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Major General
Royal Engineers and
Bombay Sappers and Miners

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2002. All Rights Reserved.


Fred Larimore of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania performed the majority of the research for this project, work that was instigated by his acquisition of General Bonus’s Afghanistan 1878 medal. Most of the words in this narrative are Fred’s. I have added to it in places and modified it somewhat to my own writing style, but in essence it is still Fred Larimore’s work.

Fred originally owned General Bonus’s Afghanistan 1878 medal before I acquired it from him. The whereabouts of the General’s only other medal, the Indian Mutiny medal with clasp [CENTRAL INDIA], is not known. I have added an unnamed Mutiny medal to his Afghanistan medal to complete the group of the only medals or decorations ever awarded to him. It was the Afghanistan Medal, however, that started Fred on his research and it was that medal that was the basis for this story of the life and military career of Major General Joseph Bonus.

The information presented in this narrative has been taken from the many sources listed in the Reference section at the end. Bonus's movements during the time of the Indian Mutiny have been compiled primarily from campaign and unit histories. A detailed, day by day accounting of his service with the Central India Field Force between the 10th of January and the 14th of July 1858 is given in his letters written to his parents. These letters were copied from the India Office Library and are in the author’s possession. Excerpts from the letters are included in this narrative; however, they are much too lengthy to include in their entirety. They do make fascinating reading and provide an excellent account of Bonus’s deeds as well as the work done by the Sappers and Miners during the campaign. The letters also provide graphic detail of some of the horrors of the Mutiny and the hardships associated with service in central India at that time.

As I worked on this narrative of Major General Bonus’s life, I could not help but wonder about why he was never awarded any orders or decorations during his period of military service. Bonus served for 31 years, from 1855 to 1886. He was a daring young officer during the Indian Mutiny, one who was eager to see action and who, indeed, was frequently at the forefront of the action. He was mentioned in despatches on numerous occasions and was thought highly of by his fellow officers. His served his Queen, the Colours, the Corps of Royal Engineers and the Bombay Sappers and Miners faithfully and with distinction for all those years and yet, he was never honored with the Distinguished Service Order or any of the other military orders of knighthood. One gets the impression that because he spent his entire career in India that he may not been considered one of the inner circle of the elite who ran the British Army during the last half of the 19th Century. He appears to have been one of those hard working officers who had no "godfather" in the War Office to look out for him. He does not appear to have been in favour with those who could recommend him for honours and awards for his service. It is also likely that since he spent so many years in India on railroad construction duties, he was overlooked by those who could be in a position to bestow honours upon him. He did rise to the rank of Major General, so his period of long service did not go completely unrewarded. It is rather mystifying, however, that such a long-serving officer would only have been entitled to two campaign medals after 31 years of service.


Joseph Bonus was born in London on the 14th of September 1836 [1]. His parents were John and Elizabeth Ann Bonus, of "Point House", Blackheath, London. Joseph was their fifth son. His father was a merchant whose business was located at 81 Gracechurch Street in London, located just north of the River Thames and east of the Whitechapel District of London.

Joseph was baptized at St. Mary Stratford Bow [2], Middlesex, on the 7th of December 1836. This Parish is bounded on the east by the River Lea, which forms in this direction a line of separation between the Counties of Middlesex and Essex. On the north the Parish borders Hackney and Bethnal Green, on the west and southwest it is bounded by the Parish of Stepney, of which it was once a part, and on the southwest it abuts the Parish of St. Leonard Bromley. The Parish of St. Mary Stratford Bow is part of the archdiocese of Middlesex and the diocese of London and the major religions in the Parish are Baptist, Wesleyan and Methodists [3].

The Bonus residence in Blackheath was located on the south side of the River Thames just below Woolwich. St. Mary Stratford Bow was located on the north side of the river, about a mile to the north of Blackheath. No reason has been uncovered to explain why the parents of Joseph Bonus would have chosen the Parish of St. Mary Stratford Bow for the christening of their son.


Joseph Bonus received his education in mathematics and the classics at Dr. Grieg’s School in Walthamstow. After ample preparation at Dr. Grieg’s School, he applied for admission to Addiscombe on the 17th of November 1852. He was recommended by his father John Bonus and nominated by John Masterman, Esq. His Cadet Papers while he was at Addiscombe contain a letter of reference from his teacher at Dr. Grieg’s School, dated the 15th of November 1852, expressing his entire satisfaction with Bonus’s academic work and with his character and conduct. Bonus passed his entrance examination on the 3rd of December 1852 and entered Addiscombe in 1853, just shortly after Lord Roberts left the school for his famous "41 years in India."

In 1798 the Honourable East India Company began to send cadets to the Royal Military Academy to train as officers in the Indian artillery and engineers. In 1809 the Company set up a military seminary at Addiscombe House in Croydon based upon the organization of the Royal Military Academy. After the Indian Mutiny of 1857-1858 it was decided that for security reasons, all artillery and engineers in India should be a part of the British Army. The establishment of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers was increased accordingly. Addiscombe was closed and its functions were undertaken by an enlarged Royal Military Academy. Joseph Bonus attended Addiscombe very near the end of its existence.

The Bonus Brothers, c. 1855, from left to right:
Edward, Joseph, John and Schroder.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)


Commissioning, Training and Posting to India (1855-1857)

Cadet Joseph Bonus successfully completed his work at Addiscombe and was granted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal (Bombay) Engineers on the 8th of June 1855. Other young officers of his batch commissioned in the Bombay Engineers on the same day included [5]:

2nd Lieutenant Charles Augustus Goodfellow (later Lieutenant General Goodfellow, V.C.)

2nd Lieutenant Charles Hancock (died at Kotah on the 15th of April 1858 from a wound received on the 30th of March in the assault on Kotah)

2nd Lieutenant Hugh Brownlow Matthew-Lannowe (later Major General)

2nd Lieutenant Edward Parry Gambier (later Colonel, died at Glion, Montreux, Switzerland on the 14th of October 1886)

2nd Lieutenant Walter Manson (later Major, died at London on the 3rd of July 1879)

2nd Lieutenant Henry Cecil Moore (retired on the 7th of June 1866).

Lieutenant Joseph Bonus, c. 1857, prior to his service in India.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)

After graduation from Addiscombe, Bonus reported to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, Kent, where he underwent two additional years of training to prepare him for service as an engineer officer. From Chatham he was posted to the Headquarters of the Bombay Sappers and Miners at Poona in India, arriving there in February of 1857. At Poona 2nd Lieutenant Bonus was assigned to the 2nd Company, Bombay Sappers and Miners commanded by 2nd Lieutenant H.R. Meiklejohn. Meiklejohn also had been commissioned from Addiscombe, but as his date of commissioning was the 9th of December 1854 he had seniority over Bonus although they were both just 2nd Lieutenants.

After only three months at Poona Bonus was ordered to active service against the rebels of the Bengal Army, a rebellion that began at Meerut on the 11th of May 1857. Lieutenant Bonus left Poona in command of the 2nd Company, Bombay Sappers and Miners along with Lieutenant C.A. Goodfellow, a brother subaltern, who had been with him at Addiscombe and Chatham. Bonus and his company marched off to join in the fighting against the rebels with Major General Sir Hugh Rose’s Central India Field Force.

Bonus first traveled to Ahmednagar where he stayed some days awaiting orders. He and his company were then directed to join the Nerbudha Field Force at Aurungabad, which was under the command of Colonel C. Stewart of the 14th Dragoons. Soon after joining at Aurungabad, Bonus was appointed Assistant Field Engineer in addition to retaining command of his company. He and his company were under canvas throughout the rains of 1857 and despite having a very wet time he enjoyed life with excursions to Daulatabad, the caves of Ellora and other places of interest. In additions to sight-seeing, Bonus also had plenty of shooting and pig-sticking to keep him busy. Additionally, there was much for him to see in Aurungabad where there were some fine ancient ruins. He also got to visit the mausoleum of Aurungzebe’s wife, constructed in the style of the Taj Mahal at Agra [6].

At the end of the rainy season it was possible for the troops to move and the field force left Aurungabad and marched steadily to Sehore over very bad roads, arriving there in January of 1858. No rebel opposition was encountered during the march. Lieutenant Bonus moved a day in advance of the main body of the field force leaving the majority of his baggage behind. During the advance to Sehore he slept on the ground night after night without a tent.

Disarming the Bhopal Contingent, 7 January 1858 [7]

Lieutenant Bonus’s first assignment with the Central India Field Force was the disarming of the Bhopal contingent. Bonus wrote about this episode in his own diary, as follows:

"As I command the sappers and miners I went to a council to discuss the disarming. About 7.30 a.m. of the 8th, the infantry and cavalry of the Bhopal contingent were ordered to march through the camp, to the surprise of those not in the secret. The dragoons and the artillery were at the stables, and the 3rd and 24th were strolling about. But no sooner were the contingent gentlemen clear of camp than a change came very rapidly over the scene. In a few minutes the dragoons were mounted and the guns horsed. The infantry fell in armed with ball. Great must have been the surprise of the late mutineers to see cavalry, guns and infantry between them and their village.

The contingent infantry were ordered to pile arms; which they did. They were then marched some fifty yards from their arms, and the 3rd Europeans marched up to the piles. Next the cavalry were ordered to dismount, when their horses were led away. But these men on being ordered to give up their swords, refused. Mayne asked for a company of Europeans to compel obedience. But the brigadier said, ‘I’ll give you something better than that." He at once ordered the artillery to prepare for action in front of the dismounted men. ‘Trot, march’ – ‘action right’ – ‘with grape load!’ No sooner was the order given than the mutineers put down their swords. Each man had his uniform stripped off."

