Return Home Page

24418 Sergeant
Royal Engineers

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2002. All Rights Reserved.


Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from the soldier’s service papers obtained from the Public Record Office at Kew, Richmond, Surrey. Sergeant Foreman's service papers were located in file WO97/4861.


According to his enlistment papers, Thomas Foreman was under the impression that he had been born in the Parish of Portsea, near the town of Portsmouth, in the County of Hampshire in June of 1867. At least this is the information that he provided to the man who recruited him for service. His service papers indicate that when he enlisted, his next of kin was his mother Jane Foreman. No mention of his father is found anywhere in his papers. The 1881 British Census indicates that an infant by the name of Thomas Foreman, whose mother was Jane Foreman, was christened in Long Houghton, Northumberland on the 27th of November 1870 [1]. The christening record shows no father's name indicating that Thomas's father was either deceased when he was christened or that Thomas was illegitimate. Thomas may have thought that he had been born in Portsea because he had lived there for most of his life before enlisting in the Army. In actuality it appears that he may have been born in Northumberland and that his mother moved to Hampshire sometime after 1870.

The 1881 British Census also indicates that a Jane Foreman, age 55, was living at 3 Victoria Terrace [2] in Portsea, Hampshire with a son and a daughter [3]. Jane Forman's daughter Ann was born in 1855 and at the time of the census she was working as a Milliner. The son living at home with Jane Foreman was named Harry, born in 1865. At the time of the 1881 Census, Harry was working as an Apprentice Shipwright at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth. A separate entry in the 1881 Census indicates that a boy of 14 named Thomas Foreman was living as a boarder at 36 Regent Street in Portsea, Hampshire [4]. Thomas was working as an errand boy in the shop of one Susan Redding, a laundress [5]. The noted age of 14 years in the 1881 Census return for Thomas Foreman matches his year of birth of 1867. The entry for Thomas Foreman also indicates that his place of birth was Southsea, Hampshire, England. Portsea and Southsea are both part of the greater Portsmouth area; hence, it is believed that the Thomas Foreman listed in the census is the same Thomas Foreman who is the subject of this research. Furthermore, it is believed that his mother was Jane Forman and that he had one brother and one sister at the time of the 1881 British Census. Further proof of these family relationships can be found in Foreman's service papers where his next of kin are listed. As previously indicated, he originally listed his mother Jane Foreman as his next of kin. Jane Foreman must have died while Thomas was serving in the Army because his Military History Sheet indicates a change of next of kin from his mother to his brother who he lists as Harry Beaumont Foreman. Harry's middle name is not included in the 1881 Census returns; however, it was not uncommon to omit the middle names of young boys in the census. The name Harry on the Military History Sheet, along with his mother's name Jane, seems sufficient evidence to indicate that these are the same individuals shown in the census.

Thomas probably lived with his mother and his siblings at 3 Victoria Terrace until he was old enough to go off to Susan Redding's establishment as a boarder and earn some money to help his mother support the family. When he was old enough, Thomas left the employ of Susan Redding to become an Apprentice Carpenter. He worked at this trade for M. Oakridge & Sons of Portsmouth until he decided to enlist in the Royal Engineers.

Nothing more is known about Jane or Ann Foreman except that Jane, as previously mentioned, must have died while Thomas was serving in the Army. His brother Harry emigrated to Canada where he lived in Manitoba for a while. He later left Canada for the United States and lived in Watsonville, California.


The following is a description of Thomas Foreman at the time he enlisted in the Army in 1889:


22 years and 6 months


5 feet 8 inches


126 pounds

Chest Measurement:

34 inches







Distinctive Marks:

A tattooed ring on his left small finger

The following is a description of Thomas Foreman at the time he was discharged from the Army in 1910:


43 years and 6 months


5 feet 8 inches

Chest Fully Expanded:

37 inches

Chest Normal Expansion:

35 inches






Brown tinged with grey

Distinctive Marks:



