Hill Howitt was born in the Glasgow suburb of Barony, Lanarkshire, on around the 21st of June 1830. As a youth of 17 years and 6
months he enlisted for the British Army in Glasgow on the 21st of December 1847 and took the Queen’s shilling of the 71st Regiment
of Foot (Highland Light Infantry). On his enlistment he gave his trade as that of labourer and the musters show him as being 5ft, 8
and seven-eighths inches tall. He was paid a bounty of four pounds for enlisting with a further bounty of 16 shillings going to the
Since the 1st Battlaion of the Regiment is in Glasgow at that time there is no journey involved for Hill to join his HQ, as such he
allocated the regimental number 2765 straight away. The 71st remain at Glasgow for only a couple of days, travelling to Edinburgh on
the 23rd to the 25th of December, one has to wonder if Hill Howitt wasn’t aware of this and wanted to leave Glasgow in a hurry!
Private Howitt is in the hospital at the barracks in Edinburgh for 9 days over the period at the end of January 1848 at which point the
musters show him as being part of the regimental band, a normal occupation for an underage Private.
The 71st Regiment leave Edinburgh at the end of May 1848 (257 men on the 27th of May and 371 men on the 1st of June), travelling
on the ship ‘Viceroy’ to Ireland and disembarking at Dublin, it would seem the same ship was used in two relays. From Dublin the
regiment moved to the garrison town at Naas on the 20th of June with detachments being furnished at Newbridge and Maryboro. The
following day the army show Hill’s 18th birthday and as such the start of his calculated service time as a man. Plainly Private Howitt is
not well toward the end of 1848 as the monthly musters show him in hospital from October to December at Naas. On the 4th of April
1849 Hill joins a detachment under Lieutenant A.C. Parker that leaves Naas and travels to Maryboro, he remains on detachment there
until the 5th of July 1849 when the men march back to Naas.
Howitt is again sent out on detachment under Ensign Robert Harkness from the 22nd of October 1849, this time to Newbridge, it
would be some years before he would see the 1st Battalion of the 71st Regiment again. At this time a lot of Regiments had two
battalions, numbered the 1st and 2nd or alternatively the 1st and Reserve battalion, the latter was the case with the 71st. The
Reserve battalion had been in Canada for some years at this point, and it was to this battalion that Private Howitt and 110 other men
under Lieutenant W. Prince were sent on the 27th of March 1850. There is no mention of the passage of these men, what is known
however is that the draft join the HQ of the Reserve Battalion, 71st Foot on the 30th of May 1850 at St. Johns, the battalion moving
on to Toronto in the following month. On the 25th of September 1850 Private Howitt reports sick and spends the next few months
(until the 12th of December) unpaid in the Regimental hospital at Toronto. These periods of sickness are shown in the paylists
because of the fact that the man was present, but not paid.
The next few years of musters show little detail, Hill is shown on a pass (or leave furlough, unpaid of course) for 4 days in the period
of October to December 1851 and that by the 1st of June 1852 the battalion has moved to Kingston. Howitt is absent from the
October 1852 muster as he is on guard and the next occurrence is his appointment from Private to Bugler on the 1st of May 1853
vice No. 1703 Robert Tate who was discharged. The battalion moves from Kingston to Quebec by the 25th of May 1853 and the next
month, after 6 years of good conduct, Hill qualifies for his first penny (per day) of good conduct pay and a chevron worn on the lower
sleeve of his uniform.
