening retreat, one might have a walk on a grass pland, but grass I have not seen in India the Sun burns all that away, so that we always walk on a Sand Bank, as on the Sea shore, which is very disagreeable for the dust.  If you will take upon you to Freight a Ship for the East Indies I will take upon me to tell what her Cargo must consist of; and that must be Ladies, for they fetch the highest prizes of any one articule.  I think some of your North Country Ladies will do very well, the Ladies here have Money plenty, we dont want you to bring any Fortunes only Beauties so if you think any thing about this affair I shall wait to purchase a part of your Cargo which I hope you’ll let me know in your first Letter which you’ll send by the First Ship that Sails for India, the News of India I have not Collected yet but by the next Ship you may Expect another line which is all at present from your ever loving and nevr failing Friend and Wellwisher

W Lambert
Cadet

NB direct to me at Bombay East Indies Ensign

PS I hope by the time you receive this to have a good step towards a Lieutenant Commission

Lambert MSS Eur C917India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917

In our next post, I shall tell you more about William Lambert and how his life in India turned out.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780

 

27 November 2018

A policeman's lot in Bahrain - not a happy one

Bahrain’s first British Inspector of Police resigned from his post after only three months, and was then accused of racial prejudice towards Arabs.

By 1945 hundreds of oil workers – European and American - had flooded into Bahrain, and the local Bahrain State Police could not cope.  The British Government’s solution was to second a contingent of serving British Police Officers to work in the country.  Advertisements were placed, and applications came in from members of Constabularies across Britain.

Colonial Police starBritish Colonial Police style five pointed star considered for use in Bahrain IOR/L/PS/12/3951A, f 483 (detail) .

Unusually for the era, the positions involved working directly for an independent Arab government.  Candidates at Sergeant and Police Constable level were therefore asked by India Office interviewers whether they had any ‘colour prejudice’.  Perhaps unwisely, two admitted to having ‘some prejudice’ - one man stating that he didn’t like saluting Arab officers.  Both were dismissed from the process.  However, there is no evidence that the same question was put to candidates at Inspector level.
Some of the successful applicants were helped by having language skills acquired in the course of wartime military service in the Middle East.

The most important appointment was that of Inspector, who was to command the detachment.  The choice fell eventually on Charles Henry Crowe, who was based at Tower Bridge Police Station, London.  Crowe had experience of plain clothes work in the detection of betting and gaming offences, and had received a number of commendations.

Uniforms and equipment having been selected and paid for by the India Office, the detachment (one Inspector, one Sergeant, and six Constables) arrived in Bahrain in August 1945 – the hottest part of the year.

Inspector Crowe’s resignation letterInspector Crowe’s resignation letter: IOR/L/PS/12/3951A, f 9 (detail)

Three months later, Crowe resigned.  His resignation letter lists a number of grievances: a promised refrigerator failed to materialise; he had often been kept waiting by the Arab Superintendent, Sheikh Khalifah, for up to fifteen minutes, sometimes standing, while the Sheikh conversed in Arabic with visitors; the same official appropriated a car intended for the Inspector; the accommodation was not up to scratch; and the uniforms were inadequate: by November, the detachment were still wearing pith helmets in the evenings, which was ‘a source of amusement to Europeans’.  Crowe was also critical of Charles Belgrave, the Sheikh of Bahrain’s British-born Adviser, who was in overall charge of the country’s police.

Inspector Crowe’s resignation letter (conclusion)Inspector Crowe’s resignation letter (conclusion): IOR/L/PS/12/3951A, f 9v (detail)

Belgrave responded by claiming that Crowe had been entirely unsuitable for the post.  He had not liked the cut of the uniform with which he was provided, had objected strongly to shaking hands with ‘natives’ (Arab Police Officers), and had been overly conscious of his rank and social position.  Without authority, he had paid a visit to the brothel area, and lectured a number of ladies of the town through an interpreter, which ‘caused a considerable commotion’ next day, and had been ‘associating with various undesirable members of the community’.  For all these reasons, the decision was taken to dismiss him from his post, and Crowe only resigned after being tipped off by friends at the Cable & Wireless office that a telegram had come ordering his dismissal.

