William Lane’s Army and Mounted Police Careers

William’s seal

This seal is said to have been handed down from William Lane to the eldest sons. Today it is held by a Lane descendant. It was thought to have been used by William when he was a police sergeant at Windsor, about 1840-50s.

Head of the seal

Next to the head can be seen the word Parr. It is not known who is Parr. A William Parr, a land surveyor and convict, led an exploring party north from Windsor in 1817, just about reaching the Hunter River. It appears Parr returned to England in 1825.

British Military Research – A case study based on an early 19th century soldier in New South Wales

by Grahame Thorn

This article was published in Our Heritage in History – Papers of the Sixth Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry May 1991, pages 399 – 409.


Many soldiers of the British Army settled in Australia and New Zealand during the 19th century. They came as officers and other ranks starting with the NSW Corps in 1790 and ending with the departure of the 14th and 18th Regiments in 1870. Not only did men leave the army in Australia and New Zealand after a tour of duty with their regiment either by discharge or as deserters, they also came

. after being discharged in Australia following duty with the Mounted Police;

. as Chelsea pensioners recruited to guard convicts on the transports;

. as Chelsea pensioners attracted by promises of land grants; and

. as discharged officers and men without gaining a pension.


Many people at the Congress have probably found an army ancestor during this period. If you have, then you may have faced the difficulty of not knowing the number of the regiment. This is the key to further research as the War Office records are structured around the regiment number.

Your first indication of an army connection may be an occupation on a death certificate ‘pensioner’ or ‘soldier’ but, after establishing the regiment number, you will likely find much information about his army career.

How do you solve this problem? Another certificate such as the birth of a child of the soldier may provide the key. You may find the number on his headstone or in an obituary. For serving soldiers in New Zealand your answer will be found in Hugh and Lyn Hughes’ excellent book Discharged in New Zealand, Auckland, 1988, which lists soldiers discharged during the period 1840 to 1870.

If you think your soldier ancestor came out with his regiment narrow down his year of arrival or earliest known year in Australasia; establish which regiments were here then (see Brigadier Austin’s paper ‘Army Records in Australia 1788-1901′ in Papers -1980 Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, Adelaide 1980); and search the relevant pay musters (War Office Class 12 – Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) reels 3694 to 3917). When using AJCP material researchers should first consult the various Handbooks published by the National Library of Australia; part 4 relates to the War Office. For an outline of AJCP material see MaryAnne Patterson’s paper, ‘The Australian Joint Copying Project: Another Bridge to Cross’ in Bridging the Generations – Fourth Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, Canberra, 1986.

For pensioners you may find the regiment number from the pension records, especially War Office Class 22 on various AJCP reels. For officers the easy approach is to check the annual published Army Lists. For deserters you may find your ancestor in

. Sexton, R. The Deserters: Military and Naval Deserters as Settlers in Australia and New Zealand, 1800-1865. Sydney, 1984; and

. Fitzmaurice, Y. Army Deserters from HM Service, Volume 1, 1853-1858, Volume 2, 1859-1870.

Turning now to two other critical pieces of information you would like to obtain but may not. It is unusual to find the names of a soldier’s parents in army records. Also such records, and civil records, usually don’t reveal the name of the ship of arrival. Don’t forget that some men who joined a regiment while in Australia could be native born. Also remember that the army and their families were not included in the musters and census returns.


But let us see how I faced these challenges when researching one of my four British army ancestors, William Lane of the 39th Regiment.

My first indication that William had army connections was from the birth certificate of his son John. It showed that William was a Corporal in the 39th Regiment in 1830. But more interestingly the burial certificate (1847) of William’s wife Sarah stated that she was the ‘Wife of Sergeant of Mounted Police’ and that she had arrived on the ship England. So luckily I had overcome two major problems, the number of the regiment and the ship of arrival.


I consulted Brigadier Austin’s 1980 congress paper and from his excellent charts found that the 39th Regiment served in Australia from 1824 to 1833. Next I checked Charles Bateson’s standard reference work The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Sydney, 1974, as most serving soldiers came as part of the army guard on a convict ship and found

. arrived 18 September 1826, Sydney
. arrived 14 February 1832, Hobart
. arrived 28 September 1835, Sydney.

As son John’s birth was in Sydney in 1830 it was easy to conclude that Sarah had arrived on the England’s first voyage. Hopefully William was on board too.

