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  • keithmroberts

    How NOT to use blogs

    By keithmroberts

    This area is not for queries but for ongoing blogs. if you want to ask for help, please go to the appropriate sub-forum in the main part of the GWF. You have been asked to make your first post in a specified location. Once you have done that, your query can be raised in the various sections of the forum. If you previously posted a request for help or information in this area, it is likely to be deleted at some point in the next few weeks or months. So if you have a reply, please make a note o

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    Recent Entries

    This area is not for queries but for ongoing blogs. if you want to ask for help, please go to the appropriate sub-forum in the main part of the GWF.

    You have been asked to make your first post in a specified location. Once you have done that, your query can be raised in the various sections of the forum.

    If you previously posted a request for help or information in this area, it is likely to be deleted at some point in the next few weeks or months. So if you have a reply, please make a note of it, If not, can you re-post it in the appropriate part of the forum, which is likely to get you a quick response.

    Keith Roberts

    for the GWF team

  2. Whilst wandering around the Arras Fabourg Cemetery, I observed Gunner graves where all had been killed on the same date buried together. Often the sign of a gun detachment who lost their lives because of a single incident.

    In Plot V Row F, there were four Gunner graves together.


    A closer examination revealed it was four Gunner Officers, all killed on the 19th May 1917.


    Who were these Officers? What had happened on 19th May 1917 ?

    The CWGC records revealed the Offers were all serving with 40 Brigade RFA, part of the 3rd Divisional Artillery.


    The war diary of 40 Brigade Royal Field Artillery for 19th May 1917 revealed that the unit was in area of Wancourt, near Arras. The diary recorded;

    CAPT PERKINS, LT'KEEFE, LT HARKER, and 2 LT LLOYD, all killed by a 5.9 which ????? in the Doorway of the Officers Mess.





    Frank Bailey Perkins was born in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1889. He was educated at Denstone College, Staffordshire. A schoolmaster by profession, he taught at the Blind College, Worcester, and later as a mathematical Master at Little Appley School, near Ryde, Isle of Wight.

    He commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery as a temporary Second Lieutenant 28th October 1914, rising to the rank of Captain.

    Captain Perkins joined the 40th Brigade RFA 15th June 1915 (Source: @charlie962)


    He was killed whilst serving with 40 Brigade RFA, when on the morning of 19th May 1917, a German 5.9 inch shell hit the Officers Mess killing Captain Perkins and three fellow officers.

    Captain Frank Bailey Perkins | War Casualty Details 574721 | CWGC

    Son of Frank Bailey Perkins and Harriet Louisa Perkins, of Malvern.


    A letter to his mother from his Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel G.T. Mair wrote of him;

    “It is with the greatest grief that I have it confirm what I expect you have already heard from the War office, that your son, Capt F.B. Perkins was killed in action yesterday. It occurred about 9.30am, just after he had finished breakfast. It may relieve any anxiety you may have as regards any suffering he may have had, to know that your son was killed instantaneously. His death is a terrible blow to his Battery and to me. I have to mourn the loss not only of a very capable officer, but also a dear personal friend, who had endeared himself to me and others in many ways, but especially by his charm of manner. But our grief great as it is, can be nothing compared to the irreparable loss you have sustained; and on behalf of the officers of the Brigade, and the N.C.O.’s and men of his Battery, may I be allowed to offer you our sincerest sympathies. The Funeral is to take place this afternoon in the cemetery, the position of which the military authorities at home will doubtless acquaint you with.”



    George Ernest Harker was born in 1893 and educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle. On leaving school he became a mining engineer at Sixth Pit, Fence Houses, in Durham.

    He was commissioned as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery on 3rd November 1914. He went to the Western Front in January 1915, promoting to Lieutenant in February 1916. In February 1917 he was wounded, and again in April 1917.


    Lieutenant Harker joined the 40th Brigade RFA 26th June 1915 (Source: @charlie962)

    He was killed whilst serving with 40 Brigade RFA, when on the morning of 19th May 1917, a German 5.9 inch shell hit the Officers Mess killing Lieutenant Harker and three fellow officers.

    Lieutenant George Ernest Harker | War Casualty Details 284326 | CWGC

    Son of George and Helen Harker, of 17, Grange Terrace, Sunderland.





    William Merick Ellis Lloyd was born in 1894 in Burnt Green, Birmingham. He was educated at Radley College. On leaving school he was employed at the Daimler Works, Coventry. He enlisted into Royal Horse Artillery early 1915 and was fought on the Somme. He was recommended for a commission and posted to an Officer Cadet training unit. William Merick Ellis Lloyd was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Special Reserve of Officers in the Royal Field Artillery 4th February 1917.


    Second Lieutenant Lloyd joined the 40th Brigade RFA 27th October 1916 (Source: @charlie962)

    O'Keefe 6/4/17

    He was killed whilst serving with 40 Brigade RFA, when on the morning of 19th May 1917, a German 5.9 inch shell hit the Officers Mess killing Second Lieutenant Lloyd and three fellow officers.

    Second Lieutenant William Merick Ellis Lloyd | War Casualty Details 284715 | CWGC

    Son of Hannah M. U. Allen (formerly Lloyd), of Asleton House, 69, Compton Rd., Wolverhampton, and the late William Ellis Lloyd.





    William Henry O'Keefe was born on the 15th July 1896, Wexford, Leinster, Ireland. He resided at Faythe House, Wexford, where his father was a merchant.

    He commissioned as a temporary Second Lieutenant into the Royal Field Artillery 27th February 1915.


    Lieutenant O'Keefe joined the 40th Brigade RFA 6th April 1917 (Source: @charlie962)

     He was killed whilst serving with 40 Brigade RFA when on the morning of 19th May 1917, a German 5.9 inch shell hit the Officers Mess killing Lt O'Keefe and three fellow officers

    Lieutenant William Henry O'Keefe | War Casualty Details 574653 | CWGC

    Son of William and Matilda O'Keefe, of Faythe House, Wexford.



  3. Richard "Richie" Edwin Nicholls was born at some point around 1899-1900 (Sources vary) in Victoria, Australia to William [1866-1908] and Ida Theresa [1873-1948] Nicholls. He had 2 older brothers and 3 younger brothers as well as 2 younger sisters. Not much is noted in Richie's early life unfortunately.

    Richie enlisted in Melbourne on June 12th, 1916, either way he was a boy soldier and given a serial number, 2761. He was assigned to the A.I.F Training Company on June 27th, and 3 months later assigned to the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, 4th Reinforcements on September 1st. He was transferred to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion apart of the 5th Reinforcements on September 15th. 3 days later, he would embark from Melbourne towards England where he would continue to train for the Pioneers. He would arrive at the Pioneer Training Battalion on November 15th, the same day he arrived in Plymouth. On Christmas Day, 1916 he would be on a fizzer; Specifically it was because he missed a Tattoo Roll Call at Larkhill. For this, he was awarded 3 days Field Punishment No.2 by Major T F Routlidge on December 26th, also forfeiting 3 days pay.

    Richie would proceed to France on the final day of 1916. Arriving in France the following day, he went to hospital on January 27th and came back to his unit on January 24th. 6 months later, he would go to hospital with Gonorrhoea [June 2nd], then arriving back on July 27th. It would only take a week before he went into hospital again, arriving back on September 22nd, 1917. Presumably wanting to see frontline duty, he transferred to the 46th Battalion on February 26th, 1918, assigned to 'A' Company. Two month later, he would prove his worth. On April 6th, 1918 he was a Company runner in 'A' Company when he was recommended for the Military Medal. The recommendation reads...
    For gallantry as a runner near ALBERT on 6.4.18. Private Nicholls was sent from Company H.Q to Battalion H.Q. at 5a.m. 6.4.18, a distance of 1500 yards with an important message. On his way bac he overtook some exhausted stretcher bearers and assisted them in bringing in a wounded officer. It was daylight before he could return, but he set out saying "My Company Commander will want me". For 800 yards of his return trip he was fully exposed to enemy snipers, and had many narrow escapes. He crawled a long distance taking advantage of shell holes and folds of ground. Snipers fired at him each time he appeared, but he ultimately got to his destination safely. It was a striking instance of devotion to duty.
    His Military Medal appeared on the London Gazette on July 16th, 1918 on page 8333 at position 35. 
    Members of the 46th Battalion coming out of the line, May 1st, 1918.
    Newspaper, August 15th, 1918. Benalla Standard.
    3 months after he won the Military Medal, he and others in his battalion got 'Blighty Leave' on June 29th. It is known that he visited his relatives, specifically Mr Kerr.
    Nicholls, Kerr and Sergeant G.M Jonas. Around July 1918 during Blighty Leave

    Unfortunately, this would be the last time he saw England. He rejoined his Battalion a month later in July, then was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. At the time, he and his battalion were on the attack at a place East of Hamel. The recommendation for the D.C.M reads..
    For exceptional bravery and initiative during the attack East of HAMEL, on morning of 8th August 1918. The enemy put up a stiff resistance in a gully near MORCOURT and this man, noticing a group of the enemy putting up a fight collected a small party of men and led them across the gully to cut them off. This brought him and his party under heavy machine gun and rifle fire which prevented further advance. Alone, and with utter disregard of personal safety, this man kept going, and succeeded, with the aid of Lieut DICKINSON, in capturing and taking prisoner several of the enemy. This man's dash and daring was a great stimulus to his comrades. [NOTE: Lieutenant Arthur Schorey Dickinson would survive the war and receive the Military Cross for his actions]

    Richie never got to see his Distinguished Conduct Medal, as on August 18th, he would be mortally wounded aged c.18. His red cross reports read he was a Company Runner in A Coy. Private T.W Loe states that he was wounded near Lihons on August 18th at 6p.m by shrapnel via heavy shell fire which hit him in the neck. This was substantiated by Corporal [A.]H. Ploog. A statement by 3510 Deacon states that Richie was wounded on the 17th.
    Newspaper, September 5th, 1918.  Shepparton Advertiser. 
    Corporal Ploog in 1918
    Nicholl was buried at Chalks Pit by Reverend John Cyril Flood, but was later moved to Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in 1920.
    Nicholl's grave

    Rev. Flood

    Below are the medals that Nicholls would've been entitled to..
          Distinguished Conduct Medal   Military Medal     British War Medal             Victory Medal


  4. In 1918, Norway was in trouble. World War I was raging across Europe, and although this Scandinavian backwater zealously guarded its neutrality, the conflict could not be kept entirely at bay. The war cut the country off from the maritime trade that had sustained it for centuries and Norway descended into a period known as dyrtiden—literally, “the expensive time.”

    On 13 January, a new rationing system came into effect. It limited the purchase and consumption of sugar, coffee, grain, and flour. For Norwegians, who even today subsist in great part on bread and coffee, the situation was dire.

    Enter the dandelion. Taraxacum officinale grows abundantly and enthusiastically here, and with enough time and tenacity you could use it to supplement your official rations.


    “The dandelion, which will take the place of the coffee bush.” Source: Aftenposten, 18 January 1918.

    One roadblock to dandelion consumption was mental. Newspapers of the time described dandelions as excellent food for pigs and “one of the best things that one can offer to rabbits,” which were easy to raise and recommended as an additional source of protein if only one could feed them for free. To admit that the situation had grown so desperate that one was reduced to eating livestock feed must have smarted. The dandelion’s reputation as a hard-to-kill weed also contributed to the prevailing negative attitude towards the plant. As a certain “K.W.” wrote in the magazine Hjemmenes Vel:

    In this time of food shortages, I am amazed that housewives…do not even attempt to make anything from dandelions. “But dandelions aren’t food!” they will say; and while they may not be as nutritious as bread or potatoes, they are health itself.

    The introduction of ration cards seems to have spurred people to reevaluate their prejudices. While ads for dandelion coffee had appeared as early as 1917, the substance only really took off when rationing forced people to seek alternatives to real coffee. Aftenposten, one of Oslo’s most respected newspapers, published an article about the “helping hand” extended by “this fiendish weed” just a week after rationing began. It included a taste test:

    Dandelion coffee looks exactly like regular coffee, with a warm brown tone. Somewhat different opinions were expressed by the select group in which it, with added cream, was tasted.

