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Posted by: David {Email left}
Location: Austraila
Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016 at 5:06 AM
Dear Allan are there any records available of ww1 soldiers letters home from the front,and if so where can i get hold of them Regards David
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016 at 4:04 PM

Dear David,
The Imperial War Museum in London holds 7,500 collections of letters from the First World War.
Andrew Roberts has published a collection in “Love, Tommy: Letters Home, from the Great War to the Present Day” from the Imperial War Museum collection.
Sian Price has written a book: “If You're Reading This... Last Letters From the Front Line” which collates 70 letters from soldiers who never came home in various conflicts.
There is a list of collections held in archives around the country at:
The National Archives itself has an online selection of letters for teachers:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016 at 4:07 PM

For Australian soldiers see:
Posted by: Mike Winkett {Email left}
Location: Birmingham
Date: Saturday 7th May 2016 at 4:26 PM
Dear Alan,

I wonder whether you could help me to decipher a record that I have found on Ancestry's website for the first person I have found in my Family Tree who served in the Royal Navy. The record is for Francis Harold Grantham, born 16th March 1893 (birth registered in the Kidderminster district) and the record appears in Ancestry's "UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1853-1928" data collection.

Whilst I am able to make out the writing and some of the abbreviations used in this record, others I cannot decipher, so I'm wondering whether the casting of your more-expert eyes over this record can enlighten me further!

Firstly, I cannot make out the name of the second ship he served on between 19 November 1915 and 6 December 1915.

Secondly, I would be grateful if you could explain what the entries in the "List", "No.", "Ratings" and "Remarks" columns are and what can be gleaned from these entries.

Thirdly, I can see that Francis was invalided at some point, and as this was written after the dates of service on his 4th ship, Victory II, can I assume he was injured or taken sick whilst serving on Victory II?

Fourthly, I am wondering why he served on so many ships during a relatively short 9-week naval career and whether you can tell me a little about the parts these ships played during the time he served on each one - their departure ports and destinations, etc.

My last query concerns what I think alludes to a note about a pension entitlement entered in the "Remarks" column, where I think I can read "? Pen [pension?] ? M.O.D[?] 29/8/17. Could you please confirm whether this does indeed refer to a [Ministry of Defence?] pension and, if so, why the delay in receiving this after the 27 Jan 1916 when he left the last ship he served on?

Any information you can provide will help me understand Francis' very brief naval career a lot better from the limited military information available to me and will be very much appreciated. I shall of course be sending a donation to the British Legion as a "thank-you" for your assistance. I look forward to your reply in due course. Thank you, Alan.

Kindest regards,
Mike Winkett
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 8th May 2016 at 1:59 PM

