25 February 2017

An Essex Regiment regular incarcerated

Here's another recent eBay win, a postcard sent from Doberitz prisoner of war camp by 7186 Corporal Tom Morris of the 2nd Essex Regiment. The card was sent by Tom to an address in Felbridge, West Sussex; not his home address as my information notes that he was married and living at 29 Murchison Road, Leyton. The house still survives today, and in the Google image below, is the property on the right.

Tom's regimental number indicates that he must have joined the Essex Regiment in early October 1902 and therefore at a time when typical terms of enlistment were three years with the colours and nine years on the reserve. Unless he extended his service therefore, Tom would have been on the reserve when Britain went to war in August 1914, and for that matter may well have been on the reserve since October 1905,  He arrived overseas on the 22nd August 1914 and was captured, according to International Committee of the Red Cross documents, at St Quentin on the 29th August. His war bearing arms for King and Country therefore lasted for precisely one week before he was captured.

Find photos of Essex Regiment soldiers on my British Army Ancestors website.

Corporal Morris was probably not repatriated until after the war. A document dating to 1918 when he was being held at Hameln indicates that he had pulmonary tuberculosis and this might explain why he had been interned previously at Leysin in Switzerland; a destination for British PoWs suffering from the disease.

Tom Morris appears to have survived the war as I could find no Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for him.  He was entitled to the 1914 Star (with clasp and roses) and British War and Victory Medals.

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19 February 2017

Using regimental numbers in photographic research

I picked this photo up last week. The reverse shows it to have been taken by Henry Bown, "photographic artist" who had studios at 43 New Kent Road, south east London, 298 Clapham Road, south west London, and 31 & 33 Jamaica Road, south east London. At the top of the photo is some script which reads. "Nov 30 13. Len 16 yrs".

The photo clearly shows a boy bandsman wearing the collar badges of the Middlesex Regiment and so I thought I'd try and find out who Len was.

A boy could join the army from the age of 14 and so if Len was 16 years old in 1913 he could have joined from 1910 or 1911. Looking at my regimental numbers database, that would suggest that his number must have been within the approximate range L/13300 to L/14700. Assuming that Len went on to serve in the First World War I ran a search on the National Archives' medal index card database where "Leonard" was the first name, "Middlesex" was the regiment. I then ran different number search options to narrow the number range. This National Archives' search screen is far more efficient, and far quicker than the search screens on both Ancestry and Findmypast and what's more you can type in the search criteria in a single field, in any order and throw in wildcards to assist the search.

Running this search on L/13* and L/14* (and with searches for 13* and 14* as well, just to pick up examples where the L/ prefix had not been recorded) gave me a short-list of a dozen or so candidates and leads me to believe that Len is potentially L/13649 Leonard Alexander Watts from Poplar who attested for 12 years on the 6th July 1911 aged 14 years and 6 days. His parents were William and Ellen Watts and he had two older brothers and three younger brothers. It could be one of the older brothers who is in the photo with him.

I should stress that the photo could show the Watts family, but by the same token, there are still other candidates who need to be more fully investigated. Nevertheless, understanding how the regimental numbers were issued has, once again, narrowed the field considerably.

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11 February 2017

Casualty lists 1914

I'm mid-way through a project to transcribe non-fatal casualties of 1914; a somewhat depressing task which nevertheless is not without its rewards as I inch slowly forwards, one day at a time.

The names below are a small sample of wounded men whose names appeared in The Times newspaper on 2nd November 1914, all of these men reported to be recuperating at the 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge.

Enlistment dates for all of these men could be approximated by using the information published elsewhere on this blog.  So, for instance, go to the Devonshire Regiment page to see that Private Gage must have enlisted in 1902 (and was therefore probably a reservist by 1914), and to the Royal Scots page to see that, coincidentally, Private Gemmell must also have enlisted in 1902.

Private Grace of the Northumberland Fusiliers has a low number because the regiment had reached 9999 by 2nd December 1903 and had then started a new number series from 1 from that date. Private Grace's number therefore dates to late December 1903 or early January 1904. He too was probably a reservist and probably originally enlisted for a period of three years with the colours and nine years on the reserve meaning that when he was recalled to the colours in August 1914 he probably hadn't worn khaki for seven years or more. 

7055 Pte J Gage, Devonshire Regiment 
8237 Pte G Gemmell, Royal Scots
195 Pte P Grace, Northumberland Fusiliers 
7619 Pte A Gray, Scots Guards
8524 Pte C Griffin, Middlesex Regiment 
4755 Pte H Hadfield, King's Royal Rifle Corps
14270 Cpl L Hale, Royal Fusiliers 
8913 Pte W Hancock, Middlesex Regiment 
13996 L-Sgt Alfred W Harper, Royal Fusiliers 
10512 Pte A Harrison, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
609 Pte W Harrison, Lancashire Fusiliers
7064 Pte W Harvey, Wiltshire Regiment
6713 Pte J Hayes, Connaught Rangers
7984 Pte A T Heart, Coldstream Guards
5130 Pte W Hindon, Wiltshire Regiment

The regimental numbers for The Royal Fusiliers and Loyal North Lancashire Regiment reflect the change in King's Regulations in 1904 which noted that number sequences would now extend to 19,999 rather than 9,999. You can read more about this on my 2009 post which dealt with the all important King's and Queen's Regulations and how these impacted on regimental numbering over the years.

I have borrowed the photo on this post from WW1Photos.org and specifically, the section which deals with wounded men. There are a number of photos published here from the 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge and this is one of them.

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5 February 2017

1st (Royal) Dragoons - Other Rank PoWs 1914

There are only five men from the 1st (Royal) Dragoons who appear on a list of men from that regiment captured on or before the 25th December 1914. The Imperial War Museum reference is B.O.2 1/53 and the complete details are listed below. All of these men were captured on the 19th October 1914.

2824 Lance-Corporal J F Harris of Whittocks Lane, Frome 
5986 Private W J Luck of 10 Dapdune Crescent, Guildford 
5052 Lance-Corporal J W Murkin of 126 Waterloo Street, Burton-on-Trent 
3381 Private W Proctor of 34 Coxwell Avenue, off Queenseast Street, Toronto, Canada 
7885 Private W S Wide of 1 Victoria Parade, Church End, Finchley

Read more about this data source on my 1914 PoWs page.

I research soldiers! 
Contact me if you need help with your military ancestor. 

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