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|Wickham's future (long)
Written by Captain Everett
(2/17/2004 7:01 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Question about Wickham's future, penned by Line
Yes, Wickham is taking a step down as Ensign is the lowest commissioned rank. In this case, he had his Ensigncy purchased, but it was possible for an officer to simply transfer from the Militia to the Regulars. This would, of course, depend upon there being a vacany and no immmediate buyers. However, they could only enter as an Ensign.
He would have a minor advantage in that his period with the ___shires might count something towards the time limit that had to be met if he were to advance up the ranks. However, this was achieved mainly through two methods.
First, by buying a Lieutenancy. This was done by paying the difference (£150 ) between the ranks. (Technically buying the Lieutenancy and at the same time selling the Ensigncy - the details easily handled by an Army Agent.) I can't see the Wickhams easily coming up with such a sum through frugality. Many other young officers might have a father or other patron willing to lend a hand, but he's pretty well disinclined anyone likely to do so.
The other method was to be promoted to fill a vacancy due to incapacity (e.g. death) upon service without having to pay. (There were also a few "free" positions open, provided you had friends at Court - not much luck their either.) That would, of course, mean going on active service and, likely, battle. It appears W. remained in the UK until the Peace.
As a Lieutenant, his gross pay would have been 6 shillings/6 pence a day: £9/15/- in a 30 day month, although with Income Tax (16/11), giving him £8/17/11. (Figures from original Pay Lists I've examined. ) This gives something around £105 a year.
However, an Ensign only earns 5 shillings/three pence a day gross. In thirty days (disregarding partial pence): £7/17/6, less 11/3 Tax, or £7/6/3 Nett. Giving, something around £88 a year. (In Canada, they might have been entitled to a Lodging Allowance of £24 per Annum - whether something equivalent existed in the UK I don't know.) Rather thin for even a single man hoping to give even the illusion of some degree of gentility. Wickham, as an Officer, would also purchase his own Uniform, etc., plus the "obligations" of the Mess, etc.
As there is no indication of him ever leaving the UK, I would hazard that he was attached to either a battalion posted back to England to recruit up to strength, or a "second" or Depot Battalion which were meant to feed newly raised and trained troops to the "First" Battalion overseas. (There were many incidents of the Second Battalion being sent off as well, even into different Theatres.) That would keep our dear Wickham quite safe.
I don't think it would have been entirely rosey though. They would be taking things a great deal more seriously in the Regulars. (Whatever the Army might have been before the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars, and after them, viz. Crimea, it was a very professional service towards the end.) There might even be a few veterans posted back home, who wouldn't have much time for any "games".
Once Peace was declared, and the Army began to disband, the Wickhams could look forward to "Half-Pay" which was exactly that. I imagine they lost little time selling the Ensigncy for the £400 it would fetch. I wonder how long it would take them to work through such a windfall?
(You should know better than to get me started on this kind of thing.
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