Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

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Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 28 Mar 2017 19:22

Hello,

I was wondering if anyone could assist me in finding the identity of an Army officer in an anonymous cabinet photo which formed part of a collection of letters and photos that belonged to a family living in India in the late 19th century.

The image suggests he had 2 pips (as opposed to crown & pip), which I believe denoted a Captain at this period? His medals include the Indian GSM & the Kabul to Kandahar Star from the 2nd Afghanistan War. All I can make out from the buttons is a laurel wreath with possibly a number within, denoting an Infantry Regiment?

In carrying out my research I have identified 2 family members who were serving Officers at this time – coincidentally, both were born in the mid-1850s and I believe were Surgeon Captains by the early-1890s: Herbert James Barratt & William David Gordon. Could the soldier in the image possibly be one of them?

Any help would be greatly appreciated as I would very much like to put a name to the face.

Many thanks for looking.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 28 Mar 2017 20:15

You have reached some good conclusions and the medals will help a little in identifying the officers regiment. Two pips did indeed indicate the rank of captain until 1902, in which year the cross shoulder sash was changed to the waist, albeit your officer is dressed in 'levee order' with gold laced belts. He has quite a low collar and no collar badges which also helps to narrow down the date window as the badges were adopted between 1872-74, although as officers still wore their rank on the collar until regulations of 1880 moved them to the shoulder epaulettes, only a very few regiments adopted collar badges until that year (those that did cramming a badge alongside rank on the collar). This tells us that your captain was photographed shortly after 1880 and before there had been time to adopt collar badges and a new, higher collar on which to fit them. His facings (collar and cuffs) appear to be white, which before 1881 was worn by a number of regiments as a long standing distinction, but after that year new regimental titles that eschewed numbers and replaced them with names also standardised white facings as to be worn by only English and Welsh line infantry that did not have a 'Royal' prefix in their title. As your man appears to still have numbered buttons it is possible that the CDV dates to the 1880-81 transition period, but it is equally possible that he could be an officer in a British-Indian infantry regiment, whose buttons often comprised a number within a laurel wreath and whose facings did not fall under the new regulation of the British line infantry regiments. If you can examine the buttons through a thread counter, aka linen tester and ID the number it might be possible to narrow things down further by matching that number (in association with an Indian infantry regiment) with the medals that you have identified.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 28 Mar 2017 21:29

Thank you for your suggestions Frogsmile. This certainly helps to narrow down the period in which the photo was taken. Both possible individuals served in India, although at present I only have limited information on them and what I do have is from around 10 years later in their military careers, when Barratt was Army Medical Staff & Gordon 'Ind SC'(?).
I have looked at the very informative website by Garen Ewing on the Army Surgeons who would have qualified for the Kabul to Kandahar Star but can find no mention of either men, so maybe I'm looking for a third individual?
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 28 Mar 2017 22:25

Davel wrote:Thank you for your suggestions Frogsmile. This certainly helps to narrow down the period in which the photo was taken. Both possible individuals served in India, although at present I only have limited information on them and what I do have is from around 10 years later in their military careers, when Barratt was Army Medical Staff & Gordon 'Ind SC'(?).
I have looked at the very informative website by Garen Ewing on the Army Surgeons who would have qualified for the Kabul to Kandahar Star but can find no mention of either men, so maybe I'm looking for a third individual?


Of the two names that you have I would say that it is more likely to be Gordon. He would have been Indian Staff Corps (Ind SC) upon his arrival in India (see: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=10690&p=54663&hilit=Staff+Corps#p54663) and then once posted to a regiment he would change facings and buttons. A close (i.e. magnified) examination of the buttons in your photo is crucial. If it is Gordon then he is almost certainly wearing the full dress uniform of his British-Indian regiment. If not Gordon then it must be a third individual, as the uniform in your photo is nothing like that of the Indian Medical Service (IMS).
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby crimea1854 » 29 Mar 2017 15:08

I'm inclined to think that it is neither of your men, since I cannot find their names on the Second Afghan medal roll. There is a (part?) service record for William David Gordon that shows he was born in Jubbulopore 19 Sept 1855, and to 1876 served with the 17th Foot having first entered the army aged 19.

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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 29 Mar 2017 16:34

crimea1854 wrote:I'm inclined to think that it is neither of your men, since I cannot find their names on the Second Afghan medal roll. There is a (part?) service record for William David Gordon that shows he was born in Jubbulopore 19 Sept 1855, and to 1876 served with the 17th Foot having first entered the army aged 19.

