Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Skinner brothers of Wimpole


Last Saturday was such a beautiful day that we decided to pop over to Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. Within the estate grounds is the Anglican parish church of St Andrews and in the churchyard, very close to the entrance is a family grave that contains the mortal remains of Charles Skinner, his wife Ellen, and two of their grandchildren.

The headstone must have been erected when Charles died in 1926, but the focus is very much on Charles and Ellen's three sons, all killed in action during the First World War whilst serving with the Suffolk Regiment. I suspect that their names were added at the same time as Charles' details, a suitable gap left between to accommodate Ellen in due course. Note too, the Suffolk Regiment cap badge at the top of the stone.


13644 Pte Frank Skinner, standing on the right in the photograph above, was the first of Charles and Ellen's four boys to die. He was killed in action on the 1st July 1916 whilst serving with the 11th Battalion and is buried in Gordon Dump Cemetery, Ovillers La Boiselle. Just over five weeks later on the 9th August 1916, his elder brother, 15628 Pte Edward Skinner was killed in action whilst serving with the 7th Battalion. Edward, seated right, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval War Memorial. Finally, on the 5th April 1918, 23312 Pte Harry Skinner, also serving with the 7th Battalion, was killed in action. He too has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres War Memorial. Harry is the man standing in the centre of the photo which dates to about 1912.

Juging by their regimental numbers, Frank Skinner joined the Suffolk Regiment in September 1914, Edward in October 1914 and Harry, who would only have been about 17 when Britain went to war, in November 1915. All three brothers were volunteers.

The photograph I have used on this post comes from Wimpole Past, a local history and genealogy site for Wimpole in South Cambridgeshire. It shows Charles and Ellen Skinner in happier times with their six children I have added this photograph to the brothers' pages on my British Army Ancestors website. 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

King's Royal Rifle Corps - Chronicles for sale


For sale, King's Royal Rifle Corps chronicles 1901 to 1920 (missing 1915 and 1919). These books are essential reading for anyone with an interest in this regiment (and worth the investment if you have an interest in British Army regiments generally). I am downsizing my book collection hence the reason for selling these now. More details here: Military books for sale.

The chronicles that cover the First World War period will be of particular interest to anyone who is studying that conflict as they give good (summary) detail on battalion activities as well as officer casualties. The 1914 Chronicle also gives other rank casualties to November 1914, detailing those killed, wounded and missing or prisoners of war. Maps and photos of some officer casualties are included.

For those whose interest is in pre-1914, the earlier editions detail where each battalion was located at any given point in time and included reports on sporting successes, often giving names - and sometimes photos - of team members. The team photo below, for instance, shows members of the 4th Battalion obstacle team which was published in the 1907 Chronicle. All men are named and for some, this may be the only surviving evidence of their service in the British Army. For others, it will be possible to match their faces to names in service records or medal rolls; something I'll be doing in due course on my British Army Ancestors site.


The photograph at the top of this post was published in the KRRC Chronicle for 1904 and shows the scenes in Winchester when the regiment returned to the town after the new barracks had been opened.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

1st Cadet Battalion, The Essex Regiment


I came across this headed paper this morning whilst researching a soldier who had served in this cadet battalion. I was not aware of this particular battalion, although the detailed headed paper itself makes its affiliation quite clear.

Headquartered in Canning Town, the "London-over-the-border" stipulation was obviously quite lenient. Chelmsford (home of the battalion's bank) is 34 miles from Canning Town and would have seemed like the back of beyond in the early 1900s. Ingatestone is only marginally closer at about 29 miles.

The 6th Battalion, Essex Regiment was headquartered at West Ham, with A to G companies drawing recruits from West Ham, and H company drawing men from Prittlewell. There was a drill station at Grays. The man who is referred to on this paper is George Ryan who would later serve in the Royal West Kent Regiment and die as a prisoner of war in January 1917 just three days after his 18th birthday. You can see a photo of George on my British Army Ancestors website.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Prisoners of War 1914


You'll find a number of research resources linked from this particular Army Ancestry Research blog, but if you have an interest in First World War prisoners of war you'll need to visit my Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog.

