27 July 2021

Medals Wanted - Herbert Nelson BASTON, Royal Welsh Fusiliers

3693 Herbert Nelson Masson BASTON was a long-serving soldier who enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in September 1892. By 1910 he had already served overseas in Malta, Crete, Egypt, China, India and Burma, and when Britain went to war with Germany in August 1914, he again served overseas in Egypt. In November 1915, and by now a regimental quarter master sergeant, he was discharged to commission and continued to serve with the 3/7th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

I now seek the medals awarded to this man which are as follows:

China Medal 1900, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Long Service Good Conduct Medal.

Herbert Nelson Masson Baston was born in India on the 9th October 1876, the son of Elizabeth Catherine Sophia McDougal Baston, and Edward Baston. Edward was employed as headmaster at the Diocesan School in Naini Tal, and Herbert was baptised at Naini Tal by his father, a deacon at the church, on the 12th November 1876.

When, many years later, on the 12th September 1892, Herbert enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Clonmel in Ireland, he gave his age as 17 years and 10 months. In actual fact though, he would have been a month short of his sixteenth birthday.

Surviving papers in series WO 363 show that when he enlisted, Herbert gave his next of kin as his father (by now a minister) as the Reverend Edward Baston of Dinorwic Street, Caernarfon. His description on enlistment was given as height 5 foot 8 inches, weight 115 Lbs; complexion fresh; blue eyes and dark brown hair. 

Service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Herbert's papers show that he joined the army as Herbert N M Baston, although his second middle name 'Masson' is dropped from First World War medal records. The first of his many promotions took place on the 23rd March 1894 when he was appointed lance-corporal, and this was followed by promotion to corporal on the 31st March 1895.   He was appointed lance-sergeant on the 6th August 1896 and promoted to sergeant on the 12th August 1898. On the 23rd May 1905 he was promoted to colour sergeant and appointed orderly room sergeant. On the 10th July 1915, Herbert was appointed acting company sergeant major and on the 20th November 1915 he was discharged on appointment as quarter master and honorary lieutenant, continuing his service with the 3/7th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. There are papers held at The National Archives which chart his service as an officer.

Medal entitlement - medals wanted

Herbert earned campaign medals for China (China Medal 1900 with clasp, Relief of Pekin) and the First World War, (1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Inter-Allied Victory Medal). He was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in November 1915, and the Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal in April 1917. In addition to his medals, he was also awarded a silver war badge. If you know of the whereabouts of these medals and the silver war badge, or are the current owner and would be willing to sell them, please let me know: paul@britisharmyancestors.co.uk

Service with Frank Richards, Old Soldier Sahib

Author and Royal Welsh Fusiliers career soldier Frank Richards served overseas in India and Burma at the same time that Herbert Baston was in those countries and Frank would almost certainly have known of him. Frank Richards' account of life in India in the first decade of the 1900s is still arguably the best account of soldiering in the ranks and both Old Soldier Sahib which details those events, and his later work, Old Soldiers Never Die, which picks up the story in 1914, are well worth reading.

Herbert was twice married. He married Annie Gregory in Malta on the 22nd February 1897 and she bore him six children. Annie died in September 1909 and Herbert subsequently married Violet Gregory in August 1911 who bore him a further two children by 1913. Herbert and Annie's two youngest children, Isabella Annie Baston and James Nelson Baston died in infancy in 1907 and 1908 respectively. 

The image on this page is courtesy the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum and shows officers of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers either en route to or returning from China in 1900.

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