The World War Forum (Page 25)

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Posted by: Amanda Higgins {Email left}
Location: Manchester
Date: Tuesday 21st June 2016 at 12:07 PM
i am trying to find out my grandfathers father he fought in WW1 for the 21st battalion service engineers in Manchester .he did survive WW1 but we know absolutely nothing my father is on his own and has no surviving siblings or family .my great grandfather was Benjamin Baxter and was married to a Mary Ellen Baxter . their son my granddad was born 27/6/1915 and also fought in WW2 and would really appreciate any help. my grandfather and great grandfather were both called Benjamin Baxter thankyou
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 21st June 2016 at 8:12 PM

Dear Amanda,
Very few documents that have survived from the First World War record biographical information such as a man’s parents. The name of the unit you have suggested is not recognisable. The Manchester Regiment did have a 21st (Service) Battalion but there is no record of a Benjamin Baxter having served with them. Unfortunately, it is not possible to identify a man’s records from his name only.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Amanda Higgins
Date: Wednesday 22nd June 2016 at 5:40 AM

Thankyou for your help
Posted by: Martin Layzell {Email left}
Location: Tauranga New Zealand
Date: Monday 20th June 2016 at 11:28 PM
Hello Alan
I am wondering if you might help me with what may just be oral family history versus what appears to be facts? My grandfather 38660 Sgt Albert Tomkins served in the RFA 1914-19 (he also served as Bert in the RGA 1909-13). My late father (who was RA in WW2 and should therefore know about artillery) told me Grandad was on 18 pdrs. However, his records show he was in C85 bty which became D82 and I believe these were equipped with 4.5 “ howitzers.
Through the RFA War Diaries, I am trying to see where Grandad was, particularly during the battle of the Somme. My problem is, which battery was he in.
I have an Ancestry subscription so am able to view his records. I may not be reading them all correctly, however, and wondered if you might take a quick look and clarify for me.
I will donate (if that is OK by you) to the NZ Returned Services Assoc which, as I am sure you know, does the same job as the RBL.
Best regards
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 21st June 2016 at 8:10 PM

Dear Martin,
Both you and your father could be correct.
Albert Tomkins had served before the war ad so would have been re-called as a reservist on September 28th 1914. Initially he was posted to the Bedfordshire Regiment for 16 days before he was posted to the Royal Field Artillery at Colchester on 17th October 1914 where he trained with the 267th battery in the 5th Brigade. He was promoted to sergeant on 10th November 1914. In May 1915 he was posted to C Battery in 85th Brigade R.F.A. and then went to France in July 1915 with 85 Brigade R.F.A. (more properly LXXXV Brigade in Roman numerals). At that time 85 Brigade was a Howitzer Brigade of four batteries each of four 4.5 inch howitzers, having been re-organised from three to four batteries in February 1915. The Brigade served with 18th (Eastern) Division. For the Division’s engagements, see Chris Baker’s website, the Long, Long Trail:
In May 1916, the artillery brigades of all infantry divisions were reorganised. The all-howitzer brigades were discontinued, with their batteries of 4.5 inch howitzers then being divided between field brigades, in order to produce newly-configured mixed field brigades each of three field batteries of 18 pounders and one howitzer battery of 4.5 inch howitzers.
This move is reflected in Albert’s service record which recorded: C85 Brigade became D82 Brigade 24th May 1916. C Battery of 85 Brigade kept its howitzers and became the D Battery of howitzers with 82 Brigade (LXXXII Brigade) remaining with 18th Division.
So from May to October 1916, Albert was on the Somme with 82 Brigade R.F.A. supporting 18th Infantry Division.
On 26th October 1916 Albert was admitted to hospital with a sprain to his right knee. He was treated at No 9 Casualty Clearing Station (26th September 1916); No 6 General Hospital at Rouen (27th September to 18th October 1916) and No 2 Convalescent Depot, Rouen, from 18th to 25th September 1916). On being discharged from the convalescent depot he was sent to an artillery base depot on 25th October 1916, probably at Rouen. From there, on 31st October 1916, he was posted to D Battery 162 Brigade R.F.A. (CLXII Brigade). The battery was at Hébuterne in 33rd Division at the time. For 33rd Division engagements see:
From midday September 12th 1916, 162 Brigade was re-organised (by adding men and guns from 167 Battery) to have A, B, and C, batteries each now with six 18 pounder guns with its own howitzer battery as the fourth battery, D Battery, which kept its four 4.5 inch howitzers (war diary addendum September 1916). On 14th January 1917 there was another re-organisation and D Battery gained two more howitzers when A Section of D Battery 156 Brigade R.F.A. joined D/162 Brigade, making them up to six howitzers (war diary).
On 5th March 1917, Albert was wounded in the face while the guns were in action at Buscourt on the Somme. He was one of three men from the Brigade wounded on that day; no-one was killed. Albert was admitted on the same day to No 6 General Hospital at Rouen, France, returning to the UK on the Hospital Ship “Panama” on March 7th 1917. The injuries were gun shot wounds (GSW), a description which covered any wounds that were caused by shrapnel balls, bullets, fragments of shells or splinters of stone and wood thrown up by an explosion.
The annotation for the wounds was 3(?) “GSW face severe II/II T”. This indicated GSW to the face (wound category II: face) with fracture (wound type II: with fracture). “T” might mean “through” indicating the skin was punctured but was not T&T which was “through and through” i.e. with an exit wound. Once recovered in England, Albert continued to serve and was then posted to 49th Reserve Battery R.F.A. at Charlton Park in Wiltshire on 17th May 1917; then to 5A Reserve Brigade at Athlone, Ireland, from 9th July 1917. On 8th January 1918 he was posted to the Royal Artillery Command Depot at Hipswell Camp, Catterick Garrison, Yorkshire. He was medically downgraded to B1 by a Travelling Medical Board (noted as TMB B1). This grade was for men who were free from serious disease and were able to stand service on lines of communication in France or in garrisons in the tropics (B) and were able to march five miles and shoot with glasses and hear well (B1).
Albert then moved to Scotton Camp at Catterick Garrison from 10th January 1919 from where he was discharged in 1919. The Catterick Garrison was surveyed in the First World War by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement and Inspector General of the Cavalry based at nearby Richmond Castle. He selected the bleak moorland for the new Garrison. It still exists and is the largest British Army garrison.
The war diary of 162 Brigade R.F.A. can be downloaded for a fee of GBP 3.45 from:
In conclusion, Albert appears to have been posted to howitzer batteries in three different Brigades, but from May 1916 Albert was not confined to a specialized howitzer brigade and was serving in artillery brigades that did have a mixture of 18 pounders and 4.5 inch howitzers, so he could have come into contact with both weapons.
With kind regards,
Additional sources: Chris Baker’s website, The Long, Long Trail at
Reply from: Martin Layzell
Date: Friday 24th June 2016 at 7:47 AM