Siege And Capture Of Rhatghur, 24-28 January 1858 [8]

Major General Sir Hugh Rose, having learned that a strong body of mutineers was approaching Saugor, determined to march to its relief. 2nd Lieutenant Bonus and 2nd Lieutenant H.R. Meiklejohn, along with the 2nd and 5th Companies of the Bombay Sappers and Miners, arrived on the scene before the main body of Sir Hugh’s field force. Sir Hugh marched from Mhow with the 2nd Brigade under Brigadier Charles Steuart, late 14th Light Dragons on the 6th of January 1858. The letters of Lieutenant Bonus written to his parents indicate that the field force was at Sehore on the 10th of January and at Panda on the 16th of January.

2nd Lieutenant Bonus participated from the 24th to the 28th of January 1858 in the siege and capture of this rock fortress on the River Bina, which blocked Sir Hugh’s advance to Saugor. The rock was a mile and a half in length and was covered and surrounded by thick jungle. To the north lay the town. The west side of the rock was along the river and was very steep and unapproachable. The east side was accessible and this is the side on which Sir Hugh established his attack. On the evening of the 27th Captain Lightfoot, Bombay Artillery and Lieutenant Bonus were detailed by Sir Hugh to investigate a low massive tower close to the main gate of the fort. After a thorough examination of the tower was completed Captain Lightfoot and Lieutenant Bonus reported that the "massive construction and nature of its defenses prevented it being used for the offensive". After this report Sir Hugh withdrew his troops from this area of the fort, except for the artillery and its support troops, which were in place to fire on the outer wall and eastern curtain of the fort. Sir Hugh ordered the artillery to open fire early on the 28th. The fire was so effective that it was evident that a breach would soon be made. This fact, combined with the several sharp engagements with the enemy in and around the town of Rhatghur, apparently convinced the enemy of the prudence of withdrawal. It was discovered in the morning of the 28th that the rebels had deserted the fortress. Sir Hugh left the 24th Bombay Native Infantry, some guns, and some cavalry to protect Rhatghur and continued his approach to Saugor after having fought a sharp action at Barodia on the 31st of January to protect his left flank. Lieutenant Bonus did not participate in this action. He was left to blow up the gates at Rhatghur while the field force marched for Barodia. Bonus wrote the following to his parents regarding his efforts to blow up the gate:

"My demolitions in the fort were not very successful. Goodfellow was with me. We nearly managed to demolish ourselves. We made a hole horizontally under the rampart, loaded it with a heavy charge, but time being short, had rather scamped the tamping. G. and I luckily took refuge behind a dwarf wall. When the explosion took place the tamping which consisted mainly of stones, shot out and pelted the small wall behind which we were crouched. But we made a fine smash of the Main Gate, wrecking the whole place.

Bonus and his men left Rhatghur on the 2nd of February and on the 3rd of February 1858 Saugor was relieved. Lieutenant Bonus had provided Sir Hugh with useful intelligence on the nature of the fort’s defenses and he was to find his name Mentioned in Despatches after his first engagement of the Indian Mutiny.

Capture Of The Fort Of Garrakota
And The Action At The Pass Of Maddenpore, End Of February 1858 [9]

Sir Hugh determined to continue his easterly march toward the strong fort of Garrakota. This fort blocked the advance to Jhansi, which Sir Hugh had now been ordered to move on as quickly as possible in order to help open the Grand Trunk Road from Bombay to Agra.

A detachment of the Bombay Sappers and Miners was attached to the 2nd Brigade of Sir Hugh’s Central India Field Force under the command of Brigadier C. Steuart. Sir Hugh ordered this Brigade to capture the fort at Garrakota and to take control of the difficult passes in the mountainous region that separated the Shaghur and Saugor Districts.

The mutineers under the command of the Rajah of Sharghur held the fort at Garrakota but left without much of a fight on the 12th of February 1858 when confronted by the 2nd Brigade, which had marched 28 miles from Saugor. The 2nd Brigade then returned to Saugor leaving the Bombay Sappers and Miners to destroy as much of the fort’s defenses as possible. The detachment returned to Saugor on the 13th of February after the demolition had been completed.

After supplies had been received for his forces at Saugor on the 27th of February, Sir Hugh decided his attack should be directed on the Maddenpore pass. The Bombay Sappers and Miners were attached to the center of Sir Hugh’s Force. It was soon clear that the rebels intended to contest the capture of the pass. Enemy skirmishers fired on the advance well in front of the entrance to the pass and the enemy was also seen to be massing on the hills to the left, some 800 yards from the entrance. Sir Hugh ordered the rapid movement of cavalry with horse artillery support to clear the hills and glens of the pass with sweeping actions to the left and right of the pass. These actions were to be mopped up and reinforced by the following infantry support of which the Bombay Sappers and Miners with Lieutenant Bonus were a part.

The fighting was sharp at times, but in general the Rajah of Sharghur’s rebels were easily brushed aside. This was probably owing to the good practice of the artillery and effective cavalry sweeps. The pass was taken with only 12 men being wounded, none of them in the Bombay Sappers and Miners. After the pass was secured the Bombay Sappers and Miners participated in the demolition of several forts in the area of the pass and then moved on to Murrowra, arriving there on the 8th of March. They then moved on to Banpoor on the 11th of March and were encamped on the River Betwa by the 19th of March.

The majority of the country to the East of the River Betwa between Saugor and Jhansi, which had been controlled by the rebels since the outbreak of the rebellion, was now restored to the Government of India by the middle of March 1858. The fortress of Jhansi was the next objective.

The Siege And Storming Of Jhansi, 22 March - 3 April 1858 [10,11]

Preliminary to, and in preparation for the siege and storming of Jhansi, Sir Hugh employed Major Boileau, Lieutenant Prendergast, Madras Engineers (later severely wounded at Betwa), and 2nd Lieutenant Bonus in a reconnaissance of Jhansi. The day was exceedingly hot, but the collection of information was critical. The reconnaissance party left the camp east of Jhansi and proceeded to collect information around Jhansi to the northwest where they were to meet Sir Hugh on a certain predetermined hill. As they approached the General and his staff with its dragoon escort, they noticed a horseman approaching from the west who suddenly turned and fled. What ensued was a fine chase over "good sporting ground," but it was baked hard and the engineers saw eight horses and their riders go down. It was soon determined that the rider was an orderly from Major Orr’s camp and had been sent with a despatch for the general and was not expecting to see dragoons; hence, he thought they were the enemy. Later, after the excitement was over, the report on the findings of the reconnaissance of Jhansi was presented to Sir Hugh.

The Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief had recognized that Jhansi presented difficulties of a most formidable nature, and discretion had been given to Sir Hugh to pass it by merely leaving a force to observe it. But Sir Hugh believed that to pass Jhansi would be fatal to British prestige, while on the other hand capture of the famous city would be a crushing blow to the rebel hopes. It says much for the character and daring of Sir Hugh Rose that he was preparing to attack the city and fortress with a force consisting of only two brigades, with full confidence that he would be successful. An interesting fact unknown to Sir Hugh at the time of his decision was that the main fort had one fatal weakness. They would not have faced a siege for long because they had no water supply and their storage tanks were empty. If the city defenses were carried, the fortress was doomed.

The city of Jhansi was protected and commanded by a large fort that stood on a rock that rose from the plain to the west of the city. The fort's construction was of massive masonry with granite walls 10 feet to 12 feet thick. Elaborate outworks and turrets bearing guns surrounded the main fort. Except for the western side where the fort rock was an insurmountable barrier, a continuous wall ran around the city. This wall was 4 1/2 miles long, 6 feet to 12 feet thick, 18 feet to 30 feet high, and had flanking bastions throughout its length. The most important bastion was on the southern portion of the wall where it passed over a large mound. This bastion was semicircular in shape, armed with 5 guns, and was protected by a formidable ditch that was strengthened with masonry. The entire southern front of the wall was commanded by 27 guns manned by men of the mutinied 4/9 Bengal Artillery under an expert commander. The rebel garrison at Jhansi consisted of about 10,000 native levies and 1,500 Bengal sepoys of whom 400 were cavalry.

Farther to the south of the city wall there rose from the plain two rocky hillocks. The hillock to the east of the main bastion was 1,800 yards from the wall, and the one to the west was 600 yards from the wall. The space between these two hillocks was filled by a line of 3 lesser mounds of about the same elevation as the hillocks. This strip of elevated ground was about to be occupied by Sir Hugh’s Central India Field Force and 2nd Lieutenant Bonus’s company of the Bombay Sappers and Miners. Bonus and his men would soon find themselves heavily engaged and in the forefront of the battle after having just proved their value at the siege and capture of Rhatghur.

Bonus’s company left the camp on the Betwa on the 19th of March to help prepare artillery positions for the siege of Jhansi. The first batteries were established and fortified by the Sappers and Miners under the command of Sir Hugh’s Field Engineer Major Boileau. They opened fire on the 25th of March and by the 30th had broken an appreciable breach on the west side of the mound. A timber retrenchment of the breach was destroyed by red-hot shot, but the expenditure of ammunition in the various bombardments was so great that it became evident that the city would have to be taken by storm, a most uninviting prospect.

The assault arrangements were almost complete when a Sapper observation post spotted the advance of a rebel army. Lieutenant Prendergast (later General) recounts an interesting incident involving 2nd Lieutenant Bonus:

"Having just come off trench duty on the 31st March, I found a rather larger party than usual at the mess table, and Lieutenant Bonus entered late, saying, ‘You all seem comfortable. Do you know that there are 20,000 of the enemy close by?’ He was laughed to scorn, but he persisted in the statement, adding that the sergeant on Observatory Hill had signaled to Head-Quarters, and that he had ridden out with the General and seen the enemy."

Lieutenant Prendergast had a lurking suspicion that this was not a joke and had issued orders for his charger to be ready at a moments notice (he was to be severely wounded the next day). There indeed proved to be a force 20,000 strong under the command of the very capable rebel leader Tantia Topi, who was moving to relieve the garrison at Jhansi. While maintaining fire on the city defenses, Sir Hugh moved out to meet the rebel relief force and soundly defeated them in the brilliant action at the Battle of Betwa, along the Betwa River, on the 1st of April 1858. During the battle Sir Hugh was successful in repulsing Tantia Topi’s force and capturing all of his artillery.

