Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

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Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby JaneyH » 26 Jul 2016 22:05

I hope that I've placed this post in the right section of this forum - please redirect me if I've made a mistake.

Following my earlier post at http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=82&t=11062 I've had a massive break-through in identifying an ancestor's military service from just one photo. While the uniform in the photo suggests Royal Horse Artillery, most of the service record I've since uncovered indicates Royal Field Artillery.

The 'military history sheet' in his record from FMP shows that Charles Barnes was in India from February 1889 until March 1896. The accompanying 'statement of services' of soldier number RA 65460, Field Artillery 65th indicates:
- enlisted 2 January 1888
- appointed [something scribbled out] June 1891
- promoted Bombardier April 1892
- promoted Corporal September 1893
- extended his service May 1895
- promoted Sergeant February 1897
(and continues with his service in South Africa during the 2nd Boer War and beyond - something for a different post!)

Can anyone shed any light on where he might have been or what he might have done during his seven years in India? There are no medals awarded so I'm assuming there would not have been any major engagements during this period.

Separately - but related - I have the following photo which my family believe to have been taken in India during this period.

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The sign across the door of the building reads "Scripture reading and prayer room". I can see that there's a padre seated centre, and that there are a number of different uniforms. Some appear to have "44" on their epaulette, but I wonder if the collar badge on several is the Royal Artillery 'grenade' insignia. I'm also wondering if the chap standing in the back row, third from right in khaki uniform, might be of Indian background. It's not immediately obvious if any of the men in this photo are the same person in my earlier post - I imagine this picture could be 5-10 years later than the earlier one. If it would help, I can email a hi-res version to anyone interested.

All suggestions most gratefully received!
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Maureene » 29 Jul 2016 05:44

You can work out the cantonments where he would have been posted, for some of the years, if this information isn't in the service records. See the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Stations of the Roya Artillery in India
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Station ... y_in_India

If he was near the North West Frontier of India, he may have been involved in some small skirmishes against the Frontier tribesman which weren’t considered significant enough for medals to be awarded. However it is more likely he was just engaged solely on garrison duties.

This involved taking part in training and other exercises, so that should war be declared, the men were adequately trained to fight. They also were engaged in guard duties.

The impression I have is that they had a great deal of spare time. In the heat of the day it was not possible to do much except sleep. Sporting activity, particularly team sports were very popular. You see photographs of football teams, shooting teams, I seem to remember hockey teams, gymnastic teams etc. There were other activities: church/prayer meetings (eg your photograph), temperance meetings, gardening activities to grow vegetables, and I have even seen one photograph of a knitting group. However, for some men their main leisure activity was drinking alcohol, and most of these men probably had a breakdown in health.

The FIBIS Fibiwiki page British Army, section External Links, has a number of different links relating to the experience of the soldier in India. These may relate to different periods to when your ancestor was there,and may not be Royal Artillery, but they should give you a general idea.
Included are items "James Henry Miller" and "Health Hazards …Stationed in India", in addition to items in Historical books online, including the humerous sketches "Smithy Abroad: Barrack-Room Sketches"
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/British ... rnal_links

Should you be interested in health matters, the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Public Health has information.
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Public_health
Even at the time your ancestor was there, the sanitation, and resulting disease from flies was so appallingly bad, that the surprise to me is not the number who died, but the fact that they didn't all die.

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby JaneyH » 31 Jul 2016 12:45

Maureen - many thanks for the FIBIS links. I should have thought of these earlier, as I see them mentioned regularly on the WDYTYA? forum.

I'm going to have to do a bit of research trying to link up the two different numbering regimes: the records I have say Field Artillery 65th (latterly transferring to 87th in 1902) and some of the FIBIS links use the same. Other sources, however, use numbered brigades with letters for batteries. I *think* that the beginning of Charlie's 'statement of services' reads "M/3 became Field Artillery 65th - reorganisation" but it's difficult to read. [updated - having checked officer names in the Army Lists for 1889 and 1890 it was 3rd Brigade, M Battery that became the 65th Battery upon reorganisation.]

As to his behaviour / habits / health I'd like to think that a series of promotions (to bombardier, corporal, sergeant and finally sergeant-major) would point to him having done reasonably well for himself. If nothing else, his "character on being discharged" was described as "exemplary" :D
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Bushman » 07 Aug 2016 10:38

Royal Horse Artillery used letters to denote their batteries whilst Royal Field artillery used numbers ie 65th. Was RFA originally on a lettering system as well?
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Maureene » 07 Aug 2016 13:17

The information I have is that sometime in the period December 1888 to August 1889 the names of the Batteries in the Royal Field Artillery Brigades changed from an alphabetical to a numerical name, but I do not know the exact date.

