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At least one member of 22nd Motor Machine Gun Battery was not destined to sail to India with his comrades 103 years ago. Instead he was to travel to the battlefields of northern France as one of the very first tank commanders. Herbert George Pearsall, known as George, was born at Smethwick on 17 July 1888. When war broke out George enlisted at Dewsbury on 6 April 1915 and joined the Motor Machine Gun Service at Bisley on 14 May. He was promoted corporal on 18 June and then serjeant on 14 August
At about this time 103 years ago in 1916, the SS Beltana, passed through the Suez Canal as she carried the officers and men of 22 Motor Machine Gun Battery to India. Whether the men were allowed to go ashore at either Alexandria or Port Said is not recorded, although having been onboard for 2 weeks since sailing from Devonport on 26 February, it would be nice to think they had the chance to stretch their legs. At least the Beltana was a modern, oil fired ship, so the troops were spared the miser
In February 1919 the men of 22 Motor Machine Gun Battery were taking part in a Machine Gun Concentration and Demonstration Camp in Gondal, to the North of Bombay. On the evidence of A/Sjt Macro's photo album this also seems to have also involved air-ground cooperation and familiarisation training with aircraft of the RAF. These were almost certainly from 31 Squadron, and despite the caption, they were BE2E's, not BE2Cs. Given the soldiers had been in India for nearly three years, and the war in
Onboard the SS Beltana, 103 years ago in late February 1916, lifejackets were worn until the ship cleared the U-boat danger area of the Western Approaches.
The SS Beltana was Clyde built, by Caird & Co. of Greenock and launched in 1912, for the P&O Branch Line. She had carried up to 1100 passengers on the UK to Australia route via Cape of Good Hope.
Thanks to JP Jamieson, grandson of Gnr (later A/Cpl) James Petrie Jamieson, for the photo.
103 years and 1 day ago, on 26 February 1916, the SS Beltana sailed from Devonport. Onboard were 5 officers and 68 men of 22nd Motor Machine Gun Battery. Among then was my grandfather Ernest William "Bill" Macro. Also onboard were the Battery's 19 motorcycle combinations, 8 motorcycles and 8 cars. I assume their Vickers Machine Guns were also onboard! It was the start of a journey which would take the Battery to Bombay and then Rawalpindi. The next three years were then spent on the North West F
There were few ‘home comforts’ for British soldiers in the mud-filled trenches of Northern France in the Great War.
John Francis ‘Frank’ Roberts, of Rackenford, was enjoying one of them on the morning of September 9, 1916 – a mug of hot tea.
He was taking a well-earned break after a series of ferocious encounters with the German army on the Somme.
Without warning, a shrapnel shell burst over his trench, firing its lethal load into him.
Frank, described by his commandi
Since the Sergeant returned from WW1 in February 1919 until his passing in 1979, he had always dreamed of having his Diary of his days as a POW published. Well I am pleased to say that 100 years after the events, that has now happened. His Diary is available from Amazon in Kindle ebook form, and will shortly be available in paperback. It has been number 2 in the best sellers for Biographies, in WW1 and has done reasonably well. If you are a "Kindle Unlimited" subscriber, you can read it for free
Wednesday 1st January 1919
So finally we were marched off, and at Lamsdorf station boarded the train.
A different kind of train it was this time, none of the cattle trucks in which we came here in, but instead real carriages with properly upholstered seats. So with eight men in a carriage we rolled away in the direction of a seaport on the Baltic Sea called Stettin.
At the end of our train were two vans with two days supply of food which was issued at intervals alon
Tuesday 31st December 1918
The day begins as usual, and still we wait.
In the evening orders are issued that all officers, NCO’s and men will parade outside the orderly room at 2pm tomorrow dressed ready for marching off, greatcoat and one blanket over the arm
I might say that all men were ready before the appointed time, and when we did parade and were just about to march off it was found that there was one man to be left in the camp. That one man was our Serbian f
Sunday 29th December 1918.
Orders are issued that the camp must be closed by the 1st January 1919. The excitement is great and we all start packing our little wooden boxes in readiness for the journey.
Then we wait.
Monday 30th December 1918.
Still we wait.
