The Detail in MN653

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Warder Hodges’ Personal Papers and Other Research

A discussion between myself and Keith Bostock of Albany about a potential WA veteran of the Crimean War, led me to the WA State Library Call #MN653.  Let me give some background.

Keith is researching for a book on Colonial military history and in the course of his endeavours came across an article written by Rod Moran, freelance journalist.  Rod was extolling the virtues of the treasures in the State Archives manuscript collection.  One example was Call #MN653 – a detailed listing of the manuscript collection’s personal papers of Joseph Walter Hodges, veteran of the British Army and prison warder. Joseph Walter Hodges was already on my list of WA veterans of the Crimean War, but yet to be researched. Keith (and Rod) set me on the trail to ordering the contents of Call #MN653: several slim folders of very poor quality photocopies and a box of medals.  The pedigree information was based on entries in a family bible and derived from Joseph Hodges son, not Joseph himself. What follows is a mix of my independent research and references to the contents of those folders.

Military Life
Joseph Walter Hodges was born in the English village of Henstridge, Somerset in 1821, son of Benjamin and Maria. A labourer in civilian life, he joined the British Army aged 20.

In his own words:  I joined the 3rd KO Lt. Dgns. in London, Charles Street to Maidstone in Kent. In 1842 to London on Recruiting Service. [Acc 2613A/2].

Hodges’ regiment had been in India since 1837 and in 1842 formed part of the avenging Army which entered Afghanistan, capturing Cabul and releasing British captives.  He writes: 1843 to India under Comd. Of Captain Curton 16th Lancers and Captain Codd, 3rd KO Lt. Dgns. Joined the Regt. In 1844 in Umballa. March through India 1200 miles.

In fact Hodges was part of the First Sikh War action at the Battle of Ferozeshah when the British and Bengal Armies comprising 18,000 men and 63 guns were up against the Sikh Army of 30,000 men and 150 guns.  By the conclusion of the battle on 22 Dec 1845, the 3rd Light Dragoons lost 152 men and 60 horses.  Hodges was awarded the Sutlej Medal with Ferozeshuhur clasp. He continued to serve under Sir Hugh Gough in the Second Sikh War, where at Goojerat on 21 Feb 1849 the odds were only slightly better for the British Army with 24,000 men and 60,000 Sikhs; but the British had more fire power. Hodges received the Punjub Medal with Goojerat clasp. During this period he was promoted to Corporal and then Sergeant. After 12 years 144 days’ service, most of it abroad, Hodges was discharged at the rank of Sergeant on reduction of establishment of the regiment in November 1853.

King's Own 3rd Light Dragoons Sikh Wars
3rd Light Dragoons in the Sikh Wars
Second Sikh War Goojerat (Henry Martens)
3rd Light Dragoons at Goojerat








Private Joseph Hodges re-attested and joined the 12th Lancers on 10 Jan 1854.  In just over a month he was court martialled and imprisoned with hard labour (see Profile).  He gained his release in August 1854 and joined his regiment as reinforcements at the Crimea in 1855 before Sevastopol; it was here that Joseph Hodges gained his Crimean Medal with clasp for Sevastopol and the accompanying medal from the Sultan of Turkey. He was promoted to Corporal and gained his second Good Conduct Badge at the end of 1855/start of 1856. He was discharged in October 1856 with 14 years and 223 days service to his credit.

Hodges Joseph Medals

Sutlej Medal with  Ferozeshuhur clasp, Punjab Medal with Goojerat clasp,
Crimea Medal with Sevastopol clasp, Turkish Crimea Medal.
Discovered in Acc 3779A, Battye Library

Family Life
Joseph married Charlotte Stedman, a widow, on 29 Aug 1848 in Umballa, Bengal. Charlotte was the illegitimate daughter of Robert Hatch, a Private in the 8th Dragoons, baptised on 28 April 1822 in Cawnpore, Bengal.  The fact that Charlotte’s mother is not on the baptism record suggests that she was Indo-Briton.  The 14 year-old Charlotte married Henry Stedman, a Private in the 16th Lancers, on 19 Jan 1836. Henry Stedman died in Umballa in 1846 at which time he was in 3rd Dragoons, the same regiment as Joseph Hodges. Charlotte had at least one child to Henry Stedman, a son named Robert born in Meerat, India in 1841.  This fact is clear from a response to a query about Robert’s whereabouts made by Joseph Hodges shortly after he and Charlotte arrived in Western Australia.  Robert Stedman, in 1867, was confirmed to be in the 12th Lancers based in Newbridge, Ireland. [Acc 2613A/11].  A record of Robert can also be found in the 2nd Q. musters and census of 1861, as a trumpeter in the 12th Lancers stationed in Leeds, Yorkshire. Robert would have been about 14 years old when Joseph joined the 12th Lancers and it is likely that his step-father encouraged him to join the regiment as a young trumpeter.

As can be seen in Joseph Hodges Profile, he and Charlotte’s children were born in India, England and Western Australia.