Hill is in hospital over the April 1854 muster (a stay of 8 days in total) and is on guard the next month. The quiet period in Canada
was however to come to a halt in that year because of events happening half a world away in Southern Russia, in the Crimea. The
British Army had been dragged into a war between the Turks and Russians which ended with the invasion of the Crimea in September
1854, the 71st Regiment had been chosen to join the force in the Crimea, but first needed to merge the two battalions. The Reserve
battalion left Canada on the 24th of September 1854 and the ships docked at Liverpool on the 12th of October. The men who were to
be left in England (including Howitt) travelled to London on the 13th (162 men) and 14th (190 men) of October. The remainder of the
Reserve Battalion with the majority of the 1st Battalion (at that time in Corfu) merged together and landed in the Crimea in November
Those who were left in England to form the Depot travelled from London to Canterbury on the 17th of November and eventually set
up the Depot at Winchester on the 9th of December. Whilst the men of the 71st in the Crimea were freezing and dying by droves in
the trenches at Sebastopol, those at Winchester were working flat out to recruit men to replace those who had perished. With a lack
of experienced soldiers at the Depot, Hill is promoted on the 25th of January 1855 to Corporal. Recruiting continues at Winchester
until June of 1855 when the large Depot of new men is sent to Chatham, from there they board ships to Edinburgh from the 16th to
the 18th of June. The Depot is then established at Perth, arriving there on the 21st of June 1855 where it was to remain for some
Having arrived at his native land, Corporal Howitt is not to be there long, the day after his promotion to Sergeant on the 29th of June
he boards a ship for transit to Malta. The Depot are under orders to send reinforcements to the Crimea and Sergeant Howitt is one of
the three Sergeants with the draft under command of Captain G. Rich. The men are on board ‘HMS Warspirit’ to Malta where they
take on more men from the Light Infantry Provisional Battalion at Valetta. From Valetta the men (4 Sergeants, 4 Corporals & 127
men) then transit on board the Steam Ship ‘Etna’ on the 2nd of August and land at Balaklava on the morning of the 10th of August
1855. The men of this draft had little time to deal with hostilities as almost a month later on the 9th of September the City of
Sebastopol falls and the war is virtually at an end. Before this date however, Sergeant Howitt commits an indiscretion which leads to
his arrest on the 27th of August and trial by Regimental Court Martial, he is sentenced to be reduced to the rank of Private from the
1st of September 1855 with loss of all good conduct pay.
The 71st were among those regiments chosen to garrison the Crimea over the winter of 1855/56, the facilities were however
improved greatly from the previous winter and so the death toll due to the cold and disease was minimal. In the 3 months, at the end
of 1855, the men are encouraged to send surplus wages to next of kin, Hill sending a sum of 3 pounds and 10 shillings to a certain
James Howitt. The regiment are barracked at Kertch, having spent the last part of the war in operations on the shores of the Sea of
With the treaty between the Russians and the Allies having been signed, the men leave the Crimea in June and July 1856, the 71st
taking transport to Malta where they go into barracks. A year after being reduced in the ranks, and having kept ‘his nose clean’, Hill is
granted a penny a day good conduct pay on the 1st of September 1856, at that time he is shown in the remarks column of the
musters as being part of the regimental band. The 71st are issued with medals for the Crimea, a bar for Sebastopol being issued to
those present during the siege of the City. Whilst at Malta in 1857, word would have reached the Highlanders of the mutiny of the
sepoy army in Bengal and the murder of the Europeans at Meerut in May of 1857. With the situation getting out of control the army
call up reinforcements from all over the globe, it was the turn of the 71st in January of 1858. Prior to this, Private Howitt was again
showing signs of ill health with hospital stays from the 10th of September 1857 until the 12th of November 1857.
The Highland Light Infantry board the HEIC ships ‘Punjaub’ and ‘Feroze’ on the 5th of January 1858, Howitt being on the former ship
under command of Lt. Colonel Campbell which arrived at Bombay on the 5th of February. The ‘Feroze’ detachment under Major
William Hope arrived at Bombay 2 days later. From Bombay the 71st are sent up country rapidly as part of a weak 2 brigaded force
under Sir Hugh Rose to try and put down a large band of mutineers under the Rani of Jhansi and Tantia Topi. The Central India Force
left from Bombay and made exhausting marches in 120 degree heat to try and track the mutineers down, it left plenty of casualties
from sunstroke in it’s wake. The force under Rose joined with that of Sir Colin Campbell and they together marched throughout
Central India, the 71st being at Calpee at the end of May of 1858 and Gwailor at the end of June with detachments at Mhow. The
Highlanders fight their only major action at Fort Morar on the 16th of June where they lose 1 officer (Lieutenant Neave) and 4 men
killed. The regimental history gives this account:-
Not infrequently, when it was known that a rebel force was concentrated ahead, the pace of the advance would be regulated by the
cavalry, so that the infantry would have to double. This happened in an engagement at Ranod, on the Scind River, when two
companies of the 71st, accompanied by two squadrons of cavalry and a troop of the Gwalior Camel Corps, marched against a large
body of rebels led by Feroz Shah. In spite of doubling, the unfortunate 71st began to lose ground, whereupon forty of them were
mounted behind the camel drivers and so landed in the middle of a vast number of drugged fanatics. Several of them were cut to
pieces and others lost arms and legs, but nearly 500 rebels lay dead on the field before the day ended—a far greater number than
that of the entire British force engaged.