The Sydney Gazette of 20 September 1826 revealed that ‘On Monday last arrived, from London direct, having sailed on the 6 May, the ship ‘England’, Captain Reay, with 148 male prisoners, in good health. The Surgeon Superintendent is Dr. Thomson, R.N. The guard comprises a detachment of the 39th, under orders of Major D’Arcy.’ So far so good, but how could I prove that the Lane family was on board as army men were not listed on the passengers lists other than the names of officers, their wives, and just the number of other ranks. Sometimes you will find the answer in the pay musters but not for the 39th.

Luckily the AJCP project had filmed Admiralty Class 101, Registers, Medical Journals. The Handbook, Part 7, for the Admiralty lists in alphabetical order convict ships (not complete) for the period 1816 to 1856 which have medical journals; mostly from England to Sydney. There is also a selection of journals for emigrant ships and HM Ships.

These journals are handwritten and many are difficult to read. The information content can range from a simple summary of the kinds of medical cases treated by the surgeon, to an extensive report that records a day-to-day diary of the voyage, case reports under the name of each patient, and lists of all persons on board. So it was easy to find that the ship England was listed as being on microfilm reel 3195. I was pleased to find that the surgeon of the England had a good hand and had completed an extensive report.

Included in a list of the guard was Corporal William Lane, wife and three children (not named). I checked the daily reports but found no reference to William, although many soldiers and convicts were mentioned.

Two other sources well worth checking, especially if your ancestor was an officer, are the multi volumed Historical Records of Australia and the Historical Records of New South Wales.

You may find it difficult to find proof that your soldier ancestor arrived on a particular ship (for soldiers to New Zealand see Hughes, Discharged in New Zealand). One way of deducing this with reasonable results is to establish from the pay musters when your ancestor was first listed as being in Australia and the name of his Company commander at that time. Then establish which ship the officer arrived on, as its likely your soldier was on the same ship if the timing is right. This may be all you can do.


The Paymaster of each regiment was required to maintain accurate and detailed quarterly returns which covered many matters such as

. pay listings by rank and name
. officers and soldiers discharged
. men joining the regiment
. deserters and
. many other details.

From these returns you can construct good details about the career of your ancestor. The pay musters provide

. the soldier’s number in the regiment (early pay musters do not show this number and it may be difficult to distinguish between men of the same name)
. rank and name
. period of duty
. days paid
. where serving (if no details given then the soldier is usually at Headquarters), and .
. remarks (this in most cases is blank).

The AJCP project has filmed all musters for the period when the regiments were in Australia and New Zealand. If you need the muster details for service prior to and after service in Australia and New Zealand you will need to consult the War Office records held in the Public Record Office (PRO), Kew, England. However, on occasions, AJCP reels can cover the muster immediately prior to and after the tour here.

For William Lane I was able to find him on the musters while on duty with the army till he was transferred to the NSW mounted police in 1832. Soldiers with the mounted police were listed as supernumeraries in the pay musters of a regiment here at the time. For example, William Lane was first listed as a supernumerary of his 39th Regiment and after the regiment left for India he was listed as a supernumerary of several regiments, the 4th, 80th, 99th and 11th.

One return in the pay musters for the 39th Regiment (AJCP Reel 3771) lists men who had served 14 and 7 years as at 24 December 1829 including William Lane. Because he enlisted under age the return states his birth date was prior to 23 December 1797.

When a soldier in the mounted police was due to be discharged you should find him transferred back to the strength of the regiment of which he was last listed as a supernumerary. But a word of warning here. William Lane was a corporal on joining the mounted police in 1832. Later he was promoted to sergeant in the mounted police but not in the army. Therefore on being returned to strength he is shown under the list of corporals. So we find an interesting recording in the pay musters for the 11th Regiment for December 1849.

. 2653 Corporal William Lane Invalid on furlough from 29 Dec Transferred from Mounted Police I Dec and directed to be borne on Pay List as a supernumerary corporal until finally discharged.


One of the most useful single records for a soldier is his discharge certificate. But before you get your hopes up I need to say that for the period covered by this paper you will only find a certificate if your ancestor was discharged to pension.

War Office Class 97, which includes discharge certificates, has not been copied by the AJCP project as it is not possible without much research to distinguish those soldiers who were discharged in Australia from any others. So you need to have this Class checked at the PRO in England. It is structured in regiment order.