Dear Alan
Thank you so much for your very rapid and detailed reply to my query re Grandad’s service in the RFA. I have for a long while tried to understand his record but in only a few short hours, you unravelled it, explained it and told me several things about him of which I was unaware. This has given me more valuable information which I can pass on to my own family. Sadly, Albert died in 1946 so I never knew him which is why every bit of information I can glean is valuable.
I am beginning to wonder now about oral history. I recall being told Grandad had to fire over open sights which would indicate a field gun. However, I was also told he was wounded 7 times and gassed twice but there is only a mention of a sprained knee and GSW in his record. On his photo he has 2 gold wound stripes which I assume would be attributable to those.
I will be making a donation as per my earlier post and thank you again for all your help.
Very best regards from Down under.

Posted by: Tess Walker {No contact email}
Location: Newton Abbot
Date: Saturday 18th June 2016 at 5:06 PM
Hi Alan,
I am seeking information on one of the 3 sons of Sidney & Leila Hacker from Newton Abbot who went into WW1: Kendall Hacker, 1886-1943.

I can find lots about Norman Hacker, 1890-1917, as he was accidentally killed, and most about Edward Sidney, 1889-1955, as he had a long army career to 1943, gained an MC, and has a book about him "By motorbike from Mons".

I know Kendall enlisted in Newton Abbot, 27.02.1917: aged 30, a forest assistant. Regimental Number: 308982, Border Company, Army Service Corps on Home Service [does this mean he was a forester at home?], but that's it. After the war he went to Burma as a forest manager then came home to Newton Poppleford.
Anything in your archives on Kendall's army career, please?
Best wishes,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 18th June 2016 at 10:27 PM

