Colour Sergeant Potter DCM
Royal Hibernian Military School
Royal Military Asylum
The RMA Normal School
Colour sergeant Potter DCM
3 October 2007
I've been meaning to write to you for some time and find your website
fascinating. I've been researching my own family tree (doesn't everyone?)
and found an interesting, but sad, story about Colour Sergeant Harry
Potter D.C.M., who was a drill instructor at the Duke of York's Military
School during its residence at Hutton, Essex in the first world war.
A local newspaper reported that he served 22 years in the army seeing
a lot of active service. He was one of the "contemptible little
army of General French" which made history in its retreat from
Mons and he served a further two years in France with the Queen's Regiment
before being appointed to the School. Harry Potter died on 26 October
1918 in the local military hospital. His wife, Agnes Potter (nee Turpin),
had died two days earlier in the Duke of York's School itself. Both
were victims of the Influenza Outbreak and left two young children,
Ivy and Emily. Harry and Agnes Potter were buried together at Burnham-on-Crouch
in Essex. It was the first, but not the last, double burial at the
cemetery. I did wonder if your own research had identified any records
relating to Sgt Potter, or indeed to his wife who may also have worked
in the school. I don't suppose there are many of the recruits he taught
still around, but you never know...
3 October 2007
Gerry, Thanks for your kind remarks on the site, but more for the information
on Colour Sergeant Harry Potter DCM. Unless my colleague Peter Goble
has a lead on the name there's not much I can tell you. Our longest living
Dukie, known as 'Father of the Dukies', is Dan Kirwan now living in the
United States. You can read his story and that of other Kirwan brothers
at URL www.achart.ca/york/reminiscences.html Dan was a student
from 1923 to 1928, which would be well after Harry Potter's time. It
is probable that Harry Potter took charge of one of the companies when
it was at Hutton, Essex, in which case he would have been a Company Sergeant
Major, not a Colour Sergeant. As a member of staff, even for a short
period, Harry would be, as the forces of law and order would have it,
a 'person of interest' and anything you can tell me about him would be
welcome: his career, regiment (he might have served in other units in
addition to The Queen's), citation for the DCM, places served, photographic
images etc. There might be enough to do an article on him and his wife
Agnes. I look forward to hearing from you further.
4 October 2007
Gerry, We are always pleased to hear of DYRMS Staff, and Sergeant
Potter's tale certainly seems interesting. However Art deals with all
things that require a scribe. As for myself, I deal with the records.
Unfortunately, I have yet to discover any details re the permanent
staff of the school. Some names have been collected via census returns,
and a few that have been entered into letter books. There is one other
possible source, but I can't guarantee that you will be successful.
All boys sponsored for admission were entered into the Commissioners
Minutes; this was followed by lists of those that were either accepted
or rejected. There are several mentions of the arrival of staff. Very
little detail; perhaps name rank, regiment & possibly the Company
assigned to as well as the person they are to replace
If you are near Kew, then a perusal of WO143/... I don't know the
number in the series, but it will be classed as 'Commissioners Minutes
and the year spread e.g. 1911-1917.
As a matter of interest, a possible connection with the Potter family,
which you will need to follow up on & prove, could be his children.
If they are, they would qualify as orphans for entry:
POTTER F.W. admit DYRMS 25/04/1919 DOB 23/03/1909 Volunteered to the
POTTER E. admit DYRMS 09/01/1923 DOB 09/09/1912. Volunteered to the 11th
Data source: WO143/70 Pindex, page 2 line 12 & 29
A quick skip through the St Catherines BMD records at your local Library,
using the names & date of birth will identify the parents of these
two children. Sorry that I can't be of more help
4 October 2007
Art/Peter, Thanks to you both for your advice. I've been progressing
slowly. At first, I could find neither regiment nor date of birth,
Harry Potter being such a common name (and not just amongst the wizardry.)
