James Norman enlisted for service in the British Army on the 16th of March 1858 at his home town of Colchester in Essex.
Remarkably for an early Victorian infantryman he actually joined a Regiment that was titled to his own county, the 44th Regiment of
Foot, or East Essex Regiment. On joining at the Regimental Depot, Colchester, he was paid a bounty of £3, with 16 shillings being
paid to his recruiters. James was described as being 18 years old and 5ft 3 inches tall.
The Service Companies, after serving in the Crimea, had left for service in India in the Summer of 1857 and were at that time serving
in Madras. Private Norman is Regimentally numbered as 349 (the numbering having re-started in 1856) and spends the first six
months of his Army career at Colchester under the command of Captain Arthur William Staveley. During this time he had also been
shown on guard at the time of the May 1858 muster (normally the last day of the month).
On the 8th of September 1858 the 44th send a party of 36 men to join the Service Companies, James Norman among them. These
men were aboard the Transport ‘Walter Maurice’ when it landed in Madras in January of 1859. The musters show that James and the
remainder of the Privates of the draft arrive at the HQ, Fort St. George, Madras, on the 21st of January. Norman remains at Fort St.
George for six months and is then listed with the detachment at St. Thomas Mount in September 1859. He then boards the ship
‘Fury’ on the 4th of March 1860, and from here we rely on the Regimental history for our story
The war with China in 1860 was owing to the Emperor having refused to ratify the treaty which had been signed two years previously
by his ministers at Tien-Tsin. In this campaign, as in the Crimea, the French and British forces acted again together. The English
troops were commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir James Hope Grant, K.C.B., and the 44th was one of the regiments selected for
Five companies of the regiment embarked at Madras on the 31st of January for China, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel
MacMahon ; and the head-quarters, under Colonel Staveley, followed on the 3rd of March. The strength on embarkation consisted of
ten companies, of thirty-five officers, and one thousand one hundred and seventy-six men of all ranks. The women and children of
the regiment arrived at Madras, from England, after the first detachment had embarked, and were again left behind. After landing at
Kowloon, on the mainland opposite Hong Kong, the 44th proceeded on the 15th of May to the north of China. Colonel Staveley
having been appointed to command the first brigade of the first division in this 1860 expedition, the command of the regiment
devolved upon Lieut.-Colonel MacMahon. Captain Hon. R. Bailie Hamilton was appointed major of brigade, and Ensign Irvine orderly
officer to Brigadier Staveley. The regiment furnished detachments in charge of parties of the Coolie corps proceeding in seven
transports, and to which Lieutenant Howorth was attached. Several picked men of the regiment were also permanently employed with
it as orderlies. Lieutenant Acklom and Ensign O'Neill were appointed to the commissariat at Hong Kong, where also the weakly men
were left under command of Captain Raymond and Ensign Rennick, and attached to the provisional depot battalion there formed.
On the 16th of June the regiment arrived at Talienwhan Bay, near the entrance of the Gulf of Pecheli, where, eventually, the troops
were landed and employed in digging wells. The expedition re-embarked on the 24th of July, and sailed for the Peiho River, near the
mouth of which it anchored four days afterwards, but moved to the Pehtang River on the 30th. Here the regiment disembarked on
the 6th of August, and on the 12th the troops advanced to attack the Tartar posts at the Sin-Ho intrenchmcnts. This delay was
occasioned by the very heavy rains, which had made the country nearly impassable. The ground upon which they were about to
advance was at any time of a most difficult nature, and intersected with broad and deep canals used by the Chinese for the
manufacture of salt. The 44th formed a portion of the second division, under Major-General Sir Robert Napier, whose force
commenced to move out of their quarters at four o'clock in the morning of the 12th of August, in the following order:-
An advanced guard of two hundred men of the 3rd Buffs, with two Armstrong guns of Milward's battery, under the command of Lieut.
-Colonel Sargent, of the 3rd Foot; four Armstrong guns of the same battery, the 23rd Company Royal Engineers, 3rd Buffs, 8th
Punjaub Infantry, 44th Regiment, Potion's rocket battery, Royal Marines, Madras Sappers and Miners, right wing of the 67tb, reserve
ammunition, hospital stretchers, &c. Rear guard-left wing of the 67th Regiment; the cavalry brigade, comprising two squadrons of the
1st or King's Dragoon Guards, Probyn's Horse, three guns, Stirling's battery, and Fane's Horse.
