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Private George Cooling

Waterloo 200


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Submitted by: Owen Dobson

Date added: 18 Jun 2015

Research into Private George Cooling is very much a 'work in progress', but here is what I know so far.

George was born in 1786 or 1787 at Bearton, Buckinghamshire. He spent 4 ½ years in the Peninsular and 9 months in Flanders & France, including the Waterloo campaign. On 01 Feb 1809 (aged 23), he attested for the Royal Wagon Train, at Croydon, Surrey.

He was discharged on 18 September 1814, but re-enlisted on 30 April 1815. He was imprisoned in 1828 (for 12 days), by sentence of a Garrison Court Martial (offence not recorded) and medically discharged to pension on 31 May 1832 (aged 46¼ years), having served 24 years and 250 days. His Medical (Discharge) Board convened at Hythe, Kent on 22 May 1832. The board consisted of Brevet Major Basil Jackson (George’s Commanding Officer), Lt O'Neill (on the Waterloo Medal Roll as Henry O'Neill, a Lt in 1815) and Lt MacDowall (on the Waterloo Medal Roll as Joseph McDowall and also a Lt in 1815).

At discharge, George’s conduct and character were described as very good and his physical description was: height - 5 feet and 4½ inches; hair - dark brown; eyes – hazel; complexion – pale. His civilian trade was given as labourer.

Reason for Discharge: "Found to be worn out and unfit for service at the half yearly Inspection on 12 May 1832. Ordered to be sent to the Invalid Depot at Chatham agreeably to a letter from the Adjutant General of 15 may 1832 – “There is no Medical Officer on the Establishment, but the Officers of the Regimental Board know that this old soldier hav (sic) been afflicted with frequent attacks of Rheumatism and is quite worn out from weakness and debility.".

The deaths of George and his wife Eleanor were both registered in the period Apr – Jun 1845. So, George did not live to claim the Peninsular War medal (instituted in 1847) to which he may well have been entitled by virtue of his 4+ years in the Peninsula.

The research to date presents a quite sad (but I'm sure quite typical) case of an old Waterloo veteran soldier (who remained a Private for his 24 years of service) being medically discharged for being 'too worn out' to go on. However, I get a strong sense that there was a lot of compassion in how he was handled, by both the army and his Regt (Royal Waggon Train). The board that approved his discharge, certainly would have had a lot of empathy with him. It consisted of his CO, Major Basil Jackson (a Brevet Major of advanced years who had been a Captain in the RWT at Waterloo who died in 1849, aged 92 years (so would have been 75 at the time George was discharged, 17 years earlier!) and 2 x Lt's (each of whom had also been Lt's at Waterloo). So, George and his Board were all Waterloo Veterans of advanced years who had not been promoted (Major Jackson had a Brevet Majority). Historical footnote: Cooling's Officer Commanding at time of his discharge (1832) was Major Basil Jackson – Major Jackson's son (Lt Basil Jackson) was on Wellington's Staff at Waterloo and went with Napoleon to Exile.

George Cooling’s family: it is not yet known when George married, but after discharge he and his wife settled in Orlestone, Kent. He appears in the 1841 England Census (aged 54) living in the Parish of Orlestone (Hundred of Romney Marsh Liberty, County of Kent, Registration District of East Ashford, Sub-registration District of Aldington). Also listed with him are: 1. Eleanor Aged 38 (Spouse?) 2. Sarah Aged 14 3. Harriot Aged 12 4. John Aged 10 5. Ellen Aged 6 6. Jane Aged 3 7. NK Aged 6 days (later found to have been named George also).

When George Snr and Eleanor died in 1845, the three youngest children moved to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire where they were listed as being in the Work House in 1851. Aylesbury is the major town near Beirton (this is the correct/current spelling) where George Snr was born. It is known (from Georges decedents) that the Cooling family stayed in Aylesbury virtually continuously through to today.

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