Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Henry Gill

Henry Gill :

Henry Gill : India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'

India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'

Henry was born between July and September 1869 in Newport on the Isle of Wight. He was named after his father and his mother was called Jane. He had an older sister called Mary Jane and 5 younger siblings: Alice, Rose, Ellen, James and Catherine. The family were Roman Catholics.

In 1871 Henry and his family lived in the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley, near Southampton. Henry senior worked there as a Private in the Army Hospital Corps. Ten years later he had left the Army and moved with his family to 31 Rolleston Street in Manchester. He now worked as a labourer at an iron works.

By 1887 Henry had also found work as a labourer, but he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the Manchester Regiment on the 7th October. When he enlisted Henry was 4 feet 4 3/4 inches tall and weighed 116 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair.

Henry was given the service number 2033 and travelled to the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne to begin his training.

On the 4th January 1888 Henry was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, based in Aldershot, Hampshire. He obtained his Third Class Army Certificate of Education on the 27th March. After 18 months in the UK Henry was transferred to the 2nd Battalion on the 20th September 1889. He travelled to India to join them in Agra, in the north of the country.

Henry began to receive an extra 1 penny (1d) per day Good Conduct Pay on the 7th October. By March 1890 he had moved to Sealkote, now Sialkot in Pakistan, with the 2nd Battalion.

The next year Henry went to war. The 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was one of the units ordered to put down a rebellion in the Miranzai Valley on the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. Henry was one of the 300 Manchester Regiment soldiers who took part in this campaign, called the Miranzai Expedition. It lasted from the 3rd to the 25th May 1891. Samana is the name of the mountain range that rises out of the Miranzai Valley. The British fought hard to capture it.

Henry spent the rest of his service in India. We don't know much about what he did, although we know he was able to avoid trouble, because his Good Conduct Pay was increased to 2d per day on the 7th October 1893.

The 2nd Battalion was stationed in several different areas of India during the rest of Henry's service; at Meerut near Delhi, at Chakrata on the edge of the Himalaya Mountains, and finally further east at Dinapore from November 1893.

Henry had enlisted in the Army for 7 years to be followed by 5 years in the Army Reserve. His service ended on the 24th November 1895 so he was returned to the UK and became a Reservist. He had spent an extra year in India so would only have to serve 4 years in the Reserve.

Being a Reservist meant that Henry could find a home and a civilian job, but could be called back into the Army in an emergency. We don't know where he lived or what work he did. No such emergency arose and he was discharged on the 6th October 1899.

Just 5 days later the Boer War broke out in South Africa. The Army suffered some serious defeats in the early months of the war, and began to send as many soldiers as it could to the country.

Henry chose to re-enlist in the Army. As a former Reservist he could join the Class D Reserve for 4 years, and stood a good chance of being sent to join a unit in South Africa. He did just this on the 9th January 1900. Henry was now living at 4 Robinson Street, off Woodward Street in Manchester.

After just 2 months Henry was sent to South Africa with his old unit, the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. They arrived in the country during April 1900 and fought there for the rest of the war. Henry and the 2nd Battalion were present at the fighting around Wittebergen in July, and then spent most of the rest of the war taking part in long patrols intended to find and pin down the Boers, who fought in small groups as guerrillas.

This was difficult, tiring work, but there were few large battles. They also served as guards in blockhouses and fence lines that restricted the Boer's movements. This strategy eventually proved successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902.

Henry was sent back to the UK on the 25th June and served in the Reserve until he was discharged on the 8th January 1904.

In 1911 Henry worked as a striker in an iron works. When the 1911 Census was taken in April he was a patient in Clayton Vale Hospital, Manchester. For this reason we don't know where he lived or the names of any of his family. He had married in around 1898, and he and his wife had had 7 children, although 3 had died.

The rest of Henry's life remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in around 1960.

As well as his India General Service Medal, Henry was also awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with the clasps: 'Wittebergen', 'Cape Colony' and 'Transvaal' and the King's South Africa Medal with the clasps: 'South Africa 1901' and 'South Africa 1902'.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council