Dear Tess,
What has been transcribed on as “Border Company” Army Service Corps was in fact “2 Officer Cadet Company” A.S.C., which was based at Aldershot. Kendall Hacker arrived there prior to 15th March 1917 and spent five or six weeks undergoing officer training until 27th April 1917. His commission was gazetted in The London Gazette on 21st May 1917 as an officer cadet appointed as a Second Lieutenant in the A.S.C.. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 28th October 1918. On his attestation he stated he had previously spent one year in “O.U. Vol Bttn” which I take to mean The Oxford University Volunteers. The university archives states: “The 1st Oxfordshire (Oxford University) Rifle Volunteer Corps was formed in 1859 and was established (together with many other volunteer corps across the country) in response to the threat of war with France while the regular army was preoccupied with the Indian Mutiny. From 1881, the OURVC served as one of several volunteer battalions of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry and in 1887 became known as the 1st (Oxford University) Volunteer Battalion or the Oxford University Volunteers (OUV).”
Because he had been commissioned as an officer, Kendall’s officer’s service record is held at the UK National Archives (T.N.A.) at Kew. Unlike soldiers’ records, officers’ records (known as a book) generally consist only of a brief annual “confidential report” paragraph, however the record would outline where he was stationed. Copies can be ordered from T.N.A. for a quotation fee. See:
Kendall did serve abroad in the First World War as he qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for which he applied in 1931 from his address at “Green Shutters”, Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth.
He had married Joyce Morwenna Walkley (or Walkey) in March 1919 at St Paul’s Church, Wolborough, Newton Abbot.
On his attestation Kendall was described as a forestry assistant. Forestry at the outbreak of the First World War was in private hands and in decline. Wartime needs accelerated the requirement for trees and imports became unreliable or impossible so a committee was established in 1916 to develop woodland resources. The committee was chaired by Sir Francis Dyke Acland, 14th Baronet (7th March 1874 – 9th June 1939), a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devon whose work eventually created the Forestry Commission on September 1st 1919. He was one of eight Forestry Commissioners charged with promoting forestry, developing afforestation, the production of timber, and making grants to private landowners. The first Forestry Commission trees were planted on 8th December 1919 at Eggesford Forest, Devon (source: Forestry Commission).
By 1936, Kendall Hacker and his family lived at “Farthings” at Newton Poppleford. When sold, the house was described as a six-bedroomed country residence set in ten acres. During the Second World War, Kendall Hacker was an Air Raid Precautions group warden and his wife, Joyce, operated an A.R.P. first-aid post at Newton Poppleford. (There are shades here of the 1942 film: “Went the Day Well?” by Alberto Calvacanti, with a script by Graham Greene, in which the plot centres around a country house and the Home Guard in the Second World War).
Kendall Hacker died at the Victoria Cottage Hospital at Sidmouth on 24th February 1943.
He had been retired from managing a teak forest in Burma. (One thousand tons of teak had been imported from Burma for the construction of the decks, gangways, hand-rails and window frames of the R.M.S. “Queen Mary” in 1934.)
In 1945, Mrs Hacker presented a new standard to the Newton Poppleford British Legion in memory of both her husband and her elder son Tony (Anthony John Kendall Hacker) who was killed in action on 28th March 1945 (additional biographical sources from the British Newspaper Archive online and
Tony served with 8th Battalion The Parachute Regiment in the 6th Airborne Division, aged 21, and probably was killed when the 8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion took part in the Rhine Crossing, following Operation Varsity on 24th March 1945. Tony is buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany, near the Dutch border. The cemetery was created after the Second World War when burials were brought in from all over western Germany.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Tess
Date: Sunday 19th June 2016 at 12:25 PM

As usual - a remarkable WoW!
Thanks very much for all of the detail and leads to follow - I will.
Very best regards,
Reply from: Tess
Date: Sunday 19th June 2016 at 2:42 PM

Hi Alan,
I know you prefer one query at a time, so this is related to the one above.
I have uploaded the following image.
which shows the Hacker family in 1917. Sitting at the right hand is Kathleen Hacker - can you tell which organisation's uniform she is wearing, please?
I have also made a donation to RBL in gratitude!
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 19th June 2016 at 8:24 PM

