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The Corps of Comssionaires.


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An association based on principles of self-help & thrift, the Corps of Commisssionaires is the oldest existing organisation for placing ex-members of the armed forces in employment.

Founded by Captain Edward Walter in 1859, at a time when the government would not assist & the public was wary of them, many ex-servicemen were unemployed, although some would have a pension.

Edward Walter, recently retired as a Captain in the army, had for some years been actively urging members of parliament & others to adopt a scheme for placing ex-soldiers & sailors in organizations such as the Post Office, but his efforts had failed. He therefore privately organized the Corps of Commissionaires.

The public had no great love of the ex-soldier, the Vagrancy Act of 1824 was introduced following the Napoleonic Wars, in large due to the presence of large numbers of unemployed & homeless ex-servicemen in England as well as an influx of economic migrants from other parts of the UK, particularly to London.

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?An Act for the Punishment of idle and Disorderly Persons, and Rogues and Vagabonds, in England?, it included offences relating to prostitution, indecent exposure, begging, exposing wounds (in order to invoke sympathy when begging), fortune telling, falsely collecting alms for ?charity?,being found on buildings or in enclosed spaces (basically, being found in those locations intending to commit burglary etc), & frequenting public places intending including the street, in order to commit crime (such as street robbery).

Captain Walter intended to show that loyalty & discipline were virtues that could still be found in ex-servicemen, &, initially limited his recruitment to wounded & disabled men, he personally sought out in London positions for 8 wounded & disabled men, each of whom had lost an arm, .

On Sunday, 13th February 1859, Walter marched these men into Westminster Abbey to render thanks to God.

From this beginning, the Corps grew, as it was found that there were places with employers who preferred men who were uniformed to those who were not, as long as there were assurances that they came with guarantees as to their fitness & character.

Spreading across London & ultimately the UK, the Corps was originally confined to pensioners, but it grew to include reservists, but only recruited men of exemplary character & service.

The ?Corps of Commissionaires? is still in existence in the UK, popularly styling itself ?Corps Security?, a security company, & also as security companies in Australia & Canada.

This illustration is based on a photograph showing the original 8 members of the Corps

Edited by leigh kitchen
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From Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads

Shillin' a Day

My name is O'Kelly, I've heard the Revelly

From Birr to Bareilly, from Leeds to Lahore,

Hong-Kong and Peshawur,

Lucknow and Etawah,

And fifty-five more all endin' in "pore".

Black Death and his quickness, the depth and the thickness,

Of sorrow and sickness I've known on my way,

But I'm old and I'm nervis,

I'm cast from the Service,

And all I deserve is a shillin' a day.

(Chorus) Shillin' a day,

Bloomin' good pay --

Lucky to touch it, a shillin' a day!

Oh, it drives me half crazy to think of the days I

Went slap for the Ghazi, my sword at my side,

When we rode Hell-for-leather

Both squadrons together,

That didn't care whether we lived or we died.

But it's no use despairin', my wife must go charin'

An' me commissairin' the pay-bills to better,

So if me you be'old

In the wet and the cold,

By the Grand Metropold, won't you give me a letter?

(Full chorus) Give 'im a letter --

'Can't do no better,

Late Troop-Sergeant-Major an' -- runs with a letter!

Think what 'e's been,

Think what 'e's seen,

Think of his pension an' ----

Gawd save the Queen

Close up of above illustration:

Edited by leigh kitchen
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