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20233 Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
Royal Engineers

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2003. All Rights Reserved.


Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from the soldier’s service papers, copies of which were obtained from the National Archives at Kew, Richmond, Surrey. RSM Carter's service papers were located in the War Office files under WO97/4498 and WO160/3.


Francis Carter was born in the Parish of Malvern, near the Town of Worcester, in the County of Worcestershire, in November of 1864. His father was Thomas Carter of Railway Terrace, Malvern Link, Malvern, Worcestershire. The Carters were members of the Church of England.

Francis lived with his parents prior to enlisting in the Royal Engineers in 1885. As a young man he was employed as a Clerk and may have worked in Birmingham, given that he enlisted in the Army in that town.

A search for the Carter family was made in the 1881 British Census. No record could be found of a Thomas Carter living in Malvern, Worcestershire in the year 1881, nor could a reliable entry be found for a 17-year old male by the name of Francis Carter who was born in Worcestershire.


At the time he enlisted in the Army in November of 1885, Francis Carter was 21 years old [1]. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 127 pounds, with a normal chest measurement of 35 inches [2]. He had blue eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. A scar on his right shoulder was his only distinctive mark.

At the time of his discharge from the Army in 1906, Carter was 42 years old. His height and appearance had not changed appreciably except for his chest size, which had increased to 38 inches. He probably had gained some weight, although his weight is not shown in his service papers at the time of his discharge.


Francis Carter enlisted in the Royal Engineers at Birmingham on the 16th of November 1885 after being recruited for the Army by a Sergeant in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment [3]. His enlistment was for a period of seven years with the Colours and five years in the First Class Army Reserve.

At the time of his enlistment, Carter answered the usual questions put to a recruit by stating that he was not an Apprentice and that he was not married. He further indicated that he had never been sentenced to penal servitude and that he had never previously served in Her Majesty’s Forces and had never been rejected for service as unfit.

Carter swore the Oath of Attestation at Birmingham on the 16th of November 1885 before Mr. F.B. Goodman, Justice of the Peace. His Certificate of Final Medical Examination and Certificate of Primary Military Examination were both signed at Birmingham on this date, thus declaring him fit for service in the Army. On the 21st of November 1885 the Certificate of Approving Field Officer for Carter’s attestation was issued at Warwick by the Colonel H.B. Feilden, Officer Commanding the 6th Regimental District [4]. This final certification declared him fit for service in the Royal Engineers.

Following the final certification of his attestation, Carter was ordered to Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent where he underwent recruit training [5]. Upon reporting to Chatham he became 20233 Sapper Francis Carter, Royal Engineers.


a. Promotions

Francis Carter rose through the ranks at a steady pace. He received the following promotions and appointments during his time in service:

Date of Promotion
or Appointment

Rank or Appointment
and Time in each Grade

16 November 1885 to 29 September 1887:

Sapper (1 year 318 days). He was appointed to the temporary rank of Lance Corporal on the 18th of April 1887, but retained the substantive rank of Sapper.

30 September 1887 to 19 October 1887:

Driver (20 days). At the start of this period he was posted from dismounted to mounted duties.

20 October 1887 to 15 October 1888:

2nd Corporal (361 days).

16 October 1888 to 27 August 1891:

Corporal (2 years and 315 days)

28 August 1891 to 7 April 1899:

Sergeant (7 years and 222 days)

8 April 1899 to 4 September 1902:

Troop Sergeant Major (3 years and 149 days)

5 September 1902 to 15 November 1906:

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (4 years and 71 days)

b. Conduct

(1) Disciplinary Actions

There is no record that Francis Carter was ever tried by court martial or that he was ever listed in the Regimental Defaulters Book during the entire period of his military service. At the time of his discharge from the Army in 1906, his conduct and character were rated as "Exemplary" by his commanding officer.

(2) Good Conduct Badges

Francis Carter received the following Good Conduct Badge during his time in service [6]:

Date of Award

Good Conduct Badge

16 November 1887

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 1d. per day.

He would have been eligible for regular Good Conduct Badges and Pay throughout his service, but only his first award is recorded since he was promoted to the rank of Corporal on the 16th of October 1888 prior to the date of eligibility for the second award; that is, six years from the date of his enlistment, or 16 November 1891.

(3) Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

On the 15th of November 1903, after completing 18 years of service with the Colours, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Francis Carter became eligible for the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (EVIIR) [7]. The medal with a 5 gratuity was actually issued to him by Army Order Number 49, dated 1 April 1904.


a. Education

Francis Carter earned the following Certificates of Education during his time in service [8]:


Certificate of Education

16 March 1886

2nd Class Certificate of Education

26 March 1895

1st Class Certificate of Education

b. Qualifications

Francis Carter earned the following qualifications during his time in service:



16 November 1885

Sapper on enlistment in the Royal Engineers

30 September 1887

Driver on posting to Mounted Troops

10 January 1891

Passed Course of Instruction in Military Equitation at Canterbury

1 April 1904

Awarded Service Pay Class I at 7d. per day [9]


a. Summary of Home and Overseas Service

The table below provides a summary of the service of Francis Carter at home and abroad.




