Private 3367 Charles Busby, 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
Above shows how he was titled during his one year spent in South Africa. Definitely not the most interesting Smethwickian from his Boer War (1899-1902) participation but nevertheless interesting (in my opinion) from several other points of view.
Charles was born in 1868 in Curbridge, a small village a few miles to the south-west of Witney in Oxfordshire. Although rural Britain was suffering hardship at the time due to agricultural depression Charles and his family would have been largely immune to this as his father, Samuel, ran the village shop and Post Office.
This state of well-being was to change dramatically on Christmas Eve 1874 when Charles was 6 years old. Samuel caught the train in nearby Oxford to visit his married eldest daughter in Birmingham. As the 13 carriage train approached the bridge over the River Cherwell one of the carriage wheels fell apart. The train made it over the bridge but then the malfunctioning carriage descended down the embankment taking several others with it and one even ended up in the Oxford canal. Samuel was killed in the ensuing carnage along with 33 others and 79 passengers were injured. The bodies of the 26 who died at the scene were taken to a nearby paper-mill and lined up in their paper store for identification purposes. Samuel’s body was identified by James Miles, the son-in-law he had been on his way to visit. Samuel was aged 53 at the time and to add to Charles distress his Mother passed away (cause unknown) aged only 48 just over a year later. So, Charles became an orphan at the age of 7 but fortunately he had several older sisters and brothers to care for him.
The 1881 Census found him living in the Winson Green area of Birmingham with the sister that his father had set out to visit on that fateful Christmas Eve. The sister was called Fanny and was 19 years older than Charles, her husband, James Miles, was a bootmaker and they had 5 children all younger than Charles. Their address was 71 Heath Street – those who read my piece on Henry William Rawlins of the KRRC will remember Heath Street whose eastern end lay in Birmingham but whose western end lay in the industrial quarter of Smethwick.
Come Christmas 1887, 19 year old Charles was in employment but presumably he got itchy feet and felt in need of a more exciting life because on 4th January 1888 he crossed Smethwick to Black Country Oldbury and attested for a short service commission in the British Army on the usual terms of 7 years active service, followed by 5 years in the Army Reserve during which, if Her Majesty proclaimed a national emergency, he could be called back into active service until his 12 years was up. This 12 year period could be extended by another year if, at the time, a state of war existed with a Foreign Power. I wonder if Charles read the small print when he signed the dotted line because the last clause was to come into play for him.
Before moving on to his Army service, his age is given on the attestation form as 18 years and 4 months but as already stated he was definitely 19 years old at the time he attested because his birth was registered in the last quarter of 1868, and he was baptised in Curbridge Parish Church on 26th November 1868. I have come across cases where a year or two was added on for obvious reasons but never one where a year has been knocked off – was the recruiting officer hard of hearing? Looking at his age on census returns – 1871 = 2 & 1881 = 12 both fit with him being born in 1868 but in 1911, filled in by Charles himself, it says his age was 41 meaning he would have been born in either the last 9 months of 1869 or the first three months of 1870. Also, when he married in February 1902, he gave his age as 32 when in actuality it was 33. So, my interpretation is that during his teens he lost track of the year he was born and spent most of his life believing he was a year younger than he really was.
He was just below average height for the time at 5 feet 4½ inches (the average height of a male at the time of WW1 was 5 feet 6 inches) and weighed in at a lean 8 stone 9 lbs. He had grey eyes and hair of “unknown” colour – did he suffer from alopecia or was he the original skinhead? He had a scar on his forehead and three moles which attracted the attention of the recruiting officer. When it came to next of kin his sister Fanny, who had provided a home for him, received the cold shoulder and he named three of his elder brothers and gave their address as 117 Winson Street, which runs into Heath Street in Winson Green.
For reasons unknown, the recruiting officer was a Sergeant Instructor with a local militia, he was allocated to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI). He was given the Regimental Number 2444 and assigned to the 1st Battalion. His first 21 months were spent on home service but on 18th October 1889 he embarked for the “East Indies” which, based on an undated DCLI medal roll, in practice meant Burma or Myanmar as it is known today. His service record shows he received his first good conduct payment on 4th January 1890. An undated DCLI medal roll tells us he was involved in the Wuntho Field Force Expedition from 15th February 1891 to 7th May 1891. Wuntho was a Burmese State where the population were energetically opposed to British rule and in February 1891 they rose in armed insurrection. General George Worsley led the expedition which successfully quelled the insurrection. Mandalay followed by some hieroglyphics and the date 3rd August 1892 also appears on his service record. The medal roll shows Charles was awarded the India General Service Medal with the clasp “Burma 1889-1892”.
The right hand column of his DCLI medal roll shows he was transferred to the Worcestershire Regiment. His service record confirms this and shows the transfer happened on 1st September 1892 and he was given a new Regimental number 3367. Now with the Worcesters he stayed on in the “East Indies” for just over another 3 years but there is no indication what this service involved. He arrived back in Blighty on 3rd December 1895 and 5 days later was transferred to the Army Reserve having completed slightly over 6 years of active service.
We then meet up again with Charles in the Smethwick Telephone of 30th December 1899:
“ONLY TWO DAYS TO COMPLETE HIS TIME.
“The shopmates of Mr C Busby, who was employed in the large Bolt Shop at the London Works (Patent Nut and Bolt Co., Ltd) gave him a good send-off last week. The presentation to this reservist consisted of a meerschaum pipe, tobacco, &c., and £1. In making the presentation Mr John Reaveley (foreman) expressed his pleasure at witnessing the respect in which Mr Busby was held by his shopmates. He wished him God-speed and a safe return and hoped it would not be long before he was with them again. They would receive him with outstretched arms – Mr Busby remarked that although he had only two days to complete his time, yet he was pleased to say that he was willing to serve his Queen and country.”
