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Alan Greveson's World War 1 Forum (Page 41)

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Posted by: Christine Barbour Moore {Email left}
Location: Wigan
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 11:28 AM
2nd Message - Hi Alan - thank you for your site- It's wonderful.

This is my maternal Grandfather.
Stanley Corsellis Randall MM
61st Broad Gauge Workshop Co RE
Reg No 219111
Warrant Officer Class1 263162

From his papers - his unit was the 12th Light Railway Operating Company RE.
He survived the war and served in Ypres 1917.

Do you know anything about the above regiment/unit?
Think the War Diary is WO 95/4056 - is this the right WD?
National Archives wanted £500 copying as it is not downloadable.

Any answers would be wonderful.

Have donated to British Legion.

Kind regards

Christine Barbour-Moore
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 3:33 PM

Dear Christine,
The war diary of the 12th Light Railway Operating Company is WO 95/4056. An economical way to have it copied is to use the services of a regular National Archives visiting researcher to digitally photograph it for you. I have used the document copying service offered by Lee Richards at nine pence a page, so a three-hundred-page document costs less than £30. See:
Stanley Corsellis Randall MM earned his Military Medal during an incident in Flanders on 30th April 1918 when an ammunition train caught fire. Citations for the Military Medal were not published in the "London Gazette" but those of the less frequently awarded Albert Medal, connected with the same incident, were, which is why Stanley Randall's name is not mentioned in the official description of the incident published on 30th August 1918. See:
He qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, he did not go overseas until some date after January 1st 1916. In March 1918 the men of the transportation troops of the Royal Engineers were re-numbered with the prefix W.R. which is why Stanley Randall had two regimental numbers.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Christine Barbouyr Moore
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 6:46 PM


Thank you so very much, for your two replies to my two separate enquiries.
Your response is fantastic and much appreciated. I will contact a 'searcher'
as you suggest, re War Diary.

Thank you again and I will make another donation to the British Legion.

A little bit of extra information. I am currently transcribing about 20 letters from
my grandfather 1917 and finding them very moving indeed.

He doesn't give 'any thing away' but with the censorship of the time, I do wonder how
I keep seeing in the press, copies of letters from soliders WW1, giving very
precise information about the place/regiment etc.

Thank you once again.

Posted by: Christine Barbour Moore {Email left}
Location: Wigan
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 10:59 AM
1. Can you assist please. My relative - Private William Arthur Cooper South Lancashire Regiment Service Number 202559.
Died 2 March 1917. Theatre Of War - Warrington Lancashire England. He is buried at Warrington Cemetery.
Would you know why he died in Warrington and howhe died. Have tried many different military sites but with no luck.
I will visit his grave to pay my respects.

2. Sadly, from my Grandfather's letters home from Ypres 1917, Arthur's brother Tom or Thomas Cooper was also killed/injured in the war but I have not been able to find out any details about his death. Two sons from the same family. How tragic. Their home address was 27 Horsemarket Street, Warrington. Their father was Thomas Cooper and their mother was Alice Cooper nee Leather.

I have donated to the British Legion through Everyman Remembered.

Thank you.

Christine Barbour-Moore
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 3:32 PM

Dear Christine,
It is likely William Cooper was in hospital. "Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921) recorded he "died", as opposed to "died of wounds" or killed in action"; which meant his death was caused by accident or illness. His death certificate will give the cause of death. His death was not registered under Army Deaths so it would be a normal GRO death certificate certified by a hospital or doctor. The most likely GRO Death index entry is William A Cooper, age 18, Jan-March 1917, Oswestry, Shropshire, Vol 6A Page 1097. He is the only 18-year-old William A Cooper that I can see who died in 1917.
The Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire) Regiment had a reserve battalion stationed at Oswestry and there was also a military hospital at Oswestry Camp, and another at Prees Heath, Shropshire.

It is not possible to identify a soldier with a frequently occurring name such as Thomas Cooper without knowing his regiment and regimental number.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Brian {Email left}
Location: Australia
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 7:36 AM
I am searching for details of my Uncle, John William Gibbons Bird, also known as Jack, who served in France in WWI. He survived the war but was severely gassed at some time. He had the rank of Lieutenant in either the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as did his brother Harry and his father Frederick Augustus, or the Machine Gun Corps. I have not been able to trace details of where he served or where he was gassed.
Any information would be most welcome please. Thank you. Brian
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 3:02 PM

Dear Brian,
Officers' service records are held at The (British) National Archives, Kew, Surrey. For a fee, you can order a copy online of the record for Lieutenant John William Gibbons Bird, Machine Gun Corps, which is shown at:
Without knowing in which unit he served it is not possible to suggest his wartime service. An Army medal rolls index-card showed he qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, first serving overseas as a Lieutenant. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, he did not serve abroad until some date after January 1st 1916. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Motor Machine Gun Service on 20th September 1915. See:
He married Marguerite Rowan on 7th April 1917 at St Margaret's Church, Roath, Cardiff, Wales. He was still a second lieutenant when he married ("Western Mail", Monday 09 April 1917 © Trinity Mirror courtesy of The British Library Board via the British newspaper Archive). So, he might have married before going overseas.
See also:
With kind regards,
Posted by: Keith Rowland {Email left}
Location: Darlington
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 3:45 PM
I am looking for information on my Grandad, James William Raine, who served in WW1 for: 1st K.O.S.B. Reg No: 22193. He enlisted 5th November 1915, was a prisoner of war and survived.

