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  • The 'Non-Effective'

    During the current site shutdown, I did a little poking around at random and came across something related to a familiar character I had been interested in years ago....Roslyn D'Onston.

    Previous researchers ( Harris & Edwards) had written about the Garibaldi campaign of the early 1860's for Italian independence....a campaign D'Onston claimed to have participated in as a young man in his early 20's.

    Seems like this claim, as with virtually all of the claims D'Onston made is bogus.

    While it is true that his name is present on a Muster Roll....Harris and Edwards didn't display the heading in which his name is featured.

    D'Onston's name is listed among the 'Non-effectives'....men who were rejected for service for several reasons, such as these below :

    Non-effective : noun A member of a military force who is not in condition for active service, as through age, illness, etc.

    D'Onston bragged about his service to Garibaldi and it became an article of faith in some Ripper circles. Truth is, he never served a second in the military.

    Metropolitan Police Inspector Thomas Roots, certainly no dunce, wrote in December 1888 a report concerning D'Onston's visit on Boxing Day that he ( Roots ) had known him for 20 years. He was under the impression that D'Onston was a former Major in the Italian Army ( Garibaldi campaign). Roots, evidently, was told this prior to D'Onston's visit in late 1888. I can guess who told him.

    This is a photo of the Muster Roll in which D'Onston is listed from 1860. He was either 18 or 19 at the time being born in April of 1841. I found it in the Bishopsgate Institute.














    The British Legion was a voluntary military corps composed of around 800 Englishmen and Scots, who in 1860 made their mind up to join Garibaldi and fight for the unification of Italy together with the Italian Garibaldini against the Bourbon Army of The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Officially they were "Garibaldi Excursionists" to avoid any problems of diplomatic appearance and the departure of the British Legion was financed by the Garibaldi Special Fund Committee, one of the British organisations supporting the unification of Italy.

    After having sailed from Great Britain by the ships Melazzo and Emperor, the British Legion landed in Naples on 15 October 1860 and took part in a fight, under the command of John Whitehead Peard in Sant'Angelo up to the wall of Capua, where two volunteers were killed and eight wounded. Even if half of the volunteers were enthusiastic and behaved properly, there were some roughs, principally from Glasgow and London who lacked discipline, so the Legion acquired a name for disorder. The Legion had a short war experience and were replaced by the Kng's Army in the final siege of the fortress in Gaeta, where the Bourbon Army surrendered In February 1861.










    The George Jacob Holyoake Archive at Bishopsgate Institute includes records relating to the British Legion, including the Muster Roll below. The Archive also includes minutes of the Garibaldi Special Fund Committee, miscellaneous papers and numerous illustrations documenting the progress of the British Legion in Italy.



    Melvin Harris stated on page 90 of The True Face of Jack The Ripper that D'Onston, being one of many inspired by the prospect of war on the Italian peninsula for Italy's independence came down from Hull staying at a friend's house in Islington and making a second application for the 'British Legion' or the Excursionists.

    Actually, this didn't happen. There was only one volunteer drive for the Italian campaign....and D'Onston couldn't, pardon the expression, cut the mustard. Yet another modern fable.
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  • #2
    There were a few murder suspects in the 19th century who claimed to have been associated with Garibaldi.

    When I wrote the foreword to Mike Hawley's previous book in 2018, I added this little tidbit that originally came from Roger. It was about the convicted murderer Dr. Edward Pritchard:

    Now let's look at Dr. Pritchard. We don't know much about his youth, but he was a social climber. He bragged endlessly. He lied his way into the Royal Navy and later padded his meager medical qualifications with bogus credentials. One of his greatest peculiarities was that he printed up dozens of daguerreotypes of his own image, in an age when that stuff wasn't cheap, and he liked handing them out to strangers. He owned a gold-cane walking staff engraved "from your great friend Garibaldi" -- but, of course. he wasn't really Garibaldi's friend.

    I see we've got D'Onston claiming to have been a participant in Garibaldi's campaign at one time. There must have been something about being linked to Garibaldi that commanded respect.

    Oh well, as it turned out, Pritchard was executed in Glasgow for his murders. As for D'Onston, he apparently went his own way.

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    • #3
      I see we've got D'Onston claiming to have been a participant in Garibaldi's campaign at one time. There must have been something about being linked to Garibaldi that commanded respect.

      Back in 1860, the teenaged D'Onston was probably like thousands of other young fellas who believed action in war equated with manhood.

      The problem I had with the D'Onston as soldier claim Melvin Harris fabricated was that I knew the British Legion only had one recruitment drive,,,,the one he was classified as a 'Non-effective'. I just never knew D'Onston was shelved on his first and only attempt to join. Locating the Bishopsgate Institute's Muster Roll provided the answer.

      If you read the True Face of Jack The Ripper, you'll see where Harris invents this elaborate story about how D"onston learned the skills necessary to be the Ripper on the battlefield. The only wounds D'Onston had before the Flamborough shooting incident were paper cuts from working in the Customs House.
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      • #4
        Hi Howard

        I see we've got D'Onston claiming to have been a participant in Garibaldi's campaign at one time. There must have been something about being linked to Garibaldi that commanded respect.

        At the time Garibaldi was held in great esteem in England, there was much reported in the news papers and I recall reading such items in the Hull newspapers. The citizens of Hull even sent him two canon for use in his campaign, which were returned [unused I believe] to hull after his victory and are still displayed outside the Hull Docks Museum.

        Great work finding the item from the Bishopsgate Institute.

        Rgds John
        Attached Files

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        • #5
          Originally posted by John Savage View Post
          Hi Howard

          I see we've got D'Onston claiming to have been a participant in Garibaldi's campaign at one time. There must have been something about being linked to Garibaldi that commanded respect.

          At the time Garibaldi was held in great esteem in England, there was much reported in the news papers and I recall reading such items in the Hull newspapers. The citizens of Hull even sent him two canon for use in his campaign, which were returned [unused I believe] to hull after his victory and are still displayed outside the Hull Docks Museum.

          Great work finding the item from the Bishopsgate Institute.

          Rgds John
          He even had a biscuit named after him. ;-)

          And he gets a mention in The Wind in the Willows. Mole had a statute of him his garden.

          I get the impression it was the equivalent of a 1960s student having a poster of Che Guevara on their wall.

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          • #6
            John:

            My D'onston is rusty....and when I was putting the post together I was sort of worried that this fact ( about him never participating in the Italian Campaign/Excursionists ) may have already been sorted out.

            Hope you're well, boss.


            Gary......good analogy there with Garibaldi and Guevara.

            I had a poster of Raquel Welch on my wall ( One Million B.C....in loincloth).
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