Untold lives blog

153 posts categorized "War"

07 September 2021

Personal Reflections on the Indian Political Service – Part Three: Travels between Britain and India

This is the third and final part in a series of blog posts about Mss Eur F226, a collection of 35 memoirs by former members of the Indian Political Service (IPS).  Here we step back again to look more generally at the collection and consider the subject of travel.  This is a dominant theme throughout all the memoirs.

Head and shoulders photographic portrait of Sir Tom Hickinbotham Sir Tom Hickinbotham. Photograph by Elliott & Fry, 7 December 1960. © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG x82837 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

Many IPS officers changed posts frequently during their careers, and these memoirs document a considerable amount of travelling by land, air and sea, not only from Britain to India (and back again) but also within the wider region.  Tom Hickinbotham shares his memories of a journey undertaken from Quetta to Europe via north Persia [Iran] in 1927, travelling in a Fiat Tourer, on what he claims to be the first trip taken by car from India to the Mediterranean.  Thomas Rogers recalls being appointed to the IPS in 1937 and deciding to travel from London to Bombay [Mumbai] by car, passing through Turkey, Syria, and Iran along the way, with three other recruits whom he had persuaded to join him.

There are many insights into the thrills and dangers of early commercial flights.  John Cotton recalls how passengers travelling on small planes were weighed at intermediate stops, along with their luggage.  Patrick Tandy remarks on how leisurely air travel seemed at the time, before recounting the trauma of descending in an unpressurised aircraft from a cruising height of several thousand feet to 1,600 feet below sea level, while flying over the Dead Sea.

Least fondly remembered are journeys by sea.  Cotton remembers the rather cramped conditions on board Royal Navy sloops, where he passed the time playing ‘interminable games of Monopoly’.  Michael Hadow describes the ‘appalling’ conditions on a voyage back to Britain in summer 1946, aboard a ship built for the cooler climes of the North Atlantic Ocean.  Hugh Rance shares a similar experience, albeit in the opposite direction, on a cockroach-infested ship that ‘may have been fine for the Atlantic run but was hellish in the Red Sea’.  Tandy writes of one of his voyages home: ‘we were four to a cabin, and the man in the bunk below me had about thirty years army service and appeared not to have changed his socks since the day he was recruited’.

Extract from Herbert Todd’s memoir, 1978.Extract from Herbert Todd’s memoir, 1978. Mss Eur F226/30, f. 80. The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item

Herbert Todd gives a detailed account of a perilous journey undertaken with his wife and family in September 1940, after a period of extended home leave.  Their initial attempt at a passage to India ended when their ship, SS Simla, was torpedoed in the Irish Sea.  Todd and his family were taken aboard the Guinean, a ‘lightly laden cargo boat’, which he later learned had disobeyed orders in leaving the convoy and coming to their rescue.

Simla steamshipSS Simla - image © Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte / Württembergische Landesbibliothek

There are numerous other travel anecdotes to be found in the memoirs, and many other stories besides.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

19 August 2021

Soldiers’ References in the East India Company Military Department

A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives a glimpse into the daily work of administrators in the Military Department of the East India Company.  The acquisition is a small bundle of enquiries known as Soldiers’ References.  These enquiries, received from soldiers or their relatives, covered a wide range of subjects and would have been a substantial part of the Department’s daily business.

The India Office Records contains a much larger collection of these enquiries as part of the records of the Military Department, dating from 1860 to 1873.  The subjects of the enquiries include the whereabouts of soldiers; applications for medals, prize money, allowances, discharge papers, free passage for a family, and pensions; claims to a deceased soldier's estate; and miscellaneous statements and certificates in support of claims.  All enquiries prior to 1860 were sent for destruction in the mid-19th century, with only those thought to still be required for ongoing business surviving.  As sometimes happens in such cases, small survivals occasionally turn up, which is the case with this new acquisition. Here are a few examples of the enquiries it contains.

Letter from Dr Green applying for the position of Superintendent of the Calcutta Eye InfirmaryLetter from Dr Green applying for the position of Superintendent of the Calcutta Eye Infirmary Mss Eur F749 f.4 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

W Green, Civil Assistant Surgeon, Bengal, applied to the East India Company for the position of Superintendent of the Calcutta Eye Infirmary in a letter dated 7 January 1847.  Dr Green had heard that the position was about to become vacant due to the retirement of the then incumbent.  He noted that before leaving England for India in 1830 he had attended the practice of the Eye Infirmary at Moorfields, London.

