Home Search Index of men A-Z

The E.J. Boys Archive

Added 3.5.11. Minor edits 2.3.2014.

1599, Private Henry Stephen Willsher - 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born at Tunbridge [Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge?], Kent.

But see Further information below.


Enlisted at Westminster on the 16th of May 1854.

Age: 17 years 10 months.

Trade: Draper.

No other enlistment details are shown.


To the Maidstone Depot from Brighton on the 12th of January 1855 and to Dorchester from Maidstone on the 12th of May 1855.

Landed at Balaclava from England on the 1st of August 1855 as one of a draft of 24 Other Ranks under the command of Lieutenant Vivian. (Another source states it was the 3rd August.)

He spent a total of 40 days in hospital during the July-September quarter of 1855, although no actual dates are shown (this was most probably in the St. George's Monastery Hospital) and a further 14 days during the October-December quarter, when he is shown as being at Scutari.

He is shown on a nominal roll of officers and men of the regiment at the Cavalry Depot, Scutari, made out on the 9th of November 1855, as being In Hospital there from the 4th of November.

From this he did not serve in Eupatoria with the regiment.

Returned to England, disembarking at Gosport on the 29th of May 1856 for the regiment to be reviewed by the Queen, and to Queenstown, Ireland, and then to Ballincollig by the 31st before going "On furlo", 19th of July - 15th of September.

Served in the Regimental Band from the 6th of December 1856 - 31st of March 1857.

Discharge & pension

Discharged "on the termination of his limited service," from Birmingham on the 18th of July 1866.

Served 12 years 1 day. In Turkey and the Crimea: 10 months.

Conduct: "good.

In possession of two Good Conduct badges.

To live in London after discharge.

He was married at the time of his discharge, his wife's name being Mary. There were two children in the family, aged 3 and 1.

Re-enlisted into the 17th Lancers at Aldershot on the 11th of March 1867 with the regimental number of 1066. His age was then given as 32 years:

"Former service allowed to count", by a War Office Letter dated the 4th of April 1867.

Transferred back to the 13th Hussars at Aldershot on the 31st of October 1869 as No. 1081.

Discharge & pension

Discharged from Colchester on the 20th of December 1873 as being "Medically unfit to proceed abroad with the regiment - Free to modified pension after 18 years service under Article 1115 of the Royal Warrant, dated the 27/1/70.

(The regiment had left England for India aboard the "Serapis" on the 6th of January 1874 and disembarked at Bombay on the 12th of February.)

"His conduct has been very good indeed. He is in possession of four good conduct badges and the Crimean and Turkish War medals but not of a school certificate. Also the Silver medal for long service and good conduct. He has one entry in the Regimental Defaulter's book but has never been tried by Court-martial."

Total service "to count" of 18 years 295 days.

Abroad In Turkey and the Crimea: 1 year.

Served 2 years 235 days in the 17th Lancers following his re-enlistment and a further 4 years 30 days on transfer back to the 13th Hussars.

To reside in Leeds.

Awarded a pension of 10d per day.

He was accompanied on discharge by his wife, Mary, and three children, aged 11 years 1month, 7 years 6 months, and 2 years 5 months.

He was shown on the Regimental "Married roll" of the 13th Hussars from the 11th of March 1867. This was obviously not his actual marriage date, but it corresponds with the date of his re-enlisting into the 17th Lancers.

Medals & commemorations

Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasp for Sebastopol and the Turkish medal.

Awarded Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 22nd of May 1873, with a gratuity of £5.

Not recorded by Lummis and Wynn.

1881 Census

5, Cross Barrack Street, Leeds.

Henry S. Willsher, a Railway Porter, aged 48, born at Penshurst, Kent, with his wife, Ann, and three children, two sons and a daughter, aged from 14 years to 3 years.

At the time of his death, he was employed as a Night Watchman.

Death & burial

Died 30th of November 1904.

According to Mr G. Lindop of Leeds (see below), he died at the recorded age of 64 (actually 72 years) at No. 24 Bedford Terrace in Leeds on the 30th of December 1904.

