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24727 QUARTERMASTER SERGEANT
ALBERT LUXON
Royal Engineers
by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis

Early Life (1868 - 1890)

Albert Luxon was born in November 1868 in the Parish of Portland, near the Town of Portland in the County of Dorsetshire. The town of Portland no longer appears on modern day maps. It is probable that Luxon was born in the area of the Bill of Portland, a peninsula of land located to the south of Weymouth and Wyke Regis in Dorsetshire. The towns of Fortuneswell, Grove Easton, Weston and Southwell are all located on the Bill of Portland today. The parish and town of Portland were probably located in this area in 1868 and have since been renamed.

Albert’s parents were William and Elizabeth Luxon. It appears that the Luxons had four other children in addition to Albert: two sons named Charles and Joseph, and two daughters named Mary and Nellie. This information is derived from supposition based on Albert Luxon’s will, a copy of which is included in the Appendix. In his will, dated 1952, Albert Luxon bequeaths portions of his estate to his sister Nellie Luxon and to the children of two men, Charles and Joseph, whose surnames are not included in the document. One can suppose that Charles and Joseph were his brothers and that they were deceased at the time that the will was prepared. It seems logical that Albert would have left something to his nephews and nieces. The existence of his sister Mary is known from a next of kin entry in his service papers (Military History Sheet). Since Mary does not appear in his will, one can assume that she also predeceased Albert or that for some reason he chose not to include her in the will.

Enlistment (1890)

Albert Luxon was living at 55 Tachbrook Street, Pimlico, London, SW when he decided to enlist in the Army. Tachbrook Street still exists in London today in what is now Westminster, SW1. The street is located a short distance to the east of Victoria Station and runs from Vauxhall Bridge Road southeast to the juncture of Lupus Street and Bessborough Street.

At the time he was recruited for military service, Albert Luxon was serving in the 13th (Queen’s) Volunteer Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. This battalion had its headquarters in James Street, Buckingham Gate, London, SW and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel E.J. Lynch. Wellington Barracks are located just off Buckingham Gate to the north of Luxon’s home. Attending drills with the unit must have been very convenient for him with the headquarters located so close to his home.

Albert Luxon was recruited for service by Regimental Sergeant Major Edward Blanchflower, Royal Engineers. Luxon indicated on his attestation documents that at the time of his recruitment he was not an Apprentice, he had no criminal record, and he was unmarried. Luxon enlisted in the Royal Engineers on the 21st of March 1890 at Chatham, Kent. His was a Short Service Enlistment of 7 years with the Colours and 5 years in the Reserve. On this date he took the "Oath of Attestation of the Recruit" before the Assistant Commandant of the School of Military Engineering at Chatham (S.M.E.), with RSM Blanchflower in attendance as a witness.

At the time of his enlistment Albert Luxon was 22 years and 4 months of age. He was 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighed 113 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 32-1/2 inches. He had a pale complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. He was noted to have a round scar on the back of his left thigh and a scar outside of his left elbow. His enlistment papers (Army Form B. 265) also indicate that Luxon was a member of the Church of England.

The physical features listed on Luxon’s Army Form B. 265 were all noted by Captain W. G. Clements, the Surgeon on the Medical Staff at Chatham. Captain Clements completed the "Certificate of Final Medical Examination" of Albert Luxon and pronounced him medically fit for service. Following his medical examination, Luxon’s "Certificate of Primary Military Examination" was completed by the Adjutant of the School of Military Engineering. He was certified as fit for service in the Royal Engineers. Next came the "Certification of Approving Field Officer." Luxon’s enlistment was duly approved and he was appointed to the rank of Sapper, Regimental Number 24727, by the Assistant Commandant, S.M.E. This entire administrative procedure was all accomplished in one day.

Training at Chatham (1890 - 1893)

Sapper Luxon was assigned to "F" (Depot) Company at Brompton Barracks, Chatham. During the next three years he received his basic and advanced skills training as a Royal Engineer soldier. He immediately took advantage of the educational opportunities being afforded soldiers at this time in the history of the British Army and was awarded a 3rd Class Certificate of Education on the 26th of June 1890, only three months from the date of his enlistment. On the 13th of March 1891, less than a year from the date of his enlistment, he was awarded a 2nd Class Certificate of Education.

Sapper Luxon was mustered as a Telegraphist (Office) with a rating of "Skilled" on the 24th of August 1891. His designation as a Telegraphist presumably was the result of his previous training and experience in this trade prior to entering the Army. By the 5th of October 1891 he was appointed to the rank of Lance Corporal.

