Saturday, 1 October 2016

572 Sergeant Richard Gray, Leinster Regiment

Above, unknown sergeant from Richard Gray collection. 

I bought some photos on eBay recently which were from a larger collection of photos that had once belonged to Richard Gray. The vendor of the photographs had broken the collection up and some had already been sold elsewhere. Having been together for well over a hundred years, I always find it deplorable that collections are thus distributed, and so if the buyer of those other photographs should happen to read this, I will be very happy to buy back the missing photos.

The notes which follow are from my research into Richard Gray. Numbers in square brackets refer to the last four digits of his service record which happily survives in series WO 363 (now available on Ancestry and Findmypast). I shall be happy to receive information about this man. 

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23rd September 1865
Born at Aharn, Fermoy, County Cork [2821 & 2829]; son of William Gray of Portlaw, County Waterford
3rd December 1865
Born [1939 Register]
23rd August 1884
Attested, aged 18 years and 11 months [2821], a teacher [2829]
24th August 1884
Birr. Accident off duty. [2826]
27th August 1884
Depot. Joined Leinster Regiment, regimental number 572 [2825]
28th October 1884
Depot. Obtains First Class Certificate of Education [2833]
15th November 1884
Posted to 2nd Battalion [2832]
21st February 1885
2nd Battalion. Appointed lance-corporal [2832]
23rd July 1885
2nd Battalion. Promoted corporal [2832]
19th September 1885
2nd Battalion. Fermoy [2826]
14th December 1885
Posted to 1st Battalion [2832] 
15th December 1885
HMS Malabar [2826]
10th January 1886
Landed in India [2826]
25th January 1886
Faizabad? [2826]
1st May 1886
India? [2826]
8th November 1886
Calcutta [2826]
19th November 1886
Assistant Instructor in Army Signalling [2833]
Silver Medal for Mathematics [2818]
16th March 1890
Transferred to the Unattached List for employment in the Public Works Dept. Promoted Sergeant on the Unattached List [2832]
21st March 1890
Agra [2826]
15th May 1891
Resigns appointment on Bengal Unattached List [2832]
Corporal [2832]
23rd September 1891
Passed fit to extend service to 12 years [2826]
21st May 1892
Passes class of instruction in Divisional Transport [2833]
6th November 1892
Appointed Orderly Room Corporal [2831]
9th December 1892
Dessa? India [2826]
31st December 1892
Appointed Lance-Sergeant [2831]
12th October 1893
Appointed Acting Sergeant [2831]

I believe this photo - not one of those which I purchased - dates to this period

3rd March 1894
Poona  [2826]
Deolali [2826]
HOME - 13TH JANUARY 1895 - 18TH OCTOBER 1900
14th January 1895
Tipperary [2826]
22nd April 1895
Clonmel [2826]
16th September 1895
Tipperary [2826]
11th December 1895
Promoted Sergeant [2831]
27th February 1896
Re-engaged at Navau to complete 21 years [2831]
1st March 1896
Transferred to 5th Battalion [2831]
16th September 1896
Marries Alice Edith Slade at St Mary's Church, Navan [2833]
1st October 1896
Birr [2826]
25th September 1898
Son, William F D Gray born at Navan, Meath [2833 & 1911 Census]
1st March 1899
Posted to Depot [2831]
8th April 1899
Shorncliffe [2826]

I believe this superb photo dates to around this time. All of the men pictured appear to be senior NCOs, mostly from the Royal Artillery.  Richard Gray is standing, third from left. 

5th September 1899
Fermoy [2826]
17th January 1900
Birr [2826]
20th June 1900
Daughter, Alice Edith Gray born at Birr, King's County [2833 & 1911 Census]
24th August 1900
Sentenced by DCM to be reduced to the ranks for drunkenness on duty [2831]
25th August 1900
Reduced to Private [2831]
19th October 1900
Transferred to 1st Battalion [2831]
20th September 1902
S S Englishman [2826]
1st September 1902
Appointed paid Lance-corporal [2831]
28th October 1902
Fermoy [2826]
18th July 1903
Son, Richard Bruce Gray born at Fermoy [2833 & 1911 Census]
1st March 1904
Obtained Acting Schoolmaster certificate [2833]
18th June 1904
Shorncliffe [2826]
30th October 1904
Promoted corporal [2828 & 2831]
22nd August 1905
Corporal Richard Gray. Discharged at Shorncliffe, aged 39 years and 11 months, on the termination of second period of limited engagement [2818]. Intended place of residence is Military Avenue, Cheriton, Kent [2833]
Son, Thomas Alexander Gray born at St-Peter's-in-the-, Kent [1911 Census]
Daughter, Eleanor Dorothy Gray born at Chelsfield, Kent [1911 Census]
April 1911
Recorded as "Army Pensioner - Schoolmaster. Not employed" Living at Ivy Dene, Green Street Green, Orpington, Kent [1911 Census]

Detail from a larger photograph - not mine - which may date to around this time.