Two days later, after reestablishing his forces before Jhansi, Sir Hugh issued orders for the storming of the city at dawn on the 3rd of April 1858. It was decided both brigades would storm the city. The 1st Brigade, on the left, carried the breach near the mound and successfully escaladed the wall further to the west gaining entrance and a foothold in the city. The 2nd Brigade, led by the ladder and storming parties from the Madras and Bombay Sappers and Miners, suffered a severe check. Under a devastating fire, the ladder parties ran forward and planted three ladders on 30-foot high walls, and led by Engineer officers Lieutenant Meiklejohn, Lieutenant Dick, Lieutenant Fox and Lieutenant Bonus, the 3rd Bombay European Regiment swarmed up them. Both Lieutenants Meiklejohn and Dick were killed. Meiklejohn had run up his ladder, was dragged into the fort, and cut to pieces by the rebels. Lieutenant Dick was shot while stepping off the ladder. Fox was shot in the neck at the foot of the ladder, but survived his wound. Lieutenant Bonus was wounded by being clubbed by a musket.

Lieutenant Bonus was sighted in Brigadier Steuart's despatch, "for the gallant manner in which he led up and maintained his position on the ladders, until disabled and knocked over by the blow of a stone." The frail bamboo ladders, eventually overloaded with men, broke and dropped the men to the ground. Thus the first attempt ended in complete disaster.

Bonus describes his participation at Jhansi in detail in his diary with the following entry:

"On the night of the 2nd April orders came round very late, but neither Dick nor I was detailed for any duty. We both, however, decided that we would be in the game somehow.

3rd April. At 2.30 a.m. the sappers left camp with Brown, Fox, Goodfellow, Meiklejohn and Dick. I did not move until 4 a.m. and then went down to the right attack, where I found the staff in the advanced battery. The ladder party with Fox and Brown was just approaching the wall, and it was very plain that things were not going well. I ran out and joined the party to help as far as I could.

Fox and I managed to get a double ladder placed, but with much difficulty: for the ground was very rough, the wall high, the ladder heavy and too short, and the fire of the enemy incessant and well directed.

As soon as the ladder was ready, I called to the Europeans of the storming party to follow me, and mounted: but only one man would at first venture. He and I went up side by side on the bamboo double ladder. At the top we had an unpleasant time; as many men on the wall as could crowd in front of us hacked away at us. But they were so anxious to protect themselves with their shields that they could hardly see what they were doing: my sword was chiefly used to ward off their cuts and I was so busy with my right hand that I quite forgot the revolver in my left.

The soldier alongside of me used his bayonet freely, but I don’t think he did much damage. However, this little game soon came to an end. I was dimly conscious of a man well to my left who clubbed his musket, swung it round his head, and the next instant it was fireworks and black night for me.

The first thing I realised after I fell was someone was standing over me, saying ‘Poor fellow! he’s done for!’ However, though I could not move a limb, I felt that I was not ‘done for,’ and soon I managed to crawl behind a low bit of wall, when I lay still till I could look about me.

I was half-blinded with blood and felt as if every bone in my body was broken . . . it was clear that the escalade had failed, and that there was very sharp fighting going on inside the walls."

The attack was soon reorganized and other ladders were brought forward only to meet the same fate of the first attack. For a time it appeared the attack might be completely repulsed. Finally it was thought that the defense of the wall might be successfully weakened by spreading it out over eight ladders rather than three. This tactic allowed the stormers to gain a footing and rush along the wall, clearing the wall and making contact with the left attack and coordinating the sweep into the city.

Street fighting continued for several days, with the Sappers and Miners assisting the infantry by knocking holes in the roofs of houses and dropping live shells into the rooms. They also dealt with loop-holed walls and other points of fortification through out the city. The number in the enemy garrison killed was placed at about 5,000. On the 5th of April, the main fort was discovered to be empty, and with its occupation all serious resistance ended and Jhansi was in British possession.

The Sappers and Miners were lucky in their losses. While they were closely engaged throughout the siege and capture of Jhansi, they lost only 4 other ranks killed and 9 wounded. However, causalities in officers were formidable. Before the battle of Betwa Major Boileau had 8 British engineer officers under his command. By the end of the fighting only two remained, with 2 being killed and 4 being wounded (Bonus being one of the wounded). Lieutenant Prendergast, who was severely wounded at the battle of Betwa, and unable to participate in the capture of Jhansi relates the following incident:

"I was too tired to move , could see nothing, and there was no one to keep me informed of what was going on; it was horribly exciting, listening to the din (of battle) which seemed neither to advance nor retire. At last an orderly came in to say that, ‘Lieutenant Dick was killed,’ immediately afterwards, ‘Lieutenant Meiklejohn killed, Lieutenant Bonus killed (actually wounded), Lieutenant Fox killed (actually wounded).’ All of these were my messmates; presently a tall, gaunt figure with a bandaged head, but without sword or helmet, walked past my tent door - this was my friend Bonus. After a little he came to me with broken head and broken knees, full of wrath because he had been hit on the head by a stick or a stone, ‘instead of being shot as a soldier should be!’[12]. He was leading a party up a ladder, and when at the top received the blow that knocked him off, and was very fortunate to have no worse injuries than a head cut and bruised, a few teeth loosened, and chipped knees. However, he explained that when he came down he thought he was killed, and lay still till the enemy took to throwing stones and other disagreeable things at him, then he thought he would try and get up, and found that he was able to totter away, though he was half dazed and good for nothing."

The Central India Field Force remained at Jhansi for three weeks for a much needed rest and resupplying of men and materials. Finally, on the 25th of April 1858 the field force was again on the move, not only having to deal with the enemy, but also the major problems created by the severe heat that was moving onto the plains of India.

The Advance On Kunch And The Occupation Of Poonch, 25 April - 1 May 1858

Leaving a garrison in Jhansi, Sir Hugh started his march to the northeast towards Poonch with the 1st Brigade on the night of the 25th of April 1858. The 2nd Brigade was to follow the 1st Brigade two days later. These marches were terrible affairs. The sun was so strong that metal articles became so hot that it was painful to touch them. Through out these marches the troops maintained their discipline and toiled onwards, parched by thirst and suffocated by dust, with many suffering sunstroke. Major Gall, 14th Hussars was in command of a Field Force Detachment, including Lieutenant Bonus and 20 Bombay Sappers and Miners, which pressed on to Poonch ahead of the rest of the force. Major Gall’s reconnaissance had determined that the rebels were assembled at Kunch, a town 14 miles distant. Major Gall decided that the placement of a picket of the Hyderabad Cavalry at Loharri might prove to be prudent. Loharri, a village 8 miles northwest of Poonch, contained a fort that was garrisoned by men of the Rajah of Santhar who had professed loyalty to the Government. On Major Gall’s departure the garrison betrayed the picket to the rebels at Kunch but the Hyderabad Cavalry, being prepared for this, successfully cut their way out of the rebel attack and returned to Poonch.

2nd Lieutenant Joseph Bonus was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the 27th of April 1858 while participating in these operations.

The Storming And Capture Of Loharri, 2 May 1858 [13]

Sir Hugh Rose, determined to make an example of the traitors of the garrison at Loharri, sent Major Gall’s Field Force Detachment to invest, storm, and capture the fort on the 2nd of May 1858. The fort and the village of Loharri were situated on an extensive level plain with the village and the fort being separated by a clear space of ground of about 150 yards. The fort was about 100 yards square and was built of mud and sun-dried bricks. The fort square was flanked by round towers at the corners and had a ditch and a second line of works outside of the ditch.

After attempts were made to induce the garrison into surrender failed, Major Gall ordered the fort attacked. His artillery was well placed and easily cleared the enemy from the walls allowing for the advance of a company of the 3rd Bombay Europeans across the open space. The company captured a guardhouse, established themselves at the ditch and opened two undefended gates of the fort with the enemy having moved behind a strong third gate. Major Gall’s Despatch written after the operation reports that:

"Lieutenant Bonus, of the Bombay Engineers, after a very close reconnaissance, had reported to me the extreme difficulty of taking the place by escalade. Nothing then remained, in my opinion, but to blow open the third gate with a bag of gunpowder, and carry the fort by storm. By good luck a gunsmith’s shop had been discovered in the village, and in it an old pair of forge bellows. Lieutenant Bonus borrowing fifty pounds of powder from the artillery (which they were not going to get back), soon converted this into a very efficient powder-bag."

Major Gall’s Despatch continues that under the cover of a false attack to the south side of the fort,

"Lieutenant Bonus, under the cover of a sharp fire from the 3rd Europeans, placed the powder-bag in front of the closed gate - a strong wooden one with iron spikes - the small piece of portfire was lighted, and the firing party withdrew. After about a minute and a half the explosion took place."

The gate was demolished and the stormers immediately came face to face with the enemy and a desperate hand to hand combat commenced for control of the gateway. The initial stormers reinforced by the columns behind eventually gained control of the fort.

Major Gall’s concluding remarks in his Despatch state that:

"The readiness of resource evidenced by Lieutenant Bonus will, I feel, be appreciated by the Major General. I can further bear witness to the coolness with which, under fire, Lieutenant Bonus adjusted the powder-bag to the gate, and enabled us to effect an entrance into the fort.’

Fifty-seven enemy dead were later counted in the gateway of the fort. The losses to the enemy was the death of the entire garrison, the capture of one brass 9-pounder, and the destruction of 150 matchlocks along with a variety of swords and spears. British losses amounted to 4 officers wounded, 1 other rank killed, and 22 wounded.

Lieutenant Bonus was becoming quite familiar with the walls and gates of the various forts of the plains of Central India, with the fort of Loharri representing his third such encounter.

