Blog27 Jun 2012
Our resident military expert Paul Nixon, pictured below, offers advice on how to solve your military family history mysteries.
From Jean Field in Australia:
‘Can you help? My ancestor Alexandra Sophia Letitia Elizabeth was born in Bombay, India on 11 May 1889. Her father was Alexander Clarkson, Sergeant Instructor G.I.P Railways Igalpura. Alexander was born in England in 1860 and married Letitia Stewart in 1880, also in India. I have his service records from your site.
I just wonder if you have any information as to what Alexander would have been doing on the railways as he served in the British Army?
He returned to England without his wife and child. Any idea what happened to them? This wife and child were not known to the family. He went on to have another family in Manchester! Any help or direction would be most appreciated.
I also wondered if you can help with regard to Timothy Finucane, born in Mallow, Cork, Ireland in 1833. He had a long army service, although I am unable to find his service records. I have him listed in a private army (aged 18yrs) in 1855 and by 1861 he was at Hythe School of Musketry. He later became an Instructor of musketry and served in the 107 Regiment of Foot (2387) in India.
Any idea where I could find his service records? In 1855 he was listed in a private army – would that have anything to do with the East India Trading Company? Many thanks for your advice.’
‘I’m going to try and answer both your queries in one.
GIP Railways it Great Indian Peninsular Railway and Igatpuri is now a city but was then a smaller hill station in what is today the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Alexander Clarkson’s marriage details, noted on his service record, state that he was a sergeant instructor with the East Yorkshire Regt; key service details below.
- 29 April 1880 – Attests with 11th Brigade at Fleetwood for six years with the colours and six on the reserve. Is already a serving member of 1st Royal Lancashire Militia, number 3165
- 11 March 1882 – 10 May 1890 – serving in India
- 13 November 1882 – Transferred to 1st Bn King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regt
- 21 March 1885 – Extends service to complete 10 years with the colours
- 2 December 1885 – Transferred to Unattached List with the rank of sergeant instructor
- 31 January 1886 – Transferred to 2nd East Yorkshire Regt (number 2076)
- 27 February 1888 – Marries Letitia Stewart at St Thomas’s Cathedral, Bombay
- 28 April 1892 – Transferred to Section D Army Reserve
- 27 April 1896 – Discharged
I couldn’t see anything on his service record that mentioned the GIP Railway and apart from the period when he was on Section D Army Reserve, he was a full-time soldier engaged in full-time soldierly duties. Note, however, that the Unattached List was comprised of NCOs from British Regiments who wished to stay in India. Later they would become supernumerary men attached to British Regiments before promotion to warrant officer rank or sub-conductor and then conductor (and then further promotions after that). Your man does not appear to have attained those ranks but he did have two good conduct badges which would have appeared as two chevrons attached to his tunic on his lower left arm.
I have been unable to find out what happened to Letitia and Alexandra when Alexander left India. Is it possible that they died in India before he returned to the UK?
On your other relative, looking through documents in WO12 (Pay books and muster rolls) and WO25 (description books) at The National Archives should help you in the absence of a service record. If Australia is a little too far for you to travel from, you could engage a researcher to do the work for you. The 107th Regiment of Foot was an Indian raised regiment – The Bengal Light Infantry – which was originally formed by the Honourable East India Company in 1854 as the 3rd Bengal (European) Light Infantry. After the Indian Mutiny it was, along with all of the other European units of the Company, moved into the British Army. This happened in 1862 when it was ranked 107th Regiment of Foot. In 1881 it became the 2nd line battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment.’
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