11th August 1914
Attests for General Service at Maidstone with Royal West Kent Regiment, aged 48 years and 9 months; a teacher. Posted to regimental depot, regimental number G/659 [2835]
11th September 1914
Attestation date incorrectly noted [2821]
12th September 1914
Promoted sergeant [2821]
23rd October 1914
Posted to 9th Battalion, RWK [2836]
30th August 1915
France [2837]
22nd September 1917
Transferred to Labour Corps, sergeant [2836] Reg No: 378453 [2837]
19th December 1918
Discharged [2821] no longer physically fit for war service [2836]. Address, Ivy Dene, Green Street, Orpington, Kent [2836]

This photo - not mine -must pre-date the award of Richard's First World War medals. The cap and collar number suggest an omnibus or tram company but I would welcome further thought on this.

29th September 1939
County Hospital, Farnborough, Orpington. "Incapacitated. Retired civil servant. Army Pensioner. Wife Alice is also a patient  [1939 Register]
23rd January 1940
Died, County Hospital, Farnborough, Orpington, aged 74. Address given as Ivy Dene, Worlds End Lane, Chelsfield, Orpington. Death registered by son, Richard B Gray, of Southlands, 148 Park Avenue, Orpington [2822]

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Unnatural Behaviour - Queen's West Surrey Regiment "bun-punchers"

This rather nice photo shows men of the 1st Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) in India in about 1907. This belongs to a larger collection I bought earlier in the year relating to the service of 8374 Pte George Anderson who had enlisted with the regiment in May 1905.  There are a number of photos that came with his medals - and those of his son, Lewis Robert Anderson - and as a result of studying these photographs, I believe George Anderson to be the man in the back row, fifth from left.

In the group photograph, the men wear Army Temperance Association and Indian Army Temperance Association medals. 'George Anderson' wears three medals for six months, one year and two year periods of abstention; "unnatural behaviour" according to Old Soldier Sahib, Frank Richards who had this to say about the army's teetotallers in his eponymous memoirs:

"To be a member of the Army Temperance Association, a man had to sign the pledge and contribute four annas a month to the funds, which gave him the use of the ATA room, where there were a number of newspapers and magazines not to be found in the Library. Members who kept their pledge were entitled to ATA medals. One was awarded after six months, and I believe they continued to be dealt out at yearly intervals, but a man would have to be back in civil life before he could appear in public wearing these certificates of unnatural behaviour. [Obviously not true, judging by the photo on this page].

"Every six months the members elected a new barman and secretary, who were each paid £2 a month out of funds. These were coveted posts because if an additional £20 or £30 a month could not be made between the two of them, and a handsome profit still shown, this meant either perfect incompetence or, what was less likely, perfect honesty. A percentage of the profit shown was sent to the headquarters of the ATA, the remainder was spent on card tournaments, dances and concerts. 

"I knew about the money side of the business from one barman who, during the time he was on the job, often held cheerful card parties in his bunk after eleven o'clock at night: they were made cheerful by the whiskey and soda which he provided for the party. He was very fond of whiskey and soda, though the staunchest of teetotallers in other respects. Tea, which we called "char", mineral water, cake and bread and butter were sold at the ATA. The main profit was made out of the char, which was sold at two annas a pint. Genuine bun-punchers or char-wallahs, as they were called, would drink char all day: summer and winter they drank it. The Prayer-wallah often said that if the bodies of the ATA men who had died in India from causes known or unknown were to be assembled in one grave, the finest tea-garden in the world would soon sprout up from between their bones."

Group photographs like this are helpful because they can help you work out when a man might have enlisted. George's three temperance medals indicate that he must have been a member of the Army Temperance Association for at least two years but there are men in this photo who must have joined up a good deal earlier. The gymnastics sergeant instructor on the left, below, has medals denoting nine years' abstention whilst his colleague - who also wears the medal ribbon of the Queen's South Africa Medal - has medals which are certificates of five years' abstention. 

