Untold lives blog

284 posts categorized "Domestic life"

18 February 2021

A British Army route march in India

Edith E. Cuthell was a well-known author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Many of her stories drew on her experiences as the wife of a British Army officer serving in India.  In ‘Up to the Hills’, published in 1893, Mrs Cuthell described a long march involving women and children.

Sketches of a march with elephants, camels, horsemen and Indian servantsSketches of a march with elephants, camels, horsemen and Indian servants from Robert Place Smith, Sketchbook of 27 drawings of views made during a march from Benares to Bareilly 1814 British Library WD 312, f.25v Images Online

Troops moving between garrisons in India took a route march when there was no available railway.  They set off very early each morning in order to reach the shelter of the next camping place before the full heat of the day struck.  About ten miles were completed each day.  Troops never marched on a Sunday.

At the head of the march were the soldiers - a kaleidoscope of blue, red, green, and khaki uniforms.  They were followed by bullock carts carrying the married women and children.  Mrs Cuthell commented: ‘The soldier’s wife in India is a great grumbler, notwithstanding the comforts, and even luxuries, she enjoys in that land of extra pay and of many and cheap servants’.  However the wives might have had fair reason to complain when being jolted for days in bullock carts slowly creaking through the dust.  At the bottom of the carts was a layer of boxes with a couple of mattresses on top, all covered by thatched straw.  From time to time a wheel fell off, and pots, pans, baggage and children went flying in all directions.

Next came the sick and lame, laid on straw in bullock carts or carried along in canvas-hooded doolies. They were tended by a doctor and an apothecary.

Patient being carried in a doolie - a type of stretcher with a canvas roof

Patient being carried in a doolie of ‘very ingenious construction’ invented by Surgeon J S Login 1850 IOR/F/4/2398/129162 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 

Baggage animals accompanied the column.  Elephants and camels were loaded with tents, and mules carried the soldiers’ kit bags.  Cleared camping places were available at regular intervals by the roadside with trees planted by the government to shade them.  Tents were quickly erected on arrival, including one used as a hospital.  Indian cooks built fires and earth stoves to perform ’culinary wonders’.  Some of the soldiers played cards, whilst many took the opportunity to sleep.

An officer’s wife would enjoy the luxury of a tent serving as a dressing and sitting room with servants to attend her and provide a hot bath, and a separate bedroom tent furnished with a folding camp bed and washstand.  There was also a mess tent with waiters freshly dressed in clean white outfits and turbans after their march.

The camp awoke whilst it was still dark.  Fires were lit using straw bedding to ward off the bitter cold.  At the sound of a bugle, all the tents were taken down in readiness to begin the new day’s march.

Edith’s husband was Thomas George Cuthell, an officer in the 38th Foot and then the 13th Husssars.  The couple had married in Bedfordshire in 1873.  They had three daughters and one son, all born in England.  Mildred Frances, known as Millie, died at Lucknow in April 1878 aged 2¾ after suffering from convulsions.  Thomas retired from the Army in 1885 and the family lived on the Isle of Wight and later in Surrey.  Edith published books for adults and children as well as contributing articles to magazines.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
‘Up to the Hills’ in W. S. Burrell and E .E. Cuthell, Indian Memories (London, 1893)

02 February 2021

A 19th century tale of adultery

Major William Down of the Madras Army was a subscriber to the Madras Military Fund Pension scheme.  He was invalided in service and sent home in February 1859.  He died on 20 April 1868 aged 46.  On 1 September 1847 he had married Christian Tripp Hutchinson (1823-1898) and the couple had ten children, aged between five and nineteen at the time of their father’s death.

Three of his children found themselves caught up in or at the centre of scandals including allegations of adultery and involvement in criminal enterprises.

