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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. John Mitchell Dougall was born on November 23rd, 1879 at 104 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire to William Dougall and Mary Mitchell, John being the eldest out of 4 children. In 1881 his parents as well as him immigrated to Victoria, Australia whilst he was still an infant. He grew up in South Melbourne before the family went back to Scotland in 1891. Upon his return, John Dougall attended a Military College but then his family immigrated back to Australia in 1894. Upon his arrival in Australia he began studying at South Melbourne College.

    A young John Dougall, taken whilst he was in Australia

    Dougall apparently joined the British Army in 1899 and was appointed Second Lieutenant on March 7th, 1900 and assigned to ‘G’ Company,Dougall.PNG.cd138dd9a7470d3760b9eeed2f881b49.PNG 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. That same month the Battalion was despatched to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. A raw subaltern, he was serving alongside many veterans of the Sudan Campaign which had taken place a year prior. He left for Durban on the ‘Aberdeen’ on April 5th, 1900. FindaGrave lists that he was at Johannesburg in May 1900, Pretoria in June as well as Diamond Hill. I cannot confidently say clearly however what his involvement was during all of these operations. I can say however that on January 1st, 1901 the colonies that made up Australia became one country. This federation led to the British Army sending parties of men from different regiments to celebrate the federation. All of the officers and men from the contingent came under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wyndham, C.B of the 21st Lancers and by hook or by crook Second Lieutenant Dougall, a Subaltern who had seen active service on the Veld was to represent his regiment as Officer Commanding the Cameron Highlanders of 24 men. The whole British Army contingent was brought to Australia on the White Star Liner S.S Britannic in January 1901. In a newspaper from Melbourne, Australia dated January 26th, 1901 it shows all the different ‘Guards of Honor’ from the British Army; among them is the 79th Highlanders under Second Lieutenant Dougall. ‘Lieut J.M Dougall, the officer in command of the Cameron Highlanders, is a native to Australia, and among his comrades he is known by the sobriquet of ‘The Bushranger’.

    Lieutenant Dougall is second row, fourth from right with the white sash next to a bemedaled soldier

    Just after an event at the Jubilee Exhibition Building at Victoria Park in South Australia on February 27th, 1901, Dougall alongside many other soldiers was struck down by heat stroke on King William Street. Dougall was treated at the Adelaide Club but quickly recovered. After a few months in Australia, he returned to his Regiment in South Africa. Second Lieutenant Dougall was promoted to Lieutenant on June 10th, 1901 following the secondment of Lieutenant C.G Collins. Following his promotion, he was involved with his regiment in operations in the Natal-Zululand area in September 1901. It is worth noting that on February 27th, 1902 a party of Q.O.C.H [F Coy] made up the firing squad for the first war crimes prosecuted in the British Army; The men to be executed were Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant and Peter Handcock. The former was a poet and a horsebreaker, the latter a blacksmith. At the time however, Dougall was in G Company but would’ve most certainly have heard of the incident or even seen the prisoners. He returned to England in October 1902 alongside 810 officers and other ranks of the 1st Battalion, Q.O.C.H and was placed on the regimental reserve in February 1903. For his services in the Boer War, Lieutenant Dougall was entitled to the Queens South Africa Medal [Clasps Wittebergen, Diamond Hill, Johannesburg, Cape Colony] and Kings South Africa Medal [Clasps South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902]. A volunteer on FindaGrave lists that family folklore says he was the Aide-de-Camp to General Kitchener, however this is unconfirmed. In his obituary, it says that John Dougall was twice wounded in South Africa.

    Second Lieutenant Dougall, of Her Majesties Queens Own Cameron Highlanders; December 28, 1900

    Upon his service in the Boer War, Dougall moved back to Melbourne, Victoria. On November 17th, 1904 John Dougall married Francis ‘Kittie’ Gallagher at St Mary’s Presbyterian Church in Scone, New South Wales. According to FindaGrave, this ‘inter-denominational’ marriage caused problems on either side of the marriage, however they still had a child, a daughter born in 1908 [Helen]. The couple settled at ‘Cliffdale’ in Parkville; Cliffdale was a 2300 acre property near Wingen that was bought by Dougall’s father earlier that year. John worked on the dairy part of the property whilst his brother Andrew worked with the horses. By 1909 he was the hotel keeper of the Sovereign Hotel on Guy Street in Warwick, Queensland. After a trip to America in 1910, he settled in Brisbane as a Salesman.

    John Dougall applied for a commission on August 20th, 1914 despite still being on the Cameron Highlanders Reserve. He stated that he had served at the Inauguration of King Edward VII and in the Second Boer War - he also stated he was born in 1880 instead of 1879. His application was approved the following day and Dougall was appointed Lieutenant and Officer Commanding ‘H’ Company, 9th Battalion. His fellow officers included Lieutenants Arthur Hinton and Allan Boase. The latter rose to great notoriety, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General with a CBE in his pocket for actions in 1942. After a mere month of training, the whole battalion embarked on September 24th, 1914 from Brisbane, Queensland on the HMAT Omrah being one of the first convoys to depart. The Convoy had a stop over in Williamstown on September 28th, then onto Port Melbourne the following day to pick up further men and provisions. The HMAT Omrah put the sea once more on October 20th, 1914 with 32 Officers and 988 of the 9th Battalion on strength. The voyage involved a stop at Albany (Oct 26 - Nov 1), Colombo (Nov 16), Aden (Nov 25) before the Suez on December 1st. A hopover to Port Said the following day, then Alexandria before their real destination was reached - Mena Camp. Upon arrival, platoon trainings took place, bayonet practice, musketry and some basic formations.

    Lieutenant or Captain Dougall in Cairo, Egypt in 1915

    Dougall was appointed Captain on February 1st, 1915 in Egypt as a result of the restructuring of the Company Structure across the First Australian Imperial Force which had taken place a month previous. I believe he became Second-in-Command of ‘D’ Company under Captain Isaac Jackson. On February 9th, a complement of reinforcements joined the Battalion. At the end of February, a count found that the battalion had a fighting strength of 1038 officers and men. On March 1st the Battalion arrived in Alexandria, then onto Lemnos on March 28th. On around April 15, the Battalion left Lemnos on the ship ‘Malda’. On April 24th at 10pm, the men were told to get ready and had their last meals before the operation. A letter from Private Ray Baker reads the following.. 

    ‘The ship had left the harbour just before sundown and after four hours steaming had anchored at some place in the open sea unknown to us. Somewhere about midnight, British destroyers – there were two of them – came alongside, and we were immediately transhipped to them. They were to take us to the place where we were to land to meet the Turks. Our company was on board the destroyer ’Colne’ which steamed away in the direction of the Dardanelles. We were fairly crowded on the upper deck but were quite comfortable, and at 3am Sunday morning hot cocoa was served out all round ’Colne’..’ 

    9th Battalion Officers on embarkation in October 1914. Subaltern Dougall on far right kneeling

    Among those who were aboard the Colne were Captains Jackson and Dougall of the 9th Battalion. Captain Jackson was 37 yet had seen no prior service compared to Dougall, a veteran of the Veldt. The men were transferred to smaller boats where they were to be rowed ashore; the landings were underway. A man from C Company [George Robey DCM]  described the landings as this.
    'The Turks opened a murderous fire on us. We were 200 yards from the beach, when the boats began to fill up because of the holes made by the bullets. Naturally they hit the bottom a long way from shore, and we had to tumble out up to our necks. We were being bowled over all the time. The noise and confusion were indescribable. Our orders were, 'Not a shot is to be fired.'’ It is common knowledge that a certain Lieutenant Duncan Chapman’s boat of 9th Battalion diggers landed first, however many following the landings a news article from December 1933 made mention of Dougall, who contested this.. "Some years ago a very good pal,..(John) Dougall, of the 9th, and I had a discussion on this same question. He also was in the first crowd to hit the bench. He said that in his opinion boats of the 12th Battalion, manned by superior oarsmen, beat his men easily to the finishing line— the beach."

    Photo from April 25 1915 from atop Plugge Plateau near Ari Burnu, roughly around where Dougall landed

    ‘D’ Company, 9th Battalion under Captain Isaac Jackson landed sometime around 4:30am at ‘Little Ari Burnu’, the southern tip of ANZAC Cove with their Brigade Commander, Colonel Sinclair-MacLagan in their tow. Their objective was to reach Gaba Tepe to the south some 2km to the south [approx 1.5 miles] with the aim to silence an Ottoman Artillery Battery. Quoting from the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 by C.E.W Bean;
    ‘Jackson’s company, which landed at Little Ari Burnu, had the duty of reaching Gaba Tepe, and on landing it strove to carry out its instructions by charging over Little Ari Burnu and bearing southwards. A desultory rifle fire was coming from the slopes ahead of it. As the company moved down the back of Little Ari Burnu into the valley, it found a small stone hut, in which were half a dozen Turks and a small fire with a pot of coffee upon it. The Turks were bayoneted.’

    After the bayonetting of Turks in the hut the men piled out and prepared to advance, however a stray shot hits Captain Jackson who hands over command to Captain Dougall who at 4:57am assumes command of ‘D’ Company. It is worth mentioning that their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Lee was supposed to be commanding them like his counterpart Weir with the 10th Battalion, however Lee was allegedly ‘frozen’ with what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had been a career officer and was 47 by time of the landings, yet this was the first war he had gone to. Upon his gracious landing amongst the night as dawn broke he just couldn’t face up to it. According to one source, he was found by Major General Bridges who admonished him on the spot; the then Lieutenant Colonel Charles Rosenthal recorded in his diary that Lee was in ‘a terrible state’ and hysterical. Either way, Dougall’s Battalion Commander was out of the fight, effectively leaving the Major(s) in command. The company under Captain Dougall went up the slopes of the 400 Plateau a few hundred yards away, south of the valley, where it joined Milne’s ‘C’ Company and began consolidating.
    *Milne landed some 300 yards to the south of Dougall with Beagle and ‘C’ Coy 12th Battalion

    Photograph taken atop Bolton's Ridge looking towards Gaba Tepe; April 26 1915

    At around 6:30am, Captain Dougall atop 400 Plateau began advancing towards Bolton’s Ridge yelling to his men ‘Come on boys!’ with a bayonet affixed on his Lee Enfield; However as he rushed onto Bolton’s Ridge he was met with the sight of the Ottoman 27th Regiment under Mehmed Sefik. He noted that the Ottomans were amassed on the Third Ridge [otherwise ‘Gun Ridge’] and were moving along the ridgeline until they reached a point around Scrubby Knoll where they deployed themselves in a position facing towards 400 Plateau. Captain Dougall, realizing the severity of the situation, fell back in good order to 400 Plateau with his men, reconsolidating with Major Salisbury. This crucial information was relayed either personally or by another soldier to Colonel MacLagan, the Brigade Commander who when observing the Ottomans for himself determined that there were around 2000-3000 Turks moving along the ridge. This rough estimate is backed up by other officers from other elements scattered along Plateau 400. It wasn’t helping that casualties were piling up quickly. Lieutenant Colonel Clarke commanding the 12th Battalion was killed trying to rally his men at Russells Top as was his Batman. The 10th Battalion was being cut to ribbons as they tried to advance to the heights whilst a couple of the battalion scouts (Privates Robin and Blackburn) managed to penetrate to the third ridge. The 11th had a similar story to tell, however the story for all the Battalions stayed the same - they were disorganized, stragglers all around the scrub and cohesion was breaking. Despite this disorganization, the 2nd Brigade started to disembark at around 6am as part of the second wave.

