Tuesday 31 March 2015

Wounded soldiers at Roehampton

My thanks to Derek Hathaway for sending me this undated group photograph taken at Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton. Derek's grandfather, William Henson Jones, is pictured above, together with other patients named, or partially identified, on the reverse. This image and the information that follows are published on the off-chance that visitors to this blog might recognise their First World war ancestors.
I reproduce the reverse of this photo, below. I have expanded the transcription for the benefit of search engines.
Top Row
Private Bunting, Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment); Unidentified Private, AIF; Sister MacKenzie; Sergeant Henry, Lincolnshire Regiment; Lance-Corporal H Croft, 1/5th Buffs (East Kent Regiment); Private Hebbert, Rifle Brigade.
Private Westwood, Yorkshire Regiment; Gunner Perrin, South African Heavy Artillery, Private Blen Ray (?), AIF; Sister Smith; Bombardier Keegan, RFA; Private W H Jones, Royal Sussex Regiment; Corporal Maxwell, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Bob (?) SAS; Private Whelan, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Derek thinks the photo dates to between 1916 and 1918 and so I ran some preliminary searches on the names in the hope of narrowing this down a little, or at least finding out more about the men.
H Croft of the Buffs is probably 1193 (later, 240171) Private H H Croft who enlisted on the 23rd February 1914 and was discharged as a result of wounds on the 8th August 1917.  Private (Lance-Corporal) Croft only appears as "H H" Croft on the medal index card (below), medal rolls and silver war badge roll.

There are medal index cards for 16 men with the surname Maxwell who served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Two of these men were corporals: 10986 Corporal John Maxwell and 13553 Corporal William Maxwell.  Of these two men, only 10986 John Maxwell received a silver war badge and so this is possibly the Corporal Maxwell (wearing a borrowed AIF hat) in the photograph above. John Maxwell enlisted on the 22th August 1914 and was discharged as a result of wounds on the 27th July 1917. The fact that both these men had been discharged in 1917 must date the photograph to no later than 1917.
Derek also sent me a second photograph, reproduced below. In this image, William Jones is seventh from the left. On the reverse is written: "35342 3rd Troop, 4 Squadron Dragoon [unidentifiable, possibly "Guards"], Mooltan Barracks, Tidworth, Hants".
I would welcome further thoughts or inputs on the men (and two nurses) in these photos.

Sunday 29 March 2015

Soldier cameos - South Africa & the Transvaal War

I picked up a number of army prints yesterday from what I now know to be the six-volume "South Africa & The Transvaal War" by Louis Creswicke which was published in 1900.  King Edward VII (above in 10th Hussars uniform) was still plain old HRH Prince Edward when this photo was taken, and an image of two CIV officers plus no evidence of Boer War medals on any of the other photos had made me think that the publication probably dated to around 1900. Turns out I was correct.

The images I bought were mostly cameos of soldiers from various regiments, as in the image of two Gordon Highlanders (below) but there are also some nicely posed group shots. I've used a black and white version of this RHA group (above) on a post elsewhere; note the jaunty pose of the sergeant, far left. I've seen these prints being offered for sale for £20 each on eBay which makes the 50p each I paid, something of a bargain.

Friday 20 March 2015

Shell-shocked patients in new Bethlem records

Findmypast has just released patient admission registers and casebooks from the Bethlem Hospital in London. The records cover the years 1683-1932 and there are many admissions of soldiers or former soldiers who served in the First World War and were admitted suffering from shell-shock.

I have only started skimming the surface of these records but whilst doing so I also uncovered the records for a VAD nurse, Joanna Anderson, who had served at 55 General Hospital and who was admitted with neurasthenia in May 1918. How many shell-shocked men and women have casebook notes in this depressing collection of nearly 250,000 records it is impossible to say, but don't rule the Bethlem records out if your ancestor served in the First World War; particularly if they were diagnosed with neurasthenia or shell-shock.

The image on this page comes from archive film footage of shell-shocked patients recuperating at Netley Military Hospital. I've borrowed the image from the World War 1 Centenary archive which also has links to the original film footage.

Absent Voters - First World War

I've updated the Absent Voters' page. Some of the links were dead and I have also added a lot more known lists. Some of these are freely available online, others can be accessed for a fee (online or via a CD) and many more are still located in local archives and record offices.