Sgt. Thomas William Chisholm (POW),
The Northumberland Fusiliers
5th Battalion, B Company
Lager 3A, Barrack
Tuesday 24th December 1918
As a special treat today we have been given a large amount of sausage, from the Germans but I may say that very little of it was eaten as we have any amount of our own food now. I suppose that this was sent as a peace offering owing to it being Xmas eve. Also included in the gift were two packets of tobacco and a Xmas card. The tobacco proved only to be dried oak leaves, and the card we discovered had been intended for one in England, for on the side us
Thursday 19th December 1918
My birthday, I am 22 today and I am very miserable indeed for I had thought to spend it in dear old England, but not so, but I had a talk with the cooks and it ended up in a nice little spread in our hut where we celebrated very well indeed under the circumstances.
There are rumours again of another transport on Sunday to include in it all cripples and every two days after that.
Sgt. Thomas William Chisholm (POW),
Wednesday 18th December 1918.
I am on duty today as Orderly Sergeant to the camp and receive order that at 7:15pm tonight there are to be four guides per company at the main gate in readiness to meet a batch of men coming in from another camp.
So it came about, that Fred and I parted company on this night, and I was to sort of welcome into the camp 950 new arrivals, who in all probability would also go before I did, so I had to cover up my misery and carry on.
Monday 16th December 1918
A large consignment of clothing arrived from Lager 1, to equip the men of the first transport. We had a very busy day but I was doomed to disappointment, for when the list of names was read over my name failed to appear, so Fred and I were very gloomy at having to be separated after all our times of strife together, for he was down to go with this first batch.
However we had to make the best of things, so I helped him to pack his few goods and ge
Sunday 15th December 1918
Today after a short parade and inspection by our C.O. we were dismissed and just wandered about the camp as we pleased. Our path took us into a German canteen which by appearances was used by all and sundry, as included in its customers were a few children, poorly fed, and poorly clad. They were really in a very poor state altogether, which only went to show once more the ravages of war on the younger generations.
Thursday 12th December 1918
Today has been spent in getting into the camp as much British Red Cross Parcels as possible and it has been arranged that before distribution all goods such as tea, cocoa, bully beef, sugar and any other things that could be used in the cook house, (for we had to have cooks on duty) so that the cooks could make them up into a decent meal. So after these articles had been extracted, we were at liberty to have as much bread, margarine, dripping, cheese, biscuits,
Wednesday 11th December 1918
Early this morning the Major from the RhD comes on first parade and proceeded to organize our troops into some sort of composite battalion, and is very successful. He arranged that, to save the removal of any of our belongings, that each two huts should form one Company, irrespective as to what Regiment a man belonged to.
So here we are another step forward to better times, also with a much better supply of good food, things where looking more rosy
Tuesday 10th December 1918
Following this inspection the MO tells us that yet another lot of officials are coming to inspect the camp.
On this occasion they are coming from Berlin, so things seem to be moving along fairly well towards the promised removal to better barracks.
Let it be soon we all say together.
Monday 9th December 1918
Another delegation came and inspected the camp this morning, this time from Breslau.
They say that they had no idea that we were living in such squalor, and shocking conditions. It is about this time, that we learn that this camp was condemned for the habitation of British prisoners of war in its early day of existence.
100 YEARS AGO TODAY: The March to the Rhine - Day 21.
King George V and General William Birdwood visit the graves of several notable soldiers including, the temporary grave of Prince Maurice of Battenburg, the King's one-time equerry Major Lord Charles Mercer-Nairne, Brigadier General Francis Aylmer Maxwell VC, CSI, DSO & Bar, and Major the Hon. William George Sidney Cadogan, the equerry to the Prince of Wales. Presentation of baton of the Marshal of France to Philippe Petain at
100 YEARS AGO TODAY: The March to the Rhine - Day 20.
King George V talks to the Bishop of Tournai, Monseigneur Croye, during a visit to 8th Divisional Headquarters at Tournai, 7th December 1918. The house had been used as HQ by Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, and a strong concrete dug-out against air raids was one of the prominant features. With the King is General William Birdwood, the last General Officer Commanding Fifth Army before its disbandment and Major General William Heneker,
Saturday 7th December 1918
Another two Romanians are brought back into camp this morning.
The Medical Officer, who had come to the camp, has been busy trying to get better living quarters for us and the first stage takes place today at 10.00am. He arrives at the compound in the company of a number of high officials to inspect the camp in general, and they went through every hut. On coming to the last one, the Chief was overheard to remark “It’s amazing, I don’t know how the poor fe