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17006 Sergeant
Royal Engineers

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2004. All Rights Reserved.


a. Research Sources

As a part of this research, a search was made for Sergeant Thomas Madden's service papers at the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) at Kew, Richmond, Surrey. His papers were searched for in the WO97, WO363 and WO364 files, all to no avail. A search of the PRO Catalogue (PROCAT) on the Internet revealed that the files of one Sergeant Thomas Madden, Royal Engineers were located in PIN 71/4122. With the help of Sergeant Kevin Asplin, R.E.M.E., [1] Madden's papers were photographed with a digital camera and compiled on a CD-ROM. These papers formed the basis for the detailed description of Sergeant Madden's service that follows herein.

In addition to the service record contained in PIN 71/4122, the following narrative also relied heavily on information contained in the excellent book written by Tom Purves on the history of the 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers, the reference for which is provided at the end of this narrative. Where no citations are provided for data presented in this narrative, the reader should assume that the PIN files and the Purves book were the sources. Details from other sources are specifically referenced.

This research work was undertaken as a result of the author acquiring Sergeant Madden's Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. The whereabouts of his other medals; namely, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Egypt 1882 Campaign Medal, Queen's South Africa Medal and Khedive's Star are unknown. The author would welcome contact from anyone who has these medals or knows of their whereabouts.

b. Author's Foreword

The story of Sergeant Thomas Madden is a melancholy tale to say the least. Madden was a dedicated soldier who was severely injured in a service-related accident during the war in South Africa in 1900. The accident was typical of the type suffered by engineer soldiers in many conflicts throughout history. The role of the engineers during a campaign is dangerous during the actual fighting and for quite a long period after cessation of hostilities. The campaign in the Falklands in 1982 and those in Kuwait and Iraq during 1991 and 2004 are prime examples the dangers faced by the Sappers "after the war." These dangers usually come in the form of removing minefields and destroying caches of enemy weapons. It was during this latter type of operation that Madden suffered his injuries.

Madden's injuries may have resulted from the carelessness of the officer for whom Madden was serving at the time. This conjecture on the part of the author will be explained in greater detail later in this narrative. The injury restricted Madden's performance of duty after his recovery and most likely it also restricted his advancement in rank. The accident took its toll on Madden both physically and financially, as will be seen later.

Thomas Madden and his wife Mary (nee Begley) had seven children, six of whom were born while Madden was in the Army. Madden served five tours of duty abroad for a total of almost 13 years. Except for his active service in Egypt and in South Africa, it appears that his family moved with him to each overseas station. Mary Madden was not to enjoy a more settled life after Thomas was discharged from the Army, as she died in 1906 only four years after his discharge. Her death left him with seven children to care for and for a man suffering from the injuries he sustained on active service, this was no easy chore.

Thomas worked for the Army in a civil capacity for 18 years after his discharge. His pay and his pension probably barely met the needs of his family, yet he kept them all together and his children apparently did well on their own. Thomas Madden died in 1923 at the age of 64 years after serving the Crown for almost 40 years.


No information was uncovered by the author regarding Thomas Madden's father and mother or any siblings that he may have had. A search of the 1881 British Census was made without any results, probably because the family was living in Ireland at the time.

Thomas Madden was born in County Meath, Ireland in August of 1859. As a young man he worked as a Bricklayer. A search of the 1881 British Census was made to attempt to locate Madden's whereabouts during that year. Since he enlisted in the British Army in England, it was considered that there was a good possibility that he would appear in the British Census. A man by the name of Thomas Madden was located in the 1881 Census as an inmate in a workhouse at Bootle in Cumberland. [2] The census form shows that Madden was living with six other men at the workhouse. He is listed as being 24 years old in 1881 and his birthplace is shown as Ireland. Madden's occupation on the census record is given as Mason's Labourer, an occupation closely related to Bricklayer in the vernacular of the Victorian period. This occupation tracks with his trade as a Mason (Bricklayer) as shown in his military service papers. Although it cannot be determined for certain if the Thomas Madden shown on this census record is the same Thomas Madden who is the subject of this study, his place of birth as well as his occupation are coincident. Furthermore, the Thomas Madden of the Bootle workhouse is about the same age as the subject of this research.


All that is known of Thomas Madden's physical appearance at the time of his enlistment is that he was 5 feet 10-5/8 inches tall and that he had a minimum chest measurement of 36 inches. [3]

The following is a description of Sergeant Madden at the time of his discharge from the Army in 1902:


42 years and 11 months.


5 feet 11 inches.

Chest Measurement:

39 inches.







Distinctive Marks:

Nail of left little finger deformed; scar on back of left hand; scar between shoulder blades.


Thomas Madden enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers at Manchester on the 25th of May 1881. His enlistment was for a period of seven years with the Colours and five years in the Reserve. [4] Upon his enlistment he was assigned the rank of Sapper and given Regimental Number 17006. Following his enlistment Madden was sent to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, Kent where he received his recruit training as an engineer soldier. [5]


a. Promotions: The specific dates of Thomas Madden's promotions while serving in the Royal Engineers are not known due to the lack of this information in his service papers. The following information regarding his promotions through the ranks is known at specific times during his military career:

b. Conduct

(1) Disciplinary Actions

Madden’s service record was not spotless with regard to misconduct. This may, in some measure, explain why he only reached the rank of Sergeant during his more than 21 years of service. His name appears twice in the Company Defaulter's Book. The 32nd Fortress Company’s Defaulters Book shows that on the 30th of May 1887 Madden was charged with "neglect of duty" by a Company Sergeant Major West and a Corporal Sweet. His punishment for this offence was a reprimand from Lieutenant Colonel John Robert Hogg, R.E. On the 5th of June 1888, Madden was again charged with "neglect of duty", this time by Lieutenant W.A.J. O’Meara, R.E. Lieutenant O’Meara administered a reprimand to Madden for this offence. In both cases, Madden's service record does not provide any specifics with regard to his "neglect of duty." Madden's service papers indicate that he was never tried by court-martial.