Letter from Charles BelgraveLetter from Charles Belgrave, Adviser to the Government of Bahrain, concerning Inspector Crowe’s resignation: IOR/L/PS/12/3951B, f 30 (detail)
The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

Letter from Charles Belgrave 2Letter from Charles Belgrave, Adviser to the Government of Bahrain, concerning Inspector Crowe’s resignation (conclusion): IOR/L/PS/12/3951B, f 34 (detail)
The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

Belgrave’s lengthy response probably had more to do with avoiding criticism from London over his role in the affair, but clearly the post-war oil-era Gulf wasn’t for everyone.

Martin Woodward
Content Specialist, Archives
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
London, British Library, Coll 30/210(2) 'Bahrein Oil: Employment of U.S.Provost Personnel for Control of American labour.' IOR/L/PS/12/3951A
London, British Library, Coll 30/210(2/1) 'Bahrain: appointments to Bahrain State Police'  IOR/L/PS/12/3951B
Digitised versions of both these files are published in the Qatar Digital Library.

 

 

22 November 2018

Boy Soldiers

The Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army published in 1903 laid out the criteria under which boys aged between fourteen and seventeen years could be recruited and the roles they were permitted to take on.  Any boy enlisting in this way had to produce a certificate of good character, his birth or baptism certificate, proof of his elementary school education to at least Standard V, and have the written consent of his parents.

Soldier of the King'A Soldier of the King', courtesy of TuckDB Postcards

For boys being enlisted to Infantry Battalions, they could serve as trumpeters, buglers or musicians and each Infantry Battalion could have up to eight boys on their roll.
 
One such boy was George Joseph Wilson Baker, the eldest son and the sixth of twelve children of George Joseph Baker, a wood engraver, and his wife Henrietta Alexandra, née Howard, a music hall entertainer.  George was born on 21 July 1891 on the Isle of Sheppey, but spent most of his childhood in Colchester, Essex.

His parents had suffered great tragedy shortly before his birth when in May 1891 their daughters Nettie, Lillie, Ada, Bessie, and Nellie, all aged five and under, died of a combination of measles, whooping cough and bronchitis.

George’s parents had two more daughters together before they appear to have separated in about 1896.  George continued to live with his mother Henrietta who had four more children with another man, Joseph Lewis, although she remained married to George’s father until his death in 1936.

George enlisted in the British Army at Tidworth on 21 March 1906 and was attested as a boy in the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry, he was fourteen years and eight months old at the time.  He remained in England until 5 December 1906 when he was posted to India, arriving there on 27 December.  The Battalion remained in India until 5 December 1908 when they went to Burma.  It was in Burma in June 1909 that George turned eighteen and having attained that age was given the rank of private.  The Battalion left Burma on 25 September 1910 and returned to India where they remained until George paid £25 for his own discharge on 30 September 1913.  During his time in the Battalion George served as a bandsman and later an unpaid lance-corporal.

It does not appear that George ever returned to England but chose to remain in India.  In 1915 he was an inspector for the Bombay Port Trust Docks when he married Margaret Paterson.  George and Margaret do not appear to have had any children and George died of pneumonia on 5 October 1918, most likely a victim of the flu pandemic sweeping Bombay.  By the time of his death he was assistant manager for the Bombay Port Trust Dock, a long way from his enlistment in the British Army in 1906 as a boy soldier.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office marriage entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker and Margaret Paterson. IOR/N/3/114, f.260
India Office death and burial entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker. IOR/N/3/120, p. 314
Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army, Militia, and Imperial Yeomanry. 1903. 8829.b.57
British Army Service Record for George Joseph Wilson Baker. The National Archives WO 97, Box 4293, No.76

 

20 November 2018

A case for the Society for the Protection of Women and Children

On 29 August 1864 Henry Wilkinson was brought before the magistrate at Clerkenwell Police Court charged with the wilful murder of his wife Eliza who had died the previous night.  Henry was a stonemason’s labourer aged 29 and he lodged with 28-year-old Eliza and their three children at 9 Cross Street in the Hatton Garden area of London.  Relations between the married couple were not always happy because of Henry’s jealousy and heavy drinking.