Enquiry from Henry Dean about the effects of William DeanEnquiry from Henry Dean Mss Eur F749 f. 11 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Enquirers writing to the Department often received a reply asking them to fill in an application form.  This was the case with Henry Dean of Liverpool who enquired about the effects of the late William Dean, a Private in the Bombay Fusiliers who died in India on 10 September 1850.  Henry returned the reply with a handwritten note at the bottom stating that he would forward the form to his father Mr John Dean who would answer the questions on it.

Letter from John Foster enquiring about his Punjab medalLetter from John Foster Mss Eur F749 f. 16 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 On 2 August 1852, Corporal John Foster of the 2nd European Bengal Fusilier Regiment, wrote expressing his surprise that his medal had not been sent to him.  He had received his money from the Staff Officer of Pensioners at Waterford, and had expected his medal for service in the Punjab to be sent to him at the same time.

Application from John Munro enquiring about the estate of his late brother WilliamLetter from John Munro  Mss Eur F749 f. 21 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


An example of the standard application form which enquirers were asked to complete is that of John Munro, who in November 1852 enquired after the estate of his late brother William, a recruit in the Bombay Establishment.  The Munro family were from Auchterarder in Perthshire, Scotland.  Both parents were dead, and there were two surviving brothers: John still living in Perthshire, and James who was living in New York.  There was also a sister Janet, another sister Mary having died in March 1852.  Mary’s son William Inglis is recorded as living with his father, also in New York.  The form also lists a grandparent, and aunts and uncles still living in Auchterarder.  As was required by the East India Company, the form was signed by the Minister of the Parish, Robert Young.  The need for a parish minister or churchwarden to sign application forms was to discourage speculative applications from persons with no degree of relationship with the deceased from attempting to make fraudulent claims.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Soldiers' References: letters of enquiry addressed to the East India Company Military Department in London, May 1839-Feb 1853, BL shelfmark: Mss Eur F749. A full list of the contents can be found on the Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. 
Soldiers' References for the years 1860 to 1873 are in the India Office Records at IOR/L/MIL/5/362-375. Registers of correspondence for the years 1829 to 1873 are at IOR/Z/L/MIL/5/16-43.
Anthony Farrington, Guide to the records of the India Office Military Department (London 1982).

 

13 July 2021

Peter Paul Zohrab: a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ for the East India Company

Amongst the India Office Political and Secret Department miscellaneous papers are four items of correspondence from 1808-1809 relating to the appointment of Peter Paul Zohrab as a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ to the East India Company.  His mission, according to the letters, was to travel to Ottoman territories ‘to gain a knowledge of the proceedings and intrigues of the French in Turkey with reference to any designs that Nation is supposed to entertain on the British Possessions in the East Indies’.  During the Napoleonic Wars the East India Company and the British Government were anxious with regard to French intentions towards India.

Instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by the Secret Committee of the East India Company, to ZohrabIOR/L/PS/19/173, f.1 Original instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by Edward Parry, Charles Grant and John Manship, Secret Committee of the East India Company, to Zohrab dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Instructions dated 12 January 1808 directed Zohrab to travel to Constantinople (Istanbul) in the first instance.  His task was to associate himself with any French people and ‘accredited Agents’ of the French, observe them and gather information – particularly any possible plans to march troops towards India. In addition, the East India Company’s Secret Committee gave Zohrab authority to travel into Armenia and Persia if necessary for further gathering intelligence.  Of particular interest was the newly established French Embassy in Persia, established as part of a Franco-Persian accord between Napoleon and the Shah of Persia.  As Peter Paul Zohrab was a merchant, he was specifically instructed to carry out his travels and observations only under that guise.  The Secret Committee advised him not to make himself known to the British Minister at the Persian Court.  He was also warned not to commit anything in writing that might reveal the true nature of his travels.  Indeed, the original instructions were to be returned to the Secret Committee after Zohrab had ‘impressed the substance of them on your memory’.