(2) Good Conduct Badges

The number of Good Conduct Badges awarded to Thomas Madden is shown as five in a Minute Sheet included in his service papers. [7] The specific dates of the awards of each badge are not shown. His character is noted as "Exemplary" on the Minute Sheet referred to above. Based on an enlistment date of 1881 and the award of five Good Conduct Badges within 21 years, Madden appears to have come under the 1876 rules for the award of these badges. Under the 1876 rules, badges could have been awarded to him at 2, 5, 12, 16 and 18 years of service.

(3) Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

On the 1st of July 1899, after completing 18 years with the Colours, Madden became eligible to receive the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with gratuity. The medal was awarded to him by authority of Army Order 503 of 1899. [8] This medal is in the author's collection and was the basis for this research work. [9]


a. Education

Thomas Madden’s was in possession of a 2nd Class Certificate of Education at the time of his discharge from Army. [10]

b. Qualifications

Thomas Madden earned the following qualifications during his time in service:



25 May 1881

Sapper on enlistment in the Royal Engineers

1 April 1889

Qualified as a "Very Superior" Bricklayer

1 November 1889

Re-Qualified as a "Very Superior" Bricklayer(*)

(*) Qualification granted by the Commander Royal Engineers, Portsmouth.


a. Summary of Home and Overseas Service

The table below provides a summary of the service of Thomas Madden at home and abroad during his more than 21 years of service.




Years and Days


25 May 1881

7 August 1882

1 year & 74 days


8 August 1882

25 October 1882

78 days


26 October 1882

22 February 1883

118 days


23 February 1883

18 September 1883

207 days

Cape-South Africa
(St. Helena)

19 September 1883

8 December 1886

3 years & 80 days


9 December 1886

23 December 1890

4 years & 14 days

(Gibraltar and Malta)

24 December 1890

3 October 1898 (+)

7 years and 283 days


4 October 1898

3 January 1900

1 year & 89 days

South Africa

4 January 1900

4 December 1900

334 days


5 December 1900

31 July 1902

1 year & 238 days

Total Service Abroad:

12 years & 262 days

Total Home Service:

8 years & 170 days

Total Service:

21 years & 68 days

(+) Date of departure from Gibraltar and arrival at Malta is not specifically stated in his service papers.

b. Narrative of Service

(1) Aldershot (1881-1882)

Upon completion of his recruit training at Chatham, Madden was posted to Aldershot in Hampshire where he joined the 24th Company, Royal Engineers. The 24th Company was commanded by Captain Clement de Beauvoir Carey, R.E. The other officers of the company at that time were Captain James Ford Dorward, Lieutenant Robert Charles Hellard, Lieutenant John Colin Livington Campbell and Lieutenant John Charles Tyler.

(2) Egypt (1882)

On the 8th of August 1882 Sapper Madden and the rest of the 24th Company embarked for active service in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882. This campaign was fought as a result of a revolt that was led against the Khedive of Egypt, Muhammad Tewfik Pasha, by an Egyptian Army officer by the name of Colonel Ahmed Arabi Pasha. The revolt was instigated to protest French and British control of the Suez Canal and control of Egypt's finances by these foreign governments. In response, a British fleet under Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour shelled Alexandria, and although France refused to cooperate, an expeditionary force of British troops led by General Sir Garnet Wolseley landed near Suez. In the battles of Tel-el-Kebir and Kassassin Wolseley routed Arabi's forces and established virtual suzerainty over Egypt.

The battle of Tel-el-Kebir was fought on the 13th of September 1882. After deceiving the Egyptians into thinking that he would land at Alexandria, Sir Garnet Wolseley landed nearly 40,000 men at Ismailia, beginning on the 20th of August. General Gerald Graham, a Sapper Officer, was dispatched with 2,000 men to seize the Sweetwater Canal at Kassassin. Wolseley, with 17,400 men and 67 guns, made a daring night approach across the Egyptian desert, using naval officers as navigators, and at first light he attacked 22,000 Egyptians with 60 guns entrenched along the railway and the Sweetwater Canal between Cairo and Zigazag. British surprise was complete, and the Egyptians, driven from their positions, fled toward Cairo. British losses were 58 killed, 379 wounded and 22 missing. Egyptian losses were estimated at 2,500. All the Egyptian guns were captured by the British.

On its arrival in Egypt, the 24th Company joined the British 1st Division at El Mahuta on the 26th of August 1882. The company was present at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir. After the end of hostilities the company embarked on the 9th of October 1882 at Alexandria on board the troopship California for the voyage home to England. Madden and his company landed at Portsmouth on the 26th of October.

For his service during the Egyptian Campaign of 1882, Madden would have been awarded the Egypt 1882 medal and the Khedive's Star. [11] Although Gordon (1971) indicates that the 24th Company did not receive any clasp their Egypt 1882 medal, the History of the Corps of Royal Engineers indicates that the company did take part in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. It is likely that Madden's medal was issued to him with the clasp for this battle.

(3) Home Service (1882-1883)

Sapper Madden remained at home for only a short time after returning from Egypt. His service papers do not indicated with which unit he served during his brief stay. It is possible that he may have been granted a period of leave extending from the 26th of October 1882 until the 23rd of February 1883; however, it is doubtful that he was authorized leave for this entire period, as it amounted to almost four months. Leaves of such long duration where not ordinarily granted to other than officers.

(4) Gibraltar (1883)

On the 23rd of February 1883, Sapper Madden was posted to the 32nd Fortress Company at Gibraltar. The 32nd Fortress Company had arrived at Gibraltar in December of 1880 after serving on the island of Bermuda. Madden served at Gibraltar for only seven months, when the company left Gibraltar in September of 1883 aboard HMS Tyne, bound for South Africa. Madden and the men of his section continued on to the island of St. Helena [12] after disembarking the bulk of the company at the Cape.

(5) St. Helena (1883-1886)

Madden served on St. Helena until the 22nd of November 1886 when the Packet Pretoria, which left Cape Town on the 17th of November with the remainder of the 32nd Fortress Company, picked up his section for trip the home to England. Pretoria arrived at Southampton on the 8th of December 1886 and on the following day the men of the 32nd Fortress Company disembarked.

