FREDERICK WRIGHT GILES gave up his job as a barman at a pub in Pembroke Place, Abercrombie (an inner suburb of Liverpool, the city where he was born) at the age of 18 and joined the army as his father had done. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery at Portsmouth on 14 January 1882.
Standing at just over 5 ft. 8 in. and weighing only 134 pounds, he was a slight figure, with dark brown hair and brown eyes and a missing front tooth. Twenty-six years later when he left the armed services, he was technically a clerk. But he had a career behind him that had taken him to three continents, called on him to fight in several major campaigns, and earned him a mention in dispatches for his part in the battle for Tugela Heights in the Second Boer War in South Africa. He even re-enlisted in the Army to fight in World War I.
Ten years in India
His longest posting was to India, where he spent a total of ten years in the far north and at the troublesome Northwest Frontier. Although he met his wife in Sussex, all four of his children were born in India, then the jewel in the crown of the British Empire.
A look at the above map of the religious affiliations of India at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s makes it easy to see how it fractured along Hindu-Muslim lines in the mid-20th century when Muslim territory (shown in green) eventually became Pakistan. But it was still India when Frederick and his wife, Emma, left England in late September, 1887, just over a month after they were married at the ancient parish church at Broadwater, in the village of East Preston, near Worthing, Sussex. They were bound for the British military barracks at Jutogh, in the ruggedly beautiful but forbidding far north of the country, on the edge of the town of Simla in the Punjab, nestled against the southern edge of the Himalayas. Today, Simla is in the Indian state of Hamachal Pradesh.
The Giles’ first child arrived on 8 May 1888, about eight months after they left England. They named her Emfred - a contraction of the first names of parents Emma and Frederick. India had no civil registration at that time, and confirmation of the birth of each of the four known Giles children comes from Army records such as the Army Ecclesiastical Returns and Regimental Birth Indices that are part of the General Registrar’s Office. Some 23 pages of military records are viewable on Ancestry.com, spanning his entire career.