Off the Face of the Earth

RSM Uniform (small)William Dunkley was born c. 1825 and joined the Army c. 1848 (1) and served four years, four months in Western Australia including his journey to Fremantle.

Dunkley was one of 30 soldiers of the 20th Company Royal Sappers and Miners who came to Western Australia on the ship Marion in 1852 (2). He was a carpenter by trade and was part of the third complement of the Company to arrive to serve as Instructing Warders.

Dunkley served his time in Western Australia in Fremantle and York (3).

In February 1856 most of the single men of the 20th Company were recalled to Fremantle; the order had been received that single men were required to return to England. Thus two officers and 19 Sappers left on Esmeralda on 25th February 1856 (4) to give support in a war against the Russians that was already over – for further details, see the Crimean War connection.

In fact William Dunkley was married when he came here but he and his wife had no children by 1855 (1). And despite extensive searches for William in many different records, I have not been able to locate a date or place of birth, his marriage, nor the births of any children in Australia or UK. Census searches using keywords ‘sapper’, ‘private’, soldier’, ‘pensioner’ and ‘carpenter’ have proved fruitless apart from finding dozens of indistinguishable records.

It is possible that William was not one of the 19 men dispatched to assist in the Crimea. Perhaps he was invalided out and Esmeralda was the first available ship; in the Musters and Pay Lists available to me, he is recorded as being hospitalised for at least four months during 1855 (3).  He may have taken his Army discharge immediately upon arriving ‘home’. Unlike most of the men on Esmeralda, he is not on the well-indexed second-quarter 1861 Muster as most of his ship-mates are (5). Nor does his name appear on the medal rolls for the Indian Mutiny which occurred within a year of his arrival back in England (6).

Unfortunately William Dunkley seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.


No War Office series 97 Chelsea Pension documents were issued for William Dunkley thus these other sources were accessed:
(1) Monthly Return of 20th Company RSM in Western Australia [WO1-437].
(2) Muster Rolls & Pay Lists October 1851 to January 1852 [WO11-130].
(3) Muster Rolls & Pay Lists December 1855 [WO11-134,138,142,146].
(4) Perth Gazette 29 Feb 1856.
(5) Muster Rolls & Pay Lists Q2 1861 Index [WO11 from findmypast website].
(6) Indian Mutiny Medal Roll [WO100-35 transcribed by Kevin Asplin].
Image: History of the Royal Sappers & Miners, T W J Connolly, Vol.2, Plate 14.


© Diane Oldman 2015