You'll see from the above posts and many others on the VWF that we often get questions about army wives' and widows' entitlements from people interested in tracking down more information about the individual women involved. Here are the answers to our most commonly asked questions. Wives' entitlements
When serving overseas, regiments were entitled to take a quota of enlisted men's wives with them. The exact number varied but the numbers were pretty small and there was often a ballot to see whose wife would get to come with them "on the strength". These wives travelled with the regiment, drew army rations for themselves and their children and were quartered in barracks with their men a curtained off area per Garen's post above. Unless an officer's wife chose to offer an alternate venue, it was common for babies to be born in the barracks - this must have made life interesting for all within earshot!
Wives could also travel/live with the regiment unofficially ie. at their own expense, and there are examples of the wives of both officers and enlisted men doing so. Officers accompanied by their wives were allocated more spacious quarters in a specific part of each camp or cantonment, away from the so-called single men's quarters. (Why so-called, you ask? In early Victorian India, many British officers and men who were officially classified as single actually lived with a wife or mistress of local ancestry, although such arrangements became less common and/or more discreet in the later Victorian era.)
Even being "on the strength" didn't get you full food rations or clothing, so many wives had to find a way earn money to support themselves and their children, for example, by taking on jobs with the regiment ranging from laundress through to regimental school mistress. And while officers' wives may not have relied on it to put food on their table or advertised the fact, quite a few women heading off to remote parts packed trade goods such as exotic plant seeds, textiles and so on, so that they would have something to barter with at local markets or to present to influential people such as other wives. Widows' entitlements
If a woman from the UK was widowed while travelling on the strength, and sometimes even if she wasn't, her regiment would usually pay for her transport back to the UK along with any underage children. If their father had been a well-regarded NCO or enlisted man, children might also be put on the boys' roll for the regiment, effectively guaranteeing them a job when they reached a suitable age (usually 14 or 15), or be placed in a school such as the Royal Hibernian Military School. Not all RHMS and similar students went into the military, by the way - many went into trade.
Regardless of whether she was on the strength and where she came from, a woman recognised as a man's wife was entitled to his back pay and proceeds from the sale of his personal effects, if any. That was it, however. No widow's pension was payable for most if not all of the Victorian era. I am not clear when things changed in the UK, but it wasn't until 1914 that Australia introduced a war widows' pension. Even then the husband had to be killed in active service and, until 1915, the widow had to be financially dependent on him (for more info see http://www.warwidows.org.au/?page_id=9
In the absence of a pension, soldiers' dependents often ended up in workhouses or on the street. Admission to the workhouse was not automatic either. Destitute wives/families were normally only admitted to the workhouse in the parish where the husband/father had been born. This meant some families had to travel long distances from the regimental depot to the relevant parish, risking charges of vagrancy if they had not obtained a signed pass of safe conduct from the Commanding Officer of the regiment in question.
Taking all of the above into account, it is perhaps not surprising that many widows chose to remarry fairly quickly, usually but not always within their husband's regiment. Indeed, there are cases of women marrying a number of times within the one regiment.Conclusion
Whilst somewhat depressing in parts, this short summary should cover the most common issues that come up when researching individual army wives/widows and children, and suggest some places you might look for relevant records. If you have any further questions of a general nature (or for that matter observations), please feel free to post them here. Cheers,