Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Michael Compton, assisted by his wife, Sue, and daughter, Josephine, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ‘The Fishing Fleet – Catching Husbands in India’.

The ‘Fishing Fleet’ consisted of single women, who travelled to India to look for husbands.  They came from various classes, some intended for officers and some for the soldiers and administrators.  They were only allowed to marry British protestants.  Many British men in India co-habited with Indian women and their Eurasian children, when baptised, became British. It was cheaper to co-habit with an Indian than marry a British wife.


In the late 18th Century, the journey to India was arduous, taking 6 months, and the women had to sleep on deck as there were no cabins.  The advent of steamships and the opening of the Suez Canal reduced the journey to 6 weeks.  Michael Compton’s mother, Dorothy, travelled to India in 1923 where she lived in her brother’s bungalow.  She wrote detailed accounts of her life there.  The ceilings were high to allow better ventilation.  There was a tin bath and no sanitation.  Food was locked up and rationed out daily.  There were 11 servants.  Social life centred on the British Club, where Dorothy met Joe Compton, whom she married in 1925.