The Battle Of Koonch, 7 May 1858 [14]

On the 5th of May 1858, Lieutenant Bonus was again on the march with Sir Hugh Rose in the heat of India. Instead of following the direct road to Koonch the march was inclined toward the west in an attempt to turn Tantia Topi’s entrenchment and threaten his line of retreat. Tantia Topi had taken up positions at Koonch after the battle of Betwa in an attempt to block the advance on Calpee. Reconnaissance of Koonch had determined that the town was open but it would be difficult to attack because it was surrounded by woods and walled enclosures, but as was their custom, the rebels who were 20,000 strong, had chosen only to prepare to receive an attack by the direct road from the south side of the town. There were only light entrenchments to the west side. With the entrenchment enclosures left with only minor garrisons, the job of the infantry and Lieutenant Bonus with the engineers during the battle of Koonch was an easy one and the rebels retired the city in short order with an orderly retreat. This retreat was soon turned to chaos when Sir Hugh ordered the cavalry and horse artillery to pursue the retreating enemy. The enemy lost 500 to 600 men and 9 guns. British loses were 9 killed and 47 wounded, but there were an additional 45 fatal cases of sunstroke. The Sappers and Miners remained behind the continuing advance for two days while they destroyed a fort and other defenses around Koonch. Lieutenant Bonus wrote his last letter from Koonch to his parents on the 10th of May. By the 12th of May he was at Camp Lander and on the 14th of May he wrote from Olera.

The Action At Muttra, 16-17 May 1858 [15]

The heat of Central India continued to create problems for Sir Hugh in his efforts to march for Calpee. He had to keep pressure on the rebels and to accomplish this he was required to continue marching his forces at an exhausting pace. Several days previous to the action at Muttra the 2nd Brigade lost its way and in consequence had to make a double march. Large numbers of the Brigade suffered severely from the extreme heat, including Brigadier Steuart and his whole staff. Lieutenant Colonel R. D. Campbell, 71st Highland Light Infantry, then took command of the Brigade and was supplemented with a detachment from the 1st Brigade. Included with this detachment were Lieutenant Bonus and some men of the Bombay Sappers and Miners. During his march of the 15th of May Campbell’s Brigade was harassed several times at the rear by a force of the enemy about 5000 strong and he was forced to stop several times and check their advance. Lieutenant Bonus was mentioned in a despatch by the Commanding Officer of the Rear Guard, Major Forbes, for his usefulness in moving the baggage along and in conveying orders during these actions [16]. Campbell then decided he should occupy the village of Muttra to protect his left flank.

On the 16th of May the rebels, being reinforced from Calpee, decided to attack Muttra with great determination but were driven back by Campbell’s Brigade. The attack was renewed on the 17th of May with the Brigade again driving back the enemy attacks.

After these attacks Sir Hugh recognized the exposed position of his left flank and this, combined with his dwindling water supply at Deopura and Tehri, forced him to concentrate his forces on a hillock and ridge west of Gallowlee. This position was the only high ground between the British and the difficult network of nullahs (severe gully washes) and ravines that surrounded their approach to Calpee. The enemy had sworn on the sacred waters of the Jumna River (on Sir Hugh’s right during his marches toward Calpee) to drive the British into the river or perish in the attempt. On hearing this, Sir Hugh decided to play a short waiting game and over the next few days he drove back minor attacks from the enemy while minimizing the exposure of his forces to the terrific heat [17] until he was in position for a crushing blow to Calpee.

The Battle Of Gallowlee, 22 May 1858 [18]

Sir Hugh’s Central India Field Force now extended on a line south and around toward the east of Calpee. This line occupied the towns of Deopura, on the left, Tehri and Surauli, in the center, and Gallowlee, on the right at the Jumna River. This British position faced the net of ravines between the British lines and Calpee. It was this line that the rebels under Tantia Topi attacked in a general engagement on the 22nd of May.

In this engagement the Bombay Sappers and Miners functioned as infantry defending and attacking with the changes in the battle throughout the day. After the repulsing of the rebel attacks along the entire line in some hard fighting, Sir Hugh ordered a general advance of the British line toward Calpee to follow the general defeat of the enemy. The Sappers worked day and night at road making and hauling heavy guns across nullahs, ravines and streams to get into position for the attack on Calpee.

In a letter to his parents, dated 22 May 1858, Lieutenant Bonus has this to say about the action at Muttra while in camp before Gallowlee:

"We, that is the Second Brigade, left Etowra at dawn on the 16th and almost at once the enemy appeared on our flank. My company of Sappers formed part of the rear guard. I cannot imagine the reason for this. I think a mistake had been made as Sappers are not much use in such a position. Our rear guard was composed of all arms, Cavalry, Infantry, Sappers and Artillery (2 guns). It was not too strong for the enemy was in great force; they had 5 guns, about 1500 Cavalry, and about a 1000 Infantry. If they had had the pluck to push their attack home they might have done us a great deal of damage. You see our business was not to fight an action but to protect the baggage and stores. The stores and supplies were nearly all in bullock carts. These move about 2 miles an hour under ordinary conditions. In our case the conditions were by no means ordinary; the cattle were half starved, the loads heavy, the heat extreme, and the road a mere cross country track deep in dust. Very soon after our start we came to a nasty nullah which badly throttled the traffic. I took up my position here with my men in order to help the carts across; it was a wearisome job, a few carts broke down and had to be abandoned. We moved slowly across the plain, the enemy following us closely, and keeping a continuous fire from their guns, but their horsemen did nothing, they funked. Our guns of course were worked steadily. The affair was indeed a rather pretty sight. We lost several men. In the afternoon the General sent us some assistance and the enemy drew off. We halted at a village named Dipoora (?). It was a hot, tiring but exciting day. I do not want to be on rear-guard again.

It is clear from his description of the rear guard action of the 15th of May, for which he received much praise from Major Forbes, Lieutenant Bonus was not well inclined to perform this type of duty. As a good officer and a good soldier he did not complain to his superiors about the misuse of his Sappers in this type of work. He followed his orders and did in fact perform a commendable job.

The Capture Of Calpee, 23 May 1858 [19]

The engineers were so successful in moving the British artillery into position that the vigorous shelling of Calpee presented it as no attraction to the enemy as a place to retreat, and so it was occupied on the 23rd of May 1858. Tantia Topi and forces of the Rani of Jhansi now made for Gwalior. The Sappers and Miners were completely exhausted from their strenuous work of the past several weeks so that the several days rest they received before Sir Hugh again ordered the advance to continue toward Gwalior, on the 6th of June, was desperately needed.

The Action At Morar Cantonments, 16 June 1858 [20]

After arduous marching, where the heat rose to 130 degrees in the shade, Sir Hugh reached Behahdurpore five miles east of the Morar Cantonments on the 16th of June. The troops had long been on the road, and the sun was already high when a patrol of the Hyderabad Cavalry reported that the rebels were at the Morar Cantonments. True to his nature, Sir Hugh determined to attack the rebel position at once. The Morar Cantonments were located on the right bank of the Morar River and was traversed in center and from east to west by the road to Gwalior. The enemy was holding the cantonments with cavalry, the diversified broken and hilly ground to the right and right front with infantry, and the belt of nullahs to the front concealed strong bodies of infantry.

Sir Hugh’s intentions were to mask the dangerous ground on his left front and outflank the rebel left wing to attack the cavalry position in the Morar Cantonment. Brigadier R. Napier was in command of the 2nd Brigade, which formed the second line. Lieutenant Bonus was serving as the Acting Assistant Quarter-Master General of the 2nd Brigade. With the enemy occupied by the first assault line, the 2nd Brigade directly assaulted the enemy positions at the Morar Cantonment. Reconnaissance had revealed that the positions in the nullahs to the front and in the cantonment itself were strongly held by a concealed enemy. These position were assaulted by the 2nd Brigade in a well-executed attack. The Brigade was soon engaged in difficult hand to hand fighting with a determined enemy, but with cavalry assistance, very heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy. After two long, hot hours of fighting the Morar Cantonments were captured and the weary troops found welcome shelter in the cantonment buildings that had not been destroyed. The victory gave Sir Hugh Rose command of the road to Agra, enabled communication with Dholpore on the right and Kotah-ki-Serai on the left and opened an approach to Gwalior less than four miles away.

Lieutenant Bonus was again mentioned in despatches. Brigadier R. Napier recommended to the notice of Sir Hugh, "Lieutenant Bonus, of the Engineers, Acting Assistant Quarter-Master general of the 2nd Brigade, who rendered most zealous and efficient assistance."

The Battle Before And The Capture Of Gwalior, 19-20 June 1858 [21]

After the defeat of the mutineers at the Morar Cantonments, Sir Hugh attempted to apply pressure on the enemy retreating toward Gwalior. With the reconnaissance information collected early in the evening of the 18th of June, Sir Hugh realized that the positions the enemy occupied in front of Gwalior showed that their first intention was to preserve a defensive attitude. With his usual grasp of the situation Sir Hugh at once attempted a bold but safe move. He decided rather than wait for the enemy to attack he would attack. The plan was to march around the enemy flank and attempt to block the enemy’s retreat into Gwalior. This he ordered on the night of the 18th of June. The next morning he ordered his infantry, including the Bombay Sappers and Miners, to attack the enemy entrenchments and hillocks. These attacks were a general success and the enemy went into full retreat only to find themselves cut off from behind by the forces of the flanking march. By sunset the town of Gwalior was in Sir Hugh’s hands; however, the fort was still occupied by the rebels.

The next morning, the 20th of June, the officers and men of the 25th Bombay Native Infantry, operating on their own initiative, burst open the main gate of the fort and surprised the guard of the other gates and the garrison. After a short, sharp engagement they were able to take control of the fort from a party of fanatical Mussulmen.

Enemy losses during the Gwalior operations between the 16th and 20th of June 1858 were severe. British losses for the same period were 29 killed and 65 wounded from combat operations. There were additional British losses due to the severe heat with some additional deaths resulting.