    At around 8:30am, Captain Dougall was apparently on Harris Ridge, to the far south of Lone Pine. He saw Australians along Plateau 400 and decided that it would be wiser to rejoin them. At around 8:40am, Captain Dougall and Captain Milne who had a strength of approximately a Company [‘C’ and ‘D’ Nucleus] on the highground on Bolton’s Ridge began advancing towards Lone Pine, facing resistance all the while from an Ottoman Platoon.
    *The wounded Captain J.A Milne was later given a battalion command, killed in action whilst leading the 36th Battalion on April 12th, 1918 after a DSO and Mention in Despatches had been conferred upon him. With his death, the battalion died with him (The 36th Batt disbanding later that month to be broken up for reinforcements.)

    Much past 8:30am concerning Dougall is unknown; I do not have access to the 9th Battalion book therefore I am unsure of anything further that may be noted in the book. Various sources run dry from there, however the 1st Brigade began disembarking on Gallipoli at around 9am, and the line was reinforced. By nightfall on the First Day, the beachhead was a shambles. The 9th Battalion was kept in the line until April 28th when it was pulled to the Cove to have a rest. By April 30th, Captain Dougall was 1 of 9 officers still standing firm with the 9th, alongside 280 other ranks - a near complete decimation. The time between April 25th and April 30th had seen them fight off counter attacks by the Ottomans who were attempting to dislodge the invasion force. On May 1st, a count read 25 Killed, 229 wounded and 24 missing from the 9th Battalion alone. The frontline was ferocious with shells dropping by the ton for the whole month of May, breaking many a man. Their only respite was during the truce to bury the dead on May 24th. On May 20th, Captain Dougall led a party of 100 up to Quinn's Post to act as support and fill gaps, along with Lieutenant Ross. The Battalion took a roll call on June 5th to see the casualties from April 25th to present. It read 84 killed, 373 wounded, 79 missing with a fighting strength of 19 officers and 862 men. On June 12th at 7pm, Captain Dougall left the Battalion sick with debility to a Field Ambulance. Evacuated on the hospital ship Galeka, he was back at ANZAC Cove on July 12th. When he returned, the Turks attacked shortly afterwards. On July 19th, Lieutenant Colonel Lee returned to the Battalion, however 2 days later he was sick again. Into August the shelling became heavier and heavier for the 9th Battalion. From August 6th to 9th, the Battalion fought off attack after attack from the Turkish who were repelling landings to the North and attacks towards ANZAC.

    Captain Dougall, Lieutenant Wilder-Neligan, Captain Bowman and Captain [Adjutant] Plant; c.May 1915

    On August 25th, Captain Dougall reported to the 1st Field Ambulance with Enteric Fever. He was moved to Mudros that same day then onto Lemnos the following day with Debility. After a stint there, he was back on ANZAC by September 20th and appointed to command ‘D’ Company. On October 27th, Dougall was again sick and evacuated to Malta. This was the last time he would be on Gallipoli as this unknown sickness kept him off the peninsula for the rest of the campaign. By December 1915, he was deemed ‘Fit for Active Service’ and was sent to rejoin his unit. After 1 month away in hospital, Captain Dougall rejoined the 9th Battalion at Tel-El-Kebir on January 7th, 1916 (per W/D; his dossier states Jan 9th). 

    Captain Dougall, Christmas 1915

    During January 1916, the Battalion was retraining to fight in France and sprucing up on marksmanship, physical form, etc. On January 26th, the Battalion was moved to Serapeum some 40km away to the East. By the end of the month, the Battalion had marched off onto a new location, Gebel Habeita. Some 20 years later, a man from the 11th Battalion described the march to Habeita ‘It was a gruelling(sic) march, but this was a fine body of men in good condition..’. On February 20th 1916, Captain Dougall took off all his pips to fit a crown on each shoulder - his promotion to Major and Battalion Second-in-Command was to replace Major Milne who had been invalided a month ago on January 3rd. These responsibilities were too numerous for Major Dougall despite his prior regular service, and this began to weigh him down; it is listed that the same day he was promoted he was sent to hospital with mumps.. As a result of doubling the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt, the 9th Battalion produced pups and gave the 49th Battalion. A mix of personnel from the 9th would be moved over the newly formed 49th and Major Dougall was among them, retaining the position of Battalion Second-in-Command. His transfer is listed to have taken place on February 25th at Habeita despite himself still being in hospital until the following day.

    In March 1916, the ANZAC Corps requested the names of officers ‘whose character renders them unsuitable for employment in command of men.’ From the 2nd Division, two names popped up - Majors J.M Dougall of the 49th and H.A MacPherson of the 52nd. The Brigadier commanding their brigade stated that they lacked ‘aptitude for leadership and command’ and a ‘sufficiently strong character to inspire their officers and coordinate the work of all ranks under their command’. Major Dougall retained the role of Battalion Second-in-Command whilst the Battalion was still training in Egypt, however as the embarkation to France loomed closer he was sought a rear-echelon or desk-wallah job. On May 12th, Major Dougall was transferred to a more suitable command; the 13th Training Battalion which was to be sent to England on Salisbury Plains shortly afterwards. There is no record dating to when Dougall arrived in England, nor is there an existing war diary for Dougall’s tenure, however he stayed in command until December 1916 when his secondment had been completed. There is a surviving picture of Dougall and his staff at 13th Training Battalion, shown below.

    Major Dougall, surrounded by members of the 13th Training Battalion; c. September 1916

    Major Dougall arrived in France from England on December 13th, arriving at Etaples that same day. He was to join the 49th Battalion in the field, which he did on December 21st. On January 28th, Dougall was assigned to the position of Town Major in the town of Becourt, a rather comfy ‘behind the lines’ position and about 20km from the English Channel. Not much can be said of his tenure as Town Major, however casualties did come through Becourt on occasion, else it was smooth sailing. He retained the position of Town Major until May 23rd when he was returned to the 49th Battalion in the field


    ‘Enter the troubles’

    On May 6th, 1917 John’s brother Norman Dougall, a Platoon Commander in the 10th Battalion fell at Bullecourt. This had a negative impact on Major Dougall in many ways. It was still no comfort when Norman’s Military Cross was gazetted in June for actions in April 1917. Whilst still serving as Town Major at Becourt, he and his brother made the journey to his grave at Vaulx Australian Field Ambulance Cemetery.

    Captain 'James Davidson' [alias Andrew Dougall] and Town Major John Dougall, standing beside the grave of their brother.

    It is worth noting that the other brother (pictured left) served under the alias James Davidson as opposed to his real name Andrew. Lieutenant Davidson had been a First Day lander on Gallipoli where he was twice wounded. Commissioned in the field in France, he was twice recommended for a Military Cross. His MC was gazetted for actions across 1918 as the Quartermaster for the 10th Battalion.

    On June 14th, Brigadier-General Glasgow (The Brigade Commander) wrote a memorandum in reference to 2 Battalion seconds-in-command under his command.. Part of it reads.. 

    ‘In the recent fighting, this Brigade has lost two Battalion Commanders, and now that thDougall7.png.0204a318c2f6dfb4cfcb24975f39d20e.pnge reorganization has begun one is faced with the problem of finding suitable men to take their place’

    ‘I very much regret that the seconds in command of the 49th and 52nd Battalions are not suitable for a higher command. I have not been able to trust them to take the battalion into action. This means that an enormous strain is (p)laced on the commanding officer, and it is unfair to the young capable officers that these (officers) should be allowed to hold the position without taking the responsibility and risk that battle thrusts on us all.’

    ‘I cannot give a definitive instance of these Officers inefficiency, it is rather what they do not do that gives the trouble. I now say however that I have absolutely no confidence in them, that I do not think they have the aptitude for leadership and command nor are of sufficiently strong character to inspire their officers and coordinate the more of all ranks under their command’

    ‘I therefore strongly recommend that these officers services be utilized in some sphere where each a high standard efficiency is not necessary, or that their services dispensed altogether’

    ‘The Officers concerned are :-
    Major J.M. DOUGALL, 49th Battn.
    *Major H.A McPHERSON, 52nd Battn.’

    ‘Signed, T.W Glasgow, Brig.General
    G.O.C 13th Australian Inf. Brigade’

    *McPherson committed suicide by a gunshot wounded inflicted by his service revolver whilst returning to Australia in December 1918

    Further communications to the Divisional Commander revealed 2 other incompetent officers in their midst in a report dated June 23rd, 1917 by the Major General commanding the 4th Division. The other officers were Major Edward Twynam of the 13th Battalion and Major Fethers (unconfirmed). ‘Under the circumstances, I now recommend that they be removed from their present positions, and in the event of no suitable employments being available elsewhere, that they be Returned to Australia’

    Dougall and MacPherson counted their lucky stars; they were returned to their original battalions, the 9th and 12th Battalions respectively despite their inefficiency. Both became senior Company Commanders upon their arrival at their battalions. Major Dougall’s transfer came through on July 7th, and he was taken onto strength of the 9th Battalion on July 15th, assuming command of ‘B’ Company. His fellow officers consisted of Major Claude Ross MC (original ANZAC, later Battn Cmdr), Captain Frank Page MC MM (original ANZAC, from the ranks), Lieutenant Thomas Goward (1915er, from the ranks) to name a few. Suffice to say, he had able officers under his command to assist him.

