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2518 Sapper
Royal Engineers

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2004. All Rights Reserved.


a. Research Sources

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from copies of the soldier’s service papers, muster rolls and pay lists obtained from original documents housed in the National Archives at Kew, Richmond, Surrey. Parts of the text contained in this narrative also are attributable to Mr. Stuart Gase of West Drayton, Middlesex. Stuart was the previous owner of Sapper Dean's Crimean War medal and his research efforts preceded those of the author, who is the present owner of the medal.

b. Author's Foreword

Sapper Dean's story is one of long service and campaigning in two wars. Unfortunately, it also is the story of a man who went up to the rank of Corporal twice, only to be busted down to Sapper as a result of the excessive use of alcohol. When he was not drinking, Dean must have been a competent soldier since he was quickly able to ascend in rank when he put his mind to his duties. It appears, however, that whenever he became bored or whenever he had something to celebrate, any chance for him to remain sober quickly eluded him.


Josiah John Dean was born in the Parish of Gillingham, near the town of Chatham, in the County of Kent on the 28th of December 1835. Army birth records indicate that Josiah's father was serving in the Royal Sappers and Miners at the time of his birth.[1] As a young lad, prior to entering the Army, Josiah worked as a Tailor, or given his age, more likely as a Tailor's Helper.


The following is a description of Josiah John Dean at the time he enlisted as a Boy Soldier in the Army in 1850:


14 years and 108 days




Light brown

The following is a description of Josiah John Dean at the time he was discharged from the Army in 1875:


40 years


5 feet 6 inches




Light hazel


Light brown

Distinctive Marks:



a. Enlistment

Josiah John Dean enlisted as a Boy Soldier in the Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich on the 15th of April 1850.[2] As previously mentioned, his father was a serving soldier in the Royal Sappers and Miners. During the Victorian period, it was not unusual for the son of a serving soldier, normally a non-commissioned officer, to enter the Army as a Boy Soldier in the same regiment or corps as his father.

Upon his enlistment, Josiah was issued Regimental Number 2518 in the Royal Sappers and Miners and was posted for duty as a Bugler.[3] He was probably employed on duties as a Bugler at Woolwich or at Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent pending his 18th birthday when he would no longer be considered a Boy Soldier.

b. Recruit Training

On the 28th of December 1853 Josiah Dean attained the age of 18 years and was eligible to enter the ranks as a full-fledged soldier. Having met the physical requirements [4] for entry into the ranks, Dean was sent to Chatham to receive his recruit training as an engineer soldier.[5] When his training was successfully completed, Dean was posted as a Bugler to the 11th Company, Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich.


a. Promotions

Josiah John Dean received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Appointment and Time in each Grade

15 April 1850

Enlisted as a Boy Soldier (3 years and 226 days)

28 December 1853

Entered the ranks as a Bugler (1year and 4 days)

1 January 1855

Posted to the ranks as a Private (1 year and 273 days)

1 October 1856

Rank changed from Private to Sapper (5 years and 92 days)

1 January 1862

Promoted 2nd Corporal (1 year and 334 days)

1 December 1863

Promoted Corporal (250 days)

10 August 1864

Reduced to Sapper (3 years and 83 days)

1 November 1867

Promoted 2nd Corporal (2 years and 151 days)

1 April 1870

Promoted Corporal (3 years and 77 days)

17 June 1873

Reduced to Sapper (2 years and 181 days)

b. Conduct

(1) Disciplinary Actions

Dean's military service was marred by many infractions and disciplinary actions. His name appeared 13 times in the Regimental Defaulter's Book and he was twice tried by court-martial before completing more than 26 years as a soldier (including his time as a Boy Soldier). Some of his offenses are described below:-

(2) Good Conduct Badges [7]

Josiah John Dean received the Good Conduct Badges shown in the table below during his time in service. The table also indicates the dates on which he forfeited Good Conduct Pay as a result of disciplinary actions taken against him and the dates when pay was restored to him as a result of his improved conduct.

Good Conduct Badge

Date of Award

Approximate Total Time in Service

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 1d.

9 June 1859

9 years and 2 months

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 2d.

28 December 1861

11 years and 8 months

Forfeited 1d. of 2d. Good Conduct Pay

8 August 1864

14 years and 4 months

Forfeited 1d. Good Conduct Pay

27 December 1864

14 years and 8 months

Restored Good Conduct Pay at 1d.

28 December 1865

15 years and 8 months

Restored Good Conduct Pay at 2d.

28 December 1866

16 years and 8 months

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 3d.

28 December 1868

18 years and 8 months

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 4d.

