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.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Training the soldier to ride


The article below was first published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 11th February 1899 under the heading, Military Equitation. To a non-rider like myself, it is quite technical in places, but it does give a good idea of what a recruit had to undergo. And remember too, that being able to ride a horse was not a prerequisite when it came to enlisting in mounted units other than the yeomanry. The photo above shows riders at the top of their game, from left to right: 5th Lancers, 10th Hussars and 12th Lancers.

"The following remarks on the education of mounted recruits are intended to supplement those recently made on the training of Army horses. People invariably applaud the collective good horsemanship of a smart cavalry regiment, as well as the skill and address of individual experts in the arena of a tournament; but there is in general no conception of the pains required to bring men and horses into perfect and harmonious working order. The patient and skilful training of the young horses would be entirely thrown away if the riders were not taught, with equal care, how best to perform their share of the work.

"In order to become an efficient soldier on horseback, the recruit must, first of all, be a soldier on foot. He must learn prompt obedience to the word of command. His body must be balanced, his shoulders thrown back, and his muscular powers developed; in short, he has to be “set up”. The proper poise of the rider gives the horse the best chance of escaping a sore back, broken knees, and undue fatigue; the correct position of the shoulders is essential to closeness of seat in the saddle, while the flexibility and muscular development, the foundation of which is acquired on foot, enable the man to accommodate himself to the horse’s movements, and to direct them in all circumstances.

When the recruit is placed on a horse, he should be exactly on the weight-carrying centre of the animal’s back. In that position there is at once a minimum of disturbing motion, and a maximum of facility in the application of the “aids” by means of which the rider compels the horse to move in any direction and at any pace. It is, therefore, of the greatest moment that the saddle should be so constructed as to keep the soldier’s weight on that part of the back, and likewise that the recruit should perfectly understand the use and proper fitting of his horse’s saddlery in all its parts.

"After he has gained some confidence at the walk, trot, and canter, with stirrups, he is taught to ride without stirrups. This is a very trying exercise, especially on a rough horse, but it is the surest road to a safe seat. It teaches the rider to adapt himself to all the paces of the horse, and makes balance a second nature. Balance is the true foundation of all good riding; the man who has it does not require the help of the bridle to keep him in his place, but is, on the contrary, erect and independent, master of himself and of the horse he bestrides. The muscular power of the rider comes, of course, to his assistance when pressure of the leg or a tight grip of the saddle is necessary; but even then it is on balance that he mainly depends for the due control of his horse and the effective employment of his weapon.

"The meaning of the “aids” is defined in the authorised manual to be “the motions and proper application of the bridle-hand and legs, to direct and determine the turnings and paces of the horse.” For instance, in answer to the question, “ What aids are required in turning right or left About?” the following is laid down, and must, like other instructions, be remembered and repeated by the recruit : “ A stronger feeling of the inward rein, and a stronger pressure of the inward leg, supported by the outward leg and rein, the horse turning on his centre, fore and hind feet describing a circle.” On cantering, the recruit is taught to have a stronger feeling of the inward rein and outward leg; that is to say, if ordered to canter round the school, or in a circle, to the right, he will apply the right rein and left leg more strongly, and vice versa. He is also shown that by this use of the aids he can prevent his horse from cantering “false” or “disunited,” the former of these terms meaning the leading with the left leg when cantering to the right, and vice versa, and the latter the leading with the off fore and near hind, and vice versa.

"In “ shoulder-in,” the recruit learns to lead with the outward rein, while the inward preserves the bend. His inward leg presses the horse to cross his legs, and his outward keeps him up to the hand. In the “passage,” on the other hand, the inward rein both bends and leads. These movements are essential to the quick and smart performance of mounted duty, and they ensure the obedience of the horse to the indications of the rider’s will, frequently enabling him to gain the advantage over an adversary who is not so well mounted and drilled. The skilful application of the rein and spur produces movements which would be impossible for untrained horses, and, what is more, the state of training into which cavalry horses are brought, fits them for moving in the ranks with flexibility and order. In military schools fancy exercises find no favour, and are not according to regulation; but our present exercises form the foundation of our cavalry efficiency. Only a small portion of the drill has been touched upon, the object being to convey to the uninitiated some slight idea of what is necessary to the production of an efficient military horseman."