Dear Tess,
Thank you for donating to the Royal British Legion. I am always grateful to those that do so. Regarding Kathleen's uniform: there is the hat with a small shiny badge; and what appears to be a white stripe on the sleeve. Kathleen appears to wear a white shirt with a dark tie.
At first, I thought the bonnet-style hat might be that of The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, similar to the one shown at:
However, the F.A.N.Y. cap badge was large and not in bright metal. A search on the internet came up with this picture of Veronica Nisbet who was a St John Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse during the First World War at:
She is wearing a bonnet hat with a circular, white-metal St John’s badge, with collar and tie.
The V.A.D. were formed in August 1909, as part of a Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid created by Lord Keough over concern that there would be a shortage of nurses should a war start. The role of the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses was to provide nursing and medical assistance during a time of war. In the First World War the St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross Society (formed in 1908) joined together under a Joint War Committee (J.W.C.) to administer the Voluntary Aid Detachments who then staffed auxiliary hospitals. The reason they joined forces was so that both organisations would come under the safety and protection of the international Red Cross which protects the medical services of the armed forces and, in war time, civilian hospitals. The red cross emblem is an inversion of the Swiss flag, which is a white cross on a red background, recognising the historic connection between Switzerland and the original Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, held in 1864.
The V.A.D., or Auxiliary, hospitals were attached to central Military Hospitals (Royal Army Medical Corps) that looked after patients who remained under military control. There were over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals set up in country houses and schools that were administered by British Red Cross Society county directors.
From 1877, the St John Ambulance organised educational classes in Home Nursing; First Aid to the Injured; and Home Hygiene. Candidates for examinations passed as “successful”. They could sit for a re-examination to keep their skills fresh every year or so, and, after passing two examinations in First Aid to the Injured and one other (nursing or hygiene) could qualify for a medallion with metal “labels” that had the year engraved on them similar to the clasps on some campaign medals. Medallions and their accompanying labels and linking pendants could be purchased in bronze, silver or gold. In 1905 the cost of each version was: bronze 2/- (10p); silver 7/6 (37½p); 18ct. Gold 50/- (£2.50). Prices included the cost of engraving the name and registered number on the reverse. The type of metal for the medallion and label was a matter of choice and affordability and did not imply a level of competence (Museum of the Order of St John).
Many men trained in First Aid to the Injured because at a time of only paid-for health-care they could be of valuable assistance at their place of work. The Newton Abbot branch of the St John Ambulance had an ambulance hall in the town and was keen to raise a women’s section. The 1913 Ladies’ Nursing Class, led by Miss Moysley, held examinations on 23rd April 1913 when 33 of the 58 members were put to the test by a Dr Ellis of Babbacombe. It was predicted this would lead to a Ladies’ Section being started. The results were announced in the “Western Times” on Saturday May 10th 1913 under “St John Ambulance Examination at Newton Abbot”. Among the 31 successful candidates listed was Miss K. Hacker (© Local World Ltd/Trinity Mirror; courtesy of British Library Board via British Newspaper Archive online).
Three years later, in 1915 and 1916, the Newton Abbott Higher Education Committee organised classes in First Aid and Nursing with 183 candidates instructed by Dr R.H. Grimbly and Dr R.F. Higgin. At the examinations in January 1916, Miss Kathleen Hacker passed and qualified for a St John Ambulance medallion (“Western Times” 10th January 1916; ibid).
So, did Kathleen Hacker serve in the V.A.D. in the First World War? It seemed, even in profile, her cap badge was a bright circular badge on a peak-less and rim-less bonnet like that shown in the photo of Veronica Nesbit. The only other marking was a stripe on the upper-arm sleeve. A search of the St John Ambulance archives showed that in November 1914, Kathleen Hackett, aged 23, of Penshurst, Newton Abbott, started work as a nurse at the Newton Abbot Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital known as Newton Abbot V.A. Hospital, or Newton Abbot Auxiliary Hospital, which had been established in Newton Hall, College Road, Newton Abbot. She worked there as a nurse until May 1915. She later gained paid work and from 15th February 1916 she was employed as a nurse at the 4th Southern General Hospital in Plymouth at a salary of £20 per annum. She remained at Plymouth until 24th June 1919 where she had spent a final year as a clerk to the Matron at £22, 10s 0d. per annum. The 4th Southern General Hospital was established in Salisbury Road School in Plymouth.
Her J.W.V.A.D. record cards (both sides of two cards) can be downloaded free from:
J.W.V.A.D. was an abbreviation for Joint War Committee Voluntary Aid Detachments.
And that stripe on Kathleen’s sleeve?
Vera Brittain in her “Testament of Youth” described her award of an efficiency stripe as: “a length of scarlet braid which V.A.D.s were entitled to wear on their sleeve if they had served for more than a year in military hospitals and had reached what their particular authority regarded as a high standard of competence”.
However, the website says that the scarlet stripe was worn on the right cuff: “During the autumn of 1917, a series of stripes were introduced for V.A.D.s to wear on the sleeve of their dresses, and there were different colours to signify different things. White stripes were issued to denote length of service for V.A.D.s working for the Joint War Committee, and red stripes to V.A.D.s under contract to the War Office to denote that they had been certificated as 'efficient' by their Matron and Commanding Officer. Late in the war, JWC nurses could also be awarded efficiency stripes which were blue in colour.” (
Then this from “The Fairest Force”: “From May 1916, V.A.D.s employed in home hospitals under the direction of the Joint War Committee were allowed to wear a white horizontal stripe on each sleeve of their work dress, four inches below the shoulder, to indicate that they had served continuously for a period of at least thirteen months” (IWM Women’s Work Collection via
In conclusion, to answer your question, Kathleen Hacker is wearing her “best dress” uniform, or walking out dress, of a St John Ambulance nurse of the V.A.D. with a stripe to indicate more than 13 months’ continuous service in the U.K..
With kind regards,
Posted by: Louise Flynn {Email left}
Location: Belfast
Date: Thursday 16th June 2016 at 4:45 PM
Hi, I was wondering if you knew anything about the Royal Army Service Corps in October 1918 in France? My great uncle Jack Clarke m/345180 signed up in Belfast in 1917 and his military records (via say he received a "G.S.W head October 1918 France". He didn't die from his wounds and my mum doesn't ever remember him mentioning his wound or the war (she does remember him shaking a lot). Poor man. He ended up living out his days in Birmingham. I busted his grave in Selly Oaks a few years ago. I am visiting France in July, we are staying at a Campsite in Verdun. I was wondering if this would be near where he was or would there be anyway of knowingly? Many thanks, Louise.
Reply from: Louise
Date: Thursday 16th June 2016 at 4:47 PM

Visited...not busted..
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 16th June 2016 at 9:26 PM

