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Monday, 7 October 2019

From London to Hong Kong

175 years ago today Inspector Charles MAY along with Sergeants Thomas SMITHERS and Hugh McGREGOR resigned from the Metropolitan Police to begin their 5 month journey to Hong Kong in order to establish the Hong Kong Police Force.  As the senior officer Charles has found his way into the history books whereas Thomas and Hugh barely get a mention.  As a personal tribute to these two family men I have today published pen pictures of their lives on my Hong Kong Police Ancestors Blog:

Monday, 11 June 2018

From Lucknow to London

Digital images courtesy of Getty's Open Content Programme

Some constables had full and colourful lives before ever joining the Metropolitan Police.  PC 223S Alexander BARNES was just such an officer.

Alexander was born on 17th. March 1830 in Walworth on the outskirts of London.  He was baptised some 7 years later along with a younger brother and the baptism register shows that his full name was Henry Alexander.  However, as was so often the case, he went through life using only his second name.  Alexander was the sixth of eight children born to Philip and Margaret BARNES and by 1841 only he and the very youngest brother, William, were living at home with their parents.  Within 18 months the children found themselves orphaned – their father having died in 1842 and their mother in the summer of 1843.  Young William at 6 years old was admitted to the Christ Church Workhouse – all alone in the world.

 By this time Alexander was 13 years old and it is likely that he went straight into the Army as a “boy”.  Indeed by 1851 he could be found serving as a Private with the 7th. (Queen’s Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons in Ballincollig, Ireland.

Ballincollig was home to the Ballincollig Royal Gunpowder Mills and was used as a base for Royal Artillery batteries and other military units. 

The Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857 and the 7th. Hussars were one of the first Light Cavalry Regiments to be put on notice.  By August they were in Canterbury and were inspected by the Earl of Cardigan.  He felt satisfied that so brave and hitherto distinguished a regiment would not fail to do honour to themselves and their country wherever they went.  In answer to the inquiry if any of the volunteers had any complaints to make before embarking some 20 or 30 men stepped out and were ordered to attend his lordship at the orderly room.  No account is given as to what their complaints were – or of the outcome!

The 7th. Hussars were to ship out to Calcutta on the fast sailing clipper ship “Lightning” belonging to the Black Ball Line of Australian packets.  The day before embarkation the owners arranged a grand lunch on board for a large and distinguished party of guests which included HRH the Duke of Cambridge.

Thursday 27th. August 1857 was day of departure for the 7th. Hussars.  How excited and somewhat nervous they must have been.  The following extracts from the press of the day give an indication of the days events. 

The men seemed, one and all, in splendid condition and high spirits, and were bid adieu to with the usual accompaniments of cheers and tears, all more or less hearty.  Every preparation had been made for their reception on board the Lightning but in spite of all the proverbial hurry, worry and confusion of a troopship were presented in their most prominent form.  The men were collected on deck for a long time, while the muster roll was called.  What with armourers’ boxes, carbine racks, men’s tins, kits and general equipments, ship’s stores and crowds of men, the Babel seemed hopeless to the last degree.  Only the hearty good humour and “with a will” disposition which pervaded all on board, both troops and crew, could ever contend with such a military chaos as yesterday existed on board the Lightning.  Nor was it a whit better in the gorgeous saloons allotted to the officers.  There it seemed an interminable succession of lunches and heavy packages, with a supplementary melange of telegraph boys with last messages, army tailors fighting for realisable propositions, visitors, garrison officials, officers and their relatives and friends.  The amount of equipment in the way of furniture which officers brought on board, and which, as a matter of course, they found totally useless, and only lumber in their cabin – was something astounding.  Is there  no retired Indian officer of experience who will publish a little book pointing out what officers really do require when going to India?  He would be a benefactor to the army.  As it was uncertain what time the vessel would really start, of course the applications from ardent subs for 24 hours leave were rather numerouos, but they were finally put to an end by instructions that the Lightning should get under way by seven o’clock in the evening.  This she accordingly did, and was towed down the river by the Resolute, one of the two tugs recently built at Liverpool, and the largest and most powerful ever yet constructed.  The troops are most comfortable on board and if we may judge from the following dietary, ought to arrive at their destination in good condition:

Scale of Victualling for troops to India for a Mess of six men
For two days – beef 12lb; flour 5lb; suet 1lb

For one day – preserved meat 4lbs 8oz; rice 3lb

For three days – pork 18lb, peas 6pints; preserved potatoes 2lb 4oz

For one day – flour 5lb, suet 12oz; plums 1lb 11oz

For seven days – ground pepper 1oz; mustard 4oz; biscuit unlimited in quantity; salt butter 1lb 8oz; tea 1lb; sugar 9lb; vinegar 3 pints; porter 42 pints; pickles 2.5 pints; line juice 21oz.