Clothing the British Army in 1899


The following extracts, and illustration, were first published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 28th January 1899.

"Every material used in clothing our soldiers is of the very best quality. It has often been remarked that a deserter never has any difficulty in exchanging his boots, shirt, and other articles of clothing that are not actually distinctive parts of his uniform, the reason being that they are of so much better quality than those he gets in return. The greatest care is taken in the selection of material, and endless pains are bestowed upon the making of the garments. Vast quantities of foot and head gear are bought ready-made, £233,000 a year being paid for boots and leggings, £50,000 for head gear, and £27,000 for other articles bought ready-made. But by far the greater part of the “goodly garb” a British soldier wears “ starts into shape and being” from the shears in the Royal Army Clothing Department at Pimlico. From this unpretentious-looking block of buildings every yard of cloth used in the British Army is issued.

"The buildings cover more than seven acres of ground, and consist of four solid sections, three being given over to packing and storing materials and made-up garments, and the other being divided into the inspection department and the factory where the garments are made. Once a year tenders are issued for the supply of fresh materials, and contractors come to the Clothing Department to examine the patterns of stuffs required. The pattern-room is a large apartment, where a sample of every article of dress and toilet used by a British soldier is kept. All goods sent in by contractors are tested carefully, to see that they are in every detail according to the sample. For instance, the cloth sent in is stretched until it breaks, the breaking strain in pounds being registered on a dial. The dye is also subjected to a test, a sample of the cloth being boiled three or four times over, to see whether the colour is according to contract. After these ordeals the cloth is passed over two horizontal rollers, and examined by experts who look for holes and flaws. Having passed this test satisfactorily, the cloth is folded, and every quarter of a yard is stamped with the Government broad arrow, and with the number of the person through whose hands it passes, who is responsible for the bale.

"The quantity of cloth and serge issued in a year amounts to 3,600,000-yds. Think what this means. If the cloth were laid down in the roadway it would more than reach from London to Manchester. The quantity of cotton material used in a year comes to about 1,500,000-yds. Of silk and thread it is calculated that 40,000 miles are drawn through the cloth in a year, which is practically 130 miles a day. The material used in the Royal Army Clothing Department costs £485,000 a year, and the annual wages of the Department average about £64,000."



Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The military moustache


The following article was published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 10th September 1898.

The moustache, which nowadays is almost as much an attribute of the military officer as the sword, was only begun to be worn in the Army at the beginning of the century. It first came into wear in the cavalry, on the introduction of Hussars as part of our military establishment. Foreign Hussars, from whom the dress and equipment of our Hussars were copied, wore moustaches, and the authorities directed by order that all ranks of our new Hussar regiments should follow their models. Ten years later, on Lancers being instituted in the British Army, similarly in imitation of the Lancer regiments of the Continent, particularly Napoleon’s Polish Lancers whom we met in the Peninsula, moustaches were ordered for our Lancers - the Continentals wearing moustaches - and after that our remaining Light Dragoon regiments, in due course, all adopted the moustache.


In the infantry the custom of wearing the moustache came in much later - not until the beginning of the Russian War. Our troops were at Varna, and after suffering considerably from cholera, were preparing for  the invasion of the Crimea, when on July 31, 1854, Lord Hardinge, the Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards, issued the following Army memorandum: “A large part of the Army being employed in Turkey, where it has been found beneficial to keep the upper lip unshaven and allow the moustache to grow, the general commanding-in-chief is pleased to authorise that practice in the Army generally.” The permission was, however, limited by a proviso which required “a clear space of two inches between the corner of the mouth and the whiskers (if any), the chin and under lip, and two inches of the throat to be kept shaven.” Whiskers went after 1870, and nowadays the moustache has come under the Queen’s Regulations for all branches of the Service. So much so indeed that only a year ago the authorities at the Horse Guards learned with indignation that young officers in certain regiments did not sufficiently cultivate the growth of moustaches by omitting to shave the upper lip, in consequence of which general officers commanding have now instructions to suppress such irregularities by any means that they  "may think necessary.”

