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. 



Princess Louise Scottish Hospital


Somewhat belatedly, considering it was digitised in 2016, I came across a fascinating archive of admission register entries for the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Maimed and Limbless sailors and soldiers.

Hospital admission registers for the First World War do not, as a rule, survive but here we have admissions recorded between 1916 and 1936. There is a lot of useful information on the Erskine Archive Project page but of course the real gems are the entries themselves which have been competently digitised (thanks to a grant from the Wellcome Trust), and comprehensively indexed (thanks to volunteers from the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society).


It is not clear exactly how many names appear in these registers but certainly in excess of 9000. Early entries tend to be for men who had received amputations whilst later entries in the 1930s (like the one above) are just as likely to note conditions such as nephritis, bronchitis, asthma and rheumatism. 

The registers give good detail, recording a man's name, age, trade, home address, regiment, regimental number, rank, religion, details of amputation, date of admission and date of discharge. Deaths and other notes may also be recorded in the remarks' column. 

Searching is free of charge and images can be downloaded. It is a terrific resource.

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: http://chailey1418.blogspot.co.uk/

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

H H W W
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.