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Remembered Today:

Uniform of a Subaltern in Machine Gun Company.


grantsmil
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I am interested in which identifying badges and buttons would have been worn on a British Subalterns uniform in July 1916

In particular it is the insignia of an officer in command of a section of Vickers machine guns in the 69th Brigade Machine Gun Company of the 23rd British Division that I am trying to identify.

Any assistance would be most appreciated.

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Grant, see my avatar for a MGC officer's service dress cap badge. In the trenches however he had a steel helmet - occasionally these had the badge painted on the front. Their buttons would have had the same design on them. During the battle of the Somme many officers actually wore Other Rank's tunics.

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Thanks for the prompt reply Julian,

His tunic is an officers pattern, so the buttons will have the crossed MGs? His cap badge, if worn, will be the same crossed MGs and crown.

Am I correct to assume that his rank will be worn on the sleeve ends, or will it be on the shoulder strap at this time?

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Such an officer would normally be a lieutenant, and so would wear two pips on his cuff flap, and a sleeve ring of worsted cloth. A 2/Lt would only wear one pip on the flap, with the same single worsted ring.

Ron

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Thanks Ron,

Just the information I needed.

I had been told that the rank was on the shoulder strap for these officers, but images I had seen indicated that the sleeve rank was more appropriate.

Thanks for your help.

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Many officers, especially in the infantry, took to wearing an other-ranks tunic with pips on the shoulders, to make them less conspicuous to snipers. At first this was frowned on as "funk" but later in the War it became more common, and was made standard after it. So either could be correct, depending on the date, but the sleeve version was the "official" one.

Staff oficers and the Guards had worn pips on the shoulder before the war but, as far as I know, the MGC companies dressed as the normal infantry.

Ron

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OSD Cap badge.

post-599-1221220270.jpg

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Frogsmil,

Thanks, and can you tell me if this would be an appropriate badge? It is not blackened like your example but appears to have a brown or khaki colouring.

Everyone, Thanks for your help. I have some uniform bits and pieces that need to be put back together again and this sorts out some problems.

post-6040-1221230854.jpg

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Actually Grant, a nice chocolate brown is exactly the colour you want for officers' collars and cap badges. I don't think Frogsmile's is blackened, just dark looking through patina/ dirt and/ or lighting.

Best wishes,

GT.

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Frogsmil,

Thanks, and can you tell me if this would be an appropriate badge? It is not blackened like your example but appears to have a brown or khaki colouring.

Everyone, Thanks for your help. I have some uniform bits and pieces that need to be put back together again and this sorts out some problems.

Your badge is spot on. What I posted is not blackened although I can see why you would think that. Here is a different one. All are officers' (i.e. OSD) pattern.

post-599-1221239309.jpg

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Whilst I wouldn`t argue with any of the above data from MGCologists, I wonder about the typical MGC officer on the Somme. Would he actually have been a MGC badged officer or would he still have been badged for his previous infantry regiment? Had all brigade/divisional MG officers become MGC by then?

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Good question, Phil!

See Army Order 414 of 1915, which says "Officers with permanent commissions will be seconded, and officers with temporary commissions will be posted, for service with the Machine-gun Corps as required." Date uncertain, but seems to be Sep/Oct 1915.

Army Order 357 of 1916 says: "Officers are obtained as follows: (i) by the granting of commissions to selected cadets from the Machine Gun Crorps Cadet Battalions. (ii) From officers seconded or transferred from the Regular, Territorial and Reserve Forces, and the New Armies. ... The promotion of all officers serving with the corps will take the form of temporary promotion ..." Again the date is not given, but seems to be Oct 1916.

Other bits of these orders clearly imply that Regulars, at least, did not break their connection to their parent regiment if they were only seconded.

I do not know whether junior officers were "re-badged" in the quite literal sense: I suspect that cap and any collar badges might well have been changed, to help others to identify an officer as with the MGC, but possibly not buttons. It seems likely, however, that section commanders, all of whom would be subalterns, were given temporary commissions and not seconded.

I will let the other "MGCologists" expand on, or indeed correct, my answer!

Ron

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I will let the other "MGCologists" expand on, or indeed correct, my answer!

Ron

And perhaps hazard a guess as to what % of MGC officers on the Somme were badged as such?

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Interesting information Ron, there are 38 MGC officers I am studying (see other post), and in the photographs I have ALL wearing MGC insignia. I'll cross check which are reg / NA etc etc - but I can't identify all on eg group shots !

However, I do have a photograph of a Capt who was a regular before the war. He transferred to the MGC in Spring 1916 and was made CO of the Coy I am studying in November 1916. The 'photo - taken late 1916 or early 1917, shows him wearing his E Surrey cap badge but MGC collar badges !

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Sep 13 2008, 12:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And perhaps hazard a guess as to what % of MGC officers on the Somme were badged as such?

Not such a good question, Phil, if I may respectfully say so. How long is a piece of string?

Most subalterns in MGC Companies by mid-1916 would hold temporary commissions, and hence be posted to the MGC rather than seconded. A Company MGC then had one major or captain commanding, who would probably, but not necessarily, be seconded if in a Regular division; a captain or lieutenant 2i/c, and eight subalterns (two per section).

JulianB's answer just above suggests that even seconded officers wore MGC badges. I would hazard a guess of around 80 to 90%, probably nearer 90, or even more, wore full MGC insignia, with most of the rest having at least some MGC badges. The odd Guardsman may well have stuck to his originals!