Thomas Foreman was recruited for service in the Royal Engineers by a man named Charles Welsh of the Royal Engineers Staff in Portsmouth. As a trained carpenter, Foreman would have been keenly sought after by the Royal Engineers, since the Corps was always looking for skilled tradesmen of this type to fill its ranks. Upon his enlistment, Foreman was asked the customary questions put to the recruit to which he answered that he was not married, that he had served as an Apprentice, that he was a member of the Church of England and that he had never been sentenced to imprisonment by civil power. Forman indicated that he had never served in the Royal Navy or the Army, that he had never previously been discharged from Her Majesty's Forces, or that he had never been rejected for naval or military service. Foreman stated that he had been a member of the "1st Hants Volunteers." At the time of Foreman's enlistment, the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment had its headquarters at Winchester [6]. Presumably, this is the volunteer unit in which Foreman served prior to enlisting in the Regular Army. Serving in this volunteer battalion would have meant considerable traveling for Foreman to attend drills. The town of Winchester is located approximately 27 road miles to the north-northwest of Portsmouth. This was not an easy distance to travel in the 1880's for a man of meager means.

Thomas Foreman swore the Oath of Attestation for enlistment in the Royal Engineers at Portsmouth on the 13th of December 1889. His was a Short Service Enlistment of 7 years with the Colours and 5 years in the Reserve [7]. His attestation was witnessed by a Captain in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was certified by Lieutenant Colonel William Took Dooner, the officer commanding the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. At the time of Foreman's enlistment, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was stationed at Portsmouth [8].

On the 14th of December 1889 other formalities of Foreman's enlistment were dealt with. On this date his Certificate of Final Medical Examination was issued and he was pronounced fit for service in the Army [9]. His Certificate of Primary Military Examination also was completed whereby he was found fit to serve in the Royal Engineers, undoubtedly because of his skill as a carpenter. The Certificate of the Approving Field Officer also was issued on this date regarding his enlistment. All of these actions took place at Winchester.

When his enlistment paperwork was completed, Thomas was directed to report to the School of Military Engineering at Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent for recruit training [10]. He arrived at Chatham on the 17th of December 1889 where he was greeted by Lieutenant B.R. Ward, R.E. [11]. Lieutenant Ward made the appropriate entries in Foreman's service papers to indicate that he was now 24418 Sapper Thomas Foreman, R.E. Ward also indicated that Foreman's trade qualification was that of a "Skilled Carpenter."


Thomas Foreman served his entire 21-year military career in the United Kingdom. Following his recruit training at Chatham, it appears that he was posted to the Ordnance Survey at Southampton for additional training. He was then assigned to a number of survey companies in England and Ireland where he spent the remainder of his time with the Colours.

At this point a short history of the Ordnance Survey might be appropriate to indicate the type of work that Thomas Foreman would be involved with for the remainder of his military career. The headquarters of the Ordnance Survey were established in the Tower of London until the great fire of 1842, after which they were moved to Southampton. The Director of Ordnance Survey supervised seven other officers. Two of these officers divided executive duties between them, and the other five supervised the various departments, which included the secondary and tertiary triangulation, the photography, zincography, engraving, colouring, and electrotyping processes. The country was divided into ten divisional commands for England and Wales, and one for Ireland. The Survey of Scotland being finished, had no separate command. All the detailed outdoor work was carried out in these districts.

There were four survey companies (the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th) of Royal Engineers specially raised initially for survey purposes. A fourth company, the 19th was raised at a later date. The number of persons, military and civilian, engaged in the Department in 1885 was 3,240, exclusive of temporary help - usually boys employed on taping duties. This was about the strength of the Department at the time that Foreman was assigned to the Ordnance Survey.

Foreman's discharge papers show that he was assigned to the 14th Company at the time that he left the service, however it appears that he also served with other units during his 21 years in the Army. Since his discharge did place in Cork, Ireland, it is known for certain that he was associated with the Survey of Ireland, at least during the later part of his career.

Some idea of the company or companies that Foreman served with may be gleaned from the names of the officers who made entries in his service papers during his career. Fortunately the signatures of these officers are legible on Foreman’s Military History Sheet, which is not often the case with soldiers’ papers. Foreman served under the officers shown in the list below. The years or range of years following the names of the officers are the years in which each officer posted an entry to Foreman's service papers; hence, they are the years in which Foreman served in the same unit as these officers.

