William Henry Wherry was born around 1841 at New Ross, Wexford, Ireland. He was employed as a blacksmith at the time of his enlistment, but little regarding his life prior to taking the Queen’s shilling is known.
Wherry attested with the 10th Regiment of Foot at Mullingar, County Westmeath, on 19 August 1858 receiving a 5 pound enlistment bonus. At the time his stated age was 17 years old and was recorded as standing 5 feet, 8 ½ inches tall, and weighing 146 pounds.
Notwithstanding being fully kitted out at the Queen’s expense, and having a five-pound bonus in his pocket, Wherry’s military career did not, have, an auspicious beginning.
One short year after enlisting Wherry deserted from his regiment. Absent for about two months, he was placed under arrest on 17 October 1859. Tried by court-martial, he was found guilty and sentenced to fifty lashes and confined until 14 August 1860. About the same time, it was discovered that he had lied about his age at enlistment and forfeited all previous service credit.
On 29 November 1860, Wherry was turned over to civil authorities to answer charges for an unspecified felony. Convicted, and again losing any service credit he had accumulated, he remained in civil custody until 19 March 1861.
Wherry seems to have been well on his way to becoming the classic example of a “Queen’s hard bargain.
Reinstated as a private upon his release he was again remanded to civil authorities on 6 July 1861 for assault and robbery. Convicted for the third time, he remained in jail until 27 December 1862. Upon release, he was once more stripped of any service credit he had earned during his checkered time with the colours.
He served a week in the cells on two separate occasions in 1863 for drunkenness while on duty.
Surprisingly his record remained clean from 15 August 1863 until 9 October 1870 and he was granted good conduct pay on 10 January 1866 and again on 1 January 1870. Wherry reengaged with his regiment at Wellington, British India as a private on 10 October 1870.
Wherry appeared well on his way to turning over a new leaf. Although if he was, his efforts did not last long.
Promoted Corporal on 28 December 1870, he was again arrested and awaiting trial for an unspecified crime or infraction on 30 December 1872. Convicted of the unmentioned charges he was reduced to Private and released on 1 January 1874. He also forfeited his good conduct pay.
At this point of Wherry’s less than stellar military career a rather profound sea change took place.
He was promoted Corporal for the second time on 9 July 1874. Promotion to Sergeant soon followed on 4 June 1875. Granted good conduct pay on 1 January 1876, he was promoted Colour Sergeant on 2 May 1878. He received a third good conduct pay on 13 January 1881.
What had brought about this change in Wherry’s behavior? In less than four years he had gone from a Private with a dubious past to Colour-Sergeant.
A deeper look at Wherry’s service papers revealed a possible answer. On 22 February 1876, he is shown as having married Miss Emily Clarke of Essex. Through the mists of time, we can never be sure if Wherry’s meeting of his future wife prompted the change in his behavior or if his reformation prompted him to seek a wife and settle down. Either way, the two events seem most certainly to have been related. Miss Clarke may well have brought about a change in Wherry’s conduct that the combined efforts of his officers, sergeants, and trials by court martial combined had failed so miserably to do.
The 1881 census for Lincolnshire lists Wherry as a Colour Sergeant of the 10th Foot and a committed family man. He was residing at the 30th Brigade Depot Barracks along with his wife Emily and two daughters, Lilian age 3, and Emily. age 1.
William and Emily had two sons, William Henry Jr., born on 3 July 1881, and Alexander born just over a year later on 6 August 1882.
Wherry continued as Colour Sergeant through his second term of engagement which ended on 3 April 1883. At the time of his discharge, Wherry’s character had improved to the point that with the exception of five days (one of those being due to 1860 being a Leap Year) all of his formerly forfeited service time was restored to him. He left the service with a total of 21 years, 27 days with the colours.
Wherry’s postings - both at home and overseas - with the 2nd battalion of the 10th Regiment included the following:
Home: 20 August 1858 to 7 December 1859
Cape of Good Hope: 8 December 1859 to 13 November 1864
East Indies: 14 November 1864 to19 February 1873
Home: 20 February 1873 to 5 August 1878
Malta: 6 August 1878 to 16 February 1880
Home: 17 February 1880 to 3 April 1883
While Wherry certainly did see quite a bit of the Empire he was never to see active service in the field.
The 1891 census listed Wherry as an Army Pensioner, who, with his family were residents of Kelvedon, Essex, having added one daughter to the household – Bertha age 7. Still residing in Kelvedon in 1901 William and Emily had one additional daughter listed - 9-year-old Clara Wherry.
Former Colour Sergeant William Henry Wherry, 2nd Battalion, 10th Regiment of Foot passed away in Essex in 1918 at the age of 77.
In this carte de visite Wherry wears the 1856 pattern tunic with the crossed rifle marksman badge on the cuff. His forage cap bears the numeral “10”. Based on his apparent rank of Private when the photo was taken and that he is wearing white drill trousers this photograph was probably taken while he was posted to India sometime between 1864 – 69. The carte is signed "William H. Wherry" on its reverse side.
Carte de Visite