Napoleonic, Regency and Victorian soldiers of Ryedale.

Compiled byPaul Brunyee Adv Dip Ed, MA.

Corporal John Acomb, 2nd Life Guards.

Churchyard at Sand Hutton. His headstone is on the south side of the church close to the iron gate

Directions; 7 miles north of York on the A64.
A Mr Cooper of Hopgrove, York has written a collected the following about John Acomb:
a. he appears in the 1841 Census for Sand Hutton
b. born at Wheldrake in 1774
c. died at SandHutton in 1849
d. his Waterloo medal now in the Household Cavalry Museum at Windsor.
The PRO at Kew has the muster rolls or registers for the 2nd Life Guards WO12 34. The Muster Roll 1807-1820 for the 2nd Life Guards is a very large bound volume, possibly three feet high and about eighteeen inches wide. It is not pre-printed but simply blank pages.

Each double page usually covers a six month period:

25th June 1809 - 24th Dec

'Acomb John recruited 10th Nov 1809'

John Acomb appears in the Waterloo Medal Roll. He also appears on the Kingsley Foster roll, Military General Service Medal 1793-1814 as a Sgt.. He has one clasp, which shows he was at the battle of Vitoria in Spain on the 21st June, 1813.

The grave stone below is that of Cpl John Acomb
The flat stone is the resting place of Major Childers

Notes about John Acomb

I understand also that the term Serjeant/Sergeant was not used in either of the Life Guard regiments as in its original French form it referred to a servant. The Life Guards claimed to be a corps of gentlemen volunteers for whom the terms servant and servitude did not apply! Consequently in the original muster rolls which I have examined at the Public Record Office (PRO) at Kew, the term Sergeant never appears. Instead the rank of Corporal is used. Interestingly, the rank of Lance Corporal appears in The Waterloo Medal Roll but does not appear in the muster roll. However, John Acomb did effectively hold the rank of Sergeant for some time. According to the historian Philip Haythornthwaite,

Uniquely in the Household Cavalry, there existed only three ranks between private and commissioned officer: quartermaster, corporal and (from 1804) corporal-major; the latter equated to regimental sergeant-major, corporal to the rank of sergeant, hence the use of three chevrons.

Military Illustrated, April 1992, p. 51.

In 1815, after the battle of Waterloo (18th June), John was reduced to the rank of Private. Whether this was due to wounds received, the post war reduction of the Regiment or unsatisfactory performance in the rank of Corporal, I don't know. John Acomb does not have a set of army papers ('Attestation and Discharge') at the PRO. This is normal for anyone who did not serve long enough to qualify for a pension. A pension was awarded for either long service, about twenty years or until such time as illness took its toll or wounds prevented a soldier from soldiering. Then his papers would be checked and held as evidence of his appearing before a board or panel of officers for an assessment of his invalidity and the award of a pension.

John enlisted on the 10th November 1809 and was discharged on the 10th March 1821. He served 11 years and 4 months. He may have developed some illness or complaint which resulted in his release or discharge because between December 1819 and June 1820 he is listed as being, 'Sick'. In the next period up to Christmas, 1820 he is listed as being , 'absent without leave' - in effect he was unable so soldier for a whole year and was then discharged 2 1/2 months later in March, 1821. Presumably he was convalescing at home ?

An interesting figure appears in the Regiment in 1813. A William Acomb is recruited into the Regiment whilst John is in Spain. Perhaps they were related? William was recruited in February, 1813. He served in the rank of Private through to the 24th December, 1816, when he was promoted to Corporal. So, ranks were reversed - John was reduced two months after Waterloo and William was promoted eighteen months after Wateroloo. William does not appear to have left England during the Napoleonic Wars. During the Peninsula and Waterloo campaigns only two squadrons of each regiment of Life Guards left England, so it's not unusual that William remained in England.

I have looked at muster rolls for three other regiments: 20th Foot; 84th Foot; 10th Hussars. These regiments all use the same pre-printed form for their muster details, which give more details. However, the 2nd Life Guards were (and are today) Household Troops - the monarch's bodyguard and are subject to different administrative arrangements compared to the rest of the army. Unfortunately, all this boils down to is that these documents provide us with slightly less information than those of line cavalry regiments.

Details from the Muster Roll:
25th December 1815 - 24th June 1816
'Acomb Jno Waterloo'
Every man who had taken part in the Waterloo campaign received two years pension entitlement as well as the first medal struck for all ranks of the British Army.

25th December 1819 - 24th June 1820
'Sick Acomb John'
25th June 1820 - 24th December 1820
'Absent without leave Acomb John'
25th December 1820 - 24th June 1821
Under the column marked, Casualties;
'Acomb Jno dis 10 Mar.'
PRO document at Kew listing soldiers entitled to the Waterloo Medal is entitled, MINT 16 112 The Waterloo Roll. John Acomb is listed as:


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