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537 Colour Sergeant George John Greenslade
Royal Sappers and Miners
(later Royal Engineers)
©Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000.

This research dealing with Colour Sergeant Greenslade’s military service has been compiled primarily from his military service papers contained in File WO97/1361, and from the Muster Rolls of the 13th, 14th and 16th (Survey) Companies, Royal Engineers maintained at the Public Record Office, London. Additionally, much of the information pertaining to the Greenslade family was obtained from Mr. John Hodges of Bedford, England. Colour Sergeant George Greenslade’s brother Henry was Mr. Hodges great great grandfather. The data provided by Mr. Hodges is only a small portion of his very extensive genealogical research into his family tree.

Family History and Early Life

George John Greenslade was born in October of 1822 in the Parish of St. Mary Major, in the town of Exeter, in the county of Devonshire. The St. Mary Major baptism entry, dated the 9th of September 1823, indicates that George was the illegitimate son of Ann Greenslade of Guinea Street, Exeter. Ann Greenslade’s father, John Greenslade, was a soldier in the Devonshire Militia when he married Margaret Smale near Exeter in 1797. Margaret Smale was from Moretonhampstead, a large village on the edge of Dartmoor.

The church records, dated the 26th of September 1830, also indicate that Ann Greenslade had another son, Henry Smale Greenslade, who was born about 1825. The baptism records make no mention of their father or fathers.

Between the baptisms of George and Henry, Ann Greenslade married John Medlon. Their wedding took place at St. Mary Major on the 22nd of May 1826. Ann gave birth to two additional children, William Medlon and Ann Smale Medlon, both of whom were baptized at the same time as Henry. As indicated above, the unusual Christian name of Smale given to both Henry and Ann was the maiden name of Ann Greenslade’s mother, Margaret. It appears that Henry only used the name Smale once and that was on the birth certificate of his first child born in 1844. It seems that George never used his second Christian name, John, on any official documents.

George and Henry both appear to have resided in Exeter until shortly before the time of their enlistment in the Army when they were residing in Devonport. As a young lads they both worked as smiths. John Medlon was a tinsmith, so presumably they both learned the trade from him. Their grandfather, John Greenslade, died in 1844, some years after they enlisted in the Army. John Greenslade’s militia experience may have had some influence on their joining up.


George enlisted as a Private in the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners at Exeter on the 9th of November 1841 at the age of 19 years and one month [1]. George’s brother, Henry, also enlisted in the Royal Sappers and Miners on the 9th of November 1841. Both brothers served in the Ordnance Survey of northern England and Scotland, and both were discharged from the Army on the same day in 1868 [2].

Physical Description [3]

George Greenslade’s service papers do not provide a physical description of him at the time of his enlistment in 1841. His discharge papers, prepared in 1868, describe him at age 45 years and 2 months as being 5 feet 9-1/2 inches tall with a sallow complexion, dark (probably brown) eyes and dark brown hair. He had no distinguishing marks or scars on his face or body.

Medical Information [4]

Greenslade’s service papers do not include a Medical History Sheet.

Marriage Information

George Greenslade married Isabella Kennedy in 1851, at Stornoway, a seaport burgh of the Western Isles (Isle of Lewis) of Northern Scotland [5].

Promotions, Conduct and Education

Promotions: During his period of service in the Royal Sappers and Miners and the Royal Engineers, George Greenslade was promoted as indicated in the following table:

Dates of Promotion



9 November 1841

2nd Corporal

12 October 1853


11 July 1855


20 June 1862

Colour Sergeant

16 January 1867

Conduct: During his period of service, Colour Sergeant Greenslade received the following Good Conduct Badges and pay [6]:

Date of Award

Badge and Pay

4 December 1846

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 1.d.

9 November 1851

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 2.d.

9 November 1856

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 3.d.

1 March 1860

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 4.d.

The table above shows that Greenslade was in possession of four Good Conduct badges at the time of his discharge from the Army. His service papers indicate that he would have received a total of six Good Conduct badges had he not been promoted to Sergeant [7].

Colour Sergeant Greenslade’s conduct was considered to be "exemplary." His name appears once in the Regimental Defaulters Book, but he was never tried by court martial for any serious offence.

Greenslade was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal [8] in 1859 upon his completion of 18 years of service. He was also awarded a gratuity of £10 along with the medal.

Education: There is no indication in his service papers of Colour Sergeant Greenslade having earned any Certificates of Education while in the Army. He performed the duties of a Surveyor while in the Army; hence, it may be assumed that he received training to qualify him for these duties.

Service Details

Colour Sergeant Greenslade served a total of 26 years and 74 days in the Royal Engineers, all of his service being at home in England. Greenslade’s service records do not indicate that he had overseas or campaign service.