    “I like it as much as ordinary coffee” — “No, I couldn’t say so, but if one doesn’t have any coffee beans, then it serves very well” — “It has a slightly different taste, a sweet aftertaste, but it’s not unpleasant” — “I think it tastes fresh and good.”

    Dandelion coffee cost half the price of real coffee and was not subject to rationing, so you could drink as much of it as you desired (though cream became so scarce that it became necessary to either drink it black or use ersatz cream made from milk, eggs, sugar, and potato flour). Aftenposten also reported that a new factory for dandelion coffee would soon be up and running: “It will require deliveries of 4000 kg of dandelion roots every day. That’s a lot of coffee. And there will be many fewer dandelions in the fields.”

    Assuming that you had no money but plenty of time, you could make dandelion coffee at home. The ladies’ magazine Urd detailed the method in its April 1918 issue:

    Autumn is the best time to harvest the roots, preferably when the ground has been dampened after rain. …after rinsing, brush or scrape the roots and dry them with a rough cloth. If they are to be used as ersatz coffee, they should be cut into small pieces, dried, roasted, and ground. When making “coffee” from dandelion alone, only half a teaspoon of the powder suffices for each cup of water.

    In their attempts to convince Norwegians of the benefits of dandelion, the press neglected to mention that the plant is a diuretic. While dandelion coffee was said to be “an excellent remedy for insomnia,” that effect may have been dampened—no pun intended—by the necessity of getting up to relieve oneself multiple times during the night. A friend who made dandelion coffee from scratch minced no words when I asked her about her experience: “I was up most of that night peeing and I got so little sleep that I needed a nap the next day.”

    While the bitterness of dandelion roots usefully mimicked the taste of coffee, this characteristic was less than desirable in other forms of food. Urd recommended boiling the roots in two 15-minute stages in order to draw out the bitterness. Afterwards, they could pureed for use in bread and other baked goods; “in baking, one can save a great deal of flour by using dandelion mash.”

    If you had enough wheat flour, you needed only to take equivalent weights of dandelion mash and flour, and follow the usual bread-baking procedure. Since dandelion mash did not rise well, this recipe required slightly more yeast than regular bread. In terms of taste, chervil was said to be an “excellent” addition.

    Later, as wheat became scarcer, other flours took its place. One recipe for dandelion bread contains 500 grams of dandelion mash and 750 grams of rye flour. Despite its name, it was not actually bread-like. The instructions specify that the dough should be shaped into small flat rounds, which probably produced a cracker similar to rye crispbreads (knekkebrød). Another alternative bread contained graham flour, oat flour, and dandelion mash. This dough was to be mixed and kneaded “like regular bread” and then shaped into buns. Meanwhile, a recipe for dandelion fritters contained no grain flour at all. They consisted of dandelion mash with half a teaspoon of ground almonds, a teaspoon of sugar, and an egg. In her column for Urd, “Mary Housekeeper” recommended serving them with fruit compote, jam, or marmalade.

    Summer is the season for making jam, but this task becomes very difficult without sugar. At least two books were published in the spring/summer of 1918 with recipes to preserve fruits and berries with as little sugar as possible. If you hadn’t scrupulously saved your sugar rations, however, you could derive sugar from dandelions. (You would probably also be well-served by no little ambition in the kitchen as well as a total lack of fear.) The well-known cook and author Henriette Schønberg-Erken provided her readers with the following recipe for a sugar substitute made of dandelion roots, calcium carbonate, and sulphuric acid:

    Rinse and chop the roots. Boil until soft in as little water as possible. Then put it through a ricer. Bring it to the boil again and then empty it into a warm ceramic dish. For every kilo, add 20 grams of concentrated sulphuric acid. Let the mixture rest, covered with a ceramic or wooden lid, in a warm oven for a few hours. Then strain the juice through a jelly bag. Add powdered calcium carbonate until the juice stops fizzing. Let it rest overnight and then boil it down until it becomes a syrup. …Remember that the mixture must not come into contact with metal until the sulphuric acid is neutralised with the calcium carbonate.

    Deriving sugar from dandelions sounded incredible, and so a curious journalist asked chemistry professor Sophus Torup about the process. Torup confirmed that it would indeed work and that “not just dandelion roots but all roots—in fact, anything that contains starch—can be used to make sugar.” Yet while it was technically possible, Schønberg-Erken’s recipe does not seem to have experienced much popularity. As the journalist remarked, the process was “so difficult and burdensome that I do not dare to say that any sugar will come of it.”

    While dandelions served their purpose during the war, they were abandoned as soon as real coffee, flour, and sugar became readily available again. Dandelion coffee made a brief comeback during World War II; as a flour substitute, however, it was superceded by fish flour made from dried cod. Yet despite major increases in food prices in Norway during the summer of 2022, the flower known here as “lion’s tooth” has not yet made it on to the menu. Hopefully a dandelion diet is not in our immediate future; but if it is, at least we will know exactly how to prepare them.

  5. Albert Henry Victor Brackley enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force under a false name in 1916. He had ‘deserted’ his wife and two children when he sailed for England later that year. His ruse was discovered when he went absent without leave and after his wife told the Australian Army he had enlisted as ‘Herbert Walters’. Just a few months later, he ended up on the Western Front – facing the greatest danger. Here, I look at the story of Albert, who was connected to my family.

    He didn’t fight on the front line – but beneath it. He helped to dig tunnels under No Man’s Land to allow explosives to be detonated under enemy positions.

    The work was exhausting and dangerous. The explosions were frequently devastating, sometimes killing thousands of soldiers.

    Albert, a sapper in the Royal Australian Engineers, was one of tens of thousands of tunnellers on the Western Front in the Great War.

    He joined the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company – who carried out vital offensive and defensive mining work in France – in the summer of 1917.

    Just a few months before arriving on the front line, Albert found himself at the centre of a major controversy.

    He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on October 10, 1916 under a false name, calling himself Herbert Walters.

    He was not the first or last soldier with an assumed identity. But he was found out after going ‘absent without leave’ – and deserting his wife and two children in Australia.

    Albert sailed to England with the AIF on October 25, 1916 and arrived in Plymouth on December 28 that year.

    Ten days later – on January 7, 1917 – he went missing from Perham Down Army Camp on the edge of Salisbury Plain.

    He surrendered himself in London to a sergeant in the Army Military Police on February 20 that year, and was sentenced to 60 days’ detention.

    When he had been sailing to England, Albert’s wife, Queenie Alice Maud Brackley, wrote to the officer in charge of Army base records in Melbourne, declaring that she had been ‘advised by the police to let you know that my husband had enlisted under the name of Herbert Walters’.

    Queenie, aware that he had left Australia with the AIF, said she had a warrant out for his arrest – issued on November 9, 1916 – for deserting her and her two children.

    She revealed that a Mrs (Lydia) White – Albert’s aunt, listed as a ‘friend’ and next of kin when he enlisted under a false name – had been ‘drawing his money’ (wages) since he joined the Royal Australian Engineers.

    On March 2, 1917, while in custody, Albert signed a declaration that he had enlisted under an incorrect name after Queenie submitted a sworn statement before a Justice of the Peace that he and Herbert Walters were ‘one and the same person’.

    When in France, Albert was twice admitted to hospital with diarrhoea and repeatedly punished for going absent without leave.

    At one stage he was promoted to lance-corporal but ‘reverted’ to sapper shortly after the appointment.

    Admitted to the Australian Dermatological Hospital at Bulford on Salisbury Plain in 1919 with syphilis, Albert returned to Australia from Devonport in January 1920.

    In May that year, Albert was charged, on warrant, with deserting his wife and children after he arrived back in Australia.

    He and Queenie were divorced in February 1922. Albert, then a tramway worker, petitioned for the divorce on the grounds of misconduct.

    He claimed that during his active war service, his wife gave birth to a third child fathered by another man.

    Albert married Alma Beck (1895-1959) on September 9, 1922 in Victoria, and they had a son, William Albert Ernest, who was held as a Japanese prisoner of war in Thailand in the Second World War.

    Albert was a farmer when he died on May 20, 1924 at the public hospital in Swan Hill, Victoria, aged 33. He was buried at Swan Hill Cemetery, Victoria.

    Queenie, born on May 24, 1895 in Inglewood, Victoria, died on August 14, 1963 in Bendigo, Victoria, aged 68. She was buried in Bendigo Cemetery.

    Alma Beck, born on June 28, 1895 in Victoria, married Albert’s younger brother, George Alfred Brackley (1897-1963) on May 2, 1925 in Victoria. She died on October 10, 1959 in Parkville, Victoria, aged 64.


    The Victoria Police Gazette in Australia reported on November 9, 1916 – under the headline ‘Deserters of wives and children’ – that Albert was charged, on warrant, with deserting Queenie.

    Albert’s service records reveal that he initially enlisted in the 14th Infantry Battalion of the AIF under his own name in May 1915 in Tarnagulla, Victoria, Australia. Aged 24 at the time, he was a labourer. The records show that he failed to embark for service abroad in September 1915.

    The 1st Australian Tunnelling Company were one of four tunnelling companies of the Royal Australian Engineers in the Great War. They helped to spearhead offensive and defensive mining work, including placing mines under enemy lines and building dugouts and trenches for troops.

    In the months leading up to the Battle of Messines in June 1917 – which began with the detonation of 19 mines which killed 10,000 German soldiers and left 19 large craters – the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company helped to ensure that tunnels and explosives in the area remained intact and undiscovered.

    Albert, born on October 10, 1890 in Tarnagulla, Victoria, Australia, was the son of Henry George Brackley (1850-1924) and Mary Elizabeth Hurford (1872-1899). Mary was the daughter of William Hurford (1840-1915), of Stockleigh English and Mary Ann Roberts (1842-1926), who emigrated to Australia after their marriage in Cornwall in 1863. William was the son of William Hurford (1802-1881) and Charlotte Roberts (1815-1884). Charlotte was the daughter of Thomas Roberts (1770-1852) and Elizabeth Sharland (1776-1841). Thomas was my great-great-great-great grandfather. Albert married Queenie Alice Maud Hughes (1895-1963) on February 12, 1913 in Bendigo, Victoria.

    Picture below:

    Albert Henry Victor Brackley. Used with the permission of his great-granddaughter, Sonya Salzke.

    albert henry victor brackley.jpg

  6. The Draft

    This is the story of a group of seventy men who fought as Infantry in France during the First World War. Their experience is not exceptional, rather their journey echoes one that most young men had with the Infantry from 1916 onwards. They arrived together in France in early October 1916 as draft replacements, as most men after 1915 did, into a battle proven and bruised Infantry Battalion.  My great uncle was amongst them. At wars end some twenty-five months later less than a handful would remain. This is their story.   

    Most of the men came from the towns North of Manchester: Radcliffe, Oldham, Blackpool, Accrington, Burnley and such.  A number came from further afield such as Durham, Birmingham, Stoke, Cardiff or the suburbs of Manchester itself. In the main they were Lancashire men. They were labourers, farmers, mill workers, printers, miners, clerks, butchers, and a solitary glass polisher.

    There is no comprehensive history for these men.  I have used their medal roll to identify and confirm them as a group.  Surviving service records, unit war diaries, pension cards, newspaper archives, casualty reports and wider research has been undertaken. There are still gaps. I have attempted to be factual with very little conjecture.   

    Their shared experience began with Infantry training at Press Health in Shropshire. This was initially with the 21st Reserve Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Their journeys to basic training were mixed with many men being conscripted in May and June of 1916 and being sent the 21st directly.

    Many others had volunteered in December 1915 under the Derby Scheme and were mobilised at Preston in May 1916 into the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). A handful of North East England men were equally in the RFA but found their unit transferred to Preston alongside the others and into the 8th Reserve Battery, 2a Reserve Brigade. Other men found themselves conscripted into the RFA briefly. After a month or so the RFA men were sent en-masse on the 17th of June to the Lancashire Fusiliers for Infantry training, at the time the Army needed more infantrymen than gunners so there was little choice or science involved.