The first Victoria Cross awarded to the Highland Light Infantry was won in an action at Morar on June 16, 1858, by Private George
Rodgers, who attacked and worsted seven rebels single-handed, killing six and taking one prisoner. His recommendation came from
General Nicholson, who witnessed the incident. Like many other regiments at the time, the 71st disliked the idea of making special
awards for gallantry in action, and declined to put any names forward. It was apparently felt—by all ranks— that to single out an
individual as having been particularly brave was to hold the honour cheap of all his comrades. In this instance. General Nicholson had
also wished to recommend Sergeant Ewing, who ran to the help of one of his officers who was surrounded by the enemy, and saved
his life by a skilful use of the bayonet. His selfless courage certainly equalled that of Private Rodgers, but it seems that the rank and
file protested that Ewing 'had done nothing more than his plain duty', whereas they grudgingly admitted that Rodgers' conduct was,
possibly, a little out of the ordinary. A sharp engagement preceded the capture of the rebel-held town of Kalpi on the Jumna, which
was approached by night and attacked at dawn, with the 71st in the lead. 'The enemy appeared in front in force,' wrote Private Watt,
'and a halt was ordered, but so keen was our men to meet them that they could not be halted till the Bugle sounded three times.' The
halt was to enable General Sir Hugh Rose to bring up the cavalry and guns. As soon as he had done so, 'the advance sounded again',
and the rebels were driven back into the town. This was then attacked after a reconnaissance, and soon cleared of enemy, who were
pursued as they fled by both cavalry and guns. By this time, 'we were all pretty nigh used up, so some lay down to sleep,
consequently when they awoke they were not able to stand on their feet ... at last a piper started up a reel, and all who could lift a leg
went at it... this had the effect of completely arousing the sleepers, yet some had to be taken to hospital, but mostly all recovered in
a few days'.
The capture of the walled city of Gwalior was a more serious affair. The 71st had been carrying out forced marches for several days,
mostly by night in order to escape some of the terrific heat. 'June 16 . . . arrived at our camping ground at about 7 a.m., but just as
we were going to pitch camp, an order came to form up into Brigades. We were all pretty tired, but when it became known that
Gwalior was to be attacked, all fatigue was forgotten and everyone was in high spirits and eager for the fight.' The garrison of Gwalior,
mostly consisting of the Maharajah's mutinous State Forces, came out to meet the British force, and were charged by cavalry, while
the 71st were sent off in skirmishing order at the double to turn their right flank. They were soon heavily engaged. 'Now commenced
a regular hand to hand encounter, the enemy fought for death or life, as we came close to them they threw down their firelocks and
drew their tulwars. Lieutenant Neave was shot dead leading his men, by this time they were surrounded, and every man of them was
shot dead or bayoneted. Now we had time to look around us, in the bottom of the nullah lay two of our men;, one of them had been
drawn down when making a thrust with his bayonet, the other man dashed in to save his comrade, but both were cut to pieces. The
bayonet was but of little use to these desperate men, for when it was drove into them they seized it and cut at you with their tulwars,
until shot down by someone. Some severe wounds were received this way.'
It must be remembered, that this action was fought out around mid-day at the hottest part of the year in India, and that the troops
had been marching since midnight the day before. Nor was it the end, for Gwalior was not taken until June 20th, after continuous and
desperate fighting of which the above description by Private Watt is a sample.