    Major Dougall, second row from front, fourth from right; 1917

    Major Dougall’s stint with the 9th Battalion in July 1917 was relatively uneventful - General Birdwood visited the camp and presented medal ribbons amongst other things, otherwise it was relatively calm. Strangely enough, there was no mention of Dougall anywhere in July, August nor September War Diary. However on September 20th, 1917, the 9th Battalion was involved in the operations at Polygon Wood, this also meant that Major Dougall was involved - he finished his involvement wounded according to records. He was taken back onto the strength of the Battalion on October 14th, however enquiries were made into what happened at Polygon Wood, as it soon became apparent that Major Dougall became separated from his men. Below is a letter, detailing everything. It was written by Major Dougall in October 1917.


    I wrote to the C.O of the battalion as stated. I respectfully state that I halted the coy in the dark and noticing that they were not all there, and told the leading platoon to go on whilst I saw what had become of the balance. I waited some time and saw them coming on then I hurried after the rest. I then walked on and in the dark mistook the way and wandered into the place occupied by British troops. I then went across in the direction of Merrin Road and saw Lieutenant Carson with a portion of this platoon gathering stores as we were the carrying coy. This was just after zero (hour). I then proceeded to Brigade Headquarters and stated that I have separated from my company and was directed verbally the road to take. I went on and met Second Lieutenant Warner and walked on then I met Captain Carrol we proceed onwards and coming to Clapham Junction tunnel I said to him, you have a slight wound, go in here and get it fixed up and we have time as we are not moving forwards till the barrage on the 2nd objective lifts. He was dazed and took no notice of me and I proceeded through the tunnel in the direction I thought the Battalion was in. I proceeded along to what I imagined to be Jargon Trench. I was proceeding along and the barrage was very heavy and I halted to see best how I would get through it. There were other men in the vicinity. Suddenly the bunk behind which I stopped for a few minutes to see best to get on was blown in on top of me and I was covered partially with earth and a beam struck me in the head. 2 men lifted me out and helped me towards the Clapham Junction tunnel and I do not remember much more for a few hours after this. I asked on orderly for some brandy and he said go (to) the next dressing station. I was still dazed and nervous and felt thoroughly don(e). I asked the M.O could I get some brandy and rest for a couple of hours. They gave me some pills and then an M.O said you go back to the Regimental (Dressing) Station or A.D.S and get 48 hours rest you will get plenty of straffing(sic) yet. I went to Headquarters and the M.O there evacuated me to the Canadian C.C.S who sent me to Boulogne Hospital from where I was discharged marked ‘B’ Class to the ?? and from thence I came on thinking I ought to get through. I by no means feel fit yet and still nervy and depressed. I have been nerving continuously since August 20th, 1914 including the Landing at ANZAC. I suffer very much at the time from Rheumatism or Rheumatoid Arthritis. My health has never been good since I joined and I only feel equal to a training job or total discharge and I feel that how I did not be much use till I got at least 2 months away ?? (frac?) of military service and could get treated privately at my own expense, besides I have private troubles which worry me at the time which does not leave me in a proper state of mind. I may state that on the morning of the 20th instant  I met two men of the company who were wounded and asked them where the coy was and one of them said the order to scatter retire had been given by an officer. This order was not given by me and the fact could be ascertained from Second Lieutenant Warner and others in the company including the guide, Private Llewyllen. As I have previously told the G.O.C what happened and that I do not feel fit. I can offer no objection to his request that I be returned (to Australia). I am satisfied in my own mind that what I have said is correct, but I again say that I do not feel fit, but nervous and depressed. I have suffered since from headaches and since my brother was killed at Bullecourt I have also felt very depressed and out of sorts and the adverse report of the G.O.C, 13th Brigade which I feel was unjust has worried me into a poor frame of mind that I ought not to be in, in order to be an efficient leader.

    Signed, J.M Dougall’
    **Captain ‘Cec’ Carrol was later an MC and Commissioner of the Queensland Police

    A report written alongside Major Dougall’s report has a sentence reading ‘his men have no confidence in him, therefore I recommend that he be returned to Australian; signed Brigadier General Bennett 13th Brigade’. By the end of October 1917, Major Dougall’s military career was finished. He reported to AIF Headquarters on Horseferry Roads in London on November 21st, and was given orders to Return to Australia. Major Dougall embarked from England on December 21st, 1917 for Return to Australia. After a voyage of nearly 2 months, Major Dougall disembarked at 3rd Military District on February 12th, 1918 after nearly 3 and a half years abroad in the service. On March 1st, 1918 Major John Dougall’s appointment as an Officer in the First Australian Imperial Forces was terminated after 3 and a half years in the service. 

    After discharge, John Dougall found work as a shipping agent/clerk. John took a trip to New York in 1923 for a short vacation. Mr Dougall was transferred to the Reserve of Officers on October 10th, 1924. Major John Mitchell Dougall, an ‘Original’ of ANZAC Cove was found dead in his bed on April 27th, 1926 in South Melbourne, just 2 days after ANZAC Day and 2 days after th. At the time he had been on a holiday. A post mortem assessment states that he died of a hemorrhage caused by a clot of blood in the brain. He left behind a wife and a daughter



  3. During the Great War hospitals and infirmaries around the UK provided dedicated bed space for ill and wounded soldiers.

    The Red Cross opened auxiliary hospitals, in halls and large houses, to support the already exiting facilities.

    Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals, while staffed by some V.A.D. Members, were not run by them or called V.A.D. Hospitals. They were Red Cross run facilities.

    The Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals were broken into four regions in Scotland.

    These were centered around Scotlands four cities:


    Western – Glasgow,

    Eastern – Edinburgh

    Dundee - Central Eastern

    Aberdeen – North Eastern


    Arbroath was in the Central Eastern region.


    The roll of Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals, was to act as a second line to pre-existing hospitals, to treat minor injuries and ailments and host convalescing soldiers.


    In January, 1913, the directors of Arbroath Infirmary, decided to raise the funds to completely rebuilt the towns infirmary.
    The original facility having opened in 1845, it was now too small for the towns needs, even though it had been expanded over the years.


    The following month, the directors bought a nearby mansion house, Greenbank, for use as the infirmary, albeit temporarily.

    The building and its grounds covered about an acre. However, it could hold only about half of what the old infirmary had space for.


    By April all the patients had been moved to the temporary premises, which was expected to be used for two years.


    When the war began, Arbroath was operating its infirmary in a temporary location with a 50% reduction in capacity. The local Red Cross Society did not immediately open an auxiliary hospital, as they did in many other towns and cities.


    On 15th August, 1914, the Infirmary at Greenbank agreed to make 30 beds available for the Red Cross Society. A hall being looked for to provide a further 30 bed capacity.


    In January 1915, Arbroath and other Forfarshire hospitals were a little dissatisfied that there well prepared resources had not yet been utilised.


    It was thought this was as a result of the Military hospital regions in Scotland having been broken into three areas, centered around Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Dundee picking up any overflow these area hospitals could not provide for.


    The first military patients to arrive in Arbroath arrived on Saturday the 16 of January, 1915. The ten had been sent from Aberdeen Base Hospital by rail to convalesce from illness.

    (unidentified men and nurses in the grounds of temporary infirmary at Greenbank)

    On Friday the the 21st, the soldiers were treated a concert organised by the provost Rutherford Thomson.

    A local man Mr J. B. Frazer lent his motor car for the use of the soldiers to take them on day trip during that week. By the 19th of the month, 8 out of 10 had been discharged from the hospital.

    On Saturday the 22nd of Jan, 1915 the first wounded soldiers to Greenbank arrived by train. Most had bullet wounds.

    They were:

    Cpl. J. Harhls, 2nd Border Regt

    L/Cpl Wallie, 8th Royal Scots

    Bandsman Tinker, 2nd Lincolns

    Pte J. Rogers Sherwood Foresters

    Pte. R. Sherley, Sherwood Foresters

    Pte. F. Hunt, 4th Middlesex

    Pte. J Warrior, Northrumberl Fusiliers

    Pte. J. Evans, 1st Royal Warwicks

    Pte. J. Clark, 1st Royal Warwicks

    Pte. R. Millard, Royal Fusiliers


    It was expected that after a week of convalescing in Arbroath they would return to their own homes for two or three weeks to recuperate.


    No. 9 Alexandra Place was offered, in September, 1915 as a site for the Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital, by an anonymous benefactor.


    This was between the infirmary site and temporary premises. It overlooked a park and had views over the North Sea. It was a large semi detached property owned by a lady who had relocated to Glasgow and initially offered it up to the committee of Arbroath Infirmary for extra nursing quarters in January, 1915.


    On Wednesday, 19th of January, 1916, No. 9 Alexandra Place was inspected by David Erskine, County Director of the Red Cross Society, it was opened shortly after on the 24th.

    It had capacity for 15 beds, although a few more could be made available if needed.


    Less than a week later on the 24th, the first patients were admitted.

    These were 10 members of the 2/9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who were stationed in the town and had taken ill.


    As a result of the war, causing delays to materials and manpower, the new infirmary building was delayed and eventually opened on the 22nd of April, 1916. at a cost of over £14,000.


    The newly built infirmary received its first wounded soldiers on the 2nd of November, 1916. The 13 arrived by train from Dundee, none were of a serious nature.


    During the weekend of the 7th and 8th of March, 1918, the Auxiliary Hospital relocated to a large mansion called Seaforth House. It was only a short distance away. Located on the seaside.


    Seaforth house being a larger building. it had a greater capacity for patients, able to house up to 50.


    The former temporary infirmary at Greenbank was sold on Saturday 13th of July, 1918, by the Arbroath infirmary Directors, for £1,200, any excess being spent on hospital equipment.


    The Auxiliary Hospital closed on Friday the 21st of February, 1919. 958 patients had been treated in over the course of its existence.

    Apr 1913 - Arbroath infirmary moves temporarily to Greenbank, while it's rebuilt on original site
    Jan 1915 - Greenbank receives first military patients
    Jan 1916 - Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital at No.9 Alexandra Place opens
    Apr 1916 - Newly rebuilt infirmary is opened
    Nov 1916 - First wounded soldiers arrive at new infirmary
    Mar 1918 - Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital moves to Seaforth House
    Jan 1918 - Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital closes.