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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby JaneyH » 10 Aug 2016 21:44

Bushman and Maureen, many thanks for your comments about renumbering within the Artillery. I've updated my post to say that by matching the names of the officers in each Battery in the Army Lists for 1889 and 1890, I think that what was 3rd / M Battery became the 65th under the new numbering system. Happy to be corrected on this though - it's new territory to me!

I'm still confused by the fact that everyone (here and via a separate line of enquiry elsewhere) seems to agree that the photo of my ancestor in my original post shows a Royal Horse Artillery uniform (and I've no reason to dispute their advice) whereas his service record all points to Royal Field Artillery. Might he have donned the nearest uniform for a quick photo to send back to his family after joining up? Or was he recruited into RHA and transferred to RFA very quickly?

Shown below is the top of his army service sheet, which may (or may not) help. The top left-hand corner reads, I think: (in handwriting) "M/3" (followed by printed) "became Field Artillery" (then handwriting) "65th" (then printed) "reorganization".

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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Dec 2016 17:44

Janey, it might help if the structure of the RA at that time is explained.

On 1 July 1899, the Royal Artillery was divided into three groups:

1. The Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) and Royal Field Artillery(RFA) comprised one group.

2. The Coastal Defence, Mountain, Siege and Heavy artillery were split off into another group named the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA).

3. The third group continued to be titled simply Royal Artillery, and was responsible for ammunition storage and supply. The RFA and RHA both dressed as mounted soldiers, whereas the RGA dressed like foot soldiers.

It looks then as if the man you are researching was in the first group and that his unit changed from being RHA to RFA.

His battery, seemingly the 65th (of the RFA), became a part of the 28th Brigade (at that time the term used for what is now a 'regiment' of guns, with its ID normally rendered in Roman numerals as XXVIIIth) in 1900, by which time it was equipped with howitzers. In 1890 the 65th Battery were at Jullundur in India.

The 65th Battery served in the 2nd Boer War, where it did sterling service. It joined Lord Methuen in time to take part in the battle of Magersfontein, 11th December 1899. Was in the pursuit of Cronje, and did great work at Paardeberg. The 65th was specially mentioned in General Colvile's report. Was in the other actions on the way to Bloemfontein. From June 1900 to December 1901 one section was about Sannah's Post, one at Welgelegen, and one about Vet River. In 1902 acted as Mounted Rifles, and took part in very many drives (alongside 87th Battery) to minimise the freedom of action of roving Boer commandos (mounted units). You can learn more and see some howitzer images here: http://www.angloboerwar.com/?option=com ... cle&id=582

Images below show the howitzer and how his uniform would have looked when in the RFA at that time.
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby JaneyH » 29 Dec 2016 12:37

Frogsmile - many thanks for the information, and especially the photos. This is the first time I've researched an ancestor with Army service during this period, but using the service records from FMP and the links from Maureen about the Army in India I've pieced together the following chronology for Charlie:

1889-91 - Jullundur, India
1892-94 - Meean Meer (Lahore), India
1894 - short spell back in the UK for gunnery courses at Lydd and Shoeburyness
1895-96 - Neemuch, India (returned to the UK March 1896)
1897-98 - Hilsea, Hants
1898-99 - Woolwich (posted to South Africa November 1899)
1899-1902 - South Africa (transferred from 65th Battery to 87th in April 1902; returned to UK October 1902)
1903-05 - Newcastle
1906 - Woolwich; discharged April 1906 at own request after 18 years of service

I've also looked at the Anglo-Boer War website as suggested, and the clasps that Charlie had on his Queen's South Africa Medal (Paardeberg, Driefontein and Cape Colony) tie in well with the movements of the 65th Battery. It's amazing to think that a year ago I had just a photo and a story handed down, and now I have all this!
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Frogsmile » 29 Dec 2016 17:32

I am glad to help Janey and I am sure it has been interesting to trace the movements of your forebear. I know Lydd and Shoeburyness quite well, having spent time at both during my own service. You might find the following of interest:

During the early nineteenth century manoeuvres and live firing took place on Woolwich Common, but later live firing was permitted only at Plumstead Marshes and Shoeburyness. It comprised two branches: Horse, Field, Mountain and Garrison Artillery gunnery at Shoeburyness, and Militia and Volunteer Artillery gunnery at Woolwich.

From about 1882 an artillery practice summer camp was established at Lydd. The site was also used for Ordnance Committee experiments. In 1990 the Repository at Woolwich was closed and the staff were transferred to Lydd, becoming the Siege Artillery branch of the School of Gunnery.

