Category Archives: Military History

My Research Publications

The following is a list of publications arising from my Family History Research: Summary of the evidence for the origins of my Flack family (Click through) How often do family historian get asked by family members “Where did we come from originally?” Up until the development of scientific means using DNA technologies, most people were unlikely to be able to go further back than the end of the middle ages when surnames came into general use in Western Europe. For the few with English or French aristocratic families, the trails could extend back another 500 years or so. In this paper, I try to bring together the circumstantial evidence and my own Y-DNA evidence to propose that my Flack family probably has its origins in Ayrshire, Scotland. The one “wild card” that needs to be acknowledged is that there were several areas in Ireland that were settled by “servitors” – veterans who had served in the British Army and who were granted land as a pension. There are few records of such grants and little evidence of where these men and their families might have come from. It needs to be acknowledged that there are at least two other theories about the origin(s) of the surname “Flack”. There is strong evidence that people with that name have been living in Bury St Edmunds area in Suffolk, England since at least the 15th century. (see Flack Genealogy) It is also true that the surname “Flack” is known in modern Germany and in the Netherlands. It is therefore possible that my Flack forebear was a “servitor” from Suffolk in England or a former soldier from Germany or Netherland (both areas known to have supplied soldiers for the British Army at various times) and that therefore the Ayrshire connection may not hold. The 63rd Regiment of Foot (West Suffolk) In Australia 1829 – 1833 (click through) This history of the 63rd Regiment of Foot in Australia was written in order to fill what, at the time that the research was undertaken, was a dearth of information about the activities British Army Regiments in Australia in the early 19th century. One of the unexpected outcomes of the research was information about members of the Regiment who took their discharge in Australia and settled. Although the Regimental Headquarters was in Hobart, the Regiment’s No. 2 Company was deployed to help establish the Swan River Settlement in what is today the City of Perth, Western Australia. Brief resumes of the lives of some of the members of the Regiment and their contributions to Australian history are included in the annex. My great, great grandfather, Pte William Flack was not among those who settled and he left with the Regiment for India in 1833. 1903 Diary of a Ship’s Doctor – (click through) This publication is primarily a transcription of the Dr Frederick Henry Douglas (“Harry”) Flack’s 1903 diary of his journey in Blue Funnel Line cargo ship “SS Dardanus” to Japan via the Suez Canal. The diary is transcribed as accurately as possible although there are some handwritten words that are illegible in the original diary. There are also a few lines of Pitman Shorthand in the diary and these have been translated where possible. To give the reader an insight into some of the ships sighted and places visited, I have added illustrations to the original text. The value of the diary rests not just in the personal story, but also in the references to the Royal Navy in the Far East in the lead up to the Russo-Japanese War. The diary also provides insight into the prevailing attitudes towards the peoples and cultures encountered on the journey.

Or could this “William Flack” be my GGGreat grandfather?

7th Dragoon Guards Uniform

7th Dragoons Badge

In my blog entitled “Is Corporal William Flack of the Wexford Militia my William Flack’s Father?“, I asked the question, the answer to which remains, “He could be, but we can’t be sure”. So what other alternatives are there?

In May 2014, the Irish Military historian, Mal Murray, located and brought to my attention the military records (see below) of a William Flack, of 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons dated 1797 which records that Number 17, Trooper William Flack aged 20 was a member of Captain Francis Dunnis Troop of the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons. The record states that William Flack, a weaver, was born in County Cavan, Parish of Killincare and was enlisted on 11 March 1793 at Kells by Sgt Dillon(?).

William Flack of 7th or Princess Royal's Royal Irish Dragoons

William Flack of 7th or Princess Royal’s Royal Irish Dragoons

William Flack 7th Dragoons Page 2

An examination of the history of the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons shows that the 7th remained in Ireland throughout 1793 and it was not until April 1794 that a “composite service brigade” made up of the seven cavalry regiments in Ireland were embarked in Dublin for England in anticipation for active service against the French in the Netherlands. It is not clear whether Capt Dunnis’s Troop were part of the “composite brigade”, but in any event, the deployment to the Netherlands did not proceed and the composite parts were returned to their units in Ireland in April 1795.

At the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion in 1796, the records show that the Regimental Headquarters and five Troops of the 7th were located at Tullamore (Offaly) and another four Troops at nearby Phillipstown. The Regimental History records that the 7th were involved in the battles of Rathangan, Kilbeggan and Vinegar Hill. By October 1798, the 7th was back at its Tullamore Depot.

From August 1799 to 1805 the Regiment served in England and Scotland, where the 7th was stationed in Northampton, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham. After a further 4 years back in Ireland, the Regiment was again posted to the Midlands where they played a part in the suppression of the industrial unrest that broke out in the cotton manufacturing and coal mining districts of the North.