(6) Home (1886-1890)

The 32nd Fortress Company was posted to Portsmouth after its arrival home. At Portsmouth Madden and the men of his company performed duties associated with the harbour defences in the area. On the 29th of January 1889 Madden applied to extend his service to complete 12 years with the Colours. [13] His extension of service was approved by Major R. Maxwell Hyslop, R.E., the Officer Commanding the 32nd Fortress Company. Major Hyslop noted that Madden's character had been "very good" during his time in service with the company and therefore his application to extend his service was favorably considered.

(7) Gibraltar (1890-1894)

The 32nd Fortress Company received orders to deploy to Gibraltar in 1890 and on the 24th of December of that year Madden sailed with his company for service on "the Rock." The company's mission at Gibraltar involved general engineer works in support of the garrison troops and the artillery positions in the fortress installations. On the 14th of March 1893, Madden re-engaged to complete 21 years with the Colours. [14] His re-engagement was witnessed by Captain G.F. Leverson, R.E. and was certified by Colonel Richard H. Jelf, R.E., the Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.) at Gibraltar.

(8) Malta (1894-1898)

About the spring of 1894 Madden was transferred to the 2nd Company, Royal Engineers on the island of Malta. The 2nd Company left Malta in December of 1894 and was posted to Cairo, Egypt. Madden served with the 2nd Company for over four years. On the 4th of October 1898 he returned home to England where he was posted to Chatham.

(9) Home (1898-1900)

On the 28th of January 1899 Madden was assigned to "A" Company of the Depot Battalion Royal Engineers at Chatham. He completed 18 years of service on the 24th of May 1899 and became eligible to receive the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. [15] By the 11th of September 1899 Madden was serving with "B" Company of the Depot Battalion. He remained with this company until the 1st of January 1900.

(10) South Africa (1900)

Madden was posted as Section Sergeant to No. 2 Section of the 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers on the 1st of January 1900 in preparation for the company's departure for the seat of the war in South Africa. The South African War of 1899 to 1902 was the second occasion for Thomas Madden to see active service. By the start of the war he already had served for 18 years.

The 9th Field Company was ordered to join the South African Field Force and on the 4th of January 1900 the unit left Chatham for Southampton. On the following day the company sailed from Southampton aboard the Union Line troopship Goorkha [16] bound for Cape Town where it would become part of the 7th Infantry Division. The officers of the 9th Field Company at the time of its deployment to South Africa were:

Major Henry Joseph Walker Jerome:

Officer Commanding

Captain Edward Gordon Young:

Company Second-in-Command

Lieutenant Henry William Buckle:

Section Officer, No. 1 Section

Lieutenant Alexander Hardcastle:

Section Officer, No. 2 Section

Lieutenant Llewelyn Evans:

Section Officer, No. 3 Section

The Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.) of the 7th Infantry Division was Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Charles Maxwell.

The 9th Field Company arrived at Cape Town on the 26th of January 1900 and immediately entrained on the Western Railway to join the 7th Infantry Division in the field. The 7th Infantry Division was commanded by Lieutenant General C. Tucker and at that time it consisted of the 14th and 15th Infantry Brigades, with the 9th Field Company attached to divisional troops.

On the 27th of January the company arrived at Orange River Station where it detrained and began an immediate march to the north to Maple Leaf Camp. The company arrived at its destination on the following day and was immediately put to work on improving the camp's water supply, a common task assigned to engineer companies in South Africa.

The deployment of an engineer field company in support of operations frequently required that it be split up and that its sections operate independently of the company headquarters. On the 1st of February 1900, Lieutenant Buckle's section moved to Graspan by train with the mission of improving the water supplies of the British camps in the area. At this same time No. 2 Section marched to Witteput Station to repair roads and drifts (fords) across streams in the area. This section also was utilized for work on the construction of railway sidings at Enslin. Meanwhile, the Company Headquarters and No. 3 Section moved north to a camp near the Modder River and there the section sunk four wells and laid over two miles of 4-inch diameter quick-joint piping to supply water to the nearby camps.

After completing these various section tasks by the 9th of February 1900, the 9th Field Company set out again as a company with Lieutenant General J.P.D. French's Cavalry Division toward a crossing point on the Riet River at De Keil's Drift. French split his force after crossing the Riet and the 9th Field Company was ordered to accompany that part of the force that was headed toward the Boer laagers at Jacobsdaal. A relatively small force of Boers defended Jacobsdaal, and on the 15th of February after a short battle, the Boers were ejected from the town by the City of London Imperial Volunteers (Mounted Infantry). The 9th Field Company then entered Jacobsdaal to undertake engineer support tasks in the town.

On the 18th of February 1900 the company, less No. 2 Section, left Jacobsdaal for Paardeberg. No. 2 Section remained behind at Jacobsdaal after being attached to the 15th Infantry Brigade. The section was given the task of blowing up over three tons of dynamite and a large quantity of small arms ammunition that had been captured from the Boers after the battle for the town. This was the first experience that Sergeant Madden would have with the destruction of explosives and ammunitions in South Africa, a task that he would repeat on other occasions during the war. The remainder of the 9th Field Company reached the town of Paardeberg on the 19th of February.

The company received orders on the 20th of February to move to a new position along the south bank of the Modder River located to the east of the Boer laager at Paardeberg. The company marched through the night of the 20th/21st of February and by some miscalculation and errors in navigation it ended up about 600 yards to 700 yards directly in front of the Boer camp. With coming of daylight, the men of the company were subjected to small arms fire and a few scattered artillery shells. The Boer artillery presented a great danger to the men of the company as did the small arms fire. Although they were more than 600 yards from the Boer defensive positions, the Mauser rifles and marksmanship of the enemy presented the Sappers with a hazardous situation. The situation was soon remedied by a rapid move out the range of the Boer guns and rifles.