Ron

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Perhaps in the case of 'my officer' he would be best represented wearing MGC badges and buttons.

In July 1916, as a 19 year old, he held a temporary war commission. It was several months later that that he was encouraged to apply for a commission in the Regular Army. He only became aware of being made a Regular Officer in July 1917.

So it would appear that it would most likely for him to wear badges described in the image seen in the earlier post by 'high wood'.

Meanwhile I'll go back to the drawing board as the tunic I thought may have been his from early in the war does not have sleeve rank.

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Partner's grandfather - commissioned from the ranks in 1914 into the KRRC, transfered into the MGC early 1916 - wore a 'field jacket' which had MGC collar badges (the KRRC did not wear them) but KRRC buttons and shoulder strap blackened stars on a red felt backing (KRRC again).

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And his capbadge? It sounds like there may have been a laissez faire attitude towards badging for officers coming in from other regiments. I`ve never seen the same type of thing in a MGC OR? I wonder if WOs had any leeway.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Sep 15 2008, 12:04 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And his capbadge? It sounds like there may have been a laissez faire attitude towards badging for officers coming in from other regiments. I`ve never seen the same type of thing in a MGC OR? I wonder if WOs had any leeway.

This is a very common policy in the British Army in war raised units. It was also applied to the RFC and in WW2 to the Army Commandos. More recently it was applied to the re-raised AAC in 1957 and still does so today. Officers directly commissioned into the Corps wear all the regimental badges etc and those attached wear mostly their regimental insignia, but an 'identifying' item of dress to show their affiliation. It sounds as if in the MGC the 'identifying' item of dress was collar badges but more evidence would confirm. It makes complete sense as steel helmets would have precluded the use of a head dress badge.

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There is also the point that officers normally bought their own badges as part of the uniform, whereas other ranks (including WOs) had them issued from the AOC/Royal Army Clothing Dept. So ORs probably had no choice.

Ron

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One would expect the MGC ORs to have no choice, but I thought a MGC RSM (I assume they had them, and that a MGC Bn rank structure was the same as infantry?) might chance it!

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Sep 15 2008, 05:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
One would expect the MGC ORs to have no choice, but I thought a MGC RSM (I assume they had them, and that a MGC Bn rank structure was the same as infantry?) might chance it!

CHAIN OF COMMAND - MACHINE GUN BATTALION

Battalion Headquarters

Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. (Referred to as “the Colonel” or “the C.O.”)

Second in Command Major.

Adjutant Captain. The CO’s Staff Officer. Orderly Room, legal/clerical matters

Signal Officer Subaltern. 5Signal Section; communications between, Div/Bn/Coys

Signallers trained in the use of telephone, Morse code, & semaphore.

Transport Officer Subaltern. Transport, horses/mules, limbers/carts, drivers/grooms, shoesmiths

etc. Divided into Company Transport Sections when required.

Quartermaster Subaltern. Battalion supply department, collect/deliver rations, fodder,

water, clothing etc Storeman, armourer, cobbler, carpenter and cooks.

Liaison Officer French/Belgian bilingual officer or NCO.

Medical Officer A Doctor, Regimental Aid Post, with First Aid trained stretcher bearers

Regimental Sgt Major Regimental Police, discipline, ammo supply, PoW, regimental tradition.

¦

¦----------------------------------¦------------¦-------------------------¦---------------------------------¦

“A” Company “B” Company8 “C” Company “D” Company

Company Commander

Second in Command

Company Sergeant Major

Company Quartermaster Sergeant

(Company Transport Sergeant)

Company Clerk

Runner/Signallers

¦

¦----------------------------------¦------------------¦----------¦-----------------------¦

5 Section 6 Section 7 Section 8 Section

¦

¦----- --------------¦--------------------¦

¦ ¦

Sub-Section Sub-Section

Section Officer Section Officer- senior Sect Offer = Section Commander

Section Sergeant Section Sergeant

Section Corporal Section Corporal

Runner/Signaller Runner/Signaller

¦ ¦

¦----- ----¦-------------¦ ¦-------------¦--------------¦

¦ ¦ ¦ ¦

Gun Team Gun Team Gun Team Gun Team

6 Men 6 Men 6 Men 6 Men

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MG Companies/Squadrons Infantry & Cavalry Brigades formed or had sent an MG Coy/Sqn.

Regimental MG Sections formed the units with eight guns, the shortfall of guns & crews or the whole

Coy came from Grantham. Infantry MG Coys were armed with 16 Vickers, cavalry MG Sqns 12, some

with Hotchkiss guns. Coys/Sqns took the brigade number ie 19 MG Coy, of 19th Bde. A Major

became the Bde MGO, a Captain commanded the Coy of 16 guns. An MG Coy consisted of an HQ, 4

Sections of 4 guns, and a Transport Section. Sections were divided into 2 sub-sections each

commanded by a subaltern, the senior being the Section Commander. Sub-sections each had a “Section

Sergeant” and a “Section Corporal”. Transport Sections of mule drawn limbers for guns/ammunition

were larger than an infantry battalion’s transport. Cavalry MG Sqns had six two gun sections.

A Gun Team consisted of six men each had specific tasks. No 1 a Lance Corporal in charge fired the

gun and carried the tripod. No 2 fed the 250 round belts into the gun and carried the gun. No 3

supplied ammo to the gun, others observed, were range finders and carried ammunition and spares.

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