The Unett family has a long tradition of distinguished military service well documented in this small but diverse collection of family papers from the late 18th. to mid 20th. centuries. Many members of the family served overseas and there are documents relating to every continent - Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and America. Although the Unett family was of Staffordshire origins, the chief item of local interest is a fragmentary journal of the Revd. Thos. Unett, Curate of St.Mary's, Stafford, covering a few weeks in the later 18th. century [D3610/4].
The Revd. Thos. Unett married Frances Godwin in 1761. In addition to wills of John Godwin, 1770, Capt. Wm. Godwin, 1774 and General Jn. Godwin of the Royal Artillery, 1779 the collection includes the latter's detailed account of the siege of Gibraltar, 26 Nov. 1781 to 31 Jan. 1783.
Ann Unett married Capt. John Grant Fraser of the Royal Artillery. Capt. Fraser was the executor of his brother, James, a West India merchant and there are copy letters, 1790, relating to the winding-up of the estate which shed light on the problems of trade in the West Indies (D3610/5/1). Capt. Fraser's two sons, James Baillie Fraser and Alexander John Fraser, both followed their father into the army. There are complementary groups of letters from James, 1810-1813 and Alexander, 1812-1813, on their experiences in the Peninsular War in which they both died in 1813. James described the hardships endured by the English soldiers including subsistence on acorns, 1813. A most interesting item, unrelated to other documents, is a vivid account sent to Capt. Jn. Grant Fraser of the shipwreck off the Canadian coast of a detachment of Royal Artillery on their way to Quebec in 1795. After many vicissitudes, the remnants of the group reached Great Servis on the island of Newfoundland (D3610/6/1).
Richard Wilkes Unett, 1765-1815, kept a journal from the time he obtained his army commission, 1788, until 1803 (D3610/12/1-4). This relates to service in England, but there are also letters from Barbados, 1802, in which he describes heavy losses of soldiers through fever and his own hatred of the Caribbean climate (D3610/12/5).
An exception to the family military tradition was John Wilkes Unett, 1770-1856. He was a solicitor, a founder member of Birmingham Law Society and a property developer in Smethwick and Filey Co. Yorks. His papers in this collection do not reflect these interests, but comprise his journal of a visit to occupied Paris in 1815 to see his brother Geo. Wilkes Unett (D3610/13).
George Wilkes Unett, 1772-1825, saw extended service as a soldier in the West Indies and there is a series of letters describing events leading up to the final loss by the French of their Caribbean possessions, 1808-1810, including the surrender of Martinique, May 1809 (D3610/14/1).
Further insight into military life and conditions of service can be obtained from the Crimea Journal of Lt-Col. Thomas Unett, April 1854-March 1855 (D3610/16/1. This covers the period from embarkation in England through arrival in the Crimea, the Battles of The Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, the seige of Sebastopol to Thomas Unett's departure from Constantinople, Feb.-March 1855. There are many comments on military discipline and on the weak and desperate state of the British Army especially in Dec. 1854. The journal ends with Thomas Unett's account of his approach to Cobden to make known Crimean conditions in England, March 1855. He subsequently returned and was mortally wounded in the Battle of Sebastopol in 1855.
James Robinson Unett, 1804-1850, is represented in the collection by two letters, one from Messina in Sicily, 1836 where he describes trading prospects for the local silk amongst other commodities and one from Geelong, Australia, August 1840. This contains many comments on the superiority of the Geelong district over South Australia and on the writer's plans for cattle breeding and grazing. It is of interest in showing the early development of the Australian hinterlands by squatters (of whom Jas. R. Unett was one) after the establishment of the coastal towns. He also refers to the availability of horses in Van Diemen's land and gives advice on preparations for emigration (D3610/17/2).
With the papers of Walter Unett 1815-1860, there is a return to military interests. His letters include references to his army service in India, especially during the Second Afghan War, 1842 and the Second Sikh War 1848-1849 in which Unett led a charge at Chillianwallah, 1849 (D3610/18).
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 is recorded in letters of William Henry de Walshall Unett, 1882-1975, at the time of mobilization in August 1914 (D3610/19/1). Unfortunately, he was captured after the Battle of the Cateau in September 1914 and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner, first in Germany then as an internee in Holland in 1918. His postcards and letters from prisoner of war camps were heavily censored, but once in Holland he was able to give more detailed accounts of camp life, his experiences as a prisoner and attempts to escape (D3610/19/7). In addition, there is a detailed account of the opening campaigns of the war "as seen by officers who were prisoners of war at Torgau". After a short general account of the British Expeditionary Force, there are chapters by the II Corps, III Division, IV Division, VI Division and I Corps (D3610/19/8).
John Alfred Unett 1868-1938 served in South Africa during the Boer War and there are several letters, April 1900 - Sept. 1902 describing his work as an intelligence officer concluding with his comments on the effectiveness of the blockhouse system and a report of the orderly surrender of the Boers, July 1902 (D3610/20/3).
This collection of family papers ends with the letters, while on active service overseas of the depositor, Major Richard Unett. [Papers less than 60 years old are closed to public inspection].
Richard Unett served with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in Malaya 1948-1951, Kenya 1954-1955, Aden, 1955-1956 and Cyprus 1956-1957. His correspondence is of interest in that the military activities in which he was involved were not wars in the conventional sense as documented in his ancestors' papers but anti-terrorist and anti-nationalist peace-keeping operations reflecting the changed 'end of an empire' role of the modern British Army (D3610/21).
Regiments in which members of the UNETT and related families served.
Richard Wilkes Unett (1765-1815) Royal Artillery
George Wilkes Unett (1772-1825) Royal Artillery
Lt.Col. Thomas Unett 19th Foot
Walter Unett (1815-1860) 3rd Light Dragoons
John Alfred Unett (1868-1938) East Yorks. Regiment
Wm. Hy. de W. Unett (1882-1975) Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Richard Unett Kings Own Yorkshire
Light Infantry and Malay Regiment
James B. Fraser 7th Fusiliers
Alex. S. Fraser 52nd Foot