No. 2 Section rejoined the company on the 22nd of February 1900 and the entire unit, together with infantry working parties, supported the crossing of the Modder River. The Sappers and the infantry then dug trenches at right angles to the riverbank, which enabled elements of the British field force to gradually approach the main Boer position. By the 27th of February, the Royal Canadian Regiment, with support from the 7th and 9th Field Companies, reached a point about 100 yards from the Boer main line and captured the Boer position by late that afternoon.

From the 1st through the 7th of March 1900, the 9th Field Company built a pontoon bridge over the Modder River just east of Paardeberg. Following the completion of this bridge, the company began constructing ramps and trestles for a large permanent bridge at Makauw's Drift about 10 miles further east of Paardeberg. The company was not able to complete this permanent bridge, for on the 9th of March it was ordered to move to Poplar Grove (Modderrivierpoort). At Poplar Grove the company was transferred to Corps Troops in the Orange Free State to work on Lines of Communication. The 7th Field Company took over the 9th Field Company's responsibilities in the 7th Division.

The 9th Field Company marched into Bloemfontein on the 13th of March 1900. At this time the company consisted of 7 Officers, 161 Other Ranks, 14 horses and assorted mules, oxen and carts. [17] The men's uniforms and boots were in tatters and the company was in need of rest and refitting. The 9th Field Company got its chance to rest in Bloemfontein, where it remained for about 6 weeks along with five other companies of Royal Engineers. During this period the Sappers worked on the construction of general defensive positions and a permanent hospital. They also constructed a new bridge at Glen and two smaller bridges over dongas to the north of the main bridge.

On the 22nd of April 1900 Captain Young, Lieutenant Buckle and No. 1 Section were sent to join the 9th Division commanded by Lieutenant General Sir H.E. Colville. They traveled by train to Dronfield, arriving there on the 25th of April. On the 27th of April, the 9th Field Company (minus No. 1 Section) left Bloemfontein to join the 21st Infantry Brigade at Glen. Once at Glen, the company was sent to the Vet River and given the task of completing a railway deviation [18] with the help of the 1st Lanark Royal Engineer Volunteers.

No. 1 Section reached the Vaal River near Hebron on the 4th of May 1900 and there the Sappers cut approaches down the steep riverbanks for wagon crossings. [19] On the following day, the 9th Field Company (minus No. 1 Section) rejoined Major General Ian Hamilton's 7th Infantry Brigade at Winburg and on the same day No. 1 Section reached Rooidam. At Vryburg, during the march to relieve Mafeking, Captain Young became ill and died of enteric fever. [20]

No. 2 Section was detached from the company and ordered to join Major General J.M. Babbington's column at Carolina. For two months No. 2 Section crisscrossed the Eastern Transvaal repairing roads, telegraph lines and bridges, the majority of which had been damaged or destroyed by the Boers during their retreat.

On the 10th of May 1900 the 9th Field Company constructed a drift on the Zand River. Sergeant Madden and No. 2 Section destroyed about 700,000 rounds of captured small arms ammunition along with many shells and firearms. [21] The section also carried out some experiments using Lyddite [22] shells as mines and as cratering charges on roads.

The company (minus No. 2 Section) arrived at Kroonstad on the 16th of May 1900 and then crossed the Vaal River on the 27th of May and worked on cutting down the steep banks to allow for the passage of artillery and wagons. At Vereenining the company also built a pontoon bridge.

On the 29th of May 1900 No. 3 Section was attached to the 21st Infantry Brigade and took part in the heavy fighting at Johannesburg. On the 30th of May Company Headquarters moved to Kliproversberg and No. 1 Section was with the 10th Infantry Division crossing the Vaal River at Winsorton. No. 1 Section reached Lichtenburg on the 2nd of June and Klerksdorp on the 9th of June. The section then rejoined Company Headquarters at Johannesburg on the 23rd of June 1900.

By the 9th of July 1900 the entire 9th Field Company was in camp at Irene, just south of Pretoria. There the company built a railway bridge across Six Mile Spruit and was involved in numerous actions and the occupation of the mountain passes to the north of Johannesburg.

Following the work to the north of Johannesburg, the company marched into Pretoria to a new camp at Daspoort. While in this area the men came under fire at Bronkhorst from the Boer railway gun known as "Long Tom." Lieutenant Buckle and 8 Sappers, escorted by mounted infantry, were detailed to deal with the gun to prevent it from firing on the British troops in the area of Bronkhorst and its surroundings. They followed the railway on which the gun was traveling for several miles towards the gun, thus forcing it to retreat. The Sappers then blew up a stretch of track to keep the gun out of range by preventing it from moving back towards Bronkhorst.

The 9th Field Company moved to Kroonstad on the 17th of July 1900. On the 1st of August 1900 Sergeant Madden accompanied 2nd Lieutenant Llewelyn Evans on another ammunition destruction mission. [23] Escorted by a party of Mounted Infantry to Golden Gates, about 50 miles southwest of Bethlehem, they proceeded to destroy ammunition that had been seized from the Boers. The ammunition was piled up in a heap and destroyed by burning it. By some means or other a few small bags of powder got mixed up with the ammunition and on receiving the order from 2nd Lieutenant Evans to fire the pile, the powder exploded and Sergeant Madden received severe injuries to the head, left hand, right knee and right shoulder. His right collarbone also was fractured. [24]

Lieutenant Llewelyn Evans described the incident in which Sergeant Madden was injured in the following report: [25]

"On the 1st of August 1900 I proceeded with Sergt. T. Madden and a small working party of Mounted Infantry from the 21st Brigade Camp at Klerkspruit to the pass called the Golden Gate for the purpose of destroying ammunition.

As there was more work to be done than I had anticipated, I employed some natives who were looking on to pile the ammunition into a heap ready for the bonfire. I am of the opinion that one of the natives in ignorance placed a bag of powder in the middle of the heap. Sergt. T. Madden, under my direction, brought a burning log and lighted the straw. We were standing by 10 feet [away to see] that the wood caught properly when we were both knocked down by the sudden explosion, Sergt. Madden being struck by various fragments causing the injuries which he mentioned. [26]

I consider that Sergt. Madden was in no way responsible for the accident as I had employed him in destroying other ammunition during a considerable portion of the time when the bonfire was being prepared."[27]

By the 30th of September the 9th Field Company was at Komatipoort. On the 29th of October 1900 Sergeant Madden was admitted to hospital in Cape Town suffering from general debility. He was released from hospital on the 13th of November in preparation for being invalided home.

