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Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 1999

Early Life

Edward Crowter was born in a Subdeanery of Chichester in the County of Sussex in the year 1836. From a study of Crowter’s military service papers, it appears that as a young man he may have worked as a miner and as a painter.

Crowter waited some time before enlisting in the Army. Most young men of the period who enlisted, did so very soon after reaching the age of 18 years. Some even enlisted as boy soldiers at the age of 14 years. Crowter, on the other hand, was 20 years of age when he decided to join Her Majesty’s forces.

Physical Description

Edward Crowter was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 156 pounds. He had dark brown hair, grey eyes, and a fresh complexion. When he was examined by the Army Surgeon to determine his fitness to serve, he was noted to have a chest measurement of 35-1/2 inches. His pulse was 80 beats per minute and his respiration was 18 inspirations per minute. A spirometer reading of 152 inches was obtained when measuring his lung capacity. Crowter’s muscular development was noted to be good.

Crowter had been vaccinated against smallpox as an infant and the examining surgeon noted that he had only a slight vaccination mark. He had no distinguishing marks or scars worthy of note.

Enlistment and Training

Edward Crowter enlisted in the Royal Engineers at Portsea in Hampshire on the 9th of March 1858. He was determined to be medically fit to serve and passed the preliminary, if rather cursory, military examination usually administered by the Recruiting Officer. His civil occupations were probably considered useful trades in the engineers.

On the 10th of March he took the Oath of Attestation and his enlistment was approved. He was assigned Regimental Number 5421 and the rank of Sapper. On the 19th of March 1858, he reported in to the field engineers depot at Aldershot for his basic training as an engineer soldier.

Assignments and Campaign Service

On the 1st of July 1858, Sapper Crowter joined the 35th Service Company, Royal Engineers at Aldershot. He served with this company until the 15th of July 1861 when he arrived on the island of Corfu. Although Crowter’s military records are not specific on this point, it is probable that he was assigned to a Royal Engineer Fortress Company on Corfu. The duties of this company would have been to construct coastal defences for the British naval facilities on the island.

In 1864 the island of Corfu was turned over to Greece. Sapper Crowter’s company was transferred to Gibraltar, where he served until 1870. On the 1st of April 1869, while serving at Gibraltar, Crowter re-engaged to complete 21 years of service with the Colours.

On the 10th of March 1870, Crowter arrived home and was stationed at Woolwich. He served there until the 5th of June 1871 when he was posted to Aldershot and then to Chatham on the 13th of June 1873. Again, Crowter’s military service papers do not indicate to which units he was assigned at Woolwich, Aldershot or Chatham.

On the 16th of August 1876 Sapper Crowter arrived at Cork Harbour in Ireland where he was assigned to the 18th Fortress Company, Royal Engineers on Spike Island. He served on coastal defence duties in Cork Harbour until the date of his discharge on the 25th of March 1879.

Promotions, Conduct and Education

1. Promotions

During his more than 21 years of service in the Army, Sapper Crowter was never promoted above the grade of Sapper. His lack of promotion can probably be explained by his disciplinary problems which are described below.

2. Conduct

a. Disciplinary Actions

Sapper Crowter was not a model soldier. Although none of his disciplinary problems ever earned him a court-martial, his name does appear twice in the Regimental Defaulters’ Book and four times in the Company Defaulters’ Book. The following is a summary of his infractions:

17 October 1859: While at Aldershot, Crowter was reported by Captain R.W. Duff, R.E. for feigning sickness when warned for guard duty. He was sentenced to 14 days confinement to camp and taken off duties until further orders.

18 October 1859: While at Aldershot, Crowter was reported by Corporal Burt for breaking out of camp when confined thereto, and remaining absent for about

15-1/2 hours after being warned for guard duty. He was sentenced to forfeit one day’s pay and to 7 days confinement at hard labour in the Provost’s cells, in addition to his previous punishment.

24 April 1867: While serving at Gibraltar, Crowter was reported by 2nd Corporal Wain and 2nd Corporal Cox for breaking out of barracks at about 10:30 p.m. and not returning until about 11:30 p.m. He was awarded 5 days confinement to barracks by Captain M. Lambert, R.E.

25 November 1867: While serving at Gibraltar, Crowter was reported by Captain C.A.L. de Montmorency, R.E. for breaking out of barracks. He was awarded 1 day of confinement to barracks by Colonel G. Bent, C.B.

