William Tate Groom 1831-1857

Lieutenant William Tate Groom, 1st Madras Fusiliers

William Tate Groom had no direct association with Bridgwater, although he is commemorated here on the memorial to his widowed wife Helen Isabella Maria Groom.

William was born in London on 10 August 1831, the son of Richard and Martha Groom. Richard worked for the India Board as a solicitor. William attended school in Bognor Regis before progressing to the prestigious Rugby School in 1845. At the age of 19 (1850), he entered the service of the Honourable East India Company, as a junior officer in the 1st Madras Fusilier, a regiment of European soldiers. He served in the Burmese War of 1852-3, where he was decorated with the Burmese Medal with Pegu clasp.

Not long before the outbreak of the Great Indian Rebellion (also known as the Indian Mutiny) William married Helen Maria Isabella Reid in Madras, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Archibald Reid of the 6th Madras Native Infantry (who later rose to the rank of Major General). William was soon called into action, and the letters he wrote on campaign were preserved and later published by his wife. These can be read here.

His firsthand account tells the story of his regiment in fighting the rebellion, building up to the first relief of Lucknow in 1857. He vividly describes the skirmishes, battles and endless marching, as well as the hardship of campaign life: 'I have no horse or pony, and thirteen miles is a rather long walk before breakfast'. More of his men died of cholera and heat stroke than from action, although there was plenty of hard-fought action along the way. The Madras Fusiliers wore plain white shirts and blue caps and by this point in the war were 'such a lot of woe-begone ragged, bearded ruffians you ever saw!' His letters end abruptly on 17 September 1857, before the fusiliers arrived at Lucknow, where they were soon trapped with the other British defenders. During a sortie out of the defences on 5 October, leading 50 men, he was badly wounded in the hand, which soon became infected. He died on 21 October.

Tragically, Helen had fallen pregnant before William left, and the baby was born while he was away. He received the news and a lock of the baby's hair, but he was killed before he ever saw his child. He was buried by the Lucknow Residency Hospital.