The James and John Show (Invalid Claims)
The James and John Show
The Crimean War could be considered the first British ‘media promoted’ war. Lord William Russell, War Correspondent of the London Times, and Roger Fenton, the photographer, brought the war to the attention of the Victorian-era public unfettered by Army censorship. The ink of Royal Warrants flowed freely as medals and clasps were authorised by the Monarch. The Crimea War Medal with up to four clasps was awarded as a campaign medal to all ranks; the Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded, for the first time, to NCOs and other ranks as well as officers. The Victoria Cross made its debut for anyone of any rank if recommended for valour. The Turkish Sultan and French Emperor also awarded medals for those deemed worthy. Lord Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate and Rudyard Kipling, the soldier’s friend, wrote of the heroes of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Frances Duberly, heroines of the War – if not lauded immediately – established their place in history. Hollywood eventually weighed in with its versions in 1936 and 1968, the latter at least attempting to be accurate. It was a war that captured the public’s imagination.
In Western Australia the veterans of the Crimean War in their twilight years were much feted by the authorities and the fourth estate. They attended banquets, military reviews and funerals and were reported upon accordingly. Almost all those old warriors deserved the attention, but some did not. It would be somewhat harsh to label these as ‘false claims’ because the former soldiers may not have been the ones to lay claim to being veterans of the Crimean War. As so many regiments took part in that war, it was perhaps assumed by relatives that their British Army veteran father or grandfather must have taken part. Newspapers back then, as today, may not have checked the facts of the matter. Other publications would have used families’ contributions supplemented by newspaper accounts for their 20th century scholarship. However, as new resources have become available, a more focused and thus accurate picture has emerged in this 21st century. All the men below (with one exception) were former members of the British Army; four are named James and three John; all claims of engagement in the Crimean War have been found to be invalid.
Joseph BARKER, Private #1909, 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment.
Arrived on the Hougoumont in 1868.
Mistakenly recorded as ‘Barrett’ in The Veterans (Broomhall); death notice in the Inquirer and Commercial News 7th July 1880 cites Barker’s involvement in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, as does the Bicentennial Dictionary (Erickson). In reality Barker served his country for over 21 years including nearly sixteen years overseas in Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope. Barker is not recorded as being a recipient of the Crimea War medal. At the time of the Crimean War, his regiment was in New South Wales from which a detachment was sent to Ballarat at the time of the Eureka Stockade incident. Had Barker remained in his original regiment – the 6th (The Royal 1st Warwickshire) Regiment – he would not have served in the Crimea either.
Theodore FAWCETT, Cornet, 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabineers).
Arrived in WA c.1858, ship unknown.
An obituary in the Western Mail 25 Mar 1898 led many to believe that Fawcett’s regiment’s involvement in the Crimean War automatically ensured his place in the conflict. Other newspapers of the time and later biographies have mistakenly followed suit. The Bicentennial Dictionary (Erickson) mistakenly cites Fawcett as ‘Captain of 6th Dragoon Guards’. The London Gazette and Army Lists indicate that Fawcett took up his commission in 1851 as a Cornet and resigned without further promotion on 15th December 1854 [WO65-126 p.133]. In the event, the 6th Dragoon Guards did not arrive in the Crimea until August 1855, some eight months after Fawcett resigned his commission.
Edmond GOODALL, Private 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment.
Arrived on the Lincelles in 1862.
Cited in F H Broomhall’s The Veterans pp.89,90 but is not included in the Biographical Index. “Goodall said [in Broomhall], I fought at inkerman, Alma and Balaclava”. The 80th Regiment was not engaged in the Crimean War.
Evan HUGHES, Gunner, 2nd Battalion, Royal Artillery.
Arrived on the Ramillies in 1854.
A death notice in the Inquirer and Commercial News 7th July 1880 cites Hughes’ involvement in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, as does The Veterans (Broomhall). Hughes was discharged from the Army after 21 years’ service on 13th April 1852 and missed both the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny. He was in Western Australia when both these campaigns were waged.
John Francis HEYLAND (HYLAND), Lance Corporal #2397, 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment.
Arrived on the Naval Brigade in 1874.
Recorded in The Veterans (Broomhall) as ‘holder of Crimea and Indian Mutiny medals’. This is probably as a result of Heyland’s attendance at the EPF Survivors’ banquet held as part of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897. His attendance was perfectly legitimate as is recorded on the Indian Mutiny medal roll (WO100-39-161). Heyland had served in the Army and Militia for over 21 years including overseas service in India, China and Gibraltar; however, the 87th Regiment was NOT engaged in the Crimean War conflict.
John McKAY, Private #781, 26th (Cameronian) Regiment.
Arrived on the Phoebe Dunbar in 1853.