After the capture of Gwalior, the Maharajah Scindia, who had been loyal to the British throughout the Mutiny, re-entered his capital
city in state. He also inspected the 71st and 'rode up and down the ranks. He was greatly taken up with the pipes, they played a
number of tunes, both quick and slow time. He seemed never to have seen or heard anything of the kind before'. To show his
appreciation he invited the regiment to send a party of all-ranks, to include the pipers, to a festival held in honour of his return to
Gwalior. Private Watt was there and when, at the Maharajah's request, the pipers struck up, he 'thought that his people did not like
it, for some turned up their eyes in an unmistakable manner'. The Indian music however, was even less appreciated by the British
soldiers: 'a number of women sat in a sort of a pitt singing a song, but heavens what a song, it reminded me of a sow's litter.
Nevertheless all went home in high spirits at the Rajah's treat.'
After this, the 71st went off 'Tanti hunting', as they described the pursuit of the rebel leader Tantia Topi, which involved rushing all
over Central India, mostly on their feet, but sometimes on camels. After their quarry had been caught and hanged, and the Mutiny
finally surpressed, the regiment returned to Gwalior.
Private Howitt is detached with the Left wing of the 71st in July of 1858 under Lt. Col. Hope, is in hospital at Gwailor where the HQ is
situated by the end of August 1858 and on the 1st of September qualifies for his second penny of good conduct pay. The regiment
remains at Gwailor for the next few years, however Private Howitt is not to stay in India for much longer. In August 1859 he leaves
Gwailor and is travelling to Calcutta in September, embarking at Calcutta for England with a small draft of men on the 22nd of October
1859. The group of 76 men under control of No. 2856 Corporal John Blane are in transit for nearly 5 months, arriving at Chatham on
the 3rd of March 1860.
From Chatham the 76 men travel north from the 7th to the 10th of March, joining the residue of the Depot of the 71st Highlanders at
Perth, the remainder of the Depot had marched to Stirling on the 6th of March.
No. 2765 Private Hill Howitt remains at Perth whilst preparation for his discharge is completed, his eventual discharge occurring at
Perth on the 1st of May 1860 aged 29 and 11 months with a reckonable service of 11 years 314 days.
Just over a year later, for reasons known only to Hill Howitt, he rejoins the British Army at Glasgow. On the 22nd of July 1861 he
takes a pound in bounty from the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Regiment of Foot (Buckinghamshire) with 2 shillings and 6 pence going to
the recruiters. The reason why Hill joined the 14th Regiment are not clear, the Battalion were on route to New Zealand with only a
small Depot at Fermoy, plainly he met a recruiting Sergeant who talked him into it!
Having joined up on the 22nd of July it is not until the 3rd of August that Hill Howitt (now Number 1935 of the 2nd Bn. 14th Foot)
joins the Depot at Fermoy in Ireland under Captain H.M. Lloyd. Once at Fermoy he has a quiet few months until he volunteers for
transfer (along with 61 other men) to the 1st Battalion of the 14th Regiment, this happens on the 1st of February 1862. Having
volunteered to change units, Hill (now number 481 of the 1st/14th ) does not have far to travel, the Depot of the 1st Battalion is co-
located with the 2nd Battalion at Fermoy!
Private Howitt is at the Depot at Fermoy (the 1st Battalion Service Companies are at that time in Jamacia) under command of Captain
Edward D.H. Fairtlough for the next few months until he goes on detachment at Spike Island from May to July 1862. The War Office
having agreed to take his previous service into account, Hill is granted a 3rd good conduct badge and penny a day increase from the
11th of September 1862. Although no doubt content to be back in service it is not surprising that when offered the chance to again
transfer, but this time to a Scottish Regiment to serve in his homeland, Howitt takes the offer with both hands.