    Greenbank house stands today as a retirement home. No 9 Alexandra Place is still standing and is a private home again. Seaforth house was later a hotel and was destroyed by fire under suspicious circumstances in 2006.


  4. 2 September 2023, page: The Bridging Train or Pontoon Park
    14 September 2023, page: The Royal Engineers' Bridging Trains

    That may be it for this month, as I am focusing mainly on my next book.

  5. Throughout World War I, Germany sent out rigid dirigibles, also known as Zeppelins or airships, to terrorise their foes across the English Channel and to destroy military targets. The success of this campaign was questionable. Although German bombs set towns like London, Loughborough, and Great Yarmouth alight, they missed many crucial targets and Britons were not easily cowed; Arthur Balfour, First Lord of the Admiralty, said in September 1915 that "Zeppelin raids have been brutal; but so far they have not been effective." Nevertheless, the Germans never stopped trying. Thus it was that Zeppelin L20, in the company of six other airships, headed out on its latest mission on the night of 2 May 1916.

    Their destination was Edinburgh, where the British naval fleet was anchored at the Firth of Forth. If the northwesterly winds held in accordance with the forecast, they would reach Scotland within a few hours. However, given the atmospheric instability that had lately tended towards thunderstorms, each airship commander had been instructed to change course and target central England if southerly winds prevailed.

    “This is no May weather!” L20’s captain Franz Stabbert had told lieutenant Ernst Schirlitz that morning. Nevertheless, by 9.20 p.m., Edinburgh lay within sight. Then the weather turned against them. According to the official history, “At 11.20 p.m., L20—at 2100 m altitude—was caught in heavy rain and snow squalls, at 12 a.m. in dense fog.” One by one, all the other ships headed south; only L14 and L20 remained on course for Scotland.

    The official history later described Stabbert’s refusal to turn back as being animated by “a lively spirit of attack.” However, this bellicosity, coupled with technical malfunctions, ultimately meant that L20 never returned to her home port at Tondern.


    Approximate path of L20 on the night of 2-3 May 1916. Source: Der Krieg in der Nordsee Vol. 5.

    Twenty years later, Peter Vossen, who had been a machinist aboard L20 that fateful night, recalled:

    A pitch black night enveloped land, sea, and airship…any attempt at orientation was impossible. …Where was sea and where was land? Below us we saw only the silent depths of darkness. …We cast out firebombs, which would disappear if they fell into the sea but which would light up and glow if they fell on land. Everything remained as black as before. Yet still the engine hammered on!

    At 9 a.m. the following morning, the crew sighted the Norwegian coast. Only four hours of fuel remained; strong headwinds made progress difficult and rough seas precluded a water landing. Perhaps it was at this point that one of the men penned the message “We are in danger. Zep. L 20”, sealed it in a bottle, and threw it overboard. The bottle and its cry for help eventually washed up in Tungenes—about 15 km from Stavanger—in July. (The members of L19, which had gone down in the North Sea in February, also turned to messages in a bottle in their final moments. A British fishing vessel, fearing a hijacking, declined to pick up the German crew. Facing certain death, Captain Odo Loewe and his men wrote their last letters to their loved ones, packed the messages into a bottle, and sent it out to sea. It came ashore near Gothenburg, Sweden, in August of that year.)

    Arrival in Norway

    When viewed in the light of Zeppelin attacks on civilian targets in the UK, the excitement that greeted the first sightings of L20 in Norway may seem incongruous or even inappropriate. (Prior to the aborted Edinburgh attack, it had been nicknamed the “Raider of Loughborough” for its role in bombing that city.) However, Norwegians knew that Norway’s neutrality meant that they were not under siege; as Stavanger Aftenblad’s correspondent put it, the sight of “the great shining grey-gold bird, this masterpiece of human ingenuity, a cradle of death and destruction, a fearful symbol of the enemy” left witnesses on the ground “almost all speechless, not with fear but with wonder.”

    Stavanger Aftenblad’s correspondent seemed to view the airship as a living creature, describing it by turns as “bird” and “beast” that “advanced calmly and majestically.” He imagined that L20 had survived cannonades on the Western Front only to be “mortally wounded” by the “Lilliputian mountaintop” with which it initially collided and which left the back of the ship, with its propellers and steering equipment, at a 45 degree angle to the ground.

    “It’s not every day that something happens in Stavanger,” wrote “S.R.” for the women’s magazine Urd. As such, everyone came out to see it. “Bicycles, cars, carriages and cabs in pleasant confusion—ladies in office aprons and schoolgirls just let out of the classroom—inquisitive boys of all ages, besides a crowd of proper and ordinary people. Boats lined up across Hafrsfjord to see the wreck up close.”

    The wreckage itself was a further source of amazement. Peder Krohn took a motorboat out to see this marvel of engineering and didn’t know whether he was more impressed by “the size, or the thoughtful and thorough craftsmanship beginning with the smallest things.”


    “The wreck seen from close up.” Source: Romerike, 9 May 1916. Peder Krohn described the inside of the envelope as “straw yellow,” adding that the ship’s name was painted in “two-meter-high dark red letters on the foremost gondola.” Another visitor to the wreck noted a small German flag still flying from the aft.

    Krohn described the wreck as if he were conducting an autopsy. “The foremost gondola was built to be quite open, with great celluloid windows; they were smashed. In the middle stood a great mitrailleuse. …The propeller had two wings and measured approximately 5-6 metres. …The inner skeleton was stiffened with a whole net of fine steel threads.” Meanwhile, S.R., writing for Urd, opted for a less technical turn of phrase: “It lay bobbing up and down like a huge broken eggshell.”

    Krohn numbered among the souvenir hunters who got there early and hence got lucky. Bits of aluminium proved popular, as did the envelope; Krohn got a piece of the latter and sent it to the offices of Søndmørsposten “so that many more people can see it.”

    The Crew

    Newspapers at the time only named Captain Franz Stabbert and Lieutenant Ernst Schirlitz. The non-ranking crew did not warrant their names in the newspapers. In 1936, survivor Peter Vossen said that they consisted of “Bavarians, Saxons, and the steward Hannemann, from Hamburg.” Vossen also specified Hans Peters as radio-telegraphist. Yet whatever their names and ranks, Norwegians in 1916 were still fascinated by them, their ordeal, and their mission.


    “The German officers visiting the wrecked airship.” I is Captain Stabbert; II is Lieutenant Schirlitz. Source: Stavanger Aftenblad, 5 May 1916.

    Thea Solheim found herself at the centre of the action after Stabbert and Schirlitz swam ashore and were taken to the nearby asylum at Dale where she worked. Stabbert, it was said ten years later, was still wearing his gloves when he emerged “in good condition” from the sea, while Schirlitz was in rather poorer form and was put to bed at once in the care of the asylum’s doctor.

    Other civilians shared stories of their encounters. The trade functionary L.W. Hansen met four men who had been cast out of the gondola when L20 hit a cliff. One of them was badly wounded and “asked if he could return to Germany. He was amazed to hear that it was not possible. He seemed quite crushed and repeated many times: Ach, dieser Krieg, dieser Krieg!” The others, however, were in better spirits and “they had hardly gotten to their feet before they lit their cigarettes.” The injured man was taken by car to the military camp at Malde; the other three went by bicycle. For these men, wrote S.R., “there was nothing but a feeling of German-friendliness…people are people, or at least that’s how it ought to be.”

    Although civilians may have evinced open-heartedness, the military did not. At Malde, the reception was rather less friendly. Strict security measures were put in place: soldiers patrolled “with bayonets on their weapons, and no one was allowed to speak to the Germans. Iron bars have been installed on the windows.” While these initiatives may sound over the top, the Norwegians had good reason to be wary: sailors of Berlin, interned at Hommelviken near Trondheim, had made regular attempts to escape since 1914 and in 1915 Berlin’s captain actually made it all the way back to Germany, after which a triumphant telegram was received aboard the ship.

    Five of L20’s crew were later released from internment. They were the lucky ones who had been picked up outside Norwegian territorial waters. This was the wartime norm; the Norwegian government had adhered to the same principle in the cases of the British ships Weimar and HMS India in 1914 and 1915 respectively. The others were interned at Hommelviken with the sailors of Berlin.

    That summer, internees at Hommelviken attempted to escape no less than six times. Although these escapes were all foiled, Captain Stabbert followed the example of Berlin’s Captain Pfundheller and eluded his captors in late November. Stabbert spent the day in town, as was his wont, then returned to the ship in the afternoon and ostensibly disappeared that night. No one was quite sure precisely when or how he managed to do so; it was claimed later that he had been assisted by the captain of the German steamer Ebersberg. Like all other officers, before his trip into town that day Stabbert had been required to give his word of honour that he would return, and it was noted with some irony that he had not actually broken his word since he had not absconded while on leave. He later commanded another airship and died in combat over France in 1917.

    The Final Fate of L20

    The remains of L20, especially its hydrogen-filled envelope, presented a problem in the days after the crash. It was, the Norwegians thought, only a matter of time before it tore loose from its moorings and began to sail willy nilly over the countryside leaving destruction in its wake. While the German official history states that L20 was destroyed by the crew, the Norwegian press tells a slightly different tale. On the orders of Captain Johannessen, Sergeant Aalgaard was dispatched with ten men to put the wounded ship out of its misery. At 3.05 pm, “from a distance of 120 meters…they fired salvos at different points on the airship. It exploded with a terrible bang…”


    “L20 just before it was blown to pieces.” Source: Stavanger Aftenblad, 5 May 1916

    Aalgaard and his men were thrown back by the force; the explosion was felt as far away as Stavanger, eight kilometres away. The roofs of nearby boathouses were destroyed, their shingles broken and blown away (according to other reports, they also caught fire). Windows blew out of farmhouses, the glass shards injuring children. The airship itself was burnt to a crisp: “Only the aluminium skeleton remains, together with a spiderweb of shining metal threads.”

