Robert Butler

Born circa 1842

  • received Lot 202, Group 1, New Westminster District, as military grant, 150 acres, March 14, 1870. 

  • Worked in Government Printing Office in New Westminster and Victoria until within a month of his death. 

  • Active in New Westminster and Victoria Rifles Corps.

  • Of his large family, he was survived by 2 sons, 4 daughters, 16 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren.

Died circa 1917

It was while he was working out of Port Douglas  that young Robert Butler, the Engineers' bugler, helped capture a murderer.  An Indian, hired as a packer by the miners, had killed his employers for the gold they carried.  The Indian, and a French miner with 50 pounds of gold wrapped in a blanket, paused to drink from a brook beside the Douglas trail, and while the miner was bending to scoop up the water, the Indian shot him, but the bullet only grazed his shoulder.  At this moment, Robert Butler and two other sappers came along the trail.  The Indian darted into the forest, the sappers came in pursuit.  Agile, 17-year-old Butler was able to catch the fugitive, who, at his trial, was shown to have killed at least eight men.

--Sappers, p 51
Beth Hill

At the age of 17, Butler would have been what they called a Boy Soldier. 

As a Bugler, Butler's Regimental Pay per Diem woudl have been 1s. 2 1/2d. plus Working Pay per Diem of 1s. to 4s.

Though not typical, we offer the story of Josiah John Dean, another boy soldier -- at least until we find out more about Bugler Butler.

The Life of a Boy Soldier


Josiah John Dean was born in the Parish of Gillingham, near the town of Chatham, in the County of Kent on the 28th of December 1835.  Army birth records indicate that Josiah's father was serving in the Royal Sappers and Miners at the time of his birth.1  As a young lad, prior to entering the Army, Josiah worked as a Tailor, or given his age, more likely as a Tailor's Helper.


The following is a description of Josiah John Dean at the time he enlisted as a Boy Soldier in the Army in 1850:


14 years and 108 days




Light brown

The following is a description of Josiah John Dean at the time he was discharged from the Army in 1875:


40 years


5 feet 6 inches




Light hazel


Light brown

Distinctive Marks:




Josiah John Dean enlisted as a Boy Soldier in the Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich on the 15th of April 1850.2  As previously mentioned, his father was a serving soldier in the Royal Sappers and Miners.  During the Victorian period, it was not unusual for the son of a serving soldier, normally a non-commissioned officer, to enter the Army as a Boy Soldier in the same regiment or corps as his father.

Upon his enlistment, Josiah was issued Regimental Number 2518 in the Royal Sappers and Miners and was posted for duty as a Bugler.3  He was probably employed on duties as a Bugler at Woolwich or at Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent pending his 18th birthday when he would no longer be considered a Boy Soldier.

     Recruit Training

On the 28th of December 1853 Josiah Dean attained the age of 18 years and was eligible to enter the ranks as a full-fledged soldier.  Having met the physical requirements4 for entry into the ranks, Dean was sent to Chatham to receive his recruit training as an engineer soldier.5  When his training was successfully completed, Dean was posted as a Bugler to the 11th Company, Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich.