Above: Bandsman Ernest Richard Wadham of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) taken
someplace in Egypt c. 1887. The reverse side of the photo bears the inscription in Wadham's hand; "To Effie from Ernie".
I have had these two images for quite some time but have not posted them until now since I only suspected whom the soldier
in question actually was but lacked the corroborating evidence to positively pin the photos and the name together.
On their own the two photographs depict a bandsman of an unknown fusilier regiment, which were taken some time apart. The
first image shows the young soldier in three-quarter wearing his scarlet bandsman’s full dress tunic. This image is unmarked
as to photographer, location or date but bears an ink inscription on the reverse side that reads: “To Effie from Ernie.” The
second photo shows the same soldier (seated at left) some years later – he is now a Lance Corporal – with two other
bandsmen from his battalion. This image was taken in Cairo by M. Venieris and is undated but bears the single name “Effie”
on the reverse side. One would make the assumption that Effie was this soldier’s wife, girlfriend or possibly sister. Both
images appear to date from the 1890s up until around 1900.
Obviously having very little to go from I decided to attempt at finding his service records using his first name “Ernie” or
“Ernest” and his association as a bandsman with a fusilier regiment. Pretty thin stuff to start off with! My initial search turned
up dozens and dozens of service papers for soldiers with the first name of Ernest from the appropriate time period and I was
able to eliminate most simply by the regiment they belonged to. I similarly eliminated many more since they never held the
appointment of bandsman during their time with the Colours. Looking over the last few I came to the conclusion that this
soldier was quite possibly Ernest Richard Wadham of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Wadham’s service
papers stated that he had married a Miss Orontes Elizabeth Ellis in 1893 and as it turned out “Effie” was an endearment used
form many women named Elizabeth during the Victorian era. This was a point in the right direction but still only circumstantial
evidence of the thinnest sort.
So now I had set of service papers and two photographs that had a possible connection but nothing else. They were filed away
and I occasionally took them out to see if anything new might be found. After quite sometime I decided to enter the name of
Ernest Richard Wadham into ancestry.com to see if he was associated with any existing family trees. After a brief search I
did indeed find a family tree that included Wadham and luckily the owners of the three had included several photos of him at
various stages of his life. One of these is a carte de visite of Wadham taken in Cairo, Egypt wearing his seven-button
bandsman’s tunic. There was little doubt now that the two photographs in question do indeed represent Bandsman Ernest
Richard Wadham of the Royal Fusiliers.
|Ernest Richard Wadham was born in December 1863 at Feltham, Middlesex, England on of five children of Alfred Wadham
and Mary Anne Plummer. He attested with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers at Honslow on 14 November 1883. Prior to
his enlistment in the regulars he had spent some time in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and was employed as a grocer’
s assistant. A member of the Church of England Wadham stood just under five and a half feet tall and weighed in at 130 pounds.
From the start Wadham seems to have been a model soldier. Granted good conduct pay on 14 November 1885 he was
appointed Bandsman two days later. Having enlisted under the terms of Short Service (6 years) he chose to extend his service
to twelve years while his battalion was at Aswan, Egypt on 4 February 1887. Appointed Lance Corporal on 30 December 1887
he was granted his second good conduct pay on 14 November 1889.
Promoted to Corporal on 12 September 1891 he re-engaged with the Colors to complete 21 years at Quetta, India on 26
January 1893. Appointed Lance Sergeant exactly one year later, he received his promotion to Sergeant on 23 March 1895.
Receiving his third good conduct pay on 14 November 1895, Wadham was posted to the staff of the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion,
the Royal Fusiliers on 28 April 1898. He would remain with the 5th Battalion for the rest of his enlistment and serve in South
Africa during the Anglo-Boer War with that unit.