Years Days


16 November 1885

3 November 1899

13 years 353 days

South Africa

4 November 1899

7 August 1900

277 days


8 August 1900

15 November 1906

6 years 100 days

Total Service Abroad:

277 days

Total Home Service:

20 years 88 days

Total Service:

21 years exactly

b. Narrative of Service

(1) Aldershot (1886–1899)

Following his recruit training, Sapper Francis Carter was posted to Aldershot in Hampshire, where he was assigned to a unit of the Royal Engineer Troops under the command of Major F.C. Heath, R.E. [10]. On the 30th of September 1887 he was posted from dismounted to mounted duties and his rank was changed from Sapper to Driver.

On the 25th of August 1892 he extended his service to complete 12 years with the Colours [11] and on the 26th of October 1895 he re-engaged to complete 21 years with the Colours [12]. His re-engagement was approved by Captain G.A. Travers, R.E. [13].

(2) South Africa (1899-1900)

Sergeant Carter was serving with "B" Troop of the Bridging Battalion, Royal Engineers in 1899 when he was alerted for active service in South Africa. The Bridging Battalion was then serving with Army Corps Troops at Aldershot. He was transferred to "A" Pontoon Troop and mobilized for active service on the 7th of October. Carter and his troop embarked for the Cape Colony on the 4th of November 1899 aboard the Kildonan Castle [14].

On its arrival in South Africa "A" Pontoon Troop was attached to the 5th Infantry Division in support of the operations, under General Buller, to relieve the besieged British forces at Ladysmith. On the 26th of January 1900 the troop constructed a pontoon bridge across the Tugela River at Trichards Drift. Following the crossing of the Tugela by the British forces, the troop dismantled the bridge and moved to Potgeiters Drift. The troop next constructed two bridges over the Tugela River on the 1st of February 1900; one at Potgeiters Drift and the other further to the east near Swart Kop. Three additional bridges were constructed on the 5th of February near Vaalkrantz. On the 7th of February these bridges were dismantled and "A" Pontoon Troop marched to Chieveley where it constructed another bridge near Hlangwhane Hill. This bridge was dismantled on the 26th of February, only to be reconstructed the following day.

Troop Sergeant Major Carter was hospitalized on the 13th of March 1900 for reasons not described in his service papers. Since his name does not appear in the South African casualty rolls, it may be assumed that his hospitalization was due to accident or illness. Carter was invalided home to England after a period of approximately three months and reassigned to "B" Troop of the Bridging Battalion.

For his service in South Africa, Troop Sergeant Major Carter was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps [CAPE COLONY][TUGELA HEIGHTS][RELIEF OF LADYSMITH] [15].

(3) Aldershot (1900-1906)

Carter returned home from South Africa on the 8th of August 1900 and was again stationed at Aldershot [16]. The 1901 British Census indicates that he and his wife and daughter were all at Aldershot at the time of the census [17].

On the 5th of September of 1902 Carter was promoted to the rank of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant and served in that capacity with the Field Depot, Royal Engineers until his discharge in November 1906.


Francis Carter’s service papers do not include a Medical History Sheet, hence the details of any illnesses or injuries he suffered while in the Army are not known. The only medical information uncovered about him was his hospitalization in South Africa as previously described. That information was taken from the medal roll, WO160/3.


It appears that Francis Carter was married twice while serving in the Army. His first wife was Mary Ann White, whom he married at Aldershot on the 25th of December 1890. His records then show that he married Catherine Henzey Oliver, with leave, at Malvern Link, Worcestershire on the 30th of December 1891 [18].

His second marriage took place just over a year after his first marriage. His records do not indicate what happened to his first wife. It is not known whether she died or whether they were divorced or their marriage was annulled. A Certified True Extract of Marriage Certificate was included with Carter’s service papers for his marriage to his second wife. On this certificate Carter’s Christian name is given as Frederick rather than Francis [19]. He is also noted to be a bachelor and not a widower; hence, it appears that has his first wife may not have been deceased. Catherine is listed as a spinster on the certificate. Francis (Frederick) and Catherine were married by Vicar Archibald Day. Their marriage was witnessed by Allen Williams and William Oliver, Catherine's father.

Carter’s second wife, Catherine Henzey Oliver, was born in Malvern, Worcestershire in 1871. She was only 20 years old when they married. Since Carter was born and raised in Malvern, it is possible that he had known Catherine prior to his enlistment in the Army. She was 7 years his junior, so she would have only been 14 years old when he enlisted in 1885 at age 21.

