I got an excited call from my distant relative, Kevin the other night. Thanks to an Ancestry hint regarding an attached war record on my tree he had put “two and two together”.
The hint referred to my 2nd great grandfather William Strelley’s 90th Foot Regiment Crimean war records. (William Strelley b 1824-1898 was the subject of a blog back in November "Everybody is Called William" )
William signed up to the Militia to 90th Regiment Light Infantry on 2 August 1845. He was there when the 90th Regiment went to join the military conflict on the Crimean Peninsula being fought between 1853 and 1856 when it sailed to Balaklava in December 1854 and saw action in Sevastopol in the winter of 1854. The Regiment return to England in 1856 but then headed for India in February 1857 to help suppress the Indian rebellion. His record shows he was wounded on 17 November 1857 at the Relief of Lucknow.
Finally on 26th May 1868 after receiving his fifth Good Conduct Award Private William Strelley left the military. According to the UK Royal Hospital Chelsea pensioner service soldiers records he had served abroad in Crimea for 1 year 8 months and in India for over 10 years for a total service of 23 years 267 days. He holds five good conduct badges. He has been awarded the Crimea Medal, Clasp for Sebastopol, Turkish Medal, some Indian clasps and a long service medal. Private Strelley was discharged of his own accord in May 1868 aged 40 years 8 months.
|Front and back of the three medals|
We had discussed these Crimean war medals back in 2014. Although not directly related to my William the medals had been inherited by Kevin's father from the Strelley/ Harris side of the family. (It’s a long story).
The background is that Kevin comes from a large Western Australian branch of the Strelley/Harris family. The last man standing in this pioneering family was William Edward Strelley Harris (1818 to 1901) who was married briefly to Kevin's great grandmother Emily who later remarried and had another family (Kevin's line).
The reality is that Australian Harrises had been rather isolated from the Strelleys in Derbyshire England and Edinburgh Scotland. It is known that William Edward Strelley Harris had returned to Derby in England to finalise some outstanding Strelley money matters in the early 1890s returning in 1897 with his new young wife. Had he somehow acquired them on that trip?
Back in 2014 we investigated the possibility that these metals had belonged to William’s father, himself, his brothers, his brother-in-law or even just a friend or worker from Western Australia. Timelines and other historical data precluded most theories. Unlike modern World War I medals there is no name engraved on any of them and there is no documentation or even hear say about their ownership.
Kevin has taken a lot of trouble with medals and has had them mounted into a presentation frame. The blank space in the presentation frame shows that these are medals from an unknown person who fought in the Crimean war and India. Based on the records shown below there won’t many of them. There were a lot of casualties. Of course we’d love the back story and providence and it would be all too easy to try and make my William Strelley story fit like a glove by making two and two equal four. Given the number who died in the various Crimean and Indian battles the cards are really pointing in the direction of Strelley.
|Crimean Medal Roll|
|Indian Medal roll|
It’s the most unlikely story but some things make it viable. This Scottish lad had visited the home town of Derby with his parents in 1830s. He was therefore likely to have understood the story of the Strelley background and money. By the time of his death William, the Army pensioner was dirt poor. He may have needed the money from the sale of the medals and Derby was a likely place to seek out a buyer. Secondly, he did serve the same places during his 23 year career. Three, his return from the war was just after his father had died. He may have visited the old family home in Derbyshire even though it was his stated intention to live in Glasgow.
A few things don’t tie in. There is no mention of Derby in his discharge papers or even Edinburgh where he had grown up. Secondly he had two sons to inherit (eventually). Thirdly the fact that he signed his discharge papers with an “x” shows that he is illiterate and therefore probably didn’t maintain a letter writing relationship with his mother, father or sisters during his time in the military and is much less likely to have written to the Derbyshire lot or the Australian cousins.I got my thrill that cold Sunday afternoon when Kevin called to tell me of his discovery. It’s great to see collection of metals that my great great grandfather may have so proudly worn or displayed. The Crimean War medals were instituted in 1854 for award to the British who took part in the campaign against the Russians on the Crimean Peninsula. By Thursday we’ve accessed the Records of the 90th Regiment, (Perthshire LightInfantry) by Delavoye, Alexander Marin, 1845-1917 . These records tell of the day William was injured during the Regiment's participation in the Siege of Lucknow within the city of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellian of 1857. The Indian Medal was awarded for this defence of the City.
I feel that the jury is still out but Kevin, the optimist says “ There are a few unaccounted discrepancies with the medals and information we now know about WS. The 90th served in only one Crimean War battle -Sebastopol. The medal I have has bars (clasps) for Balaklava and Alma as well. Also there are no clasps for the Indian Service Medal whereas his Discharge Papers indicated he got two. I still think the medals are certainly his, but I can’t explain the differences.”
|90th regiment on Parade 1866|