30 December 1871

21 years and 8 months

Forfeited 1d. of 4d. Good Conduct Pay

14 June 1873 [8]

23 years and 2 months

Restored Good Conduct Pay at 4d.

17 June 1874

24 years and 2 months

(3) Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Although Dean was in possession of four Good Conduct Badges when he was discharged from the Army, his conduct while in the Army was questionable. With two court-martials and 13 other lesser offences, he certainly could not be regarded as a model soldier. The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was instituted to be awarded to soldiers of "irreproachable" conduct.[9] Dean's conduct could hardly be considered irreproachable; hence, he was not awarded this medal.


a. Education

Sapper Dean was not in possession of any Certificates of Education at the time of his discharge from the Army. This is not too surprising considering the history of his conduct. He does not appear to have been the type of soldier who would spend his spare time studying and improving his education. Looking into the bottom of a bottle seemed more to his liking than looking into a book.

b. Qualifications

Dean's service papers show his trade as "Tailor" at the time of his discharge from the Army. His papers do not contain records of any other qualifications earned during his time in service. When he was sober and held the ranks of 2nd Corporal and Corporal, he may have been placed in supervisory roles over other Sappers. His records show that he held the rank of 2nd Corporal for a total of 4 years and 120 days and the rank of Corporal for 3 years and 327 days during his career in the Army. For the remaining time he served as a Bugler or Sapper without any special qualifications.


a. Summary of Home and Overseas Service:

The table below provides a summary of the service of Sapper Dean at home and abroad during his years of service.

Home or



Years & Days


15 April 1850

23 February 1854

3 years 314 days

Turkey and the Crimea

24 February 1854

4 August 1856

2 years 119 days


5 August 1856

+ 15 November 1857

2 years 102 days


+16 November 1857

+ 1 August 1860

2 years 289 days


+ 2 August 1860

31 May 1870

9 years 302 days


1 June 1870

11 November 1871

1 year 164 days


12 November 1871

6 April 1873

1 year 145 days


6 April 1873

19 June 1874

1 year 75 days


20 June 1874

14 December 1875

1 year 177 days

Home Service:

17 years 165 days

Service Abroad:

9 years 62 days

Total Service:

26 years 227 days

Total Service Towards Pension:

21 years 352 days

Note: The dates preceded by (+) are approximate, as Dean's records do not provide the exact dates. The author has assumed that his home service in 1857 ended in the middle of the month. All other approximate dates follow from that assumption.

b. Narrative of Service

(1) Home Service (1850-1854)

Dean's service from 1850 to 1853 has been previously described in the Enlistment and Training section of this narrative. In April of 1853 Bugler Dean and the 11th Company were serving on the Isle of Alderney, the northernmost of the Channel Islands in the Guernsey bailiwick.[10] On Alderney the company was engaged in building coastal defence positions. The company moved back to the mainland in June of 1853 to a temporary camp set up at Virginia Water, a town located in Surrey about midway between central London and Reading, Berkshire. This base was the area from which the first real army maneuvers were ever carried out at home. In July of 1853 the company returned to Woolwich.

(2) Turkey and the Crimea (1854-1856)

Early in 1854 the 11th Company was designated to proceed to the seat of war with Russia in the Crimea. The company, under the command of Captain F.C. Hassard, R.E.,[11] sailed on the 24th of February 1854 aboard the P & O troopship Himalaya [12] and arrived off the coast of Malta on the 8th of March. There the company changed ships and sailed for Gallipoli aboard the Golden Fleece. At Gallipoli, the 11th Company together with the 7th Company was engaged in constructing piers for the landing of stores, preparing the most suitable buildings to be used as hospitals and constructing lines to be occupied by the British troops on their arrival. While at Gallipoli, the 11th Company was assigned to the 1st Division for the upcoming operations in the Crimea.

The 11th Company then sailed to Varna on the 12th of May 1854 where the men had to endure heat, poor sanitation and pestilential conditions that proved fatal to some. The work of the company while at Varna consisted of the development of the capabilities of the place to become the base of operations and the principal depot for the stores of the army. The large Turkish barrack, which was found in a filthy and ruinous condition, was repaired, cleaned and made fit for occupation as a hospital for the sick. Stores sheds were erected, piers and wharves were constructed, fountains and springs were put in order and the general water supply was rendered usable and reasonably efficient.

The hard work and pestilential climate at Varna had their effect on both officers and men. Sickness soon became rife and the 11th Company furnished its due quota of victims to the general malaria of the camp. Before long, it became apparent that the gallant efforts of the engineers in improving conditions at Varna were not to be of any practical value.[13]

The 11th Company finally left Varna and landed at Kalamita Bay on the Crimean peninsula on the 14th of September 1854. The army established a beachhead before moving towards its objective of the Russian naval base at Sebastopol. On the march to Sebastopol the British and their French allies met their first challenge; the Russian positions on the River Alma.