Following further enquiry by Mr. Lindop it is now known that Henry Stephen Willsher is buried in the Becket Street Cemetery at Leeds (Grave No. 8297) and is commemorated on a "Guinea" stone there. (See photograph in the 13th Hussar file; his name is the first one on this stone.)

Further information

The following came in a letter from Mr. G. Lindop, of Leeds, in 1995:

"A relative of mine (Henry Willsher) served with the 13th Light Dragoons and you may be interested in a brief biography of him. He was the fifth son of a farmer in Kent and I have no idea why he enlisted - or why he concealed himself (if that is the right description).

Stephen (known as Henry) Willsher, was the father of Ellen Maria McManus (nee Willsher) who was my maternal grandmother. He was born at Penshurst, Kent, and baptised on the 17th of May 1832 at Chiddington Parish Church. His parents, who tenanted Larkins Farm, Penshurst, and farmed 178 acres, were William Willsher, formerly of Rolvenden and Mary Willsher, nee Roades, of Tenterden. His paternal grandparents were Stephen and Susan Willsher of Rolvenden, who were married on the 25th of May 1775 at Tenterden, where Susan (nee Relph) had lived.

He joined the 13th Light Dragoons at Westminster on the 19th of May 1854, when he gave his age as 17 years and 10 months, although he was in fact 22 years old. He also gave his name as Henry. Subsequently, in 1875, after his discharge, he obtained a copy of his baptismal certificate and added the name "Henry" before "Stephen". Throughout his army career he was recorded as "Henry" or "Henry S."

Henry served with the 13th Light Dragoons (later the 13th Hussars) and the 17th Lancers from May 1854 to December of 1873, including a little more than a year during the Crimean War and for which he was awarded the Turkish and Crimean medals.

He landed at Balaclava on the 3rd of August 1855 with a batch of replacements required as a result of the heavy casualties suffered in the campaign, which included the historic "Charge of the Light Brigade".

Whilst at Balaclava he was sent to Scutari Hospital on the Bosphorus opposite Istanbul (known at that time as Constantinople) during the time it was controlled by Florence Nightingale.

After his return to England Henry had met and married Mary Elizabeth McCloud, the daughter of John McCloud of the 84th Regiment of Infantry and Ellen McCloud (nee Spilland) and they had three children:

Ellen Maria, born in Birmingham on the 10th of July 1866.

George, born in Edinburgh in 1871.

Albert, born in Leeds in 1877.

For much of his service after returning to England from the Crimea Henry served alongside Peter McManus, my great grandfather, and it was, presumably, this situation which led to Henry's daughter, Ellen Maria, marrying Peter's eldest son, Francis Andrew.

When Henry Willsher was discharged in December of 1873 his physical description was given as:

Age: 37 years and five months (but see above).

Height: 5 feet 7 inches.

Complexion: Fair.

Eyes: Grey.

Hair: Light brown.

It was also stated that his trade was a "Draper" (this is repeated on his declaration on enlistment) and added that his intended place of residence was Leeds.

Not a lot is known of Henry's activities after he left the army, but in the 1881 Census he is shown as living at 5 Cross Barrack Street, Leeds.

He is shown as Henry S. Willsher, a Railway Porter at that time, aged 48, born at Penshurst, Kent, with his wife, Ann, and three children, two sons and a daughter, aged from 14 years to 3 years.

His death certificate in 1904 states that he was a night-watchman.

He died at the recorded age of 64 at No. 24 Bedford Terrace in Leeds on the 30th of December 1904 but we know, of course, that he was actually 72 years old.

Mary Elizabeth, Henry's wife, who was born in Naise (Irish spelling for "Naas", south of Dublin), County Kildare, died on the 1st of February 1915, aged 74 years, at No. 40, Hillcrest View, Leeds, where I was born 5 years later."

New on the site Search Index of men W
For further information, or to express an interest in the project, please email the editors, Philip Boys & Roy Mills, viainfo@chargeofthelightbrigade.com