The 109th Regiment of Foot was the last of the Regiments of the old "East India Company", and following the proclamation that announced Queen Victoria as the Empress of India, on the 31st May 1877, the 109th Regiment received orders that it was to move to the United Kingdom as a Queen's Regiment. The Regiment moved to Jubbulpore, and there met with the 100 Prince of Wales's Royal Canadian Regiment, which had also just arrived. The 109th continued on down to Bombay and with a strength of :-
2 field officers,
4 subalterns and 2 staff,
409 NCOs, rank and file,
21 women and 43 children
under the command of Colonel Brown, and embarked on board HM troop ship "Crocodile" on the 21st and 22nd of November 1877.
The "Crocodile" arrived at Portsmouth on the 26th of December, and 2 other companies of the 109 under the command of Major Lucas arrived on board "Malabar" on the 7th of January 1878 increasing the Regiments size by a further one field officer, 2 captains, 2 subalterns and one staff, with 117 other ranks, 15 women and 29 children.
Having arrived in the United Kingdom the Regiment moved to Gosport occupying 3 of the 4 Forts there, and shortly afterwards a change was made in the infantry head-dress of the army. The new head-dress was based upon a modified German head-dress, provided a helmet with spike and chain, which continued from there on as the full dress head-dress of the Regiment.
In April 1878, 306 men who from the Kings County, Queens County and the Royal Meath Militias joined for duty. They remained with the unit until the end of July whereupon they returned to Ireland. The Regiment moved from Gosport back to Portsmouth at the end of August 1878 into Cambridge Barracks. Some time later in March 1879 the two depot companies of 100th and 109th Regiment's embarked in HMS "Assistance" for Ireland. The destination of these companies was Birr, where they formed the 67th Brigade Depot under the command of Major Lucas.
It is worthwhile to record the pay or salary of the soldier in 1879. The gross pay was one shilling per day with an additional Penny after two years service, two pence after six years, three pence after 12 years and four pence after 16 years, provided of course that the soldier had a "clean record". There were in 1879 twelve pennies in one shilling and twenty shillings in one pound, so there were 240 pennies in one pound. A penny in 1879 was written as 1d, two-pence was 2d, three-pence was 3d and so on. Compare that with 21st century Sterling currency and you can easily calculate that the gross pay of one shilling is equal to 5 Pence or 5p.
Soldiers who committed to 21 years service also received what was called the re-engagement Penny, on completion of 12 years service. However in any Regiment the gross pay of the majority of the men was only one shilling (5p) per day. Out of this there were many compulsory stoppages and a soldier eventually received in cash an average of about seven pence (3p) per day. There were 5 pay days in the month, 4 weekly, and one "settling up" day, so that the complex pay system rewarded the soldier with approximately 15 or 16 shillings of pay per month (75p ~ 80p per month). Out of this they were compulsory stoppages of eight shillings nine pence (~44p) messing (meals and accommodation); one shilling three pence washing (3p); two pence library (1p); one pence for haircuts plus any other payments or dues to the army stores to replace kit, such as socks, knife, razor etc., that needed to be purchased. So if you compare that with 21st century sterling that comes to approximately 27p excluding inflation!
Being "kitted out" was equally as complex for at the time of joining the army, in addition to the military necessities, a soldier was issued with
two pairs of boots
one pair of leggings
one pair of cloth trousers
one pair of serge trousers
one kersey frock
a Glengarry cap
and on being completing his recruit's drill he was given
a full dress tunic
a full dress helmet.
Thereafter for each April 1st and October 1st he received a pair of boots, and annually on the first of April a pair of cloth trousers; then in addition on every alternate 1st April he received a full dress tunic and a pair of serge trousers.
Each infantry man was issued with a 45 Martini-Henry rifle and long bayonet; sergeants carried a longer sword-bayonet, a very substantial weapon which was never fixed on ordinary parades. All staff sergeants carried a leather and brass mounted slung sword; drummers and bandsmen carried a heavy dagger-like straight sword with a heavy brass hilt; pioneers in addition to carrying saws, axes and other articles of various trades, carried a special sword with a saw-like back.
The Regiment recruited well both in Ireland and England, but was still well below establishment and in addition had lost men in response to a call for volunteers for the Zulu War when over 100 men offered their services. Of these about half went to the 58th Regiment and twenty to the 24th Regiment.