The Russians had established themselves on the formidable heights above the Alma to prevent the further advance of the invading British and French forces. On the 20th of September 1854, against stiff opposition, the British and French crossed the river, scaled the heights and defeated the Russian army. Local Russian dignitaries had been invited to witness the battle, so confident was the Russian commander in his ability to defeat the British. General Menschikoff, the commander of the Russian forces had boasted that his defences would last at least three weeks. Three hours after the start of the battle some of the British troops were treated to the remains of the picnic lunch left by the Russians in great haste after their defeat. Bugler Dean was present at this battle and was awarded the clasp [ALMA] to be worn on his Crimean War medal.[14]

The British and French armies continued on to Sebastopol where they lay siege to the city. Dean next saw action in at the Battle of Inkermann on Sunday the 5th of November 1854. This action, known as "the Soldiers' Battle", was fought in a heavy fog and through thick undergrowth by wet, cold British and French troops against an aggressive Russian assault. The British and their French allies withstood the Russian attack and won the day, with the British losing 2,500 killed. French losses were estimated at 1,000 dead and the Russians lost approximately 12,000 men. For his participation in this battle, Dean was awarded the clasp [INKERMANN] to be worn on his Crimean War medal.

Shortly after the action at Inkermann, Dean was posted to the ranks as a Private.[15] His duties entailed assisting and supervising the infantry and artillery with the digging of trenches, saps and other defensive works as well as the construction and maintenance of many artillery battery positions. This work was undertaken during the terribly cold conditions of the Crimean winter in preparation for the siege and final assault on the Russian positions at Sebastopol.

Dean worked with his company throughout the winter of 1854/55 and during the following spring and summer months. His service papers show that he was posted to the British base at Scutari for unspecified duties and that he spent the months of August and September of 1855 in that town. Sebastopol fell to the British and French on the 8th of September 1855. Dean was not present with his company during the final assault on the town, as he did not return to his unit until October. He was, however, awarded the clasp [SEBASTOPOL] to be worn on this Crimean War medal as he had participated in the siege operations leading up to the final assault.

The Crimean War Medal shown with two clasps

The Sappers of the 11th Company did not escape another cold Russian winter, as they were tasked with construction work in Sebastopol along with the destruction of the Russian naval dockyard in the town.

(3) Home Service (1856-1857)

The 11th Company embarked from Balaklava on the 12th of July 1856 aboard the Dragon and arrived in England on the 5th of August where it was posted to Chatham. While Dean was at Chatham, a major reorganization took place involving the Royal Sappers and Miners. On the 1st of October 1856 the gallant services of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners were rewarded at the close of the Crimean War by the grant of the title Royal Engineers. In the London Gazette of the 17th of October 1856 the change was thus announced:-

"The Queen has been graciously pleased to direct that the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners shall henceforth be denominated the Corps of Royal Engineers."

This reorganization put the non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Royal Sappers and Miners in the same Corps as the officers. As a consequence of this royal grant the rank and file were no longer known as Privates, but Sappers.

(4) India (1857-1860)

Unrest in India led to the mutiny of part of the East India Company's army in 1857. Sapper Dean was also to see active service in the campaign to put down the Sepoy rebellion. In November of 1857 the 11th Company, under the command of Captain Charles Edward Cumberland, R.E., landed at Calcutta and joined General Hugh Rose's column to suppress the rebels in Central India. The other officers in the 11th Company at the time included Lieutenant John Popham Maquay, R.E., Lieutenant Daniel Corrie Walker, R.E. and Lieutenant John Brand Paterson, R.E.

Major General Sir Hugh Rose led the British forces in central India against the rebels at Jhansi, Calpee and Gwalior. Dean saw action in the Battle at Aliwah from the 19th to the 24th of January 1854.

The campaign in central India ended in June of 1858, but the 11th Company remained in India until 1860 before it was posted home. For his service Dean was awarded the Indian Mutiny Medal with clasp [CENTRAL INDIA].[16]

The Indian Mutiny Medal with one clasp

(5) Home Service (1860-1870)

Following his return home from India, Dean spent almost 10 years in the United Kingdom before being posted abroad again. His service papers are unclear regarding the units in which he served and where he served during the early part of this period. What is known is that he was married during this time and that he had some disciplinary problems associated with alcohol.