Thank you
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 6:13 PM

Dear Keith,
No individual service record is available for James Raine so it is not possible to state his military service. An Army medal rolls index card recorded he qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, he did not go abroad until some date after January 1st 1916. He would have trained in the UK for about three months before going overseas. After serving at Gallipoli, the 1st KOSB arrived in France on 18th March 1916. James would therefore have been part of a draft of reinforcements to the 1st Battalion KOSB.
He was taken prisoner at Arras on 23rd April 1917 and was transferred to Limburg POW Camp, Hesse, Germany, on June 29th 1917. See:
The war diary of the 1st Battalion KOSB is available to download from The National Archives for a charge of £3.30.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Keith Rowland
Date: Wednesday 22nd October 2014 at 9:29 AM

Dear Alan,

Many thanks for information, Very useful. I have his Medals along with his Certificate of Transfer to Reserve, Photographs and other bits and pieces all in an Australian Red Cross Gift Tin which I believe was given to him by an Australian Soldier while in a camp hospital. With the info supplied I can now research further. Thanks again for all your assistance, My Brother in Law and I are going on a tour next year so this will help decide where to go.

Kind Regards

Posted by: Laraine
Location: New Zealand
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 2:37 AM
I am looking for anything about
Ernest Frederick William Cooper born 1883 Isle of Wight.
Regular soldier with The Rifle Brigade Reg no 1793. 2nd Battalion 8th Division

He survived the war spending 5 years in France
Thank you
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 5:41 PM

Dear Laraine,
No individual service record is immediately available for Ernest Cooper. If he continued to serve after the war, his service record will still be held by the Ministry of Defence. The MoD will release certain amounts of information about a deceased person depending on whether you are next-of-kin, or not. You can apply using the forms for next-of-kin, or with permission of next- of-kin, or as a general enquirer. Refer to:
You will need proof of death (a copy of the death certificate); date of birth or service number; next-of- kin's permission (unless you are the direct next-of-kin); a cheque (currently for £30) and the completed Application forms Part 1 and 2: If you are not next-of-kin you can make a general enquiry using both the "Request for Service personnel details: general enquirer's form (v6) (DOC)" and then the Part 2 form which is entitled "Request for Service personnel details: British Army part 2 (DOC)". A cheque for GBP 30 should be made payable to the "MOD Accounting Officer" and sent to Army Personnel Centre Secretariat, Disclosures 2, Mail Point 515, Kentigern House, 65, Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX Scotland with all the paperwork.
The war diary of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade is available to download from The National Archives in three parts, at a cost of £3.30 each. See:
The 2nd Battalion The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own) was stationed at Kuldana in the Muree Hills at the outbreak of war. The Battalion sailed for the UK from Bombay on 20th September 1914, arriving at Liverpool on 22nd October 1914. The Battalion sailed for France on the night of November 6th 1914.
Ernest Cooper qualified for the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Peter Watkins {Email left}
Location: Poole
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 4:52 PM
Hi Alan,
You have helped me before and I hope you may be able to again.
During my researches I have discovered a CHARLES ERNEST RICHARDS born c1880 in Penn, Staffordshire, died 11 August 1918 as a private in the 1st battalion Dorsetshire regiment buried Bouchoir New British Cemetery. I have his Dorsetshire number 31235 but there is also a reference to his originally joining the Devonshire Regiment with a number of 37720. No dates unfortunately and a search for his service record draws a blank. The good old "burnt records" I suppose accounts for this. I have also tried to find war diaries for the Dorsets to find out which battle he was in when he was killed but so far I have been unable to locate such a thing online. Do you know if there is a war diary for the Dorsets online and where I can find it? When researching family in the South Staffs I found one fairly easily. I would like to try to find out when he first joined up as we would have been mid 30s at the start of the war.
Perhaps you could explain to me why was he in 2 regiments and when did this happen? I assume he was sent to the Dorsets from the Devonshires to make up numbers or perhaps a new outfit was being formed. I know that the 2 regiments were amalgamated but this was in the 1950s as far as I can tell.

Many Thanks

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 8:49 PM

Dear Pete,
The burnt records are the ones that survived the incendiary fire at the War Office repository in Arnside Street, Walworth, London, on the night of September 8th 1940, during the Blitz on London. The unburnt records were those records no longer in use that were stored by the Ministry of Pensions awards office at Blackpool. The "unburnt" records were about to be turned-over to the Second World War paper salvage campaign when someone suggested they might be permanently archived. Both these sets of records have been deposited at The National Archives at Kew, Surrey, and are the ones searchable at Kew, and online via subscription websites. Other records that were stored in the Arnside Street repository were destroyed.
In my experience, soldiers whose record in "Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921) showed they had previously served in another regiment with another regimental number were men who had enlisted under the Derby Scheme between October and December 1915; were called up later, in 1916, and subsequently were killed or died.
The Derby Scheme was a form of deferred enlistment to allow men who had yet to answer the call for volunteers to do so: "join now and serve later". It was a last attempt to encourage potential volunteers in anticipation of compulsory conscription being introduced in March 1916. These "Derby men" served for one day the day they attested to serve the King and were immediately sent home as un-uniformed army reservists to continue their civilian jobs until they were mobilized in 1916. By the time they were called-up, the unit to which they had originally been attested might have been brought up to strength. In that case, having being mobilized, the men were transferred, on mobilization, to battalions of other regiments that were in need of casualty replacements. The Military Service Act of 27th January 1916 introduced conscription, and with it, the notion of men being posted "in the interests of the service", removing the element of choice of regiment which had existed in 1915. When these men later died, their original attestation papers might have been held at a different Infantry Record Office than that of the regiment in which they were serving at the time of their death. To help identify the original attestation records of the dead man, it was noted on his death record that he was the same man identified as, for example, "formerly 37720, Devonshire Regiment". The reverse process would enable a clerk who was trying to discover the whereabouts of, or what happened to, 37720 of The Devonshire Regiment, to trace his death to the death recorded as Charles Ernest Richards, 31235, 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment with evidence that the two records were of the one and the same man. That is my experience of the "formerly of" entries, although I stand to be corrected.
An Army medal rolls index-card in the name of Chas E Richards recorded that he first served overseas (from 1916) as 31235 Dorsetshire Regiment. He qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, so he served after January 1st 1916. When he died, he was serving with the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. He might have been with them all the time he was abroad, or he might have been posted to them at some (un-recorded) stage in his service overseas.
Charles would have undergone basic infantry training in the UK in early 1916 with a reserve battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment, most probably the 7th (Reserve) Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment which had evolved by 1916 into the 2nd Reserve Battalion of the 8th Reserve Brigade at Wool, Dorset. When trained, Charles would have been posted overseas, possibly, but not certainly, directly to the 1st Battalion which served in France and Flanders. Basic training was to be a twelve week course plus one week's leave, although a man might not have been posted the day he passed out of his recruits' cadre and he might have remained in the UK for some time waiting for a posting when regimental battle casualties needed to be replaced. On arriving in France there would be another two weeks or more of battle training at a base camp on the French coast before men were posted to their battalion at the Front.
All war diaries are held by The National Archives at Kew. The National Archives did not use the post-nominal suffix (st; nd; rd; th) of the battalion numbers when indexing the war diaries, which is why they can be hard to find in search results. The original war diaries, written in indelible copying pencil, were destroyed in the Arnside Street fire but copies made from copying pencil imprints or carbon copies have survived, although sometimes they can be difficult to read. Copying pencils were issued by the million during the war. The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment's war diary can be downloaded in two parts, each costing £3.30, from:
The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment served firstly in the 15th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Division until December 31st 1915 when the 95th Brigade moved to 32nd Division where it remained. On 7th January 1916, the 95th Brigade became the 14th Brigade and remained with 32nd Division until the end of the war. For the major engagements of the 32nd Division after January 7th 1916 see:
When Charles was killed, the 32nd Division had been fighting in the Battle of Amiens from 8th August 1918, which was the start of the Hundred Days Offensive.
For more on the Derby Scheme, see:
On that webpage, you can search for mobilization dates by year of birth (different columns for married or single men). Each year of birth had a numbered "Group" and each numbered group had a call-up date.
The birth of a Charles Ernest Richards was registered April-June 1880 at Wolverhampton District (GRO Births Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, vol 6b page 574). The Wolverhampton District included Penn parish. In the 1911 Census he appeared to have been married to Amelia for five years (possibly Edith Amelia Harris married at Stourbridge in 1906).
As you say, the Devonshire Regiment and the Dorsetshire Regiment were two different regiments until amalgamation in 1958 which had been proposed in the 1957 Defence White Paper drafted by the then new British Minister of Defence, Duncan Sandys, who foresaw "the missile age" and cut the number of British infantry battalions from 64 to 49.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 9:39 PM

My expression "post nominal suffix" should read "ordinal number suffix".
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 10:35 PM

Another belated proof reading correction:
"The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment served firstly in the 15th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Division until December 31st 1915 when the 95th Brigade moved to 32nd Division where it remained." should have read "The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment served firstly in the 15th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Division until December 31st 1915 when it was moved to the 95th Brigade in the 32nd Division where it remained."
Reply from: Pete Watkins
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 3:28 PM

Hi Alan,

Thank you once again for your expertise on this subject. I will check out the war diary from the National Archives and the link to the 32nd division.

2 years ago I asked you about my grandfather John Edward Nunn who was a POW and you advised to check out the International Red Cross. You may already know this but the records have now been digitised and can be found here:


As far as my grandfather is concerned there is not much that I did not already know but I assume that the Red Cross only needed to know where POW were incarcerated so they could let families know and that specific records about these POW were kept by the German authorities. A long shot I know but do you happen to know if there are such records and are they still available in Germany?

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 6:10 PM

Dear Peter,
I am not aware of any centralised location of records for Prisoners of War in the First World War held in Germany. The ICRC archive is the centralised archive. Regional or State archives in Germany might hold documents relevant to POW Camps that were within their area of administration. In the case of John Nunn captured at Bullecourt on 21st March 1918 that would be Dulmen, North Rhine Westphalia, where he arrived from the Front on 24th April 1918. The state archive website is at:
On 29th May 1918 John Nunn was transferred to Limburg (Limburg an der Lahn) in Hesse, Germany.
A large amount of historical archive was destroyed in air raids on Germany during the Second World War. There are 1.5 million records of foreign prisoners held on German soil kept by the Deutsche Dienststelle, but their website does not indicate the dates of these records and they might be from the Second World War.
You could ask the Bundesarchiv what records are held in Germany:
There is a 100 Centenary logo on the right of the German home page. There is also an English version accessed by clicking "English" from the German home page.
Towns in West Prussia that had prison camps in the First World War were granted to Poland in 1919. In 1945 East Prussia was divided between the Soviet Union, Poland and Lithuania.
For general information on Prisoners in the Great war see:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 9:42 PM

Dear Pete,
The State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia do have records of the POW Camp at Dulmen. Using the search term "kriegsgefangenenlager dülmen" produces a result with the Google English translation of their listings is at:

http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.archive.nrw.de/kommunalarchive/kommunalarchive_a-d/d/Duelmen/BilderKartenLogosDateien/StadtDuelmenBC/StadtDuelmenBC24-15-3.html& prev=/search%3Fq%3Dkriegsgefangenenlager%2Bd%25C3%25BClmen

A POW Camp in Germany in the First World War was known as a "Kriegsgefangenenlager" where Kriegs was "war"; "gefangene": prisoner and the plural "n" prisoners; and "lager": camp. Add the name of the camp such as Dülmen to search within quotation marks "kriegsgefangenenlager Dülmen" to visit the websites within the results or use the Google "translate this page" button within the search results.

The Hessian State Office for Historical Geography (HLGL) has some photos of Limburg Camp at:

Otherwise academic searches in German for Limburg Camp were less forthcoming. There were more results in English using the search "POW Camp Limburg".
There were towns similarly named Limburg in the Netherlands and Belgium also.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Pete Watkins
Date: Wednesday 22nd October 2014 at 10:26 AM

Hi Alan,
Many thanks for your invaluable assistance once again. I have sent an e-mail to the Bundesarchiv as per your suggestion, lets hope some records are still in existence in Germany.. Thank you also for the links you posted. I will be spending many hours pouring through them I am sure.

I checked out locations on Google maps and was quite surprised to see the distances involved, Bullecourt to Dulmen is about 430km then on to Limberg am der Lahn is another 250km or so.I had kind of assumed that you went to camps reasonably close to where you were captured, never really having thought of the logistics of it before. I suppose POW were sent to clearing stations initially then, as you say, on the the army group administration area, in this case Dulmen, then on to the POW camp where you were to be kept according to where there was room or more perhaps likely where a workforce was required at that time.

Posted by: Andy {Email left}
Location: Lamcashire
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 2:55 PM
Hi Alan
We hope you may be able to help with a last family member.
So far you have helped us with the Norman family as below.

Edward Samuel Norman, (1878-1948), RE, 1st East Riding, 529th Field Company RE 1914-1919.

And his Son we know from WW2, Sydney Bertie Norman, (1910-1977), R.A.O.C.1943-1947

But have just discovered a tale that Sydney Bertie Norman`s older brother...

Edward S Norman, 1898-? Born Norwich, and from 1911 census, aged 13, 6 St Georges Avenue Bournemouth St Sculcoates Lane Hull.
Had run away at 16 in 1914, lied about his age to join up and went to France?
Family remember him being returned injured, shrapnel in his thigh/leg and having a limp for life.

Struggling to track him down and any records as to what happened during WW1 and afterwards?

Visited parents at the weekend and Mother was ecstatic and enthralled at the records and reading the war diaries information you supplied last time.
Say`s Thank you very much and very grateful!
Thanks again
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 7:37 PM

Dear Andy,
Unfortunately it is not possible to identify Edward Samuel Norman, born Norwich 1898, in the surviving military records. If he enlisted under-age he might have used an alias and given a false year of birth which would make searching the surviving records impossible. There are more than 60 medal rolls index-cards for men named Edward Norman but these have no biographical content. Only two index-cards were for men named Edward S Norman. The first was for the Edward S. Norman that has already been researched, born 1878, who lived at 6 St George's Avenue, Hull, and whose eldest son was also Edward Samuel, born 1898, Norwich. The second index-card was for a man who, after further research, was shown to be a 25 year old man from Cricklewood who was killed on 8th May 1915 and was the son of James and Mary Norman.
The birth of an Edward Samuel Norman was registered at Norwich in the first quarter of 1898 (GRO Births, Jan-March 1898, Norwich, vol 4b page 187) The death of an Edward Samuel Norman, born 30th January 1898, was recorded at Hull, aged 84, in the third quarter of 1982 (GRO Deaths, Hull, July-September 1982, vol 7 page 0661).
With kind regards,
Posted by: Jayne Manison {Email left}
Location: Wolverhampton
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 11:40 AM
Dear Alan

