Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Sgt F R G Moore's autograph album

Autograph albums kept by nurses or soldiers can be an intriguing starting point for further research into the Great War. It was an album kept by a nurse at Chailey in Sussex which got me hooked onto a particular theme some thirty-odd years ago, and I still don't consider I have completed the task yet. You can see some of the output here:

This blog entry is courtesy Roger Moore who has transcribed entries in an autograph book given to him by his grandfather, late Sgt F R G Moore, 1st Tank Brigade. Roger notes that the album was probably signed as the men were about to depart for England; the location is probably Écoivres, a hamlet in the commune of Mont-Saint-Eloi. This ties in well with a pen and ink sketch of Mont St Eloi which appears in the album.

Further information about any of the men noted below would be welcomed. Men's names in bold. BWM and VM indicates medal entitlement to the British War & Victory medals. Roger's notes in italics.

Aubrey John Bosworth poem 7.1.18
Aubrey John Bosworth (1892 – 1966); MGC Sgt 2979; Royal Engineer 301516 or 310516. Went on to win numerous motorbike events in Kettering from 1921 onwards.

D Pyott comic 5.1.19
RFA Gunner 310517 (9.3.15)
Royal Engineers to 10.2.1919

F Bentin CSM RE poem and sketch 5.1.19

W G Holmes poem 5.1.19

M Lane “The Bold Bad telephonist” poem 6.1.19

J Weir poem 6.1.19

H Potts II Cpl short poem 6.1.19

A J Jeffels poem 7.1.19

E J Rosenberger Box car driver poem and detailed ink sketch of warship 10.1.19
Absent Voter Roll shows Eddie John Rosenberger as ASC 351566. Born 7th June 1892 in Brussels. Died December 1977. BWM & VM; Army Service Corps 351566, 1st Tank Brigade Signal Coy, RE.
1911 census records him as the stepson of Fred. Vincent Thickens at Tooting. 

S W Taylor Spr RE poem per R Burns 12.1.19

J A Hutcheson heading for “Bonnie Dundee” 12.1.19

A Wood Sapper RE poem 12.1.19

W H Cottam sapper poem 12.1.19

G Naylor poem 12.1.19

J Thompson Spr 12.1.19

John R Olson poem 20.1.1919
BWM & VM; MGC gunner 32298, RE sapper 313417

F Milligan pioneer poem emphasising pride in Signals co of Premier T Bde
25.1.19(Durham LI 1787 > RE 471988)

J Day 2Cpl poem 3.2.19

W K Cartwright poem “from one to another ... long before conscription” 3.2.19

R Sawyers l/cpl RE poem about where and when FRGM and he met 3.2.19

S Stuart “one of the old Seaforths” pro Scottish 4.2.19

Rupert Hudson “one of the old 48th territorial div”4.2.19
Possibly the man below. <18 1913.="" br="" old.="" yr="">Died at Shrewsbury in December 1982
<18 1913.="" br="" old.="" yr="">
<18 1913.="" br="" old.="" yr="">
[Unclear] Ayres QMS HQ 1st Tank Bde poem about leaving for UK 9.2.19
Possibly Frederick A Ayres; BWM & VM; Tank Corps 97022

J G Allott Spr RE long poem & poem plus comic drawing10.2.19
BWM & VM; RE Sapper 325518

J Cammack
RE RASC SS/14288 embarked 8.8.15

P O Smith Pioneer poem 10.2.19

Read Spr sketches 12.2.19

Read Spr coloured sketch 17.2.19

Howse Spr poem 18.2.19

H A Handford Spr RE poem 1.3.19

E J Miles Spr RE poem 3.19

A Smith pioneer poem 11.3.19

H Harrison 1st Tank Bde Sig Coy RE lengthy poem Ecuvier 12.3.19
1914-15 Star, BWM & VM. Entered France 29.8.15; RFA Gunner 30801; later Tank Corps Private 307063

H Cooper sapper poem en route to Rhine 12.3.19

Goldman poem re The signallers “one of them” 20.3.19

T Ball Cpl poem – Blighty for FRGM, onward to Rhine for Ball 21.3.19

W D Gibbs poem in Scottish form 21.3.19

E J Spears Capt. RE long poem & short poem Ecoivres, France 24.3.19' RE (TF) 1648 Sergt.

J A Richmond (69204 1st TB, Sig Co, RE) )poem and “Passed by Censor” stamps 24.3.19

James Dickson in format of telegraph message from Ecqoivres, 25.3.19

Goodwin, Spr HQ 1st TB poem re tanks leaving for Rhine 1.4.19

A Mumford “Ponsonby” Cpl 1st Bde Tank Corps Sig Coy RE poem and sketches 25.3.19

J W Hunt poem 20.7.19

A Barker poem St Leonards 31.8.19

George Boles; poem 31st August 1919
BWM & VM; MGC Sgt 10676, later Tank Corps Sgt 201777

William H Cottam
BWM & VM; MGC gunner 69947, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regt 24935; later Royal Engineers 313428

poem 19.5.1921

P A Welsford short poem 28.7. 1921

Cliff Welsford cartoon 1921

R G C poem 11.12.1921

W Wain poem 24.5.1922

Undated Donald M Fraser two long poems about the Armistice (in France 1917 – 1919)

Born 30 May 1869 in Edinburgh. Enlisted 24.7.1915. Transferred to HLI in France, served with MGC from Dec 1917. Demobbed Ripon May 1919 .Wrote letter to Under-Secretary of State 10.2.1938. His “Armistice” poem is long and well written and significantly has “copyright” on it. The article below possibly refers to the same man:

Undated J P Hatch, Spr RE BEF detailed pen and ink sketch of ruins at Mont St Eloi 1919

Undated Spr F Honnor map showing him on IoW and FRGM back in Bristol after war.

Undated S J Humport poem

Undated Sapper J or T Watt RE

<18 1913.="" br="" old.="" yr="">

<18 1913.="" br="" old.="" yr="">

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Life in the British Army in 1899 - the Fizzer Man

This article, written by Callum Beg, appeared in the Navy & Army Illsrrated published on the 17th June 1899

The soldier of past ages was content to invest what little surplus money remained to him, after paying for his regimental and other necessaries, in tobacco and ale. Not so the youthful warrior of today. Frequently fresh from school when he takes service under the Union Jack, it is not a matter for surprise that he has no appetite for either the one or the other. From time to time one hears of the prevalence of the “liquor habit” in the ranks and its dire results- crime and disease. Now it can not be denied that an abnormal love for “the flowing bowl” has been the ruin of many a promising soldier. It is equally true that no small proportion of our modern soldiers, although displaying no tendency to indulge in alcoholic liquors, is busy sowing the seeds of future disease connected  for the most part with the digestive organs.

Lest either the Army reformer or the agitator against armament of every description should for one moment suppose that the Government rations are responsible for the cultivation of dyspepsia among the defenders of the Empire, it may be well to clear the character of the “regulation” bread and meat before proceeding further. Let it be understood, then, that the provisions supplied free to the soldier are in no sense calculated to injure his "internal economy". On the contrary, were he to satiate his appetite with the rations provided for him, he would in all likelihood develop into a useful fighting man. Nowadays, however, he too often prefers to fill the "aching void" with a mixture of jam-tarts, cakes, and "fizzers".  A fizzer, as its name implies, is strictly speaking, a drink of an effervescent nature, but the term is in reality applied indifferently to almost every kind of temperance drink.

The demand for this species of liquor has within recent years become so great that it has provided a number of persons in the vicinity of every garrison town with a visible (and sometimes exceedingly lucrative) means of subsistence. Needless to say, the camp followers referred to are made up, like every other trade and calling, of honest men and rogues, although the latter, when discovered, are very quickly deprived of "Tommy’s" patronage. A few years ago, when the Fusilier Brigade - the old 5th (now Northumberland) Fusiliers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and the Inniskilling Fusiliers - marched
out of Shorncliffe Camp on its way to Ashdown Forest for manoeuvres, it was closely followed by a veritable host of what those who had "soldiered" in the East were pleased to term "fizzer-wallahs" of varying degrees of respectability. Some, sufficiently well endowed with this world’s goods, carried their wares in carts or wheelbarrows. Others in groups of two or three were, perforce, charged with the conveyance of the ingredients necessary for the carrying on of their trade.