The photograph on this post is taken from the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Annual for 1909 and shows Lt-Colonel Owen Cadogan Wolley Dod DSO (1863-1942) who, as well as commanding the 1st Battalion, also sported some terrific whiskers.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Regimental chronicles and annuals wanted


I started the year with a single copy of the Rifle Brigade Chronicle on my bookshelves; the Chronicle for 1912.  I end the year with a virtually complete run of RB Chronicles from 1890 to the 1980s, and the KRRC Chronicle from 1901 to 1920, and a small run of the Sherwood Foresters annual from 1909 to 1920. Not a bad year, but it did mean that I had to buy more bookshelves.

Neveretheless, there are gaps, and I urgently seek the following volumes to complete otherwise complete runs:

Rifle Brigade Chronicle
1914, 1915, 1926, 1931, 1940, 1941, 1942

King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle
1915, 1919

Sherwood Foresters Annual
1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919

In addition, I am looking to buy regimental chronicles for other regiments so if you have any for sale, please drop me a line.


Sunday, 5 November 2017

The British Army's component parts


This post will aim to give a concise overview of the component parts of the British Army between, for the sake of convenience, 1881 and 1918.

The Regular Army
Until July 1881 the majority of infantry regiments had been designated as Regiments of Foot but by July 1881 these designations had been swept away and replaced with 'territorial' or county titles. This was all part of Secretary of State for War Edward Cardwell's army reforms, carried through in 1881 by his successor, the then Secretary of State for War, Hugh Childers. 

The first 25 Regiments of Foot were all two-battalion regiments but the Regiments of Foot from the 26th Foot onwards were all single battalions which were now paired with another battalion. Thus, for example, the 26th (Cameronian) Regiment of Foot was paired with the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) to form The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). This was a logical pairing of two Scottish regiments whereas the pairing of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot with the 108th (Madras Infantry) Regiment of Foot to form the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers made no sense at all to many an outraged retired colonel.

Men joining the army enlisted for 12 years in total, this term comprised of colour service and reserve service. The periods of colour and reserve service varied according to the corps the man signed up with, and according to when he signed up. Typical terms of enlistment with the infantry were seven years with the colours and five years on the reserve. A man served his first seven years in army uniform but when he was transferred to the reserve he handed in his uniform and returned to civvy street, albeit with the liability to be recalled to the colours if his country needed him. Men were recalled from the reserve in 1899 and in 1914.

Regular regiments typically had two battalions, one serving at home in the United Kingdom and one serving overseas. However, this being the British Army there were exceptions to every rule. The Cameron Highlanders was a single-battalion regiment until 1897 whilst there were a number of regiments which had four battalions at different points in time.

The Militia 
The militia was seen by many young men as a good testing ground for military life. By 1881 each infantry regiment had between one and three (in Ireland) militia battalions comprised of men who committed to serve a term of six years in total. The militia trained with and shared a depot with the infantry regiment and both the militia and the regular battalions were funded and governed by the War Office.

Militia commitment was very much a local and a part-time affair. New recruits signed up to serve in the county in which they were resident and typically drilled for 49 days on enlistment before returning to their civilian lives. Their only commitment thereafter was regular training and an annual two-week camp. 

The militia could be embodied for war service and this happened in 1899, forty militia battalions being approached to volunteer. 

The Militia Reserve
The militia reserve was a reserve for the regular army. It consisted of militia-men who, in return for a bounty of £1 a year, committed to remain with the militia either six years or the whole time of their service. In the event of war they were to enter the regular army on the same terms as men on the army reserve men and could be sent anywhere in the world and assigned to any regiment to which the army deemed it fit to send them.

The Volunteer Force & Territorial Force
The Volunteer Force (VF) was established in 1859 and quickly grew as a citizen army managed and funded by local worthies rather than the War Office. In 1908 the VF was superseded by the Territorial Force (TF), run by County Associations which, nonetheless, had no jurisdiction over their operational deployment. Men joining the TF did so for four years, and for service in the United Kingdom only, although they could also volunteer to serve overseas. Ireland had no Territorial Force battalions. As indicated, the TF was organised on a county level although some battalions found themselves being administered by more than one county association. The 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, for instance, were each administered by two different county associations. 

