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Ovinius Davis - Photographer
16 Princes St, Edinburgh, Scotland
No. 704 Private John Stead of the Royal Home Counties Reserve Regiment poses with his family sometime 1900. Stead had previously served with the Queen's Royal (West
Surrey) Regiment and although his original attestation papers have not been found his prior service is confirmed in his attestation papers for the Royal Home Counties Reserve
Regiment which are dated 20 March 1900.
The Royal Reserve Regiments were raised in answer to a plea from Queen Victoria for former soldiers to serve for one year to help fulfill home defense needs while so many
regular battalions were fighting is South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. Her request was forwarded to the army Commander in Chief the Viscount Wolseley by Lieutenant-
Colonel Arthur Bigge, the Queen's private secretary. The letter read:
Osborne, Feb 17, 1900
To Field-Marshal the Viscount Wolseley KP, Commander in Chief
My Dear Lord Wolseley
As so large a proportion of the Army is now in South Africa, the Queen fully realizes that necessary measures must be adopted for home defence. Her Majesty is advised that it
would be possible to raise for one year an efficient force from her old soldiers who have already served as officers, non-commissioned officers, or privates. Confident in their
devotion to country and loyalty to her Throne, the Queen appeals to them to serve once more in place of those who for a time are absent from these islands, and who, side by side
with the people of her colonies, are nobly resisting the invasion of her South African possessions. Her Majesty has signalled her pleasure that these battalions shall be
designated 'Royal Reserve Battalions' of her Army.
Yours very truly Arthur Bigge.
Offered a rather generous £22 bounty, volunteers quickly filled the ranks of ten reserve regiment to the tune of over fifteen thousand men. The performed various home duties
and the regiments were disbanded after the one year term of service expired on 14 May 1901.
John Stead was born at Dublin, Ireland on 6 May 1857, the son of John Stead and Mary Linnie.
Stead and wife and two children are all identified on the photo's reverse side and base on the apparent age of the infant William (born 16 September 1899) the photo must have
been taken in early 1900. The entire family is also identified in Stead's reserve attestation papers which also state the John Stead married Mary Drummond at Edinburgh on 10
May 1889. Their eldest son, James was born on 2 February 1892. A daughter Mary on 1 November 1895 and youngest son William. Since daughter Mary does not appear in the
photo we may assume that she has died sometime before the portrait was taken.
Interestingly the Royal Home Counties Reserve Regiment was to wear the uniform of Stead's old unit, the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment with collar badges being of
the Royal Arms. In this photo Stead clearly wear the Paschal Lamb collar badges of the West Surreys and it may be possible that he had simply taken his old uniform out of
storage and had not yet traded his old collar badges for the newly prescribed ones yet.
John Stead paased away at his home at 9 Westfield Road, Edinburgh on 24 November, 1936.
|Above: The reverse side of the photograph identifying John Stead and the members of his family.