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Researching a Victorian soldier

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Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby MoVidger » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:07 pm

Hi all,

My friend and I are trying to delve into her 2 x great-grandfather's HM British Army career. We're hoping there might be a military service record for him somewhere, particularly as he served about 20 years with the same regiment.

We have found him in census records 1841 to 1901 (he passed away in 1909/1910), and this is why we are now concentrating on his military career. In the 1861 census, he is stationed at the Colchester Barracks in Essex. And in 1870, he married in Madras, India (his first 3 daughters were born in the East Indies).

On FMP we have located a couple of brief military-related records for him: the 1861 Soldier Index and also an incomplete Discharge/Pension (?) record. And that's it so far.

Basically, are these 2 records on FMP 'as good as it gets' with our soldier? Or is there a chance that TNA in Kew might have a more complete service record lurking somewhere? We live in the north of England, and so a train journey down to Kew isn't on the cards at the moment. And we're not sure what their "paid search service" would turn up -- if anything.

Here are his details:

Abraham Holmes
Born c1837 in Bradford, Yorkshire
Died c1909/1910 in Bradford, Yorkshire
Served as a Private with the HM British Army 45th Regiment c1860 to Oct 1878
The 1861 Soldier Index indicates his unit was the 44th Foot (East Essex) Depot
His 1870 marriage and Discharge/Pension record indicates he was with the 45th Regiment

He is drawing an Army Pension by the 1901 census. Other than that, we know nothing else (except for his family details of course). We are quite keen to learn more, particularly as the 45th was involved in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1867/68.

Given the 2 brief FMP records I mentioned, is it worth pursuing at TNA or not? What looks to be his Discharge/Pension record only mentions his name, regiment, and discharge date. That's it!

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or advice.
Mo
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby Sylcec » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:52 pm

I'm sorry to read that the service record for Abraham Holmes seems to be missing apart from a single page - if it had been complete (4 to 10 pages) then it would have summarised his full military career. Nevertheless, the page that you do have should be your starting point for further research.

Yes, there will be more at Kew, but it will be mainly in the form of musters and pay lists and you will need to engage a professional researcher to do the work for you as you cannot get to Kew. You can assist the research yourself in general terms by reading a history of HM 45th Regt Foot which should cover the regiment's movement during the time your ancestor served with them. However, these military histories do tend to focus on conflicts/military engagements and say little about the quiet periods. There is a history here pub in 1902: http://www.archive.org/stream/historythstnott00dalbgoog#page/n244/mode/2up and it is the last chapter XV, from p.208 which will be of interest to you.
I tend to contact this person for help with military problems http://www.britishmedals.us/kevin/intro.html
Good hunting!
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby junkers » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:15 pm

Mo,

I am slightly confused about the record you found on Find My Past (FMP) as I can't find the discharge papers there, in series WO 97 (pension records)for 1870, the other record from WO 12 (the pay/muster rolls) is a snapshot from 1861 which FMP have indexed. There are a couple of documents for an Albert Holmes but he is not from Bradford but signed up much later at Bradford and he was also serving in the militia and he seems to be another person with the same name.

A discharge record would normally include date of birth, age, where enlisted, regiment, for how long, next of kin, medical problems, disciplinary issues including any Courts Martial, where stationed and for how long, date and place of discharge. As has been said there are pay lists/muster rolls (in series WO 12 and WO 16, not searchable by individuals names and there are usually four volumes every year) which lists payments, absences, leave, disciplinary issues, whether he was in the regimental cell, promotions and demotions. There maybe Courts Martial records but they are hit-and-miss, some have been kept and others have not.

If you can let us know about the 1870 records then it may help to give you a fuller answer, but it is unusual for pages to be missing but the records have been used by a number of researchers over the years and they may have been mis-placed in the box.
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby junkers » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:16 pm

I should have said the records for Abraham Holmes not Albert Holmes!.
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby MoVidger » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:00 am

Hi Sylvia -- many thanks for the info. I was pretty certain that you would have some tips, etc.