  Quarrel - temperanceFrom T. S. Arthur Temperance Tales vol. 1 (1848)

The Wilkinsons had visitors on Sunday 28 August, going to the station in the evening to see them off on a train.  One of the friends kissed Eliza.  Henry flew into a rage, and he cursed and threatened his wife before striking her very hard.  At 10pm Eliza arrived at home and spoke to Sarah Collier who lodged in the same house.  Eliza was afraid her husband would beat her, so she was sent to sleep in the same bed as Mrs Collier’s aunt.   At midnight Henry came home drunk.  He went looking for Eliza, pulled her out of bed, and punched and kicked her as she lay on the floor.  She began to vomit blood, saying ‘Oh mistress, he has given me my death blow!’  Henry immediately began to help his wife, carrying her to her own bed, giving her brandy, and going to fetch a doctor.  But poor Eliza died about an hour later.

Sarah Collier testified that she had seen Henry ill-treating his wife before this, adding that he was very kind to Eliza when sober and also treated his children well.  The case was then remanded to allow a post mortem to take place.  Bail was refused.

An inquest into Eliza's death opened on 2 September 1864 at the Three Tuns Tavern in Cross Street.  Henry was brought up in custody under a warrant from the Home Secretary.  Large crowds, mostly women, gathered in the street, and the windows of neighbouring houses were thronged with spectators.   The Marquis of Townshend, chairman of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, sat at the coroner’s side.  Several witnesses were questioned and Dr Thomas Clark who had conducted the post mortem examination gave the cause of death as a ruptured diseased spleen.  Clark said that the condition of Eliza’s spleen might have been aggravated by ill-treatment by Henry, but the slightest blow would have caused death.

  Clerkenwell News - Society for Protection of WomenClerkenwell News 3 September 1864 British Newspaper Archive

In summing up, the coroner said the case showed the importance of the work of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children.  Whenever a man ill-used his family, the women and children should apply to the Society and steps would be taken to prevent such calamities.

The inquest jury decided that Henry did not intend to kill his wife and therefore their verdict was manslaughter.  However, after hearing the evidence, the magistrate at Clerkenwell decided Henry should be tried for wilful murder rather than manslaughter.  At Henry’s trial at the Old Bailey on 19 September 1864, he 'received a most excellent character, amongst others, from the father, brother, and sister of the deceased'.  He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve months in prison.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Clerkenwell News 3 & 5 September 1864; Holborn Journal 10 September 1864.

 

15 November 2018

From Switzerland to Hackney via India - a patient at Pembroke House Asylum

I recently came across the 1851 census return for Pembroke House Asylum in Hackney.  This was a private mental health asylum in Mare Street where the East India Company placed patients from amongst its servants and their families.

HackneyHackney in 1840 from G W Thornbury, Old & New London vol 3 (London, 1897)

On 31 March 1851 there were 109 patients under the care of Dr Walter Davis Williams, his mother Martha, six male ‘keepers’, two nurses, and  a team of  sixteen domestic staff.   98 men and 5 women were described as East India Company invalids, pensioners, or servants.  Their places of birth have an interesting distribution:

• Ireland 65
• Scotland 16
• England 14
• Wales 2
• India 2
• Channel Islands 1
• America 1
• Switzerland 1
• Unknown 1

The presence of 65 Irish men would appear to be a reflection of the Company’s policy of recruiting large numbers of private soldiers in Ireland.

My eye fell upon the patient born in Switzerland – a widow aged 33 with the initials ‘M.A.M.’.   I was able to identify her as Maria Augustina Martin in the Pembroke House case book preserved in the India Office Records.

MulhouseMulhouse in Alsace from Charles A Grad, L'Alsace; le pays et ses habitants (Paris, 1889)


Maria Augustina Martin was born in Mulhouse in the Alsace region and worked there as a dressmaker.  She married and had a baby.  After both her husband and child died, she worked as a servant in Berne.  She then became nurse to the daughters of Madras Army officer Clements Edward Money Walker and his wife Eliza Anne: Julia Rosa born in India in 1845 and Eliza Anne born in Switzerland in 1847.

Maria travelled to Madras with the Walker family.  In December 1849 she was admitted to the General Hospital behaving in a very excited and incoherent manner.   In January 1850 she was transferred to the Madras asylum.

MadrasX108(49) Madras from William Simpson's India: Ancient and Modern (1867)

The East India Company believed that patients with mental health problems should be removed as soon as possible from the heat of India to give them the best chance of recovery. So Maria was sent to England and admitted to Pembroke House on 22 September 1850.  She was described as being ‘of somewhat spare habit and phlegmatic appearance’.  The supposed cause of her mania was the Indian climate. The East India Company paid for her treatment - she told Dr Williams that she had no friends in Switzerland who might help her.