Catherine was the second daughter of William and Mary Ann Oliver. The 1881 British Census shows that the Oliver family lived at Lower Howsell in Leigh, Worcestershire at the time of the census. William Oliver, age 43, was a Road Labourer and Mary Ann Oliver, also 43 years of age in 1881, worked as a Domestic Servant. Besides Catherine, the Olivers had three other daughters; Bertha M. (14 years old), Alice M. (8 years old) and Florance M. (2 years old). Bertha, Catherine and Alice were all "scholars" at the time of the census.

While Carter was in the Army, Catherine had one child. Their daughter Olive May was born at Aldershot on the 16th of October 1892. Olive May Carter was baptized at Aldershot by the Reverend E.H. Pulling on the 13th of December 1892.


Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Francis Carter was discharged from the Army at Aldershot on the 15th of November 1906 on the termination of his second period of engagement [20]. His discharge papers indicate his trade as "Clerk" and his commander stated that he was "a very good clerk, reliable and trustworthy." Carter had served for exactly 21 years on the date of his discharge.


When he was discharged, RQMS Carter indicated that his intended place of residence was The Sovereigns Tap on Gold Street in Cambridge. No additional information regarding RQMS Carter or his family has been uncovered after his date of discharge.



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

2. HORNBY, G. The Medal Roll of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Volume V, Queen's and King's South Africa Medals, 1899-1902. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 2003.

3. 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.

Official Documents and Records

1. Soldiers Documents (WO97/4498) including the following documents:

a. Short Service Attestation.
b. Description on Enlistment.
c. Statement of Service.
d. Military History Sheet.
e. Certified True Extract of Marriage Certificate.
f. Proceedings on Discharge.

2. Queen's South Africa Medal Roll, WO160/3.

3. 1881 British Census. PRO Reference: RG Number RG11, Piece 2911, Folio 36, Page 12, Family History Library Film No. 1341698.

4. 1901 British Census. PRO Reference: RG Number RG13, Piece 612, Folio 131, Page 25, Schedule Number 21.

5. Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Roll, Royal Engineers, Army Order 49 of 1904.


[1] Although he was 21 years of age when he enlisted, the doctor who performed his preliminary medical examination indicated that his age was physically equivalent to about 19 years. It would be interesting to know how the doctor could have made this distinction with a variation of 2 years between Carter’s stated age and his apparent age based on physical characteristics.

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

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

[4] The 6th Regimental District was the depot of The Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

[5] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[6] See Good Conduct Pay.

[7] This medal is in the author’s collection and was the reason for conducting this research work. 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.

[8] See Certificates of Education.

[9] Service Pay in addition, to their regular pay, was granted to men in the Royal Engineers who demonstrated proficiency in their military trades. Service Pay was awarded in seven classes, with Class I being the highest.

[10] Major Frederick Crofton Heath.

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

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

[13] Captain George Alfred Travers.

[14] Kildonan Castle was built in 1899 by Fairfield S.B. and E. Co. of Glasgow. The ship had a gross tonnage of 9,652 tons and a net tonnage of 5,105 tons. The engines were twin screws, 2 x quadruple expansion, 1,663 net horsepower giving the ship a capability of making 17 knots at full speed. Kildonan Castle could carry 250 first class passengers, 175 second class passengers and 140 third class passengers, or 1,500 troops. The ship was launched on the 22nd of August 1899 and completed for trooping duties in October of 1899 in time to carry Carter and his mates to South Africa.

[15] As is too often the case, Carter’s Queen’s South Africa Medal became separated from his Long Service and Good Conduct medal. The current whereabouts of the Queen’s South Africa medal is not known to the author. The author tracked QSA medal for many years. In February of 1981 it appeared for sale in the Liverpool and Harwood list. It appeared for sale again in the same list in May of 1984. It last appeared for sale in the Dixon Winter 1984/1985 collection and is presumed to be in private collector's hands as of this writing.

[16] There is an unresolved discrepancy in Carter's service papers regarding his date of return to England. The medal roll for the Queen's South Africa medal (WO160/3) indicates that he was invalided and posted to "B" Troop on the 28th of June 1900. The Military History Sheet in his service papers indicates that he returned home from South Africa on the 8th of August 1900.

[17] The census shows that Carter was located with the Royal Engineers, Mounted Infantry and Imperial Yeomanry in the "Royal Engineers Cleaning Area South of Canal." The census verifies his birth place and year of birth as stated in his military records. His wife is listed on the census form as "Catherine Henry Carter." This is an obvious error as Catherine’s middle name is clearly listed as Henzey in two places in Carter’s service papers. Catherine is shown as being born in Malvern, Worcestershire and was 30 years old at the time of the census.

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

[19] His name is also listed as Frederick in the 1901 census returns. Furthermore, the QSA medal roll (WO160/3) indicates that he had the middle initial "J".

[20] His discharge papers list him as Francis, as do all entries of his name in his service papers.