Unknown soldiers

The photo on this page was given to me by my relative Keith Shortland and as such, I am presuming, for now at least, that one of the men shown is a Shortland ancestor.

Unknown soldiers

The photo isn’t clear enough to make out any badges but the uniform has an interesting design on the sleeves and I  know that one of my Shortland ancestors served in the 51st regiment, travelling to Australia with them around 1841.

In papers given to me by my great aunt Dorothy, I learned that a Richard Shortland travelled to Australia with the 51st regiment of the British army (I believe the regiment was later re-named the King’s Own Yorks Light Infantry) around 1841, living there until he died in Sydney in 1887,  so I decided to send some speculative emails to military organisations to see if that was the regiment shown in the photo.

I believe I have located Richard on the British Army, Worldwide Index 1841 which shows he was serving in the State of Tasmania and includes his service number (1456) and rank and regiment (51st foot) and a National Archives reference number (WO 12/6203)  which National Archives advised refers to the muster roll or pay list for the 1st battalion of the 51st regiment in 1841 – 1842, one of a series of muster rolls for the battalion.

National Archives also advised that ‘the main source of information for soliders in the British Army during the 19th century is the pension records in WO 97.  These have been indexed by name, both on our catalogue, and on Find My Past, so as the name you’re looking for does not turn up, you can assume that he left the army without becoming eligible for a pension.’

A query sent to the State Library of South Australia resulted in a search of the Tasmanian Archives and name index online but did not provide any relevant information. The library subsequently looked to New South Wales as that is where he lived and died and advised ‘‘State Records (of New South Wales) holds very few records relating to the early regiments stationed in the colony because, as they were British troops, the records remained with the Imperial Government. Hence, surviving records relating to those regiments are held by the Public Record Office, London. However, most State Libraries in Australia hold microform copies of the Muster Books and Pay Lists, which were copied as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.’

One advised that the uniforms are British and are worn by men of a Rifle Volunteer regiment. This regiment were part time soldiers, like the  modern day Territorial Army. The uniforms I was advised were light grey and have coloured collars and cuffs, either red, blue or green, depending on which regiment they were in. The Rifle Volunteers would assemble regularly for drill and training and spend a few weeks in camp in the summer for proper tactical training.

Army Museums advised that the ‘uniforms in the photograph certainly appear to be the Colonial Service pattern worn in Australia’ and that they had located 1456 Private Richard Shortland on the nominal roll of personnel from 51st Regiment of Foot stationed in Van Diemens Land, Tasmania in 1841.

In addition, they advised that the 51st Regiment of Foot, later re-titled the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) served in Australia from 1838 until 1846 when they moved to India. Their principle tasks I was told were typical garrison tasks – guarding convict settlements, hunting down bushrangers, suppressing armed resistance by Indigenous Australians, providing security on the goldfields, assisting local police to maintain public order, undertaking ceremonial duties and developing the nation’s military defenses.

The State Library and Archive Service in Australia advised as follows:

According to a Correspondence File on the 51st Regiment (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) the 51st Regiment ‘was put under orders for Australia in 1837, to relieve the 21st Regiment in Van Diemen’s Land. They came out, according to custom, as guards on convict transports. Detachments arrived direct from England, via New South Wales between February 1838 and 1843. The regiment served in the colony under Lieutenant Colonel Elliott.

The Returns of 1839 give the strength as 29 officers and 629 men. A detachment was stationed at Port Arthur in July of 1838; another was detailed for South Australia and left Hobart on 5 October 1841 per the ship Endora.

The Regiment was put under orders for India, and part of the regiment left Sydney on 17 April 1841 per the ship Virtue but it was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. All were rescued with the exception of one woman.

The Head Quarters staff together with four Companies under Lt Colonel Elliott, left Hobart on 8 August 1846 per the ships Agincourt and China. Three companies remained to reinforce the 96th Regiment and Lieut Colonel St Maur, until 27 January 1847 when they sailed per the ship Java to India via West Australia.


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