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Mystery army photo - 1890s? India?

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Mystery army photo - 1890s? India?

Postby JaneyH » Sat Jan 11, 2014 11:56 am

I have recently come across this photo slipped inside our family Bible. It shows a group of servicemen outside a building which has a sign over the door saying "Soldiers' Scripture Reading and Prayer Room'.

I have been unable to match any of those in the picture with other old photos of my ancestors. However, I do know that my great grandmother's half-brother, Charles (Charlie) Barne served in the army in India and in the Boer War. (I am lucky enough to have a short pamphlet of my great-grandmother's life history written in the late 1960s, and she mentions that Charlie "joined the army and went to India". Separately, my grandmother had a red-and-gold chocolate tin on her mantlepiece which had a picture of Queen Victoria. Apparently these were given to all troops who served in the Boer War. Beyond these two facts I have no information about Charlie's army service or what became of him.)

From BMD and Census searches I know that Charlie was born in 1869 in Exeter in Devon; in the 1871 Census he was aged two living in Tiverton, Devon, with his father Richard and mother Elizabeth (nee Snow) while in 1881 he was aged 12 and living in Swimbridge, Devon. By this point his mother had died and Richard had married Mary Ann (nee Bishop), my GG grandmother. While I have Census records for other family members for 1891 Charlie does not feature in them, so I have assumed that - being 22 at this point - he would already have been in the army.

I have some information kindly provided by the Soldiers and Airmens Scripture Reading Association, which I tracked down via an internet search based on the sign above the door. Their archivist's suggestion is that the photo was taken in India, and the building is what was called a Harrington Prayer Room. These were apparently set up in all the major cantonments for soldiers to use. There is a Chaplain in the centre of the picture, and it's been suggested that the soldiers with 44 on their soldiers could be from the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment, the others from their Collar badges are possibly from the Leicester Regiment (17th of Foot).

It was further suggested that the man sitting with the men holding his shoulders is in a light cavalry regiment (indicated by the chain on his epaulettes) so the others in the light uniform could also be cavalry. I understand that the ornate work on the cuffs of many of the jackets points to the picture having been taken in the late 19th century.

If anyone here can shed any further light on this picture, or suggest new lines of enquiry, I'd be most grateful. This is the first bit of military research I've undertaken so I'm unfamiliar with more specialist resources that might be available. (I have a subscription to Ancestry, by the way!)

Regards, Jane
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Re: Mystery army photo - 1890s? India?

Postby JaneyH » Sat Jan 11, 2014 6:00 pm

PS: I can email a hi-res version of the photo if you'd like to DM me your address.


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Re: Mystery army photo - 1890s? India?

Postby Sylcec » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:27 pm

An interesting picture Janey - it would have been nice to see a larger version, though I don't feel qualified to interpret it!

You didn't say when or where Charles Barne died and whether or not he was married. I mention this because if he returned to England after service in Sth Africa and in India then I would have expected to find a WO97 Army service record for him (often referred to as "Chelsea Pension"). These and many other military records are available on FindMyPast - but as their origin is in The National Archives, a record for your Charles Barne should also show up in their catalogue if it exists. I failed to find him in TNA http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI . You may also find help on this site in respect of the Boer War, but again I could not find Charles Barne in their (incomplete) name index: http://angloboerwar.com/home
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Re: Mystery army photo - 1890s? India?

Postby JaneyH » Sat Jan 11, 2014 10:07 pm

Sorry but so far I have no information about him after the 1881 Census in Devon aged 12, other than the family story about him having joined the army, and having served in India and the Boer War. The fact this photo was slipped inside the family Bible makes me assume that Charlie must be one of the soldiers in the picture. The family Bible came from my great-grandmother (half-sister to Charlie) and then my grandmother. I get the impression that he may have been a family favourite!


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Re: Mystery army photo - 1890s? India?

Postby junkers » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:43 pm

He is unlikely to appear in The National Archives (TNA) catalogue for Soldiers' Pensions records (WO 97) as they are listed by the first and last entries in the box only. It is possible that findmypast may have mis-transcribed his name, ?Barnes. The only other way is to visit TNA and look at the boxes yourselves and they should be in alphabetical order. It may be that he died in India or South Africa, there are Army death indexes on findmypast and you might want to check that avenue.
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