Battalion had recently returned from the continent where it had taken part in the overthrow of Napoleon and were regarded at the
‘special forces’ of the day with their accurate weapons (the Baker Rifle) and skirmishing skills. The 95th Foot were re-titled as the
Rifle Brigade on the 16th of February 1816 and were unique in the army because of their green uniforms and black facings as
opposed to the usual red uniform. This green uniform had given rise to the nick-name that the French used of ‘the Grasshoppers’
and to the modern day Royal Regiment of Greenjackets.
Sadly the musters for the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade are no longer in existence, however we know that from Shorncliffe they
embarked for service in Ireland and landed in Dublin in early February of 1816. The battalion then spent 2 years and 3 months in
Dublin before moving to Birr. With the decision to reduce the army having been made in 1818 the 3rd Battalion was ordered to be
disbanded and the junior officers of each rank were put on half pay as of December the 25th 1818. The NCO’s and men were either
drafted into the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Rifle Brigade or discharged.
Private Blonk joined the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade at Haslar Barracks, Gosport, on the 25th of February 1819. It is probable
that he actually arrived at Gosport earlier in the month, however the battalion carried out it’s musters and pay parades on the 25th
of every month and as such his presence would have been noted from that date. William joined the 7th company under the
command of Captain Loftus Gray. The stay of the battalion in Gosport was to be short as they were to be embroiled in the
disturbances that had arisen north of the border. With only 4 hours notice the battalion were marched to Gosport beach on the
18th of September 1819 and there boarded the frigate ‘Liffey’ and sloop ‘Hind’ for transport to Scotland. The battalion landed at
Leith on the 27th of September and marched to Glasgow where they took up residence in the infantry barracks on the 30th of that
Over the next year the battalion was frequently engaged with insurgents in and around Glasgow in what later became known as
‘The Radical War’. On one occasion on the 2nd of April 1820 the battalion was under arms early in the morning and at St. George’s
Square where a large crowd was assembled for ‘illegal and riotous objects’. The crowd however dispersed without acts of overt
violence. When the battalion left Glasgow in November of 1820 it’s conduct was praised by Major-General Reynell as being ‘upon
those trying occasions when it’s temperate deportment was so mainly conductive to the restoration and maintenance of tranquillity
in that populous city.’ The battalion left Glasgow in three divisions on the 15th, 16th and 17th of November 1820 and arrived at
Port Patrick near Belfast on the 24th and 27th .
The battalion furnished many detachments at this time and William Blonk was among those sent to Maghera within a few weeks of
arrival in Ireland. William remained at Maghera until March of 1821 when the detachment rejoined the HQ element in preparation for
the battalion move. The battalion marched from Belfast on the 7th of March and arrived at Armagh 2 days later, again at this
station it furnished detachments to Strabane, Lifford, Omagh, Monaghan, Aughnacloy, Derg-Bridge, Gortin, Dungannon,
Cookstown & Clones. Blonk remains at Armagh in this period and in July he moves company from the 7th to the 4th under
command of Captain J. Fullanton. The 1st Rifles remained at Armagh for only 8 months before it again was on the march on the
13th of November, arriving at Naas on the 18th. Here again the 1st Rifles sent out detached parties of men, Private Blonk being
among those men sent to Maryborough.
The H.Q. element at this time consisted of only 2 companies and these men marched for Kilkenny on the 20th of December, William
and his detachment arrived at Kilkenny 3 days later. On the 3rd of February 1822 the H.Q. again moved, this time to Fermoy where
they arrived on the 6th and after only 10 days in that place they moved on to Newcastle. William had marched from Kilkenny to
Kilfinane where he was to be shown as ‘on duty’ from December 1821 until September of 1822 with a break in April 1822, at that
point he is shown in the musters as being in the regimental hospital at Newcastle.
The ‘History of the Rifle Brigade’ recounts a incident during the move to Newcastle from Fermoy that deserves mention (page 223).
The Head-Quarters of the Battalion marched from Fermoy on the 16th of February and arrived at Newcastle on the following day.
On this march a most violent outrage occurred. Some non-commissioned officers’ and soldiers’ wives preceded the battalion in
three jaunting cars. About half-past six in the evening of Sunday the 17th, when about a mile and a half from Kildorrery, the cars
were stopped by about a dozen men and some of the women, being seized and dragged off the cars, were violated by more than
one man. Others of them fled from their assailants and ran back to meet the battalion. For this outrage three men were tried at
the ensuing Cork assizes, and being clearly identified by the women were found guilty and executed.
The H.Q. of the battalion moved on to Rathkeale on July the 23rd 1822, William remained at Kilfinane until some time in early
September when he then joined a new detachment at Kildemo, other sub-units being at Ballingarry, Croome, Shanagolden, Glyn,
Youghal and Askeaton. William returns to the battalion in January of 1823 at Rathkeale where he is also informed of his pay rise.