Although two days' hard work had been devoted to the repairing of the roads, yet the deep tenacious mud rendered them so difficult,
that the rear of the column did not clear the gate of Pehtang until half-past seven o'clock. It cost the troops two hours of hard labour
to traverse the first two miles.
The plan of operations was for Sir John Michel's division to move straight along the causeway, and carry the intrenchments defending
it, while Sir Robert Napier made a detour with his division to the right, taking the enemy's position in flank.
Sir Robert Napier perceiving the enemy in great force both in the intrenchments and front of the village of Sin-Ho, after gaining his
flank, marched directly towards him, threatening also his line of retreat. On arriving within fifteen hundred yards, Milward's Armstrong
guns opened ; these were the first shots fired with that weapon in actual warfare, and their range and accuracy excited great
admiration. This fire surprised the Tartar horsemen, but did not shake them ; after some hesitation they poured out in a long line
through a passage across the marsh which separated them from the British, find forming with great regularity and quickness,
enveloped Sir Robert Napier's force in a great cordon of skirmishers. -An opportunity was afforded for the cavalry to charge, and
although the Chinese eventually gave way and fled with precipitation from the field, they evinced considerable personal courage under
a heavy fire of artillery.
No opportunity was afforded throughout the day of coming in contact with the Chinese infantry. A cloud of Tartar cavalry, skirmishing,
threatened the artillery of the brigade, but were driven off by four companies of the 44th wheeled up and firing volleys. Captain
Bower, with the rear-guard, in charge of ammunition, also received and repulsed a charge of Tartar cavalry. Only four men of the
regiment were wounded. The British casualties were limited to one man killed, and four officers and twenty-three men wounded. These
included those which were incurred in the attack of the intrenched fortified camp of Tangku on the 14th of August. This small loss
was partly attributable to the enemy being paralyzed by the fire of the artillery. On the latter occasion the regiment was in reserve.
After the capture of the fortified town of Tangku, the next place taken, Sir James Hope Grant commenced bringing up siege guns and
ammunition from Pehtang with a view to the reduction of the principal fort on the left bank and near the mouth of the Peiho, about
two miles distant from Tangku. On the 19th of August the regiment moved from Tangku to an encampment near the North Taku
Major-General Sir Robert Napier was placed in charge of the advance, his division being quartered at Tangkn. By the 20th of August
the road was made practicable to within eight hundred yards of the fort, batteries were traced, and the heavy guns were brought out
in readiness to be placed in position by daybreak of the following day, at which time every thing was in readiness for the attack. The
regiment left the encampment this day for a position near the fort selected for attack, and sent out strong working parties during the
night to prepare batteries for the artillery. So eager were the Chinese for the fight, that they opened fire upon the troops at five
o'clock on the morning of the 21st, from all their forts within range, causing the allied forces to commence an hour earlier than had
The storming party of Infantry consisted of a wing of the 44th, under Lieut.-Colonel Patrick William MacMahon, and a wing of the 67th,
under Lieut.-Colonel Thomas, supported by the other wings of these two regiments, and the Royal Marines, under Lieut.-Colonel
Gascoigne. A detachment of the latter, under Lient.-Colonel Travers, carried a pontoon bridge for crossing the wet ditches, and Major
Graham, of the Royal Engineers, conducted the assault, the whole being commanded by Brigadier-General Reeves.
About seven o'clock the enemy's magazine blew up with a terrific explosion, and a few minutes later the one in the outer North Fort
was also exploded by a shell from the gunboats.
The firing of the forts having almost ceased, a breach was commenced near the gate, and a portion of the storming party advanced to
within thirty yards to open a musketry fire-the French Infantry being on the right and the British on the left. This advance caused the
allies partially to slacken the fire of their artillery, when the enemy, emerging from their cover, opened a heavy musketry fire upon the
advancing troops. So vigorous was the resistance of the Chinese that the French, after having crossed the wet ditches in the most
gallant manner, were unable to escalade the walls. The efforts of the Sappers to lay down the pontoon bridge were unavailing, no less
than fifteen of the men carrying it being knocked over in one instant, and one of the pontoons destroyed. The difficulties were
therefore considerable, and the troops had to wade through deep mud and swim ditches, the banks of which were thickly planted with
Sir Robert Napier at this crisis had two howitzers of Captain Govan's battery brought up to within fifty yards of the gate, with the
view more speedily to create a breach. A space sufficient to admit one man was soon made, and the storming party forced their way in
by single file in the most gallant manner.
