Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Private Horace William Strongman

Private Butler

Recommended Posts

I am wanting to find out a little more about my great-Grandfather on my Dad's mum's side. I have a Medal card Index for him with the above number and his entitlement to a pip, a squeak and a 14-15 Star. It also tells me that he was first in France on 4/10/15. However, the only other paperwork I can trace is his signing up paper for 6 years in the Special Reservists of the 5th Middlesex, which I know was a reserve Battalion that did not go overseas. The date of his signing up is 11th August 1914.

In the medal card index however, referred to first it mentions only the Middlesex Regiment so if anybody can find out anymore, like which Middlesex regiment he ended up in I would be most grateful. He died before I was born but my own dad told me recently that he remembers him mentioning horses and artillery...?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

He has some pension records on Ancestry.

Posted to 14th Battalion in UK on enlistment for training, 11-8-1914.

Went to France with 13th battalion (24th Division), 4-10-1915.

Wounded on 24-1-1916. Remained at duty.

Accidentally blew himself up with a grenade causing wounds to his the chest and back (!!) on 4-6-1916 for which he was court martialled "for carelessness" on 12-6-1916 (received 42 days Field Punishment No. 1).

Admitted to 73 Field Ambulance and No. 8 Casualty Clearing Station, 4-6-1916.

Admitted to "Special Hospital", Boeschepe, 9-6-1916 {I suspect that this was a hospital for men who had self-inflicted their wounds}

To No. 15 Casualty Clearing Station, 13-6-1916 {this suggests that he had been taken off the "blacklist" of self-inflicted wounds}

To No. 14 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, 14-6-1916

To No. 24 Infantry Base Depot, 22-6-1916.

Posted to 12th battalion (18th Division) on 19-7-1916 {a replacement for 12th Bn. losses at Trones Wood on July 14th}.

Joined 12th Bn. on 19-7-1916.

Wounded at Thiepval with 12th battalion on 26-9-1916, and evacuated to UK aboard Hospital Ship "St Denis" and posted to Depot on 30-9-1916.

Posted to the 6th Bn. in the UK on 18-2-1917 and onto 2/9th in UK, 28-3-1917.

Back to France, 19-9-1917 and posted to 3/10th Bn. on same day.

Posted to 20th Bn. (40th Division), 30-9-1917.

Wounded at Cambrai whilst delivering a message as a company runner on 26-11-1917 (shrapnel, GSW face arm and back mild). {The 20th Middlesex were in action at Bourlon Wood up to the morning of the 26th when they left the line from their positions near the Sugar Factory.}

Admitted to 135th Field Ambulance and 21 Casualty Clearing Station on 26-11-1917, and the No 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville on 28-11-1917.

Posted to Depot and evacuated back to UK aboard Hospital Ship "St Patrick", 9-12-1917.

Suffered from tetanus whilst recovering {lucky man to survive tetanus at that period!}

Posted to 6th Bn. in the UK, 16-3-1918.

Discharged, 16-8-1918.

So, he saw front line duty with 13th Battalion (Oct 1915 to June 1916), 12th battalion (July 1916 to September 1916, including the attack on Thiepval on 26th September 1916) and 20th battalion (September to December 1917, including the battle of Cambrai - specifically the attack on Bourlon from 23 to 26th November 1917*).


* See Chapter 9 of Cambrai 1917 by Forum author Bryn Hammond.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Blinkin' 'eck!

Many thanks Stebie, quite a newcomer to Ancestry so thanks for that. What a lot of information.

I presume you think it wasn't a mistake if he ended up in a special hospital for SIWs? Damned unlucky if it wasn't done on purpose.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you can access his records on Ancestry, then there are quite a few pages on BOTH sides of the Index page access point i.e. use both the left and right arrows to read through his pages. First page of his record starts on page number 19587.

He had quite an interesting war!

I suspect that he was put into the "Special Hospital" until the circumstances of his injuries could be properly determined. It speaks volumes that he was moved straight back into the "normal" casualty system straight after his Courts Martial - which seems to have blamed him for the accident, but exonerated him of deliberately injuring himself.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This passage from "With a Machine Gun to Cambrai" describes the anguish of the uncertainty of being branded a possible "SIW".

"And now I come to a totally unexpected turning-point in my story, one of those things you could bank on never happening but which do. It was nearly 2 pm on 17 October and we were about to parade for revolver inspection before returning to the line at Gueudecourt. A whistle blew, and as 'A' Section moved out of the hut for parade I was shot through the left foot by a .45 bullet from Snowy's revolver. The bullet tore between two bones in front on the ankle, went out through the instep of my boot and buried itself in the ground. With his revolver pointing downwards, and not realising that it was loaded, Snowy had casually pulled the trigger and Wham! I was out of the fighting for six months. There was pandemonium for a few moments as I hobbled about in pain, and then I found myself on the back of a comrade named Grigg, who carried me to a field dressing station close by. Poor Snowy was put under open arrest pending an enquiry. I'll never forget how at first I was in an acute state of alarm at the unorthodox manner in which I had become a casualty. After many months of shot and shell from the enemy, with every missile carrying possible death or mutilation, it was shattering to find myself hors de combat through the unwitting agency of my best pal.

That evening, with other wounded men, I travelled in a very ancient char-a-banc past the ruins of Montauban and Longueval, right out of the battle area. The further I went, the more my spirits rose, as it gradually dawned on me that I was surely the luckiest Tommy in the whole of France. My hopes soared at the prospect of getting to Blighty, and I felt immense relief as I moved from the danger zone.