On the second anniversary of his enlistment, Lance Corporal Luxon was awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 1 penny (1.d) per day. He qualified as a "Skilled" Telegraphist (Office) on the 25th of August 1892 and as a "Skilled" Electrician on the 23rd of December 1892. On the 1st of March 1893 Luxon was promoted to the rank of 2nd Corporal.

Service in India (1893 - 1898)

2nd Corporal Luxon’s tour of home service came to an end early in 1893. In preparation for a long sea voyage to India he was made to take a swimming test. He qualified as an ordinary swimmer and on the 2nd of March 1893 he embarked for service in India. Upon his arrival in India he was assigned to the Indian Submarine Mining Company under the command of Major P.G. Von Donop, R.E. In addition to commanding the Submarine Mining Company in India, Major Von Donop was also the Inspector of Submarine Defences for the sub-continent. Von Donop commanded the company until 1894 when he was replaced by Captain (later Major) H.E. Tyler, R.E.

The Indian Submarine Mining Company consisted of one Major, 4 subalterns, 74 non-commissioned officers and 140 native lascars. The company operated out of the port cities of Calcutta, Bombay, Karachi and Rangoon. The subalterns assigned to command the sections of the company in each of these port cities are listed in the Appendix to this narrative.

The Indian Submarine Mining Company provided shore based defences for the naval bases at the major port cities of India and, in the case of Rangoon, of Burma as well. They were a specialist branch of the Royal Engineers and Indian Sappers and Miners whose mission was to lay and detonate underwater mines in the event of an enemy naval attack on the bases.

Luxon’s service record is not specific with regard to which detachment of the company he was assigned. The signatures of the officers certifying his service on the "Statement of Services" sheet contained in his papers are all illegible with the exception of the signature of 2nd Lieutenant R. Walker who made an entry on the sheet just prior to Luxon’s departure from India. According to Baker Brown, an officer by the name of R. Walker joined the Royal Engineer Submarine Mining Service in 1897. This officer is most likely 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Walker who was commissioned on the 25th of January 1896. Unfortunately, Baker Brown gives no specific details of Lieutenant Walker’s service.

Luxon was appointed to the temporary rank of Corporal on the 30th of March 1894 and on the 3rd of October 1895 he received an appointment to the temporary rank of Sergeant in the Indian Sappers and Miners. These promotions were not permanent within the ranks of the Royal Engineers, but rather local promotions during his service with the Indian Army establishment.

On the 2nd of July 1896, while he was between the sixth and seventh years of his first period of limited engagement, Acting Sergeant Luxon extended to complete 12 years of service with the Colours. By extending in this manner he elected to remain in the Regular Army for the remaining five years of his enlistment rather than be transferred to the Army Reserve in accordance with the conditions of his Short Service Enlistment. On the 23rd of July 1896 Luxon qualified as an Electrician with a rating of "Superior." He was promoted to the permanent rank of Corporal in the Royal Engineers on the 1st of September 1897.

Home Service (1898 - 1902)

Early in 1898 Acting Sergeant Luxon received orders to return to England. On the 23rd of March 1898 he reverted in rank from Acting Sergeant in the Indian Sappers and Miners to his permanent rank of Corporal in the Royal Engineers in preparation for his return to the Home Establishment. On the following day he departed India after serving there for a period of 5 years and 22 days.

Upon his arrival in England, Corporal Luxon was assigned to "M" Company, R.E. Depot Battalion, at Chatham. On the 3rd of August 1898 he qualified as an Electrician (Submarine Miner) with a rating of "Superior." A little over a year later, on the 12th of December 1899, Luxon also qualified as an Ordinary Submarine Miner Signaller.

On the 15th of March 1900, when he was just days short of completing his tenth year of active service, Luxon re-engaged to complete 21 years of service with the Colours. On the 1st of May 1901 he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was still serving with "M" Company at this time.

Service in Ceylon (1902 - 1906)

Sergeant Luxon departed England for service in Ceylon on the 1st of October 1902. Upon arrival at this new duty station he was posted to the Ceylon Submarine Mining Company at Trincomali (or Trincomalee), a seaport town on the east side of the island on the Bay of Bengal. The town itself was located on the north side of the Bay of Trincomalee and was noted for its excellent natural harbour and the ruins of the Temple of a Thousand Columns.

