A mystery with many clues

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A mystery with many clues

Postby Ernest Leech » 09 Jun 2017 01:22

Is there a military detective able to solve this mystery. If so, I would be extremely appreciative.
I am searching for the specific regiment and history of a soldier: Ernest Leech (12 June 1864 - 22 Feb 1921).
In addition to serving in the Army, he also wrote articles for a newspaper in his hometown.
Richard Duckett, who has been most helpful, shortlisted six regiments for me that he felt were possibles: Devonshires, Queen's Royal West Surrey, King's Royal Rifle Corps, Duke of Cornwall’s, Oxfordshire LI & Durham LI. (It has also been suggested elsewhere that he could have been in the 15th/19th Lancers, though this information is far from reliable.) Subsequently, Duckett felt that the 2nd Battalion Wilts was the likeliest, from location.
It would have been so easy for Ernest, in just a couple of words, to have put his regiment’s name in his writings – but he never did.
What he did do however was to supply (probably inadvertently), clues to his regiment; and I have gathered them together, in case they may trigger an idea in your specialist familiarity of the subject.
1 He mentions Colonel Lacon, “of the old Lanarks, under whose command I served for many a day”. (His writing suggests that he might no longer have been associated with the colonel.)
2 He also tells us that in 1893 he was “a stone’s throw from King Theebaw’s palace” (in Mandalay?) Burma.
“Eight years before my arrival at Mandalay King Theebaw had surrendered to an English army [this event was 27 Nov 1885 – which would make Ernest arriving c1893], and his mad, blood-stained reign came to a fitting close.”
It seems that the period 1885-1899 was a period of relative peace in Burma, and maybe one of the (presumably caretaker) regiments there at the time could have included Ernest.
3 He tells us that he landed in India at the Apollo Bandar, and joined his regiment at Umballa (Ambala?).
“The eventful day arrived when the old "Crocodile" deposited me at Bombay, and I … landed at the Apollo Bunder [Bombay]. Going up country … we joined our regiment at Umballa [Ambala]”.
4 At Meean Meer he was employed in the regimental printing office, where he identifies a Major Portly.
5 He mentions by name Captain Brownhill, “of my own company”.
6 He travelled on the Indian Marine steamer ‘Clive’ “from Rangoon to Bombay, via Madras and Calicut, with a native regiment on board”.
7 Prior to returning to England, he was housed in Colaba. “Finishing my tour of service in Burma, after a pleasant voyage from Rangoon to Bombay, I avoided Deolali by seeking hospitality at Colaba.”
8 “We had finished the long march from Meean Meer and taken over barracks from the Suffolks. In a temporary office I [helped to issue] our regimental paper, to the staff of which journal I belonged”. (Would this have been a principal position, or a pastime?)
9 Lastly, he said that he spoke Hindustani (though with how much competence is not known), so it is probable that he had also spent some time in India.
All the above must have taken place between 1881 (when he was 17) & 1898 (by which time he was back in England). He is in the 1881 & 1901 censuses, but not the 1891 Census.
I do appreciate that these are fragmentary, and his regiment probably still not obvious - but perhaps a good knowledge of nineteenth century Indian and Burmese military history could narrow it down, with the shortlist above.
Can anything at all be made from these rather inadequate indications, or the pieces of this particular jigsaw?
Ernest Leech
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby Maureene » 09 Jun 2017 04:32

You could look in the Army Lists for the period, for the officers names which have been mentioned, and also for the places where the regiments were deployed.

Army Lists are available online, linked from the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Military periodicals online, section New Annual Army List
https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Military_perio ... _Army_List

You can also Search for officers names on the website of the National Library of Scotland, also linked on the same Fibiwiki page

You could also look at the archived webpages of regiments.org for your regiments of interest e.g. the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment appears to have been in Burma in 1893. You could find where they were stationed from the Army Lists above.
http://web.archive.org/web/200711210433 ... /011-2.htm

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby jf42 » 09 Jun 2017 08:46

Ernest, with regard to your first question, as your adviser suggested, the "old Lanarks" must presumably be the 99th Duke of Edinburgh's (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot, who in 1881 became the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Edinburgh's (Wiltshire Regiment). They were in Cape Colony at the time.

The 2nd Wiltshires arrived in India the following year, 1882. In 1894 they moved to Burma. From there, a year later, they sailed back to Britain.


1881.07.01 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Edinburgh's (Wiltshire Regiment)
1881 Cape Colony
1882 India: Rawalpindi
1885 Nowshera
<1889> Subathu
<1892> Jhansi
1894 Burma
1895 England: Portsmouth

http://www.regiments.org:80/deploy/uk/reg-inf/099.htm

As Maureen has suggested, the Army Lists will verify the presence of officers named.
Last edited by jf42 on 09 Jun 2017 11:50, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby Frogsmile » 09 Jun 2017 11:38

Can you clarify the chronological sequence of his locations? Your text implies he was in India after Burma, whereas the timeline shown for 2nd Devonshire suggests direct transit home from Burma.
sq
Relic of many a fight and siege and sack, it points a moral and adorns the back.
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby jf42 » 09 Jun 2017 11:58

Ernest Leech wrote:
8 “We had finished the long march from Meean Meer and taken over barracks from the Suffolks. In a temporary office I [helped to issue] our regimental paper, to the staff of which journal I belonged”. (Would this have been a principal position, or a pastime?)

All the above must have taken place between 1881 (when he was 17) & 1898 (by which time he was back in England). He is in the 1881 & 1901 censuses, but not the 1891 Census.


This would seem to be where the mention of 'the Suffolks' fits in to the timeline. Are your bullet points in chronological order?


1881.07.01 2nd Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment
1881 Jersey
1882 Ireland: Cork
1888 England: Aldershot
1889 Egypt
1891 India: Madras
1894 Secunderabad
1895 Burma: Rangoon
1898 India: Quetta

1902 Karachi
1904 Madras
1906 Aden

http://web.archive.org/web/200711121503 ... /012-2.htm
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby MikeS » 09 Jun 2017 15:45

I think the interpretation of Lacon and Brownhill are possibly skewed. Were the names taken from a handwritten source? Checking the Wiltshire Regiment in the 1887 Hart's there is a Lt Col Charles Lacon Harvey and also a Captain James Henry Bowhill. I can't find any surnames of just Lacon or Brownhill in Hart's.
Cheers,
Mike
Last edited by MikeS on 09 Jun 2017 17:46, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby jf42 » 09 Jun 2017 16:31

Mike, within a battalion, officers might in informal circumstances, among themselves, refer to the CO by his rank and his first name. That could explain the anomaly.
Last edited by jf42 on 10 Jun 2017 22:58, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A mystery with many clues

Postby MikeS » 10 Jun 2017 20:50

jf42 wrote:Mike, within a battalion, officers might in informal circumstances, , among themselves, refer to the CO by his rank and his first name. That could explain the anomaly.

Well that would certainly explain Lt Col Charles Lacon Harvey being shortened to Colonel Lacon. Since it seems we are dealing with the Wiltshire Regiment it still seems strange that Captain J.H. Bowhill ends up as Brownhill in the writings of Ernest Leech. Maybe it was just a typo.
Cheers,
Mike
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