Dear Louise,
John (Jack) Clarke served voluntarily with the A.S.C. in France as a heavy lorry driver with 869 (Mechanical Transport) Company Army Service Corps from 6th January 1918 to 15th October 1918 when he was re-patriated to hospitals in England (Netley) and Belfast (Royal Victoria) for treatment after being admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital at Rouen, France. A G.S.W. (gunshot wound) was a wound caused by a bullet from a rifle or a shrapnel ball from an overhead shell explosion. In Jack’s case, shrapnel is more likely as he would not normally have been within range of a rifle bullet unless it was a stray. Private Clarke recovered in hospital and after two weeks’ leave at home he served with the A.S.C. in London, although he suffered from vertigo, and lack of sight when under stress. After the Armistice he voluntarily continued to serve in the Army with the R.A.S.C. until December 31st 1919 on light duties (packers and loaders) in Fulham, London. The Royal pre-fix to the Army Service Corps was granted late in November 1918 for their services in the conflict.
Verdun was in the French sector of the Western Front and so the British did not fight there. The Battle of Verdun was France’s greatest battle of the war, fought from 21st February to 18th December 1916 and the British part of the Battles of the Somme in 1916 was a direct attempt to relieve pressure on Verdun by drawing the Germans to fight additionally on the Somme.
The UK National Archives records that 869 Company A.S.C. actually formed part of the Divisional Train (formerly the Transport and Supply Column) of the 3rd Australian Division (National Archives Catalogue Reference WO 95/3394; 3 Australian Division; Divisional Train (867, 868, 869, 870 Companies A.S.C.). The war diary of the Divisional Train has not been digitised, so pin-pointing their location on 11th October 1918, when Jack was wounded, is not yet possible from a desktop search. The Divisional Train was not a railway but was provided by petrol-lorry transport (known as M.T. for Mechanical Transport) and horse transport of the A.S.C. for taking supplies and materiel from the rail-heads, in the rear, to the troops at the Front. An M.T. Company operated about 60 lorries with about 340 men. The motor lorries moved heavier materiel from the rail-head to refilling points where horse transport could take over. The A.S.C. lorries dispensed their loads to be left at the refilling points and then they returned to the railhead. The distance for one return journey from railhead to refilling point was not to exceed 90 miles. The dangerous zone was approaching within seven miles of the Front, which was within range of the enemy’s artillery guns. In 1918, a division of 12,000 men could require 1,000 tons of materiel a day requiring a continuous flow of traffic. Early in October 1918 the Australians were on the St Quentin Canal with the U.S. 27th Division facing Beaurevoir. However, on 2nd October the 3rd Australian Division was removed from the line for rest and reorganisation, although a number of its artillery batteries continued to support the operations of the II American Corps until they were withdrawn. Subsequent attacks up to the 10th October 1918 on the St Quentin Canal enabled the Allies to capture the village of Beaurevoir and to clear the fortified villages behind the Beaurevoir Line. It is not possible to state where John Clarke was wounded other than to say it might have been somewhere in the area between Saint Quentin and Beaurevoir which are communes in the Aisne département in Picardy in northern France.
I hope you enjoy your stay at Verdun where they have been marking the Centenary of the battle.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Louise
Date: Thursday 16th June 2016 at 10:55 PM

Wow, many thanks for such a great insightful response. We will be passing by Saint Quentin so will stop and look around the villages in that area and very much keep him in mind. Thanks again. Louise
Posted by: Gillian Rutherford {Email left}
Location: Kent
Date: Tuesday 14th June 2016 at 2:37 AM
I am trying to find out where my grandad served and the battles he was part of. I don't have mch information im afraid...

His name was Thomas Henry Wright. He served in the Royal Field Artillery his rank was a driver and his reg no was 68145. He would have signed up in St Pancras London

He survived the war. I would be very grateful for any information.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 14th June 2016 at 7:59 PM