The 7th Dragoons did not serve either in the Peninsular War or in the final campaign to defeat Napoleon and remained on garrison duties and “in defence of the civil authority” throughout the Napoleonic Wars.

Summary

Is it possible that this William Flack is my William “Billy” Flack’s father? The following points need to be considered:

  • This William Flack would have been about 33 years old in 1810 when Billy Flack was born – so that’s possible;
  • This William Flack was born in Killencare which is about 4 miles SW of Bailieborough, where Billy Flack was born – suggesting there may have been a family connection in the area;
  • This William Flack served in the Army which would “fit” with the occupation of Billy Flack’s father, recorded in Billy Flack’s mother’s death certificate.
  • It seems likely that the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoons would have used either the main Dublin – Cavan Road in its deployments around Ireland, or it may have taken the more direct route from Kells to Tullamore where it was frequently based. It is therefore feasible that this William Flack could have been recruited during an overnight stop-over along the Dublin Road and then signed up officially in Kells;
  • There is some indications that there were elements of extremism amongst the officers and men of the 7th Dragoons. At least one Trooper, James Weldon was executed for supporting the “Defenders” and others transported, whilst some officers and men belonged to the Orange Society. This background could “fit” with the Presbyterian family loyalties of Billy Flack.

Commentary on the historical context.

It was noted by the Regimental historian J.M. Brereton, writing in 1982,  “The dreadful atrocities committed by Catholic and Protestant and – more shamefully – by the forces of the Crown, left a festering sore which has not healed to this day.” “As for our two regiments, whether or not they were involved in the barbaric reprisals and outrages, they performed their duty loyally in the most trying of circumstances a soldier can be called upon to face: a civil war against his own countrymen.” “Out of the 76,000 government troops involved in the Rebellion, only about one fifth [ or 15,000] were English.” The great majority were Irishmen.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate Tpr William Flack’s enlistment papers, service record or any pension papers.

The search continues.

Is Corporal William Flack of the Wexford Militia my William Flack’s father?

This blog records the results of my research looking for the parents of Captain William “Billy” Flack. (see also my summary on the Ireland Reaching Out website at http://tinyurl.com/pram6pp

A search of the available birth, marriage and death records in FindMyPast databases for a William Flack, a soldier who married an Elizabeth in the period 1770-1795 failed to reveal any obvious candidates.

Among historical records available on-line, two documents which feature a Corporal William Flack are of interest in this search, however there is only circumstantial evidence to support the view that he is the “William Flack, a soldier” I am looking for. Copies of those records are reproduced below.

Cpl William Flack Discharge Dublin Journal 12 July 1808

Corporal William Flack, of the Wexford Militia, born 1772 in Bailieborough is a possible candidate, but little is known of him. We know from his discharge papers that he was discharged unfit for further service in April 1808 and granted a pension from Kilmainham Hospital (the Irish Army equivalent to a Chelsea Pension) due to a serious injury sustained to his left hand in a skirmish whilst he was on duty with the Wexford Militia in Carlow on 12 November 1807.

His military papers indicate that he was recruited into the Wexford Militia in 1794, whilst the Wexford Militia was stationed in County Cavan to quell disturbances caused by the “Defenders”. It is not known exactly on what date William Flack was recruited but it is possibly no coincidence that the Wexford Militia was recruiting since it is known that the Regiment had lost significant numbers of men to desertion, following riots in May 1794 between Defenders and “Scotsman” (probably Presbyterian sections of the community) in which 32 Defenders had been killed.

Two opportunities for further research arise from the association with the Wexford Militia. First, history of the Wexford Militia reveals that the Regiment (unlike most Irish Militia Regiments) was deployed outside of Ireland to serve in the Channel Islands. Is it possible that passenger lists exist which might reveal details of other members of his family?

Research in Jersey Archives and in the National Archives in London revealed that when the Wexford Regiment returned from Jersey on 4 July 1800 they were 655 rank-and-file strong, and had 232 wives, and 236 children with them. Unfortunately records of the redeployment do not contain the names of accompanying family members.  (NA HO/100/91/134).

Second, a search of the Muster Rolls of the Wexford Militia for the period 1800 to 1807 revealed that during 1807-08, many rank-and-file of the Wexford Militia transferred to the regular British Army and in particular to the 63rd Regiment of Foot prior to that Regiment’s deployment to the West Indies in 1808. The Time Line below provides an insight into the movements of the 63rd Regiment in relation to the deployments of the Wexford Militia

Wexford Milia to 63rd Regt

It is not unreasonable to speculate that there were family connections between Cpl William Flack of the Wexford Militia and the William Flack who enlisted in the 63rd Regiment of Foot in 1832.