The Ceylon Submarine Mining Company was not a part of the Royal Engineers or the Indian Sappers and Miners. It was considered to be a unit on the local establishment of Ceylon. In fact, while assigned to this unit, Luxon’s regimental number was 7958. This number was used in place of his regular number, 24727, while he was assigned for duty in Ceylon. Luxon’s duties with this unit were much as they had been with the Indian Submarine Mining Company.

On the 28th of March 1904 he was awarded a 1st Class Certificate of Education. On the 1st of April 1904 Luxon was granted service (proficiency) pay, Class I, at the rate of 7.d. per day. For engineers this pay was authorized in seven classes. Luxon was authorized the highest class of this "special pay." It is not difficult to understand why he was considered worthy of this extra pay. The following table summarizes his skill qualifications up to this point in his service:

YEAR

SKILL

QUALIFICATION

1892

Telegraphist (Office)

Skilled

1892

Electrician

Skilled

1896

Electrician

Superior

1898

Electrician

(Submarine Miner)

Superior

1899

Signaller

(Submarine Miner)

Ordinary

On the 2nd of December 1905 Luxon was promoted to the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant on the Regular Establishment of the Royal Engineers.

Home Service (1906 -1911)

Quartermaster Sergeant Luxon departed Ceylon on the 1st of February 1906 after serving a total of 3 years and 133 days on the island. Upon his arrival in England he was assigned to "G" Company, R.E. Depot Battalion, at Chatham. At this time the R.E. Depot was commanded by Colonel G.H. Sim, C.B., R.E.

In March of 1908 Luxon completed 18 years of service with the Colours, thus making him eligible for the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Although he became eligible for the medal at this time, his service papers indicate that he was not authorized the medal or the 5-Pound gratuity associated with it until April of 1909 when his name was listed for the medal in Army Order 101 of that year. His medal was probably presented to him by Colonel F. Rainsford-Hannay, R.E. who was at that time the Officer Commanding, R.E. Depot. Colonel Rainsford-Hannay was subsequently replaced as O.C., R.E. Depot by Colonel J.L. Irvine, C.B., R.E. Colonel Irvine was commanding the Depot when Luxon completed his military service.

Discharge (1911)

Quartermaster Sergeant Luxon applied for discharge from the Army on the 13th of February 1911. He was discharged on the 20th of March 1911 on the termination of his second period of limited engagement with his total service reckoned at 21 years exactly. At the time of his discharge he was 43 years and 4 months of age. He was described as being 5 feet 5 inches tall with an expanded chest measurement of 37 inches (an increase of 4-1/2 inches since his enlistment). His complexion was still listed as pale despite his numerous years of service in India and Ceylon. His hair coloring was still listed as brown and he had acquired no additional scars or distinctive marks since his enlistment. His trade was listed on his discharge papers as electrician.

Albert Luxon indicated that his intended place of residence upon discharge would be 50 Hydethorpe Road, Balham, London. This address is located in the Wandsworth area in the County of London, south of the city. Luxon’s parents lived at this address for many years while he was serving in the Army. Early in his military career his parents were listed as his next of kin and living at this address on his "Military History Sheet." At some point during his service, probably after the death of his parents, his sister Mary was listed as his next of kin. Her address was given as 63 St. Audley Street, London. It appears that the property at 50 Hydethorpe Road must have remained in the Luxon family over the years and was still in their possession at the time of Albert’s discharge; hence, he was able to list it as his intended place of residence.

Luxon’s discharge papers indicate that his conduct and character were "Exemplary" during his 21 years of military service. He had committed no offenses during his entire period of service. His special qualifications and ratings for employment in civil life were as Electrician ("Superior"), Office Telegraphist ("Skilled") and Submarine Miner ("Very Superior"). This latter qualification was achieved sometime after 1899. One wonders what position in civilian life would require the services of a Submarine Miner?

Final Years (1911 - 1952)

Albert Luxon went on to live for 41 years after his discharge from the Army Nothing is known of his life after his discharge except that at some time before his death he went to live with his sister Nellie at 123 Warbro Road, Babbacombe, Torquay, Devonshire. There is no town of Babbacombe shown on modern day maps of Devonshire; however, Luxon’s home was probably located on the shore of Babbacombe Bay just north of Torquay.