Some of these medals can be seen in the photo below. This particular collection was sold at auction by Dix Noonan Webb in February 2016 (photo courtesy of DNW) and have just now re-appeared on the Aberdeen Medals site:

My guess would be that George's six month and one year medals are for the Army Temperance Home Organisation, whilst his two year medal is certainly the commemorative Queen Victoria medal which was issued in India and which appears fifth from left in the image above. 

Apart from his temperance medals, George Anderson went on to serve with the Queen's in 1914, earning a 1914 Star trio (with clasp). His son would also later serve as a regular with the Gordon Highlnders and would die in 1943 as a prisoner of war of the Japanese whilst working on the Burma-Siam railway.

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Thursday, 4 August 2016

80th Foot - South Africa 1878-1879

There's a fantastically creative and  artistic memorial in Lichfield Cathedral which must have cauised quite a stir when it was unveiled. It comes in the form of a metal gate comprised of spears and adorned with Zulu shields, which commemorates the men of the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment, who lost their lives in South Africa in 1878 and 1879. On the shields are the names of those who died. A tablet at the base of the gate explains what it's all about.

Here are the same men  - in the same order - on the South Africa 1877-1879 medal roll. They were all killed in action at the Battle of Intombe on the 12th March 1879. Knowing their regimental numbers would now enable a researcher to work out when they must have enlisted:

Lichfield Cathedral is awash with military plaques and memorials, the vast majority of these pre-dating the First World War. The cathedral is well worth a visit to Lichfield in its own right.

Note the detail of the corn on the cob in the centre of the panel below; presumably a reference to the terrain where the men lost their lives.

There are five Zulu shields in all, each of them uniquely decorated. This is a truly wonderful and eye-catching memorial to what has become largely a forgotten campaign.

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Royal Artillery gunner - efficiency prize-winner

Here's a nice photo which I bought the other day and which shows an artillery gunner with the crossed cannons and five pointed star which indicate that he won second prize as the most efficient gunner in his battery or company. Had he been the most efficient gunner, he'd be wearing a crown in place of the star.

There is no date on this photo but it must be 1902 onwards as the worsted badges were not introduced until this year. This man also wears a good conduct chevron indicating two years of 'undetected crime' and carries a swagger stick as part of his 'Walking Out' dress.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Albert Franklin, an Oxfordshire volunteer

My thanks to Jennifer Madden in the USA, for sending me this superb photograph of men of the 4th (Territorial Force) Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry. Along with this photo there was also the certificate of service, below, which was issued to Albert Owen Franklin of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry.

The Volunteer Force ceased to exist from 31st March 1908 and the following day the Territorial Force came into being. Certificates like this were issued to men who had served with the Volunteer Force, and we can see quite clearly that Albert had originally joined on the 9th January 1908 and had served for eighty-three days by the time the VF was wound up at the end of March.

But what of the man? I checked various online resources which lead me to conclude that Albert Owen H Franklin was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire on the 23rd July 1890. He appears on the 1891 census as an eight-month old baby, the son of Owen Franklin (aged 28, a tailor) and Cecilia Franklin (aged 23, his wife). At the time the census was taken, the family was living at 21 Queen Street, Neithrop, Banbury.

Ten years on and the family had expanded. The 1901 census shows Owen and Cecilia living at 6 Milton Street, Neithrop, with Albert by now ten years old, and accompanied by a sister, Ethel Franklin, aged eight.

Ten years on again and by now, Albert, aged 20, is also working as a tailor and still living at home - given as 9 Castle Street West, Banbury - with his parents and Ethel (working as a fancy box maker), as well as another sister, Kathleen Franklin, aged 18 months.  The census also notes that Owen and Cecilia had been married for 22 years and had had four children, one of whom had died. This was probably another daughter, Florence Edith Franklin, who was born in the first quarter of 1905 and whose death was registered in the same quarter.

