The World War Forum (Page 113)

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Posted by: Trevor Purnell {Email left}
Location: Tillington West Sussex
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 3:57 PM

I have a soldier with two regimental numbers but his medal card shows that he was only in the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. His name is Thomas George Bridgewater (2988 and G/17765) He was killed in action on the Somme 21st October 1916.

Grateful if you can find out anything about him.


Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 6:59 PM

Dear Trevor,
The medal index card showed only that Thomas G. Bridgewater served with the Royal Sussex Regiment. He had two separate regimental numbers 2988 and G/17765. He qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, he did not go overseas until some date after January 1st 1916. He was born early in 1897 and would have been 17 when war was declared in 1914. He may have enlisted under the minimum age of 18 or he may have been conscripted in 1916. No individual service record has survived for him so it is not possible to state his wartime service.
"Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921) stated he was killed in action on 21st October 1916 while serving with the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. That provides evidence that on the day he died he was with the 13th Battalion. The CWGC stated he was buried at the Grandcourt Road Cemetery, but that cemetery was not constructed until the spring of 1917 when bodies of men who died on the Ancre battlefields were gathered together.
There are at least two possible reasons why he had two different numbers. One is that between October and December 1915 he had volunteered for deferred enlistment (join now; serve when called up) and had been allotted the number 2988. The G prefix and the five-digit number indicated general wartime service in any service battalion of the regiment. Service Battalions were those raised during the war for wartime service only. So he might have joined a wartime service battalion on deferred call-up and have been allotted a general service number at that time. It is possible he served in a battalion in the UK with the regimental number 2988 and was posted to a service battalion on arrival in France in 1916.
The probability is that he served with the 13th Battalion throughout. The 13th (Service) Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment started life as a volunteer "pals" battalion, raised at Bexhill on 20th November 1914 at the expense of Lieut-Colonel C. Lowther M.P. as the 3rd South Downs Battalion of the Royal Sussex. The men of these pals battalions generally had three and four-digit regimental numbers. On 7th July 1915, the 13th Battalion was taken over by the War Office to become the 13th (Service) Battalion (3rd South Downs) Royal Sussex Regiment. The men may have been re-numbered on that occasion, changing their "private army" four-digit numbers to the G prefix general service numbers. The 13th Battalion went overseas in March 1916 and served with the 116th Infantry Brigade in the 39th Division. The Division fought at the Battle of the Ancre Heights from October 1st to 11th November 1916, when Thomas was killed.
The evidence points towards Thomas George Bridgewater serving throughout his time with the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. However, as no individual service record has survived, it cannot be stated with certainty that that was the case.
Kind regards,
Reply from: Trevor Purnell
Date: Friday 1st November 2013 at 11:03 AM


Thank you for the very useful information. Private Bridgewater's first number is similar to those of other early volunteers to the 3rd South Downs and your note that they may have been allocated new numbers when they were 'taken over' fits well.

Many thanks for your impressive expert knowledge.

Kind Regards,

Posted by: Ian Nl {Email left}
Location: Holland
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 10:45 AM
Dear Alan,
My uncle, David Allcock (Regimental no. 83749) served from 1915 to 1918 in the Royal Field Artillery on the Western Front. He was a canal boatman and claimed to be 19 when he volunteered at the recruitment office in June 1914; he was actually 17. He survived the war and despite breathing difficulties caused by exposure to gas attacks, he held heavy manual jobs until his retirement.
I accessed his service record through Ancestry. It is damaged and, for me at least, rather difficult to decipher.
If I understand correctly, he was first attached to 60th Reserve Battery in August 1914. He was transferred to the 48th Brigade Ammunition Column in January 1915 and left for France in May 1915. He was hospitalised in the UK , with Trench Fever, in November 1917 and returned to the Front in March 1918. In May 1918 he was transferred to 45th Battery, 42nd Brigade. He was again hospitalised in the UK, end October 1918, having been wounded in the arm.
I saw in the records that, used to working as a boatman without direct supervision, he had some difficulty conforming to Army discipline. Just a few weeks after joining up he was disciplined for an incident in which he had apparently drunk too much, and 4 weeks before leaving for France he overstayed his leave by a few hours and forfeited a week's pay.
Unfortunately there is no direct information in the remaining service records regarding the battles in which he fought. I am trying to reconstruct his story and I would therefore be very grateful if you could clarify three points, or advise me on where I should look for more information.
Is it correct to assume that Driver/Gunner Allcock (or any other individual attached to the column) would have fought in all the battles in which the 48th BAC was involved between May 1915 and January 1917? In that period, the 48th Brigade was part of the 14th Light Division. Would the 48th Brigade have fought in all the battles listed for the 14th Light Division?
According to the Long, Long Trail the 48th Brigade was reorganised in January 1917, but I don't see any obvious mention of a transfer in the service records. Have I missed clues in the records?
How did the Ammunition Columns work: Did each column have a fixed formation, or did the men "rotate" or work their way up to the front line, for example?

Kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 6:58 PM

Dear Ian,
David Allcock enlisted at the Birmingham Town Hall recruitment office on 15th August 1914 (not June it's an 8 not a 6). He joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery (Royal Horse and Field Artillery RH&FA). He was sent to Hilsea artillery Barracks at Portsmouth, arriving on 16th August 1914 and reporting as a recruit to No 3 Depot Royal Field Artillery, Hilsea. On August 27th 1914 he was posted to a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery for ten days before being posted to 152 Battery RFA on 8th September 1914. The battery was formed at Aldershot in August 1914 as part of the First New Army and served with the 14th (Light) Division. (He did not serve in 60th Reserve Battery RFA until after the war). On 29th September 1914 he was posted to 284 Battery RFA which was formed in September 1914 at Aldershot. At that stage it appeared the recruits were being allotted to units as required, because ten days later he was posted to No 3 Section of the 14th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA. He continued his training with the 14th DAC and on January 1st 1915 he was allotted to the 48th Brigade RFA ammunition column. The 48th Brigade RFA was also designated in Roman numerals as XLVIII Brigade RFA and was one of the 14th Division's four batteries of artillery. In other words, he was still with 14th DAC as a parent unit, but was specifically serving with the ammunition column of 48th Brigade RFA. From Aldershot, the 14th Division sailed for France arriving on 23rd May 1915. The Division took part in Actions of Hooge on 19th July; 30th July and 9th August 1915 in which they had the distinction of being the first to be attacked by flamethrower. Their next major engagement was the Second attack on Bellewaarde on 25th 26th September 1915.
The First World War was an artillery war and the Royal Artillery was frequently being reorganised throughout the war. Initially a DAC would have had about twelve officers; one Warrant Officer; ten sergeants; 32 artificers and 473 Other Ranks. On 24th May 1916, XLVIII Brigade RFA was re-organised with two of its batteries leaving for elsewhere and at the same time, the brigade ammunition columns were absorbed into the Divisional ammunition columns giving each DAC sixteen officers and about 800 men. This number was reduced by 1918 when a DAC had one officer less and about 570 men.
David returned from the 48th Brigade's column to the strength of the now larger 14th DAC on 21st May 1916. He was awarded proficiency pay of an extra sixpence a day on 15th August 1916. He remained with 14th DAC and on 30th November 1916 he was granted leave with ration allowance until 9th December 1916. He was with 14th DAC on 1st July 1917 when he qualified to retain his Class I proficiency pay. On 23rd October 1917 he was admitted to 97 Field Ambulance with influenza. He returned to duty on 1 November 1917 but then contracted trench fever ten days later and was admitted to 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station [Trois Arbres, near Bailleul] before being admitted to 54 General Hospital [at Wimereux], from where he was transferred to the East Leeds War Hospital [St James's University Hospital] via hospital ship on 16th/17th November 1917. He remained in the UK until 2nd March 1918.
During his time in France with 14th DAC, the Division fought at The Battle of Delville Wood (15th July 3rd September 1916); The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th 22nd September 1916) which saw the capture of Martinpuich. In 1917 the Division fought at The First Battle of the Scarpe (9th 14th April 1917) with the capture Monchy le Preux and the Wancourt Ridge; The Third Battle of the Scarpe (3rd 4th May 1917) which saw the capture of Fresnoy; The Battle of Langemarck (16th -18th August 1917; operations around St. Julian 19th, 22nd, 27th August 1917; The First Battle of Passchendaele on 12th October 1917 and The Second Battle of Passchendaele (26th October 10th November 1917). It is not possible to say how David Allcock was employed as from May 1916 his record showed only that he was on the strength of 14th Divisional Ammunition Column. Not only did the ammunition column stretch along the lines of communication but it also acted as unit that held men between postings to brigade columns or even field batteries. Infantry units held one third of their strength out of any battle. It was known as "Left Out of Battle" or LOOB. But the artillery was generally fully employed due to the strength and duration of the artillery barrages prior to, and during, any engagement.
Once recovered from his trench fever, David was sent to 5C Reserve Brigade RFA at Charlton Park, Wiltshire, on January 14th 1918. From there he was posted to France and Flanders on 2nd March 1918 arriving on 3rd March 1918. On the 8th March 1918 he arrived "in the field" to join No 1 Section 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column. Each section supplied artillery and infantry ammunition to one of the 3rd Division's infantry brigades. The major German Spring offensive was launched on March 21st 1918 (in which, incidentally, David's former 14th Division lost all its guns) putting the British Army in the Somme region into disarray. The 3rd Division fought at the Battle of St Quentin and the Battle of Bapaume (March 1918) and on 27th April 1918 David was posted to the 45th Battery in the 42nd Brigade RFA (XLII Brigade RFA) which was a battery of field guns that was served with 3rd Division. He was now up with the guns, firing ammunition instead of carrying it. On the anniversary of four years' service he was awarded an extra fourpence a day war pay. The 3rd Division's engagements were First Battle of Arras 1918; The Battle of Estaires; The Battle of Hazebrouck; The Battle of Bethune; The Battle of Albert; The Second Battle of Bapaume;
The Battle of the Canal du Nord; The Battle of Cambrai 1918 and The Battle of the Selle (October 17th 26th 1918). Gunner David Allcock was shot in the left forearm on 26th October 1918, sixteen days before the Armistice and on the last day of the 3rd Division's last major engagement. He returned to England on 3rd/4th November 1918 and was treated for a gunshot wound at the Berrington War Hospital in the former workhouse at Atcham, Shropshire. There was no bone injury and the wound was "quite healed". It would have been known as a "through and through" bullet wound. He convalesced and had post-hospital furlough. David was on the books of 5C Reserve Brigade RFA from December 30th 1918 and then from 19th January 1919 he was with 60th Reserve Battery before being discharged from the No 2 dispersal unit at Clipstone Camp. He was discharged to the Class Z Reserve for men who would be re-called if the Armistice did not hold. The Class Z Reserve arbitrarily ceased to exist on 31st March 1920.
In June 1919 "The London Gazette" published a list of recipients of the Military Medal under the heading: "His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military
Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Warrant Officers, Non-commissioned
Officers and Men:". The list included Gunner Allcock (Gazette supplement dated June 17th to issue 31405 published on the 13 June 1919). The medal was sent to the Officer Commanding Northern Command District Six at Lichfield for a public presentation by a Mr Barnett of Tividale. No citations for the Military Medal were published, the only citation being given with the medal itself.
Regarding the disciplinary offences, they were all minor. Getting drunk once and becoming insubordinate having just joined the army was not unusual. Overstaying leave was very common and often occurred when a man wanted an extra night in a comfortable bed or missed the last train of the day and had to wait for the first train in the morning. David's military character on discharge was recorded as "good" and he was awarded the Military Medal.
The work of an ammunition column involved using their horse drawn vehicles to move ammunition forwards from dumps to an Infantry Brigade at the Divisional front. Ammunition was delivered by railway from the coast to a rail head and then moved by Army Service Corps motor transport as far forward as possible by road where it was transferred to a dump for the horse-drawn transport of the Divisional ammunition column to take it forwards to re-filling points where it could be collected by horse transport belonging to the individual batteries or battalions.
Kind regards,
Reply from: Ian Nl
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 11:28 PM