Some while ago I transcribed various lists of men held by the Imperial War Museum. These form part of a collection of lists of men who were all captured before Christmas Day 1914 and therefore missed out on Princess Mary's gift tin. Thankfully, these lists of men survive in digital format. The digital quality is not the best in the world but you'll be doing better than me if you can manage to persuade the folk at the IWM to give you access to the original documents.

I'm nearing the end of this particular publication schedule and will have posted all transcriptions by Christmas 2018.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Search 9 billion records on Findmypast

Online family history website, Findmypast, has just launched a handy little widget which enable you to quickly search its impressive database of 9 billion records. Included amongst these, I see, are nearly 31 million indexed military records; indexed mind you, there will be plenty of other records that have not been indexed, not to mention British newspapers as well.


If you haven't already used Findmypast, now could be the time to do so. Just enter the basic details in the box on the right. I searched for my grandfather, Walter Leonard Nixon, who was born in 1893 and I got 530 results! Better still, my grandfather appeared in six results on the first page of results.

Go on, give it a try. Searching is FREE!


Saturday, 15 September 2018

British Army Ancestors - 17th Lancers identified


About a year ago I launched British Army Ancestors, my initiative to provide a vehicle for people to upload army photographs and so, in time, build a useful free resource for others. This week I've been adding my own discoveries and I want to use this post to talk about two of these.

Under the caption, " A dismounted Lancer at a skirmishing display" this photograph first appeared in the The Navy & Army Illustrated that was published on the 6th March 1896.  The article notes "Here we have a picture which will serve to remind many of our readers of the Military Displays at the Agricultural Hall, and to others will explain the kind of fighting which Dr Jameson's troopers made with the Boers at Krugerdorp. It is a pretty idea, teaching a cavalry horse to lie down and serve as a living screen, from behind which his rider can fire in safety, and moreover, has its use in warfare. In the present instance the dismounted horseman (Rough-rider Corporal Long, of the 17th Lancers) is one of a line of skirmishers ordered to use their carbines on foot, against an enemy whom they are unable to get at owing to the nature of intervening obstacles."

The Corporal Long in question can only be 3000 Cpl Henry Long who joined the regiment in December 1885, transferring to the 16th Lancers in November 1905. He was discharged in December 1906 having served 21 years and was entitled to the QSA and KSA for service in South Africa, as well as the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal with gratuity. His character on discharge was recorded as "Exemplary". 


The second photos is actually quite well-known and was subsequently rendered as artwortk for a ciagrette card (see below). This photo originally appeared in The Navy & Army Illustrated which was published on the 21st February 1896. The caption underneath the photo ran,
"Her mother was shot in Cashmere, eight years ago, by Prince Adolphus of Teck, who brought the cub to Lucknow, where the regiment was stationed, and gave her as a present to his troop. Shortly after this the cub was lost for a year. Then one day a man came round with a performing bear, which was recognized as " Lizzie " Since then "Lizzie" has remained with the 17th, with whom she came to England in 1889. She is a great pet with all ranks, for her own part reciprocating the affection, specially in favour of Corporal Baker, her particular guardian, who is shown in the illustration..."
I looked at medal rolls and service records for 17th Lancers corporals called Baker and the only possible candidate is 2881 Shoeing Smith Cpl Thomas Baker. In this photo, the clincher is the horseshoe, just visible on his right arm which marks him out as a shoeing smith. His service record confirms that he held that rank between July 1894 and February 1896 when he was promoted to sergeant farrier.


I am delighted to have identified these two men but was only able to do so as a result of understanding the regimental numbers for the 17th Lancers and, fortuitously in both cases, finding surviving records for them in WO 97.
If you've not already done so, do check out British Army Ancestors. The site is free and evenm if you don't want to upload photos, you can quickly and easily search 11.6m records.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Measuring success in 1917


I've just completed a research project and was struck by the following passage in the battalion diary which covers the actions during which my research subject was killed.

"Z Day, The Raid. A most successful undertaking... Casualties: Captain J E Day (died of wounds), Lieutenant Williams (wounded), 2nd Lt R E W Burke (wounded), 6 killed, 7 missing, 66 wounded. Whole battalion greatly elated at our success..."

