The World War Forum (Page 19)

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Posted by: Joe Freaney {No contact email}
Location: Derry City
Date: Tuesday 6th September 2016 at 11:59 AM
Hi Alan, once again your response re: my previous query on John Mulholland was absolutely fantastic and very much appreciated. I would be much obliged if you could provide some information on another WW1 soldier. Hugh McMullan served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, service number 5970 and later with the Labour Corps, service number 638651. Hugh received the 15 Star, British Medal and Victory Medal. He entered the French Theatre of War on 19 December 1914. Again, I would love to know when he moved Regiments and possibly why this would have happened. I would also like to know what Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers he was in and possibly Division. Hugh would have been wounded and gassed during the war but thankfully lived long after 1918. There is evidence that at some stage he/his regiment (Royal Irish Fusiliers) would have been responsible for looking after POWs - would this have been the norm as part of a regiment's/battalion's rotation?
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 6th September 2016 at 7:55 PM

Dear Joe,
Hugh McMullan was born at Shankill Parish, Lurgan in about 1895, the son of William and Mary McMullan. He was 5ft 2ins tall, with blue eyes and dark hair. He was a linen weaver and at the stated age of 18 he joined the Special Reserve of Princess Victoria’s Royal Irish Fusiliers on 4th September 1913. His referee was Police Constable Francis of Church Place Police Barracks. The Special Reserve had replaced the former Militia and as there was no Territorial Army in Ireland, it was the only opportunity for voluntary part-time soldiering. Special reservists trained for six months and then committed themselves to three or four weeks’ training each year, and mobilization in the event of war when they would be drafted to battalions overseas. As a reservist, Hugh served with the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers at Armagh. In May 1914, Hugh McMullan passed his musketry course and was present for annual training at Finner Camp, near Ballyshannon in June 1914. He was mobilized on 8th August 1914, after the United Kingdom declared war on August 4th. The 3rd Battalion moved to Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal and then Londonderry (Derry).
On 28th November 1914, Private McMullan was posted to the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. The 2nd Battalion was a regular army battalion that was serving at Quetta, India (now in Pakistan) at the outbreak of war. The Battalion sailed for England in October 1914 and arrived at Winchester on 20th November 1914 to join the 82nd Infantry Brigade in the 27th Division. Hugh was posted with other reservists to the 2nd Battalion to bring it up to strength. They landed in France after sailing from Southampton, England, on the night of 18th/19th December 1914.
After 23 days in France and Flanders, Hugh was admitted to hospital on 5th January 1915 with an injury to his left knee, apparently synovitis, an inflammation of a synovial membrane in the knee joint. On 10th January 1915 he sailed for England on the Hired Transport “Oxfordshire”. This was a passenger steamship that had been requisitioned on August 2nd 1914 and became the first Hospital Ship, ferrying wounded men from the battlefields of France and Flanders to England. Hugh remained under the supervision of the Royal Irish Fusiliers depot from 11th January 1915 while he was treated. On 19th May 1915, Hugh returned to the 3rd Battalion which was then at Buncrana, alongside Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal. On 13th July 1915, Hugh returned to France and re-joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was with them for 100 days.
Then, on 21st October 1915, Hugh was admitted to 62 Field Ambulance and then 28 Casualty Clearing Station at Fouilloy, suffering from Bronchitis. Fouilloy is a commune in the Somme département in Picardie in northern France. On 26th October he was admitted to No. 11 Stationary Hospital at Rouen. A fortnight later on 12th November 1915, Hugh was warned he would be posted to the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers which was with 4 Division. He was sent to No.4 Infantry Base Depot at Rouen on 13th November 1915 but on the same day he was re-admitted to 11 Stationary Hospital with his old knee injury. On 5th December he was moved to No.12 General Hospital at Rouen. On 7th December 1915 he returned to No.4 Infantry Base Depot, Rouen, where he would have been put through his paces to get fit for the Front and join the 1st Battalion. But on 30th December 1915 he was admitted to No.12 General Hospital with his knee injury. On 16th January 1916, he sailed for England where he was treated at the Huddersfield War Hospital in Yorkshire. There a picture of the hospital at:
From January 22nd 1916 to January 31st 1916 Hugh was granted leave to his home address at 7, Blacks Court, Lurgan. On 31st January 1916, he returned to the 3rd Battalion at Buncrana. They sent him to the Command Depot at Ballyvonare Camp in Buttevant, County Cork which was a convalescent depot for the rehabilitation of sick and wounded men. He arrived there on 7th February and on 20th October 1916 he was recommended to return to the 3rd Battalion (now at Clonmany, Co. Donegal) for fitness training to get him back to medical category A and return to the Front.
