|Real Photo Postcard
Born on 18 December 1833 at Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England, former 2nd Class Master Gunner James Whittington was about 77 years old when photographed to
record his attending the Golden Commemorative Dinner of the Indian Mutiny Veterans at Albert Hall on 23 December 1907. Of “A” Field Battery’s original strength of 139 in
1857, he was one of three veterans of the battery still alive to attend the dinner fifty years later.
No. 1233 James Whittington’s service papers are jumbled with those of another artilleryman No. 4832 John Whittingtham (a much less distinguished soldier who was branded for
desertion) but he appears to attested on 4 December 1851 while still underage. Early on in his career Whittington was tried for being absent without leave and was convicted,
being imprisoned from 16 October to 11 November 1854.
He was promoted as follows:
Corporal – 1 August 1858
Sergeant – 19 September 1863
Battery Sergeant Major – 23 March 1867
3rd Class Master Gunner – 29 November 1875
2nd Class Master Gunner - ?
Whittington would see a good deal of active service during the Indian Mutiny, the Crimea and in Abyssinia. He was present at Sebastopol in the Crimea with No. 3 Company,
11th Battalion, Royal Field Artillery and earned the Crimean War Medal with the “Sebastopol” clasp as well as the Turkish Crimean War Medal.
Some of his adventures during the Mutiny were recounted in the long titled Centurions of a Century: Among which are many who have soldiered in the Twelfth, or the Suffolk
Regiment of Foot by Lieut.-Col. C. H. Gardiner (1911). It was in action at Bithoor with No. 13 Battery that Whittington laid his gun with the skill and coolness of an expert
rifleman and killed the war elephant from which rebel leader Nana Sahib was directing his troops. The expert shot brought about the general dispersal of the disheartened rebels
even if Nana Sahib himself survived the fall of his mount and escaped the battlefield on horseback.
Whittington’s discharge papers state his entitlement to the Indian Mutiny medal with the clasp “Central India” although the photograph clearly shows his medal with two clasps.
I have been unable to find his entry(s) in the mutiny medal rolls to confirm the nature of the second clasp.
His final active duty campaign was under Sir Robert Napier with No. 25 Battery in Abyssinia (1867-68). For his part in this almost casualty free expedition Whittington was
entitled to Abyssinia Medal.
In his 1907photograph Whittington clearly has sis medals (along with a rosette ribbon probably indicating him as a dinner honoree). The first four are his previously mentioned
Abyssinia Medal, Indian Mutiny Medal, Crimean War Medal, and Turkish Crimean War medal. The last two medal are a mystery. Although details of the medals are indistinct
they may be the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and possibly the Meritorious Service Medal. Whittington’s Military History Sheet is missing from his service papers and
it may have offered clues as to the nature of these last two medals.
In the previously mentioned Centurions of a Century the author Lieut.-Col. C. H. Gardiner mentions meeting Whittington and states that the old master gunner was in
possession of eight medals including the Distinguished Conduct Medal which had apparently been awarded to him retroactively for his service during the Indian Mutiny. I search
of my copy of Recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal: 1855-1909 by P. E. Abbott (1975) failed to find mention of Whittington being awarded the DCM for his service in
India during the mutiny. A note in the 31 March 1908 issue of Parliamentary Papers shows Whittington being granted as £10 allowance for “Distinguished or Meritorious
James Whittington seems to have been married at least twice. The first time was in 1862 when he married Catherine Whiteside at Woolwich. Sometime around 1896 he married
Jane and the couple would have at least three children: Agnes (b. 1897), Albert (b. 1899) and Frederick (b. 1901).
The old master gunner appears to have passed away at his home at St. Helen's, Isle of Wight in early 1912.
|Above: The reverse side of James Whittington's photo postcard portrait showing the preprinted inscription from Whittington to the prospective
buyer. The postcard was probably more intended as a souvenir of the Golden Commemoration Dinner than as a mailer. One might assume that the
other two, unnamed survivors of "A" Battery may have also had similar photo postcard portraits taken for the event.