Promoted Colour-Sergeant on 25 March 1902 he was paid his war service gratuity in August of the same year. On 11 July
1904 he was permitted to extend his term of service beyond 21 years. Wadham received a bonus of sort when on 5 November
1904 he was paid the handy sum of a bit over £40 in deferred pay. Colour Sergeant Ernest Richard Wadham took and
discharge and retired with his pension on 31 March 1907 after completing 23 years, 138 days of service.
Wadham’s postings included:
Home: 14 November 1883 – 12 December 1884
Gibraltar: 13 December 1884 – 13 December 1885
Egypt: 14 December 1885 – 8 January 1888
India: 9 January 1888 – 1 May 1893
Home on Furlough: 2 May 1893 – 6 September 1893
India: 7 September 1893 – 27 April 1898
Home: 28 April 1898 – 3 June 1901
South Africa: 4 June 1901 – 26 July 1902
Home: 27 July 1902 – 31 March 1907
Wadham had indeed seen a better part of the Empire during his overseas postings and was entitled to the Queen’s South
Africa Medal with four clasps for his service during the Anglo-Boer War. He was also granted the Long Service & Good
Conduct Medal on 9 December 1907. Many years later he would also be presented with the Meritorious Service Medal in
Ernest Wadham must have possessed more than a passing interest in linguistics since he was granted two proficiency
certificates each in the Hindustani, Persian and Pushto languages while stationed in India. He also earned two less unusual
certificates of qualification – one from the School of Musketry at Hythe (1899) and another from Royal Small Arms Factory at
Birmingham (1905). While I have seen qualification and education certificate issued for a wide variety of skills and subjects
ranging from cooking to musketry Ernest Richard Wadham is the only soldier that I have found so far who passed any courses
in a foreign language let alone three. Had he so desired it would seem that his apparent linguistic skills would have allowed him
to find gameful employment with the Indian Civil Service after his retirement from the army.
Ernest Wadham married Miss Orontes Elizabeth Ellis while on furlough to England on 17 July 1893 at St. Mark’s Church,
Torquay, Devon. Miss Ellis’ somewhat unusual first name was taken from HM Troop Ship Orontes on board which she was
born in 1866. The couple would have three children: Christine Louise, born at Karachi, India on 4 June 1894, a son Alfred
George Richard, born at Mhow, India on 4 march 1897 and a second daughter Dorothy born about 1906 at Heston, Honslow,
After retirement from the army Wadham would work as a bank messenger and clerk. He would pass away from diabetic
complications at Heston, Honslow on 16 February 1940 at the age of 76 years.
|Left: Taken in Cairo, Egypt Bandsman Ernest Richard
Wadham appears in a carte de visite in the mid-1880s.
This photo is courtesy of Mr. John Hogbin on who's
family tree it appears at ancestry.com
M. Venieris - Photographer
Above: Bandsmand/Lance Corporal Ernest Richard Wadham with two of his fellow bandsmen of the 1st Battalion, the
Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment in Cairo, Egypt. The photo dates from after December 1887 and before his
promotion to Corporal in September 1891. This photo was clearly taken in Egypt probably not long before he was
transferred to India in January 1888. The reverse side of the photo bears the name "Effie" in a period ink inscription.
|Right: Ernest Richard Wadham's miniature medal
group which includes the Queen's South Africa
Medal, the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and
the Meritorious Service Medal. While Wadham's
service papers state that he was entitled to the Queen's
South Africa Medal with four clasps they fail to
mention which four. The medal roll for the Queen's
South Africa Medal appears incomplete and only
mentions Wadham's entitlement to the "South Africa
- 1901" and "South Africa - 1902" clasps. This
miniature medal group which is still in the possession
of the family confirms that the other two clasps not
mentioned in his service papers are those for "Cape
Colony" and "Orange Free State".
Photo courtesy of Mr. John Hogbin
|Left: Ernest Richard Wadham
in later life. On his left is his
wife Orontes Elizabeth and on
his right their daughter
Christine Louise. The photo
was probably taken sometime in
Photo courtesy of
Mr. John Hogbin