The first was Arabella Almond Down, fifth child of William and Christian, born in Secunderabad, Madras on 13 December 1852.  In May 1869 Arabella was referenced in the divorce proceedings of Samuel George Hulse and Catherine Theresa Ingram.  Samuel Hulse filed for divorce from his wife of four years on the grounds of serial adultery.  They had married in Bengal in 1866 when Samuel was 21 and Catherine was just 15.  Samuel returned to England September 1868 leaving his wife behind in Delhi, where it was alleged she commenced a relationship with another man, returning with him to England in March 1869 and leaving her husband for good shortly afterwards.  During the proceedings, Theresa (as she preferred to be known) submitted a counter claim accusing Samuel of also having committed adultery with Arabella Down.  The court dismissed this counter-claim and the divorce was granted on the grounds of adultery by Samuel’s wife.

Two lovers in bed caught in the act by a husband holding a whipTwo lovers in bed caught in the act by a husband holding a whip - from R. Gill, A new collection of trials for adultery (London, 1799) P.C.19.a.11 volume 2, frontispiece Images Online

There may however have been some truth to the counter claim made by Theresa Hulse.  On 23 December 1871 Arabella Georgina Catherine Hulse was born in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, the child of Samuel George Hulse and Arabella Almond Down,  I have been unable to find a marriage record for Samuel and Arabella.  The couple had two more children: Samuel Rusk Ramsay born in October 1873 and Violet born September 1876 but dying a month later.

Samuel and Arabella’s relationship appears to have dissolved quite rapidly, as on 22 March 1879 Arabella Down was married in Manhattan USA to Dr Gordon Edward Corbould.  At the time of their marriage Arabella and Gordon already had a son, Gordon Bruce, born in October 1877, and Arabella was six months pregnant with their second child.  Following the marriage they moved to New Westminster, British Columbia, where they had five more children between 1881 and 1890.  Arabella died in New Westminster on 20 February 1894.

Samuel Hulse kept custody of his two surviving children and they were still in Simcoe, Ontario at the time of the 1881 Census of Canada.  All three seem to disappear from official records shortly afterwards, although London probate records show that Samuel senior died on 22 August 1896 in Belize, British Honduras.  What happened to his children remains a mystery to me.  Can anyone help?

Watch out for a story of forgery, deceit and more alleged adultery featuring two more of the Down family siblings, Eva and Charles.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/L/AG/23/10/1 no.4003 Madras Military Fund Roll of Subscribers: William Down
IOR/L/AG/23/10/11, Part 1 ff. 195-202 Madras Military Fund Pension Certificates, No. 90: Birth/baptism, marriage and death certificates for William Down and family.
The National Archives: J 77/93/1164 Supreme Court of Judicature, Divorce Court File No. 1164: Samuel George Hulse & Theresa Hulse

 

21 January 2021

Isabella Keiskamma Frend - a challenging life

Isabella Keiskamma Frend was born 5 July 1829 at Fort Wiltshire, Cape of Good Hope (South Africa).  She was the daughter of Captain Albert Frend, HM 55th Regiment and his wife Ellen, née Last.  Her unusual middle name was taken from the Keiskamma River on which the Fort stood.

 View of the Cape of Good Hope; a tall, peaked mountain on the right with ships in the Table Bay below on the left and Cape Town on the rightView of Cape Town and highlands by F. Jukes published 1794 Maps K.Top.117.116.e.2 Images Online

As an Army family the Frends moved around frequently.  Their first child Ellen was born in Essex in 1815, and their two sons Albert and John were born in Jersey in 1815 and 1819 respectively.  Albert senior and Ellen didn’t marry until 14 August 1820 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, where their daughter Jane was born in September that year.  The family then travelled to the Cape of Good Hope where daughters Hester Tew (1823), Eliza (1824), Maria (1826) and Isabella herself were all born.  By 1832 the family were in India and their final child, Sarah, was born in Bellary, Madras, on 22 August 1832.

On 12 February 1833 tragedy struck the family.  Albert died in Bellary, Madras, and Ellen, who had set out with her children for Madras intending to return home to England, died on route at Cuddapah on 25 April 1833.  The nine Frend children found themselves orphaned, with only the eldest daughter Ellen already married and in a position to care for her siblings.