Lieutenant Robert Montresser Rogers, commanding the leading (letter E) company, Private John M'Dougall, of the 44th, and
Lieutenant Edmund Henry Lenon, of the 67th Regiment, after swimming the ditches, entered the North Taku Fort by one of the
apertures during the assault, and were the first of the British established on its walls. They passed through in the same order as their
names are recorded, each assisting the other to mount the embrasure, which was climbed by sticking bayonets into the wall. This
gained for them the much prized Victoria Cross, which was also conferred upon Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem, Ensign John Worthy
Chaplin, and Private Thomas Lane, of the 67th Regiment, for similar gallantry. At the same time the French had effected their entrance
by escalade, and the garrison, driven back step by step, were hurled pell-mell through the embrasures on the opposite side, where
the same obstacles which had formed an impediment to the advance of the allies proved an obstruction to the retreat of the Chinese.
In addition to two wet ditches and two belts of pointed bamboo stakes, there was, besides swampy ground, a third ditch and bank.
A destructive fire was opened upon the enemy by the storming parties from the Cavalier, enhanced by the canister fire of Captain
Govan's guns, which had been moved to the left of the force to bear on them, causing the ground outside of it to be covered with the
dead and wounded of the garrison. About an hour afterwards the whole of the forts on both sides of the river hoisted flags of trace.
When summoned to surrender, however, an evasive and insolent, reply was given, the allies being defied to advance to the attack.
After evincing considerable obstinacy, the Tartars were compelled to succumb, and the allied Infantry, pushing on towards the outer
North Fort, scaled the walls without further opposition, and made prisoners the garrison of two thousand men. Towards evening the
Chinese were seen evacuating the South Forts. Detachments of British and French were therefore passed over in ships' boats to
This success was not gained without severe loss. The 44th had Captain George Ingham and Lieutenant Robert Montressor Rogers
severely wounded, fourteen men killed, one drummer and forty-five men wounded.
The words "TAKU FORT'' were authorised by Her Majesty to he borne on the colour of the regiment, to commemorate its gallantry at
Shanghai being threatened by the Taeping rebels, the 44th regiment was despatched at a few hours' notice, on the 25th August, for
its protection, landed there on the 10th of September and was quartered in Joss-houses and Yamuns, in the Chinese city. The war
terminated on the 13th of October by the allies jointly occupying one of the gates at Pekin, the ratification of the former treaty, and
the payment of a large sum of money by the Chinese Government.
The 44th continued at Shanghai, where the regiment suffered much from fever and ague, consequent on the wretched
accommodation and unhealthiness of climate, until the 15th of November, when it was removed to Hong Kong, landing there on the
27th November, from this date the command of it devolved upon Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Browne, Lieut.-Colonel MacMahon
having been appointed commandant at that island. Both these officers, for their services in China, were made Companions of the
Order of the Bath. Captain Gregory and the Honourable R. Baillie Hamilton were promoted to the rank of Brevet-Major, and Lieutenant
Rogers to an unattached company, the latter in addition to the award of the Victoria Cross.
Upon Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Browne returning to England, in February, 1861, the command of the regiment was assumed by Major
John Hackett, Brigadier Staveley, who received the distinguished service pension having continued in command of the force at Tien-
Tsin, with the rank of Brigadier-General. Whilst stationed at Hong Kong the regiment was divided into wings, one being quartered
there and the other in hats and tents at Kowloon, on the main land opposite.
The summer of 1861 at Hong Kong was an unusually healthy season, and the regiment had but little sickness for a quarter so
In September the 44th received the order for its return to India, and, on leaving China, the following order and letter were published
to the regiment:
Head-quarters Hong Kong, 13th October, 1861.
Division Orders. No. I.
H.M.'s 44th Regiment being about to leave this command, Brigadier-General Crawford, C.B., commanding South China, begs to
convey to Colonel MacMahon, C.B., the commandant, and to Major Hackett, commanding the regiment, his unqualified approbation of
the state of the regiment.
The Brigadier-General has been unable to make the half-yearly inspection, in consequence of the continued bent of summer and his
own protracted illness, but, from his constant and close observation, he is perfectly satisfied that the regiment leaves this command in
the highest state of discipline and efficiency.
The interior arrangement of the 44th Regiment appears to be admirable, ensuring correctness and precision in all that is required from
To officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of H.M.'s 44th Regiment, the Brigadier-General tenders his best thanks for the
admirable conduct of the regiment whilst under his command, and best wishes for their prosperity.
(Signed) C. F. GRANT. Capt.. D.A.A.G.
