The Drummer Boy fiction

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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby grumpy » 13 Jan 2012 15:59

Some marvellous illustrations for us to admire, for which thanks.

At the time of Isandhlwana, Regular enlistment for Boy was 14 to 16 years. A Boy became a Private at age 17 years. After 1st July 1881, it became 18 years for new enlistments. Infantry were allowed the following number of Boys in addition to establishment:
band / drums 8 [ie, split between the two], Tailors 4. Total 12 per battalion.
Sources: QVR 1873 and 1885.

Boys could be sent on Active Service for employment as Drummers [but not Bandsmen],as late as 1914, source Mobizisation Regulations 1914. The exclusion of Bandsmen is presumably because of the SB role.

For my part, my only beef was regarding the Drummer part of 'Drummer Boy' ....... there seem to have been either none or very few at the battle, according to my analysis and those of two gentlemen whose work appears above. There is also a lot of evidence for the presence of Boys per se, and a reasonable body of evidence that they were butchered to an unusual degree, even by the standards of war, that battle and that foe.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby Frogsmile » 13 Jan 2012 16:56

grumpy wrote:Some marvellous illustrations for us to admire, for which thanks.

At the time of Isandhlwana, Regular enlistment for Boy was 14 to 16 years. A Boy became a Private at age 17 years.


Yes I was aware that the age of military adulthood changed and so qualified my remark as in the "latter part of our period" (i.e. Victorian), meaning the 1890s. Thank you though for clarifying the situation prior to 1881. Sadly I do not have any images of boy tradesmen (cobblers or tailors etc).

I enclose some group photos that serve to show well the youth of the "Boys" (their formal 'rank', which also existed in the Royal Navy) of both Band and Drums. Notice the almost universal tendency to position the boys in the front rank, often sitting or reclining.

The SLI special recruiter (note red white and blue ribbon 'favour' wound in his cap - a tradition going back to at least the 1700s) is shown with 4 (all boy drummers) of his 5 sons.

From top to bottom:

1. 22nd Regt Band incl Boys.
2. 3rd (Scots) Regt of Foot Guards Boy Drummers.
3. 4 Boy Drummers, 2 each from 1st (Grenadier) and Coldstream Foot Guards.
4. Boy Drummers (seated) of the King's Own (Lancaster) Regiment.
5. Band incl Boys of the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment.

Hopefully we have now put to rest any suggestion that the existence of formally enlisted (and regulated) boys in the British Army was some kind of myth.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby jf42 » 13 Jan 2012 17:20

Even allowing for the slower physical development of children in the C19th and early C20, there are some boys in Frogsmile's selection of illustrations who look substantially younger than 14 y.o.a.- Boy Jones of 2 South Lancs is a notable case in point. What conclusions might we draw from that?
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby grumpy » 13 Jan 2012 17:32

For Boy enlistment, parental permission was needed under regulation, but no proof of age.

A Nelsonian blind eye to Sons of the Regiment, getting under Mum's feet "give the boy a bit of discipline" etc. Many became very senior soldiers, some even commissioned. The evil little b*ggers had been there, done that, got the T shirt years before their peer group signed on, so were infinitely wise in crime and the avoidance of the consequences.

This must be the Thread of the Year so far: superb photos.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby Frogsmile » 13 Jan 2012 18:18

The situation of Boys within the Regular Battalions themselves continued until just before WW2, but I am unclear of the exact date when the practice ceased other than that it was gradually replaced by Apprentice Colleges and their equivalents (for non-technical employment), that ran from 1923 until 2004 (in one of which I first enlisted).

The (current and cheaper!) replacement, the Army "Foundation College", still recruits boys (of 16.5 years) but its military content is much more gradual and (some say) insipid. It also only lasts for one year (less 2 months leave), or six months (less leave) depending on the type of course taken. A far cry from the original three and a half years.

I enclose images of five infantry boy soldiers extending from the Boer War up until just after WW1.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby almaboy » 18 Nov 2012 19:11

To add to the discussion of the 'mythical' mutilation of drummer boys at Isandlwhana, whilst undertaking some research at NAM recently, I came across the following account written by a Pte of the 58th. It is contained in a letter written to his parents, dated 13th May 1879 and concerns a conversation he had with a (unidentified) Sgt of the 24th who had apparently been to the battlefield shortly afterwards, presumably as part of the relief force.

To quote: 'The Sergeant said he had seen several bodies ripped open, their hearts taken out, and placed in their hands. 2 little drummer boys were nailed to a couple of poles.'

Could this refer to the 2 boys supposedly hung on hooks? The writer of the letter is Pte. John Tompkins(on) who was unfortunately KIA at Ulundi a couple of months later. Whilst this is hearsay, it does tend to reinforce the myth, being written so soon after the event.

For reference, the letter is filed under 1979-02-129.

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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby Isandlwana » 18 Nov 2012 19:40

Tony,

Where does the file reference relate to? Is it the National Army Museum?

Regards,

John
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby jf42 » 18 Nov 2012 20:04

almaboy wrote: 2 little drummer boys were nailed to a couple of poles.'
.