Isabella and Sarah were the only two not to remain in India.  They were adopted by Joseph and Emily Clulow and by 1841 were living in St Andrew, Devon.  Joseph passed away shortly afterwards and Emily moved with Isabella and Sarah to Brighton where both girls married.

On 13 August 1852 Isabella married Octavius Child, a Volunteer in the Indian Navy.  The couple had three children: Isabella Emily Sarah born 1853 in Aranjuez, Spain; Georgina Elizabeth born 1855 in Brighton; and Albert Octavius born 1857 in Santander, Spain.  Octavius died in Brighton 9 April 1858 age 31, after just six years of marriage.

Isabella married for a second time on 5 April 1862 in Gloucestershire to widower Francis Lawford, a Captain in the Madras Army.  As well as their children from their first marriages, they had a further three children together: Margaret Frances Isabella born in 1863; Bessie Ellen born 1865, died 1866; and Lionel Francis born in 1867.  Francis died on 28 August 1870, after eight years of marriage.  As a Madras Army Officer he subscribed to the Madras Military Fund Pension scheme.  Following his death not only did Isabella receive an annual pension, but so did all of Francis’s children who at the time of his death were unmarried (in the case of the girls) or under the age of 21 (in the case of the boys).

Isabella continued to live in Gloucestershire and on 15 September 1880 she married for a third time to the Baptist Minister William Millard.  There were no children from this marriage, which lasted for twelve years until William’s death in 1892.

After William's death Isabella was re-admitted to the Madras Military Fund as Captain Lawford’s widow.  Isabella moved to Ilfracombe, Devon where she remained until her own death on 14 September 1902.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records


Further Reading:
IOR/L/AG/3/10/1-2 Registers of subscribers to the Madras Military Fund and their widows and dependents.
IOR/L/AG/23/10/11, Part 2 No. 222 Certificates submitted in connection with Captain Francis Lawford’s subscription to the Madras Military Fund, including his marriage certificate to Isabella Keiskamma Child.
IOR/L/AG/23/10/13A, Part 3 No. 1103 Certificates submitted in connection to Mrs Isabella Keiskamma Millard’s eligibility for re-admission to the Madras Military Fund as the widow of Captain Francis Lawford.

 

14 January 2021

Bibee Zuhoorun: Women’s Voices in the Indian Indenture Trade

Bibee Zuhoorun was one of 1.3 million Indian labourers recruited in Caribbean and Indian Ocean sugar plantations after slave-labour was abolished in the British Empire.  She migrated to Mauritius in the 1830s and on her return to India, testified in an official inquiry committee set up to investigate transgressions in the Indian indenture trade.  As the earliest voice of female indentured labourers, Zuhoorun’s testimony offers a rare insight into early migration—painting a story of deception, ill-treatment and injustice.

Title page of Report of the Calcutta Committee of Inquiry 1839 containing Zuhoorun’s testimonyReport of the Calcutta Committee of Inquiry, 1839, containing Zuhoorun’s testimony 

In Calcutta, she was persuaded by a labour-recruiter to travel to Mauritius and work as a servant.  After her departure, however, she realised she had been deceived: ‘I got no clothes given to me, nor blankets, nor brass pots’.   Nor did she receive the quality of wages, or the six-month wage advance that the recruiter had promised.

In Mauritius, she spoke of the injustice meted out to fellow labourers—a story of overworked men subjected to ill-treatment and corporal punishment.  Labourers were often confined within plantations, and denied wages if they refused to work.  She felt stuck in a foreign land with no means of returning to her homeland, urging ‘every one would leave if there was a land journey; not one would advise any of their friends to go there’.

