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Remembered Today:

James Harrison Roberts


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Hi All

In rummaging through old family photos, I stumbled across a WWI photo of a private taken about 1915 in a Llangefni studio. The studio complete with props is the same as that for my father taken in 1922 before he emigrated to Canada to join Owen and Mary Thomas in Saskatchewan. His Welsh Bible (Bibl) is dedicated to William Roberts with Thomas squeezed in underneath. Owen and Mary left Anglesey in 1911 so I believe my father was adopted.

Anyway, searching the war dead of WWI I came across one James Harrison Roberts of Llangefni who was killed in action 3/7/16 aged 35 years. According to James's war medal card, he first saw action in Gallipoli and his death on 3/7/16 and commemoration at the Thiepval Memorial suggests he was engaged at The Somme. CWGC has him placed with the 9th Bn of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Any information on the RWF and their engagments for 1915 -16 would be welcomed.

Cheers

Art

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Hi,

I have been researching Anglesey's First World War casualties for many years, and know of J.H.Roberts, Llangefni. Before I go into some details can I ask why you think the soldier in the photo might be him?

11683 Private James Harrison Roberts is recorded in the official casualty list Soldiers Died in the Great War as having been born at Llangefni, and enlisted at Beaumaris. He was killed in action on the Western Front on 3 July 1916 with the 9th (Service) Battalion RWF, aged 35.

His number block (in the 11000s) would best fit with men raised from August 1914 onwards for the 8th (Service) Battalion RWF at Wrexham. The 8th were the first of the Regiment's "Kitchener" battalions, the 9th being started in September 1914.

The 8th were under Lieut.-Colonel A.Hay, and it is noted that "a great number of them could only speak a little English". Leaving the Depot at Wrexham they moved to Parkhouse Camp, Tidworth; then to Draycott Camp near Swindon; and in February 1915 (at 1,200 men strong) to Blackdown in the Aldershot Command, joining the 13th Division. They left on 28 June 1915 via rail from Brookwood to Avonmouth, and embarked on the SS Megantic (except a small detachment who accompanied the transport and animals on the SS Eloby).

They were the first RWF unit to head for Gallipoli: the other (Territorial) battalions didn't leave the UK till early July, and the one unit which served in the Balkans proper didn't go out until the Autumn of 1915. Given the Theatre 2b, 28 June 1915 date on his medal card, I can only guess that his embarkation date was used for this purpose.

The 8th reached Malta on 5 July, and Alexandria on the 8th but didn't disembark at these places. Leaving on the 10th they reached Mudros Bay, Lemnos on the 12th. Leaving the ship on the 15th they re-embarked for Gallipoli (leaving a detachment of 150 men behind). They landed at Helles the next day and served there off and on till January 1916, being amongst the last to cover the final evacuation on 8 January. By that stage they were 400 strong.

The battalion was shipped to Port Said in Egypt, landing on 30 January. They served on the Suez Canal but without seeing any major action, until in February they went (for the rest of the War) to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). They were engaged in action there from April 1916 onwards.

At some point Harrison must have left the 8th and joined the 9th. He evidently got as far as Gallipoli or the Islands in order to qualify for his 1914-15 Star: the most likely reason for his then going to the 9th is that he was either invalided to the UK wounded or sick, and on recovery was posted to the 9th in France.

The 9th had arrived on the Western Front with the 19th Division on 19 July 1915. They fought at the Battle of Loos 25 Sept- 8 October 1915; their next major series of actions being on the Somme, especially the initial series of combats between 1 and 13 July 1916 (the so-called Battle of Albert). On 3 July the 9th was engaged at La Boisselle, and is likely that Harrison was lost in this area. His body was not recovered after the War, so he is commemorated by name on the Thiepval Memorial.

He is named on the Llangefni War Memorial, and the Llangefni panel of the North Wales Heroes' Memorial Arch in Bangor, Gwynedd. I have a note from somewhere that he was a member of the Church of England. The address of his next of kin (mother Mrs Mary Harrison) is given as 3 New Road, Bridge Street, Llangefni.

The above is a broad picture: your best source for his history would be his Service papers, of which series only 30% or so now survives at the National Archives, Kew. If his file is amongst the surviving material, that will explain the wheres and whens of his story.

If the photo you have turns out to be him, I would much appreciate a copy to add to the information I have collected on the hundreds of men and women who died as a result of that War.