The case notes for Maria show that she continued to have attacks of agitation, and that the staff found it difficult to understand what she was saying when she was upset because of her accent. She used to walk up and down the garden shouting.

In July 1855, Maria began to suffer from bowel problems. There are very detailed notes of the treatments administered to her by Dr Williams.  Sadly nothing helped and by 23 July it became obvious that she was dying. Williams ‘ordered a little brandy but she only took one spoonful when she sank back & died very calmly’.  A post mortem examination was carried out six hours later.  Dr Williams recorded the cause of death as chronic mania for seven years and obstruction of the bowels for five days. He gave her age as 34. On 25 July Maria was buried at the church of St John of Jerusalem in South Hackney.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/K/2/31 Pembroke House admission register 1845-1861
IOR/K/2/36 Pembroke House case book 1849-1867

 

13 November 2018

The fate of two forgers

On Sunday 6 February 1785 a mass hanging took place at Newgate Prison of individuals who had been found guilty of various crimes and sentenced to death.  The hangings were intentionally held publicly at the debtors' gate of the prison to serve as a warning to society that such crimes would not be tolerated.

  NewgateNewgate from G W Thornbury, Old and New London (London, 1887)

Two of the individuals hanged that day were James Dunn and William Abbott, two unrelated individuals and cases, who were both convicted of forgery and who had both attempted to defraud individuals connected to the East India Company.

James Dunn was found guilty and sentenced to death on 8 December 1784 for having forged the last will and testament of one James Potter, a seaman aboard the East India Company ship Rodney, who had died at St Helena on 14 March 1784.  Dunn had attempted to defraud not only James Potter’s widow Jenny but also the East India Company, several ship’s captains and other seamen.  The case was drawn out over several months as Dunn had successfully proved the forged will at the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury and it therefore had to be declared null and void by them before he could be tried and convicted of his crime.

William Abbott was also found guilty and sentenced to death on 8 December 1784 for having forged a bill of sale owed by Daniel Mcarthy to John How, a seaman aboard the East India Company ship Warren Hastings.  John How had died on board ship on 28 April 1783.  It was believed that Abbott had learned of this and of the money owed to How in July 1783 when the Warren Hastings was at Bombay alongside the Talbot, in which Abbot was a passenger.  On Abbot’s return to England in October 1784 he had forged the bill of sale to the value of £23 14s 10d and had posed as John How to claim the money from Mcarthy.

On finding William Abbott guilty, the jury had given the verdict ‘Guilty with recommendation'.  Although guilty, they believed he deserved some clemency.  The judge however appears to have disagreed and sentenced him to death.

Karen Stapley,
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive - Derby Mercury, 9 Dec 1784, reported on the conviction of William Abbott for forgery.
Reading Mercury, Monday 7 February 1785, reported on the hangings at Newgate Prison and gave details of the individuals and their crimes.

 

11 November 2018

From library to battlefield – Rifleman Frederick Boxall

At the staff entrance of the British Library in London, there is a memorial plaque with 142 names. This is the roll of honour for the British librarians who lost their lives while serving in the First World War.

BLMemorial
In 2014, Untold Lives told the story of the first of the librarians named on the memorial to die:  Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Gladstone Booth.  The last man on the memorial to die prior to the Armistice of 11 November 1918 was Frederick James Boxall, formerly an assistant at Sion College Library in London.  305423 Rifleman Frederick James Boxall of the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment, the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, died of wounds in France on 7 November 1918, aged nineteen.

Frederick James Boxall was born at Battersea on 25 February 1899, the son of James Boxall and Edith Kate Boxall (née Bishop).  At the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at 13 Brassey Square, Battersea and James was working as a carpenter.  Frederick’s  younger brother Herbert was born on 21 July 1901.  The family moved to Croydon.  School records show that Frederick studied from 1904 at Ecclesbourne Road Infants School, transferring to Winterbourne Boys School in 1906.  Frederick Boxall left school in December 1913 to become a junior assistant at Croydon Library. Two years later, he was appointed assistant at Sion College Library.