Dear Mike,
Francis Harold Grantham served at sea on board only one ship.
The other entries were for shore establishments, the ships’ names of which intrigue almost all who come across them.
The service record you have downloaded was created from the entries made in each of the ships’ books which recorded a man’s pay, advancements in rating (promotion) and allowances for each of the sailors under the ship’s command. The “List” number refers to the pay-list in the ship’s books on which the man’s name appeared; and the “No.” referred to his ship’s Book Number which indicated where the pay account was written. For example, List 15B2, in book No. 2611 was an index to show where his pay-list entry had been entered in the ship’s books for a particular vessel or shore station. Once the ship's ledger had been balanced and checked, with each man's service record having been brought up to date, the ship’s books were then sent to the Admiralty in Whitehall each Quarter of the year.
At the Admiralty, a clerk would extract the details from the books and write them onto the sailor’s individual record sheet which is the document that you have downloaded. The tedium of the task of repetitive transcription by the clerks helps explain the use of scribbled handwriting; unofficial abbreviations and failing to heed to column headings. The vague word “Ports” at the very top of the page is a lazy abbreviation that shows Francis Grantham belonged at Portsmouth where he was allotted the official number 16680 with the universal number pre-fix “M” which was used to indicate electricians and artificers, with a handwritten “P” added for enlistment at Portsmouth.
The “age” column was marked “F.E.”. The Royal Navy had boys’ service (enlisting between fifteen-and-a-half and 17 years) and men’s service, from age 18 years. Boys’ service ended on a boy’s 18th birthday and the date of the 18th birthday was entered on the record to show the start of man’s service. When a man was already 18 upon his First Entry (F.E.) it showed he had not served as a boy and his age was recorded as “F.E.” and was then calculated from his date of birth. The British Army only asked a man his stated, or claimed, age, which he could make up if he wished to. The Royal Navy asked a boy or a man for an actual date of birth.
“Hostilities” meant continuous service for the duration of the current hostilities: which, by their nature, implied a commitment of undefined duration.
In civilian life, Francis Grantham was an electrician.
Rating was the class in the ship’s book which described an ordinary seaman’s rate as opposed to the officers’ ranks. (Rating also applied to the six classes of wooden warship with cannon, but that doesn’t apply here.)
Francis’s rating was “Wireman Class II”, or Wireman Second Class, which was also known as “electrician” and was equivalent to Able Seaman (AB) but was paid at two shillings and sixpence a day which was about 25 per-cent more than an Ordinary Seaman earned. By a King’s Order in Council dated 10th November 1915, the rating of “Wireman” was established in the Royal Navy for the period of the War. Francis joined the Royal Navy on 15th November 1915, at the age of 22, which indicated he had volunteered, as compulsory conscription came in 1916. Interestingly, he was rated as a Wireman, the rate that had been confirmed just five days previously, so it is probable the Navy was advertising for and recruiting electricians specifically in November 1915 for a rapid deployment within four weeks of enlisting; carrying on their qualified civilian jobs, only now in uniform. The official numbers in the same sequence as Francis’s official number of 16680 were all allotted to wiremen enlisted in November 1915, who had been civilian electricians and then trained at Vernon, Victory, and Fisgard, before joining their respective ships, all on 12th December 1915. Seemingly, there was a batch of wiremen specially recruited among civilian electricians and quickly put to work. His rating remained as Wireman Class 2 throughout, indicated by the ditto marks (“) in the rating column.
A history of naval armaments development might hint at why those special enlistments of electricians occurred in November 1915.
A campaign-medals roll entry for Francis showed he was rated “Ar Cr” which was Armourer’s Crew, an older term that was replaced by “Wireman” (Naval Medal and Award Rolls 1873-1923; National Archives catalogue series ADM 188; available also on
So, the abbreviations indicate Francis became an electrician with an armourer’s crew below decks. The first training establishment he attended was at the Royal Navy’s Torpedo Branch at Portsmouth; known officially as the shore-establishment “HMS Vernon”, and to the sailors as just: “The Vernon”.
The reason shore bases were given ships’ names dated from the Victorian “Naval and Marine Pay and Pensions Act 1865” and the “Naval Discipline Act of 1866”, which stated every Royal Navy rating had to be assigned to a named vessel of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Royal Navy. Many shore establishments did, indeed, consist of old ships moored in the harbour, but, once stone and brick dockyard barracks and training schools began to be constructed, a strict interpretation of those Navy Acts of the 1860s meant those “stone frigates”, as they were dubbed, were also given the names of ships of the line.
The actual vessel HMS Vernon was moored at Porchester Creek in Portsmouth Harbour and was used to carry out torpedo training and trials of torpedoes; their armament and guidance, as well as testing and developing mines and ships’ electrics. Much of the technology at that time had dated only recently from the earliest Dreadnoughts of 1906 onwards, so, in 1915, the technology would have involved the latest advancements. Three days at Vernon would have allowed for little more than issuing of kit and uniform and a rudimentary introduction to his duties in wartime.
HMS Victory was an administrative term for men who were being paid and administered by the Royal Navy at Portsmouth. “Victory” gives no indication of the man’s physical location, but it might well have implied Francis was on a training course from 17th November to 6th December 1915 at Portsmouth or its environs. From the 7th to the 11th December 1915 Francis Grantham was at HMS Fisgard which was the collective name for four ships that had served at Portsmouth, at one time or another, and had been used for training Artificer Apprentices. Artificer is a military name for a mechanic or similar. The old ship HMS Spartiate became “HMS Fisgard” on 17th July 1915.
(The name Fisgard derives from the historical name for the Welsh village of Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, on St George’s Channel, which was originally "Fiscard" derived from the Old Norse fiskigarðr meaning “fish-catching enclosure". This Welsh port was, briefly, invaded by Napoleon’s French Navy one day in 1797. The Royal Navy delights that the French invaders apparently surrendered swiftly to local women dressed in traditional Welsh costume looking like British Red Coat soldiers. The Royal Navy then captured a French vessel and re-named her “Fisgard” to acknowledge the defeat of the French).
By the time Francis Grantham went to sea in December 1915, he was an electrician who appears to have worked with the armourer’s crew, possibly on torpedoes or weaponry, and on ship’s electrics.
Francis joined HMS Neptune on 12th December 1915. HMS Neptune served in the First Battle Squadron of the Royal Navy in the Grand Fleet (formerly called the Home Fleet) which, in late 1915 and early 1916, patrolled the North Sea from its base at Scapa Flow, Orkney. In February 1915, Germany had declared that the waters around Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, was a war zone.
Battle-cruisers of the German Navy’s 1st Scouting Group (Nr. I Aufklärungsgruppe) provoked the Royal Navy in the North Sea which, by then, had been suitably re-named by the British to something less possessive than its pre-war name of the “German Ocean”. The Royal Navy was blockading Germany’s access to Germany’s Baltic Sea ports preventing the supply of the German nation’s food and materiel. Ships of the German High Seas Fleet (der Deutschen Hochseeflotte) of the Imperial German Navy (die Kaiserliche Marine) conducted a series of probes into North Sea waters expecting to lure the British Grand Fleet into the open. The German Navy also conducted extensive submarine warfare.
After Francis had returned home in 1916, these naval operations culminated in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May–1 June 1916.
Unless HMS Neptune had sailed South in December 1915, it is probable Francis Grantham had travelled by train to Thurso in Scotland on what were known as Jellicoe Specials (named after the Grand Fleet’s commander Admiral Jellicoe) because they took sailors from the South Coast naval bases, via London, to the Royal Navy base in the shelter of Scapa Flow. The train journey from London to Thurso alone took 22 hours. See:
HMS Neptune was constructed at Portsmouth Dockyard and had been launched on 30th September 1909 and completed by January 1911. She had been re-fitted in the Spring of 1915, so she was a very modern warship. See:
In order to place a warship at a specific location, it is necessary to see the Ship’s Logs which are held at the National Archives at Kew. Those for Neptune, are shown at:
Neptune must have been at sea for Francis Grantham to have qualified for his campaign medals: the 1914-15 Star for service at sea in a theatre of war before December 31st 1915; The British War Medal and the Victory Medal, for 28 days’ or more mobilised service in the Royal Navy. Francis Grantham applied for, and was granted, a Silver War Badge for being discharged early through wounds or sickness contracted while on active service. The issue of the war badge was approved on 1st September 1917 (R.N. Silver War Badge lists via
While serving on Neptune his Character and Ability column was completed on 31 December 1915 as Character: V.G. [Very Good]; and Ability: Sat[isfactory]. It could only have been “satisfactory” because of the brief, un-tested, time during which he had held his post.
His book entry for service on HMS Neptune ended on 15th January 1916 when he was entered on the log of HMS Victory II (from 16th to 27th January 1916) which was another accountancy and administrative location at Portsmouth and suggests he was in hospital or convalescing at Portsmouth. At the time, Victory II was the Accounting Section for Portsmouth Dockyard and Portsmouth Naval Barracks but had moved inland 50 miles to premises in Newbury. The 15th day of each month was an Admiralty accounting date and Francis’s actual date of leaving Neptune is revealed below. His reason for discharge from the Navy (Column headed: “If discharged wither and for what cause”) was written to one side as “Invalided” because the clerk’s handwritten dates had already trespassed into that column.
There are some partially legible entries dated 12th and 15th December 1915 Neptune; and 16 January 1916 Victory II and Neptune S165. There is also Fisgard added above the first of these later entries. Fisgard probably related to “Invalided”, suggesting he was eventually discharged from the Fisgard shore establishment, from which he had set out.
These later entries related to Form S165 which was a monthly return of all personnel entered on, or discharged from, a ship’s books in the previous month. The returns were sent to the Accountant General on the 15th of each month and recorded for the Admiralty (and families who enquired) the location of each man in the four weeks prior to that date. During long voyages, the forms were submitted at the earliest opportunity, such as at when at coaling stations or ports of call. These entries on Francis’s service record were written in a different hand and appear to be references to Francis’s last ship’s service as recorded on forms S165, and were probably added by someone in the Pay Office or the Pensions Office seeking or providing evidence for his qualification for a pension. The first S165 recorded he joined Neptune on 12 December 1915.
A computer re-imaging of the block of three handwritten letters and words to the left of the second entry: “20 Dec 15; S165 Neptune”, after much study, revealed: “Hosp S China”. This would be His Majesty’s Hospital Ship China (HMHS China) indicating HMS Neptune’s S165 return recorded Francis had been transferred to a hospital ship from Neptune on 20th December 1915, after just eight days on Neptune. He was apparently hurt or had succumbed to illness very early on.
The Imperial War Museum records: “The liner China was built for the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company by Messrs. Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast. The ship was remodelled a Naval Hospital Ship by Messrs Lester & Perkins Ltd, at the Royal Albert Docks for the Admiralty. She was employed as Naval Hospital Ship No 6 from August 1914 to February 1919, and was visited by HM the King during his visit to the Grand Fleet in June 1916”.
In the remarks column it was recorded his records were “Tr Pens 6.3.1916” [Transferred to Navy Pensions office 6th March 1916]; and then “Tr M.O.P. 29. 8. 1917” [Transferred to Ministry of Pensions 29th August 1917]. The Ministry of Pensions was created in 1916 to administer the pensions paid to former service personnel. After being discharged from active service, a Navy pensioner might have had to attend medical examination boards to have the level of his disability re-assessed and the amount of pension payment would eventually have been settled at a permanent figure, based on the medical assessment and afterwards paid by the Ministry of Pensions through the General Post Office.
There is no record of what caused Francis to be invalided out. It could have been as a result of an accident on board ship; enemy action; or sickness. The National Archives holds only sample case files of Navy pensions for the First World War.
If you cannot get to Kew to see the ship’s logs, I can recommend contacting Lee Richards at
Lee Richards provides a document copying service at Kew very economically. I believe the Ship’s logs held at Kew that he would need to see are:
Records of HM Ships; ADM 53 - Admiralty, and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Ships' Logs; ADM 53/52399 - NEPTUNE Dec 1915 and ADM 53/52400 - NEPTUNE Jan 1916.
ADM 53 is the catalogue series at The National Archives (Admiralty series 53) and the number following identifies the actual document.
Thank you, Mike, for offering to donate to the Royal British Legion, although it now appears a Royal Navy charity might be more appropriate. They are listed here:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Mike Winkett
Date: Sunday 8th May 2016 at 8:58 PM

Dear Alan,

Thank you so much for your usual most informative and comprehensive reply, which will now stand me in good stead when researching other persons in my family tree with naval connections.

It was interesting your mentioning the Battle of Jutland in your reply, as I have just discovered that Francis' younger brother, Vincent William Grantham, died during this battle on 31 May 1916 whilst serving aboard HMS Invincible. Vincent's Regimental No. was J/26012. You mentioned that Francis' prefix "M" in front of his Regimental No. indicated he was an electrician or artificer, but what did the "J" prefix indicate in the case of Vincent? Is there a list anywhere that I could refer to for any other prefixes I may come across in future?

Thank you for bringing to my attention details of his medal entitlement, including the Silver War Badge. On Francis' "UK, Naval Medal And Award Rolls" record, in the "How issued or disposed of" column is recorded "S" and I was curious what this meant. Again for future reference, are you able to say to what the other abbreviations recorded against other seamen allude - e.g. "FR", "BR" and "By A.M." Also in this column, there sometimes is written what appear to be the names of ships, although from your previous reply, I suppose these "ships" could also relate to shore establishments.

If you could clarify these additional points I raise, I would be most grateful. I will send my donation to one of the Royal Navy charities as you suggest. Thank you once again, Alan, for a brilliant service you provide!

