The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

The Short Army Career of John Sewell

By Diana Kennedy


 This article was originally published in the December 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

John Sewell enlisted in the army in December 1844 and was discharged in February 1847.


For some of that time he was absent without leave resulting in his court martial and discharge having served just 578 days. John was born about September 1827 in Knodishall in Suffolk. In the 1841 census his age was given as 15years and he was employed as a labourer on his grandfather, John Sewell’s farm, Manor House Farm in Knodishall. It is likely that he was the illegitimate son of John senior’s eldest daughter.


John a labourer joined as a Private in the 46th Regiment of Infantry on 13th December 1844 at Woodbridge, Suffolk. He gave his age as 17years and 3months. He was described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He also had a scar between the scapula due to a boil.


On 8th May 1846 he deserted from the army and was absent until the 10th June 1846 when he was brought back. At his Court Martial on 16th June 1846 he was sentenced to three lunar months hard labour and stoppages. At a Regimental Board he was finally discharged from the army as he was ‘deemed unfit for service due to difficulty breathing, the result of pulmonary and cardiac disease’. His character was given as bad. John finally left the army on the 23rd February 1847.


Proceedings of a Regimental Board held at Gu…… 24th Nov 1846


The board having examined and compared the Regimental Records, the Soldiers book, and other such Documents as appeared to them to be necessary, report that John Sewell by trade a Labourer was Born in the Parish of Knodishall in or near the town of Saxmundham  in the County of Suffolk and was attested for the 46th Regiment of Infantry at Woodbridge in the County of Suffolk on the 13th December 1844 at the Age of 17 years 3 months that after making every deduction required by Her Majesty’s Regulations, the service, up to this day, which he is entitled to reckon, amounts to ….. years 78 days, as shown by the detailed statement on the second page, during which period he served abroad.


(No service abroad)


and further that his discharge is proposed in consequence of Being unfit for service. With regard to the character and Conduct of 401966 Private John Sewell the board have to report, that upon reference to the Defaulters book, and by the Parole testimony that has been given, it appears that he was tried by a District Court Martial at Chatham on the 16th June 1846 for desertion and making away Accessories Convicted and sentenced 3 Lunar months hard labour and stoppage inflicted and that his character is bad.



Detailed Statement of Service of 401966 John Sewell



Period of Service

Amount of Service









13 Dec 1844

12 Sep 1845





13 Sep 1845

8 May 1846



Deserted 9th May 1846 - Rejoined 10th June 1846

Tried by District Court Martial, convicted and imprisoned for Desertion 11th June 1846 to 7th Sept 1846. Released



8 Sep 1846

22 Nov 1846



Further Service from

23 Nov 1846

23 Feb 1847

Finally discharged


Total Service allowed to reckon to the day of final discharge   169


What happened to John after he was discharged from the army I have no idea. I think it is likely that he was the John Sewell, an Agriculture Labourer who died in Knodishall in July 1856, of Consumption aged 31years.  No family appear to have been present as his death.  



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