To give you some idea of the information content of a discharge certificate here are the details for William Lane.

. 11th Regiment, Sydney, 21 December 1849
. No 2653 Corporal William Lane
. Trade – Labourer
. Born in the parish of Goodridge (later found to be Goodrich) County of Hereford
. Joined 39th Regiment at Hereford on 23 December 1812 at age 15 years
. Service of 33 years 354 days, including 3 years in France and 23 2/3 years in the Australian colonies
. Discharged in consequence of disability and chronic rheumatism
. His character has been very good and he served the Mounted Police of NSW where he attained the rank of sergeant and in which force he was considered by the Commandant to be a most active and intelligent NCO
. Signature of Wm Lane
. Detailed Statement of Service including:
. Tried by a Garrison Court Martial on 4th and punishment on 6 July 1840, for having been drunk on duty, convicted and sentenced to be reduced to Private which sentence was remitted.
. Description – age 52 years, brown hair, hazel eyes, fresh complexion
. Intended place of residence – Windsor, NSW
. Discharge approved 9 July 1850.

So we have established William Lane’s career in the British Army from 1812 to 1849. This is a period of 37 years but William’s official career was just under 34 years. This difference can be explained by the fact that William enlisted at age 15 years and being under age service did not count until he reached 18 years on 23 December 1815.

There are many other official army records that can be consulted such as Correspondence (WO 1, 4, 6), Monthly Returns (WO 17), Out-pension Records (WO 22), Headquarters Records (WO 28), Ordnance Office (WO 55), Commissariat Department (WO 57), Courts Martial (WO 93) and Medal Rolls (WO 100). Two good reference works for general background on the various War Office records are

. Hamilton-Edwards, G. In Search of Army Ancestry. London, 1977; and
. Cox, J. and Padfield, T. Tracing your Ancestors in the Public Record Office. London, 1983.

Before looking at the pension records, let us see what happened to William while he was in the NSW Mounted Police.


The NSW Mounted Police was formed in 1825 to assist in controlling aborigines and carrying out general police work involving the need to move quickly and over longer distances.

Men were drawn from regiments on duty in NSW and were subject to military law and discipline. Lack of funds and replacement by civil police meant its disbandment in 1850.

Lacking in experience in the early days of researching my family history, I wrote to the NSW Police Department seeking any information on William’s career in the mounted police. The response came back quickly with a copy of a document from the Defaulters Book. Subsequently I found that this record is held by the NSW Archives – reference 2/671.

It was a nominal roll of the Mounted Police Corps on 31 March 1848 and included Sergeant William Lane who joined the police on 17 May 1832 from the 39th Regiment. Also included were further details about his court martial offence.

. Date of offence – 13 June 1840
. Offence – For being drunk when in charge of the Police Station at Longbottom on the night of the 13 June.
. Punishment – Guilty, reduced to the rank and pay of a private sentinel, court martial 4 and 6 July 1840, punishment remitted.

Where was Longbottom? This I found from consulting several sources including the facsimile edition of The New South Wales Calendar and General Post Office Directory 1832. It was a government stockade on the road to Parramatta, now in the Sydney suburb of Concord.

As I found there was little available at that time on the mounted police, I decided to concentrate on Longbottom. I searched for a history of Concord and found Sheena Cope’s Concord – A Centenary History. This well researched book included a chapter on the holding at the stockade of 58 French Canadian prisoners from 1840 to 1842 and a reference to a diary maintained by one of the prisoners. I will not go into the background of this very interesting group but to say they were political prisoners from Canada.

The diary has been published and includes a number of references to William Lane and his family. Francois-Maurice Lepailleur gives a most fascinating insight into life in Sydney at the time – Land of a Thousand Sorrows, translated by F.M. Greenwood, Melbourne, 1980. On 13 June 1840 he gives a lengthy recording of the event that led to William Lane’s court martial. It all started with a fellow sergeant beating his wife as usual and Lepailleur says

“With this a general brawl broke out, such as you’ve never seen. Mr Baddely (the Superintendent) had the carters’ room opened so they could help him. As a matter of fact when the carters arrived, the police had torn everything to bits. He then put Gorman (the other sergeant) in the lock up. Our fellows brought several of them out of Lane’s house. Mr. Baddely then gave the order to open all the huts where we bunk. Everyone came out and there was a terrible scuffle between the Canadiens (sic) and the police. Mr. Baddely and Bourdon went completely out of their minds. I have never seen such a farce and you couldn’t ever see anything as vile as these police of New South Wales, drunks and scum. They don’t keep the peace – they promote disorder. Several of us were forced to do sentry duty during the night. It rained very hard.”