    For a few men their journey was different.  One man was a territorial solider who ended his period of engagement  but then was fairly rapidly returned to the colours via conscription. Other men had volunteered but in the end were conscripted straight into the 21st.   

    They were not necessarily all together or in the same training platoons at Press Heath but they would have been going through training at the same time.  When they arrived in Shropshire the battles of 1914 and 1915 were long past.  The original regular army was largely gone, the originals very few and the impact of the Battles of the Somme from July 1916 would be being realised whilst they sweated through their four months of Infantry training.

    A further re-organisation occurred on the 1st of September towards the end of their course when the Army re-organised all the Infantry training units. The bespoke regimental system was deemed too inefficient and more generic Training Reserve Battalions (TRBs) would now be formed.  Our men joined the 72nd TRB.  It’s likely they didn’t notice any difference.

    Pte Tom Cunliffe 27561 from Blackburn almost didn’t get accepted at all as he was just 5ft tall.  The Lancashire Fusiliers didn’t want him, but the Army insisted, and he stayed. Pte Robert Collier 27562 from Stockport kept going absent without leave with punishments of increasingly severity.  He was absent for 24 days over five occasions.  Why he kept receiving leave as he never seemed keen to come back on time remains unknown. Both would be dead in less than a year.

    On Friday 6th October 1916, training done, they left for France. On the Saturday they arrived at No 30 Infantry Base Depot (IBD) at Etaples.  This was the wrong Depot for men joining the Lancashire Fusiliers but the recent reorganisations in the Army meant the rules were changing.  At some point back in the UK  it had been decided that these men were needed in the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment and as such they would go to 30 IBD for kitting and preparation and not 23 IBD, the Lancashire Fusilier Depot.  For the first time these 70 men all certainly came together. This decision lasted all of a week before it was again decided that another Lancashire Regiment was in need; the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORLR) it was to be.  They were renumbered and sent to join their new regiment on the 14th of October, just another replacement Draft.   

    The 8th

    The 8th Battalion was formed in Lancaster in October 1914 and after training landed in France on the 26th and 27th of September 1915 with 859 officers and men. They formed one of the four infantry battalions in 76 Brigade which was under the command of firstly the 25th Division and from October 1915 the 3rd Division.  They were in the front lines from the start with regular low-level casualties between large offensive or defensive operations.  Their first significant losses occurred on the 2nd and 3rd of March 1916 at Loos. The Battalion had a strength of 814 on the 2nd of March before the battle; casualties by the 3rd were 57 killed, 66 missing believed killed and 216 wounded - 41% casualties.  They remained in action with replacements periodically posted-in.  A further action on the 4th April resulting in 20 killed and 45 wounded. The Battalion remained busy until July. The next offensive at the Somme on 18th July resulted in 37 killed, 263 wounded and 53 missing.  The 16th to 18th of August saw further heavy casualties of 35 killed, 82 missing and 154 wounded.  So set the scene for the arrival of our Draft.

    The Battalion was recovering out of the line in billets at a place called Bertrancourt as part of the Divisional Reserve in October. From the 16th they began providing working parties to the front line and the war for the 70 began.

    On the 13th of November they faced their first significant engagement - one of the last Somme battles at Serre.  A frontal assault involving all four Rifle Companies with C Company in reserve.  C Company later advanced alongside B and D whilst A Company consolidated a captured trench.  The attack was only partially successful. Of the Draft Pte Percy Godson 27573 from Stockport and Pte Thomas Metcalf 27600 from Sunderland were killed with 14 others wounded. The wounds received, that were recorded, were gunshot wounds to arms, legs, chests and heads.

    Of those wounded Pte Joseph Jeffers 27595 from Manchester and Pte George Robinson 27620 from Blackpool, would be discharged from the Army a few months later as too badly wounded to remain.  Pte John Horrocks 27577 from Bury, Pte Joseph Henderson 27584 from Middlesborough and Pte Gerald Miller 27601 from Fence Houses near Sunderland were sent to the UK for recovery before being medically downgrading and transferred to the Labour Corps. Pte Wilfred Davies 27565 from Ebbw Vale was sent to the UK to recover from his injured hand, which he did.  He returned to France in 1917 and was killed with the 1st Battalion in November 1917.

    Pte James Musk 27605 from Rawntenstall, with shrapnel wounds to his hand and knee also went back to the UK before later being sent to the 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in late 1918.  He would go on to serve in Northern Russia in 1919 and win the Military Medal.  The seven other men it seems were able to return to the Battalion after recovering from their wounds. The Draft of 70 was down to 61.

    Although they didn’t know it at the time this was the last large battle they would face until the Spring of 1917.  The Winter was spent between the front line, support trenches and periods of training. Casualties still occurred:   

    Pte Frank Evans 27567 from Stoke was wounded in the neck on the 25th October 1916.  He returned to the Battalion in November but was eventually sent back to the UK sick in January.  He later joined the 1/4 Battalion, returned to France and was taken prisoner in July 1917 thus spending the rest of the war as a POW.  Pte Albert Cowin 27563 from Bigrigg Cumbria was killed likely by an artillery shell on the 20th December, dying three days later.

    Pte Thomas Pomfret 27613 was Court Martialled in February for at least one self-inflicted wound. He was sent to hospital with a gunshot wound to the hand.  The punishment for such an offence was death, but throughout the war this was never carried out. Many men who were found guilty of the same offence were sent to prison. This soldier was fortunate as he left the Battalion and later in 1917 was posted into the Labour Corps.

    1917 Arras

    In March the Battalion began its move from Wanquetin to the Leincourt and Arras areas. This was to prepare for the upcoming series of Allied Spring offensives. From the 6th of April they spent the nights in the cellars of Arras as the British bombardment and German counter fire crossed overhead.  By the 8th they were starting to take casualties as they moved into the forward trenches.  The Battalion went into action on the 9th moving forward from their positions and remaining in heavy action until the 12th.  Over the four days the Battalion suffered 43 killed, 28 missing and 172 wounded.  Amongst those killed were Pte Aloysius Laithwaite 27598 from Wigan, Pte Arthur Ashbridge 27553 from Blackpool and Pte Frank Nicholson 27609 from Aston. Pte James Hudson 27579 from Tottington was shot in the leg and sent back to the UK.  He recovered and came back to France with the 1/4 Battalion, he would be killed in action with them on 20th September 1917.

    Pte John Green 27574 from Oldham was shot in the thigh on 11th of April, he was sent back to the UK before serving with the RAMC for a period, he was laterally medically discharged from the Army.  He was the odd soldier out in the Draft of 70 in that he had previous military experience as he was a Territorial Force (TF) soldier who served in the 1/10th Manchester Regt. Discharged at the end of his TF service he was then conscripted back into initially the RFA before finding his way to the 8th.

    On the night of the 25th/ 26th the enemy counter attacked following a bombardment of the Battalions trenches near Monchy le Preux. The attack was repulsed with close quarters fighting.  Pte James Felstead 27572 from Melton Mowberry, Pte John Henry Royle 27615 from Manchester and Pte Robert Collier 27562 from Stockport  were killed and Pte Frank Pulbrook 27614 from Manchester was wounded, dying the next day. Pte Percy Broderick 27556 from Accrington was also wounded in both legs being sent back to the UK.  He was discharged as too badly wounded to serve in September 1917.  Pte James Hunter 27578 from Accrington was also likely wounded in this engagement, he was blown out of a trench, buried in a dugout and latterly shot in the leg.  He was sent back to the UK and discharged from the Army that September.

    Withdrawn from the front line on the 1st of May but not before Pte Norman Armstrong 27552 from Durham was killed on the 30th of April and Pte Nolan Ratcliffe 27619 from Middleton was shot in the leg on the 7th of May.  He was evacuated to the UK and soon after medically discharged from the Army.

    The Battalion rested for a week before moving back into the front line trenches on the 10th of May. Pte Lincoln Moore 27603 from Birmingham  left on the 6th of May with bad trench foot, he lost two toes, was sent back to the UK and eventually served in the Labour Corps after being medically downgraded.

    Pte Fred Armytage 27554 from Manchester was killed on the 10th as the Battalion moved back into the front line.  On the 12th three of the four Rifle Companies attacked Devils Trench. There were heavy casualties and the survivors had to wait until dark to return to their own trenches, Pte Tom Hadfield 27576 from Shaw and Pte Tom Cunliffe 27561 were killed. Pte Nathan Heaton 27583 from Middletown was wounded in the arm.  He returned to the UK where his arm was amputated, he was then discharged from the Army. 

    After 4 days overall casualties were 26 killed, 58 wounded and 12 missing, the Battalion was taken out of the lines on the 15th of May to rest.

    The Battalion recovered, trained and re-equipped in Arras until the 12th of June before again moving up to the front lines.

    After four days in the front line the enemy attacked after a heavy bombardment.  These attacks continued for two days up until the 18th. Pte Henry Cowell 27564 from Blackburn was killed on the 16th.  He had recently returned to duty after being wounded on 30th April. Pte Henry Hampson 27587 from Birmingham was wounded and sent to the UK, he later served with the 1/5 KORL Battalion.  L/Cpl Rupert Bevington 27560 from Leigh was also likely wounded as he was sent back to the UK on the 16th.  He later joined the 1st Bn in Salonica.  He died of phenomena when he returned finally to the UK.   Pte Henry Ingleson 27589 from Clethorpes was sent home on the 26th suffering from gas poisoning.  This probably occurred a few weeks previously during a short enemy gas attack. He was discharged as medically unfit from the Army after returning to his shipbuilding civilian role.   

    The Battalion came out of the line on the 20th of June and recovered until the 10th of July. The rest of July and August was spent in rotation between front line and support areas, there was very little action.  September started with a period of training; range work, fighting and attack skills and physical training.  This included practising attacks at Company and Battalion level. On the 26th of September the attack for which they had been training took place.  The Battalion attacked Polygon Wood.  With the Gordan Highlanders on the left and the Australians on the right they attacked at 0550. The attacks were successful after over a day of heavy fighting and shelling, including gas.  They came out of the line on the 29th. Casualties in the Draft were L/Cpl George Moss 27604 from Formby and Pte William Mathison 27599 from Hull killed, Pte Fred Watson 27621 from Levin was shot in the head and died on the 29th. Pte Joseph Railton 27618 from Liverpool  was wounded in the arm and sent back to the UK.  He would later return to France with the 3rd Battalion being wounded again in November 1918.

    Over the period its known other men were wounded and left the Battalion. Formal casualty lists were temporarily not published for the early summer of 1917 so a full picture of casualties cannot easily be reconstructed.  However, it is known the following men left the Battalion, in the main because they were wounded in the Arras fighting:    

    Pte Herbert Moyers 27608 from St.Helens was wounded early in April he returned to the UK and eventually joined the Machine Gun Corps and returned to France.   

    Pte Albert Maden 27606 from Rochdale was wounded in the neck and medically discharged from the Army in September.

    Pte Herbert Harrison 27585 from Burnley was badly wounded in the leg he was medically discharged from the Army in November.   

    Pte Albert Evans 27568 from Middletown was medically discharged from the Army in November.   

    Pte Thomas Fisher 27569 was medically downgraded, joining the Labour Corps in December.

    Pte Evan John Rowlands 27616 from Penygraig was evacuated sick with a kidney condition he was also medically discharged from the Army in September.   

    Finally, Pte Ernest Ratcliff 27617 from Sudley was medically discharged from the Army in December

    So ended an intense period of fighting for the 8th Battalion. Whilst they remained in or near the front lines until the end of 1917 and continued to take casualties, they were much less than those suffered during the spring/summer period.

    The Draft of 70 men had had a brutal 11 months. There were at best 25 of them left, almost certainly less, my great uncle was still among them. The others had either been killed, wounded or categorised sick enough to be evacuated.


    Christmas and on into 1918

    The Battalion spent Christmas Day 1917 in the trenches, they were shelled throughout.  On 30th December another member of our draft left: Pte Frank Hargreaves 27582 from Middletown . He had been wounded in the head and arm in December 1916 and again in the legs during the Arras fighting.  A bad case of Tonsilitis saw him evacuated to the UK. He later joined the 1st Battalion and returned to France being captured during the German Spring Offensive in April 1918. He died as a POW in October 1918.        

