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1850799 Foreman of Works Quartermaster Sergeant
Royal Engineers

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2001. All Rights Reserved.


The primary subject of this work is Foreman of Works Quartermaster Sergeant George Arthur Baldwin, R.E., for it is his medal that is in the author’s collection [1]. Although George Arthur Baldwin is the main subject of this research, much information is also included about his father George Baldwin who was also a Sapper. During the search for service papers on George Arthur, the author was fortunate enough to obtain George’s papers (WO97/4297) from the Public Record Office at Kew. Unfortunately, no papers were found on George Arthur. The papers of George Baldwin, however, opened up many avenues of research with regard to the Baldwin family. During the course of the research it was found that the Baldwins were a true Sapper family, with George Baldwin and his three sons all having served in the Corps of Royal Engineers.

George Baldwin

Early Life (1860 – 1892)

George Baldwin, the father of the main subject of this research, was born in January of 1860 at Chatham, Kent, the location of Brompton Barracks and the Headquarters of the Corps of Royal Engineers [2]. It appears that he spent the early years of his life living in London working on tugboats on the River Thames or the River Medway where he eventually became the Master of one such boat [3].

George Baldwin married Rachel Eliza Bloom at St. Thomas’s Church in Stepney, London on the 14th of February 1881. Over the next 10 years the Baldwins had three sons: George Arthur (born 16 November 1885), James Alexander (born 28 April 1889) and Frederick Thomas (born 21 March 1891).

Enlistment and First Period of Service (1892 – 1899)

In the autumn of 1892 George Baldwin decided that he wanted to join the Army. He was recruited by a Quartermaster Sergeant Lewis of the Army Staff in London and on the 30th of September 1892 he was given a physical examination that found him fit for military service. The following is a description of George Baldwin at the time of his enlistment:

Apparent age:

33 years


5 feet 5 inches


170 pounds

Chest Measurement (normal):

38 inches

Chest Measurement (expanded):

40 inches







Distinctive Marks:

Scar on left forehead

A Certificate of Final Medical Examination was issued for Baldwin on the date of his examination, thereby concluding the first step towards his enlistment. Baldwin was almost 33 years of age when he enlisted and one wonders why he was allowed to join the Army when the upper age limit for recruits at that time was 25 years [4]. The answer probably lies in the fact that as a Tug Master, Baldwin was a trained coxswain, a skill much in demand at that time by the Submarine Miners of the Royal Engineers.

Following his medical examination, Baldwin was given about two weeks to get his personal affairs in order before reporting to St. George’s Barracks in London. He attested for service in the Royal Engineers on the 12th of October 1892. His was a long service enlistment of 12 years with the Colours [5]. His attestation was witnessed by Corporal A.S. Milne of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

Baldwin was required to answer the usual questions put to recruits on enlistment. He indicated to the Recruiting Officer that his age was 32 years and 10 months and that his civilian trade was Tug Master. He stated that he was not an apprentice, that he was married, and that his religion was Church of England. He further indicated that he had never been imprisoned by civil power and that he had no prior naval or military service.

All of the administration associated with Baldwin’s attestation was completed on the 12th of October. His Certificate of Primary Military Examination was issued at St. George’s Barracks and he was declared fit for service in the Royal Engineers. The certification of the Approving Field Officer was also issued on this date and Baldwin was assigned Regimental Number 27061 and the rank of Sapper. It is interesting to note that he was promoted on the same day to the rank of Company Sergeant Major (Mechanist)[6] undoubtedly due to his age, experience and civilian skill as Master of a tugboat.

Company Sergeant Major Baldwin reported for duty to Sheerness, Kent on the 17th of October 1892. Upon his arrival at Sheerness he reported to the 39th (Submarine Mining) Company, Royal Engineers commanded by Captain D.A. Mills. This company was under the control of the Commander Royal Engineers (CRE) of the Sheerness sub-district, Thames District, Eastern Command of the Royal Engineers. The headquarters of the 39th Company was at High Street, Blue Town in Sheerness.