Dear Alan,
Wow! Thanks for your speedy reaction, and the enormous amount of information it contains. As a youngster I saw Uncle David quite frequently, but talk about his wartime experiences was always rather superficial. I am glad that I am now better able to appreciate what he went through in those years. You have provided me with a perfect set of pointers to further research.
I am sending a contribution to the British Legion as a token of my thanks.
Kind regards,

Posted by: Terry {Email left}
Location: Bolton
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 3:59 AM
HI there,

I am researching one of my Ancestors who signed up for the militia in 1899. The name was Christopher Gilligan who was born in Deansgate Manchester 1878 and he was attested on 4th may 1899 in Manchester into the Royal Lancaster regiment.

I do not have any further information and would like to identify where he served and when he left service.

I do NOT have his service number.


Terry Gilligan
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 31st October 2013 at 6:57 PM

Dear Terry,
The Victorian militia was essentially a part-time home defence organisation in which men volunteered to attend training and an annual camp whilst keeping their day-time jobs. However, some young men joined the militia for a few months to see if they were cut out for the army life before enlisting in the regular army. Those who did so were paid a £10 bounty so it was a popular form of enlistment. Militia records are held at The National Archives in Catalogue series WO96. They can also be searched on the website (pay as you go).
The date Christopher Gilligan enlisted was significant as it was just before the Second Anglo - Boer War started on 11th October 1899, so it is possible that from the militia he volunteered to serve in South Africa. A soldier named only as C Gilligan, 6186, of the 3rd Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment qualified for the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps for service at Cape Colony and Orange Free State. The regimental museum would have more details of the regiment's service in South Africa.
In the First World War, a soldier named C. Gilligan who lived at Armitage Street in Manchester after the war had served with the 8th Battalion Manchester Regiment in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine. The Battalion was part of 127th Infantry Brigade in the 42nd Division. For their engagements in the First World War see:
Kind regards,
Posted by: Jeremy Thornton {Email left}
Location: France
Date: Monday 28th October 2013 at 7:21 AM

For obvious reasons UK citizens are more focused on the Western Front during WW1. However, I would like to find out more about the battles that took place on the Eastern Front and also between the Italians and the Austrians? Can you recommend any reading material that is not too difficult to plough through?
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 28th October 2013 at 5:03 PM

