Saturday 29 December 2012

From Calcutta to Pekin - The Taku Forts [1860]

With 2012 drawing to a wet and windy close, I'm beginning to anticipate some of the walks planned for 2013.  One that I'm particularly looking forward to in March of next year (2013) is an exploration of the Taku Forts near Tianjin in China.This place has a particular significance because my Great, Great Grandfather fought there in 1860 whilst serving with the 67th Hampshire Regiment. Here's his story.

My Great, Great Grandfathers' China medals
Alfred Baker was born in Liphook, Hampshire in 1840 - the son of Henry Baker, a labourer. He married Ellen Sheehan - the daughter of a labourer at Fermoy in the County of Cork, Ireland on 21st December 1861. Alfred and Ellen travelled the length and breadth of the British Empire over the following twenty years during which time they had three children - Mary (my Great Grandmother), another daughter and Alfred Jacob who died aged eight on board ship en route back to the mother country from India.

Alfred joined up in March, 1858 and served a year with the 64th (2nd Staffordshire Regiment) before transferring to the 67th (South Hampshire Regiment). His number was 761.

The photographs on the right show Alfred as a Private, a Corporal (attained April 1867) and then a Sergeant (attained October 1872).

In September 1858 the Regiment embarked for India (from Portsmouth) arriving in Calcutta in December of the same year. The Regiment transferred to Hong Kong and then China for the 2nd China War (1857-1860). Alfred took part in the attack on the Taku Forts on 21st August 1860 (an action which saw four Victoria Crosses awarded to the 67th). Alfred was awarded the China Medal plus clasps for 'Taku Forts' and 'Pekin'. These were subsequently made into brooches and have now been passed into my care through the generosity of my father's cousin, Don Smith (I also have Alfred's 67th Regiment cap badge).

Following the Pekin operation the Regiment spent the period 1860 through to 1865 in actions against the Taeping Rebels. Then from 1865 to 1866 in the Cape Colony and Natal, South Africa. In June 1866 the Regiment went back to Fermoy, Cork, Ireland (where Alfred got married).

In 1868 the Regiment returned to England. The 1871 census shows Alfred living at the Citadel Barracks, Western Heights, Hougham, Dover and living with his wife Ellen, daughter Mary (aged two) and son, Alfred (aged 2 months). This picture shows Mary and her sister. Mary is on the right.

In 1872 the Regiment embarked for Burma (Rangoon - Thayetmyo - Toungoo) and then in 1876 to Madras, India. Two years later the Regiment was ordered to Afghanistan. On reaching Lawrencepore (India) Sergeant Baker was found unfit for further service and in February 1879 when the Regiment left for Kabul, Alfred was left behind. He was formally discharged on 23rd June 1879 after what the archivist for the Royal Hampshire Regiment described as '21 hard years'.

Alfred died at the age of 42 years in 1882, and is buried in Petersfield, Hampshire.