More details about this service member are in my question Were British Army families stationed overseas enumerated in any Census returns?
Alfred Clarke, b. 1840, from Brighton, Sussex, England, service No. 178/2, served in the Royal Artillery, as shown in his entry from the Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913, images accessed on Find My Past.
One of the loose sheets, with a heading MILITARY HISTORY SHEET, has an outline of his service:
- Home 26 August 1858 to 6 April 1860
- China 7 April 1860 to 9 May 1861
- Home 10 May 1861 to 8 February 1875
- India 9 February 1875 to 11 May 1881
- Home 12 May 1881 to 2 Aug 1881
I would like to know the British Army's custom for entering these dates. Does the 11 May 1881 end date for his India service mean that his unit departed from India in May, or does it indicate their arrival in England?
When Alfred's unit was assigned to China service, does the 7 April 1860 start date reflect the date the unit left the UK for China, the date the unit arrived in China, or something else? It seems likely that the date could reflect the effective date of the orders for the unit. If I investigate the records of the Royal Artillery, might I be able to find those orders?
My research 'to do' list includes
- transcribing the loose sheets in Alfred's records, which list his promotions and other events in his military career, with an eye toward recording which smaller sub-unit of the RA he was assigned to (compiling a version of the List of Royal Artillery Batteries for his time period)
- cross-checking that data against Stations of the Royal Artillery in India and other data from The Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle
- making a list of the places the RA were stationed during his enlistment, and finding the location of the barracks, to help in searching other record collections e.g. the 1871 Census.
- searching in the British Newspaper Archives
- reviewing Herber's Ancestral Trails for clues about other records to search
- on the book wishlist: My Ancestor was in the British Army from the Society of Genealogists
Update to the research plan:
Find My Past has GRO Regimental Birth Indices (1761 to 1924) consisting of:
- British Nationals Armed Forces Births 1761-2005
- British Nationals Armed Forces Marriages 1761-2005
- British Nationals Armed Forces Deaths 1761-2005
As well as the usual Volume and page reference you'd expect for a GRO index, these list the regiment, which is extremely useful for sorting out same-name military dependents. If your service member is on Home duty and has school age children, you may be able to find some of them in the National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914. I am currently cross-checking the birth dates from one of these registers against the GRO Regimental indexes and Ireland Birth and Baptisms information on Family Search, to cross-check against Alfred's list of postings.