|An almost identical photograph in the book The Irish Regiments, 1683-1999 by Ronald George Harris and Henry R.
G. Wilson identifies this man as Trumpeter Donovan of the 4th Dragoon Guards. According to the caption in the book
Donovan was among the trumpeters selected from each British cavalry regiment to take part in the Delhi Durbar of
1902. This photograph was taken sometime in the 1904-08 while the 4th Dragoons where stationed in South Africa.
A special thanks to Mr. Bruce R. Elfast for alerting me to the Donovan reference in The Irish Regiments, 1683-1999.
Trumpeter Henry John Donovan remained a mystery for quite some time until a copy of his service papers finally
came to light. As it turns out he had a long and rather interesting military career.
Born in 1882 at Secunderabad, India Henry John Donovan's still un-named father was born at Cork, Ireland and was
a member of the Royal Artillery. The young Donovan had traveled to Britain by 1896 when he attested at
Canterbury with the 4th Dragoon Guards at the age of 15 with the rank of "Boy" His trade was listed as
"Musician". Soldier's service records from that era being what they are no hint as to his family relationships at the
time of his enlistment is mentioned. Did he return to England with his father? Had he been sent home to relatives?
Had he been orphaned? His service papers make no mention of a father or mother under next of kin so the later
possibility seems likely. A younger brother, Philip Daniel Donovan of the 1st Lincolnshire Regiment is mentioned as
is a wife, Ada Amelia Brinton to whom Henry John Donovan married in 1911.
Posted as "Boy" with the 4th Dragoon Guards on 25 July 1897 Donovan was briefly posted with the 3rd Dragoon
Guards on 15 October, 1897. Reposted to the 4th Dragoons on 6 December 1898, he would remain with this regiment
for most of his military career. His promotions and posting were as follows:
Appointed Bandsman: 25 July 1899
Appointed Trumpeter: 25 March 1902
Granted Good Conduct Pay: 25 July 1902
Reverted to Private on reduction of establishment: 1 June 1906
Re-engaged to complete 21 years service at Middleburg, Cape Colony: 13 November 1907
Granted Good Conduct Pay: 25 July 1908
Appointed Bandsman: 24 July 1909
Appointed Lance Corporal: 21 March 1912
Promoted Corporal: 5 February 1913
Promoted Sergeant: 25 October 1914
Posted Sergeant, 6th Reserve Regiment of Dragoons: 12 February 1918
Posted Sergeant, 4th Dragoon Guards: 18 December, 1918
Discharged from Service: 1 May 1919
Henry John Donovan served a total of 22 years, 281 day with the colours. His postings both home and abroad
Home: 25 July, 1896 - 5 December 1898
India: 6 December, 1898 - 14 October 1904
South Africa: 15 October, 1904 - 17 November 1908
Home: 18 November, 1908 - 5 August 1914
British Expeditionary Force (France): 6 August 1914 - 9 November 1914
Home: 10 November, 1914 - 1 May 1919
While in India Donovan was selected for rare privilege of service as Trumpeter during the 1911 Delhi Durbar of
King George V for which he was entitled to the 1911 Durbar Medal. While Donovan's time on the Western Front
during World War One was limited to 86 days he was to receive a Mention in Despatches on 22 June, 1915. He was
also awarded the Russian Cross of the Order of St. George, 4th Class on an unspecified date. On 13 April, 1915 He
would be presented the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with gratuity. Donovan's World War One Medal
Index Card shows his entitlement to the 1914 Star and the British War and Victory Medals.
Unfortunately Donovan's Gazette entry makes no mention as to the specifics of his action that brought about his
Mention in Despatches. It is perhaps safe to assume that whatever that act may have been it also resulting in his
being presented with the Russian Order of St. George which was awarded to selected British soldiers for "extreme
bravery in face of the enemy".
As mentioned above Donovan married Miss Ada Amelia Brinton on 12 August 1911 at All Saints Church, London.
They had four children; Henry John born in 1917, Ada Kathleen born in 1913, Daniel born in 1914 and Sheila born in
1916. Ada Amelia Donovan died on 2 November 1918. No additional records have been found for Henry John
Donovan post dating World War One.
William H. Gill - Photographer
Edina House Studio, Middleburg, Cape Colony, South Africa
|Above: A reconstruction of Donovan's Medal group based on information found in his service papers. From left: the
1914 Star, the British War Medal, the British Victory Medal (with MID Device), the "Regular Army"George V Long
Service & Good Conduct Medal, the 1911 Delhi Durbar Medal, the George V Coronation medal, and the Russian
Order of St. George, 4th Class.