The action at Gwalior ended the operations in the Mutiny for Lieutenant Joseph Bonus, Bombay Sappers and Miners. The value of Sir Hugh Roses Central India Campaign can not be overstated. Much has been written of the Lucknow and Delhi campaigns, but little has been written of Sir Hugh’s Central India Field Force whose operations saved Southern India, included the destruction of three rebel armies, and made possible the pacification of India north of the Jumna. Sir Hugh must rank as one of the greatest commanders of his day and it was young and imaginative officers like Lieutenant Joseph Bonus who helped to make possible such a claim.

General Prendergast makes some reveling observations that serve to further illustrate this point. In the context of remarking about the Commanding Field Engineer, Colonel Boileau, there are some interesting insights including one on Lieutenant Bonus:

"Colonel Boileau was not remarkable for smartness or for military administrative qualifications, and he was not a dashing horseman, but his success as a military engineer was undoubted, and, considering the great ability he displayed in conducting the sieges of Dhar, Rhatghur, and Jhansi, it is remarkable that he was not nominated C.B. (Companion of the Bath) at the close of the campaign. On one occasion he compared the conduct of the Royal Engineers with that of the Indian Engineers, and said that on his going to the trenches we would be met by Captain (now General Sir Bevan) Edwards and the adjutant of the Royal Engineers, smartly dressed, with a salute and a ‘Have you any orders, sir?’ whereas Lieutenant Bonus of the Indian Engineers, further on, almost in rags, would slouch up with a ‘Hullo!' Boileau, what's up!’ The Royal Engineers had the advantage of a soldierly commandant and adjutant, and had not been in the field nearly so long as the Indian Engineers, and they happened to be a more showy lot than the others. The batteries thrown up by the Royal Engineers, in the same way were models of neatness, but the native sappers worked many more hours in the twenty-four, and their work was thoroughly practical, good enough for its purpose, but no time was wasted on extra finish." [22]

Following the end of hostilities in Central India, Lieutenant Bonus wrote to his parents from Badawaz on the 3rd of July 1858 to tell them that he was on his way to either Bombay or Poona. He arrived at Goonah on the 5th of July and was at Mhow by the 14th of the month.

For his services Lieutenant Joseph Bonus, Bombay Sappers and Miners, was mentioned in despatches six times from January to June of 1858 for actions that showed his gallantry, resourcefulness, engineering skills, and administrative ability. He was awarded the Indian Mutiny medal with the clasp Central India and was promoted to Brevet Major.

Brevet Major Joseph Bonus, c. 1858, following his return from India.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)

Railway Engineering In Northern India After The Indian Mutiny, 1858-1878 [23]

No trains were running in India in 1850. When Lieutenant Bonus began working on the railroad in 1858 there were 427 miles of open rail routes and by 1878 at the start of the 2nd Afghan War there were 8,058 miles of open rail routes with another 1,387 miles under construction.

Joseph Bonus became involved in some of the greatest railroad engineering that the world would ever see. The railroad was important to opening, communicating with, serving, and supplying long established trading areas throughout India. The mutiny had also clearly demonstrated the importance of the railroad to the military for supply and troop movement.

After the mutiny there was a period of transition as the government of India took control of the railways and capital expenditure for the expansion of the railways came under centralized policy. On the 24th of March 1862 Bonus was officially listed as a Deputy Consulting Engineer for Railways with the Scinde Department of Public Works.

The country covered by the Scinde Railway (later the Indus Valley Railway) is barren and hilly. It is not difficult country through which to build a railway, but there were some unusual climatic occurrences. The average rainfall varied between two and a half and seven inches a year, but half the annual total might fall in a single day. There is also a strong off sea wind that blows across the country 330 days a year. The hills are between 150 and 200 feet high.

This type of country required no large earthworks in laying out the rail. The gage was a wider gage, which became the Indian standard, of 5 feet 6 inches. This gage gave the trains stability to help them to stay on the tracks during the violent windstorms experienced in the Scinde. The Scinde countryside provided locally available limestone, which was used in the masonry works required by the line. Due to the high rate of run off following sudden storms the line required that 32 bridges be built. Twenty-five of these were engineered as masonry arched bridges with spans that varied between twenty and forty five feet. The longest was a viaduct across the Bahrun River. It consisted of thirty-two 45-foot long arches and was started on the 5th of March 1859 and finished on the 26th of January 1861. The engineering of all the arches, piers and abutments on the line were designed to eventually handle a double line railway. The line was 105 miles in length and ran from Karachi to Kotree with intermediate stations at Landi, Dorbajee, Joongshaie and Jeempeer. The line eventually was doubled in length throughout in 1897.

Joseph Bonus was promoted and worked on this railroad until he moved to the Punjab Northern State Railway just before the start of the 2nd Afghan War. As a Second Captain and Brevet Major, Joseph Bonus was promoted to the position of Executive Engineer, 1st Grade on the 1st of September 1870. His position with the railroad was Officiating Superintending Engineer of the Kotree District of the Indus Valley Railway. He was promoted to Major on the 5th of July 1872 and to Superintending Engineer, 3rd Grade on the 14th of July 1873 at the Kotree District. He was promoted again to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on the 7th of February 1874 and then in 1877 to Superintending Engineer, 2nd Grade at the Kotree District. He was promoted to the rank of substantive Lieutenant Colonel on the 24th of August 1878.

Major Joseph Bonus, R.E.
in Simla, circa 1870
Major Bonus is standing behind a fellow Sapper officer
and is wearing his miniature Indian Mutiny medal

The 2nd Afghan War, 1878-1880 [24]

At the outset of the 2nd Afghan War, Bonus was placed in command of the Queens Own Sappers and Miners, served as a Field Engineer, and took part in the Bazar Valley Expedition under Lieutenant General Frederick Francis Maude, VC who commanded the 2nd Division of the Peshawar Valley Field Force. He was Mentioned in Despatches and promoted to Brevet Colonel on the 7th of February 1879 for his services, up to this point, in the 2nd Afghan War [25].

The Afghan Medal Roll states that Colonel Joseph Bonus, with the local rank of Brigadier General, was, "engaged on survey work from December 1879 to February 1880 between Jamrud and Jalalabad and later between Thull and Peiwar Kotal."

Colonel Joseph Bonus, c. 1881.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)

In 1880, Colonel Bonus was again engaged in railroad engineering work. He was promoted to Superintending Engineer, 1st Grade, and was assigned to the post of Engineer-in-Chief on the Punjab Northern State Railway in charge of the section being constructed from Pindee Junction to Peshawar. When the Afghan War broke out, work immediately began in late 1879 to push the Punjab Northern State Railway from the Indus River to Peshawar. Colonel Bonus was the Engineer-in-Chief of this project and this section of the line was opened for traffic on the 1st of January 1881.

The 2nd Afghan War was the last time that Joseph Bonus served on active field service. He was Mentioned in Despatches, awarded a Brevet of Colonel, and received the 2nd Afghan War Medal with no bar for his services.

The Final Years Of Military Service [26]

After the 2nd Afghan War Colonel Bonus continued to serve India’s railways as the Joint Secretary for Railways and Consulting Engineer to the Government of Bombay. Joseph Bonus was involved as a engineer from the early days of the railroad through to the beginning of realizing the dream of rail service throughout all of India. In 1858 when he began his work began there were 427 open miles of railroad and when he retired in 1886 there were 12,559 open miles of railroad. Major General Bonus lived to see this number grow to more than double, to 26,317 of open rail miles by the end of 1900. He was promoted to Major General on the 25th of November 1886 and retired from the Army at the end of the year with 31 years of service, all of it in India.


After retirement General Bonus lived at Southfield House in Frome, Somerset and later was Justice of the Peace for Middlesex. He later moved to Newlands, Stanstead-Abbots, in Hertfordshire. He was a member of the United Service Club.

Major General Joseph Bonus, Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners and Royal Engineers died on Friday the 11th of June 1926 at Newlands, Stanstead-Abbots, in his 90th year. At the time of his death, he was one of a very few surviving Officers who were trained at Addiscombe College for the military service in the East India Company.


Joseph Bonus received the following promotions and appointments during his time in the Army:



8 June 1855

Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Engineers [R]

27 April 1858

Promoted Lieutenant [R]

29 February 1864

Promoted Second Captain [R]

1 March 1864

Appointed Brevet Major [A]

10 November 1869

Promoted Captain [R]

5 July 1872

Promoted Major [R]

7 February 1874

Appointed Brevet Lieutenant Colonel [A]

24 August 1878

Promoted Lieutenant Colonel [R]

7 February 1879

Promoted Colonel [A]

25 November 1886

Promoted Major General [A]

The [R] in the above table indicates Regimental Rank and the [A] indicates Army Rank.

Joseph Bonus served in the following positions of responsibility during time of service:

Year of Appointment

Position Title


Regimental Officer, Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners


Acting Assistant Quartermaster,
2nd Brigade, Central India Field Force


Regimental Officer, Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners


Deputy Consulting Engineer for Railways,
Scinde Department of Public Works


Executive Engineer, 1st Grade, Officiating Superintending Engineer, Kotree District, Indus Valley Railway


Superintending Engineer, 3rd Grade, Kotree District


Superintending Engineer, 2nd Grade, Kotree District


Field Engineer, Queen’s Own Sappers and Miners


Superintending Engineer, 1st Grade, Engineer-in-Chief,
Punjab Northern State Railway


Joint Secretary for Railways and
Consulting Engineer to the Government of Bombay


Magistrate for Middlesex


His first wife was Frances Mary Hart, the daughter of Mr. William Hart, of the Indian Civil Service. Francis was born in India in 1842. The 1881 British Census lists the Bonus family as living at 8 Lansdown Place in Clifton, Gloucestershire. Joseph Bonus is listed as a Lieutenant Colonel and Brevet Colonel, Royal Engineers on the Active List. Besides his wife, two sons are listed in the census return. Arthur R. Bonus, 14 years of age, is listed as a Scholar and his place of birth is shown as India. Arthur was born in 1867 while his father was employed with the Scinde Department of Public Works. Ernest M. Bonus, age 11, also is listed as a Scholar. His place of birth is given as Hastings, Sussex. When Ernest was born in 1870, his father was serving as an Executive Engineer in India with the Punjab Northern State Railway. The Bonus family may have been home on leave when Ernest was born or Mrs. Bonus may have gone home to have her baby while her husband was on the Northwest Frontier of India. Bonus’s work in 1870 took him to the Khyber Pass to supervise railway construction. In 1870, this was not the most hospitable of places to bring a wife and to raise children. Mrs. Bonus may have opted to return to England during this period for health and safety reasons.

