v 6.30.00
28 Jan 2022
updated 28 Jan 2022

Colonel Commandant Humphrey
4th East Riding Artillery Volunteers
(fl 1880)

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Accession No: KINCM:1982.469.27

An illustrated page taken from the Bellman Cartoon magazine, issued every Saturday in Hull. It is titled, 'Bellman Cartoon' and it depicts one of Hull's 'local worthies'. This edition was issued on 29th June 1878 and depicts Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant Humphrey, 4th East Yorkshire Artillery Volunteers. He is in uniform holding his sword and his hat is on the floor by his side. The artist's initials are, 'TTW' and these initials are for the artist, Thomas Tindall Wildridge.

For such a prominent figure in Hull society at that time, and indeed such a significant figure in this narrative, Humphrey's details are extraordinarily elusive – not even his forenames, let alone family background, were known with reasonable certaintyA until recently [Jun 2016]. In contrast, quite a number of personal data about his nemesis Saner have gradually yielded to persistent googling.

It is probable that Humphrey had a family connection with – or was owner of – the local shipyard T Humphrey & Son, and that he was the Thomas R Humphrey who becameB 2nd Lieutenant on 6 Sep 1861, and Major on 3 Jul 1869, in the 4th East Riding of York Artillery Volunteer Corps, as duly recorded in the London Gazette and Edinburgh Gazette respectively. But in neither case can we be sure.

He was an indisputably charismatic individual, who had as Lieut Colonel pulled together the smaller local artillery units commanded by Captains or Majors into a corps at least 600 strong and indeed vying for the 1000 mark.

But like any prominent individual he wasn't without his detractors, as the episode of Lieutenant Baxter illustrated. And, much more scarily, the allegations made shortly thereafter by the recently promoted Lieut Colonel Saner and a small coterie of toadies. These were at once investigated by a military tribunal sent by the War Office, and were found to be at best baseless and at worst insignificant.

Saner and his myrmidons were instructed to resign their commissions immediately. And had Saner done so without demur, all would have been well for Humphrey and for Findlay and his wife, I wouldn't have been writing this and in all probability would never have existed as I currently [May 2016] do.C


A Following a lucky internet hit, I now [Jun 2016] think he may well have been the Thomas Richardson Humphrey (1830–1893), son of Thomas Humphrey (1806–1879) and Ann Cook Edmonds (1810–1881) identified by exploratory searching on ancestry.co.uk, which describes him as a shipbuilder but doesn't mention any volunteer military associations.

From these sources we learn that Thomas Richardson Humphrey was the eldest of five sons, and had four sisters (one of whom died in infancy). He married an Alice Watkinson, and they had a daughter Alice Sarah Humphrey (1855-1921), possibly their only child.

On 14 Aug 1879, during the first phase of Saner's allegations against her father, Alice Sarah Humphrey married Arthur George Henry Wellesley (1850-1893), grandson of Rev Gerald Valerian Wellesley, a younger brother of Britain's most famous soldier, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

And in 1888 Thomas Humphrey was appointed manager of the Hull Central Dry Dock & Engineering Works (his bête noir Saner, who had become senior director of the Hull Dock Company in 1882, had relinquished this position by 1886 and died in 1889).

I think we can safely conclude that Humphrey's probity had been entirely exonerated, and his social standing unsullied by this deeply hurtful campaign against him. Good for him – but all the more ironic that Findlay's editorial crusade on his behalf had resulted in Findlay's disgrace, imprisonment and early death.

B This is as good an opportunity as any to illuminate the cryptic terminology of the Gazettes in these matters. When they say that Name X has been promoted to New Rank, vice Surname Y deceased/ dismissed/ resigned, it clearly suggests that X has taken over from poor old Y, who for some reason couldn't cope.

But where does vice come from? Not turpitude, my dear Watson, but (via the ablative = by, with or from) from vix, meaning position or place. So "in place of", as in vice versa = in place of the opposite. Isn't Latin wonderful – 'Chalky' White would choke on his cornflakes if he heard me renege on my teenage hostility to Latin so unblushingly.

C A pause for thought indeed, on my part. Perhaps my preincarnate self would have continued to romp quite happily in the Elysian Fields and been born subsequently into different circumstances. But then I wouldn't have been Me, so to all intents and purposes the possibility of the current Me disappeared when Saner headed off to see his solicitor.