Robert James Madden, Ensign, East India Company

According to his Cadetship Papers, Robert James Madden formally applied to enter the military service of the East India Company as a Cadet Officer for the Bombay Infantry on 12 Aug 1840. He was recommended by George Francis Travers, Esq. As part of the condition for his appointment he was required to contribute to the ‘Military Fund at his respective Presidency’. [At this time India was divided into the Presidencies of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta]

Until 1859, there were two armies in India: the British Army and the Honourable Company (East India Company) Army. Honourable Company regiments were raised in India or England for service only in India. The Honourable East India Company ([H]EIC) held the Charter to represent the British Crown's merchant interests and to establish trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. They were granted this Charter from about 1600 until shortly after the Indian Mutiny when the EIC was dissolved.

Robert’s initial training would probably have been at The East India Company Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey, in what is now the London Borough of Croydon. It was opened in 1809 and closed in 1861. Its purpose was to train young officers to serve in the East India Company’s private army in India. At this time cadets commenced their training between abt 14 and 16 years of age for a period of 4 terms over two years. Cadets or their families were required to pay fees of £50 a term by 1835. For further information, see Photo below is from this website.

Addiscombe Military Seminary c. 1859

Robert’s Cadetship Papers state he was born on 7 April 1823 and baptised on 8 May at St Georges Chapel York Place Edinburgh and was the son of James Malachy and Charlotte Madden. His father  was a Surgeon in the Royal Navy, residing at Heavitree nr Exeter.

Robert was educated at Mount Radford School, Exeter in Devon where he studied ‘Classical and Mathematical’. Mount Radford is an historic estate in the parish of St Leonards, adjacent to the east side of the City of Exeter in Devon. Mount Radford House dates from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1826 the house became a school, known variously as "The Exeter Public School" or "Mount Radford College" which closed in 1902.

The Bombay Calendar and Almanac for 1842 published at Bombay, India, states that R. M. Madden arrived at Poonah as part of the 2nd European Light Infantry on 8th Oct 1839 and was appointed to the army rank of Ensign on 31 Aug 1839 and regimental rank on 19 Nov.

Sadly, at the age of only 19 and after less than 3 years of service, the Gentleman’s Magazine for July to December 1842 records his death on 9 June 1842 at Colaba: ‘Ensign Robert Madden, 2nd Bombay European Regt. Eldest son of James M Madden, esq. of Heavitree, co. Devon.’

This extract from the book by W. L. Vane “Durham Light Infantry: The United Red and White Rose” gives an insight into the period that Robert Madden was serving in the 2nd Infantry at Poonah.

‘By an order of the Governor-General of India, dated 29thJuly, 1839, it was notified that the Hon. East India Company had resolved to add an additional regiment of European infantry to each of their armies in the presidencies of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay; each of these regiments was to consist of ten companies, was to have an establishment of 1 colonel, 2 lieutenant-colonels, 2 majors, 10 captains, 16 Iieutenants, 8 ensigns, and 920 non-commissioned officers and men, and was to date from 8th October, 1839. On 8th October, Líeutenant-Colonel G. B, Brooks (Brevet-Major-General) was appointed to be the Colonel; and in Bombay orders of 16th December, it was notified that the new regiment in the Bombay Presidency was to be a light infantry regiment, that its uniform was to be red, facings pale buff, lace white with a black worm, that it was to be armed with the new double-sighted musket, and that its head-quarters were to be established at Poona on the 1st of the following February.

On 3rd January 1840, 3 colour-serjeants, 10 serjeants, 15 corporals, 2 drummers, and 21 privates were transferred from the Ist European Regiment, as from 8th October, 1839.

During the year 1840 various parties of recruits joined from England. including one, on 29th July, of 87 men who had been saved from the wreck of the “ Lord William Bentinck” on the rocks off Colaba ; and by the end of the year the regiment was over the established strength. The regiment was then denominated " The Second Regiment Bombay European Light Infantry."

On 6th April, 1842, the left wing of the regiment left Poona by march route for Bombay in relief of the 1st regiment which was then quartered there.’

colaba barracks

Colaba Barracks

It is not known how Robert James Madden died. However, it is probable he died of cholera. Returns to the British House of Commons in 1845 showing Sickness, Mortality and Invaliding in the Hon. East India Company's Troops (Natives and Europeans) in the Bombay Presidency rated the largest number of Deaths from Cholera between 1825 and 1844 was in 1842 at 90 deaths. [‘Vital Statistics of the East India Company's Armies in India, European and Native’, W. H. Sykes, Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol. 10, No. 2 (May, 1847), pp. 100-131]


Family headstone is at St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in Heavitree

Headstone inscription: Sacred to the memory of Mary Ann Dickson Madden who died 27 Feb 1834 aged 16 months. Also Robert James Madden who died the 30 May 1842 in India aged nineteen years. Also Louisa Madden who died the 23 April 1845 aged 5 years. Also Robert James Bate who died the 8 April 1853 aged 2 years and five months. Also William John Madden who died the 6 August 1853 aged 27 years.

[Research by Nicholaus Madden and Robert Sterry, Mar 2017]