ROBERT TAPSON, ROYAL ARTILLERY, GUNNER [The sad story of a short life. PTSD?]
Robert was just 19 when he enlisted into the Royal Artillery. A Royal Chelsea Hospital Document (PRO W097/1838) gives details of his military career:
Leith Fort 26 May 1874
Discharge of 972 Gunner Robert Tapson
16 years 44 days service (l P/12 year abroad in India)
Discharge — unfit for further service
Conduct has been Very Good and he is in possession of three Good Conduct Badges
His name appears three times in the Regimental Defaulters Book
He has never been tried by Court-Martial
A Medical Report is attached to the service record:
- a) Dyspepsia b) Eczema
It is possible that the Dyspepsia has been aggravated by drinking and that the Eczema is of a Syphilitic origin. The disease is likely to be permanent. Will not be able to contribute in any way towards livelyhood [sic].
No 972 Gunner Robert Tapson, by Trade a Shop-man, was born in the parish of Plymouth, Devon, and attested for the Royal Arty Reg at Woolwich, Kent, on 13 April 1858 at the age of 19 years.
Discharged at Leith Fort 15 June 1874
Age 35 Height 5 feet 7 inches
Complexion Fair Eyes Blue Hair Fair Trade Shopman
Intended Place of Residence Arundell Hotel, Litton, Devon
Robert, who did not marry, is shown in the 1881 census for Litton (page 200) living at Fore Street, Lifton, with his retired father, his widowed sister and her two daughters. It is clear from Robert’s medical report at the time of his discharge from the Royal Artillery on 15 June 1874 that his father had not then retired from the Arundell Arms. The fact that Robert’s sister Mary and brother William were given responsibility in their father’s will for making a weekly allowance to Robert might seem to suggest that Christopher considered Robert to be incapable of handling money wisely, especially if the implication in his medical report that he was a heavy drinker was well founded. However, an alternative explanation is that Robert’s health had further deteriorated and it was thought that he was unlikely to live long; for he died, at Lifton, within a year of the will being written. His death certificate* states that he died on 29 April 1881 of heart disease aged 42 years, that he was a Royal Artillery Pensioner, and that his father, Christopher Tapson, was present at his death; his age was accurately recorded on his death certificate. It is probable that the period of 11 years which Robert spent in India took its toll upon his health and was as much responsible for his medical condition as was his way of life, which itself was no doubt a consequence of the difficulties of living in that subcontinent. Robert was buried at Lifton.