As always I'd be interested to hear of the whereabouts of other lists that could be added to this scratch directory.

I've borrowed the image on this post from the Worcestershire Regiment website, and specifically the page that deals with absent voters from Worcester, Stourbridge, Evesham, Bromsgrove and Bewdley.

Monday 16 March 2015

The essential Silver War Badge guide

A so-called "leading authority on military and family history" has dismissed the First World War silver war badge rolls in a newly published guide as "not very informative."  Of course, his assertion is complete and utter tripe. Here are nine reasons why the silver war badge rolls are an essential resource.

1. For a start, because so many service and pension records from the First World War do not survive, the rolls can provide vital information that is not recorded elsewhere. This fact alone makes the SWB rolls a vital resource.
2. The silver war badge rolls give the date a man enlisted.
3. The silver war badge rolls give the date a man was discharged.
4. The silver war badge rolls give the cause of discharge. Sometimes this might be simply expressed as the relevant regulation from King's Regulations but it usually states whether the cause is due to wounds or sickness. Occasionally, even more detail is given, such as the nature of the wounds or sickness (see below).

5. The silver war badge rolls state whether or not a man has served overseas.
6. Because the badge number is stated in every case, it is possible to check whether the badge you have in your collection really does belong with the medals you acquired at the same time. Similarly, a solitary silver war badge can, because of its unique number, open up a number of research paths for you.
7. Many silver war badge rolls also give the man's age (see below)
8. The silver war badge rolls will usually give the man's battalion or unit; information that often does not appear on medal index cards
9. Full names may be expressed on silver war badge rolls yet only appear as initials and last name on medal index cards.
So beware "leading authority" opinion and ignore the silver war badge roll at your peril. It's always been a fantastic resource and is arguably the most informative of all the First World War medal/badge rolls.
The photo on this post, which was, once upon a time, in my collection, shows a veteran wearing his silver war badge. Image extracts are from different SWB rolls and are Crown Copyright, The National Archives.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Lists, nominal rolls, transfers and fragments in WO 363

The great advantage that Findmypast has over Ancestry when it comes to First World War service records and pension records is that Findmypast has managed to index far more records. Take it from someone who knows, a huge amount of care was taken when indexing and whenever a list of names was found tucked away in a service record, the names on that list were captured.

That little exercise added many hundreds of thousands of indexed names to WO 363 (and it is WO 363 (the burnt documents) for the most part, where these apparently random lists appear). 

And make no mistake, there are some really cracking lists that are tucked away in these service records. I found nine pages of Lancashire Fusiliers' special reservists recently; lists that show which companies the men were posted to when they were mobilised in August 1914 and also when they were drafted overseas. Complete lists like this simply don't survive in general and this one would most likely have been lost had Findmypast not taken the trouble to capture the names of those men.

I was doing some research for a client the other day and found the man he was looking for on a single sheet detailing transfers from one Prisoner of War camp to another. I've posted that image at the top of this blog post. The information that this particular man was at Muncheberg before Sagan was news to me, and also information that was not included in PoW records.

Note that at the top of the page it indicates that this sheet is a continuation. Note too, the poor rendering of PoW details: Edgar Hoskins is Edgar Hoskius; Thetford is Thelford, and Le Cateau is Le Caleou. I am more interested though, to see if there is other information about this group of PoW transfers and to do this I need to go back to the original record in which these papers were concealed.

Whilst looking at this image, click on the "view transcription" lozenge at the top of the page. This will take you back to the transcription where we can see that this particular page appears within the service record for William Jackson Harrison.

Now, using the information above, we can edit the search to look for 21429 William Jackson Harrison and scroll through the images in his record until we get to the right frame.  We already know that Hoskins is mentioned on frame 202 and so we'd hope to find related information on frame 201 or 203.

In actual fact, as I found out, there are no other documents in this case.  However, I would recommend always going back to the originating record to see if there is contextual information that could help you understand more about these list entries.

If you need help researching British army records, drop me a line.  Remember too that you'll find much useful information on this blog and also on my Army Service Numbers blog.