    The Norwegian pilot Tryggve Gran, who had recently flown the first nonstop flight from England to Stavanger, was asked whether he thought the Germans were upset about the destruction of the zeppelin. He replied, “I don’t think so! The explosion certainly took place in accordance with their knowledge and wishes.” Indeed, the official history records the dumping overboard of “classified information, the rest of the explosives and firebombs, as well as the radio-telegraph equipment” and one of the crew, a corporal, confirmed that their priority had been to safeguard the ship’s technology: “We drifted with the wind until we reached the Norwegian coast. Even though it meant death, six men offered to stay on board and destroy the machinery so that no one could learn the secrets of the ship’s construction. The rest of us jumped.” (Bergens Aftenblad told a slightly different story: after the captain issued the order to abandon ship by jumping into the fjord, eight men, not six, remained on board because they were poor swimmers.)

    In September 1916, the earthly remains of L20 were taken to Kristiania by the steamer Mira. Crowds gathered to welcome the ship, whose decks both fore and aft were “covered with scrap, which reached a great height.” Mira lay in at Revierbryggen, a pier close to where the opera house now stands, and L20 ended its days in a scrap depot at nearby Akershus fortress.


    Revierbryggen and Akershus fortress in Oslo ca. 1907. Source: Oslo Museum


    L20 may have met an anticlimactic end at Revierbryggen with its crew in captivity at Trondheim, but one can argue that this conclusion to its saga was better than that of many other airships. The British began using explosive bullets against Zeppelins, igniting the hydrogen-filled envelope and turning the airships into fiery infernos of death. The crews of L21, L31, and L32 perished in this way in the autumn of 1916. By contrast, all but three members of L20’s crew survived. Moreover, because L20 came down in a neutral country, its technological secrets remained safe from the inquisitive eyes of the enemy. Such was not the case for L49 (captured nearly intact) and L33 (partially destroyed by its crew after an emergency landing in Britain), which inspired later Allied airship designs. In short, while a better fate for L20 may have been possible, a worse one was more likely.

    With thanks to charlie2 for sharing the relevant pages of the official history.



    The WAAC formed in March 1917 and became QMAAC in April 1918.

    In 1953 Ethel St John Clarke wrote to the Editor of The Age:

    Sir, – It is of interest at this time to recall the former leadership given by Queen Mary to women’s pioneer work in the Army.
    During World War 1, when the national danger became grave, the War Office called for women to enrol for the auxiliary Army Services. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was accordingly formed. These “strange new women in khaki” excited comment, and were greeted by malicious rumors and often insulted in the streets of London.
    Queen Mary, having confidence in women’s power and willingness to help, no matter what the danger, inquired into the rumors. All were proved groundless.
    Queen Mary then became commander in chief of the corps, which became known as Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps. How proudly we put up our new badges surmounted by the Royal Crown.
    Respect now took the place of gibes, and help was generously offered to those administering this strange, and oftimes difficult, pioneer army of women.
    The corps prospered and grew in strength, with the result that 50,000 men were freed for service in the front line in France.
    When the war clouds were again gathering in 1937, Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, who served with distinction in Q.M.A.A.C., sought and obtained permission to train a band of women as officers.
    Consequently, when war was declared in 1939, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.) was formed at once, with a full strength of officers.
    Now the A.T.S. has been disbanded and replaced by the permanent Women’s Army, with its officers’ training school at Aldershot and its representative among Queen Elizabeth’s aides de camp.
    Queen Mary had the gratification of knowing that her confidence in a woman’s army was justified beyond the dreams of many.
    Yours, etc., ETHEL S. ST. JOHN CLARKE (Ex Unit Administrator, Q.M.A.A.C., Hawthorn).


    Excerpts from “THE WAACS” – HOW THEY ARE TRAINED (The Age, 3/12/1917):

    “ “The Waacs,” stand in a class by themselves. Their organisation is on strictly military lines. They have military uniforms, they live in “barracks,” and they are drilled and disciplined by their own officers. They are liable to be moved from place to place at a moment’s notice to meet the exigencies of the military machine, and are required to obey orders, under the usual pains and penalties attending to military disobedience.”
    “A typical “barracks” in England contains 600 to 1000 girls, with a middle-aged woman in charge as “administrator.” There is an orderly room, which is on much the same lines as any other military orderly room. The work of instructing and drilling the girls proceeds from week to week, and as drafts are sent to their stations in England, France or elsewhere, others arrive from head quarters. The sleeping quarters are ordinary barrack like rooms, each equipped with four iron army bedsteads. The frills and decorations associated with femininity are almost entirely absent, and everything has an austere, business-like, and almost war-like, appearance. A visitor to one of these “Waac” barracks quotes a “private” as saying, “We have to get used to doing without the beautiful things of this world, the same as the soldiers. We never know where we will be sent next, and as we are allowed to carry only a suit case it would not do to have any appurtenances.”

    “No barracks would be complete without a “mess.” Here the girls take their meals at long trestle tables, and are waited on by “orderlies.”
    “Then there is a barrack “square,” where the raw recruit is turned out a trained “Waac” soldier. The women and girls are not trained in these barracks for their different army vocations. They have all had special experience previously, and the training is therefore merely of a general physical and disciplinary character. After the preliminary training at the barracks they are sent to a military base, camp, hospital or elsewhere to do such work as they are fitted to do, subject to a not very rigorous military discipline. This work covers the whole range of occupations with which women have associated themselves in civil life, such as all classes of clerical work, the operating of sewing and other machines, tailoring, domestic work, checkers, packers, and storewomen, mechanics, motor drivers, etc.”


    Excerpts from letters and later writings of Nora Dickson, giving more idea of some of the workings of the W.A.A.C.:

    “The London depot, where approved recruits reported, was near Marble Arch, Hyde Park. Connaught Club, previous to being commandeered by the War Office, was a big residential for men. There one received one’s uniform and was taught drill, to form fours, form two deep, very necessary to know when being moved in groups from one centre to another.”
    Army forms required the names of at least two local residents who would answer confidentially questions about the applicant’s personal character and qualifications.
    “You could choose to join as a mobile or immobile (living at home) member, to serve in Britain only, or to serve anywhere either on home service or overseas. But all service was required for the duration of the war and six months after armistice.
    One could enrol in any definite category – clerical, transport, mechanical, household, telegraph, postal, or miscellaneous. The miscellaneous section included workers of every trade – tinsmiths, chainmakers, welders, tailors, carpenters, shoemakers. All were required to sign willingness to obey orders from superior officers.”

    “Each day drafts, now looking smart in their neat, well-pocketed khaki one-piece uniform, escorted by an officer, moved off to various camps throughout Great Britain. Later, similar depots were established at Edinburgh, Dublin, and Bristol.
    For those offering for service overseas, a depot, to which all recruits were sent direct, was placed at Hastings, but this was later replaced to Folkestone, opposite Boulogne.”

    “I have been sent down to Folkestone to take over the drilling for a few weeks. We have taken over the most gorgeous hotel here [Hotel Metropole]. It has 600 bedrooms, a huge ballroom, billiard-rooms and dining halls (seating 1000). Eventually we will have 1000 girls here; it is to be our overseas hostel. We expect 600 girls in on Tuesday, so am pretty busy arranging the drill halls.”

    “At the overseas depot at Folkstone there were four company commanders working under a head unit administrator. Each commander had to see that her recruits were trained in squad drill, were inoculated and vaccinated by the resident women doctors, and were supplied with necessary uniform and equipment.
    The catering was in the hands of a household administrator, generally a certificated domestic science graduate. A quarter-mistress attended to clothing, equipment, and transport. In this depot the daily average accommodation was nearly 1000 women.”
    “…….. drafts of about 80 moving off to France daily to units to where their services were requisitioned.”

    “Besides cooks and clerks we sent France bakers, motor drivers, cyclists (motor), storehouse-women, packers, telephonists, telegraphists, postwomen sorters, printers, tailors, shoemakers, acetylene welders, electricians, fitters, instrument repairers, tinsmiths, painters, carpenters, and later gardeners for the graves.”

    “At the bases in France all the baking was done by our Corps, and even the loading of the bread into the railway trucks backed into the bakehouses was done by the women – their uniform for working being khaki drill, short jackets, and trousers.”

    “At the establishment of a training centre for cooks and officers at Plumstead Heath, near London, I was posted there as Administrator.
    We trained nearly 20,000 cooks, waitresses, and officers. Cooks recruited from all types of homes were taught how to cook in holes in the ground, in the open air, in Aldershot ovens, and on girdles, for travelling troops; in big camp kitchens, with stoves of all kinds, in small and large messes.
    The training was done by Domestic Science teachers enrolled as officers.
    About 100 trained cooks and waitresses were dispersed each week to camps, the training covering about four weeks.”

    Officer training: “Our daily training followed these lines. Early morning squad drill was taught to enable officers to move squads in orderly and quick manner from one centre to another.
    Each officer had to pass a test in giving necessary orders.
    Morning and afternoon was taken up with lectures given by Guardsmen officers on W.A.A.C. regulations, the use of regular army forms used for requisitioning cash, stores, transport, on the method of making returns of pay sheets, on 28-day diet sheets, on answering correspondence, and ensuring full equipment and food to all members under the care of an administrator.
    At night we had lectures from the W.A.A.C. officers in the hostel on household matters.
    Those passing tests, after 14 days, were sent in pairs to depot camps for practical training. There we actually worked as officers in orderly rooms, learning army routine, the use of daily orders, which detailed the movement of troops and officers, thus altering the daily requisitioning of food and cash requirements.”