    The Winter remained quiet, both because of the weather and the need for both sides to reconstitute and recover from the fighting of 1917.  Pte Ernest Jay 27592 from Littleborough was found unfit for further Infantry service and transferred to the Labour Corps in early January 1918.

    By February the Army had been forced to re-organise its Infantry units to bolster unit manpower. The result being Brigades would now contain three and not four Infantry Battalions.  For 76 Brigade this meant the 10th Royal Welsh Fusiliers were disbanded and the men sent elsewhere from the 2nd of February.  Alongside the 8th KORL the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk’s and 1st Gordan Highlanders remained.  In return the Battalion received 227 experienced reinforcements from the disbanding 11th Battalion of the KORL.  England was running out of men.

    The only soldier to win the Military Medal whilst serving with this group of men left the Battalion in February. Pte Christopher Kenyon 27597 won the award in the May 1917 fighting at Arras.  He left the Battalion to be Commissioned, joining the 3rd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment.    

    The Battalion remained in and out of the front lines and Pte Frederick Butterworth 27557 from Shaw was wounded and evacuated in February being medically discharged from the Army in September. There were now 21 men of the Draft left at best.

    German Spring Offensive

    From the 12th of March there was a growing awareness of an impending German attack - extra rations and great vigilance exercised. Artillery was fired on enemy rear positions to disrupt any German build ups.  Nervousness continued and the Battalion was in Brigade support from the 18th.  On the 21st of March at 0500 the Germans opened a heavy barrage on Wincourt and the British support areas.  Shells of all calibres including gas. From 10am the enemy attacked on a Divisional wide front. The Battalion was in close support throughout the 22nd and a withdrawal took place on the 23rd to straighten the line after retreats elsewhere. By now the Battalion was in the front line and the Germans advanced on their positions at 0800 following a barrage.  Fighting was severe with the Germans taking heavy casualties. The fighting and casualties remained heavy with the Germans continuing their assault,  the Battalion eventually moving back to Neuville Vitasse as best they could, at one point withdrawing in sixes over open ground and creating numerous blocks whilst under substantial German infantry attacks.  The Battalion were eventually relieved overnight on the 29th by the Canadians.

    The Battalion reported 490 casualties. likely well over half their strength.  At least 80 of those were killed and a large number taken prisoner. The dead also included their Commanding Officer. Pte James Hutton 27586 from Tottington and Pte Thomas Jennings 27593 from Manchester were among those taken prisoner. Sgt Arthur Jones 27594 from Manchester was wounded. As was Pte Tom Allen 27555 from Ramsbottom , he had been shot in the arm in Nov 1916 and this time was shot in the leg and shoulder.     

    L/Cpl John Houghton 27581 from St.Anne’s was also captured in April although not with the 8th.  At some point, probably following wounding in 1917 he moved to the 1st Battalion and was captured with them.

    Early April saw the Battalion attempting to recover. Fifty six new men arrived on the 3rd, another 193 on the 6th, 40 more on the 7th. The chaos meant the Battalion would for a short time come under the command of the 8th Brigade.  On the 12th they deployed to ad-hoc defences as part of the Avelette bridgehead.  Again, fighting was desperate and a further 155 men were reported killed, wounded or missing.  The rest of the month was mostly in the support trenches.  On the 27th they again went into the front line and on the 30th of April Pte Walter Perry 27612 from Preston  was killed.

    May continued in the front lines or support trenches. Casualties continued to occur at low levels with draft replacements arriving; 125 on the 18th for example.  The Division suffered 1000 casualties from mustard gas on the 21st, the 8th Battalion was lucky and got away without any gas causalities.

    June and July followed a similar pattern to May.  A mix of trenches and Brigade support.  A large trench raid on enemy positions on the 2nd June brough back prisoners but cost 1 dead and 8 wounded. A similar raid on the 10th of July saw Sgt White who led the attack later die of wounds.  Later in July the Battalion was put in Divisional reserve which allowed for proper rest, training, showers, rifle ranges and attack practice.  Enemy artillery hit their bivouacs on the night of the 16th of July killing 2 and injuring 9, even in the rear areas there was danger.  They returned to the line on the 24th of July for a four-day spell before more time in reserve into August. On the 21st of August the Battalion was in the front lines and carried out an attack with a follow up attack on the 23rd.  34 men killed and 109 wounded. The wounded included Pte Robert Patterson 27611 from Cardiff. Both these attacked proved successful.   

    The full story of some men in the Draft is unclear especially as to when they left the Battalion as they now appear elsewhere:

    Pte George Molyneux 27602  from Bolton was wounded on the 25th July 1918 with the 9th Battalion in Salonica.  At some point he left the 8th Battalion for sickness or wounding and was posted to fight in Greece.

    Pte John Devane 27566 now appears with him being with the 1st Cheshire Regiment.  We know he was at some point wounded with the 8th Battalion and after recovery joined this unit.  When he left the 8th is unknown but he was fighting with the Cheshire’s from 26 August.   

    Pte Arthur Broadbent 27559 was also transferred to the Cheshire Regiment in August after recovering from a gunshot wound with the 8th.  He was back in France with the Cheshire’s in October.


    100 Day Offensive - end game

    There were now 11 men of the Draft left at best – my great uncle was still with them.  The 100 Day Allied Offensive had begun on the 8th of August and some of the heaviest offensive fighting now lay ahead.

    Pte Bernard Fahy 27571 from Heywood was wounded on the 30th of August during an offensive operation.  He was shot in the foot.  This was the third and final time he would be wounded and he was sent back to the UK for good.  He had previously been wounded  in the arm in Nov 1916 and then in the thigh in April 1917.  Each time he had returned to the 8th after recovering from his wounds.

    Pte Thomas Grime 27575 from Accrington is now found to be with the Labour Corps. He was wounded by a grenade in January 1917 but he was also the oldest man being aged 40. Pte Ernest Howarth 27580 from Bury is also now with the Labour Corps, he was shot in the arm in November 1916.  They both likely left the Battalion some time ago but dates cannot be established.  Eight left.

    From September the Battalion was increasingly active with offensive patrols mixed with intense training whilst in reserve. On the 27th an attack near Flesquieres took place.  The Battalion went in at 0500 with all Rifle Companies attacking. The Battalion took over 800 prisoners in a successful advance, partially due to the bravery of L/Sergeant Tom Neely MM, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.  64 other men were casualties.

    The next attack was planned for the 1st of October at Rumilly. The Battalion moved into position overnight from the 30th September. It was a cold very wet and dark night. After a 45-minute barrage the Battalion attacked at 0645.  All objectives had been taken by 0915. That evening the Battalion were relieved and they returned to their lines. The Battalion suffered 134 casualties; L/Sergeant Tom Neely was one of those killed.  From the Draft Cpl Harry Burgess 27558 from Radcliffe was wounded, probably by a german artillery round, he died of wounds 10 days later. He had previously been wounded when the bivouacs were  shelled on the 16th of July. 

    With the weather remaining wet and cold a further successful attack occurred on the 9th near Masnieres and again on the 23rd near Romieres.  The 23rd saw 17 killed and 110 wounded.  Amongst the dead was Pte Fred Oldham 27610 from Ardwick.  He had previously been shot in the arm during the Battle of the Serre on 13 Nov 1916.

    This was the final engagement for the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Evidence suggests six men remained.

    L/Cpl Edward Farrelly 27570 was wounded at the Somme Battle of the Serre, 13 Nov 1916 and again during attack on Polygon Wood on 26 Sept 1917.  L/Cpl Charles Johnston 27590 was also wounded following the attack on Polygon Wood.  It’s likely both returned to the Battalion at some point, but it is not known when.

    That leaves four men.  Pte Edgar Mason 27607 who was wounded in 1916, Pte Frank Kelly 27596, Pte Edward Hitchen 27588 and Pte Thomas Jennings 27591.  These four men were there at the end when at 1100 on morning of the 11th November the Battalion band played in the town square at La Longueville.   

    Of the 70 men, 25 died. All the rest bar three are confirmed as being wounded at least once or removed from the Battalion as being too sick to continue.



    Cpl Harry Burgess 

    Footnote: The four men reported as being present at the end  are accounted as such because of an absence of information rather than an abundance. They were not killed, didn’t receive a pension, did not change units after their transfer into the  8th KORL Battalion at the Depot and were not listed as wounded, or at least I could find no records of such. There is very little on them apart from medal roll and medal index card.  I know Pte Hitchen survived and came from Burnley but that is it. I have named the home town of all the men where I have been able to discover it.  I have also used their KORL service number for each man.  They all had at least four service numbers and many had more than that. 

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  7. The following is an account of Christmas time 1914, as given by the men of the 5th (Territorial) battalion of the Black Watch.

    In the early hours of November the 2nd 1914, the 5th btn landed at Le Havre, having left Southampton the night before aboard the SS Architect. They were the first Scottish Territorial battalion to arrive in France.

    Allocated to the 24th brigade in the 8th Division they were employed as line of communication troops. Digging trenches under Royal Engineer supervision, mostly at night, or bringing up stores to the other battalions in their brigade. The other btns being: The 1st Sherwoods, 1st Woosters and 2nd Northamptons,

    In early December 2nd Lt Elgood wrote to his father in Dundee explaining what role the 5th were performing and of a Royal visit:

    "We got orders to proceed to the trenches on the night of Tuesday 1st inst., at the same time receiving the surprising information that the King was to pass through our little town, and that we were to turn out in the afternoon as a kind of guard of honour. The King arrived accompanied by the Prince of Wales, Generals French and Joffre, and the French President. That passed off alright and the King asked to see two of our men dressed for the trenches, and his command was, of course, duly carried out.

    You have no idea of our clothes. we have been served out with coats lined with 'fur', and they are jolly warm. I may add the 'fur' is goatskin, or at least that is nearer it. What with scarves, helmets and hose-tops & c., you look rather funny. These 'fur' coats can be worn either with the 'fur' inside or outside just as you prefer it. They are of course called "Teddy Bears"

    In the lead up to Christmas the weather became very wet and cold, making the working conditions for the men hard going. Fortunately comforts from home of food and warm items of clothing, as described by 2nd Lt Elgood, were arriving in great numbers to alleviate some of the discomfort.

    The btn were still operating under an 8 company structure when they stepped foot off the boat. This soon changed to the 4 company arrangement used by the regulars. 2nd Lt Elgood wrote later of how this change was made

    "The battalion is now divided into four companies, which bear distinguishing numbers instead of letters. Thus E and F, the Arbroath companies, to which I am attached, now form No. 3 company."

    Writing on the 16th of December, a member of the 5th btn, belonging to Carnoustie, wrote home describing the conditions:

    "We have to make a ditch about one mile in length up to the knees in mud. This is the kind of work you must do before you reach the trenches. I have just had a wash for the first time in six days. You ought to see some of the Carnoustie boys. Those who are not growing beards are growing moustaches. We have fur coats issued for use in the trenches. Every other day there is an issue of Woodbines and socks."

    Dundonian. Pte. Robert Ramsay echoed this:

    "We have had six days in the trenches, and, my word! It was cold. We had rain all the time, and we were wading knee-deep in mud and water, and our "dug-outs," where we had to sleep, were much the same. We are stationed beside the Regulars, and it is no child's play. We are used to the bullets and shells screaming over our heads, and we get no sleep with the noise and the cold.

    There is nothing but dead cows and horses lying about, and they don't half cause a smell! At the back of our trenches are hundreds of graves of our Tommies. They are all marked by a wooden cross - not a great place for graves on a bullet and shell-swept plane, but they are all heroes and men Britons will ever be proud of.
    Instead of lighted streets to which we are accustomed, we have to march through roads covered with mud and in darkness, and the bullets flying all around, with no comfort whatsoever.

    Quartermaster Sgt. Andrew Peffers wrote on the 19th about the generosity of gifts arriving in France from home:

    "Gifts. we will, I think, from the number of gifts sent us, face a better Christmas and New Year than the people at home. Every post brings some good thing - in fact, I am busy giving out all manner of good things to the Battalion every day. The great difficulty will be for the men to carry about all they have got.

