Brian Green tells the story of his maternal 4 x great uncle, John Tritton and John’s son, two soldiers who were the first of several member of our family to serve in India during the British Raj

Captain John Tritton, the second son of Henry and Sarah (nee Mercer) Tritton, was baptised at St Leonard’s parish church, Hythe, Kent on September 15 1772. John’s early years were spend as a draper. This entry into trade is not surprising when one considers that as a younger son, he would not expect to inherit much, if any, of his father’s estate. Henry’s Will make no mention of any child other than John’s older brother, William (1768-1830). Who appears to have inherited Henry’s entire estate.

John married Mary Browning at Waltham, Kent on September 8 1795. They had two sons, John and Henry Ewell, but only John survived. Mary was buried on June 3 1798 at Waltham probably having died during or shortly after the birth of Henry Ewell (who was buried at Waltham on August 23 1798)

On April 3, 1801 John received a commission as a Cornet (the lowest rank of commissioned officer in the Cavalry, replaced by that of Second Lieutenant in 1871) with His Majesty’s 27th Light Dragoons. He may have purchased this himself from the profits earned as a draper but I believe his father likely helped with the required £840. John was the first of the Trittons’ of Hythe to go to India but he was not the first Tritton in India; one Thomas of Ashford, a member of the Tritton family of Kennington, died unmarried in Calcutta and his Will was proved there on January 25 1771.

The actual date of John’s arrival in India is as yet unknown. He was certainly there by 1804,. For in that year he married, at Cawnpore, Mary, a natural daughter of Robert Grant, for many years a Collector of Customs. By this time Cawnpore, on the south bank of the Ganges, had become the largest up-country military cantonment in India, seldom containing less than ten thousand soldiers. It was from here that the Bengal Army’s Commander-in-Chief, Lord Lake, set out on the campaigns known as the Mahratta Wars.

John and Mary’s first child, William Mills, was born at Cawnpore on May 23 1805; they were to have two more sons (Robert Henry Grant and Charles Hill Grant) and six daughters (Catherine Louisa, Harriette Elizabeth, Charlotte, Georgina, Mary Anne and Fanny Price) John’s service records state that he acted as an adjutant from November 1, 1807 to August 1, 1808. On January 22, 1812, John obtained the commission of Captain. An officer had to pay the difference between purchase price of the promoted rank and the value of his own commission, so John would have paid an additional £350 for a Lieutenant’s commission (obtained on August 20, 1803) and another £2,035 for his Captain’s commission; John total expenditure, including his Cornet’s commission would have been £3225.

During the latter part of 1812, he returned with Mary. The Hythe parish registers state that Georgina was born on December 11, 1812. The reason for John and Mary’s visit, I suspect, was so that John’s sons by his first wife could rejoin him. John Jnr had probably been raised by his uncle, William, during his father’s absence. During John and Mary’s stay in England, John Jnr received a Cornet’s commission in his father’s regiment. John and Mary remained at Hythe at least until March 1813 (Georgina was baptised at St Leonard’s on17th of that month) before making the journey back to India. The date of their arrival at Calcutta would appear to have been sometime in November 1813; in those days, long before the Suez Canal and the Indian railways were built, the route to the interior of India was via Calcutta, the sea journey from England taking five or six months.

Five years later Captain John was once again in England, having returned with his regiment, which had been reduced in strength on Christmas Day 1818, at which time John went on to half pay. His wife Mary and probably all their children, but not John Jnr, also made the long voyage home at this time. The family resided for a while at Hythe, were Mary Anne was born on June 14 1818 and baptised at St Leonard’s. Later the family moved to the Ashford area, ten miles from Hythe; cadet papers for William Mills, who also followed a military career, refer to him as a son of John Tritton of Lacton House, near Ashford. However, John did not remain in England, but returned to India. When he did so is uncertain, but it appears that he left Mary behind, pregnant, for in his Will he refers to ‘the youngest, born after I left England, whose name I believe to be Charles’. This was Charles Hill Grant Tritton, who was baptized in St. Mildred’s Church in Canterbury on 10th February 1846

Article reproduced from TFH Iss.1 by Brian Greene

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