Hammers and nails provided by the Zulu pioneer platoon, presumably? :idea:
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby almaboy » 18 Nov 2012 21:02

John

sorry, yes the accession number relates to the National Army Museum.

jf42, I'm merely relating what was written, I have no axe to grind as regards this subject.

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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby jf42 » 18 Nov 2012 22:14

Tony, neither do I. Forgive me if it appeared otherwise. My wee squib was aimed, a little unfairly perhaps, at Griffiths and the unnamed Sergeant of the 24th.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby grumpy » 19 Nov 2012 17:59

FROGSMILE wrote:
grumpy wrote:Some marvellous illustrations for us to admire, for which thanks.

At the time of Isandhlwana, Regular enlistment for Boy was 14 to 16 years. A Boy became a Private at age 17 years.


Yes I was aware that the age of military adulthood changed and so qualified my remark as in the "latter part of our period" (i.e. Victorian), meaning the 1890s. Thank you though for clarifying the situation prior to 1881. Sadly I do not have any images of boy tradesmen (cobblers or tailors etc).

I enclose some group photos that serve to show well the youth of the "Boys" (their formal 'rank', which also existed in the Royal Navy) of both Band and Drums. Notice the almost universal tendency to position the boys in the front rank, often sitting or reclining.

The SLI special recruiter (note red white and blue ribbon 'favour' wound in his cap - a tradition going back to at least the 1700s) is shown with 4 (all boy drummers) of his 5 sons.

From top to bottom:

1. 22nd Regt Band incl Boys.
2. 3rd (Scots) Regt of Foot Guards Boy Drummers.
3. 4 Boy Drummers, 2 each from 1st (Grenadier) and Coldstream Foot Guards.
4. Boy Drummers (seated) of the King's Own (Lancaster) Regiment.
5. Band incl Boys of the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment.

Hopefully we have now put to rest any suggestion that the existence of formally enlisted (and regulated) boys in the British Army was some kind of myth.


Frogsmile: I have just had a look at the four Foot Guards drummers with recruiter. THEY ALL HAVE GC BADGES, TWO LADS HAVE 2 SUCH BADGES, INFERS 5/6 YEARS MINIMUM SERVICE ............. a puzzle!
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby jf42 » 19 Nov 2012 22:37

Could the SNCO dad in the centre of that photo be standing on a box? Something not right otherwise.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby grumpy » 19 Nov 2012 22:58

jf42 wrote:Could the SNCO dad in the centre of that photo be standing on a box? Something not right otherwise.


could be, his apparent knees are very high otherwise. perhaps the boys are young men.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Nov 2012 13:03

grumpy wrote:
jf42 wrote:Could the SNCO dad in the centre of that photo be standing on a box? Something not right otherwise.


could be, his apparent knees are very high otherwise. perhaps the boys are young men.


Yes, in hindsight I think that particular photo is misleading and in fact shows some rather boyish young men. The GC badges were well spotted, I had not noticed them before, being as they are in amongst the drummers lace and not immediately apparent.

All the above said, as Mark pointed out in another post, there was a lengthy period when under-age service did count towards good conduct and thus that might be what has happened in the case of the 4-brothers - viewtopic.php?f=19&t=7764

Perhaps the enclosed are more accurate as Foot Guards 'boy drummers', albeit perhaps on the cusp of qualification for man service.
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Re: The Drummer Boy fiction

Postby MAGolding » 04 Oct 2015 04:20

A user with the name jf42 wrote (in part) on 08 Jan 2012 18:47

Jones' account is echoed by Drummer W. Sweeney of the 2/24th writing on April 29th, 1879. He says:
‘Two drummers, Anderson and Holmes, and five little boys of the band about fourteen years of age. They butchered most awfully indeed. One little chap named M’Every, they hung up by the chin to a hook’

Sweeney's account may be hearsay but given that he was a Drummer himself, one might expect him to be a reliable witness as to the victims. However, neither Anderson, who had indeed trained as a drummer, or Holmes were among the 12 drummers listed killed. Moreover, no-one among the drummers of the 24th who died was named M’Every.


Just now while looking through Norman Holme The Silver Wreath: being the 24th Regiment at isandhlwana and Rorke's drift, 1879 1979, on page 39 I found Drummers 2-24/2161 Anderson, John and 2-24/2153 Holmes, John, listed among those from the second battalion killed at Isandlwana.

The list of 12 Drummers killed at isandlwana which jf42 gives in his post dated 08 Jan 2012 18:47 includes only those listed from the first battalion of the 24th foot. (he also left out 1-24/1237 Tottman, Daniel, aged about 30) Thus Sweeney seems to have been correct that Drummers named Anderson and Holmes were among those killed at isandlwana, which may raise the probability that his other statements were correct. Anderson and Holmes were not boys in age themselves, but Sweeney wrote of them in addition to the five boys.

This also raise the question of why there were extra first battalion drummers in the camp of Isandlwana instead of being stationed with their companies.
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