By the time, the 1911 census was taken, Albert was almost certainly a member of the 4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the regimental name having changed on the 16th October 1908. I am assuming that the photograph at the top of this post was taken within a year or two of the battalion's formation in April 1908 and as Mike Briggs points out, none of the men wear Imperial Service badges (introduced in 1910) and so the photograph almost certainly pre-dates this.  I was unsure whether this photograph showed men of the VF or the TF but again, as Mike points out, the men wear metal shoulder titles and not the cloth titles commonly seen on VF uniforms.  The shoulder title would have looked like this (courtesy of British Military Badges):

There are a number of other interesting points of note on this splendid photograph.  For a start there are 83 men pictured. We known that Albert was based in Banbury and so this suggests that the photograph shows men of C or G Company, 4th Ox & Bucks, which were the two Banbury companies. 

Seven men in the photograph wear efficiency stars on their lower right sleeves:

Each star was awarded for four years' service which means that the youthful looking chap on the left had served at least eight years in the TF/VF whilst his companion on the right had served at least four years. Some men, like this partially out-of-shot private, had served even longer:

The only officer in the group looks as though he's about fourteen years old. On his right sits a colour-sergeant instructor and Boer War veteran. On his left sits another colour-sergeant. This second colour-sergeant also has at least one efficiency star which is partially visible.

Apart from the badges of rank, there are also skill-at-arms badges visible. The sergeant seated to the Boer war veteran's right has the crossed musket's denoting a marksman's qualification:

whilst the man in the centre of the group below, had qualified as a signaller, hence the crossed flags on his lower left sleeve:

One of the men in this photograph is presumably Albert Owen Franklin, but which one? It is impossible to tell. The photograph was taken by Norman Taylor of Oxford but there are no other marks of identification on this photograph.

If Albert went on to serve in the First World War, I have yet to find him. He does not appear on First World War campaign medal rolls for the 4th Ox and Bucks and there is no surviving service or pension record for a man of this name born in Banbury.  Joining the TF in 1908 and attesting for four years' service, he would have been discharged by 1912 and may not have re-engaged for further periods of service. If he did serve in the First World War - and I would think it likely that he did so - this part of his life is a mystery to me.

Albert appears on the 1939 Register, still single, still living with his parents and two sisters, and still working as a tailor. When the Register was taken, the family was living at 9 Castle Street West, Banbury.

Albert Franklin died in 1974, his death registered at Banbury in the first quarter of that year. He is presumably buried in Banbury. How his photograph and Volunteer Force certificate ended up in North America is currently a mystery, and I shall be pleased to hear from anyone who can shed more light on this man and his life.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

New military releases on Findmypast

Findmypast has recently made some major changes to its military collection.

For a start, the two service record collections which were previously known as British Army Service Records 1760-1915 and British Army Service Records 1914-1920 have now been merged into a single collection called simply British Army Service Records. This is a great improvement a) because the British Army Service Records 1914-1920 collection contained records going back a good way before 1914 anyway, and b) because it is now possible to see men who have files in more than one WO category.

Furthermore, Findmypast has also added to its store of WO records. New releases launched at the same time include the following series:

WO 76 - Regimental records of officers' services 1775-1914
Information varies but usually contains brief details of service. I found this particularly useful when I was looking at officers who had served in the Scottish Rifles.

WO 339 - Officers' services, First World War, regular army and emergency reserve officers 
This series is presented on Findmypast as index-only. The transcripts were created from records and correspondence related to officers in the regular army and the emergency reserve during the First World War. These records have not yet been digitised but can be viewed in their original state at The National Archives, Kew, London.

WO 374 - Officers' services, First World War, personal files 
This is an index of men who served as officers in the British Army during the First World War. Original papers for these men can be viewed in their original state at The National Archives, Kew, London. 
WO 400 - The Household Cavalry 1801-1919 
The Household Cavalry comprised the 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards. During the First World War, a fourth regiment, The Household Battalion, was also raised, and this collection contains the service records of non-commissioned officers and men who served with all four regiments. 

Findmypast also has also indexed WO 363 and WO 364 more comprehensively than Ancestry, although you'll still need Ancestry for medal index cards, medal rolls, soldiers effects register and war diaries (if you can find what you are looking for on their perplexing index, I might add).

I say it again and again, but there probably has never been a better time to be a family (or military) historian - and next week will probably be better still. And to think I used to have to trek up to Kew thirty years ago. The youngsters today, they don't know they were born!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

1st Bedfordshire Regt - 2 Vols - Going, going...

Naval and Military Press have this two-volume history of the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment up for sale at £12.99, discounted from £40.00. With postage, it will cost you £16.84 in total (I know that for a fact because I've just this minute ordered my own copies). 