    Australian Women who served in the WAAC / QMAAC:

    *BAGE, Ethel Mary – Worker 34635 [Born 20/8/1884 St Kilda, Vic]
    *BIRT, "Jean" Jane Sarah McDonald – Unit Administrator [Born 9/2/1872 Wentworth, NSW]
    BOURNE, Eleanor Elizabeth – Doctor [Born 4/12/1878 Sth Brisbane, Qld]
    CHAPPLE, Phoebe (MM) – Doctor [Born 31/3/1879 Adelaide, SA]
    *CLARKE, Ethel Stowe St John – Administrator [Born 7/10/1880 Richmond, Vic]
    DAVID, Mary Edgeworth – Motor Driver [Born 4/5/1888 Ashfield, NSW]
    *DICKSON, Honorah Laing (Nora) – Assistant Administrator [Born 26/9/1886 Balmain, NSW]
    FLETCHER, Edith Grace – Unit Administrator [Born 20/7/1878 Sydney, NSW. Sister of N.K. Fletcher, BRC]
    GRYLLS, Florence May – Assistant Administrator [Born 20/6/1885 Durham Lead, Vic]
    HAMILTON, Margaret Daisy Inglis – Worker 782 [Born 1893 Mildura, Vic]
    JAMES, Elizabeth Britomarte (OBE) – Administrator [Born 1/6/1867 Durham Lead, Vic]
    LLOYD-KIRK, Winifred May – Worker 3909 [Born 29/11/1894 Brunswick, Vic]
    LOWRY, Lillian Clara Emily Childs (Mrs) – Assistant Administrator [Born 27/7/1884 Qld]
    MacGREGOR, Mary – Forewoman Cook [Born 25/11/1879 Vic]

    *BALCOMBE, Netta (Mrs) – Assistant Administrator [Married 19/7/1910 Qld] DOBSON, Clara (Mrs Hurren) – Forewoman 23719 [Came to Australia in 1912]
    McDONALD, Jean Kerr – enrolled 19/7/1918 as a Forewoman Postal Sorter, but was discharged by request of AIF HQ to perform similar service with them [Born 4/10/1886 Parkville, Vic. Sister of I K McDonald, AANS]
    NEALE, Clara (MBE) – Unit Administrator
    RILEY, Margaret – N.C.O. [Born 1890 England – came to Australia 1895]


    Born in Australia – but emigrated to UK as children:
    CAMPBELL, Morag MacNaish – Forewoman Clerk 46175 [Born 26/2/1888 Sydney, NSW]
    DAKIN, Marie Evelyn – Worker 4455 [Born 14/11/1892 Balmain, NSW]
    HARRISS, Annie – Worker 2019 [Born 14/3/1896] KING, Gwladys – Clerk 464 [Born 17/11/1897 Townsville, Qld] – living UK by 1911
    ROSS, Clementine – Cook 32696 [Born 14/9/1989 Brisbane, Qld]
    ROWE, Matilda Annie – Clerk 39324 [Born 15/5/1891 Leith, Tas]
    SEWELL, Barbara – Hostel Forewoman 49120 [Born 18/12/1897 Armidale, NSW]

    Raised in South Africa:
    HARRIS, Annie Lavina (Mrs) – Cook 39164 [Born 1/9/1895 Launceston, Tas]


    British WAACs who came to Australia after the war (Immigration Scheme):

    #BOGLE, Mary Alice – Worker 36354 (Waitress)
    [AWM have her British War Medal (also received Victory Medal)]
    Born 8/10/1882 Brunswick, London. Served in a Theatre of War 7/5/1918 to 20/10/1919 (France)
    Came to Australia on the Themistocles, embarking 2/7/1920 (no relatives in Australia)

    #DAVISON, Beatrice – Worker 860 (Clerk)
    [AWM hold her paybook - attached Clerical Dept, 3rd Echelon GHQ, Rouen, France]
    The Mail (Adelaide, SA), Sat 20 Feb 1937 (p.18):
    A Woman Behind the Lines

    #GAUNT, Emmy – Worker 776
    AWM hold her medals – with short Bio:
    Born c1889. Served in a Theatre of War 1/6/1917 to 19/12/1919 (France). Came to Aus (Sydney) on the Berrima departing UK 28/12/1922, (33yr old Typist) [7 Christ Church Rd, Upper Armley, Leeds] Hon Sec of the Overseas Women's Ex-Service Legion (Qld) 1939. Stenographer Townsville 1943

    #HURMAN, Mina (Nina) May – Worker 14079
    AWM have her Medals
    Born Jun Qtr 1891 Totnes, Devon, England - daughter of Thomas Smerdon and Charity Florence. Served in a Theatre of War 17/12/1917 to 5/12/1919. Came to Aus on the Bendigo, departing UK 14/5/1925 (34yr old Companion). [Whittington Crt, Andoversford, Glos] Governess, Moonee Ponds 1931. Married Alfred E PARKER 1936 Perth. Died 15/10/1951, age 60 Peppermint Grove, WA - crem Karrakatta Cem.

    LAMMING, Alice M (Mrs Harold)
    Alice Jeffcott, 34 yr old Domestic, came to Australia (Adelaide) on the Hobsons Bay, departing UK 28/2/1922
    Alice Maude Jeffcott married Harold Frederick Lamming 3/11/1931 SA

    WHITEHEAD, Annie – Cook
    A 31 yr old Domestic, Annie Whitehead, came to Australia (Sydney) on the Themistocles, departing UK 2/7/1920 [same ship as WAAC Immigrant Mary Bogle]


    War Brides of Australian Soldiers:

    ANDREWS, Letitia (Mrs J.F., nee ALLISON) – Worker 23390
    Came to Australia 5/1/1920 with her husband James Frederick ANDREWS (AIF)

    ARCHER, Morice (Mrs W, nee OGDEN) – Worker 36968
    Came to Australia 6/9/1919 with her husband William ARCHER (AIF)

    ARMSTRONG, Esther Sarah Mary (Mrs J.W., nee WARREN)
    Came to Australia post war, wife of James William ARMSTRONG (AIF)

    BASTIN, Kate (Mrs J.H.N., nee ROSS)
    Came to Australia 22/9/1919 with her husband John Harold Noden BASTIN (AIF)

    ELMS, Isabella (Mrs E.R.V., nee HARDING) – Worker 1822
    Came to Australia 6/9/1919 with her husband Eric Raymor Vivian ELMS (AIF)

    FROST, Mary Young (Mrs W.A.H., nee SMITH)
    Came to Australia 23/12/1919 with her husband Walter Arthur Henry FROST (AIF)

    *HOLLIS, Annie Elizabeth (Mrs H.W., nee MULLIGAN)
    Came to Australia 9/12/1919 with her husband Herbert William HOLLIS (AIF)

    HODGSON, Isabella (Mrs B.L.R., nee LUCAS) – Waitress (3AAH, Dartford)
    Came to Australia post war, wife of Baden Leslie Richard HODGSON (AIF)

    KEMP, Agnes Josephine (Mrs C.M., nee FLEMING) – Clerk 42695
    Came to Australia 16/6/1919 with her husband Clement Morton KEMP (AIF)

    McKENZIE, Beatrice Mary (Mrs H., nee TREMBETH) – Clerk 6064
    Came to Australia 8/8/1919 with her husband Hugh McKENZIE (AIF)

    McLOUGHLIN, Lilian (Mrs T.J., nee THOMAS) – (3AAH, Dartford)
    Came to Australia 18/12/1919 with her husband Thomas John

    ROGERSON, Ethel (Mrs S.J., nee BOYINGTON) – 19142
    Came to Australia 23/12/1919 with her husband Sterling John

    WHALE, Ruth Ella (Mrs L.G., nee THRASTHER)
    Came to Australia post war, wife of Leslie George (AIF)


    Note: The above was originally posted some years ago on the "Discovering Anzacs" website: https://www.naa.gov.au/help-your-research/discovering-anzacs - but owing to it being decommissioned I have copied it here for those who are interested in these ladies.  It also contained links to the "Discovering Anzacs" profiles of the five Australian ladies with an asterisk next to their name, which I can provide on request.

    Heather (Frev) Ford


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    Around six million men served in the British Army during the First World War. Over 800,000 lost their lives. The wounded, blinded, crippled and insane numbered over two million. Geoffrey Caiger-Watson, my daughter-in-law’s grandfather, was a twenty-year-old second lieutenant when he transferred to the First Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 25th October 1916. Andy Symington, my grandfather, was a twenty-four-year-old private who had survived four months on the Somme and had effectively seen it through to its stalemate conclusion. That they served in the same battalion defies probability. They fought together for two months until Geoffrey returned to England at the end of that year on sick leave. During these closing weeks of 1916, the First Battalion headcount was so depleted, they must have known each other. From then, the fates of these two warriors overlapped and intertwined. Geoffrey returned to the First Battalion on May 17th, 1917, too late to re-unite him with Andy who was on the Casualty List at the end of March, prior to his discharge in August. It is unlikely they ever met after that. Yet, over a century later, their lineages would converge in a miracle called Findlay.   

    Andy’s great grandson, Ronan James Ferguson, had married Geoffrey’s granddaughter, Stephanie, on Friday 13th July 2018, the Cupidian destination of a chance meeting on a train. Their first born, Findlay, was not a man to be rushed and duly entered the world on March 7th, 2022. In some celestial Elysium, a dashing lieutenant and a seasoned fighter would have been high fiveing! Wait, no…I see it clearer now…they are charging their glasses! They are toasting the Miracle of Life, uniquely dependent on them BOTH surviving the trenches. Had either of them succumbed, Findlay would not be. No matter how challenged your beliefs, there are occasions in life when one can sense the Hand of God.

    For now, let us turn our attention to Findlay’s maternal great grandfather. Geoffrey Caiger- Watson was a remarkable man. Absolutely remarkable. He was born in Brighton on May 13, 1896. After studying art and figure drawing at the Brighton School of Arts in 1912-13, he joined the Inland Revenue as a clerk. At the outbreak of war, he enrolled in the Sussex Yeomanry (a territorial unit) but was quickly identified and sent to the Inns of Court OTC (Officer Training Corps) for officer training. Hardly surprising, as Geoffrey had come from a family with a military tradition. His older brother, Aubrey, was a lieutenant (and eventually captain) in Russell’s Infantry, an Indian regiment where he spent six years before demobilisation in 1920. His grandfather, James Caiger- Watson, was born in 1828 in Athlone. As Athlone was a garrison town for the British army since its construction in 1691, it is highly likely that his father (Geoffrey’s great grandfather) was stationed there in the same Custume Barracks where almost one hundred years later, Captain Andy Symington would march into in 1922 on the creation of the Irish Free State.

     Geoffrey’s officer training saw him spend two months in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire with other potential officers where they would dig trenches on the Common (some of which are still visible to this day.) Geoffrey was one of the first of almost 12,000 recruits to pass through the Berkhamsted process: by 1918, over 2,000 were dead and almost half suffered serious wounds. Confirmed as a second lieutenant in late September 1915, which earned him a posting to France in early July 1916, he transferred to my grandfather’s First Battalion in late October. He joined a threadbare battalion, which had incurred brutal losses earlier that month.

