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false name


Guest pburland
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Hello, my great-grandfather enlisted as William Green in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers 3rd Battalion. He fought in WW1. His service number was 8717 and I have copies of some of his papers from Ancestry.co.uk. His real name was in fact Arthur William Jays (Green was his mother's maiden name). I'm trying to find out why he enlisted using a false name. Can anyone help with advice as to where to look for this info or would relatives have remembered him. He came from Birmingham originally. His papers show William Green then written over the top it says 'alias Arthur Jays'. Please help me to solve this mystery.

Many thanks.

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pburland

Welcome to the forum.

Unless you have family history available it is unlikely you will find out his personal reasons for using an alias. It sounds as if, having his service papers, that you have probably all there is to know regarding his military service.

If I have the correct chap he was born Arthur William Jays (parents Joseph Jays and Eliza Green, married 1874 Birmingham) was born Birmingham 1881, so we can rule out the possibility that his parents married after his birth. Nor would he have been under or over age to enlist.

Speculation - he was running from some form of 'trouble' and wanted to obscure his identity, so he chose a middle name and mother's maiden name?

- he had seriously fallen out with his father and did not wish to be identified by his surname?

I expect the permutations may be endless.

Ian

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I have found a few instances of this, and in all cases it appears to have been because the man was previously an unapprehended deserter. Of course, that's not to say that it is applicable in this instance but I think it's a distinct possibility.

Andy.

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A good clue!

Would he therefore have another set of records under his actual name? (If they survive)?

No one could be that lucky to have 2 sets of records for the same man that have survived.... could they? :o;)

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I've come across a couple of cases like this where the service papers have been overwritten with a correct name. In both cases, it turned out that he was simply generally known by the name he'd enlisted under.

In one case, where his "enlistment name" was also his mother's maiden name, it was because he had actually been raised by his maternal grandmother and, for all intents and purposes, was regarded as her son rather than grandson.

John

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Hello everyone, certainly some food for thought there. The deserter idea appeals the most. I'll try and look into all your ideas. This forum is the most useful I've been on so far.

Many thanks.

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It seems to me that a deserter wouldnt change his name(or hers)...then join up again?

If a guy signed on, and then deserted, he would know that he would be sought.

Where safer than back in the Army, under a different name?

He was surely unlkely to be looked for there, could hope to survive the war, come home with a medal or two, and then who would be looking for a deserted amongst those who are bemedalled heroes?

Seems a good idea to me!

Bruce

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As I said in my previous post, No. 2 , the speculation can be endless!

On the deserter possibility - if his real name appears on the form, and he was a deserter, would there not have been some mention of it on these papers, and not just 'alias'?

I note from his MIC (NB: it is under the name Arthur Jays) that he attained the rank of serjeant.

If he had been a deserter would there not have been some forfeit of his medals, and less likelihood of his reaching a serjeant's rank?

Ian

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As I said in my previous post, No. 2 , the speculation can be endless!

On the deserter possibility - if his real name appears on the form, and he was a deserter, would there not have been some mention of it on these papers, and not just 'alias'?

I note from his MIC (NB: it is under the name Arthur Jays) that he attained the rank of serjeant.

If he had been a deserter would there not have been some forfeit of his medals, and less likelihood of his reaching a serjeant's rank?

Ian

Sadly it is just his "Pension" Records that are available and these are invariably incomplete - I think they were heavily weeded at some point. His alias doesn't seem to have been uncovered until after the war because I had a quick scan of them and IIRC in 1919 he was still being referred to as William Green. It isn't until his medals were being issued that the connection with Arthur Jays is made (he might have had them forfeit if he had deserted during the war and was not apprehended but, if he had been a pre-war deserter who had re-enlisted, then effectively it would have been ignored - he completed his war service).

As for deserters, Bruce's summary is spot on. Most desertions were spur of the moment decisions and, after a period of reflection, the men realised that their options were limited and so they re-enlisted. Here are four examples - three of them pre-war desertions/re-enlistments (one of them is currently under consideration by MoD for recognition of his status);

Travers/Temp

Johnstone/McGuffog

Spencer/Timmins

Morton/Baines

One avenue of investigation might be the Police Gazette - I think it used to contain lists of deserters.