On 28th June 1917, Hugh returned to France and passed through a base depot as part of a draft of reinforcements for the 7th/8th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, a merged battalion in 16th (Irish) Division. He joined the Battalion on 6th July 1917, shortly before The Battle of Langemarck from 16th to 18th August 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres. On 23rd September 1917 Hugh returned to England where he was treated at the 1st Western General Hospital at Liverpool. This might have been for a gunshot wound in the left leg. His record stated he had been wounded (GSW – gunshot or shrapnel wound) but with no date. He would remain in England for the rest of the war.
From Liverpool he was granted two weeks’ home leave from 24th October 1917 to 2nd November 1917. On 10th November 1917 he was posted to a command depot for convalescence, but the location is unclear.
On 28th March 1918, Hugh was posted to the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers which, alongside the 3rd Battalion, had just moved to Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. The 3rd Battalion then absorbed the 4th Battalion. On 4th May 1918, Hugh left the Royal Irish Fusiliers and was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps. He was posted to 200 Central Reserve Company Royal Defence Corps which was stationed at Dringhouses at York. Dringhouses was a cluster of houses on the old Roman Road out of York. It was surrounded by the vast area of grassland known as Micklegate Stray and Knavesmire, which was, and is, the home of York Race Course. Laid out on the Knavesmire was No.11 Prisoner of War Camp, also known as Racecourse Camp, Knavesmire, York. The Royal Defence Corps duties included guarding P.O.W. camps. On 13th June 1918, Hugh was posted to 199 Central Reserve Company Royal Defence Corps, which, like 200 Company, served in Northern Command which had its headquarters in York.
On 4th July 1918, Hugh was sent to Margate to join the 22nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers which was being re-formed for duty in France. While there Hugh was medically graded B(3) able to march 2 miles, which meant he was fit for duties in garrisons but couldn’t serve at the Front.
On 2nd August 1918 he was sent to Aldershot where he was transferred to the Labour Corps where he was given the regimental number 413898. They sent him to Ripon, Yorkshire, where he was at Northern Command Labour Centre until 20th August 1918 employed by 365 Reserve Employment Company Labour Corps on sanitary duties. On 20th August they sent him to Eastern Command Labour Centre at Sutton, Surrey. The next day Hugh was posted to 586 (Home Service) Employment Company Labour Corps at Bedford. It headquarters were at 91 Midland Road, Bedford. Employment Companies provided men to work in depots, hospitals, and barracks as clerks, sanitary men, cooks, storemen and on other fatigue duties.
On 30th August 1918 Hugh McMullan’s number in the Labour Corps was changed to 538651. A month later it was confirmed that he served as 538651 and not 638651.
On an unspecified date he left Bedford and went for duties at Crystal Palace No.1 Dispersal Centre, London, from where men were discharged to civilian life.
In March 1919 Hugh himself was discharged from the Army at Crystal Palace. On March 19th he was classed as “surplus to requirements having suffered impairment since entry into the service”. He was finally discharged on 8th April 1919 and gave his home address as 36 Blacks Court, Lurgan. He was aged 23 and single.
Conclusion: Hugh McMullan joined the Special Reserve of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and served with the 2nd Battalion in France and Flanders on two occasions: from 28th November 1914 to 5th January 1915 and again from 13th July 1915 to 16th January 1916 although he was in hospital from 21st October 1915 with recurring problems to his left knee. In 1916 he was recovering in the United Kingdom. He returned to France on 29th June 1917 to serve with the 7th/8th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers from 6th July 1917 to 23rd September 1917 when he returned to England, probably after being shot in the knee. Following treatment and convalescence Hugh was medically downgraded and after three weeks with the Northumberland Fusiliers he served in the Royal Defence Corps and the Labour Corps, both of which employed men who had been wounded and could not serve at the Front. In the Royal Defence Corps he would have guarded POWs at York and in the Labour Corps he undertook sanitary and fatigue duties at Bedford and Crystal Palace. As well as an “old knee injury” he suffered a gunshot wound and had D.A.H. which was a Disordered Action of the Heart also called “Soldier's Heart” or “Effort Syndrome”. It was a recognised symptom treated by the medical services and was a result of over exertion, mental stress and tiredness. It wasn’t a disease but was an irregular heart rhythm.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Joe Freaney
Date: Tuesday 6th September 2016 at 8:24 PM

Good evening, Alan. Blown away by the detailed information you have provided on Hugh. Amazing!
Reply from: Joe Freaney
Date: Wednesday 7th September 2016 at 6:21 AM

You suggest that Hugh was warned he would be sent to the 1st Batt, was this some sort of threat or disciplinary action? Thanks.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Wednesday 7th September 2016 at 10:09 AM

Hugh hadn’t done anything wrong. It was in the form of a “warning order” in that he was told it would happen at a later date. While he was in hospital the 2nd Battalion would have been brought up to strength in his absence and so on his release to the Base Depot he was told he would be going to the 1st Battalion. As it happened, he returned to England and did not go to the 1st Battalion.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Joe Freaney {No contact email}
Location: Derry City
Date: Monday 5th September 2016 at 9:20 AM
Hi Alan

