W. G. Wise - Photographer
Bulford Camp, Whiltshire, England
|...service papers for No. 5925 Private Thomas Hart of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment showing his enlistment on 21
October, 1898. After a little additional searching I found Hart's militia attestation papers for the 5th Battalion of the Loyal
north Lancashire Regiment dated 4 October, 1898. He seemed to waste little time in transferring out of the militia and into the
Thomas Hart was born about 1880 at Ormskirk, Lancashire. The only family member of Hart that I can confirm is his sister
Mary Hart of 39 Derby Lane, Old Swan, Liverpool who was listed as his next of kin in his service papers. Besides belonging to
the militia for a few short weeks Hart was employed as a shipyard worker at the time of his enlistment with the regulars.
Posted with the 2nd Battalion on 12 January, 1899 he deployed to join the 2nd Battalion which was in Malta on 20 September,
1899. He shipped out to South Africa on 21 September, 1900 to join the 1st Battalion and he was granted his first and only good
conduct pay exactly one month later. He deserted the ranks on 20 November 1901. Needless to say his previously awarded good
conduct pay was forfeited at that time. Hart is shown as having rejoined his battalion the next day but was tried by court martial
and sentenced to six months at hard labour on 17 December, 1901. His sentence was reduced the next day to 2 months field
imprisonment. All of his prior service time was forfeited. This reduction in sentence may have had a lot to do with the fact that
the 1st battalion was actively serving in the field against the Boers at the time. It is interesting to speculate as to why Hart
decided to go "over the hill" for one day. Was he drunk? Did he run from the fighting? Unfortunately his service papers in the
fashion of the time remain silent of such details. He returned to duty on 16 March, 1902.
For his service - such as it was - in South Africa, Hart was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with two clasps: "Cape
Colony" and "Transvaal" and the King's South Africa Medal with the clasps: "South Africa - 1901" and "South Africa - 1902"
Here the dates on his service records become a bit confused but it is certain that he was again sentenced to 18 months
imprisonment with hard labour being returned to duty on 19 July, 1903. He received another two weeks at hard labour on 7
April, 1904 and then again on 14 July, 1904. Returning to duty on 27 July he was discharged as "Incorrigible and Worthless" the
same day. The rolls for both the Queen's South Africa Medal and the King's South Africa Medal state that both of Hart's
campaign medals were forfeited.
Hart's service papers show him as being posted to the Mounted Infantry School at Bulford Camp in 1903 which is when the above
photograph must have been taken. The soldier in the photo looks smart and very soldierly and not the worthless incorrigible
that Hart apparently was. Also this soldier is wearing four clasps on his Queen's South Africa Medal while Hart who according to
both his service papers and the medal rolls was only entitled to two. Additionally this soldier wears a good conduct stripe above
his cuff and due to his repeated run ins with military authorities Hart was not entitled to any. So while the pictured soldier is
clearly a Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Boer War Veteran who was obviously at Bulford Camp is he the Queen's Bad
Shilling Private Thomas Hart?
I can think of a few possible scenarios that seem a bit unlikely. Did Hart polish himself up between periods at hard labour
making himself appear the very model of a clean cut Tommy Atkins and perhaps embellishing his medal a tunic cuff in the
process? Was looking sharp in his uniform for the photographer in the forefront of the mind of chronic truant? Did Hart for
some unknown reason decide to send Mr. J. Hart and inscribed photo of another soldier? It is not a great leap to supposed the J.
Hart was a relative - his father, a brother or cousin - so why do this and not identify who the man in the photo actually was. One
would hardly believe that Thomas was hoping that J. Hart would think it was a photo of him.
To the best of my knowledge there were some seven men with the surname of Hart who served with the 1st Battalion in South
Africa but only one Thomas. I suppose that another Thomas Hart could have transferred to the battalion by the time it was at
Bulford Camp. Who knows.
One thing is certain. The signature of Private Thomas Hart's that is found on his service papers (it is identical to the signature
that appears on his Militia Attestation papers) is quite different than that which in inscribed on the back of the photograph. Here
is one final guess. Our Thomas Hart did indeed have his photo taken at Bulford Camp. He requested that the photo be sent to
Mr. J. Hart and the photographer inscribed the photo for him but ended up getting photographs mix up and inscribed the image
of the wrong Loyal North Lancashire private...with no idea as to the confusion he would sew all these years later.
|Left: The inscription that appears on the reverse of the
above photograph. The inscription was clearly written by
someone with a rather decent level of education such as a
photographer might have. Below: Hart's signature from his
service papers shown below are those of someone who knew
how to write their name but in a much more basic fashion.