Letter from Albert Robinson, late Colour-Sergeant-Instructor of Musketry, 28th Regt.
Dover, April 1925
Albert Robinson, I enlisted at Westminster on the 9th January
1855, for the 28th Regiment, at the age of 17 years. I was born
on February 11th 1840, so that actually my age was 14 years and
11 months when I joined the regiment. The doctor was doubtful
about passing me on account of my age but a very good friend in
the person of Sergt. Scattergood, 60th Rifles, came to my
assistance, and I got through.
On the 16th of the same month I joined the Depot at Parkhurst, Isle of Wight, and was posted to No.4 Company, commanded by Captain Webb (a Waterloo veteran). The following day I was marched to Newport to obtain my kit from the Army contractor (Isaac & Co.) After that I drew from the Headquarters Stores a shako, coatee, boots, pair of trousers, and a great coat. My bounty was £6 from which I had to pay for the following articles of my kit, viz: knapsack straps, mess tin and cover, one pair of boots, one pair of summer trousers, shell jacket, forage cap and number, haversack, 3 white cotton shirts, 2 towels, 2 pairs of socks, one pair of braces, stock and clasp, and holdall complete. When I mention that the small pipeclay sponge in those days cost 1/- and a tin of blacking 4d. it will be realised that the bounty did not go far. Every article of kit had to be marked at a cost to the owner of 1/2d. per article. Add to this the fact that the older hands made a habit of relieving the recruits of many small articles, and it will be easily understood that frequently at the end of the month, when I paraded to sign my accounts, I found I was in debt. Consequently, when this happened, I was placed on 1d. per diem pay, out of which I had to provide my cleaning materials. Boot repairing was a heavy item, owing to the rough state of the Barrack Square, whilst the Barrack damages (after the departure of a draft) were very high. In addition we had to pay 2d. per month for sheet washing, and 1d. for haircutting.
Our daily ration consisted of 3/4 lb. meat, 1lb. of bread, costing 4 1/2d. Messing, 1/4d. bread, tea, coffee, and potatoes, for which we paid 3 1/2d. per diem; total, 8d. The tea was very poor, but this cannot be wondered at, as in those days both tea and sugar were very dear. The barrack rooms were very cold in winter, and it took a goodly portion of our pay to purchase coal.
We were armed with the 'Brown Bess' shoulder belt, with pouch to hold 90 rounds of ball and cartridge, and caps.
At the time I am writing about, the firelock was carried as follows. 'The Carry' - In this position the weapon was held at the full extent of the left arm, the support, the hammer, resting on the forearm between the elbow and the waist. At 'The Advance' it was carried at the right side, full extent of the arm, sling to the front. The long and short 'Trail' was of course also in use. In a small pocket of the coatee we carried a cap pouch.
I commenced drill the day after I joined, and the end of seven weeks I reached the first squad, where I remained for about sixteen days under Drill-Sergt. White. I was then selected for a musketry course at Sandown. I remember well, although it is so many years ago, I thought I should drop on the way; the breast strap of the knapsack pressed so heavily on my chest, and I was at the time only 15 years of age. Still, I managed to get through and I have no regrets, beyond the fact that I was not allowed to go to the Crimea. My youthful appearance prevented this, and, try how I would, the doctors would not let me go. I was most anxious to follow my grandfather, uncles, and cousins in the profession of a soldier, and I am proud of the fact that I served upwards of 22 years with the Brave Old Braggs.
After the Crimea I joined the service companies at Malta. The Regiment was commanded by Colonel Frank Adams, CB, whilst Brevet Lieut-Colonels R.J. Bunegartner, P.A. Buller, Bt. Major Aplin, and Major T. Mansell were also serving. The Company Commanders were as follows: Grenadiers Company, Captain Orelebar; No.2 Company Bt Major W. Roberts (afterwards General); No.3 Company, Captain J. Messiter; No.4 Company, Captain Gordon Shute; No.5 Company, Captain Biddle; No.6 Company, Captain Simpson Hackett; No.7 Company, Captain Garston; The Light Company, Bt Major Aplin; Adjutant, Lieut. F. Rance; Paymaster Berry; Quarter-Master Lumsden; Surgeon-Major Marton; Assistant-Surgeon Brice; and 15 Subalterns, amongst whom were Lieuts. Brodigan and Emmerson, who will be remembered today by many who served in the Regiment in later years.
During the Crimean War the Regiment was split up as follows: In The Field, 8 Companies; Depot, Malta, 2 Companies; Depot, Isle of Wight, 2 Companies. On arrival in India (1860) the Regiment was stationed at Colaba Barracks, Bombay. Shortly after our arrival, Colonel Adams was promoted to Brigadier-General, and the command taken over by Major Mansell. A Wing of the Regiment was ordered to proceed to the Coromandel Coast to assist the 6th Native Regiment in quelling the Waggars at Fort Beyet. Major Roberts commanded the wing. The infantry were supported by a detachment of Artillery, and conveyed to the place by 2 frigates of the HEIC Marine and a hired transport accompanied by 2 warships, the Feroze and Zenobia. On arriving off Beyet Island, the men-of-war opened fire on the forts, causing a breach. We then put off in small boats and stormed the forts, using escalading ladders. On reaching the summit, we had many casualties, the number of the 28th being 58 killed and wounded, including Doctor Brice and Lieutenants McCormack and Wade. The natives retired inland, and after the prize agent (Lieut. Kirkpatrick, 28th Regiment) had finished his work, and all was settled at Beyet, we bombarded the town of Diourka, and subdued the natives there. All being now settled we embarked for Bombay, with no batta money, no medal, and no thanks.
On the Regiment proceeding to Hong Kong, I was sent to the Depot at Bristol as Acting Sergt-Major, the Depot Brigade then consisting of 2 Companies of the 28th and 2 Companies of the 61st. I was eventually discharged to pension in 1877.