Dear Jeremy,
That's actually a very difficult question to answer as any personal choice of reading is inevitably going to be highly subjective. There are a number of other theatres of war beyond the Western Front. They include Gallipoli; Salonika and Macedonia; Italy; Palestine, Syria and Egypt; German South West Africa; Togoland and Cameroon; East Africa; Persia; Russia; and the War at Sea.
The type of book varies. Contemporary accounts from, say, the 1920s may have the benefit of personal experience at a time when there were only limited official documentation of the war available to the public. Personal memoirs might reflect specific events but may not cover all the aspects of a particular campaign. Later accounts may have the benefit of more reflective study and access to official documents that have since entered the public domain, but will inevitably have been written by authors with no personal experience of the war. Official histories were often not impartial if not biased. Generally, the British do not write about the Australians; Canadians or the French and Belgians while the Canadians and Australians do not write about the British.
Then there is the question of availability: what is in print and what is available in second-hand or antiquarian bookshops or websites. If it is on the shelves of the high street shops today, then it has been published because the publisher thinks it will be a commercial success, not because it is necessarily a good book. One publisher wrote to me recently saying "Due to the forthcoming Centenary, there is some danger of the market becoming saturated." It remains to be seen if any new work will reflect the Other Theatres of the Great War. I have just been to the local high street Waterstones bookshop where, among three shelves of Great War non-fiction they had just one solitary paperback about Gallipoli: "Gallipoli: The End of the Myth" by Robin Prior.
A contemporary account of Gallipoli was written by the Poet Laureate John Masefield who was there.
"Gallipoli" John Masefield, Heinemann, 1916. It is widely available
The war between Italy and Austria-Hungary (1915-1918) is not particularly covered by British historians except where regimental histories reflect their unit's involvement in British aid to the Italian Army. It would be necessary to seek out chapters in more general history books of the war covering that theatre. "Tannenburg", by Sir Edmond Ironside, covers the 1914 operation on the Eastern Front. "War Diaries" by Major General Max Hoffmann (translated from the German by Eric Sutton in 1929) is a two volume memoir of the German Eastern Front commander which has been reprinted. There is also: "The War of Lost Opportunities The Forgotten Eastern Front In WW1" by General Max Hoffmann.
Among the other campaigns which were more mobile than the Western Front were German East Africa and Mesopotamia, both of which had conditions far worse than Europe and in the latter, saw the worst defeat of the war at the siege of Kut Al Amara (7 December 1915 29 April 1916).
Books by people who were in German East Africa include "The Gold Coast Regiment in the East African Campaign" by Sir Hugh Clifford and "Fourth Battalion Duke of Connaught's Own Tenth Baluch Regiment in the Great War" by W.S. Thatcher. Both have been re-printed. The German leader in East Africa was Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck. "Cupid in Africa" by P C Wren has been published on the internet.
The fighting in Mesopotamia involved movement by rivers northwards through the country with British units even meeting up with Cossacks. The siege at Kut was a disaster and one of the few to survive was H.C.W. Bishop who wrote "A Kut Prisoner". A standard work: "D Force Mesopotamia" was written by J. Fitzgerald Lee in 1927 and has been reprinted.
Much has been written by and about T E Lawrence. Bernard Blaser wrote of his own time in Palestine in "Kilts across the Jordan - Being the experiences and impressions with the Second battalion London Scottish in Palestine", described by the National Army Museum as "a rare and valuable memoir".
The campaign in Macedonia was covered in 1935 by two volumes of the Official History of the Great War in Other Theatres "Macedonia Vols 1 and 2" by Captain Cyril Falls. It is about £35 a volume. Most of the regimental histories of the battalions that fought in the Balkans cover their time operating from Salonika. The complete "Official History of the Great War in Other Theatres" has been reprinted in various individual volumes and is also available in full on CD-ROM at a cost of £270.
The war in Persia is covered by the Official History and "With the Persian Expedition" by Major A H Donohoe who was with "Dunsterforce" in 1918. It was written in 1919 and has been reprinted. Major General Dunsterville wrote his own history "The Adventures of Dunsterforce" in 1920.
The U-Boat war is covered by "Business in Great Waters" by John Terraine. Arthur Marder wrote five volumes of a standard work: "From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow". The operations in North West Russia were covered by the history written by the commander, Major-General Sir Charles Maynard, in "The Murmansk Adventure".
The Member of Parliament, the Hon Aubrey Herbert MP, was the model for John Buchan's heroes and fought as a Lieut-Colonel in numerous theatres. His memoir is: "Mons ANZAC and Kut" which has been reprinted and is also available to read online:
The war in Aden involved British Territorials and Indian troops fighting some Ottoman Empire border skirmishes and is generally mentioned in regimental histories. However,
"The British Campaign in Aden 1914-1918" by Mark Connelly is available to download online.
A catch-all book is "Deeds that Thrill the Empire" which is a set-piece title that describes true stories of soldiers who were awarded gallantry medals.
Just published is The Imperial War Museum's impressive "Mapping the First World War" by Peter Chasseaud which includes chapters on the German Eastern Front; Gallipoli; the naval battle at Jutland; the advance to Jerusalem; Damascus and Baghdad as well as the Western Front.
The above suggestions reflect my own bias towards contemporary writing from men who were there rather than books which today claim to research "forgotten" areas of warfare or claim to be the "first ever" account of so-and-so. One personal recommendation I would make is the series of three tomes called "Twenty Years After" which covers all theatres in three volumes of very readable work which the editors chose because the authors were there and were experts in their field. The 'twenty years after' theme reflected the opportunity to photograph the battlefields "then and now" in the 1930s. The series was edited by Major General Sir Ernest Swinton. It was originally published in 22 parts in 1938 and later brought together as a three volume reference work which is thoroughly comprehensive but with different theatres and themes spread throughout the three volumes. It has a comprehensive index. The set of three is available from second-hand booksellers for about £25 a volume. Theologia Books at La Charite sur Loire, France, currently offer the set of three for £75.
All the books I have mentioned are currently available and can be purchased online.
Kind regards,
Reply from: Jeremy Thornton
Date: Monday 28th October 2013 at 8:17 PM


As usual a very comprehansive reply, thank you. It looks like it is going to be a long haul. Fortunately there are two of us here in France interested in finding out more about these other theatres of WW1. We are both retired so plenty of time on our hands.
Posted by: Rodney {Email left}
Location: Lingdale Yorkshire
Date: Monday 28th October 2013 at 12:30 AM
I am trying to warm the trail of Private John Thomas Rawlings of the 10th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. I am hampered by not knowing his regimental number and not being able to find a Medal Index Card listed on I do know that he was out of service and an Ironstone Miner living in Port Mulgrave, North Yorkshire at the time of his death from Spanish Flu in 1918. I would appreciate some knowledge of his war service and any truth to the rumour that he had been affected by Mustard Gas.
Kind Regards
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 28th October 2013 at 5:45 PM

Dear Rodney,
It is not possible to positively identify a soldier without his regimental number. No individual service record appears to have survived for a John Thomas Rawlings serving in the Alexandra Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment). There is a medal index card for a John Rawlings of the Yorkshire Regiment 18959 who went to France on 2nd October 1915. The 10th Battalion went to France on 10th September 1915. This John Rawlings later served in the North Staffordshire Regiment as 43150. The medal index card does not provide any biographical information so it is not possible to say whether it refers to John Thomas Rawlings of the 10th Battalion. One further source of information might be The Western Front Association which holds an archive of 6.5 million pension record cards (PRCs) which are not available elsewhere. They charge for a manual search of the records. See:
Kind regards,
Reply from: Rodney Begg
Date: Monday 28th October 2013 at 9:16 PM