Various references indicate that these men served in survey units at one time or another in their careers. The 1890 Army List shows that Captain Haynes was serving at Southampton at the time, probably at the headquarters of the Ordnance Survey. It can be assumed that Foreman, following his recruit training at Chatham, probably went to Southampton in 1891 to receive additional training as a Surveyor. It was then that he served under Captain Haynes for probably a year, leaving Southampton for posting to a survey company in 1892 or 1893.

The March 1898 Army List shows that Captain Casgrain was serving at Bedford at that time, probably on work associated with the Survey of England. The same Army List shows that the 16th Survey Company was serving at Bedford at that time; hence, it may be assumed that between 1893 and 1897 while under Captain Casgrain's command, Foreman was assigned to the 16th Survey Company for part or all of this period. Apparently Foreman enjoyed his work with the survey companies. On the 1st of September 1896 while serving under Captain Casgrain's command, Foreman extended his service to complete 12 years with the Colours [18].

The March 1898 Army List also shows that Captain Rotheram was serving in Dublin at that time. The 14th Survey Company was at work in Dublin then, so it appears that Foreman may have been assigned to Captain Rotheram's command in 1898. Further verification of this is found in Foreman's service papers where it is indicated that on the 1st of April 1898 he elected to come under the new regulations on messing allowance under the provisions of the Royal Warrant dated 31 March 1898. This entry in Foreman's records was made by Captain Rotheram.

The next officer on the list above, Lieutenant Kelsall, was serving at Southampton in 1903 according to the Army List of April of that year. This monthly Army List indicates that the 19th Survey Company was stationed at Southampton at that time. Foreman could have been transferred to the 19th Survey Company in 1901 or he may have been assigned for training or administrative purposes to the Ordnance Survey Headquarters at Southampton. He could not have been at Southampton before the 4th of July 1901 because on that date he re-engaged to complete 21 years of service [19]. His re-engagement was approved by Captain Rotheram of the 14th Survey Company.

It seems more likely that Foreman was sent to Southampton for a short period of training in 1901, since his records show that he was next serving in the command of Captain Howard in 1904. Captain Howard was serving in the 14th Survey Company in Dublin at that time; hence, it appears that Foreman left Dublin for a short while, went to Southampton for training or some other administrative purpose, and then returned to the 14th Survey Company in Ireland.

The October 1910 Army List shows that the last officer on the list, Captain G.A.P. Brown, was serving at Ordnance Survey Headquarters in Cork, Ireland. This agrees with Foreman's service papers that indicate that he was in Cork, Ireland at the time of his discharge and that he was serving in the 14th Survey Company at the time. Based on the locations of the officers whose names appear in Foreman's service papers, the following table illustrates where Foreman served during his 21 years in the Army.

Years of Assignment

Units and Locations

1889 - 1890

School of Military Engineering, Chatham, Kent

1890 - 1892

Headquarters, Ordnance Survey, Southampton, Hampshire

1892 - 1898

16th Survey Company, Bedford, Bedfordshire

1898 - 1901

14th Survey Company, Dublin, Ireland

1902 - 1903

Headquarters, Ordnance Survey, Southampton, Hampshire

1904 - 1910

14th Survey Company, Dublin and Cork, Ireland

During Foreman's period of service many units of the Royal Engineers saw active service on the North West Frontier of India, in South Africa, and in numerous other small colonial wars and operations. Sergeant Foreman was not called upon to take part in any of these. It seems that the survey work in England, Wales and Ireland was of high enough priority that men such as Foreman were able to spend their entire 21-year careers at such duties without leaving the United Kingdom. As a result, Sergeant Foreman earned no campaign medals for his service.


a. Promotions: Thomas Foreman received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

13 December 1889


20 January 1893

Appointed Acting Lance Corporal

12 August 1893

Reverted to the rank of Sapper

17 June 1897

Appointed Lance Corporal

13 July 1899

Promoted 2nd Corporal

8 April 1902

Promoted Corporal

15 January 1905

Promoted Sergeant

b. Conduct: Thomas Foreman received the following Good Conduct Badges during his time in service [20]:

Date of Award

Good Conduct Badge

13 December 1891

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

13 December 1895

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 2d per day.

