George Cantell – 4th, 51st & 74th Foot – 1843 to 1864
WO 12/2225 (1843-44)
The Service Companies of the 4th Foot are at Secunderabad in India at this time. George Cantell is enlisted at Bristol on the 31st
of May 1843 and joins the Depot of the 4th Foot at Chatham (under command of Captain William Bell) on the 15th of June 1843.
Cantell embarks for India on the 21st of August 1843 in a draft of around 62 men under Ensign G, Morris. The draft arrives at
Poonamalle on the 27th of November 1843 and is shown in the Regimental musters as being ‘at Poonamallee’ at the end of
November and ‘on route to HQ’ at the end of December. The draft reaches Secunderabad some time in January 1844. At this point
the new recruit is given the number 2026.
WO 12/2226 (1844-45)
4th Regiment at Secunderabad all muster, no other details.
WO 12/2227 (1845-46)
The 4th move from Secunderabad to Kamptee. The HQ & Right wing move on the 19th of December 1845 to the 24th of January
1846; the Left wing from the 29th of December 1845 to the 2nd of February 1846.
WO 12/2228 (1846-47)
At Kamptee all muster. No other listed material on Cantell.
WO 12/2229 (1847-48)
No.2026 Private Cantell of the 4th Foot volunteers to the 51st Foot on the 1st of November 1847. The 4th is at that time on the
route march from Kamptee to Poonamallee, under orders to return to Great Britain.
WO 12/6210 (1847-48)
Joined the 51st Foot at Bangalore on the 29th of January 1848, Cantell is re-numbered as No.2224 of that Corps.
WO 12/6211 (1848-49)
Unit at Bangalore all muster. ‘On Duty’ in May 1848 & July 1848 musters & in Hospital from the 1st to the 30th of November 1848.
Granted 1d GCP from the 1st of June 1848.
WO 12/6212 (1849-50)
‘On Duty’ over November 1849 muster. The Regiment is on the march at ‘Woocherry Chuttrum’ on the last day of 1849 and has
reached its new station at Fort St. George, Madras, by the end of January 1850. Cantell is ‘in hospital’ over the January 1850
WO 12/6213 (1850-51)
Regiment at Fort St. George, Madras, all muster. Cantell is on detachment at Poonamallee from the 21st of June 1850 to the 21st
of September 1850 under Captain W. Blundell. ‘On duty’ over the October 1850 muster. 1d GCP removed on the 8th of December
WO 12/6214 (1851-53)
No.2224 Private George Cantell with Regiment at Fort St. George, Madras in April 1851. On detachment with Wing at Poonamallee
from the 30th of June 1851, remains there until the end of September 1851.
On ‘Duty’ at November 1851 muster and regains his first good conduct badge and payment from the 8th of December 1851.
Regiment at Rangoon by the end of April 1852 where Cantell is listed as being ‘on Duty’.
Promoted to Corporal on the 26th of May 1852 vice 1668 Thomas Meadows (reduced to Pte.).
On detachment at Bassein from the 17th of May 1852 until the 1st of December 1852.
Regiment at Prome from October 1852.
Cantell on detachment at ‘Meaday’ from the 21st of January 1853, remainder of Regiment at ‘Shoe’doung’ from February 1853.
The Burma War of 1851
By George Dibley
During the year 1851 Captain Sheppard, the master and owner of a trading vessel, was charged with throwing a man overboard
and was fined 900 rupees and imprisoned by the Burmese Governor of Rangoon. He accused the Governor of ill treatment and the
extortion of 900 rupees. Other acts of oppression and insolence followed, and the merchants of Rangoon and Moulmein applied to
the Governor-General for protection. This resulted in Commodore Lambert repairing to Rangoon with H.M.S. Fox and two other
shops to settle matters and restore confidence. The Commodore demanded the removal of the Governor of Rangoon, and the
payment of 9,000 rupees to Captain Sheppard for the indignity he had been subjected to. The Burmese court agreed to these
terms - the Governor was relieved of his post and the money paid.
On the arrival of the new governor the Commodore requested him to receive a deputation of British officers. He expressed a
willingness to do so; but on the officers arriving at his house at the agreed time, they were treated with the utmost insolence by
his servants, who said the governor was asleep and could not receive them. The Commodore was not the main to stand for this
kind of treatment. On the 6th January, 1852 he replied by seizing the king's ships then in the Rangoon river, and declaring the
rivers Rangoon, Bassein and Salween to be in a state of blockade. On the 10th January having taken on board the Hermes those
inhabitants of Rangoon who sought the protection of the British flag, the Commodore set sail with his prizes. The Burmese opened
fire from their stockades and the ships relied, quickly deciding the unequal contest. The flotilla proceeded to Calcutta where
Commodore Lambert reported to Lord Dalhousie all that had occurred. The Governor-General approved the strong measures
adopted: but hoped to avoid war by negotiation. This was to no effect. War was inevitable, and on the 12th February, 1852, it was
decided to send a second expedition to Burma.
