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"Extensively tattooed both forearms, breast and back. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year across both buttocks"
Whilst delving through the army records in Ancestry I found this in a record for a Harry Gotts in the section on 'distinctive marks'. This was for his enlistment in the Militia in 1906. At first it seemed odd that not only had he exposed this to the inspecting officer, and more odd that the inspecting officer had been so particular to include all of it. However these were times before dogtags, so any distinguishing marks were important if their were bodies to be identified.
Harry originally signed up to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry at Bodmin on 11 August 1894. This is within the Corps of 1st Royal Dragoons. (The Duke at that time was Prince Albert Edward who later became Edward Vll. The title for the regiment is a hangover from earlier time)
He had scars on his head, heart on his right arm, and a flag, heart and on his right arm, so the tattoo above was acquired after he joined the regiment! He was discharged in 1906 to the Army Reserve.
His attestations in 1894 shows his mother as Charlotte Gotts of 47 Burnside St, Victoria Park, (Hackney) London. This identifies him as Harry 2174, a horsekeeper, son of Matthew 1039 & Charlotte Housden in tree #83.
Harry re-enlisted with the 4 East Surrey Regiment Special Reserve 13 8 1906 for four years, and was present for annual training each year until 1915 when he was discharged. By then he would be 39. For some reason his service was not counted from 1906, only 1908.
Along with his papers are letters written by him in 1920-21 and again in 1931, asking to be considered for a pension, especially as he has been out of work for four months and is asking for some help to feed his wife and two children. He mentions that he has the ‘Chitral’ medal, which appears to refer to the India medal, and asking why a veteran with these decorations is not entitled to a pension.
This India Medal shows the bars for Tirah, Punjab and Relief of Chitral, three different campaigns in the North West frontier wars, though the ribbon may not be the right regiment. Harry’s record shows the award of bars for Tirah and Punjab. He mentions Chitral in a letter but it is not shown on his record.
Harry’s Career (Service no. 4569)
In December 1894 he went to India for four years, then to Ceylon for two more years to guard Boer War prisoners. He returned to England in 1900 and spent four more years before being discharged.
In India he served on the North West frontier 1897-1898, and gained the India medal 1897-1898, with clasps for the Punjab frontier and Tirah 1897-98.