I am trying to research my grandmother's WW1 sweetheart, Benjamin Edward Lilly. Although he was from Birmingham, he served with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry. He enlisted on 21.05.2015 and his military number was 10733. His death is recorded as 25.03.1918. Family rumour has it that my great uncle was with Ben when he was wounded, but after the fighting had stopped, when my great uncle went to find Ben, he was missing. I have a card addressed to my grandmother from the authorities dated 30.09.1918 which states that their inquiries into Ben's whereabouts were still ongoing. I know he has a headstone at Adanac Military Cemetery in Miraumont. I have been unable to find any service records for Ben and wonder if you could shed any light on his service history?

Many thanks

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 8:04 PM

Dear Jayne,
No individual service record has survived for Benjamin Lilly, so it is not possible to state his wartime service with any certainty. An Army medal rolls index-card recorded he first entered a theatre of war (France) on 21st May 1915 as a private soldier, 10733, of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI). The card showed he was later "presumed dead". A private soldier in the Light Infantry was known as a rifleman. Rifleman Lilly, therefore, must have enlisted much earlier than May 1915, in order to have become a trained soldier able to serve overseas from that date. When he went missing and was presumed dead he was serving with the 10th Battalion DCLI. The 10th Battalion left England for France in June 1916, a year after Benjamin left England, so Benjamin must have served in another battalion of the DCLI prior to his time in the 10th battalion and his eventual death. His medal index-card showed he first served in the DCLI and "Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921) recorded he was "killed in action" serving with the 10th DCLI, so it appears he did not transfer to, or from, any other regiment during his service. He was a Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry man.
Soldiers were posted overseas either as part of an entire battalion or as part of a draft of reinforcements destined for the Front. In May 1915, both the 1st and 2nd Battalions DCLI were already in France and Flanders and might have received reinforcements. However, more compelling is the fact that the 6th Battalion The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry sailed for France on the night of 21st May 1915 from Folkestone, arriving at Boulogne early the next morning, May 22nd 1915 ("British Regiments 1914-18" by Brig. E.A. James; and: "British Battalions on the Western Front, Jan-June 1915", by Ray Westlake).
It is likely, but not certain, that Rifleman Lilly served in the 6th Battalion DCLI which was raised at Bodmin, Cornwall, in August 1914, as part of Lord Kitchener's "First Hundred Thousand" volunteers. From November 1914, the 6th Battalion trained at Witley Common, Surrey, and then moved to Aldershot in February 1915. The 6th Battalion served in France and Flanders with the 43rd Infantry Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division.
In the early weeks of 1918, the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders was reorganised to reduce the number of battalions within a Division. The 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry was disbanded on 20th February 1918. That would have provided an opportunity for Rifleman Lilly to have been posted to another battalion, such as the 10th Battalion DCLI. However, there is no record of the posting and he could have been posted to the 10th Battalion DCLI at any time after May 1915. The 10th Battalion DCLI were known as the Cornwall Pioneers. They joined the 2nd Division as the Divisional Pioneer Battalion in June 1916. They left in July 1917 for 66th Division and returned to the 2nd Division in November 1917. Pioneer battalions were formed of infantrymen who also served the Division as construction labourers; one day a pick; another day a rifle.
On the date Rifleman Lilly was killed, Monday 25th March 1918, the BEF was embroiled in the German Spring offensive of March 1918 known as "Operation Michael" ("Michael-Schlacht") which threw the British and their allies into a chaotic retreat on the Somme, beginning on a foggy morning on March 21st 1918, as the advancing Germans emerged out of the mist over-running British positions. Following the fighting of the first three days, the 10th Battalion DCLI was involved on March 24th and 25th in the fighting of "The First Battle of Bapaume 1918" during which the enemy captured the villages of Pys and Miraumont on the 25th March 1918. A Graves Registration Report Form recorded private 10/10733 DCLI Lilly B.E. was killed on 25th March 1918 and was buried at Pys (CWGC Graves Registration Report No 90, 3rd Area; serial number W4425, for Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, showing exhumations from Pys; dated 4th October 1920). See:
The awkward name "Adanac" is "Canada" spelled backwards. Many Canadians were killed in the area.
It appears Rifleman Lilly was killed in the fighting at Pys on Monday, March 25th 1918. The family story that Ben went missing when your great uncle went looking for him would be typical of the events at the time when soldiers were withdrawing and counter-attacking every few hours in the confusion of the German break-through. On the Monday morning of March 25th 1918, the 5th Infantry Brigade of the British 2nd Division (that included 10th DCLI) held some high land between Pys and Courcelette in the Somme départment of Picardie in northern France. Withdrawing British units passed through this defensive line Westwards to Miraumont, pursued from the East by the advancing Germans who were in constant engagement during that Monday. At Miraumont some British troops received orders to return to Pys to reinforce the defence line there. On the way, the situation changed and orders were received to turn-about and withdraw, instead, to Grancourt and the higher ridge of land West of the River Ancre near Beaucourt, to form a fresh defence line to try and halt the enemy advance. The night of March 25th 1918 was very cold, and many soldiers were separated from their units; went without rations; and had little ammunition remaining. The Germans had advanced 20 miles into British-held land in France in four days.
For a record of the major battles of the 6th Battalion DCLI while with the 14th (Light) Division from May 1915 to February 1918, see:
The 6th Battalion DCLI was disbanded in late February 1918. From February 1918, the 10th Battalion DCLI, serving with the 2nd Division, fought at The Battle of St Quentin (March 21st 1918) and The Battle of Bapaume in which Rifleman Lilly was killed in action.
Please bear in mind that the contention that Rifleman Lilly served in the 6th Battalion DCLI is founded on circumstantial evidence based on collateral facts (his date of entry into France with the DCLI matched the date of entry into France of the 6th Battalion DCLI). His death on 25th March 1918 is recorded in the official publication "Soldiers Died in the Great War" (HMSO 1921) although his medal rolls index-card, which would have been created after April 1919, recorded he was P[resumed] Dead. He might have been positively identified when graves at Pys British Cemetery were removed to the then Imperial (Commonwealth) War Cemetery being created at Miraumont in October 1920. The Pys British cemetery was about two thirds of the way from Pys to Courcelette. It contained the graves of 22 soldiers from Canada, two from the United Kingdom and five unknown.
The war diary of the 6th Battalion DCLI can be down-loaded from The National Archives for a fee of £3.30. See:
The war diary of the 10th Battalion DCLI can be downloaded for a further £3.30 at:
Rifleman Lilly qualified for the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was 21 years old when he was killed.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 20th October 2014 at 11:09 PM

