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Driver Josh Booth

Waterloo 200


Major N. Turner's A. Troop

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Submitted by: Joy Stocks

Date added: 29 Jan 2018

Joseph Bull, known as Joseph Booth 1789-1835

According to his discharge papers, Joseph Booth was born in ‘Broadlist’ in Devon and enlisted at ‘Honniton’ in Devon on the 20th of August 1804, aged 15, for unlimited service in His Majesty’s Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers.

Once he reached the age of 18 (having learned his trade of driving, and what it entailed), his accountable service lasted 12 years, to 5 January 1819, when ‘in consequence of a reduction’, he was discharged. Although he could not write, his description was provided on his discharge certificate as being aged 31, standing 5ft 9ins tall, with dark hair, hazel eyes, and with a swarthy complexion. He was described as a labourer. His service record states his conduct was good.

What was the role of a Royal Artillery driver, and what did a horse troop consist of?

The Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers was formed in 1793, with its own officers. However, it soon developed a reputation as a ‘nest of infamy’ from the description by one officer in Spain, with absences and drunkenness. However, General Foy wrote “The corps of Royal Artillery Drivers is organised as soldiers. Very high prices are paid for the horse employed to draw the guns, and they are, consequently, extremely good. The harness is as good as that used in French carriages. No nation can rival the English in the equipment and speed of their conveyances.”

In horse artillery, teams of 8 horses drew all 9 pounder cannons and limbers, the left horse being ridden by a driver. If the battery had, let say, 120 horses, 48 were pulling the 6 guns and limbers, 44 were hauling the 9 ammunition wagons, and 18 pulling the remaining wagons (6 for the carriage wagon, and 12 for the 3 other wagons). There were also spare horses (Mercer’s battery at Waterloo had 30 of them!) It was not until 7 years after Waterloo did drivers become an integral part of every horse battery (troop). Many of the horses came from Ireland.

"The Corps was organised into troops (eleven in 1811 but four in June 1815) each under a captain commissary and consisted of ninety drivers supported by a number of craftsmen... Since the number of drivers was well in excess of the number required by a battery, the drivers were always split up, seldom serving under their own officers who remained responsible for their welfare and administration. Discipline and morale suffered. At Waterloo about half of the 5,300 artillerymen in Wellington's army were drivers belonging to the Corps... There were ten Corps officers present at the battle none of whom were killed or injured... At Waterloo they served well, with their teams and wagons very much under fire... Their casualties were about equal to those of the gunners" Looks like they redeemed their honour, lost in the Peninsula, on the most glorious of fields. After Waterloo the corps seems to have been amalgamated into the Royal Artillery. - Quotes from Mark Adkin ‘The Waterloo Companion’ and various helpful posts in the Napoleonic Wars Forum (

Military service at Waterloo

From Waterloo medal roll:

First name(s) Josh

Last name Booth

Year 1815


Sub unit Major N. Turner's A. Troop

Record set Waterloo Medal Roll 1815 Category Military, armed forces & conflict Subcategory Other wars & conflicts Collections from Great Britain Naval and Military Press

Major Neil Turner's troop saw service at Quatre Bras 16 June 1815 and at Waterloo 18 June 1815

Subsequent Service between 1815 and 1819

Little is available to show Joseph’s subsequent service, until he surfaces in the Wellington papers.

List of persons who have obtained permission to marry, November 1816 to October 1818, Wellington Papers 9 /7/1

A number of soldiers sought consent to marry French girls, though Wellington expressly restricted approval of such requests. In 1816, only one soldier obtained permission to marry a French woman. By the following year, seven men…..

"I appear to have found a record for your ancestor. The details are as follows: Date of authority: 7 March 1817 Men Rank and Names: Private Booth, Joseph Corps or Department: R.A.D. Women Names: Roriffe, Venerante Country: Netherlands By whom to be married: Revd. C. J. Lyon - I have consulted the Army List for 1817 for information on the corps/department and believe it might refer to the Royal Artillery Drivers."

So, I hear you say, how did I get from Joseph Booth to Joseph Bull? Well, that is all because of his wife’s unusual first name. For many years, it was known to various genealogists that the widowed Sylvie Bull of Broad Clyst from Belgium aged 45 in the 1841 census, had later in 1841 married John Chambers, and details from FamilySearch suggested her maiden name was transcribed as ‘Bowneefe’. It was only once the images became available from FindMyPast that it became possible to inspect the handwritten information. Sylvia Bull’s father then became Robert Roriffe, and on her burial register entry in 1871 was her full name Venerante Silvie Chambers (nee Roriffe). Being a descendant of Joseph and Sylvie, I had then searched for her maiden name via Ancestry’s connections to the Netherlands website , and contacted a family with the names Roriffe and Rorive and a Sylvie of similar dates. Happily, not only were they descendants via her family, but they were able to furnish me with both her birth and baptism entry, and a copy of the civil marriage contract. The translation of the contract follows, and confirms Joseph was stationed in St Sauveur in 1817, his parents were Robert and Marie Anne Boosth.

On the 17th February 1817 at 12 noon before Antoine Barbieux at the register office in the town of St Sauveur, appeared M. Joseph Boosth, soldier, British Artillery, stationed here in this town, 27 years old, born in Broad List, son of the deceased Robert and Marie Anne Boosth, who has been allowed to marry, with his superiors permission, Mlle Venerante Silvie Rorive, 22 years old, resident in this town, born in Boussu; daughter of the deceased Pierre Lambert Rorive and Marie Antoinette Haudin.

Witnesses (named below) have been unable to confirm if the mother is alive to give assent, despite banns having been published on the 2nd and 9th of this month at 10am without any appeal against them.

By the reading of the submitted papers above mentioned and the 6th chapter of the Civil code of marriage, and having asked the fiances if they wish to be married, having received two affirmations we declare that as required by law M Joseph Boosth and Mlle Venerante Silvie Rorive are united in marriage.

Signed Barbieux, witnessed Dassonville and the marks of Boucher, Dusrats and Robert, also witnesses.

 Joseph Bull was baptised on 28 June 1789, the son of Robert Bull (pauper), in Broadclyst, Devon. He died at the age of 47 years in September 1835, and was buried in Broadclyst churchyard on 20 September 1835.

So, finally, how did Bull transmute into Booth for Joseph’s whole army career? I have a couple of theories:

1/ His broad Devon accent, and the fact that he was not literate, meant that the original mishearing of his name was not corrected in army paperwork.

2/ He registered under a false name to escape either an unwanted apprenticeship or debts or misdemeanours

3/ He had a speech impediment/deafness or harelip

I tend to the final theory, based on the French marriage record – the notary must have heard Boosth, which does not sound like Bull at all! Unfortunately, I don’t have any recorded reminiscences from the family to bear out the theory.

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