29 September 2011

King's Shropshire Light Infantry 1895/96

Some while back I bought a group of medals that had belonged to 1093 Colour Sergeant Charles Smith of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Along with his 1882-dated Egypt Medal, Khedive's Star and Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was this rather fine photo of D Company Football team (no battalion given) taken after they had won the Company Challenge Shield for the season 1895-1896 (they'd been runners-up the previous year). The men in the photo are all named, Colour Sergeant Smith sitting cross-legged far right.

Here are the names, left to right, of the victorious team:

Back Row: L/Cpl C Crooke, L/Cpl T Corbett, Pte J Lewis, Cpl W Keight, Cpl J Gibbons (linesman)
Middle Row: Clr Sgt E Beale, Cpl F Woodland, Capt W C Cass, Sgt A Nicholls
Front Row: Pte J Pearson, Pte T Morton, Clr Sgt R Woodland, Pte F Harrison, Clr Sgt Charles Smith

I decided to see if I could find service records for any of these men. Charles Smith had nothing in WO 97 but a record does survive in WO 363 which shows that he enlisted with the 21st Brigade on the 7th January 1879 and was discharged on the 30th September 1908 having served a grand total of 29 years and 272 days. He died of a cerebral haemmorhage on the 13th April 1939 aged 78; the death certificate in the name of Frederick Charles Smith.

L/Cpl Charles Crooke
Nothing in WO 97, WO 364 or WO 363. Charles Jeffery C Crooke was born in 1877, his birth recorded in the June quarter of that year in Walsall, Staffordshire. He enlisted with the KSLI around the 5th September 1894, served with the regiment in South Africa during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Johannesburg. He appears on the QSA medal roll as sergeant and was a colour sergeant by 1902.  He was the best man at the 1906 wedding of Sergeant Bugler Henry Crew, also of the KSLI and also a Boer War veteran. Charles Crooke served during the First World War, his medal index card indicating that he arrived overseas with the regiment as a quartermaster sergeant on the 21st December 1914.  He was commissioned second lieutenant on the 24th May 1918 and was mentioned in dispatches in July 1922.  The address on his MIC is given as Binswood Cottage, New Road, Meole Brace, Shropshire. Charles Crooke died in Cheshire in 1962 at the age of 85. My thanks to Robert Crew for contributing information - see comments.

L/Cpl Thomas Corbett
Nothing in WO 97 but there is a Thomas Corbett who joined the 3rd Militia Bn (WO 96) as a seventeen-year-old in 1889. WO 364 has the same man as 3327 Thomas Corbett who joined the regiment on the 24th October 1890 aged 18 years and eight months and was already serving with the 3rd Militia Battalion. He was a lance-corporal by July 1895 and would go on to serve during the Boer War earning the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeburg and Driefontein. Returned to England on the 17th May 1900, he would serve a total of 12 years.

Pte J Lewis
Too many options to be certain. There is, in WO 97, a 3356 Pte John Lewis who was serving with the regiment, based at the regimental depot, when D Company won the Challenge Shield.  This man also served in South Africa during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Johannesburg.  Remarks note he was posted to the Army Reserve.

Cpl Walter Keight
In WO 97 there is a 1607 Walter Keight who joined the regiment on the 11th June 1885, although this man was a sergeant by 1895/1896. Served in South Africa during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA with clasps for Cape Colony, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Johannesburg.  Remarks note he was posted to the 3rd Battalion.

Cpl John Gibbons
Nothing in WO 97. WO 364 has 2207 John Gibbons who had joined the regiment on 8th March 1887 and who was a corporal by December 1895. He was discharged in March 1908, by then a sergeant and with 21 years' service under his belt.

Sgt Ernest Beale
Nothing in WO 97. The WW1 medal index cards have a 1603 Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant E Beale whose number indicates that he joined the KSLI in 1885. This man was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with gratuity in 1944. There is a further card for 13032 RQMS Ernest Beale of the 6th KSLI who served overseas from the 24th July 1915 and who was discharged to commission with the Labour Corps on the 25th August 1915.  He was subsequently captain and qaurtermaster sergeant with the 25th Labour Group.  The address on his MIC gives 14 College Hills, Shrewsbury.  Possibly the same Ernest Beale who died in Rowley Regis, Staffordshire in 1957 at the age of 89.

