Home Page

7801 Quartermaster Sergeant
Royal Engineers

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2004. All Rights Reserved.


Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from copies of the soldier’s service papers, War Office file number WO97/3369, obtained from the Public Record Office at Kew, Richmond, Surrey.[1]


John Mc Gregor was born in the town of Perth in the County of Perthshire, Scotland. As a young man, prior to enlisting in the Army, he worked as a Blacksmith in Perth.


The following is a description of John Mc Gregor at the time he enlisted in the Army in 1863:


18 years and 2 months.


5 feet 7 inches.

Chest Measurement:

33 inches.







Distinctive Marks:



John Mc Gregor enlisted in the Army at Edinburgh, Scotland for his first term of limited engagement at 3:30 P.M. on the 11th of August 1863. He was enlisted by Corporal John Wilson of the Royal Engineers and was paid a Bounty of 2.[2]

At the time of his enlistment he indicated that he was not an Apprentice and that he was not married. He also indicated that he did not belong to a Militia or Volunteer unit or any unit of the Regular Forces and that he had no prior naval or military service. He claimed to have never been rejected for naval or military service and that he had never been marked with the letter "D" as a Deserter. Mc Gregor further indicated that he was willing to serve in the Royal Engineers for a period of 12 years.[3] His Enlistment Paper was witnessed by Corporal Thomas Wood, Royal Artillery.

John Mc Gregor was certified to be medically fit for service in the Army after a medical examination conducted at Edinburgh on the 12th of August 1863.[4] On the 13th of August he swore the Oath of Attestation before a Justice of the Peace in Edinburgh at 12:05 P.M., and before Corporal Wood, who again was witness to Mc Gregor's attestation. On the 20th of August 1863 his attestation was certified and he was appointed a Sapper in the Corps of Royal Engineers with Regimental Number 7801.

Immediately following his enlistment, Sapper Mc Gregor was posted to the School of Military Engineering at Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent, where he underwent recruit training as an engineer soldier.[5]


Home Service (1863-1870)

Following his recruit training, Mc Gregor continued to serve at Home until early in 1870 when he was posted to Gibraltar. His service records do not give any indication of where he served during this period. He married his first wife at Dover, Kent in 1867; therefore, it is possible that he was serving at Chatham or perhaps at Shorncliffe Camp near Dover. During this period of home service he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Corporal.

Gibraltar (1870-1874)

2nd Corporal Mc Gregor departed England for Gibraltar on the 4th of January 1870. While his specific unit of assignment is not known due to the lack of detail in his service record, it seems likely that he served at Gibraltar with the 11th Company, Royal Engineers. The 11th Company left Aldershot on the 30th of April 1870 and landed at Gibraltar on the 9th of May 1870. If Mc Gregor was assigned to this company, it appears that he preceded the unit to Gibraltar by almost four months. While serving at Gibraltar, Mc Gregor was promoted to Corporal and then to the rank of Sergeant.

The 11th Company left Gibraltar, bound for Bermuda, on the 4th of December 1874. Sergeant Mc Gregor, however, did not leave Gibraltar until the 12th of March 1874 when he also was posted to the island of Bermuda. He may have been part of the company's rear detachment that left Gibraltar a little over three months after the main body of the unit. Although the dates of Mc Gregor's movements and the movements of the 11th Company do not match precisely, the 11th Company was the only unit located at both Gibraltar and Bermuda during Mc Gregor's service at those two locations.[6]

Bermuda (1874-1875)

The 11th Company arrived on the island of Bermuda on the 8th of January 1875. In April of 1875 the company was on Boaz Island and by March of 1876 it was located at Prospect Hill on Bermuda.

Sergeant Mc Gregor enlisted for his second term of limited engagement on the 13th of August 1875 while serving on Bermuda.[7] He departed Bermuda for England on the 19th of August 1875.

Woolwich (1875-1884)

Some time after his arrival in England, Sergeant Mc Gregor was appointed to the rank of Company Sergeant Major (CSM). It appears that he served at Woolwich. On the 12th of August 1863, upon completing 18 years of service, he became eligible to receive the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.[8] This medal was awarded to him in accordance with General Order 96 of 1882.

CSM Mc Gregor remained at Woolwich until his discharge from the Army in 1884. As he was promoted to the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor (QMSI) while at Woolwich, it is likely that he served as an instructor during this period.


a. Promotions: John Mc Gregor received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

13 August 1863

Appointed Sapper on enlistment

1 April 1867

Promoted 2nd Corporal

1 July 1870

Promoted Corporal

1 February 1872

Promoted Sergeant

21 June 1877

Appointed Company Sergeant Major

1 April 1879

Promoted Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor

b. Conduct: John Mc Gregor received the following Good Conduct Badges during his time in service:[9]

Date of Award

Good Conduct Badge

13 August 1866

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 1d.