The beginning of April, 1852 witnessed the arrival of the following shops of war in Rangoon waters, the Feroze, Mozuffer, Zenobia,
Sesostris, Berenic, Medusa, Rockcliffe, Sir Thomas Gresham, Hempsyche, and Atlanta, had come from Madras; while from Calcutta
had come the Hermes, Tenasserim, Enterprise, Fire Queen, Proserpine, Salamander and Phlegethon. The new steamer Rattler had
also arrived from Penang with Admiral Austen on board, the land force which had travelled by sea was under the command of
Major-General Godwin, C.B., and consisted of the following corps: 18th Royal Irish; 35th Royal Sussex, 51st Light Infantry and
Staffordshire Regiments; the 9th and 35th Madras Native Infantry; 40th Bengal Native Infantry; six companies of European
artillery, three from Madras and three from Bengal. Total force of Europeans, 2,725, Native Infantry 3,400, to which force, if we
add the sailors who were available for land service, 8000 men at least could be assembled for the attack on Rangoon.
Before commencing operations against Rangoon, General Godwin decided to strike a decisive blow against the town of Martaban,
which was immediately opposite the British town of Moulmein, the capital of the Tenasserim Provinces. Accordingly, he set out with
a wing of the Staffordshires, which was reinforced by the garrison of Moulmein - a wing of the 18th Royal Irish - for the attack on
the town. As soon as the British ships arrived opposite the stockaades they were fired upon by the defenders. This fire was replied
to by the Rattler who had worked her way to within 200 yards of the wall and close to the pagoda: a storming party was formed
under the command of Colonel Reignolds, 18th Royal Irish which stormed and captured Martaban very quickly and with few losses.
This first engagement was a complete success.
At about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 11th April the British warships opened fire on Rangoon on the left bank and Dalla on the
right. The enemy replied with some vigorous and accurate fire, but it soon died away to an occasional shot. By 11 o'clock the fire
from the defences of Rangoon was silenced, with the stockade and part of the town in flames. On the Dalla side the Burmese stuck
to their defences. Sailors were sent in boats as a storming party. After landing upon low mud banks they quickly formed up and
rushed the defenders. Their attack was so fierce that the enemy abandoned their works and fled.
Shortly after daybreak on the following morning, the ships once more opened fire from Rangoon and at the same time the
following two brigades landed:
First Brigade: 18th Royal Irish (right), 51st Light Infantry (left), 40th Bengal Native Infantry (centre), the Sappers and Miners were
placed in rear of the left flank.
Second Brigade: 9th Madras Native Infantry (right), Staffordshires (centre), 35th Madras Native Infantry (left).
When they were ready the General sent the First Brigade into action with the Second Brigade in support. The road from the river
led to a white building which was constructed of solid masonry and had formed our principal redoubt in the First Burmese War, and
it was along this road the Burmese decided that the British assault would come. However, the British commander chose another
route, which was to the East of the white building. The enemy, who were entrenched in the building which was defended by a
stockade, ramparts and ditches, had anticipated such an advance and were prepared. Four companies of the 51st Light Infantry
covered the British advance, accompanied by four guns of the Bengal Artillery. After about a mile the British troops found
themselves in contact with the enemy and under direct enemy artillery fire from the defences sighted on the line of advance, while
from the jungle the flanks were ambushed by skirmishers. Major Reid, Bengal Artillery, supported by Major Oakes, Madras Artillery,
opened fire on the building with four guns at a range of eight hundred yards; unfortunately they had too little ammunition for a
prolonged action, and had to cease firing.
It was decided that an assault on the building should be made immediately and a storming party was formed consisting of the 51st
Light Infantry and Sappers and Miners. The troops advanced led by Major Fraser, Chief Engineer, closely followed by Captain
Rundall, Royal Engineers. The party advanced slowly, encumbered by five heavy scaling ladders and under heavy fire from the
skirmishers in the wood. As the enemy grew bolder it was found necessary to ground ladders, unsling muskets and drive them off
after which the storming party again advanced. Despite heavy fire from the building they were able to raise their ladders and scale
the ramparts after which the enemy evacuated the building and ran into the jungle. British losses were considerable, including,
Lieutenant Donaldson and Captain Blundal who were mortally wounded; and Major Griffiths, Brigade Major, and Major Oakes, Royal
Artillery who both died of sunstroke.
