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Army Lists and the London Gazette

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Army Lists and the London Gazette

Post by AdrianBruce »

I have just been trying to document the basic career of a Surgeon attached to the British Army during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Although they were not then counted as commissioned officers, surgeons had privileges as if they were officers - in particular, this chap gained a considerable amount of Prize Money in India from the capture of various non-British European colonies and citadels of recalcitrant India Princes such as Tipu Sultan. (Until I started looking at these families a while ago, I knew from Hornblower etc, that the Royal Navy had half-pay and prize money but had no idea that the Army did as well).

Anyway, I used FindMyPast's London Gazette 1665-2018 collection for the first time to search the Gazette for his promotions and transfers. The Gazette web-site is known for being a touch challenging, but if you have FMP access, this seems quite useful - excepting only that it's not as easy to navigate to different pages in the one issue.

The Gazette shows an officer (or equivalent, such as my surgeon) when they move but does not show their steady-state in between. For that you need Army Lists. There are a lot of the available on the web but finding them is the problem. My suggestion would be to go to https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Military_periodicals_online because FIBIS have done a lot of work on finding the different lists. Sections 19 onwards on that URL contain various types of Army List. Some are in the National Library of Scotland site, though the NLS collection is also on archive.org, which I tend to prefer once I've found the publication, as navigation inside a book is much simpler.

A lot of the earlier Lists are on the Hathi Trust site - links are in the FIBIS article. Be aware that some of the links go to a collection of Army Lists, not a single year as is more usually the case. For instance, the page accessed by https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000045795 contains the Army Lists for 1791, 1794 thru 1804 and 1821.

The other thing to be wary of when you try to stick Army Lists and Gazettes together, is that the dates of the War Office reports of promotions and transfers in the Gazette can be a lot later than the actual date of transfer. For instance, my chap exchanged into the 75th Regiment of Foot on 7 February 1798 according to the 1803 Army List (which gives his date of entry into the regiment) - however, he wasn't "Gazetted" until the list from the War Office dated 19 February 1799 - a year later. Part of this will be the time for information to get from India to Britain (he took 5 months on his outbound journey) but even so, that seems a little excessive.

The tragic impact of this type of delay is that he drowned in July 1804 when on a trip from Calcutta to Bombay having already agreed to exchange his position in the 75th with another medic in the 22nd. Thanks to the delay, he was still recorded in the London Gazette of 26 March 1805 as making that exchange - months after his death.
Adrian Bruce

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