SWIFT Thomas

In 1755 the 51st Regiment of Foot was renumbered (from the 53rd). It received a county designation in 1782, as the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) Regiment of Foot. In 1821 the regiment received royal status, becoming the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding, The King’s Own Light Infantry) Regiment.During the early 19th century the regiment served in the Napoleonic and Peninsular campaigns and served at Waterloo in 1815.

Between August and December 1837, six convict ships left Britain with 51st Regiment guards on board bound for New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. The regiment continued to arrive in Australia as convict guards, and in larger numbers on troopships, during the decade that followed. Some of these ships are profiled on the Ships page. Arguably the most famous of the journeys made by 30 officers and men was on the ship Buffalo. That story can be read on the Anecdotes page.

In June 1840, a detachment of 145 officers and men arrived in Western Australia on Runnymede from Hobart; a further 46 men arrived on Eudora and Champion between 1841 and 1844. Thirty three 51st men took their discharge and settled in Western Australia; one of them was this man featured on the right.

The 51st in Australia left Hobart for India on Java in 1847. Its last port of call was on 15th March 1847 when the balance of the detachment in WA boarded Java on her way to Calcutta.

51st Regiment at Waterloo
NAME: Thomas SWIFTName variations: None encountered.
Birth Date and Placec. 1806 Rainford, Lancashire, England [WO23-149].
Baptism Date and Place
Marriage Date and Place
Land Acquisition in WANone.
Death Date and Place13 Aug 1847 Yangerdin (sic), Western Australia [WO28-266-74; WABDM Reg. #271]. 
Burial Date and Place
Death, Funeral, Obituary NoticesNone.
Will and ProbateNone.
Regiment51st (2nd Yorkshire West Riding, The Kings Own Light Infantry) Regiment.
Soldier No. and Rank#590 Private.
Attestation Date and Placec. 1826 [deduced].
Physical DescriptionHeight:  5 ft. 9½ ins. Complexion: fresh. Eyes: grey. Hair: light brown [WO23-149].
Service/CampaignsEast Indies (see Additional Details below).  Australia 9 years.
Medals, Clasps and Badges
Casualty/MedicalDiseased heart and worn out. [WO23-149].
Regimental Courts Martial
District Courts Martial22 Jun 1842 Hobart Town [WO86-4-451].
Charge: Drunk.  Sentence: 2 months hard labour; 1 month solitary confinement.
Arrival Australia: Ship and DateLord Lyndoch.  Embarked 24 Mar 1838 at Deptford. Paid to 31 Jul 1838.
Dep. 4 Apr 1838 London. Arr. 8 Aug 1838 Port Jackson, NSW. [WO12-6200-196].
Arrival Western Australia: Ship and DateChampion 27 Nov 1844 from Hobart [DPS; TROVE].
Military Postings within Western AustraliaPerth HQ Jul to Sep 1843 inc. Garrison Duty.
Bunbury Oct to 1843 to Sep 1844.
Perth HQ Oct to Nov 1844.  On Command Dec 1844 to May 1845.
Perth HQ Jun to Sep 1845 inc. Regimental Duty.
Pinjarrah Oct 1845 to Mar 1847.
[All sourcing from WO12-6205 TO 6208].
Courts Martial in Western AustraliaNone.
Discharge Date and Place31 Mar 1847 [WO12-6208-191].
Age at Discharge41 years [WO23-149].
Length of Service21 years 2 months. 20 years 10 months reckoned after two months disallowed from District Court Martial.
Chelsea Pension ReferenceNot extant. Admitted to Pension 24 Aug 1847 by Examination of Invalid Soldiers  [WO23-149; WO23-30-184].
Pension DistrictWestern Australia.
Pension Amount1/0d. per diem.
Struck off strength 13 Aug 1847 (deceased) while waiting for pension approval from Horse Guards [WO28-266-74].


Thomas Swift was a long-serving soldier who intended to discharge from the Army with a Chelsea Pension. However, he died before he could realise his shilling a day. Because of problems with time and distance in army administrative matters, he was ‘admitted to pension’ with a formal examination planned, just eleven days AFTER his death. The same thing happened to his comrade in arms, Thomas Prendaville. In Prendaville’s case, his discharge to pension documents had already been drawn up (and are available to researchers) when he too died a week before his examination.

In Swift’s ‘examination’ document there is a check mark against service in ‘India East’, but this applies to every soldier on the page; it may have been written for something else entirely.

Upon arrival in Australia (1838) and throughout all the Pay Lists until he was discharged, Swift is paid 2d. per day ‘additional’ pay. This does not appear to relate to a Good Conduct Badge payment (although it is surprising that he did not receive a badge during his career). The genesis for this payment may be found in Pay Lists not available in Australia.

During Swift’s posting to Bunbury, he was assisting in surveying work for Henry Ommaney, the government surveyor in the area early in 1844 (see extract left).

After Swift was discharged in March 1847, he may have gone to work for a J T Smith on a farm at Yangedine Brook, or perhaps at the mill in the area [Geonoma Landgate]. Yangedine Brook is between York and Beverly – about six miles (ten kilometres) south of York on the Avon River (see map right). This speculation is based on the fact that Swift’s death was registered at ‘Yangerdin’.

© Diane Oldman 2022