Captain of the Mast
Crimea and Indian Mutiny Naval Brigade
H.M.S. London and H.M.S. Pearl
|Crimea Medal with clasp for Sebastopol, officially impressed naming to Thos Mahey, A.B.
Indian Mutiny Medal without clasp, officially impressed naming to Thos Mahey, Capt of Mast, Pearl.
Turkish Crimea Medal, un-named as issued.
Thomas Mahey was born at Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, on the 31st of October 1822. He joined the Royal Navy at age 19 on
the 2nd of August, 1842. His name was first recorded as Mahy, but this was later amended in his Admiralty records to
Mahey. Thomas used the spelling Mahy throughout his life, although it should be noted that he was illiterate, as evidenced by
his signing of the paperwork for Continuous and General Service in July of 1853 with a mark rather than his signature.
Thomas Mahey’s first ship was H.M.S. San Josef, a 114 gun first rate ship of the line, which he served upon until the 21st of
April, 1843. He then served on H.M.S. Rodney from the 14th of March, 1845 until the 8th of March, 1849. On the 9th of
January, 1850, he joined the crew of H.M.S. Phaeton as an Able Bodied Seaman for two tours, the first from the 9th of June,
1850, till the 3rd of June, 1851, and the next from the 4th of June, 1851, till the 25th of January, 1853, when he was paid
off. Thomas Mahey then joined the crew of H.M.S. London on the 28th of January, 1853. On the 1st of July, Thomas
volunteered for 7 years of continuous and general service. His Continuous Service Number was 3199.
While serving in the Royal Navy, Thomas Mahey had the rare distinction of serving ashore in a naval brigade in not one, but
two of the major military conflicts of the Victorian era. As a sailor serving on H.M.S. London, Thomas served in the Naval
Brigade during the Crimean War. During the Indian Mutiny, as a member of the crew of H.M.S. Pearl, he again served ashore
with one of the four Naval Brigades that served in the suppression of the rebellion.
According to the roll prepared by Captain Douglas-Morris, approximate 200 sailors and Royal Marines from H.M.S. London
served ashore during the Crimean War. The sailors serving in the Royal Naval Brigade did good service in the batteries
Out of the approximately 25,000 men of the Royal Navy to serve in the Crimea, the men of the H.M.S. London, along with the
crews of H.M.S. Niger, H.M.S. Rodney and H.M.S. Wasp were the only men of the Royal Navy to receive their Crimea medals
with officially impressed naming, the vast majority of the men of the Royal Navy receiving their Crimea medals un-named.
Thomas Mahey’s Crimea medal and clasp for Sebastopol is verified by the medal roll prepared by Captain Douglas-Morris, as
is Thomas’ participation in the Naval Brigade during the Crimean War. It is interesting to note that Captain Douglas-Morris
estimated that the survival rate of Crimean War medals with impressed naming as being only approximately 4% of the
medals issued. However, Captain Douglas-Morris did not list Thomas Mahey’s Crimea medal as being one of the known
surviving medals as Mahey’s medals were apparently still with his family at the time Douglas-Morris’ list of surviving medals
On the 1st of July, 1856, Thomas moved from H.M.S. London to H.M.S. Pearl after having served aboard the London for
almost three year and a half years. His rank at that time was Leading Seaman and his conduct was stated to have been
“very good”. Thomas Mahey was taken on to the strength of the Pearl with the rank of Captain of the Mast, a 2nd Class
Petty Officer rank.
Following the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, the Pearl was ordered to proceed to India. On her way from China to Calcutta,
the Pearl called at Singapore, and there picked up two companies of the 90th Regiment, which, on July 10th, 1857, had been
shipwrecked in the Strait of Banca in the iron troop transport the Transit. Proceeding on to India, the Pearl disembarked the
troops at Calcutta on August 12th.
Captain Sotheby, following the example set by Captain Peel of H.M.S. Shannon, quickly offered his services and those of his
men to the Government of India to assist in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny which had begun the previous May. On the
12th of September, a portion of the officers and crew of the Pearl embarked up river in the paddle-steamer Chunar. This
detachment of 158 men, along with a 12 pound howitzer, a 24 pound howitzer, and 24 pound rocket tubes, reached Dinapur on
the 7th of October. At Dinapur it was found that no gun carriage suitable for the 24 pound howitzer could be obtained and
the gun was left behind to be sent back to the Pearl. In lieu of the 24 pounder, an additional 12 pound howitzer and two 12
pound mountain guns were acquired, and with them Captain Sotheby landed at Buxar on the 10th of October, taking up
quarters in the Fort.