Hi Alan
Many thanks for your courteous reply, which just about mirrors my own conclusions! I had created a timeline for John based on his daughter's birth in May 1915, which was registered by her grandmother, who stated that the father was in the "10th Company (sic) The Yorkshire Regiment (Ironstone Miner)". The 10th would be in camp at Aylesbury about this time. The next marker on the timeline is the birth of another daughter in early 1918, by which time he was an Ironstone Miner again, which means that he had to be home say mid 1917 at least. July 1917 saw the introduction of Mustard Gas, so, if the family lore is to be believed, he must have been affected by it at the very outbreak of Third Ypres. IF he was in until then, then he survived Loos, The Somme, The Retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the run up to 3rd Ypres, so there is no wonder he succumbed to Spanish Flu! Once again many thanks for your efforts and for the Western Front Pension info - I will give that a check-out!
Kind regards

Posted by: Crd {Email left}
Location: Abergavenny
Date: Friday 25th October 2013 at 9:42 AM
Hi Alan,
I am trying to trace my Grandfather Albert James Brown born 1883 from Abergavenny and his background in mining and WW1. On 23/2/1916 he had a son who he later Christened Ronald VERDUN Stanley Brown and his occupation box is stamped Monmouthshire Territorial Force Stow Hill Newport over his name given as Bert Brown certificate dated 3/5/16. He married the mother Emma Prosser in Abergavenny on 12/1/1916 and his occupation at this time was Collier coal hewer, age 27 (I think he lied) living 11 Flannel Street Abergavenny. He survived the war and later returned to colliery work living in Cantref Road Abergavenny where he died in 1965, now deceased family members recall that he was sent home twice from the battle front suffering gas inhalation. I believe that he was with the Monmouthshire regiment who were merged with the 46th North Midlands. If I could find anything, his army number, where he served, which colliery he worked in, I have tried Welsh national archives, Big Pit and Abergavenny museum but with little progress with a name like Albert Brown.


Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 25th October 2013 at 7:30 PM

Dear CRD,
Unfortunately it is not possible to identify Albert Brown in surviving military records without knowing his regiment and regimental number. Whilst he was described as "Monmouthshire Territorial Force" at Stow Hill, Newport, in May 1916, that does not identify in which of the ten wartime battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment he may have served. By February 1916, all the operational battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment had moved away from their home stations (including Stow Hill) and were either training elsewhere in the UK or serving overseas. As Bert was a miner in January 1916, in May of that year he was possibly a recently conscripted recruit at Stow Hill prior to being posted to a particular battalion. From March 1916 when compulsory military service was introduced, soldiers could be posted to any regiment that required reinforcements, so he might not have served continuously with the Monmouthshire Regiment.
Kind regards,
Reply from: Crd
Date: Friday 25th October 2013 at 10:11 PM

Dear Alan,
Thank you so much for your very prompt response, if you have any suggestions for further research, I would be pleased to hear from you. I have gained a tremendous amount of information from your contributors questions and your subsequent answers. It may be that in due course someone may recognise Albert from my post and fill in some missing data. Correction to original post, he died at age 65 in 1948 and is buried in Llanfoist cemetery.


Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 26th October 2013 at 2:46 PM

Dear CRD,
Positive identification of a soldier requires knowledge of his regiment and regimental number. Occasionally it is possible to identify a soldier from biographical information, such as age and place of birth, but where a soldier had a frequently occurring name that would require extensive searching through soldiers' service records, which, for the First World War, have only partially survived. There is no recognisable service record for an Albert Brown living in Wales.
Other members of his extended family might know the details from private sources and any surviving medals would record his regiment and number around the rim. Local newspapers of the time may have reported family news about his being wounded or returning home.
Absent voters' lists from the 1918 general election recorded the regiment and number of soldiers who had registered to vote. These lists have occasionally survived in County Record Offices.
The Western Front Association holds an archive of 6.5 million pension record cards (PRCs) which are not available elsewhere. They charge for a manual search of the records. See:
Kind regards,
Reply from: Crd
Date: Saturday 26th October 2013 at 6:10 PM

Thanks again Alan,
Seems I will have a similar problem with my Father Dennis John Davies's WW2 service, all I have is Gunner Royal Artillery 882547. He died in 1990 and like many others of the time, would not talk about his service.

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 26th October 2013 at 6:37 PM

Dear CRD,
Second World War records are not a problem. You will need to apply to the Ministry of Defence for his service records. The MoD will release certain amounts of information about a deceased person depending on whether you are the next of kin or not. You can apply using the forms for next of kin, or with permission of next of kin, or as a general enquirer. See:

You will need proof of death; date of birth or service number; next of kin's permission (unless you are the direct next of kin); a cheque and completed forms Part 1 and 2. The next of kin form (Part 1) is for completion by the next of kin of deceased service personnel (or enquirers with the consent of next of kin). Look for "Service records publications" under "Related pages" and follow the instructions. The Part 2 form is entitled: "Request forms for service personnel Army" found under "Related Pages". Otherwise use a general enquirer's form. A cheque for GBP 30 should be made payable to "The MoD Accounting Officer" and sent to Army Personnel Centre Secretariat, Disclosures 2, Mail Point 515, Kentigern House, 65, Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX Scotland with all the paperwork.
Kind regards,
Reply from: Crd
Date: Saturday 26th October 2013 at 9:05 PM

Thanks again Alan,
Your knowledge and speed of response never ceases to amaze us all.


