Alan Greveson's World War 1 Forum (Page 24)

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Posted by: Sue {Email left}
Location: Chigwell Row
Date: Tuesday 4th November 2014 at 10:48 AM
My Great Uncle Freddie (Frederick George Brown of Ilford Essex) served in the Great War with the 5th Field Company of Royal Engineers service no. 20119. He was a sapper and had a field promotion to 2nd Corporal which I understand from my own research to be peculiar to the RE.

He was killed in a railway accident at Acheux on the 10th November 1916 and I have surmised that he was involved in the railway building to the Somme region. He is also buried at the cemetery at Acheux.

My question has to do with what actually happened. I've tried various ways of trying to identify the line and the accident but cannot find any more information than this. Unfortunately most of the family that knew him are now dead themselves and records of my own family are quite sparse. I've got some information about his field promotion, medal etc., but would really love to know what happened and also whether there might be anyone with a relative that may have served with him who could give me an insight to his character.

Thank you very much for any help

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 4th November 2014 at 7:42 PM

Dear Susan,
Any likely report into an accidental death would have been a brief, local court of enquiry, if it had been felt necessary to establish the cause of death or attribute responsibility. Such records might have survived in war diaries, but in the case of Commander Royal Engineers 2nd Division and 5th Field Company RE they have not, at least not at first glance.
Many records were destroyed in 1940 during the London Blitz but the Royal Engineers Library at Gillingham also kept some records. It is possible the Royal Engineers Museum and Library might be able to help.
On 10th November 1916, the 5th Field Company Royal Engineers was working in the Redan sector of the 2nd Division front line north of Beaumont Hamel. The men were billeted at Beaussart on the Somme. The war diary of the 5th Field Company simply states Acting Second Corporal Brown F G was "accidentally killed" on that date. Aided by the Divisional Pioneers of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, the 5th Field Company employed sections of men at the Divisional Royal Engineers Store, which was at Beaussart Station; constructing a dug-out for a wireless station; maintaining trench tramways; upkeep of communication trenches; erecting Nissen huts at Divisional HQ and creating assembly trenches for an attack which was to start in three days' time (which would become known as The Battle of the Ancre 1318 November 1916).
The war diary (in various parts) can be downloaded for a fee of £3.30 for each part from:
The war diary for 1916 also records that on 11th July 1916 the Company's dug-outs at "Arras Alley" at Ablaine St Nazaire were shelled and 20119 Lance Corporal Brown F G was listed among those suffering from shell-shock that afternoon.
One other possible reference to a fatal accident might by in the war diary of the Commander Royal Engineers (CRE) 2nd Division which can be downloaded for £3.30 from:
The cause of his death might be noted on his death certificate which is GRO Army deaths; Other Ranks; 1916, Frederick G. Brown, 20119 Sapper, Royal Engineers, Volume E.1 page 311. It can be ordered for a fee of £9.25 from:
"The London Gazette" of January 22nd 1917 recorded Frederick Brown was awarded the Military Medal. The reason was not stated. The list is at:
Such awards were promulgated in the "Gazette" some months after the award had been earned. The Company war diary might make reference to it.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Sue
Date: Thursday 6th November 2014 at 1:26 PM

Dear Alan, thank you so very much for your quick reply. I tried myself to understand how I could access the diaries but got a bit confused. I will certainly be following up on the links you sent.

I will admit to being very upset to know that poor Freddie also suffered shell shock. Although I didn't know him I feel a strong connection to him, and through that to the Great War. I hope one day to travel to Acheux Cemetery and visit his grave.

Bless you

Posted by: Peter Ward {Email left}
Location: Wednesbury
Date: Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 7:13 PM
Hi Alan

I have been trying to find out information about my great uncle who was killed in WW1 but it appears that his service history may have been lost in the German bombings in WW2.

His name was Isaac Hartill and he served in the South Staffs Regiment. His military number was 9609. He entered France on 02.10.1915 and died on 06.09.1916. He is buried at Heilly Station cemetery Mericourt-L'Abbe, France.

Thanking you in anticipation

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 3rd November 2014 at 3:31 PM