His gravestone was the first mention I found of the DCM. At the Bishopsgate
library, I found a listing of all recipients of the DCM. He didn't
appear under the Queen's (Regiment), but under "Army Cyclists Company" (and
noted as formerly with the Royal West Surrey.) A quick search on the
National Archive website identified his medal cards and two regimental
numbers - 849 with the AAC and L/4412 with the Queens. The DCM card
identified the London Gazette citation (30.6.1915) and the 4412 reference
helped me find his pension and discharge records on Ancestry. I can
now report that he enlisted in 1894 with the Queens Regiment, served
in India from 1895 to 1898 where he gained an Indian Medal with 'Tirah'
clasps. He was promoted to Corporal in 1908 and was married the same
year. He served in the Queens Regiment 1st Battalion in 1914/1915,
then transferred to the Army Cyclists where he was promoted to Company
Sergeant Major and received the DCM. He was discharged in June 1916.
He had asked to leave after 22 years service (KR 392 (xxvi)) but it
was determined that he had terminated a second period of engagement
under KR 392 (xxi). A description logged on his discharge was that
he had a Gun Shot wound to the Right Hand; got off quite lightly then.
He moved back to Essex where his wife's family lived, and joined the
Duke of York's That's all in one day. I'll see what I can find out
tomorrow! I live near the Kew Record Office, but work in central London,
so don't get too much time for all this. Now if I could track down
any descendants of his two children (Emily b.1913 and Ivy b.1910),
maybe there'd be some photos. I'll write this all up much better in
28 October 2007
Colin, I'm writing to enquire if you have any references in your catalogue
of corporal punishment or if you have ever come across the punishment
of children dragging logs about chained to their ankles. I've just posted
two reports in which this punishment is mentioned. This first, by Dr
Henry Moseley, a school inspector, reported to the Privy Council's Committee
on Education (see URL www.achart.ca/york/inspector.htm) [Source:
NA PRO DOCUMENT WO 43/796 749 dated 7 April 1846] in which the following
"Offences of a graver character are punished by flogging, by confinement
in a cage or a black hole, by carrying a log chained to the person or
by the drill."
A second reference to logs occurs in an 'Edinburgh Review' National Education
No. 95 article published in 1852 over the by-line of the Rev. George
R. Gleig in which he wrote:
"A glance within the rails, likewise, exhibited a set of poor, thin, wan
faced, spiritless looking children, many of whom had their heads covered
with black silk caps-a sure token of disease-while not a few wandered about
dragging heavy logs which were fastened with chains to their ankles."
We know from other evidence that Gleig was not a reliable reporter and
may well have seen the Moseley report. The punishment registers make
not mention of this punishment (see the article written under the title
'committing a nuisance' at URL http://www.achart.ca/york/nuisance.htm).
Gleig was writing ten years after the visit he made in 1846. We cannot
however ignore the Moseley report, for Dr Moseley's credentials were
impeccable. Do you know of any other descriptions of this particularly
cruel form of corporal punishment. If so, I should be pleased to hear
29 October 2007
I have heard of this kind of punishment for children in other cultures,
notably I think China and (even today) the Middle East. I don't remember
coming across it in the UK for youngsters, but "The Log" seems
to have existed in the adult army, so I suppose that must be where
the idea came from. It (and also the "black hole")
are mentioned in "Under the Lash: A History of Corporal Punishment
in the British Armed Forces", by Scott Claver (1954), a very unsatisfactory
and muddled but not always completely useless book. In his chapter
on military punishments from 1812 to 1840, he quotes (p.36) a case
of the use of "the
log" in 1821, but typically fails to cite his source:
The Log. -- This punishment consisted of a log, or a large round shot
or shell, which was connected to a delinquent's leg by means of a chain.
The delinquent was obliged to drag or carry the log about with him
on all occasions, except when he mounted guard. In one regiment,
which was quartered in Richmond Barracks, Dublin, in 1821, from twenty
to twenty-five men were frequently seen marching together round the
barrack-square, and dragging logs behind them.
I am slightly surprised to hear of this at a boys' establishment more
or less directly run by an arm of central government as recently as 1846.
It would perhaps be less surprising at an independent or voluntary institution
because in the middle of the 19th century these things were still rather
decentralised and non-standardised. Central government began to get more
control of such matters just a little later than that, as I'm sure you
are aware. I agree it seems a cruel idea, particularly for juveniles.
Still, the report quoted on your website sounds pretty authoritative.
Royal Hibernian Military School
18 October 2007
I was wondering if you could help me. Three of my great-uncles attended
the Royal Hibernian Military School/Duke of York's Royal Military School.
