People behind the archives

  • February 7, 2013 - robphillips

Colour Sergeant Major Thomas Richard Fear was my paternal Great Grand Father and until recently I knew very little about him or his family.

It was by chance that I found some family documents hidden away in an old tin box belonging to my late father.  The documents gave me a lot of information on dates, places and family members some of whom I had never heard of, so with the help of the internet,, I began my quest into my family history, and what a revelation it has been.

Thomas Richard Fear was the 2nd son of Frank Smith Fear and Mary Jane Weeks.

According to the parish records my line of The Fear Family had lived for generations in the village of Mark, Somerset going back to 1700s and beyond. But in the mid-1840s after the death of Frank’s father, the family moved to Weston-super-Mare. In 1861 aged 24 Frank married Mary Jane and they moved to Aberystwyth where they set up business as Fishmongers/Greengrocers. Thomas Richard was born in Aberystwyth on 8 December,1865 and he appears in the 1871 Welsh census aged 5.

In 1879 Thomas Richard left home, travelled to Windsor and on 22 September,1879 he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards, and here a mystery unfolds.  He is registered under the name of William Fear, height 5´8, chest 2´10, fair and with brown eyes, and aged 18 years 4 months, which does not correspond to his date of birth.  According to an old aunt there was always vague talk of Thomas Richard having a brother William, but I have found no trace of brother William. I have obtained copies of his army records from the archives of the Grenadier Guards and as well as his service records, they show Thomas’s marriage to my Great Grandmother Mary Ann Hockett in 1882, and the births of all their children including my Grandmother Mary Grace, but all under the name William Fear.  The family also appears in the 1901 census living at Chelsea Barracks, and again under William’s name. But there is no doubt that Thomas Richard and William are one and the same person.

I can only conclude that he must have enlisted underage and under another identity, perhaps a cousin? At that time the British Empire was expanding and it was involved in various campaigns, and no doubt in need of volunteers, so perhaps they were not so particular about age and personal details.  I suppose to the British Army he was Sergeant Major Fear.

Thomas Richard seemed to have had a good career in the army. He served with the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards in London, Windsor and Dublin and for a year in Bermuda.  He was promoted to Colour Sergeant in 1887.  In 1895 he was appointed an Instructor in Musketry and in 1896 he joined the Duke of York’s Royal Military School (with appointment of Warrant Officer). He was awarded the Long Service and Good conduct medal. In total he served for 28 years and 192 days and was discharged on 31 March,1908. He was granted a life time pension from the Royal Hospital Chelsea of 48 pence a day. After retiring he returned to Aberystwyth.

After the outbreak of WW1, Thomas Richard set up the Aberystwyth Comforts Fund and from 1915-1919 he arranged for aid parcels to be sent out to Aberystwyth men serving overseas and also upon their return home gave them support through the YMCA.  These papers are being digitisted as part of the World War 1914-1918 and the Welsh Experience project. He was also involved in fund raising and the setting up of a war memorial in the town.

Sadly his son Edgar was killed in action in June 1917 in Flanders.  His youngest son Richard Gordon was wounded but survived.

And what happened to other members of his family?  His brother Randolph continued running the fish shop in Aberystwyth. His younger brother Daniel enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers and from 1916 to 1926 he was a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London.  Thomas Richard’s children married and lived in and around London, including my Grandmother Mary Grace.

Thomas Richard died in Aberystwyth on 2 June, 1939 aged 73 and he is my only claim to any Welsh ancestry.

Linda A. W. Jensen, Feb. 2013

Colour Sergeant Major Fear

Colour Sergeant Major Fear