The Bugle Boys

Throughout the British Army, ‘Last Post’ was always sounded at 10 o’clock at night – except in the 11th Hussars. Lord Cardigan was not a popular officer during his lifetime, but he was remembered in his own regiment, the 11th Hussars, for ‘Last Post’ was always sounded at 9:50 p.m., the time of his death. 

The regulation bugle calls of the British Army were composed, not by an Englishman, but by the Austrian composer, Franz Joseph Haydn.

One of the peculiarities of life aboard a troopship was that familiar bugle calls carried different meanings from those on land. ‘Retire’ was sounded for men to turn out and clean the upper deck; ‘charge’ signalled permission to smoke; while ‘commence firing’ and ‘cease firing’ called respectively for manning the pumps and ceasing to man them.

[courtesy of Mr Kipling’s Army by Byron Farwell, WW Norton & Company, 1981]

Two young men who each spent almost five years travelling to and from and residing in the Swan River Colony were Buglers in the 20th Company, Royal Sappers & Miners. They left England on board their respective ships at the end of 1851 and were back in England by mid-year 1856. They were part of a detachment of mainly rank and file single men recalled to give assistance in the Crimean War. In the event, the War was over by the time the detachment left – ironically the Paris Peace Conference opened on the day Esmeralda sailed from Fremantle on 26th February 1856.

Thomas HERBERT #1940, 20th Company Sappers & Miners (later Royal Engineers).
Born: 1834.
Enlisted: c. 1851/52.
Rank: Bugler.
Trade: Carpenter.
Marital status: Single.
Ship arrival: Anna Robertson, 18 Dec 1851.
Muster: WO11-126 (left sidebar).
Ship departure: Esmeralda, 25 Feb 1856.
Muster: WO11-146 (left sidebar).
Pay: February 1856, £1 9s. 0d.
Q2 1861: 34th Company Royal Engineers, Shorncliffe (Corporal) [WO11-192].
35th – 38th Company Royal Engineers Depot, Chatham (Corporal) [WO11-193].

Reuben WOOD #2642, 20th Company Sappers & Miners (later Royal Engineers).
Born: 1837.
Enlisted: unknown (under-age).
Rank: Bugler.
Trade: Carpenter.
Marital status: Single.
Ship arrival: Marion, 30 Jan 1852.
Muster: WO11-130 (left sidebar).
Ship departure: Esmeralda, 25 Feb 1856.
Muster: WO11-146 (left sidebar).
Pay: February 1856, £1 9s. 0d.
Medal Award: Indian Mutiny Medal, clasp Lucknow, for services at Koorlee (2nd Corporal).
Q2 1861: 34th Company Royal Engineers, Shorncliffe (Corporal) [WO11-192].
35th – 38th Company Royal Engineers Depot, Chatham (Corporal) [WO11-193].

As no Chelsea Pension discharge papers are extant for these men, personal and Army service details are limited.

More Bugle Boys!

After the departure of Thomas Herbert and Reuben Wood (above), from February 1856 to September 1858, no Buglers appear on the 20th Company, Monthly Musters. From October 1858 to September 1859 the Musters change to a quarterly format and consolidate records of the men stationed in many different Companies all over the world; in other words it is difficult to pinpoint the 20th Company men. Fortunately this situation lasted only twelve months and by October 1859 the Musters return to a format of recording specific Companies, albeit quarterly.

Thus in the October to December 1859 quarter, two Buglers appear on the 20th Company Musters: George Evans and James Allen. A remark recorded on the Muster for each of them was “On Command at Chatham”. Thus the obvious question is – why are they recorded on the 20th Company Musters with the men in Western Australia? Furthermore, if they came to Western Australia, on what ship(s) did they arrive?

The following quarter in January to March 1860, Evans and Allen are recorded as “Head Quarters Chatham” with Allen marked as transferring to 6th Company.

Sure enough in the April to September 1860 Musters, Evans is recorded as a lone Bugler but with the notation “Attachment to and pay drawn in Chatham Detachment”. From the 20th Company Musters October 1860 to March 1861, Evans is joined by David Reid with similar notations regarding attachment and pay in Chatham. Again, why were they on the Western Australian Musters?

In April 1861 Evans disappears and Reid is joined by Bugler John Wills. Reid and Wills remained together on the Musters of Western Australia until in April 1862, the entire 20th Company returned to England on Lincelles.

If I can be convinced that James Allen, George Evans, David Reid and John Wills were stationed in Western Australia, more information could be forthcoming about these Bugle Boys.