Cpl Frederick George Woodland
WO 97 has 3280 Frederick George Woodland, born in Colchester Barracks in approximately June 1872, joined the KSLI at Shrewsbury on 2nd August 1890, discharged in July 1911 having served 21 years. He was certainly in England when D Company won its shield but he was a sergeant by September 1894. He died in 1951 aged 78. The 1881 census shows him as an eight-year-old living at Copthorn Barracks Shrewsbury, his father a 41 year-old staff-sergeant with the Shropshire Militia.

Ken Woodland, writing to me in December 2015, noted: "Frederick George Woodland was the son of my great grandfather, Richard Woodland, born 1841. He was a colour sergeant in the KSLI. My grandfather [his brother] was George Charles Woodland who also fought with the KSLI in World War 1."

Captain Claude William Cally Cass
Claude Cass was born in London on the 25th October 1861 and joined the KSLI on the 29th July 1882. Papers in WO 76 note service in the UK as well as in Malta, Suakin, Lower Egypt and Hong Kong. A note on his file indicates that he was posted to the 1st Battalion on the 9th March 1898. At the time the document was completed, Captain Cass was unmarried.

Sgt A Nicholls
Nothing in WO 97.

Pte J Pearson
Nothing in WO 97. A 2724 Private J Pearson served in South African during the Second South African War and was awarded the QSA qith clasps for Cape Colony and Paardeberg.  He was returned to England on the 7th July 1900.  His QSA is in private hands.

Pte Thomas Morton
WO 97 has 5022 Pte Thomas Morton who joined the regiment in February 1896 aged 18 years and six months. The T Morton in the photograph looks young enough to be this man. Thomas would go on to serve 15 years and 41 days with the regiment before being discharged in March 1911. His brother, Titus Morton, was a regular with the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots.

Clr Sgt Alton Richard Woodland
I had not found any record of service in WO 97 although I surmised that this man was possibly related to Frederick Woodland. I could not find, however, an R Woodland listed in the Woodland household on census returns (apart from father Richard who would have been too old to be playing football in the mid 1890s).

Writing to me in December 2015, Ken Woodland again noted, "[This man] is probably Alton Richard Woodland who became a quarter master sergeant and then eventually an officer with, I think, the rank of colonel.  He became a freemason, Grand Lodge. He also sat on the FA council and became very influential in local politics."

As a result of this tip-off I found a record for Alton Woodland in WO 76 which shows that he had attested, aged 21 years and 6 months, on the 30th March 1889 and served in the ranks until 21st November 1903 when he was commissioned. He had married Rose Peel at Nottingham in October 1891 and the couple had three children: Richard William Woodland (born 1894), Lillie Florence Grace Woodland (born 1895) and Ada Louise Woodland (born 1898). The WO 76 record does not state Alton Woodland's rank, and neither is the document dated. It does however note that he served in South Africa between November 1899 and October 1901.

There is also a record for this man in AIR 79 which shows that he served in the RAF from September 1918 until May 1920 when he was struck off strength. Hi rank is given in a number of places as "Major and Quartermaster KSLI" and latterly, "Major / Acting Lieutenant-Colonel". The following notice appeared in the London Gazette dated 11th June 1920:

Alton Richard Woodland was indeed a freemason and had been initiated in 1898. He was a member of Pengwerne Lodge, Shrewsbury; Castlemartin Lodge, Pembroke; Portsmouth Lodge, Portsmouth; and Wrekin Lodge. His death was recorded at Chelsea in the third quarter of 1933. He was 66-years-old.

Pte F Harrison
Too many options to be certain.

If anyone can shed any more light on any of these men, please let me know.

23 September 2011


Ah well, nothing again from today's Dix Noonan Webb auction, and whilst the illustrated example above wasn't exactly typical of the gulf between estimate and hammer price, as I mentioned the other week, hammer prices for the most part left most of the estimates well and truly in the shade. I had my eye on a few groups, mostly those with an LSGC as part of the offering but I didn't actually bid in the end. A nice Crimean War / Indian Mutiny group (estimated at a low £500-£600) went for £1600 whilst an Egypt / Khedive's pair with LSGC (estimate £320-£360) went for £680; too rich for my pocket, particularly when you add on the 20% buyer's premium and VAT. Never mind.