    Hint to War Office - the men are not allowed a kit-bag, and every time they move they have to carry everything on their back. If the authorities at home would permit us to send some of the comforts not immediately required to a base or some depot, where they could be sent to us when required, we would be able to take full advantage of our friends benevolence."

    Sgt. Peffers goes on to make mention of the recent fighting, which the btn were standing ready in support of, if required. Although he may have overestimated the number of German PoW's taken.

    "We have moved further forward, and yesterday and to-day we have had a rather eventful time. We were up all last night in readiness to support an attack of another battalion on the German trenches. The ______ Regiment stormed the trenches and took them, killing several hundreds, wounding as many, and taking about 200 prisoners, who were escorted down by our men to the nearest post for receiving prisoners."

    The battalions War Diary gives more detail regarding this attack.

    Friday 18th Dec 1914:
    Orders to stand to arms in billets from 4.30 p.m., Battalion forming Brigade reserve to 23
    Brigade in action. Heavy shell fire preceded infantry attack on German trenches by DEVONS and WEST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT. 50 men of No.3 company had to form escort for 26 prisoners into Divisional Headquarters at LA GORGUE. Heavy shell and rifle fire began in INDIAN lines about 3.30 a.m.

    Writing a few days later on the 21st, Pte. Horatio Savege wrote home, describing the bad weather conditions and praising the skill of the German snipers.

    "In the trenches - at least the part we were in - the weather was our worst enemy, cold and rain. In many place we stood knee-deep in water. This is no exaggeration. Sometimes we have very dangerous tasks to carry out such as digging trenches over night, and carrying rations to our comrades in the trenches. The roads that lead to our trenches are very dangerous as the enemy snipers have their rifles trained, and fire at men passing to and fro, and German snipers are very good marksmen and seldom fail in fetching down their target."

    Pte. Savege goes on to recount a more personal meeting with the King and Prince of Wales than that described by 2nd Lt Elgood.

    "Another experience I had of a different kind was having a few words with His Majesty and the Prince of Wales - a - very few words. In fact: "Yes, Sir," and "No, Sir," and a few smiles was all that I had time for. A friend and I were selected as representatives of the (excised by the censor)* to appear before His Majesty in our winter clothing. Hence the occasion."

    (* likely referencing his brigade or Division.)

    The Royal meeting earlier described by 2nd Lt Elgood is given a brief mention in the War Diary.
    "Tuesday 1st Dec 1914:
    His Gracious Majesty, King George, passed through ESTAIRES today in the course of his visit to the troops at the front. The streets were lined by all the available troops, this Battalion being in position from the PARISH CHURCH to the GRANDE PLACE.

    A Dundee Sgt recovering at home in January was interviewed by a newspaper and gave much detail on the work they undertook and the conditions.

    "Fortunately, the fire, both rifle and shrapnel, was not so deadly as we expected, and we got off with remarkable few casualties. The Dundee companies were especially lucky. In fact, I was among the first to sustain a serious wound. A rifle bullet struck me on the right cheek, passed right through my mouth, and came out at the right side of my neck. Half an inch higher and my brain would have been destroyed; half an inch nearer the front and my jugular being should have been severed. It was a most remarkable escape.

    The battalion worked in halves, one portion relieving the other in the trenches. It is not in the trenches that the German fire does most damage, but while the men are entering and leaving them. We were in the trenches generally for three days at a time. Twice we were driven from the trenches by the terrible fire.

    The weather conditions for a time were awful. The trenches were deep in mud. We walked in it; we stood in it; we sat in it; we slept in it; we ate in it; we drank in it; nothing but mud, mud, mud.

    Lots of the men left their footwear in the trenches many a time. Those who wore shoes could not keen them long. Their feet would sink deep into the clinging clay, and when they drew them out the discovered they left their shoes buried deep. It was useless to try to recover them. The poor chaps had to do the remainder of the day's work in their stockinged feet. But I think the worst job of all was to clean out the trenches. When the troops advanced across these mud-filled ditches they dumped down straw. The straw bound the mud into a kind of thick plaster, and as our trenching tools would not cut it we had just to grub away anyhow until we got the trenches cleared. That work was worse than fighting."

    Christmas Eve and Day is recorded as follows in the btn war diary.

    "Thursday 24th Dec 1914:
    No.3 and 4 companies taking 24 hours about at "A" lines in billets, doing fatigues and repairing trenches. No.1 company away for 3 days to "C" lines, 23rd Brigade. Billeted in dugouts. No.2 company to provide half company each night at "B" lines."

    "Friday 25th Dec 1914:
    2 men wounded last night.
    1st reinforcement number 2 officers and 191 men, arrived this afternoon a 4 (p.m.) under Captain ARBUTHNOTT and Lieutenant TAYLOR. Came by steamer to ROUEN, disembarked there, and after a stay of (*) days entrained for MERVILLE, where they detrained. They brought with them 8 men discharged from hospital. Reinforcements rather on the young side, 58 being under 19.
    Battalion received Princess Mary's Gifts, which were much appreciated.

    By Christmas Day the 5th had sustained 29 wounded and 4 fatal casualties. The majority being sniped when digging at night. There were an unknown number of men suffering from the weather in hospital, or at home recovering.

    Letters home, published in the few weeks after, reveal how the officers and men spent Christmas Day.

    Pte. Martin Dunn from Montrose wrote on Christmas Day to his father:

    "I am in the armoury with a Col.-Sergeant of the Army Ordnance Corps, and only rifles come through our hands. It is very interesting work indeed.
    The battalion is still going up to the trenches, where they are up to the knees in mud, it is terrible to see them.

    I am billeted with the machine gun section, who are in a very comfortable cottage, where we cook all our own food. We get all kinds of vegetables out of the garden, so that we are not at all badly off.

    There is very little firing from the trenches today, both sides must be holding their Christmas.

    We get plenty of food and cigarettes, and have had Scotch bun, plum pudding and shortbread, so that we can't grumble, although I would have had a happier Christmas at home.

    To-day there is a very hard frost - real Christmas-like.

    An (unnamed) officer from Dundee had a letter appear in the local press, on the 29th, with a tongue in cheek reference to the truce which was observed in many parts of the line, including theirs, on Christmas Day:

    "Christmas Day! We are all in great spirits this morning. Seems to be a mutual understanding that there will be no firing to-day. It is an ideal Christmas Day-hard frost and ground white. I hope you are all very cheery at home, and having a good time. The Doctor suggests a curling match with the Germans."

    Pte. Savege again wrote to his father on the 26th, describing his Christmas and opinion on the fraternisation with the Germans:

    "War has its funny side. On Christmas Day the Germans were out on top of their trenches and our boys were over shaking hands and exchanging souvenirs. I couldn't get over it. Two of our boys that were digging ran over for a minute and got some cigars, & c. I wouldn't trust the beggars."

    An unnamed Cpl., writing on the 27th, backs up Savege regarding the meeting between men of the 5th and the Germans on Christmas Day:

    "I am still in the best of health and everything is going A1 in spite of the cold weather and the wet. To-day we are lying in reserve in an old farm and are very comfortable.
    It is 11 o'clock a.m. at present and I have nothing to do until 2 a.m., when I have to take a party up to the trenches to do some digging.

    The war has started again after "half time" on Xmas day. For several hours on the 25th a truce was proclaimed, and up at our corner we were speaking to the Germans, and it seemed a great farce. At night the war began as usual.

    2nd Lt. Leonard Elgood, again wrote home on the 28th. The brief truce and meeting of the Germans by men of the 5th is also mentoned:

    "Our poor lads, are suffering severely as they wade through water into the trenches, and it freezes, and so do their feet. You can imagine the result. Poor chaps, they do suffer some hardships. We have not yet been back to the trenches, but have been digging and improving trenches just behind the firing line, so that in case of need we can fall back on them.
    We were out on Christmas Day working, but there was a truce on in this district, so there was no firing.
    One or two of the 5th crossed over and exchanged presents, but I think the various regiments were very strict as to this.

    Writing on the 29th of December, Sgt. Hugh Hunter of Arbroath, wrote to his parents about how difficult the work they were undertaking was, due to the poor weather conditions. He expressed how bizarre he felt the truce was:

    "At last I have found time to drop you a line. Yesterday although my spirit was very willing, I was kept so busy that I had not a free moment till six p.m., and then I was much too tired, as you can imagine, to write....
    Very sorry I was interrupted last night but I had to go with a party up to the trenches and do some digging, also by the way some wading. We had to go up a ditch of about 600 yards in length, and for the most part knee deep in water.
    You may think I felt rotten, but truth to tell I enjoyed it as I knew in a few hours I would get a dry shift. 
    At first we tried to keep ourselves as dry as possible, but ultimately we threw caution to the wind and ploughed our way on.

    Yesterday we had a fine feed when lying in reserve. Some kind friend had looted a hen, and that combined with a roast of meat, boiled in a monstrous pot made a rare dinner. We get plenty of vegetables lying in the gardens round about and can now make soup like first-class chefs.

    What do you think about the palaver on Christmas Day? It seems strange that men who for days have been fighting tooth and nail should meet and shake hands, & c. I happened to be up with a party digging and went down to the firing trench to see the fun. It was great. The British, or rather English Tommy, dancing about in real style, the German sullen and fed up. In our trench however, there were three boys standing to arms ready for any tricks."

    Pte. William Soutar from Arbroath wrote an open letter to a newspaper on the 31st. He summed up the battalions experiences thus far. He recounts the exchanging of gifts in No Man's Land with the Germans and the burying of their dead:

    "Acting on the suggestions of many Arbroathians who follow the fortunes of the 5th Black Watch with interest, I shall endeavour to give a few particulars as to how we have observed the festive season.
    In the first place let me state that we have celebrated the festivals of Christmas and New Year with the utmost temperance - but that is not our fault - we didn't want to do it. Then with reference to the hackneyed topic of the weather, we cannot claim to have noticed much difference from the atmospheric conditions which usually prevail in Scotland this season.

    We have had frost and snow, rain and sleet, and sometimes high winds, which sigh through the open work buildings in which we try to sleep.

    On Christmas Day our company had to attend business as usual, but the spirit of peace and goodwill seemed to have reached even the Germans, because never a shot was fired.

    After the truce had become firmly established, the enemy gained sufficient confidence to come out of their trenches to bury their dead, and our company left their earthly abode in quest of souvenirs of the occasion. Two of our men exchanged greetings and shortbread with two German soldiers, and further tokens of disregard might have changed hands but for the intervention of a British officer, who forbade further communication between the parties. The Germans were allowed to tidy up the battlefield a bit and return to their trenches in peace.

    In the matter of Christmas fare we have been exceedingly well catered for by our friends at home. It is no uncommon thing for a man to be seen sleeping with his head pillowed on a tin of "shortie".
    We all received a beautiful casket from the Princess Mary Fund, and many of these are being sent home to be treasured as mementos of this grand all round dust-up.
    The period between Christmas and New Year has been very uneventful, but our boys have employed the time by learning to swim, as many journeys have to be accomplished through liquid mud.

    To-night is Hogmanay, and of the bright lads who might have been singing 'Auld Lang Syne' round the Steeple are singing just as lustily here round the camp fire.

    We were stationed in buildings close behind the firing-line, and to these quarters our first-foot was the Pipe-Major playing a lively air. To take the place of the clock chimes a sergeant fired a shot in the air, after which there was much handshaking and interchange of good wishes.

    I am glad of this opportunity of thanking the many friends who have sent parcels of good things for us to eat. The most recent gift of this kind was from the 'Arbroath Guide,' a large consignment of shortbread, which was duly divided and greatly appreciated by all.

    The reinforcements from Forfar arrived on Christmas Day and had to listen to many thrilling stories by the weather-beaten veterans who have braved the battle and the fleas for nine weeks.

    Others who write home will doubtless supply many details which in my haste I may have omitted, but perhaps I have been able to convey a rough impression to those whose interest is centred on the doings of the 5th Black Watch.