Reply from: Crd
Date: Thursday 6th March 2014 at 5:02 PM

Hi Alan,

I took your advice and contacted the WFA, the only record that they could find that could be for my Grandfather Albert James Brown (details mentioned in my earlier mails) are as follows Monmouthshire regiment Albert Brown private 4415 later 266660 victory medal roll J/1/ 105 B4 page 1343. Does this information allow you to uncover any other details of his WW1 service?

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 6th March 2014 at 9:10 PM

Dear CRD,
No individual service record has survived for Albert brown 4415/266660 Monmouthshire Regiment so it is not possible to suggest his identify or his wartime service. The medal card for Albert Brown recorded that he qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service abroad before December 31st 1915, he did not go overseas until some date after January 1st 1916.
His replacement regimental number 266660 was in a batch that was allotted to the 2nd Battalion The Monmouthshire Regiment early in 1917 when all Territorial Force soldiers were re-numbered with their four-digit numbers replaced by six-digit numbers.
The 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment was serving as Lines of Communications troops from 30th January 1916 to 1st May 1916 when they became the Pioneer (works) Battalion for the 29th Division in France and Flanders. The 29th Division had been at Gallipoli and Egypt prior to being sent to France in March 1916. Pioneers were labourers as well as soldiers, who were attached to the Divisional Royal Engineers field companies for labouring duties.
It would be necessary to study the Battalion's war diaries in order to say where they operated. The diaries are in six sections referenced WO 95/2295 and WO 95/2295/1 to 2295/5 held at The National Archives at Kew.
For the 29th Division from 1916 onwards see:

With kind regards,
Reply from: Colin Davies
Date: Thursday 4th August 2016 at 3:35 PM

Dear Alan,
Can you please provide any information available on my great grandfather's war service. His name was Pryce Alfred Powell and he served with the 1st Hereford TF his service number was 5539 and he signed up on 16/ 9/1916 he lived at 2 Nelson Street Llandrindod Wells. Any small amount of information would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in anticipation

Colin Davies (CRD)
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 4th August 2016 at 9:21 PM

I'll reply to your new post of 4th August 2016.
Posted by: Chris {Email left}
Location: Melbourne Victoria Australia
Date: Tuesday 22nd October 2013 at 2:06 AM
Hi Alan,

Thanks so much for your site, it is really informative.

I am trying to track down some information on my Grandfather Frederick William Lacey, born on the 23/10/1896 in Staffordshire. I know he was a corporal in the Royal Garrison Artillery.


Chris Lacey
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 22nd October 2013 at 5:17 PM

Dear Chris,
Unfortunately, it is not possible to positively identify a soldier from his name only. An Army medal rolls index card exists for a Fredk W. Lacey in the Royal Garrison Artillery but as the index cards do not provide any biographical information it is not possible to authenticate the record. This gunner Fredk W. Lacey 44867 RGA first served overseas in Egypt from 6th April 1915. He was discharged from the army on 16th July 1919. It is not possible to state where he served throughout the war. Frederick Lacey qualified for the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The index card refers to medal rolls which are held at the British National Archives. The roll for the 1914-15 Star is numbered RGA/1B/5 page 349 and it should state with which unit he was serving when he first went overseas. It would be necessary to pay for a researcher to look up the entry.
No individual service record appears to have survived for this soldier so it is not possible to identify him further. Frederick may have claimed a pension. The Western Front Association holds an archive of 6.5 million pension record cards (PRCs) which are not available elsewhere. They charge for a manual search of the records. See:
Kind regards,
Posted by: Nick Exley {Email left}
Location: Bradford West Yorkshire
Date: Sunday 20th October 2013 at 8:53 AM
I an looking for further information regarding my Great Grandfather - He was called Daniel Exley and was a Private in D Company, 18th PWO West Yorkshire Regiment. His service number was 18/1354.

I am looking for any information relating to his war service, particularly in relation to a Night Raid he participated in on 29/30th June 1916 as I have a hand written commendation letter from his C/O which he received for his part in the raid.

Can you help?
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 20th October 2013 at 5:51 PM

Dear Nick,
Any surviving records with the detail you require would be retained with the Battalion's war diary at The National Archives at Kew, Surrey, or with the regimental archives. On the night in question the 18th Battalion Prince of Wales's Own West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradford Pals) was in front of the village of Serre, north of Albert, which was to be the objective of 93rd Infantry Brigade on the opening day of the Battles of the Somme on July 1st 1916.
The 18th Battalion had been raised in Bradford in January 1915. Private Daniel Exley enlisted on 20th May 1915 and was discharged, wounded, on 4th July 1917. The Battalion trained at Skipton and Ripon and joined 93rd Infantry Brigade in the 31st Division. In August 1915, the Division moved to Fovant on Salisbury Plain. The Division was sent initially to Egypt where Daniel arrived on December 22nd 1915. After a short time on the Suez Canal defences the Division was despatched to France early in March 1916 in anticipation of the forthcoming operations in the Somme region. On July 1st 1916, the 18th Battalion suffered 653 killed and wounded out of 800.
The relevant part of the Battalion's war diary at Kew is National Archives Catalogue Reference: WO 95/2362/2: 18 Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment Date: 1916 Mar. - 1918 Feb. See:
If you cannot visit Kew, an independent researcher can be paid to photograph the pages of the war diary for the months of June/July 1916 with any maps, orders and appendices that are relevant while he or she is visiting Kew. It is an economical method and I have successfully used:
The regimental museum, which is at York, may be able to help. See:
Daniel qualified for the 1914-15 Star, the British war medal and the Victory medal. He was awarded a silver War Badge for having been discharged through wounds.
Kind regards,
Posted by: Sharon {Email left}
Location: Newcastle Upon Tune
Date: Saturday 19th October 2013 at 5:46 PM
Hi, I am trying to find information about my great grandfather. He died in 1st June 1917 in France. Hi name was private Benjamin Blake, T4/124307. Any information you can find would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 19th October 2013 at 9:39 PM

