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28Farrier Sergeant Major William Binnie Forbes

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  • dwidenbar
    Dec 24, 2005
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      Dear Members,

      I do not know whether some of my ancestors are buried in a
      Christian cemetery in Pakistan or India but it seems possible. I
      have only recently unearthed all the information I can provide as my
      father and his sisters never spoke of their origins.

      My grandfather, John Charles Widenbar, a sergeant in the Royal
      Welsh Fusiliers, married my grandmother, Margaret Forbes, in Quetta
      on 10th December 1908. Margaret was 20 years old, according to the
      marriage certificate, and therefore born about 1888. Her father is
      named as William Binnie Forbes, F. Sergeant Major C.L. The meaning
      of `C.L.' is not known.

      Margaret's life was short. She died tragically in a fire in
      Britain in 1917 leaving four children. An inquest jury was told
      Margaret was an Anglo-Indian, her mother being a nurse, and her
      father a Farrier-Sergeant, who was killed while serving in the
      British Army on the North-West Frontier. It is unclear from this
      statement whether only her mother or both her parents were Anglo-
      Indian before her. However, Farrier-Sergeant suggests that her
      father was in a cavalry regiment. Until I read this statement, I had
      always assumed that Margaret, who gave no profession on the marriage
      certificate, was living with both parents in Quetta before she
      married, her father serving with some regiment there. When I read
      it, I did a rethink. The result may be intuition or it may be a
      flight of fancy.

      A volume of Army Returns at The Family Record Centre list
      a `Maggie' Forbes as being born in Meerut in 1888 to an unknown
      soldier in the 8th Hussars, an Irish cavalry regiment. The same
      volume records a Margaret Forbes being born in Rawalpindi in 1881, a
      Jessie W. Forbes being born in Rawalpindi in 1883, and a Kathleen
      Forbes being born in Meerut in about 1886, all to a soldier or
      soldiers in the 8th Hussars. Could they all be sisters and could the
      first Margaret have died thus enabling the name to be used again for
      the youngest sister? Could they all be the daughters of William
      Binnie Forbes? The same volume of Army Returns records a William
      Forbes being born in Kilkenny in Ireland in 1848 to a soldier in the
      8th Hussars. Could William Binnie Forbes have joined his father's
      regiment?

      When did William Binnie Forbes die? The 8th Hussars were
      despatched to India in 1878 and fought in Afghanistan. They were in
      Rawlpindi from 1881 to 1885 and Meerut from 1885 to 1889. They then
      returned to Britain. William must have died very near the end of
      their Indian posting leaving a wife and at least one very young
      daughter. How did they end up in Quetta? I suppose it is possible if
      his wife was an army nurse.

      Have any of you ever seen the name William Binnie Forbes or
      simply William Forbes on a gravestone in a cemetery that you have
      visited? Maybe there are graves for just his wife or daughters. I
      should be forever grateful for any information you can provide.

      Derek Widenbar