Older family members have advised that it was the DYRMS but I believe
it was the RHMS as my great-uncles were raised in Dublin. Their names
are William (Billy) Courtney, Thomas Robert (Bobby) Courtney, and Jack
Courtney. There was a younger brother, Edward Mons Redmond (Eddie) Courtney,
who is my paternal grandfather, but it is thought he was too young to
attend. At least two of them went on to active service, and I have been
told that was in Dunkirk but I haven't been able to verify that yet.
They probably attended the school between 1910 and 1925 (Eddie was born
in 1915), would there be any records that I could search to verify this?
I have emailed the headmaster at the DYRMS to ask if there were any sources
I could consult but have had no luck so far. Any information would be
very much appreciated!
18 October 2006
Louise, I have a lurking suspicion that your mentioning the two military
schools - the RHMS and DYRMS - suggests a problem. My colleague, Peter
Goble, is more familiar with the admission records of both schools than
am I, so he has a copy of this response. First, however, you would help
us by providing more information on your forebears and relatives. The
bulk of the RHMS records were destroyed in the London Blitz although
some are available. Peter is working on them now, so it would be useful
to know their dates of birth and deaths if this is available, even approximately.
In what units did they serve and when? The RHMS closed in 1924. We know
the names of those who moved to Shorncliffe in 1922 and were later amalgamated
with the Duke of York's School at Dover, so it would be useful to know
where to start looking. Do you not have more information than their names?
You might have word from Peter. Meanwhile, perhaps you would answer my
16 October 2007
Hello Both, Sorry about the delay, but the dreaded lurgi has struck
the both of us and we have been prostrate for three days. Now the two
Courtneys. The last admission ledger for the RHMS dates to 1907. I
have been able to compose a pseudo ledger using the discharge ledger
WO143/27. 1836 to 1918. However it is impossible to home in onto the
correct boys due to the paucity of data. There is not a ledger covering
the admissions during the period 1907-Sept 1924 Thanks to the Last
Parade State, I was given a full series of names to cross check against
the admissions to the DYRMS for Aug & Sept 1924. There is a lot
of data, but even more is missing. I have attached as per Courtney
all.pdf Showing their admission to the DYRMS and the minimal data available
in that ledger. This is also repeated in the WO143/26 DYRMS Discharges
to 1958. This also provided a list of possible Hibs that had been discharged
prior to the move to Dover. The pdf heading indicate where the data
was discovered I hope this helps with your search. I must add, that
the greatest disappointment is that the records of all Hibernian Boys
including those transferred to the DYRMS were sent to London and the
subsequent fire in 1942. To continue, follow the Muster Rolls of the
two Boys' Regiments.
17 October 2007
Art, Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! I did a bit more research
on your website and I think I found my great-uncle William Courtney
(Boy W. Courtney) on the Last Roll Call document, under "A Coy".
There is a 'Boy B. Courtney' who could be Bobby but I'm not sure. I think
the boys must have been born between 1900 and 1915, Edward Courtney was
born on 4th November 1915 and he was definitely the youngest. It will
take me a while to get exact birth dates, as three of the boys were baptised
on the same day (for convenience) so this muddies the water slightly!
I'm going to go to the Royal Archive at Kew and see if I can get some
more information about them from the RHMS records there, and I will certainly
forward anything I get on to you for your records if you like. Another
point of interest is that the boys' father was a Robert Courtney who
was a Sergeant in the Inniskilling Fusiliers. I will be trying to clarify
his records with the National Archive as well. He actually left the family
and ran off to Moose Jaw in Canada with another woman shortly after the
Edward was born (taking advantage of the Dominion Lands Act/Soldier Grants
I believe), and left my great-grandmother (Mary, nee Byrnes) and the
boys in a fairly dire situation. I think this is why they were enrolled
in RHMS, as the school itself was originally set up to provide for Soldiers' "orphan
sons". Although at least two of the boys went on to be fairly
successful businessmen after their service so it can't have been all
bad. I will keep you posted!
Lou, Thanks for your response, too. Actually, we have possession of
copies all known RHMS records that deal directly with the boys admitted
(lots of other records, too, but interdepartmental govt. documents).
You're probably right about Boy W. Courtney. If so, you'll find him on
the attached photograph. This is a remarkable image for its clarity.