Zohrab 2-1IOR/L/PS/19/173, f.3 Letter from Zohrab in London, to the Secret Committee of the East India Company dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

For his intelligence gathering activities, Zohrab was given a salary of £500 per year, with an additional payment of £500 per year for travelling and other expenses.  He was appointed for two years.  A system was set up whereby payments and correspondence would be channelled through John Green, Zohrab’s agent in London.  Green was to forward Zohrab’s letters unopened to the Chairman of the East India Company if addressed in a particular way.  Zohrab’s letters to the Secret Committee appear to have not survived, though their receipt can be tracked in the Secret Committee Minutes.  We know he left for Malta on 20 February 1808, and travelled on to Constantinople.  His mission however was cut short due to the changing political landscape; a letter from the Secret Committee dated 11 April 1809 informed him that his appointment was to cease on 10 February 1810 as there was now peace between Britain and the Ottoman Empire.

We know little of Zohrab’s background and career.  He may have been the son of Paul Zohrab, dragoman (translator, guide) to the Danish Embassy in Constantinople.  The East India Company have him as Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab, other sources refer to him as Peter Paul John.  He married his first wife Elizabeth Hitchens in St Pancras, London, in September 1807 – five months before his expedition to Turkey.  He then appears as a merchant in Malta, where he married his second wife Frances Williams in September 1816.  By 1830 Zohrab and his family were living in Smyrna (now Izmir), when he was appointed as a dragoman to the consulate at Erzerum.  In 1844, he was appointed to the position of dragoman in the consulate at Trebizond (now Trabzon).

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/173: Secret mission of Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab to the Ottoman Empire, Jan 1808-Apr 1809, 4 items
IOR/L/PS/1/10: Minutes of the Secret Committee, 10 Apr 1806-15 Apr 1824
List of Consular Officials in the Ottoman Empire and its former territories from the sixteenth century to about 1860 by David Wilson, July 2011

 

 

04 May 2021

Gout Raptures – a War among the Stars

Today is May the Fourth – Star Wars Day.  To mark this, we are sharing a dramatic poem from 1677 entitled Gout Raptures … or an historical fiction of a War among the Stars.

Gout Raptures
The author Dr Robert Witty explains in his introduction that he was laid up with gout in his hands and feet.  Unable to handle a pen or turn over the pages of a book, he fell into a contemplation of ‘the Stars and Constellations in Heaven’.  Witty thought up a story of a war amongst the stars since astronomers agreed that there were aspects of planets and fixed constellations which made them ‘contrary to each other’.  The result was Gout Raptures, written subsequently in idle moments and on journeys.

The star war started with a dispute between Saturn and Luna (the Moon).  Saturn was unhappy that a female ruled the night.  Saturn in Capricorn proclaimed war, and Luna in Cancer rose in opposition.

‘In Capricorn old Saturn
the worst of all the seven,
Design’d the Night to rule in spight
of all the Stars in Heaven.

His quarrel was at Luna
declaring his opinion,
None could but vex that the female Sex
should hold so large dominion.

She lowest of the Planets
the other Tropick claimed,
But down she shall, and catch a Fall,
and thus a war’s proclaimed.’

Jupiter supported Luna and sent out the Eagle and Beagle constellations to spy out Saturn’s forces.  On the advice of a council of all constellations, Jupiter raised two armies – a standing army of fixed stars and a flying army of planets.  War was declared and Jupiter found the rebels in Taurus with the Fiends of Hell and the Heathen Gods.  The rebels fled, pursued by Jupiter from sign to sign.

‘In stead of Pike and Pistol
they fought in fiery flashes,
What’s Cannon proof they pierced through
no Sword can make such gashes.’

When the rebels reached Scorpio, Cupid fired an enchanted arrow and put an end to the war.  All the stars fell in love with each other, and peace and quietness was restored.

Witty pointed out similarities in his story to the path of the English Civil War and the restoration of King Charles II.  Gout Raptures had English, Latin and Greek versions in one volume so that schools could use it.

Robert Witty or Wittie (c.1613-1684) was born in Beverley, Yorkshire.  A friend of the poet Andrew Marvell, he became a schoolmaster and then a physician, practising in Hull and York before moving to London.  He also published Popular Errours … in Physick, a translation of James Primrose’s De vulgi in medicina erroribus, and wrote Scarbrough Spaw, a book championing the efficacy of mineral waters.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Robert Witty, Gout Raptures. Ἀστρομαχια. Or an historical fiction of a War among the Stars (Cambridge, 1677).  A verse in English, Latin and Greek.  Available to read online.

 

09 February 2021

Sir Robert Preston and the East India Company

Robert Preston (1740-1834) was born in Scotland, the fifth son of Sir George Preston of Valleyfield.  He started his career with the East India Company at the age of eighteen serving as Fifth Mate on the Streatham, which sailed for India in July 1758.