Major Joseph Bonus and his first wife, Mary Francis Hart, c. 1864.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)

The Bonus’s eldest son, William John, is not listed as living with his parents in 1881. William John Bonus was born on the 9th of July 1862 shortly after his father took up his appointment with the Scinde Department of Public Works. William was educated at Harrow (1876) and at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. At the time of the 1881 Census he was 19 years of age and probably away at school [27].

The 1881 Census indicates that the Bonus family had a staff of three women working in their house at the time. The House and Parlour Maid was a 27-year old woman from Butterleigh, Devonshire by the name of Mary J. Hannabuss. Their cook was a 32-year old woman from Celedge Brutle in Somerset by the name of Jane Watts and the youngest house maid was a 19-year old by the name of Mary J. Barrett from Tingewick in Buckinghamshire.

Joseph Bonus married a second time, perhaps as a result of the death of his first wife. His second wife was Marion Sophia Stuart Poole, who was the daughter of Mr. Richard Stuart Poole, of the British Museum. Joseph Bonus also had a daughter. It is not known if his daughter was issue from his first or his second marriage.

Major General Joseph Bonus and his second wife, Marion Sophia Poole, c. 1891.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)

After graduating from Sandhurst, the Bonus eldest boy was commissioned in the Dorsetshire Regiment in 1883. William John Bonus performed regimental duties until 1895 when he was appointed an A.D.C. In 1899 he was posted to serve as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General for the Scottish District. He then served as a Major with the Dorsetshire Regiment in Natal, South Africa until the Relief of Ladysmith, after which he was invalided and appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General of the 4th Division. He remained in South Africa until 1901 when he returned to England. For his service in South Africa he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was mentioned in despatches while serving with his regiment. He was also awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 5 clasps and the King’s South Africa Medal with 2 clasps. He went on to become Colonel William John Bonus [28], D.S.O. and took command of the 2nd Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment in 1906 just before the battalion embarked for India and remained with the battalion until 1910 when he retired from the Army.

After retirement Colonel Bonus returned to active service in the Great War as Acting Quarter Master General and served from the 4th of August 1914 until July of 1916. He then served in other capacities until 1919. Colonel Bonus was a member of the Naval and Military Club.

Major General Joseph Bonus, c. 1915.
(Photograph from the R.H. Bonus collection, courtesy of Nancy Bonus)

William John Bonus died on the 21st of October 1943 after a brief illness. At the time of his death, he lived at "Sans Souci" in Harrow-on-the-Hill in the Greater London area. His remains were cremated and interred at Golders Green [29].

The author has not yet contacted any living relatives of General Bonus. A lady by the name of Miss A. Bonus was known to have donated two of General Bonus’s swords to the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham [30]. Miss Bonus may possibly be a granddaughter of the General, but this is not known for certain.


During the research into General Bonus’s life it was noted that he had never received any orders or decorations during his service. This seemed strange for a man who had behaved bravely on the field of battle on many occasions and who ultimately rose to the rank of Major General. While researching the award of the Distinguished Service Order to General Bonus’s son, it was noted that William John Bonus is listed as the "son of Major-General Joseph Bonus, K.P." The post nominal indicates that General Bonus was appointed to The Most Excellent Order of St. Patrick (K.P.). No verification of him having this honour bestowed upon him has been found in any other sources, including Who Was Who. The accuracy of the entry in the D.S.O. book is questionable for a number of reasons as listed below:

  1. The original intent of the Order was for the peers of Ireland. Bonus did not seem to have any connection to Ireland and he certainly was not a peer.
  2. From 1833 the maximum number of knights at any one time was set at twenty-two. It would have been very unusual indeed for a non-Irish, non-peer to be appointed to this order when they were so few in number.
  3. No new non-royal knights were created by this Order since 1922. A number of references dated before 1922 were consulted where General Bonus was listed. None of these references indicate that he was a K.P.

Further research will be required to see if he was, in fact, a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick, or if the entry in Creagh and Humpris is simply an error. The simplest answer to this question is probably that Bonus was a Magistrate for Middlesex and hence, a Justice of the Peace (J.P.). Creagh and Humphris probably erred in their book and meant to use the postnominal J.P. rather than K.P.


Physical Description Of
Major General Joseph Bonus

At the time that the research into General Bonus’s life was completed in May of 2002, no photograph of the man had been found. There are, however, three sources from which information can be drawn to provide some idea of his appearance. We know from a description provided by Lieutenant Prendergast shortly after the storming of Jhansi that Bonus was "tall" and "gaunt." It is probable that most of the men who took part in the Central India campaign were thin due to strenuous exertions, lack of food and the terrible climate; however, it is probably safe to assume that Bonus was thin in build even under ordinary circumstances.

A contemporary engraving was made showing Lieutenant Bonus on a scaling ladder against the wall at Jhansi during the escalade attempt in 1858. The artist portrayed Bonus as tall and thin with a receding hairline, a handlebar mustache, a straight nose and a sharp jaw. Of course it is not possible to know how true to life the engraving is, or whether the artist ever saw Bonus in real life.

Fortunately, Creagh and Humphris published a photograph of General Bonus’s eldest son, William John, in their book on the Distinguished Service Order. The photograph of William John Bonus, probably taken near the turn of the 20th century, shows that he had a long straight and rather thin nose, a handlebar mustache and a strong chin. He is wearing a cap in the photograph, so his hairline cannot be compared to that of his father in the engraving. The photograph is a bust portrait of him in "mufti," thus his build cannot be determined. However, he does appear to be of thin to medium build. If Joseph Bonus’s son bears any resemblance to his father, then we do have some idea of what the General may have looked like. The search for an actual photograph of Joseph Bonus is ongoing.


Details of the Will of Major General Joseph Bonus

Major General Joseph Bonus prepared his last will and testament on the 4th of July 1923 while he was living at Newlands, Stanstead Abbotts in Hertfordshire. The will was prepared by the firm of Stones, Morris and Stone Solicitors of 41 Moorgate, London E.C. 2. The signing of the will was witnessed by R.C. Pharo Tomlin, Solicitor and Thomas J. Morant, Clerk. General Bonus appointed his wife, Marion Sophia Bonus, and his son Ernest Melvill Bonus, a Solicitor, of Capel House, New Broad Street, London to be the executors of his will.

In his original will Bonus left his possessions in varying amounts to the following individuals

Wife: Marion Sophia Bonus (second wife)
Son: Ernest Melvill Bonus (third son)
Daughter: Audrey Sophia Poole Bonus
Son: William John Bonus (eldest son)
Son: Arthur Rivers Bonus (second son)
Niece: Olive Jocelyn Dunlop
Nephew: Henry Penn Bonus
Nephew: Albert Bonus
Mary Amelia Rivers (relationship unknown)
Gardener: John Tucker
Chauffeur: Frederick Russell

General List of Items Bequeathed to his Heirs

The possessions of a man say much about his interests, education and the type of life that he led. The list of items bequeathed to his heirs says much about the life of Major General Bonus that was not readily apparent from a study of his military service. For example, the possessions listed in his will show that he and, perhaps other member of his family, were musicians and that he had a favorite Italian violin. He appears to have been a lover of art and an artist in his own right, with his medium being watercolours. The General also appears to have enjoyed woodworking and carpentry and was a hunter and shooter as well as a fisherman.

The items mentioned in his will are summarized in the list below.

The first Codicil to General Bonus’s will was signed on 4 April 1924 and witnesses by R. C. Pharo, Solicitor and Francis G. Pilker, Clerk, of the firm of Stones, Morris & Stone. This Codicil directed that a greater portion of his estate be left to his daughter than had been specified in his original will. The second Codicil to the will was prepared on 18 March 1926 and was witnessed by the General’s doctor, Robert Odell, M.D., F.R.C.S. of Bengeo, Hertford and Elizabeth Buchanan, Nurse, of 7 St. Andrews Mansions, West Kensington W.14. This Codicil appointed his son, Arthur Rivers Bonus of the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall, London as an additional executor of the will. Arthur Rivers Bonus was a retired Indian Civil Servant at the time of his father’s death in 1926. It may be assumed that Mrs. Bonus, by then probably well advanced in years, was not able to deal with the provisions of the will as well as her sons and for that reason General Bonus also appointed his son Arthur as an executor.

Major General Joseph Bonus died on the 11th of June 1926 at Newlands, Stanstead Abbots, Hertfordshire. He was 89 years old at the time of this death. His physician, Robert Odell, M.D. certified the causes of death as 1) Senility and 2) Myocardial degeneration. His son, Arthur Rivers was present at his death. General Bonus’s death was registered on 11 June 1926 in the Registration District of Ware, in the Sub-district of Stanstead, in the County of Hertford by A.H. Wilshere, Registrar.

Probate of the Will

On the 28th of July 1926 probate of the will with the two Codicils was granted to Ernest Melvill Bonus and Arthur Rivers Bonus, two of the executors. The gross value of the Bonus estate was almost 30,000.