View looking towards a ground of labourers' huts on a sugar plantation in the Plaines Wilhelms district of Mauritius, with a small group of labourers posed in the foreground and a mountain rising against the skyline in the background.‘Indian huts on a sugar plantation, Plain William near Port Louis’ c. 1853. Photographer: Frederick Fiebig. British Library Photo 250(25) Images Online

Zuhoorun’s testimony attested to the gendered experience of indentured migrants.  While men tended to cultivate and process sugar, women often worked in the households of plantation-owners.  Zuhoorun testified to ‘making salt, climbing tamarind trees to pick them, sweeping the house, and cutting grass for cattle’.  She even learnt French to communicate with her French ‘master’.

Her testimony also highlighted instances of sexual harassment and the expectation of sexual favours—a common occurrence in plantations.  Zuhoorun complained that her plantation-owner Dr. Boileau asked her to be his mistress.  She refused, saying ‘I have degraded myself by going on board ship; I would not further degrade myself’'.  Her attempts to complain to the police were met with a three-month stint at a house of correction, and then a return to Boileau’s house, where she was beaten and harassed further.  Eventually, she decided to return to India before the end of her five-year contract, even if it meant not receiving any wages for her 2.5 years of service.

Zuhoorun’s bitterness towards the indenture system is evident in her testimony.  She urged: ‘I would not return to Mauritius on any account; it is a country of slaves; […] I would rather beg my bread here’.  Overseas migration had also damaged her social position.  She implored, ‘even my mother will not drink water from my hand or eat with me’; a sign of social ostracization tied to a taboo on crossing the Indian Ocean.

Indian and Chinese Indentured Labourers in British GuianaIndian and Chinese Indentured Labourers in British Guiana. Image from Edward Jenkins, The Coolie, His Rights and Wrongs (1871) from Wikimedia commons

Zuhoorun’s story is not just one of tragedy, injustice and violence, but also strength and resilience.  She not only resisted Boileau’s advances and ended her contract early, but even complained to his wife, sacrificing her livelihood at the same time.  Although relegated to the footnotes of history, her testimony remains the earliest account of a female indentured migrant, characterised by its strength, detail and passionate criticism of the indenture system.

Purba Hossain
University of Leeds

Further reading:

Read the testimonies of Zuhoorun and other indentured migrants in Letter from Secretary to Government of India to Committee on Exportation of Hill Coolies: Report of Committee and Evidence. Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons) 1841, Vol. 16, No. 45

Discover the life stories of indentured labourers -
‘Becoming Coolies’ - Life Stories and From the Archive
The Indentured Archipelago 

Marina Carter, Voices from Indenture: Experiences of Indian Migrants in the British Empire (London; New York: Leicester University Press, 1996).
Marina Carter, Servants, Sirdars, and Settlers: Indians in Mauritius, 1834-1874 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995).
Gaiutra Bahadur, Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

 

07 January 2021

Severe weather hits Britain in January 1763

In January 1763 parts of Britain were hit by severe weather conditions.  London was badly affected, with reports that the River Thames was as hazardous as the ocean.  Seagulls were seen near London Bridge, a sign of how cold conditions were that winter.

Ice at London Bridge when the River Thames froze in February 1814  showing boats stranded and people walking on the frozen waterIce at London Bridge when the River Thames froze in February 1814 - British Library K.Top.27.41 Images Online 

The directors of the East India Company resolved at their meeting on 26 January 1763 to help the poor of London ‘in consideration of the severity of the season’.  They gave ten guineas to several parishes for the relief of the poor: St Andrew Undershaft, St Olave Hart Street, St Katherine Coleman, St Mary Rotherhithe, All Hallows Barking, St Katharine Cree, St Helen’s, and St Peter Cornhill.  St Bartholomew by the Exchange received five guineas.  The maritime pensioners living in the Company’s almshouse, Poplar Hospital, were awarded an extra month’s pension at a total cost of £200.  Another ten guineas was donated towards helping the poor of Poplar.

Extract from East India Company directors' minutes detailing winter payments to poor people in London

British Library, IOR/B/78 p.289 Court of Directors minutes 26 January 1763 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A group of gardeners dressed in mourning pulled a cart without horses through Cheapside.  They asked for charity because the weather had prevented them from working.