Kindest regards,
Mike Winkett
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 9th May 2016 at 8:08 PM

Dear Mike,
Thank you for contributing to a Navy charity.
Sailors in the Royal Navy had “official numbers” while soldiers in the First World War had “regimental numbers”. In 2006, the tri-service Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) introduced a system whereby each new member of any of H.M. services received an eight digit number beginning with 3.
Historically in the Royal Navy, ships and men were allocated to one of three Port Divisions. They were abbreviated P; Portsmouth, C; Chatham, and D; Devonport; or sometimes Po; Ch; and Dev. For administrative purposes the Royal Navy was split into three Port Divisions, and every ship, man, and gun etc. belonged to one Division. Ships were allocated to a Home Port, but Boys were allowed to choose their Port Division when they completed their training. Vincent Grantham trained at Devonport, but a “P” at the top left of his record indicates his Port Division was Portsmouth.
The Admiralty identified some trade groups with another pre-fix letter: J was for ordinary seaman and signallers; K for stokers; L for cooks; and M for artificers and artisans. The prefixes did vary over the decades.
I know of no definitive guide to the prefixes as each one has to be read in its own context and period in time. There is an article on the history of Royal Navy numbering and pre-fixes at:[RATINGS].htm
In the Navy medal rolls, the abbreviations are numerous. Fortunately, they generally become
apparent and the unusual ones have been listed at the end of The National Archives’ guide to medals. Scroll down the page at:
The despatch of medals was recorded to show how the medals had been issued or disposed of. Initials were used to indicate the recipient: “S” meant to “self” meaning the man himself at his home address, which indicated he was alive and no longer serving. FR was father; BR, brother; MR, mother, who would have been the named next-of-kin, indicating the man had been killed or had since died. The medals were sent to the next-of-kin named in the man’s will. This fact was noted on the roll with a Casualty Index number (I.C. for: Index, Casualty) suffixed with the year of death: in this case: I.C. 3972/1916. The number led to the man’s will in the Naval Records for Wills. The National Archives says these references are now obsolete and lead to no other document. “By A.M.” implied the man had transferred from the Royal Naval Air Service to the Royal Air Force at its formation on 1st April 1918 and consequently the medals were issued by the Air Ministry and not the Admiralty.
Where a ship is named, the medals were sent to that ship as being the recipient’s address; in other words the sailor was still serving in the Royal Navy when the medals were issued.
On service records, DD meant “discharged; dead”. It seems rather abrupt, but the record had to show what happened to a man and his method of discharge or transfer to pension or to a commission or the R.A.F.. “DD” in this case should not be confused with “Discharged with Disgrace”. Discharged “Shore” (S) was not a punishment but was the normal method of dispensing with the services of ratings and other ranks whose retention was undesirable because of unsuitability or for reasons largely beyond their own control. Discharged SNLR was for services no longer required. This was not a punishment and was intended to prevent re-enlistment. It did affect a man’s civilian employment prospects.
R or “Run” indicated the man had deserted.
HMS Impregnable was a school for boy sailors at Devonport and was the collective name of the ship or ships that became the actual training vessel. HMS Howe (1860) would have been the actual ship that undertook the role of Impregnable in 1913. HMS Powerful, on which Vincent served, became the “Impregnable” in 1919. Vincent’s other ships were warships.
Vincent was rated Ordinary Seaman on his 18th birthday on August 2nd 1915 and signed for 12 years’ continuous adult service, having served two years as a Boy Second Class (from 18th July 1913) and Boy First Class while on HMS Powerful (dated 17th February 14).
He had a month at Victory I at Portsmouth in July 1914 before joining Invincible aged 17-and-one-day, on 3rd August 1914 as the Royal Navy mobilized for war which was declared at 11 p.m. GMT (midnight in German) the following day, August 4th 1914.
The absence of three days’ service towards pension from 11th to 15th December 1915 appears to have been explained by “3 days [in] cells” on Invincible which was in the South Atlantic.
H.M.S. Invincible was a battlecruiser that participated in the Battle of Heligoland Bight (28th August 1914); the Battle of the Falkland Islands (8th December 1914) and the Battle of Jutland, where she was sunk at 6:34pm on 31st May 1916. Vincent Grantham qualified for the 1914-15 Star for service at sea between August 4th and December 31st 1915; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (The 1914 Star was for service in France and Belgium between 5th August and 22nd November 1914.)
War Gratuity was a sum of money, based on length of service, which would have been paid to the family of the deceased sailor. War Gratuities were introduced in 1919, so the man’s record had to be traced for the sum to be calculated and then paid. War Gratuities usually amounted to a few pounds.
The reference N.P. 4060/1916 referred to the notification of death at sea by the Naval Personnel division of the Admiralty and no longer leads to any further documentation.
Vincent Grantham wrote home to his parents in Walsall from the Invincible. His letter was published in the Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle on 23rd January 1915: “Falkland Isles Battle; Walsall Sailor’s description of the Fight - I expect you will have heard by now of our great and glorious victory over the German fleet. We came all the way from the dear homeland to avenge the loss of HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth and we did it grand. On Tuesday December 8th we started coaling at 5 a.m. and at 8-10 it was reported two small German cruisers were in sight, so we cast off the colliers and raised steam and proceeded to sea in chase of them. In the forenoon we sighted five all told including two large cruisers with four funnels. The first cruiser we fired at was the Leipsic and we set her on fire fore and aft. We left our small cruisers to finish their cruisers off. Next we opened fired on the Scharnhorst at a range of 7,000 yards. I don’t know if we hit or not. Then we put on speed and gradually drew nearer them. It was a very hard struggle indeed. She fell on her side and sank, and we never had any time to save a single soul off her. Our attention was next drawn to the Gneisenau . I think we riddled her bow and stern before we saw her go but we managed to save 84 men and seven officers, besides 14 who died the same night. And I might tell you I shall never forget the sight of seeing 900 men in the water crying for help. I even picture it now when I shut my eyes. Although we were hit we never lost a man, although our commander got hit in the foot with a splinter of one of the projectiles. He was a hero. He was walking round the ship all the while the battle was on scouting for fires - Seaman Grantham also fought in the Battle of Heligoland Bight” (© Local World Ltd./Trinity Mirror courtesy British Library Board via British Newspaper Archive online).
The same newspaper on 10th June 1916 reported: “Our Sailor Heroes: Seaman Vincent W. Grantham: A gallant young sailor who belongs to HMS Invincible is believed to have gone down with his vessel, as his parents Mr and Mrs Grantham of Rutter Street Walsall have had no news of him since the big sea fight. He was in Walsall on leave about a fortnight ago” (ibid).
A photograph of Vincent in Naval uniform was published in the Birmingham Gazette on 21st January 1915 with a brief caption stating his service in the Falklands (ibid)
The British Newspaper Archive online was searched with the exact phrase Vincent W. Grantham. Subscription or Pay per View from £6.95 for 500 credits.
Images can be enlarged and saved as a screen shot to your device using the snipping tool in Windows (Windows accessories in apps or: Start button, All Programs, Accessories, and then Snipping Tool). Use more than one snip for longer articles.
Good Hope and Monmouth had been lost in the German victory on 1st November 1914 off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Mike Winkett
Date: Tuesday 10th May 2016 at 11:33 AM

Dear Alan,

Thanks once again for all this wonderful information regarding Vincent Grantham. I hadn't got around to looking up all of his naval records when I last wrote to you, but I assume the ones you mention can all be found on Ancestry's website. However, I had traced reference to him on CWGC's website and note that his body was never recovered and that he is honoured at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Section 14.

It's good to have so much information about him and the letter you discovered written by him to his parents was especially moving; you can obviously tell from its tenor that he was very much affected by some of the sights he had witnessed during the course of battle - sights he found it difficult to get out of his head.

I really can't thank you enough for this information, but I do have a small offering in return for any of your Forum readers who believe they had relatives who died at Jutland aboard Invincible; the following web link provides a complete list of all Invincible's casualties (and a few survivors picked up by the Badger of the 1st Flotilla). The website also provides links to casualty lists for other Battleships, Battle Cruisers, Light Cruisers, Flotilla Leaders and Destroyers. Above the casualty lists for each ship appears a short extract from the Official History; "Naval Operations" by Sir Julian S. Corbett.1923. I think I need to add this book to my collection!
Here's the web link:

Now it's off to search for those newspaper articles you mentioned; it will be good to see a photograph of Vincent. I guess we may never know the reason why he spent 3 days in a cell whilst in the South Atlantic, but regardless of the reason, I think he died a hero - as indeed did all those serving aboard the Invincible on that fateful day, 31 May, 1916.

Thanks again, Alan.

Kindest regards,
Mike Winkett
Posted by: Kez {No contact email}
Location: Australia
Date: Saturday 7th May 2016 at 2:14 AM
Many thanks once again Alan! With appreciation, Kez
Posted by: Stefan Hay {Email left}
Location: Aylesbury
Date: Tuesday 3rd May 2016 at 8:47 PM
Dear Alan,

You recently kindly helped me with a query regarding my Great Uncle Cecil Brown. His Grandfather was John Brown who joined the Army on the 25th May 1846, at the age of 15 and was shown as underage. He attested as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery Regiment. In the 1851 Census he was stationed at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich Dockyard, Kent.