On the 1st of May 1863 he is promoted to Corporal in the 14th Regiment and with 11 other men he leaves Fermoy in May and travels
to Gosport to join the 92nd Highlanders (Gordon Highlanders). Having been a Private when he transferred he reverts to that rank in
the 92nd but takes the next available vacancy on the discharge of No. 434 Corporal McLennan on the 1st of July 1863, he then
becomes No. 1033 Corporal Howitt of the Gordons. The 92nd were to stay at Gosport for only a short time (they had just returned
from India) before boarding transport to Scotland, they embarked on the 10th of July and disembarked at Edinburgh 3 days later
where they go into barracks. From Edinburgh the 92nd send out detachments to such places as Ayr and Greenlaw, Hill being at the
latter from November 1863 to early February 1864.
Corporal Howitt is sent from Edinburgh to Fleetwood (no doubt to the School of Musketry there) on the 12th of April 1864 and
returns two months later on the 16th of June. He is not to be long at Edinburgh as the 92nd move from the Castle to Glasgow only
ten days later on the 24th of June. The stay at Glasgow is also not to be prolonged, Hill joins a detachment at Ayr from the 12th of
July and remains there until February 1865 when he is again sent to Fleetwood.
Whilst at Fleetwood there are two major changes in the life of Howitt, he is promoted to Sergeant on the 9th of March 1865 vice No.
318 Edmund St. Clair (promoted to Colour Sergeant) and his regiment moves from Glasgow to Aldershot from the 6th to the 9th of
March. Sergeant Howitt (along with the 8 other SNCO’s and two officers who had been at Fleetwood) return to the 92nd at Aldershot
on the 13th of April 1865. After 4 months at Aldershot he is then sent recruiting (normally a party would consist of 1 Sergeant and a
handful of Privates), to begin with he is sent to Edinburgh from the 1st of August 1865 and remains there for the next 16 months,
then moving on to recruiting at Kilmarnock. Recruiting at Kilmarnock continues until the 12th of November of 1867 (an absence of
over 2 years) until he rejoins his parent unit.
Having been at Aldershot when Hill left them, the 92nd moved to Portsmouth on the 1st of March 1866 and from there embarked on
ships to Ireland, disembarking at Kingston on the 5th. From Kingston the Highlanders moved into barracks at the Curragh and Dublin
and it was the former camp that Hill rejoined the 92nd in 1867. Having returned from India only 4 years previous the 92nd must have
been distraught to find that they had been ordered back to the East Indies. The regiment board ships at Queenstown on the 26th of
January 1868, however they were fortunate that the Suez passage had been opened up and as such the journey time to India had
been cut from 4 months to just 4 weeks. Here we turn to the Regimental history:-
On the 25th January 1868, headquarters entrained at 11 p.m., and being joined at Cork by the detachments, the service companies,
under Lieut. Colonel C. M. Hamilton, embarked on the 26th on H.M. troopship Crocodile, in which they were much more comfortable
than on the voyage home from India; after touching at Malta, they landed at Alexandria on the 9th February, proceeded by rail to
Suez, and embarked on H.M.S. Malabar. In the Red Sea they passed the 42nd, homeward bound. At Bombay, where they arrived on
the 26th, they were transhipped in t\vo divisions, and, after a hot and uncomfortable voyage, the headquarters reached Karachi on
the 8th March, thence went by rail to Kotree, whence they embarked on flat boats, which were towed by steamers up the river Indus.
A pleasant trip; the officers got shots at tlie alligators basking on tlie banks; there was plenty of mutton, fish, and fruit for all.
Sometimes they had time to land and stretch their legs by a country walk, and on the 27th they readied Multan, whence by train,
spending tlie night in rest camps, being well cared for on the journey to Amritsar; from there they marched, getting a view of tlie
Himalayas by the way, to Jullundur, where they arrived 30th March. A number of men who had volunteered from the 42nd came out
to meet their new regiment, and three of them who were pipers played them in. " These volunteers were splendid men.'' The other
part of the regiment from Meean Mir joined on the 7th April. Detachments were sent to Fort Phillour, Fort Gavindghur, and Amritsar.
Private Gladow's journal says the men were very happy in their new quarters, the rooms were comfortable and airy, with broad
verandahs, the regiment had a good library and a reading-room, where all sorts of papers and periodicals were taken, a game room
with billiard and bagatelle tables; also a regimental theatre. They kept the New Year (1869) as usual, the officers visiting the rooms,
“the old songs of Scotland sounding sweeter when far from home, and everything done to make men happy." Duty and drill were not
neglected, and General Beatson, after inspecting on the 2nd February, said, " He had for long heard of the high character of the
regiment, and that now on making its acquaintance, it quite came up to his expectations."