The 9th Field Company moved to Potfontein on the 28th of March 1901 and there it became involved with the end game of the Boer War: the building of numerous blockhouses and the guerrilla warfare phase of the conflict. Sergeant Madden did not get to participate in the final phases of the war in South Africa. As a result of his injuries sustained in the explosion he left South Africa for England soon after being released from hospital in Cape Town.

For his service in South Africa, Sergeant Madden also was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps [CAPE COLONY][PAARDEBERG][DRIEFONTEIN] [JOHANESBURG][DIAMOND HILL][WITTEBERGEN]. He received the medal after his discharge from the Army. [28]

(11) Home (1900-1902)

Madden arrived at Gosport aboard S.S. Assaye on the 4th of December 1900. He disembarked on the 5th of December and proceeded to his new posting at Chatham. Upon his arrival at Chatham he was posted to "G" Depot Company at St. Mary's Barracks.

Soon after his arrival at Chatham, Madden started a chain of correspondence with a view to receiving a more favorable pension in light of the injuries he suffered in South Africa. He apparently realized that his state of health would probably bar him from further promotions and that his continued service in the Army for any extended period was questionable. On the 17th of December 1900 he wrote a letter to the officer commanding No. 1 Receiving Section, "G" Company, in which he requested an adjustment of his pension. Madden's letter prompted Lieutenant D. Forster of "G" Depot Company to write a letter to the officer commanding the 9th Field Company for justification to convene a court of inquiry with regard to Madden's injuries. On the 1st of April 1901 Lieutenant Llewelyn, who was still in Springfontein, South Africa, wrote the letter previously quoted letter explaining the circumstances of Madden's injuries. The officer commanding the 9th Field Company wrote an additional letter dated the 11th of April 1901 stating that he agreed that the accident in which Sergeant Madden was injured was beyond his [Madden's] control. The result of all this correspondence was the convening of a Court of Inquiry at Ft. Pitt, Chatham on the 9th of May 1901 for the purpose of investigating Madden's injuries received by the explosion of gunpowder in South Africa. The opinion of the court was that the injuries occurred while Madden was on duty and that the injuries occurred through no fault of his own. No medical certificate was issued by the court.

Sergeant Madden continued his service at Chatham in a limited capacity. On the 1st of March 1902 Madden's service in South Africa was mentioned in the despatches of Lord Roberts. [29] In these despatches Lord Roberts mentions Madden, among others, as having "rendered meritorious service" and as being worthy of "special mention" and "recognition" during the period from the 29th of November 1900 to the 4th of September 1901. [30] On the 26th of June 1902 the London Gazette published the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Sergeant Madden. [31] This award was authorized by Army Order 10/03 for his services in South Africa with the 9th Field Company. Madden's company commander, Major H.J.W. Jerome, was made a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.), also for his service in South Africa.

On the 4th of July 1902 a Medical Board convened at Chatham to review Sergeant Madden's physical condition. The board indicated that his conduct was "Exemplary", his habits were "Regular" and that he was a "Temperate" individual. [32]

Sergeant Madden's Soldier's Book balance was reconciled at Chatham on the 15th of July 1902. At that time his service papers show him as serving with "C" Company, R.E. Madden was subsequently discharged from the Army on the 31st of July 1902. On the 7th of August 1902 Madden was awarded a pension of 36 pence per day on a conditional basis for 12 months. This pension was made permanent on the 9th of July 1903.


The following medical information was taken from Thomas’s service records during his time in service:


Date of

Ailment or Medical Procedure

Period of Hospitalization
or Treatment


25 May 1881

Medical Examination

Found fit for service in the Army.


13 Mar 1893

Medical Examination

Found fit to re-engage to complete 21 years of service.

Orange River Colony, South Africa

1 Aug 1900

Injured by an explosion while burning ammunition

Treated for burns and a head wound during the period 1 August to 29 Oct 1900.

Cape Town, South Africa

29 Oct 1900

General Debility

Admitted to hospital. Released from hospital on 13 Nov 1900.


14 Jan 1901


Left arm. Third vaccination. Result: "modified."


10 Jul 1902

Medical Board

Found unfit for further service due to previous head wound.

Curragh Camp, Ireland

29 Oct 1902

General Debility

Medical report indicated he was still suffering from the head wound received on active service.

Curragh Camp, Ireland

20 Aug 1909

Medical Report

General health found to be good. His left hand and forearm were still weak. He had no discoverable disease. He qualified for a fifty-percent disability from wounds and was noted to be capable of earning a living to the extent of one-half.

Curragh Camp, Ireland

22 Sep 1909

Medical Board

Passed an examination for commutation of pension.

County Meath, Ireland

May 1922

Complete Disability

Claimed 100 percent disability due to ill health.

Madden's Pensioner's Record Card (M.O. X9) indicates that he suffered an invaliding disability from a head wound received on 1 August 1900. His wound was attributed to "Active Service, Pre Great War". The card indicates that he had a 50 percent degree of disability of a permanent nature. The card refers to the Medical Report of 29 October 1900 cited in the table above and indicates the following:

"General Debility. Explosion while destroying Boer ammunition on 1 August 1900. There was a lacerated wound of the top of forehead, fracture of right collarbone and wound of left hand. The wounds have healed but he suffers from pains in the head and giddiness as the result of the wound on the head. His right arm is also weak from the fracture. The debility is the result of injuries received on active service."

The Medical Report of the 20th of August 1909 also provides the following detailed information regarding Madden's physical condition:

"Wound is healed but is suffering from headaches, vertigo and weakness. Loss of power of left hand. Disability is permanent. The man is incapacitated. Has no use of his left hand or arm."