Dear Peter,
No individual service record has survived for Isaac Hartill, so it is not possible to state his military service in detail. He was a volunteer soldier from Wednesbury in Staffordshire. He was probably born the son of George and Eliza Hartill (GRO Births Isaac Hartill; Oct Dec 1896, West Bromwich, Staffordshire Vol 6b page 941). He enlisted at Wednesbury ("Soldiers Died in the Great War", HMSO 1921) and his four digit number, 9609, suggests might have trained with the 3rd or 4th (Reserve) Battalions of the South Staffordshire Regiment as they used four-digit numbering.
An Army medal rolls index-card recorded he entered France on 2nd October 1915 as a private soldier with the South Staffordshire Regiment. The date he entered France indicated he would have been part of a draft of reinforcements, as no complete battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment arrived in France on that date. The date was also shortly after the Battle of Loos in which heavy losses were incurred. The 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment lost nearly 150 men killed at Loos in September 1915 with many more wounded. "Soldiers Died in the Great War" recorded Corporal Isaac Hartill 'died of wounds' on September 6th 1916 while serving with the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. The 1st Battalion was a regular army battalion that had landed at Zeebrugge on 7th October 1914, having mobilized from South Africa; sailing from Cape Town and arriving at Southampton on 19th September 1914. It is probable Isaac was posted to the 1st Battalion after his arrival in France from October 1915. On arriving in France, reinforcements spent about two weeks at a base camp on the French coast being inculcated with the "offensive spirit", so Isaac would have arrived at his battalion in the field at the end of October 1915. He was promoted to Corporal while in France.
In October 1915, the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment was serving with the 22nd Infantry Brigade in the 7th Division. It then moved to the 91st Infantry Brigade, when that Brigade joined the 7th Division on 20th December 1915. In 1916, the 7th Division fought in the Somme département of Picardie in Northern France at The Battle of Albert; The Battle of Bazentin and the Attacks on High Wood; The Battle of Delville Wood and The Battle of Guillemont. The Battle of Guillemont was fought between September 3rd and September 6th 1916, the date Isaac died of wounds. He would have been aged 19 or 20. Isaac is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery which is about two kilometres South-west of Mericourt - l'Abbé. The CWGC says: "The 36th Casualty Clearing Station was at Heilly from April 1916. It was joined in May by the 38th [CCS], and in July by the 2/2nd London [CCS]. The cemetery was begun in May 1916 and was used by the three medical units until April 1917".
Corporal Hartill qualified for the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
The relevant war diaries of the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment are available to download for £3.30 each in two parts from
With kind regards,
Reply from: Peter
Date: Monday 3rd November 2014 at 3:55 PM

Dear Alan

Thank you for finding out the information for me. I will definitely download the war diaries and read more about The Battle of Guillemont.

Best wishes

Posted by: Jayne Manison {Email left}
Location: Wolverhampton
Date: Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 7:05 PM
Dear Alan

I was wondering if you could shed any light on the service history of my Great Grandfather and Great Uncle. They both served in WW1.

My Great Grandfather was Arthur Edgar Manison. He first served with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry and his military number was 16461. His medal card states that he entered France on 22.09.1915. He would have been aged 43 at this time. He later transferred to the Labour Corps and his military number was 487533. I cannot find his service record so I believe it was destroyed by the bombing in WW2.

My Great Uncle was Arthur Warner Manison and he first served with the Devon Regiment and his military number was 71583. He then transferred to the Gloucester Regiment and his military number was 44433 or 44453. His medal card does not give a date when he entered France. As with my Great Grandfather, I believe his service record was destroyed in WW2.

Any help you can give me would be much appreciated.

Kind regards

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 3rd November 2014 at 3:33 PM

Dear Jayne,
Unfortunately, no individual service record has survived for Arthur Edgar Manison so it is not possible to state his military service. An Army medal rolls index-card recorded he first went to France on 22nd September 1915 with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. It is plausible he first served in the 8th Battalion DCLI as they went to France on that date. At some stage, he later transferred to the Labour Corps suggesting he might have been wounded or medically down-graded. He was discharged on February 20th 1919. He qualified for the 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
There is no individual service record for Arthur Warner Manison. An Army medal rolls index card recorded 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 serve abroad until some date after January 1st 1916. It is not possible to state in which country he served or when he transferred between the Devonshire Regiment and the Gloucestershire Regiment.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Jayne
Date: Monday 3rd November 2014 at 3:46 PM

Dear Alan

Many thanks for the information. It has been really helpful and I'll have to do some research on the 8th Battalion DCLI. I really appreciate the help you have given me both now and with my previous requests for help.

Kind regards

Posted by: Bella
Location: Esher
Date: Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 2:55 PM
Dear Alan,

Been a while but see you still inundated with requests. Wonder if you could help. Trying to find details of my G.Grandfather George Gosling. Born 1847. Found my G.Grandmothers details, Eliza (nee Slack) who died in September 1916 at Lambeth. I know she was head of the household in 1911 Census so assume he died before then (unless he wasn't home).

Anything you can find will be greatly appreciated.

Have you seen the poppies at Tower Hill? Wonderful sight. My son volunteered to plant as did I and have got my slot in November to dismantle same. Not as easy as you think! At least future generations can say "my ancestors were there! Ha.

Hope you and yours are keeping well.