Martin


That's very helpful, Martin. The 17th was a regiment that always had white facings both, before and after Cardwell's reforms. Also the description of the button fits. I cannot reconcile the lack of a medal entry though.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 29 Mar 2017 17:47

Thank you frogsmile and crimea1854 for your expertise here. I can only go so far with my limited knowledge of this period. I've used a powerful magnifier on the original photo to no avail; unfortunately, the resolution isn't there to help identify the buttons. Frustratingly too, the reflections off each make their details appear appear different!
I have limited sources so did not know that WDG served in the 17th Foot. I will look into that option too.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby crimea1854 » 29 Mar 2017 22:10

Use the following link to the National Archives : http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C178105, you want pdfs 336-338, this is a free download.

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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 31 Mar 2017 12:39

crimea1854 wrote:I'm inclined to think that it is neither of your men, since I cannot find their names on the Second Afghan medal roll. There is a (part?) service record for William David Gordon that shows he was born in Jubbulopore 19 Sept 1855, and to 1876 served with the 17th Foot having first entered the army aged 19.

Martin


Thanks crimea1854. I’ve found an 1897 copy of a New Zealand newspaper ‘The Evening Star’, which reports the killing of a Capt W.D. Gordon at the hands of a “sepoy soldier, who was running amok”. Gordon was in the 36th (Sikh) Bengal Infantry by this time, having joined the Army 20 years earlier. The paper stated that, for his part in the Afghan war he received the medal with 2 clasps and the star, as he also participated in the march to Kandahar. As that regiment had been disbanded between 1882 and 1887 could it be fair to say that Gordon had started life in the 17th, transferring to the 36th post-1887, as the officer’s medals in the photo and date of entry into the Army tie in nicely with the description given in the article, if taken in the early-1880s? I take it he would have been issued his India GSM by that time?
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby crimea1854 » 31 Mar 2017 13:31

Found the following on the Officers who died website:

Gordon - Captain William David - 36th Sikh Infantry - died 5th July 1897.
Born at Jubbulpur, 19th September 1856. Served Afghanistan 1878 (medal and 2 clasps, star), Hazara 1891 (medal and bar).
Grave at Parachinar, Kurram Valley - "In loving memory of William David Gordon I.S.C. Captain 36th Sikhs who died on the 5th July 1897 aged 40 years."

I also found two entries for him in the London Gazette. The first refers to him coming off half pay to join the effective list on 7 April 1887 with the Bengal Staff Corps, and the second correcting the date of his promotion to Captain to 19 December 1888.

Usefully the Indian Army Lists are available online as free downloads - although the one I downloaded took some minutes. I looked at the one for 1890 ( http://www.new.dli.ernet.in/handle/2015/278913 ) if you do download it look at pdfs 113, 327, 328 and 712.

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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 31 Mar 2017 22:13

The 36th Sikhs, started life as the Bareilly Levy and became 36th Bengal (Sikh) NI, until 1903, when it was re titled 36th Sikhs and then again in 1922, when it became 4th/11th Sikh Regt. Their uniform after 1861 was scarlet with yellow facings. This might be what is seen in your photo, although yellow often appeared darker in older photographic processing.

Another possibility is that as it was only two years after he left the 17th that he joined the Indian Staff Corps and earned his Afghan decorations with the 36th, that on having a portrait photo taken with his medals he had not yet obtained a 36th uniform and thus wore that of the 17th. To me this latter seems a strong likelihood.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby crimea1854 » 31 Mar 2017 22:45

Frogsmile the only problem with your theory is that the 36th NI did not take part in the Second Afghan War. Looking at the regiments present who received the Kandahar Star, and assuming he was serving with a native infantry regiment, he would have to be with the 23 Pioneers, 24,25 Punjab NI; 2,3,15 Sikhs; 2,4,5 Goorkhas.

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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby mconrad » 31 Mar 2017 22:49

How about a close up of the belt buckle?
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 31 Mar 2017 23:08

crimea1854 wrote:Frogsmile the only problem with your theory is that the 36th NI did not take part in the Second Afghan War. Looking at the regiments present who received the Kandahar Star, and assuming he was serving with a native infantry regiment, he would have to be with the 23 Pioneers, 24,25 Punjab NI; 2,3,15 Sikhs; 2,4,5 Goorkhas.

Martin


Yes, I see what you mean Martin, I was focusing wholly on his uniform. It seems likely then that he was attached to one of the units that you mention, not an unusual thing for a putative ISC officer. I think that he is wearing his 17th Regt uniform just for the photo. To ID the unit with which he served we would need details of officers attached for the expedition. As you have suggested an Indian Army List biographical should give a lot of information on his activities.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 31 Mar 2017 23:17

mconrad wrote:How about a close up of the belt buckle?


Unfortunately I don't think that levee dress belt buckles were regimental, but instead bore the Royal cypher of lion and crown surrounded by a laurel wreath.
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