People and Places gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census People and Places

The Soldier

The Soldier  
Charles Ward of Leeds joined the 1st Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on 29 April 1897. During the South African War, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the field.

Ward was a typical late-Victorian private soldier. He joined the army as a professional soldier at the age of 20. He would have been paid about 1s 3d a day, plus a gratuity of £1 per year of service, but less deductions for food and other items that together might eat up 40% of a man's pay. Corporals would have been paid about 1s 8d to 2s 8d per day and sergeants between 2s and 5s. Such pay compared very badly with civilian employment: as Lord Wolseley, once Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, remarked, 'as long as we pay men as badly as we do, we must take anybody we can get'.

Private Charles Ward - link to an enlarged version

Ward won the Victoria Cross (VC) for saving a group of fellow soldiers from capture by a superior force of Boers who were attacking the town of Lindley on 26 June 1900. He volunteered to take a message requesting reinforcements to the signal station and was then shot and severely wounded attempting to return to his comrades. According to the citation for his award, 'but for this gallant action the post would certainly have been captured'. Ward returned to England and is said to have been the last soldier decorated with the VC by Queen Victoria herself. He subsequently transferred to the Army Reserve but was involved in recruiting for the army during the First World War. Ward died at Bridgend in Glamorgan in 1921.

In January 1901, the army was faced with a recruitment crisis; William Brodrick, Secretary of State for War, wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, warning that conscription was necessary if enough recruits were to be found. This was, perhaps, a forewarning of the introduction of conscription in 1916, when Britain's losses were so great that volunteer numbers were insufficient to replace them.

Follow this link for more on tracing private soldiers who left the army before 1914.

Follow this link for more on tracing First World War private soldiers.

Follow this link for more on tracing soldiers of the Imperial Yeomanry, which was raised for service in the South African War.

Follow this link for more on tracing gallantry medals.

There are no entries in the 1901 Census for the troops in South Africa on census night.

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