Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

William Norris

William Norris :

William Norris : Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal

We don't know anything about William's family or early life.

William enlisted in the 96th Regiment of Foot on the 11th October 1825. At the time they were stationed on the island of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean and William will have joined them there soon after he enlisted.

On the 6th May 1826 William was promoted to Corporal. He must have impressed his superiors because just over 2 years later, on the 21st September 1828, he was promoted again, to Sergeant.

At around this time the 96th Regiment moved to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. Here William was promoted to Colour Sergeant on the 25th August 1832. He spent some years as a Pay Sergeant, ensuring the soldiers in his Company were paid correctly and on time.

The Regiment returned to the UK in 1835. Over the next 5 years they were based in a number of different English, Scottish and Irish towns, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Enniskillen, Dublin, Liverpool, Lancaster and Chatham. From Chatham in Kent the regiment began sending detachments to New South Wales in Australia. They were acting as escorts aboard ships carrying convicts sentenced to transportation. The whole Regiment left for Australia in August 1841.

The 96th sent detachments from Australia to New Zealand to fight in the Maori Wars between 1844 and 1847. We don't know whether William fought in this war. He was promoted to Sergeant Major on the 30th December 1845.

On Monday the 8th May 1848 William was presented with his Meritorious Service Medal in front of a parade of the entire Regiment. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Cumberland, paid tribute to his work: 'At Bermuda, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, at St John's, Newfoundland, at Glasgow in Scotland, at Enniskillen and Dublin in Ireland, at Gosport, Bolton, Manchester and Chatham in England, on the voyage to these colonies, and subsequent service for the last six years as Sergeant Major, your conduct and services have invariably been such as to call for his highest terms of approbation'.

William replied, saying: 'Sir, I return my most sincere thanks for my Sovereign's most gracious bounty, and I trust that I may ever retain it with honour. I also return my most sincere thanks for your kindness, and the kindness of Major Cheape, for your high opinion of my past services, and shall ever remember it with gratitude'.

That evening William's fellow Non Commissioned Officers congratulated him in the Sergeant's Mess, where they drank many 'loyal and appropriate' toasts, including one to William's good health. As well as his medal, William received a gratuity of 20.

The 96th Regiment left Australia in 1849 and moved to India. They were based in Ghazipore (now Ghazipur) and Cawnpore (now Kanpur) in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

We believe William died in March 1851, although we don't know whether he was still in the Army at the time. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1959.

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
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Tameside Metropolitan Borough logo
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council