After camping overnight on the open plain the next day, the 14th January, was used to prepare for the main attack on the Great
Pagoda. The troops, despite the heat, dragged four 8-inch howitzers up from the river. At daybreak the entire force advanced in
two brigades. The Staffordshires with four guns of Montgomery's battery formed the advance, and soon reached the desired
position, a rise in the ground about 1,000 yards south-east of the Pagoda defences. The troops following formed up under fire
about 700 yards from the Pagoda.
Lieutenant Laurie, describes the Shwe Dagon Pagoda as it was at the time:
"The hill upon which the temple stands is divided into three terraces each defended by a brick and mud rampart. There are four
flights of steps up the centre of each terrace three of which are covered over: the east, the south, and the west. Their heavy guns
were on the upper terrace, their light ones on the second and third. The rampart of the upper terrace being mostly of bricks and
mortar if of a superior description."
The British guns continued to fire at the Pagoda with little apparent effect upon the morale of Burmese defenders who showed little
fear of the bombardment. It was decided to assault the Pagoda using a wing of the Staffordshires under Major Lockhart, two
companies of the 18 Royal Irish under Lieutenant Hewitt, and two companies of the 40th Bengal Native Infantry; Colonel Coote,
18th Royal Irish to command. Over an open space of 800 yards the force advanced exposed to fire form the Pagoda. The leading
company, led on by its officers, arrived at the foot of the stone steps, rushed up, followed closely by the whole attacking force.
This caused panic among the enemy which, resulted in a headlong stampede northwards into the jungle, their chiefs at their head.
British losses in two days' fighting were 2 officers and 15 men killed, 14 officers and 118 men wounded.
After a lapse of nearly a month an expedition consisting of 500 men of the 18th Royal Irish, and 500 of the 35th Madras Native
Infantry under Colonel Abthorpe were despatched in search of the ex-Governor of Rangoon, who had fled northwards with his
beaten troops. On the 9th May the expedition returned to Rangoon not having found any enemy. On the 12th May the force at
Rangoon was reinforced by the 67th Bengal Native Infantry from Arakan. The rains now set in and with them fever and dysentery.
The temporary hospitals were thronged with sick men and medical officers were at a premium. Despite sickness it was decided to
attack Bassein, an important settlement in South Arakan. It was strongly fortified and estimated to be defended by a force of
7,000 men. The defences were about one mile in length, with a strongly built mud wall occupying the left of the line, while in the
centre was a huge padoda well armed with guns and jingals.
General Godwin conducted this expedition in person. The British troops consisted of a total of 800 men, who were embarked on
the Sesotris, Mozuffer, Tenasserim, and Pluto/ The ships anchored of Nigrais Island on the 17th May and on the following morning
steamed up the Bassein river. At 4 p.m. the flotilla arrived opposite the town.
The Burmese allowed the troops to land without interference, evidently fearing retaliation from the ships. General Godwin in his
despatch described the attack which followed:
"The contest that stamped the operations of this remarkable day with a brilliant conclusion was the attack on the mud fort, most
scientifically built and of great extent, which could only have been constructed under a despotism that commanded the labour of its
subjects in the short time they had been about it. It was not entirely completed in its details within. The storming party under
Major Errington proceeded to the left of the Burmese work accompanied by Lieutenant Rice of H.M. Frigate Fox and Lieutenant
Ford of the Madras Sappers, came upon the mud fort fully garrisoned and well armed. The attack was most determined as was the
defence obstinate. It was bravely stormed, but with the consequence of Major Errington and several officers and men being
severely wounded. The whole affair was over at a little after 6 o'clock."
Meanwhile a party of sailors had captured a stockade on the opposite bank of the river, taking six guns. Bassein was garrisoned by
two companies of the 51st Light Infantry and 300 of the 9th Madras Native Infantry, the remainder of the force returning to
In the intervening time a rebellion had broken out at Pegu. The Tailong portion of the troops had mutinied and taken possession of
the city, but were shortly afterwards driven out, and order, to a certain extent, restored. The British authorities at Rangoon
resolved to take advantage of this mishap in order to get hold of the city. Major Cotton was sent there with orders to side with the
Talaings and drive out the King's troops. He arrived to find all in confusion, and had great difficulty in finding out which faction was
which. He succeeded, however, after some sharp fighting, in occupying the place and demolishing its defences, after which he
returned to Rangoon.
In the beginning of July an expedition proceeded up the Irrawaddy to Prome, at this time a large and populous city. Captain
Tarleton R.N., conducted this expedition, and finding little sign of prepared defence he landed and took possession almost
unopposed, capturing twenty guns, many of them of large calibre, and many war boats, barges etc. This operation may be said to
have brought to a close the first phase of the Second Burmese War.
The Coming of the Great Queen, by Major E.C. Browne,
Harrison & Sons, St Martin's Lane, London 1887
The Battles of the British Army by R.M. Blackwood.
Simkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London c1910. Chapter xxxvi The Battle of Martaban 1852
WO 12/6215 (1853-54)
Detached at Meaday under Captain H.F. Marston until the 1st of October 1853 (returned to HQ at Thayetmyo, the HQ having
moved there by the end of September).
Cantell is given his second penny of good conduct pay on the 8th of December 1853 and promoted to Sergeant on the 20th of
Regiment is at Rangoon by the end of November 1853.
WO 12/6216 (1854-55)
Having returned to India, with the 51st Foot under orders for England, Cantell volunteers to the 74th Highlanders at the rank of
Private on the 1st of April 1854.
WO 12/8107 (1854-55)
Private Cantell is listed as joining the 74th Highlanders at Trichinopoly on the 1st of April 1854 as a Private (numbered as No.
3601), it would seem his reduction in the ranks was the price he paid for staying in India. 73 men in total are transferred from the
51st to the 74th Regiment on this date. At this time the HQ and majority of the 74th are at Jackatalla, the draft from the 51st plus
others are to form a detachment at Trichinopoly under Lt. Col. George Monkland until March of 1855, Cantell being quickly
promoted back to Corporal on the 1st of June 1854. Listed as ‘Duty Guard’ in March 1855, at which muster he would have joined
the majority of the 74th at Jackatalla.
WO 12/8108 (1855-57)
Corporal Cantell is shown in musters as being ‘on route to Cannanore’ in the October 1855 muster and is then on detachment at
that place up to the October 1856 muster under the command of Major W. Patton. On the 29th of January 1856 he is again
promoted to Sergeant. The detachment leave Cannanore and head for Malliapooram under Captain Augustus Davies, still being
present there in March of 1857.
WO 12/8109 (1857-58)
Sergeant Cantell is in the detachment at Malliapooram under Captain Augustus Davies until early May of 1857, when they then
head for again for Cannanore. They are present here until January 1858 (listed in the musters as being ‘on route from Cannanore’)
and join the main body of the 74th at Bellary in February of 1858. The main body of the Regiment had seen some service in the
Mutiny that had erupted in the sub-continent in that year, having been at Mysore in July of 1857, and later at Ballery, however as
Cantell was not directly involved he did not qualify for that medal. Cantell is shown as ‘Duty Guard’ at the March 1858 muster.
WO 12/8110 (1858-59)
Listed as ‘Duty Guard’ at the May & September 1858 musters, ‘Duty’ in the October 1858 muster and ‘Hospital’ in the November
1858 muster. The 74th Highlanders are on the march in November (being mustered at Camp Shimshabad on the 30th of
November of that year) and are at Camp Secunderabad on the last day of 1858, where they remain into the new year. By the end
of February 1859 the Highlanders have returned to Bellary, where Cantell has again been reduced in the ranks, being made a
Private on the 3rd of February 1859. At Bellary on the March muster he is listed as being (rather strangely) on ‘Duty funeral’.
WO 12/8111 (1859-60)
74th Highlanders at Ballery all muster. Private Cantell is shown as ‘Hospital’ in the October 1859 muster and the March 1860
muster, and as ‘Duty Guard’ at the December 1859 muster.
WO 12/8112 (1860-61)
74th Highlanders at Ballery all muster. Private Cantell is shown as ‘Hospital’ in the November 1860 muster and the March 1861
muster, and as ‘Duty Guard’ at the April 1860, August 1860, January 1861 & February 1861 musters.
WO 12/8113 (1861-62)
The 74th remain at Ballery. Private Cantell is in Hospital over the July 1861 muster and is part of the detachment to Poonamallee
under Lt. Edward Bradby that is in that station from December of 1861.
WO 12/8114 (1862-63)
Cantell remains detached at Poonamallee until he is one of the men that embarks for England on the 3rd of March 1863. The
embarked men are under the supervision of 3550 Col. Sgt. Francis D. Anderson and 1352 Pipe Major William McRay.
WO 12/8115 (1863-64)
After a spell at Netley, Private Cantell arrives at the Depot of the 74th Foot, Aberdeen (under command of Capt. H.W. Palmer) on
the 24th of July 1863 (2 days of the trip was by ship). He is on furlough from the 18th of August to the 28th of September 1863.
He is also on 4d GCP from the 9th of March 1863, this is belatedly mentioned in the musters at this time. The musters show him
on duty at the January and February 1864 musters.
WO 12/8116 (1864-65)
Cantell is listed as being on duty in the April & May musters. On a pass from the 12th to the 28th of June 1864 and he is
discharged at Aberdeen on the 28th of June 1864 after 21 years service. Cantell is paid 20/- plus 18/- 9d for a train fare from
Aberdeen to Dundee (his intended place of residence). The 74th also return from India at this time, being at Edinburgh at the same
time George is discharged.
|George Cantell – 4th, 51st & 74th Foot – 1843 to 1864