John Brown served in the Royal Artillery Regiment from 25th May 1846 until officially discharged after 24 years of service on 14th June 1870, this included 5 years and 4 months in Bermuda.

We do not, currently, know how John Brown met his wife Elizabeth Quantick from Ashcombe in Devon, or how they came to be living in Eston in the North East of England, although it would appear from his service record that John was involved in training volunteers on the coastal defence artillery battery.

We can't find a marriage record, or any information relating to why he would be based in Eston which doesn't seem to have a military base / barracks in the 1800s.

In 1866 Sergeant John Brown was presented with a military cane/staff with the following inscription: ‘Presented together with a purse of gold to Sergeant J. Brown C.B.R.A. by the members of No. Y Battery 1st N.R.Y.A.V.C. and friends as a token of respect Eston Junction March 27th 1866.’ We think N.R.Y.A.V.C. is the North Riding of Yorkshire Artillery Volunteer Company.

On his discharge from the Army in 1870, Sergeant John Brown, discharge no.2306, is serving in the 1st Division Coast Brigade Royal Artillery (C.B.R.A.).

On discharge his conduct is described as follows: “Completed service entitling him to pension. Conduct has been Very Good. He was, when promoted, in possession of one Good Conduct Badge and would had he not been promoted have been now in possession of First Good Conduct Badge.”

However, his record also states: “He has been once convicted by Courts Martial and in addition his name is three times recorded in the Regimental Defaulters Book.”

I was wondering if you could give any advice on how to find his marriage record which we think might be a military wedding? Also any information on Eston Junction and the connection to the Royal Artillery? The C.B.R.A. or Y Battery 1st N.R.Y.A.V.C.? Finally is it possible to find out why he had a Court Martial and why he was recorded in the defaulters book?

Thanks and kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 4th May 2016 at 9:23 PM

Dear Stefan,
John Brown served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
There is no service record as such to show in which units he served, and when, although muster books might have survived at The National Archives, Kew, but would require pulling off the shelves in person to search. In the 1851 census he was shown as a gunner and driver with the 10th Battalion Royal Artillery stationed at the Woolwich Dockyard and Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, which was the 10th Battalion’s home and headquarters. This 10th Battalion had been formed in 1847 to replace an older 10th Battalion (History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, p.185). On 1st April 1859, the Royal Artillery abandoned the designations of Company, Troop, and Battalion, and replaced them with “Brigade” and “Battery”. 10th Brigade R.A. was one of eight Garrison Brigades each of which had companies that saw individual service at Home and overseas, so the 10th Battalion R.A. was not necessarily all in one place at one time. There is no obvious record to show in which Company John Brown served. Garrison-service by companies overseas was rotated every six years including long sea voyages. The typical strength of a Garrison Brigade was 24 Officers, 31 N.C.O.s, eight Buglers or Drummers, and 614 rank and file; with a total garrison strength of 771. A company detachment was commanded by a captain with a subaltern; three sergeants, one corporal and three bombardiers with a trumpeter and seventy-six gunners.
The 10th Battalion R.A. was based at Woolwich but had companies stationed at Dover in 1846; Purfleet in 1847; Chatham in 1849; Woolwich in 1849; in 1850 a Sergeant Wagstaff was recruiting as far afield as Berwick.
Captain St George’s Company of the 10th Battalion R.A. sailed for Ceylon in August 1851. On October 12th 1851 Captain F. Woodhouse’s Company of the 10th Battalion sailed from Portsmouth on the transport “Chatham” to the West Indies. Another company sailed for Barbados in October 1851. In 1856 individuals volunteered for service at Crimea while others were in readiness to sail for Canada and Nova Scotia. In 1857 a company went to India at the time of the siege of Lucknow. In 1858, 21 men and their families sailed for New Zealand while a sergeant and 30 men sailed for Malta to reinforce the Artillery garrisons there. It is possible John Brown went to Bermuda in October 1851, although there are records of a detachment of the 10th Battalion R.A. being in Bermuda as convict guards in 1847 (Letters from individuals on matters related to Bermuda. Thomas Gardiner, 10th Battalion of the Royal Artillery (advance of salary, rations on passage for his family, declines appointment of convict guard); U.K. National Archives CO 37/120).
Bombardier John Brown was court-martialled on 14th June 1853. His punishment was merely to be reduced in rank to Gunner for eight months before he was re-appointed Bombardier, so his offence was feasibly conduct unbecoming for a junior N.C.O.. It is unlikely any record of a local court martial has survived. The National Archives says: “The regimental court martial was used for ranks other than commissioned officers who were charged with lesser offences. They may be noted in war diaries, but no records were sent to the Judge Advocate General’s Office. Some of the records of these courts may survive among the records preserved by individual regiments”. See:
Entries in the defaulters’ book would have been for relatively trivial offences such as being absent from parade or returning to barracks late. He would have had five (not “first”) good conduct badges had he not been promoted to sergeant as G.C. badges were for private soldiers and lance-corporals only because good conduct was expected naturally of a sergeant. He was awarded Good Conduct pay (an extra penny a day) on five occasions between 1855 and 1870, although he would have lost a G.C. badge each time he defaulted. A G.C. badge could be re-instated after a period of good behaviour.
The North Riding of Yorkshire Artillery Volunteer Corps originated in 1860 when it was raised at Guisborough by a Navy man, Admiral Chaloner. Their first guns were 32 and 64 pounders supplemented by an old cannon captured at Sebastopol. The H.Q. moved within a few years of 1860 from Guisborough to Middlesbrough. The township of Eston comprised 2,252 acres of land, exclusive of the foreshore, and included Eston, Grangetown, and Eston Junction. Eston Junction was specifically in the north of the township of Eston, situated between Grangetown and South Bank, four miles from Middlesbrough, and was locally known as “Branch End”. South Bank referred to the south bank of the River Tees and the parish of the same name which sprang up there with the creation of the steel works in 1852/53. Sgt Brown was at Eston Junction so it appears he was a staff instructor with the Volunteers who presented him with the cane, perhaps when he left them. (See below)
The South Gare at Redcar was constructed after 1861 using blast furnace slag and a South Gare coastal battery was built between 1863 and 1887 to defend the Tees shoreline. It was later (1902) equipped with two 4.7 inch Quick-firing and two 6 pounder Quick-firing guns.
In 1899 the Royal Artillery was reorganised. The Royal Field Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery became one branch, while Coastal defences, siege, mountain and heavy artillery units merged to form the Royal Garrison Artillery. The North Riding Artillery Volunteers became part of the Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers) and had a drill hall in York Street, Eston, with a second battery based at Grangetown. When the Territorial Army was formed in 1908 it became known as the Northumbrian (North Riding) R.G.A. and formed part of the Divisional Troops of the Northumbrian Division under Northern Command. One coastal defence company was based at The Drill Hall, Grange Road West, Middlesbrough. The Northumbrian (North Riding) R.G.A had one battery of Quick-firing 4.7 guns and its own ammunition column; two guns A, B and D sub-section at Middlesbrough, one gun C sub-section at Thornaby; with the Head Quarters at the Drill hall, Grange Road West, which was a plain building of white brick, erected in 1880 (Drill Hall Project).

In an 1858 reorganisation of the Royal Artillery, the Coast Brigade was formed to man the Coast Defence Batteries and fortifications. The 1891 reorganisation abolished the Coast Brigade. The “Establishment of the British Army” in 1871 recorded the Royal Artillery had a Coast Brigade of ten batteries, one of which was at Tynemouth Castle. The Nos. 1 & 2 Division Coast Brigades of the Royal Artillery were part of Northern Command which had H.Q. at York. Records of the Ordnance Office, Military Branch, Coast Brigade are held at The National archives at Kew in WO 69, although they date mainly from the 1870s, after Sgt Brown was discharged.

