Research Project: 1895 India General Service Medal
The 1895 India General Service Medal was introduced as a replacement for its predecessor which had been introduced some 31 years earlier in 1854. It was felt that the older 1854 India General Service Medal, which by this time had acquired some 24 clasps, did not in some cases adequately represent the actual amount of active service that some officers and men had taken part in. Additionally given the number of clasp combinations possible the 1854 medal could simply become rather awkward to wear since the medal’s ribbon would out of necessity have to be rather long to accommodate all the clasps some recipients were entitled too. (See the cabinet photo of Sir William Lockhart as an example of this. http://www.soldiersofthequeen.com/page13l-SirWilliamLockhart.html ).
Above: The 1895 India General Service Medal issued to No. 4890 Private Henry James Walker of the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment for service on India’s North West Frontier in 1897-98.
This example of the 1895 India General Service Medal was presented to No. 4890 Private Henry James Walker of the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and reflects his service on India’s North West Frontier in the closing years of the 19th Century.
Henry James Walker was born around 1877 at Kennington, Lambeth, Surrey to Henry Walker, a smith/hammerman, and Maria Sarah Maides. His first experience with military life came when he attested with the 3rd Battalion (militia) of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on 21 August 1895. He was 17 years, 9 months old at the time and a hammerman like his father. His stay with the 3rd Battalion was short since he attested with the regulars at the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regimental Depot on 3 October 1895.
He was posted to the 1st Battalion on 7 January 1896 and then transferred to the 2nd Battalion on 13 October 1897 as part of a replacement draft being sent out to India where the battalion had been posted since 1884. His time within his battalion was unremarkable. He was granted good conduct pay on 9 September 1900 and had the forfeited it on 23 June 1902 for unspecified reasons. It was restored to him one year later on 23 June 1903.
Above: The engraved rim of Walker’s medal. Most Victorian campaign medals were engraved or impressed with the recipient’s regimental number, rank, name, and unit. This tradition offers a wealth of research possibilities for the military researcher and genealogist.
He left India and returned home with the 1st Battalion in July 1903 and transferred to the reserves on 9 December 1903. His final discharge from the reserves was on February 10, 1907.
While on the frontier Walker along with the rest of the 1st Battalion was first posted at Malakand Pass in the face of a rebellion of so 20,000 Afridi tribesmen. The battalion then fortified a camp in the Nawagai Valley along with the 11th Bengal Lancers. A determined enemy assault was repulsed on 20 September.
The 1st Battalion was then transferred to the Tirah Field Force under the above mentioned General Sir William Lockhart and would serve as part of General William Penn-Symons 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Division. During the campaign, the 1st Battalion would suffer relatively light casualties with ten dead and thirty wounded.
Above: An artist’s impression of the Afridi attack on the camp in the Nawagai Valley on the night of 20 September 1897. After a painting by Frank Dadd.
For his service, Private Walker was entitled to the “Punjab Frontier 1897-98” and “Tirah 1897-98” clasps for his 1895 India General Service Medal. Both entitlements are confirmed in his service papers and the appropriate medal roll.
Above: Although no photographs of Private Henry James Walker have come to light, this cabinet photograph on an unidentified “other rank” of the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment gives an excellent impression of Walker’s appearance after his return from the frontier at the close of the 1897-98 campaigns.
I have not been able to find any definite references to Walker after his final discharge. He does not appear to have seen additional service during World War One. One genealogy consulted seems to indicate that Walker may have died sometime around December 1918.
1881 England Census, National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Class: RG11; Piece: 600; Folio: 141; Page: 48; GSU roll: 1341137.
1891 England Census, National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Class: RG12; Piece: 398; Folio 178; Page 32; GSU roll: 6095508.
Medal Roll, 1895 India General Service Medal, National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Class: WO 100; Piece: 86
Regimental and Service Papers, National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913, Box 6148, Box record number 27
Regimental and Service Papers, National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WO 96 – Militia Service Records 1806-1915, Box 30, Box record number 40