Note the London Works was located in Smethwick close to the western end of Heath Street. When he attested he gave his occupation as “nut & bolt maker”, so he probably worked for the same company back in 1888.
His service record shows his South African service started on 18th March 1900. The Regimental website site states the 1st Worcesters embarked on a troop ship at Southampton on 17th March 1900. The ABW Forum Shipping Records state the Worcestershire Regiment embarked on the Braemer Castle at Tilbury on 18th March 1900. The ABW Forum unit write-up says the 1st Battalion set sail on the Braemer Castle on 1st March 1900. Distilling these we can say that the 1st Battalion set sail on the Braemer Castle on 18th March. Only two of the above sources give an arrival date and both agree on 9th April 1900 at Capetown.
On arrival the 1st Worcesters helped form the 11th Brigade under the command of General Rundle and set off north for Ladybrand. For the first fortnight they encountered little resistance from the Boers. At Dewetsdrop & Wepener they received more resistance and 30 1st Worcesters were taken PoW when they accidently strayed into the Boer Lines. Progress slowed and it was not until 2nd September that they reached Ladybrand. At this time Charles had served 8 months of his additional year since being called back to the Colours and his thoughts must have begun to turn towards his return home considering he had to make his way to a port and face a voyage that could take up to a month. We do not know when he got back to Blighty because that section of his service record has not been completed. Strangely two final dates of discharge are given – 28th February 1901 & 25th March 1901. For his service in South Africa Charles was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with two clasps – “Cape Colony” & “Orange Free State”. He did not qualify for the King’s South Africa Medal.
Both the above final discharge dates precede the 1901 Census but he cannot be found on it. The next record for him is his marriage at St Cuthbert’s Church in Winson Green on 22nd February 1902 when he married Eliza Jane Storer who was born and raised in Winson Green. His address is given 41 Winson Street and Eliza’s as 46 Dugdale Street – Winson Street and Dugdale Street run parallel to each other being separated by a small park. James Miles, his brother-in-law, Fanny’s husband and identifier of his father’s dead body was his witness. Eliza’s age is given as 30 and Charles 32 except he was actually 33 but thought he was 32. His occupation is given as nut and bolt maker, so his foreman had been true to his word.
Charles and Eliza can be found on the 1911 Census living at 312 Heath Street – the Birmingham end. They had three daughters – Florence 8, Alice 6 and Norah 3 and there was a fourth child who died in infancy. Charles was again a Nut & Bolt Maker! By 1911 the Patent Nut & Bolt Company had become part of Guest Keen & Nettlefolds (GKN), the Keen coming from Arthur Keen who had founded the Patent Nut & Bolt company with their first factory being in Cwmbran in Wales.
Attached to his service record is Army Form O 1707; Death Certificate of Pensioner (To be used only for the information of the War Office).This tells us Charles died on 13th October 1937 when he was in receipt of an Army Pension of 8 shillings a week (my inflation calculator, which I am never sure whether to believe, tells me this would be worth £28.91p today). It says he died at home (still 312 Heath Street) of “pulmonary tuberculosis”. As we do not know his exact date of birth, we cannot state his age at death but can say he died very close to his 69th birthday although he would have thought it was his 68th unless enlightenment had come during his last 26 years of life.
Charles (1868-1937) spent nearly 9 years on active service in the Army of which just over 7 he was overseas. During this time, he completed at least 4 major sea voyages totalling something like 35,000 miles. Whilst in South Africa & Burma he must have travelled about 3,000 miles overland – a not insignificant part by foot. He spent 55 years living in the Birmingham at addresses no more than a mile apart and even his daily walk to work would have only been a little over a mile and a half. Then again, he would have made that walk about 25,000 times during his totalling 40,000 miles but the scenery would not have been as inspiring.
Charles was not born in Smethwick, not raised in Smethwick, never lived in Smethwick, did not marry or die in Smethwick. Thus, should I consider him a Smethwickian? I think so, because my fag packet calculations indicate throughout his life he spent getting on for a quarter of his waking hours in Smethwick.
The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, Elmarie, Rory, BereniceUK, Moranthorse1, Trev
All the research and posting information is fascinating and all the more so as this is your direct relative.
This level of detail makes the person and life at that time come to life, you can almost see yourself there with them.
Do you have his medals ?
We are all so fortunate that there was so much detail recorded at the time and preserved and so many people are now contributing to sharing this now. Thank you to everyone
I only wish that there was a similar amount of detail about the 1906 Natal Rebellion where my grandfather served while he was working for the Public Works Department in Pietermaritzburg.
Hello Great-grandson of Pte 3367 Charles Busby. Glad you enjoyed reading about your ancestors and from your reaction I thankfully appear to not have made any major errors. I did make a minor one as he is findable on the 1901 Census back living with his sister (Fanny) and family. I have a file containing a lot of the supporting paperwork and happy to email to you if you are interested - probably best to send your email address to me via the private message system. On Ancestry there is an accessible Storer family tree created by a Miles King who possibly is your 3rd cousin. Regards David (Smethwick).
Thank you for the information. Do you know what medals my Great Grandfather would have had and yes I would like the information you have so how do I give you my email address privately or can you send me your email address for me to respond to. Thanks wait to hear.