Hi Junkers -- the incomplete record on Find My Past, which I assume to be Discharge-related, is from WO121/225/1. Here it is:

First name(s): Abraham
Last name: HOLMES
Calculated year of birth: ?
Parish of birth: -
Town of birth: -
County of birth: -
Age at attestation:
Discharge date: 22 October 1878
Attestation corps: -
Attestation soldier number:
Discharge rank: Pte
Discharge corps: Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment) - 45th & 95th Foot
Discharge soldier number:
The National Archives reference: WO121 / 225 / 1

I don't have a FMP subscription, but discovered the above when I purchased some credits a few months ago. To view the "1 original image" costs 30 credits, but unless I'm wrong, I can't see it containing anything more than the above...?? And I don't see the point of purchasing further credits for something that is virtually the same image of the above record.

His 1861 Army Index Record on FMP is from WO12/5694 and indicates his unit was the 44th Foot. It sounds as though he was transferred to the 45th at some point, as his 1870 marriage in India states he's a Private with the HM 45th Regiment.

Given the brief record from WO121 (discharge/pension?) is it still worth pursuing at Kew in the near future? Or are they not likely to have anything extra on Abraham Holmes? We're still hoping there is something out there with a fuller summary of his military career -- even though he wasn't an officer.

Thanks for your help!
Mo
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby ColinB » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:00 am

The page which you haven't viewed is just an entry in a ledger giving details of the discharge of a list of soldiers. There isn't much information to be gleaned from the entry - he applied for discharge 9 Oct and was discharged 22 Oct 1878 after 20 years and 274 days pensionable service. The service number given is 725 , which doesn't match with your Army Index record.In the UK Campaign Medal and Award Rolls on Ancestry there is an entry for Abram Holmes no 725 , serving with H M's 45th Regt. , arriving in Abyssinia 2 Feb 1868.

Colin
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby MoVidger » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:25 am

Hi Colin -- thanks so much for looking at the original image on FMP! Yes its a shame a more complete service record for AH isn't to be found (yet), but I'm very grateful that you were able to confirm his actual length of service! If my calculations are correct, he joined up in early 1858. And this will help a great deal as I read the link for the chapter which Sylvia provided. So far I've read a couple of pages, but I can't get the rest of the chapter to print at all. Arrgghh.

Thanks again to all for your help -- much appreciated!
Mo
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby ColinB » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:29 am

Sorry , I was editing while you were replying - you may have missed my note about the Campaign Medal Rolls and service number etc.

Colin
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby MoVidger » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:42 am

Hi Colin -- thanks for the additional info. I do have some doubts about the 1861 Army Index record because it indicates the 44th Regiment. Could be another Abraham Holmes...?? Would a soldier back then always retain the same service number throughout his military career?

I know for definite that he was with the 45th due to his 1870 marriage record. I don't have an Ancestry subscription at the moment, but many thanks for finding his entry in the UK Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, and confirmation of his arrival in Abyssinia! My friend will be thrilled with this news as we have been speculating on it for a couple of months now.

Did the Ancestry record indicate if AH was awarded any campaign medals (etc)?? Weren't the various regiments involved in the Abyssinian campaign awarded the Peninsula Medal? Or was that just for the officers?

Thanks so much again!
Mo
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Re: Researching a Victorian soldier

Postby ColinB » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:50 am

I went back through the pages to the start of that section in the Roll. It's headed ' Roll of Officers ..., Rank & File of the above Corps ( the 45th ) who served in Abyssinia between 4 Oct 1867 and 19 Apr 1868. The entries are mostly marked ' R' , which I take to mean received medal , a few a marked 'D', for those who had died , and there are one or two transfers noted. Abram has an R so must have had his medal.
Here is a link to an image of the medal :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1868_ ... Medal_(RLH).gif

The Peninsular War was 1808 -1814 so much too early for your man.

Colin
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