The regiment took the train for Stroud near Chatham, the Gravesend station I had left nearly 16 years before when I was a mere boy on a wet miserable day to Gravesend on the 25th October 1837. There was no railways to carry you, so we were ordered to St Mary's Bomb Proof Barracks at Brompton, and there we remained until we could be ordered to some home station.

April 1853. While the 3rd Light Dragoons was lying in St Mary's barracks with very little money and having nothing to do but building castles in the air, I took it into my head that if I could get back into the infantry what a good thing it would be for me. So I spoke to my comrades about it, which they approved of as I knew all the infantry drill, as well as I knew the Cavalry drill and our regiment being over the Home strength, I should not have much trouble of getting a transfer.

Another thing stood in my favour. On infantry regulations, which was my time of service would be reduced three years. as an infantry soldier has to serve 21 years, while a cavalry soldier has to serve 24 years for the same amount of pension.

There was only the depot of one regiment that I knew anything about, and that was the depot of the 51st Regiment, with which I went out to Australia with the convicts in 1837.

So the next morning I dressed myself and went to Chatham Barracks and saw the captain of the depot, and asked him if he had any objection, if I could get a transfer, of taking me into his regiment. He said he had not but would be very glad if I could get transferred the same time there was another officer of the same regiment that went out in the convict ships with us; - it was the son of Lord Erskine, the great Chancellor of England. He was the Hon David Erskine and remembered me very well. I then had to apply to my own commanding officer to ask if he would allow me to be transferred to the 51st Foot. He said he was very sorry to lose me as I was a good conduct man, and wearing good conduct stripes, but as it was for my benefit, and the regiment so much over its Home strength he would let me go, and ordered the Adjutant to make out an application for me, and to send it forward to the Horse Guards at the end of the month of April 1853, and orders came for me to be transferred to the 51st King's Own Light Infantry, the depot lying at Chatham.

When the regiment returned from Burmah shortly after the war in that country, the regiment was ordered to Manchester by train. Having arrived at Manchester, we went into Salford Barracks, and went through the routine of garrison drill. Shortly afterwards I was sent to Sherborne on the recruiting service in Dorsetshire, a duty I very much disliked, and afterwards to Bridgwater in Somersetshire when myself and party were called in, as the regiment was under orders for the Crimea. At the time I had been promoted to sergeant (1855.) We embarked at Liverpool on board the steamship Jumna, and shortly arrived at Malta, where we disembarked and did duty there until the following year, when the Crimean campaign ended.

During my stay at Malta a small incident occurred which is worth recording. I was one day ordered to be orderly to a garrison court-martial which sat in the town of Valetta, the capital of Malta. By chance the court-martial was postponed and a French vessel came the night before, and some of the troops on board were allowed to come on shore, especially the non-commissioned officers, and fine fellows there were. They spied me at once, and seeing the medals on they collared me; one took me by one arm and another by the other arm, a couple walked behind. I could not speak French and they could not speak English, so we tried to work by signs. They lugged me into a wine shop and made me drink wine, all the time. They in French asked me a lot of questions.

They then took me again by the arms, and we walked all over the town. At last I made them understand that I must go home or I should get into trouble, so we parted the best of friends. Had one of the officers seen me, it is most likely I should have been tried by court-martial myself.

1856. Shortly after this the Crimea war ended, and as our regiment had not been long at Home, we were ordered back again, but went to Ireland. We landed at the Cove of Cork, and went to Buttewent, about 22 miles from Cork.

We stopped there a short time, when a mutiny broke out in the North of Tipperary Militia, which had mutinied about some fancied thing the Government did not let them have. However they would not obey orders but marched up and down the town, their bands playing and it got so bad at last their officers had to fly for protection to the Town Gaol, but there was a greater misfortune than that, a detachment of the 40th Depot was sent to quiet them when they took to their barracks, shut the gates and defied them. An old soldier of the 40th regiment happened to put his eye to the keyhole of the gate, and one of the mutineers shot him through the head.  

We were ordered up to North Tipperary at once, went by train to Templmore the first day, and marched to Nanah the next, 22 Irish miles. The gates were opened and a sad sight it was to see a lot of young Irish lads that composed their regiment. But there is no sympathy for mutineers let them be who or what they are. Some were transported and some got long periods in gaol and some minor punishment. The North Tipperary was disbanded and has never been organised since. Stopped about a week at Nanah then back again to Templemore.

Away off to Dublin and was stationed in Ship Street Barracks, and shortly after to Beggars Bush Barracks at Donnybrook. Remained a short time there, ordered to the Curragh of Kildaw into camp. Was stationed there about 8 months. The regiment was ordered to Dublin again and stationed in the Royal barracks. I was sent as orderly to General Gascoigne.. A very nice easy billet, nothing to do but carry a few orders, while the regiment was out at drill in the Phoenix Park, with plenty of guard mounting, and I had the pleasure of seeing them passing the General's quarters.

But our time grew short at Dublin, as the mutiny broke out in India and the regiment was ordered out at once to India. Of course there is a lot to do when a regiment is ordered abroad, and takes some time to get ready.There were general inspections, and general doctors' inspections, to weed out all those that were unfit for foreign service and to be left behind in the Depot. I still kept my billet to General Gascoigne, but had to attend medical inspection but fortunately or unfortunately I had a large boil just under my jaw, and had to wear a black silk handkerchief instead of a leather stock.