Dear Sharon,
Benjamin Blake volunteered to serve in the Army Service Corps (ASC) in 1915, at the comparatively older age of 46. The upper age of voluntary enlistment had been raised from 38 to 40 in May 1915. Benjamin was a coal miner - a hewer at the coal face - living at Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, and was described at his army medical examination as 5ft 5ins tall and "stout and strong". May June 1915 was a time when many non-infantry units were being specifically recruited. Each one of the new infantry brigades being raised needed support companies from the various corps that provided support services such as transport, supply, medicine, engineering and communications.
As a recruit Benjamin was employed as a "loader", initially serving with a labour company of the ASC at Aldershot before joining the 61st Divisional Supply Column ASC. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division had been newly-raised and was based in the Chelmsford area in 1915 whilst its infantry battalions trained for war. The ASC provided the transport and supply for the Division and the sequence of supply along the Lines of Communication from the bases, via transport to the Front, was provided by the Divisional Supply Column and the "Divisional train" which referred as much to the loading of the waggons of the four horse-drawn transport companies and the one mechanical transport company of the ASC in each division, as to a railway locomotive and its goods waggons (see below).
Benjamin stated he was born in Gateshead in 1869 although his birth registration has proved elusive in the General Register Office birth registration records for Gateshead in the relevant decade. He may have grown up in Gateshead and assumed that that was his birth place. He stated that he had spent 10 years as a member of the 3rd Durham Light Infantry Militia which would have been part-time voluntary service when he was a younger man. He married Jane Akenhead on 29th December 1891 at Newcastle. After nineteen years of marriage they apparently had no children of their own but had adopted a daughter, named Jane, born about 1894. In 1911 the family lived at 8 Lawthian Street, Walker, Newcastle.
Benjamin enlisted in the Army on 25th June 1915 and went to train as a recruit at Aldershot. He served with the 61st Division in the UK until midnight 18th May 1915 when the Division was posted to France. Benjamin sailed aboard SS "Duchess of Argyle" which left Southampton for Rouen on the night of 19th May 1916. Benjamin remained with the 61st Divisional Supply Column and was employed with the 302 Mechanical Transport (MT) Company ASC while in France. Horse-and-cart transport was common but Mechanical Transport was usually used to carry materiel forwards from the rail-heads. Each MT Company comprised about 340 men with up to 60 lorries and a few motorcycles and two cars. Throughout the war mechanical transport was much less common than horse transport although its employment did increase as the conflict went on. Railways brought the goods from the French channel ports to what were called regulating stations where the various items on the "shopping list" were separated into storage buildings and then made up into trains consisting of one day's regular supplies for a Division "somewhere in France". These railway trains then moved forward as far as was safe to a "railhead" (the end of the line) also known as an Advanced Supply Depot where the materiel was then unloaded to the Divisional Supply Column for transport (often by motor-lorry) to a Divisional Refilling Point further inland. From there, it went by the Divisional horse transport to "forward dumps". At a forward dump an individual unit's quartermaster could arrive from the Front with his own horse transport to collect the food and supplies his unit needed and take them back to the billets and on to the front line.
Just a month after arriving in France, the 61st Division fought at Fromelles on 19th July 1916 which was a diversionary attack to distract enemy reserves from the fighting on the Somme to the south. It was not a success and the Division spent the rest of the year defending trench lines. The daily routine of supply went on without a break. In March 1917 the 61st Division was employed in the pursuit of the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line when the enemy moved back from the trenches of the Somme to a heavily fortified defence line named, in German, as "die Siegfriedstellung" [The Siegfried line]. The Division captured Bapaume on the 17th March 1917.
Benjamin was "killed by enemy shell-fire" at Dainville near Arras on June 1st 1917. Dainville had a military railway station. Benjamin is buried in grave A 17 in the village commune cemetery. He qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal which would have been sent to his widow who moved to live at Elswick, Newcastle.
Kind regards, Alan
Posted by: Howard Barkell {Email left}
Location: Lydford Devon
Date: Wednesday 16th October 2013 at 8:24 AM
Dear Alan,
I fear that you may only be able to give an opinion on this one, but I would appreciate that.
W.Lavis from Bridestowe, Devon, served in WW1 because his name is on the commemorative list, but I can find no military record for him. I have traced a Willie, or William, Lavis from his birth c. 1877 to his death in 1936. For most of his life he appears to have lived in the parish and been engaged in the agricultural industry.
After the war when the local War Memorial was unveiled the Comrades paraded under Sgt. Maj. Lavis and he gets other mentions in the press. Do you think it was possible for someone who may have been a Territorial, but not a Regular, to have achieved such rapid promotion? If so, do you think the Medal Card for Willie Lavis, is it RASC, RAVC or RAMC could be for "my" man, or is it going to be one of those maybes?
Kind Regards,
Howard Barkell
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 16th October 2013 at 4:44 PM

