2nd Battalion in India: A diary of the Early 1890s (forum archive)

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File alt font awesome.svg Posted by charlief » Tue Apr 05, 2016 7:38 pm
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charlief
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Hi, I'm new to this forum and I would like to pick the brains of you Border experts, please. I have an old Diary from the 1890's that I would like to find out more about. It has been in my possession a long time and I may have aquired it with a load of old books but I don't remember.

It is a 200 page handwritten journal by a member of the 2nd Battalion Border Regiment and covers the period from enlistment in 1889 to trf to Reserve in 1896. No stirring tales of combat on the Northwest Frontier I'm afraid but a tale of endless marches across India and wrestling with recalcitrant camels. It may be the sort of document that would be useful as background material to anyone researching this period. It does at least give an idea where the Regiment was on any given day and I see that another member has felt this worth recording.

I am assuming that it was not uncommon for such journals to be kept but perhaps not many have survived?

Anyway, although the journal is unsigned I have managed to identify, without any doubt, the writer by matching up his surviving service record (thank goodness for a wonderfully high survival rate for this period!) He is 2686 WILLIAM HENRY WALTER, who was a Corporal at the time of his transfer to the Reserve on 17 Dec 1896. He was awarded the IGS with clasp Waziristan 1894 95 although he came in late, missing the first very difficult month, which he explains in his journal. 3 years after the journal ends he was subsequently recalled for South Africa with the 1st Bn. I also have details of his death some years later. So I know quite a bit about him.

Was it written up daily, or long afterwards? Difficult to be sure. He says that the first 50 pages are largely copied from "the pen of a bandsman of the Regiment as they are put together better than I could put them........ with a few alterations to suit my doings." The handwriting is very even through most of the journal, just a few days showing more 'hurried' writing. Generally all in the present tense. The soldiers had long periods of inaction when letter or journal writing would have been one of the few diversions available?

Unfortunately perhaps only half a dozen names mentioned over 6 years, so of limited value perhaps to someone particularly researching. I will happily note the names if it is of interest. I have been able to identify the individuals from medal Roll or Service Record.

Am I right in presuming this is a document worth copying and depositing somewhere- perhaps the Regimental Museum? Are there other soldiers' accounts of this period that have survived and I could read for comparison ? Maybe even the bandsman's account that he copied ? Maybe even a copy of this one?

Any thoughts please ? Charlie

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by plbramham » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:47 pm
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Hi,

I am a big fan of the "forgotten years" i.e. Victorian and the inter war period, such as India and China. Yes I think your document may be a rare "survivor", and perhaps should be offered to the regimental museum at Carlisle Castle. While maybe not of much financial value, I reckon it is of historical value. I would be very interested in reading it. I don't suppose you have a transcript or scans of the pages which you could let me see?
Best Wishes, Paul.

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by charlief » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:35 pm
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Paul,

Thanks for your reply. I see you are active on this subheading and It was to you I was referring above! I note what you say about the diary value. It was not financial value I was enquiring about. The 'original' is always of value to someone. I was trying to get a feel for how much effort I should put into copying and making available the diary detail. I am a great believer in sharing information readily and in trying to preserve first-hand accounts from all periods. I didn't have any feel for what other diaries exist for this period. And just sending it to the Regimental Museum doesn't mean it becomes easily or freely accessible! All museums have severe funding problems. Copies need to be lodged elsewhere?

I am fairly sure I have identified the 'bandsman' whose early contribution is noted above.

I will copy a few sample pages when I can and see what you think. The whole 200 would take some time although quite a few pages are copies from regimental history. Incidentally what was the magazine 'the Soldier' in the 1890's. It isn't the same as that which one can get today is it?

Charlie

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by plbramham » Wed Apr 20, 2016 11:30 am
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Charlie, Thanks for the reply.

I too agree that information should be “shared” and indeed do so with any artefacts or documents I have (at no charge!)

While the regimental museum would be the best “depositary” for records, You are correct in that they, not just have funding issues, but also display space problems. Thus very many items donated maybe never “see the light of day “ again, although they are securely “lodged”. I suppose if a particular “man” was being researched, they would be recorded and available. (Although I guess all the regimental museums are currently “swamped” with requests during the WW1 centenary years) Maybe it could be donated to the man’s “local” museum, if you know where he came from?

Do you have “Ancestry” membership? I only ask because I found a soldier on the 1891 census, (I think in barracks in Burma/India - sorry I forget “off the top of my head” - I have too many documents to remember!) Thing is, if you have one name to enter, and find him, you can scroll the sheets and find all the other men (i.e. company/battalion) registered at that location.

I have never heard of or seen “The Soldier” magazine from that period (1890s) I’m pretty sure it will not be the same as today’s publication, but maybe an internet search would tell you how long it had been in existence? I’m wondering if it was possibly an “officer’s” type publication? Remember, at that time, most private soldiers would probably be quite illiterate.

It would be interesting if you just scanned the cover and posted it on the relevant sub section of the forum.

Regarding “bandsman”: I recently acquired an American original music score for “Long Way to Tipperary”. (cover attached - I believe signed by a bandsman). A bit confusing because I think the copyright date is 1912 (I didn’t do Latin - Spanish instead - I don’t speak to dead Romans!), but it says something like “As Sung on Battlefields of Europe” - thus post 1914. I can only presume that 1912 was when the publication company established their some sort of copyright registration? ( I was a journalist for most of my life and do know British copyright law - this must be some “American quirk, eh?!)

Please let me know if I can assist further,
Regards Paul

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by charlief » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:32 pm
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Sample page 26th March 1890. Marches and camels. Couldn't see how to put pages side by side. Original is foolscap, scanner is A4.

Hope this is of interest.
Charlie

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by plbramham » Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:19 pm
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Fascinating!

If ever you get time (very highly unlikely I guess!!), you really should copy the whole document. I'd love to read it. In the meantime, what about copying just the cover of "The Soldier" magazine you mentioned and posting it on "The Early Years" section of this site?
Best Wishes Paul

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by charlief » Sat Apr 23, 2016 9:30 pm
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Paul

I shall have to make time. I suspect borrowing a digital camera will be the way to go? I may post a couple more pages in the meantime.

I've confused you over 'the Soldier'. I don't have a copy; Walter refers to it several times in his journal and quotes articles.

Charlie

File alt font awesome.svg Posted by hussar1000 » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:36 am
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Just found this post! If a copy should become available I would certainly like one.

I understand the idea of donating to the museum but be advised once you have done this they are the owners and may publish it or even sell it. I know numerous museums regulalrly sell donated items of all types. Loan it certainly but make sure that you have a full understanding that it is still yours.