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Guest Blog from The Army Children Archive
As the son of Lieutenant General Sir William Congreve RA (1743–1814), the first baronet and founder, in 1778, of Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum’s artillery collection, the second baronet, Sir William Congreve (1772–1828), was born and bred an army child. And like many army children before and since, the man who is today best known as the inventor of the Congreve rocket followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a soldier, as well as comptroller of the Royal Laboratory and superintendant of military machines at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.
Like numerous other children of the regiment, William junior was born near his father’s place of work, Woolwich (then in Kent, and now in south-east London) being the headquarters of the Royal Artillery, the regiment in which his father served. But because military families have always tended to follow their soldier spouses and parents from posting to posting (in the past, sometimes without official approval), and because British Army units have been posted the world over, many army children have been born abroad over the centuries. And they have also often drawn their first breath in terrible circumstances, such as during the Peninsular War’s retreat to Corunna (1808–9), when soldiers’ children were born by the side of the road, many also dying there of cold, exhaustion and malnutrition.
The Army Children Archive (TACA), which was set up in 2007, chronicles the lives and times of children who have followed the drum from the seventeenth century to date (after all, today will be history tomorrow). Visit this virtual archive at its website, www.archhistory.co.uk, to read about army children’s experiences: the journeys that they have made by foot, troopship, train or plane to far-flung postings; the many and varied places in which they have lived the world over; the married quarters in which they’ve been accommodated; the British military hospitals in which they were born; and the regimental, forces’ and civilian schools at which they were educated. You’ll also find Royal Artillery children’s and other army brats’ memories on TACA (they make fascinating reading), along with a list of famous army children, tips for those researching military ancestry and
much more besides.
So if you’re interested in learning more about an exceedingly interesting group of children, why not visit TACA? And if you were yourself once an army child, how about contributing your own story?
Clare Gibson (founder, The Army Children Archive).
Chronicling British army children’s history
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