Dean re-engaged at Rochester in Kent on the 16th of August 1865 to complete 21 years of service with the Colours.[17] Pay lists show that he was serving at the Royal Engineers Depot at Chatham from April to June of 1866 and that in October of 1866 he was posted to Portsmouth to join the 29th Company, Royal Engineers.

(6) Canada (1870-1871)

At some point in the year 1870, Dean was posted to Canada where he served at Quebec. His records show that he departed Quebec, bound for Bermuda, on the 12th of November 1871 and on the 1st of December 1871 he was posted to the 8th Company, Royal Engineers at St. Georges, Bermuda.

(7) Bermuda (1871-1873)

While on the island of Bermuda, Dean was posted temporarily to the 1st Company, Royal Engineers. Pay lists show that he served with the 1st Company from about February to July of 1872 when he returned to the 8th Company at St. Georges. Dean and the 8th Company remained on Bermuda until April of 1873 when the company departed for Malta.

(8) Malta (1873-1874)

The 8th Company arrived on the island of Malta in May of 1873 and Dean served there until June of 1874 when he returned home.

(9) Home Service (1874-1875)

On his return to England, Dean was posted to a unit in Dover. He remained there until the completion of his second term of limited engagement, at which time he was discharged from the army.


Josiah Dean's Medical History Sheet was not found as part of his service papers; therefore, no definitive information can be provided regarding his state of health during his term of service in the Army. His discharge papers indicate that he was not wounded during his campaign service in the Crimea or in India. From his conduct over the years, it appears that he might have been an alcoholic.


a. Spouse and Children

Josiah Dean was placed on the married rolls on the 7th of August 1864.[18] Presumably he married his wife Laura on that date or shortly before. The fact that he was court-martialed for drunkenness on the following day may indicate that he celebrated too much at his wedding reception on the 7th. Dean's service papers do not record the birth of any children while he was in the army.

b. Census Information

No information regarding Josiah John Dean or Laura Dean could be found in the 1881 British Census. Similarly, a search of the 1901 British Census produced negative results.


A Regimental Discharge Board convened at Dover on the 29th of November 1875 to consider the discharge of Sapper Josiah John Dean. Up to that date it was reckoned that he had served a total of 21 years and 337 days towards completion of his enlistment. The Board further recorded that only 21 years and 332 days were credited towards Good Conduct Pay and Pension, as Dean had five days of "bad time" due to his disciplinary problems. It was noted that his service abroad amounted to 9 years and 62 days.

The Board noted that Dean's conduct was "Good" at the time of his discharge and that he was in possession of four Good Conduct Badges. His trade was listed as "Tailor." As previously mentioned, his campaign medals included the Crimean War medal with three clasps, the Indian Mutiny medal with one clasp and the Turkish Crimean medal. He did not receive the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.[19]

Josiah Dean served for an additional 15 days following the convening of the Regimental Discharge Board. He was discharged from the army at Dover on the 14th of December 1875 on the termination of his second period of limited engagement.


Josiah Dean's intended place of residence after his discharge from the Army was the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea. His name appears on the records of the Royal Military Asylum in the outpatient register showing him as being paid at the rate of 1s. The records further show that he moved to Wales, via Woolwich, on the 1st of August 1876. These same records note that he was living in West London on the 1st of November 1876 and that by the 1st of January 1877 he was in Cardiff, Wales. No further information about Sapper Dean could be located after this last date and, as previously noted, neither he nor his wife appears on the 1881 British census returns. In 1881 Dean would have been 46 years of age. It is quite possible that poor health associated with his drinking problem may have been the cause of his early demise. The reason for the absence of Laura Dean from the 1881 census is not known.


Other Sappers by the name of Dean also are represented by their medals in the author's collection. The following is a family by the name of Dean who served for three generations in the Royal Sappers and Miners and the Royal Engineers:

To date the author has not been able to make a definite connection between Josiah John Dean and the four men of the Dean family previously described. However, the similarities between all the men are striking. They were each sons of men who were serving in the Royal Sappers and Miners or Royal Engineers at the time of their birth. Each man was born at a military installation (Woolwich, Halifax, Aldershot and Chatham) and each man enlisted as a Boy Soldier after his 14th birthday. It is quite possible that the subject of this research, Josiah John Dean, also may have been the son of Sergeant William Dean and the brother of Sapper George Dean. Josiah was born in 1835 and George was born in 1840. Both could have followed their father and their grandfather into the Royal Sappers and Miners as Boy Soldiers. If this was the case, then Josiah was the uncle of William George and Henry James Dean. Research in this area continues in an attempt to prove or disprove the relationship between Josiah John Dean and the Dean family of Sappers. Unfortunately, the service papers of Sergeant William Dean (WO97/1360) do not indicate the number and names of his children. The relationship between Sapper George Dean and his father Sergeant William Dean was found in George Dean's service papers (WO97/1850). These papers do not indicate whether George Dean had any brothers.



