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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Gunner to Fitter


paul leeson
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I had a great Uncle in the RFA who was promoted to Fitter from Gunner [Lance rank]. Does any one know the tasks performed by a Fitter, he served in a Brigade and later Division Ammunition Column, but seems to have been posted to Batteries from time to time.

Thank you in advance.

Paul

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A fitter fashioned parts, often using machine tools, to repair the equipment of a battery or brigade. Your uncle could not have been promoted from Gunner to Fitter because Gunner is a rank and Fitter is an appointment. He was a Gunner who at some time held the appointment as a Fitter.

Regards, Dick Flory

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As Dick says, a fitter is a very skilled worker. A machinist manufactures parts to a drawing and a mechanic puts parts together but a fitter is something beyond both. The term originates from the need, especially before accurate machine tools, to make one part fit to another and the fitter tweaked each to achieve the desired result. I'd guess that your Great-uncle worked in a small machine shop in the rear area repairing the guns when they were damaged but did not need a trip to a Base Depot to be got back in working order. He'd do work like reprofile scuffed threads to make them run freely, make small parts from scratch - probably without a drawing - and generally return the guns to the front line as quickly as possible.

Keith

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Thank you. Yes he was a skilled [time served GWR apprentice] fitter and turner before he joined up. As a gunner he went to Woolwich and passed a fitters course to be come 'skilled'. A few months later he was 'appointed' Fitter and remained so. Its just that the forms imply it was a Lance rank - see attached.

Paul.

post-36518-1232626199.jpg

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I suppose we have to decide whether formally becoming, in effect, a tradesman within the RFA meant that he was automatically classed as an NCO. I don't know but it is possible. If you have a look at my post in this thread the pre-War photo taken of my Grandfather's group in Lahore shows another tradesman - a farrier and he's a Bombardier. Equally, I have no idea whether skilled men, such as your Great-uncle, might have worked in repair workshops before being promoted. If he was as good as he must have been as a railway apprentice, it would be a crying shame for him not to have been used to best advantage in the Army.

Keith (speculating madly!)

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I agree that this is a good point and worth following up. Were trades men NCO's or were there not enough boxes on the standard army form to fill in.

Paul.

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Contrary to what the form shows, King's Regulations indicates that 'Fitter' is an appointment, and 'Gunner', 'Bombardier' and 'Corporal' are ranks. One could hold an appointment as a 'fitter' and be a Gunner, Bombardier, Corporal or Serjeant. The appointment had nothing to do with the rank. Generally the term 'Fitter' by itself indicated a rank of Gunner. Dick Flory

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If it helps any (I hope it doesn't obfuscate) the establishment published 19th Aug 1916 for a Mountain Battery lists 'Shoeing Smiths', 'Saddlers' and 'Fitters or Wheelers' separately. They held the rank of Gunner, but held the appointments as indicated by Dick. It also lists one Farrier Sergeant (separate from the other sergeants) and a parenthetical comment that one of the Shoeing Smiths will be a Corporal. Bear in mind that this is the establishment within each battery. There may have been Farriers in other company-size units, but the only one in this type of battery was the Farrier Sergeant.

Mike Morrison

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