With regards. Bella
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 3rd November 2014 at 3:32 PM

Dear Bella,
You have asked this question before, once in July 2012 and again in May 2014. It is not possible to positively identify George Gosling by his name only. The only birth of a George Gosling registered in 1847 was in New Forest, Hampshire. As I have stated before, the marriage certificate for George Gosling and Eliza Slack dated 11th April 1869, St Mary's, Paddington, stated he was of full age, the son of George Gosling a shoemaker. A witness was a Bridget Gosling.
In the 1851 census (HO107; Piece: 1483; Folio: 320; Page: 41) George Gosling, age 3, born Bristol, was recorded as the son of George Gosling who was a widower. The elder George married Bridget Riley in 1856.
In the 1861 census (RG 9; Piece: 99; Folio: 29; Page: 33; ) there was a George Gosling, born Bristol, Somerset, aged 14, the son of George Gosling a boot-maker and his wife Bridget, living at St Pancras.
In the 1871 census the record for what appears to be George and Eliza Gosling at Deptford, suggests he was born at Bristol in 1848. (RG10; Piece: 746; Folio: 67; Page: 13). Also 1881: (RG11; Piece: 708; Folio: 112; Page: 31). In 1891 he stated he was born at Taunton Somerset (RG12; Piece: 1087; Folio: 34; Page: 11).
A probable GRO birth registration was George Gosling Jan-Mar 1848 Cirencester, Gloucestershire vol 11 page 248; or George Henry Gosling, April-June 1848 Bristol, Gloucestershire, vol 11 page 171.
It is not possible to identify a death registration from the indexes only. It would be necessary to purchase likely death certificates to positively identify him.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Bella
Date: Tuesday 4th November 2014 at 8:45 AM

Dear Alan, Thanks for your message, sorry to have put you to trouble.

I know I had information on George Gosling. I have the said birth and marriage certificates but have been having

difficulty in trying to obtain information on when he died and until that is found, unable to obtain death certificate.

Shall keep plodding. Again apologies and thank you for your time.

With warm regards.

Posted by: John Tiller
Location: Cambridgeshire
Date: Saturday 1st November 2014 at 5:20 PM
Hello Alan
In 2012 I asked you if you would help me with information regarding William James Arnold,
and you found two soldiers of that name serving with the West Kent Regiment and were unable
to establish which was our William.Family research has now identified our William, he served as
Private 3446 W. Arnold West Kent Regiment.
Canada,British Regimental register of service between 1756- 1900 shows his date of attestation
as 10th September 1892 at Hounslow, Born Stoke Newington London age 18 years 8 months.
The U.K. military medal rolls states; between 1793 - 1949 W. Arnold 3446 Campaign Service India
-service 1897-1897
1st Batt West Kent Rgt Punjab Fronteer 1897 - 1898 Qualification 1898.
I wondered if acting on this information you would be able to assist or give advice where else we
might look., thank you.

Yours sincerely John.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 1st November 2014 at 8:25 PM

Dear John,
Service records for soldiers who enlisted in the Victorian army are available to search and download on the website under Military records: British Army Service Records 1760-1915. The site offers pay as you go. Or you can visit The National Archives at Kew, Surrey to view the records. If the soldier went on to serve in the First World War his records might not have survived.
The entry under the Canadian database containing an index to the attestation papers of men enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force of the First World War is an erroneous title on the "Ancestry" website. The listing is from "The Roll of Men of Her Majesty's Ninety Seventh (or Earl of Ulster's) Regiment of Foot commenced under the Adjutancy of Lieutenant Frederick Henry Vigne; Anglesea Barracks, Portsmouth, England, 1868" (WO 25/542C 97 Foot (after 1872 2nd Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment). After 1872, the 97th's Irish affiliation ended when it was paired with the 50th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Foot with the two regiments sharing a new depot at Maidstone. On 1 August 1881, the 50th and 97th Foot became the 1st and 2nd Battalions, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).
William James Arnold enlisted on 10th September 1892 and joined the 2nd Battalion The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). The 1st and 2nd Battalions alternated their service overseas, and by 1898 he was serving on the Punjab Frontier with the 1st Battalion Royal West Kent. He would probably have enlisted for seven; twelve or 21 years with the colours, so he could have served until 1913.
There is no matching record in the First World War records. If he served in that conflict he might have served in a different regiment and you would need to know that regiment and his regimental number to identify any records.
The Royal West Kent Regimental Museum is at Maidstone and will be able to say where the 1st and 2nd Battalions served.
With kind regards,
Reply from: John Tiller
Date: Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 10:40 AM

Hello Alan
Many thanks for your prompt reply,this will be a great help to continue Williams research
I don't wish to impose too much but wondered if I may beg one other question of you, it concerns
the nephew of William Arnold, he served under two names Pte 6854 George Lewis Seager, Alias
McCreadie Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, he was killed in 1915 I would be grateful for any help
you could give me.

