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 Army wives and children

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horsefixer



Posts : 37
Join date : 2010-07-25

Army wives and children Empty
PostSubject: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyThu Nov 18, 2010 8:27 pm


I found this recently. Can anyone tell me what the wives actually did whilst on active service (apart from the obvious). Where did they live? Surely they didnt traipse around from battle to battle?

Lord Chelmsford's General Orders in relation to soldiers' wives and children travelling in South Africa:

"The following scale for the conveyance of families on the married roll will be adhered to in this command:– In an ordinary buck wagon of the colony, 10 women and 10 children, or 8 women and 14 children; in a Commissariat Department mule wagon, from 4 to 5 families.

"The accommodation being appropriated at the rate of two running feet in the length of a wagon for one woman and one child, or for three children.

"The baggage of the families will be conveyed in the same wagon with the women and children, and no additional space will be allowed for it."
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7671
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 73
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 5:41 am

Interesting point.
Most certainly in the crimean war there were camp followers with the troops.
I cant recall any being involved in the AZW any closer to the action than the border road.

Regards
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horsefixer



Posts : 37
Join date : 2010-07-25

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 8:52 am

There were wives there. There is a reference by Pvt Owen Ellis, writing from Rorke's Drift, to picking up the wives in Durban on their way to Cape Town after the war, which he did not survive. I must assume that the wives remained in Durban, perhaps in barracks of some kind then.
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Frank Allewell

Frank Allewell

Posts : 7671
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 73
Location : Cape Town South Africa

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 9:33 am

As my earlier post, no closer than the border road. Possibly PMB or Greytown.
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90th

90th

Posts : 10194
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 64
Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: Army Wives and Children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 10:34 am

Hi all .
I'm with you Springbok . The main towns would be as close as they got to zululand . I've never seen any
references to the wives and children ever getting near the border let alone cross the River.
cheers 90th.
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horsefixer



Posts : 37
Join date : 2010-07-25

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 11:05 am

Thanks, guys. If you happen to come across any info about how/where they lived/ living conditions I'd be happy to have those.
Ta.
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90th

90th

Posts : 10194
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 64
Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: Army Wives and Children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 11:28 am

Hi Horsefixer.
Found this in Ian Knights ' Companion to the Zulu War ' ............

' Many Battalions who fought in Zululand had brought their wives to Southern africa , the 1 / 24th had left theirs at the Cape
when they were shipped to Natal to take part in the invasion. A number of the 3rd Regts wives including famously Col. Pearson's
had been left in Natal when the battalion crossed the border ' . Hope that has been of some help .
cheers 90th. Idea
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

Chelmsfordthescapegoat

Posts : 2581
Join date : 2009-04-24

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 4:42 pm

Not Zulu War But an Interesting anyway.

"The families of early Cameronians suffered much. For two centuries married men had to maintain their wives and children on their basic pay, for no allowances or quarters were provided until late on in the 19th century. The Army, except where it won victories, was held in scant esteem by the nation, and this attitude coupled with the quality of man recruited did not encourage strong marriage ties. Though heroic in battle, it would be idle to pretend that the early Cameronians were always upright and virtuous at other times. A 'wife' in every theatre was not unknown.

Where the soldier went, his family if humanly possible went too. Marriage into the army was considered socially degrading and hence to be left behind on a regimental move spelled destitution. Official, 'on the strength' wives were selected by ballot. Wives acquired abroad, if they were 'off the strength' of the Regiment, had to be abandoned before the troop ship sailed for home. As to moves abroad from Britain, one poor Scotswoman trudged all the way from Edinburgh to Folkestone to join her husband on posting abroad, only to draw a 'to be left' ticket: she died making her way from the quayside. Her husband rarely spoke afterwards, and was one of the first to fall in Spain. Proper concern for women and children today ensures that when they move abroad with soldiers they do so at public expense and with all the comforts and facilities of modern airlines.

Since there were no quarters, women lived where their husbands were billeted, in inns; commandeered houses and curtained-off portions of barrack rooms. In 1738 in Gibraltar some wooden hen hutches were to be burned, but strong protest was made because families were found to be living in them. Selected 'on the strength' women were called upon to cook, clean and wash for the soldiers they lived with. Their children grew up with them. During campaigns these women travelled with the baggage train or the columns, acting as sutlers and appointed as nurses: one can imagine the medical attention the wounded received. Living in such conditions and with disease and crime about them, they had to be very tough indeed. Like the men, they became adept at scrounging, foraging and even stealing, but were subject to regimental discipline. There is the pathetic tale of Margaret, wife of Peter Dove, who was tried by court-martial for creating a disturbance and slitting the throat of a soldier. She was sentenced in Gibraltar in 1738 to three hundred lashes, one hundred to be administered every other day by the Regimental Drummers, and then was driven out of the garrison. Again there is the moving account of the wife at the terrible retreat to Corunna who watched silently while her husband received two hundred lashes, and after tenderly drawing his shirt over his streaming back, shouldered his pack and firelock and trudged at his side as the column moved on."
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