Hope this helps, and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Hwyl,

LST_164

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Hi,

I have been researching Anglesey's First World War casualties for many years, and know of J.H.Roberts, Llangefni. Before I go into some details can I ask why you think the soldier in the photo might be him?

11683 Private James Harrison Roberts is recorded in the official casualty list Soldiers Died in the Great War as having been born at Llangefni, and enlisted at Beaumaris. He was killed in action on the Western Front on 3 July 1916 with the 9th (Service) Battalion RWF, aged 35.

His number block (in the 11000s) would best fit with men raised from August 1914 onwards for the 8th (Service) Battalion RWF at Wrexham. The 8th were the first of the Regiment's "Kitchener" battalions, the 9th being started in September 1914.

The 8th were under Lieut.-Colonel A.Hay, and it is noted that "a great number of them could only speak a little English". Leaving the Depot at Wrexham they moved to Parkhouse Camp, Tidworth; then to Draycott Camp near Swindon; and in February 1915 (at 1,200 men strong) to Blackdown in the Aldershot Command, joining the 13th Division. They left on 28 June 1915 via rail from Brookwood to Avonmouth, and embarked on the SS Megantic (except a small detachment who accompanied the transport and animals on the SS Eloby).

They were the first RWF unit to head for Gallipoli: the other (Territorial) battalions didn't leave the UK till early July, and the one unit which served in the Balkans proper didn't go out until the Autumn of 1915. Given the Theatre 2b, 28 June 1915 date on his medal card, I can only guess that his embarkation date was used for this purpose.

The 8th reached Malta on 5 July, and Alexandria on the 8th but didn't disembark at these places. Leaving on the 10th they reached Mudros Bay, Lemnos on the 12th. Leaving the ship on the 15th they re-embarked for Gallipoli (leaving a detachment of 150 men behind). They landed at Helles the next day and served there off and on till January 1916, being amongst the last to cover the final evacuation on 8 January. By that stage they were 400 strong.

The battalion was shipped to Port Said in Egypt, landing on 30 January. They served on the Suez Canal but without seeing any major action, until in February they went (for the rest of the War) to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). They were engaged in action there from April 1916 onwards.

At some point Harrison must have left the 8th and joined the 9th. He evidently got as far as Gallipoli or the Islands in order to qualify for his 1914-15 Star: the most likely reason for his then going to the 9th is that he was either invalided to the UK wounded or sick, and on recovery was posted to the 9th in France.

The 9th had arrived on the Western Front with the 19th Division on 19 July 1915. They fought at the Battle of Loos 25 Sept- 8 October 1915; their next major series of actions being on the Somme, especially the initial series of combats between 1 and 13 July 1916 (the so-called Battle of Albert). On 3 July the 9th was engaged at La Boisselle, and is likely that Harrison was lost in this area. His body was not recovered after the War, so he is commemorated by name on the Thiepval Memorial.

He is named on the Llangefni War Memorial, and the Llangefni panel of the North Wales Heroes' Memorial Arch in Bangor, Gwynedd. I have a note from somewhere that he was a member of the Church of England. The address of his next of kin (mother Mrs Mary Harrison) is given as 3 New Road, Bridge Street, Llangefni.

The above is a broad picture: your best source for his history would be his Service papers, of which series only 30% or so now survives at the National Archives, Kew. If his file is amongst the surviving material, that will explain the wheres and whens of his story.

If the photo you have turns out to be him, I would much appreciate a copy to add to the information I have collected on the hundreds of men and women who died as a result of that War.

Hope this helps, and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Hwyl,

LST_164

Bore Da Hwyl

Pardon my intro if it is not appropriate. The Welsh passed on by my father was extremely limited.

The picture I have of a WWI private (possibly late 1914 or early 1915) was in a collection of photos my grandmother kept and which I only discovered a couple of years back. The setting of this photo is exactly the same as that of my father which was taken in 1922. Father's photo is identified as Llangefni and he claimed his birth date as 3 September, 1907.

There is one very big question mark over my father's origin I have discovered in that his Welsh Bibl is dedicated to one William Roberts who attended the Soar Sunday School prior to his departure for Canada in late February 1922. Soar is a small community to the southwest of Llangefni.

I believe my father was adopted by Owen and Mary Thomas in 1922. Owen and Mary left Anglesey in May 1911 and are listed as on their own in both departre and arrival passenger lists (S S Corsican). They eventually settled in Saskatchewan.