    Captain Duncan was home in Arbroath on furlough on the 6th of January, He was interviewed by a local newspaper. While not quoting him directly, they summarised his account. He mentions the truce but emphasises that it was brief and purely practical in nature:

    "He says the weather conditions have lately been very trying, but the way in which the men had been able to stick to it was marvellous, and they were all very cheery.
    On Christmas day there was a temporary armistice, during which both sides buried their dead. Rapid firing between the combatants was commenced immediately afterwards.

    The men celebrated the first night of the New Year in the trenches. Pipe-Major Albert Crowe, a well-known Arbroath piper, played selections at the headquarters of the battalion within hearing of the men in the German trenches.

    Christmas 1914 saw the men of the 5th have their war experience dominated by the awful weather conditions. Their primary role of labouring for the other regular infantry battalions in their brigade was a freezing and wet affair. They suffered many more casualties from the cold than from the Germans.

    The Christmas truce occurred in their part of the line and was witnessed by a Company out working on the morning of the 25th. It seems two men from the battalion took part in an hurried exchange of greetings and gifts with Germans in No Man's Land, as recorded in letters by (mostly identifiable) officers and men.

    As New Year dawned it seemed the morale of the Angus & Dundee lads was high, not least as a result of those at home giving them such strong support.

  8. zalipie

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    Recent Entries

    My latest project is researching the holder of a  BWM and bi-lingual VM Duo to: T.C. JUBBER. S.A.F.A.

    All the normal ways via the National Archives, ANCESTRY etc. seem to be unsuccessful and I have the feeling I must go back to an archive in South Africa to find a trace of the man.  Does anyone have suggestions as to where I could start?

    Kind regards



  9. 361731047_TreloarWH(AWM).jpg.3c2c52e58f0db249a0795c94d5151324.jpg

    Many will be familiar with the name John Linton Treloar, who during the First World War took on the organisation of the fledgling Australian War Records Section that formed the basis of the Australian War Memorial’s WW1 collection.  Perhaps not so well-known was his older brother William Harold Treloar, who became the first member of the Australian Flying Corps to be taken prisoner in WW1.


    Harold, as he was known throughout his life, was one of Australia’s early aviators.  He had begun life on the 8th of August 1889 at Fairfield Park, Victoria, as the first born child of William and Jane Treloar, whose marriage had taken place the year before.  At the time of his birth his father William was running a Grocery business in nearby Fitzroy, and was also in partnership as a Land Agent.  However, in the November of that same year, he auctioned off all his stock, and by 1892 had a Grocery store in Auburn Rd, Hawthorn, which was later followed by Port Melbourne.  It was during these years that Harold gained three new siblings, one of those being the above mentioned John.


    The family eventually moved to Hamilton in country Victoria, where William was the Manager of A. Miller and Co.’s ‘Mutual Store’ from at least 1898 to 1901, and in 1905 purchased his own store, the ‘Little Wonder’ Cash Store.  While the family continued to grow, Harold attended the local State School, followed by the Hamilton Academy, before following a career as a Chauffeur and Motor Mechanic.  By 1909 his family had returned to the city and were living in Albert Park, while William was employed as a Commercial Traveller with the Melbourne Merchants, Clark and Co. Pty Ltd.


    Remaining in the country, Harold was in the employ of Messrs Young Brothers, Auctioneers, Stock, Station and Commission Agents in Horsham, and was apparently the first man to drive a motor car for them.  He remained with them for three years, until the July of 1911, and during that time drove many different types of cars throughout Victoria, NSW and South Australia.  They found him to be a “first-class Chauffeur, obedient, punctual and obliging.”


    Further employment included some time as a chauffeur and instructor with J.R. Wotherspoon & Co. General Merchants, Beaufort, and driver and mechanic with N. McDonald Motor Works and Garage, Hamilton.


    In 1912 Harold was living and working in his mother’s childhood town of Ballarat, and having befriended the Hooley family, he eventually became engaged to their daughter Lilian.  He was employed with the Ballarat Motor Works from 1912 to 1913, during which time he was a chauffeur and mechanic from May 1912 to February 1913 with Mr Robert Carstairs Bell of Mooramong, Skipton, who stated:

    “I found him a most reliable & steady man and about the best driver I have ever known.  He also was a first class mechanic & well able to make any ordinary repairs to a motor car.

    We were all sorry when he left to better himself.”


    He also found employment with Mr Jasper Coghlan as chauffeur to his 40 h.p. Daimler lorry; and was associated with Messrs Loveland and Haslem’s Garage in 1914.


    After nine years’ experience as a chauffeur and motor mechanic, Harold felt that his prospects for the future weren’t the best, and in 1914 he decided to change careers and follow his ambition to become an aviator.  Fuelled by a visit to Ballarat in early April of the aviator Harry Hawker, he promptly booked his passage to England and sailed on the Orsova on the 15th of the same month.


    On landing in London on the 16th of May he first spent a couple of weeks at the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company. “He had been advised by the military representative at the High Commissioner’s office to undergo a course at the company’s school at Brooklands.  He witnessed the building of numerous machines for the Royal Flying Corps, as well as Bristol biplanes both of the tractor and propeller types.”


    With this grounding, he then moved on to the Bristol flying school which was also at the Brooklands Aerodrome, Weybridge.  His first trip in the air was with Billy Stutt, an Australian pilot, who had gained his Royal Aero Certificate in February that year.


    Harold obtained his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 835 at The Bristol School in a Bristol Biplane on the 9th of July 1914, “after only three weeks’ tuition under very unsettled weather conditions.”  He then took an extended course at the Bleriot Monoplane School, also at Brooklands.


    In a letter home dated the 16th of July 1914 he wrote: “So far I have not broken the least thing through any fault of my own.  One morning I had just landed when an overstrained wire broke, and caught the propeller, which, of course, burst.  The pieces broke the rudder and elevator wires, which, if it had happened in the air, would have meant a big fall and bad bump, as I had been up 300ft.  However, it shows what can happen and what luck means.”


    Following the outbreak of war at the beginning of August, civilian flying in England came to a standstill and joining the Royal Flying Corps would not guarantee much flying as there were “four pilots already available for every machine.”  So, on hearing that instruction had commenced at the Australian Flying School, Harold quickly returned home.  He departed London on the Osterley on the 28th of August 1914 and arrived back in Melbourne on the 6th of October.


    As soon as he landed, Harold, who was already a 2nd Lieutenant in the 70th (Ballarat) Infantry Regiment, immediately set about securing an appointment with the Australian Flying Corps (AFC).  Having completed a two week course in aerial observation at Point Cook in February 1915, this was followed up by a three week course for a further pilot’s certificate in the March.


    On the 8th of February 1915 the Indian Government had requested pilots, transport staff and equipment from Australia to serve with the Indian Army in the campaign against the Turks in the Tigris Valley, Mesopotamia.  Having agreed to send what became known as a ‘Half Flight’ (half the strength of a standard Flight), four pilots were selected from the few that were available.  Under the command of Captain Henry Petre would be Captain Thomas White, Lieutenant George Merz and Harold.  His commission as a 2nd Lieutenant with the AFC came through on the 12th of April 1915.  Capt Petre sailed on the Orontes on the 14th of April in order to make advance arrangements, and Harold flew over his ship in a farewell gesture.


    Having received his final leave Harold travelled to Ballarat the following day of the 15th, where he married his fiancé Alice Lilian HOOLEY in the Christ Church Cathedral on the 17th of April 1915.


    Four days later on the 20th of April 1915 he left his new bride with her mother in Ballarat, and returned to Melbourne where together with Thomas White and most of the other members of the Half Flight he embarked on the RMS Morea for India.  George Merz who had been temporarily detained on instruction duties at Point Cook, followed Harold’s earlier gesture and flew over their ship as it left the pier, signalling his farewell.  From Bombay the Half Flight then travelled to Basra arriving on the 26th of May 1915, where they were joined in June by Merz.  “The four Officers were gazetted temporarily into the Indian Army, and on 11th June 1915 were gazetted into the Royal Air [Flying] Corps.”


    On the 3rd of June Harold wrote home:

    “Everything is O.K.  We have two Maurice-Farman fighting biplanes going, and I have been over the Turkish lines at Kurna, acting as pilot and observer.  We fly at 5000 feet, so if they hit us, good luck to them.  These machines carry a passenger and fuel for four hours, and do a little less than 60 miles an hour ground speed.  We have dropped bombs, but with little success.  But we have done some good reconnaissance, locating trenches, guns and so forth.  We advance to Barham Island to-morrow, and start a new depot there.  It is fearfully hot, about 110 to 120 degrees in the shade, and when there is no breeze it is simply a real Turkish bath.  I was the first Australian member of the Australian Flying Corps to fly over the enemy’s lines, and also the first Australian to fly in this country.”


    This was followed up on the 25th of June with:

    “Just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living, and going strong.  Had several exciting times lately, through engine failure, mainly through the heat making the oil inefficient.

    I had to come down in the desert, stay there all day till they sent out a strong party to guard the machine, and I thought it best to stay there, for I am sure the Arabs would have destroyed the machine.  On a later occasion the engine stopped when we were over water, and it took me all my time to coax it back to our island base.  The Arabs shoot at us repeatedly, but so far they have not registered on us.  I have been given the piloting of No.1 Maurice Farman biplane, fitted with bomb droppers, but have not seen any large Turkish force yet to try my hand.”

    “I have flown about 900 miles, and not so far felt any ill-effects, but it is a strain, for the wind here is so strong at times that we fly only about 20 feet or so from the ground to make any headway at all; in fact, at one place we have been blown backwards.”


    By September they had received more planes and while piloting Caudron 1 during a reconnaissance flight on the 16th of that month, its engine gave out and Harold was forced to land about 80 yards in front of the enemy position at Essin, south of Kut-el-Amara.  A Turkish officer (later taken prisoner by the British) watched through his binoculars as the event unfolded.  The information gleaned from him was that:

    “The machine came down quite slowly and bumped once or twice gently on the ground before it stopped.

    At first the officers tried to make a bolt for it, but saw it was impossible and returned to the machine.  They were both unhurt.  After they (the Turks) had taken the two officers from the machine our (British) guns opened fire on it and tried to smash it, whereupon they (the Turks) led one of them (the officers) back in its direction and the guns ceased fire, and they (the Turks) were then able to get it away.”


    Harold and his observer Captain Basil Atkins of the Indian Army were the first two officers to be captured in Mesopotamia.  They were actually lucky, as two of their former colleagues, Lieut George Merz (AFC) and his pilot passenger Lieut William Burn (NZSC att RFC) had previously been killed by Arabs under similar circumstances.


    Following their safe landing, excerpts of Harold’s description of their capture and incarceration are as follows:


    “They opened fire on us with machine guns and rifles, and, though the firing was kept up for 10 to 15 minutes, we were both captured unhurt.  Until the Turkish officers came up to us, we had a hand-to-hand fight with the Arabs, who would have killed us but for the intervention of the Turks.  We were stripped and taken before the Turkish commander, Nurredin Pasha, who told us that if we did not give him all the information he desired we would be shot.  I asked him if he would tell the British anything if he were a prisoner.  He answered ‘No,’ and did not continue the questioning, but gave us coffee and cigarettes.  We were very surprised later to get tea and biscuits made in Melbourne.

    Captain Atkins and I were subsequently sent by river steamer to Bagdad.  At every town or village along the river the Arab Sheik with his followers, came on board to look at us and at our 80 h.p. Caudron biplane, which had been riddled with rifle and shrapnel bullets.  On our arrival in Bagdad, the machine was exhibited for the benefit of the Red Crescent – the Turkish equivalent of our Red Cross.  We were royally received in Bagdad.  Fully 50 officers came on board to see us, and crowds of people lined the banks of the Tigris.  We entered the ‘Abode of Peace,’ once the most brilliant city in the Moslem world, with flags flying, and the steamer’s whistle blowing.  We were put in a large hospital, and a strong guard was placed over us.  We were given permission to buy clothes and to have a bath, a real Turkish bath.  The director of the Red Crescent was very kind to us, and saw that we received good food.  The commandant, Huckle Bey, took us for several drives, but, as he could not get any information out of us, the drives were discontinued.”


