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 Enrolled Pensioner Guards and Warders

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Life in the mid-nineteenth century British Army was harsh. Soldiers were mainly recruited from the rural working class and often enlisted under dubious circumstances.

Their barracks were squalid and overcrowded. Daily rations consisted of a pound of bread and coffee for breakfast and three quarters of a pound of boiled meat for lunch. They earned a basic wage of a shilling a day but little was left after money was deducted for food, laundry, haircuts and medical treatment.

With that in mind, a free passage to a new land; six months employment and a grant of land would have been an attractive choice for many service pensioners.

Bound for Western Australia

In 1850, as a part of its emigration policy, the Home Government in England began to send out parties of military pensioners to Australia and by 1864 when the policy ended, the influx of pensioners and their families had resulted in an increase in the Western Australian population of over 2000 people.

As with Tasmania, retired soldiers were recruited and encouraged to accompany convicts on their voyages to Western Australia and in all over 1100 Western Australian guards have been identified. Where possible, they have been listed with their families on the various pages devoted to convict voyages to Western Australia.

Like regular soldiers, some pensioners travelled to Western Australia on other ships as well. Although many of them have been identified, their arrival during and after the transportation years has not been documented in passenger lists linked to these pages as yet.

The pensioners were not retained as permanent convict guards after the voyages and in many cases their families travelled with them. Generally they sought a work among the free settlers in the colony, but were always on hand to help in case of an outbreak among the prisoners.

To encourage them to stay in the colony, they were offered an allotment of ten acres of land which they could select and lease for seven years and then own freehold. As an extra incentive, a gratuity of 10 was given to each of them and they were promised the use of convict labour to help clear the land.

Nearly all of the pensioners accepted the above offer and many pensioner blocks were still owned by their descendants at the beginning of the first World War.

When the Governor of Western Australia wrote to England seeking re-inforcements for his garrison of regular soldiers he found that owing to political unrest in Europe all he was offered was a suggestion to make use of the military pensioners in the colony and enrol them as an auxiliary force to the existing regular soldiers.

Accordingly, Captain John Bruce, who had arrived in the colony with the second detachment aboard the Hashemy, was appointed Staff Officer to the newly established Enrolled Pensioner Force and at one time the unit numbered over 600 men. They assisted the line companies in the various garrison duties and finally assumed all responsibilities when the last of the Queen's troops left Fremantle for Hobart on March 8, 1863.

In August 1857, Captain Bruce laid down the terms under which the Governor was prepared to allocate cottages and allotments to Enrolled Pensioners. It is strongly advised that time be taken to read the transcript of the document.

At one time around 300 rank and file pensioners were continuously employed and in 1863, building of the large pensioner's barracks was begun at the head of St George's Terrace in Perth. When they were completed the barracks contained 120 rooms, a hospital, magazine, and other facilities.

The Enrolled Pensioner Guard uniform consisted of dark greyish-brown trousers with a scarlet stripe down the leg; knee length dark blue surcoats with facings of red & yellow; dandified epaulettes and a tall, regulation hat.

After Captain Bruce was appointed Commandant in Western Australia, Captain C. Finnerty took over as commander of the pensioner force and held that position until 1872 when the then Commandant, Colonel E.D. Harvest, assumed direct control of the pensioners.

In November 1880 the Enrolled Pensioner Force was abolished and a new unit called the Enrolled Guard was formed from among its members. It was placed under the command of Captain M.S. Smith, the Superintendent of Police and the final parade of the Enrolled Guard was held on March 31, 1887.

Warders Employed by the Convict Establishment of Western Australia

When the passenger lists of the various convict voyages are studied it will become obvious that apart from the prisoners and ship's crew, quite a number of other passengers travelled with them. Regular soldiers, pensioners and their families have already been discussed above but another important group also needs consideration.

Prison warders were employed to guard the convicts and apart from staying with them below decks, they were also employed to oversee them after they arrived in Australia. They were employed by the Convict Establishment of Western AustraliaIn and in many cases travelled with their families. A document outlining their pay and working conditions while on board the convict ships and after they arrived in Western Australia is essential reading.

War Office Records

Personnel from the ranks who were granted a service pension would have had a record of service in the British War Office Records and in many cases the records would have been filed under the last unit they served in. Personnel records can be viewed at the London Public Records Office at Kew, or by viewing a microfilm in one of the LDS Family History Centres around the world.

Soldiers documents covering the period of 1760-1872 are kept in the War Office file 'Record Class WO 97'. Apart from the service documents of British soldiers, the records usually provide information about their age, birthplace and trade or occupation on enlistment, their record of service, any decorations, the reason for discharge and pension details.

An index to the 1246 microfilms in the series has been arranged by (discharge) regiment number order and then sorted alphabetically. It is available on-line at the LDS website. The same index can also be accessed on CD-Rom and microfiche at LDS Family History Centres and is located under the headings of 'England-Military Records-Army' [ fiche No.0009, p.170 ].

British Infantry Campaign Medals

This following list excludes Cavalry, Royal Engineers and Army Service Corps, and each medal may omit mention of regiments if only a few were awarded.

The Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840

Made available in 1849 to all men present in any of 231 fields of action between 1793 and December 1814. Only 20,000 were actually issued due to death, illiteracy and general disinterest of the men.

The Military General Service Medal 1793-1814

Made available in 1847 with similar criteria to the Naval General Service Medal. Only 25,000 were issued. Actions covered included the Peninsular War, Egypt and USA.

The Waterloo Medal 1815

Issued to all soldiers present and next of kin if killed in action.

Army of India Medal 1799-1826

Available in 1851 for service between 1799 and 1826.

Ghuznee Medal 1839

Awarded to 8,000 men for the capture of the Fortress of Ghuznee. Regiments present were the 2nd, 13th and 17th Foot.

Candahar, Ghuznee and Cabul Medals 1841-2

Awarded to 4,000 men from the 9th, 13th, 31st, 40th and 41st Foot.

Jellalabad Medal 1841-2

Awarded to the 13th Foot.

China War Medal 1840-1842

Awarded to army and navy personnel from the 18th, 26th, 49th, 55th and 98th Foot.

Scinde Campaign Medal 1843

Awarded for action at Meanee and Hyderabad against the Amirs. (22nd Foot)

Gwalior Campaign Stars 1843

Awarded for action at Maharajpoor and Punniar to the 3rd, 39th, 40th and 50th Foot.

Sutlej Campaign Medal 1845-6

Awarded for action at Moodkee, Ferozeshuhur, Aliwal and Sobraon to the 9th, 10th, 29th, 31st, 50th, 53rd, 62nd and 80th Foot.

Punjab Campaign Medal 1848-9

Awarded for action at Mooltan, Chilianwala and Goojerat to the 10th, 24th, 29th, 32nd, 53rd, 60th, 61st, 98th, and 103rd Foot.

South Africa Medal 1834-1853

Over 10,000 medals were issued for action in the Kaffir Wars to thirteen different regiments.

India General Service Medal 1854-1895

Awarded to numerous units involved in actions on the sub-continent.

Baltic Medal 1854-1855

Awarded to Royal Navy personnel and a few Royal Engineers or Sappers & Miners.

Crimean War Medal 1854-1856

Awarded for action at Alma, Balaklava, Inkermann, Sebastopol and Azoff and received by many army and navy personnel.

India Mutiny Medal 1857-1858

Awarded for action at Delhi, Lucknow and Central India and received by many army and navy personnel.

Second China War Medal 1856-1863

Issued to 1/2nd, 1/3rd, 2/31st, 44th, 59th, 2/60th, 67th, 99th Foot as well as to members of the Royal Navy and Marines.


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