John and Elizabeth’s first daughter, Jane Brown, was christened at Eston, Yorkshire, on 11th November 1862. ( : accessed 3 May 2016). The existing parish church of Christ Church, Eston, was not constructed until 1884, so Jane Brown would have been baptised in the old church of St. Helena, Eston, which was one of the many churches belonging to Guisborough Priory. John Arthur Brown was christened on 23rd March 1864; Charles on 27th September 1866; Henry, 20th September 1868/69; Elizabeth, 12th August 1870. In 1871 the family lived at 14 Clay Lane Cottages, Eston, where John worked as a store and time keeper at the ironworks, probably Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. John’s wife, Elizabeth, was recorded as being born in 1826 at Ashcombe, Devon. This could be Elizabeth Quantick, baptised 26 March 1826 at Mamhead, Devonshire, the daughter of Thomas and Eleanor, whose siblings were baptised at Ashcombe. Or, it could be Elisah [Eliza]Morrice Quantick, daughter of James and Mary baptised 6th November 1825 at Ashcombe.
In the 1851 census there was an Eliza Quantic (sic) who was an unmarried servant aged 28, born Ashcombe, Devonshire, working as a nursery maid for an officer’s widow, Lucy Short, at Cowleymoor, Tiverton. The 1861 census has not yet revealed to me the family members of John and Elizabeth.
In 1881 Elizabeth was running a grocer’s shop at North Street, Normanby. She had three sons and two daughters at home. A John Brown, born Woolwich 1831 was an inmate at Northallerton Jail in 1881. The “Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough” of Friday 25th March 1881 reported a case at Langbaurgh Police Court, Guisborough, of John Brown, an [army] pensioner and property owner of North Street, South Bank, charged with beating his wife, Elizabeth Brown, by thrashing her when he returned home and threatening her with a chopper. He was tried in his absence. The court heard the couple had been married twenty years but in the last five years John had treated his wife very badly, despite once having signed the pledge at her request. A daughter, Jane, was a witness and said she believed her mother’s life had been in danger. John Brown was sentenced to two months in prison (Daily Gazette Friday 25 March 1881, Middlesbrough © British Library Board via British Newspaper Archive).
In 1891 John Brown, widower, was a retired grocer living at 1 Napier Street, Normanby, with two sons, John Arthur and Henry, both crane drivers, and a daughter, Elizabeth. John Brown’s wife, Elizabeth appears to have died in the first quarter of 1886 at Middlesbrough.
John appears to have died in the first quarter of 1897 at Middlesbrough.
Indeed, The “Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough” of Tuesday 16th March 1897 published the family deaths notice: “BROWN - March 14th at the residence of his son-in-law Charles Bonner, 41 Upper Graham-street, South Bank, John Brown, age 66, formerly drill instructor to the 1st N.Y.A.V. Interment on Wednesday 2-30. Friends please accept this intimation” (Daily Gazette, Tuesday 16th March 1897, Middlesbrough, © British Library Board via British Newspaper Archive).
The National Probate Calendar recorded John Brown as a gentleman of South Bank who died March 14th 1897. Probate was granted to John Arthur Brown, crane driver; and Jane Bonner (wife of Charles Bonner).
It has proved impossible to identify a marriage of John Brown to Elizabeth Quantick (or variants) at Home in GRO England, Wales Scotland and Irish Civil Marriages) or overseas in Armed Forces Marriages 1796-2005. She would have married about 1860/61 going by the date of her first child being baptised in 1862 and the fact she had been married 20 years in 1881. However, she was old enough to have been married previously and may have married John Brown in the surname of a previous marriage. Certainly, in those days, if was necessary for an Army widow to re-marry within the regiment in order to keep a roof over her head. I did wonder about the 11 year old “domestic servant”, Mary Spencer, born Middlesbrough, recorded with the Brown family in the 1871 census, but it appears from the 1861 census she might be the daughter of Alfred and Casia [Keziah] of Middlesbrough.
Elizabeth can also be Eliza; Elisa; Betty, or Betsy.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Stefan Hay
Date: Wednesday 4th May 2016 at 10:17 PM

Wow Alan!
This is absolutely fantastic. I don't know how you do it, but the information about John's time in prison etc. answers so many questions the family have had for years. Thank you so much. I always donate to the RBL and support other Armed Forces charities including the Royal Artillery via my Livery Company, but this year will be even more generous.
Thanks again and kind regards,
Posted by: Mike Galloway {Email left}
Location: Ipswich
Date: Tuesday 3rd May 2016 at 1:49 PM
Dear Sir,

I wondered if you could inform me about the war records of my late Grandfather, William Herbert Meadows, an Ipswich man, born in 1893 or 1894, who died in January 1987.He served in the Royal Artillery as a Corporal in the First World War, and had the service number 145996. I believe he was conscripted in Ipswich, in 1914, but I'm not sure. I would like to know details of his military service, and where and when he served on the Western Front. He was wounded, losing a thumb during a winter campaign. I am in possession of his medals, two in number (British War Medal 1914-18; The Allied War Medal). Assuming you are able to proceed, I would ask to be informed of what this research would cost as I have limited funds available. Please email me if you can undertake this research and give me an estimate of costs. With thanks.

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 3rd May 2016 at 7:43 PM

Dear Mike,
No individual service record has survived for William Herbert Meadows so it is not possible to state his military service during the war. Most records from the period were destroyed in the London Blitz of September 1940.
An army medal roll (RGA/183 B Page 8325) recorded a William Herbert Meadow (with no s) served as a corporal, 145996, in the Royal Garrison Artillery with 296 Siege Battery. 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 abroad until some time after January 1st 1916.
Conscription was introduced in March 1916. 296 Siege Battery R.G.A. went to France in November 1916 and served under 4th Army.
The Battery’s war diary can be downloaded from The National Archives website for a fee of £3.45. See:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Mike Galloway
Date: Wednesday 4th May 2016 at 10:30 AM

Dear Alan,

I am most grateful for the excellent service you have provided. I have previously found it extremely difficult to obtain information on my Grandfather's war record during the First World War, and it was rarely spoken of during his lifetime. The information you have provided enables me now to research further. Many thanks for a first-class service. Invaluable....

With kind regards,

Posted by: Stefan Hay {Email left}
Location: Aylesbury
Date: Saturday 30th April 2016 at 8:45 AM
Hi Alan,
I am hoping you can help. My Great Uncle Cecil Brown was a Gunner in the RFA Reg.No. 27272 and served in RGA Reg.No. 211747. I inherited his WW1 medals Victory, British and 1914-1915 Star, but also his Military Medal.

I found his medal card at Kew and have the original RGA record office form sent with the Military Medal, but I have been unable to find any record e.g. citation, report or Gazette entry relating to how he got the Military Medal.

Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks and best regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 30th April 2016 at 3:03 PM

Dear Stefan,
Citations for the Military Medal were given to the soldier with the medal. Citations were not published nationally. The awards were promulgated, in the form of lists, in the official government publication The London Gazette. The award to Cecil Brown was listed in The London Gazette on August 20th 1919 on page 10566 in the second supplement to issue number 31512 published on 19th August 1919. The introductory paragraph to the list was published on page 10558. See:
The publication date gives no indication of when the award was earned.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Stefan Hay
Date: Saturday 30th April 2016 at 3:23 PM

Dear Alan,
Thank you very much you found the Gazette entry which I have been looking for. That's great!
Kind regards,
Posted by: Kez {No contact email}
Location: Australia
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 5:52 AM
Hi Alan, just would like some advise from you please. I am researching a Lorenzo Bellizzi who I believe was in the Royal Navy in 1881. Where would I find any information on him please? And did Malta have it's own Navy?
Many thanks for your time, Cheers Kez
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 11:11 AM

Dear Kez,
The 1881 census recorded Lorenzo Bellizzi as a 30 year old married lamp trimmer on HMS “Thunderer” in Malta Harbour. He was born at Valetta, Malta. A Lorenzo Bellizzi, born at Valetta on 12th May 1850 enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1878 as a bandsman. His service record is held at the UK National Archives in Catalogue reference ADM 188/125/105211. A copy can be downloaded for a fee of £3.45 from:
It is also available on the subscription website. It will show which ships he served on between various dates.
Lorenzo Bellizzi had previously served as a volunteer in the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, the island defence force.
Malta has been under the control of numerous peoples since the Phoenicians, some three thousand years ago. From medieval times it was controlled by the Knights of Malta until it was captured by Napoleon in 1798. At the Peace Treaty of Paris in 1814, Malta passed to the British who controlled the island until its independence on 21 September 1964. From 1814 to the 1970s the island was served by the Royal Navy which maintained a Mediterranean station in order to protect its seaways to the Suez Canal and beyond and to check he growth of the Italian navy, the Regia Marina. Malta declared itself a republic on 13th December 1974. It negotiated a defence agreement with the Crown which expired on 31 March 1979. Since April 1973 the island has maintained the Armed Forces of Malta which has a naval squadron.
See also:
With kind regards,
Posted by: Julie {Email left}
Location: Horsham
Date: Thursday 28th April 2016 at 11:02 AM
Dear Alan,

You have been very helpful in the past with inquiries about my family members that served in WW1.