Thomas Madden's service papers show that he married a woman named Mary Begley sometime in January of 1890 while he was serving at Portsmouth. Madden's service papers do not indicate if he was married with the permission of his commanding officer. [33]

In September of 1890 the Maddens had a son named John F. born to them in Portsmouth. As a young man, John worked as a labourer. At the age of 14 John registered to serve as a Bugler in the Royal Engineers; however, when he was called up to serve in 1909 he was overage and could not enter the ranks as a Bugler. It appears that he declined to enlist in Army and continued to work as a labourer, at least until the start of the Great War of 1914-1918. No specific information was uncovered to determine if John actually did enlist when the war began. John Madden would have been 24 years old in 1914 when the Great War began and therefore eligible for service. What is known about John's military service is that he was serving as a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers in 1922. In all likelihood, therefore, John F. Madden served in the Royal Engineers during the Great War since to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant by 1922 he would have had to have served during the years of the Great War.

The Madden's second child, Annie, was born at Gibraltar in January of 1892. [34]

Their third child, Luke, also was born at Gibraltar in January of 1894. Luke became a builder by trade and in 1922 he employed his father as an overseer for his company. No specific information could be found regarding Luke Madden's service, if any, during the Great War. [35]

Norah, their third child, was born on the island of Malta in October of 1895. [36]

Their fourth child, Thomas, was born in Egypt in December of 1897. As with his brother Luke, no specific information could be found regarding any military service for Thomas Madden. [37], [38]

The Madden's fifth and penultimate child, Francis, was born at the Hospital for Soldier's Wives and Children at Chatham, Kent on the 11th of September 1899. As with the other sons, no specific information could be found regarding Francis's military service. [39]

The Maddens had their last child, Daniel, in October of 1902, after Sergeant Madden's discharge from the Army and while they were living in Ireland. Daniel, of course, was too young to serve during the Great War of 1914-1918. No information concerning subsequent military service could be uncovered regarding Daniel.

Mary Madden died in 1906 leaving Thomas with six children to raise. The ages of the children ranged from 4 years to 16 years at the time of Mary's death.


Sergeant Thomas Madden was discharged at Chatham, Kent on the 31st of July 1902 and was declared medically unfit for further service due to the head wound caused by the explosion while destroying ammunition in South Africa. Madden had served at total of 21 years and 68 days at the time of his discharge. He was 42 years and 11 months old when he left the Army.

Madden's discharge was confirmed at Chatham by Colonel M.H. Purcell, the Assistant Commandant of the School of Military Engineering. His service papers indicate that his trade was "Bricklayer" and that his special qualifications for employment in civil life would be as a "Very Superior Bricklayer." His conduct at the time of his discharge was noted to be "Exemplary" and his papers show that he was entitled to five Good Conduct Badges. [40]

At the time of his discharge, Madden indicated that his intended place of residence after leaving the Army would be Flower Hill, Navan, County Meath, Ireland.


Thomas Madden was living and supporting his family on a pension of 36 pence per day after his discharge from the Army. On the 20th of October 1903 he applied to the Secretary of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea for an additional 6 pence per day on his pension for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal he had earned in South Africa. [41] This increase was granted to him on the 29th of October 1903.

Madden began working as an Assistant Storekeeper for the Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.) in Curragh Camp on the 28th of April 1904. Curragh Camp was located in the Dublin District of the Irish Command and the C.R.E. was Lieutenant Colonel G.K. Scott-Moncrieff, C.I.E., R.E. The R.E. Office at Curragh Camp was under the command of Major F.E.G. Skey, R.E. and the officer in charge of Stores was Lieutenant R.K. Mc Clymount, R.E. (Militia). It was for this latter officer that Madden worked directly upon joining the office of the C.R.E. at Curragh Camp. [42]

By 1909 Madden was earning 26 shillings per week at his job and was working for a new officer in charge of Stores, Lieutenant R.F. Mainguy. [43] On the 2nd of August of that year he wrote to the Pay Officer (Pensions) at Chatham requesting the commutation of one shilling per day from his pension in order to buy a three-room thatch-roofed cottage on the edge of Curragh Camp. Commutation of a portion of his pension would have the affect of providing him with some ready cash to purchase the cottage while lowering his future pension rate. The cottage, with one acre of land, was located one-half mile from the town of Kilcullen and two miles from the Curragh. The cottage address was Knockbounce, Killcullen, County Meath.

On the 7th of October 1909, in keeping with Madden's request, six pence per day of his pension was commuted thereby providing him with 98-2s-2p to purchase the cottage. His future pension rate was lowered from 42 pence to 36 pence per day as a result of this commutation.

In March of 1910 Madden found that the three-room cottage was too small for himself and his five sons and two daughters. He drew up plans to build additions on to the cottage at a cost of 88-15s-4p. In order to help pay for this work Madden requested an additional commutation of his pension of four pence per day for a total of 65-8s-9p. He proposed to pay for the balance of the construction work from his own savings. During this time he was still employed as an Assistant Storekeeper with the Establishment for Engineer Services (E.E.S.) at Curragh Camp under the Officer-in-Charge of Stores, Quartermaster and Honorary Lieutenant J.T. Quinlan. [44], [45] One of Madden's sons was an Apprentice Carpenter who could help him with the construction work on the cottage additions; thus he was able to save some labour costs associated with the construction.

On the 7th of April 1910 Madden had the additional four pence of his pension commuted for a total of 65-8s-9p. His future pension from this date forward was reduced to 32 pence per day. In August of 1910 he started work on the cottage expansion himself. As a bricklayer Madden was able to do the exterior work, with his son helping with the needed carpentry work.

Thomas Madden left the employ of the CRE at Curragh Camp on the 13th of May 1922 after 18 years as an Assistant Storekeeper. On the 30th of May he requested an increase in his pension since he would then be fully retired. No immediate action was taken on his request, so Madden began to work as an overseer for his son Luke who was by then a builder. Luke was able to pay his father 18 shillings per week. In addition, Madden's son John, who was serving as a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers, was able to send his father seven shillings per week.

