27 August 2017

Volunteer Service Gazette & Illustrated War News

There have been some significant military releases by the British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast in the last week and it's appropriate to publicise these here as so much of what most medal collectors do involves as much background research as possible about medal recipients.

Surviving service records for members of the Volunteer Force are few and far between. Some later records may survive as part of a man's Territorial Force record but for the most part these papers (1859-1908) simply do not survive. This leaves those of us with an interest in the VF turning to other sources, and The Volunteer Service Gazette is a fantastic source and resource.

The British Newspaper Archive has published digital copies of this weekly publication between October 1859 and December 1903 and these can be searched on the BNA website and also on Findmypast.

The second publication of note this week is the Illustrated War News. This was one of the better weekly publications during the First World War, and in particular those earlier issues, mostly from 1915, which feature (often) third-line Territorial Force photographs of officers and NCOs which name the individuals concerned.

Some issues also feature pages of potted biographies and portraits of (mostly) officer casualties similar to the one I have posted at the top of this particular blog post. 

Both of these collection have been run through an OCR process which means that it is possible to search by name, although one would hope that Findmypast might also consider making a separate indexed collection of The Illustrated War News available in due course. As for me, I shall now hopefully be making room on my bookshelves by selling off my two bound volumes of the IWN.

25 February 2017

Superb two-volume Scots Guards history massively discounted

 Till the Trumpet Sounds Again

Naval and Military Press has acquired copies of this recent two-volume Helion publication and is massively discounting from £75 to £30. I remember reviewing these books last year (and frankly, it seems a little early to be remaindering these, if this is what has happened) and they are superbly well-researched and very readable.

 Scots Guards

Randall, as former Scots Guards officer himself, knows the regiment well and has access to thousands of Scots Guards service records and other regimental material that he has used unsparingly in this massive two-volume account. At £75 the books were something of a bargain. Now, at £30, these books are no less than a steal ands to be recommended not only to Scots Guards medal collectors and enthusiasts, but to anyone with an interest in the First World War. This is the First World War regimental history that the Scots Guards never had and once these books are sol they will quickly become highly and deservedly sought-after.

 Scots Guards

14 February 2017

Somme VC to go under the hammer

The star in Dix Noonan Webb's March 1st auction is this First Day of the Somme VC and German Spring Offensive MC group to Captain George Sanders who served with the 1/7th and 1/6th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment. This from DNW's catalogue:

The exceptional Great War ‘First Day of The Somme’ V.C., ‘German Spring Offensive’ M.C. group of six awarded to Captain George Sanders, who was awarded his Victoria Cross whilst serving as a Corporal in the 1/7th (Leeds Rifles) Territorial Battalion, for gallantry near Thiepval on 1 July 1916, when, following an advance into the enemy’s trenches, he found himself isolated with a party of thirty men - Impressing upon them that it was ‘his and their duty to hold the position at all costs’ they fought a series of desperate actions over a period of 36 hours, all without food and water, the gallant Sanders eventually returning to British lines with nineteen of his comrades. 

Subsequently commissioned from the ranks and posted to the 1/6th Battalion, Sanders again found himself in a fight against overwhelming odds on 25 April 1918 at the Battle of Kemmel Hill, following which action he was posted as missing - Witnesses stated that he was last seen standing on top of a pill-box rallying his men, shot in the right arm and leg, but continuing to fire his revolver at the enemy at point blank range with his left hand - This, however, was not the last to be heard from the heroic Sanders, as the following July a letter was received from him, sent from Limburg Prisoner of War Camp and two months later the 
London Gazette carried the announcement of the award of his Military Cross.

The group has an estimate of £180,000 to £220,000.

For more on this lot, and all lots in the 1st March 2017 sale, browse the Dix Noonan Webb catalogue online.

12 February 2017

No 2 RFA officer cadet school - Four MMs on show

I bought this photo in Cambridge last week.  What's interesting - and unusual - about it is that the men are named. There is no location noted but I believe it to have been taked in 1918 at the No 2 officer cadet school at Topsham Barracks, Exeter. A number of the men have prior service and four of them are recipients of the Military Medal. I have carried out some research but there is still more to be done.  Here are the bare bones.

Robert Fletcher. Formerly 2/1714 Dvr NZFA.
William Sinclair Barbour. LG 4 Sep 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 19 Aug 1918.
Leslie Robinson Sampson. LG 21 Oct 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 30 Sep 1918
Ellis Ivan Prime MM. Formerly 2/2239 Gnr, 10th Battery, 4th Bde, NZFA. LG 09.12.1916. Citation for 20th Sep 1916 on the Longueval-Flers Road
Liddle. Nothing found on Google search of Liddle/gazette/artillery/1918.
John James CrottyFormerly 2/2803 Cpl NZFA
William Gordon MacClintock MM. Formerly 2/2211 Cpl, 3rd Battery, 1st Bde, NZFA. LG 02.11.1917. Citation for 25th August 1917, south of Messines.
Henry Archer Pascall MM. Formerly 8618 Sgt, RFA & G Battery AA Group. From East Dulwich. LG 02.11.1917, an award for 3rd Ypres, August 1917.  [LG 4 Sep 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 19 Aug 1918]
Hermann Henry Osmers MM. Formerly 2/232 Gnr, 1st Battery, NZFA. LG 21.09.1916. Citation for 8th June 1916, near Houplines.
Alastair Stewart MacWhirter. LG 4 Sep 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 19 Aug 1918.
Roland William L'Estrange Heppard. LG 9 Nov 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 24 Oct 1918.
Dawson. Nothing found on Google search of Dawson/gazette/artillery/1918.
Captain Louis Alfred Pantlin. RFA, WO 339/78359.
Sgt Finch
George Malcolm Thomson. LG 4 Sep 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 19 Aug 1918.
Howard Carston Catcheside. LG 30 Aug 1918. To be Temp 2nd Lt 15 Aug 1918]
Reid. Unknown.