Frederick Boxall was called up in 1916.  He attested at Croydon on 9 December 1916, when he was seventeen years old.  He served with the 1st Battalion, London Rifle Brigade, a Territorial Force unit that was in late 1918 part of 169th Infantry Brigade in the 56th (1/1st London) Division. On 5 November 1918, the 56th Division was advancing towards the Honnelle River, close to the Franco-Belgian border between Valenciennes and Mons.  At 5.30 am, the 169th Brigade attacked and captured the village of Angreau.  Attempts to advance any further were prevented by heavy machine-gun fire.  The 169th and 168th Brigades attempted to continue the advance the following morning.  The 1st London Rifle Brigade were successful in capturing their first objective, but strong German counter attacks eventually pushed them back to their original lines. The battalion war diary (TNA: WO 95/2962/6) noted that the weather conditions were not good: ‘rain fell all day and the River Honnelle had to be waded across’.  The operation failed because the village of Angre was still held by the Germans, and units on the battalion’s right had also failed to make progress. 

A notice of Rifleman Boxall’s death was published in Library World, December 1918:
'We regret to announce the death of FREDERICK JAMES BOXALL, assistant in Sion College Library, who was mortally wounded while succouring a wounded comrade on 6th November, and died next day.  Boxall, who was nineteen years old, served as a junior in the Croydon Libraries from December, 1913, to December, 1915, when he was appointed at Sion College. A gentle-mannered, earnest and promising young man, his early but heroic death is much deplored'.

  Canadian casualty clearing station 1918Ward scene of a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Valenciennes. November 1918 Canadian Official World War 1 Photographs 1920 l.r.233.b.57.v4

Rifleman Boxall is buried in Cambrai East Military Cemetery in France. His name appears on the West Croydon Congregational Church war memorial, now in East Croydon United Reformed Church.

Michael Day
Digital Preservation Manager

 

08 November 2018

Journey to India of Randolph Marriott, East India Company Servant

A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting account of the voyage to India of a new employee of the East India Company.  Randolph Marriott joined the Company as a writer, and his papers include his journal of the journey to India in 1753, which complements the official ship's journal in the India Office Records.

Mss Eur F722 - JournalIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriott was a passenger on board the ship Portfield, which sailed from Gravesend on 22 January 1753, bound for Bengal, then a six month voyage, arriving on 25 July 1753.  Along the way, Marriott kept a brief but entertaining account of what he saw on board the ship.  The journal clearly shows the dangerous nature of such voyages.  Only a few days into the voyage on 4 February, Marriott reported that the boatswain had been ‘very much hurt by the Capstone falling on him’, and on 23 February they buried the corpse of Mr Gent, the purser, who it appeared had been ill when he came on board.  There were three more deaths over the course of the voyage.

Marriott describes one particularly hair-raising accident and the dramatic rescue that followed.  On Wednesday 4 April 1753, at 11 in the morning, John Ross, the doctor’s servant accidentally fell overboard, and was in grave danger of being drowned.  Some quick thinking crew members threw a coop containing some ducks over the side, and the cooper Edward Welsted jumped over board and helped the stricken servant onto the coop.  He then held on to him until a boat was hoisted out and brought them both back in alive.  The servant was somewhat bruised by the fall but Marriott reported him to be ‘in a fair way of recovery’.  Happily, the ducks also survived the experience. 

F722 - Servant falls over boardIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

The cooper Edward Welsted again features in the journal, when on the night of 22 May he was put in irons for disobeying and striking the 4th Mate, Mr Edward Altham, and behaving in an insolent and mutinous manner.  Further potentially very serious consequences seemed to have been averted, as Marriott recorded that the next day the cooper was taken out of irons upon his asking pardon of all the officers on board.

Marriott also reported on the sea life he spotted from the ship, mostly whales and sharks.  He described in his journal catching a shark on 31 March, which he said can be caught using ‘a line about the thickness of a penny cord, & a hook 4 or 5 inches long, & ¼ of one round. The bait is a bit of pork or beef’.

F722 - A Narrative of EventsIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriot served with the Company in India until 1766, when he resigned following a dispute with his employers. He arrived home in England on 16 June 1767. During his time in India, he compiled a volume of documents which gave a narrative of the events over that period, including a description of the battle of Plassey and a list of those held in the Black Hole of Calcutta. 

F722 - Black Hole of CalcuttaIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

John O’Brien
India Office Records

 

Further Reading:
Papers of Randolph Marriott (1736-1807), Writer in the East India Company's service, Bengal 1753-1767 [Reference Mss Eur F722]
Journal of the Portfield by Commander Carteret Le Geyt, 17 Nov 1752-29 Jul 1754 [Reference: IOR/L/MAR/B/609C]