John Mulholland served with the 6 Connaught Rangers, service number 6/4166 and was awarded the 15 Star, British Medal and Victory Medal. Sadly, John died on 10/11/18. At the time of his death, he was listed as being a member of the Royal Engineers, Railways Division. How could I find out when exactly did he become a member of the RE, was it after the 6 Connaught Rangers were disbanded as a fighting force in April 1918 or at another time. Help much appreciated. Thanks.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Monday 5th September 2016 at 5:29 PM

Dear Joe,
The W.R. prefix to regimental numbers was used by the Transportation Branch of the Royal Engineers from March 1918 when they re-organised their numbering system. In 1918, The Transportation Directorate of the Royal Engineers supervised 108,342 men employed on railways, inland waterways and roads. Men already serving on the Royal Engineers railways prior to March 1918 were allotted new numbers with the W.R. pre-fix in March 1918.
No individual service record has survived for John Mulholland, so there is no record of when he was transferred from the Connaught Rangers to the Royal Engineers.
John Mulholland had two regimental numbers in the Royal Engineers. The Army medal rolls for his British War and Victory medals recorded him with the number W.R. 267216 with the previous numbers 4166 Connaught Rangers and Royal Engineers number 248869 which would have been his original Royal Engineers number. The records of his death (Register of Soldiers’ Effects; Soldiers Died in the Great War and C.W.G.C.) showed his number as W.R. 267216. When he died on November 10th 1918, he had a regimental number with a 1918 pre-fix, but he had served with an earlier number in the Royal Engineers before the W.R. number was allotted.
John Mulholland served with No. 44 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company in the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers. Broad gauge was 4ft 8 1/2 inches (standard gauge) as opposed to narrow gauge used by the light railways often with Decauville track.
William Fearnley, 14691, Northumberland Fusiliers transferred to the Royal Engineers and was allotted the number 248940. He was later given the new number W.R. 267269. His biography states: “He continued to serve with the Northumberland Fusiliers until April 1917, when he was transferred to the Royal Engineers. He served in the Waterways and Railways section of the Royal Engineers, and by the time of his discharge served as a sapper in the 44th Broad Gauge Operating Company in France.” (
The CWGC Debt of Honour records Sapper J.W. Sutton served with 44th Broad Gauge Operating Company with the regimental number W.R./267277. The medal rolls recorded him as John W Sutton, Manchester Regiment, 38098, and Royal Engineers 248951 and W.R. 267277.
Another Manchester Regiment man, William Thomas M.M., 15890, transferred to the Royal Engineers with the number 248875, later changed to W.R. 267224. He served with “44th Broad Gauge Company”, Railway Operating Division, and died at Beugny, France on 17th November 1918. His number 248875 was just six digits higher than John Mulholland’s. His W.R. 267224 was eight digits higher than John Mulholland’s W.R. 267216.
Frederick Knight, formerly of the East Lancashire Regiment, 17330, served with the “44th Broad Gauge Operating Company” with the regimental number 248769 and was killed in action on 27th September 1917.
The above examples show Frederick Knight died before the W.R. prefixes were allotted and served with 44th Railway Operating Company (R.O.C.). His number starting 248 was allotted to the 44th R.O.C. by the time of his death in September 1917 and the number 248940 had been allotted to William Fearnley in April 1917.
If the regimental numbers of the 44th Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company were allotted in a logical sequence it seems probable John Mulholland transferred to the Royal Engineers in about April 1917.
Compulsory transfers “in the interests of the service” were authorised through Army Order 204 of 1916. However, at times the Royal Engineers sought infantry soldiers who had skills in civilian life that would be useful. This was a process known as “combing out” and was employed at home and abroad in 1917. John Mulholland’s rank in the Royal Engineers was Sapper which was the rank of a private soldier who had recognised trade skills and who had passed the requisite trade tests either in civilian life or in the Royal Engineers.
On 1st August 1915, the Royal Engineers had three railway companies operating in France. By 1st August 1917, the railway units in France had increased to 105.
John Mulholland died on 10th November 1918, aged 23, at No.12 Stationary Hospital which was established on the racecourse at St. Pol-sur-Ternoise, south-west of Bethune.
There does not appear to be a war diary for 44th Railway Operating Company R.E.. The Royal Engineers Order of Battle for 11th November 1918 showed that in addition to the railway construction companies and light railways, there were some forty-three Broad Gauge Operating Companies employed in France including Nos 40 to 53. Because John Mulholland died in hospital, there is a death certificate that might give the cause of death. It is John Mulholland, 1918, Service Number WR/267216, Sapper, Royal Engineers, GRO War deaths Army Other Ranks Volume E1, page 45. It can be purchased as an “overseas event” from the England and Wales General Register Office using their online service. See:
With kind regards,

Additional sources: “Work of the R.E. in the European War. The Organization and Expansion of the Corps 1914-1918”; Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, undated, reproduced by Naval and Military Press.
Reply from: Joe Freaney
Date: Monday 5th September 2016 at 6:04 PM

Thank you for this very informative and fascinating information. It helps to clear up some queries re John's involvement in certain actions. Thank you so much!