George Baldwin spent the next 7 years at Sheerness as the Company Sergeant Major of the 39th (Submarine Mining) Company, R.E. During this period he saw many company commanders arrive and depart. The following is a list of the officers who commanded the 39th Company while Baldwin was serving with the unit:

Commanding Officer

Dates in Command

Captain D.A. Mills

April 1889 – November 1893

Lieutenant F.P. Rundle

November 1893 – May 1894

Captain G. Le Breton Simmons

May 1894 – January 1897

Captain R.F. Edwards

January 1897 – October 1897

Captain E.G. Young

October 1897 – October 1899

Company Sergeant Major Baldwin pursued his studies while he performed his duties with the company. On the 19th of November 1894 he was awarded a 2nd Class Certificate of Education [7].

His wife and family were with him at Sheerness and his wife was most certainly on the married establishment due to the fact that he was married when he enlisted and was serving in the grade of Warrant Officer Class 2 from the beginning of his enlistment [8]. His wife gave birth to a daughter, Alice May, on the 5th of July 1893. The Baldwin’s had a second daughter at Sheerness, Rachel Elizabeth, born on the 30th of November 1895.

CSM Baldwin’s records do not contain his Medical History and the only medical information available on him is the fact that he was hospitalized on the 2nd of September 1896 with a sprained right ankle, probably the result of an accident during training. A court of inquiry was held on the 6th of October 1896, the results of which are not stated in his service papers. It may be concluded, however, that the court found the injury to be in the line of duty and not due to any misdeed on his part [9].

Baldwin continued his duties with the 39th Company and was promoted to the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant (Military Mechanist)[10] on the 12th of October 1898. It is very likely that he spent a good deal of time at Shornmead Fort on the south bank of the River Thames, only a short distance from Sheerness. Shornmead became the home of the Submarine Mining Establishment in the 1890’s. A complex of test rooms and control rooms was attached to the eastern end of the casemates of the fort and was manned by the Submarine Miners. The complex allowed the detonation of a system of submarine mines anchored to the riverbed adjacent to the fort by an observer on top of the fort. Shornmead served as a training establishment for the Thames and Medway Submarine Miners and made use of ten tug boats that were hired from Gravesend to practice mine laying in the rivers.

In rank of Quartermaster Sergeant (Military Mechanist), Baldwin performed the duties of Coxswain on one of the many boats operated by the Submarine Miners of the Royal Engineers. The following excerpt from Lieutenant Colonel W. Baker Brown’s book History of Submarine Mining of the British Army provides details concerning the vessels and boats on which Baldwin worked during the period [11]:

"The vessels and boats used for submarine mining service may be classified as laying-out vessels, launches, lighters, junction-box boats, and small boats. The last comprised cutters, gigs, and dinghies of usual types; junction-box boats were usually fitted with sails. The lighters first used were old mortar boats of Crimean days, but a good type of iron lighter about 70’ long and 25’ wide was afterwards supplied. It had two large derricks for lifting mines, two good hand crabs [12], and capacious holds in which mines or sinkers could be stowed. Some were also used for storing main cables, in which case the cables were laid out direct from the lighter.

The launches were at first old 42’ naval pinnaces fitted with a boiler in the well and small twin propellers. They were fairly handy for laying E.C. mines [13], but their weak point was in raising mines, as they had only a small hand crab. They were only half-decked and were not very seaworthy. They were replaced by a good type of working launch about 50’ on the water line, with steam crab, bow derrick, and fully decked. Such a launch could carry on deck, sling, and lay out a group of E.C. mines, but was best employed for junction-box moorings and group cables, also in picking up and laying dormant buoys, towing junction-box boats, and similar duties. There were also some smaller fast launches for towing, transport of officers, etc.

The first laying-out vessels were lent by the Navy; they were tugs of all descriptions, generally paddle wheel, and were mostly very little adapted for the work. The first specially designed boat was built in 1875 by Messrs. J. & W. Dudgeon, of Millwall, to designs based on recommendations of the Torpedo Committee. This was the beginning of the well-known Miner class, some of which survived for 30 years. These were 65’ long, 15’ beam, draught of water 4’6", tonnage 67 tons, and H.P. 30 nominal. They had a good steam winch and small chart house on deck, and were subsequently fitted with a bow derrick. They were all thoroughly overhauled in 1894 or thereabouts, and fitted with a bridge and two side davits. Thus equipped, they were especially fitted for laying E.C. mines, of which they could carry four groups.