All that is required to manufacture the fizzer proper is aqua pura and a proportionate amount of sherbet. During the first few miles of the first day’s march it may be assumed that the former commodity was to be had in abundance, but the thirsty young soldiers, unaccustomed to self-control, had soon exhausted the water supply of the smaller dealers. The capitalists who had a sufficient supply of Adam’s wine on their carts were overjoyed to see their trade suddenly increased; but those who lacked transport were not wanting in resources. The Hythe Canal lay along the route, and ere long the cans of the "small fry" were again filled - but with what? A greenish stagnant fluid rich in bacilli.

Regardless of this fact, the younger men of the brigade continued to drink; but before "lights out" had sounded in camp that night there was "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" not to mention work in plenty for the Army Medical Staff.

"It’s an ill-wind that blows nobody any good." So said the wiser "fizzer-wallahs" the following day; for the mandate went forth that soldiers were to purchase their refreshments from none but those provided with passes. Needless to say, the vendors of bacteria were "unprovided with a pass" and wended their way homewards, sadder and wiser men. In barracks and camps such as Aldershot strict rules obtain regarding hawkers and their wares. None can follow their calling within the hallowed precincts of Government property without the necessary pass, and before permission is granted a strict investigation is made into the character of the applicant.

Generally speaking, the privileged dealers are either pensioners or soldiers’ widows. The discovery of any illegal practice on their part leads to the immediate loss of licence, but unfortunately there is no regulation by which the authorities can control the appetite of growing lads who are accustomed to leave all their pocket-money with these denizens of barracks.

Militia training in 1899

The following extract - and the illustration above -  are taken from an article published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 17th June 1899:

"To commence with, the Militia, when disembodied, as has been the case since Crimean days, is liable to be called out for training every year for any number of days not exceeding fifty-six, the normal period being arranged for the various arms as follows: artillery, infantry and medical staff corps twenty-seven days, engineers forty-one, and submarine miners fifty-five. 

"The force is of a strictly territorial character, and a recruit on enlisting, which comprises a term of service lasting six years, is at once posted to the unit that includes his place of residence within its scope; that is to say, a man cannot join any corps he likes, unless he "fakes” his residential qualification accordingly. But this system does not apply to the officering of the force, though the appointment of subaltern officers to the same is still based on the old-fashioned method which gives the Lord-Lieutenant of the county the first offer of recommending the name of a gentleman for submission to Her Majesty. Such candidates must be not less than seventeen years of age, nor under 5-ft 4-in in height and 33-in. in chest measurement. But if this opportunity be not taken within thirty days after the Secretary of State has notified the Lord-Lieutenant of the vacancy, the power of the latter in this respect lapses, and is then transferred to the officer commanding the unit. As a matter of fact, Lord-Lieutenants nominate but very few; and owing to the lack of suitable candidates in some parts of the country, a kind of Militia exchange, or register of officers willing to do duty with foreign battalions, has had to be instituted. 

"The connection between the Lord-Lieutenant and the county regiment of Militia is, indeed, a relic of Constitutional feudalism; and this magnate, when taking up his residence near the place of training, can claim to be provided with a Militia guard of honour, while his presence on the parade ground entitles him to the salute before the territorial Military authorities."

Monday, 16 April 2018

Enlistment advice in 1897

I'm not convinced that the following 'advice' from "one who has tried it" would have persuaded many a likely lad to join the army. The extracts below are from a larger article published in the Navy & Army Illustrated in 1897. Entitled "To those about to enlist", the anonymous author who, reading between the lines, was almost certainly a cavalryman, was certainly frank.

On pay...