After the approval of his enlistment, Private Greenslade proceeded to Woolwich to receive his training as an engineer soldier. He arrived at Woolwich from Devonport on the 20th of January 1842. Private Greenslade was stationed at Woolwich from January to April of 1842. Following his basic training and training as a Surveyor, Greenslade initially was assigned to the 16th Company, Royal Sappers and Miners, one of the Survey Companies performing duties with the Ordnance Survey. The muster rolls of the various units in which Greenslade served indicate that he performed surveying duties during his military service as shown in the table below:

Month and Year



May 1842 – Feb 1983

Chatham, Kent

16th Company, RS&M

Mar – Apr 1843

Southampton, Hampshire

16th Company, RS&M

May 1843

Liddington, Wiltshire

16th Company, RS&M

Jun 1843

Precelly, Wales

16th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1843

Crickhowell, Brecon, Wales

16th Company, RS&M

Oct 1843

Church Stretton, Shropshire

16th Company, RS&M

Nov 1843 – Jan 1844

Great Malvern, Worcester

16th Company, RS&M

Feb 1844

Faringdon, Berkshire

16th Company, RS&M

Apr – Jun 1844

Faringdon, Maiden Bradley and Hungerford, Berkshire

16th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1844

Ludwell, Wiltshire

16th Company, RS&M

Oct 1844

Honiton, Devonshire

16th Company, RS&M

Nov 1844

Pontypool, Wales

16th Company, RS&M

Dec 1844

Paracombe, Devonshire

16th Company, RS&M

Jan –Mar 1845

Paracombe and Lundy Island, Devonshire

16th Company, RS&M

Apr – Jun 1845

Roach, Castleton and Isle of Man

16th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1845

Castleton and Newcastle, Ireland

16th Company, RS&M

Oct – Dec 1845

Newcastle, Ireland

16th Company, RS&M

Jan 1846 – Jun 1847


16th Company, RS&M

Jun – Dec 1847


16th Company, RS&M

Jan – Mar 1848


16th Company, RS&M

Apr 1848 – Mar 1853

Stornoway, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Apr –Jun 1853

Ayr and Colmonel, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1853

Ayr and Ballantrae, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Oct –Dec 1853

Ballantrae, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Jan – Mar 1854

Ballantrae and Girvan, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Apr – Jun 1854

Girvan, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1854

Girvan and Dalmellington, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Oct – Dec 1854

Dalmellington, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Jan – Mar 1855

Ayr and Barrhill, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Apr –Jun 1855

Barrhill, Scotland

16th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1855

Barrhill and Ayr, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Oct 1855 – Mar 1858

Ayr, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Apr 1858 – Mar 1861

Stirling, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Apr 1861 – Jun 1861

Stirling and Perth, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Jul 1861

Perth, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Aug 1861

Stirling, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Sep 1861 – Jun 1862

Perth, Scotland

13th Company, RS&M

Jul – Sep 1862

Strachur & Baller, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

Oct – Dec 1862

Comrie, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

Jan – Mar 1863

Muthill and Perth, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

Apr – Jun 1863

Muthill and Dunkeld, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

Jun 1863 – Mar 1864

Perth, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

Apr – Sep 1864

Inverness, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

Oct 1864 – Jan 1868

Banff, Scotland

14th Company, R.E.

The headquarters of the Ordnance Survey were established in the Tower of London until the great fire of 1842, after which they were moved to Southampton. The Director of Ordnance Survey supervised seven other officers. Two of these officers divided executive duties between them, and the other five supervised the various departments, which included the secondary and tertiary triangulation, the photography, zincography, engraving, colouring, and electrotyping processes. The country was divided into ten divisional commands for England and Wales, and one for Ireland. The Survey of Scotland being finished, had no separate command. All the detailed outdoor work was carried out in these districts. There were four survey companies (the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th) of Royal Engineers specially raised for survey purposes.

On the 1st of October 1856 the gallant services of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners were rewarded at the close of the Crimean War by the grant of the title Royal Engineers. In the London Gazette of the 17th of October 1856 the change was thus announced--

"The Queen has been graciously pleased to direct that the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners shall henceforth be denominated the Corps of Royal Engineers."

This reorganization put the non-commissioned officers and other ranks in the same Corps as the officers. As a consequence of this royal grant the rank and file were no longer known as Privates, but Sappers. Sergeant Greenslade thus became a member of the Corps of Royal Engineers as a result of this royal grant.

During Colour Sergeant Greenslade’s service with the Ordnance Survey, the following achievements of the Survey should be noted:

1844: The addition of contours to the six-inch maps of Ireland was authorized.

1852: The grand primary triangulation of the United Kingdom was completed.

1853: The 1/2500 scale survey of the United Kingdom was begun.

1854: The addition of contours to the six-inch maps of Great Britain was authorized.

1859: Sir Henry James invented zincography [9].


On the 29th of November 1867, authority was given by the Commander in Chief of the Army to review George Greenslade’s service with a view to authorizing his discharge from the Royal Engineers. Colour Sergeant Greenslade’s records were reviewed by his Survey Detachment Commander, Lieutenant D. G. Jones, R.E [10]. His records were found to be accurate and correct and were sent forward for consideration by the discharge board.