The severe penalties in civil life had been much modified since the early years of the century, but it was only in the reign of George IV.
that Sir James McIntosh brought into the House of Commons a measure for abolishing the punishment of death in cases of the
stealing of property to the value of five shillings. In the army corporal punishment had, in 1847, been reduced to a maximum of fifty
lashes, and confined to a few disgraceful offences, and was done away with in 1868, except on active service. It was entirely
abolished in 1881 —a form of punishment no longer suited to the times, but it was not generally disapproved by the old soldiers, for
the offender's duty did not fall on his comrades as it did when he was imprisoned. When punished a man was not called in question
for anything he chose to say. " Odd, sir, ye micht hae peety—on a puir drucken cratur like ye'rsell!'" was, on one occasion, the
remark of a culprit to the senior officer on parade, who had the reputation of being a two bottle man.
At Jullundur they were visited by Shore Alt Khan, Amir of Afghanistan, who was on his way to meet the Viceroy in Durbar. He saw the
regiment reviewed, and forty men fired 200 rounds volley firing, with only seven misses. The Amir was in the butts and was
astonished, and afterwards spoke to
the men, saying, "Very good, brave boys, very good; well done." He was also delighted by an exhibition of Highland dancing.
Sickness set in at this time, and several N.C. officers and men died. On the 18th April a detachment of young and sickly men, 182 of
all ranks, under Captain Forbes Mackay, marched to Dalhousie in the Chumba Hills, for change of air. It is many days' march, but they
enjoyed the walk in the early mornings, and the " good breakfast and dram of rum " on arrival in camp. They remained five months,
and were employed in the healthy occupation of road-making, for which they got working pay.
February 1st, 1870.—The regiment, under Lieut.-Colonel Forbes Macbean, went by special train to Meean Mir, and was encamped
along with other troops for the reception of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. The 92nd furnished the guard of honour at Government
House, Lahore, and also formed the guard of honour at the durbar next day when the native princes were received. H.R.H. dined with
the officers, when 200 men, having provided themselves with ropes, took the horses out of the carriage and drew it up the approach
to the mess-tent, which was lined with piles of arms and illuminated with coloured lamps, the pipers playing “Oh, but ye've been lang
o' coming; welcome, royal Charlie !
The 92nd returned to Jullunder in February 1870, and it was here that Sergeant Hill Howitt is granted the Long Service and Good
Conduct medal on the 28th of September 1870 with a gratuity of £10 a year. It is doubtful is he had seen this medal when the
following month he appears before a Regimental Board on the 29th of October, the board under the Presidency of Major George H.
Parker had been set up to look into his discharge to pension after a period of 21 years service. The board accepts his discharge on
grounds of length of service and the journey to Bombay begins soon after, Hill embarking on board a ship on the 16th of November
Having been on ship for a month, the final discharge of Sergeant Howitt of the 92nd occurs at the discharge Depot, Chichester, on
the 13th of January 1871. At his discharge he is listed as being 40 years and 6 months old, 5 ft 8 and a quarter inches tall, fresh
complexion, black hair and a cotton twister by trade. He gives his intended place of residence as being Glasgow.
At a later date he serves on the Volunteer Staff, the documents from the Chelsea Hospital clearly show an increase in pension due to
Chelsea Pension Papers: WO 97/ 1997
71st Foot, 1847-1860, WO 12/ 7886 to 7901
2/14th Foot, 1861-1862, WO 12/ 3207
1/14th Foot, 1862-1863, WO 12/ 3179 to 3183
92nd Foot, 1863-1871, WO 12/ 9373 to 9380
History of the Gordon Highlanders, 1816-1892, Lt. Col. C. Greenhill Gardyne
Famous Regiment Series: The Highand Light Infantry
|Hill Howitt, 71st, 14th & 92nd Regiments of Foot, 1847-1871