Images on this post are, with the exception of the Findmypast screenshots, Crown Copyright, The National Archives.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Terms of service - British Army

Terms of service
When a soldier joined the army he entered into a contract, the terms of that contract stated on the attestation papers that were signed by the soldier.  In this post I want to explain in a little more detail, some commonly used terms and some variations to terms of service that were current in Great Britain's late Victorian army.

Colours and Reserve
The period of service with the Colours was the time that the man spent, in service dress, actively serving his regiment. Typically, infantry of the line enlisted for a 12-year term, these 12 years being a combination of time (usually seven years) spent with Colours, and the balance (usually five years) spent on the Army Reserve. This was known as Short Service, although it was also possible to enlist for 12 years' service with the Colours only, and this was known as Long Service.  
In the example above, the man is joining the Hampshire Regiment for a period of seven years with the Colours and five years on the Reserve, although note that if serving overseas, this period of service with the Colours would be extended to eight years, and the period on the Reserve reduced to four years. This particular attestation form is Army Form B.265 and by the time this edition of it was printed in a print-run of 100,000 in November 1900, there had been 34 earlier versions.  Note that the particular version of this form has been amended to exclude cavalry and Army Service Corps. Men wishing to join these corps would have attested using a different form.

When a man was transferred to the Reserve he was still paid by the army but effectively he was back on civvy street and could engage in civil employment. He still had a commitment to the army and, in the event of a Proclamation of War from His/Her Majesty, he would be recalled to the Colours. In such circumstances, and as laid out in the attestation paper, he would be obliged to “serve in Army Service for a further period not exceeding 12 months"; that is to say, 12 months on top of the 12 years, making thirteen years in total.  This condition is also found in Territorial Force attestations. Reservists’ papers were held at the regimental depot from which they had been discharged and to which they would report in the event of recall to the Colours.

Extension of service
Men could extend their period of service with the Colours, instead of passing into the Reserve, provided they were of good character.  This is commonly seen on attestation papers.
Re-engagement of Service
Re-engagement means a man’s further engagement with the British Army for a period of service beyond the original 12 years. This agreement was only extended to men whom were of good character and conduct. Warrant officers, sergeants and corporals could choose to re-engage after 9 years, privates, drummers, trumpeters and buglers after 11 years.

Conversion of Service
There was provision in the Army for men to convert their service; that is, reduce the term of service with the Colours and extend their period on the Reserve. There were a number of conditions that had to be met in order for conversion of service to be considered. Men had to be in possession of at least one good conduct badge and have had five years’ service. They had to have civil employment lined up and furthermore, had to have a good excuse for wanting to convert their service in the first place. Indeed, if the soldier’s release into civil employment was the only way of preventing an elderly parent from being condemned to the workhouse, the minimum five-year term of service was usually waived.

Re-transfer from the Reserve
This was the option of allowing a reservist to re-join the Colours; an option that was rarely exercised and one which had to be considered by army headquarters.
Soldiers who had served previously, except those discharged for misconduct or on medical grounds were allowed to re-enlist up to the age of 28 years.

There were many reasons why a man could be discharged from the army. King’s and Queen’s regulations routinely list more than twenty separate qualifying reasons. The majority of men were discharged on termination of their first period of engagement but it is also common to see men discharged because they were no longer physically fit for war service, or men discharged because they were deemed unlikely to become an efficient soldier.  Discharges by purchase were invariably permitted, provided a man was not warned for foreign service, and the cost of purchase varied according to the length of unexpired service. For bandsmen, who had usually received an education in music at the public expense, discharge was generally deferred, while schoolmasters – also educated from the public purse – had to find considerable sums - £50 for instance, in 1893 – to pay for their discharge.
Soldiers who had served three months or less could claim discharge as their right on payment of £10 within that time. Thereafter, discharge was considered an indulgence which had to be sanctioned and accompanied by a payment of £18 if discharged before the completion of 12 years; free if discharged after 12 years.

My own paternal great-grandmother's brother, Herbert Hellam, paid £10 in 1894 after three months with the Wiltshire Regiment (above). That was far from the end of his military career however. He re-enlisted for 7&5 with the 20th Hussars less than two years later, subsequently extending his service to 12 years with the Colours. He re-enlisted for a third time when Britain went to war in 1914, serving with the Rifle Brigade, Gloucestershire Regiment and Royal Defence Corps; an old soldier through and through.

Images used on this post are Crown Copyright, The National Archives.