Sunday, August 26, 2018

Gibson, Finlay's and William's military records

According to his Army Discharge papers, Finlay was born in 1841 in the parish of St George's East (usually known as Borough, Southwark), London, Middlesex, England. 

His service number was 778 and his rank was Private. His Regiment was the 15th - The King's Regiment of Hussars - to which he attested on 7 April 1859 aged 18 years 6 months.

15th Hussars: The King's Regt.
He was discharged on Pension as shown in WO 97 Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913, National Archives reference WO 97 Box 1735 Box record number 105.

There are regrettably no service papers for Finlay Gibson, unlike in his brother William's case. The information available on Finlay is in his Discharge papers - Chelsea Pensioners WO 97.

Finlay was discharged on June 22, 1880 and headed for Stevenston, Ayrshire, to his sister's house.

In due course his brother William, also an Army Pensioner, joined the household, at least for a while. William had been in the 2 Btn 4th Regt of Foot [King's Own Royal Regiment of Foot].for nearly 20 years when he was discharged on 17 Aug 1880 at Preston.
Because some of Finlay's papers are regrettably missing, we know more about William's career than we do about Finlay's. William deserves a more detailed account than there is space for here but note that he appeared on Regimental defaulters 35 times including 4 Courts Martial. On the plus side he was never wounded or injured.

When William joined up he was under age. He deserted immediately and was pardoned. Desertion directly after joining up was not that unusual and reminds us that for young men from poorer backgrounds the Army was an option they were frequently forced to take. It wasn't a matter of patriotic duty but of survival in a harsh world. His father was also a soldier so presumably William and Finlay both knew what to expect.

William, born in Westminster, Middlesex, in June 1842, enlisted on 21 June 1859 at Newington. He was a labourer. His record gives a personal description: Height 5'4 and half" Chest 30", Hair dark, Build slender. He probably hadn't had three square meals a day while growing up. At least he'd be adequately fed in the Army. 

At Discharge he gave his residential address as Newcomen Street, Borough, London. However, he didn't go to that address - it may have been his parents' home at one time; perhaps they were by then both deceased - but to his sister Margaret's in Stevenston, Ayrshire. 

Photo by Lyle Dixon-Smith

[Acknowledgement to Graham Mason for military research.]

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