Frederick Wright Giles and Emma Compton
  India 1887-1897 
  See also:
  The Mediterranean (Crete, Malta 1897; 1903-1908)
  South Africa (1899-1901)

Frederick Wright Giles gave up his job as a barman at a pub in Pembroke Place, Abercrombie (an inner suburb of Liverpool, the city where he was born) at the age of 18 and joined the army as his father had done. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery at Portsmouth on 14 January 1882. Standing at just over 5 ft. 8 in. and weighing only 134 pounds, he was a slight figure, with dark brown hair and brown eyes and a missing front tooth. Twenty-six years later when he left the armed services, he was technically a clerk. But he had a career behind him that had taken him to three continents, called on him to fight in several major campaigns, and earned him a mention in dispatches for his part in the battle for Tugela Heights in the Second Boer War in South Africa. He even re-enlisted in the Army to fight in World War I.


His longest posting was to India, where he spent a total of ten years in the far north and at the troublesome Northwest Frontier. Although he met his wife in Sussex, all four of his children were born in India. This page gives a glimpse into his time in that vast subcontinent, then the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. Links on this page provide insights also into his time in the Mediterranean island of Crete (three months), Malta (twice - once for three months, then six years later for almost five years), and South Africa (for nearly two years).

Parents of
Frederick Wright Giles
Father: George Giles - Born 1821 Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Mother: Sarah Wright - Born 1824 Callington, Cornwall
Emma Compton
Father: Unknown
Mother: Unknown
Frederick Wright Giles: 
Born 1863 Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Emma Compton: 
Born

xxx

A look at the above map of the religious affiliations of India at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s makes it easy to see how it fractured along Hindu-Muslim lines in the mid-20th century when Muslim territory (shown in green) eventually became Pakistan.  But it was still India when Frederick and his wife, Emma, left England in late September, 1887, just over a month after they were married at the ancient parish church at Broadwater, in the village of East Preston, Sussex. They were bound for the British military barracks at Jutogh, in the ruggedly beautiful but forbidding far north of the country, on the edge of the town of Simla in the Punjab, nestled against the southern edge of the Himalayas. Today, Simla is in the Indian state of Hamachal Pradesh.


The Giles’ first child arrived on 8 May 1888, about eight months after they left England. They  named her Emfred - a contraction of the first names of parents Emma and Frederick. India had no civil registration at that time, and confirmation of the birth of each of the four known Giles children comes from Army records such as the Army Ecclesiastical Returns and Regimental Birth Indices that are part of the General Registrar’s Office. In particular, Susan Stacey, a descendant of Frederick’s grandparents Henry Wright and Joanna Henwood and who lives in Yorkshire, was the first to locate 23 pages of military records at Ancestry.com that span his entire career.


Valuable though they are, the records can give only glimpses into how Frederick and Emma spent those ten years in India. She was a shoemaker’s daughter from Worthing, Sussex, and younger sister to a Baptist minister. She may have had a better-than-average education, but we can only speculate as to how she passed her time. Jutogh was one of the first military cantonments built in the British period. There were no large cities in proximity. Simla, to which Jutogh was nominally attached, had only about 12,000 people. Significant construction work was taking place, including the building of drainage and sewerage systems and the provision of better water supplies and other public works. The town was served by a railway line, and even had its own distillery for the production of whiskey from barley malt. The preponderance of British place names in Simla was typical of the colonial era.


Soldiers and their families in the barracks at adjacent Jutogh were well provided for, and a contemporary map (below) shows churches, school, a hospital and a number of villas and recreational facilities as well as the usual buildings used for Army personnel and administration. The cantonment seems to have been about half a mile across, and lay mostly between 6,000 and 6,500 feet elevation - considerably more comfortable than the insufferable heat of the plains.

Children of
Frederick Wright Giles and Emma Compton
Emfred Giles - Born 1888 Jutogh, Himachal Pradesh, India
Annie Giles - Born 1890 Jutogh, Himachal Pradesh, India
Georgina Giles - Born 1892 Rawal Pindi, Punjab, India
Frederick Compton Giles - Born 1896 Murree Hills, Punjab, India

xxx

Left: Broadwater parish church, Sussex, where Frederick married Emma Compton in 1887.

Above: British India as it was in 1909, just after Frederick Giles left the army. The size of the British stations at Jutogh, Rawal Pindi and Murree Hills are exaggerated for convenience.

Right: Sunset over the rugged mountains at Jutogh, India, where Emma gave birth to her first two children.