"You will not be overpowered at the extent of your wealth as a private soldier. Month in, month out, you will be lucky to draw five shillings a week after deductions for mess allowances, barrack damages, renovation of kit, etc. How you will invest all this great sum is a matter on which I shall not presume to offer you any advice. You can easily get rid of it at the canteen, and will find a considerable number of jolly fellows to assist at that operation. You can expend it in improving your menu, or can put it in the regimental savings bank. You can gamble it away, or perchance increase it at cards - I do not recommend either— or send it home to your friends. Personally I found I required all my pay, and a little more, to keep me in grub. A beneficent nation allows you three-quarters of a pound of meat and one pound of bread per diem, and anything else you require you must pay for yourself. The meat varies as to quality— occasionally it is excellent, less often it is not fit for human consumption. As a rule the bread is fairly good. Groceries and vegetables come out of the mess fund, to which you pay a certain sum from your pay, whether you wish it or not."

On promotion...

"Don’t be in too big a hurry for promotion. If you merit it, you are bound to gain it in the Army, sooner, perhaps, than in any other walk of life; and remember that when it comes it will not be a bed of roses. Every step higher incurs certain responsibilities and the first step of all is the most important.

"A lance-corporal is the hardest worked, most abused, and unhappiest man alive. Remember when you get that stripe sewn on your sleeve that yesterday you were plain Private Tommy, and don’t fancy yourself Adjutant-General all in a moment. You will have a roughish time at first, especially with the men who were your equals yesterday, and now is the time to show what you are made of. You will require courage, tact, firmness - in a word, a strong heart - if you are to be a success as Lance Jack. The men watch you, and those above watch you, and you had better watch yourself closest of all." 

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Militia - enlistment, discharge and re-enlistment

The militia was regarded by many as a training ground for the regular army but without the full-time commitment demanded of a career soldier. As usual, the Army Book for The British Empire, published in 1893, contains some very useful information on enlistment into the militia, discharge from it, and re-enlistment.

Supply of men (a) Recruits
The recruit is enlisted for six years, and for the county in which he is raised. A militiaman, if under the age of 45, may engage for a further period of four years and may be re-enlisted for a period of four years up to the age of 45. He may not be transferred to the militia of another territorial regiment without his consent, but an infantry militiaman may be removed, if required, to any other battalion of the territorial regiment to which he belongs.
(b) Discharges
On termination of engagement by purchase, on conviction of felony, and as invalids, the discharge of militiamen may be carried out by officers commanding a militia unit without reference to higher authority. Discharges for misconduct (other than felony) must be referred to the general officer commanding the district.
(c) Enlistment into other Forces
If a militiaman wishes to enlist in the army or navy during the period of his training, he obtains from his commanding officer a "conditional discharge" pending his being released from his engagement. When not up for training or drill, a militiaman wishing to enlist into the army or navy can be attested at once.

A recruit enlisted for a militia unit receives no bounty on enlistment, but receives a bounty varying from £1 to £1 10 shillings on dismissal to his home from recruit drill, preliminary drill and training, under certain rules which are laid down. A militiaman receives an annual bounty of £1 on the expiration of his annual training, under certain restrictions. Every sergeant of militia who has joined on discharge from the army as a non-commissioned officer receives an annual bounty of £3 on the expiration of each training intended to stimulate non-commissioned officers of the regular forces to join the militia as sergeants.

Every militiaman on re-engagement receives a bounty of £1 10 shillings and an annual bounty of £1 10 shillings on expiration of training. Men who enlist for the militia after discharge from the regular army, army reserve, navy or marines receive a bounty of £1 10 shillings. A militiaman enlisted or re-enlisted for the militia reserve receives a bounty of £1 in advance for each year of service in the militia. A militiaman who, when up for drill on enlistment, preliminary drill or training, enlists into the regular army, receives a bounty of £1.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

National Library of Scotland - military resources

Have I mentioned lately what an extremely useful resource for military historians, the National Library of Scotland has become?

For a start, the material has been digitised to a high quality specification from original material held at the National Library. The image above is taken from Hart's Annual Army List for 1913 and there are many such volumes which can be easily accessed. Here' a list of Army Lists from 1839 to 1915, and clicking on any of the links on this page opens up further links. There are also separate sections for the Royal Navy 1913-1940 and the Royal Air Force 1919-1945.

The National Library of Scotland's War section can be accessed by clicking on the link. This then opens up a number of different categories of which the Army Lists (noted above), Rolls of Honour and military maps are arguably the most interesting.  The military maps include First World War trench maps 1915-1918 and maps of Belgium from the Second World War.