Steve Fuller is something of an expert on the Beds Regt and so this book should do the battalion justice. I have a 1914 Star trio and LSGC to one of the Beds regulars and so this book will be useful now, and in the future. I would imagine these volumes will be hard to come by before very long so grab yourself the set whilst you still can.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The First Day of The Somme - Gommecourt to Maricourt - 1 July 1916

The First Day of the Somme, by seasoned authors and Western Front travellers Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland, is not due for release until the 30th June but I know, having seen a proof copy, that it is going to be an indispensible companion to anyone with an interest in walking the Somme battlefields. As unwieldy as my proof copy is, I shall certainly make sure it is tucked into my rucksack when I head over for France myself in time for the 100th anniversary commemorations.

Eleven routes are covered in the book, the longest being the Gommecourt to Serre spine route at 5.3 miles, and the shortest being the Fricourt to Mametz route at just 1.5 miles. The determined traveller, blessed with good weather and sturdy walking boots could probably cover two or more of these walks in a single day, albeit these are not routes to be taken lightly, rather pilgrimages studded with cemeteries, private memorials, grassed-over craters and fading trench lines. On these walks, nearly 60,000 men spilled blood on the opening day of the battle itself, and tens of thousands would die before the campaign ground to a bloody and muddy halt in November 1916.

Each route begins with a general description and context and there are simple maps with key points indicated which the text then refers to.  For instance, the first route in the book, Gommecourt North, has nine points of interest indicated and so I can see that figure 1 refers to a plaque to the 1/5th North Staffordshire Regiment on the wall of the Mairie, figure 3 offers a view to le Bois Batard and figure 4 indicates the ground over which the 1/5th and 1/7th Sherwood Foresters of 139 Brigade advanced. The narrative never bores and is interspersed with accounts written or narrated by men who were there. Additional text and photographs pick out memorials, cemeteries, portraits of participants and the landscape itself. Emboldened text draws the reader's eye quickly to named individuals and places.

This is a GOOD book, and quite possibly a GREAT book. I suspect that it will be more useful on a Kindle than in book format, but nevertheless I'm going to grasp the bull by the horns and take my A4 proof copy secured in a plastic ring binder and pore over the pages as I tramp across the fields of northern France. Thankfully the book also notes places to rest and refresh and so that's covered too.

I can't comment on the book's look and feel but I suspect that, typical of Pen & Sword titles, this volume will be published to the usual high standard.

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Using local newspapers

As the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Battle of the Somme draws closer, and as more and more military records appear online, a remnder not to overlook the steadily growing British Newspaper Archive.

Since it was launched, over 14.4m pages from 610 publications have been digitised and published online.You can take out a subscription with the BNA or access the same material through Findmypast. I use the resource a lot and have always thought what a bargain it is to be included in the Findmypast subscription. Although the majority of the published pages date to the nineenth century, there is a growing collection of pages from the twentieth century, including many regional papers published during the First World War. It is these papers which can help to add so much more detail about a soldier, particularly if he was an officer and was killed in action.

For the purpose of this post,let's just take a look at a single page of The Liverpool Daily Post for the 21st July 1916.  Here, the newspaper has pulled names of officers from the official Times casualty lists and published details of Other Ranks from Liverpool and the surrounding areas.  There is good coverage of officer fatalities, which, in this particular issue, included a photograph of Captain Horace John Simkin and the following biography:

Captain Simkin was killed in action whilst serving with C Company, 13th King's (Liverpool Regiment) and is buried in Dive Copse British Cemetery at Sailly-le-Sec. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry notes that he had been mentioned in dispatches.

So ignore newspapers at your peril. Many include photographs of other ranks who were killed or died of wounds - The Manchester Evening News is a good example here - and don't give up just because the search term you have keyed in does not yield results. OCR is still - despite what others might say - an imperfect science and it does not always pick up the text accurately. If you know an ancestor became a casualty on a particular date, try and find the newspaper that would have covered the area where he was living and then start browsing the pages online. Having spent a fortnight at the British Newspaper Library in Colindale many years ago, trawling through back issues of various Sussex newspapers, I can assure you that the online searching is a good deal easier - and doesn't leave newsprint on your fingers.

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Old Contemptible

Does anybody have copies of this publication that they would be willing to sell? A complete set sought but will also consider loose copies. Drop me a line via the RESEARCH tab please.

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information.