A Regimental Discharge Board convened at Southampton on the 20th of December 1867. The Board was composed of the following officers:

President: Captain A.R. Clarke, Royal Engineers [11]

Member: Captain R.M. Parsons, Royal Engineers [12]

Member: Captain G.E.L.S. Sandford, Royal Engineers [13]

On the day that the Board convened, Greenslade’s total service was reckoned at 26 years and 42 days. The Board, having reviewed his record, recommended his discharge from the Army. His discharge was approved on the 13th of January 1868 by Colonel H.F. Keane, Assistant Adjutant General, Royal Engineers [14].

Greenslade served an additional 32 days following the adjournment of the discharge board. This brought his total service to 26 years and 74 days. He was finally discharged on the 21st of January 1868 after approval of the Board proceedings by Colonel Henry James, R.E., Commanding the Royal Engineer Survey Companies [15].

Greenslade’s service papers indicate that his trades while in the Army were smith and surveyor. His intended place of residence following his discharge was listed as Banff, Grampian, Scotland [16].

ADDENDUM NO. 1. 1871 Census of England

The following information regarding George and Isabella Greenslade was found in the 1871 census return for England.

Source: Public Record Office RG10/110, Enumeration District 28, Folio 106, Page 35.
Registration District: St. George Hanover Square
Sub-Registration District: Belgrave
Ecclesiastical District: St. Gabriel Parish, Westminster, London


Name and Surname

Relation to
Head of Family

Age Last Birthday

Profession or Occupation

Where Born

75 Westmoreland Street George Greenslade



Civil Service

Exeter, Devonshire
  Isabella Greenslade




It should be noted that when George Greenslade was discharged from the Army in 1868, he indicated that his intended place of residence was to be Banff in Scotland. It appears, however, that he accepted a position as a civil servant in London and that he and his wife moved to the address shown above.

Attempts to find either George or Isabella in the 1881 and 1891 census returns have been unsuccessful.

ADDENDUM NO. 2. Death Certificate of George Greenslade

Mr. John Hodges located the death certificate of George Greenslade.[i] The certified copy of the death certificate was prepared in the District of Westminster. It indicates that Greenslade's death occurred in the District of Belgrave in the County of Middlesex.

George Greenslade died on the 10th of December 1872 at 75 Westmoreland Street, a small street located just south of Regents Park, in the St. Marylebone section of London. Greenslade was 50 years old at the time of his death. His profession was listed as "late Sergeant, Royal Engineers."

The cause of death was listed as "carcinoma, 1 year, certified," although the certificate does not indicate which organ was affected by the cancer. A person by the name of C. Prendergast of 13 Moreton Place in Pimlico was present at Greenslade's death. The death was registered on the 13th of December 1872 by Mr. George Dyke, Deputy Registrar.

Greenslade had been discharged from the Army in 1868 and according to the 1871 British Census, he was working in the Civil Service.[ii] His death certificate makes no mention of his civil service work. His health may have deteriorated to such a degree that he did not work in the civil service position for very long; hence, it was not even mentioned on his death certificate. It is also interesting to note that in the 1871 census Greenslade was living with his wife Isabella at 75 Westmoreland Street, yet his wife was not present at his death.


[i] Certified Copy of an Entry Pursuant to the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953. Certified Copy FC 513636, dated 15 November 2004.

[ii] Public Record Office RG10/110, Enumeration District 28, Folio 106, Page 35.


[1] See Periods of Enlistment for the Corps of Royal Engineers in the Appendix.
[2] Information provided by John Hodges of Bedford, the great-great nephew of George Greenslade.
[3] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army (Victorian Period) in the Appendix.
[4] Information provided by John Hodges of Bedford, the great-great nephew of George Greenslade.
[5] Stornoway is the largest town in the Hebrides; an important herring fishing port with a fine harbour and famous for the manufacture of tweeds.
[6] See Good Conduct Pay in the Appendix.
[7] Good Conduct badges were not awarded to soldiers in the rank of Sergeant and above, since once they had reached the rank of Sergeant, it was assumed that their conduct would be good.
[8] This medal in the author’s collection is the basis for this research work.
[9] The engraving process whereby zinc is covered with wax and etched; any process in which designs for printing are made on zinc plates.
[10] Later
Captain Dallas Gordon Jones, R.E.
[11] Later
Colonel Alexander Ross Clarke, C.B., F.R.S. Gold Medallist of the Royal Society. Clarke was the officer in charge of the computation of the triangulation of Great Britain.
[12] Later
Major General Robert Mann Parsons.
[13] Later
Lieutenant General George Edward Langham Somerset Sandford, C.B., C.S.I.
[14] Later
Lieutenant General the Honourable Hussey Fane Keane, C.B.
[15] Later
Lieutenant General Sir Henry James, K.C.B.
[16] Banff is a county town and royal burgh with an old port on Moray Firth in northern Scotland.


1. Soldier’s Papers, WO97/1361, Public Record Office, London, consisting of the Proceeding of a Regimental (Discharge) Board, dated 20 December 1867.

2. PORTER, W. History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume II. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952, p.243.

3. Mac LEOD, M.N. The Ordnance Survey and Its Work. The Royal Engineers Journal, Volume LIII, June 1939.

4. CONNOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers from 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.