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Carte de Visite

Ovinius Davis - Photographer

16 Princes St, Edinburgh, Scotland

c. 1900


No. 784 Private John Stead of the Royal Home Counties Reserve Regiment poses with his family sometime in 1900. Stead had previously served with the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment and although his original attestation papers have not been found his prior service is confirmed in his attestation papers for the Royal Home Counties Reserve Regiment which are dated 20 March 1900. He would serve for the prescribed year and was granted good conduct pay on 20 January 1901.


The Royal Reserve Regiments were raised in answer to a plea from Queen Victoria for former soldiers to serve for one year to help fulfill home defense needs while so many regular battalions were fighting in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. Her request was forwarded to the army Commander in Chief the Viscount Wolseley by Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Bigge, the Queen's private secretary. The letter read:


Osborne, Feb 17, 1900


To Field-Marshal the Viscount Wolseley KP, Commander in Chief


My Dear Lord Wolseley


As so large a proportion of the Army is now in South Africa, the Queen fully realizes that necessary measures must be adopted for home defense. Her Majesty is advised that it would be possible to raise for one year an efficient force from her old soldiers who have already served as officers, non-commissioned officers, or privates. Confident in their devotion to country and loyalty to her Throne, the Queen appeals to them to serve once more in place of those who for a time are absent from these islands, and who, side by side with the people of her colonies, are nobly resisting the invasion of her South African possessions. Her Majesty has signaled her pleasure that these battalions shall be

designated 'Royal Reserve Battalions' of her Army.


Yours very truly Arthur Bigge.


Offered a rather generous £22 bounty, volunteers quickly filled the ranks of ten reserve regiments to the tune of over fifteen thousand men. They performed various home duties and the regiments were disbanded after the one-year term of service expired on 14 May 1901.


John Stead was born in Dublin, Ireland on 6 May 1857, the son of John Stead and Mary Linnie. Stead was employed as a tanner in civilian life.


Stead and wife and two children are all identified on the photo's reverse side and based on the apparent age of the infant William (born 16 September 1899) the photo must have been taken in early 1900. The entire family is also identified in Stead's reserve attestation papers which also state that John Stead married Mary Drummond at Edinburgh on 10 May 1889. Their eldest son, James was born on 2 February 1892. A daughter Mary on 1 November 1895 and youngest son William. Since daughter Mary does not appear in the photo we may assume that she has died sometime before the portrait was taken.


Interestingly the Royal Home Counties Reserve Regiment was to wear the uniform of Stead's old unit, the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment with collar badges being of the Royal Arms. In this photo Stead clearly wear the Paschal Lamb collar badges of the West Surreys and it may be possible that he had simply taken his old uniform out of storage and had not yet traded his old collar badges for the newly prescribed ones yet.


John Stead passed away at his home at 9 Westfield Road, Edinburgh on 24 November 1936.

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