Thus was success measured in April 1917. The extract is from the war diary of the 6th Royal Irish Regiment on the 5th April 1917 and I've manipulated the information somewhat because after "successful undertaking" the diarist had written, "21 prisoners of the 4th Grenadier Regiment, from whom inestimable information was gained."

We must take the diarist at his words and hope that it was of some comfort to the relatives of those who died that day. My research subject was one of the seven men missing. His body was never found and he is commemorated by name on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

The image comes from the Vimy Foundation website and shows Canadian soldiers from the 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) surrounding a rather forlorn looking German captured during a trench raid.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Rifle Brigade Chronicle


I mentioned the other day that I have added a Books for Sale tab to my Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog, I am currently selling a large number of Rifle Brigade Chronicles - and they're going fast - bit it did prompt me to pay more attention to the covers of these books and note the changes in the regimental badges as published on these volumes.

The image above was what graced the cover of the first volume, published in 1890. The crown is the St Edward's Crown with the hunting horn below. This image only appeared on the first published issue and was replaced with the image below on the 1891 edition.


The following year there was a further change, with the badge being rendered in silver rather than gold, quickly reverting to gold again for the 1893 edition.


This version was then used until 1910, replaced that year with new battles honours for the Boer War, and The Tudor Crown which had been introduced by King Edward in 1902.


The 1916 edition saw the crown devoid of the detail within it which had appeared on previous crowns. 


But by1917 that detail had re-appeared bigger and bolder than before:



And by 1929 the battle honours for the First World War finally appeared:


The final change that I'm aware of appeared on the 1955 edition and harked back to an earlier time:


At the time of writing, editions of the Rifle Brigade Chronicle from 1902 to 1932 are still available for sale.






Embarkation Table, 1914


I was looking through the war diary for the 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders earlier today, and came across some fascinating detail concerning the battalion's embarkation from Southampton in December 1914.

The 1st Battalion had been stationed in Dinapore, India in August 1914 and didn't arrive back in the UK until the 17th November 1914. It was one of the units recalled from the British Empire's far-flung outposts and was assigned to the 81st Brigade in the newly-formed 27th Division. The embarkation notes and table in the battalion war diary give a fascinating insight into the way in which troops were organised.


I suppose I'd never thought about how the actual embarkation would have been organised, but of course it makes perfect sense to have allocated serial numbers to units and to mark up everything with those numbers. The four infantry battalions in the 81st Brigade were the 1st A&S Highlanders, the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment, the 2nd Cameron Highlanders, and the 1st Royal Scots, and again it is interesting to note that they each sailed on different ships, presumably a cautionary measure to guard against an entire brigade being sent to the bottom of the English Channel by a German U-Boat.


The extract above, whilst included in the War Diary for the 1st A&S Highlanders, also includes similar levels of detail for other brigades; as I say, completely fascinating.

I was checking the war diaries on the Naval & Military Archive which offers access to millions of records and over 4.500 individual war diaries for as little as £10. Photo above, showing British troops embarking at Southampton in 1915, is from the Alamy website.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Songs & Stories of the Great War 1914-1918


My thanks to Rob Barnes for notifying me of an event - Songs & Stories of the Great War 1914-1918that he is organising at Sage Gateshead on the 11th November this year. This from the Sage Gateshead website:


In this tribute, the journey starts when war is declared in 1914, with the enthusiasm and high humour of the soldiers, through the realities and unimaginable horrors of trench warfare, to the prospect of a better world to come, with the signing of the Armistice in 1918.
“ ‘…uplifting yet a very emotional experience‘…‘a brilliantly judged programme and excellent performances‘…‘This was a wonderful concert‘…very well-judged and performed and very thought-provoking‘…‘blown away by all the talent in the room’” (comments received following performance in Newcastle upon Tyne, March 2018)
In an evening of both laughter and tears, we will be honouring all those involved in this ‘War to end all Wars’, with well-known songs from the trenches, war stories from The Wipers Times and Punch magazine, and poems by such as Wilfred Owen, Cicely Fox Smith and Woodbine Willie.