Could you help me with another matter that isn't WW1 related, but army terminology in WW2?

I have just found a diary my dad wrote detailing his activities from 1st Jan-31st Dec 1944 and I have decided to write a blog detailing the whole diary. The problem is, is that its a Lett's pocket diary and the writing is small and sometimes abbreviated.

Could you help me with any of these abbreviations:

M5 Are these some sort of army vehicle?


B. R .O

He also keeps mentioning 'scheme', at least that 's what it looks like. eg. 'Scheme returns'. This word is mentioned quite a few times.

'Fire piquet'

The word Sycamore keeps cropping up, but I have suspicions that it is a pub, unless you know otherwise!

CB cropped up a few times, but I soon realised that it meant 'confined to barracks'!!

If you can help, that would be great, if not I understand,

Kind regards,

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 28th April 2016 at 7:48 PM

Dear Julie,
Military abbreviations are best understood in the context of the writing, and might vary between the branch of service (Royal Navy, R.A.F., Army) so I can only make helpful suggestions for some of them. Abbreviations could be written or spoken and were constantly being added to, especially as technical innovations progressed, or fell into dis-use. In January 1942, when the Unites States Army first arrived in Britain, abbreviations were changed to avoid confusion and misunderstandings between the two nations’ forces. For example, the British “Zero hour” was replaced with the American “H Hour” to indicate the start-time of an attack or forward movement. Hence: “D Day” for the day of invasion. Abbreviations and acronyms would have been easily understood in local use, such as amongst infantry soldiers or engineers, but often not understood beyond their specialized context. Some abbreviations fell out of use, such as the E1 referring to the sequential numbering of the E Class Submarines which ceased to be in service after 1922. After 1922, E1, for example, might have been used to define a map grid-square; refer back to the E Class submarine; or, from 1936, the suffix of an A13 tank manufactured by Nuffield Mechanisations and Aero Ltd known as the Cruiser Mark III Tank, with models numbered as the A13-E1 or the A13-E3, where E originally stood for “experimental”. From 1928 to 1934, both Vickers and the Royal Ordnance Factory at Woolwich produced versions of the A6 tank which were known as: A6E1, A6E2 and A6E3, but these were the only three tanks built and production ceased. Then another model of tank known as the Medium Mark III was produced with the vehicles designated Medium III E1, E2 and E3. The three Mark IIIs were taken into use by the HQ of the Tank Brigade in 1934.There was also an E1 light mortar made in India. “E” could also refer to Echelon, which was a formation of troops, one beyond the other, which could be described as: a fighting echelon, support echelon; forward echelon or rear echelon; or they could be numbered (E1) or lettered “A Ech”. The Officer in Charge of 2nd Echelon would be abbreviated to O2E. There were also echelons for the repair of vehicles, so a base repair depot could also be known as “fourth echelon maintenance”.
In the context of tanks, the Light Tank M5 was nick-named the “Honey”, seemingly after a British driver said: “She’s a honey” when concluding his first experience of controlling one. Provided to British tank units by America from 1942 under the lend-lease programme, the M5 tank in British service had twin Cadillac V-8 engines and was a derivative of the American M3 Stuart tank.
“C.B.” was properly the form of light punishment known as “confinement to barracks”; so a man would say he had been confined to barracks.
“Bty” with a capital initial was Battery as in an artillery Battery which was the company-level sized unit forming part of an artillery Brigade. A Brigade was the basic tactical unit of the field artillery. Without the capital initial, “bty” stood for battery, as in vehicle battery.
“B.R.O.” could stand for a variety of things or people. In the Royal Navy in 1945 it stood for British Routing Officer. In the army it could have been a reporting officer or range officer or it could stand for Battery or Battalion Routine Orders. Routine Orders were posted daily, before noon, and were the printed instructions issued about non-operational matters of day-to-day affairs such as allotting individual soldiers to particular administrative duties; details of parades; church services; meal times and so on. The orders might be read-out on parade or pinned to notice boards and it was each man’s duty to be familiar with them.
A “scheme” was what would be called today an “exercise”. It was a plan of action or a manoeuvre. So if on Thursday a battery or battalion was to practice attacking a strong-point; the scheme of things would be that “A” Company would advance at 10 p.m. followed by “B” Company at 10.20 p.m. with “C” Company in reserve. The enemy would be played by “D” Company who would be in position by 9.30 p.m.; and so on. The scheme might end at 2 a.m..
“Scheme returns” might be the physical return of those men involved at 2 a.m.; or a paper return (an administrative form) stating how much fuel and blank ammunition was expended during the scheme.
The noun “scheme”, or a “scheme of manoeuvre”, was a definite military expression used during the Second World War to refer to “a fully-planned exercise or manoeuvre which set out a commander’s plan for subordinate units to accomplish a mission”, as defined in “British Military Terminology”, Military Intelligence Service Special Series No. 13, dated Washington, May 15th 1943; whereas, more recently, both the noun and the verb “scheme” have acquired a taint of planning something devious or intending to do something that is wrong, although its correct meaning of a systematic arrangement is still used as in “colour scheme” or “pension scheme” or the layout of a housing development.
A “Fire Piquet” (pronounced “picket”) was a variation of “picket” which in military parlance was a small group of soldiers or an individual detailed to undertake a specific task. In this case, the fire piquet was the patrol detailed to watch for any fire; sound an alarm; and begin tackling the blaze, often with a hand water-cart and hoses, or stirrup pump and sand. The Fire Piquet could be mobile, such as patrolling and watching for the fall of incendiary bombs; or static, sitting in the guard-room and waiting for the sergeant-major to set fire to a packing case at the far side of the camp at two in the morning and testing the reaction of the piquet. Picket duty could last 24 hours or a week, depending on the camp and local circumstances.
I cannot think of a military term for Sycamore other than the Bristol Type 171 Sycamore helicopter, but that was not flown until 1947. I note there are pubs named the Sycamore Tree but there was also a Sycamore Club in a corrugated iron hut behind the Free Church in Amersham, which between 1940 and 1946 was operated by volunteers as a canteen for servicemen between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. serving tea, cakes and sandwiches. A modern version for the elderly is still run by the Free Church in Amersham under the name “Sycamore Club”.
I hope this helps you put the abbreviations into context. If not, let me know what the wording appears to be and we’ll have another go.
Any mistakes are entirely mine.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Julie
Date: Thursday 28th April 2016 at 9:36 PM

Dear Alan,

Thank you so much for your detailed reply it has answered all of my questions. The word Sycamore kept cropping up and I was baffled, I Googled it several times but couldn't find any information. However, you are quite right as he mentions 'Amersham', and also 'canteen' and Sycamore on several occasions. The other words often used were 'scheme' and 'piquet', now I know exactly what these words are referring to.

I started typing the blog verbatim, but now I'm up to the beginning of July I've started scanning the pages as the entries are longer. From July to December after landing in Normandy, he travels up through France, Belgium and then Holland.

I've never written a blog before and it's still a work in progress, but if you want to take a look here is the link:

As this is a WW1 forum I wasn't sure if you would be willing to answer my question, I'm so grateful that you have as it has been such a have a wealth of knowledge,

Thanks again,

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 11:09 AM

Dear Julie,
Congratulations on the blog.
I have now realised what E1, E2 and E3 were. I was charmed by the entry for June 7th 1944 “saved another girl from the Yanks. Fish suppers then home.” The cardboard sign “frying tonight” displayed in the windows of fish-and-chip shops was a wartime innovation to announce to the public the availability of fried fish later in the day. Fish and chips were not rationed and were known as “Good Companions” in the 1940s but they were not always available and depended on local deliveries, announced in the shop window.
“Played W.L.A. girl T.T. before leaving canteen” suggests a challenge to table tennis with a Women’s Land Army girl [29 June 1944].
“Serg. mens?? fatigues” would be fatigue duties in the Sergeants’ Mess (washing-up). A pellet range was a practice range for the guns (May 22). The photograph of Rose appears to show her in Land Army or Women’s Voluntary Services pullover and hat. Transcribing a year’s diary is an arduous effort but it would be worth the perseverance because you begin to query, and remember every entry and then you learn so much more than glimpsing over the days’ entries. A 1944 diary is a rare possession.
Having read through the images, I am now certain that E1, 2 and 3 are Royal Artillery gun tractor vehicles known as a “Quad”. This photo shows one with the number A2:
The letter probably refers to a Battery; the number to the vehicle. 19 May 1944: “E3 now on road”. 6 July 1944: “Stan’s V[ehicle] loaded on [SS] Empire Deed in morning, my E3 in afternoon”. SS Empire Deed was a cargo vessel which plied between Southend and the Seine Bay in July 1944. It is interesting to read that security was increasing (and pubs closing) on the approach to June 6th 1944.
I am sure the pubs he visited are still there, waiting for you to visit.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Julie
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 11:32 AM

Dear Alan,

Thank you for another interesting reply, I'm certainly learning a lot from this diary. Fortunately, all the young women he met were before he met my mum otherwise I would have been horrified!

