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JAMES CURREN by Bob Barltrop

Curren MedalJames Curren was born around August 1837 at Banbridge, County Down, Ireland. Life in Ireland was not for James Curren because on 22nd August 1855 he attested at Liverpool as a private in the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade. He gave his trade as a labourer and his age as 18.1 He was 5’6¾” tall and had dark brown hair. He was paid a bounty of £7.0.0 and was given the number 5083.
James Curren was immediately sent by ship, along with five other recruits, from Liverpool to Portsmouth where he arrived two days later and marched to the battalion’s depot in Aldershot. Pte Curren’s first few months in the army were not healthy ones as he had several spells in hospital between 1st Sept 1855 and 31st Mar 1856.
Pte Curren was transferred to the 69th Regiment of Foot on 1st January 1857, probably in anticipation of the regiment’s move to the East Indies. He was given the number 38 and moved to the regiment’s depot at Weymouth. Pte Curren was promoted to corporal on 1st November and on 11th November 1857 he embarked for India with the rest of the regiment arriving in Madras on 20th December. From Madras the regiment sailed to Rangoon on 9th January 1858 arriving there on 24th January. The regiment took up their stations in Tonghoo Province, with Cpl Curren being posted to Shoaygheen2 in October where he remained before returning to Tonghoo on 27th September 1859. On his return Cpl Curren spent 9 days in hospital with an eye infection.
Cpl Curren was awarded his first good conduct pay on 1st March 1860 but on 27th April 1860 he was arrested and confined for “offering violence to Corporal Whitfield.” He was tried by court martial on 1st May and reduced to private the following day and his first good conduct pay forfeited from 27th April. In July Pte Curren spent 5 days in hospital suffering from the “climate” and in November a further 5 days with dyspepsia. Pte Curren’s first good conduct pay was restored on 2nd May 1861.
Whilst some of the 69th returned to Madras in January 1862, Pte Curren did not return to Madras until 3rd March 1862. On his return to Madras he spent 9 days in hospital with diarrhoea and a further 5 days with the same complaint in October. Pte Curren was promoted to corporal again on 31st October 1862 and, after being sick again with diarrhoea in January 1863, he had a brief spell at Palaveram in February 1863 and again in October, possibly because he again had two spells in hospital suffering from the “climate.” Cpl Curren was granted his second good conduct pay on 26th August 1863 and had a further 12 days in hospital with dyspepsia.
In February 1864 the 69th returned to the UK but Cpl Curren had volunteered to remain in India and on 1st January 1864 he was transferred to the 108th (Madras Infantry) Regiment of Foot which was in Trimulgherry, near Secunderabad. He was given the number 1887 and reverted to the rank of private but was promoted to corporal on 9th February, sergeant on 1st March and colour sergeant on 1st April. Col Sgt Curren moved to Secunderabad in October and reverted to sergeant on 1st April 1865. The move to the 108th was only a temporary one because he transferred to the 1/18th (Royal Irish Regiment) Regiment of Foot on 1st June 1865. In September he spent another three weeks in hospital with hepatitis.
The move to the 1/18th was also a temporary one because, when the 1/18th returned to the UK early in 1866, Sgt Curren, along with forty others, volunteered to remain in India and transferred to the 96th Regiment of Foot on 1st January 1866. As a result of this transfer he again reverted to the rank of private. Pte Curren was entered on the married roll from 1st January 1866. He had married a woman called Mary (from London) and may have married her some time before 1866 as they already had two children – Francis born in 1863 and William born in 1865.
The 96th had arrived in Bombay on 28th November 1865 and then proceeded by rail to Poona where Pte Curren joined them on 10th February 1866. He again suffered from dyspepsia spending time in hospital in April and May 1866. He fell foul of authority again on 10th November 1866 when he was arrested and confined. On 23rd November he was tried by court martial, found guilty of “insubordination” and imprisoned until 6th February 1867. His second good conduct pay was also forfeited. Pte Curren was posted to Bombay in May 1867 and spent 5 days in hospital due to some form of “derangement” but he returned to Poona in June. The Currens’ third child, Joseph, was born in Poona in 1867.
