30 June 2010

The Day that Sussex died - 30th June 1916

I've covered the South Down battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment in previous posts, but on the Day that Sussex died - 30th June 1916 - I thought it would be fitting to just drill down a little and look at one or two of the men.

On the 30th June 1916 the South Down battalions attacked towards a German position in Richebourg known as the Boar's head. The action, intended to be a diversionary assault for the main action further south the following day, resulted in over 1100 casualties for the three South Down battalions.

The sequence of numbers below is just a small group mostly centred on Chailey and Newick. NO IDENTIFIABLE SD/ RESULT means that I have been unable to find a confirmed medal index card for that particular number. In addition, b. = born, e. = enlisted, 12th = 12th Battalion, KiA = Killed in Action, DoW = Died of Wounds.

In terms of the data, it is actually depressingly representative of South Down data as a whole - two repetitive dates: 30th June 1916 and 3rd September 1916 - featuring heavily. Men joining the South Down battalions were organised broadly alphabetically by surname and then numbered, as can be seen from the segment below. Click on the individual name links below to read more about the men on my WW1 Remembrance blog and Chailey 1914-1918 website.

SD/1631 Pte Percy Bish
SD/1632 Pte Sydney Arthur Brooks 12th b.Newick e.Brighton KiA 30/06/1916
SD/1633 Pte William Jared Brooks b.Newick e.Brighton
SD/1634 Pte William Thomas Brown
SD/1635 Pte Albert John Cushman
SD/1636 Pte Laurence Davis 12th e.Brighton KiA 30/06/1916
SD/1637 Pte Charles Hodges 12th b.Newick e.Lewes KiA 30/06/1916
SD/1638 Pte Ernest Larkin 12th b.Hurstmonceux e.Lewes KiA 02/06/1917
SD/1639 Pte Fred'k Charles Maple 12th b.Wiston e.Hove KiA 01/09/1917
SD/1640 Cpl William D Mead
SD/1641 Pte John E Mitchell
SD/1642 Pte H Moore
SD/1643 L/Cpl Ernest William Plummer 12th b.Ringmer e.Lewes DoW 03/09/1916
SD/1646 Pte Thomas Morris Warren 12th b.Lavant e.Bognor 11/11/1914; disch wounds 24/10/1917
SD/1647 Sgt William Wilkinson

Remembering the men of the South Down battalions on this, the 94th anniversary of the Day that Sussex Died. William Jared Brooks, pictured.

Read more about numbering in the South Down battalions:

11th (Service) Battalion, (1st South Down), Royal Sussex Regiment
12th (Service) Battalion, (2nd South Down), Royal Sussex Regiment
13th (Service) Battalion, (3rd South Down), Royal Sussex Regiment

Read more about the history of the South Down battalions - Lowther's Lambs.

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20 June 2010

Etaples - February 1917

I was going through some old copies of Stand To! The journal of The Western Front Association, and came across this interesting map of Etaples in February 1917. Posting this here on a blog about Army Service Numbers is a little tenuous, but I felt it was just too good not to share. Here, for the first time that I recall seeing (and that includes the winter of 1986 when this issue of Stand To! would have dropped onto my doormat) is a map showing where various Infantry Base Depots, hospitals, and a good deal more were located. I've often seen reference to the IBDs on service papers, but never really had a clue where in Etaples they were located. Now, thanks to The Western Front Association and Julian Putowski who wrote the original article in Stand To! 18, I know.

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9 June 2010

1st Home Counties Field Ambulance, RAMC

According to The Long, Long Trail, in 1914 each infantry Division had three Field Ambulances, each of which was divided into three Sections. Section A comprised 65 men and section B and C comprised 128 men in total. You can read more about Field Ambulances and the breakdown of the Sections, by clicking on the link above.

This post is concerned with numbering in the 1st Home Counties Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, between 1908 and August 1914. All of the numbering information in this post has been gleaned from service records in WO 363 and WO364 at the National Archives. These same records can also be accessed on-line via Ancestry which is currently offering a FREE 14-DAY TRIAL.

There were three Home Counties Field Ambulances in all. The 1st was headquartered at Maidstone in Kent, the 2nd at Ashford in Kent and the 3rd at Surbiton in Surrey. All three HCFAs used separate number series and all three maintained separate number series when the Territorial Force was re-numbered in 1917.

I don't know for certain, but I suspect that none of the HCFAs started numbering from 1 in 1908. A lot of those early Territorial Force attestations are by men who had previously been serving as Volunteers, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that serving Volunteers retained their old numbers whilst new recruits were given the next number along from the old Volunteer series.

There was obviously some thought given to numbering however, because in January 1912 we see the old series abandoned and a new series beginning at 2000 for the 1st HCFA. The same thing happened with the 2nd and 3rd HCFAs. The second started a new series from 2500 (around March 1912) and the 3rd HCFA started a new series from 3000 (around February 1913).

Here then, are sample numbers and joining dates - one per year - for the 1st Home Counties Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps:

354 joined on 15th April 1908
510 joined on 10th February 1909
650 joined on 14th June 1910
706 joined on 17th March 1911
755 joined on 5th January 1912
2013 joined on 31st January 1912
2112 joined on 19th February 1913
2236 joined on 8th May 1914
2301 joined on 8th August 1914, later 493215

When the Territorial Force renumbered in 1917, the 1st HCFA was allocated numbers within the block 493001 to 495000.

The photograph on this page shows men of the 2nd Welsh Field Ambulance (headquarted at Cardiff) and was taken at Aberystwyth in 1915. I've borrowed the image from the Parry family history at Rootsweb.

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