    On the 12th, High Command ordered them over the top in a typically ill-considered assault on enemy strongholds between Le Transloy and Les Boeufs. Lacking any coherent planning, the operation was a monument to incompetence and cover up. Brigadier General A R Burrowes, who gave the order to attack, noted in his diary that there had been “considerable work in removing the wounded left from previous fighting”. He confirmed the arrangements were finally in place at 4am on the morning of the attack. No consideration was given to whether the men were ready for battle. The Regimental Diary also reveals that the attack order was only issued at 9.30pm. After a fine dinner, a good claret and a few whiskies, perchance? One can only conclude, in the light of what followed, that this was a rushed and reckless operation. At 2.05pm, the Faughs left the trenches simultaneously as the artillery launched a creeping barrage, both following the plan of High Command. The undisputed fact is that the infantrymen were decimated by their own shells. Added to that, the machine guns in the German front lines, which were supposed to have been taken out by an earlier bombardment, remained unscathed and ruthlessly operational.

    The results were devastating. One week earlier, battalion strength was recorded at 24 officers and 825 other ranks. On October 13th, only 5 officers and 209 other ranks remained. Of the four companies, “A” company had no officers and only 39 other ranks. That was all that was left. Yet Andy Symington still stood! Somehow, he had survived. This was the beleaguered crew that Geoffrey joined as they billeted in Corbie in the pouring rain of a miserable late October day. The mood will have been indescribably heavy, like the bedraggled in a waiting room for Hell.

    The cover up in the Battalion’s diary defies belief. The official line blamed the men! At 2.5pm, they had left the trenches “in great style”. Such was their enthusiasm to engage that they caught up with the creeping barrage, which inflicted losses!! This forced them to pause, and, in that delay, the Germans returned to their trenches with their machine guns. Three hundred and eighty-five casualties, but no fault of the generals.

    Fortunately for Geoffrey and Andy, November was a quiet month, spent mainly in training. It teemed with rain and turned cold towards the end of the month, a harbinger of the hard winter that followed. The Battle of the Somme was over. News coverage had moved on to the death of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. Sept 25,1915

    We have referred elsewhere to the story of Andy lying injured in No-Mans-Land and owing his life to the order of a wounded officer that his stretcher bearers also pick up Symington–“he’s a good ‘un.” There is material to suggest that the officer was none other than Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Caiger- Watson!    

    Consider the evidence:

    1.     Both were in that wretched half mile of trench at the time in question;

    2.     Geoffrey suffered gunshot wounds around Dec 12th, which resulted in him being invalided to England for almost three months- confirmed by hospital records;

    3.        Battalion records show a total presence of six officers and 243 other ranks;

    4.     Geoffrey was one of six officers, but the fact that he was wounded (not killed or unharmed) reduces the subset further …to a subset of one??

    While it may not pass the legal test of reasonable doubt, I find it incredulous that what started out as a relationship between two men in an army of 6 million, has boiled down to two men in less than one handful. I again sense the Hand of God and return my thoughts to the miracle that is Findlay.

    Geoffrey returned to the Faughs on May 17, 1917, remaining with the battalion until the 9th of June 1918 when he took a post in the nascent Royal Air Force. Before he left, however, he won the Military Cross for gallantry in February 1918. Employed as an intelligence officer, his job was to report to High Command on the state and deployment of our troops. In the chaos of battle with communication lines destroyed, the only way to understand what was going on was to visit the remote trenches and look for yourself! This “intelligence gathering” was a highly precarious occupation. One could easily be shot by your own side or leap into a trench that had fallen to the Germans. As customary, the London Gazette published his citation for the Military Cross. It read:
    “2nd Lieut Geoffrey Caiger-Watson, R.Ir.Fus
    For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as an intelligence officer during operations. He carried out his duties with great success under the most difficult conditions. On one occasion, he went over the top under heavy machine gun fire to get into touch with isolated positions. His accurate reports and untiring energy were of the greatest value to the battalion.”

    On joining the Royal Air Force, Geoffrey undertook a series of training courses over a three-month period. He studied Aeronautics at Reading; Aerial Gunnery at Hythe and New Romney before graduating from Wireless and Observation school in Uxbridge and Winchester. Qualified as a RAF Observer (for the uninitiated, the observer is the guy in the back seat behind the pilot), his new role returned him to France in late September 1918, in the dying embers of the war. Seeing things out quietly was never in his script and at the very end of the war, he was involved in an incident caused by an error of judgement borne of inexperience. The incident almost cost him his life and killed his 18-year-old pilot.

    I am indebted to Monsieur Jacques de Ceuninck, a Belgian national, for providing me with the details and materials on the case we are about to relate. Mr de Ceuninck’s father-in-law was a seven-year-old boy who had a ringside seat as the action unfolded. It was about 10.30am on November 9th, 1918. World War One would end within two days.

    Geoffrey was flying in an RE8, a single-engine, two-seater plane with a top speed of 150 kmh. Developed for the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, this represented cutting-edge technology and offered considerable versatility: if the rear machine gun was removed, two 50kg bombs could be loaded in its place! His pilot was John George Leckenby, by all accounts a highly talented 18-year-old who had just come through aeronautic school “with flying colours”. Born in Hull but resident in Norwich, he was tipped to have a very bright future. The duties of an observer doubled up to include rear machine gunner and so it was that our crew decided to engage with a party of six German hussars on horseback, near the village of Escanaffles, northeast of Celles. Leckenby flew low over the farm of the Depoorter family to commence the engagement, allowing Geoffrey to fire a noisy opening salvo, etched forever in the memory of the seven-year-old witness. As they wheeled to re-engage, a wing clipped a tree, causing the plane to crash and burst into flames in a field across the road from the farmhouse. John Leckenby was killed instantly. A bright future snuffed like a candle. Geoffrey suffered a fractured skull, broken leg and was badly burned. He owed his life to a local couple, Michel and Lequenne Tonneau who bravely pulled him from the burning wreckage, despite the flames and the roar of exploding machine gun cartridges. Fortunately, the Hussars continued on their way without a backward glance. Sadly, they would all die the following day in another machine gun attack. The RE8 was completely destroyed in the inferno.

    There were no hospitals, doctors, nor medicine, so the Depoorter family could only take Geoffrey in and make him as comfortable as possible. Marie Depoorter, the 16-year-old daughter, gave a statement in which she recalled how handsome the injured airman was, with shining dark hair and white teeth. They found his wallet amid the strewn debris, which showed that he was due to be married. (In fact, Geoffrey had married Phyllis Rebecca Peters earlier that year while recuperating in Brighton). The Depoorter family gave Leckenby as decent a burial as they could, using a plank and draping the body in a tarpaulin. The family then cared for Geoffrey for two days until the British army came and picked him up, taking him back to their field hospital for much needed medication and treatment. John Leckenby’s body was exhumed the following year and re-buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in the cemetery at Escanaffles. By the thinnest of margins, Caiger-Watson lived, and Leckenby died, thanks to the bravery of the Tonneaux.

    Geoffrey was repatriated to England on December 7th, where he spent eighteen months recovering from his injuries. His spirit was indomitable and after a brief period in the Records Office at York (long enough to learn that such work was not for him), this adrenaline junkie joined the West African Frontier Force and so began a lifelong love affair with Africa. That period of his life is outside our scope, though worthy of a book and indeed a film on its own merits. Highlights include becoming fluent in Hausa (one of the major Nigerian languages) and several other African languages; marrying a Nigerian princess and receiving the OBE for services to Anglo- Nigerian relations in the New Years Honours List of 1978. At the outbreak of World War 2, aged forty-three, he signed up again and was posted as adjutant to the infantry training centre of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The training role was too sedentary for his metabolism and before the end of 1940, he had returned to Africa where he served as a captain in the Nigeria regiment. By any standards, in any era of history, Geoffrey Caiger- Watson was a remarkable human being, a force of nature. He died in Australia in 1983.

  7. An interesting graphic I came across shows the range of a number of pieces of ordnance and where they could be located and able to engage the Tower of London.


    The Tower of London is one of the locations where a Royal Salute is fired during commemorations, the Honorable Artillery Company firing 105 mm Light Guns on ceremonial occasions.


    A thought came to mind as to where they could hit if they fired HE rather than blank. With a maximum range of 17,300 metres, they could engage Kew gardens, and reach Syon Park House. The latter is the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland, an interesting target location given this blog is written by Northumbrian Gunner.

    Looking at the graphic the other way around, what if those guns were located at the Tower of London rather than the Western Front, what would the Target Location Map look like.






  8. 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 these 70 men. At War’s 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, a school teacher 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 a variety of archive documents have been considered. There are still gaps. I have attempted to be factual and have tried to avoid any conjecture but in some cases I have made some reasonable assumptions.   

    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.  In the main they appeared to be volunteers but a substantial number comprised some of the first conscripts of the campaign.  Those conscripted were sent direct to the 21st from civilian life.   

    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 these men from the North East of England 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 all 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 had finished his period of engagement but then was rapidly returned to the Colours via conscription. Other men had volunteered, but following unknown but not unusual delays 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 pre-war 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 in Shropshire.

    A further administrative change  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 became part of  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 or able to return on time remains unknown. Both would be dead in less than a year.

    On Friday 6th October 1916, training complete, 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 arrangement 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. With new service numbers and cap badges they went  sent to join their new regiment on the 14th of October.  Like so many, they were now 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 a year later in 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 battle occurred on the 2nd and 3rd of March 1916 at Loos with a successful counterattack against recently captured trenches. The Battalion had a strength of 814 on the 2nd of March before the battle. Initial casualties after the battle were 57 killed, 66 missing  and 216 wounded - 41% casualties.  Most of the missing were killed with at least 113 in total being killed or having succumbed to wounds. They remained in regular 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.  The Battalion would go over the top, and after the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk Regiment had captured initial trenches the 8th would advance past them and take the village of Serre itself.  This was a frontal assault involving all four Rifle Companies. The weather was cold with thick fog.  No man’s land was a quagmire of thick mud. The attack commenced at 0545. The Suffolks failed to take the initial trenches as the German positions were simply too strong.  Only D Company of the 8th got anywhere near the enemy positions and the attack was a complete failure with the Battalion left in the front line under heavy German artillery fire.  The Battalion remained in the front line until the evening of the 19th of November.  Battalion casualties for the attack on the 13th were 23 killed and 88 wounded.  