There is a proof reading error in the link to the Graves Registration report No 90. Unfortunately, a full stop has become inserted by me in the link, so it will not work. The correct link, without the full stop, is:
That works.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Jayne Manison
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2014 at 6:10 AM

Dear Alan

Many thanks for the information. It was very interesting and informative.

Kind regards

Posted by: Steve Hawkins {Email left}
Location: Bristol
Date: Sunday 19th October 2014 at 4:18 PM
I am after any information on William Charles Pullin Royal Engineers 194349,WR/296625
My wifes mother states her father was returning to britain on a troop ship when it was diverted to Russia were he fought the cossaks
In selonica, arriving home 1920.
Many thanks.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 19th October 2014 at 9:53 PM

Dear Steve,
Unfortunately, no individual service record has survived for Sapper William Charles Pullin, 194349 Royal Engineers, so it is not possible to state his wartime service. A Sapper was a private soldier in the Royal Engineers who possessed a recognised level of skill in a trade or craft, whereas an unskilled man was known as a "pioneer". An Army medal rolls index-card showed he qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before December 31st 1915, he did not serve overseas until some date after January 1st 1916. The WR prefix to his second regimental number would have been allotted in March 1918 when the numbering system was rationalised and men of the transportation branch of the Corps of Royal Engineers were given new numbers distinguished with the WR prefix. Earlier, in 1917, during a re-organisation of the Royal Engineers, the Transportation troops had been allotted to a definitive section of the Corps. The transportation branch included roads, quarries, inland water transport and the Railway Operating Division, sometimes known collectively as "Waterways and Railways", hence WR.
William could have served at Salonika which was the Greek port of entry for operations in Macedonia against the Bulgarians. "Salonika" became the shorthand for operations in that region from October 1915 when the British and French forces landed at the port and remained until the Armistice with Bulgaria on September 29th, 1918.
William should not have been fighting Cossacks. The Cossacks were on our side.
There were two expeditions to Archangel via Murmansk in Russia. The "North Russia Intervention" in 1918 was to support White Russians who fought against the Bolsheviks of the Communist government which had replaced the pro-British Tzar in the revolution of 1917. The Allied intervention force advanced from May 1918 and occupied Archangel in August 1918. The subsequent "North Russia Relief Force" was raised in April 1919 to extract the British elements of the unsuccessful intervention force after the seas had thawed following the winter of 1918-1919.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Jeremy Thornton {Email left}
Location: France
Date: Thursday 16th October 2014 at 7:16 PM
Hi Alan,
You may remember previously helping me with information about my Grandfather Vernon Thornton who served in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. After a recent visit to the KOYLI museum in Doncaster and receipt of his Medal Roll, I am now positive that he served in the 12th, 2/5th, 1st and 1/5th (5th from Feb 1918 when the 1/4th and the 2/5th were amagamated with the 1/5th and called the 5th). Whilst I am not sure whether he was called up in the Derby scheme in June 1916, this seems likely due to his age at this time 37 and the fact that he was married with 2 small children. What intigues me is that the first Battalion he served in, the 12th, was a Pioneer Battalion. However, he later went on to serve in the 2/5th, 1st and 1/5th Battalions which were Infantry Battalions. His trade was a wharehouseman in a family rag auctioneers business, so this may have meant he had skills relevent to the Pioneers for a certain period of time?

