The Naval Brigade in Egypt and the Soudan
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CHIEF  BOATSWAIN’S  MATE  
JOHN  TOLMAN
John Tolman born 11 Oct 1852 at Bothinghampton in Dorset .

He entered the Royal Navy on board HMS Impregnable on 25 Apl 1867 as a very short 4ft 8”, 14 1/2 yr old Boy 2nd class with CS
number 866B. He could read & write & his signature was quite readable.

He then served on HMS Juno, HMS Ocean & HMS Dove, attaining 18 yrs of age & rated Ordinary & Able Seaman & Trained Man   whilst
serving a 3 year commission on the China station aboard HMS Dove.  

He then briefly serves on HMS Royal Adelaide & Duke of Wellington, both receiving ships; & then gets drafted to HMS Hector & the
troopship HMS Jumna. Whilst serving on Jumna in March ’75 he gets in trouble for some unspecified reason, & as a result he loses his
first GCB & gets placed in the “second class” for conduct for 6 months.  However this infraction did not bar him from promotion, as his
next two promotions were very quick. He was promoted PO 2nd class on 2 Oct ’76 {skipping Leading Seaman, which is very unusual,
to skip a rank he must have been very competent in performance of his duties}, has his GCB restored, plus a 2nd GCB awarded, & is
promoted to PO 1st class & Boatswain’s Mate on 18 Oct ’77.

After an almost 5 year commission on Jumna he returns to Duke of Wellington, then gets drafted to HMS Jumna again – apparently
service on Jumna  was a good billet for him as he spends 2 more years on her, remaining there until Apl ’82. A short stint served on
Duke of Wellington again, then he gets drafted to HMS Hecla & active service for him is about to begin!

HMS Hecla participated in the bombardment of Alexandria on 11 July 1882, as well as contributing a Naval Brigade  to the campaign in
the Soudan in 1884.  Tolman saw action at the battle of El Teb on 29 Feb as a senior PO of Hecla’s Gardiner Gun’s Crew.  Capt Arthur
“Tug” Wilson, Commanding Officer of HMS Hecla won the VC at El-Teb, a rare example of a VC being won by a Naval officer in a land
campaign.  Hecla’s Naval Brigade  saw action at both the battles of El-Teb  & Tamaai.

John Tolman was noted in Rear Admiral Hewitt’s despatch of 4 March as “seriously wounded at El-Teb”  {& thus being wounded might
have been the reason he would have missed Tamaai},  although  there is no indication on his service record that he spent any time in
hospital or was invalided to sick quarters.  Perhaps he was able to successfully recover from his wound on board ship. But recover he
did as he continued to serve to pension.

As a result of the Egypt/Soudan campaigns John Tolman qualified for 3 clasps to his Egypt medal, of which the single El Teb clasp is
fairly scarce to the Naval Brigade, with 40 of this clasp combination being awarded.





























































Toleman was promoted to Chief Petty Officer, & Chief Boatswain’s Mate, on 24 Mar ’84, attaining the peak of the Seaman’s branch
rank scale for him. As a Chief Boatswain’s Mate he would be the senior CPO on board the ships he subsequently served on.  Shortly
afterwards he was drafted from HMS Hecla when she returned to UK for decommissioning in Sept 1884.

The remaining 5 years of his career were spent on HMS Hercules, Repulse, Rupert, & Terror. He returned to HMS Victory for pension
on 26 Oct 1891.

Tolman had spent his entire career as a member of the Seaman branch & had never taken any gunnery, torpedo, or specialist courses.
This was somewhat unusual for the time as a rating received additional pay for completing specialist &/or sub rate courses.  Tolman
must have been quite content to remain a Seaman. When he went to pension he had completed 24 ½ service in the RN.

There is no indication on his record that he rec’d the Naval Long service medal, perhaps due to his conduct infraction during 1875. He
certainly should have rec’d a medal as his conduct was assessed as Exemplary & Very Good for the remainder of his career & he
certainly had the 10 years (at that time) required to qualify.

Tolman would have seen a lot of change in the Victorian Navy during his those 24 ½ years of his service. He would have entered the
RN when the ‘Wooden Walls & Age of Sail’ was in its last years, experienced the changeover to both steam propulsion & early iron
hulled ships, & finally served in the late Victorian ‘Age of  Ironclads’.

Tolman’s family:

He married Emily Gale in 4th quarter of 1877 in Southampton, Hamps.
She was from Dorset.

In the 1901 census both are shown as age 48 with three sons:
Alfred{15}, Harry{6}, Archibald{5}, living  in Portsmouth at 67 Highfield St.
Tolman is shown as a “Mariner’ with H.H. Hedges Co.

He died in Portsmouth during the first quarter (Jan, Feb, Mar) of 1931, stated age of  77 yrs, although at the time he would have been
78 yrs of age.
Pictured above is a close up of the clasps on his medal
Pictured above is a Victorian CPO insignia . This was the
badge that Tolman would have worn & below the insignia
would be his 3 Good Conduct badges & on the cuff of his
sleeves would have been the three CPO buttons.

The rank of CPO was introduced with the advent of
Continuous Service in 1853 & was in use until 1890.
The insignia is just visible in Tolman's photo.
In the photograph below, CPO John Tolman is on the left
next to
Joseph Hamer (arms are crossed)
Pictured below is plan of the Square at EL TEB - from 'Desert
Warfare'