The larger laying-out vessels were first introduced in 1885, when the vessels of the Gordon class were started by Colonel Malcom [14]. These were 80’ long on the water line, with 18’ beam and a tonnage of 100 to 120 tons, and were fitted with single screws and turn-about rudders. The first two built were called Medina and Solent, but the former was re-named Gordon. Most of the subsequent vessels were also named after distinguished R.E. officers, especially those who had been interested in the Submarine Mining Service.

Of the Gordon class there were the Solent, Lord Heathfield, Burgoyne, Victor, Empress, and Dundas. Then there followed a rather smaller class, Sir John Jones, Sir Richard Fletcher, Sir William Reid, Sir Francis Head, Sir William Green, and General Elliott, General Skinner, and Napier of Magdala. Then a rather larger group with numerous variations in detail, the Sir Charles Pasley, Sir Howard Elphinstone, Sir Frederick Chapman, Sir Henry Harness, Sir Lothian Nicholson, Sir William Jervois, General Stotherd, and Armstrong. Finally ending with two named Pennar and Haslar, after the neighbourhood of the submarine mining establishments at Pembroke and Gosport. All the above survived to the end of the service.

The larger boats had two masts fitted with mast derricks, in addition to a bow derrick. There was also a large steam crab with horizontal and vertical drums, a big bow joggle or fairlead over which the cable was led when picking up, cleats at suitable intervals down the side, and a slinging rail under the gunwale for attaching flakes of chain or cable. The engines were compounded with twin screws. There was generally an officer’s cabin at one end used by the coxswain if no officers were on board, and living accommodation at the other for the crew.

The usual crew was a coxswain, two or three deck hands according to size, two engine drivers and two stokers for the engine room, and a cook who gave a hand on deck on heavy days. A third engine driver was sometimes put on board for the day to attend the steam crab. The larger vessels could carry six or eight groups of E.C. mines, or an equivalent of observations mines, and were capable of working in fairly rough weather."

As the Coxswain of one of these vessels, Quartermaster Sergeant Baldwin was the senior non-commissioned officer aboard and was also responsible for steering the boat during submarine mining operations. There was a considerable amount of responsibility associated with this position, not only with handling a large and expensive vessel, but also with the handling of the highly explosive mines carried on board. On the 10th of May 1899, QMS Baldwin committed one of the gravest offences that a senior non-commissioned officer could commit; he was discovered to be drunk on duty. On the 6th of June 1899 he was convicted by court martial of being drunk on duty and was reduced to the rank of Sapper. That his drunkenness was considered a very serious offence is evident by the fact that he was not simply reduced to the rank of Staff Sergeant, Sergeant or even Corporal. He was reduced all the way down to the rank of Sapper, the lowest enlisted rank in the Corps of Royal Engineers. At the same time he forfeited 1.d of the 2.d Good Conduct Pay that he was earning [15,16].

George Baldwin returned to duty as a Sapper on the day after his court martial. On the 21st of July 1899 he transferred to the First Class Army Reserve at his own request as a result of his reduction to the ranks. He was issued deferred pay amounting to 15-10s-6d before leaving active service with the Submarine Miners.

Recalled to the Colours (1900 – 1901)

On the 26th of December 1900, during one of the darkest periods of the British Army’s operations against the Boers in South Africa, George Baldwin was called up from the Army Reserve and rejoined the Colours as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. He was recalled under the Special Army Order dated 20 December 1899. He reported for duty at Brompton Barracks where he was assigned to "M" Company (Submarine Mining) under Major A.H. Van Straubenzee, R.E. On the 10th of November 1900, Sapper Baldwin had his Good Conduct Pay restored to 2.d per day.

