Captain Alfred Savill Tomkins Victoria Rifles was a merchant and member of the Regiment. He married Margaret Louise Cracknall and they lived at “Holmwood” in the Caterham Valley, Surrey.
He was a malt factor in City of London, a partner in the family firm of Randells Howell & Co and then Tomkins Courage & Cracknall.
He enlisted in the Victoria Rifles, rising to the rank of Sargeant. He was later commissioned and promoted to Captain.
He was also somewhat of an inventor and entrepreneur. He applied for several patents for inventions, notably for cooking apparatus. He came up with an invention, known as the Tortoise mobile military hospital, for which the Empress Augusta of Germany awarded him a stick pin comprising “an Imperial Eagle in gold set with central garnet and two small diamonds above and below, reverse with elongated pin for wear, engraved ‘Presented by Augusta Empress of Germany, to Capt. A. S. Tomkins 22-9-88’, y ‘Haller & Rathenau, K.K. Hofjuweliere u.o Linden, 34 Berlin’, all in a box itself embossed ‘Presented by Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Augusta of Germany to Cap. A. S. Tomkins Victoria Rifles’. It is shown below.
Captain Tomkins is recorded in an article ‘The ‘Tortoise’ Field Hospital’ by Mrs John Gay in The Nursing Record of 22 August 1889 to have been the winner of a three-day competitive international exhibition of ‘flying Field Hospitals’ – the competition one of many patronised by the Empress Augusta of Germany. As the competition winner, he would appear to have also won the prize of 10,000 Marks. The horse-drawn ‘Tortoise’ military hospital was patented by Captain A S Tomkins, and from its large carriage was able to extend itself as a small front-line hospital. As explained in the aforementioned publication: “To overcome the difficulty and delay necessary to properly erect large tents, the brilliant idea occurred to Captain Tomkins of making each waggon carry its own tent on its back (hence the name ‘Tortoise’), which in a very short space of time could be unrolled, spread out all round the waggon…A large one…contains the following things: – Eighteen Stretcher Beds…, cooking apparatus for one hundred men, including stove, ovens, baking tins, and boilers, two washstands and basins, sixty blankets, twenty waterproof groundsheets, air bed, mattresses, india-rubber folding bath, lanterns…medical haversacks, folding camp chairs and provisions for seventy men…’
He was initiated in December 1863. He rose up through the Lodge and was elected Master in April 1869 but the death of his father prevented him from being installed.
He rejoined the ladder as Inner Guard in 1871 and rose once more, being installed as Worshipful Master in February 1873. He became Director of Ceremonies from 1882 to 1884. He was made PPSDG in Surrey.
He also joined Caterham Lodge No 2095.
He passed away 31 January 1900.
His son Lt Alfred Savill Tomkins served in the 7th Gloucesters and was killed in action in 1915.