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Janet writes: 'Following our enquiry, the British War Office (WO) provided quite detailed information on my mother's grandfather, Colour Sergeant John Murray, who was born on Gibraltar in 1781 to a serving British soldier.

Five years after his birth, his father died on duty (cause unknown), and the child was enlisted as a drummer in HM 50th Regiment of Foot.

I have yet to trace William’s career as I am in Australia.

He is the ancestor of an inordinate number of people engaged in genealogy, and is a major brick wall for all of them!

I thought that it would have been relatively easy to find some information about John Murray, given that we had the details of his service unit and his years of service, but so far have been frustrated in my searching. Art's advice to Janet follows, and may also prove useful to anyone else who is researching British soldiers of that period.'Checking the TACA site, I saw Janet Adams' copy regarding her great-great-grandfather, Colour Sergeant John Murray, who enlisted as a drummer at the age of five in the 50th Foot at Gibraltar.

Sergeant Murray is the youngest boy recruit to my knowledge.

His records state that he was born in Chatham, Kent, in 1800, and those facts are stated consistently throughout his life.

I have not been able to find a William Sugden, born at Chatham in 1800, but I have recently found another Sugden in the 19th Foot, and a birth in 1799, but in Yorkshire. William’s marriage and daughter’s birth have also not been found, so he remains our International Man of Mystery!

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Having been orphaned, he enlisted at five years of age and served in the British Army for twenty-one years, seeing action in the Peninsular War.He later served in many campaigns, including the Peninsular War, and was awarded the Military General Service Medal with five bars. I am intrigued by the history here, but his parents' names are unknown, so I don't know how to find more information.Details on John Murray's death certificate (in Collector, Australia, 1857) indicated his parents as "father unknown soldier" and "mother unknown", which suggests that the child had no memory or knowledge of either after enlistment.My great-great-great-grandfather was also seven when he enlisted.William Sugden was in Colombo [then in Ceylon, today in Sri Lanka] when he enlisted as a drummer boy in the 19th Foot on 21 March 1807.He beats James Wade, aged seven, who enlisted – also as a drummer – in the 9th Foot (The Royal Norfolk Regiment), served throughout the Peninsular Campaign and got his discharge at the age of twenty-nine, having served his twenty-one years. I suggest that if Murray enlisted in the 50th Foot, that was the unit in which his father served, which means that he will be found in the muster rolls of the regiment for the period.The rolls will record his age, date and place of enlistment (which is a clue to his parish), and trade or occupation on enlistment.TACA HOMELIVES & TIMESON THE MOVEPOSTINGSACCOMMODATIONHEALTHCARE & HOSPITALSSCHOOLINGMEMORIES & MISCELLANEAFAMOUS ARMY CHILDRENHISTORY MATTERS1914–18FORGOTTEN FACESARMY CHILDREN'S GRAVESCURRENT & RECENT RESEARCHLINKS & LITERATURECONTRIBUTING & CONDITIONSCONTACT TACATACA LATEST If you have an army child or two in your family tree, it may be possible to learn more about them by consulting certain family-history resources, while reading about the military conflicts in which the British Army has been involved over the centuries, and their historical context, may help to inform you about the times, and circumstances, in which they lived.Captioned 'All through walking with a soldier', the comic postcard shown below, which is around a century old, reflects the prevailing Victorian and Edwardian belief that most army children were members of large families..’Although romanticised, the painting gives an inkling of the sorrow and hardship that many female camp–followers and their army children suffered when ‘following the drum’ in the footsteps of their soldier menfolk on campaign.Click here to read more about the painting, courtesy of Carole Mc Namara, of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.


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  2. The Army Children Archive TACA Chronicling British army children's history

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