On the 23rd, the detachment was summoned to Chupra, arriving there on the afternoon of the 26th. From there, the
detachment moved successively to Sewan and then on to Myrwa. By that time, an additional detachment from the Pearl,
having traveled from Calcutta, met up with the force, bringing the total strength of the Pearl's Naval Brigade to
approximately 260 officers and men. While a few men were volunteers from merchant vessels at Calcutta, the vast majority
of the members of the Naval Brigade were members of the crew of the Pearl.
The Naval Brigade from the Pearl was soon attached to the Sarun Field Force which was commanded by Colonel Rowcroft.
Unlike H.M.S. Shannon, which fielded a considerable force of mobile guns, H.M.S. Pearl deployed primarily rifle companies,
with most of the men of the Pearl acting as infantrymen. The Sarun Field Force first saw action with the mutineers on the
20th of December at Sohunpore, where an entrenched position was taken and the enemy dispersed without the Naval
Brigade suffering any casualties.
On the 8th of February, 1858, Colonel Rowcroft’s force arrived at Burhul. From there it moved up the Gogra in 150 boats,
escorted by the small armed steamer Jumna, reaching Ghopalpur on the 10th. On the 17th, Captain Sotheby, with a force
consisting of 130 men of the Naval Brigade, 85 Sikhs, and 60 Gurkhas, along with the assistance of the guns of the Jumna,
captured the strong fort of Chanderpur, taking two of the enemy’s guns.
The Sarun Field Force reached Nourainie Ghat on the evening of February 19th. That night the force seized a fort on the
Oudh side of the river and on the afternoon of the following day attacked a body of rebels at Phoolpur. After a gallant and
sustained fight, the enemy was driven from the field with a loss of three of their guns. Two days later, the Naval Brigade
re-crossed the river as there had been some friction with the Field Force’s native allies and it was deemed advisable to
maintain a British rear-guard, as a large number of rebels had been reported in the vicinity of Fyzabad.
On the 2nd of March, the Naval Brigade marched to Amorha as Colonel Rowcroft had received intelligence that the fort of
Belwa, seven miles further on, was occupied by a considerable force of mutineers. In the afternoon of the 2nd, a small
force, consisting of only a 168 men of the Naval Brigade, 35 Sikhs and a regiment of Gurkhas, along with four guns and 24
pound rockets, continued on to Belwa. At Belwa, the force was joined by 250 troopers of the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry. As
the force had not arrived at Belwa until late in the afternoon on the 2nd, the attack did not commence until 5 p.m., when the
artillery opened fire on the fort. Captain of the Mast Thomas Mahey was wounded in the attack. The fort proved stronger
than had been anticipated, and when darkness fell, the small British force withdrew and on the following day returned to
On the night of the 3rd and throughout the succeeding day, the rebels at Belwa continued to receive reinforcements. The
retirement of the British force at Belwa on the 2nd of March had been interpreted by the rebels as a British defeat. As
the entire Sarun Field Force, including the sick and wounded, was not then more than 1500 strong, the mutineers, having
grown to a force of several thousand men with fourteen guns, were confident and eager for a fight. Anticipating an attack,
the Field Force attempted to make their small camp as defensible as possible including excavating a line of rifle-pits and
the clearing of the jungle and any houses that might provide shelter for the rebels as they advanced.
On the morning of March 5th, it was reported that the rebels were about to attack. In response, the Field Force moved out
of camp, taking up a position about half a mile to the west of the village of Amorha, with the Naval Brigade and four guns in
the center of the line, straddling the road. A Gurkha regiment and the small detachment of Sikhs held the left of the road,
while another Gurkha regiment held the right. On each flank was a squadron of the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry.
The enemy force overlapped the British force by at least a mile in each direction, attacking in excellent order behind their
skirmishers. The naval guns, under Lieutenant Turnour, opened fire and were replied to by ten of the enemy’s guns. After an
artillery duel which lasted for some time, Colonel Rowcroft finally threw out his skirmishers, and began a steady forward
movement. The cavalry, supported by the Gurkhas, cleared the enemy from the flanks of the advance.
As soon as it was evident that the enemy’s advance had been checked, Colonel Rowcroft reinforced his Royal Marines, who
were in the skirmishing line, with a detachment of men from the Pearl, and continue to press the enemy all along the front.
One of the first guns abandoned by the rebels was immediately seized and turned upon the mutineers raking them with
their own grape. A brilliant cavalry charge by the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry then threw the left wing of the mutineers
into confusion and soon the entire body of the enemy fled, leaving behind eight guns.
The retreating enemy was pursued for six miles. Making a brief stand at one point, the rebels killed Second-Master John
Fowler and one Gurkha. Heat and fatigue finally put a stop to the action, which had lasted from 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. A
rebel force of approximately 14,000 men, with ten guns, had been completely defeated by the British force of only 1200
men with four guns. The rebels lost about 500 men killed while the Naval Brigade had but 1 officer killed and approximately
15 men wounded.