Chelmsfordthescapegoat

Posts : 2581
Join date : 2009-04-24

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 4:45 pm


Wives' entitlements

"When serving overseas, regiments were entitled to take a quota of enlisted men's wives with them. The exact number varied but the numbers were pretty small and there was often a ballot to see whose wife would get to come with them "on the strength". These wives travelled with the regiment, drew army rations for themselves and their children and were quartered in barracks with their men a curtained off area per Garen's post above. Unless an officer's wife chose to offer an alternate venue, it was common for babies to be born in the barracks - this must have made life interesting for all within earshot!

Wives could also travel/live with the regiment unofficially i.e. at their own expense, and there are examples of the wives of both officers and enlisted men doing so. Officers accompanied by their wives were allocated more spacious quarters in a specific part of each camp or cantonment, away from the so-called single men's quarters. (Why so-called, you ask? In early Victorian India, many British officers and men who were officially classified as single actually lived with a wife or mistress of local ancestry, although such arrangements became less common and/or more discreet in the later Victorian era.)

Even being "on the strength" didn't get you full food rations or clothing, so many wives had to find a way earn money to support themselves and their children, for example, by taking on jobs with the regiment ranging from laundress through to regimental school mistress. And while officers' wives may not have relied on it to put food on their table or advertised the fact, quite a few women heading off to remote parts packed trade goods such as exotic plant seeds, textiles and so on, so that they would have something to barter with at local markets or to present to influential people such as other wives.

Widows' entitlements

If a woman from the UK were widowed while travelling on the strength, and sometimes even if she wasn't, her regiment would usually pay for her transport back to the UK along with any underage children. If their father had been a well regarded NCO or enlisted man, children might also be put on the boys' roll for the regiment, effectively guaranteeing them a job when they reached a suitable age (usually 14 or 15), or be placed in a school such as the Royal Hibernian Military School. Not all RHMS and similar students went into the military, by the way - many went into trade."

Regardless of whether she was on the strength and where she came from, a woman recognised as a man's wife was entitled to his back pay and proceeds from the sale of his personal effects, if any. That was it, however. No widow's pension was payable for most if not all of the Victorian era. I am not clear when things changed in the UK, but it wasn't until 1914 that Australia introduced a war widows' pension. Even then the husband had to be killed in active service and, until 1915, the widow had to be financially dependent on him.

In the absence of a pension, soldiers' dependents often ended up in workhouses or on the street. Admission to the workhouse was not automatic either. Destitute wives/families were normally only admitted to the workhouse in the parish where the husband/father had been born. This meant some families had to travel long distances from the regimental depot to the relevant parish, risking charges of vagrancy if they had not obtained a signed pass of safe conduct from the Commanding Officer of the regiment in question.

Taking all of the above into account, it is perhaps not surprising that many widows chose to remarry fairly quickly, usually but not always within their husband's regiment. Indeed, there are cases of women marrying a number of times within the one regiment.

Source: Victorian Wars Forum

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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

Chelmsfordthescapegoat

Posts : 2581
Join date : 2009-04-24

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 5:03 pm

Didn't Col: Durnford have his wife with him in South Africa.. Rolling Eyes
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littlehand

littlehand

Posts : 7083
Join date : 2009-04-24
Age : 52
Location : Down South.

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PostSubject: Re: Army wives and children   Army wives and children EmptyFri Nov 19, 2010 9:09 pm

Extract from diary of Lieutenant T R Main RE, arrived in South Africa January 1878

"Capt Jones and I landed, and lunched with Major and Mrs Nixon, and afterwards went out by train to Wynberg to pay our respects to Lady Frere, the Governor's wife. She was having a garden party, so we saw something of Cape Society. We found the country most beautiful two miles out from Cape Town. Such beautiful green foliage, and the Table Mountain grand.'

Sunday, 29th - I went to see the women and children of the Company in the quarters at the Castle. They have one very large Barrack room for the six women and five children, and seem pretty satisfied.' (The British Army allowed six soldiers' wives 'on the strength' of each company).'I went with the Nixons to the Military Chapel, and was indeed glad to join in the dear old service again. I had intended going to Holy Communion at the Cathedral at 8am, but was prevented by duty on board, and there was not any at the midday service."


Captain Warren Wynne's letter to Mrs Wynne, December 1878.

Source: R.E. Museum.

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