I have found that I have to keep re reading it as there are bits that you can quite easily miss, like 2nd June...'bloke shut in chicken pen', I wonder what that was about.

When I first started reading, there were several entries about 'waterproofing', and I had no idea what he meant. Then after landing in Normandy, there's one entry 'de waterpoofing' then it dawned on me, the water proofing was to protect the vehicles from the sea when landing.

I have another 6 months to add, with photographs, I hope you will continue to read and I would appreciate any helpful comments,

Thanks again,

Reply from: Julie
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 4:51 PM

Hi Alan,

Last message I promise, just to say I took a look at the link you sent me:

It has a photograph of 51st Highland division in Italy, this was my dad's division (he was in Sicily and has an Italy Star medal) perhaps that was him in 1943.

His details were as follows:
5th Field Training Regiment RA
490 Battery 126 (H) Field Regiments RA.
51st Highland Division

The thing is, the only thing my dad told me about the war was that in Germany after the war had ended, he had to protect the German civilians from the Russians, I also know that he was at Belsen at one point (liberation of), so I don't actually know the dates etc of where he was. If only I had diaries for the whole time he was in the army and not just 1944!

Once again, thanks for the information,

Best regards


(Donation on it's way to Royal British Legion)
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 6:41 PM

Dear Julie,
Thank you for making a donation to the Royal British Legion.
The 5th Field Training Regiment R.A. was based at Connaught Barracks, Dover in 1939, although it might not have remained there.
51st Highland Division served in the U.K. until 23rd January 1940 when it crossed to France. After the evacuation of the B.E.F., the 51st Highland Division was captured in France on 12th June 1940.
126 Field Regiment R.A. was formed at the outbreak of war as part of the 9th Highland Infantry Division which was raised for wartime service as a sister division to the existing pre-war 51st Highland Division. After “Dunkirk” the 9th Division became the re-formed 51st Division on 7th August 1940. 125 Field Regiment R.A. was armed with twenty-four 25-pounder guns.
After a period in the U.K., the new 51st Division sailed to Egypt arriving 12th August 1942. On November 21st 1942 the 51st entered Libya and continued fighting in North Africa until 8th July 1943. It then sailed for the landing at Sicily on 10th July 1943 where it remained until 7th November 1943. It then sailed for England arriving on November 26th 1943. The Division then prepared for the anticipated “second front”. In June 1944 the Division crossed the Channel and fought in N.W. Europe where it remained until 31st August 1945. See:
The main battles of the 51st Division were fought at: El Alamein 23 October to 4 November 1942; Medenine, 6 March 1943; Mareth, 16 – 23 March; Akarit, 6 – 7 April; Enfidaville, 19 – 29th April; Tunis 5 – 12 May; The Landing in Sicily, 9 – 12 July 1943; Adrano, 29 July – 3rd August. Then: Bourguebus Ridge, 18 – 23 July 1944; Falaise 7 – 22 August; The Rhineland, 8 February – 10 March 1945; The Rhine, 23 March – 1 April 1945.
Another one from the diary: 27 June 1944 “H.G. Scheme” would be Home Guard Scheme, a training exercise from 9 p.m.; lasted all night, cold, wet and dog tired and no rations. On the next day he was “still on scheme” and got “shot” at Lavenham before getting back to camp about 2-30 p.m.. [At a guess, the Home Guard exercise was probably tasked with defending the new RAF Station Lavenham, home to the United States Air Force from March 1944, and Tony’s Battery would have been acting as the enemy].
With kind regards,
Reply from: Julie
Date: Saturday 30th April 2016 at 8:52 AM

Thank you so much Alan,

I will include this information with his medals which were 1939-45 Star Battle of Britain, Africa Star 8th Army or 1st Army of North Africa 1942-1943, Italy Star, France and Germany Star Atlantic, and War medal 1939-45 Oak Leaf. I found his regiment information on the leaflet which came with his medals (1116013 Driver IC).

Soon I will continue to scan his diary (holiday will delay this a bit) and then update with all of the information you have given me which is invaluable,

Best regards

Reply from: Julie
Date: Tuesday 17th May 2016 at 3:35 PM

Dear Alan,

If you are interested, I have now added the July 1944 part of my dad's diary.

12th, 18th and 21st are quite poignant. August to December to follow shortly,

Best regards,

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 18th May 2016 at 4:04 PM

Dear Julie,
It makes an interesting read.
Why not add some abbreviations and explanations?
T.L.C. would be “tank landing craft”; more properly “Landing Craft; Tank”: L.C.T.
B Ech is “B Echelon” which was the vehicle lines further to the rear of the guns that were themselves in “A Echelon” i.e. the guns were in the fighting line with armoured vehicles. B Echelon, further to the rear was also known as waggon lines and included non-armoured vehicles referred to as “soft-skinned” vehicles.
Gun and L: Gun and limber, which were towed behind the “Quad” Field Artillery Tractor.
“Dug out B- mess inside”: “B-” being a redacted swear word. In 1944 this was considered a fairly rude profanity, often made milder by changing it to "ruddy". A dug out provided with a meatal roof (July 15th) and a layer of straw bedding could be more comfortable than sleeping in the vehicles, until it flooded in the rain. It gave protection from air raids. Compared to 21st July: “Slept with Jack again in E1 [Quad numbered E1]. The vehicles would be sheltered in pits dug as slopes into the ground to provide protection from shellfire; with camouflage overhead to provide protection from air reconnaissance. When it rained, the pits became flooded.
Canteen: The first N.A.A.F.I. [Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes] canteens arrived with “canteen packs” selling cigarettes, razor blades, soap, matches, boot laces, tooth paste, shaving cream and letter cards. They arrived six days behind schedule because of the poor weather, hence the relevance of a mention in the diary when they eventually appeared for the men’s welfare: “including beer”.
15th July: “under enemy ob”: under enemy observation.
Colville: was probably Colleville-sur-Mer.
Canal Bridge: possibly “Pegasus Bridge”?
18th July: “Thousands of planes pass overhead”: Montgomery’s controversial “Operation Goodwood”, which aimed at breaking through the East and South-eastern areas of Caen was launched on 18th July 1944. The offensive began with a three-hour bombardment where 2,500 bombers dropped 6,000 tons of bombs, while the naval artillery and the ground artillery fired nearly 250,000 shells.
18th July: “Gun Quads got order to move. Harry Wait [Tony’s colleague] broke down so I took B[attery?] of Coxend’s gun and limber”.
July 19th: “London Bridge” was used during Operation Goodwood. See:
July 21st: “Heard of attempt on Hitler’s life”: This was the planting of a bomb on July 20th by Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg at Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenberg in East Prussia. Adolf Hitler escaped death after the bomb exploded at 12.42 p.m.. Hitler sustained minor burns and concussion. Von Stauffenberg and others were executed afterwards.
July 26th: “Told to expect 406 at 9 a.m.”. A “406 Inspection Parade” was a monthly inspection by an officer of the gun tractor from top to bottom. Road-worthiness, cleanliness, maintenance and every nut and bolt were checked followed by a brief road test. If there were more than a couple of faults the driver would be reported for negligence, although in reality he was told to get on with the job of fixing the faults. More serious defects were listed on a “406 Inspection Sheet” and the vehicle and sheet would be sent to the mechanics for repairs.
G.P.: gun position.
A.A.: anti-aircraft [fire]
Ack Ack: anti-aircraft fire. From First World War phonetic alphabet for A. (Ack) which was eventually replaced by Apple; then Able and today’s Alpha for A.
Typhoon: Hawker Typhoon single seat low-level interceptor aircraft armed with rockets.
26th July: “Gunners come down for rest!”: A sarcastic Army supposition that the boys in the waggon lines did all the work without rest, while the gunners who appeared to live the good life actually had the temerity to arrive in the rear for a rest.
29th & 30th July: Painting the Quad green in places and then black would be references to painting the vehicle in camouflage pattern.
I have been unable to identify the entry for 14th July: “Saw B[?] bomb go toward Jerry”.
Jerry: a diminutive term for German from the First World War, possibly derived from the style of their helmet which resembled an under-bed chamber-pot popularly referred to as a “jerry”.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Julie
Date: Wednesday 18th May 2016 at 4:19 PM

Thanks once again, I didn't know any of this. At the moment my printer is playing up, I have so much to add and I want to include as much of the information that you have supplied, it makes the whole thing much more interesting.