In order that I can try and work out just when he may have gone to France are you able to tell me how long the initial training would have been in a Pioneer Battalion. I presume that he would have had to have been trained how to shoot etc. Additionally, would this training have been adequate for the later Infantry Battalions he served in. If not would re-training have taken place in France or would he have returned to the UK?

These questions may be outside your scope of expertise but any information you can provide would be helpful.

With kind regards
Jeremy Thornton
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 17th October 2014 at 3:10 PM

Dear Jeremy,
The length of training would depend on which battalion he first served with. Some Pals battalions, raised in September 1914, trained for 15 months from civilian to becoming a soldier at the Front; while the 18-year-old conscripts of 1916 onwards underwent a minimum of 13 weeks' basic training with specialist recruit training battalions.
As we have noted, Vernon Thornton's regimental number was a five-digit number typical of those allotted to men who were mobilized or conscripted in 1916, so he was probably given basic recruit training in a training (Reserve) battalion of the KOYLI.
The 12th Battalion KOYLI was a Pals battalion raised at the expense of the West Yorkshire Coalowners' Association in September 1914. The original men of the battalion had regimental numbers pre-fixed with 12/ within the range 1 to 1000 or more. As original members of the 12th Battalion became casualties, they could be replaced, from March 1916, with soldiers having regimental numbers of five digits. From March 1916, a soldier lost any choice of regiment and had no option as to where he was posted or transferred. The 12th Battalion KOYLI trained as an infantry battalion from September 1914 until May 1915. In May 1915 it was appointed the Pioneer Battalion for the 31st Division. As most of the men were coal-miners they would have needed little additional training to be pioneers. The 12th Battalion KOYLI left England on 6th December 1915 and spent some months in Egypt before being sent to France on 9th March 1916. The 12th Battalion KOYLI was in France from early 1916. From 1st July 1917 to 30th November 1917 they were attached to Fifth Army Troops constructing light railways. It seems unlikely Vernon Thornton would have undergone training with the 12th Battalion KOYLI because that battalion had left England on 6th December 1915, before Vernon was said to have joined the Army. If he enlisted in June 1916, he could only have served with the 12th Battalion KOYLI once it was overseas, and no earlier than October 1916 after his basic training would have finished.
The 5th Battalion KOYLI was a pre-war Territorial Force (T.F.) battalion which was, in theory, already trained before mobilization and embodiment on 4th August 1914. "Embodiment" absorbed the Territorials into Regular Army terms of service for war. The 5th Battalion KOYLI served in France from 12th April 1915 with 62nd Division. Its original members had four-digit T.F. numbers.
The 2nd/5th Battalion KOYLI was created from scratch on 10th September 1914. When the 2nd/5th Battalion was created, the original 5th Battalion at Wakefield, Yorkshire, adjusted its title to the superior fraction of 1st/5th Battalion KOYLI.
The 2nd /5th Battalion KOYLI trained and remained in England until 15th January 1917, but was responsible during that time for providing casualty replacements from England to the 1st/5th Battalion KOYLI in France. After the introduction of conscription in March 1916, the 2/5th Battalion could have received drafts of conscripted men with five-digit numbers. The 2/5th Battalion KOYLI went overseas in its own right as a fighting battalion, landing at Havre, France, on 15th January 1917 and serving with 62nd Division. The 2nd/5th Battalion merged with the 1st/5th Battalion on January 30th 1918.
The 1st Battalion KOYLI served in France from January 1915 with 28th Division and then left for Macedonia arriving in December 1915. The 1st Battalion arrived back in France on 16th July 1918 where it served with 50th Division.
Depending on when a conscripted soldier was enlisted, the period of basic training would have been for a minimum of 13 weeks in a reserve battalion in the UK, including one week's leave, before being posted to another battalion for active service. The minimum period was three months which was required to build physical fitness through Swedish gymnastics and route marches; instil discipline through drill and teach the basic military skills. Men appointed to specialist tasks, such as machine-gunner, would attend a further specialist course of instruction. On arrival overseas, there was a further period of some two weeks' training at a Divisional base camp on the coast. From that base camp a man could be posted to a battalion other than the battalion with which he had arrived, or to a battalion other than the battalion he was originally destined for.
A man who enlisted at the age of 18 would not go overseas until he was 18-and-a-half (officially he could not fight at the Front until aged 19) so he would have spent at least six months training in the UK. Any recruit would spend his time in training until he was posted overseas, so the length of time would be between the time he enlisted and when he was posted.
In your post of October 23rd 2012 you stated Vernon's medal roll recorded he served in 12th, 2/5th, 1st & 5th Battalions [KOYLI] in 187th Brigade of the 62nd Division. Is it possible that "1st & 5th Battalions" was actually the 1st/5th Battalion KOYLI? It could then mean he was first posted overseas to join the 12th Battalion KOYLI in late 1916 and was later posted to 2nd/5th Battalion (existing in France in its own right from 15th January 1917 to 2nd February 1918) before serving in the 1st/5th Battalion KOYLI either before it merged or after. Even after February 1918, the "5th Battalion KOYLI" was still recognised as "1/5 Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry", even though its title had last its fraction on January 30th 1918.
Vernon's civilian job as a warehouseman would not have been applicable to the pioneers other than as a stores-man. A 37-year-old might well have assisted the Company Quartermaster Serjeant (CQMS) in any battalion, although the age of 37 was well within the range for fighting soldiers. 9
It seems unusual, but not implausible, that a man should have served in four battalions of the KOYLI from late 1916 to 1919. If the "1st Battalion" and "5th Battalion" were, in fact, the "1st/5th Battalion" then it would be plausible that Vernon underwent basic training in England and was first sent overseas in late 1916 to join the 12th Battalion KOYLI, perhaps as a casualty replacement in a draft of reinforcements. Vernon might then have been sent to the 2nd/5th Battalion KOYLI, in 1917, for that battalion to be absorbed into the 1st/5th Battalion KOYLI in 1918, meaning that he might actually have changed battalions only once, from the 12th to the 2nd/5th . Unfortunately, without a service record to show his movements it is not possible to prove his service.
The UK National Archives has digitized many more war diaries this year (£3.30) (4.14 euro). Those of the 2/5 and 1/5 Battalion KOYLI are shown at:
That of the 12th Battalion KOYLI is now available at:
Those of the 1st Battalion KOYLI:
Also, The Western Front Association now has an archive of 6.5 million pension record cards (PRCs) which are not available elsewhere. It is possible Vernon could have applied for a pension. The WFA charges an administrative fee for a manual search of the records. See:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Jeremy Thornton
Date: Friday 17th October 2014 at 3:37 PM