Following the battle, in order to declare to the enemy that the forces of the Government were confident of being able to
take care of themselves, the line of rifle-pits was filled in, and the camp at Amorha was moved and pitched on the open plain.
A small fort, however, was built to contain the sick, the spare ammunition and the baggage. Before the end of April the force
was joined by the left wing of H.M.13th Light Infantry, while one of the Gurkha regiments was withdrawn and sent to
On the 17th of April, a detachment defeated a body of marauding rebels near the village of Tilga, capturing a gun. On the
25th of April, another body of the enemy was met near Jamoulee and an engagement fought. On the following day, the entire
Field Force moved to Kuptangunge, deliberately taking up a position where it was essentially surrounded by the rebels.
On the 29th of April, an attack was made on the fort at Nuggur by a detachment which included 96 officers and men from
the Pearl’s Naval Brigade. The fort was taken with a small loss and in the evening the detachment returned to camp.
Following the action of the 29th, the Naval Brigade remained at Bustee, using that location as a base of operations to make
several small expeditions against detached bodies of the enemy. On May 31st, one of these expeditions turned a party of
mutineers out of a position near Amorha, and on June 18th, another larger party of rebels was defeated at Hurreah.
On August 29th, a detachment of fifty men of the Naval Brigade under the command of Lieutenant Fawkes took part in an
engagement with the rebels near Lumptee. On the same day, another detachment under Lieutenant Turnour assisted in
repelling an attack on an outpost at Hurreah. Pursuing the retreating mutineers, the force finally caught up with them
on the 21st of September at Debreah. After a heated engagement, the rebels were completely routed.
On the evening of September 6th, a detachment under the command of Commander Grant, with 73 seamen and Marines from
the Pearl, two 12 pound howitzers, a 24 pound rocket-tube, and a detachment of the H.M. 13th Regiment left Amorha to
relieve a small garrison of Sikhs at Bansee. At Gondah, Commander Grant’s force was joined by Captain Mulcaster , in
command of a squadron of cavalry. Captain Mulcaster as senior officer assumed command. Reaching Bansee on the 8th,
after a march of 50 miles in 39 hours, the force relieved Bansee without a moment to spare, for the Sikhs defenders had
only three percussion caps per man remaining.
On the 12th of September, the expedition, which had been reinforced on the 10th by Brigadier Fischer, marched from
Bansee towards Doomureahgunge, arriving there on the 13th of September. There it engaged and drove back a body of
the rebels. On the 14th, an effort was made to catch a body of mutineers at Intwa, but the roads were so bad that the
attempt had to be abandoned and on the 17th the force returned to Bustee.
Another detachment, under the command of Lieutenant Ingles, formed part of an expedition which left Bustee on
September 27th for Bansee. Having crossed the Raptee, the force after an exhausting march met up with and dispersed
a body of mutineers at Mowee on September 30th.
On October 1st, the outpost at Amorha, which was defended by a force including 50 men from the Pearl under the command
of Lieutenant Fawkes, was attacked by approximately1200 mutineers. The enemy was repulsed and Lieutenant Malay,
who directed the howitzers, and Seamen Lee, Williams, Rayfield, and Simmonds, distinguished themselves in action.
On October 23rd, yet another expedition had to be despatched towards Bansee. On October 26th, when a small British
force failed to take the jungle fort of Jugdespore, twenty-five miles north-west of Bustee, it was reported that the
Brigade had lost its guns in the retreat. However, there was no foundation for the story, which, however, was reported in
the Indian papers.
In the middle of November, all the outlying parties were recalled, and the whole force left Bustee on the 24th for the
northern jungle on the Nepal frontier, leaving only a field hospital and guard behind. A siege train had, in the meantime,
arrived at Bustee, and was handed over to the men of the Pearl.
On the 25th, Bhanpur was reached, and a Madras battery joined the force. The force moved on to Doomureahgunge, where
the rebels were very soundly defeated, and a halt was made for some days, during which period a bridge of boats was built
across the Raptee. Opposing them was a considerable army under Balla Rao, a kinsman of the Nana Sahib. On the evening
of December 2nd, Brigadier Rowcroft learned that another native force under Nazim Mahomed Hossein was only six to
eight miles up river and that it intended to cross the river and join forces with Balla Rao. On the 3rd, a detachment,
including 2 guns and 50 men of the Naval Brigade under Captain Sotheby, found the rebels at Bururiah in a strongly
defended position. The enemy withstood the attack with unusual steadiness, until their flank was threatened at which point
they retired and scattered, carrying off their guns. On December 5th, the Naval Brigade again crossed the Raptee with
the rest of the force soon following.