Howard Catcheside (1899-1987) would later play rugby for England, making his international debut in January 1924. He was the first player to score a try in each round of the then Five Nations Championship, a feat not equalled by another Englishman until 2002 by Will Greenwood. 

22 January 2017

An Arras casualty: S/20896 Rfm Herbert Charles Hines, 1st Rifle Brigade

Here's a nice little group which is my latest acquisition, courtesy of The London Medal Company. These have been on the market before, and were certainly sold at auction in 2005. Nevertheless, with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Arras just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to add this Arras casualty group to my collection.

S/20896 Rfm Herbert Charles Hines of the 1st Rifle Brigade was killed in action on the opening day of the Battle of Arras on the 9th April 1917.  He was born in New Cross, South London in 1883, his birth registered at Greenwich in the fourth quarter of that year. He was the son of William Hines, a bricklayer by trade, and his wife Emily, and they baptised him on the 5th December 1883 at Christchurch, East Greenwich (image below, courtesy of the LMA via Ancestry).

On the 1891 census the family was living at 6 Glenville Grove, Greenwich and comprised William and Emily and their six children, Herbert, aged seven, being the second eldest. His place of birth is recorded here as Deptford.

By the time the 1901 census was taken, Herbert was working as a sculleryman at Greenwich Naval College and, ten years on, aged 27, he was living alone at 14 Goodwood Road, New Cross, and working as a pastry cook. The following year he married Eliza Gibson (born 2nd January 1882)  in Greenwich and the year after that, on the 2nd August 1913, their daughter Lilian Agnes F Hines was born, her birth registered in Lewisham district in the third quarter of that year.

No service record survives for Herbert but his regimental number suggests that he joined the Rifle Brigade on the 6th June 1916. Other men with numbers in this range are mostly Derby Scheme men who had attested in November or December 1915 and were now being called up. As a married man, born in 1883, Herbert would have been placed into Group 38, and groups 33 to 41 began to be called up at the end of May 1916. The extract below shows other men with regimental numbers close to Herbert's, the date they attested, the Derby Scheme Group they belonged to (if they had attested under the Derby Scheme) and the date on which they were mobilised. Six of the nine men in this small sample were Derby Scheme men:

Unfortunately there is no pattern of service beyond early September 1916. The majority of these men - and presumably Herbert too - joined the regiment at Winchester on the 7th June and were posted to the 15th Battalion on the 10th June. From there, it was a transfer to the 20th Training Reserve Battalion for many, and then transfer again for many of the men. Three of the men listed above were transferred to the King's Royal Rifle Corps whilst others found themselves with the Northamptonshire Regiment and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Herbert remained with the Rifle Brigade though. He was drafted to the 1st Rifle Brigade, probably via an Infantry Base Depot in Etaples or Havre and thus found himself serving with a regular battalion which had been in France since the 23rd August 1914 but which would have completely changed in complexion, many of the original members of that battalion having become casualties long ago. The battalion formed part of the 11th Brigade in the 4th Division.

The battalion war diary entry for the 9th April 1917 reads:

"Bn taking part in 3rd Army operations left the camp at 6.15am being engaged in the final objective of this day... Casualties: Capt Jackson and 2nd Lt Schiff killed; Capt Cavendish, 2nd Lts Day, Wellerd and Bridgman wounded. Other ranks, 20 killed , 71 wounded, 32 missing (16 subsequently being found holding shell hole posts)."

Herbert's name initially appeared on a Rifle Brigade list dated 29th April 1917 which appears to record him as being wounded, although note the speech marks around the letter W.

Soldiers Died in The Great War records that Herbert was killed in action and his widow would later receive a gratuity of £3 in addition to the princely sum of £3, three shillings and sixpence owing to him at the time of his death.

Eliza would have been sent Herbert's medals and memorial plaque, and it was presumably she who arranged for them to be framed together with a tiny portrait photo of him.  Eliza Hines never remarried and died in 1962 having been a widow for thirty-five years. Lilian Hines, who barely knew her father, married Victor C Benfield in 1946. The couple had one daughter, Margaret A Benfield, born in 1947. Lilian Benfield died at Hove in Sussex in 1989. 

Herbert Hines has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He may be remembered by family members. He is now remembered by me. RIP.

The final image on this blog post is from series WO 363 and is Crown Copyright of The National Archives.

I research soldiers!