    Of the Draft Pte Percy Godson 27573 from Stockport and Pte Thomas Metcalf 27600 from Sunderland were killed and 14 others wounded. The wounds received, that were recorded, were gunshot wounds to arms, legs, chests and heads.

    Of those wounded both 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 from the Draft listed as wounded 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 they would not face another offensive battle 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 wounded, likely by an artillery shell, on the 20th December, he died 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 wounded in the thigh on 11th of April, he was sent back to the UK before serving with the RAMC for a period, he was later latterly 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 Regiment before discharge and rapid conscription back into service. 

    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 three months later in September 1917.  Pte James Hunter 27578 from Accrington was also likely wounded in this engagement. He he was blown out of a trench, buried in a dugout and latterly wounded in the leg.  He was sent back to the UK and discharged from the Army at the same time as Pte Broderick.

    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 badly wounded in the leg, probably the same day. He was evacuated to the UK and soon after medically discharged from the Army.

    The Battalion rested for a week, during which time 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.

    Now back in the front line, Pte Fred Armytage 27554 from Manchester was killed on the 10th April. 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.  The only soldier to win the Military Medal whilst serving with this group of men left the Battalion on the 20th of August, Pte Christopher Kenyon 27597,  a school teacher from Accrington.  He won the award in the May 1917 fighting at Arras.  He left the Battalion for officer training and subsequent Commissioning, joining the 3rd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. He survived the war. 

    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 1st 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 was at best 24 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 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 casualties.

    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 attack.  He was wounded 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.  

    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, one of these was Pte Thomas Jennings 27591 from Manchester.  He had been wounded on the 9th of April 1917 during the Arras fighting but had returned to the Battalion after recovery. Seven left. 

    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 at least 28 being killed, L/Sergeant Tom Neely VC MM was one of those who lost his life.  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.  On the 11th, 240 replacements arrived.  These were almost entirely men from non combat units such as the Army Service Corps, Labour Corps and even the Veterinary Corps.  With a month of the war left to run, they found themselves transferred and in the front lines in less than a week. On the afternoon of the 23rd the entire Battalion attacked near Romiers.  The attack was successful but resulted in 23 killed and over 100 wounded. Amongst the dead was Pte Fred Oldham 27610 from Ardwick.  He had previously been wounded in the arm during the Battle of the Serre on 13 Nov 1916.

    This was the final large engagement for the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. They spent a further 48 hours manning the front lines from the 27th to the 29th and suffered a few casualties from shelling.  Of the Draft, evidence now suggests five men remained.

    Of these, 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 not known if these men returned to the Battalion following their wounding.

    That leaves three men.  Pte Edgar Mason 27607 who was wounded in 1916, Pte Frank Kelly 27596 and Pte Edward Hitchen 27588.  These three 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 three 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. 


  9. Bonjour

    Je rassemble toutes les informations pour écrire un livre sur la vie de mon grand-père. Tout d'abord excusez mon anglais, je dois passer par un traducteur.
    Je suis français, mon arrière grand père est resté en France après la grande guerre.
    Je n'ai aucun document papier ou numérisé de la carrière militaire de mon arrière-grand-père
    j'ai perdu toutes les données après la panne de mon ordinateur et de mon disque de sauvegarde après un incident électrique) . J'ai obtenu les informations ci-dessous il y a plusieurs années sur des blogs anglais sur la guerre des Boers et sur ce site par MBrockway.
    À l'époque, toutes les archives n'étaient pas numérisées. Serait-il possible aujourd'hui de me procurer ses livrets militaires et éventuellement les journaux de campagne des unités dans lesquels il a servi.

    MBrockway  avait essayé d'assembler une chronologie claire pour mon arrière-grand-père anglais

    Albert BROOKBANK

    22 mai 1882 - né à Manchester
    Père : Joseph BROOKBANK - né : 18 avril 1848 ; décédé: 03 janvier 1898
    Mère: Jane GREENHALGH - née: 10 avril 1848

    1898-1899 - Lancashire Fusiliers Militia - signifiant probablement 5th Battalion (7th Royal Lancashire Regiment of Militia), Lancashire Fusiliers

    1900-1902 - South Africa, Second Boer War
    Regiment: Royal Field Artillery
    Unité : 85th Battery

    Queen's South Africa médaille et 5 agrafes
    Inscription : 6788 Gnr A Brookbank 85th Bty RFA
    Grade : Gunner
    Service Number : 6788
    Unité : 85th Battery
    Regiment : Royal Field Artillery

    16 août 1914 - débarqué en France [du MIC ] - à noter : une date d'embarquement très précoce et qu'il avait droit à l'Etoile de 1914 (l'Etoile de Mons) Grade : Privé ; Numéro de service : CMT-187  ; [le « C » nous dit qu'il s'est enrôlé dans la réserve spéciale ; le 'MT' nous dit qu'il était dans la section des Transports Mécaniques de l'ASC] Régiment : Army Service Corps (ASC) ; Section : ASC Section du transport mécanique Unité : No 51 (MT) Company, ASC (agissant en tant que 6e parc de munitions divisionnaire) [tous de son MIC ] 11 novembre 1918 -  Grade : caporal par intérim ; Numéro de service : CMT-187  ; Régiment : Corps d'intendance de l'armée (ASC)  ; Section : Unité de la section de transport mécanique de l'ASC : probablement toujours dans la 51e compagnie (MT), ASC [tous de son inscription sur la médaille de guerre britannique] 51e compagnie (MT), Army Service Corps a commencé la guerre en tant que parc de munitions divisionnaire pour la 6e division. Devenu 3rd General Head Quarters (GHQ) Ammunition Park, puis en janvier 1918, 3rd GHQ Reserve MT Company Les journaux de guerre de l'unité ne sont malheureusement pas encore numérisés.  
    WO 95/130 ( http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7349090 ) et

    WO 95/134 ( http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7349122 )
    Médailles de la Grande Guerre

    1914 Star - CMT-187, Pte A BROOKBANK, ASC
    British War Medal and Victory Medal - CMT-187, A/Cpl A BROOKBANK, ASC

    Jan 1919 - démobilisé

    vers 1919 - adresse au 175 Brook Street, Miles Platting, Manchester [de la liste nationale de la Grande Guerre - voir le message n° 4 ci-dessus] [ Miles Platting et Collyhurst sont des zones adjacentes de l'intérieur de Manchester] 1923 -24 - retour à Arques , Pas de Calais, France pour se marier 1940-1945 - interné dans un camp nazi en Allemagne en tant qu'étranger ennemi en France occupée 1955 - décède à Arques, France  



    La vie d'Albert BROOKBANK.pdf

  10. "But Georges," said Dominique, dismayed, "How do I do that?"

    The General considered a minute.

    "It isn't going to be easy. You will have to go to her. Take Drouin and a Staff car - it will be better than arriving in your own car with chauffeur, and the fact that the village is in the Canadian military zone is a good excuse. As to what you are to say, I can't tell you that. It will be up to you to read Marie, and respond in whatever way will touch her."

    And so it was that a week later Dominique found herself knocking at the door of the house of Marie's cousins. She felt very vulnerable. Drouin had driven off, promising to return within the hour.

    It was Marie who answered the door.

    Dominique screwed up her courage.

    "Mademoiselle Drollet? May I come in?

    Marie's back straightened at the sight of Dominique, but she bade Dominique come into the sitting room.

    "Mademoiselle Drollet - Marie? I've come to apologize."

    "Yes?" replied Marie.

    "I should have introduced myself back at the hospital. And I should have thanked you for helping me nurse the General. I am Madame Johnson - well, Veuve Johnson to be correct. The General tells me that you are the Marie that Jean wrote to tell me he would marry. But I understand that you have dismissed him. Would you tell me why? Do you not love him anymore? Or do you feel that his family would not approve?

    Marie stammered her reasons, ending with "And of course you and the General would not want a farm girl for a daughter-in-law."

    Dominique looked at her. "Georges has had nothing but good things to say about you. He says you love Jean very much, and I know he loves you. And above all other things, I want Jean to be happy."

    "Marie, let me tell you a story. Years ago there was a young girl. She was attractive, but had little money, and truth be told not a whole lot of intelligence. But because she was attractive, she had many admirers. There was one she liked better than the others. He was a young army officer, just starting his career. But he was due to be posted to Algeria, and this girl did not want to leave France, so she did not encourage him. And the night before he left it seemed there was something he wanted to say, but it was left unsaid because he received no encouragement. Shortly after, the girl met a wealthy lawyer who was visiting France, married him, and went to live in Canada. They had one son - that was all. He was good to her in his own way, but he was not the right man."

    "As you will have guessed, Marie, that girl was me. I spent over twenty years in a foreign country. Years that I could have spent with a man I truly loved. But God was good. Edward died, and the young officer, now a General had not married. And I found him again, but gravely wounded. I was selfish back then, and I fear I've never quite lost it. I should have payed more attention to you, whether or not I knew you were my son's fiancee."

    "Marie, please do not make the same mistake that I did. If you love Jean, as I believe you do, please let him know. You might not be as fortunate as I was."

    Marie threw herself into Dominique's arms, and burst into tears. Dominique held her and cried as well.

    "I love him!" cried Marie. "It's just this war, and my father, and maman. I can't stand the waiting, the fear that I will lose another dear one."

    "You must be brave, as I must be. This war will not last forever, but we must finish it. And then there will be time to rebuild, to marry. Please, let John know that you love him. It will give him something to help him through to the end."

    "Can't you do that for me, Madame?" asked Marie. "I'm too ashamed of my behaviour."

    "No. my dear. It must come from you. Otherwise it will just be 'Maman interfering again' and John won't trust it."

  11. 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

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    Recent Entries

    Latest Entry

    Alright so I gusse I should share more about me 🤔 

    First thing you need to know is I'm young and a little bit stupid 😂🥲. So please be nice to me if I get things wrong. 

    I've always liked WWI and history. I mostly make art about ghosts from WWI. 

    I tend not to take my self too seriously, but am always willing to learn. 😊😊 I wish to make new friends and share my art 👁👄👁. 

    I'll probably be active a lot, so feel free to dm or ask me anything. Just be nice (:


  12. zalipie

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    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



  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.





  16. 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. 😀 


  17. 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 

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. Stars, Stripes and Chevrons

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  22. 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,



  23. 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




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