Part of the British Raj in India

John Tritton Jnr was born on 7th September 1796 and baptised at St Leonard’s Hythe, some six weeks later, on October 23, I believe he was left in the care of his father’s older brother, William; I doubt if John Snr would have taken his young son to the military cantonments of India, considering that he was a widower at that time and would have been dependent on strangers to care for the boy.

John Jnr was only 16 yrs of age when, on January 14 1813, he obtained the commission of Cornet with the 24th Light Dragoons, no doubt with the help of his father. This was the beginning of a long and distinguished career that lasted more than 40 years and involved him in many of the major battles fought in India during that time. He was with the horse artillery of the 24th’s ‘Gallopers’ at the siege and capture of Hattras in 1817 (witnessing the terrible carnage and devastation that occurred when underground gun powder stores were blown up); afterwards, Hart’s Army List records that he served with the Centre Divison of the Grand Army during the Mahratta Campaign of 1817/8, when the British shattered a combined force of Mahratta and Pindari estimated at 200,000 men and 500 guns.

John’s military records seem to indicate that he did not accompany the ‘24th’ back to England in 1818. By October 1819 he had joined the 11th Light Dragoons and it was as a Lieutenant of his regiment that on November 1, 1821, at Cawnpore, he married Frances (‘Fanny’) the only surviving daughter of John Maxwell, who during ten years in Cawnpore had owned a rum distillery, cotton presses and an indigo factory and amassed a fortune. One of the witnesses at the wedding was Elizabeth Grant, wife of Robert Grant, father of Mary. John’s stepmother, John won a silver medal for his services at Bhurtpore, and although there is some doubt as to whether his father was there too, we know that his cousin William Tritton was there, serving as a Lieutenant with the 41st Bengal Native Infantry.

Four years later John, together with another cousin, Edmund (who was also his brother-in-law) having married Harriette Elizabeth in 1828) and Adam Maxwell (Fanny’s brother) acted as executors for John Snr’s Will.

On October 7 1836, John obtained his Captain’s commission with the ‘11th’ and within a year transferred to the 3rd Light Dragoons, possibly in order to remain in India when the ‘11th’s’ period of overseas service was over. He serviced with the ‘3rd’ in Afghanistan, including the historic forcing of the Khyber Pass on April 5 1842. John and Fanny’s second son, Robert Burnett, an ensign with the 31st Foot @Regiment, died in 1842, likely during the Afghan Campaign. John’s half-brother William Mills, mentioned earlier also took part in the forcing of the Khyber, with the 26th BNI. John was also involved in the storming of the Heights of Ingdulluck in September 1842. At the close of the actions in Fazeen and Huft Kotul he was sent in pursuit of the enemy and with a party of twelve men overtook and captured one of their guns. He and William were also part of the occupation force at Kabul. For his services in the Afghan Campaign John received another silver metal.

He next served with the Army of the Sutlej, action as assistant adjutant general of the cavalry. He captured an enemy standard during the Battle of Moodkee on December 18 1845, and in the Battle of Ferozeshah on December 22 and 23 he accompanied the ‘3rd’ in their celebrated charge on the enemy’s batteries and forced a passage through the entrenched Sikh position. At the battle of Sobraon on February 10, 1846, his horse was shot from under. Once again he was decorated for his actions, this time with a silver medal and two clasps. John’s youngest half-brother, Charles Hill Grant Tritton, also mentioned earlier, a Lieutenant with the 31st Foot Regiment, died of wounds received at Sobraon. His name is inscribed on a memorial in Canterbury Cathedral in honour of those who died in what proved to be a decisive victory.

Soon after the first Sikh War, John obtained the commission of Major with the 10th Hussars, a prestigious cavalry regiment commanded by Colonel Lord Henry Beauchamp and later known as ‘the Prince of Wales’ Own. It was with the ‘10th’ that John served his last seven years in India, mostly in Bombay. He became a Lieutenant Colonel on February 27, 1852. His various purchases of commissions would have cost him £6,175 and I wonder if some of this may have been paid from Fanny’s sizeable inheritance. John’s long and uninterrupted Army career in India came to a close on December 13, 1853. He died two months later on February 8, and was buried in the English cemetery, Somapur B Ward, Charni Road, Bombay.

All four of his sons (John Maxwell, Robert Burnett, Edmund Spry and Nicholas Bruton) died in India. John and Fanny also had four daughters, Charlotte Louise (who married Edward Stacey, a Captain in the 10th Hussars), Helen Margaret (who married Dr Samuel Currie, an Army surgeon who later became Hon. Physician to Queen Victoria), Fanny Georgiana (who married Alfred Stephen Chapman, a Major in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) and Emily (who married William Fanning, a Lloyds underwriter). Fanny died at 13 Orsett Terrace, Paddington, London on June 24 1874.

A Family at War

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