For a general overview of the mounted police see John O’Sullivan’s, Mounted Police in NSW, and Mounted Police in Victoria. But perhaps the most useful record available for researching the mounted police is the four original volumes of the Troop and General Order Books. Three, covering the period 1831 to 1841, are held in the National Library (MS3221 and mfm G 24557). The fourth volume is held by the NSW Archives and covers the period 1841 to 1850 (AO 4/5718).

The three National Library volumes have been indexed by name by David Murphy of Queanbeyan, and William Lane appears on numerous occasions. The Books include appointments, promotions, postings, disciplinary action, including Lane’s court martial and other day-to-day events. For example:

. Corporal Lane, Mounted Police, Campbelltown, 19 Nov 1832

. Your monthly return showing the duties performed during the month of October is dated 1 September instead of 1 November. Such inattention on your part is quite inexcusable and I have to desire you will be more careful in future.

. 11 Aug 1834 – Corporal Lane of Windsor and four other instructed to pursue five prisoners.
. 1 June 1835 – Corporal Lane, grog stopped for whole of the month for drunkenness on duty.
. 3 Sept 1838 – Corporal Lane is appointed Lance Sergeant until further orders and will be obeyed as such accordingly.


The following are examples of some records you could consult so as to add background information about your soldier ancestor’s life.

Regimental histories – You will find that each regiment has a published history and many of these will be found in public libraries in Australia and New Zealand. They usually give a general outline of the regiment’s history and don’t include many names of soldiers. For the 39th Regiment I consulted Hugh Popham’s The Dorset Regiment. Each regiment maintains a museum of some extent but again do not expect to be provided with information about your ancestor.

Newspapers – Researchers should check newspapers for any references to your military ancestor. I found that the Sydney Morning Herald of 25 December 1844 reported that Sergeant Lane of Windsor had captured the cattle stealer Daley who was the leader of the notorious McKenzie gang.

NSW Archives – In 1849 William Lane submitted a petition for a grant of land, obviously in view of his pending retirement. The petition outlines his career and circumstances, and reveals he was stationed at Emu Plains. The petition was not successful (Colonial Secretary – letters received 1849 – AO 4/2866).

Wills and Land Records – You may find that your soldier made a will or that he held land. William Lane does not appear to have made a will or held land.

Published works – page 128 of J.C.L. Fitzpatrick’s book The Good Old Days of the Hawkesbury, Windsor, 1900, states ‘The first Windsor election … Just about 4 o’clock Bowman and his son in law (Cadell) came through the town in their carriage and the crowd assailed them with stones and brick-bats. Sergeant Lane and six other mounted troopers with drawn swords, had to escort them through the town, the stones striking the swords and knocking fire from them.’

Cemetery records – William Lane died on 3 February 1863 and is buried in St Matthew’s Church of England Cemetery, Windsor. His headstone makes no reference to his army career. William’s wife Sarah died on 25 November 1847, and being Catholic, was buried in a private RC cemetery at Cranebrook, north of Penrith, NSW. Her headstone inscription includes an interesting phrase – ‘Wife of Sergeant Lane of the Mounted Police for 27 years and 9 months’. This last fact is assumed to relate to the length of their marriage. This occurred in 1820 in Dublin while the 39th Regiment was stationed in Ireland.


Some pension information is obtainable from AJCP reels. War Office Class 22 covers the out pension records of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. For Australasia these returns date from 1845 to 1880 with various lists for each colony and New Zealand in regiment order. For information prior to 1845 you will need to use the records in the PRO at Kew, England, but don’t expect to find much.

From these returns you can establish the period your soldier received a pension and in many cases a date of death.

William Lane is listed in the NSW returns from 30 November 1850 to his death in 1863. It states he was on regimental pay up to 30 November even though his discharge was approved on 9 July 1850. The later date obviously resulted from the time delay in sending documents from England to the colonies. He received two shillings and a halfpenny a day.

