[Return to Home Page]

Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 1999


Early Life

George Dean was born near the town of Halifax in the Province of Nova Scotia, Canada on the 3rd of September of 1840. He was the son of 321 Private William Dean of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners, who was stationed with a company of the Corps in Nova Scotia at that time.

In 1856 George’s father, by then a Sergeant, had returned to England and was stationed at Chatham in Kent. On the 9th of April 1856 George Dean was enlisted at Chatham, probably by his father, for service as a Boy Soldier in the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners.

Physical Description

Young George was a small lad measuring only 5 feet 2 inches in height. He had light brown hair, grey eyes, and a fair complexion. When he was examined by the Army Surgeon to determine his fitness to serve, he was noted to have a chest measurement of 35 inches. His pulse was 76 beats per minute and his respiration was 18 inspirations per minute. Dean’s muscular development was noted to be good.

Dean had been vaccinated against smallpox as an infant and the examining surgeon noted that his vaccination mark was "good." He had no smallpox marks or any other distinguishing marks or scars worthy of note.

Enlistment and Training

George Dean was found to be medically fit to serve and passed the preliminary, if rather cursory, military examination usually administered by the Recruiting Officer. He had no trade as a young boy and therefore, it was decided to assign him to duties as a Bugler.

On the 11th of April 1856 young George attested as a Boy Soldier in the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners at Rochester, Kent. He swore the Oath of Attestation and his enlistment was duly approved. He was assigned Regimental Number 4258, the rank of Bugler, and was posted to the 23rd Company, Royal Engineers.

Assignments and Campaign Service

Dean’s company had an interesting history. It had originally been raised in April of 1855 as the 23rd or Driver Company of the Royal Sappers and Miners. It embarked for the seat of the war in the Crimea in August of 1855, but got no further than Constantinople. The company returned to England where it was converted into ‘A’ Troop, Royal Sappers and Miners, and a new 23rd Company was formed. It was to this new 23rd Company that Bugler Dean was assigned.

The gallant services of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners in the Crimea were rewarded at the close of the war by the grant of the title Royal Engineers; hence, Dean was now a member of the 23rd Company, Royal Engineers..

In 1857 the 23rd Company embarked for the war in China. Upon arriving in Singapore the company was diverted to India where the Great Mutiny had begun and the forces there were much in need in engineer support.

The 23rd Company landed at Calcutta on the 11th of August 1857. The company was commanded by Captain A.J. Clerke, R.E. Other company officers included Lieutenant W.O. Lennox, R.E., Lieutenant E.D. Malcolm, R.E., Lieutenant G.D. Pritchard, R.E., and Lieutenant R. Harrison, R.E.

Upon its arrival at Calcutta, the 23rd Company joined the force being assembled by Sir Colin Campbell for the recapture of Lucknow. It was to serve with Sir Colin Campbell’s force throughout the operation.

Prior to the arrival of the relief force, the garrison and British residents of Lucknow had taken refuge in the Residency in that city after the approach of the rebel Sepoy army on the 1st of July 1857. On the 19th of September 1857, a force of 3,179 British troops under Generals Sir Henry Havelock and Sir James Outram, left Cawnpore to the relieve the garrison at Lucknow. On the 23rd of September they met and defeated a force of about 12,000 rebels at the Alumbagh, capturing five guns during the battle. On the 25th of September the forces under Havelock and Outram forced the Charbagh bridge, and captured Secunderbagh. The main body of the British force, after prolonged street fighting, reach the Residency. The rearguard, escorting the wounded, did not reach the Residency until the 26th. Outram now took command of the Residency that was now under siege by a large rebel force.

On the 19th of November 1857, after very heavy fighting, Lucknow was relieved by the force commanded by Sir Colin Campbell. Young Bugler Dean and the other men of the 23rd Company took part in this action under Sir Colin. After the relief of Lucknow the entire garrison and civilian population of the Residency were withdrawn and the city abandoned for the time being to the Sepoys.

Sir Colin next began plans for the recapture of Lucknow. In preparation for the attack on the city, an Engineer Brigade was formed under the command of Lieutenant Colonel H.D. Harness. The brigade Adjutant was Captain F.E. Cox. The engineer units comprising this brigade consisted of the following:

4th Company, Royal Engineers

23rd Company, Royal Engineers

‘C’ Company, Madras Sappers and Miners

A company of the Bengal Sappers and Miners

A Pioneer detachment consisting of Punjabis and Sikhs

On the 1st of March 1858 the recovery of the city from the rebels began with the capture of the Alumbagh. The capture of Lucknow was completed on the 21st of March when the mutineers were finally driven from the city. During the battle the various fortresses and palaces held by the rebels were successively carried by the British assault, the fighting in many cases being exceedingly severe. The 23rd Company was involved in the battle at Lucknow during the period from the 2nd to the 21st of March 1858.

