2 April 2017

Identifying the 1st Sherwood Foresters in 1912

I recently purchased the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Annual for 1913 and am publishing some of the photos that appear in it, below. I have become more and more interested in military photos of late, and it's clear from correspondence that I receive that identifying ancestors in military photographs is something that interests a lot of other people too.

In 1912 the 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters was stationed in India and the photographs below, all of which identify the men by rank and last name only, were therefore taken in that country. Taking the first photograph below as a test case, where it has been possible to identify men further, I have added in forenames and/or regimental numbers and indicated these in bold.

My first recourse was to the 1911 census which, so my reasoning went, would probably unearth many of the men in these photos. And so it turned out. An added bonus here was that it enabled me to positively identify all of the F Company men on the 1911 census. The 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters was enumerated by company and whilst I had guessed that these men were from F Company - because it was the sixth company to be enumerated -  it was good to see my theory proved correct.

Having first checked the 1911 census, I then looked for the same men in the medal index cards. All of these men, unless they were discharged, transferred, or died between 1912 and August 1914 would have seen service in France. The battalion shipped out of India in September 1914 and by November that year was facing the Germans in trenches at Neuve Chapelle.

Finally, understanding when the regimental numbers were issued can also help in identifying the correct man. This volume of the regimental chronicle was published in 1913. The number 11998 was issued in January 1913 but given that the usual practice would have been for soldiers, after enlistment, to train at the regimental depot, then serve with the home battalion and only after then, transfer to the overseas' battalion, I would be surprised to see numbers lower than 11739 (issued on the 3rd January 1912) appearing against any of the names below.

Standing: L-Cpl Frank Frood, 6874 L-Cpl Herbert Barks, 10861 Pte Thomas Sanderson, 10125 Pte John William Clough, 10448 L-Cpl Leonard Rear
Seated: Pte Hayward, Major Henry William Pontz, 10850 L-Cpl John Newcombe, 6780 Col-Sgt Thomas William Pritchard, Pte Harry Freeman
Cross-legged: Pte Barber, Dmr Walsh, 10120 Pte Joseph Handley, Pte Thomas Robinson, Pte Swindler

Major Henry William Poyntz, pictured above and in the team photo above this, died on Christmas Eve 1912 as the result of a shooting accident near Deolali. He was 41 years old. He had been a serving officer with the Sherwood Foresters since 1892 and left a wife and daughter.

In all the photos that follow I have included the details that appear under these photographs in the 1913 regimental annual, augmenting some with forenames, but all of these men could be researched further.

Standing: Pte William Padley, Pte Albert or William Burton, Pte Hill, Pte Combes, Pte Brown, Pte Smith, Pte Sutton
Seated: Pte Herbert Denne, Col-Sgt Brearley, L-Cpl Harry Caunt, Capt Swinhoe-Phelan, L-Cpl Wheatley, Lt Armstrong
Cross-legged:  L-Cpl Tompson, Pte Thomas Morris, Pte Albert or Frank Long, L-Cpl George Foxon, Pte John Worthy

1st Battalion cricket team, winners of Futteh Maidan Cup

Standing: L-Cpl Wheatley, Pte Samuel Cheney, Pte Geoffrey Greaves, Pte Wilkinson, Pte Maidment
Seated: Lt Richard Henry Stranger, Lt George Staple Dobbie, Lt Willesby Douglas S Brownrigg, Lt William Horatio Happell, Lt Jackson
Cross-legged: Schoolmaster Henry Rushton Cooke, Lt John Vincent Earle

Henry Rushton Cooke is recorded on the 1911 Census as belonging to the Sherwood Foresters, however I think that this is an error and that his correct corps would have been the Corps of Army Schoolmasters. He was born in 1884 and so would have been about twenty-eight years old when this photograph was taken.

Standing: L-Cpl Frank Frood, Cpl Walter Rippon, Pte Ellis, Pt Frederick or William Richards, L-Cpl Leonard Rear
Seated: Pte Feer, Major Henry William Poyntz, Pte Beardsmore, Col-Sgt Thomas William Pritchard, Pte Charles Chesterton
Cross-legged: Pte William Crampton, Pte Harry Thornley, 10934 Pte Cyrus Hoult, Pte Denison, Pte Bolton

Note how some of the men in this photo who appear in the first photo posted here, above, have adopted identical poses. Indeed, it requires good eyes to note the minor differences between the poses in this shot and the earlier one. Note in particular, L-Cpl Frank Frood, Pte Chesterton and Major Poyntz.

Standing: Pte Smith, Pte White. Pte Stevenson
Seated: Pte Arthur Corbett, Col-Sgt Charles Chambers, Capt Dixon, L-Cpl Holmes
Cross-legged: L-Cpl Potten, Pte Arthur Bowler, Pte Bignell

There is of course a lot more research that can be done for these men: other census returns, GRO records, parish records, school records and of course, various military records. Many of these men will have medal index cards, medal roll entries and service records. Others will also appear in Commonwealth War Graves records. 10934 Pte Cyrus Hoult, pictured in the football shield photo, falls into this category.  Aged 23 in 1911, he was killed in action on the 20th October 1914 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion. This suggests that he had returned to England between 1912 and 1914, transferred to the Army Reserve and then been recalled to the colours in August 1914, going out to France with the 2nd Battalion. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

I research soldiers!

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