He should be in the first company, A in the photograph; that is, the
first two lines immediately behind the commandant. I'd wait until you
hear from Peter before you go rushing off to Kew. He might have some
pointers. You might include Peter in the loop if you're writing to me,
for he and I share everything; he's in the U.K. I'm in Canada.
17 October 2007
Peter, Thanks so much for getting this information for me. I had been
told by one of the family that Edward Courtney had not been sent to the
school, I think they would only accept three boys and as he was the youngest
he was left out. Having looked at the record you sent me I think the
BJ Courtney must be the brother known as 'Jackie', so that's information
on another one of them! It is such a shame about the records being incomplete,
but fantastic that you were able to shed some more light on the tree,
and I'm very grateful.
12 October 2007
We are researching an ancestor who was in the army. His name was William
Stoneham. From the information we have from an Army Record, he was with
the East Surrey Regt in 1892. Prior to that, the record suggests that
he might have been educated at the Royal Military Asylum/Royal Hibernian
School. He was 18 in 1892 October. We are trying to trace where he was
born and when - possibly Walworth Surry in 1894. We clicked on the Royal
Military Asylum website and your reference came up.
We appreciate any help you can give.
13 October 2007
Richard, I have checked both the RMA & The RHMS, Dublin. The name
STONEHAM does not appear. There is a segment in the attestation papers
that states Educated at The RMA. RHMS. Industrial school If the boy
had been then the relevant school would have been indicated and the
attestation officer will have initialed the box to the right. This
is a statistical trap, providing a head count for each school. You
will need to follow the Regimental Muster Rolls. These can be seen
at the Nat Archives. Kew
19 October 2007
Peter, Thank you for your email with the info to trace my granddad.
I have been searching for him for ages and finally found his attestation
papers at Nat Archives at Kew. But it was a very poor copy and I have
been trying to decipher the papers. It appears against whether educated
at either Royal Military asylum or Royal Hibernian Military School there
is the initial giving the clue that he was. On looking up on the net
when we found the school and the names of the pupils we thought we hit
lucky, but as you or we did not find him there, the mystery remains.
We wondered whether you found anyone from 1874 onwards. We did not. From
the papers we assume that he was born in 1874. The school records only
showed early 1800s.Is there any other record apart from the muster at
Kew? Thank you again for your help.
19 October 2007
Richard, On reflection I was a little vague in my last response. The
web site covers admissions to the RMA from 1803 to August 1880. I am
in the process of completing the available Registers to 1918, I have
transcribed the WO143.80 Boys Admissions 1880-1907. The surname you are
researching does not appear at the RMA, neither in the WO143/79 RHMS
admissions 1877-1907. Your primary step it to discover his location for
the 1881 census and then the 1891 at age 17. This will indicate his home
address and the possible location of the school that he attended there.
I can be of no further help.
29 October 2007
I am researching my great grandfather, William Benjamin Postlethwaite,
who was admitted to the Academy in 1827 at the age of 3 yrs 2 mths. The
Academy is very precise as to his age and I would like to know if they
hold a birth certificate for him. Also, both his parents were dead when
he was admitted. Does the Academy hold records as to the cause of their
death? William's parents were Benjamin and Mary. Benjamin was in the
25th Regt. of Foot and they do not hold such information. I should be
very grateful for any information or suggestion as to whom I should contact.
29 October 2007
Valerie, Your forebear goes back to the early days of the Royal Military
Asylum, which is interesting. I am certain that he would have been admitted
to the Infant Establishment on the Isle of Wight before being transferred
to the main institution at Chelsea. The IOW branch institution is dealt
with in some detail in The Charity of Mars book, which is a history of
the Asylum 1803-1892 (the name was changed to the Duke of York's Royal
Military School in 1892). The best way to help answer your question,
if an answer is available, is to refer it to my colleague, Peter Goble.
Peter has analysed the admission registers and is far more familiar with
them than am I. I'm sure Peter can answer you. Based on what he has to
say we might, between us, he and I, speculate on the probable history
of William's father at least; that is from the movement of the regiment
and the actions in which it was engaged. We couldn't speculate on the
cause of Mary Postlethweite's death. Peter also has copies of the RMA
history The Charity of Mars, if you're interested in getting a copy.
