|Canadian General Service medals awarded to RN
|ABLE SEAMAN & TRAINED MAN
HENRY JAMES BOOTH, R.N.
William Henry James Booth was born on 9 Apl 1842 in Gloucester,
Gloucestershire. He entered the R.N. onboard HMS Impregnable on 10
May 1859, as a Boy 2nd class. He was 17 years of age & his height was -
5’ 3”, complexion, fresh; eyes, blue; hair, light brown; & weight, 124
pounds. He had no marks, scars, or tattoos & was able to sign his name
legibly. No former occupation was shown.
He completed his basic training on 19 June ’60, being rated Boy 1st class,
& was drafted to his first seagoing ship was HMS St George ( 1st rate,120
guns, Flagship at Devonport) on 20 Jun ’60, just after his 18th birthday.
On 1 Apl ’61 he was rated Ordinary Seaman.
Up to this point in his career Booth’s conduct had been assessed as “Very
Good”, however in Jun ‘61 he was downgraded to “Fair”, & in the following
year, on 5 Jun, he was placed in the 2nd class for Conduct. For ratings
placed in the 2nd class was not good as it entailed a daily punishment
routine including additional work details, frequent mustering for duty & kit
musters, loss of leave & grog issue, & reduction in daily pay. A rating
placed in 2nd class had very little free time. Why Booth got himself in
trouble is not recorded on his record, but it must have been serious for
him to be placed in the 2nd class, & it was to get considerably worse for
him as time went on ………………..
On 1 Jan ’64 Booth was advanced to AB(Able Seaman). He was also rated
as TM (Trained Man) in that year, giving him a 1p a day pay raise. TM
meaning he was rated as trained in seamanship, boatwork, & basic
However his conduct had not improved - he was still assessed as “Fair”
for 1863, & up to 9 Feb ‘64 when he left St George. His next draft was to
HMS Aurora (Frigate of ’61). She was based initially at Devonport as part
of the Home Fleet, but in mid ’64 she was sent to the North American &
West Indies Station. Booth was still in the 2nd class For Conduct until 24
Whilst on board her Booth’s conduct went from fair(which was not good)
to worse, as on 17 Jun ’65 he was: “Discharged to Prison in Bridgetown,
Barbados”, for a period of 3 weeks incarceration for some unknown
offence. Being in prison in Barbados during the heat of the summer
would not have been a pleasant experience for him. Barbados at that time
was a major producer of sugar cane, it is possible that Booth, while
incarcerated, was employed as a labourer in the cane fields.
Upon completion of his sentence, Booth re-joined Aurora on 7 July &
managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of that year & the following
year. He had been released from the 2nd class in July ’66.
In early May 1866 Aurora was sent to Halifax & then up the St Lawrence
River to participate in the Fenian Raid troubles of June & July of 1866 in
what was then known as Lower & Upper Canada, (Quebec & Ontario
provinces). She was patrolling on the St Lawrence River below Montreal.
Two 50 man crews from Aurora were assigned to the local steamers
‘Michigan’ & ‘Rescue’, both employed in patrolling Lake Erie. On Jun 7 ’66
AB Booth was assigned as part of the 50 man crew to the Steamship
“Michigan” under the command of Lieut F.W. Heron. Both ships were
serving on Lake Erie. Each of the two steamships was armed with two
Armstrong 9 & 12 pounder deck guns. The crew was also well armed with
rifles, revolvers, cutlasses, & pikes. Primarily they were engaged in
intercepting & searching American ships.
This service qualified him for the Canada General Service campaign medal
which was not authorized & issued to survivors of the 1866 & 1870
campaigns until 1900. Subsequently 131 members of Aurora’s crew
qualified for & claimed their medals.^
Wood sail/screw powered Frigate
of 1861. Various calibre deck
guns carried over her career.
Complement approx 300.
Broken up Dec 1881.
The second photo shows Aurora
in winter quarters in icebound
in the St Lawrence River
at Quebec City, 1866-67.
By Oct 1866 Aurora was back at Quebec city, where on 15 Oct
some ratings were landed to give assistance during the Great Fire
During November Aurora was reported to have been laid up “in
winter quarters” at the mouth of the St Charles river, Quebec;
armed vessels also laid up and shore parties reported to have
returned to Quebec. During this period it was reported that she
was surrounded by thick ice and some there were some fears for
Booth remained on Aurora for the winter after the conclusion of
the Canada campaign, but his conduct was to cause him
problems again, when on 9 Feb ’67 he was: “Discharged to prison
at Quebec city”. The time Booth spent incarcerated in Quebec
city is unknown, but he likely returned to Aurora upon completion
of his sentence. Aurora returned to Plymouth, UK for paying off
on 4 Dec ’67. Booth’s conduct had not improved very much as he
was still assessed as “Fair”, & likely went right back into 2nd class
for Conduct after he was released from prison in Quebec city.
His next ship was HMS Dauntless(Frigate of ’47 & Training ship at
Southampton Water), altho his date of joining is unclear from his
record, it might possibly be 5 Dec ’67.*
He was then drafted to HMS Canopus (an old 2nd rate of 1798, &
at the time Booth joined her she was the receiving ship at
Devonport) which he joined on 27 Dec’67. These old Victorian RN
receiving hulks were hotbeds of trouble, corruption, graft, &
general malaise, & Booth would have fit right in with these
problems & was probably made worse by them. He got himself
into trouble again & on 19 May ’68 he was: “Discharged to
Devonport Boro gaol and to be released from the service as
Thus Henry Booth had completed 9 troublesome years of service
in the RN from 10 May ’59 to 19 May ’68.
He was to live another 45 yrs, what he did during this time is
unknown, however he was shown as a Seaman when he applied
for his Canada medal. He entered a claim for his Canada medal on
8 Feb 1900 & received it in Jan ‘01. In the 1911 census shows
him as living in Barnwood as a ‘Patient’, at Gloucester County
Lunatic Asylum. His former occupation is shown as Seaman. He
died there in Feb 1913, in his 71st year. He may not have been a
very happy person in his final years.
^ Booth’s CGS medal is indented with both his rank & rate – “AB
& TM”. Altho I have seen this naming on Long Service medals, his
is the only Campaign medal I have ever seen named in this
*Booth’s later service record is incomplete; some of the
information & dates noted in the writeup have been gleaned from
the Ship’s Description books, those that survive.
**In over 45 years of collecting to RN I have only see the
assessment of “Discharged Objectionable” on Booth’s record.
Normally, for a seaman or stoker with a poor conduct rating, this
would be shown on his record as: “Indifferent”.