Thank you once again yours Sincerely John.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 7:12 PM

Dear John,
George Lewis Seager was born on December 16th 1898, the son of Robert Wilson Seager and his wife Annie (Rush) who had married in 1888. George was baptised at the church of St James the Great at Friern Barnet, London on 15th March 1899. Robert Wilson Seager died at the age of 39 during the third quarter of 1902 at Barnet. His widow, Annie Seager, married George Alfred Arnold in the second quarter of 1904 at Barnet. In the 1911 census, George Lewis Seager, a 12-year-old schoolboy, was recorded as the step son of George Alfred Arnold by his wife Annie (Seager).
On August 8th 1914, the fourth day of the war, George Lewis Seager enlisted at Mill Hill. He stated he was a barman, born at Friern Barnet and aged 17 years and 274 days. That would have given him a birth date of about November 7th 1896. In fact, George was aged 15 years and 235 days. He had enlisted under age. He weighed 7 ½ stone, was 5ft 6 ¼ ins tall, 33 inch chest and "fair" physical development. He had grey eyes, brown hair and a small scar on his upper lip. He stated his next-of-kin was his mother Elizabeth (sic) Arnold of 105 Highworth Road, Friern Barnet. He was passed medically fit and joined the 5th (Reserve) Battalion of The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex regiment) at Mill Hill as a private soldier, numbered 7356. The 5th Battalion trained recruits at Rochester and then Chatham. George Seager served three months before he was discharged as "unlikely to become an efficient soldier" at Chatham on 15th November 1914. His military character was "good". If a battalion was above strength, or the soldier did not fit in, "unlikely to become an efficient soldier" could be used as a convenient cause of discharge because it needed no higher authority than the man's commanding officer if within three months of enlistment. It could also be a factual statement about a recruit who was found to be not fit or healthy enough to withstand the rigours of active service.
George Lewis Seager then took the alias George L. McCreadie, also spelled McCready. No individual service record has survived for him as George McCreadie so it is not possible to state George's second enlistment in any detail.
"Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921) recorded George McCreadie was born in London, Middlesex, and enlisted at Harringay. He was killed on September 27th 1915 while serving as private 6854 with the 10th Battalion Princess Louise's Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
There are two Army medal rolls index cards for him; one in the name George L. McCreadie, the other George L. McCready. He first served in France with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on June 1st 1915. He was killed in action on 27th September 1915.
The 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had been raised at Stirling in August 1914 and served in France and Flanders from 11th May 1915 in the 27th Infantry Brigade with the 9th Division. Therefore, when George McCreadie first went to France in June 1915 he would have been part of a draft of reinforcements destined, probably, for the 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
On the surface it seems strange that a Londoner should enlist in a Scottish regiment. However, a study of the locations of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders shows a training battalion of the regiment was raised at Blackheath near Greenwich in South-east London in November 1914. This was the 13th Reserve Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders which remained in the UK throughout the war training recruits and providing drafts of reinforcements. It moved from Blackheath to train at White City, London, between January and April 1915. George might well have been accepted in the newly- raised 13th Reserve Battalion which was formed in London in the same month he was discharged from the Middlesex Regiment.
George McCreadie, 6854 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed on the second day of the Battle of Loos, on the Franco-Belgian border. The Battalion lost 49 men killed in action on that day. He has no marked grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. Although he served under an alias, he might well have maintained is next of kin was his mother, Mrs Arnold, at 105 Highworth Road. In 1920/1921 the then Imperial War Graves Commission wrote to the next-of-kin offering them an opportunity to add biographical information to the cemetery registers. What is now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded George Lewis Seager served as "McCreadie" and was the son of Annie Arnold, formerly Seager, of 105 Highworth Road, New Southgate, London.
The entry on the Loos memorial reads: "Seager G.L. served as McCreadie G.".
He was aged 16 years and 80 days.
With kind regards,
Reply from: John Tiller
Date: Monday 3rd November 2014 at 4:13 PM

Hello Alan
I am very grateful for your help regarding William Arnold and George Seager,
I must admit I never expected as much as you have discovered, I had to read
it more than once it certainly makes good reading.
Today I made a donation to our local British Legion, thank you again

Yours Sincerely John
Posted by: Mick {Email left}
Location: Sheffield
Date: Friday 31st October 2014 at 5:43 PM
Hi Alan,
A bit of a long shot question really, I've a WW1 raw edge brodie helmet which as been re painted at some point. ive removed the top layer of paint and found a name wrote inside in pencil Major Drake. How many Major Drakes were there in ww1? also the stamp mark in the helmet is JR&S A5. Like I said its a bit of a long shot question but any info would be great.

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 31st October 2014 at 9:25 PM

Dear Mick,
I stand to be corrected, but suggest JR&S A5 would be the stamp mark of John Round and Sons Ltd of Sheffield who made a batch of helmets in 1916 using steel supplied by "A5" where 5 was the batch number of steel manufactured by "A" which was the abbreviation of Edgar Allen and Company Ltd of Sheffield. I believe a "Batch No." was known in the foundry as a Heat Number to identify steel that had been poured from the ladle and then rolled. For more on helmets see the e-book:
and for a quick guide:
As for Major Drake I would say it is not possible to identify him. The National Archives has personnel files for 88 officers from 1901-1922 named Drake. An online search of the index revealed just two Drakes in the rank of Major who served in the First World War. They were Major Francis Drake of the Northumberland Fusiliers and a (Temporary) Major J.H. Drake M.C. [Hertfordshire Yeomanry and Staff Corps]. The handwritten index for Drake also has a Major H. Drake who is not further identified (Open Government Licence v3.0: Officers' Services, First World War, Index to Long Number Papers; National Archives WO338/6 1901-1922
It should be borne in mind that officers junior in rank to a Major could hold the rank of Major temporarily and officers holding the rank of Major could have been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and above and would appear in the index with the higher rank. The online index is at:
Officers continuing to serve after the end of 1921 would not be included in the index. He probably survived as there is no Major Drake listed in the CWGC Debt of Honour or "Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921).
Unfortunately, the helmet's owner cannot be identified solely from the name "Major Drake".
With kind regards,
Reply from: Mick
Date: Saturday 1st November 2014 at 4:01 PM