Dear Gillian,
Thomas Henry Wright, of 26 Lancing Street, Euston, enlisted voluntarily on 7th January 1915 at St Pancras, London, where he stated he was a 19-year-old carman. A carman drove a horse and cart and so he was ideally suited to being a driver with the Royal Field Artillery (R.F.A.) whose guns were hauled by teams of six horses controlled by three drivers, each sitting on the left-hand horse of a pair.
An artilleryman served in an artillery battery of three or four guns. Three batteries, in general, along with an ammunition (transport) column made up an artillery brigade. A number of artillery brigades would come under the command of a Divisional, Corps or Army commander-in-chief who was advised by a senior staff officer known as a Commander Royal Artillery.
Thomas Wright trained at No. 4 Depot R.F.A. at Woolwich, until 23rd April 1915 when he was posted to No. 40 Reserve Battery R.F.A. which was based at Catterick Garrison, Yorkshire. On 10th October 1915 he returned to Woolwich when he was posted to 4A Reserve Brigade R.F.A. From there on 28th October 1915 Thomas was posted to a draft of reinforcements and sailed with them to France that night, arriving early the next morning, 29th October 1915. He would have gone to an artillery base depot on the French coast from which he would have been despatched to an artillery brigade that was in need of casualty replacements. From the base depot he joined 70th Brigade Ammunition Column (more properly LXX Brigade in Roman numerals) on 5th November 1915. The 70th Brigade consisted of 220, 221 and 222 Batteries R.F.A. and the Brigade Ammunition Column. The 70th Brigade had just been fighting in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915) with the 15th (Scottish) Division. After Thomas had joined them, the Brigade’s major commitments in 1916 were in the engagements officially known as the Actions of Spring 1916 at Hulluch (27th – 29th April 1916) and in what was known as the defence of the Kink position (11th May 1916).
On the 22nd of May 1916, the individual Brigade Ammunition Columns of the 15th Divisional artillery merged to form one larger 15th Divisional Ammunition Column. Thomas probably remained with 70th Brigade Ammunition Column until 21st May 1916 because he was posted to the 15th Division’s ammunition column on that date when 70th Brigade was re-organised.
A few weeks later in 1916, before the 15th Division was fully committed in the Somme département of France, Thomas was admitted to hospital with a minor accidental shin injury on 16th July 1916 and was treated at No 32 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, and then No 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne, before going to a base depot for re-deployment. A convalescent depot ran more of a disciplined get-fit regime rather than gentle convalescence. Thomas was posted to a base depot on 28th July 1916 and from there he moved to the 5th Divisional Ammunition Column (5 DAC) on 2nd August 1916 who, on the next day, August 3rd 1916, posted him to 123 Battery of 28th Brigade R.F.A., with the 5th Infantry Division.
The Artillery was frequently re-organised throughout the war and men often served in more than one battery, as Thomas did, passing through base depots to ammunition columns and from there to individual batteries. Ammunition columns were administrative units holding or distributing reserves of men as well as physically being actual columns of transport waggons that delivered ammunition to the brigade’s guns.
Thomas arrived at, and remained with, 123 Battery of 28th Brigade R.F.A. from August 3rd 1916, providing artillery support for the units of the 5th Infantry Division. The 28th Brigade was also known formally as XXVIII Brigade RFA. In August 1916 the 5th Division was engaged in the attacks on High Wood. They then fought at The Battle of Guillemont (3rd to 6th September); The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th to 22nd September); The Battle of Morval (25th to 28th September); and The Battle of the Transloy Ridges (1st October to 11th November) which were all battles on the Somme. By the 5th October 1916, the 5th Division had left the Somme and was defending a quieter line near Festubert (Source: Chris Baker’s website: The Long, Long Trail). In January 1917, the 28th Brigade R.F.A. was withdrawn from the 5th Division to be used as an army-level brigade, inserting the “Army” into the title to be known as 28th Army Field Artillery Brigade R.F.A., and came under the command of the British Second Army until the Armistice. After the Armistice it spent a short time as part of the occupation forces on the Rhine in Germany. Details of the deployments in 2nd Army would require sight of the 28th Army Brigade R.F.A.’s war diaries for 1917 and 1918 (see below). The British Second Army spent most of the war positioned in the Ypres salient in Flanders, Belgium, but was known as Fourth Army for a while when elements had been deployed to Italy as part of the Italian Expeditionary Force between November 1917 and March 1918. It reverted to Second Army on 13th March 1918. In 1919 it was reconstituted as the British Army of the Rhine. See:
Thomas was granted leave to the U.K. from 3rd to 17th July 1917 and 20th August to 3rd September 1918.
He returned to the U.K. permanently on 11th June 1919 and passed through the dispersal centre at Crystal Palace before being discharged to the Z Reserve on 9th July 1919. The Z Reserve was for men who would be re-called if the Armistice with Germany did not hold. The Z Reserve was not required and was deemed to have ended on 31st March 1920.
Thomas Wright qualified for the 1914-15 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
For specific locations where a man served it would be necessary to read the relevant artillery brigade war diaries in conjunction with a man’s service record, which can be a very time- consuming task.
The war diary of 70 Brigade R.F.A. for 1915/16 can be downloaded from the National Archives for a fee of £3.45:
The war diary of 28 Brigade R.F.A. for 1916 can be downloaded for £3.45 from:
The three war diaries for 28 Army Brigade 1917-1918 come under 2nd Army Troops and can be downloaded for £3.45 each from:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Gillian Rutherford
Date: Tuesday 14th June 2016 at 9:19 PM

Dear Alan

Thank you so very much for all the detailed information above! I would never had been able to find all this out and i have been able to read it to my 79 year old dad who was Thomas's son and he was thrilled ! Thomas never spoke about the war so the family have loved finding out all this information.

You very kindly gave me lots of info on my other grandfather some years ago and i will be eternally grateful for your kindness in taking the time and trouble to do this for me. Thank you from me and my family.

