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Although outside the normal scope of this website, I picked up an old cabinet card (carte de visite) of Captain Henry Gem recently so am sharing his story as one of the Regiment’s ‘old boys’.

Henry Gem was born in Warwick on 18th June 1830 and was the son of Richard (Captain, Royal Dragoons) and Selina Gem. He was educated at the Old College in Warwick  before taking his commission as an Ensign in the 47th Regiment of Foot, without purchase on 19th January 1855 when he was 25 years old.

He was promoted to Lieutenant on 7th August 1855 and fought in the Crimea between 24th Sept 1855 and 1st June 1856. From the Crimean peninsula he sailed to Malta where he spent exactly a year before moving on, briefly, to Gibraltar. He was appointed Lieutenant & Adjutant on 22nd June 1858. On 3rd March 1865 he was promoted to Captain, by purchase, and campaigned in Canada during the Fenin Raids of 1866. From Montreal he moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia (23rd July 1866 – 24th Sept 1867) which was his last overseas duty.


CDV of Captain Gem at Montreal, 1866

Having remained single until he was 38 years old and now stationed at the Depot in Pembroke Dock, he married Maria Sarah Ashwell in Somerset on 19 October 1868. He was still at the South Wales depot a year later where the Western Mail report him being the ‘starter’ for a race of 13 officers on the field at Llanion. In November 1869 the Depot joined up with the service companies of the 47th Regiment  who, returning from Barbados, had received orders to proceed to Ireland.

The couple named their first child after Henry’s mother (or his sister  – both were named Selina) and their second child, who is recorded as being an imbecile from birth, took Henry’s name. Despite service in the Army putting thoughts of settling down on hold until such a late age (for the day) Henry and Maria went on to have five children. He retired on temporary half-pay on 23rd November 1870 and had remained in Ireland up until then.

In 1871 the Gem family were living at The Gothie Lodge in Kempsey, Worcestershire and ten years later were at Westham House, Barford, Warwickshire.

By 1891 they had moved to Cumnor Croft at Leek Wootton in Warwickshire. Those present on the night of the census were Henry, Maria and their five children; Selina, Henry, George, Maria Louisa and Helen. They also had a domestic cook, a ladysmaid and two housemaids.

They stayed at Cummor Croft for the next two decades and on the evening of the 1911 census he was resident there with his wife of 42 years and two of their five children, Henry (age 39) and Maria Louisa (age 37), both of whom were single.

Captain Henry Gem died on 22nd December 1911 and his wife followed eleven months later. They rest together at Leek Wootton.

Leamington Spa Courier – Friday 29 December 1911


As announced in our town edition last week, the death of Captain Henry Gem, late of the 47th Regiment (Loyal North Lancashire) occurred on Friday at his residence, Cumnor Croft, Kenilworth. He was the son of the late Richard Gem, Captain in the 7th Royal Dragoon Guards, and was educated at Warwick, at the old College on the Butts. Captain Henry Gem served through the Crimea, for which campaign he raised a local company. He was recognised as a gallant an capable officer, and at the close of the war remained for some years with the Regiment previous to his retirement from active service. He married Miss Ashwell, of Myton. In Warwick and in Kenilworth he commanded universal respect, and had many warm friends.

The funeral took place at Leek Wootton on Wednesday afternoon, the procession leaving Cumnor Croft at 3 o’clock. The Vicar (the Rev. E. Riley) conducted the service, which was fully choral. The 90th Psalm was chanted. The hymns “Jesu, Lover of my Soul” and “On the Resurrection Morning” were sung by the choir. Mr G. Bennett presided at the organ. The mourners were:- Miss Gem, Miss D. Gem, Miss H. Gem, Colonel Gem and the servants. There were also present the Rev. Canon Dickens, Mr Bruce Jones, Mr Madeley Burman, and others. The coffin bore the inscription:- Henry Gem. Died 22nd December, 1911”. The grave was lined with evergreens and flowers. Wreaths were sent by Mrs Gem (widow), Miss Lina Gem and Misses Dolly and Helen Gem (daughters), Colonel and Mrs Gem, Mr and Mrs Gem, Mr and Mrs Albert Jones, Mr S. C. Smith, Mr and Mrs Trapps, the maids at Cumnor Croft, the gardener and family, Mr and Mrs Askew and late coachman. The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Messrs. Wackrill and Co.


Paul McCormick
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