As I knew him, my father was William Roberts Thomas and there was an insistance that the Roberts name be given to the first son. My brother got Roberts in his name as did his son Trevor. However, my grandfather Owen was an only male from Gaerwen and Mary was a Williams from Menai Bridge who only had one sister Maria who married a John Humphrey Hughes. John sailed with the St Tudno prior to his death in 1955!

So, as a possible scenario in my genealogical hunt, I have an unexplained photo of a WWI private who was killed in action aged 35 years taken in exactly the same studio as my father seven to eight years earlier. There is no birth registration for William Roberts Thomas, but there is one for William Roberts (Llanwrst). My father's picture has 'Thomas' squeezed in underneath 'Willie Roberts' and the writing is different.

My entire worklife background and education has a research focus. To this end, I am trying to link pieces of desparte pieces of information into a plausible genealogical storyline. At 35 in 1916, it is possible that James Harrison Roberts fathered children prior to his death. Note his mother's name was Mary Harrison who, in the 1891 Census, lived with her father Lancelot Harrison in Llangefni. My father stated his birthpalce was Llangefni. Whilst there were a number of Roberts listed as war deaths from Llangefni, James Harrison Roberts, given his age, stands out as a possible father to William Roberts my father.

Until I gain access next year (?) to the UK 1911 Census, I really can not confirm or deny my possible hypothesis that James Roberts and William Roberts are related.

Thank you for reading through all of this and thank you for the added information on James Harrison Roberts.

Cheers

Art

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Art,

I have been looking at some old notes I made on casualties whose details appeared in the weekly Holyhead Chronicle during 1914-16.

In the 21 July 1916 edition, page 4 is news of some casualties including several from Llangefni. One is a Private JAMES HARRIES ROBERTS, killed in action aged 34, son of...[sorry, I didn't copy the name]...of 34 Cemetery Road.

There is no other James Roberts who is a contender in my records of the Island's wartime fatalities, and given the coincidences of (near enough) name, age, and date I strongly suspect this is your man. It would often take 2 or 3 weeks for news of casualties to appear in the weekly papers. James is not on the Llangefni School Memorial, so perhaps one can assume he didn't progress to secondary education?

There is indeed a hamlet of Soar, some miles from Llangefni (actually in the parish of Aberffraw), which has a Welsh Presbyterian (Welsh Calvinistic Methodist) chapel of the same name. There were about four other chapels named Soar on Anglesey, but that one is the nearest to Llangefni. Sunday Schools back in those days would include adults as well as children, and that at Soar was certainly thriving according to a 1930s account I have. Incidentally, just for interest the chapel lost three men in the War, one being John Roberts of Ty'n Rhos Bach, by coincidence also a Private in the 9th RWF.

I found James H. and his mother and grandfather in 1891 as you stated, at 46 High Street. In 1891 Mary A. Harrison is there alone, and no sign of James H anywhere (going by the Ancestry.com index - but I could be asking the wrong questions). I take it there's no chance he was abroad (eg, at sea or in the Boer War) at that time??

Thanks to your information I can now see why you would have an interest in the soldier's photo. By what you say, the identification can't be conclusive at present. Are you exploring the case of James H Roberts because of your father's middle name happening to match the surname of a War casualty, or do you have stronger grounds for making the connection?

If you are able to scan the picture and reproduce it on this thread or under another heading on the Forum, perhaps someone with a good knowledge of uniform could comment on it and date it more closely?

I think you might be advised to initiate a National Archives search for James H.'s Service Record as if it survives it may contain information of relevance to your genealogical research. Someone on Anglesey (there are several members) or at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth might also be able to double-check the Chronicle obituary for James Harries Roberts, and recover the parental name which I omitted!

PS- as the Census has to be a full 100 years old before release, I'd expect to see the 1911 version in January 2012.

LST_164

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Art,

I have been looking at some old notes I made on casualties whose details appeared in the weekly Holyhead Chronicle during 1914-16.

In the 21 July 1916 edition, page 4 is news of some casualties including several from Llangefni. One is a Private JAMES HARRIES ROBERTS, killed in action aged 34, son of...[sorry, I didn't copy the name]...of 34 Cemetery Road.

