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 ).

Henry Walker 1895 IGSM

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.

Henry Walker 1895 IGSM Rim

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.

Attack-on-Nawagai-Camp-on-20th-Sept1897

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.

Private the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment

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.

 

Sources:

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

http://www.soldiersofthequeen.com/page13l-SirWilliamLockhart.html

http://www.soldiersofthequeen.com/IndiaPrivateTheQueensRoyalWestSurreyRegiment.html

 

 

 

To the Moon on a Spoon

Very little documentation can be found regarding the origins of this curious memento from the early days of science fiction. This is what I have uncovered.

It is a small sterling silver collector’s spoon that commemorates Jules Verne’s 1865 novel De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon) in which a group of stalwart adventurers travel to the Moon after being launched into space by a monstrous buried cannon.

Jules Verne Spoon Horz

Verne’s choice of launch site – Tampa, Florida – has always piqued people’s interest because of its relative proximity to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center from which the first actual manned moon mission was launched just over a century later. I suppose they did not call Jules Verne a visionary for nothing.

The spoon itself is rather diminutive measuring only about 3 7/8 inches (10cm) long with the bowl being about 7/8 of an inch (2.1cm) wide. Made as previously stated of sterling silver, it bears the patent date of 1891 on the handles reverse side and a tiny hallmark that appears to be a striding griffin with its front paw on a round cartouche with a “W” inside. This hallmark belongs to the silver smithing firm Whiting Company of New York (which was later absorbed by the Gorham Company).

Jules Verne Spoon Vert

The front side of the spoon bears the real interesting stuff. The bowl depicts the violent muzzle blast for the buried cannon and also has “JULES VERNE” spelled out is relief. Curiously, though not all that surprising are the tiny, actually minute figures of people scurrying away from the canon’s erupting muzzle. These figures are so small as to be almost invisible except under magnification.

Jules Verne Spoon Bowl

The shaft of the spoon’s handle bears the inscription “LUNA VIA TAMPA •FLA•”. The upper portion of the handle shows the projectile/capsule hurtling towards the Moon which is appropriately adorned with a man-in-the-moon face.

Jules Verne Spoon Handle

Interestingly this spoon also appears to have been used as basis for other silver firm’s creative efforts as evidenced by the candy or nut spoon shown below.

Jules Verne Leonardi Spoon

Issued by S. B. Leonardi & Company sometime after the 1891 patent date, the original Whiting spoon’s bowl was removed by Leonardi and replaced with the larger pierced bowl characteristic of a nut or candy spoon. It still bears the original Whiting cartouche and patent date but is also counter stamped by the Leonardi firm.

The fully restored version of Georges Méliès 1902 film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) which was much inspired by Verne’s novel. The film is presented here in its original frame by frame hand applied color and a new musical soundtrack.