In the wake of the Crimean War the Royal Artillery School of Gunnery was established at Shoeburyness in 1859, with Horseshoe Barracks and various other amenities being added not long afterwards. Over the years that followed Shoeburyness was integral to the development of new and improved artillery weapons and it became an experimental focus. As a result, more space was required for this work to continue, and from 1889 the establishment expanded on to a 'New Range' to the north-east, which encompassed Foulness and Havengore. An accidental explosion in February 1885 killed seven Royal Artillery personnel.

The location was chosen for its purpose for many reasons including its proximity to London and its direct access to major shipping routes. The area's geographical features make it the ideal location for the MOD's Test and Evaluation requirements with the flat tidal sands providing the large secure safety area needed for long range firing and the recovery of shells.

As mentioned above, Shoeburyness was ideal for experimental firing because the seabed was completely flat for some distance from the shore and it was possible to fire experimental projectiles whilst the tide was in and then go to collect the shot/shell on foot once the tide had gone out. With the adoption of rifled guns* and the commissioning of armoured ships, a ‘battle’ developed to find more powerful guns on the one hand and more effective armour and coastal defences on the other. This battle was ‘largely fought on the Marshes at Shoeburyness.

During firing one of the less popular jobs was the requirement to post floating 'vedettes' (sentries in boats), under a junior officer, on the left and right boundaries for firing at a position out to sea in order to warn shipping. During bad weather the reluctant sailors suffered from seasickness to an unpleasant degree.
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby reddi10 » 06 Jun 2017 19:53

Being new to this site I am not sure whether I am posting this in the correct place but here goes. Reading through the posts Re. The Royal Artillery in India I have found similarities to information that I have gleaned on an ancestor of mine. He was a William John Woof who joined the Royal Field Artillery 50th Battery on the 9th August 1895 in Woolwich, he had previously been in the 3rd Cheshire Regiment (Militia), whilst on duty on the 27th January 1897 he fractured his left leg, his records do not say how. On the 15th September 1897 he was married in Newcastle upon Tyne, then on the 12th of October he was posted to India, unfortunately his records do not say whereabouts he was posted to.
Unfortunately in 1900 he succumbed to Enteric Fever and died on the 13th November 1900 aged 26, his burial taking place the very next day, 14th November in Agra Cantonment Cemtery
If anyone has any information on where the 50th Battery RFA were in India I would be most grateful as it would help fill in a little more of my families past history
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Frogsmile » 10 Jun 2017 18:06

reddi10 wrote:Being new to this site I am not sure whether I am posting this in the correct place but here goes. Reading through the posts Re. The Royal Artillery in India I have found similarities to information that I have gleaned on an ancestor of mine. He was a William John Woof who joined the Royal Field Artillery 50th Battery on the 9th August 1895 in Woolwich, he had previously been in the 3rd Cheshire Regiment (Militia), whilst on duty on the 27th January 1897 he fractured his left leg, his records do not say how. On the 15th September 1897 he was married in Newcastle upon Tyne, then on the 12th of October he was posted to India, unfortunately his records do not say whereabouts he was posted to.
Unfortunately in 1900 he succumbed to Enteric Fever and died on the 13th November 1900 aged 26, his burial taking place the very next day, 14th November in Agra Cantonment Cemtery
If anyone has any information on where the 50th Battery RFA were in India I would be most grateful as it would help fill in a little more of my families past history


If you look at the superb FIBIWIKI site mentioned above you will see that in 1898, 50th Field Battery RA were based at Jullundur: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CGSC/carl/n ... 898GAD.pdf

By 1900, batteries were grouped in threes and organised into 'Brigades' of artillery and the 34th Brigade, which included 50th Battery (plus 70 and 22), was based at Agra, which fits with the death and burial of your ancestor: http://www.archive.org/stream/newannual ... 1/mode/2up (see page 188).

You can trace battery locations, year by year, here: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Stations_of_th ... y_in_India (click on links within the page for each year that you seek).
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby reddi10 » 12 Jun 2017 20:57

Frogsmile, many thanks for the information, now I can delve a little deeper into Williams past. I have acquired a book from BACSA which details those (inc. William) buried in Agra Cantonment Cemetery so your info. can be added to that.
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Re: Royal Artillery in India (?) 1889-96 - photo help needed

Postby Frogsmile » 14 Jun 2017 09:38

reddi10 wrote:Frogsmile, many thanks for the information, now I can delve a little deeper into Williams past. I have acquired a book from BACSA which details those (inc. William) buried in Agra Cantonment Cemetery so your info. can be added to that.

Glad to help. Do take the time to explore the superb FIBIWiki website, which is packed with relevant information, and let me know if I can help further.
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