Recorded in The Veterans (Broomhall) as ‘fought in China, the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny’ as a result of an interview with McKay’s granddaughter in 1970. This error has been repeated in Erickson’s Bicentennial Dictionary. Broomhall correctly cites McKay’s overseas Army service in India and China including a medal awarded in China’s First Opium War. McKay was discharged to pension in 1849. Thus his discharge and arrival in Western Australia was prior to the conflicts in the Crimean War or Indian Mutiny. Furthermore, the 26th Regiment was NOT engaged in either of these conflicts.
Donald PETRIE alias Frederick Sinclair, Private #2714, 74th (Highlanders) Regiment
Arrived on the Corona in 1866.
While living in the Old Men’s Home in Claremont c.1906 he claimed to have joined the British Army in 1847, which was indeed true. The remainder of his ‘story’ – that he was in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny and had a ‘medal clasp star’ forfeited – was not true; he did not serve overseas at all. It was also not true that he served in the Royal Sappers and Miners and discharged in 1861. He had served in the 74th Highlanders but was discharged in 1849 on medical grounds. He can be found in Wick,Caithness (his birthplace) in 1851 and in Edinburgh in 1861 working as a farm labourer. In 1865 he was charged with falsehood, fraud and wilful imposition, theft and housebreaking with intent to steal. He was sentenced in the Stirling High Court to seven years transportation. In Western Australia he re-offended and was sentenced to a further three years.
John REILLY, Corporal #995, 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment.
Arrived on the Sultana in 1859.
Recorded in The Veterans (Broomhall) as ‘holder of Crimea and Turkish-Crimean medals’. This is probably as a result of Reilly’s attendance at the EPF Survivors’ banquet held as part of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897. Further information supplied to Broomhall by Reilly’s granddaughter indicates that he ‘saw action in the Crimea’. However, his Army record indicates that his overseas service was in Malta (10 months) and the East Indies (8 years); no mention was made of Crimea nor does his name appear in the medal roll. The 57th Regiment was definitely engaged in the Crimean conflict and it is therefore puzzling why no service or medals are attributed to Reilly. Perhaps he was in a company on detachment in England or Ireland at the time of the war. There are a dozen Public Member Trees posted on ancestry.co.uk’s website, but all of these are incomplete, inaccurate or conflicting.
James William SCOTT, Private #773, 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment.
Arrived on the Merchantman in 1863.
Incorrectly recorded on the Fremantle Welcome Walls (Panel 245) as having ‘served in Crimea War’. Scott is recorded an Assistant Warder (Home) on 1st February 1855 in the Dictionary of Warders and Gaolers(Barker); the 42nd Regiment was engaged at Sevastopol throughout 1855, returning home in May 1856. Furthermore Scott was discharged from the regiment in Bermuda in May 1848 (Muster WO12-5520).
Timothy SHEA. Private #2018, 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment.
Arrived (allegedly) on the Clara 1857.
Mentioned in an obituary for his widow (he died in 1881) in the Geraldton Guardian dated 12 Jun 1915. This report makes a number of false claims, the most relevant being that he was a pensioner of Her Majesty’s 15th Regiment of Foot, having been wounded in the Crimean War. Timothy Shea was in the 37th Regiment (not engaged in the Crimean War); he served in Ceylon for almost half his Army service and was discharged in September 1854.
James THACKER, Private #1100, 2nd Battalion, 1st (Royal) Regiment.
Arrived on the Sultana in 1859.
Recorded in The Veterans (Broomhall) as ‘holder of Crimea medal’. This is probably as a result of Thacker’s attendance at the EPF Survivors’ banquet held as part of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897. Thacker served overseas for ten of his 21 years’ service in Canada, Nova Scotia, West Indies and Cephalonia; there is no record of service in the Crimea. Thacker’s name does not appear on the Crimea medal roll nor as a Crimea medal recipient in the Enrolled Guard disbandment list dated 31st March 1887.
James TOOHILL, Private #3300, 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment (1847-1861).
Private #667, 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment.
Arrived on the Naval Brigade in 1874.
Recorded in The Veterans (Broomhall) as ‘holder of Crimea, Crimean-Turkish medals’. This is probably as a result of Toohill’s attendance at the EPF Survivors’ banquet held as part of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897. Toohill was serving in the 69th Regiment at the time of the Crimean War which was NOT engaged in the Crimean conflict.
James WHITESIDE, Convict #4911.
Arrived on the Lord Raglan in 1858.
Mistakenly reported as serving in the 14th (Buckinghamshire) Regiment in the Crimean War in death notices by the West Australian and Western Mail in January 1909. Whiteside was incarcerated in various prisons in England during the Crimean War. There is no evidence that he served in the British Army at any time.
© Diane Oldman 2016