No. 3901 Private/Bandsman George Steeds of the 2nd Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment in a photograph taken while he was stationed in Malta sometime around 1898.
Exactly when Steeds may have learned to play the violin we will probably never know but George was born sometime around 1876 at Batcombe, Somerset, England. One of at least six children of Frederick Steeds and Elizabeth Day - Frederick was the proprietor of a pub called The Old Bull Inn on Patwell Street in Bruton, Somerset – George was employed as a bus driver/groom prior to his enlistment in 1893. Before joining the regulars George was a member of the 4th (Militia) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry.
No. 3901 George Steeds attested as a private with the Dorsetshire Regiment on 1 July 1893 at Bristol. 18 years old, he stood 5 feet 4 ¼ inches tall and weighed in at a mere 119 pounds. Posted to the 2nd battalion on 11 August 1893, he was appointed bandsman on 12 January 1897. Steeds would hold the rank of private/bandsman for his entire term of enlistment. He would be granted good conduct pay twice during his service and appears to have been a model soldier with his conduct being listed as “exemplary” when discharged at Pretoria, South Africa. His discharge papers state that his intended place of residence was Smaldeel, Orange River Colony, South Africa, where he appears to have found employment as a railroad foreman.
Private George Steeds' service at home and overseas included:
Home: 1 July 1893 – 11 January 1897
Malta: 12 January 1897 – 2 February 1899
Home: 3 February 1899 – 28 November 1899
South Africa: 29 November 1899 – 23 August 1902
He transferred to the Army Reserve on 23 August 1902 and took his final discharge from the reserves on 30 June 1905. Steeds appears to have had a certain sense of drive while in the ranks and although he was never promoted beyond his initial private rank, he had seen himself receive the additional appointment to bandsman. He also found the time to acquire 3rd and 2nd class certificates of education in 1894 and 1898 respectfully and passed the Ambulance Course while stationed at Malta in 1898.
Steeds served with the 2/Dorsets throughout the Anglo-Boer War and the medal rolls show him as being entitled to the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five clasps: “Orange Free State”, “Transvaal”, “Tugela Heights”, “Relief of Ladysmith” and “Laing’s Neck”. George Steeds was also entitled to the King’s South Africa Medal with its usual two clasps.
George Steeds appears to have taken up permanent residence in South Africa but did return to England on occasion. On 16 May 1911, he arrived at Southampton on board the Union-Castle Line ship Saxon. The ship's manifest lists Steed as a station master. On 3 May 1926, Station Master George Steeds arrived once more in Southampton on board the Edinburgh Castle. On this visit, his final destination was shown as Bruton, Somerset, and must have been visiting his father who was still living there at this time. Station Master Steeds shows up in one final passenger list, that for the RMS Windsor Castle, on 1 August 1932. Landing at Southampton, this time he is listed with his wife Mary.
Former Private/Bandsman George Steeds disappears from the records after that final date. It is not known where he and his wife were married or if they had any children.
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Thomas French - Photographer
12 Strada Verdals, 90 & 91 Strada Cospicua, Cospicua, Malta