Posted by: Young Buzzard {Email left}
Location: Newton Abbot
Date: Sunday 4th September 2016 at 7:44 AM
Morning Alan,
Thanks for all the information you gave me regarding Charles Norrish yesterday.
Locally his path crosses that of a Charles Vincent No 3364 of the Wiltshire Regiment, can you tell me anything about this soldier who I believe ended his army service as a serjeant?.
Thanks David,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Sunday 4th September 2016 at 6:40 PM

Dear David,
Charles Vincent appears to have served in the Wiltshire Regiment in the Victorian era and there is no readily identifiable record for Charles Vincent in the First World War. A Charles Vincent was recorded in the 1891 census as an 18-year-old private soldier in the Wiltshire Regiment at Le Marchant Barracks, London Road, Devizes, which was the regimental depot of the (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Wiltshire Regiment. Because he was at the depot, he might have been a recruit or undergoing Militia training. The 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment was garrisoned at The Curragh, Ireland in 1891 and the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment was serving overseas. This young soldier was Charles Vincent born about 1873 at Lea, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, the son of a Cotswold shepherd, Henry Vincent and his wife Rose. Charles Vincent was recorded in the 1901 census as a general labourer at Stoke Damerel, Devonport, with his wife, Susan, and a one month old daughter, Gladys. In the 1911 census Charles was recorded as a farm labourer employed by the Devon and Cornwall Sanitation Committee, living at Treeland, South Brent, Devon. He had married Susan (perhaps née Pryor) in 1898 and they had six surviving children.
Charles might have been the Charles Henry Vincent whose birth was registered in January-March 1874, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (vol. 5a; page 48).
With kind regards,
Posted by: Gary Wallace {Email left}
Location: London
Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016 at 7:14 PM
Hi, this week I had managed to trace my grandfather through searching the Internet, I found out he was a CSM in the Royal Irish Rifles and served in SA and Flanders where he died, I cannot find any other info on his service records only what someone had written about him,
His name and number was CSM Robert H Wallace 5619 and he was 2nd batt, he died on the 18th August 1917 at the battle of Langemarck.

Regards Gary,

Ps I have manged to find his medal rolls and his pension details and where he is buried, it's just the service record I was wanting to find,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016 at 10:10 PM

Dear Gary,
Only about 30 percent of Army service records from the First World War have survived. Unfortunately, a service record for Robert Wallace, 5619 Royal Irish Rifles, is not among them. He had originally enlisted with 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Medal nominal rolls). He died at No.30 General Hospital in Calais on 18th August 1917 (Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects).
The 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles served in 74th Infantry Brigade with 25th Division. In August 1917 they were fighting at Pilkem which was concurrent with the Battle of Langemarck during the Third Battles of Ypres. On 10th August 1917, 74th Brigade took part in the renewal of the attack. In a successful action Westhoek was captured, although at the loss of 1291 men killed, wounded or missing. The fighting continued until the Division was withdrawn on 9th September 1917. For the engagements of the 25th Division See Chris baker’s website, The Long Long Trail:
C.S.M. Robert Wallace qualified for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star, he did not go overseas until after January 1st 1916.
The war diary of 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles between November 1915 and October 1917 is available to download from The National Archives at a cost of £3.45. See:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Gary Wallace
Date: Monday 5th September 2016 at 1:11 AM

Thank you Alan for your reply, I will now endeavour to read about the battalion and what they had to go through,

I managed to find his medal rolls for The Boer war and SA I am looking for a needle in a haystack trying to find them if at all they still exist.
Posted by: Young Buzzard {Email left}
Location: Newton Abbot
Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016 at 11:38 AM
Hello Alan,
Can you help me understand the service record of the following chap please 110964 Charles Norrish, I know he served with the Royal Horse Artillery before his re-enlistment in 1915, but I don't understand what the Remount Squadrons did? Any help is, as always, very much appreciated.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016 at 6:12 PM