On the 1st of April 1901, "M" Company became the cadre for the Brennan Torpedo School. On the introduction of the Brennan Torpedo, a special course of instruction was arranged for handling the mechanism and looking after the gear, while selected engine drivers were taught to use the special apparatus fitted in the Brennan engine room. This work was especially confidential, and every officer and man had to sign a declaration of secrecy.

Sapper Baldwin was discharged from the Army on the 20th of June 1901, only two and a half months after the formation of the Brennan Torpedo School. He was discharged free of further military obligation with a total of only 8 years and 252 days of service. Perhaps his previous bad habit of excessive drinking had not been completely conquered and he was considered to be unreliable for further service in the sensitive area of the Brennan Torpedo. Without any field engineering skills and perhaps due to his age (he was then 40 and a half year old), a place could not be found for him to serve. These may have been the reasons for his early discharge, free of any further service requirement under his 12-year enlistment.

No further information is known about George Baldwin following his discharge from the Army. It is likely that he returned to his previous trade as a crewmember of a tugboat on the Thames or the Medway. His drinking problem, if it was a serious one, may have precluded him from returning to his former occupation as a Tug Master.

George Arthur Baldwin

Early Life (1885 – 1900)

George Arthur Baldwin grew up in the Sheerness area with his brothers and sisters while his father was serving in the 39th (Submarine Mining) Company, Royal Engineers. He was old enough in 1899 to recognize that his father had been considerably disgraced by his reduction in rank from Quartermaster Sergeant to Sapper as a result of his drinking on duty. Within three weeks after his father was called back to the Colours in December of 1899 to serve as a Sapper in "M" Company, young George Arthur decided to join the Army himself, like his father and probably his grandfather before him.

Enlistment and Early Service (1900 – 1914)

George Arthur Baldwin joined the Royal Engineers as a Boy Soldier [17] on the 17th of January 1900. He was 14 years and 2 months old at the time of his enlistment. Unfortunately, his service papers were not available for study at the Public Record Office, but it is known that he was assigned Regimental Number 4213.

It is also known that George Arthur Baldwin served in South Africa during his time in the Army [18]. What is not known is when this service in South Africa occurred. It is most likely that he served there after attaining the age of 18 years and joining the ranks as a Sapper; that is, any time after the 15th of November 1903.

Great War Service (1914 – 1918)

George Arthur Baldwin served in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the Great War [19]. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of Foreman of Works Quartermaster Sergeant. He was mentioned for his service during the war by General Sir E.H.H. Allenby, GCMG, KCB, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Allenby’s despatch dated the 3rd of April 1918. Baldwin is listed with those officers, non-commissioned officers and men who Allenby says rendered "distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty" during the operations in Palestine [20].

In January of 1918 QMS Baldwin was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal [21] and for his services during the war he earned the British War Medal and Victory Medal [22].

Post War Service (1918 – 1932)

QMS Baldwin remained in the Army after the Great War and was issued Army Number 1850799 [23]. He completed 21 years of service in January of 1921, assuming that his service as a Boy Soldier counted towards his time for discharge. Between the time the war ended and his discharge from the Army, it is believed that he served in North China [24].

Post Military Life (1932 – 1966)

George Arthur Baldwin appears to have remained in North China, perhaps working as a civilian Clerk of Works, after his discharge from the Army. On the 11th of July 1932 he prepared his last will and testament while residing at 107 Douglas Road in Tientsin, China. Witnesses to his will were his neighbors, John Ernest Simmonds of 111 Douglas Road and John Lawrinson of 115 Douglas Road. The executrix of his will was his wife, Mary Ann Aldous Baldwin, who appears to have been residing in China at the time. Although he was no longer in the Army, life was hardly peaceful for Baldwin and his wife during their time in China, especially during 1931 and 1932.

Major E.F. Tickell, MC, R.E. was the Officer Commanding the Royal Engineers of the Establishment for Engineer Services stationed in Tientsin until the autumn of 1931 when he was replaced by Major G. McL. Ross, MC, R.E. During the period of their change of command, a miniature war was being fought in the Chinese section of Tientsin [25]. All Europeans had been confined to their quarters for some time during the hostilities. The restriction was removed in November of 1931, but the British populace in Tientsin was not allowed outside the boundaries of the British Concession. Old soldiers in the city were reminded of old times, as they could hear the sound of rifle and machine gun fire and occasional trench mortars coming from the Chinese city. Part of the boundary of the British Concession was wired in against the influx of refugees, under the supervision of non-commissioned officers of the Royal Engineers. By December of 1931 things were far from normal, but by then the indiscriminant firing that had been going on each night had practically ceased [26].

