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5020 Corporal George Mather Henniker
Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 1998.

Early Life and Enlistment

George Mather Henniker was born on the 7th of September 1829 in the town of Chatham, Kent. He was christened on the 9th of May 1830, also in Chatham. His parents were William and Mary Henniker.

Young George apparently did not have much of a childhood or an education. He enlisted as a Boy Drummer in the Royal Marines on the 8th of January 1840. His service papers indicate that he was enlisted for service by a Sergeant William Henniker, Royal Marines. It is probably a safe assumption that Sergeant William Henniker was his father. The Hennikers probably found it difficult to care for young George with Sergeant Henniker being away frequently at sea. Having his boy join the Colours would have been a solution to this problem.

On the day of his enlistment, young George was given a medical examination at Chatham by the Royal Marine Surgeon. In the medical report he was described as being 4 feet 1-1/2 inches tall, with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes, and brown hair. After the examination, the Surgeon declared him fit for service as a Drummer.

George Henniker took the Oath of Attestation for Unlimited Service in the Royal Marines on the 9th of January 1840. He was 10 years and 2 months old. He swore the oath before a Magistrate at Rochester, Kent and later that same day the Officer Commanding the Royal Marines at Chatham approved his enlistment and assigned him as a Drummer to No. 17 Company, in the Chatham Division, Royal Marines. It is not known whether this was the same company in which his father was serving at the time, but that seems a good possibility.

Service in the Royal Marines

George Henniker’s service papers provide little detail about his service in the Royal Marines. The papers do indicate that on the 24th of November 1840 he embarked for service aboard HMS Iris. At this point it is not known whether he was still serving with No. 17 Company or whether his father was aboard ship with him. He served aboard HMS Iris until the 15th of August 1843 when he was then presumably assigned to shore duty. On the 13th of August 1847 he was enlisted as a Private in the Royal Marines upon attaining legal age for service. In all probability he served in the Royal Marine Band as a drummer.

He continued to serve until the 23rd of November 1857 when, apparently at his own request, he was discharged from the Royal Marines in order to enlist in the Royal Engineers. His total service in the Royal Marines, including his time as a Boy Drummer, was 17 years and 326 days. This included 10 years and 103 days of service after attaining legal age for enlistment. During his service he was awarded two Good Conduct Badges.

Service in the Royal Engineers

George Henniker, now age 28, enlisted in the Army on the 24th of November 1857. On the following day he attested as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers at Rochester in Kent. Again, unfortunately, his service papers provide scant details of his service with the Royal Engineers. Presumably he continued his duties as a musician.

Sapper Henniker was awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 2.d. per day on the 27th of April 1859. Although his Royal Marine service papers indicate that he had received two Good Conduct Badges while serving with that Corps, he apparently did not receive the pay associated with the second badge, or he lost it due to misconduct. His conduct in the Royal Engineers appears to have been above question as he was awarded Good Conduct Pay at 3.d. per day on the 4th of November 1860.

On the 1st of April 1861 Sapper Henniker was promoted to the rank of 2nd Corporal. This seems to have been his first promotion to a higher rank since he joined the Royal Marines as a Private in 1847. On the 4th of November 1863, 2nd Corporal Henniker was awarded Good Conduct Pay at 4.d. per day.

In 1865 Henniker would have completed 18 years with the Colours, counting his 10 years of service as a Private in the Royal Marines and his 8 years with the Royal Engineers. It is believed that in this year he was awarded the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. On the 1st of August 1866 George Henniker was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

During the next two years Corporal Henniker health appears to have declined to the point where his further service with the Colours appeared doubtful. On the 14th of May 1868 he was given a medical examination at Chatham. He was diagnosed with "emphysema of the lungs and pulmonary consumption." His illness was determined to be service related and was considered to be too severe for further military service. The doctor's opinion was that the disability was the result of long and hard service as a musician in military service. Both of his lungs were affected, but it appears that the left lung was affected to a greater degree. He was deemed unable to play any wind instrument; hence, he was probably still serving as a musician. He suffered badly from dyspnoea, or shortness or breath. The doctor opined that he would be able to earn a living after discharge and that his disability "was not aggravated by vice."

On the 19th of May 1868 the Principal Medical Officer at Chatham reviewed the results of Corporal Henniker’s medical examination and stated that his disability permanently incapacitated him for the active duties of a soldier, and that he should not be allowed to reenlist if discharged. On the 26th of May 1868 these medical findings were considered by a Discharge Board that convened at Chatham. The Board recommended that Corporal Henniker he discharged as medically unfit for further service. The Board indicated that his character and conduct while serving had been "Very Good" and that he was in possession of four Good Conduct Badges. His name never appeared in the regimental defaulters book and he had never been tried by court martial. Along with his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, Corporal Henniker was awarded a gratuity of 5 Pounds.

The Proceedings of the Regimental Discharge Board were reviewed and approved by Major William E. Warrand, R.E. Corporal Henniker's discharge was subsequently approved at Horse Guards on the 9th of June 1868 by the Assistant Adjutant General, Royal Engineers. His total service to that date was reckoned at 20 years and 218 days.

Henniker was not finally discharged until the 16th of June 1868. When discharged he was 38 years and 7 months old and had served a total of 10 years and 204 days in the Royal Engineers. His discharge took place at Chatham. His Description on Discharge indicated that he was 5 feet 5-1/2 inches tall, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had no distinguishing marks or scars on his face or body. His trade was indicated as Musician, and his intended place of residence was 27 Union Street, St. Paul's, Oxford. His total service upon final discharge was reckoned at 20 years and 225 days.

Service with the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia

Despite his disability, George Henniker was not quite through with military service. On the 18th of April 1870 he attested for service on the Permanent Staff of the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia with headquarters at Kingston-on-Thames. He was taken on the rolls of this unit as a Staff Sergeant, presumably because of his prior military experience. Although the Principal Medical Officer at Chatham had recommended that he not be allowed to reenlist, the Militia apparently was willing to take him. It is almost certain that his duties on the Permanent Staff of the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia involved administrative duties exclusively. It is unlikely that he was involved in any sort of military training or active service that would tax his pulmonary system.

Staff Sergeant Henniker served with this unit, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Miles Stringer, late 6th Dragoons, until the 17th of April 1880. On that date he received a time expired discharge. His total service with the Militia had been exactly 10 years. His conduct on discharge from the Militia was listed as "Very Good." He was described on discharge as being 50 years of age, 5 feet 5 inches tall, with brown hair, grey eyes, and a fresh complexion. It is more likely that he had grey hair and brown eyes - an error most likely made when his description was entered on his discharge papers. His trade on discharge was still listed as Musician.

George Henniker's total service with the Colours was calculated at 30 years and 307 days. His total service towards a pension was reckoned at 30 years and 225 days. For his combined service in the Royal Marines and Royal Engineers this pension amounted to one shilling and 3-1/2 pence per day.

Henniker’s discharge from the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia was given final approval at Horse Guards in London on the 22nd of April 1880.

The 1881 British Census shows that George Henniker and his wife Emily were living at Fairfield South (Lime Cottage) during that year with their son George A. (22 years) and son Ernest A. (15 years). Emily Henniker was originally from Kennington, Surrey. Both sons were born in New Brompton, Kent, probably while Corporal Henniker was serving at Chatham with the Royal Engineers.


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3. Public Record Office, London: War Office, W097/1361.
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5. CONOLLY, 'I'.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, From 1660 to 1898. Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.
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11. Vital Records Index of the British Isles. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998.
12. 1881 British Census. Public Record Officer Reference RG11, Piece 0834, Folio 6, Page 5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1999.

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