1. CIMA, K.A. Reflections from the Bridge: The Victorian Sapper in Photographs. Baron Birch in conjunction with the Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1994.

2. COCKERILL, A.W. Sons of the Brave: The Story of Boy Soldiers. Leo Cooper, London, 1984.

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

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

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

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

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

8. LITHERLAND, A.R. & SIMPKIN, B.T. Spink's Standard Catalogue of British Orders, Decorations & Medals with Valuations. Spink, London, 1990.

9. MERRIAM WEBSTER. Geographical Dictionary, Springfield, MA, 1997.

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

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

12. 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. WO97/1850. Soldier’s Service Papers. National Archives, London. Sapper Dean's service papers include the following documents:

a. W.O. Form 83. Proceedings of a Regimental Discharge Board.

b. Detailed Statement of Services.

c. Declaration of Soldier Upon Discharge.

2. WO100/23. Crimean Medal Roll - Royal Engineers.

3. Indian Mutiny Medal Roll - Royal Engineers.

4. AB 91. Army Births and Baptisms.

5. LARIMORE, F.B. Long Service and Good Conduct Chevrons (Badges) and their Periods of Qualification. Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, 1998.

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

7. WO97/1360. Service Papers of Sergeant William Dean, Royal Sappers and Miners.

8. WO97/1850. Service Papers of Sapper George Dean, Royal Engineers.


1. 1901 British Census. Public Record Office, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, 2003.

2. MICROSOFT EXPEDIA MAPS. http:\www.expediamaps.com

Computer Software

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

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


[1] Army Births and Baptisms (AB. 91) Volume 658, page 127.

[2] See Recruitment of Boy Soldiers.

[3] See Duties of a Royal Engineers Bugler.

[4] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army and the Corps of Royal Engineers (Victorian Period). It should be noted that Dean must have just met the minimum height requirement of 5 feet 6 inches when he turned 18 years of age, as this was his height in 1875 when he was discharged. He may, in fact, have been under the minimum height requirement in 1853, but as the son of a senior non-commissioned officer in the Corps this may have been overlooked.

[5] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[6] GASE, S. Based on a study of pay lists for the period while Dean was serving on the island of Bermuda.

[7] See Good Conduct Pay.

[8] It should be noted that Dean was in confinement awaiting trial by court-martial for drunkenness on the 14th of June 1873 when he was made to forfeit 1d. of his Good Conduct Pay. He was not found guilty of the offence by the Court-Martial Board until the 17th of June; therefore, the forfeiture occurred prior to the court-martial. This appears to have been a system that considered the soldier guilty of the offence when he was charged. The court-martial appears to have been a formality. The concept of innocent before proven guilty did not apply.


[10] The Isle of Alderney is 4.5 miles long and has an area of 3 square miles. It is separated from France by a dangerous 8-mile wide tidal channel known as the Race of Alderney.

[11] Fairfax Charles Hassard, C.B, later Major General.

[12] The Peninsula & Oriental (P & O) Steam Navigation Company troopship Himalaya was a screw steamer of 3,438 tons. She was a really big ship, almost twice the size of any other ship in the P & O fleet and the biggest steamer in the world at that time. Her saloon was 100 feet in length and could seat 170 passengers. She could maintain 14 knots with engines only, and with full sail spread in addition to the engines she could achieve 16 knots. The Himalaya was before her time because she was too big for the traffic and was operated at a loss. The company was relieved of a financial embarrassment by the advent of the Crimean War, for the Himalaya proved the best of the chartered transports, and the P & O were only too pleased to accept an offer from the Admiralty for her purchase as a troopship. In government service she had a long and honorable employment, and was eventually sunk by German bombers in the Second World War while she was serving as a hulk in Portland harbour.

[13] PORTER, pp. 413 and 416.

[14] This medal is in the author's collection and is the basis for this research work.

[15] The rank of Sapper had not yet come into use. The lowest enlisted ranks in the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners were known as Privates, as in the infantry, until the amalgamation of the officers of the Royal Engineers with the enlisted men of the Royal Sappers and Miners.

[16] The whereabouts of this medal is unknown to the author.

[17] See Re-engagement in the Regular Army.

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

[19] Soldiers with more exemplary conduct records who were normally awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal generally would have their conduct listed as "Very Good" or "Exemplary" at their time of discharge.