Reg Mayhew's Family History


Photograph of Alfred Humphries

My maternal Great Grandfather, Alfred James Humphries, enlisted in the 21st Hussars in 1874 and served for 8 years with the colours. The following extracts from the Regimental Pay Books, held at the National Archives, Kew, give a summary of Alfred's service in the regiment.

29 May 1874 Enlisted at Westminster District, aged 21 (Regimental No. 1274).

April / June 1874 Stationed at Colchester / Aldershot.

July 1874 /June 1876 Stationed at Aldershot.

(18 / 19 March 1875 Fined 2 days pay) - see Note 1.

(1 - 29 Feb. 1876 Furlo)

July / Sept. 1876 Stationed Aldershot / Hounslow / Kensington.

Oct. 1876 / June 1877 Stationed at Hounslow.

(20 March 1877 Granted 1st Good Conduct Badge - 1d a day (see Note 1.) )

July / Sept. 1877 Stationed at Hounslow / Shorncliffe.

Oct. 1877 / March 1878 Stationed at Shorncliffe.

21 Feb. 1878 Placed on Roll of Married Establishment - (see Note 4.)

April / Sept. 1878 Stationed at Shorncliffe and Norwich.

Oct. 1878 / March 1879 Stationed at Norwich (see Note 5.)

April / Sept. 1879 Stationed at Leeds (see Note 6.)

Oct. 1879 / March 1880 Stationed at Leeds.

April / Sept. 1880 Stationed at Leeds and Edinburgh.

(5 June 1880 Granted 2nd Good Conduct Badge - 2d a day )

Oct. 1880 / March 1881 Stationed at Edinburgh.

April / Sept. 1881 Stationed at Edinburgh and Curragh.

Oct. 1881 - 2 June 1882 Stationed at Dublin (see Note 7.)

2 June 1882 Discharged in Dublin. Travelling expenses £2 2s, deferred pay £19 8s 2d (see Note 3).

3 June 1882 To 'A' Reserve (see Note 2.)


Note 1. Between 1856 and 1899, those engaged in recruitment implied that minimum army pay was a clear one shilling per day. In fact, every soldier's pay was subject to a large number of stoppages or deductions for the cost of goods and services. For the majority of rank and file, GOOD CONDUCT PAY was the principal means of supplementing their meagre wage.

In Alfred's time, a first good conduct badge could be earned after two years service (in fact Alfred had to wait nearly three years, probably because of the unknown offence he committed in March 1875, for which he was fined 2 days pay). Further good conduct badges could be earned 5, 12, 16, 18 and 21 years from the date of the last offence.(with acknowledgement to "The Victorian Army at Home" by A.R.Skelley)

Note 2. In 1870 the Army Enlistment Act kept the initial term of service in the regular army at twelve years, but it provided that under normal circumstances the first 6 years might be served with the colours and the second with the regular reserve. Soldiers were to be allowed to extend their service with the colours to twenty one years.

Reserve exercises were infrequent but, because of recurrent manpower shortages, reservists were called out several times between 1870 and 1899. In the circumstances, many employers were unwilling to accept government assurances that the reserve would be used only in times of extreme national emergency and were reluctant to hire ex-servicemen.

While under obligation for reserve service, each ex-serviceman was paid a retaining fee of 4 pence per day.(with acknowledgement to "The Victorian Army at Home" by A.R.Skelley)

Note 3. DEFERRED PAY was introduced in 1876. Two pence pay per day was credited for up to twelve years of service. It was calculated that this offered the soldier the prospect of a lump sum of £21 after 7 years' service, enough to make a start in civilian life.(with acknowledgement to "The Victorian Army at Home" by A.R.Skelley)

Note 4. Alfred was married in 1870 and, officially, married men were not allowed to enlist, except with special permission. This regulation was frequently flouted by both the men and recruiting officers. Eagerness to gain recruits led officers to collude with the men in making false declarations. Normally, a man had to have completed 7 years' service and be in possession of at least one good conduct badge in order to be eligible for consideration for the Married Roll. In 1878 Alfred met the second, but not the first of these requirements. It may be that his placement on the Roll was due to the married establishment of the regiment being less than was possible under the regulations - the limit was 4 % of the rank and file, but the introduction of short service had meant fewer men were officially eligible.

The ages (but not names) of Alfred's children were listed in each pay book. In March 1882 they were: (1) 9 years 1 month, (2) 7 years 7 months, (3) 5 years 2 months, (4) 3 years 10 months (William Alfred), (5) 1 year 10 months, (6) 3 months. Strangely, the eldest child did not appear in the list until September 1881 (at the age of 8 years 7 months). This may be due to erroneous record-keeping, as evidenced in other instances.

Note 5. On 2nd October, a four oared race, between a crew of the 21st Hussars and the Norwich police, took place between Field's boathouse, Thorpe, and Trowse railway bridge. After a very close race, the police crew won.

Note 6. The Regiment was moved to Leeds as the General Election of 1880 approached, in aid of the civil authorities. Irish Home Rule was the most hotly debated issue of the campaign, and differences boiled over onto the streets.. According to regimental records, on 8th April 1880 "D Troop under Captain Hayes marched to Mapplewell, where rioting on account of the General Election was expected". The presence of hussars prevented trouble , but on the following day "F Troop under Captain Taylor was sent by rail to Marsborough and at 9.00 p.m. was called upon to assist police in quelling a riot. The Troop cleared the streets without difficulty.(with acknowledgement to "The Last Charge" by Terry Brighton)

Note 7. Although the Tory government was ousted by Gladstone's Liberals, the new prime minister was frustrated in his attempts to resolve the Irish problems, and that country continued to be heavily garrisoned by British troops. The 21st Hussars was ordered to Dublin in August 1881.(with acknowledgement to "The Last Charge" by Terry Brighton)

The Family Name of Humphries



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