Following the seizure and imprisonment by King Theodore of Abyssinia of the British Consul and several missionaries and the lack of response to several British ultimatums, an expeditionary force, under Lt General Sir Robert Napier Commander in Chief of the Bombay Army, was despatched to free the hostages. Although the 96th Regiment was not selected for this expedition, Pte Curren was in a party of two officers and nineteen men from the 96th who were seconded for service in the transport corps and a further officer was seconded to the Staff for the expedition. The expedition landed at Annesley near Massowah in January 1868 and marched the 300 miles to Magdala. Little opposition was encountered until the British approached the city and a vastly larger Abyssinian army was defeated at the battle of Arrogie on 10th April. Magdala was entered on 13th April, King Theodore committed suicide and the prisoners were rescued. Although it is unlikely that Pte Curren fought at the battle of Arrogie, there is no doubt that he suffered severe deprivations in keeping open the 300 mile supply line from the coast to army at Magdala.
Following the ending of the campaign, Pte Curren returned to the 96th in Poona in June and had his second good conduct pay restored on 7th February 1868. In January 1869 the regiment, including Pte Curren, embarked at Bombay for Calcutta which was reached in mid February. From here the regiment marched to Dum Dum and from there Pte Curren was sent on detachment to Barrachpore where he remained until October 1869. During his time at Barrachpore Pte Curren spent a further 9 days in hospital in May 1869 with hepatitis. In November 1869 the regiment moved to Dinapore which was reached on the 11th. Pte Curren was awarded his third good conduct pay on 7th February 1870 but on 3rd April 1873 this was forfeited. The Currens’ fourth child, Mary, and fifth child, Agnes, were born in Dinapore in 1871 and 1873 respectively. During 1872 Pte Curren spent 5 days in hospital with hepatitis, 5 days with dengue and 13 days (in two separate spells) with dyspepsia. On 3rd April 1873 Pte Curren’s third good conduct pay was restored.
In August 1873 it was announced that the regiment would soon return to the UK but whilst the 96th sailed for home from Bombay on 21st November 1873, having travelled there by train from Dinapore, on 1st September 1873 Pte Curren and 170 other men volunteered to remain in India and Pte Curren and six other men transferred to the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot. He was given the number 75. At this time he and his wife had five children. 
Pte Curren arrived in Lucknow on 23rd October 1873 to join his new regiment. Here he remained until October 1875 when he moved to Fort William, West Bengal before moving to Dum Dum on 11th November 1875. On 3rd April 1876 Pte Curren was granted his fourth good conduct pay. The Currens’ sixth child, Teresa, was born in Dum Dum in 1876.
His years in the East had obviously taken its toll because at Dum Dum in October 1876 he spent 12 days in hospital due to “general debility” and on 21st December 1876 Pte James Curren passed the Annual Disability Board for transfer to England. He was granted his discharge on 22nd January 1877 “in consequence of his being found unfit for further service” and that his general debility was due to “climate and military duty.” It was stated that his constitution was “permanently impaired and (he) will be able to contribute in a minor way only towards his self support.”  It was stated that “his conduct has been very good and he is in possession of 4 good conduct badges and the War Medal for Abyssinia.” It was also noted that he was not in possession of a certificate of education. His name had appeared twice in the defaulters’ book and he had been tried twice by court martial.
Pte Curren had served the colours for 21 years and 62 days of which 18 years and 6 months had been served in the East Indies and 6 months in Abyssinia. 
Pte Curren, his wife and seven children embarked for England on 19th March 1877. He entered Netley Hospital on 15th May, was re-examined at on 25th May 1877 and finally discharged from the hospital and from the army on 11th June 1877. Having originally stated that Notting Hill was his intended place of residence, he changed his mind and stated that he intended to live in Manchester. He was living at 19, West Stanley Street, Salford with his wife and six children at the time of the 1881 census and working as a dyers’ machine waxer.
History of the 63rd and 96th Foot – H.C.Wylly 1928
WO12/10145-10146, 7751-7758, 10021-10024, 9639-9647 & 5393-5396.
Army Births and Baptisms.
Census  1881 & 1891.

  1. Army papers indicate a birth date around August 1837 but the 1881 census would indicate a birth date around 1839. James Curren may have signed up under age.
  2. Shoaygheen not found on map.