There is no other James Roberts who is a contender in my records of the Island's wartime fatalities, and given the coincidences of (near enough) name, age, and date I strongly suspect this is your man. It would often take 2 or 3 weeks for news of casualties to appear in the weekly papers. James is not on the Llangefni School Memorial, so perhaps one can assume he didn't progress to secondary education?

There is indeed a hamlet of Soar, some miles from Llangefni (actually in the parish of Aberffraw), which has a Welsh Presbyterian (Welsh Calvinistic Methodist) chapel of the same name. There were about four other chapels named Soar on Anglesey, but that one is the nearest to Llangefni. Sunday Schools back in those days would include adults as well as children, and that at Soar was certainly thriving according to a 1930s account I have. Incidentally, just for interest the chapel lost three men in the War, one being John Roberts of Ty'n Rhos Bach, by coincidence also a Private in the 9th RWF.

I found James H. and his mother and grandfather in 1891 as you stated, at 46 High Street. In 1891 Mary A. Harrison is there alone, and no sign of James H anywhere (going by the Ancestry.com index - but I could be asking the wrong questions). I take it there's no chance he was abroad (eg, at sea or in the Boer War) at that time??

Thanks to your information I can now see why you would have an interest in the soldier's photo. By what you say, the identification can't be conclusive at present. Are you exploring the case of James H Roberts because of your father's middle name happening to match the surname of a War casualty, or do you have stronger grounds for making the connection?

If you are able to scan the picture and reproduce it on this thread or under another heading on the Forum, perhaps someone with a good knowledge of uniform could comment on it and date it more closely?

I think you might be advised to initiate a National Archives search for James H.'s Service Record as if it survives it may contain information of relevance to your genealogical research. Someone on Anglesey (there are several members) or at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth might also be able to double-check the Chronicle obituary for James Harries Roberts, and recover the parental name which I omitted!

PS- as the Census has to be a full 100 years old before release, I'd expect to see the 1911 version in January 2012.

LST_164

Hi there Hwyl

In all honesty you are like a rider pulling on the reins and the bit is in my mouth! I say this with a smile, despite the bit!! You make some very pertinent and interesting comments to which I hope I can respond adequately.

Roberts was my father's middle name, yet William Roberts was the sole name in his Welsh Bibl. He claimed his birthplace as Llangefni. Quite possibly in an attempt to reach closure on my part, and put a name to a face, when finding the unidentified soldier photo in my grandmother's collection, and noticing it was in the exact same studio as my father's photo in 1922, I assumed a connection and started to look for Llangefni war dead with the surname Roberts. I stumbled upon James Harrison Roberts aged 35 when KIA on the premise that an older male was more likely to have been my father's father. On this wave length, I'm thinking, given my father was 14 in Feb 1922 that he may have been given up because of hardship created by some social fallout due to the war or the influenza that hit the UK in 1919-20.

One matter I have not established is whether James Harrison Roberts was married. I won't know anything about this until I gain access to his service records if they survived the 1940 bombings. However, given his mother is noted as son of Mrs Mary Harrison in CWGC records, it is possible he was unmarried. By the way, the 1901 Census has James at 21 years as a woodchopper up in Lancashire county.

In terms of your additional information, I'd be most interested in having more details about John Roberts of Soar, especially his age, marital status and service number in the 9th Bn. It has only been in the past month or so that Soar has featured given a recent translation of the Welsh inscription in my father's Bibl.

I'll attempt to post an image of the soldier's photo from my grandmother's collection in another message on another date. Until then, thank you again for your input to my Welsh genealogical puzzle. Neither my father of grandparents talked a great deal about their Welsh connections so it is a voyage of discovery on my part!

Cheers

Art

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Hi there Hwyl

Please find attached the photo I found which has been the subject of my initial investigation.

look forward to continued discussion.Thanks and cheers

Art

post-41257-1227654874.jpg

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Art,

that's a nice clear photo of a soldier in a General Service tunic. It won't confirm his regiment because no badges (cap or shoulder) are visible. The trousers however struck me - they seem to be breeches as used by mounted troops and not standard infantry type. His puttees also look to be wound mounted-style, from the knee downwards (Infantry was wound from ankle upwards).

Besides the cavalry/yeomanry who would wear these, and normally mounted units such as the Royal Field and Horse Artillery, Army Service Corps drivers, etc. they could be worn by other troops (including some in each Infantry battalion) whose job was to drive horse-drawn waggons.