And so they set off on an adventure of a lifetime – many of them never to see England again.
Months later letters began arriving to family back home.  One private in the 7th. wrote:

We had a splendid passage out on board the Lightning.  She ran to Calcutta in 87 days.  it was more like a pleasure trip than anything else, except going round the Cape of Good Hope, and then we caught it rather unpleasantly, which made some of us look round the corners, when she was running sixteen knots an hour, with only one sail up out of fifty.  One poor sailor was blown overboard from the fore top yard arm and never seen any more.  We remained in Calcutta a fortnight and then marched up country 700 miles, the first 300 by bullock carts, nine men in each cart, going day and night, riding four hours and walking two, all the way.  Most of the men had sore feet.  We count not go an hour together without some of them breaking down.  There were only two bullocks in each cart and we never undressed the whole way, having three meals all at once, or going without – whichever we chose.  When we arrived at Allahabad we got our horses, and very glad we were to receive them.  We don’t like foot soldiering at all.  At Runeegunge we caught about a dozen black devils selling milk which was poisoned.  Some of the men who purchased it were soon dead – and so were the vendors of the milk shortly afterwards for we hanged them on the first tree we came to.  From Runeegunge we went to Benares.  There we saw the largest Bengal tiger ever seen.  At last we arrived at Cawnpore.  The graveyards are full of tombstones where so many of our women and children are buried.  To read the inscriptions on them is enough to make one’s heart melt again, and to see the towns and buildings destroyed is an awful sight.  I saw the well where our people were thrown and where General Wheeler’s daughter jumped in after killing five Sepoys with her own hand.  

 Digital image courtesy of Getty's Open Content Programme

Another Private from the 7th. had a similar story to tell but with descriptions too horrific to relate here, although he does give an idea of his feelings:

The enemy are in sight now.  There are three troops of ours going up the country today – we are going tomorrow.  I am now sitting on the ground writing this letter to you.  I wish I was out of this.  Be it far from my being afraid to face the enemy. It is a hot country and the nasty way they put us up.  I send this in case I may not have another chance of sending by this mail as I know you are anxiously waiting for it.  I shall send you as often as I can.  I expect we are going to Allahabad.  It is a strong fort.  There is a lot of sepoys just come in sight – they are mounted – they have a great many elephants with them.  They are about a mile from us (within sight).  I believe they are going to give up their arms; they won’t fight and they won’t join the English.  They appear to be about two hundred strong.  I expect we shall have to watch very closely tonight in case they might come down upon us. There is only a small pond between the enemy and us.

I am writing this on my knee – there is no such thing as a table here.  I must now get ready for marching up country tomorrow.

And so the 7th. Hussars made their way to Lucknow where in March 1858 they took part in final operations which saw the eventual surrender of the Residency.  

 Digital image courtesy of Getty's Open Content Programme

The Indian Mutiny Medal Roll shows that Alexander BARNES, Private with the 7th. Hussars, was awarded the Indian Mutiny Medal along with the Lucknow clasp.  At the time the medal roll was drawn up – probably sometime in 1859 – Alexander was shown as being “on passage home”.

Although he was only 30 years of age Alexander already had a lifetime’s experience under his belt – an ideal candidate for the Metropolitan Police.  This was a time of expansion and The Met were looking for good men to join their ranks with recruitment ages ranging from 18 to 35.

Alexander joined up on 19 November 1860 and was issued with warrant number 39846. He was well acquainted with wearing a uniform and would not have felt at all out of place by having to wear the Peeler’s top hat.

On 15 January 1861 Alexander BARNES married Emma Sarah TURNER in Kennington.  Alexander gave his address as White Hart Square whilst Emma gave hers as White Hart Street.  Alexander’s younger sister, Mary Ann Barnes, was one of the witnesses to the marriage.

The census taken on 7 April 1861 shows the couple living at 1 Chapel Street, Croydon (these days at the end of Wandle Road) – a 15-20 minute walk away from the Police Station in the centre of town.

Day to day duties were pretty routine but occasionally an event of such magnitude occurred that constables had to be drawn into central London from all over the Metropolitan Police District. Two such events in the 1860s were the International Exhibition at South Kensington in 1862 and the wedding of HRH the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863.

The opening ceremony of the International Exhibition took place on 1 May 1862 and over 2000 constables were called in from outlying divisions.  Alexander was serving on P Division which supplied 80 of the constables.  The exhibition itself meant that thousands of constables had to be recruited on a temporary basis.  Figures from the Candidates Branch show that over 3000 applications were received.  Each individual application required a new docket and all testimonials had to be checked. When the exhibition closed in November those constables who were considered suitable for permanent employment were required to resign and were then re-appointed with new warrant numbers.  One can only imagine how much paper was generated as a result of these temporary appointments.  Perhaps this is the reason why candidates papers for the 1860s have not survived.

With regard to the Royal Wedding in 1863 the ceremony was to be held in Windsor, however, the Princess was due to pass through London on her journey from Gravesend.  Princess Alexandra arrived in England on 7 March 1863 having sailed from Denmark aboard the Royal Yacht.  She was greeted in Gravesend by her future husband and the couple then travelled by Royal Train to London Bridge.  Next came the procession through the illuminated streets of London to Paddington Station.  The press reported that the decorations were are on scale never before witnessed – flags and streamers in every direction.  The streets were packed with people.

