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LIVES OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE
The E.J. Boys Archive

Last amended 8.6.11. Minor edits 18.2.14, 5.4.14.

1210, Regimental Sergeant Major Francis Levison MICHAEL — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born in Swansea on the 15th of November 1822.

Enlistment

Enlisted at London on the 11th of November 1843.

Age: 20 years 11 months.

Height: 5' 7".

Trade: None shown.

Service

From Private to Corporal, 23rd of February 1847.

Corporal to Sergeant, 15th of February 1853.

Acting QM and Adjutant from the 3rd of September 1854.

Promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major on the 22nd of September 1854, vice Gardner.

At Scutari from the 24th of September 1854 and sent to rejoin the regiment on the 10th of November, then in Eupatoria.

He was promoted to Cornet after 10 years 357 days in the ranks (without purchase) on the 5th of November 1854.

To England from Scutari on the 7th of December 1855 and being "On leave" from the 1st of January 1856.

Rejoined the regiment at Cahir from Maidstone on the 12th of June 1856.

The muster rolls show him as "Retired, by the sale of his commission", on the 11th of July 1856, but make no reference to his continuing as the Riding Master of the 13th Light Dragoons on the same day. (See notes below concerning this)

Exchanged into the 6th Dragoon Guards on the 22nd of May 1866.

Riding Master in the 11th Hussars from the 29th of December 1867.

(The Regimental History of the 11th also shows him as having "Retired by the sale of his commission" on the 11th of July 1856, but also of becoming Riding Master of the 13th Light Dragoons on the same day. It also shows him as being awarded the Crimean medal with three clasps, (but does not specify what these were, that of the 13th Hussars, whilst repeating his enlistment and promotion dates, refers only to his being entitled to two clasps, those for the Alma and the Siege of Sebastopol.)

Honorary Captain. 1st of July 1881.

To Retired Pay (as Honorary Major) on the 1st of April 1882.

Medals

Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma and Sebastopol and the Turkish medal.

Commemorations

Life after service

1881 Census

The 1881 Census shows him as living in Hounslow Barracks, Heston, a Riding Master in the 11th Hussars, aged 58, born at Swansea, Wales, with his wife. Maria, 49, born at Hounslow, and one son, 6, a Scholar. A General Domestic Servant is also shown.

Death & burial

He is shown in the Army List" as having died at Hounslow, Middlesex, on the 9th of December 1895.

The GRO records show him as dying in the Brentford District during the October-December Quarter of 1895, aged 72 years.

A check of the Middlesex Chronicle for the month of December 1895 shows no trace of a funeral report and a search of the records of the two cemeteries at Hounslow shows no evidence of his being interred in either. According to the local Directory he lived at 5, Jersey Villas, Bath Road, Hounslow, and this is where his family lived up to 1914.

The following appeared inThe Times of the 11th of December 1895:

"Major Francis Michael died on the 9th inst. at Hounslow in his 74th (sic) year. He became a Riding Master in the 11th Hussars in 1866 and was promoted to the honorary rank of Captain in 1881 and to the honorary rank of Major in the following year, when he retired. He served in the Eastern campaign of 1854-55, including the affair of the Bulganak, the battles of the Alma and the Tchernya and the Siege and fall of Sebastopol, and was present with the Light Brigade in Eupatoria. (Medal with three clasps [sic] and the Turkish medal.) He was buried on the 14th of December 1895 in the St. Leonard's parish church-yard at Heston, aged 74 years, [sic]. His death was confirmed by William Hoskins, M.D. and the service was conducted by the Revd. B. Oswald Sharp.

[PB, Feb, 2014: it's unclear where the Times quote ends and EJB begins. Check.]

A thorough search of St. Leonard's Churchyard at Heston shows no trace of a headstone for him. (There are photographs of the church and churchyard in the 13th Hussar file.)

Further information

Michael married, at St. Luke's Church, Chelsea, Miss M. A. Cooper, on the 24th of December 1853.

Two sons were known to have been born into the family, Henry, born on the 7th of September 1856 and baptised at Cahir, Ireland, and Sydney, born on the 28th of August 1858 at Island Bridge Barracks, Dublin.

What actually occurred is explained by the following letters.

Letter from Colonel Doherty written to the Military Secretary:

" ------ Villa,

Southampton,

22nd January 1857.

Sir — Having been since last July without a Riding Master I have the honour to recommend the senior Cornet of my regiment — Cornet Michael — He was my Regimental Sergeant Major and is a young active man, in every way calculated for the situation, being a very good Drill. It would be a very good thing for the poor (sic) man, and I am of the opinion that it would be of greatest benefit to the Regiment.

I have the honour, etc, etc.,

Chas. Doherty."

The reply to this, dated the 29th of January 1857, was:

"Please request the Adjutant General to inform Cornet Michael that he is to proceed to Maidstone to undergo the usual Course of Equitation."

Letter to Colonel Doherty from the Commandant of the Maidstone Cavalry Barracks, Colonel Balders, and dated the 13th of May 1854:

"Sir — With reference to your letter of the 29th of January last. I have the honour to acquaint you that Cornet Michael of the 13th Light Dragoons, having gone satisfactorily through the Course of Equitation as practised at this establishment is qualified for the appointment as Riding Master." A further letter from Lt. Colonel Doherty to the Military Secretary, dated the 28th of June 1857, says; "Cornet Michael under my command, is willing to resign his Cornetcy and wishes now to be appointed Riding Master."

The reply was to the effect that "The Secretary for War confirms that 550 with 290 being remitted to Public Funds, he already been in receipt of 150 for his outfitting as a Cavalry Officer) is the largest amount His Lordship can sanction in payment for Cornet Michael's Cornetcy with a view to being appointed Riding Master. (This new commission was also an un-purchased one.)

In March of 1959, two widows, descendants by marriage of Michael, were involved in an action at Swansea Crown Court as to who should have the helmet reputedly worn by him in the Charge of the Light Brigade. The helmet was, in fact, a brass one of the Carabiniers. (See reports of the case taken from the "Daily Telegraph" and also a full report of the court-case involving the disputed ownership of the 6th D.G. helmet, taken from the "South Wales Echo" for the 22/23rd of March and the 14th of April 1959.)

Photographs & illustrations

[RM: He appears in a Fenton group photo of Officers taken in 1855. He is the first figure on the left.]


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