Thank you Alan for the info
Posted by: Rachel {Email left}
Location: Shrewsbury
Date: Wednesday 29th October 2014 at 10:29 PM
Alan, I am looking into the death of H N Taylor, 19/03/1917 at Prees Heath Camp, Whitchurch. According to Hansard there were some concerns about camp conditions - 9 other people appear to have died during the month of March that year. Any information would be welcomed.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 30th October 2014 at 4:51 PM

Dear Rachel,
The death of conscripted recruits in training was not altogether unusual as the military training could exacerbate any congenital or chronic illness. There were also occasional epidemics in the winter months leading to sickness, deaths and the need for quarantine. Epidemics could be institutional or amongst the general population.
The expression "died" was applied to death from disease, illness or accident as opposed to "killed in action" or "died of wounds". An accident could be a military accident such as a grenade exploding or a motor accident.
The death of H.N. Taylor on 19th March 1917 appears to have been that of Henry Norman Taylor, a private soldier numbered 3/9391, who was recorded by "Soldiers Died in the Great War" as having "died" while in the 51st Graduated Battalion of The Manchester Regiment. That numbered battalion would have been inaccurate because the 51st Graduated Battalion Manchester Regiment was not formed until seven months after private Taylor's death. At the time of his death in March 1917 he would have been a recruit with the 50th Training Reserve Battalion which had been formed from the 14th Reserve Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment in September 1916. It later became the 51st Graduated Battalion and would have held that title at the end of the war and consequently the title "51st" would have been used when post-war records were compiled. These battalions were formed to provide basic training for conscripts.
Henry Norman Taylor was the son of Henry and Hannah Taylor of 7 Pimlico Road, Clitheroe, Lancashire. He was buried at Christ Church churchyard, Tilstock.
His death was not recorded as a war death by the England and Wales General Register Office, suggesting he died in hospital. It was probably the death registered as a civilian death by the General Register Office and indexed as: GRO Deaths, Henry N. Taylor, age 18, Jan-March 1917, Whitchurch, Shropshire, Volume 6a, page 1165. The death certificate will state the place and cause of death. You can order the death certificate online for £9.25 from:
In the early months of 1917 there were numerous epidemics at Army camps including Rugeley, Litherland, Kinmel Park, Park Hall, Prees Heath and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. RMA Sandhurst was quarantined after 700 men became ill following inoculations [probably "Typhoid-paratyphoid A and B vaccine", known as T.A.B.]. Inoculation introduced live organisms to produce a mild form of the illness but on this occasion the cadets at Sandhurst fell ill with black measles and mumps. Some epidemics were not confined to Army camps and affected the civilian population at the same time.
Illness where there was no epidemic was common as the figures for February and March 1917 at Kinmel Park Camp at Rhyl show: February 1917 (1 officer, 15 men): Pneumonia, 7; Bronchitis, 4; Pleurisy, 1; Motor accident, 1; Died at Abergele of syncope (loss of consciousness) 1; Found dead in quarters, 1 officer. March 1917 (1 officer; 17 men): Pneumonia, 6; Cerebro-spinal meningitis, 4; Bronchitis, 1; Pneumococcal meningitis, 1; Meningitis, 1; Dilated heart, 1; Hemiplegia, (caused by brain injury) 1; Cancer of the stomach, 1; Under anaesthetic, 1; Grenade wounds, 1 officer.
In the civilian world, infectious diseases were recorded by District Medical Officers. In March 1917 at Morpeth, Northumberland, the medical officer, Dr J.R. Burn, reported there were 16 cases of Measles, three cases of German Measles; four of pulmonary tuberculosis; one case of Meningitis and one of mesenteric glands; in addition to "the prevalence of influenza and catarrh" ("Morpeth Herald", Friday 30 March 1917 © Johnston Press plc. courtesy of The British Library Board via The British Newspaper Archive). In March 1917 at Aylesbury, the local council appointed a sub-committee to consider providing accommodation for sufferers of an outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis.
At Prees Heath Camp in March 1917 there had been an outbreak of influenzal pneumonia and an outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis (spotted fever). At the nearby Park Hall Camp, Oswestry, there had been 35 deaths in February 1917 and 24 deaths in March 1917. At the other end of the country, nine cases of cerebro-spinal meningitis had been recorded among the population of Southend in March 1917, of which seven were among soldiers. On 30th March 1917, the Under-secretary of State for War, James Macpherson, said there had been an inquiry into conditions at the camps. He told the Commons special instructions had been issued to disinfect huts where there had been cases of disease, and further precautions were taken to ensure the health of the troops.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Rachel
Date: Thursday 30th October 2014 at 6:29 PM

