Saturday, 5 January 2013

11538 Private A H Ball - a re-constructed service history

The Highland Light Infantry Chronicle, in its October 1919 issue, reports an undisposed of balance of £119 7s and 11d for a Private A H Ball; a considerable sum for a man drawing a shilling a day.  So how did a private soldier amass such a large amount?

My first step was to see when he died.  Soldiers Died in The Great War shows that he was Arthur Henry Ball, that his number was 11538 and that he "died" on the 18th July 1918.  "Died" is significant in that it implies he was neither killed in action nor died of wounds.  I checked the Commonwealth War Graves site and this shows that Private Ball was 24 years old at the time of his death and his buried in Berlin South-West Cemetery.  Dying in Germany, obviously suggests that he was a prisoner of war and again, the Highland Light Infantry Chronicle notes in its January 1915 issue that Private Ball is missing.

My own database of regimental numbers suggests that Arthur Ball joined the HLI in April 1910 and the HLI Chronicle supports this.  Arthur is noted as one of a party of 21 recruits who proceeded from the regimental Depot on 20th June 1910 to join the 2nd Battalion in Cork. He subsequently obtained a 2nd Class Army Certificate and on the 9th October 1912, was drafted to the 1st Battalion which was then stationed in India.

Arthur's medal index card shows that he arrived in France on the 1st December 1914 and The Long, Long Trail website confirms that on this date the 1st Battalion landed in Marseilles having travelled from Ambala in India, via Egypt.  That Arthur appears as missing in the January issue of the HLI Chronicle obviously suggests that he was captured soon after arriving in France.  As for his undisposed balance, I suggest that this was back pay accumulated during nearly four years' captivity in Germany. 

Finally, a word about Arthur Ball's age.  As noted, CWGC records his age in 1918 as 24.  If he joined the regiment eight years earlier, this suggests that he was born in 1894 and therefore enlisted as a boy soldier aged 16.  I think this is unlikely.  The HLI Chronicle (fastidious in its reporting), makes no mention that Arthur was a 'Boy'.  Furthermore, it was not British Army policy (pre 1914 anyway) to send soldiers younger than 20 years of age overseas, and we know that Arthur sailed for India in 1912.  I could almost certainly resolve the age question by checking census returns (SDGW gives his place of birth as Bristol) but as yet I've not had time to pursue this line of investigation.


  1. I am a Distant relative on the 10th of August a letter was sent from a nurse , whom had noted he arrive on the 16th of July to her hospital “ as" the poor Dying solider “ from another hospital, he immediately had an operation their, which the surgeon spoke of an “indian Malady of the liver and does not break out for a long time “ The last night she offered /forced herself to sit up near his bed with the Hospital nurse all the time , but he would not accept this sacrifice the following morning he begged me to write his relations that he was very ill and that he should die, I promised to comply with his wishes soon after he had died quietly ,He had been always patient, I assit to you that after the operation he has , no more suffering - God Help you In Your Sadness “ from 5 Chiaislter Masrthastert, Liche???? I think that c/o??? Balasiss Sklessn

  2. BronzeStar letter sent from the war records office -Stamped Infantry records office Hamilton !8th Feb 1921

  3. I believe his birthday to be a long time held mystery , making the letter from the German Nurse testament to his love of his family and then infant sister as most correspondence had been forwarded to her when she was old enough then to me from her .