After Joseph’s final discharge from the Army, he joined the Kent Royal Constabulary on 10 Mar 1857, leaving on 3 Jun 1861 with the rank of Sergeant. [2613A/4]. His four year service in the police force must have been an advantage in gaining acceptance for a position as a prison warder at Chatham Prison.  In a testimonial dated 21 Jun 1861, a Hythe, Kent Justice of the Peace said of him, I have known Sergeant Hodges late of the Kent County Constabulary for about two years, and during that time I have had many opportunities of judging of his efficiency as a Police Officer. And I believe him to be very intelligent and altogether consider him an exceedingly good and active officer. [Acc 2613A/5]. Joseph appears to have been working as an Assistant Warder at Chatham by September 1861. Within four months, Joseph applied for a position of Assistant Warder with the Convict Establishment in Western Australia. [Barker p.103].

In a letter from the Colonial Office dated 11 Dec 1863, Joseph was accepted and sent the relevant information regarding salary and allowances, provision of free passage for his wife and children and the proviso that ‘If the passage be granted in a convict ship, as is usually the case, the Assistant Warder is expected to make himself useful during the voyage, in the management of convicts, and is in all respects to consider himself under the orders of the Surgeon Superintendent.’  In January 1864, Joseph was advised by the Colonial Office that he should embark on the convict ship Clara on 11th instant at Chatham. [Acc 2613A/6-8].

Western Australia

Warder Hodges on Clara Jan 1864
Warder Hodges on the Clara

The Clara left Chatham with its complement of convicts, pensioner guards and families, at least six warders some with families, including Joseph Hodges; in all 112 passengers and 301 convicts.  The voyage took 93 days and arrived in Fremantle on 13 Apr 1864.  It was an uneventful voyage – the Surgeon Superintendent, William Crawford reported no deaths of convicts on board; however the death of a child aged two, the death of a guard’s wife and a premature birth occurred.  Joseph is mentioned once when he reported a convict for stealing meat out of the cook house. Thus he did, indeed, ‘make himself useful’.

Joseph’s career in the prison service is summarised by Barker (see sources below) and can be accessed by those who wish to undertake further more robust research than I have expressed here. Joseph’s feelings about the service may be reflected in a poem in the files called ‘Only a Black’.  Rod Moran wrote ‘It is a skilfully wrought and heartfelt piece, written in an exquisite hand, protesting against the merciless flogging of an Aboriginal prisoner. It is an interesting contradiction to the stereotype of a colonial prison warder’s sensibilities.’  The poem does not bear the name of the author, nor is it dated.  It is definitely not in Joseph Hodges’ hand, of which there are many examples in the files, but perhaps it struck a chord in his sensibilities.

Many of the papers detailed in MN653 relate to Joseph’s pension entitlement and his efforts to be paid more. In September 1871 he started collecting a deferred pension of 4d. per day which related to his Good Conduct, but this clearly did not meet his needs. From July 1885 Joseph was making representations to his local paymasters in Fremantle as well as the Chelsea Hospital.  Ultimately in a letter from the Royal Hospital Chelsea in November 1899, Joseph’s case was closed. You can imagine the frustration he felt at the delays as letters went back and forth from Fremantle to Chelsea, taking months to hear only bad news.

Letter Royal Hospital Chelsea 9 Nov 1899
Letter – Royal Chelsea Hospital November 1899
Hodges Joseph Walter Funeral [19 Feb 1909 West Australian (2)]
West Australian 19 Feb 1909
Funeral 20 Feb 1909 West Australian
West Australian 20 Feb 1909


Old Comrades
After his death on 18 Feb 1909, Joseph Hodges was given a State funeral.  He was mourned by two other Crimean War Veterans:  Henry Passmore and John Craig.




Archives as a Collective Memory, Rod Moran, National Library News, June 1991, pp.11-13.
Call # MN653: Accession 2613A & 3779A, Battye Library, State Library of Western Australia.
The Records and Badges of the British Army, Chichester and Burges-Short, 1900.
British Battles Website.
Royal Hospital Chelsea Soldiers Service Documents 1760-1913, National Archives, Kew.
Crimean War Medal Roll 1854-1855, WO100/24, folio 431 & 447, National Archives, Kew.
British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns, Presidency of Bengal.
GRO Births, Deaths & Marriages Index for England & Wales.
Census of England & Wales, 1861, RG9/3386, National Archives, Kew.
Regimental and Service Records 2nd Q. 1861, WO12/1069, National Archives, Kew.
Surgeon Superintendents’ Journal for ‘Clara’ 1862, National Archives, Kew.
WA Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages Indices.
Warders and Gaolers, a Dictionary of Western Australian Prison Officers, D J Barker, 2003.
Perth Dead Persons Society (DPS) Website.
Surgeon Superintendents’ Journal for Clara 1864, National Archives, Kew.
West Australian Newspaper 19 and 20 Feb 1909.

© Diane Oldman 2015