P Division supplied 25 Constables on the night of the illuminations and all were posted to Vine Street in Mayfair.  The men had to be at their assigned posts at 7pm dressed in great coats, belts and capes.

The military provided the first line of defence along the route – all standing to attention facing the procession.  Police formed the second line of defence - always facing the crowd making sure that there were no assassins waiting to pounce.  Now that was a day to be remembered.

Constable BARNES transferred from Croydon to Hampstead in S Division in 1862/63.

The next event of note for Alexander would have been the change in Metropolitan Police uniform which came about in 1863/1864.  Tail coat and white trousers were exchanged for blue serge tunic and trousers.  Top hat was exchanged for a helmet. 

The 1871 census shows Alexander and his family living at 4 South End Cottages, Hampstead and by 1873 he and Emma had four surviving children:  Emma had been born c. 1862 in Croydon; Caroline Ellen in 1863; James Alexander in 1867/68; and Margaret Harriett in 1872/73.  Little Ellen Margaret had died when still a baby.  Interestingly, at Caroline’s baptism on 1 July 1863 at Hampstead St. John, Alexander recorded his own christian names as Alexander Henry – the first time that “Henry” had made an appearance since his own baptism back in the 1830s, albeit this time as a second rather than first name.

And so we come to Saturday 9 May 1874.  It was 8.15pm and Alexander was busying himself in the station stables.  The light was fading and the gas lamp above the station door needed to be lit.  Normally this would have been done by using a torch attached to a long rod but on this occasion the rod was broken and awaiting repair.  A young constable stepped forward with a ladder ready to climb up but this was Alexander’s duty so he took the ladder from him.   

Up he went, but it appears that the ladder had not been placed correctly because suddenly it tilted to one side and Alexander fell 23 ft. to the ground.  The local press now takes up the story:

Sergeant Bonny 10S who had charge of the station at the time sent immediately for Dr. H. Cooper Rose, divisional surgeon, who attended and found the poor fellow had sustained a fracture to the base of the skull which the doctor anticipated would end fatally.  On hearing of the accident Inspector Woodland at once came down from his apartments and superintended the removal of the injured man, who was in a state of insensibility, to his home close by – Mrs. Barnes having previously been communicated with.  Here he continued to receive medical attention but died soon after midnight on Tuesday.  During Sunday and Monday it was found necessary to have two of his comrades with him to keep him in bed as he struggled so wildly, but on Tuesday he appeared exhausted and gradually sank without having recovered consciousness from the time of the fall.

The deceased who was about forty four years of age had been in the police force thirteen years and a half.  Prior to that he had been all through the Indian Mutiny as a sergeant in a cavalry regiment.  He was at one time on regular duty as a mounted patrol here, and twice during that time met with accidents which might have been attended with serious results.  He was much liked by his comrades, being of a kind and obliging disposition, and always ready to lend a helping hand in any difficulty.  He leaves a widow and four or five young children.

An inquest was held on the Friday with the jury returning a verdict of “Accidental death”.  Hooks had now been attached to the ladder so that it could be secured more safely in future.

The funeral of Constable BARNES took place at 5pm on Saturday 16 May, his remains being interred in the grounds of the Parish Church.

The funeral cortege started from the residence of the deceased in a lane near the station.  In addition to relatives were some 200 constables, seventeen sergeants, seven inspectors, Superintendent O’Loghlen and a number of staff sergeants of the 1st. Royal East Middlesex Militia from the barracks in Wellwalk.  The band of the S Division under the conductorship of Mr Keightly headed the procession and on the way to the burial ground and on the way back played the “Dead March” in Saul.  The burial service was read by the Rev S.B.Burnaby MA vicar of Hampstead.  At its conclusion the band played “The mariners’ hymn” and on the way back to the station “Little Nell”.  In the station yard Chief Inspector McHugo, S Division thanked the militia sergeants for the great respect they had shown to the memory of deceased (formerly it will be remembered a cavalry sergeant) by their attendance that day.  There was a large number of spectators of the funeral ceremony.

 Photo by Chris Gunns, CC BY-SA 2.0,

A few weeks after Alexander’s death Emma was granted a pension of £15 per annum.  In addition, each of the 4 children were awarded a compassionate allowance of £2 10s per annum to be paid until they reached the age of 15 years.

In July 1874 Caroline aged 10 and James aged 6 were placed in the Police Orphanage.  After a couple of years Caroline was old enough to be found “a position”.  In 1881, at the age of 13, James was shown as being 7th in order of merit in the Boy’s School with conduct rated as “very good” and industry shown as “good”.

 Girls and Boys of the Police Orphanage

But I have jumped ahead of myself because their mother, Emma Sarah, had died during the afternoon of 20 December 1878 at her home in Ivy Cottage, Shepherds Walk, Hampstead.  The inquest recorded a verdict of “Death from natural causes”.  

There was no large funeral service for Emma.  She was buried on 27 December in a public grave with ten other souls.  

If this story should ever reach the eyes of descendants of Alexander and Emma please contact me as I would love to hear from you.