21 September 2011

I like it; I like it a lot

Howard Williamson's The Great War Medal Collectors Companion, that is. My copy (number 518) arrived yesterday; £50 from The National Archives' online bookshop and jam-packed with illustrations.

I've hardly had time to do the book justice so far but I know that I will be returning to it again and again. There is a good chapter on the medal index cards but I do question one point where Howard is quoting from Joe Hodgson's article in the OMRS Journal of Spring 1988. Speculating on TF numbers on MICs pre March 1917, Joe had observed that:

"men with low numbers [ie original numbers rather then the five or six-digit re-numbered numbers] on their [1914 or 1914/15] Stars are soldiers who were killed, discharged, POWs, transferred or commissioned before 1st March 1917".

The bold text is mine. Surely POWs would have been renumbered wouldn't they? They were still on the regimental rolls, just as men who were missing but not officially confirmed as Killed or Died were still on the rolls. The latter were re-numbered, surely the POWs would have been as well, wouldn't they? I don't have evidence to back this up but I'm sure somebody can confirm or deny this.

Two pages later Howard notes that the TP/104 B code on William Reader's MIC indicates London and the Royal Fusiliers whereas the MIC records KRRC and 4th London Regiment. But of course, the 4th London Regiment was the 4th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) and the CWGC notes that he was serving with the 2/4th Battalion when he died, even though his number - GS/84154 on the MIC, G/84154 according to CWGC - belongs not to the TF but to the regular Royal Fusiliers Regiment.

But it's a great book, and a must-have not only for Great War Medal Collectors (which I'm not, really; or at least only marginally) but for anybody with an interest in the Great War and British military history generally. I also happen to think that £50, or even £60 for that matter, is a price well worth paying for such a well produced item.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

15 September 2011

The Great War Medal Collectors Companion

I've just ordered The Great War Medal Collectors Companion by Howard Williamson having seen it advertised in the most recent Dixon's Gazette (issue No. 67) and I'm really looking forward to seeing it. Apart from being a lavishly published volume, the detail it contains seems impressive. This from the book's blurb:

Medal Index Cards

•Over 1,500 MIC abbreviations and codes deciphered.
•Definitive notes on the MICs and how to read them.
•The significance of different coloured inks revealed.

Gallantry Medals

•DSO, MC, DCM and MM Gazettes, giving dates & battles covered by each gazette.
•Especially useful for MM research, linking the London Gazette date back to the bravery date.
•DCM, MC and DSO Gazette citations that omit dates & places (March 1916 - January 1919).
•List of MC and DCM recipients for 1st July 1916. Also all DCM and dated bars noted.
•A full list of escapers awarded the MM; Army Order 193 of 1919 explained and 1914 MMs noted.
•How to spot fakes e.g. MC, DSO, DFC, AFC etc as well as fake bars.
•History of the DCM League and MM Association plus Ex-Servicemen’s Association details.
•Definitive notes about the naming & renaming of medals - many examples illustrated.
•How to read & research the MM Cards, including the breakthrough use of schedule numbers.
•Detailed notes on the Somme Gazettes & the units engaged. List of VCs and where they were won.
•Documents found with gallantry groups, including divisional cards, award notifications etc.
•Chronological list of actions & battles fought in all theatres, plus indexed maps.

Campaign Medals

•Full history of each medal, including Army Orders, Army Council Instructions & award criteria.
•How & when medals were named & distributed. Packaging & accompanying documents.
•How to spot fake medals and correctly identify original ‘5th Aug-22nd Nov 1914’ bars.
•How to spot renaming. Font alphabets for 1914 & 1914/15 Trios, DCMs and MMs.

Dixons - and elsewhere - advertise the book at £60 with £10 for postage and packing. However, if you order through the National Archives' online bookshop, you can pick it up for £50 including postage and packing; quite a saving.

One minor quibble though, before I've even seen the book; all apostrophe purists know that the title should be The Great War Medal Collectors' Companion, ie the Companion belonging to Great War Medal Collectors (assuming that the book is intended for more than one medal collector that is, otherwise it would be Collector's Companion). Either way, it needs an apostrophe.