Fighting raged in and around Tientsin between the Chinese and the Japanese in the spring of 1932. A British ship bringing a draft of soldiers to Shanghai from Tientsin had to pass through the fire between the Woosung Forts and Japanese destroyers, and had rather a hectic ten minutes, during which time shells burst in the vicinity and the ship was struck by bullets [27].

It is not known for how long the Baldwins lived in China. It is probably safe to assume that when the Japanese invaded China on a large scale in 1937, Baldwin along with most of the other Europeans probably left Tientsin.

Home in England

When he finally returned home to England, Baldwin took a position as a Clerk of Works with an unknown company or government agency. He held this position until his final retirement. After returning to England, he and his wife resided at 34 Bury Crescent in Gosport, Hampshire.

George Arthur Baldwin died on the 29th of April 1966 at the age of 80 years. His death took place at War Memorial Hospital in Gosport [28]. The informant of his death was one H. Fereday, Occupier, at War Memorial Hospital. His death was certified by C.P. Gray, MB as being caused by a carcinoma of the lung. Baldwin’s death certificate was issued by C. Penkethman, the Registrar in the district and sub-district of Gosport in the County of Hampshire on the 3rd of May 1966 [29].

George Arthur Baldwin’s will was probated on the 25th of August 1966. His wife renounced probate of the will and his estate went to his son, George William Baldwin, an Inspector on the Metropolitan Police Force who was then residing at 37 Cropthorne Court, Maida Vale, London W.9.


George Arthur Baldwin had two younger brothers; James Alexander and Frederick Thomas, the former who was about 3 years younger and the latter who was 5 years and 4 months younger than George Arthur. In August of 1914, at the start of the Great War, James Alexander Baldwin was 25 and 3 months old and very much eligible for military service. The service papers of his father list the birth date of James Alexander as the 28th of April 1889. The Royal Engineers Regimental Warrant Officers’ and N.C.O.s’ Seniority List of 1930 [30] lists a Warrant Officer Class I J. Baldwin, Army Number 1851693, with a birth date of the 30th of April 1889. The birth dates are too close to be a coincidence. The evidence is strong that WO I J. Baldwin in the 1930 R.E. Seniority List is the brother of Foreman of Works QMS George Arthur Baldwin.

The Seniority List also indicates shows the following information with regard to Warrant Officer Class I James Alexander Baldwin:

It is a certainty that RSM J.A. Baldwin saw active service during the Great War and was entitled to the trio or pair of medals issued to British soldiers for that conflict.

Frederick Thomas Baldwin would have been 23 years and 5 months old at the start of the Great War. At that age he too would have been just the right age to have enlisted for service. The service papers of his father list the birth date of Frederick Thomas as the 12th of March 1891. The Royal Engineers Regimental Warrant Officers’ and N.C.O.s’ Seniority List of 1930 [32] lists a Warrant Officer Class II F. Baldwin, M.M., Army Number 1851944, with a birth date of the 19th of March 1891. Again, the listed birth dates are too close to be a coincidence. The evidence is strong that the WO II F. Baldwin in the 1930 R.E. Seniority List is the brother of Foreman of Works QMS George Arthur Baldwin and RSM James Alexander Baldwin. The Seniority List indicates that WO II F. Baldwin won the Military Medal (undoubtedly during the Great War) and also shows the following information with regard to him:

The Sapper magazine of October 1930 shows a listing for CSM F. Baldwin under Extensions of Service indicating that he was granted permission to serve beyond 21 years [33,34]. Finally, the Sapper magazine of December 1950 lists in the Obituary column the death of 1851944 W.O. II F.T. Baldwin on the 7th of October 1950 at the age of 59, predeceasing his brother George by 16 years. In the Obituary listing his middle initial "T" is given, thus providing further evidence that he is Frederick Thomas Baldwin.



