While in the process of sorting out some papers today I came across the service papers of Edwin Cruwys (service no. 9898), who served in the Boer War with the Coldstream Guards. Edwin's medals were auctioned on E-bay in December 2005 and eventually sold to a private buyer for £500. A photograph of Edwin and a copy of his service papers were also included in the sale. I wrote to Bloomsbury the auctioneers to enquire if the buyer might be interested in exchanging information about Edwin. I heard nothing from the buyer but Bloomsbury very kindly offered to send me photocopies of the service papers which duly arrived in the post a few weeks later. I've only now got round to transcribing the papers, and I've discovered that they provide a valuable insight into Edwin's army career.
Edwin was born in 1873 in Chittlehampton, North Devon, the son of Thomas Mitcham Cruwys and Ann Beard. His father was a boot and shoemaker and was from the large Mariansleigh Cruwys family. Edwin worked as a gardener and a cabman before being recruited to join the Coldstream Guards in 1894. He enlisted with the Foot Guards (7th Battalion London Regiment) on 20th October 1894. Edwin served in South Africa during the Boer War from 21st October 1899 to 6th October 2002. He steadily gained promotion through the ranks and by 5th July 1903 he was promoted to Colour Sergeant. His service record shows that he deserted on 30th March 1904, though the reason for his desertion is not given. He rejoined the Army on 2nd June 1906 and was immediately convicted of desertion, the penalty for which was the loss of his kit and a reduction in his rank to Private. The desertion did not appear to count against him and Edwin was rapidly promoted through the ranks and by 1908 he was a Lance Sergeant. The following year he signed up for a further term with the Coldstream Guards in order to complete his 21 years' service. On completing his term of engagement he was discharged from the army, by which time he had been promoted to the rank of Temporary Sergeant Major.
Edwin received three medals during his time with the Coldstream Guards. Firstly, he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with four bars. Three of the bars represented his participation in battles: Belmont (23rd November 1899), Modder River (28th November 1899), and Johannesburg (31st May 1900). The fourth bar was a so-called "State" clasp for service in the Orange Free State. There were so many incidents or battles in this area that it was not considered appropriate to issue a clasp for every individual action. The actions in the Orange Free State covered the period from 28th February 1900 through to 31st May 1902. Edwin's second medal was the King's South Africa Medal with two bars for service in South Africa in 1901 and 1902. The third medal was received for service during World War I. Edwin was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Immediate Award) on 26th May 1919 "for valuable services rendered in connection with the War". He was also mentioned in despatches on 24th February 1917. Edwin does not appear to have served overseas during WWI, and it is not clear why he merited such awards. His service record shows that he served at "Home" from 7th October 1902 to 12th July 1919. Home was defined as serving anywhere in England, Scotland or Ireland, though it seems most likely that Edwin was based in London for most of the War.Curiously on 12th April 1921 Edwin was called up for a period of 90 days to cover for "the present emergency", joining the 7th Battalion London Regiment (Defence Force). The precise nature of this emergency is not known. He was discharged on 10th July 1921.
Edwin married Elizabeth Mary Potter in August 1913 at St Mary's Church in Newington, London. By this time Edwin was a Sergeant Instructor with the 2nd Battalion. An account of the wedding reached Devon and was published in the local Chittlehampton newspaper: "The wedding was given a military colour, the bridegroom being held in much respect by his comrades". Edwin and Elizabeth lived at 150 Portland Road, South Norwood, London SW. Edwin died in 1933 at the age of 60. His wife Elizabeth died in 1964 at the age of 82. They did not have any children.
See also the follow-up post "The Coldstream Guards in the Boer War".