By the 4th of December 1922, Thomas Madden was unemployed due to ill health. He again applied for a pension increase claiming that he had been a total invalid and unable to work since May of 1922. The Pension Office reckoned that his annual income at that time was 167-0s-4p and he was initially told that since his total annual income exceeded 150 per annum he was ineligible for a pension increase. Further consideration of his invalid status caused the Pension Office to reconsider his claim and his pension was increased to 13-17s-0p per quarter, or a daily rate of 36.4 pence. This amount would be paid to him in addition to his 6 pence per day authorized by the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The increase in pension rate, however, was not to be effective until the 31st of December 1923.

On the 29th of March 1923 Thomas Madden's unemployment compensation stopped. Madden wrote to the Pension Office on the 18th of April 1923 to explain that he had been out of work for the past 11 months and that he was only capable of doing light work owing to his war wound. Before his pension and unemployment compensation problems could be resolved, Thomas Madden died at his home on the 31st of August 1923 of cancer of the larynx. [46], [47] He never did receive the promised pension rate increase as his death occurred before the effective date of the increase. The delaying tactics of government bureaucracy had worked again to deprive an old soldier of his due.

The Ministry of Pensions was unrelenting, however, in pursuing Madden's problem even after his death. On the 19th of October 1923 Madden was called, by letter, to appear for a medical examination. Of course he failed to respond. On the 30th of October 1923 he was again called to appear and again he failed to respond. Finally, on the 1st of November 1923 the Ministry of Pensions' envelope containing Madden's summons to appear for a medical examination was returned to the Ministry marked "Deceased."



1. ABBOTT, P.E. Recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1855-1909. J.B. Hayward, Polstead, Suffolk, 1987.

2. BAKER BROWN, W. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume IV. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952.

3. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers From 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.

4. FARWELL, B. The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Land Warfare: An Illustrated World View. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2001.

5. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.

6. GORDON, L.L. British Battles and Medals. Spink & Son, Ltd., London, 1971.

7. HALL, D. The Hall Handbook of the Anglo-Boer War. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, 1999.

8. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.

9. HAYWARD & HALL. South African Honours and Awards, 1899-1902. Arms and Armour Press, London, 1971.

10. PURVES, T. The 9th, 1787-1960: The History of the British Army's Only Remaining Parachute Engineer Unit. The Sherwood Press, Nottingham, 1990.

11. PORTER, W. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume II. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952.

12. ROGERS, H.C.B. Troopships and Their History. Seeley Service & Co. Limited, London, 1963.

13. 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.

14. WATSON, C.M. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume III. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1954.


1. Soldiers Papers, PIN 71/4122, National Archives, London.

2. Lord Roberts Despatches dated 1 March 1902.

3. Medal Roll, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, 1 July 1899 to 1 January 1900.

Computer Software

1881 British Census and National Index. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1999.


1. London Gazette, 26 June 1902.

2. The Royal Engineers Monthly List, January 1905.

3. The Royal Engineers Monthly List, December 1908.

4. The Royal Engineers Monthly List, March 1910.

Personal Communications

1. GASE, S. Movements of Royal Engineers Companies. West Drayton, Middlesex, 2001.

2. LARIMORE, F. Rules for Awarding Good Conduct Badges, Philadelphia, 2003.


[1] Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

[2] 1881 British Census, FHL Film 1342253, PRO Reference RG11, Piece 5196, Folio 21, page 34.

[3] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army and the Corps of Royal Engineers (Victorian Period).

[4] See Periods of Enlistment for the Corps of Royal Engineers.

[5] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[6] Medal Roll, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, 1 July 1899 to 1 January 1900.

[7] See Good Conduct Pay.

[8] Medal Roll, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, 1 July 1899 to 1 January 1900.

[9] The original award of this medal in 1830 was for soldiers of "exemplary conduct" for 21 years in the infantry and corps and 24 years in the cavalry. In 1870 this period was reduced to 18 years for all soldiers. This was done partially so that the medal could be worn by a soldier before his discharge to show off his example of ‘exemplary’ service to the other men of his unit and the army.

[10] See Certificates of Education.

[11] The whereabouts of these medals are not known to the author.

[12] St. Helena is the island famous for the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte from 1815-1821. It is located in the South Atlantic Ocean about 1,200 miles from the west coast of Africa.

[13] See Extensions of Service of the Regular Army.

[14] See Re-Engagement in the Regular Army.

[15] See Note 6.

[16] GOORKHA was built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots. Sister of the Gascon (2) she was built for the Intermediate service and transferred to Union-Castle on 8th March 1900 when the companies merged. In 1910 she was moved to the East Africa service where she remained until 20th October 1914 when she was commissioned as a hospital ship with 408 beds. On 10th October 1917 she was mined off Malta and all 362 patients and medical staff including 17 nurses were evacuated without any casualties in 35 minutes. She was then towed into Malta where on 18th October she was decommissioned and returned to the company for repairs and resumption of commercial services. She was laid up at Netley, Southampton Water in 1926 and eventually broken up by Thos. W. Ward in 1928.

[17] The company had picked up two additional officers since its initial deployment to South Africa. The unit and Corps histories do not indicate who these officers were.

[18] A railway deviation is a bypass around an obstacle, usually a demolished bridge.

[19] This was one of the most common tasks assigned to companies of the Royal Engineers in support of operations in the field. The route of advance of the British force in South Africa required the crossing of many rivers, streams and dongas (dry streambeds). The geology of South Africa is such that these crossing sites, wet or dry, normally consisted of nearly vertical banks that had to be cut down to allow for the passage of wagons and artillery pieces.

[20] According to Connolly (p. 64), Captain Young died at Kimberley on the 5th of June 1900. Purves gives Young's place of death as Vryburg.

[21] The British and Boer artillery and small arms ammunition were for the most part incompatible. The British therefore destroyed any captured Boer ammunition rather than store it and take the chance that it might be recaptured.

[22] Lyddite was a powerful explosive, originally manufactured in Kent, composed mainly of picric acid.