Andy.

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It's surprising how many soldiers are listed on the Ancestry indexes as having double, triple or alternate names. Some are typographical errors - an 'Owen' listed also as 'Owens'. Others are deliberate alternatives. The MICs are crossed indexed, as are relevant service cards in such cases, and often a double record existed - but the alternate name was well known by the Army. I have a JR Moston who enlisted under his mother's maiden name as JR Hayward. His CWGC gravestone has both names. His family relate that he changed names so that his mum couldn't find him, though he was of legal age when he enlisted.

The desertion scenario doesn't really ring true - I mean his army service, record records the alias and the new name. If he was a deserter he would have been picked up! The reasons are far more mundane.

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................ If he was a deserter he would have been picked up! ....................

Why? There was no easy means of cross-checking. They were usually only ever detected when they were killed and the authorities got wise to it when they contacted the next of kin and the truth came out!!

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Why? There was no easy means of cross-checking. They were usually only ever detected when they were killed and the authorities got wise to it when they contacted the next of kin and the truth came out!!

In response to the above, the army obviously have found out, and he was a survivor. Yet he has his MIC and rank of serjeant.

Nothing can be ruled out at this stage, but my insitict lends itself to personal/family reasons rather than illegality.

Ian

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There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that many deserters re-enlisted in other units. Some written accounts exist where the soldier has said that he joined in the first flood of recruits after the war began and joined the local Pals or TF infantry battalion, found it too much like hard work and then deserted. They knew that sooner or later there would be questions asked as to why this fit young man was not serving and so to save a lot of hassle, they re-enlisted in a 'cushy' job as they saw it. Something like a Corps where they got decent (or at least better) pay than the infantry bob-a-day private, or better food or better accommodation. You get the picture anyway. Some even stated that they deserted because their Battalion or Company Commander was too much of a tartar, or the unit they joined wasn't in action soon enough for them. Some sailors have been discovered deserting the Navy to join the Army.

As others have said the possibilities and permutations are endless.

I hope you get a break and can pin down a reason for your Great-Grandfather.

Cheers,

Nigel

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I suppose its how you think of the word deserter,,,of course men left for personal reasons and maybe years later things have improved so he joins up again,of course the forces saw this as desertion....for me a deserter is someone who leaves because of terror(or cowardice as men in big houses food and warmth called it) or a person who maybe commited a crime in his regiment the reasons are endless....i find it hard that a true deserter who have been through the horrors of war would re enlist...most would have mental issues and not got past a medical.

I really hope you get to the bottom of it!

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I'm not saying that deserting didn't happen nor that some didn't re-enlist under a different name; but a simple AWOL for a few hours could get you 'desertion' on your service record. I don't have the figures to hand, but I believe that tens of thousands of soldiers were convicted of desertion during the war. Put that in perspective, only about 250 deserters were SAD, and they were deserters 'in the face of the enemy.' There's a less sexy reason for most of the double named individuals.

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I think some of the posts here are going off at a bit of a tangent. IF he was a deserter, and I say "IF," then Alfred Jays/William Green didn't do it during the war. He was a Reservist who had joined the RWF in 1905 and was recalled to the Colours in 1914. He could have been a deserter from before 1905 who then renlisted in the RWF.

By 1910 the problem was so acute that there was an Army Order which granted serving men who came forward and owned up to being deserters from other regiments (and who therefore had re-enlisted fraudulently) a "King's Pardon."

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A couple of points I'd like to add to the discussion. Very few men would have been charged with desertion for being absent without leave for a few hours. The charge of desertion required intent to desert permanently to be proven. Evidence of this intent had to be provided and accepted . A deserter was someone who was charged with desertion and found guilty. Pure and simple. We cannot start sorting them into ones who have our sympathy and others who did not. The spectre of conscription may have caused men to re enlist before being swept up in the registration process. Even if detected, they were much more likely to be dealt with leniently if they had voluntarily re-enlisted even though this was itself a crime. There must have been many reasons for men to enlist under a false name. The chance of a new start was one that might appeal to many men. That reason will almost certainly come from the family not from the official records unless evidence of this man being a deserter emerges.

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