10:46AM UTC - Friday, 01 October 2010
Contributed by: Alan Bunting
A surprising number of Buntings, especially during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, responded to 'the call to arms', as conflicts arose in different parts of the world, especially perhaps those which threatened the sovereignty of the British Empire. For some it was a noble calling. Many young men, most notably those from well-to-do backgrounds, saw it as their duty, in some instances even a privilege, to help defend their mother country. For them it was a matter of honour to uphold an ancestral tradition or reputation.
Such recruits to the armed services from the upper echelons of society typically attended military colleges, such as Sandhurst for the army and Dartmouth for the navy, on their way to becoming commissioned officers. But many more entrants to the army and navy, a hundred years or more ago, came from much humbler backgrounds. There were plenty of Buntings in the latter category, born into families of artisans, industrial workers, coal miners and particularly agricultural workers.
Often there was little if any work available locally for the many male offspring of poorer families. Becoming a soldier or, less commonly, a sailor, was seen as an obvious escape from poverty, unemployment and eventually the workhouse. To a 17 or 18 year old lad from a poor family, a life in uniform also promised adventure and travel. That travel could mean postings to trouble spots in far-flung parts of the Empire, such as South Africa or India or, more modestly, to military installations in areas of the UK a long way from the towns or villages where they had grown up and probably had rarely left.
In this issue of Gone A-Hunting (page 2), Hedley Bunting relates his family history going back to the 18th Century. He describes how soldiering became virtually an accepted way of life for successive generations of his Bunting ancestors. His research involved delving into National Archive military records, some of which can now be found on genealogical web sites, including 'Ancestry' and 'Find My Past'.
These records can reveal a lot about individuals, not just relating to their military service, identifying their regiments and their involvement in specific conflicts. In the case of Hedley's ancestors, he was able to obtain details of medals and other awards for bravery on the field of battle.
It has become apparent during other researches by Bunting Society members that a significant number of British army servicemen with the surname Bunting - or its variants - hailed originally from Ireland. Before partition in 1921, rural poverty in southern Ireland led to large waves of emigration.