Thomas Surry - Napoleonic War Veteran

Thomas Surry was born in 1744 in North Essex. 

He was apprenticed to a carpenter but left after 3 years following an argument about pay.

He found his way to Southminster where he took lodgings in the Rose and Crown.

In 1794 Thomas was drinking ale in the Rose and Crown when a recruiting party from the Essex Regiment called into the bar.

Sergeants Fisher and Lawrence were very free with money not only buying ale for Surry and his friends but even encouraging them to drink much more than normal.

Life as a soldier was extolled and although Surry initially resisted he eventually tool the Kings Shilling and enrolled.

The rest of the evening was a blur and when Surry woke the next morning it was to find himself in a room with bars on the windows.

He and several other young men were then marched to Colchester where they were formally enrolled into the Essex Regiment and given their bounty of 12 guineas.

He quickly found that the life described in the Rose and Crown did not match the reality although he buckled down to become a good soldier.

He found that the red uniform that looked so smart was difficult with the uniform difficult to get into and then uncomfortably tight.

Surry spent the nest few years at camps in various parts of the UK as part of the defence force allocated to deal with an invasion by French forces that did not materialise.

In 1810 Surry and the Essex Regiment marched to Greenwich where they embarked on a transport ship which took them to Cadiz in Spain.

Surry took part in the battle of Barossa where he was wounded by a musket ball in his shoulder and was repatriated to London.

In 1813 Surry was back in action  this time in Bergen-op-zoom in Holland, Antwerp and Waterloo.

After the success of Waterloo , Surry and the Regiment were amongst those who advanced into France and took control of Paris.

His loyal years of service were rewarded with a berth at Chelsea Hospital for Pensioners.

While Thomas Surry was living at Chelsea in 1844 he and other veterans were interviewed by George Robert Gleig who published the interviews in three volumes called Veterans of Chelsea Hospital.

This provides a first hand account of life in the army for a young man from Southminster.

The full account is available on line by following the link click here