Thank you very much for the information - greatly appreciated
Posted by: Wendy {Email left}
Location: Perth Western Australia
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 2:03 PM
Hi Alan,
I have for a very long time been researching my family and came across your web-site last evening and am really hoping that you may be able to verify details of my Great Uncle HENRY AGNEW who did not return from WW1.He was born in April-June 1885 Co. Kildare. Ireland.

There are numerous Army Medal records for 'Henry Agnew' but it is so very hard for me to know which my Henry is. I have no other details of his Regiment, Service no etc. My instincts tell me that he would have joined an Irish regiment, although he was living in England in 1911 (Census).

He was we believe, in Belfast in Army uniform in 1916 and as a postcard was sent by him to his sister (my Grandmother). It was posted on 3rd August 1916 and has been censored and therefore difficult to read... so I presume they were heading to the 'front' I can make out that it says "leaving any day" and it possibly revealed more.
I also have a postcard which he wrote whilst on active service posted from CAIRO on 6th December 1917. After that there is no record of him at all... so the family presume he died possibly somewhere in the Middle East. He signs the postcards as Harry so he must have used both Harry and Henry at various times, I am hoping beyond hope that you may be able to provide an answer.
Thank you for such an interesting forum.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 29th October 2014 at 12:59 PM

Dear Wendy,
There is no record of a war death for a Henry Agnew in the First World War. Unfortunately, without knowing his regiment and regimental number it is not possible to accurately identify any surviving military record.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Jim Mcclure {Email left}
Location: Holmes Chapel Cheshire
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 1:27 PM

My father is now 88 years old and a few years ago he mentioned a story about an uncle of his that had fought in WW1. His version, the one that had been passed down to him from his grandfather, was that his uncle had joined up in c1915, had served in France, been awarded the Croix de Guerre, survived the war and eventually married a Belgian or French girl and never came home. Disappeared in fact.

He told me that he had tried various ways to get some further information but had been unsuccessful and had all but given up hope some 10 to 15 years ago and had not done any searching since.

I have recently picked up the search and remarkably have found that his uncle:

Private 20366 James McClure joined the 1st Battalion Royal Scots in March 1915 and eventually ended up in Salonika when the battalion was posted overseas in November of the same year.

He survived the war and signed up for another year in 1919 spending his time running as a ''conveyman'' (whatever that is) between Sofia and Constantinople.

His record shows that he was shot and killed by Bulgarian secret police in March 1920 having married a Russian girl on 26 January of that year. The circumstances surrounding his death appear to be strange and the army record looks as though it might not be completely accurate: I mean by this that it may have been doctored to avoid a diplomatic incident at the time because of the delicate dialogue going on to put a peace treaty in place with Bulgaria who were still technically at war with Britain in early 1920.

He and another Scot, Alex Greves (spelled variously as Graves, Greaves and Greve in the record) were both present along with 3 Russians at the time of James's shooting.

Interestingly James and Alex Greves were both married in Sofia on the same day and both are listed in the Gazette of May 7 1920 as receiving a Croix de Guerre at the same time.

This is all a bit curious and I would really like to find out why he received a French award when he spent most of his service life in Bulgaria and Turkey and also what the real circumstances were surrounding his death.

Can you help even if just to point me in the right direction. My dad is getting on and I'd love to fill in this gap in his history for him. Its a great story.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 8:28 PM