Jutogh

Rawal Pindi

Murree Hills

Sources include:


  1. Bullet Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 20, pub. 1908, Oxford Clarendon Press.

  2. Bullet Wikipedia (Murree Hills)

  3. Bullet Murreeonline.com

  4. Bullet Diary of Frederick Dixon 1907 (piersallison.co.uk)

  5. Bullet Northeastmedals.co.uk


Note: Under Pakistani copyright laws, all photographs enter the public domain after 50 years.

Below: Map of British Army barracks at Jutogh, near Simla. The postcard shows the parade ground with Jutogh Hill behind (Vintage British Indian Picture Postcard, Publisher: Moorli Dhur & Son, Umballa).

Some time before 1892, Frederick and Emma were transferred to Rawal Pindi (now Rawalpindi in Pakistan), where the Lieutenant General Commanding had his headquarters. It was an important station, not only for British control of the Indian Northwest Frontier, but for its strategic position relative to neighboring Afghanistan. Frederick’s posting to Rawal Pindi was consistent with the significant artillery presence there.


During this period, Frederick’s military records mention two specific engagements - the Isazai Expedition of 1892 and the relief of Chitral in 1895. The relief of Chitral is well documented (see here). Tribesmen in the area of the far north west had assassinated the ruling chief, a nominee of the British, and a force of several thousand tribesmen sought to consolidate their point by driving out the British representative. In difficult conditions and with snow in the mountain passes, a 16,000-man British expedition was dispatched to subdue the tribesmen and relieve a small British force, which it did with some loss of life. A British garrison was later set up in Chitral, which was annexed to British India.


Now resident at Rawal Pindi, Emma gave birth to their third child, a sister to Emfred and Annie who had both been born at Jutogh. They named her Georgina. Their first son, Frederick Compton Wright, came a little more than 18 months later, and was born at Murree Hills.


Not far from Rawal Pindi but at 7,500 feet, the area known as Murree Hills is spectacularly beautiful. It was built by the British - cut into the southern slopes of the Western Himalayas as they rise toward Kashmir to the northeast. Houses and villas were constructed on the hillsides, and there was even a church, set rather incongruously atop a hill overlooking the bazaar. The place was started in 1851 by Sir Henry Lawrence, Governor of Punjab, both as a garrison for British troops watching the Afghan frontier and as a sanitarium. By the time Frederick Compton Giles was born there in 1896, it was regarded as a getaway or resort for British families escaping the heat. Certainly that was the attraction for the Lieutenant General of the Northern Command, who moved there from Rawal Pindi during the hot season. The Gazetteer of Rawalpindi District, 1893–94, described it this way”

“The sanatorium of Murree lied in north latitude 33 54' 30" and east longitude 73 26' 30", at an elevation of 7,517 feet (2,291 m) above sea level, and contained a standing population of 1,768 inhabitants, which was, however, enormously increased during the [May-November] season by the influx of visitors and their attendant servants, and shopkeepers. It is the most accessible hill station in the Punjab, being distant from Rawalpindi only a five hours' journey by tonga dak. Magnificent views are to be obtained in the spring and autumn of the snow crowned mountains of Kashmir; and gorgeous sunset and cloud effects seen daily during the rains [July-August]. Part of the station, especially the Kashmir end, are also well wooded and pretty.”  

The “tonga dak” referred to here was a short, two-wheeled carriage somewhat like a chariot but covered, and drawn by ponies. The 38 miles from Rawal Pindi to Murree was mostly uphill and hard, slow going, despite the casual reference in the Gazetteer. Whether the Giles family lived in Murree Hills together or Emma simply stayed there for her confinement cannot be determined from the known records. Yet it must have been something of a wrench when, in mid-April 1897 and after a tour of duty of more than nine and a half years, the family finally left India for England. No doubt the parents told the children they were going home. But for the four children, India was the only home they had ever known.


    The Giles family in the Mediterranean
    Frederick Wright Giles and Boer Wargiles_frederick_wright_and_emma_Med.htmlshapeimage_16_link_0shapeimage_16_link_1

Right: The fort at Chitral, 1895.

Below right: The India Medal 1895, awarded initially to the relievers and defenders of Chitral, and extended later, as indicated on this example, to further Indian frontier actions. Frederick Giles received this medal, with clasp, for his part in the relief of Chitral.

Below: Murree Hills as it was when Frederick Compton Giles was born there, and (bottom) view from the area today.

For details of the family tree of Frederick Wright Giles and Emma Compton click on the WorldConnect icon below. This will open a window for these individuals in the Otterson-Berry family tree at RootsWeb.com, a free site.