The Special Reserve and Extra Reserve
The Special Reserve replaced the militia in 1908, just as the Territorial Force replaced the Volunteer Force in the same year. Men joining the Special Reserve enlisted for six years' service but with the understanding that in the event of war they could be sent out as part of draft to replace casualties in the regular battalions. The Special Reserve attracted men who had no prior military service and, later, men who were time-expired regulars. See this post of mine detailing the Special Reserve attestation form to be used. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Photographing the Fallen: Ivan Bawtree and the GRU


Ivan Bawtree had a very different Great War. Working with the Graves Registration Unit of the Royal Engineers, and calling on his pre-war photographic expertise with Kodak, Ivan photographed the graves and cemeteries of France and Belgium. His work survives today as The Bawtree Collection at the Imperial War Museum, and the photograph that appears above is part of that 600-image collection.

Pen and Sword have just published a book about Ivan Bawtree's work, written by his great nephew, Jeremy Gordon-Smith, and it's a cracking read, packed full of Ivan's photographs and augmented by Ivan's diary entries and Jeremy Gordon-Smith's own research.  For me personally, with a growing interest in the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission and men like Lutyens and Baker whose architectural excellence can be seen in hundreds of cemeteries and memorials in Britain and on the old Western Front, this book adds some incredibly useful information. 

Obviously inheriting some of his great-uncle's photographic skills, there are some cleverly manipulated shots which merge contemporary views with Ivan's original photographs, and there are some great archive images of those early growing cemeteries as well as lighter moments snapped with comrades.

This has to be one of the more profusely illustrated of Pen & Sword's books, published to the usual high standards and including useful notes, a bibliography and index. Better still it is well-written and a fitting tribute to the man behind the lens. If I didn't already have a copy, this would certainly be on my Christmas list. 

Photograph © Jeremy Gordon-Smith. Readers may also be interested to know that Ivan Bawtree's service record survives in WO 363. Clicking on the link will take you to it.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Tropical group; named but undated


Here's another recent eBay purchase. The men are all named as follows:

Back row, left to right: Sapper Doane, Sapper Biggs, Signalman Dorling, Sapper Rudd, Signalman Field, Sapper Allen.
Front row, left to right: Lance-Corporal Ayling, Sergeant Ricketts,  Major A F Day, Captain L G Butler MC, Corporal Effland, Sapper Eastmead

With all of these things, an element of detective work is necessary and in this case I started with the officers.  

Major A F Day is possibly the same captain and quartermaster A F Day whose promotion to major (and quartermaster) took place on the 10th February 1947. He could also be the same Lieutenant A F Day who was interned in Holland on the 29th December 1917 and repatriated on the 21st January 1919.

Captain L G Butler MC is Captain Leolin George Butler who was promoted captain on the 14th November 1926.  He was born in Bristol  in 1893 and his death was registered at Weston-Super-Mare in 1986. In 1911 he was working as a civil engineer for a ferro-concrete engineer. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the Wessex Divisional Engineers on the 10th October 1915.

There is a variety of medal ribbons on display. Captain Butler's MC is clearly visible, so too his British War and Victory Medal ribbons. Signalman Field wears a 1914-15 trio; Major Day could be wearing Boer War ribbons; Sergeant Ricketts and Corporal Effland both look as though they are wearing ribbons from the second world war.


So where was the photo taken? Somewhere tropical judging by the helmets. And whilst we're at it, what about those helmets? Is that Royal Artillery on the left and Royal Engineers on the right? As for a date, I'm going with post Second World War. I welcome further thoughts on this photograph.

25th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers


This was a nice discovery for me this morning; a website dedicated to the 25th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. I don't have a particular interest in this battalion but I had just finished a research project on a man who served with the 25th and then stumbled upon this website. I would suggest that this is probably essential reading for anyone with an interest in this particular battalion and it looks well-researched. There are also transcripts of the battalion war diary which is an incredibly useful bonus.

Well done to Steve Eeeles the owner of this website and for whom the research must have been - and probably still is - a true labour of love.