Posted by: Kez {No contact email}
Location: Australia
Date: Monday 13th June 2016 at 6:41 AM
Evening Alan, wondering if you can help me please. My friend's Dad was William McNeish born 16.10.1898
Glasgow, Scotland. Father William McNeish, mother Jane Ann Forbes
My friend told me her Dad signed up underage in WW1. BUT not sure if it was true. In his twenties he came to Australia.
Would there be any information on him please?
Thank you Alan, Cheers Kez
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 13th June 2016 at 4:51 PM

Dear Kez,
Very few surviving service records from the First World War include biographical details such as a man’s date of birth or parents’ names. So it is not possible to identify a serviceman by his name only as there were numerous men named William McNeish who served in the war but are not further identified.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Kez
Date: Monday 13th June 2016 at 11:30 PM

Thanks for that Alan. Cheers Kez
Posted by: Alison Pirouet {Email left}
Location: Chesham
Date: Sunday 12th June 2016 at 8:02 PM
I have been trying to trace my mums great uncle William Wallace, of the Royal Naval Division,. He was born in West Hyde, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire in July 1884 (thereabouts). He was award the DSM after Siege of Antwerp - His no. 211130. Thats is it, if you can help would be appreciated.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 13th June 2016 at 4:26 PM

Dear Alison,
Record index cards of the Royal Naval Division are not very forthcoming and naval service records are rarely more than a list of ships and dates, which in the case of William Wallace would cover some 24 years of service, so it is only possible to provide basic details of the service of an individual.
William Wallace was born on 29th July 1884 and worked as a labourer before joining the Royal Navy at Devonport as a Boy Second Class at the age of 16 on 21st August 1900 when he was allotted the Official Number: Devonport (O.N. Dev) 211130. He trained at the naval school establishment known as HMS “Impregnable” at Devonport (which was on board the actual vessel HMS “Howe” from 1885 to 1911) until 11th December 1901. He then served on a dozen or more ships in peacetime with periods ashore. His full time service as a man had begun on his 18th birthday in 1902; signing on for the usual 12 years’ continuous service as an adult (National Archives Catalogue reference: ADM/188/369/ 211130).
When William Wallace joined the Royal Navy in 1902 he was 5ft 4ins tall with light brown hair, grey eyes, and a sallow complexion. By 1914 he had grown to 5ft 9ins. Towards the end of his 12 years, on 29th July 1914, five days before the war began, he had been posted to the Royal Naval Reserve in London on July 25th 1914 where he then stayed on for war service and on 19th September 1914 he joined the Royal Naval Division which was a force of infantry soldiers created from the large surplus of reserves of Royal Navy men who were without postings to ships’ crews. At the outbreak of war, William had passed a training course for Executive Warrant Officer in Seamanship at Devonport (HMS “Vivid I”). In 1914 he held the rank of Petty Officer that had been awarded on 1st February 1913. On 19th September 1914 William joined the Nelson Battalion of the Royal Naval Division as a Petty Officer. The Royal Navy Division had been raised to form two Naval brigades of surplus Naval Reservists which joined the Brigade of Royal Marines to produce a composite Royal Naval Division, of three brigades. Some Petty Officers and ratings were transferred from the Navy to provide leadership but most of the recruits were reservists or men who had volunteered at the outbreak of war. The Royal Naval Division fought on land as infantry soldiers and first participated in the week-long British contribution to the defence of the Belgian city of Antwerp from October 4th 1914 under the command of Major General A. Paris. Chris Baker’s website, the Long, Long Trail has details of the siege: See:
The poet Rupert Brooke served at Antwerp with the Royal Naval Division.
William Wallace was Mentioned in Despatches on 5th December 1914. See:
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal “after operations round Antwerp from 3rd to 9th August 1914”. The D.S.M. was instituted in October 1914 as a gallantry award for naval ratings and Royal Marines who distinguished themselves in time of war. See the list in the London Gazette of 29th December 1914 at:
This supplement to the London Gazette was dated 1st January 1915, so his award of the D.S.M. is dated 1915 in the Navy List of April 1915.
William Wallace DSM was later awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre, for bravery in the defence of Antwerp (Royal Navy medal and award rolls; foreign decorations; page 78). The award was announced after the war in the London Gazette of 2nd September 1921: “Admiralty, 2nd September, 1921. The following decorations have been conferred by His Majesty the King of the Belgians on the undermentioned Officers and Men of the British Naval Forces in recognition of their services during the War: — Has Majesty the King has given unrestricted permission to the Officers and Men concerned to wear the decorations in question” (London Gazette 2nd September 1921 page 6944).
The Royal Naval Division was despatched to Gallipoli and sailed on February 28th/March 1st 1915 but the day before that occurred William Wallace was posted on land at Devonport on his promotion to acting Gunner. This meant that as a Petty Officer he was a warrant officer of the executive branch given training as an Instructor on ships’ armaments. On ship he would be in charge of the guns. On land, he was stationed at HMS “Vivid II”, which was the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport, from 27th February 1915. He appears to have served as the Gunner on HMS “Ostrich”, a torpedo boat destroyer, from October 1915 (Navy List, October 1915). On 2nd March 1918 he was issued with the ribbon of the 1914 Star which was sent to the officer commanding HMS “Ostrich”, so he was still with “Ostrich”. HMS “Ostrich” operated in Home waters with the Channel Fleet as part of the Portsmouth Instructional Flotilla. She had been based at Chatham in 1914 and had moved to protect Scapa Flow. By November 1918 she was assigned to the Nore local flotilla and was based at Lowestoft where she provided local defensive patrols and escorted merchant vessels. William Wallace remained with “Ostrich” until she was decommissioned in 1919.
After the war William Wallace served as Gunner on the sloop HMS “Hollyhock” which was recommissioned at Devonport on 9th January 1920. From 25th November 1922 he was posted ashore and was recorded at the shore establishment HMS “Pembroke” for barrack duties at Chatham in the Navy List of July 1924.
His Royal Naval Division record card can be downloaded for a fee of £3.45 from:
His early service record can be downloaded for a fee of £3.45 from:
As William Wallace continued to serve after the war, his full service record would still be held by the Ministry of Defence and is not in the public domain.
Acting Chief Petty Officer William Wallace qualified for the Distinguished Service Medal; the Belgian Croix de Guerre; the 1914 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 13th June 2016 at 9:38 PM