4 October 1870: While serving at Woolwich, Crowter was reported by Lance Corporal Rayner for being absent from tattoo for 45 minutes. He was admonished by Lieutenant R. Athorpe, R.E.

b. Good Conduct Badges and Medal

Sapper Crowter was awarded five Good Conduct Badges during his time in service. Each of these badges entitled him to receive an additional penny (1.d.) per day. The badges were awarded to him as shown in the table below:

Good Conduct Badge

Date of Award

Total Time in Service

1st Award

18 October 1861

3 years and 7 months

2nd Award

10 March 1866

8 years

3rd Award

2 June 1870

12 years and 3 months

4th Award

10 March 1874

16 years

5th Award

10 March 1879

21 years

Based on the Larimore (1998) research on the Good Conduct Badge, Crowter received his first two awards under the 1860 regulations. He was seven months late getting the first badge due, undoubtedly to his misconduct. He received the second award exactly on time. Crowter’s third Good Conduct badge was awarded under the 1870 regulations. He was three months late in receiving it. He appears to have received the fourth award at 16 years of service under the 1876 regulations, although this is odd since the award was made in 1874. He did not receive the fifth award at 18 years, but rather at 21 years.

On the 9th of March 1876, when he completed 18 years of service with the Colours, Sapper Crowter was authorized the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He subsequently received this medal along with a gratuity of 5 Pounds when he left the service.

3. Education

Sapper Crowter’s service papers indicate that he was in possession of a Certificate of Education. Since there is only one mention of this certificate in his papers, it must be assumed that he earned a 3rd Class Certificate of Education.

Medical Information

Sapper Crowter was admitted to hospital for the following ailments during his period of

1. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 13th of May 1860 and treated for primary syphilis. Released on the 26th of May 1860. Lost time: 13 days.

2. Admitted to hospital at Corfu on the 5th of September 1861 and treated for rheumatism. Released on the 13th of September 1861. Lost time: 8 days.

3. Admitted to hospital at Corfu on the 1st of July 1862 and treated for a fever from exposure to the sun. Released on the 7th of July 1862. Lost time: 6 days.

4. Admitted to hospital at Corfu on the 14th of December 1862 and treated for bronchitis. Released on the 7th of January 1863. Lost time: 24 days.

5. Admitted to hospital at Gibraltar on the 3rd of May 1865 and treated for an injury to his arm. Released on the 27th of May 1865. Lost time: 24 days.

6. Admitted to hospital at Aldershot on the 25th of February 1873 and treated for a sprained ankle caused by slipping while walking (presumably on ice). Released on the

7th of March 1873. Lost time: 10 days

As a result of illness and injuries, Sapper Crowter lost a total of 85 days of duty during his time in service.

On the 7th of March 1872, Crowter was re-vaccinated against smallpox at Aldershot. The results of his vaccination were listed as "perfect" on his records, indicating that the inoculation was probably successful.

Marriage and Personal Information

There is no indication in Sapper Crowter’s records that he was married or that he had any children during his time in service.


A Regimental Board convened on Spike Island in Cork Harbour on the 10th of March 1879 to consider Sapper Crowter’s discharge which had been claimed by him on the termination of his second period of limited engagement.

The discharge board was composed of the following officers:

Board President: Captain E.G. Clayton, R.E.

Member: Lieutenant M.W. Skinner, R.E.

Member: Lieutenant R.M. Ruck, R.E.

The board reckoned Sapper Crowter’s total service at 21 years and 1 day, including 2 years and 330 days on Corfu and 5 years and 258 days at Gibraltar, for total service abroad of 8 years and 223 days. His overall conduct during his time in service was considered to be very good, and his habits temperate, despite his name appearing in the Regimental and Company Defaulters’ Book on several occasions.

The board recommended that Sapper Crowter be discharged and the board proceedings were certified to be correct by Major R.M.F. Sandford, R.E.

At the time of his discharge, Sapper Crowter was 42 years of age. His description on discharge indicates that he was 5 feet 6 inches tall with a fresh complexion, dark brown hair and grey eyes. He still had no distinguishing marks or scars on his body.

Following the board recommendation, Crowter’s service papers were sent to the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London and were received at the Secretary’s Office there on the 19th of March 1879. His discharge was finally approved by the General Commanding, Dublin on the 25th of March 1879. His total service as of that date was 21 years and 16 days.

Upon leaving the Army, Crowter indicated that his intended place of residence was 28 Washington Street, Lower Town, Chichester, Sussex.



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WO97/1850. Soldier’s Service Papers. Public Record Office, London.

a. W.O. Form 83. Proceedings of a Regimental Discharge Board.
b. Form F. Medical History.
c. Troop and Company Defaulters’ Book.


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