But don't take my word for it - post the same item separately under the thread for Uniforms, Arms etc. and get some real experts' comments on his whole outfit. Dating and other information can be gleaned from seemingly innocuous things such as the pocket styles, collar, pleats below collar and so on!

As regards John Roberts, member of Soar Welsh Calv. Methodist chapel, he was recorded by "Soldiers Died in the Great War" as born in Aberffraw parish and enlisted at Llangefni. Served as Private 39050 in the 9th RWF and died of wounds on the Western Front on 21 September 1917. Address given as Ty'n Rhos Bach, Aberffraw in the Calv. Meths. history book but by SDGW as Bodorgan (the name of the district including parts of Aberffraw, Llangadwaladr and Trefdraeth parishes).

He is buried at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France in grave ref. I.B.33, but no personal/family information was added to the CWGC register. He is commemorated on the Aberffraw panel of the N.Wales Arch in Bangor, and on the parish War Memorial which confirms his address.

Thanks for the added detail on James in the 1901 Census. Sorry to seem a bit cautious but I wanted to know what your reason for following that particular casualty was - which you've now made clear. Please believe I am sympathetic, as a similar puzzle exists in my own family! let us know how you get on with the research!

LST_164

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Art,

that's a nice clear photo of a soldier in a General Service tunic. It won't confirm his regiment because no badges (cap or shoulder) are visible. The trousers however struck me - they seem to be breeches as used by mounted troops and not standard infantry type. His puttees also look to be wound mounted-style, from the knee downwards (Infantry was wound from ankle upwards).

Besides the cavalry/yeomanry who would wear these, and normally mounted units such as the Royal Field and Horse Artillery, Army Service Corps drivers, etc. they could be worn by other troops (including some in each Infantry battalion) whose job was to drive horse-drawn waggons.

But don't take my word for it - post the same item separately under the thread for Uniforms, Arms etc. and get some real experts' comments on his whole outfit. Dating and other information can be gleaned from seemingly innocuous things such as the pocket styles, collar, pleats below collar and so on!

As regards John Roberts, member of Soar Welsh Calv. Methodist chapel, he was recorded by "Soldiers Died in the Great War" as born in Aberffraw parish and enlisted at Llangefni. Served as Private 39050 in the 9th RWF and died of wounds on the Western Front on 21 September 1917. Address given as Ty'n Rhos Bach, Aberffraw in the Calv. Meths. history book but by SDGW as Bodorgan (the name of the district including parts of Aberffraw, Llangadwaladr and Trefdraeth parishes).

He is buried at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France in grave ref. I.B.33, but no personal/family information was added to the CWGC register. He is commemorated on the Aberffraw panel of the N.Wales Arch in Bangor, and on the parish War Memorial which confirms his address.

Thanks for the added detail on James in the 1901 Census. Sorry to seem a bit cautious but I wanted to know what your reason for following that particular casualty was - which you've now made clear. Please believe I am sympathetic, as a similar puzzle exists in my own family! let us know how you get on with the research!

LST_164

Hi Hwyl

Photo posted tonight muder topic of "Uniform Identification"

cheers

art

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  • 3 years later...

"As regards John Roberts, member of Soar Welsh Calv. Methodist chapel, he was recorded by "Soldiers Died in the Great War" as born in Aberffraw parish and enlisted at Llangefni. Served as Private 39050 in the 9th RWF and died of wounds on the Western Front on 21 September 1917. Address given as Ty'n Rhos Bach, Aberffraw in the Calv. Meths. history book but by SDGW as Bodorgan (the name of the district including parts of Aberffraw, Llangadwaladr and Trefdraeth parishes).

He is buried at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France in grave ref. I.B.33, but no personal/family information was added to the CWGC register. He is commemorated on the Aberffraw panel of the N.Wales Arch in Bangor, and on the parish War Memorial which confirms his address. "


Hi new to this forum & was interested to read about John Roberts as he is related to my grandmother by being her older brother, from memory my brother managed to get some more personal details from his army war records & according to his war records he did have a child out of wedlock & was paying child maintenance out of his army pay even in them days.

Talking to relatives this child was male.

Anyway here is the war plaque for John Roberts in Dothan Chapel as it had been removed from Soar Chapel due to its sale.

WP_20140831_039.jpg.edabbee48ea4ba4a6bac3c61ece0f3a6.jpg

 

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