2 June 1870

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 2d.

13 August 1875

Eligible for Good Conduct Pay at 3d.

13 August 1879

Eligible for Good Conduct Pay at 4d.

13 August 1884

Eligible for Good Conduct Pay at 5d.

It should be noted that Mc Gregor was "awarded" both the pay and the badge for Good Conduct for the first two awards. Since he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1872, he was only "eligible" for the next three awards in 1875, 1879 and 1884. This situation resulted from the fact that, by regulation, once a soldier attained the rank of Sergeant, his conduct was expected to be good; therefore, although Mc Gregor's service papers show his eligibility, he received neither the pay nor the badge when he became eligible for them.


a. Education: John Mc Gregor was awarded a 2nd Class Certificate of Education in 1879 "in virtue of his appointment as Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor." This was not the normal procedure for the award of these certificates, as they were usually awarded to soldiers who achieved certain levels of proficiency in various subjects and passed required examinations.[10]

b. Qualifications: John Mc Gregor was appointed a Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor on the 1st of April 1879. This is the only special qualification noted in his service papers.


Except for the medical information noted at the time of Mc Gregor's enlistment, no other medical information was contained in his service papers. This is unfortunate, as the Medical History Sheet often found in soldiers' papers sometimes give the units and duty stations to which they were assigned.


John Mc Gregor married Emily Jane Fox at Dover, Kent on the 22nd of December 1867 without leave; that is, without the permission of his commanding officer.[11] Their marriage lasted just under nine years. They were divorced on the 4th of November 1876.

On the 23rd of July 1877 he married his second wife, Helen Campbell, in the Presbyterian church at Inverary, Scotland with the permission of his commanding officer. John and Helen had two sons; James and Robert. James was born on the 20th of May 1878 in the town of Wick in Caithness, Scotland. Like his father, James Mc Gregor joined the Royal Engineers (Regimental Number 26684). He served in the Great War of 1914-1918 and rose to the rank of Superintending Clerk.[12] Robert also served in the Royal Engineers (Regimental Number 28974). Unfortunately no details regarding Robert's service could be uncovered during this research.

Information found in the service papers of James Mc Gregor shows that Helen Mc Gregor lived on Glass Street in Edinburgh and at 19 Portland Place in Leith. She is shown as James's next of kin. No mention is made of Quartermaster Sergeant John Mc Gregor in his son's service papers.


Quartermaster Sergeant John Mc Gregor was discharged from the Army at Woolwich on the 16th of September 1884 on the termination of his second period of limited engagement. His total service was reckoned as shown in the tables below:


Period of Service


13 August 1863 to 3 January 1870


4 January 1870 to 11 March 1874


12 March 1874 to 18 August 1875


19 August 1875 to 16 September 1884


Period of Service

Home Service

15 years and 173 days

Service Abroad

5 years and 227 days

Total Service

21 years and 35 days

Mc Gregor's service during his second period of limited engagement was verified on the 1st of August 1884 by Colonel J.H. Smith,[13] Commander Royal Engineers Woolwich. At that time Mc Gregor had completed 20 years and 354 days of service. He went on to complete an additional 46 days of service before his discharge was confirmed. His character at the time of his discharge was noted to be "Very Good."


No information was uncovered regarding Quartermaster Sergeant John Mc Gregor's life after his discharge from the Army.



1. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.

2. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.

3. SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977.


The service papers (WO97/3369) of Quartermaster Sergeant John Mc Gregor, consisting of the following documents:

  1. Enlistment Paper, including:

(1) Questions put to the Recruit before Enlistment.

(2) Description on Enlistment.

(3) Medical Certificate.

b. Attestation of the Recruits, including:

(1) Oath on Attestation.

(2) Medical Certificate on Approval.

(3) Certification of Commanding Officer.

c. Record of Service.

d. Military History Sheet.

Research Papers

1. GASE, S. Movements of Royal Engineers Companies. West Drayton, Middlesex, 2001.

2. LARIMORE, F. Rules for Awarding Good Conduct Badges, Philadelphia, 2003.


[1] Copies of the service papers were obtained by Mr. A.W. Cooper, a professional researcher.

[2] See Recruiting Bounties.

[3] See Periods of Enlistment for the Corps of Royal Engineers.

[4] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army (Victorian Period).

[5] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[6] GASE, S.

[7] See Re-Engagement in the Regular Army.

[8] This medal is in the author's collection.

[9] See Good Conduct Pay.

[10] See Certificates of Education.

[11] See Marriage of Soldiers During the Victorian Period.

[12] His medals also are in the author's collection.

[13] Colonel Joshua Henry Smith.