Dear Howard,
The plaque at Bridestowe was "A tribute of recognition to the men of this parish who fought in the Great War". The names are listed alphabetically and there is one "William Lavis". Those who were killed have RIP after their names. William Lavis survived. Lavis is a Devon surname, a variant of Laver and Lavers which mean "washer-man"; perhaps in a mine.
In the 1911 census there were two men named William Lavis living at Bridestowe. William Lavis senior was born about 1828 and his son, "Willie", was born about 1877. The birth of a "Willie" (sic) Lavis was registered in Jan-Mar 1877 at Oakhampton registration district, which included Bridestowe. He was the son of William and Ann Lavis who farmed at Great Cranford, Bridestowe. The farm appears to remain in the same family today.
There was an Army medal rolls index card for a "Willie Lavis" who served in the Royal Army Service Corps as a Warrant Officer Class II, regimental number R4/068150 where R4 stood for "remounts service" the provision of horses. The card is otherwise blank, suggesting no medals were awarded which might imply service in the UK only. A 40 year-old farmer or horseman could readily have become a serjeant-major (WO II) at a remount depot. Remount depots tended to employ older, more experienced men.
Although there were (in 1901) four men who went under the name of Willie Lavis, who were old enough to serve in the Great war, there was only one man whose birth and marriages were actually registered as "Willie Lavis" and that was Willie Lavis of Bridestowe. It would appear, therefore, that this was his medal index card: WO II in the RASC remounts in the name of Willie Lavis. Of the other William Lavis entries all but two can be eliminated by reference to other records for age, address, etc.. The two others served as private soldiers in the Devonshire Regiment or ASC, so were not serjeant-majors.
There was another William Lavis who served as a serjeant-major, was the same age, came from Devon and had parents named William and Ann. Although he was recorded as William Lavis, born 1877 at Newton St Cyres, his birth appears to have been registered as William Henry Lavis at Crediton district (which included Newton St Cyres) in April-June 1876. He can be positively identified as the son of William Lavis born about 1847 and his wife Ann. The father was a game-keeper at Hatherleigh and the family lived at Hatherleigh until after the war. This William Lavis (1876 - 1944) became, at the age of 14, an apprentice drug dispenser to Mr Bridger of Hatherleigh. At the age of 19, William became a full-time soldier in February 1896, enlisting in the Medical Staff Corps, which later became the Royal Army Medical Corps. He served in the Egyptian Campaign in 1898 against the Mahdist dervishes. (A newspaper suggestion he entered Khartoum with General Buller appears mistaken, as that would have occurred in 1885). William then served in South Africa (1899-1902) with the 13 Brigade Field Hospital qualifying for the Queen's South Africa Medal and the King's South Africa Medal. He then served in Ireland where he married. He was promoted to Serjeant Major on 20th January 1915 and during the Great War he served at Gallipoli in 1915 and then in East Africa in 1916 before moving to Salonika in 1917. In 1917 he came to the end of his 21 year contract with the Army and he was granted the rank of honorary Lieutenant and Quartermaster at 52nd General Hospital, Salonika. In 1917, his mother was living at Honeydown Cottage, Hatherleigh. It would seem likely that he would have kept the rank of Lieutenant after the war and he appears to have been associated with Hatherleigh village.
"Willie Lavis" lived at Bridestowe and, after 1919 when the property was auctioned, Willie Lavis lived at "Kirtonia" described as "a well-built residence" of five bedrooms with outbuildings and three acres overlooking Dartmoor. A directory of 1923 described "Willie Lavis" as a private resident of Bridestowe living at "Kirtonia". He was a member of the British Legion, the Bridestowe parish council and the R.A.O.B. (Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes). He died aged 59 after a long illness. His funeral was held on Monday November 30th 1936 at Bridestowe parish church. The RAOB and the British Legion both provided pall bearers, amongst whom were H.J. Barkell and J. H. Barkell.
Of the residents of Bridestowe "William Lavis" named on the plaque would appear to have been Willie Lavis. His father was too old to have served in the Great War.
A Willie Lavis served as a serjeant major (WOII) in the First World War, at a remount depot, apparently in the UK, and after the war served on the Bridestowe parish council, and was a member of the British Legion:- the two organisations that would have organised a commemoration of the war. The weight of evidence points towards this being both the man who would have led the Comrades at the unveiling of the war memorial and the "William Lavis" named on it.
I note there was a remount depot established at Powderham Castle, Kenton, near Exeter, which was commanded by the Earl of Devon's land agent, Lionel Charles Hamilton Palairet (1870 1933) who was a well-known cricketer "generally regarded as the most beautiful batsman of all time" ("The Times" March 29th 1933). On 11th April 1918, the Earl of Devon spoke at the Devon Arms, Kenton, in favour of raising a company of The Devonshire Volunteer Regiment and he appealed to farmers to enlist stating he knew the difficulties they had but that the drills would be arranged for their convenience. The first to enlist was one Lionel Parairet.
From the outbreak of the war, small towns and villages had raised their own Home defence companies which were not officially recognised by the War Office. These were organised by the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps (VTC). Later in the war, the War Office recognised the VTC units as having a role to play and they became reorganised as volunteer battalions of the county infantry regiments.

Kind regards,
Reply from: Howard Barkell
Date: Wednesday 16th October 2013 at 7:32 PM

Dear Alan,
What a star! Thank you so much for coming up with the extra information which gives credence to the fact that this man was in all probability the smallholder and the Sgt. Major. I couldn't come up with an alternative, but wanted that extra bit of evidence.
I had discounted the other William Lavis from Hatherleigh as I could find no connection between him and Bridestowe.
Many thanks,

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