Dear David,
Charles Norrish, who was 5th 4ins tall, lied about his age when he attested in 1915. He stated he was 48 years old when he was actually 63 years old. However, he was just what the Army was looking for because he was a groom and experienced grooms were in short supply for looking after horses. In May 1915 the Army Service Corps advertised in local newspapers for grooms: “For King and Country. Remount Squadrons A.S.C.. Wanted at Once. Suitable men for direct enlistment into Remount Squadrons. Special Corps pay. Ordinary standards of height and chest measurements may be waived” (Surrey Advertiser, May 1st 1915, via British Newspaper Archive).
The Army Service Corps (A.S.C.) was responsible for supplying all the horses for the British Army and in order to do so they had established four depots at Woolwich, Dublin, Melton Mowbray and Arborfield. Arborfield Cross is near Reading and Wokingham in Berkshire.
Remount is both a verb and a noun. As a transitive verb it means to provide someone with a fresh horse (or mule or donkey). As a noun, a ‘remount’ is a fresh horse for a rider. The Army Service Corps provided the remount service through its depots which were each operated by a number of remount squadrons, each of about 200 men.
The number of horses required, and the fodder, was vast and the A.S.C. purchased animals from all over the world, especially from the Americas, and trained them at remount depots before they were sent to the Front.
Charles Norrish was a groom at the Manor House, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, when he enlisted at Wokingham on 28th May 1915. He stated he had previously served 12 years and five months with the Royal Horse Artillery. In the Victorian censuses he was recorded as being a 17-year-old footman to Ann Fish in 1871 at St David’s Exeter; a coachman in 1891 at Place Cottage adjacent to Place House, Ashburton. In 1901 he was recorded as a domestic coachman at Middle Cator, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, and he was a cab proprietor at Newton Abbot in 1911. He had married Mary Rosamond Irish at Newton Abbot on 12th November 1887. They had nine children. The censuses showed he was born about 1853/54 at Exeter and it is likely his GRO birth registration was Charles Norrish; April-June 1853, Exeter, Devon, vol 5b; page 99. He appears to have been the son of William and Mary Norrish, of St Laurence, Exeter. William was employed as a stable man.
Charles appears to be missing from the 1881 census which might indicate the period in which he was in the Royal Horse Artillery.
Private Norrish joined No 4 Remount Depot A.S.C. at Arborfield Cross on May 28th 1915 and was posted within the depot to No 54 Remount Squadron where he remained until 17th June 1916 when he was posted within the Arborfield Depot to No 61 Remount Squadron. The work of the Remount Squadrons is explained on Chris Baker’s website, The Long, Long Trail:
Charles stated his next-of-kin was his wife who was living at Hade House, Widecombe-in-the-Moor. On 26th April 1917, Charles was reprimanded by his Commanding Officer, Lt-Col Badcock for “gross neglect when in charge of a party of soldiers in permitting potatoes to be stolen”. The incident happened at Eversley, to the south of Arborfield. Charles received 14 days’ confinement to barracks as punishment. On a happier occasion, Lt-Col Badcock had presided at the Arborfield Remount Depot sports day. See:
Charles continued to serve at Arborfield until 12th March 1919 when he was transferred to the Z Reserve, at the age of 66 with the medical category Biii which restricted him to sedentary work in garrisons. The Z Reserve was formed of men who could be recalled if the Armistice with Germany did not hold. Service in the Z Reserve was deemed to have ended on March 31st 1920.
Charles gave his intended address in 1919 as Cator Cottage, Widecombe-in-the-Moor.
Charles Norris appears to have died in 1929, aged 76 (GRO Deaths, Charles Norrish, age 76, Oct-Dec 1929, Newton Abbot, vol 5b; page 155.)
There is a history of Arborfield Remount Depot at:
With kind regards,

Posted by: Jonboy {Email left}
Location: Harlow
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 4:22 PM
Hi Alan
Hope your keeping well i was wandering if i can take you back a bit to your correspondence to me on the 15th Nov 2012 regarding Frederick Arthur Nicholls born 1893, its a long time ago i know but i have just got round to researching him fully now and after going through your emails to me i took your advice and applied for a Marriage Certificate to to find out just who his Parents were it arrived this week and it states as follows :
Marriage solemnized at The Parish Church at Upton Cum Chalvey on Nov 12th 1917 between Frederick Arthur Nicholls (Soldier) aged 24 residing at 3 Buckingham Gardens (Fathers name James Nicholls) :
Married a Emma Alice Annie Pomfret aged 23 residing at 7 Buckingham Gardens (Father Joseph William).
The problem i have is i am still confused with the 1901 Census which states Frederick living with Parents John and Elizabeth at 3 Buckingham Gardens Upton Cum Chalvey, do you think they could have put down wrong Parents ?? its not something ive come across before though i must admit, this is something i can not get my head round. Any ideas please would be appreciated.
Kind regards
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 7:21 PM

Dear Jonboy,
That’s entirely my fault.
The 1901 Census recorded Frederick A Nicholls at 3, Buckingham Gardens, Slough, with his father James Nicholls, aged 57, employed by Slough District Council, and his wife, Elizabeth (England 1901 census, RG13 piece 1343, folio 26, page 2, schedule 8).
In November 2012, I told you “Frederick was recorded in the 1901 census as living with his father and mother, John and Elizabeth, at 3 (not 8) Buckingham Gardens, Upton-cum-Chalvey. In the 1911 census he was recorded at the same address with his father and mother, James and Elizabeth Lucy.”
The mistake of transcribing James as “John” in 1901 was mine alone. I apologise.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Jonboy
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 7:34 PM

Hi Alan
Sorry i should have picked that up along the way thanks so much but Tree research does get to me sometimes , by the way Luke went back to his old school that opened for a special history day of many things and he gave a 1 hr long speech of WW1 which he said later he couldn't have done it without looking up on your site, he made me so proud the youngsters were mesmerized in what he had to say ,so he sends his thanks.
Kind regards
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 8:59 PM

Dear Jonboy,
Well done to Luke for standing in front of his audience and giving an hour-long talk.
Posted by: Katharine Hunt {Email left}
Location: High Wycombe
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 12:35 PM
Hi Alan

You have already been really helpful finding out about my grandfathers.