Best of all is that this is a free resource, digitised by the National Library of Scotland and made freely available to a worldwide audience.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Nafziger Orders of Battle collection

From the finding aid, updated in 2012:

"This collection was provided through the generous donation of George Nafziger to the Combined Arms Research Library. The Nafziger Orders Of Battle Collection contains a compilation of 7985 individual orders of battle from 1600 to 1945. It began with George Nafziger’s interest in Napoleonic Wars, and steadily grew to other areas because of the gaming public's interest in these highly detailed historical orders of battle. Sources range from published works to actual archival documents, which represent the largest single source. Nearly all orders of battle break down to the regimental level. The availability of strength figures and artillery equipment varies from period to period."

I've known about this collection for a while and was using it again this morning to look at British Army stations in the 1890s. Most of these transcripts are taken from lists published in The Army & Navy Gazette which itself can be accessed via the British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast.  The Nafziger list is useful though becuase the index and the individual PDFs are easily searchable and acan also be downloaded.

The Nafziger finding aid is here. Click on the individual links within this document to download the lists.

Sunday, 25 February 2018


Not army, but I couldn't resist re-publishing this piece on flogging in the Royal Navy in the 1860s. The original article was first published in The Navy & Army Gazette on the 6th July 1901:

Apropos of the paragraph on the sea term “Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter,” a correspondent, Mr Douglas White, writes: “Unfortunately I have witnessed a good many men flogged, and also boys, as I joined the Navy in 1862. All men were flogged across the back, and were tied up to a grating that was lashed to the main rigging and to ring bolts on the quarter-deck, and were naked to the waist. The chief boatswain's mate gave the first dozen and the other boatswain's mates according to seniority. It was called 'facing the Carpenter's looking-glass' as the carpenters rigged the gratings. Boys were the only ones that were flogged over the breech of a gun. The boys' cats had only five tails instead of nine. Before a man was made a boatswain's mate, or as soon as he was, he had to practise flogging in the boatswains' store-room over a hammock lashed up. I saw flogging on board the 'Fisguard,’ the ‘Wellesley,' and any amount of men and boys in the 'Conqueror' in the years 1862-63-64-65. The ‘Conqueror' was paid off at Sheerness at the end of February or the beginning of March, 1866, and I never saw any one flogged after that. I may also say that the term ‘Introduced Io the Blacksmith’s Daughter’ meant being put in irons. I left the Navy in 1887, and was a captain of the maintop and a seaman gunner."

Image re-appropriated by alamy who claim copyright.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Chelmsford School of Science & Art - Great War memorial

A nice discovery today at the Lord Ashcroft Building library, Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford. This memorial was originally unveiled in 1923 and located in the Frederick Chancellor building on Victoria Road South. The building still exists but has been re-purpsoed and will presumably be flats soon, or a gym,

This memorial plaque is really quite lovely and commemorates the following individuals:

2nd Lt Eric Bainbridge; Royal Flying Corps
2nd Lt Hugh Brown; 9th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Rifleman Robert Hodgson; Royal Fusiliers
2nd Lieutenant Alick Horsnell; 7th Suffolk Regiment
Lt Harry Mann; 178 Bde, Royal Field Artillery
Pte Frank Newell; 2/15th London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles)
L/Cpl Charles Taylor; 23rd Royal Fusiliers
Lt Cyril Thompson; 18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)
Spr Frederick G Thompson; 11th Signal Coy, Royal Engineers
Robert Turnell; 52md Sqdn, Royal Flying Corps

A panel next to the memorial gives more information:

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sufferin' suffragettes! There are FREE records on Findmypast

Findmypast has just published a collection of suffragette records and they're free of charge to registered users. To complement this important rlease, Findmypast is also making its census records and birth marriage and death records freely available as well. But you'll need to hurry!

The suffragette records are FREE until the 8th March but the census and BMD records are only free for a week, until the 8th February. So even if you don't have a suffragette in the family, you'll still be able to find your First World War ancestors in the civil and census records.