Search billions of records on

British Armed Forces genealogical queries

by E-Mail from Wendy Winter Garcia in Spain –

 Date: 11.June.2002

Dear All

I noticed some queries from people whose ancestors had been in the British armed forces stationed in Ceylon during colonial times. Whilst surfing through the Net I found the following which may be of interest. It would appear that regiments keep records of births, deaths, marriages and other information about of armed forces personnel so if there are queries the persons involved could find out quite a lot from if they know the regiment etc is involved and would be able to find out where its HQ oir archives are is from the Ministry of Defence, Whitehall S. W. 1 or the Admiralty, Admiralty House, Theobalds Road, W.C.1, London.

The Ceylon newspaper archives (especially our "family paper" the "Observer" and Lake House) has a wealth of information. Anne had a look at them latter and found so much information about the voyages of the "Vitoria" (of which my great great grandfather was part owner) and the infamous libel action against him that she was unable to get copies.

It would be worthwhile if someone could trawl the "Observer" and other old newspaper archives for items of genealogical interest.

I had a booklet from Reader’s Digest which gave details of where to do genealogical searches but I no longer have this.

I was looking for websites about Ceylon under British rule, I just typed "Ceylon" on the Net and turned up one of the Underwoods (see below) connected to the Winters in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment (Robin Hood and his Merry Men)! Regards, Wendy

The 95th Regiment in Ceylon, c. 1838-47

Transcribed from The Regimental Annual of The Sherwood Foresters, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment 1914 [edit. Colonel H. C. Wylly, C. B].

Some few years ago the writer made an attempt to obtain some details about the life of the 95th - now our 2nd Battalion - in Ceylon, during the nine years they were quartered in that island from 1838 to 1847, but the attempt was only partially successful. Two applications were made to the local staff to try to get them to induce one of their clerks to take a financial interest in looking through old order books and returns for that period, but without avail; and an appeal was then made to the editor of the oldest of the Ceylon papers, with the result which is here set down - but that editor, it may be mentioned, attached a higher financial value to his gleanings than, we fear, will our readers! The few notes obtained are now published, not in any hope that they are of much regimental interest, but purely for the reason that possibly they may be of some small value to the regimental historian of the future.

The regimental records state that the Regiment embarked for Ceylon on October 13th, 1838, but the earliest mention of the 95th in any Ceylon publication is found in the "Ceylon Government Calendar" for 1839 as having been ordered to Ceylon from Newry, while the arrival of the Regiment is notified in the same as March 4th, 1840, on board the "Jupiter", Captain R. Fulton. In that year we find the name "J. F. Dennis," at one time the Father of the Regiment, as the junior Lieutenant.

The Calendar for 1841 gives a number of domestic occurrences:

"May 28th, at Colombo, the Lady of F. Feneran, Esq., Paymaster 95th Regiment, of a daughter."

Feneran had then been Paymaster for some four years, having been promoted from Quartermaster, an appointment he had held since the raising of the Regiment, which he had been one of the first to join.

"April 6th, at Colombo, W. H. Underwood, Esq., 95th Regiment, to Flora, third daughter of the late Capt. J. D. Bagenall, Ceylon Rifle Regiment."

"Sept. 3rd, at Colombo, F. H. Clarke, Esq., H. M. 95th Regiment, to Eliza Jane, daughter of W. A. Rogers of that corps."

"Nov. 16th, at Galle, W. A. Rogers, Esq., Lt. and Adjt. 95th Regiment, to Maria Josina Catherina, only daughter of F. Ostheyden, Ceylon Rifle Regiment."

These two last rather cryptic announcements seem to us to call for some explanation. There appear at that time to have been in the 95th three men of the name of Rogers - all of subaltern rank: "W. A.," who was the Adjutant, "W. H.," who was the Quartermaster, and "C.," who was the junior Ensign. We suggest, in justice to the hero of the "domestic occurrence" dated November 16th, either that that Rogers was married there for the second time, or that Clarke - who, by the way, was the junior assistant-surgeon in the Regiment and served with it many years - married a daughter of W. H. Rogers.