Having served for 7 years he is now entitled to a penny a day extra, making a total of 13 pence (a shilling and a penny) before
stoppages, this takes effect from the 18th of January 1823. William goes on furlough on the 25th of June 1823 and remains as
such for 3 months during which time the army do not pay him. On his return to the battalion after his leave, Private Blonk goes on
detachment at Abbeyfeale where he remains until the 25th of October 1823.
On the 25th of October the battalion move in 2 divisions from Rathkeale and arrive at Dublin on the 1st and 3rd of November,
there they move into the Royal Barracks. William spends a quiet few months until the 11th of June 1824 when he is promoted to
Corporal (vice George Troughton, promoted to Sergeant) and joins the company of Captain Thomas Kincaid. The Battalion are on
the move from the 7th to the 9th of September 1824 to Belfast (arriving on the 16th) and from there Corporal Blonk goes on
detachment at Carrigfergus (other detachments at Downpatrick and Ballymena). William is back at Belfast by the end of December
1824 and is promoted there to Sergeant on the 6th of April 1825 when he joins the 3rd company under Captain Henry George
Under the order from Horse Guards dated the 25th of April 1825 the strength of the battalions was increased from 8 to 10
companies and those of the 1st Battalion were divided into 6 service companies and 4 depot companies. Sergeant Blonk goes on
detachment to Carrigfergus again in late April of 1825 under Colour Sergeant John Vickers and returns to the H.Q. in June, by this
time the H.Q. is at Dublin where for a short period the 1st and 2nd Battalions were located in the same barracks. The 6 service
companies of the 1st Bn. Rifle Brigade march back to Belfast to board the ships ‘Arab’, ‘Speke’ & ‘Joseph Green’ from the 28th to
the 30th of July 1825 for passage to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The depot companies (1st, 8th, 9th & 10th companies) march to Belfast
and then to Newry where they arrive on the 26th of July, William has joined the 10th company at this point under Captain T.E.
Kelly, the Depot being under the command of Major Eeles.
After only a short period at Newry the depot moves to Cavan between the 17th and 20th of September where they remained for
the remainder of the year. On the 23rd of March 1826 the depot move on again to Drogheda, where on arrival (on the 25th)
Sergeant Blonk takes on the position of Quartermaster Sergeant (vice William Greenwell to Colour Sergeant), QM Sergeant was the
second highest non-commissioned rank in the unit. The stay at Drogheda was also short, the depot moving on to Naas on the
4th of May 1826. The movement of the depot continued into the year, they moved from Naas to Dublin on August the 8th where
they occupied George Street Barracks and then back to Drogheda on the 14th of December. By the move to Drogheda, William
has reverted to Sergeant (his place being taken by Samuel Snowe on the 15th of September 1826).
The musters show William Blonk as being on guard for the first two months of 1827 at Drogheda and then in May his world is
turned upside down. Sergeant Blonk is guilty of a crime unknown, it is not serious enough to warrant a prison sentence but is
serious enough to require his reduction in the ranks to Private as of the 10th of May, he remains in the company commanded by
Captain T.E. Kelly. The next 6 months are quiet until the depot is again on the move to Dublin on the 9th of October 1827. On the
departure from Drogheda the Mayor and Corporation presented Major William Eeles, who commanded it, with the freedom of their
Corporation, ‘not only as an evidence of their personal regard for him,’ but also ‘to record their high sense of the gentlemenlike
demeanor of the officers, and steady, soldier-like conduct of the non-commissioned officers and privates.’
From Dublin the companies marched to Kingstown on the 21st of October and there embarked in the ‘Amphitrite’ and ‘Maria’
transports for Devonport where they arrived on the 31st and occupied Stonehouse barracks, this was the end of a 7 year spell in
Ireland. William goes on furlough from the 12th of January 1828 until the 17th of March 1828. On the 29th of July 1828 the Duke
of Clarence (later King William IV) inspected both battalion depots at Plymouth (the depot of the 2nd Bn. Rifle Brigade also being in
the same region). Immediately after the review (which took several hours in pouring rain) the men of both Bn. Depots boarded the
‘Amphitrite’ at Devonport and on the 31st landed at Gosport, occupying Forton Barracks. The depot continue to move along the
South coast as they moved to Portsmouth on the 29th of March 1829 and from Portsmouth to Dover on the 12th and 13th of
August 1829, once in Dover they occupy the heights and Castle overlooking the town.
For reasons unknown to us, Private William Blonk of the 1st Bn. Rifle Brigade decides to terminate his service on the 6th of May
1830. In a time where service was for life or until the soldier is unable to serve any longer there was a price to be paid to be
released. William is required to pay £5 for his release, in an age of a shilling a day this was a sum equivalent to 4 months wages.
On his discharge he is listed as a clerk with a birthplace in Sheffield, Yorkshire, his age or physical description is not given in the
casualty roll and at this point there is nothing more of William Blonk in Army records.
Sources: Musters WO 12/ 10056 to 10064 (1818-30)
‘History of the Rifle Brigade’
Casualty Roll WO 25/ 2176
|William Blonk – Rifle Brigade – 1816 to 1830.