Portrait of Sir Robert Preston in uniform, seated next to a globePortrait of Sir Robert Preston by William Dickinson (1794) © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG D40492 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

In November 1759 the Council of the East India Company at Calcutta was concerned about seven Dutch ships which were effectively blockading their port and they issued an order for the Duke of Dorset, the Calcutta and the Hardwicke to make a stand.  After considerable negotiation with the Commodore of the Dutch fleet, conducted under Flags of Truce, it was clear that battle was inevitable.  Charles Mason, Captain of the Streatham, joined the Duke of Dorset with ten of his crew including Robert Preston.

Duke of Dorset journalPage from the journal of the Duke of Dorset, 24 November 1759 IOR/L/MAR/B/612H  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The journal of the Duke of Dorset gives a detailed account of the battle.  The Dutch initially brought their broadsides to bear on the English ships, but they manoeuvred until ‘being now in the middle of their fleet we played on them as fast as we were able to load and fire, as did the Dutch on us, which was pretty galling on both sides but with the most success on ours.  For, after a smart firing of two hours with double round & grape shot, the Dutch Commander struck his broad pendant and hoisted a flag of truce, when we ceased firing at him.  We continued engaging the other ships which, on ten minutes close fire, all surrendered.  Our officers were sent on board to secure their magazines, spike their cannons and divide their prisoners on board our three ships. . . . The killed and wounded on board our ships is very inconsiderable to that of the enemy’.

Captain Bernard Forrester of the Duke of Dorset was wounded in the knee by a grape shot.  His leg was amputated but he died on 3 March 1760 about three months after the battle. 

Robert Preston served on the Clive as Third Mate 1761/2 and Second Mate 1764/5 under Captain John Allen, both voyages managed by Charles Raymond of Valentines, Ilford.  Then between 1767 and 1776 Preston made three voyages as a Captain, on ships under the management of Charles Foulis of Woodford.

Preston accumulated enough wealth to invest in shipping himself and he took over the management of several ships for the East India Company which made 55 voyages.  For a time he served as chairman of the Committee of Managing Owners of Shipping.

Charles Foulis and Robert Preston set up as insurance brokers in London and became managers of the Sun Fire Office.  Preston was elected MP for Dover 1784-1790 and then for Cirencester 1792-1806.  He was an Elder Brother of Trinity House 1781-1803 and a Deputy Master 1796-1803.  By the 1780s Preston was living in a substantial house in Woodford which had been the home of his colleague and close friend, Charles Foulis, who left the house and other property to him when he died.

Window at Trinity House - Robert PrestonWindow at Trinity House dedicated to Robert Preston © Trinity House

On 23 March 1800 Robert Preston succeeded to his family baronetcy.   He returned to Valleyfield but continued his London business connections until around 1823.  Preston died at Valleyfield on 7 May 1834, aged 94, said to be worth one million pounds.

Georgina Green
Independent scholar

Further reading:
Details of the career of each officer who served with the East India Company can be found in Anthony Farrington, A Biographical Index of East India Company Maritime Service Officers 1600-1834 (London, 1999), whilst details of each voyage are given in Anthony Farrington, A Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs 1660-1834 (London, 1999)
Obituary for Sir Robert Preston in The Gentleman’s Magazine (1834), ii. pp..315-16
R. G. Thorne, The House of Commons 1790-1820 (London, 1986)

 

19 January 2021

Richard Walpole and the East India Company at sea

Writer Horace Walpole had a cousin Richard who served as an East India Company maritime officer from 1744-1757.  Richard Walpole had at least two encounters with hostile French shipping whilst serving as a Company officer, exemplifying the dangers faced by merchant ships even when as heavily armed as East Indiamen.

During Walpole’s first voyage as 6th mate and purser in the Augusta, his ship captured the French vessel Baronette on 21 October 1747.

Whilst commanding the Houghton in March 1757, Walpole was involved in an action near the Cape of Good Hope.  His journal of the voyage records how on the afternoon of 9 March the East Indiamen Houghton, Suffolk and Godolphin were approached by two unidentified ships.  Walpole immediately began to clear his ship in readiness for battle.  The three East Indiamen steered away but were followed.  Walpole had everyone on board prepared for action all night.

At daybreak the Suffolk raised its flags and made the signal for line of battle.  Here is a splendid drawing of that line of battle from the journal of the Suffolk.