The Dorsetshire Regiment

Since completing the research on his father, additional detailed information has been uncovered regarding William John Bonus. The following information has been taken from the work of Creagh and Humphris (1924):

BONUS, WILLIAM JOHN, Major, was born 9 July 1862, the son of Major-General Joseph Bonus, K.P. He was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst and was gazetted in the Dorsetshire Regiment as a Lieutenant on 9 September 1882. He served in India and Egypt. He became a Captain on 21 June 1890; was appointed Aide-De-Camp in 1890; Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (D.A.A.G.), Scottish District, from 23 July 1895 to 23 November 1899, and was promoted Major on 30 April 1899. He served in the South African War from 1899 to 1902 with the Dorsetshire Regiment in Natal until the Relief of Ladysmith. He was present at the operations of 24 January 1900, and at the action at Spion Kop; operations of 5 to 7 February 1900, and at Vaal Kranz; operations at Tugela Heights (14 to 27 February 1900), at action at Pieter’s Hill. He was D.A.A.G., 4th Division, 22 March 1900 to 11 December 1902 and took part in the operations in Natal (March to June 1900). He was present at the actions at Laing’s Nek (6 to 9 June), and in operations in the Transvaal, east of Pretoria, from July to 29 November 1900, including actions at Reit Vlei, Belfast (26 and 27 August), Lydenberg (6 to 8 September) and Rhenoster Kop. He was mentioned in Despatches [London Gazette, 8 February 1901], received the Queen’s Medal and five clasps and the King’s Medal and two clasps. At the Battle of Spion Kop, when acting as Brigade-Major, Major Bonus "found it necessary to go up and remain in the firing line. He took a party round the Boer flank and enfiladed it, all the other members of the party – officers and men – being killed." It was especially for his services on this occasion that he was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [London Gazette, 19 April 1901 Citation: "William John Bonus, Major, Dorsetshire Regiment. In recognition of services during the recent operations in South Africa."]. The insignia were presented to him by the Duke of Cornwall and York, in South Africa, on 14 August 1901. He was D.A.A.G., Belfast District, 29 January 1903 to 7 March 1904 and became a Lieutenant-Colonel 25 October 1900. He commanded the Dorsetshire Regiment from 1906 to 1910, was given the rank of Brevet of Colonel 25 October 1909, and retired with the rank of Colonel on 16 December 1911. He served as Acting Quarter Master General (A.Q.M.G.), Scottish District, from 4 August 1914 to July 1916, and subsequently in other capacities (he was Cable Censor from January 1917 until Peace was proclaimed in 1919.


The following information was provided by Mr. Alan Pert, Music Librarian, Seymour Centre, City Road, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia in July of 2003:

Annie Bonus was a sister of Major General Joseph Bonus. Annie called herself Anna and married her cousin Algernon Kingsford on the 31st of January 1867. Algernon Kingsford studied in Lichfield and later became a vicar of the Church of England at Atcham, Shropshire.

Anna Kingsford was one of the first English women to qualify as a doctor in the Medical School, Paris. She wrote poems, short stories, a novel and mystical works. She was president of the Theosophical Society in 1883 and in 1884 she formed her own Hermetic Society. She died from tuberculosis on the 22nd of February 1888 at the age of 41.

Edward Maitland wrote her biography in 1913 entitled Anna Kingsford, Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work. Maitland states that Annie was born at Maryland Point, Stratford, Essex on the 16th of September 1846. According to Maitland, the Bonus family moved to Blackheath when Annie was still quite young.

General Bonus also had a brother, Dr. John Bonus, who was a vegetarian and who influenced Anna to become one as well. John Bonus, born in 1828, was the general's eldest brother. He was the author of a short book entitled Thoughts in Verse for my Friends. John Bonus died in 1909.

The general had another brother whose given name was Schroder, who became a clergyman in the Church of England. Apparently it is this brother and his wife whose portraits are mentioned in the general's will in Addendum No. 4.

Joseph Bonus's father John died in 1865 and his mother Elizabeth Ann died in 1888.


The personal library of Major General Joseph Bonus was listed in his will as indicated in Addendum No. 4. A book from this library was listed for sale on the Internet in July 2003 by Xerxes Books of Glen Head, New York. The book is described by the dealer as follows:

"Stael-Holstein, Baroness de. TEN YEARS' EXILE OR MEMOIRS OF THAT INTERESTING PERIOD OF THE LIFE OF THE BARONESS DE STAEL-HOLSTEIN WRITTEN BY HERSELF DURING THE YEARS 1810, 1811, 1812 AND 1813. London, 1821, Treuttel and Wurtz. Translated from French to English. Much on Napoleon. 8vo, 434 pp. Two bookplates (Joseph Bonus; Moore-Parera) and owner signed (Elizabeth Ann Bonus). 3/4 leather. Good, front nearly detached, occasional light foxing, several page tips folded in by printer. $150.00.

The signature in the book indicates that it was owned by Major General Bonus's mother, Elizabeth Ann. The general then inherited the book from her and put his own bookplate in it. Another person named Moore-Parera subsequently owned the book after General Bonus.


In an email dated 14 January 2007, Nancy Bonus wrote the following to the author:

“Major General Bonus was an ancestor of my husband.  Joseph had a brother Charles William (1839-1883).  Charles had several children and his first born son William (1865-1891) came to Canada.  William died just days before his only child William Jr. was born.  William Jr. was my husband’s grandfather.

My father-in-law gave me some family papers which included the “Bonus Books” compiled about 50 years ago by Kathleen Monier-Williams.  Kathleen was the only granddaughter of the MG.  Her father was Arthur Rivers Bonus.”

Nancy then followed-up her email on 22 January 2007 with the following information regarding the life and family of Joseph Bonus.

An Assortment of Notes on Major General Joseph Bonus

John and Elizabeth Bonus moved from Maryland Point, Stratford, Essex to Blackheath in April 1849.  This may explain why Joseph was baptized on the north side of the river Thames.

Joseph’s first wife Mary Francis Hart was born in India on February 6, 1842 and died July 30, 1886.  Joseph and Mary Francis were married on October 9, 1861.

Their sons were William John, Arthur Rivers and Ernest Melvill.

Mary Francis died July 30, 1886.

Joseph traveled somewhat from the summer of 1890 through May 1891.  Later in his life, he must have had his diary or journal typed and bound. My copy is entitled “Round the World with Major-General J. Bonus 1890-91”.  He started in Switzerland in the high mountains with friends, “doing a little climbing, some sketching and generally having a good time.” At the close of the season, the party “broke up.”  He, not wishing to return to England, made his way to Italy.  While in Naples, a steamer came in and at an hour’s notice, he decided to travel to Alexandria and spend the winter in Egypt.  He then proceeded to Cairo and was asked to travel up the Nile, a trip that took place from November 7 through December 11.  Back in Cairo, he spent some time with his oldest son Williei who was with his regiment there but was leaving for England.   From Cairo, he traveled to Ceylon and then on to Calcutta.  From Calcutta, he continued to Rangoonreaching it on January 25, 1891.  Leaving Rangoon, he traveled to Kyanski to meet his son Arthur.  “Arthur’s permanent rank in the Commission is Assistant Commissioner third grade, but he is acting as third grade Deputy Commissioner.  Traveling back to Rangoon, he continued to Singaporearriving there on February 27.  On March 8, he reached Saigon.  His next point was Hong Kong and on to Japan until the 23rd of April.  After 2 weeks crossing the Pacific, he arrived in San Franciscoon May 7, crossing by steamer to Oakland to meet the train for Raymond.  He left Raymond in what he writes “a char-a-banc with four horses.”ii  He says he saw many waterfalls including the Bridal Veil, the Sentinel, the Yosemite, the Royal Arch, the Vernal, the Nervada and the Cascade.  Returning to San Francisco, his record comes to an end only to state that he traveled to Niagara Falls, New Yorkand then crossed to Liverpool wanting to be back home in England for the summer. 

 In the journal, he quotes “I have a vague resentment against India for having in some way caused the illness which resulted in the ruin of my career.”iii

 On November 14, 1891, Joseph married Marion Sophia Poole. “Sophie” was born January 19, 1863 and was 28 years younger than her husband.  Joseph and Sophie had a daughter Audrey Sophia Poole, who was born on August 4, 1894.  She died in Switzerland in 1962.  I believe Audrey donated the swords to the museum.

 Joseph had only one grandchild.  Son Arthur (the Civil Servant in Kyanski) married Edith Spencer and they had a daughter Kathleen Monier-Williams (1895-1964).  My information is from the notes Kathleen made over her lifetime.  She copied out wills, notes from other family members, newspaper obituaries and the family bible.

The people listed in Joseph’s will include nephew Henry Penn Bonus.  It is actually Henry Pem Bonus.iv  I believe Mary Amelia Rivers was a servant. (On the 1901 census, there was a Mary Amelia Revers living with the family.  She may have been with them for a very long time.)

The items listed in his will include the “water colour paintings by himself”.  Our families are in possession of these many framed and unframed water colours as well as some sketches.  Joseph was extremely talented as a painter.  His water colours are exceptional and are a history of the places he visited on his travels.  The portraits of Mr. & Mrs. Bonus refer to portraits of Joseph’s parents John Bonus & Elizabeth Ann Schroder Bonus.  The portraits of Mr. & Mrs. Schroder refer to portraits of Elizabeth Ann’s parents Joseph Schroder and Sarah Moore Schroder.v  The whereabouts of these portraits is unknown.

 Sophie was only 63 when her husband Joseph died on June 11, 1926.  However she had had a stroke sometime after 1923.  She recovered but was an invalid.  This is probably why Arthur was appointed as an additional executor.   Sophie died shortly after Joseph on December 29, 1926.

 Joseph’s sister Annie, later known as Anna Bonus Kingsford, married a cousin of her older brother Henry’s wife; that is, her sister-in-law’s cousin. 

 The Bonus Family were Merchant Taylors.  According to my notes Joseph was admitted to the Freedom of the Company, by Patrimony, on July 6, 1904 or 1906.

 There were 12 children born to John and Elizabeth Bonus.  Joseph was number 7, the 5th son.  Our ancestor Charles William was number 9, the 7th son.