In this year Surgeon Ewing and wife came out from Calcutta and Madras on February 2nd in the "Colombo", Captain D. Mackellan; Captain Champion went home in the "Isabella" on January 16th, as did Lieut. Smythe in the "Ferguson" on February 11th; while on April 1st Lieut. Heyland sailed to Trincomallee in H. M. Troopship "Rattlesnake" - presumably to join the detachment there.

During part of this year Lieut. W. Venour, of the 95th, was Acting A. D. C. to the Governor.

Among the events of 1842 we find that on September 23rd there arrived from Cork and Mauritius on the "Euphrates" 2 officers and 62 men, 95th Regiment, and on December 17th there arrived per barque "Sumatra" from London and Madeira Captain and Mrs. Champion.

On March 24th Lieut. Pratt proceeded home in the "Thomas Coutts" with 5 sergeants, 3 corporals, 3 privates, 2 women, and 5 children of the Regiment; and these were followed on July 3rd in the Persia by 2 sergeants and 1 woman.

On October 2nd, in a barque bearing the appropriate name of "Derby", there left Colombo for Trincomallee Capt. St. Leger Alcock, Lieuts. Master and Dennis, Ensign Chapman, Asst. Surgeon and Mrs. Clarke, 6 sergeants, 4 corporals, 2 drummers, 140 privates, 10 women, and 17 children.

Capt. and Mrs. Brooks, 95th Regiment, went home on March 22nd. In this year Colonel "Jimmy" Campbell, K. H., of the 95th, was commandant at Kandy, where Capt. W. Fisher and Lieut. Heyland appear to have "pooled" the onerous duties of staff officer.

In 1843 the Regiment received another small draft, the Persia on September 6th bringing out Lieut. Hon. E. S. Plunkett, Dr. Gordon, Ensign Carew, and Quartermaster Holt - the latter succeeding Rogers - 29 men, 2 women, and 5 children; but in the preceding February the Regiment had lost 11 privates, who went home in the Sumatra, so that the year's net gains were not large. In this year the domestic occurrences were not numerous.

"On 22nd March, at Jaffna" (where is Jaffna?), "the Lady of Capt. Champion, 95th Regiment, of a daughter.

"Major Walter was now commanding at Trincomallee; Capt. Fisher was staff officer at Colombo; Heyland, now a captain, was employed under the Commissioner of Roads, and Lieut. J. Randle Ford was Acting-Adjutant."

1844 was rather an unusually "domestic" year. Thus we read:

"On Feb. 7th, at Nuwara Eliya, the wife of Sergt. J. Foley, 95th Regiment, of a daughter. " (This was probably the Foley who afterwards became Quartermaster-Sergeant - see "Annual" for 1909, p.15).

"On April 9th, at Kandy, the Lady of W. Holt, Esq., 95th Regiment, of a daughter";

"At Trincomallee, on 6th Oct., the Lady of Captain Heyland, 95th Regiment, of a son." (Our readers will note and appreciate in these democratic days the distinction between "wife" and "lady": there is no mention, we notice, of the subaltern's "poor thing"!)

"Aug. 8th, at Trincomallee, John Thornhill, Sergt. 95th Regiment, to Ellen, daughter of Sergt. Daly. "

"Nov. 10th, at Trincomallee, H. O. C. Master, Esq., 95th Regiment, to Eliza Harriett, eldest daughter of J. Higgs, Esq., R. N."

"Dec. 6th, at Kandy, died Corporal William Burton, H. M. 95th Regiment."

Among the arrivals and departures of this year we find that Lieut. Taylor, Ensigns Eddington and Maxwell landed from Cork on September 9th; that Captain Maxwell went home on May 3rd; Ford, having got his company, on April 22nd from Galle and Lieut. Cobbe on December 10th.

In 1845 Captain Heyland seems to have rejoined headquarters on March 26th from Trincomallee with Lieuts. Master and Taylor, Asst. Surgeon Galland, 7 sergeants, 130 rank and file, 14 women, and 27 children, belonging to the 95th, 90th, and 18th Regiments. The British Sovereign arrived on July 29th with Lieut. Minchin, 19 men, 1 woman, and 1 child. (One wonders of what use these small drafts were for replacing ordinary casualties on foreign service, although, of course, there was no T. E. wastage such as we find to-day). Major Alcock went home on May 26th.

