Joseph Rowe: Service in Gibraltar and India by Ellen Maki, Ph.D.

Joseph James Rowe was one of my great-grandfather’s younger brothers. He was born and baptised in Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, England, in 1863. By the time he was 18 years old, he was working as an agricultural labourer, still living at home with his family in Baconsthorpe.

Everything else that I know about Joseph comes from his military service records. He joined the Norfolk Regiment at Great Yarmouth on 10 April 1883, when he was about 20 years old, although his age was recorded on his service record at the time as 18 and a half years.

Norfolk Map

I don’t have any photographs of Joseph, but his records help paint a picture of his physical appearance. He was 5 feet, 3 and 3/4 inches tall and weighed 133 pounds. A fairly short fellow, then. His eyes and hair were brown, and his complexion was said to be dark. Perhaps the latter was due in part to labouring outdoors in the sun. The army doctor who examined Joseph noted that he had a distinctive large, dark mole on the right side of his breast bone.

Army life seems to have suited Joseph. During his first three years with the service, he was stationed in England. Within 7 months of his attestation, Joseph had obtained a 3rd class education certificate. Four months after that, on 21 March 1884, he was appointed Lance Corporal. A transfer to the Sussex Regiment followed soon after, as did a 2nd class education certificate and promotion to Corporal.

Gibraltar MapJoseph first saw foreign service in Gibraltar, a British colony on a peninsula at the south of Spain. In the late 19th century, it was an important service and supply way point for ships travelling to India via the Suez Canal. Joseph’s first stint in Gibraltar was for just over 6 months, from Dec 1885 to July 1886.

The next posting was back in England for about a year and a half. During this time Joseph was first appointed Lance Sergeant, and then promoted to full Sergeant on 1 August 1887.

At the time of his attestation, Joseph had signed on for 7 years of army service and 5 years reserve service, for a total of 12 years. However, toward the end of 1887, just 4 years into his service, he applied, and was permitted, to extend his active service with the army to cover the full 12 years. Taken together with his two promotions, first to Corporal and then to Sergeant, it seems certain Joseph was doing well in the army. He had new responsibilities as well, this time on the home front. Just after extending his service period, Joseph married Martha Mary Balding at Twickenham, a small town that now makes up part of Greater London.

Within a week of having been put on the married establishment, Joseph was off to Gibraltar again, this time taking his new bride with him. This posting was for just over a year, and during this time the couple welcomed their first child.

Joseph’s next posting was to another important British colony: India. Although his service records do not specify where in India Joseph was stationed, his children’s birthplaces provide a map to his movements. One child was born in Rangoon, in what in now Myanmar, in 1893. Two years later another was born, this time in Dagshai, in the north of India, and in 1897 the family’s fifth child was born in Allahabad, also in the north.

India Map 1893

In 1894, after Joseph had been serving for 11 years, he once again extended his period of service. This time he re-engaged to complete 21 years with the army. In 1903, he received permission to further extend his service, and to continue beyond 21 years. Finally, on 30 September 1905, Joseph, then about 42 years old, was discharged from the army, having served 22 years. He must have been very happy with his life in India, because he sought, and was granted, permission to reside in India after his discharge.

If Joseph was happy with his time in the army, then the army was equally pleased with Joseph. At discharge, Joseph’s conduct and character were noted as having been exemplary. His discharge papers note, in a section meant to capture special qualifications for employment in civil life, that he was capable of filling any position of trust, had good mechanical knowledge, and understood the care of horses.

There is no mention of where in India Joseph resided after his discharge. However, in 1914, one of his daughters married in Quetta, which today is in Pakistan near its western border with Afghanistan. That is also where, in 1923, Joseph died at the relatively young age of 60 from a cerebral hemorrhage. His burial service was held at the Wesleyan Church in Quetta on 25 January 1923.

Sources:

  1. General Register Office of England and Wales. Index of Births. Erpingham R.D., Norfolk. 2nd quarter, 1863. Rowe, Joseph James. Vol. 4b. p. 67. Collection: England & Wales births 1837-2006. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  2. Church of England Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office, Norwich, Norfolk, England. Baptisms. Baconsthorpe. 25 June 1863. Rowe, Joseph James. Collection: Norfolk, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1915. http://home.ancestry.ca/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  3. The National Archives. London, England. 1881 Census of England and Wales. Baconsthorpe, Norfolk. RG 11 / 1924 / 27. Page 1. ED 3. SN 3.  http://home.ancestry.ca/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  4. War Office (Great Britain). Army Service Records: Discharge. 1905. Rowe, Joseph James. Royal Sussex Regiment. No. 8006. Collection: British Army Service Records. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  5. General Register Office of England and Wales. Index of Marriages. Brentford R.D., Middlesex. 4th quarter, 1887. Rowe, Joseph James and Balding, Martha Mary. Vol. 3a. p. 193. Collection: England & Wales births 1837-2006. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  6. General Register Office of England and Wales. Index of Army Returns of Births, 1886-1890. Gibraltar. 1888. Rowe, Joseph John. p. 44. Collection: British Nationals Armed Forces Births 1761-2005. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  7. General Register Office of England and Wales. Index of Army Returns of Births, 1891-1895. Rangoon. 1893. Rowe, Minnie Maria. p. 226. Collection: British Nationals Armed Forces Births 1761-2005. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  8. General Register Office of England and Wales. Index of Army Returns of Births, 1891-1895. Dagshai. 1895. Rowe, Aileen Mary. p. 238. Collection: British Nationals Armed Forces Births 1761-2005. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  9. General Register Office of England and Wales. Index of Army Returns of Births, 1896-1900. Allahabad. 1897. Rowe, Kathleen Emily. p. 202s. Collection: British Nationals Armed Forces Births 1761-2005. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  10. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Marriages Index. India. Quetta, Bengal. 3 October 1914. Wood, Douglas and Rowe, Aileen Mary. Collection: India Marriages, 1792-1948. https://familysearch.org/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
  11. British India Office. Parish Register Deaths and Burials. India. Quetta, Bengal. 25 January 1923. Rowe, Joseph James. Collection: British India Office Deaths & Burials. http://www.findmypast.com/ : accessed 29 July 2016.
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