29 September 2011

King's Shropshire Light Infantry 1895/96

Some while back I bought a group of medals that had belonged to 1093 Colour Sergeant Charles Smith of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Along with his 1882-dated Egypt Medal, Khedive's Star and Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was this rather fine photo of D Company Football team (no battalion given) taken after they had won the Company Challenge Shield for the season 1895-1896 (they'd been runners-up the previous year). The men in the photo are all named, Colour Sergeant Smith sitting cross-legged far right.

Here are the names, left to right, of the victorious team:

Back Row: L/Cpl C Crooke, L/Cpl T Corbett, Pte J Lewis, Cpl W Keight, Cpl J Gibbons (linesman)
Middle Row: Clr Sgt E Beale, Cpl F Woodland, Capt W C Cass, Sgt A Nicholls
Front Row: Pte J Pearson, Pte T Morton, Clr Sgt R Woodland, Pte F Harrison, Clr Sgt Charles Smith

I decided to see if I could find service records for any of these men. Charles Smith had nothing in WO 97 but a record does survive in WO 363 which shows that he enlisted with the 21st Brigade on the 7th January 1879 and was discharged on the 30th September 1908 having served a grand total of 29 years and 272 days. He died of a cerebral haemmorhage on the 13th April 1939 aged 78; the death certificate in the name of Frederick Charles Smith.

L/Cpl Charles Crooke
Nothing in WO 97, WO 364 or WO 363. Charles Jeffery C Crooke was born in 1877, his birth recorded in the June quarter of that year in Walsall, Staffordshire. He enlisted with the KSLI around the 5th September 1894, served with the regiment in South Africa during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Johannesburg. He appears on the QSA medal roll as sergeant and was a colour sergeant by 1902.  He was the best man at the 1906 wedding of Sergeant Bugler Henry Crew, also of the KSLI and also a Boer War veteran. Charles Crooke served during the First World War, his medal index card indicating that he arrived overseas with the regiment as a quartermaster sergeant on the 21st December 1914.  He was commissioned second lieutenant on the 24th May 1918 and was mentioned in dispatches in July 1922.  The address on his MIC is given as Binswood Cottage, New Road, Meole Brace, Shropshire. Charles Crooke died in Cheshire in 1962 at the age of 85. My thanks to Robert Crew for contributing information - see comments.

L/Cpl Thomas Corbett
Nothing in WO 97 but there is a Thomas Corbett who joined the 3rd Militia Bn (WO 96) as a seventeen-year-old in 1889. WO 364 has the same man as 3327 Thomas Corbett who joined the regiment on the 24th October 1890 aged 18 years and eight months and was already serving with the 3rd Militia Battalion. He was a lance-corporal by July 1895 and would go on to serve during the Boer War earning the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeburg and Driefontein. Returned to England on the 17th May 1900, he would serve a total of 12 years.

Pte J Lewis
Too many options to be certain. There is, in WO 97, a 3356 Pte John Lewis who was serving with the regiment, based at the regimental depot, when D Company won the Challenge Shield.  This man also served in South Africa during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Johannesburg.  Remarks note he was posted to the Army Reserve.

Cpl Walter Keight
In WO 97 there is a 1607 Walter Keight who joined the regiment on the 11th June 1885, although this man was a sergeant by 1895/1896. Served in South Africa during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Johannesburg.  Remarks note he was posted to the 3rd Battalion.

Cpl John Gibbons
Nothing in WO 97. WO 364 has 2207 John Gibbons who had joined the regiment on 8th March 1887 and who was a corporal by December 1895. He was discharged in March 1908, by then a sergeant and with 21 years' service under his belt.

Sgt Ernest Beale
Nothing in WO 97. The WW1 medal index cards have a 1603 Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant E Beale whose number indicates that he joined the KSLI in 1885. This man was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with gratuity in 1944. There is a further card for 13032 RQMS Ernest Beale of the 6th KSLI who served overseas from the 24th July 1915 and who was discharged to commission with the Labour Corps on the 25th August 1915.  He was subsequently captain and qaurtermaster sergeant with the 25th Labour Group.  The address on his MIC gives 14 College Hills, Shrewsbury.  Possibly the same Ernest Beale who died in Rowley Regis, Staffordshire in 1957 at the age of 89.