In Cambridgeshire, Anne Sizer went to buy bread in Soham and became lost on her way back home.  She wandered into the fen, lay down, and froze to death.

On a lighter note, a gentleman from Lincoln’s Inn took on a skating challenge for a considerable bet.  He had to pick up 100 stones from the frozen Serpentine River in Hyde Park, laid out one yard apart in a direct line, and return with them separately to the starting point.  The time allowed was 1¼ hours but he managed to complete the task with ease in 52½ minutes.

Snowdrop with white flowers and green spreading leaves

Snowdrop from Sophina Gordon, Flowers, Earth's silent voices (Philadelphia, 1865) BL flickr

Not all regions were affected.  Dublin escaped the chill, and the weather was so mild in South Wales that snowdrops, daisies and primroses were blooming.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Leeds Intelligencer 18 January 1763; Sussex Advertiser 24 January 1763.
London Chronicle or Universal Evening Post January 1763 via Google Books.
British Library, IOR/B/78 p.289 Court of Directors minutes 26 January 1763.

22 December 2020

Soldier’s life saved by Princess Mary's Christmas gift

In February 1915 Private Michael Brabston of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards was fighting at Givenchy.  In his breast pocket was the metal cigarette box he had received from Princess Mary's Gift Fund at Christmas.  A German bullet was on target to hit Brabston’s heart but it struck the box and he survived.

Princess Mary's Christmas Gift Box 1914 now in Imperial War MuseumPrincess Mary's Gift Fund box containing a packet of tobacco and carton of cigarettes, 1914. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum
© IWM EPH 9380 

A few days later, Brabston was wounded above his left eye and he was sent to Edenbridge Hospital in Kent for treatment.  The matron forwarded the box and the bullet to Princess Mary.  A reply was received from Windsor Castle that the Princess was delighted that one of her boxes had saved a soldier’s life.  The box had been shown to the King and Queen who hoped that Private Brabston would soon recover from his wounds.

Brabston was awarded the Military Medal for his service in France.  On 17 August 1916, he was discharged from the British Army  as being no longer physically fit for war service.  He received a pension of 24 shillings per week.

Returning to his home in Clonmel Ireland, Brabston worked as a labourer before enlisting in the Irish National Army on 26 June 1922.  In May 1923, the Army was rounding-up Irish nationalists.  Sergeant Brabston was with a party of soldiers outside a dance hall at Goatenbridge when a young man approached him, hands in his pockets and whistling.  The two men exchanged greetings.  When the young man casually walked back the way he had come, Brabston became suspicious and followed him.  The man suddenly whipped out a revolver, shot Brabston in the chest at short range, and escaped into the woods.  Brabston died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

Michael Brabston’s mother Mary was awarded a gratuity of £100, paid in 20 monthly instalments of £5.  In 1927 an application for further payment was made on her behalf.  She had relied on her son to help support the family as he used to give her all his British Army pension plus money from his wages.  The claim stated that Mary was getting old, her nerves had been shattered by the sudden death of her son, she lacked nourishing food, she suffered from rheumatism, and she was incapable of earning a living.  The authorities ruled that nothing more could be paid as she had not been totally dependent upon Michael.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Leicester Daily Post 28 June 1915; Dublin Evening Telegraph 8 & 9 May 1923
World War I medal card for Michael Brabston available from The National Archives UK
Documents relating to Michael Brabston’s service in the Irish Army are available from Defence Forces Ireland Military Archives 

 

15 December 2020

The Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists – Part 4 Women’s Lives

When members of the black Nova Scotian community expressed interest in going to Sierra Leone, it was not just men that applied - applicants also included single women.  Unmarried women who applied for land in Sierra Leone were given ten acres of their own.  The following certificates were issued just before the journey to Sierra Leone and show the allocation of land given to women on receipt of their satisfactory character references.

