Army Ordnance Corps

A name like John Bilton does not initially lend itself well to easy research. With John each fact has tweaked out another.

He was born 26th March 1847 in Foggathorpe, Howden, Yorkshire to Hugh and Harriot Bilton when Queen Victoria had been on the throne just 10 years. His father, Hugh, was an Innkeeper and Farmer of 30 acres, which I dare say would have kept Harriet employed too. By 1851, he was 4 and living with mother and father at the Black Swann Inn in Foggathorp. Older sister, Elizabeth (5) was also resident, together with Servant Hannah Lumby (17)

Earliest he would have joined the Army would have been around 1861. John had made an association with Plumstead and perhaps the Ordnance Corps, having married Mary Ann (possibly Simons) of Plumstead, Kent about 1871. It is surmised therefore, that he enlisted between 1861 and 1871.

1891 Living at 245 High Street, Plumstead and still a Conductor in the ASC (AOC). The have an adopted son called William Simons (aged 10)

In 1901, John and Mary were possibly resident at Warley Road - Essex Arms) but he working at the local Warley Barracks, but just 10 years hence, in 1911 the next census shows residence at 47 Pownall Crescent, Colchester with his wife of 40 years recording also that there are no children born alive in the marriage. He is Army Pensioned Warrant Officer.

20th August 1922 Mary Ann died at Colchester. Probate shows John still living at 47 Pownall Crescent, Colchester, but just a year later he is recorded as living at Bourne Road, Colchester. Also shortly after he married for the second time to Eliza Mason.


Mary Ann b.1851 - Originated from Plumstead, Kent. They were married for 51 years. In 1911 when John was 64 it shows that they had no children at all.

Eliza (b.1867) Mason. Eliza Mason was recorded as Colcestrian and the domestic and niece of Capon Henry Preston.


From the rank he reached it is evident that John was very comfortable with military life. It seems he spent nearly all his life, even in retirement associated with the Army and the Ordnance Corps. He was recorded as Army Ordnance Corps Conductor through the Great War years and achieves a Military Service Medal in 1929. Despite this, he never made the leap into Commissioned Officer status.

Military Milestones:

Conductor is the title given to the most senior non-commissioned appointment (WO1) in the British Army and survives today through the Royal Logistics Corps. (Queens Regulations (A) 1975 Chapter 9 Para9.169.

Awarded a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM non-immediate) as a Conductor, RAOC in 1929. The medal Card is post 1914 and therefore he may have performed some War Service, perhaps at Home.


John Bilton’s masonic career appears somewhat unremarkable when looked at through Comrades Lodge and without investigation. However, having traced his masonic history, it is very much as extraordinary in his career which spans some 57 years and through several different Lodges. It is undoubtedly a product of his postings throughout the world. Although initiated aged 30 in the far reaches of the British Empire, his principal Lodge turns out to be the one he helped to found in Plumstead - Ordnance Lodge. He was a petitioner and founder of Ordnance Lodge and was its first Junior Warden and after 14 years of service was made an Honorary Member in 1904.

Masonic Milestones

Strange that the GLC should be issued in 1894 when he resigned from the Lodge in 1879. Perhaps he went back?

Masonic Promotion

He died in 1934. Probate Record: John of 60 Drury Road Colchester died 5th September 1934 Administration London 8th October to Eliza Bilton - widow. Effects £408 8s.