During the capture of Lucknow a horrible accident befell the 23rd Company, Royal Engineers. Fortunately, Bugler Dean was not in the area of the accident at the time, as it took the lives of many of the company’s men. The following is an extract from the Corps history, describing in some detail the incident that occurred on the 18th of March 1858:

"At the Jumna Musjid there were nine cartloads of powder found in a courtyard which Outram directed to be destroyed."

"As there was a well on the spot it was considered that the best method of disposing of the powder, which was in tin cases, would be to throw them down into the water. A line of men was formed [from the 23rd Company], and the cases passed from hand to hand as rapidly as possible. By some fatality one of them exploded in falling. A flame of fire flashed up, and ignited case after case all along the line till the carts were reached, when they also exploded. Captain Clerke, R.E., and Lieutenant Brownlow, B.E., who were superintending the operation, were both so frightfully burnt and mutilated, that they died after enduring the most fearful agony. With one exception every man of those forming the party, to the number of twenty-two, was killed. Strangely enough, the only one to escape was he who was throwing the cases down the well. He was rendered senseless but eventually recovered."

A rather different account of the incident is given by Sergeant William Forbes-Mitchell of the 93rd Highlanders who took part in the capture of Lucknow. Forbes-Mitchell’s account is as follows:

"One most appalling accident occurred in the house of a nobleman named Ushruf-ood-dowlah, in which a large quantity of gunpowder had been left; this was accidentally exploded, killing two officers and forty men of the Engineers, and a great number of camp followers, of whom no account was taken. The poor men who were not killed outright were so horribly scorched that they all died in the greatest agony within a few hours of the accident, and for days explosions with more or less loss of life occurred all over the city. . . . By the accident in the house of Ushruf-ood-dowlah, two of our most distinguished and promising Engineer officers - Captains Brownlow and Clarke [sic] - lost their lives, with forty of the most valuable branch of the service."

Following the capture of Lucknow, the 23rd Company was employed on many other operations against the mutinous Sepoys. The following extract from the company’s journal for the period provides many details regarding their work:

"Sapper Thomas J. Clyma died at Cawnpore on April 23rd, 1858; 2nd Corporal Joseph Wren and Sapper Charles Reynolds died of coup-de soleil at Bareilly on May 5th.

"Movements of Head Quarters of the Company attached to Brigadier General Walpole’s force, April 15th. - Marched from Goresgunge to the fort [at] Rooya, which the enemy defended, occasioning the loss of 2 officers and 16 men killed, and 5 officers and 88 men wounded. The English force was encamped about 2 miles from the fort that night. On the 16th [April] the place was found to be abandoned by the enemy. The Engineers were employed on that day, and on the 17th, in demolishing the fort of Rooya. [On the 18th the Company] marched 8 miles to Bilgrawn; [on the] 19th, marched 11 miles to Sandhee; [on the] 20th, crossed the Guzra Nuddee and marched 6 miles to Mungowa; [on the] 21st, moved to Shahabudpore [a distance of] 8 miles; [on the] 22nd, intended to march only to Lissee on the Senda Nuddee, but found the enemy in position on the other side; attacked them and soon put them to flight. Our cavalry and horse artillery pursued them 5 miles to Alleegunge, where we encamped. English losses trifling. Enemy’s said to be 300 to 600. [The] 23rd Company, R.E. assisted to make a bridge across the Ramgunga at Biehpoonia, 3 miles from Alleegunge. Joined at Alleegunge by Her Majesty’s 78th [Regiment] and 82nd [Regiment], with siege guns. On the 27th [April, the company] marched from Alleegunge to Tingree, [a distance of] 8 miles, where we were joined by Sir Colin Campbell, accompanied by Colonel Harness, Commander Royal Engineers, and Captain Cox, Adjutant, R.E. from Fettehgurh. [On the 28th] marched to Jalabad; [on the] 29th to Raut [a distance of 11 miles]; [on the 30th] marched to the Gogra Nuddee, at Shahjehanpoe. The enemy had abandoned it, leaving one gun. [On the 1st of May 1858 the column halted]. [On the] 2nd May, marched from Shahjehanpoe to Filhur, [a distance of 12-1/2 miles]; [on the] 3rd May, marched 10 miles to Futtygunge [and were] joined by a force under Brigadier Jones of Carabiniers, who succeeded to command on General Penny being killed in action on April 30th. [On the] 4th May marched to Furreedpore; [on] May 5th, marched towards Bareilly, which the enemy were drawn up to defend. Took 6 guns [and] bivouacked for the night. The [Royal Engineers] had no casualties, except from the sun, which killed two and knocked down four others. Encamped on the parade ground of [the] cantonments ever since May 6th. We obtained complete possession of the city on the 7th May."

