Alexander Ferris was born in Donaghadee, Co. Down, Ireland, and enrolled as a Volunteer in the Northumberland Regiment of Militia on 14 February 1853. Whilst serving with them he attested for the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot at Alnwick, Northumberland, on 16 April 1855, and embarked aboard the ill-fated Sarah Sands, bound for India, in August 1857, thus became embroiled in one of the epic shipwrecks of Victorian times.The Sarah Sands, with 369 Officer’s and men of the 54th Regiment together with woman and children, a total complement of some 500 persons including the ship’s crew, sailed from Portsmouth on 15 August 1857. During the course of the voyage the crew became mutinous and many of them were locked in irons below deck. On 7 November a squall carried away the foremast of the vessel’s four masts but on 11 November a more serious disaster occurred when a fire broke out some days after leaving Cape Town. For 18 hours the troops and loyal members of the crew fought the fire with admirable discipline. The women and children were successfully lowered in the boats to safety whilst the mutinous sailors deserted in the ships long boat.The gallantry of the 54th, together with the Petty Officer’s and engineers who had remained on board, in fighting the fire and the subsequent powder explosion is a matter of record. The Regimental colours kept in the saloon, were saved by the bravery of half a dozen volunteers who reached them after repeated attempts. Several casks of powder blew up most of the ship aft of the mainmast but in the process also blew away much of the burning woodwork, enabling the fire to be finally extinguished. Without loss of life, the Sarah Sands reached Port Louis, Mauritius, after being adrift for 12 days. Many soldiers had been terribly burned, their uniforms having been almost scorched from their bodies by the intense heat and flames of the fire. Of the original strength of the 54th 151 remained fit enough to proceed to India and earn the medal for service during the Mutiny.Ferris served with the 54th Foot in India for 12 years and 8 months, and was awarded his Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1876. He was discharged at Netley on 2 May 1876 after 21 years and 18 days service.