Could you now please tell me something about a great uncle, whom my Granny often talked to me about when I was a child. He was her favourite brother. She used to say that because he was unmarried he volunteered to "go over the top" and was killed to save his comrades. She also talked about his bloodstained bible and damaged cigarette case having been returned. I now wonder how much of her story of volunteering on the battlefield itself was to help her justify his death.

His name is Harold Gardner and he would have been born in New Cross a little before 1888. The CWGC site shows that a bombardier (23854) of this name from the Royal Garrison Artillery in the 19th Trench Mortar Bty died on 1 April 1916 and is buried at Vermelles British Cemetery in grave II G 20. Is this likely to be the same man as I wonder if a bombardier would "go over the top" rather than staying with his artillery.

Could you also tell me whether being buried in one of the main graveyards like this suggests that a soldier died quickly close to the battlefield rather than being taken back to a field station or base hospital. When the cemeteries were reorganised officially after the War did they move bodies significant distances to be near where they were killed or fatally wounded? And how were they able to identify the bodies?

Many thanks.

Kay Hunt
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 9:02 PM

Dear Kay,
Bombardier Harold Gardner, 23854 Royal Garrison Artillery, appears to have been born at Barking in about 1885, the son of Charles W. Gardner and his wife Kate. The Army medal rolls record he served in 108 Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery (R.G.A.) and went to France on 16th August 1914 with that battery. The 108 Heavy Battery R.G.A. was a pre-war Regular Army battery with four 60-pounder guns. The Battery served with 5 Division in the original British Expeditionary Force.
The CWGC Debt of Honour recorded Harold Gardner served with 19th Trench Mortar Battery and 15 Y Trench Battery (which would have been Y.15 Medium Mortar Battery of 15th Division). The heavier trench mortar batteries were not created until March 1916 and many of them included men who volunteered to establish them and then operate the trench mortars. This was an unenviable task as it involved digging large pits for the weapon every time it was called forward. The operating of trench mortars was notorious for bringing about retaliation from the enemy, so even the infantry in the trenches did not welcome them to the front line as they attracted ever more shelling. Trench mortars were especially targeted by the enemy.
Harold Gardener was killed in action on 1st April 1916.
The story that he went over the top to save his comrades is probably apocryphal as a mortar man would not be likely to climb out of the weapon pit and scramble forward. He probably would not have carried a personal weapon in addition to the trench mortar.
When they were killed in the Front line, men were buried in battlefield cemeteries where their graves might be marked with a wooden cross. They could later be identified by the cross, or if that had fallen, by identity discs carried on a chord from the neck or by their name and number on pieces of equipment or clothing.
After the war, the then Imperial War Graves Commission started creating the now familiar war cemeteries by tidying the larger battlefield cemeteries and at the same time bringing in graves from more isolated places. Plot II at Vermelles, in which Harold Gardener is buried, contains some graves that were brought in from the battlefields to the East of the cemetery after the war ended.
There are some histories that suggest that when the Trench Mortar Batteries were created, they did not accept married men because the job was too dangerous. It is possible Harold’s sister was aware that single men, who had volunteered from the R.G.A., helped establish the new trench mortar batteries.
With kind regards,
Posted by: Howard Barkell {Email left}
Location: Lydford Devon
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 11:04 AM
Dear Alan,
On Sourton War Memorial is the name Cecil Norman 6th Devons. From the CWGC website I wonder if the same man might be TR/8/8882 Pte. C. Norman 53rd Bn Devonshire Regiment who died on 10th January 1918 and is buried in Durrington Cemetery on Salisbury Plain. Could you kindly give me your opinion and any other information you might be able to find about this man.
Kind regards,
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 8:57 PM