I suppose I looked rather a queer looking orderly sergeant. However, I did not feel very heroic going out to India again as I had had 16 years of it already, and having been not long married and between 18 & 19 years of service I thought it rather hard.     (St Mary's Church, Donnybrook where Richard Pelvin married Elizabeth Beake 18th August, 1856)

So I attended medical inspection, and the General, general doctor, colonel and regimental doctor came along inspecting. General Gough spoke to me. He was in the 3rd Light Dragoons as Captain. He gave me great pleasure when I told him that I had belonged to his regiment as I was the only soldier that had so many medals in the 51st regiment. All the staff looked and I suppose the wondered what was the matter with me. The regimental doctor turned back to speak to one of the men and the staff passed on and I began to grumble at having to go out again, when who should come along but the regimental doctor. He asked what I was grumbling about. I told him I had been 16 years abroad and had about 19 years' service when he looked surprised, and went on after the colonel, brought him back. They never asked me what was the matter with me, The colonel said, "Fallout to the right, Sergeant Pelvin." The doctor said "It is no use sending such men out to India - they will die in about a week." I laughed in my sleeve as I then was to be left in the depot.

My orderly-ship soon came to a close after this, and I was ordered to Belfast on the recruiting service again, which I so much disliked, but was soon recalled to Dublin again just on point of my regiment embarking to go with the depot to England. Shortly after the regiment embarked we were ordered to Chatham and in about three weeks were ordered to WeImer, near Deal, where the Duke of Wellington died at Walmer Castle. We remained here about a year and was then sent to Chichester near Portsmouth where I stayed about three months, when I put in a claim for my discharge, after serving Her Majesty for 21 years and 330 days, not including three months I had to serve for not being 18 years old when I enlisted, which would make my service twenty-two and a half years.  

I then went and joined the staff of the West Kent Militia at Maidstone, where I was made pay sergeant of a company. Just at this time the volunteers were coming into notice, great numbers of gentlemen and middle class were going in for volunteering, and a fine body of volunteers was got up in defence of the Old Country.

Myself and our sergeant-major were sent to a School of Musketry of Hythe for three months to study musketry instruction. When we returned we were appointed instructors to volunteers - the sergeant-major to Maidstone and myself to Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

I had a splendid company at Tunbridge Wells, gentlemen of worth and position, who had to find their own uniforms. Belts and rifles were found by the Government. They were so eager to learn their exercises that they paid for extra drills, so my time was well occupied with that and the militia. But I had to go to the training of my regiment when it came.

The volunteers wanted me to take my discharge from the militia, but our colonel would not let me go, so I had to go on drilling volunteers. At last they would have a drill instructor of their own, and I had to leave which I was very sorry for. They made me a present of a very nice watch and guard, in token of their satisfaction of my service, which I have carried it to this day, inscribed, "Presented (by the 17th Kent Turlbridge Wells Rifle Volunteers, to Sergeant Richard Pelvin in testimony of his efficient service as their drill instructor, 1860."

After this I had three sub-divisions to drill, one at Lamberhurst, one at Breachly and one at Yalding, Kent, where I attended once a week, but of all the men I had to manage the worst was my company in the militia, which was a very tough lot. They were recruited from Deptford, Dartford, Greenwich and Woolwich, and it would break an instructor's heart to make anything of them. The company was composed of costermongers, hawkers, loafers, sharpers etc etc. Such a motley crowd I never had to deal with, as the saying is they would take the eye out of your head. I was always very careful when paying them their day's pay and they were as stupid as owls. However, I was very glad when the annual training was over, and they went to their homes.

I served in the West Kent Militia nearly four and a half out of five years, and then I thought it was nearly time to have a change, so I made up my mind to emigrate somewhere.

Myself and Mrs Pelvin had a talk about it. As it happened a minister of the Gospel had been giving a lecture on New Zealand at a village called Pembury just outside Tunbridge Wells, and I thought I would see him and have his advice. He thoroughly advised me to go to Canterbury, New Zealand, as he said it was a better place to emigrate to than Nelson, where he had come from.

From here I went to Charing Cross, London, to see a Mr Marshman, the agent for Canterbury, and he advised my to apply for my discharge from the Militia, which I did on the 1st July, 1863, and went on board of the Lancashire Witch and sailed from the East India Docks on the 2nd of July 1863.

Mr Marshman was very kind. He made me acquainted with the Doctor who took me under his wing. Dr McLean was a thorough gentleman; I have known him to send his dinner from the cabin table to some of the sick ones (we had about 26 deaths on the voyage), to see if he could tempt any of them to eat. The doctor and myself were about day and night, although he could scarcely crawl, as he was ill himself. We arrived at Timaru at last, and landed on October 1863. The captain made me a present of 5, the Government 5, (and the Government also made Mrs Pelvin a present of 5.) I had now to commence a new career in New Zealand with a wife and four young children, on a bare piece of country which we have worked to our best ability, and have succeeded to some extent. Mr Woolcombe (Resident Magistrate) put me in charge of the emigrants that landed at Timaru, about 200 in all, until they could get employment, which kept me at the emigration barracks for nearly six months. I took my family to the place named Claremont leased from the Provincial Government 40 acres, about four miles from Timaru where I may say I first started my career as a colonial.
Richard Pelvin - events that occured in his life


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