Promise of land to Margaret Halstead

Promise of land to Grace Pool

Promise of land to Mary

Promise of land to Hannah TighePromises of land in Sierra Leone to single women including Grace Pool, Add MS 41262 A, f.47, f.48, f.53, f.58. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In Freetown a high proportion of householders were women.  Their independent status was recognised to the point that they could vote for their local representatives.  They were also instrumental in establishing trades in the new settlement: three of the six first shops to open in Freetown were run by women.

The following manuscript shows the allocations of eggs to women on Christmas Day 1792. It gives us many of the names of the women within the settlement.

Allocations of eggs to women  25 December 1792Allocations of eggs to women, 25 December 1792, Add MS 41263, f.218. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Dinah Weeks, named on this list, is recorded as having being enslaved to a man called Robert Bruce in New York before the American Revolution.  He apparently granted her freedom and in 1783 she left New York for Nova Scotia on the ship L’Abondance.  On the same ship was Harry Washington, who had been one of George Washington’s slaves, but who had escaped to fight with the British.

The final name on this list is that of Elizabeth Black.  She was a mixed-race women who had been born in Madagascar and described as living in indentured servitude in America to a Mrs Courtland.  When she was finally released she travelled to Nova Scotia and came to live with the black community in Birchtown, before moving to Sierra Leone with many others.

The diary and notes of Dr Taylor offer more insights into some of the women who travelled to Freetown.  The Sierra Leone Company doctor kept notes on the patients he treated. These appear to run from shortly before departing to Sierra Leone in December 1791 and the early months of the settlement in the spring of 1792.

Entry for Sarah Wilkinson in Dr Taylor’s medical notesEntry for Sarah Wilkinson in Dr Taylor’s medical notes, Add MS 41264, f.37.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Listed in this manuscript volume is the case of Sarah Wilkinson, who is described as having a fever after catching a cold after suffering a miscarriage.  She received treatment from Taylor, but died shortly afterwards.  Dr Taylor notes that, by 11 April 1792, 41 women had died, mainly from fevers.  He also notes that fourteen babies had been born since embarking.

Entry for Mima Henry in Dr Taylor’s medical notes

Entry for Mima Henry in Dr Taylor’s medical notes, Add MS 41264, f.2. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Mima Henry was also listed as having a fever.  We find that she lived in Birchtown, Nova Scotia before moving to Sierra Leone.  We know that Mima survived her fever because she is listed above in the allocations of eggs document that is dated later in 1792.

These documents may appear insignificant, but they give us the names, ages, backgrounds and land allocations of a number of black women who not only survived slavery, but strived to contribute to a free black society of their own, where they would play a foundational part in the beginnings of Freetown.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
The Clarkson Papers, Add MS 41262-41267. British Library.
Black Loyalist: Our Freedom, Our People: Documents
Our Children, Free and Happy : letters from black settlers in Africa in the 1790's. Edited by Christopher Fyfe with a contribution by Charles Jones. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991)
The Black Loyalists : the search for a promised land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870. James W.St.G. Walker. (London: Longman, 1976)

 

10 December 2020

Gallant, Clean and Drunk: Charles Old of the Royal Artillery

Charles Old served with the British Army in India in the mid-19th century as a gunner with the Royal Artillery.  His military discharge documents give a fascinating glimpse into the career of an ordinary soldier.  Born in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1835, Charles Old spent his early years living in Allen’s Yard, a down at heel area (later populated by self-proclaimed prostitutes).  His father Richard was a labourer and sometime ostler, and Charles followed his brother Richard into the British Army.

'A hot night in the Batteries'. Soldiers loading and firing cannons  during the Crimean War'A hot night in the Batteries'. Soldiers loading and firing cannons, during the Crimean War by William Simpson Shelfmark: 1780.c.6  Images Online

Charles enlisted in the 11th Battalion Royal Artillery on 18 March 1854, age 19, having previously been an outdoor servant.  He was sent to the Crimea, where he served with 5th Company H Field Battery.  He was awarded the Crimea Medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastapol, as well as the Turkish Crimea Medal.  After the Crimean war he was sent to India.  On 14 March 1858 Charles was mentioned for gallant conduct in the field before Lucknow during the Indian Uprising or ‘Indian Mutiny’.  For his actions, he received the Indian Mutiny medal, with Lucknow clasp.  This was awarded to troops under the command of Sir Colin Campbell who took part in the operations which led to the eventual surrender of Lucknow and its environs.

