Show the Colours Wiki

16-year-old Private Thomas 'Tom' Oxley is a drummer aboard HMS Terpsichore. He is played by Sharpie. His PB is an unknown extra from the film Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.


Father: Daniel Oxley (Carpenter in Woolwich Dockyard)

Mother: Becky Oxley

Older Brother: Sam Oxley (Able seaman)

Early History

Tom Oxley was born in Woolwich

Woolwich Dockyard in 1790, by Nicholas Pocock

in 1793 to Daniel and Becky Oxley. His father was a carpenter in the Woolwich Dockyard and his mother used to take in laundry to help add to the family's income.

Daniel Oxley was a bad-tempered habitual drunkard, who spent his evenings in the local pub, the Two Caulkers, rather than come home to his family after work. Tom and his brother Sam both were frequently roped into helping Becky Oxley with the washing that she took in to help make ends meet. Frequently, the money she got from this was the only income the family had after Daniel Oxley drank his pay away. It was understood that the two boys would eventually be apprenticed to their father's trade in the Dockyard.

Living near Woolwich as they did, the boys used to see the local detachment of Marines drilling, or marching through the streets of the town between the dockyard and the Marine barracks, and often talked of enlisting. Tom Oxley in particular was fascinated by them, with their smart red uniforms and the fact that often they would have a young boy drummer with them, keeping the step. It was in 1804, when Tom was twelve, that a division of Marines was raised to be based permanently in Woolwich, along the same lines of the divisions in Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth.

Due to their father's drunken habits, Sam Oxley wasn't apprenticed at the usual age of twelve. It wasn't until he was sixteen that his apprenticeship was finally arranged, but as he went down to the dockyard to sign his indentures and begin to learn his trade, he was snatched by a press-gang. The twelve-year-old Tom Oxley saw what had happened, but couldn't stop them taking his beloved older brother and ran all the way home to tell his mother what had happened. At first, his mother was distraught, but then began to see it as a good thing, as it meant that there was one less mouth to feed. His father didn't seem to care one way or the other, though now there was only one target for his belt when he was in a temper.


Oxley's mark on his attestation form

It was when he found out about his parents' plans to apprentice him as soon as they could that finally prompted him to leave home, about two weeks after his brother's impressment. Thinking for some reason that to be apprenticed meant that he would also be pressed, and much preferring the Marines' smart uniforms to the slops he'd seen the sailors wearing, he slipped out early one morning to try to find a marine to enlist him. He also thought that going to sea would give him a better chance of locating his brother, especially as Marines were trusted to go ashore when sailors weren't, which might enable to him to pick up rumours about his brother.

At first, the marines he spoke to were reluctant to take him, thinking his wish to be some sort of joke, but he persevered and finally a corporal came out to speak to him, telling him about the ardours of life as a marine. He still persisted and was finally given the King's Shilling. He had never seen so much money at once in his life before, and wanted to go and spend it.

When his father found out about his son's enlistment, he went along to the Marine barracks to complain that they had enlisted an apprentice and had to release him. On being questioned by the sergeant, Oxley denied seeing or signing any indentures, and his father was informed that Tom's enlistment was legal and above-board and could only be reversed on payment of a guinea 'smart money'. Not having such a sum, his father went away, disgruntled.

Training went well and soon after completing it, Oxley was posted to his first ship, Atalanta, a 36-gun frigate under the command of Captain Pimbury. He spent two years aboard her before being transferred to Terpsichore, where he shares the duties of Marine drummer boy with the Shepherd twins and - occasionally - Appleby.

Fear of the Dark

Tom Oxley is a happy-go-lucky boy with one over-riding fear: He does not like dark, closed in places. This stems from his older brother's trick of luring him into the shed behind the house and locking the door. Recently, Oxley was part of an attack on a French-held fort, the only way in being through the sewers. Once the men were in the tunnels, the entrance behind them was collapsed, sealing them in. It was only because of the presence of Lieutenant Cartwright and his older brother that Oxley was able to hold his panic in and help blow an exit from the sewers into the fort itself. [1]

Appearance and Personality

Private Oxley, Royal Marine drummer

Oxley is still growing. He is 5'2" at the age of 16, so he has plenty of time to attain his full height. He has relatively clear skin, though he still sports some pimples. He has dark blond hair, worn cut short in the new fashion, and blue eyes with a direct, open expression.

When on duty, he wears the dark-blue faced red coat of a Marine drummer, with his drum fastened to the broad white crossbelt that also carries his drumsticks when they are not in use. He takes care of his uniform and drum, though when off-duty he usually prefers to wear his own white trousers and a seaman's shirt without the Marines' blue-faced white canvas drill jacket, unless it is cold.

His older brother was pressed into the Navy when Oxley was about twelve, and he ran away from home shortly afterwards to join the Marines, partly because he wanted to find his brother, but partly because he had always had a fascination for the Marines in their bright red coats, and he didn't want to end up slaving away as a Dockyard carpenter for a pittance as his father did.

He is fairly quiet when there are officers around, but has been described as 'talkative' by sailors and fellow Marines. He is fairly thoughtful, although he can be blunt when expressing his thoughts or opinions, and doesn't always think before saying something[2]. He is not one to deliberately get into trouble and needs some convincing to join in with the fun if he thinks it might lead to trouble, though he does enjoy a prank or two from time to time. He is a natural leader among the rest of the ship's boys aboard.

His bluntness led him to get into a fight with de Guarde, which ended up with Oxley and Andrew Shepherd stripping an unconscious de Guarde of shirt and trousers and hauling the garments up the foremast signal halliards.[3]

Both de Guarde and Oxley got in trouble with their respective officers once the news of the fight came out, and Oxley found himself under the close eye of Cartwright's steward Mikey Foley, learning the duties of an officer's steward.[4]

Referenced Threads