    “After remaining 10 days in Bagdad, where we were treated with the utmost kindness and civility, we were sent to Stamboul, by way of Mosul.  The party that accompanied us to Mosul consisted of 15 Indian sepoys and a guard of 20 mounted gendarmes, with one officer.  The Indians travelled in open carts, but we were given an Arabarner, a closed carriage, in which you lie down.  The officer in charge could speak a little French, so we were able to find out a little about the country we travelled through.  After two days we reached Samara, and Tickereet was our next halting place.

    On our arrival at Mosul we were handed over to the military authorities, and placed in an old dirty barracks.  From now on their treatment of us changed for the worse.  It was winter, and the very small room in which we were confined had bare floors.  The windows had no glass, and, to keep warm, we had to huddle together in a corner.  After a few days, Captain Atkins became very ill with dysentery and fever.  We could not eat the hotel food, because of its oiliness and filth, and we lived for a few weeks on boiled fowl and rice.”


    “About six weeks after our arrival in Mosul, Captain T.W. White and Captain Yeats Brown, both of the Australian Flying Corps, joined us.

    Shortly afterwards Major Reilly, our flight commander, and Lieutenant Fulton arrived.  Thus by the irony of fate six flying officers who had messed together at Busra were now prisoners of war.”


    Thomas White (who had been captured on the 13/11/1915) later described his first impressions of both Harold and Atkins as being so wasted and feeble with fever and dysentery that they were hardly recognizable.  But they began to show improvement straight away, the only possible reason being a lift in morale.

    The treatment of the men here was far worse than that of the officers, and as much as Harold and his fellow officers tried to help them, there was not a lot they could do, and subsequently many died.


    Harold went on to say:

    “You can imagine our joy when, after five months, we heard that we were to be sent to Aleppo.  [They departed Mosul on the 20/2/1916]  Our great trouble was to get cash as nobody would accept Turkish notes.  The German consul finally changed some of our notes thus enabling us to pay our debts and to give the men a little money to spend en route.  The few German officers we met in Turkey were very good to us.  Two hundred men were sent with us from Mosul, but only 30 arrived at Aleppo.  Here we were allowed to stay at the Hotel America, the nearest approach to civilization we had experienced since our capture.


    While at Aleppo Harold developed severe rheumatism in his knees and was granted permission to visit the hospital for treatment.


    “After spending 10 days in Aleppo we again entrained for a destination unknown.  On our way we passed through Marmure, Tersus, and Byzanti, finally reaching Afion Karahissar [on the 24/3/1916], where we were placed in an empty house which was new and clean.  That same night three British officers escaped from another house, with the result that we were placed in an Armenian church with all the other British, French, and Russian prisoners.  The treatment we received here was good.  Moreover we began to hear talk of peace.  Our evenings were spent in attending our ‘theatre’ or else in mock trials and debates.”


    Six weeks after their crowded incarceration in the church they were transferred to houses in the town.


    “In March, 1917, in company with four other British officers, I was sent to Constantinople, as a reprisal for alleged mistreatment of five Turkish officers in Cairo.  We were placed in a filthy underground cell for 63 days, no exercise whatever being allowed.  [They were held in Seraskerat Prison]

    After 101 days we were released owing to the efforts of the American consul, and were allowed to return to Afion Karahissar, where we remained till the signing of the armistice.

    Thanks to the Australian Red Cross Society and the Royal Flying Corps Aid Committee we received many parcels, but I think only about 30 per cent of those sent.”


    All the officers and men were very grateful to the Australian Red Cross Prisoner of War Department run by Miss M.E.M. Chomley, not only for the parcels of food and clothing sent by them, but also for their untiring attempts to do anything that was asked of them.



    Although still a prisoner of war, Harold was promoted to Lieutenant on the 15th of August 1918.

    Following Turkey’s unconditional surrender on the 30th of October 1918 he was finally repatriated after 3 years and 2 months of incarceration, embarking at Smyrna on the 19th of November and arriving at Alexandria, Egypt, on the 21st.  He was then returned to Australia on the Aeneas, embarking on the 2nd of January 1919 and disembarking in Melbourne on the 5th of February.  His appointment was terminated on the 30th of March 1919, and on the 1st of July 1920 he was transferred to the Reserve of Officers, and eventually placed on the Retired List on the 27th of November 1943.


    Unfortunately Harold’s homecoming was not a joyous one.  During his years of absence he and his wife had kept up a regular correspondence, and he was given no indication that anything was untoward.  However, before leaving Egypt he had received a letter from his father explaining that his wife had recently given birth to a child.  Although she asked him for a second chance, he filed for a divorce in the March and the marriage was dissolved in the May.


    A great believer in the future of Commercial Aviation before the outbreak of war, Harold stepped straight into this new industry on his return home.  When the Defence Department began selling off their planes in 1919, Messrs Fenton and Carey bought four Maurice Farmans with the intention of opening a flying school and passenger service from their property in Port Melbourne.  Harold with three other pilots from the Central Flying School at Point Cook delivered the planes to them on the 11th of April, and part of the purchasing deal was that he would provide instruction on the operation and maintenance of the planes.  They also employed him as a pilot and during his time with them he flew 270 passengers.


    Harold’s personal life also took a turn for the better when on the 23rd of August 1919 at Echuca, he married Ida Emmerson TREWIN from Albert Park.  The couple at first lived with Harold’s parents in Albert Park before setting up house in Ivanhoe, and over the years they had three children together.


    During the month before his marriage, Harold had gone into partnership with air mechanic Hector Lord and flight sergeant Richard Lonsdale, both of whom had served with him in the Half Flight in Mesopotamia, and they purchased their own plane from the Defence Department, a 100 horsepower De Haviland 6 bi-plane for £500.  They then toured Victoria giving passenger flights and exhibitions.  By mid-December 1919 they had visited 34 towns, having flown 6000 miles and taken up more than 700 passengers.  Mid-May 1920 had brought the distance travelled to more than 15,000 miles, while carrying 1900 passengers. Following each flight they issued their passengers with a certificate to show that they had made the flight.


    In August 1920 Harold was one of the pilots who took part in the aerial Tour of Victoria to raise awareness for the Second Peace Loan campaign.  The Peace Loans were established by the Government to raise money to carry out their obligations to resettle the returning army.  The opening ceremony took place at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday the 6th of August, and was followed by a procession through the city, while the four Avro planes taking part in the tour, flew overhead dropping leaflets urging subscriptions to the loan.  The following Monday together with Mechanic Flight Sgt Cecil Hazlitt, Harold set off on his allocated tour route, which involved visiting the towns in North-Western Victoria.

    However, he was dogged by trouble from day one: “We headed for Clunes and Learmonth.  We had a very hard time.  Ballarat and district were enveloped in a thick white mist which rendered flying very difficult.  The bad weather continued until Friday and our plane had to face rain, hail and snow, in addition to heavy wind.  So thick was the rain at one stage that we had to descend to within 100 feet of the ground in order to pick out a paddock in which we could land.”


    Having returned to Point Cook, they set off again on Tuesday 17th August for Kyneton, and on landing later that day an unfortunate accident occurred.  On the ground Police-Sergeant Hore who was keeping back the crowd was knocked down by one of the back wings of the plane, suffering a badly bruised shoulder and shock.  Things got worse the following morning as they took off to head to Bendigo, when only 100 feet off the ground the engine failed.  The plane plummeted to the ground and was totally wrecked, but miraculously Harold and Hazlitt were able to walk away with nothing more than a severe shaking.  They returned to Melbourne that night.


    Flying a new plane, Harold and Hazlitt set off again on Monday the 23rd of August, having taken over a section of the North-Eastern district so that that area could be completed by the Wednesday.  The Tour of the State finished on the following Friday, the 27th, with an Aerial Derby; the four pilots who had taken part in the Tour, competing to see who could fly the fastest from Serpentine (near Bendigo) to the Melbourne Town Hall.  Carrying bags of mail to be dropped on arrival, they took off from the racecourse at two minute intervals and circled the township before continuing on their way.  Harold’s plane won the day, travelling the 116 miles in one hour and fifteen minutes, the other three planes not far behind.  After a few circuits of the city two of the planes then flew on while Harold and Capt McKenzie had to land at the Port Melbourne aerodrome to refuel, their tanks being almost empty.  Early in October Silver cups were presented to the winners by the president of the East Loddon Shire Council.


    In October 1920 Harold was given the job of delivering the ‘Sunraysia Daily’ newspaper throughout the Mildura and Riverina districts.  Three weeks into the run and he struck engine trouble.  Although he managed to land safely, he subsequently crashed into a fence, damaging one of the plane’s wings, but escaped injury himself.  Flying with the Shaw-Ross Aviation Company in the December, he took part in the delivery of ‘The Herald’ to all the bayside resorts between Port Melbourne and San Remo.  That month also saw the running of the first Australian Aerial Derby and Flying Carnival, in which Harold won the opening event by managing to drop a small parachute within 25 yards of a white triangle marked in the centre of the Epsom racecourse at Mordialloc.


    Having obtained his Civil Aviation Licence in June 1921, with the early number of 20, Harold was then employed as a Representative of the Aviation Department of the Shell Company of Australia Ltd (British Imperial Oil Coy).  At the end of November he escaped injury following a successful landing in windy weather, when a sudden gust then flipped his plane over, causing considerable damage.  A week later his Ivanhoe home was broken in to by thieves, who stole jewellery, clothing and a pair of binoculars.

    Late 1924 early 1925 Harold was transferred to Bendigo where he spent the next five years as the Superintendent for the District, before being transferred to the Adelaide branch in March 1930.

    It was noted that: “While in Adelaide, Captain Treloar, in accordance with the Shell Company’s policy, will devote his attention to stimulating public interest in aviation.”

    Before leaving Bendigo he became one of the founders of the Bendigo Aero Club which was established in 1929.

    By 1934 he had returned to Victoria and continued working with the Shell Company until 1940 (as a Salesman) at which time he was appointed to the State Liquid Fuel Control Board.  The final three months of 1942 saw him employed with the State Taxation Department.


    Harold died suddenly on the 11th of October 1950 in Bendigo where he was employed as a Motor Salesman – he was 61 years old.  He is buried in the Warringal Cemetery, Heidelberg, and was joined by his wife Ida in 1982.





    Harold’s parents: William Henry TRELOAR and Jane Freeman CADDY married in Vic in 1988.

    William who had been born at Linton (near Ballarat) died on the 7/1/1930 at his home in Heidelberg, aged 65.  Jane who had been born and bred in Ballarat, died on the 18/8/1942 also at home in Heidelberg, aged 72.


    Harold’s Siblings: *Reginald Claremont b.21/6/1891 Hawthorn (Grocer’s Assistant) – WW1: Cpl 609 (MM), 4th MG Bn – WW2 – d.1969 Heidelberg; Grace Beatrice b.1893 Melb – d.1894 (5M); *John Linton b.10/12/1894 Port Melb (Military Staff Clerk) marr Clarissa M W Aldridge 5/11/1918 Notting Hill, UK – WW1: Maj (O.B.E.) 1st Div HQ (Aust War Records Sect) – WW2 – d.28/1/1952 Canberra; Vera Grace Larewance b.1898 Warrnambool – marr L.R. OATES 25/10/1924 – d.1954; Alexander Glenroy b.1900 Hamilton (Salesman, Warehouseman); Mary Thelma b.1901 Hamilton – marr BARKWAY – d.1974; Arthur Charles Caddy b.1902 Hamilton (Mechanic) – d.8/2/1963 WA.


