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James Burke, Drummer, Drum Major, Private – British Army service record

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Top of Regimental Board form for James Burke, formerly Drum Major, now Private of the 39th Regiment of Foot.
Top of Regimental Board form for James Burke (1829–1860) of Gillingham, Kent; drum major, 39th Regiment of Foot.

The following is a transcript from the British Army service record of James Burke (1832–1860) of Gillingham, Kent. James was taken into his late father’s regiment, the 39th, at the age of thirteen. He served at the ranks of Drummer, Drum Major, and Private soldier.

WO 97: Discharge Documents :

Page 1 :

Her Majesty’s 39th Reg’t of Foot
Whereof Lieut-General R. Lluellynn CB is Colonel.
(Place and Date) Quebec 7th May 1859
   Proceedings of a Regimental Board, held this day, in conformity to the Articles of War, for the purpose of verifying and recording the Services, Conduct, Character, and cause of Discharge of No. 2397, Private James Burke of the Regiment above-mentioned.

President. Major A.H. Currie 39th Regt.
Bt. Major W. Leckie 39th Regt.
Capt. [illegible] H. Haker 39th Regt.

The Board having examined and compared the Regimental Records, the Soldier’s Book, and such other Documents as appeared to them to be necessary, report that
   No 2397 Private James Bourke by Trade None was Born in the Parish of Gillingham in or near the Town of Chatham in the County of Kent and was Attested for the 39th Regiment of Foot at Rochester in the County of Kent on the 10th February 1843 at the Age of Thirteen years eight months that after making every Deduction required by Her Majesty’s Regulations, the Service up to this day, which he is entitled to reckon, amounts to Eleven years, Three hundred & fifty four days, as shewn by the detailed Statement on the 2nd page; during which period, he served Abroad 5 years, 43 days, viz.—

— at Gibraltar from 19th April 1854 to 8th December 1854, 234 days,
— in Crimea from 9th December 1854 to 30th April 1856, 1 years 143 days;
— in Canada from 1st May 1856 to 31st May 1859, 3 [years] 31 [days].
— Present at the assaults on Sebastopol 18th June and 8th September.

and further, that his Discharge is proposed in consequence of Disability
(In cases of Disability, the Regimental Medical Officer will write his Report on the 3rd Page hereof.)

With regard to the Character and Conduct of No. 2397 Private James Burke the Board have to report, that upon reference to the Defaulter’s Book, and by the Parole testimony that has been given, it appears that His conduct has been good, that he is in possession of one Good Conduct Badge, and has been once tried by Court Martial.

Page 2 :

Signature of James Burke (1829–1860) on document recording his discharge from the 39th Regiment of Foot.
Signature of James Burke on his discharge from the 39th regiment.

No. 2397 Private James Burke being asked to what date he has been paid, answered that his Account is balanced up to the latest period required by the Regulations; and being further asked whether he has any claim on the Regiment for Arrears of Pay, Allowances, or Clothing, answered, that he has received all just demands, from his entry into the Service up to the 31st May 1859 and in confirmation therefore affixes his signature hereto.

I acknowledge this to be true.

Witness [illegible] H. Haber [or Haker] Capt 39th Reg’t.

The Board have ascertained that No. 2397 Private James Burke Soldier’s Book is correctly Balanced, and signed by the Officer Commanding his Company, and they declare, that they have impartially enquired into, and faithfully reported upon all the matters brought before them, in accordance with the Regulations and Instructions issued by Her Majesty’s Orders.

RH Currie Major 39th Regt. President.
W Cutin Major 39th Regiment [?] .
[illegible] R. Haben Capt 39th Regt.

Detailed Statement of the Services of No. 2397 Private James Burke.
[Format: Regiment; Promotions, Reductions, &c.; Rank; Period of Service in each Rank: From, To; Amount of Service: Years, Days.]

Regiment: 39th [during entire service]

— Private; 10th February 1843 to 10th March 1845, Under age.
— Appointed Drummer; 11th March 1845 to 9th June 1847; Under age.
— Drummer; 10 June 1847 to 19 July 1847; 40 days.
— Returned Private; 20 July 1847 to 10 February 1853; 5 years, 246 days.
— Entitled to one G.C. Badge & pay; 14th June 1852.
— Forfeited G.C. Badge & pay; 7th December 1852.
— Appointed Drum Major; 11 February 1853 to 19th July 1853; 159 days.
— Tried by Regimental Ct Martial & Sentenced to be reduced.
— Confined; Drum Major; 20th July 1853 to 21st July 1853.
— Released; Private; 22 July 1853 to 31st March 1857; 3 years 253 days.
     Total Service Allowed to 31st March 1857 Nine years two hundred & ninety three days, Le W.C. Wolfe Major 39th Reg’t; 9 years 293 days.
— Private; 1st April 1857 to 31st May 1859; 2 years.
— Good Conduct pay @ 1d; 29 August 1857.
     Total of the foregoing Statement … 11 years 354 days.
Further services from the 1st June 1859 to the 19th July 1859 when finally discharged … 49 days.
Total Service allowed to reckon to the day of final discharge … 12 years 36 days.

The foregoing Report is hereby confirmed by me Wm. M—— [illegible] Colonel Commanding 39th Regt. of Foot.

Page 3 :

Medical Report.—(In cases of Men to be Discharged as Unfit for Service, the Regimental Medical Officer is to state here the nature and origin of the Disability, and whether the same has been caused by the Man’s Military Services, by Climate, by Constitutional Infirmity, or Predisposition, or is the result of Indulgence in the use of Intoxicating Liquors, or other Vices. If from an Accident, under what circumstances the Accident occurred, and whether on or off Duty. In Opthalmic Cases, or other Disorders of the Eyes, it must be stated how the Disease was contracted, and whether the same was, or was not, prevalent at the time in the Regiment, or at the Station.)

Has phthisis pulmonalis affecting both lungs, the result of constitutional predisposition.
   Signed John St [illegible], Asst Surgeon 39th R.

Opinion of the Principal Medical Officer, at Chatham June 18th 1859:
   Having examined Pte James Burke I am of opinion he is unfit for further service in consequence of pulmonary disease.
   [Signed:] JR — [illegible]

Horse Guards, 19 July 1859.
   The Discharge of the Man above mentioned is approved by the General Commander-in-Chief.
   [Signed:] John W Reynolds —— [illegible]

Page 4 :

Final Description
Of No. 2397 Private James Burke of the 39th Regt. of Foot when Discharged the Service at Chatham this 19th day of July 1859.

Age 30 1/12 years
Height 5 Feet 11-5/8 Inches
Hair Lt Brown
Eyes Blue
Complexion Fresh
Trade Marks of Scars, whether on the Face, or other parts of the Body [left blank]

Intended Place of Residence: Chichester, Sussex, England

End notes :

Source citation for this page: — British Army Service Records, 1760–1913. James Burke (1829–1860) of Gillingham, Kent; drummer, drum major, and private soldier for the 39th Regiment of Foot; regimental no. 2397. Original record held by The National Archives (Kew, Surrey); archival ref. WO 97/1512/32. Transcript by Alison Kilpatrick, 2013-06-16; hosted online at Arborealis,, accessed [insert date of access].

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Updated 29th Nov. 2023.