I should think that the best way of tracing the history of William's
father is by trawling through the muster reports of the 25th Foot, but
this is not a task with which we can help. Peter, I'm sure, will comment
on this aspect of your genealogical research.
29 October 2007
Valerie, You have all the information I have, as displayed on my web
site; rma-searcher.co.uk. To find the cause of his parents deaths, they
should be recorded in the muster rolls of the 25th Regt of foot, there
should also be a description of him there too. Logic dictates that with
someone so young, the boy will have been orphaned within 6 months of
his admission. There is one port of call that may be able to assist with
your investigation, but it is not guaranteed. Write to :- Lt Col R Say:
The Bursar, Duke of York's School, Dover, Kent, CT15 6EQ and, in your
own words, ask if the school has any records of your relative, William
Benjamin POSTLETHWAITE. Give all detail you have, admission date, parents,
father's Regiment and, most importantly, your relationship to the boy
in question, (My Great Great Grandfather?). We have had some success
as far back as this. I am sure you will not be disappointed. Please let
us know of your success, we like to keep a record of our forays into
29 October 2007
Mrs Briant, Yours proves to be an interesting request, and a little
tricky. I need more time to recheck the ledgers. My first reaction
was to say that your Thomas POLDEN. was not admitted to the RMA, for
his name does not appear in the WO143/18 Boys admission ledger 1826-1880.
Nor was he admitted to the Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin.
However, as you have noticed, a Thomas POLDEN was at the RMA for the
1851 census, and he does seem to fit the parameters of your relative.
I have attached the relevant census page for your perusal. This page
is specifically for soldiers & or civilians that had been recruited
as either Students ( Future Army Schoolmasters) and monitors. These
monitors helped the schoolmasters with lessons and carried out the
repeat ting of the instruction to the boys correcting where necessary.
At 14 he will have been in a very junior position, for when they began
as monitors at age 17/18, they could qualify as a schoolmaster in 6
years. I need a day or so to recheck some data, and will come back
to you then. Meanwhile I have passed on the detail to Art, if I have
missed anything he will soon puts me right. It will be a great help
if you could let me know what his eventual employment was, if he was
a soldier or if he was a schoolteacher.
29 October 2007
Thank you for your prompt reply. I only have the information on the
1871 Census and it does appear that both he and Elizabeth were Schoolteachers.
Good Luck with your searches, I look forward to speaking to you again.
30 October 2007
Barry, It was easier than I thought, once I had called up the data base,
all was revealed.
- The first entry re Thomas, is the 1851 Census. As he is shown a
labourer, it is highly probable that he applied to the RMA for a
monitor's vacancy. Adverts were placed in the press for suitable
candidates, and acceptance was by examination.
- I have rechecked the Admission
ledger for the name, he does not appear in the ledger covering1840-1851.
Although in the letter book it is noted that he was brought up in
the RMA. Was his mother part of the staff?? impossible to prove,
yet she is shown to have delivered a parcel to him, whilst he was
in hospital, for which he was Billetted up or confined to the RMA
- In the Normal school letter
book, WO143.47, his first appearance is on his return from 2 years
training as a garrison assistant schoolmaster, Shown as the first "Diet
in" in 1855. No mention of this
is made, but the normal progression was monitor 2 years, Assistant
School Master 2 years, then Student 2 years. The dates and detail
in both ledgers confirm this.
- After a further two years training as a
Student, (1855 to 1857), he qualified as a Schoolmaster on 12/01/1857,
on the same day he enlisted into the CASM (Corps of Army Schoolmasters)
and was posted to Aldershot.
- Confirmation of his status was found in
the Defaulters Ledger, also attached the 6 "crimes" he
committed whilst at the Normal School.
All the detail can be found on the form attached, Ledger No, page No
of each letter, if you have any difficulty following the progress, just
let me know. If by any chance, you have any images or ephemera relating
to your Thomas, details would be appreciated, We do, construct and publish
on Art Cockerill's www.achat.ca web site bios of interesting men that
have passed through the RMA. As your query is the first that encompasses
the WO143/47 Letter book, it provides details of a non RMA monitor progressing
through the Schoolmaster training, is confirmed in the Defaulters Register,
and as you have stated, he is also mentioned in the 1871 Census, we theoretically
have him pegged for a good 20 years. Any help you can offer will be appreciated.
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