    Harold’s Children (3): *William Herbert Ross b.18/8/1922 Ivanhoe (Wireless Operator) – WW2: Merchant Navy – d.2002, *Eric John (Draughtsman) b.1925 – d.1998, *Janette Mary – marr K.B. IRESON – d.2016



    For more in-depth detail in regard to:

    *Half Flights time in Mesopotamia: – The Official History, Vol VIII The A.F.C.; “Fire in the Sky” by Michael Molkentin

    *Harold’s incarceration – “Guests of the Unspeakable” by Thomas W. White






  10. Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines. Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines was taken by Commonwealth troops on 9 April 1917, but it was partly in German hands again from March to August 1918. The cemetery was begun in April 1917 by fighting units and burial officers, and Rows A to H in Plot I largely represent burials from the battlefield. The remaining graves in Plot I, and others in the first three rows of Plot II, represent later fighting in 1917 and the first three months of 1918, and the clearing of the village in August 1918. These 390 original burials were increased after the Armistice when graves were brought in from a wide area east of Arras and from smaller burial grounds. The cemetery now contains 1,642 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the Great War, 611 of the burials are unidentified, but there are special memorials to 14 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 11 men of the 6th Bn. K.O.S.B., buried in Tees Trench Cemetery No.2, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

  11. Diary of a Dispatch Rider

    Latest Entry

    Continuing the diary of Corporal John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps.


    30th Oct

    Came into hospital with “special” flu a week ago, 23rd. Damnable. If this is typical of hospitals out here, Florence Nightingale never finished her job. I have seen disinfectant once. I have had my medicine half the times ordered. I have slept on the floor all the time in verminous and dirty blankets. There is no ventilation at night & it stinks. People play horribly on pianos outside your door. The latrine arrangements are foul & frightfully inadequate & there is no water at night to wet your parched tongue. Can’t think of any more horrors at the moment. And yet I am feeling better. God knows why!


    Nov 1

    Left hospital, God be thanked. When shall I get free of vermin!

  12. Test Blog

    Andy - can you see if you can add a completely new Blog Entry to this Blog, or whether you can only add a Comment to one of my existing Blog Entries.





  13. I have put together a digital talk for the Petersfield Museum to mark 100 years since the death of Lt-Col Gerard Leachman on August 12th.

    Available free on YouTube for one night only,  but you will need to register via the museum website. Lots of photographs and maybe some controversial viewpoints. 😀 


  14. Don Hedger

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    Any one seen a library card for CEF troops WWI that reads University of Vimy Ridge ~ somewhere in France this was used to educate Canadian Troops while engaged in combat.

    This is most interesting however there is simply no data that I have seen ~ although these library cards did exist 

    More info is required on this unknown subject 

  15. Le Treport Miscellaneous depots and camps
    No 3 General Hospital (opened Dec 1914).
    No 16 General Hospital (opened Feb 1915).
    No 2 Canadian General Hospital (opened Feb 1915).
    No 3 Convalescent Depot (opened June 1915).
    No 16 General Hospital (Isolation Division) (opened Dec 1915).
    No 7 Canadian Hospital (opened 1916).
    No 47 British General Hospital (opened 1916).
    No 10 BRC Hospital
    VAD Camp (opened May 1917)
    RE Workshops & Stores (Mar 1915).
    Horse Rest Camp (EU) (opened Mar 1917).
    Horse Rest Camp (MERS) (opened 1917).
    Tanks Camp (opened Sep 1917)
    POW Camp (Pont et Marais) (opened 1917).
    Army Ordnance Camp (Mers) (opened Oct 1917).
    Rifle Range (opened 1918).
    Chinese Labour Camp (Mers) (opened Jan 1918).
    Chinese Labour Camp (Criel) (opened Jan 1918).
    PoW Compound, Isolation Hospital (opened 1918).
    PoW Compound (Le Treport) (opened 1918).
    No 2 E F Canteens
    No 2 YMCA Recreation Huts
    No 1 YMCA Cinema
    No 1 Canadian RCS Recreation Hut
    No 1 Salvation Army Hut
    No 1 BRCS Recreation Hut
    No 1 Church Army Hut
    No 1 RC Church Hut
    No 4 Base Supply Depot (MT)
    Ammunition Wharf

  16. These are the categories that I have on my computer in bookmarks. I will update this page on a regular basis, particularly during the early phase of the "sorting into categories".


    These are ONLY for the British cases here on the GWF. They do not include any of the cases on the CEFSG (here).


    I was initially posting this information for the benefit of GWF PALS that wanted to investigate the case further and possibly take it to the reporting stage. I was not familiar enough with the Regiments and did not have access to the UK War Diaries, so I could not finish the case. With the assistance of the Long, Long Trail and now with Ance$try Worldwide, I am able to proceed. There are a number of these cases still listed in the final category below ("Other Cases Posted") and I am now in the process of working through these to move them to the other categories. Many may end up in the "Abandon or Hold" category, which I have now split. If you have looked at a report and believe it is in the wrong category, let me know.


    Changes to this blog include:

    • 23 November 2019 the details of acceptance or rejection during the Approvals Process have now been added, which are generally emails from the CWGC. Any team response or report updates are then uploaded to the site. This information, on how the process works, may be of benefit to other researchers.
    • 12 February 2019 the topic lists that have multiple nationalities have been sorted and classified as to their nationality
    • 25 January 2018 addition for "Short Listed Candidates". Those are the cases where is there is more than one person that fits the characteristics for the grave but the list is very short. The reason for this category is for FAMILY who may be researching an UNKNOWN, so they now know it may be their relative in that grave - but it is not a positive identification. This category has also been used where one or more of the candidates has been identified elsewhere, thus shortening the list.
    • 5 July 2018 addition of "CWGC Reports to be Submitted / Possibly Incorrect Identifications". It appears that the named person is "clearly" (not a minor question) in that grave. This has not been applied yet to cases where a recent submission (post 2000) may have misidentified an UNKNOWN (i.e. Kipling Case).
    • 8 July 2018 added "A member is looking for this soldier".
    • 22 July 2018 added "The Approvals Process", in concert with the 1st "Phase I" Approval.
    • 27 October 2018 added "Abandon or Hold / Accounted for by Special Memorial(s)" - men are listed missing but may be on a Special Memorial within a cemetery


    The cases are now also posted to TWITTER as:


    As always, I appreciate the assistance of any member who wishes to participate in these investigations. If a draft report is prepared, any member is welcome to review the document and provide comments, corrections or criticisms. If the report goes to the Submission Stage, any member that participated in the process can have their name added to the report. For that I need your Real Name, Affiliation (can be as simple as "Private Researcher") and your email address (so the CWGC can contact you directly if they wish).


    A list of both the Canadian and Commonwealth reports that I have submitted can be found here, with download links:


    The difference between the Canadian and Commonwealth reports is that initially the Canadian reports were submitted to the CWGC Canadian Agency in Ottawa for review first. If acceptable to Ottawa, they then were forwarded to the Maidenhead CWGC Office. This process was modified in January 2019 so that now all cases go directly to the CWGC Maidenhead.


    As cases move through the process, their place on the list below is modified. A topic might go from "New Cases" to "Reports Submitted" and then up to the "Approvals Process". There it might stay for a considerable length of time, before being marked as "Approved" or "Rejected". Once in that part of the process, additional information is added, such as a direct link to the report or review documents received from the approvals authorities (including rejections). Under the new process, a "Commonwealth Case" must make it through all three (3) phases of the approvals process. There is no information at present to indicate a "Canadian Case" would move through the process in the UK or if it would then be sent back to Ottawa.




    Corporal Martin Carroll #55818, Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Plot 6 Row D Grave 3

    2nd Division, 4th Infantry Brigade, 19th Infantry Battalion


    Killed in Action of 8 August 1918

    Reported Found 29 May 2015

    Rededication Service 1 December 2016

  17. Australian nurses

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    Looking for a reference book on Australian nurses in WW1? I recommend this book


    'More than Bombs and Bandages - Australian Army nurses at work in World War I' (Big Sky, Newport NSW, 2011).


    A review from a Queensland RN, Rev’d Dr Barbara Oudt:


    What I enjoyed most about Dr Kirsty Harris’s book is her ability to reflect those nurses voices in a way that was so real – one could be there, the settings were so well understood from her research and the language kind of made a time warp in the reading. Very satisfying. As you know I have that Peter Rees book, but I could not get into it after reading the historical one. It was like comparing a great documentary to Face Book trivia!!!


    Available from all good book shops, online via the publisher at http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/…/more-than-bombs-and-b…/, (at a very reasonable price for a hard back) or read or order for your local library.

  18. Stars, Stripes and Chevrons

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    No blog entries yet

  19. In December 1918 the Class Z system was introduced by the army.  This system, which released huge numbers of men very quickly, created a reserve of soldiers who would be recalled quickly to the army if the armistice was to break down.


    Many of the men who were discharged to the Class Z reserve had claims to pensions for disability - presumably an assessment was made that this disability would not prevent the man being useful to the army again in future.


    The Class Z system lead to a new pension numbering format being used for these cases.

    Class Z

    The reference under the Class Z system was in the format of Z / Corps or Regiment / Sequential Number of claim from Corps or Regiment / Surname Split.


    For example,



  20. I have finally written up the story for my 3 x great grand father John Edwin Barnes, thanks again for everyone's help on here that have helped make this possible, cheers everyone.



    One of my “Heroes” and Favourite Ancestors the fourth in my series of blogs about my 8 great-grandparents The Life and Times of John Edwin Barnes




  21. pjwmacro
    Latest Entry

    During the night of 30/31 July 1919, a relief column of 3rd Guides Infantry marched the 20+ miles from Parachinar to Sadda. Nearly 300 men strong, the column was based on B and D companies of 3rd Guides, supported by guns from 28th Mountain Battery and 40 additional mounted infantry from the Kurram Militia. The column was commanded by OC B Company Capt John Henry Jameson DSO. 

    The column reached Sadda on the morning of 31 July and, supported by machine guns from 22 Battery, went into action at around midday. Picquets were established on the high ground, the engine from the crashed Bristol Fighter was salvaged and the body of Lance Daffadar Miru Mian was recovered.

    By the evening, reports indicated that the tribesmen were dispersing.


  22. A few have asked to be kept informed as to the publication of my diary, so here you are. It is available from Amazon as an ebook as well as in paperback format. It can be bought from Waterstones in Newcastle upon Tyne, Morpeth and Hexham, also at Cogito Books in Hexham or direct from broomfieldpublications@gmail.com for £6.99 + p&p. It is available in the Newcastle City Library, The Newcastle University Library, and the Lit & Phil Library in Newcastle. So far it is being read in the US, Germany, Australia, Spain, and France. It has yet to have any major review, but all individual reviews by private individuals are very positive indeed. Many thanks for any interest shown to date and in the future.

  23. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY: The March to the Rhine - Day 21.


    King George V and General William Birdwood visit the graves of several notable soldiers including, the temporary grave of Prince Maurice of Battenburg, the King's one-time equerry Major Lord Charles Mercer-Nairne, Brigadier General Francis Aylmer Maxwell VC, CSI, DSO & Bar, and Major the Hon. William George Sidney Cadogan, the equerry to the Prince of Wales. Presentation of baton of the Marshal of France to Philippe Petain at Metz, 8 December 1918. Marshal Petain, Marshal Joseph Joffre, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, General Maxime Weygand (France), Field Marshal Douglas Haig (Britain), General John Pershing (USA), General Cyriaque Gillain (Belgium), General Alberico Albricci (Italy) and General Józef Haller (Poland) awaiting the arrival of French President Raymond Poincare.


    General Staff - 1st Canadian Division, C.E.F.


    13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada)


    14th Battalion (The Royal Montreal Regiment)


    15th Battlion (48th Highlanders of Canada), 3rd Inf. Bde, C.E.F.


    16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), 3rd Inf. Bde, C.E.F.


    5th Canadian Divisional Artillery, C.E.F.


    14th Brigade C.F.A., C.E.F.


    61st Field Battery, C.F.A., 5th C.D.A., C.E.F.


    Lt Abner Virtue - 6st Fld Bty


    60th Field Battery, C.F.A., 5th C.D.A., C.E.F.



    Outside Recht, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Recht, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Marcard, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Railway Bridge Bonn and Kirke, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Dedenburg & Bonn Railway Bridge, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Outside Amel, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Amel, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Moderscheid, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Outside Moderscheid, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Bullingen, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Outside Bullingen, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Outside Wirtzfeld, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Wirtzfeld, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Outside Krinkelt, Photo: Edward Walshe



    Krinkelt, Photo: Edward Walshe









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