Footnotes to Addendum No. 7

 i The Monthly Army List for June 1890 shows William J. Bonus as a Lieutenant in The Dorsetshire Regiment.  He was probably with the 1st Battalion of the regiment, as the Army List shows the 1st Battalion in Egypt at that time.

ii What he refers to as a “char-a-banc” may have been a stagecoach.  

iii This is a curious statement, especially since he served for 31 years and retired as a Major General.

iv This is a correction to Addendum No. 3 above.

v This information clarifies the identity of the Schroders named in the will.



BARTHOLOMEW, J. Reference Atlas of Greater London. John Bartholomew & Son, Ltd., The Geographical Institute, Edinburgh, 1957.

BERRIDGE, P.S.A., Couplings to the Khyber: The Story of the North Western Railroad, Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1969.

BLACK, A. & C. Who Was Who, 1916-1928. Adam & Charles Black, London, 1947.

BLACK, A. & C. Who Was Who, 1941-1950. Adam & Charles Black, London, 1952.

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

CREAGH, Sir O. and HUMPRHIS, E.M. The Distinguished Service Order, 1886-1923. J.B. Hayward & Son, London, 1978.

EDWARDES, M. Battles of the Indian Mutiny. The MacMillan Company, New York, 1963.

GILLIAT, E. Heroes of the Indian Mutiny: Stories of Heroic Deeds, Intrepidity, and Determination in the Face of Fearful Odds During the Great Mutiny. Seeley, Service & Co., Limited, London, 1914.

JOCELYN, J. R. J., The History of the Royal and Indian Artillery in the Mutiny of 1857, London, John Murray, 1915.

LITHERLAND, A.R. and SIMPKIN, B.T. Spinks Standard Catalogue of British Orders, Decorations & Medals. Spink, London, 1990.

SANDES, E.W.C. The Indian Sappers and Miners. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1948.

SHADBOLT, S.H. The Afghan Campaign of 1878-1880. J.B. Hayward & Son, London, 197_.

SMITH, F. A Genealogical Gazetteer of England. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1977.

SMYTH, Sir J. The Rebellious Rani. Frederick Muller, London, 1966.

VIBART, H. M. The Life of General Sir Harry N.D. Prendergast, R.E., V.C., G.C.B. (The Happy Warrior), Eveleigh Nash, London, 1914.

VIBART, H.M. Addiscombe: Its Heroes and Men of Note. Archibald Constable and Co., Westminster, 1894.

Computer Software

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 British Census. FHL Film 1341597. PRO Ref. RG11, Piece 2479, Folio 15, Page 24.


Letters to his parents by Lieutenant Joseph Bonus of the Bombay Engineers while serving with the Central India Field Force under the Command of Major General Sir Hugh Rose, K.C.B., January to June 1858. India Office Library, IOL M2 542.

Letter from the Royal Engineers Museum to Mr. D. Harrison, dated 8 March 1989, re: Service of Major General Joseph Bonus.

Letter from the Dorset Military Museum to Mr. D. Harrison, dated 19 April 1991, re: Service of Colonel William John Bonus, D.S.O., The Dorset Regiment.


FENWICK, T. and EDWARDS, J. Operations of the Royal Engineers at the Siege of Jhansi. Report on New Series, Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Volume 10, 1861.

Hart’s Annual Army List, 1880.

Hart’s Annual Army List, 1886.

Hughes, H.C. The Scinde Railway, Journal of Transportation History, Volume 5, No.4, Nov. 1962.

London Times, Monday, 14 June 1926, p. 16, column D.

London Times, 25 October 1943, Deaths.

Records and Report

Addiscombe Cadet Papers, India Office Records, L.MIL.9/228, pp. 54-57.

Despatch: From Major General Sir Hugh Rose, K.C.B., Commanding Central India Field Force, to the Adjutant General of the Army, Head-Quarters, Bombay, dated Camp Saugor, 7th February 1858.

Despatch: From Major General Sir Hugh Rose, K.C.B., Commanding central India Field Force, to Major General Mansfield, Chief of Staff, Cawnpore, - dated Camp before Jhansi, the 26th March 1858.

Despatch: From Brigadier C. Steuart, C.B., Commanding 2nd Brigade, Central India Field force, To the Assistant Adjutant General, Central India Field Force, - No. 236, dated Camp, Jhansi, the 29th April 1858.

Despatch: No. 63 Major R.H. Gall, Commanding Field Force Detachment, to the Chief of Staff, Central India Field Force, dated Camp Poorh, May 5, 1858", published in the Supplement to the London Gazette, July 7, 1858.

Despatch: From Major Forbes, C.B., Commanding Rear Guard, to Captain Todd, Brigade Major, 2nd Brigade Central India Field Force, dated Camp near Deopore, 16th May 1858.

Despatch: From Brigadier General R. Napier, C.B., Commanding 2nd Brigade, Central India Field Force, To Assistant Adjutant General , Central India Field Force, dated Camp Morar, 18th June 1858.

India Office Records, The Afghan Medal Roll, L.MIL.15/111.

The Last Will and Testament of Joseph Bonus, dated 4 July 1923.

Certified Copy of an Entry of Death for Joseph Bonus, Central Registry Office.


[1] There is a discrepancy with regard to Joseph Bonus’s place of birth. His obituary in the London Times indicates that he was born in London. The 1881 British Census lists his birthplace as Stafford.

[2] Today the Parish is known simply as Bow.

[3] SMITH, F., p. 70.

[4] Section 3 was compiled from Addiscombe Cadet Papers, India Office Records, L.MIL.9/228 pp.54-7 and General Bonus’ obituary London Times, Monday, 14 June 1926, p.16, col. D.

[5] CONNOLLY, p. 108.

[6] In a letter to his parents dated Bonus gets this wrong. He states that he visited "the mausoleum of Aurungzebe’s daughter" when actually the mausoleum was erected by the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb for his wife.

[7] GILLIAT, pp. 336-337.

[8] The details of this section are compiled from the Despatch: " From Major General Sir Hugh Rose, K.C.B., Commanding Central India Field Force, To the Adjutant General of the Army, Head-Quarters, Bombay, - dated Camp Saugor, 7th February 1858."

[9] The details of this section are compiled from the Despatch: "From Major General Sir Hugh Rose, K.C.B., Commanding central India Field Force, to Major General Mansfield, Chief of Staff, Cawnpore, - dated Camp before Jhansi, the 26th March 1858."

[10] The details of this section are compiled from: Sandes, E.W.C., The Indian Sappers and Miners, Chatham : Institute of Royal Engineers, 1948, p. 252-3; Vibart, Henry M., The Life of General Sir Harry N.D. Prendergast, R.E., V.C., G.C.B. (The Happy Warrior), London : Nash, 1914, p.89; and the Despatch, "From Brigadier C. Steuart, C.B., Commanding 2nd Brigade, Central India Field force, To the Assistant Adjutant General, Central India Field Force, - No. 236, dated Camp, Jhansi, the 29th April 1858.

[11] The details of this section are compiled from: Vibart, Henry M., The Life of General Sir Harry N.D. Prendergast, R.E., V.C., G.C.B. (The Happy Warrior), London: Nash, 1914, p.77.

[12] Actually, in his own diary Bonus states that he was clubbed by a musket and fell from the ladder.

[13] The details of this section are compiled from Despatch, "No. 63 Major R.H. Gall, Commanding Field Force Detachment, to the Chief of Staff, Central India Field Force, dated Camp Poorh, May 5, 1858", published in the Supplement to the London Gazette, July 7, 1858.

[14] The details of this section are compiled from, Jocelyn, Julian R.J., The History of the Royal and Indian Artillery in the Mutiny of 1857, London : John Murray, 1915, p. 319-322.

[15] The details of this section are compiled from, Jocelyn, Julian R.J., The History of the Royal and Indian Artillery in the Mutiny of 1857, London : John Murray, 1915, p. 328.

[16] Despatch: "From Major Forbes, C.B., Commanding Rear Guard, to Captain Todd, Brigade Major, 2nd Brigade Central India Field Force, dated Camp near Deopore, 16th May 1858.

[17] Jocelyn, p. 330, note states: at Kunch the thermometer was at 115 F. Before Kalpi 116 F. On the subsequent march to Gwalior it burst in an officers tent at 130 F.

[18] The details of this section are compiled from, Jocelyn, p.330-6 and Sandes, p. 253.

[19] The details of this section are compiled from, Jocelyn, p.336.

[20] The details of this section are compiled from, Jocelyn, p.339-341 and the Despatch: "From Brigadier General R. Napier, C.B., Commanding 2nd Brigade, Central India Field Force, To Assistant Adjutant General , Central India Field Force, dated Camp Morar, 18th June 1858."

[21] The details of this section are compiled from, Jocelyn, p.344-347.

[22] Vibart, Henry M., The Life of General Sir Harry N.D. Prendergast, R.E., V.C., G.C.B. (The Happy Warrior), London: Nash, 1914, p.91.

[23] The details of this section are compiled from, Berridge, P.S.A., Couplings to the Khyber: The Story of the North Western Railroad, Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1969, p.24-34; and Hughes, H.C., ‘The Scinde Railway’, Journal of Transportation History, v.5, no.4, Nov. 1962, p.219-225.

[24] The details of this section are compiled from, India Office Records, The Afghan Medal Roll, L.MIL.15/111; Berridge, p.105; and Hart’s Annual Army List, 1880, p.223 and 1888, p.221-222 and 228g.

[25] Hart, 1888, p. 228g.

[26] The details of this section are compiled from, The London Times, Monday June 14th, 1926, p.16, col. D.

[27] Who Was Who, 1941-1950.

[28] William John Bonus:

Commissioned Lieutenant
in the Dorsetshire Regiment:

9 September 1881

Promoted Captain:

21 June 1890

Promoted Major:

30 April 1899

Promoted Lieutenant Colonel
Commanding 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment:

26 October 1906

Appointed Brevet Colonel:

November 1909

Relinquished Commission and
Retired on half pay:

26 October 1910

[29] Dorset Military Museum letter dated 19 April 1991 and the London Times of 25 October 1943.

[30] Letter from the Royal Engineers Museum dated 8 March 1989.