Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Thomas Carpenter 1846: a highly scrophulous subject

Thomas Carpenter attested with the 40th Regiment of Foot at 2pm on the 18th December 1846 although this photo of him was taken many years later in March 1873 when he presented at Aylesbury Gaol to serve a sentence of one month's imprisonment for stealing a pair of boots.  He was then a 52 year old widower "on the tramp"; a fitter's labourer by trade and the father of two children aged 18 and 20.

Prison records note that Thomas served five years with the 40th Foot, although surviving papers in WO 97 at The National Archives (and published below) show that he actually served less than four years: three years and 270 days to be precise.

Thomas, born at Chard in Somerset, enlisted at Taunton aged 18 years.  A labourer by trade, he stood five feet, six and three quarter inches tall, had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.  He had a cut on his left cheek.

 Commentary written along the right hand margin of the second page of his attestation paper (above) read: "a generally ill-formed Recruit - narrow chest, attenuated limbs, flat feet, very long fingers and a highly scrophulous subject - at present suffering from cough likely soon to form a casualty from phthisis pulmonatis." Nevertheless, he was passed medically fit on the 19th December and was finally approved on the 6th January 1847.

 The attestation form itself gives no indication when it first came into use, although the format and order of the first six questions would barely change over the next eighty years.  Question 10 notes that he enlisted for a bounty of four pounds - quite a tidy sum in 1846 - and that he had received the sum of two shillings and sixpence (page two).  It is also interesting to note the wording used in the declaration to be signed by the doctor.  This was a period of history when army deserters, once apprehended, were branded with the letter D and this is referenced here.

In passing Thomas medically fit, the surgeon acknowledged that his "general appearance [was] healthy" although he clearly had misgivings about this and wrote as much in the margin on the left-hand side, stating that the opinion of a Medical Board would go against him.  If nothing else, this man's attestation shows how desperate the army was to recruit men, paying a large sum of money for somebody who was actually a poor specimen.  No reason for Thomas Carpenter's discharge on the 14th September 1850 is given.

All document images reproduced on this post are Crown Copyright, The National Archives. Pension records can be searched and downloaded from Findmypast which offers a FREE 14-day trial.

  • Buckinghamshire County Council for the Aylesbury Gaol photo and prison notes
  • The National Archives for the Crown Copyright documents from the WO 97 Army Pensions' series

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