Dear Howard,
Cecil Norman is something of an enigma, as I cannot find details of his birth or his parents. There were two men named Cecil Norman who had served in the Devonshire Regiment. One was Sidney Cecil Norman who survived the war and was discharged in 1919 having served in the 1st and 9th Battalions. The other was a Cecil Norman who did not appear in the campaign medal rolls but who was entered in the Silver War Badge Rolls as private 8/8882, who had been enlisted on 17th February 1917; had not served overseas and was discharged through sickness on 24th December 1917.
Cecil Norman was enlisted at Oakhampton as TR/8/8882 which indicated he was in a Training Reserve Battalion administered by Army district record office No.8 which was Exeter. The number was allotted by the 52nd (correct) Graduated Battalion Devonshire Regiment, when Cecil was called up on 17th February 1917. He would have been born about February 1899. Cecil was 5ft 71/2ins with fair hair and blue eyes. He was medically passed as fit for service overseas once he completed training. He was a farm labourer and gave his address in February 1917 as Forda Farm, Sourton, near Bridestowe. His next-of-kin was his brother, Charles, at the same address, care of Mrs Reynolds (Albert and Ada Maria Reynolds lived at Forda Farm in 1911).
On February 18th 1917 Cecil was posted to the 35th Training Reserve Battalion which became known as the 53rd Young Soldier Battalion Devonshire Regiment when the 35th was re-designated on 27th October 1917. The 53rd was based at Sutton Mandeville, nine miles west of Salisbury, Wiltshire. These battalions were all of the type created to train the 18-year -old conscripts that were being brought into the Army.
In October 1917, Cecil Norman was treated for mild influenza at the military hospital of Fovant Camp on Salisbury Plain. On 13th November 1913 at Fargo Camp military hospital, Cecil was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis. On 24th December 1917 he was discharged from the Army as no longer physically fit for war service. On his discharge he stated he intended living at Oatmeal Hill Farm, Sourton. This was probably Oatnell Farm, Sourton. However, he was recommended for hospital treatment to be followed by a medical review in six months’ time. He died on January 10th 1918. His death was registered in Amesbury District, (which included Durrington, Wiltshire) in January 1918 (Vol 5a; Page 222). He was buried at Durrington Cemetery, half way between Bulford and Larkhill camps. It was not a CWGC cemetery but was a civil cemetery that because of its location close to Larkhill Camp contained a large section of war graves that are maintained by the CWGC.
It seems Cecil died, perhaps in hospital on Salisbury Plain, after being discharged on medical grounds.
One entry in the registers of soldiers’ effects recorded “presumed died on 24th December 1917” and there was no record shown of a next-of-kin. The register stated no outstanding payments or allowances were forwarded. Another entry stated he was “presumed dead” on 10th January 1918. It seems the paymaster had lost track of Cecil by 1919 when the entries were made.
There is no direct connection between Cecil Norman TR/8/8882 and the 6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment. The 3rd/6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment which was formed at Exeter in March 1915 became the 6th Reserve Battalion Devonshire Regiment in April 1916 and trained at Sutton Veny, near Warminster, in 1917 and moved to Larkhill Camp in early 1918. It is possible Cecil had some contact with the 6th Reserve Battalion in his last fortnight, or the plaque could be inaccurate. There was only one C. Norman in the Devonshire Regiment listed on the CWGC Debt of Honour.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Howard Barkell
Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016 at 8:38 AM

Dear Alan,
Thank you once again for such detailed information and for clear explanations and possible reasons. It does seem strange that he might have died in a military hospital after being discharged. He may have had nowhere else to go, possibly an orphan as his brother was his next of kin. Incidentally I visited his grave recently when travelling along the 303. Despite a convoy of army lorries passing the cemetery is in a beautiful spot.
As for the 6th Devons I have come across a similar wrong unit on the same memorial, so that may have been a red herring.
Best wishes,
Posted by: Colin Kirkham {Email left}
Location: Uk
Date: Thursday 1st September 2016 at 7:33 PM
For many years I have been researching running clubs in Coventry, mostly my own club, Coventry Godiva Harriers. I have interviewed the niece of Austin Thomas Price (born 1898 [7?]) who eventually had to joined (1917) up in WW1 after several appeals for exemption . He is supposed to have been conscripted to the Oxford Regiment (cannot find conformation) but transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and served in India. I can find little information about this but is true. When was he demobbed, when was he actually conscripted.
He was an international cross country runner for England, his club being the Humber Harriers, loosely attached to the Humber car factory on who's grounds the club trained.
Any help would be very much appreciated.
Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 12:23 AM

Dear Colin,
It is not possible to positively identify a soldier by his name only. There was one medal rolls entry for an Austin Thomas Price who served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Machine Gun Corps. There is no individual service record for him so it is not possible to state his service in detail or to further identify him with biographical details. The medal rolls recorded he first enlisted as a rifleman with the number 204545 in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. That regimental number was allotted to the 4th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in January 1917, so he would not have gone abroad until after January 1917, although he may have undertaken basic training before then. As the 4th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry had three battalions, designated 1st/4th and 2nd/4th and 3rd/4th it is not possible to state in which battalion he first enlisted. It is not possible to state when he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps as a private soldier with the number 164192.
An Austin Thomas Price appears to have been born on 14th January 1897 at Hill, Leamington Hastings, near Rugby. He was perhaps the eldest son of a farmer, Austin Walter Price and his wife Fanny Charlotte, of Lower Grange Farm, Cubbington, Leamington Spa. When the Military Service Act of March 1916 introduced compulsory conscription it was common for farmer’s sons to apply for exemption because of the need for food production and initially exemption was granted.
It seems Austin Price was called-up in late 1916 or 1917. He served overseas and was transferred to the Reserve (demobilized) on 23rd February 1920, a date recorded on the medal rolls. This was quite a late date as most men were demobilized in early 1919, so the date indicates he was probably serving abroad and had been conscripted later in the war than many other men, who therefore qualified for an earlier discharge from the Army in 1919.
India was not a theatre of war; consequently many soldiers there qualified only for the British War Medal. Austin T. Price 164192 Machine Gun Corps qualified only for the British War Medal, suggesting he had served in India and not in a theatre of war.
There is further information about the Machine Gun Corps in India at:
With kind regards,
Reply from: Colin Kirkham
Date: Friday 2nd September 2016 at 10:16 AM

