Family Lessons 20: Vuceral and Worn Out

My 5x Great Uncle, Howarth Marsden of Gisburn, became a soldier. He joined the 6th Dragoon Guards in 1804, possibly seeing service in Canada, though I suspect he spent much time in Ireland, dissuading Napoleon’s French from landing. The website of the contemporary Dragoon Guards boasts:


The Royal Dragoon Guards is an aggressive reconnaissance force. Its soldiers use an arsenal of armoured vehicles, including the Scimitar, to navigate all sorts of environments and terrains in search of enemy troops.

Tough talk, though I have no doubt it is true. I’m sure that Uncle Howarth, with only a horse and a bright red tunic, worked just as hard. His discharge and receipt of a Chelsea Pension reads:

Age 42, corporal 2, private 12, complaint Vuceral disease and worn out.

I looked up ‘Vuceral disease’ and found little. It could be a corruption of visceral disease, which is defined as a clinical manifestation of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) with predominant lung and liver involvement. This sounds as unpleasant as it is incomprehensible, but the Royal Chelsea Hospital’s final phrase is clear enough: ‘worn out’. After 14 years of being fast, flexible and fearless in combat, he was worn out.

He lived another 20 years, so the ‘Vuceral disease’ cannot have been as lethal as my research indicated. Yet I think that, had he remained in His Majesty's pay, he would have died much sooner. He became a printer in Bolton and Blackburn, a demanding, but less dangerous, occupation. He also went onto marry his third wife in Blackburn.

Interestingly, his brother also joined the army, this time the 15th Regiment of Foot, and was likely involved in the West Indies and took part in the invasion of Martinique in January 1809 and the invasion of Guadeloupe. This all sounds pretty stressful, but John’s Chelsea Pension record fails to list some ailment or exhaustion. Why did one brother become worn out, and the other apparently not?

Stress, excessive pressure and exhaustion wear us down and wear us out. Work is good but too much of it, along with too little opportunity for rest and relaxation, will kill us in the end. This is why God gave us the Sabbath- a day of rest in which we might have a break from toil and care. It might be that others, under similar conditions, are not so badly affected. Be that as it may, we were never created to be slaves or drudges, workaholics or workhorses. Enjoy the rest that God has ordered.

Image: Unknown artist; Major Gore, the 7th Dragoon Guards; The Military Museum of the Royal Dragoon Guards; This work is in the public domain.