[23] It is unclear whether Lieutenant Llewelyn was transferred from No. 3 Section to No. 2 Section at this time or whether Sergeant Madden was transferred from No. 2 Section to No. 3 Section. Somehow, Madden ended up working for Llewelyn during this operation. Llewelyn originally commanded No. 3 Section when the company first deployed to South Africa. No. 2 Section was commanded by Lieutenant Alexander Hardcastle. It is also possible that Madden's previous experience with destroying ammunition got him the assignment of accompanying Lieutenant Llewelyn on this mission.

[24] This description of the injuries suffered by Sergeant Madden was taken from a letter written by him to the Officer Commanding No. 1 Receiving Station, "G" Company, Royal Engineers. The letter, dated 17 December 1900, was written by Madden while he was at St. Mary's Barracks in Chatham. Madden indicates that at the time of the incident he was serving with No. 2 Section, 9th Company under 2nd Lieutenant Evans. The company was attached to the 21st Brigade, South African Field Force. Madden had only 15 months remaining to complete 21 years of service. His reason for writing the letter was to request that his case be specifically considered by the authorities when fixing his rate of pension on discharge from the Army.

[25] This report is dated Springfontein, 1 April 1901 and is entitled Statement of Circumstances Under Which Sergt. T. Madden, 9th Coy, R.E. Received Injuries in South Africa.

[26] Evans is referring here to Madden's letter dated 17 December 1900 in which he describes the incident that caused his injuries.

[27] It would appear that Evans, the officer in charge of the operation, may have been negligent in ensuring proper supervision of the natives while they were preparing the pile of ammunition to be burned. Apparently no one with any understanding of the dangers of placing powder on the pile was observing the natives as they were working. Evans, by his own admission, indicated that Madden was off performing other duties "when the bonfire was being prepared." No mention is made of any other Sappers in the area. The Mounted Infantry detachment probably had no knowledge of what was being done. The only knowledgeable individuals were Evans and Madden. Madden was destroying ammunition elsewhere. Evans does not say what he was doing while the natives were preparing the pile for burning. Obviously, he was not observing them.

[28] This medal was sent to Madden on 19 March 1903 (Ref: PRO 156/21 and REMB 7/69). The whereabouts of this medal is not known to the author.

[29] This Mention in Despatches was published in the London Gazette in the May to November 1902 time frame.

[30] HAYWARD & HALL, p. 105.

[31] The whereabouts of this medal is not known to the author.

[32] Army Form B. 179. Detailed Medical History of an Invalid.

[33] See Marriage of Soldiers During the Victorian Period.

[34] The 1901 British Census shows her name to be Ann.

[35] Luke Madden would have been 20 years old in 1914 when the Great War began. Neither Soldier's Died in the Great War nor the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Internet web site show a Luke Madden of that age as a casualty during the war.

[36] Register of Army Chaplains in Malta, 1800-1900.

[37] Thomas Madden would have been 18 years old in 1914 when the Great War began. Neither Soldier's Died in the Great War nor the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Internet web site show a Thomas Madden of that age as a casualty during the war.

[38] A Lance Corporal Thomas Madden served in the 284th Squadron, Royal Engineers during World War II. If he were the son of Sergeant Thomas Madden, he would have been 42 years of age at the start of the war. This seems unlikely, although it is possible.

[39] Francis Madden would have been 18 years old in 1917 and therefore eligible for service during the last two years of the Great War. Neither Soldier's Died in the Great War nor the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Internet web site show a Francis Madden of that age as a casualty during the war.

[40] See Good Conduct Pay.

[41] Thomas Madden was Chelsea Pensioner No. 32886.

[42] R.E. Monthly List, January 1905, p. xxv.

[43] R.E. Monthly List, December 1908, p. xxvi.

[44] See Establishment for Engineer Service.

[45] R.E. Monthly List, March 1910, p. xxi.

[46] The cause of his death appears to be unrelated to his war injuries and probably resulted from him being a heavy smoker.

[47] At the time of his death, Thomas Madden was a member of the Slainte Insurance Society, Ely Place, Dublin.


Queen's South Africa Medal Roll for the 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

The name of 17006 Sergeant Thomas Madden appears on the roll of the 9th Field Company Royal Engineers for the award of the Queen's South Africa Medal. The medal roll is dated Potfontein, 28-8-01 and indicates that Sergeant Madden was entitled to the medal with the clasps [PAARDEBERG] [DREIFONTEIN] [JOHANNESBURG] [DIAMOND HILL] [WITTEBERGEN] and [CAPE COLONY]. Based on the award of these clasps to Sergeant Madden, his service in South Africa with the 9th Field Company can be more clearly defined, as indicated below:

[PAARDEBERG]: Madden was with the force that got to within 7,000 yards of General Cronje's final laager between midnight on the 17th of February and midnight of the 26th of February 1900.

[DREIFONTEIN]: Madden was with Lieutenant General French's column, which advanced from Poplar Grove on the 10th of March 1900.

[JOHANNESBURG]: Madden served to the north of an east-west line through Klip River Station and east of a north-south line through Krugersdorp Station on the 31st of May 1900.

[DIAMOND HILL]: Madden served east of a north-south line drawn through Silverton Siding and north of an east-west line through Vlakfontein on the 11th and 12th of June 1900.

[WITTEBERGEN]: Madden served inside the line drawn from Harrismith to Bethlehem, thence to Senekal and Clocolan, along the Basuto border, and back to Harrismith from the 1st to the 29th of July 1900.

[CAPE COLONY]: This State bar indicates that Madden served in the Cape Colony after the 11th of October 1899.

The Remarks section of the medal roll page indicates that on the date the roll was prepared at Potfontein on the 28 of August 1901, Sergeant Madden had already been transferred to "G" Depot Company of the Royal Engineers at Chatham. The 9th Field Company had moved to Potfontein on the 28th of March 1901. At that time, Madden was only 15 months away from completing his second term of limited engagement. Since Madden left South Africa in 1900, he would not have been entitled to the King's South Africa Medal.