You are amazing ...thank you very much, that is excellent. From my investigations and talking to his family, your details add a great understanding of his background. He started running when in uniform and I have a programme of him competing in a marathon (in this case some 12 miles) for the Machine Gun Corps while in India. He returned to the farm on demob and continued his athletics by joining the Humber Harriers in Coventry rather than the more prestigious Birchfield Harriers (Birmingham) or my own club, Coventry Godiva Harriers, despite being offered 'incentives'! He raced three times for England in the Cross Country Internationals. I have found that he did appear before the Tribunal three times, the last time they gave him time to complete the harvest which nicely fits the 'late 1916 or 1917' call up you mention. Serving in India would, as you say, account for his later demob time.
You are a star!
Posted by: Liam Cornes {Email left}
Location: Hitchin
Date: Tuesday 30th August 2016 at 7:20 PM

my Grandfather Pte Bert Blows 3592 was in the retreat from Mons, I would like to know roughly when he went into 19th Field Ambulance, the actual date if possible and the locations 19FA went to, I know he transferred on 26 March 1916 to 10 Stationary Hospital based at St. Omer for the rest of the war.

Best regards

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 30th August 2016 at 10:33 PM

Dear Liam,
It is not possible to state where your grandfather served with 19 Field Ambulance RAMC unless you know in which of the three Sections of 19 Field Ambulance he served. The reason is that B and C Sections were detached as soon as 19 Field Ambulance arrived in France and for the rest of the war, only A Section formed part of the unit which became known as 19th Brigade Field Ambulance. On 5th September A Section was joined by B and C Sections of 20 Field Ambulance to make up their strength and to become 19th Brigade Field Ambulance with the 19th Infantry Brigade. As each Section of 19 Field Ambulance served in different places and as each Section was in two locations each day, as they marched from one to the other, the list of places where Bert Blows could have been is almost endless. A section alone was in 20 different locations during their first fortnight in France and Flanders. The Great Retreat (also called the Retreat from Mons) lasted from 24th August 1914 to 28th September 1914.
Bert Blows was a RAMC reservist. 19 Field Ambulance was mobilized at 7.30 p.m. on August 4th and moved to West Croydon where it was brought up to strength with drafts of regulars and reservists on 6th and 9th August 1914. They trained on Mitcham Common. On 18th August 1914 they travelled by train to Southampton for the Channel crossing to Rouen aboard SS “Karnac”. They crossed the Channel and after a long waited moored in the Seine they disembarked on 21st August 1914. They marched from Rouen to Mont St Augan where B and C sections were detached and sent “to an unknown destination”. A Section moved on its own to Valenciennes. [The original B and C Sections were actually attached to Headquarters First Army and were split up. Many men of these sections were captured at Landrecies on 28th August 1914. On 13th November 1914, what had been the original B Section of 19 Field Ambulance joined 20th Field Ambulance.]
In December 1914, 19 Field Ambulance settled for the month at Armentieres. The war diary listing the places the original Sections had been based in the period up to November 30th 1914 is 135 pages long and so it cannot be summarised here. The two war diaries of 19 Field Ambulance can be downloaded from The National Archives for £3.45 each. See:
However, you would need to know in which section Bert Blows had served to identify where he actually served. His medal rolls index-card recorded he arrived in France with 19 F.A. on 21st August 1914, so he would have been among those reservists called-up to West Croydon in the first week of the war, arriving on 6th and 9th August 1914.
With kind regards,
Reply from: Liam Cornes
Date: Tuesday 30th August 2016 at 11:10 PM

Hi Alan, unfortunately I do not know which section he was in, is there a way to find out? We do not have his service papers, only a few scraps of paper noting his discharge from the Army after the war, and his references from when he signed up to army life in 1903.

Best regards

Reply from: Alan Greveson
Date: Tuesday 30th August 2016 at 11:16 PM

Dear Liam,
No service record appears to have survived so it is not possible to state in which Section he served. The war diaries will give a general impression of what the Sections were engaged in during 1914.
With kind regards,

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