Albert Luxon died on the 18th of March 1952 at Tredorne Nursing Home, Greenway Gardens, Torquay, Devonshire. He was 84 years of age. His death certificate indicates that he died of hypostatic pneumonia and cerebral thrombosis. His death was certified by George Holt Lloyd, M.R.C.S. and was witnessed by A.G. Heron, a matron at the Tredorne Nursing Home. It is of interest to note that on his death certificate Luxon is listed as a Major, Indian Army (Retired). No evidence has been found in the Army Lists or elsewhere to indicate that he was a Major in the Indian Army. It is more likely that one of his family members or a member of the nursing home staff made an error regarding his occupation when they reported his death.

In addition to his official death certificate on file at the General Register Office (G.R.O.), a "Death Certificate of Pensioner" (Army Form O. 1707) was also issued by the Regimental Paymaster at Whitchurch, Hampshire on the 19th of May 1952. This certificate indicates that Luxon was receiving 11 Pounds 8 Shillings and 3 Pence per quarter as his Army pension.

Albert Luxon’s will was probated in London on the 10th of December 1952. In the will his name is given as Albert Victor Luxon. This is the first and only instance found of his use of the middle name Victor. It does not appear on any of his military service papers nor on his G.R.O. death certificate. Additionally, the will indicates that he is a retired Quartermaster, R.E. (not Quartermaster Sergeant). This is of interest because the rank of Quartermaster is that of an officer. This could simply be an error on the part of the person who drew up the will. On the other hand, when considered in light of the entry on his G.R.O. death certificate referring to him as a Major in the Indian Army, it opens up the possibility again of his having been commissioned at some time after his discharge from the Army as a QMS. Again, no evidence could be found of his being commissioned.

The G.R.O. index entry for Albert Luxon’s will indicates that his effects totaling 6,824 Pounds 12 Shillings and 3 Pence were bequeathed to his sister Nellie Luxon, spinster, and his brother Charles Luxon, a Record Assistant for the London County Council. The will itself, however, leaves one half of his estate to his sister Nellie and the remaining half to be divided equally among his beneficiaries. Personal bequests were given to a number of nieces and nephews (see Luxon Family Tree) as well as to members of a family named Thornhill who may have been personal friends or perhaps servants of Alfred Luxon.

ADDENDUM 1

Further research into the place of Victor Luxon’s birth indicates that Portland in Dorsetshire does exist on modern-day maps. The area known as Portland encompasses a number of towns, including Castletown, Fortuneswell, The Grove, Easton and Weston. There is a Portland Port, a Portland Castle and a Portland Hospital in the area just north of the town of Fortuneswell. Although the street where Luxon’s family lived when he was born is not known, it is probable that the family resided somewhere in the area included in Map 1a in 1868.

The area known as Babbacombe is situated to the northeast of Torquay on Babbacombe Bay. Luxon resided at 123 Warbro Road until his death in 1952. Warbro Road runs from northwest to southeast and separates the village of Babbacombe from the village of Plainmoor.

ADDENDUM 2

An email from Jacqueline Walker who is researching her family tree indicates that Luxon married Maud Emily Thornhill in Medway in 1918. This would indicate that the Thornhills mentioned in Luxon’s will were relatives of his wife.

REFERENCES

Books

1. AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. AA Atlas of Great Britain. Basingstoke, 1984.
2. BAEDEKER, K. Great Britain: Handbook for Travelers. Karl Baedeker, Publisher, Leipzig, 1910.
3. BAKER BROWN, W. History of Submarine Mining in the British Army. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, 1910.
4. BARTHOLOMEW, J. Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London. John Bartholomew & Son, Ltd., Edinburgh, 1957.
5. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of The Corps of Royal Engineers from 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, 1898.
6. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.
7. HMSO. The Monthly Army List, April 1890.
8. MERRIAM-WEBSTER. Merriam-Webster’s Geographical Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc., Springfield, Mass., 1997.

Documents

1. WO97/5372. Soldier’s Papers. Public Record Office, London. File consisting of the following documents:

Attestation
Certificate of Magistrate or Attesting Officer
Description of the Soldier on Enlistment
Certificate of Primary Medical Examination
Certificate of Final Medical Examination
Certificate of Primary Military Examination
Certificate of Approving Field Officer

2. Certified Copy of an Entry of Death. General Register Office, No. DXZ601710, dated the 23rd of December 1998.
3. Last Will of Albert Victor Luxon, dated Torquay, Devonshire, 15 March 1952.
4. A-Z Geographers Atlas of Weymouth.
5. A-Z Geographers Atlas of Torbay.
6. Email from Jacqueline Walker of Canada dated 7 February 2010.