I was puzzled, on being transferred to an ambulance car, to find myself the only casualty in it. Finally I arrived at the 39th Casualty Clearing Station*. Next morning I discovered that there was something queer about the place, which filled me with misgivings. None of the nursing staff appeared friendly, and the matron looked, and was, a positive battle-axe. I made anxious enquiries, and quickly learned that I was classed as a suspected self-inflicted-wound case. Unknown to me, the letters SIW with a query mark added had been written on the label attached to my chest. Here was a fine kettle of fish, and I was in a state of near-panic. The place was full of SIW cases, or suspected cases, and normal standards of kindness were not allowed to nurture there. Many cases of wounding, even blindness, had been caused by foolish curiosity or needless tampering with detonators, fuses, rusted-up bombs and other weapons away from the trenches. That alone cast dark suspicion on the unlucky victim, who, by carelessness, as opposed to a genuine accident, fell into the fearful SIW category. Whenever it was possible for a patient to do any kind of chore, he was set to work. If he had lost a foot, he could brood over his misfortune while peeling spuds, or any other task that he was able to do without the aid of two feet.

One man told me that he had been tampering with what he thought was a dud bomb, and had lost his right hand. Of course, there were patients who had deliberately injured themselves in order to avoid further fighting. These were the blackest among those black sheep. The poor devils must have been in a dreadful state of mind to savage themselves, but I doubt whether severe mental stress was taken into account when pleading for mercy at the court martial which awaited them all.

In every unit there were always one or two men who were below standard, unable to control or hide their fears in times of danger. To be blunt, they ought not to have been soldiers at all, yet they volunteered for service. Events, however, proved too much for them, and they were to be pitied.

Three most anxious days passed. A report about me was received at last, and I was given clearance, thus ending the most unpleasant of my war experiences. All smiles again, and with my foot not troubling me unduly, I travelled to Rouen, where I was earmarked for Blighty. On 23 October I was aboard the hospital ship Western Australia. The wooded banks of the Seine were in a blaze of autumn colour as we set out on the eight-hour journey down to Le Havre."

* My note: 39th CCS has been mentioned a few times on this Forum as a "specialist" CCS for self inflicted wounds.

To reiterate, it does seem from Horace's records that an SIW was suspected, but I can't really find any trace of the particular hospital mentioned in his records. I may be putting 2+2=5....



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes Steve, found the pages on Ancestry now (am a bit peeved that a few others I am researching don't have the same amount of information)! Many thanks for your time on this one, I tend to think it may have been a mistake given his previous record and his actions after the event.

It's funny you mention the SIW case in Coppard's book - I read this a few months back - and poor old Horace must have felt dreadful over this. Both my mum, dad and Grandma (his daughter) tell me he really was a top man but...you never do know and I don't think you've added up incorrectly, he probably would have been under suspicion and like you say to be reinstated so quickly and to be recommended for the 3 medals, I think they must have exhonerated him through recognising that it was a mistake.

There's a small possibility I may be getting his medals; my nan asked her sister and if her sister can find them, then they're mine.

Anyway, thanks for that mate - you've really come up tops there for me and if I'd paid more attention to the Ancestry file I would have known there were another 10 or so more pages on top of what I already had. Silly moi.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oddly, the man receiving Field Punishment No. 1 on page 75 of "With a Machine Gun" is in the right period to be Horace. Improbable, but I wonder....

You do find that the index pages on the Ancestry "Pension" records are a bit hit and miss. I always look to both sides to check.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, however if he was court-martialled on the 12-6-1916 when he received his 42 days No.1 but sent the very next day 13-6-1916 to No.15 Hospital it would suggest to me that he had been exonerated of his SIW. Still, if he had to serve the 42 days for 'carelessness' then when would that have been? He would have been too poorly to have suffered such a punishment surely? As it says he is at the No.24 Infantry Base Depot from the 22-6-1916 and then on to the 12th Battalion from the 19-7-1916 and you'd have thought maybe it was during this period which does fit in, like you say, with Coppard's man. Bloody hell. Might be rather difficult finding out whether he was let off the hook for the field punishment given the fact they got it wrong concerning his SIW…? What you reckon?

The plot thickens and to be honest it's been a funny old day. Earlier this afternoon I found myself in my favourite local with a copy of none other than that book which I took along with Ron Wilcox's history of the 17th London's, 'The Poplars', to do some light research for a novel I am in the middle of writing. I've read them both but my memory required a refresher and as I was sat down a chap came up to me and asked me why I was reading With A Machine Gun To Cambrai (though not P.75 I will add!). He turned out to be a friend of The Centre for First World War Studies and his father was in the Machine Gun Corps and is thus an expert on that corps.

These things are just meant to happen but I hope it wasn't Horace mentioned in Coppard's book… if it was then he must have dealt with it extremely well and lived, as we can see, to fight another day with pride in his heart.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suspect that the punishment would have been meted out at the infantry Base Depot.

It would seem odd if a man was posted to the 12th battalion (just out from their heroics at Trones Wood) and go straight onto the punishment stand. I would think it unlikely that a man would be accepted into the battalion already under punishment like that. Although these punishments were designed to discourage the other men from "acts in the prejudice of good order" bringing a man in already under severe punishment would be odd - to my 21st Century mind at least!

The punishment seems to have been for his 'neglect' - not the fact that he 'self-inflicted', and it does say that it was confirmed by the Army Commander, so I would think that the punishment should have been carried out at some point, unless commuted for some reason - which we have no evidence for. There are certainly not 42 days between his leaving the hospital and joining the 12th battalion, nor even between his CM and joining the 12th battalion.

I can't really reconcile the time-frame to be honest...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...