1. BAKER BROWN, W. History of Submarine Mining in the British Army. W. & J. Mackay & Co., Ltd., Chatham, 1910.

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

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

4. 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.


1. Certified Copy of an Entry of Death for George Arthur Baldwin. The General Register Office, London, DXZ900047, dated 28 September 2001.

2. Last Will and Testament of George Arthur Baldwin, dated Tientsin, China, 11 July 1942.

3. Medal Index Card of Quartermaster Sergeant George A. Baldwin, Royal Engineers.

4. Probate Registry, High Court of Justice, Gosport, Hampshire, 25 August 1966.

5. Roll of Individuals Entitled to the Victory Medal and British War Medal Granted Under Army Orders 301 & 266 (WO329/325).

6. Service Papers of Sapper George Baldwin (WO97/4297), consisting of the following documents:

  1. Long Service Attestation.
  2. Description on Enlistment.
  3. Military History Sheet.
  4. Statement of Services.


1. The London Gazette, 14 June 1918.

2. The Sapper, September 1966

3. The Sapper, January 1932.

4. The Sapper, April 1932.

5. The Sapper, November 1930.

6. The Sapper, October 1930.


[1] The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (GVR), fixed suspender, with the bareheaded bust of King George V in a Field Marshal’s uniform.

[2] The fact that George Baldwin was born at Chatham and enlisted in the Royal Engineers could indicate that his father was also a Sapper. Unfortunately, a check of the 1881 British Census and National Index did not turn up any information on his parents, so this assumption could not be verified.

[3] Baldwin listed his occupation on his military attestation papers as Tug Master when he enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1892.

[4] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army (Victorian Period).

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

[6] See Royal Engineer Ranks.

[7] See Certificates of Education

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

[9] Courts of inquiry were common during the Victorian period whenever a soldier was injured and lost time away from his duties. The courts apparently deliberated on the cause of any accidental injury to determine whether it was the result of misconduct on the part of the soldier. Being drunk on duty or brawling were two common reasons for a soldier’s injury to be considered not in the line of duty.

[10] See Royal Engineer Ranks.

[11] Baker Brown, p. 233-234.

[12] Winches.

[13] Electrical cable command detonated mines.

[14] Colonel E.D. Malcolm, CB. Joined the Submarine Miners in 1870. Served in the Indian Mutiny, 1857-1858, Instructor in Telegraphy, 1876, and Inspector of Submarine Defences, War Office, 1881-1884.

[15] See Good Conduct Pay.

[16] Baldwin’s record does not indicate when he received his first or his second Good Conduct Badge. What is also curious is the fact that he received good conduct pay at all, since he was a senior non-commissioned officer from the day he enlisted, and good conduct pay was not normally awarded to soldiers after promotion to the rank of Sergeant.

[17] See Recruitment of Boy Soldiers.

[18] The Sapper, September 1966, p. 294.

[19] Medal Index Card.

[20] The London Gazette, 14 June 1918.

[21] This medal is in the author’s collection.

[22] Medal Index Card and Roll of Individuals Entitled to the Victory Medal and British War Medal Granted Under Army Orders 301 & 266 (WO329/325).

[23] It is this number that appears on his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

[24] The Sapper, September 1966, p. 294.

[25] That portion of Tientsin that was not occupied by foreign powers.

[26] The Sapper, January 1932, p. 163.

[27] The Sapper, April 1932, p. 248.

[28] The foundation stone for the War Memorial Hospital was laid by the famous Great War soldier Earl Haig in 1921. It was a further two years before the hospital was opened for patients. There were originally only 26 beds in the hospital, but it was expanded in 1932 to accommodate 42 patients and again in 1948 with an additional 21 beds.

[29] Death Certificate.

[30] The Sapper, November 1930, p. 111.

[31] Ibid., p. 90.

[32] The Sapper, November 1930, p. 111.

[33] The Sapper, October 1930, p. 82.

[34] See Continuance with the Regular Army After 21 Years of Service.