Sergeant William Price, 65th Foot

William Price was thought to have been born in Brecon in the last quarter of the 18th century, but there is no documentary proof of this. The name is a very common one, so the chances of pinpointing the correct person in the baptismal registers of the area were going to be difficult. William’s son was baptised in 1812 with the names ‘William’ and ‘Samuel’, so it was possible that ‘Samuel’ was a traditional Price family name. One set of baptismal records in village near Brecon looked promising as a ‘William Price’ born there had an elder brother called Samuel. However, an intriguing piece of information later appeared which indicated that William Price had been born in ‘Brecon or Wolverhampton’. This was written in a letter by one of William Samuel Price’s grand-daughters and so carried some weight.

A William Price was baptised at the Temple Street Independent Chapel, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire on 26th August 1789. He had been born on the 7th August, the son of Samuel and Mary Price, who lived in the nearby parish of Bilson. The Chapel Baptismal Register indicates where a child died soon after birth and this was not the case with this particular entry. The Burial Register does record the internment in the Chapel grounds of a Mary Price, aged 25 years, on 31st March 1790. The records also show that Samuel Price, a widower, married Mary Clewett, a widow, in Wolverhampton on 25th May 1788. This is 15 months before William was born to William and Mary Price, so these could be his parents.

The 1780s were a time of considerable expansion for the towns in the area of Birmingham and Wolverhampton and it is very likely that many poor Welsh families migrated from their rural home areas to the new industrial towns of the English West Midlands. The distance from Brecon to Wolverhampton is about 75 miles. The non-conformist churches were strong in Wales at that time and it would be expected that any migrants to the new towns would keep their religious beliefs and join Non-conformist chapels there. So, although this scenario cannot be absolutely confirmed, this does seem to be the most likely background for William Price.

By the early 1800s Britain was in conflict with France for most of the time and expanding her Navy and Army. William Price next appears in the written record when he joins the Army in mid-1806. At that time he would have been nearly 17 years of age. The Muster Rolls of the 65th Foot show that Private William Price was recruited in Britain and sent to join his regiment in India, where he arrived in December 1806. The enlistment records for the 65th Foot no longer survive, so the information about his age, place of birth, physical condition and place of recruitment are not available. In 1806 the 65th Foot recruitment teams were active in Ireland and then in the South-East of England. Neither of these locations are associated with the little information known about William Prices’ origins, but the recruiting sergeants of the 65th would have had to pass through the West Midlands on their way from Ireland to South-East England, and they could have picked him up en route.

Baptismal entry for William Price at Temple Street Independent Chapel, Wolverhampton, on 26th August 1789.

Once in India, William Price joined Captain Mansell’s Company in Bombay. He seems to have shown promise as a soldier, as he was promoted to Corporal after less than a year, being transferred to Captain Warren’s Company in October 1807. In under a year again he was made a Sergeant and moved to Captain Symes’ Company on 21st June 1808. On 1 April 1809 Symes resigned and the Company was bought by Captain Clutterbuck. Officers commonly paid for their promotions at that time. In November 1809, William Price was aboard the troopship ‘Friendship’ off the coast of Muscat in the Persian Gulf. Britain had been troubled by Arabian pirates for some time and this expedition was designed to curtail their activities. It was feared that if Britain did not secure this area it might be used for a joint French and Russian force as a setting off point for an attack on her possessions in India. Sergeant Price would have been involved in various landings on the Arabian coast and in the destruction of Arab forts and ships. In February 1810, he was to be found on the troopship ‘Duncan’, still in the Persian Gulf.

Along with other British troops, a detachment of Bombay artillery and one thousand Indian troops – sepoys - the 65th embarked on four transports. The whole force was under the command of Colonel L. Smith of the 65th Regiment. The expeditionary force arrived off Muscat on 23rd October 1809 and anchored at Ras-al-Khaimah on 11th November. The fort was quickly captured on the 13th after a naval bombardment and the British flag was raised on the Sheikh’s house by 1.30p.m. The 65th lost one Captain killed and had 21 other officers and men wounded, whilst the enemy suffered over 300 killed and wounded. The expedition had a number of other engagements before sailing for Bombay and arriving there on 21st January 1810.

By September 1810, Sergeant Price had been transferred to Captain Armstrong’s Company, but was on the sick list in Bombay. He was again ill in the December and when the rest of his Regiment sailed to capture the Ile de France (Mauritius) from the French, he remained in Bombay. There he married Mary Farrow (nee Dodds) on 19th May 1811, she being recently widowed. Her first husband had died in Mauritius on the same expedition that William Price had missed through illness. However, William and Mary’s marriage lasted only a little over 4 months, as he died in Bombay and was buried there on the same day, 30th September 1811. The 65th Foot October Muster Roll shows that he was paid up until that date and records his effects as worth £2/2/3d. This money went to ‘his wife and child’ - his step-daughter by Mary’s earlier marriage. The Roll also records that he was not due any bounty from the capture of Ile de France as he had been absent in Bombay, due to sickness. His cause of death is not recorded but was most probably due to a tropical disease.

Mary Price was 3 months pregnant at the time of William’s death, so he may have known about his future child who was born on 26th March 1812. The boy was baptised William Samuel Price and Mary married for a third time on 3 May 1812. It was common for British soldiers wives to remarry soon after their husband’s death, as only a small proportion of them accompanied a Regiment in service and they were much sought after by single soldiers. Also, in Mary’s case, she had a new-born baby and an older child by her first husband to support. As the widow of a private soldier or non-commissioned officer (e.g. sergeant) she would have received no pension.

At this point it is appropriate to look at Mary Dodds’ origins and then her story after the death of William Price.

Next Page: Mary Dodds