Cpl Frederick George Woodland
WO 97 has 3280 Frederick George Woodland, born in Colchester Barracks in approximately June 1872, joined the KSLI at Shrewsbury on 2nd August 1890, discharged in July 1911 having served 21 years. He was certainly in England when D Company won its shield but he was a sergeant by September 1894. He died in 1951 aged 78. The 1881 census shows him as an eight-year-old living at Copthorn Barracks Shrewsbury, his father a 41 year-old staff-sergeant with the Shropshire Militia.

Ken Woodland, writing to me in December 2015, noted: "Frederick George Woodland was the son of my great grandfather, Richard Woodland, born 1841. He was a colour sergeant in the KSLI. My grandfather [his brother] was George Charles Woodland who also fought with the KSLI in World War 1."

Captain Claude William Cally Cass
Claude Cass was born in London on the 25th October 1861 and joined the KSLI on the 29th July 1882. Papers in WO 76 note service in the UK as well as in Malta, Suakin, Lower Egypt and Hong Kong. A note on his file indicates that he was posted to the 1st Battalion on the 9th March 1898. At the time the document was completed, Captain Cass was unmarried.

Sgt A Nicholls
Nothing in WO 97.

Pte J Pearson
Nothing in WO 97. A 2724 Private J Pearson served in South African during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA qith clasps for Cape Colony and Paardeberg.  He was returned to England on the 7th July 1900.  His QSA is in private hands.

Pte Thomas Morton
WO 97 has 5022 Pte Thomas Morton who joined the regiment in February 1896 aged 18 years and six months. The T Morton in the photograph looks young enough to be this man. Thomas would go on to serve 15 years and 41 days with the regiment before being discharged in March 1911. His brother, Titus Morton, was a regular with the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots.

Clr Sgt Alton Richard Woodland
I had not found any record of service in WO 97 although I surmised that this man was possibly related to Frederick Woodland. I could not find, however, an R Woodland listed in the Woodland household on census returns (apart from father Richard who would have been too old to be playing football in the mid 1890s).

Writing to me in December 2015, Ken Woodland again noted, "[This man] is probably Alton Richard Woodland who became a quarter master sergeant and then eventually an officer with, I think, the rank of colonel.  He became a freemason, Grand Lodge. He also sat on the FA council and became very influential in local politics."

As a result of this tip-off I found a record for Alton Woodland in WO 76 which shows that he had attested, aged 21 years and 6 months, on the 30th March 1889 and served in the ranks until 21st November 1903 when he was commissioned. He had married Rose Peel at Nottingham in October 1891 and the couple had three children: Richard William Woodland (born 1894), Lillie Florence Grace Woodland (born 1895) and Ada Louise Woodland (born 1898). The WO 76 record does not state Alton Woodland's rank, and neither is the document dated. It does however note that he served in South Africa between November 1899 and October 1901.

There is also a record for this man in AIR 79 which shows that he served in the RAF from September 1918 until May 1920 when he was struck off strength. Hi rank is given in a number of places as "Major and Quartermaster KSLI" and latterly, "Major / Acting Lieutenant-Colonel". The following notice appeared in the London Gazette dated 11th June 1920:

Alton Richard Woodland was indeed a freemason and had been initiated in 1898. He was a member of Pengwerne Lodge, Shrewsbury; Castlemartin Lodge, Pembroke; Portsmouth Lodge, Portsmouth; and Wrekin Lodge. His death was recorded at Chelsea in the third quarter of 1933. He was 66-years-old.

Pte F Harrison
Too many options to be certain.

If anyone can shed any more light on any of these men, please let me know.


  1. I was fascinated to see this photo -- thank you for posting. Colour Sgt. C.J. Crooke was best man at the 1906 wedding of my grandfather, Sgt. Bugler Henry Crew, also of the KSLI. They had served together in South Africa. Sgt. Crooke had his three stripes by 1901 and was Colour Sgt. the following year.

  2. Robert, thanks very much for the additional information which I have added to L/Cpl Crooke's mini write-up.

  3. Is it possible to get a copy of the photo as Alton Woodland and Frederick Woodland are my husband's grandmother's brothers. We will pay for any costs incurred including postage.
    Many thanks

  4. Can you pleased send me an email: paulcanixon@yahoo.co.uk


Thank you for commenting. I'll respond as soon as I'm able to do so.