Drawing showing the three East India ships in the line of battleLine of battle for the three East Indiamen from the journal of the Suffolk IOR/L/MAR/B/397D  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

At 8 am the unknown ships hoisted French colours.   The larger of the two shot at the English ships and the Suffolk returned fire.   After a short exchange, the ‘warm engagement’ ceased as the ships found themselves positioned outside the bearings of each other’s guns.  The French made to sail westward but were pursued by the East Indiamen.  They then tacked and came in close to the English ships and ‘a very smart fire’ was maintained by both sides.  At noon the French sailed away, probably bound for Mauritius.  Walpole recorded: ‘Every Body behaved during the whole Engagement with great Courage & Resolution; several of the Shot from the large Ship reached us, & four of them have lodged…(thank God) no Body hurt’.

Letter from Captain William Wilson of the Suffolk reporting the action against the French published in the Newcastle Courant newspaperLetter from Captain William Wilson of the Suffolk reporting the action against the French published in Newcastle Courant 9 July 1757 British Newspaper Archive

The three ships reached the UK without further incident.  Captain William Wilson of the Suffolk reported that the officers and sailors ‘behaved with all the Bravery and Intrepidity peculiar to our English seamen’.  He and his fellow captains asked the Company to honour a promise to reward mariners for their response to enemy attack.

Some of the crew of the Houghton, Suffolk and Godolphin did not reach their homes at the end of this eventful voyage.  They were pressed by the Royal Navy and found themselves on board HMS Hussar.

The French did defeat Richard Walpole five years later.  The ship Walpole for which he was Principal Managing Owner was captured off Ceylon by two French men of war and a frigate on 20 September 1762 on its outward journey to Bengal, laden mainly with cloth.  Captain Parson Fenner and some of the crew ended up at the Cape of Good Hope, others at Mauritius.  The East India Company decided that the capture was not through any misconduct of Fenner or his officers, but entirely owing to the superior force of the enemy which they were ‘utterly unable to resist’.  Richard Walpole was given permission by the Company to build a new ship for Fenner on the bottom of the Walpole.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
East India Company Court Minutes IOR/B/74 and IOR/B/79
Ship journals: Houghton IOR/L/MAR/B/438H; Suffolk IOR/L/MAR/B/397D
British Newspaper Archive (also accessible through Findmypast) e.g. Newcastle Courant 9 July 1757

 

05 January 2021

Bevin Trainees now in India Office Family History Search

In 1941 the British Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevin, supported the establishment of the Bevin Training Scheme to provide practical training in engineering for young Indians.  The Scheme was an effort to meet the demand for skilled engineers in Indian industries supporting the war effort.

Leo Amery, Secretary of State for India, chatting to an Indian trainee at work in a factoryLeo Amery, Secretary of State for India, chatting to an Indian trainee at work in a factory - from Engineering Bulletin September 1941 published by the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Crown Copyright) IOR/L/I/1/978

A previous story on Untold Lives revealed that the India Office Records include lists of the first seven batches of trainees invited to the UK and details of the firms they were placed with and houses they lodged in.

Example of a page from the India Office file showing the details recorded about the traineesExample of a page from IOR/L/E/8/8112 showing the details recorded about the trainees Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

As part of the India Office Records team’s efforts to identify records of individuals in our collections who historically have been overlooked, we have now transcribed all the names and details from these lists into the British Library’s India Office Family History Search.

Here are some examples of entries:
Prasad, R. – Placed with the Cincinnatti Milling Machine Company, Birmingham, on 13 Oct 1941.  Lodged at 77 Eachelhurst Road, Erdington, Birmingham.  Trainee reference number 2/42.
Deshpande, H.G. – Placed with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, Crewe, on 28 Sep 1942.  Lodged at Saxon House, Carlton Road, Whalley Range, Manchester.  Trainee reference number 5/38.
Nandy, S. – Placed with Vauxhall Motors, Luton, on 7 June 1943.  Lodged at 21 Ascot Road, Luton.  Trainee reference number 7/5.

We hope that this data will help your family history research and reveal stories about collaboration across cultures.

Matthew Waters
India Office Records

Further reading:
Bevin Training Scheme: papers not transferred to the High Commissioner for India, including lists of Indian trainees showing firms with whom placed and lodging addresses, May 1941-Sep 1947 [British Library reference IOR/L/E/8/8112]
Indian workmen training in UK (Bevin Boys), 1940-1947 [British Library reference IOR/L/I/1/978]

 

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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