In the third paragraph "When William Wallace joined the Royal Navy in 1902" should read 1900.
Posted by: Youngbuzzard {Email left}
Location: Newton Abbot
Date: Monday 6th June 2016 at 11:22 AM
Hello Alan,
Today I am trying to find details of a Charles Vincent, 2 service numbers 6664 and 26360, he was a sergeant in the Somerset Light Infantry, and this is about all I know. He did survive the war, and I am particularly interested in where he died and is buried, I don't know how much you will be able to help, but, as usual thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Cheers. David.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 6th June 2016 at 2:45 PM

Dear David,
There is no obvious record for Charles Vincent other than a medal roll which indicated he served with the 6th Battalion Prince Albert’s Somerset Light Infantry. He was with the Battalion when it went overseas on 21st May 1915. He had probably been in the army before the war as a sergeant, with the original number 6664, as he was discharged on 31 October 1915, perhaps at the end of his term of engagement. He re-joined the Battalion on 13th July 1916, with a new number 26360, and ended the war as an acting Warrant Office Class I (Regimental Sergeant Major). He was discharged on 7th April 1919. There is no record that identifies him with any biographical detail.
With kind regards,
Posted by: John Nicholls {Email left}
Location: Harlow
Date: Monday 6th June 2016 at 11:12 AM
Hi Alan
Hope all is well with you, chatting to my Son Luke the other night talking about WW1 Medals and he says that there were 3 War Medals that they used to call Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred, is this correct ? as ive never heard or read about this before.
Kind regards
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 6th June 2016 at 2:45 PM

Dear Jonboy and Luke,
The first campaign medal of the First World War was The 1914 Star for soldiers who served in France and Belgium and came under fire from August 5th up to November 22nd 1914. These were members of the original British Expeditionary Force who fought at Mons and then the First Battle of Ypres which ended on November 22nd. This medal was sometimes called the Mons Star. After the war had ended, three other campaign medals were introduced: The 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. When the 1914 Star and the British War Medal and the Victory Medal started to be issued they were dubbed “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” after the characters in a popular Daily Mirror comic strip written by “Uncle Dick”, Bertram J. Lamb, which was first published in May 1919 . Pip was a dog, Squeak a penguin and Wilfred a rabbit. The characters were hugely popular until the series ended in 1959 and the use of their names for any trio was widespread. The medals were worn in the order: 1914 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal.
When only the British War Medal and Victory Medal were worn they were sometimes known as Mutt and Jeff: again characters in a syndicated cartoon strip first published in 1907. Mutt and Jeff were working class, drinking men who were amiable losers. One was tall the other short.
Strictly speaking, the words Pip, Squeak and Wilfred when referring to the medals are monikers: single words that described succinctly something with a longer title. Nicknames are often considered desirable suggesting acceptance, but in the army, nicknames are often diminutive suggesting contempt. The 1914 Star with Mons Clasp was the only campaign medal awarded for being under-fire. The other campaign medals were issued for simply being overseas. In the case of First World War Veterans, many thought that demeaned their significance and the nicknames suggested: “Is this all we get?”
With kind regards,
Reply from: Jonboy
Date: Monday 6th June 2016 at 3:59 PM

Thanks Alan for that so lukie was right i rely thought he was trying to wind me up, not bad for a 16 year old boy.
Posted by: Peter {Email left}
Location: Billingham
Date: Sunday 5th June 2016 at 8:01 PM
Dear Alan hope you are fit and well. is it possable to find two men from a photograph sent by a pal, the names on the back of the photo are George Albert Harrison Lower Wood Farm Church Stretton Shropshire and Henrey Griffiths from Broseley Shropshire hope you can put me on the right track.
Best Regards Peter
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 6th June 2016 at 2:44 PM

Dear Peter,
Unfortunately, I have been unable to make a positive identification of either of these names.
With kind regards,

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