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Stephen Howard was born in Pelsall near Walsall in Staffordshire on 9th May 1847. His parents were Charles, an engineer, and Elizabeth Howard. At the time of the 1851 census the family were living at Hatherton Works, Walsall – Stephen was the third of four brothers and also had two older sisters.

Stephen Howard first enlisted in the Army in Birmingham on 31st July 1865 joining the 59th Regiment of Foot with the number 768 (after the Cardwell reforms of 1881 his number changed to 2823). He was 18 years old and gave his occupation as being a stone mason. The medical officer noted that Stephen stood 5ft 7.5in tall with grey eyes, light hair and was of fresh complexion.

Stephen Howard  was promoted to Corporal in 1868, Sergeant in 1870 and Colour Sergeant in 1872. He extended his term of engagement several times and in 1881 (about the same time the 59th Foot became the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment) he was promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant. He is found on the 1881 census at Burnley Barracks.

He retained this rank until being ‘discharged on having reached the age for discharge’ on 31st October 1899. He was 52 years old and had served for 34 years.

During his service during he served in;

England:  2nd August 1865 – 4th September 1867
Ceylon:  5th September 1867 – 22nd March 1869
East Indies:  23rd March 1869 – 15th April 1878
England:  16th April 1878 – 31st October 1899

When he returned from 9 years in the East Indies he married Elizabeth Thomasine Bradley at the All Saints Church in Kings Bromley (Staffordshire) on 25th January 1879. In February 1880 they had their first child, a girl named Lily Thomasine; and a son named Lewis Charles followed a year later.

On the 1891 census he is found with his wife, Lily, Lewis and two more sons William and Harry, living at 22 Church Road, Lytham where he gave his occupation as Sergeant-Instructor, Rifle Vol. Infantry.

By 1901 they were living on Warton street, Lytham and Stephen described himself as a Pensioner, Army, Drill Instructor. They now had two more sons, Frederick and Herbert, and a 7 month old daughter named Florence.

Stephen’s wife, Elizabeth Thomasine Howard, died at some point during the next decade and by 1911 he was living with his eldest daughter, Lily, her husband Percy Towler and their 3 children at 14 Mythop Road Lytham. Stephen and Elizabeth’s youngest three children, Frederick, Herbert and Lily were also living there.

Shortly after war was declared in 1914, on 26th September Stephen approached the recruitment officer in Preston and completed the necessary paperwork that would allow him to re-enlist. He declared his previous service, stated his age was 67 years 5 months old, that he was a widower and was employed as a stone mason.

Stephen took his oath of allegiance and the attesting officer accepted his enlistment and posted him into the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 4363. He gave the name of his youngest daughter, Florence Mabel, as his legal next of kin.

Stephen was then presented to the medical officer for inspection. The M.O. noted that Stephen had grey hair and grey eyes, was 5ft 8.5in tall and weighed 133lbs with a 37in chest. He then certified Stephen was to be considered fit to serve.

Later that same day a final check was made a Lieutenant on behalf of the Colonel of the Regiment; unfortunately for Stephen this is where his plan to again serve his Country came to an end. The Lieutenant discharged him in consequence of him not likely to become an efficient soldier.

Despite the fact that he had only served for one day, several newspapers neglected to recognise this and ran the story anyway. The newspaper reports also added a few years on to his age presumably to add a little more hype.

An example of this is the Walsall Advertiser of 3rd October 1914;

Septuagenarian Re-joins Army

It is reported that a Lytham veteran, Mr Stephen Howard, a native of Walsall, has attested by special permission for service with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Mr Howard, who is 71 years of age, served with the Colours thirty-four years, enlisting in 1865 and retiring as a quartermaster-sergeant. He has since acted as Sergeant-Instructor to the Lytham Rifles and upon attestation remarked that there was no fear of his becoming a “King’s Bad Bargain.” A son of Quartermaster sergeant Howard served as a lieutenant in the East Kent Regiment, the famous “Buffs”.

Stephen Howard died in Flyde, Lancashire, in the final quarter of 1929. He was 82 years old.

Paul McCormick
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