Mystery of Army Major buried in the Chancel of church
PUBLISHED: 13:53 30 January 2017
Dr Paul Davies
Norfolk Chronicle, January 22, 1780.
Yesterday se’ennight (a week ago) the remains of John Whittle, Esq, Major of the Essex Regiment (East Essex Militia who were stationed in Great Yarmouth at the time), were interred in the chancel of St Nicholas’ Church, Yarmouth, with military honours. The corpse was preceded by four beadles, the sword bearer, the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Yarmouth, the Major’s physician, the Rev’d Mr Price, and the Rev’d Dr Smyth. Then followed eight soldiers, bearing the coffin, with the deceased’s sword laid saltier-like (in the form of a diagonal cross) across his scabbard (sheath); his sash, gorget (leather or steel that covered the throat to give protection), and gloves. The pall (a cloth over a coffin) was supported by six Captains; the Lieutenant Colonel as chief mourner; the Major’s charger (cavalry horse), covered with black and caparisoned (decked out in rich decorative coverings), with his horse furniture &c. Then his domestics in black cloaks. The band playing the Dead March in Saul. Fifes, drums, instruments, and halbards (an axe blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft) in mourning. Then proceeded the regiment with their arms reversed, and the highest in rank of officers going last. When the corpse entered the church, three vollies were fired by a detachment in the churchyard. During the burial, minute guns were fired by the men-of-war in the Roads, and an universal gloom seemed to predominate over all ranks of people, from the sincere regard they possessed for the worthy officer. The late Major Whittle was a gentleman remarkable for his politeness, spirit, and attachment in Revolution principles (the Glorious Revolution of 1688 placing William III on the throne)... and though very much advanced in years, turned out with the utmost alacrity, upon the report of an invasion in 1778 (the failed American invasion of England landing at Whitehaven in Cumbria).”
Little is known about Major Whittle,