For further information about the British army pension system see my paper ‘Chelsea Pensioners in Nineteenth Century Australia’, in Bridging the Generations: Fourth Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, Canberra 1986. Also I have indexed all the pensioners included in the returns for NSW for the period 1849 to 1853.


I have mentioned only a few War Office sources and other references. In addition you may use the following to expand your knowledge:

Ascoli, David. A Companion Guide to the British Army 1660-1983.
Austin, M. The Army in Australia, 1840-1850. Canberra, 1979.
Broomhall, F. The Veterans: a History of the Enrolled Pensioner Force Western Australia. Perth, 1989.
Higham, Robin. A Guide to the Sources of British Military History, California, 1971.
Kitzmiller, John. In Search of the ‘Forlorn Hope’: A Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments and their Records (1640- WW2). Utah, 1988.
Montague, R.H. Dress and Insignia of the British Army in Australia and New Zealand, 1770-1870. Sydney, 1981.
Montague, R.H. How to Trace Your Military Ancestors in Australia and New Zealand. Sydney, 1989.
Stanley, Peter. The Remote Garrison: The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Sydney,1986.
Swinson, A. ( ed. ) A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army, the Ancestry of the Regiments and Corps of the Regular Establishment of the Army, London, 1975.
Thorn, G.R. ‘British Army Pensions’, The Ancestral Searcher, Volume 11, No 3, p. 100.
White, Arthur S. A Bibliography of Regimental Histories of the British Army, London, 1965
Whiteley, E.S. and C.G.S. The Military Establishment in Western Australia 1828-1863, Perth, 1988.


William and John Lane of Windsor

by Grahame Thorn

This article was published in the journal of the Nepean Family History Society, Timespan, No 12, September 1983, page 135.

William Lane, a native of Herefordshire, arrived in Sydney with his wife Sarah (nee Boyd) and two children on the ship England on 6 May, 1826. William, a Corporal in the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment, had come to Australia for a tour of duty.

William remained with his regiment in Sydney and the Illawarra until he transferred to the N.S.W. Mounted Police on 17 May 1832. By the early 1840s he was stationed in Windsor as sergeant in charge of a detachment of the mounted police.

The first election for a newly constituted Legislative Council took place in 1843 and caused considerable interest in the Windsor and Richmond districts. The two candidates were Robert Fitzgerald and William Bowman. Due to the required property qualification only 287 voters were enrolled for the whole electorate. Voting took place on 19 June 1843 with the main polling place being the Court House at Windsor. When Bowman arrived a riot broke out and Sergeant Lane with six mounted troopers had to escort Bowman through the town. Crowds pelted them with sticks and stones causing sparks to fly from the drawn swords.

Disturbances continued till 2 am next morning and five citizens were committed to stand trial for their part in the riot. Declaration of the poll saw Bowman elected by 129 votes to 126.

William was in the news again when in 1844 he captured the notorious cattle stealer, Daley, near Pitt Town.

With the disbandment of the mounted police in 1850 William Lane retired after 38 years service in the army and mounted police. He died in 1863 aged 65 years and was buried at St. Matthew’s, Windsor. His wife Sarah died in 1847 and her headstone can be seen in McCarthy’s cemetery. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was buried at St. Stephen’s, Penrith in 1842.

William and Sarah’s son John, born in Sydney in 1830, was a bootmaker in Windsor for many years. One of his first shops was on the corner of George and New Streets, Windsor. There, during the great 1867 flood, he was forced by rising waters to remove his wife and seven children by boat which was boarded from a second storey window. After leaving his family in the nearby Methodist Church (burnt down in 1874) John assisted in the rescue of other stranded Windsor residents.

Not long after he moved to a two storied brick building on the corner of George and Fitzgerald Streets, Windsor (opposite the Post Office) and from here conducted his trade until he retired in 1906. His wife Margaret (nee Anderson) died in 1904 and after he retired John lived with his daughter Emily (wife of W.H. Pinkstone) at Francis Street, Richmond until his death in 1913.

During his long life of 83 years, John had been a strong supporter of the Windsor Methodist Church and was superintendent of the Sunday School for over 40 years. The following is an extract from his obituary which appeared in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette on 27 September 1913 :-

Click on links below to see William and Sarah’s story.

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