Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Frederick Lawrence Neal

Frederick Lawrence Neal :

Frederick Lawrence Neal : India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'

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

Frederick was born in around 1870. We believe he was born in County Kildare, Ireland. His father was called James and he was a Roman Catholic, but we don't know anything else about his early life or family.

Frederick was working as a clerk in the Manchester area when he joined the Army on the 9th May 1888. At the time his father lived at 224 Sutton Street in Salford. When he enlisted as a Regular soldier Frederick was already a member of the 3rd Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment, part of the Militia, meaning he had trained as a soldier for a short period. He chose to serve in the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 2188.

When he enlisted Frederick was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 116 pounds. He had a 'sallow' complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. He trained at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, until the 6th July, when he was posted to the 1st Battalion in Tipperary, Ireland.

Frederick left the UK on the 19th September 1890. He had been posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, and so sailed to join them in Sealkote in India, now called Sialkot in Pakistan.

After 8 months Frederick 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. Frederick 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.

On his return to Sialkot Frederick began to receive an extra 1 penny (1d) per day Good Conduct Pay. He forfeited it on the 18th October, but earned it back 2 years later. It was increased to 2d per day on the 9th May 1894.

By this time Frederick and the 2nd Battalion were stationed in Dinapore, now Danapur in eastern India. He was based there until he returned to the UK on the 18th March 1895.

Frederick had enlisted for 7 years as a Regular soldier, to be followed by 5 in the Army Reserve. His Regular service was over, so he was transferred to the Reserve on the 9th May 1895.

As a reservist Frederick could find a home and a job, but he could be called back to the Army in an emergency. He also had to attend short periods of refresher training every year. We don't know where Frederick lived or what he did as a civilian.

In mid 1898 Frederick applied to rejoin the Army. On the 1st July he was asked to confirm whether he was certain he wished to reenlist. Frederick replied saying that he had enquired because he was 'in a rather serious position at my work but being all right now I withdraw my application'.

Frederick was absent for his refresher training in January 1900, so he was struck off. He seems to have been absent because he had enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) in York. He had given this Militia unit a false name: Frank Howard. This was a crime, and we don't know why Frederick did it. His service number was 4356.

The Boer War broke out in South Africa in October 1899. The British suffered some stunning defeats in the early months of the war and began to send as many soldiers as they could to the country. As part of this, they called up several units of the Militia, including the 4th Battalion. They arrived in Aldershot, Hampshire, in late 1899 or early January 1900.

After he arrived in Aldershot Frederick decided to confess his real name. An officer of the 4th Battalion wrote to the Manchester Regiment about him on the 26th January, so we know that Frederick had confessed before then. He was tried by court martial for fraudulent enlistment and sentenced to 28 days imprisonment. This sentence was later annulled by the Judge Advocate; the Army's lawyer, who judged that Frederick should have been accused of making a 'false answer on attestation'. After this the record of his conviction was expunged.

Frederick was sent to South Africa soon after this. He served with the 4th Battalion throughout the war, although we don't know much about what he did. Militia units were often used to guard blockhouses and fences that restricted the movements of Boer forces. In July 1901 the battalion was based in or around Worcester, in Cape Colony (the modern Western Cape Province).

The Boer War ended on the 31st May 1902, and Militia units were returned to the UK fairly quickly. We don't know when Frederick was discharged from the 4th Battalion.

Frederick's life is a mystery between then and 1906. In November of that year he enlisted in Number 1 Railway Company of the Royal Anglesey Royal Engineers (Militia). This was based in Beaumaris on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. Again Frederick gave a false name, this time it was David Noyes. His civilian job was a platelayer, responsible for building and maintaining railways.

Frederick was present for the 1907 and 1908 annual training. After this the Militia was disbanded and replaced by the Special Reserve. Frederick continued to serve in the Royal Anglesey Royal Engineers, with the service number 5544. The Railway Company had become Number 3 Company by 1914.

During 1911 Frederick passed a course of instruction at the Army's Woolmer Instructional Military Railway in Longmoor, Hampshire. He was given a 'fair' grade. He also attended every annual training period until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

Frederick was mobilised, or called into service, on the 7th August. We believe he was sent to France on the 10th November with the rest of the Railway Company. Their job was to build and maintain railway tracks in the British rear areas, connecting ports, supply depots, training camps and hospitals. Frederick only served overseas for 3 months and returned to the UK on the 6th February 1915. He was discharged on the 18th June. We don't know why.

Frederick rejoined the Army on the 20th January 1916. He became a member of the Border Regiment, with service number 23648. He never served overseas. At some point during the second half of 1916 Frederick was transferred back to a railway unit of the Royal Engineers, and given the service number 171330.

He fell ill during his service, and did not recover, so on the 22nd January 1918 Frederick was discharged as 'no longer physically fit for war service'. He was awarded a Silver War Badge, serial number 306570, to show that his discharge was honourable.

Most of the rest of Frederick's life is a mystery. By the mid 1920s he had moved to Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. In 1926 he lived at 36 Holker Street. In this year he applied to the Army for another copy of his discharge paper from his time in the Manchester Regiment. The original had been 'taken out of my pocket whilst I was washing in the Salvation Army Home, St Peter's Street in London' before the First World War.

It would appear that Frederick never received a copy, because in January 1932 the Secretary of the Comrade's Association, The West Yorkshire Regiment wrote to the Army asking them to send a copy.

He must have been unsuccessful then too, because Frederick wrote again in May 1935. By this time he lived at 31 Wordsworth Street in Barrow. It seems that this time a copy was sent to Frederick.

We believe Frederick died in Manchester between October and December 1960. He was 89 years old. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in around 1960.

As well as his India General Service Medal, Frederick was also awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasp 'Cape Colony', the King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901' and 'South Africa 1902', the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. We don't know whether he also received the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star.

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