Fishing fleet found in BT27 passenger lists

The attached image is the first page of the passenger list for the voyage of the Kaiser I Hind from London to Calcutta on 12th October 1893.

The passenger list shows what appears to be part of a fishing fleet. There are no obvious fishermen on board, however, because this is a very special type of fishing fleet. All the people on this page are noted simply as being “ladies and gentlemen”. Reading down the list of names, past Mrs Wright, Mrs Simpson, the infant and ayah (Indian nanny), you come to Miss Max, Miss Cowell, Miss Blyth, Miss Graham… a long sequence of unmarried women, down to Miss Sandys and Miss Good. This is the suspected “fleeting fleet”: marriageable young women sailing out to India in search of eligible bachelors, preferably the so-called “heaven-born” serving in the Indian Civil Service or officers in the Army. The fleet sailed out from Britain in the autumn or early winter and spent the next few cooler Indian months socialising at the British clubs and angling for a groom. There was always a shortage of unattached British women in India, so the arrival of the fishing fleet was doubtless fondly awaited by sincere and ardent gentlemen ready to be affianced, not to mention by dastardly bounders who enjoyed toying with a lady’s affections for the season.

Unsuccessful women – the “returned empties” – re-embarked for Britain in the spring.

According to the charity British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia, 2 million British and other Europeans are buried in the Indian sub-continent. Many more British people than realise it have a connection with India. If you are interested in the subject of the British in India from a family history perspective, two excellent places to start are BACSA’s website and the Families in British India Society.

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3 Responses to Fishing fleet found in BT27 passenger lists

  1. Jaffa Levy says:

    Extracts from The Simon Wallenburg’s Press Books on Anglo Indian Heritage.
    As years rolled on the practice of marrying Indian wives was
    successful but with the opening of the Suez Canal the necessity
    of it disappeared. Soon after, the opening of the overland
    route via the Suez Canal made voyaging to India less arduous,
    less expensive, and less dangerous than before; with the result
    that English woman began to come out in considerable numbers
    in what was termed the fishing fleet, and the ugly head
    of claimed race superiority soon became ascendent as they had
    to compete with the better looking and educated Anglo Indian
    women. Marrying the local women even those of mixed blood
    fell into disrepute.
    As Quoted in Alick Stark’s Hostages to India simon wallenberg Press
    When the pure blooded Britisher although born in India,
    resorted to a woman of the country he came from he wronged
    community to which he belonged he wronged British society
    in India by not providing a home to an Anglo-Indian who was
    precluded from marrying an Indian husband because of the
    virulent caste system.
    Ships departing for India manifests show lists of Miss Max,
    Miss Cowell, Miss Blyth, Miss Graham. Long sequences of
    a few thousand unmarried women, down to Miss Sandys and
    Miss Good. This is the suspected “fleeting fleet”: marriageable
    young women sailing out to India in search of eligible bachelors.
    In that era of large families in England, the only prospect for
    girls without dowry or physical beauty was spinsterhood.
    Victor Jacquemont, a French botanist visiting India at the
    time was not much impressed by the English ladies he met at
    Calcutta and other places. He wrote (1830): “Portionless girls
    who have not succeeded in getting married in England arrive
    here in cargoes for sale on honourable terms,”
    Another Frenchman, who served as an officer in the East
    India Company army, Capt Edouard Warren, considered the
    parents’ calculations of costs, risks and rewards rather sordid.
    In this situation many of the girls became accomplished
    flirts. As long as the girl made a suitable catch in the end, flirting
    was accepted as a pleasant activity except when the girl
    overdid it. The young civilian was considered a prime catch, £
    300 a year dead or alive
    The fleet sailed out from Britain in the autumn or early
    winter and spent the next few cooler Indian months socialising
    at the British clubs and angling for a groom. Unsuccessful
    women – the “returned empties” – re-embarked for Britain in
    the spring. —

    Alick Stark In Hostages to India Published by the Simon wallenberg Press says says about Colo Alfred Rowe

    Lt Col Alfred Rowe writes about the plight of the Anglo Indian
    girls at that time. “Almost overnight on the instigation of
    the ‘ladies’ from England if a mixed marriage or a marriage to
    an Anglo Indian girl took place, There was a revolt against his
    conduct his comrades practically ostracised him under pressure
    from their new English wives. Rowe writes “These English
    women caused grief and misery with their immoral ways in
    comparison with the native and Anglo Indian women”.
    A verse from the lays of Ind says in regards to the European
    women of the fishing fleet.
    Pale faded stuffs by time grown faint
    will brighten up through art;
    A Britain gives their faces paint
    For sale at India’s mart.
    At times young English wives with old husbands got involved
    in scandalous affairs with younger men and even eloped with
    them. Here is another verse from the ‘Lays of Ind’.
    Colonel White was over forty;
    Jane, his bride was seventeen;
    She was also very naughty
    For she loved a Captain Green”!
    The ladies from England made sure that the prevailing
    public opinion should hold that when the occasion for intermar29
    riage with Indians had disappeared, those who had recourse
    to it forfeited all claim to condonation and it was made into
    wanton outrage on society.
    Clearly with the arrival of the European ladies in large numbers
    due to the easy access via the Suez route that manners
    and times suddenly changed. Mixed marriages would not be
    tolerated and preference was to be given fishing fleet arrivals
    over indigenous Anglo Indian girls, from this point of time.
    As time passed, more and more European memsahibs appeared
    on the scene and emerged as supporting stars in the
    great imperial drama of the white mans burden to rule over
    the coloured people. The memsahibs inculcated a feeling of
    racial superiority and brought a little England in the midst of
    India. Anglo Indian officers of the company, however high their
    rank and length of service, now being of inferior and mixed
    blood ceased to be invited to the homes and functions of the
    pure European population. Unfortunately those who paid the
    penalty were the hapless children of the British fathers and
    Indian mothers.
    The East India Company encouraged this type of apartheid
    as it was the dawn of “enlightened imperialism”. For with the
    Victorian church preaching a new Christian morality in Britain,
    theft through conquest and subjugation of people outright could
    not be justified and was against Christian values. Therefore
    In order to justify a Private company’s conquest of a nation it
    had to show to all, that the inhabitants India were enslaved
    for their own good.
    It was now the “White mans burden to rule over the inferior
    races, the white man brought civilization to the childlike
    Indian and African who needed to be led and was incapable
    of managing his own affairs. Because to accept the Indians as
    civilized would meant that colonisation over them could never
    be justified, and would be in contradiction with the Christian
    faith, there was no option but to disparage the natives and
    consider them inferior, in the scheme of things where one side
    was the master and the other the slave, one could say but its
    for their own good we are here.

  2. John Stevens says:

    Do you know if there are any shipping records of these
    girls. I am trying to locate my great great grandmother
    Catherine Woods, whom I believe married my g.g.g. in
    around 1841.

  3. John Stevens says:

    Do you know if there any shipping name records of these
    girls. I am looking for my g.g.g.Catherine Woods whom I
    believe married my g.g.g. Sgt. Major William Roe around 1841?

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