I still have August to December to add, along with photographs of more young ladies that he met along the way and photographs of Antwerp.

I'll keep you informed,

Best regards

Reply from: Julie
Date: Wednesday 18th May 2016 at 4:34 PM

Hi Alan, I've just taken a look at the link you have sent, crossing the London Bridge 18th July so much,

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 18th May 2016 at 8:59 PM

Dear Julie,
I look forward to reading August - December. I have researched my father's Second World War footsteps in Tunisia and Italy so it is interesting to put together the events in Normandy from a first hand witness.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Christine Hewitt {Email left}
Location: Wakefield
Date: Tuesday 26th April 2016 at 5:56 AM
Hi all
Have drawn a blank in my family history research and would be very grateful for any advice / information anyone can offer.
I have the photograph album from my father's parents who lived mainly in the Isle of Axholme area (now Lincolnshire).
In it is a photograph of a young soldier from World War 1 I believe.
On the back is handwritten Pt A. Barrett AOC (which I believe is Army Ordnance Corps) 112th S Company, No 027600, HM Gun Wharf, Granby Barracks, Devonport.
I think the cap badge confirms the AOC link.
I have searched for both A Barrett and A Barratt just in case but with no success.
Kind regards
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 26th April 2016 at 5:59 PM

Dear Christine,
A. Barrett was Private Arthur Barrett, 027600 Army Ordnance Corps. No individual service record has survived for him so it is not possible to provide any biographical information. An Army medal roll recorded he qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, so he would have served overseas during the First World War. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, he did not go abroad until some date after January 1st 1916. He was demobilized on 12th February 1920, a date which suggests he might have been conscripted later in the war, as most soldiers were demobilized early in 1919 while the most recent recruits served later. This means he might have been born about 1898 if he was a young man in the photo and had been conscripted at the age of 18.
The Company was probably 112 Supply Company A.O.C. However, it is not clear whether 112 Company served overseas or was permanently shore-based at Devonport, so it is not possible to state where or when Arthur Barrett saw his service abroad.
When overseas during the First World War, A.O.C. Companies were organised under an Assistant Director Ordnance Services within each army Division.
The Army Ordnance Corps supplied ammunition (ordnance) and repaired weapons and other equipment. In France and Flanders there was a complex and efficient logistic infrastructure centred on base depots with distribution organised along railways and rail-heads. Similar methods were used to support operations in the other theatres of war, including Italy, Gallipoli, Salonika, Palestine and Mesopotamia.
The Gun Wharf at Devonport dated from 1719 when the Board of Ordnance leased land from Sir Nicholas Morice in order to provide an expanded wharf for ships and storage for guns, powder; cannon balls and even cutlasses to the north of the then Devonport Dockyard. The adjacent “Morice Ordnance Yard” was establishment with workshops, offices and storehouses covering 20 acres and eventually passed to the Army and was known as “Gun Wharf”. Originally intended for storing guns and gunpowder for the Navy, all such peacetime Ordnance stores and Magazines were expanded during the First World War. See:
Granby Barracks dated from 1757 and had been modernised in the 1860s. The Barracks was named after Lt-General John Manners, Marquis of Granby.
The Ordnance Store Branch was renamed the Ordnance Store Corps in 1881 and became the Army Ordnance Corps in 1896, alongside the Army Ordnance Department. On 28th November 1918 the Army Ordnance Department was amalgamated into the Army Ordnance Corps. In recognition of its wartime achievements The Army Ordnance Corps was granted the prefix “Royal” by Royal Warrant printed in Army Orders on 27th November 1918.
The Royal Army Service Corps amalgamated with the Transportation Service of the Royal Engineers in 1965 to form the Royal Corps of Transport.
On 5th April 1993, the Royal Corps of Transport joined with other units to form the Royal Logistic Corps. Their museum is at:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Christine Hewitt
Date: Friday 29th April 2016 at 8:08 AM

Hi Alan
Did anyone ever tell you how amazing you are?
Many, many thanks for your time, dedication and effort.
Kindest regards
Posted by: Tony Walmsley {Email left}
Location: Lowestoft
Date: Sunday 24th April 2016 at 4:26 PM
Dear Alan,
My Father John Walmsley 201471 was posted to 3rd battalion Machine Gun Corps Heavy section which became 3rd battalion tank corps. He was in C company. I've found relevant war diaries but because he was other ranks no reference to him by name. Are there any record sources that might refer to him by name. He was not wounded or awarded and gallantry medals.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 24th April 2016 at 9:44 PM

Dear Tony,
Fortunately John Walmsley’s service record has survived amongst the burnt documents that were reclaimed after the bombing of the War Office repository in Arnside Street, London, on September 8th 1940. The documents are held at The National Archives at Kew in the series WO 363. Due to fire and water damage, they are too delicate to be handled and are consequently only available to the public on microfilm at Kew or, more conveniently, they can be downloaded from commercial websites for a comparatively small fee.
The records show John Walmsley’s service in France was with the 7th Battalion Tank Corps.
John Walmsley was born in Darwen, Lancashire. His father was James Edward Walmsley and they lived at 488 Blackburn Road, Darwen. On May 2nd 1916, John Walmsley was compulsorily conscripted at the stated age of 19 and was initially posted as a private soldier, number 38065, to 2nd Battalion Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps on May 19th 1916. The Heavy Section M.G.C. was formed in March 1916 at Bisley. On 14th November 1916 he was posted to the 3rd Battalion H.S. M.G.C. in the U.K..
On the night of May 24th 1917 John sailed from Southampton to Havre arriving the next morning with G Battalion, which was to become 7th Battalion Tank Corps, with the regimental number 201471. [From 27th/28th July 1917 the Heavy Section M.G.C. became the Tank Corps with a new badge]. John was graded for pay as a 1st Class Mechanic on 6th August 1917. On 24th June 1918 he was admitted to 30 Casualty Clearing Station for a week [reason unstated] [located at Wavrans-sur-l'Aa, Pas-de-Calais]. From 1st August 1918 he had a fortnight’s leave to the U.K.. On his return he was appointed Lance Corporal and soon afterwards acting Corporal. He was appointed First Class Tank Mechanic on 1st October 1918. He was promoted to Corporal on 27th December 1918. On 28th January 1919 John was admitted to hospital with a dislocated cartilage in his left knee. He was treated at No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples, before being returned to the U.K. on 15th February 1919 on the Hospital Ship “Jan Buydel” (sic) [probably the Belgian ship “Jan Breydel”, named after a 14th Century Flemish nationalist]. He was treated at Military Hospitals at Devonport and Exeter (while administered on paper by the Tank Corps Depot at Wareham) and nearer to home at Whalley [Queen Mary’s War Hospital]. After some convalescent home leave he was posted to the Central Workshop Training Centre, Tank Corps, at Wareham, before being administered by the Depot and passing out of the dispersal centre at Prees Heath Camp, Shropshire, for demobilization on 29th November 1919, when he was transferred to the Class Z Reserve that was for men who would be recalled if the Armistice with Germany did not hold. Service in the Z Reserve was deemed to have ended on March 31st 1920. He qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His military character was the highest category: “very good”; “honest, sober and reliable”.
His records are available, among other websites, from the Ancestry subscription website which is free to view at most large libraries. Libraries may charge for printing or downloading to a tablet. The records are difficult to read and would be better downloaded so they can be enlarged. From home, the website is economical, using pay-as-you-go (£6.95) to download the numerous pages. Search their military records using his name under both regimental numbers, with no year of birth.
See also:
The Tank Museum appears to hold war diaries and a war history for the G and 7th
Two other records survive online, but are of lesser interest. There is a single typed line on a medal roll that recorded John qualified for the British War Medal and Victory Medal with 7th Tank Corps. A medal rolls index-card recorded the same detail.
There exists an (expensive) antiquarian book: “Narrative History of "G" and 7th Tank Battalion (Compiled by a Committee of Officers) Gale and Polden; London, 1919.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Tony Walmsley
Date: Monday 25th April 2016 at 3:52 PM

Thank you so much for this. I had been going down the wrong track assuming that because he was in 3rd battalion Heavy Machine Gun Corps that he moved to 3rd or C battalion tank corps.

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