Absolutely briliant, what a fountain of information you are, wonderful. For your information Vernons Medal Roll card is entered like this:

Reserve Z 28/5/19

Previous Unit(s)
34163 Pte 12th Yorks L.I
2/5th Yorks L.I
1st Yorks L.I
5th Yorks L.I

So unless there was an entry error and the 1st and the 5th were actually the 1/5th then it would seem like he actually did move between Battlions 3 time.

Once again many thanks for this information.

With kind regards

Jeremy Thornton
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 17th October 2014 at 4:45 PM

Dear Jeremy,
If the units in which he served were in the order of his service, it would appear Vernon first served with the 12th Battalion KOYLI and was discharged from the 5th Battalion.
In the early weeks of 1918 the British Army was re-organised with a reduction of the number of battalions within each division. The Regimental History (R.C. Bond) states the 6th and 7th Battalions KOYLI were broken up; the 10th Battalion was mainly absorbed by the 9th Battalion. On 23rd January 1918, 124 men of the 1st/5th Battalion were sent to Fourth Army clearing depot for posting to other battalions while others were posted to the 1st/4th Battalion KOYLI.
It was a shake-up for the regiment.
At the end of February 1918, the 12th Battalion KOYLI was re-organised into a three-company battalion in line with the new Army structure. The senior battalion, the 1st Battalion KOYLI, arrived in France from Salonika in July 1918 reduced in strength through illness with most men suffering malaria; Quinine was a daily ration and the men were given leave to the UK. Vernon probably would not have been with the 1st Battalion KOYLI in Macedonia because the 1st Battalion arrived in France after the 2nd/5th Battalion had ceased to exist, so Vernon must have been in France before the 2nd/5th Battalion amalgamated at the end of January 1918. The 1st Battalion KOYLI re-fitted and trained in France in July and August 1918 and advanced to contact about September 25th 1918.
If Vernon joined the 12th Battalion KOYLI after training in England, it would have been after October 1916. He might have been posted to the 2nd/5th Battalion KOYLI in France before the 12th Battalion was reorganised, or during the January/February 1918 shake-up. He could then have been posted to the 1st Battalion once that Battalion had arrived in France and required weeks of rest and re-fitting because of malaria. The 1st Battalion served with 50th Division in France. The 50th Division returned to the UK for demobilization between December 1918 and March 19th 1919. Vernon's discharge from the Army was probably from the 5th Battalion KOYLI to the Class Z Reserve on May 28th 1919. His time in the 5th Battalion need not have been in action. He could have returned to the 5th Battalion in France or solely in the UK for demobilization. The May 28th 1919 discharge date is quite late in the Spring of 1919, but that might be accounted for if longer-serving men had been discharged earlier in 1919. The Class Z Reserve was for men who would be re-called to the colours if the Armistice with Germany did not hold.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Jeremy Thornton
Date: Friday 17th October 2014 at 5:38 PM


Thanks again. This now gives me some dates to play with. By the way I have already down loaded all the relevent War Diaries. A lot of the sections are very difficult to read even when printed out being very faded.

Thanks once more.

Jeremy Thornton

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