This retrograde movement was part of a concerted plan to encircle the shattered armies of the Begum with Lord Clyde to
the west, Sir Hope Grant to the south, and Brigadier Rowcroft drawing round from the east, while to the north was the
dense, impenetrable jungle of Nepal. A guard was left at the bridge at Doomureahgunge and the remainder of the force
marched on to Intwa. The siege train arrived on the 18th and provided the Naval Brigade as much artillery as it could
possibly manage. On the 20th, the force advanced from Intwa to Biskohur in Oudh, and, on the 22nd, to Goolereah Ghat,
where the remnants of the enemy army were collected in great force.
On the 23rd, in concert with the column under the command of Sir Hope Grant, the British force crossed the Boora Raptee,
and attacked the rebels. Near the center of the attaching force were the four naval guns and two 24 pound rocket tubes,
under Commander Turnour, Lieutenant Maquay, and Midshipman Root. The rest of the Naval Brigade, and the siege train
under Captain Sotheby were as close to the enemy as the ground would allow. The battle lasted about an hour and a half
before the rebels were completely routed, although they did manage to carry off most of their guns. The British victory
was impressive considering that the mutineers numbered about 12,000 strong, while the attacking force numbered only
2,500 men and suffered only four men killed and about a dozen wounded. This was the last affair in which the Pearl's
Naval Brigade took part, and most probably the last general action of the Mutiny.
The pursuit of the retreating rebel army was somewhat ineffective owing to a lack of sufficient cavalry for the job. The
Naval Brigade, as part of the force under the command of Brigader Rowcroft, was ordered almost immediately to pursue
the enemy. After a fruitless pursuit in which the force marched almost to the Nepal frontier, on the 1st January, 1859,
the Naval Brigade received orders from the Governor-General to forth-with return to the Pearl at Calcutta.
Embarking on the 17th of January aboard the steamer Benares, the Naval Brigade reached Calcutta on February 2nd. A
'Gazette Extraordinary,' published at Allahabad on January 17th at the request of the Governor-General as the Brigade
passed through that city, reported the high degree of satisfaction expressed by the Viceroy and the Governor General
for the services of the Pearl's officers and men during the preceding fifteen months.
The Pearl sailed from Calcutta on February 13th, calling at Madras. Sailing from Madras for England on the 26th, the Pearl
finally reached Spithead on the 6th of June. The Pearl had circumnavigated the globe, having been away from home for
three years and one week. The Pearl was paid off on June 16th, 1859, and a "paying-off" dinner held on the evening of
that day bringing the officers and men together for the last time.
The men of the Pearl, although they had fought against the mutineers in twenty-six actions in total, all received Indian
Mutiny medals without clasps. There is probably no better example than the medals issued to the crew of the Pearl of
the service that can be represented by a simple Indian Mutiny medal without clasp. Thomas Mahey’s Indian Mutiny medal
is named to him as Captain of the Mast and is verified on the Indian Mutiny medal roll for the officers and men of H.M.S.
Beginning on the 17th of June, 1859, Thomas Mahey next served on H.M.S. St. Vincent. On the 3rd of August, 1859,
he transferred from the Royal Navy to the Coast Guard as a Commissioned Boatman. Thomas Mahy and his wife Jane
are shown in the 1861 Census as living at Portland, Dorset, where Thomas was serving with the Coast Guard. Thomas
retired from the Coast Guard on the 18th of June, 1870. At the time of his retirement he had served a combined total of
twenty-five years, fifty-seven days in the Royal Navy and the Coast Guard.
Up until 1873, service in the Coast Guard was not counted as qualifying time for the award of the Naval Long Service
and Good Conduct Medal. As a result, Thomas Mahey, despite all his service for Queen and country, did not qualify for
a Long Service and Good Conduct medal.
Thomas and Jane are shown in the 1881 Census as living in Norwood, on the Isle of Wight along with their 19 year old
son, William T. Mahy. Thomas’s occupation is given as Pensioner and Seaman. Thomas and Jane are shown in the 1891
Census living in Clowes. Thomas Mahey died in 1904 at age 81 at Clowes, Isle of Wight.
Clowes, William Laird: "The Royal Navy: a History from the Earliest Times to the Death of Queen Victoria", Sampson Low,
Marston and Company, 1903, volume 7, 138 - 150 (1903).
Douglas-Morris, Captain K. J.: Crimea Medals- Officially impressed awards to R.N. & R.M. Recipients, Stanley Gibbons
Currency Ltd., Medal Lists No.’s 2 and 3, Sept. 1979 and Dec. 1979.
Willams, Rev. E.A.: The Cruise of the Pearl, with an Account of the Operations of the Naval Brigade in India 1857-1858,
London 1859, Naval and Military Press Reprint.
Census Returns of England and Wales 1861, 1881, and 1891.
The National Archives of the UK, Admiralty: Royal Navy Continuous Service Engagement Books: Adm 139/32.