Head-quarters, Hong Kong,
Oct. 13, 1861. No. 503.
The Brigadier-General Commanding in South China has forwarded to Sir J. Michel his Order No. 1 of this date.
In every word of that Order the Major-General desires me to say he heartily concurs, and directs that you will notify to the regiment
his approbation of their great merit as a corps.
He will not fail to bring very prominently to the notice of the Commander-in-Chief in Bombay, find also of His Royal Highness the Duke
of Cambridge, the Order issued by Brigadier-General Crawford, and his own thorough concurrence in its spirit.
The Major-General much regrets that he was not enabled to see the regiment before their embarkation, and express to them in
person his sense of the loss he sustains by their departure.
I have, &c., (Signed) L. MANSERGH, Capt., D.A A.G.
On the 11th, 12th, and 14th of October the 44th, being relieved by the 99th, from Canton, embarked for Bombay in three
detachments, and on arrival at Vingoria, on the Malabar coast, during the month of December, proceeded to Belgaum, to relieve the
83rd, under orders for England.
The head-quarters, under Lieut.-Colonel MacMahon, arrived at Belgaum on the 4th of January1862, the other two portions of the
regiment having reached that station on the 18th and 25th of the previous month. The women and children arrived here from Madras
at the same time, most of them having been separated from their husbands and fathers for upwards of four years.
For this campaign the men on the 44th were presented with China War medals with clasps for ‘Taku Forts’, 752 such medals were
presented on the 8th of January 1863 by Brigadier Adams, commander of the Belgaum district. During this period the musters of the
44th show that James sent a remittance to Mrs. Susannah Norman of £1 10 pence in the July-September 1860 period. The musters
also show that after an unblemished service of 3 years, Private Norman gains a penny a day pay rise on the 18th of March 1861. The
time in Belgaum passes mostly without incidence in both the musters and the history of the regiment with the 44th spending in all
nearly 3 years at Belgaum. Towards the end of the year the regiment is warned for orders to return to England, 287 men volunteering
for other regiments at that time.
3 companies of the 44th board the transport ‘Tweed’ at Bombay on the 20th of November 1865, the remainder (including Private
Norman) over a month later on the 23rd of December 1865 on the Hired Transport ‘Dilawar’. On the passage back to England a fire
broke out on the ‘Dilawar’ on the 15th of March 1866 in the spirit room, the fire was extinguished with the greatest difficulty due to
high winds and a rolling ship. The conduct of the regiment on this occasion was described as ‘most admirable’. The ‘Dilawar’ landed at
Portsmouth on the 28th of March 1866 and the men proceeded to Dover where they were joined by the men from the ‘Tweed’ and
the depot company from Colchester. The establishment at that time was 4 field officers, 10 Captains, 12 Lieutenants, 8 Ensigns, 48
Sergeants (including a single Sergeant Major), 40 Corporals, 21 Drummers and 560 Privates in 10 Companies. During the passage
back from England Private Norman reaches his six year point, and with his record still being unbleamished he now rises to two pence a
day extra, with the corresponding badges worn on his uniform. Norman is on a well deserved furlough from the 16th of April to the
15th of May 1866, and again from the 1st to the 30th of December 1866. The regiment left Dover after a year on the 8th of March
Having entrained at Dover the 44th proceed to Aldershot where they become part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade and are housed in the
West Block Permanent Barracks. Here at Aldershot, James takes a third furlough from the 1st to the 29th of November 1867. The
stay in Aldershot was not to be prolonged, 10 months later on the 22nd of January 1868 they are moved to Portsmouth where they
board the ‘Simoom’ which takes them to Kingstown and another spell in Ireland. Once in Ireland the main HQ and 4 companies
proceed to Kilkenny (including James), 4 companies to Templemore and the other 2 companies at Birr.
The men destined for Kilkenny arrive at that location on the 28th of January 1868. Having originally signed for a 10 year limited period
the extent of James’ service is reached on the 16th of March 1868. Private Norman decides not to continue with his service and is
discharged at Kilkenny on that date as time expired. The musters show that he was paid 5 shillings on his discharge with a train fare
of 16s and a train warrant from London to Bristol. James stated his place of residence as being Colchester. Sadly, as he was not
discharged to pension, no service papers remain for this man.
Historical Record of the Forty-Fourth or the East Essex Regiment, Thomas Carter, 1887
Musters: WO 12/ 5690-92, 5694-97, 5699-5701, 44th Regiment, 1858-1868
|James Norman, 44th Regiment of Foot, 1858-1860