On 1 May 1859, Charles was transferred to 14th Brigade Royal Artillery.  On 20 September 1865 he was re-engaged for another nine years at Poona [Pune].  A physical description of him survives – he had grey eyes, light brown hair, and a fresh complexion, and stood 5 feet 9 inches tall.  He was undoubtedly a courageous soldier, but unfortunately the record of Charles’s conduct in the Army leaves something to be desired.  He appeared fourteen times in the Regimental Defaulter’s Book.  Between 1859 and 1874, he was tried by Court Martial four times, leading to four periods of imprisonment of one to two months each time.  The Regimental Board stated 'his conduct has been indifferent [he] has been guilty of many acts of Drunkenness & absence but has proved himself a gallant and clean soldier'.   The Board was at pains to point out that Charles possessed neither school certificate nor any good conduct badges.  Charles was a career soldier – he served over 21 years with the Royal Artillery in total, including two years in the Crimea and twelve years in India.  His service record reflects his many minor and not so minor run-ins with authority during that time, often through drunkenness.  He was not discharged from the Army as a result of his courts martial, which don’t in fact seem to have been that rare an occurrence in the 19th century.

Discharge Documents for Charles Old, 1875, commenting on his character and conduct.WO 97/1822/107 Discharge Documents for Charles Old, 1875, commenting on his character and conduct. © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives via Findmypast

By the time he left the British Army at Colchester on 9 November 1875, Charles was in the 25th Brigade Royal Artillery, regimental number 515.  He was intending to return to Truro, Cornwall, where his widowed mother Elizabeth, his brother Edward, and sister Elizabeth Marks were all living.  He moved quickly on his return home, marrying the twice-widowed Mary Jane Tuck at Tuckingmill on 13 November 1875.  He appears in the 1881 census working as a tin miner in Cambourne, and living with Mary Jane and his step-children.  Charles Old died at Truro Infirmary on 4 November 1882 of a ‘bronchial attack’, aged 47.  Perhaps those years of hard living in the Royal Artillery finally caught up with him.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
It can be difficult to pinpoint records relating to ancestors who served in India.  East India Company soldiers served in Presidency armies of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras.  The Indian Army was formed after the British Crown took over from the Company in 1858.  The India Office Records Military Department archive (IOR/L/MIL) holds recruitment registers, embarkation lists and muster rolls for European private soldiers and non-commissioned officers from 1753.  Documents for British officers of the East India Company armies include entry papers from 1775 and service records.

India Office Records also holds records of service for British Officers in the Indian Army, Royal Indian Navy and Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve.  Sequences are not complete, and often concern pay, leave etc.   There are few records relating to Asian personnel of the Indian Army up until 1947; these records are held in India.

Records for British Army units serving in India are found at the National Archives – this is where Charles Old’s discharge records are held.  After 1921, records are with the Ministry of Defence.

A J Farrington, Guide to the Records of the India Office Military Department (London: India Office Library & Records 1982)
Ian A Baxter, Baxter’s Guide: biographical sources in the India Office Records (London: FIBIS & British Library, 2004)
Peter Bailey, Researching ancestors in the East India Company armies (England: FIBIS, 2006)
Peter Bailey, Researching ancestors in the Indian army, 1858-1947 (England: FIBIS, 2014)
India Office Records family history web pages 
For details of prostitutes living in Allen’s Yard, Falmouth, see ‘Stand Up and (Don’t) Be Counted’ by Francis Ambler, from The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The story of Britain through its census, since 1801 by Roger Hutchinson (London: Little Brown, 2017)
Charles Old’s death notice can be found in The Cornishman 16 November 1882, British Newspaper Archive, also available via  Findmypast

 

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