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. I  know that one of my Shortland ancestors, Richard, served in the 51st regiment, traveling to Australia with them around 1841. The photo isn’t clear enough to make out any badges but the uniform has an interesting design on the sleeves, so I hope in time to learn more about the men pictured.

Unknown soldiers

In papers given to me by my great aunt Dorothy, I learned that a Richard Shortland traveled 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.

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.

Further research into the 51st regiment has uncovered the following information.

The State Library and Archive Service advised:

‘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 Javato India via West Australia.’

‘Please be aware that Regiments took their records with them when they traveled. To find more specific information out about Richard Shortland contact the National Archives in England: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ Our office also has copies of pay lists and some British regiment muster rolls (as part of the War Office records in the Australian Joint Copying Project) Unfortunately, searching through this series is extremely time consuming and owing to the limited resources of this office I regret I am unable to conduct an extended search on your behalf. A Tasmanian Private Researcher, however, may be able to assist you and a list of researchers has been attached for your reference.’

‘There are also many references to the 51st Regiment’s time in VDL in the National Library of Australia’s TROVE website (digitised newspaper section).’

National Archives advised:

‘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.’

A response to a question about army uniforms advised:

‘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:

‘The ‘uniforms in the photograph certainly appear to be the Colonial Service pattern worn in Australia’. They also advised 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.

 

Richard Shortland and Eliza Shortland (nee Butts)

I learned about Richard and Eliza after reading through papers given to me by my great aunt Dorothy. Richard it seemed was born in Northamptonshire around 1824 and Dorothy had noted that he had traveled to Australia with the 51st regiment of the British army around 1841, living there until he died in Sydney in 1887.  Further information about the regiment can be found below.

I wanted to learn about Richard and Eliza as it seemed learning about them, may lead me to learn more about the story I have been told, that my family is descended from Lieutenant John Shortland. I have now amassed quite a bit of information which is published here, however, to date, I have only found contrary reports about Richard’s relationship to Lieutenant John.

Dorothy’s papers seem to indicate that Richard was the brother of my great great great grandfather John Shortland, along with three other brothers, named Thomas, William and Henry.  The papers included a birth certificate from 1858 for Richard’s son Joseph (on this Richard is shown to be a Dray Proprietor) and a note, handwritten by Dorothy, which detailed a memorial, showing that Richard died aged 64 in 1887 leaving a wife and 12 children:

  • William Henry
    (born Armidale, New South Wales 1849, married in Camden 17/9/1872 at St. Johns Church, occupation  – Writing Clerk
  • Mary A. (1850)
  • Richard (1852)
  • John (1854)
  • Eliza (1855)
  • Joseph B (1858)
  • George T (1860)
  • Robert A. (1862)
  • Alice (1864)
  • Arthur (1867)
  • Emily (1869)
  • Martha L. (1873)

I believe that prior to marrying Eliza, Richard was married to Anne. A search of the Find My Past website has found that Richard Shortland married Anne Keenan on 2 September 1844 in Sydney, Australia.

Searching for further information, I found the hand written note matched an entry on the Ancestry UK website and this enabled me to locate both the death index, (which names Richard’s parents as Richard and Mary) and details of the grave in Rookwood Cemetery, New South Wales.

Grant Skinner at the cemetery kindly sent me the photos that appear here – these not only showed the grave that Dorothy wrote about but also that other family members were buried in the same place.

Grant advised ‘The rear of the memorial (photo 0348) is all blank with the three x other faces having multiple inscriptions and the plots appear to be over four or five sites wide. It appears that a wrought iron fence of some description has been removed from the kerb set of the memorial some time ago based on the patches in the sandstone, but the memorial itself is in rather good condition given its age with a bit of the kerb set sunk into a slight depression towards the front of the site, but nothing of any great concern’. Death notices for Richard can be found below.

Grave of Richard and Eliza Shortland

However, on studying the photos, I noted that another Richard is recorded. The younger Richard died 24 April 1933 aged 80 years.

I searched the National Library of Australia website and have I believe found newspaper articles relating to the latter and his wife. The articles about Richard state he was a descendant of Lieutenant Shortland and a grand or great grand nephew of Rear-Admiral Shortland, of the Imperial Navy.  The articles also provide detail of the work he did, stating ‘He was principal of the firm of Shortland and Sons who, in the early days of Sydney, were contract carriers for most of the city firms; he retired from business at the outbreak of war in 1914.’

Richard

Martha

However, I am also in possession of a document, re-produced below,  which states the  relationship to Lieutenant John has been proved to be untrue and that Eliza invented the story.  Could Eliza have made the story up? I am keeping an open mind but for my money, in light of the newspaper articles, I would like to know how the story has been disproved before reaching my conclusion.

The Wheelers of Camden (page one)

The Wheelers of Camden (page two)

More photos