Sergeant Thomas Foreman completed 18 years of service with the Colours on the 12th of December 1907. Effective on that date he became eligible for the award of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He was awarded this medal on the 1st of April 1908 by authority of Army Order 44 of 1908 [21]. Along with the medal came a gratuity of 5. The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (EVIIR) is the only medal to which Sergeant Foreman was entitled during the entire period of his military service.

At the time of his discharge from the Army in 1910, Sergeant Foreman's conduct was rated as "Exemplary."


a. Education: Thomas Foreman earned the following Certificates of Education during his time in service [22]:


Certificate of Education

31 March 1890

Third Class Certificate of Education.

1 April 1895

Second Class Certificate of Education.

25 October 1898

First Class Certificate of Education.

b. Qualifications: Thomas Foreman earned the following qualifications during his time in service.



17 December 1889

"Skilled Carpenter" upon enlistment.

1 April 1904

Engineer Pay, Class I at the rate of 7d per day. (*)

12 December 1910

Surveyor (Ordnance Survey) upon discharge.

(*) Engineer Pay was per diem money earned by Non-Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks of the Royal Engineers who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in their military trades.


No Medical History Sheet was included with the service papers of Sergeant Thomas Foreman.


Thomas Foreman married Ada Rose Hatchard at Portsea, Portsmouth on the 10th of September 1894 without leave [23]. The date of their marriage would coincide with the period of time that he was serving in the 16th Survey Company at Bedford.

The 1881 British Census indicates that Ada Rose Hatchard was the daughter of William Thomas Hatchard, a Shipwright, and his wife Rosina Hatchard, both natives of Portsmouth, Hampshire. The Hatchard family was living at 48 York Street in Portsea at the time of the census. In 1881 William and Rosina Hatchard had a large family consisting of Ada Rose (age 12), Mary E. (age 10), William George (age 9), Alberta J. (age 6), Alice L. (age 4) and Edwin Henry (age 1 month). Ada Rose was born in 1871, thereby making her 23 years of age at the time she married Thomas Foreman.

The Foremans' first child, Harry Thomas, was born on the 26th of November 1897 while they were still at Bedford. Harry apparently was a healthy child. Unfortunately, the Foremans had two more children who died soon after birth. Their second child, Charles George, was born on the 9th of April 1902 and died 10 days later. During this period Sergeant Foreman may have been in Southampton and his wife may have been in Dublin. It is doubtful that if he were in Southampton for training and or on detached duty away from his company in Ireland, that Mrs. Foreman would have been with him at the time.

This sad situation was to occur again when their third child, Arthur Edward, was born on the 24th of July 1903. Again, this birth probably took place in Ireland. Little Arthur survived for a little over 4 months and died on the 1st of December 1903.

The Foremans appeared to have desperately wanted another child. Their fourth son, Alfred Gilbert, was born on the 1st of June 1907. His birth was registered at Cork, Ireland on the 19th of June 1907 and he was still listed in Sergeant Foreman's service papers as living when Foreman was discharged in 1910.

The Foreman's oldest son, Harry Thomas, would have been 18 years old in 1915 during the second year of the Great War of 1914-1918. It is not known whether Harry served in the Forces during the war. A search of Soldiers Died in the Great War indicates that no one by the name of Harry Thomas Foreman died while serving in the Army during that war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Internet web site also was consulted to see if Harry Thomas Foreman may have been a casualty of the Great War while serving in the Royal Navy. That search also produced negative results. Alfred Gilbert Foreman would have been too young for service in the Great War; however, he could have served in the Second World War. A check of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site for Alfred also produced negative results.


Sergeant Foreman's Proceedings on Discharge were initiated on the 16th of November 1910 and were reviewed by the Commanding Officer of the Ordnance Survey in Southampton on that same date. Foreman signed a certificate attesting to the accuracy of his service record on this same date, and the certificate was witnessed by Captain G.A.P. Brown, R.E. His total service as of the 16th of November 1910 was reckoned at 20 years and 339 days.

Foreman's Proceedings on Discharge were received by the Royal Engineers Record Office at Chatham on the 29th of November 1910 and at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on the 1st of December 1910.

After serving an additional 26 days to complete his 21 years with the Colours, Sergeant Thomas Foreman was discharged from the Army at Cork, Ireland on the 12th of December 1910 on the termination of his second period of limited engagement. His total service was reckoned as shown in the tables below. It should be noted that the period of service at each location is only approximate as the table has been constructed from the information regarding the officers shown in Foreman's service papers as previously discussed.