Howard's eagerly awaited book on the Military Medal, a companion to this volume, is due out in 2014. Word to the wise is, buy MMs now because once the book is published, the price of these will go up.

12 September 2011

Collecting habits

When it comes to collecting medals, general advice seems to be, collect with a theme in mind. That theme may be regiments, campaigns, one single medal (or combination of medals), medals named to a particualr surname, medals awarded to men of a particular location, and so on and so on. The problem is, after a relatively recent five years of sporadic collecting, I have yet to settle on a definitive theme. Nevertheless, I have set my own 'rules' and here they are.

1. I buy for pleasure and as an investment for my children.
2. I believe that all British medals, particularly the Victorian medals, are objects of beauty.
3. I like medal singles and groups with an India connection.
4. I like the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal - Army, Navy and Volunteer, it doesn't matter, although I like the Army LSGC in particular
5. I prefer to buy singles or groups that have been unresearched
6. Once purchased as part of my collection, I would not re-sell a medal or group.
7. I have a desire to own at least one medal from all of the major campaigns from the Military General Service Medal campaigns onwards
8. I have a secondary desire to own at least one medal from each of the old 69 line regiments.
9. I abhor the practive of erasing names on medals and would never knowingly buy an erased or re-named medal.
10. I would not buy a broken group unless it was a sought-after family medal or part group of family medals
11. I do not like medal copies and would never, under any circumstance, buy one to complete a group.
12. I am always looking for alternative income streams to feed my habit!

Pictured above, the medal group for George Arthur James Welch, an ex Yorkshire Regiment regular who latterly served as a sub-conductor with the Indian Army Ordnance Corps. His group includes the Delhi Durbar Medal for 1911 and an Army LSGC (so he ticks two of my boxes there). An added bonus was that I found a sheaf of service papers in the India Office Collection at the British Library; a source that is often overlooked (third box ticked).

7 September 2011

£770,000 for Ted Kenna VC

A VC group of ten to Australian Ted Kenna, has been sold at auction in Melbourne for a world record £770,000. Private Kenna earned the medal when he single-handedly charged a machine-gun post in New Guinea on 15th May 1945. He died in 2009.

Photo courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald.

6 September 2011

DNW auction - 23rd September 2011

I see that Dix Noonan Webb has another medals' auction coming up in a couple of weeks' time. You can browse the Dix Noonan Webb auction catalogue here, and the image above - a Carib War Medal from 1773 - is lot number one of 966 lots in all.

I've been a fan of DNW for some while. The company provides good background on the lots and often good images too - and I've used plenty of the latter on this blog. Furthermore, for those of us whose pockets are not too deep, it can sometimes appear, from the estimated values given, that some groups and singles may be within easy reach. At least that's what I've thought on a number of occasions, only to watch in horror as the auction estimates are surpassed by many hundreds of pounds. There are some lots in the upcoming sale which again appear to be drastically under-valued; some by as much as fifty per cent if some dealers' catalogues are anything to go by. Still, it's nice to dream for a while, and to hope that all serious medal collectors and dealers will somehow forget all about the 23rd September and go shopping in Ikea instead. Dream on.

4 September 2011

Gwalior Campaign Stars

By a General Order dated 4th January 1844

Awarded to troops under the command of Sir Hugh Gough or Major-General Grey for separate actions which took place on the 29th December 1843. Gough's force defeated the Mahrattas at Maharajpoor at a cost of 800 men, whilst Grey lost approximately 215 men in his defeat of the Mahrattas at Punniar.

50mm diameter, bronze six-pointed star with smaller silver six-pointed star within. The obverse has the date, 29TH DECr which appears in the centre, and around the edge the year 1843. Either MAHARAJPOOR (as in the example above) or PUNNIAR (below) also appear. The reverse is plain except for the naming.

45mm wide, watered red, white, yellow, white and blue.

Various suspenders subsequently used, although British Battles and Medals notes that the medal was probably originally intended to be worn directly on the jacket, with brass hooks fitted on the reverse.

In script on the reverse.

The stars were made from captured guns. As the two actions were fought on the same day, twenty miles apart, it was impossible for one recipient to be entitled to more than one star.

Dix Noonan Webb for the images, British Battles & Medals for the background.