Dear Jim,
The operations in Macedonia were conducted jointly by the French and British which is how some British soldiers came to be awarded a French medal. The occupation of Constantinople in 1918 was also an allied operation. The citations for the Croix de Guerre were not published nationally in the UK. The publication of the award in the "London Gazette" on May 7th 1920 would have been some time after the conferring of the award itself as the introduction in the "Gazette" stated the awards were "awarded by the Allied Powers at various dates to the British Forces for distinguished service rendered during the course of the campaign" ("Gazette" issue 31890 page 5227).
Some of the higher awards of the Croix de Guerre were published in the "Journal Officiel de la Republique Francais" which is archived online at:
Copies of the recommendations or citations might be held in the archives of the French Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres. See:
A "conveyman" was either someone who escorted people or materiel as a van driver. Mechanised transport was new in the First World War and the word "carman", which was the civilian job title for a horse-drawn cart-driver, was being replaced by various job descriptions for mechanised transport. He operated between Sofia and Constantinople. A French brigade had entered Constantinople on November 12th 1918. The first British Troops entered the city on November 13th 1918. Early in December 1918, Allied troops occupied sections of Constantinople and set up an Allied military administration. There was civil unrest in Constantinople in 1920 with three days of fighting from March 13th and a further military occupation on March 16th 1920 by General Sir George Milne and an Allied force that occupied Constantinople to keep the Straits open and to protect the Armenians.
James McClure's service record showed he was "killed accidentally" on March 15th 1920, which does suggest a diplomatic closure of the incident. The Bulgarian police had not gone through the usual channels and had behaved roguishly, even if they were in pursuit of an apparent black market trader in British army uniform. The record includes a four-page report on the investigation of his death for the British High Commissioner in Sofia by Major A.C.B. Neate*. The report indicated McClure had been shot by the Bulgarian secret police after McClure and Greaves and three Russians loaded six sacks of contraband matches into a Ford van after a police agent investigating the black market offered to buy them. The soldiers were decoyed into a police compound from which Cpl McClure and one of the Russians ran off to make good their escape after much firing of shots into the air. The other men raised their hands and were detained. Shots were fired into the air before McClure, who struggled with a policeman in the street, was shot in the back while running down Rakovska [now ulista Georgi Rakovski] in central Sofia. He was left in the street by the soldier (who allegedly rifled his pockets). He was found in the street by a French Captain's secretary and taken to hospital where he died shortly afterwards. He is buried in plot 1; row A; grave 13 in the British Military section of the Sofia Protestant Cemetery, which is now known as the Central Sofia Cemetery.
Service records are available online via the subscription website or, which offers "pay as you go".
Any further records of any incidents in Bulgaria in 1920 would most probably be held in Bulgaria, such as at The State Archives (The Republic Archives State Agency):
Or The Bulgarian Historical Archive:
They are both located in Sofia. Any Bulgarian records would be in the Bulgarian language and written in Cyrillic script. Perhaps the consular section at the British Embassy in Sofia would be a starting point to see if they kept any archives.
Not all archived documents are in the public domain and many remain closed for 100 years from their last entry.
The England and Wales General Register Office holds the record of the marriage between James McClure and Yonka Kirova at Sofia, also spelled Jonka Kirova. The certificate can be ordered online for a charge of £9.25. It is: GRO Consular Marriages (1849-1965) James McClure; 1916-1920; Sofia, Bulgaria; page 197. From:
Jonka McClure re-married to a Russian subject on April 4th 1921 and the pair left Bulgaria from the port of Varna for Soviet Russia shortly afterwards. On 21st June 1921, the British Vice Consul wrote: "they have not been heard of since".
With kind regards,

*Major Arthur Charles Burnaby Neate MC Royal Artillery was awarded the Croix de Guerre in the same list as Greves and McClure. He had been an intelligence officer in 1917 and in 1930 was co-author of a paper "The Situation in the Balkans", held by the Royal Institute of International Affairs: RIIA/8/1, RIIA/8/569, RIIA/8/77.
Reply from: Selltick
Date: Saturday 1st November 2014 at 1:32 PM


Thanks, there are one or two areas that I can follow up. Is there anyone you know of who might have some background on the military mission in Bulgaria and particularly the intellegence service in either the british or french armies?

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 1st November 2014 at 8:24 PM

Dear Jim,
I can't help you very much I am afraid, bearing in mind that intelligence services are generally secretive by their very nature. I see from the website that a Jordan Baev in Sofia is an associate professor in international history and senior research fellow in security studies at Rakovsky Defense and Staff College in Sofia. He deals mainly with the Cold War but he might be able to suggest a name of a specialist in earlier periods. His e-mail is shown at:
Any archived correspondence from Sofia is scattered and appears in the indexes to the King's College London: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives; the British Parliamentary Archives; and the UK National Archives in "Foreign Office" and "Cabinet Papers".
Military intelligence was usually split between seeking military intelligence about the enemy from behind their lines to help with operational decisions at a strategic or tactical level and gathering information among the civilian population to maintain internal security. The investigation of crime among soldiers was conducted by the Military Foot Police.
The First World War British army intelligence service was formed alongside the Intelligence Directorate with some 50 army and Metropolitan Police officers who worked as Field Security Police gathering intelligence behind enemy lines and arresting spies within their own lines. The service was all but closed down at the end of the First World War and remained so between the two world wars. There is a Military Intelligence Museum.
French intelligence during the First World War was in the hands of various bureaux including The Deuxième Bureau de l'État-major general [Second Bureau] which was dissolved after the Armistice with Germany. The Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may have some correspondence.
For the Military Mission and the British Legation in Sofia you can search most of the English national archival collections at:
For example, entering Legation Bulgaria and refining the date to 1900-1924 produces 133 results at four locations. You would have to visit the archives to see any relevant documents.
The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) maintains a policy of not releasing its records into the public domain. During the First World War the Foreign Section within the Military Intelligence Directorate worked with the War Office and was known as MI 1(c). See
and the Principles of Disclosure at:
Under the principles of disclosure some historic intelligence documents have been archived at The UK National Archives at Kew, Surrey, under the Catalogue reference "KV". See the listings at:
The UK National Archives catalogue designation KV for Security Service records comes from the Latin "cavē", second-person singular present imperative of caveō: "to beware". English public schoolboys used to "keep cavē" [kay-vee] or keep a lookout during clandestine meetings. For example: ""Cave!" called out Hazeldene. "Here's Quelch!"" ("Billy Bunter's Double", Frank Richards, Cassell & Co., 1955).
With kind regards,
Reply from: Selltick
Date: Thursday 21st May 2015 at 2:10 PM