Three "Ladies" of the Regiment presented their Lords with children this year, and Captain Rogers lost a boy, as did also Colour-Sergeant James Johnson of the 95th.

In 1846 Bt. Major and Lieut. Raines - father and son - came out from home on December 22nd, and Captain E. Thompson (? was this the father of Lt.-Col. C. E. Thompson) went home on March 15th with 4 sergeants, 1 corporal, and 29 privates of the Regiment. Capt. Rogers followed on June 11th. The only domestic event recorded this year is the marriage on April 1st - one wonders whether the bride or the bridegroom selected this date - at Kandy, of Lieut. Hon. E. S. Plunkett, 95th Regiment, to Caroline Mary, third daughter of the late G. Templer, Esq.

About Plunkett the Ceylon Literary Register of a considerably later date reminds its readers that "Fred, poor fellow, once had a series of charges preferred against him, which led to his being tried by a court-martial for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman: the greatest of these charges was 'calling for a glass of wine in an hotel and leaving the house without paying for the liquor.' It is needless to say that he was honourably acquitted, and that he afterwards did good service in the Crimea and in India. Peace be to the ashes of old Fred Plunkett." ("Fred" must have been something of a pet name, his initials being "E. S.")

In 1847 Ensign Minchin (there were two officers of this name in the 95th) arrived on November 19th with a draft of "73 men, women, and children" - the numbers are not given separately. On January 11th Capt. Dennis, Lieut. Hon. E. S. Plunkett, Ensigns Maxwell and Sargent, 127 rank and file, 10 women, and 25 children left for Trincomallee; on the 19th of the same month 24 men, 5 women, and 7 children went home, and the "Tigris" took home on May 18th, 25 men, 7 women, and 17 children belonging to the 15th and 95th Regiments; while in March the advanced party sailed for Hong-Kong in the "Castle Eden".

During the time he was quartered in Ceylon, Captain Champion seems to have given a great deal of attention to its Botany and its Beetles, and made a collection of the former; he was a member of the Ceylon Agricultural Society, and contributed articles to local and home papers on the botany of the colony. He was not forgotten when the Regiment left Ceylon, for on hearing of his death from wounds received at Inkerman, the Ceylon Observer published a very sympathetic notice, concluding with the words: "While the Army mourns over one of its brightest officers, Science bewails in him the loss of one of her most devoted sons. The loss to Ceylon is especially heavy."

Other officers of the Regiment seem to have taken a more material interest in the productions of the country, especially with regard to the planting of coffee; thus in 1843 Captain Fisher purchased a property at Hewahette of 617 acres, and five years later another of 691 acres, while in 1845 Captain Taylor bought 540 acres at Batticalon; and among the reminiscences of early days of coffee planting in Ceylon, Mr. P. D. Millie, in his "Thirty Years Ago", writes: "It was about 1846-7 that Wavendon was first opened by Captain Fisher, who, like most of the original planters, never reaped any of the fruit from all his labours: Fisher was a great hunter in this land."

This is all that could be obtained about the life of the Regiment in Ceylon: it is of little military interest, it is feared, and it is to be regretted that nothing was forthcoming about the cholera epidemic, during which the Regiment behaved so well as to draw an especially eulogistic order from the General Officer Commanding. It may be interesting to add that the Col. Campbell, K. H., then commanding the 95th, was in the early part of 1852 appointed to the command of the Forces in Australia. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, where, in the Monumental Chambers, there is a tablet bearing the following inscription:

To the memory of Major-General James Campbell, K. H., late commanding 95th Regiment who departed this life on the 18th of November, 1853, in the 67th year of his age. This tablet is erected as a tribute of her gratitude and affection by his surviving widow Elizabeth Campbell.

Visit the Regiments. org page about the Derbyshire Regiment/95th Regiment of Foot where you will also find more links to further material relating to the Sherwood Foresters. [Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth].

AJ, Moss Valley, 2001-02.