Period of Service


1 year


3 years


7 years


10 years

Total Service

21 years

Sergeant Foreman's discharge papers indicate that his military trade was Carpenter and that his special qualifications for employment in civil life included Skilled Carpenter, a trade at which he was rated to be "Very Good," and Surveyor (Ordnance Survey). Foreman listed his intended place of residence after discharge as the Ordnance Survey Office, North Mall in Cork Ireland.


No specific information is available regarding Thomas Foreman's work after leaving the Army; however, his place of residence as indicated on his discharge papers gives a clue as to his intentions. He stated that his intended residence was to be the Ordnance Survey Office, North Mall, Cork, Ireland. This was probably meant as a mailing address. It is most likely that Foreman took a position with the Ordnance Survey in Ireland in a civilian capacity, perhaps as a clerk in the field office in Cork, or perhaps doing much the same type of survey work that he did while in the Army.

He did not remain in Ireland for the rest of his life. His death certificate indicates that he died on the 30th of April 1950 at 33 Church Lane in Chessington, Surrey. His cause of death was listed as myocardial degeneration.

Foreman's death was certified on the 11th of May 1950 by J.P. Grainget of 5 Chessington Parade, Chessington, Surrey. Notification of his death was made on this date to the Regimental Paymaster Royal Engineers at Whitchurch, Hampshire.



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

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

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

4. LETTS, C. Roadbook of Britain. Charles Letts and Company Limited, London, 1977.

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

6. 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. WO97/4861. Soldier’s Service Papers, Public Record Office, London, including the following documents:

  1. Short Service Attestation (Army Form B. 265).
  2. Description on Enlistment.
  3. Statement of Services.
  4. Military History Sheet.
  5. Proceedings on Discharge (Army Form B. 268).
  6. Death Certificate of Pensioner (Army Form O. 1707).

2. Army Order 44, April 1908.


1. Monthly Army List, April 1890

2. Monthly Army List, June 1890.

3. Monthly Army List, March 1898.

4. Monthly Army List, April 1903.

5. Monthly Army List, October 1910.

6. The Sapper, May 1908.

Computer Software

1. 1881 British Census and National Index. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1999.

2. Soldiers Died in the Great War. The Naval & Military Press Ltd., Heathfield, East Sussex, 1998.

3. Vital Records Index - British Isles. Family History Resource File, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1998.

Internet Web Sites



[1] 1881 British Census, FHL Film 991787.

[2] Victoria Terrace no longer exists in Portsea or in the greater Portsmouth area.

[3] 1881 British Census, FHL Film 1341283, PRO Reference RG11, Piece 1155, Folio 116, Page 22.

[4] 1881 British Census, FHL Film 1341282, PRO Reference RG 11, Piece 1152, Folio 74, Page 44.

[5] Two other lodgers named Foreman also were living at 36 Regent Street in Portsea at the time of the 1881 British Census. Emma Foreman, age 44 and a native of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, was a Charwoman. Alfred Foreman, age 18 and a native of Landport, Hampshire, was a Butcher's Assistant. There is no indication of the relationship between these two people to Thomas Foreman or to this mother Jane Foreman. Emma could have been Jane's younger sister. Alfred could have been the son of either Jane or Emma.

[6] Monthly Army List, April 1890, p. 412.

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

[8] Monthly Army List, June 1890, p. 378.

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

[10] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[11] Lieutenant Bernard Rowland Ward, later Major, Royal Engineers.

[12] Captain Charles Edward Haynes, later Colonel, C.B., Royal Engineers.

[13] Captain Philippe Henri du Perron Casgrain, later Major, Royal Engineers.

[14] Captain Walter Henry Rotheram, Royal Engineers.

[15] Lieutenant Thomas Edward Kelsall, later Lieutenant Colonel, D.S.O., Royal Engineers.

[16] Captain Frederic George Howard, later Lieutenant Colonel, D.S.O., M.V.O., Royal Engineers.

[17] Captain Geoffrey Ambrose Phillipps Brown, later Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Engineers.

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

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

[20] See Good Conduct Pay.

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

[22] See Certificates of Education.

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