Date added: 28 Jan 2015
Born in Kirdford, Sussex in 1797, George Stemp enlisted as a Private in the Royal Regiment of Waggon Train (RWT) in 1813. He fought at Waterloo, where the RWT played a key role at Hougoumont Farm. (See Conan Doyle's short story "A Straggler of '15", based on the true story of Corporal Brewer of the RWT). The RWT had the unenviable task of clearing the Waterloo battlefield of dead bodies and burning the dead horses on large pyres.
Our family has inherited George's Waterloo medal and a sword. Family tradition says that the sword was given to him by an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington. Or was it scavenged from the battlefield?
In 1820 Sir George Scovell KCB was appointed Lt Colonel Commandant of the RWT. Wellington had entrusted Scovell with deciphering Napoleon's Great Paris Cipher.(See "The man who broke Napoleon's Codes" by Mark Urban). After 20 years Stemp was discharged from RWT on its disbandment; 'his character as a soldier has been always very good.'
He had served in Holland for five months and in France for five and a half years. After his discharge in 1833, Stemp became a servant (accompanied by his wife and six children) in the household of Scovell who was by now Governor of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Scovell retired to Henley Park, Guildford in 1856 when George Stemp went with him to be a gentleman's servant. After Scovell's death in 1861, George went to live with Charles, his son, in Lees, Oldham, Lancashire where one year later he died. His gravestone can still be seen in the churchyard of St Thomas, Leesfield. Sadly, there is no mention of his life story.
George Stemp was my great-great-great-grandfather. What were his special qualities, I sometimes wonder, that inspired Sir George Scovell to employ him at Sandhurst for 23 years and in his private residence for five years?