Untold lives blog

04 July 2023

Charles Daniels – an ex-soldier sent adrift upon the world

In late May 1839 a former East India Company soldier, weak from hunger, applied to Bow Street magistrates for assistance.  Charles Daniels, described as sickly and emaciated, said that he had served as a private in the Company’s Bengal European Regiment for sixteen years and seven months.  He had been declared unfit for active service and sent home to England, arriving at East India Docks about twelve days earlier.  To corroborate his story, he produced his discharge certificate showing his good character and reporting that the vision in his left eye was impeded and he had an enlarged liver and spleen.

Charles Daniels's application to Bow Street magistrates London Courier and Evening Gazette 30 May 1839Charles Daniels's application to Bow Street magistrates London Courier and Evening Gazette 30 May 1839 British Newspaper Archive

Having no relations or friends to help him and with no money for a night’s lodging, Daniels had gone to East India House to enquire whether anything could be done for him, and whether his service entitled him to a pension.  He was given three shillings ‘marching money’ and told that nothing more would be forthcoming.  The workhouse in the parish of St Giles in London, where his father had lived for many years, had turned him away.

Magistrate Mr Thiselton expressed surprise that the East India Company had sent Daniels adrift upon the world, with a constitution broken down in its employment.  He directed that a letter should be written on Daniels’ behalf to the overseer of St Giles and granted him a small sum from the office poor box to tide him over.

Charles Daniels enlisted in June 1822 at Westminster, aged 20, and arrived in India in January 1823.  After serving with the Bengal European Infantry, he was sent in 1829 to join the European Infantry Invalids at Chunar.  He was afterwards stationed at Buxar.  In October 1838 the Bengal Army decided to send him to Europe, and he was not recommended for a pension.

Entry for Charles Daniels in the Bengal Army muster rolls 1837-1838Charles Daniels in the Bengal Army muster rolls 1837-1838 British Library IOR/L/MIL/10/159


On 4 June 1839, Daniels wrote to the East India Company asking for relief, ‘having no prospect of supporting himself’.  He wrote again on 6 November 1839 requesting that he be allowed to rejoin his regiment as he was now ‘in perfect health and a ‘fit and able soldier’.  Both petitions were rejected.  In June 1840 he applied for prize money and was granted 4s 11d for the Burmese Campaign.

What the newspapers and Company documents fail to tell us is that Charles Daniels had left a wife and children in India.  He married Catherine Griffiths, a pupil of the Lower Orphan School, on 23 May 1825 at Fort William Calcutta.  Catherine was born on 25 April 1810, the daughter of Morgan Griffiths, a soldier in the Bengal Artillery.  The couple had at least four children: William (born 1830, died 1832); Charles (born 1834, died 1842); Sarah Maria (born 1837, died 1838); Margaret (born 28 February 1839).

Catherine Daniels stated that she was a widow when she married John Shillcock, a pensioned Company sergeant, at Buxar on 3 January 1843.  It seems that they had two children, Martha and Henry, who both died in infancy.  John Shillcock died at Chinsurah in September 1855 aged 54.

The last mention I have found of Charles Daniels dates from 6 May 1842 when he received a duplicate discharge certificate from the Company.  I don’t know what happened to Catherine and her daughter Margaret. Can any of our readers help?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. London Courier and Evening Gazette 30 May 1839.
Service records for Charles Daniels: British Library IOR/L/MIL/9/41; IOR/L/MIL/10/146-160; IOR/L/MIL/17/2/287.
Discharge certificate for Charles Daniels British Library IOR/L/MIL/10/301.
Petitions of Charles Daniels to the East India Company: British Library IOR/L/MIL/2/92, 98 & 106.
Marriage of Charles Daniels and Catherine Griffiths: British Library IOR/N/1/13 f.591.
Baptism of Catherine Griffiths: British Library IOR/N/1/8 f.292.
Marriage of Catherine Daniels and John Shillcock: British Library IOR/N/1/64 f.118.
The baptisms. marriages and deaths referred to in the story can all be found in the IOR/N/1 series which has been digitised by Findmypast.

 

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