I have occasion to review the email exchange we had last year and there is a passage in your email that I'm curious about. It's as follows:

''The report indicated McClure had been shot by the Bulgarian secret police after McClure and Greaves and three Russians loaded six sacks of contraband matches into a Ford van after a police agent investigating the black market offered to buy them. The soldiers were decoyed into a police compound from which Cpl McClure and one of the Russians ran off to make good their escape after much firing of shots into the air. The other men raised their hands and were detained. Shots were fired into the air before McClure, who struggled with a policeman in the street, was shot in the back while running down Rakovska [now ulista Georgi Rakovski] in central Sofia. He was left in the street by the soldier (who allegedly rifled his pockets). He was found in the street by a French Captain's secretary and taken to hospital where he died shortly afterwards. He is buried in plot 1; row A; grave 13 in the British Military section of the Sofia Protestant Cemetery, which is now known as the Central Sofia Cemetery.''

There is a lot more detail here than in the record I've seen, that is the one in his army file, and I wonder where you got this from.

Can you tell me?

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 21st May 2015 at 2:43 PM

Dear Jim,
The details are taken from a copy of a type-written four-page letter contained in his service record. The letter was written to the British High Commissioner by Major A.C.B. Neate, the British Military Representative in Sofia on March 18th 1920.
Service records are available free by visiting The National Archives at Kew or online from various subscription websites, including and The latter offers pay-as-you-go.
Details of the burial are taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour. See:,%20J
With kind regards,
Reply from: Selltick
Date: Thursday 21st May 2015 at 6:13 PM

Thanks for your prompt response
Posted by: Becca {Email left}
Location: E Yorks
Date: Monday 27th October 2014 at 9:17 PM
Hello again Alan, hope you are keeping well.
I wonder if you could help a friend of mine who is tracing his mother's side of the family.. Today we have found that Brindsley Ogles born 1896 in Barnet, the son of Henry Ogles and Annie Plummer, joined the army as a boy soldier.
In 1911 he was aged 15 at the Hut & Llanion Barracks, Pembroke Docks.
Further searching reveals this :-
GRO ARMY DEATH INDICES (1881 to 1955) Transcription
BRINDEY OGLES Birth year 1896 Death year 1931 Age at death 35
Place MURREE Country INDIA Record source GRO Army Death Indices (1881 to 1955) Page 140

Please, is there any chance that you may be able to tell us more about his time of service?
It has been a difficult family to put together, as the father drowned himself in the Thames, leaving his wife to care for the young family. Sadly the children were separated and went into different homes.

We should both be delighted if you can help
Kind regards

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 8:13 PM

Dear Becca,
Because Brindsley Ogles served after The Great War his service record is not in the public domain. As his death was fewer than 100 years ago, there is limited information that can be published on the internet. The 1911 Census of Wales recorded he was serving as a boy soldier with the 2nd Battalion The Welsh (Welch) Regiment. The death index transcription that you quote does not match his burial record which recorded him, in a hand-written register for Muree Cemetery, Punjab, as "B (full Christian name not known) Ogles", a lance-sergeant with the 2nd Battalion Welch Regiment, aged 33 (sic) who died and was buried on July 14th 1931 at Muree. The actual record is available to view on the website (subscription or pay as you go) and is indexed as forename: "B"; surname: "O'Les". It is in the "Parish register transcripts from the Presidency of Bengal: 1713-1948", with the BMDs search refined to "British India Office deaths & burials". That cemetery entry stated his individual army number as 39548234 which would help in tracing his service record.
Records of service personnel who continued to serve after the First World War are still confidential and are not in the public domain. They are held by the Ministry of Defence. The MoD will release certain amounts of information about a deceased person depending on whether you are 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. Refer to:
You will need proof of death (a copy of the death certificate); date of birth or service number; next-of- kin's permission (unless you are the direct next-of-kin); a cheque (currently for £30) and the completed Application forms Part 1 and 2: If you are not next-of-kin you can make a general enquiry using both the "Request for Service personnel details: general enquirer's form (v6) (DOC)" and then the Part 2 form which is entitled "Request for Service personnel details: British Army part 2 (DOC)".
The next-of-kin may be provided with more information than a general enquirer. A cheque for GBP 30 should be made payable to the "MOD Accounting Officer" and sent with all the paperwork to Army Personnel Centre Secretariat, Disclosures 2, Mail Point 515, Kentigern House, 65, Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX Scotland.
The regimental museum of The Welch Regiment would know the postings of the 2nd Bn Welch Regiment.
With kind regards,

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