On the 2nd of September 1858, while still serving in India, George Dean reached the legal age of 18 years for full enlistment in Her Majesty’s forces. He had, up to this point, served a total of 1 year and 29 days as a Boy Soldier, most of it in the terrible heat of India during a most barbarous period of fighting in the Indian Mutiny. Although he shed his under age status on the 2nd of September, George Dean remained a Bugler in the 23rd Company. For his services during the Indian Mutiny, Bugler Dean was awarded the Indian Mutiny Medal, 1857-1858, with clasps [RELIEF OF LUCKNOW] and [LUCKNOW].

In July of 1860 the 23rd Company sailed from India to take part in operations in China. Upon arrival in China, Bugler Dean and the men of the 23rd Company were assigned to the 1st Division. The company’s officers at this time consisted of Major Gerald Graham, Lieutenant E.D. Malcolm, Lieutenant G.D. Pritchard, Lieutenant R. Harrison, and Lieutenant F. Hime.

The engineer order of battle of the British force consisted of the following units:

1st Division

10th Company, Royal Engineers

23rd Company, Royal Engineers

Half of the 8th Company, Royal Engineers

2nd Division

‘A’ Company, Madras Sappers and Miners

‘K’ Company, Madras Sappers and Miners

Lieutenant General Sir Hope Grant, commander of the two division corps in China, decided not to attempt forcing a passage past the Taku forts at the mouth of the Peiho River, but rather to land at Peytang, a village about ten miles to the north. The Taku forts would then be approached from the land side. Between the 1st and the 7th of August 1860 the whole army was disembarked. It advanced on the 12th of August, and after some skirmishing and many difficulties owing to the swampy character of the country, the enemy was driven back and Singho and Tangkoo were occupied.

At this point Sir Hope Grant decided to assault the four Taku forts in conjunction with his French allies. The forts were situated with two on the north side of the river and two on the south side. Orders were given to throw up five batteries for the assault of the first northern fort and all engineer units were involved in this work. The work was performed in two reliefs with Major Graham acting as Executive Officer of one relief. These batteries were constructed on the night of the 20th of August and on the following morning they were armed and opened fire.

After a bombardment of about four hours it was evident that the artillery of the Taku forts had been virtually destroyed. Orders were then given for the assault. The engineers accompanying the assaulting column were divided into four parties, all under Major Graham. Lieutenant Pritchard of the 23rd Company was in charge of a party of small pontoons intended for crossing the wet ditch around the forts. Lieutenant Hime, also of the 23rd Company, was responsible for the scaling ladders.

After a sharp struggle and many casualties, the leading stormers gained the parapet, while a few had made their way within the gate of the fort. The Chinese still offered stubborn resistance and it was some time before the fort was cleared of its defenders. The second northern fort was stormed, but the British force entered without any resistance, and eventually the two southern forts surrendered as well without a fight. The operations at the Taku forts were over by the 21st of August.

Following the battle, Lieutenant Colonel G.F. Mann, Commanding Royal Engineer, had this to say about the actions of the officers and men of the 23rd Company:

"Major Graham conducted the assaulting party, and, when wounded with the bridge party and obliged to mount on horseback, directed the movements of the ladder party, until his horse also being wounded, he was obliged to fall to the rear. Lieutenant Pritchard and the other officers of the assaulting party were among the first to gain a footing in the fort. Of the non-commissioned officers and Sappers, Sergeant-Major Knight, Sergeant McEachran, Corporals Willcocks, Matheson, and Filkin, and Sapper John Squires distinguished themselves."

Following their defeat at Taku Forts, the Chinese tried to bargain for time. Both the allied commanders agreed that it was essential to get to Pekin as soon as possible. The capital was entered on the 13th of October 1860 after two severe actions at Chang-kia-wan on the 18th of September and at Pa-li-chian on the 21st of September.

After the end of the China War, Dean and the remainder of the 23rd Company returned to England. It appears that upon arriving in England he was posted to the Royal Engineer Train at Aldershot as a Driver in ‘A’ Troop. ‘A’ Troop was formed at Aldershot as a Pontoon Troop. On the 1st of October 1861 he was transferred to ‘B’ Troop of the Royal Engineer Train. ‘B’ Troop was known as the Field Equipment Troop. Both of these troops relied heavily on wagon transport and required skilled drivers for the wagons.

On the 14th of June 1862, while stationed at Aldershot but training at Shorncliffe in Kent, Driver Dean was awarded the Second China War Medal, 1857-1860, with clasps [TAKU FORTS 1860] and [PEKIN 1860].

Dean served with ‘B’ Troop at various stations in England for the remainder of his time in the Army. It appears that his primary duty station was Aldershot and that he and his unit periodically went to Shorncliffe Camp in Kent for training. The following is a chronological summary of the stations at which he served and his arrival date at each station:

Date of Arrival Station

28 June 1865 Shorncliffe Camp, Kent

6 May 1866 At Aldershot, Hampshire

27 June 1866 Shorncliffe Camp, Kent

27 August 1867, At Hythe, Kent

25 September 1867 Arrived at Aldershot

November 1867 Arrived at Chatham

1 July 1869 Arrived at Aldershot

3 October 1869 Arrived at Chatham

26 July 1870 Arrived at Aldershot

4 October 1871 Arrived at Chatham

17 December 1872 Arrived at Aldershot

Promotions, Conduct and Education

1. Promotions

The following table summarizes George Dean’s promotions and appointments during his Army career:

Date of Promotion or Appointment


11 April 1856

Attested as a Bugler (Boy Soldier)

2 September 1858

Appointed to the Ranks as a Bugler

1 October 1861

Appointed to the rank of Driver

1 May 1863

Promoted to the rank of 2nd Corporal

1 May 1866

Promoted to the rank of Corporal

25 May 1872

Reduced to the rank of Sapper

29 May 1876

Appointed Acting Lance Corporal

7 June 1878

Reverted to the rank of Sapper

2. Conduct

a. Disciplinary Actions

On the 20th of May 1872, George Dean committed an offense for which he would be court martialed. On that date his name was entered in the Regimental Defaulters’ Book and he was confined to await his trial. He also forfeited 1.d. of his 3.d. Good Conduct pay on that date. On the 25 May 1872, while at Chatham, Dean was tried and convicted for "Improper Conduct". He was sentenced to be reduced from Corporal to the rank of Sapper.

b. Good Conduct Badges and Medal

George Dean was awarded four Good Conduct Badges during his time in service. Each of these badges entitled him to receive an additional penny (1.d.) per day. The badges were awarded to him as shown in the table below:

Good Conduct Badge

Date of Award

Total Time in Service

1st Award

2 September 1861

3 years

2nd Award

2 September 1866

8 years

3rd Award

2 September 1870

12 years

Forfeited 3rd Award

20 May 1872

13 years and 8 months

Restored 3rd Award

25 May 1873

14 years and 8 months

4th Award

7 September 1876

18 years

Based on the Larimore (1998) research on the Good Conduct Badge, Dean received his first two awards under the 1860 regulations. He received the first and second awards exactly on time. Dean’s third Good Conduct badge was awarded under the 1870 regulations. He also received this badge exactly on time. He received the fourth award at 18 years of service rather than at 16 years as allowed under the 1876 regulations. This departure from the regulations was probably due to his disciplinary problem and the temporary loss of his 3rd Good Conduct Badge. He did not receive the fifth award at the completion of 21 years of service.

On the 1st of September 1876, when he completed 18 years of service with the Colours, Dean was authorized the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He subsequently received this medal along with a gratuity of 5 Pounds when he left the service.

3. Education

George Dean’s service papers indicate that he was in possession of a 3rd Class Certificate of Education.

Medical Information

George Dean was admitted to hospital for the following ailments during his period of


1. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 6th of May 1866 and treated for synovitis of the knee. Released on the 11th of May 1866. Lost time: 6 days.

2. Admitted to hospital at Shorncliffe Camp on the 1st of July 1867 and treated for synovitis of the knee. Released on the 14th of July 1867. Lost time: 14 days.

3. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 4th of March 1871 and treated for a sprain received while lifting a box. Released on the 10th of March 1871. Lost time: 7 days.

4. Admitted to hospital at Chatham on the 7th of May 1872 and treated for rheumatism resulting from exposure to cold weather while gardening. Released on the 12th of May 1872. Lost time: 7 days.

5. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 1st of January 1874 and treated for blisters on his feet resulting from bad boots. Released on the 7th of January 1874. Lost time: 7 days.

6. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 3rd of May 1874 and treated for a sprain (relapse of his previous injury from 1871). Released on the 16th of May 1874. Lost time: 14 days.

7. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 5th of January 1877 and treated for a contusion received in an accident. Released on the 15th of January 1877. Lost time: 10 days.

As a result of illness and injuries, Dean lost a total of 65 days of duty during his time in service.

On the 18th of July 1865, 2nd Corporal George Dean was given a physical examination at Shorncliffe Camp. He was found to be fit to continue in military service. On the 14th of August 1865, he was re-vaccinated. The results of the vaccination were described as a "perfect" pustule, indicating that the inoculation was probably successful.

Marriage and Personal Information

There is no indication in George Dean’s records that he was married or that he had any children during his time in service. It should be noted that his Military History Sheet, the document which would note his marriage, is missing from his service papers. It is known that George Dean had at least two children; William George Dean, born on the 26th of February 1865, and Henry James Dean, born on the 15th of May 1878.


A Regimental Board convened at Aldershot on the 21st of August 1879 to consider Sapper Dean’s discharge which had been claimed by him on the termination of his second period of limited engagement.

The discharge board was composed of the following officers:

Board President: Captain E. Stephens, R.E.

Member: Lieutenant H. Denison, R.E.

Member: Lieutenant D. A. Johnston , R.E.

The board reckoned Sapper Dean’s total service at 21 years and 3 days, including 2 years and 205 days in India and 1 year and 191 days in China, for total service abroad of 4 years and 31 days. His overall conduct during his time in service was considered to be very good, and his habits regular, despite his name appearing in the Regimental Defaulters’ Book and his court martial.

The board recommended that Sapper Dean be discharged and the board proceedings were certified to be correct by the Commander of Royal Engineer Troops at Aldershot. On the 22nd of August 1879, Paymaster W.H. Browning, Army Pay Department, completed Dean’s Detailed Statement of Services.

At the time of his discharge, Sapper Dean was 39 years of age. His description on discharge indicates that he was 5 feet 4 inches tall with a fair complexion, fair hair and grey eyes. He still had no distinguishing marks or scars on his body.

Following the board recommendation, Dean’s service papers were sent to the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London and were received at the Secretary’s Office there on the 3rd of September 1879. Dean’s discharge was finally approved by His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief at the Horse Guards in London on the 9th of September 1879.

Upon leaving the Army, Dean at first indicated that his intended place of residence would be Aldershot and then changed it to Cirencester. His records indicate that he did not have a trade upon leaving the service even though he had been in a mounted unit of the Royal Engineers for most of his career.

Sapper Dean’s service records appear to have been reviewed on the 24th of June 1896 for some unknown reason. His papers bear the stamp of the Royal Hospital Chelsea with this date.



1. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers From 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.
2. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.
3. FORBES-MITCHELL, W. Reminiscences of the Great Mutiny, 1857-59. Macmillan and Co., New York, 1893.
4. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.
5. HARBOTTLE, T. Dictionary of Battles. Stein and Day, New York, 1971.
6. HIBBERT, C. The Great Mutiny: India, 1857. The Viking Press, New York, 1978.
7. HURD, D. The Arrow War: An Anglo-Chinese Confusion, 1856-60. The Macmillan Company, New York, 1967.
8. Mac MUNN, G. The Indian Mutiny in Perspective. G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., London, 1931.
9. MERRIAM WEBSTER. Geographical Dictionary, Springfield, MA, 1997.
10. PORTER, W. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume I. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952.
11. SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977.
12. WILKINSON-LATHAM, C. & EMBLETON, G.A. The Indian Mutiny. Men-At-Arms Series No. 67, Osprey Publishing Ltd., London, 1991.


1. India Office Records, L/MIL/5/73: Indian Mutiny Medal Roll.
2. LARIMORE, F.B. Long Service and Good Conduct Chevrons (Badges) and their Periods of Qualification. Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, 1998.
3. Public Record Office, WO100/40: Second China War Medal Roll.
4. WO97/1850. Soldier’s Service Papers. Public Record Office, London.

a. W.O. Form 83. Proceedings of a Regimental Discharge Board.
b. W.O. Form 1143. Medical History.
c. Detailed Statement of Services.


1. AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. AA Motorists Atlas of Great Britain. Basingstoke, 1984.
2. BAEDEKER, K. Great Britain Handbook for Travellers. Karl Baedeker, Publisher, Leipzig, 1910.
3. ORDNANCE SURVEY. East Kent. One-Inch Map of Great Britain, 1959.


HMSO. Monthly Army List, March 1882.


MICROSOFT EXPEDIA MAPS. http:\www.expediamaps

[Return to Home Page]