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Help re my grandfather - Arthur Lincoln MM and Bar


Guest sbull
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This is something of a long query, because I need to give background information to ground my queries. I ask readers to indulge me and read to the end.

My grandfather Arthur Harold James Lincoln served in the Great War. I know him (from family knowledge and his WO329 medal roll entry) to have been in the 11th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and in the Tank Corps.

Unhappily his personal records do not survive. However, I have managed to accumulate a significant quantity of information about his time in the Tank Corps, through medal citations and detailed accounts (in which he is named) of the incident in which he was taken prisoner in April 1918. I am beginning to research the 11th Battalion Royal Sussex, which is a fortuitous Battalion to have belonged to because it was Edmund Blunden’s Battalion and its doings are therefore extensively reported in “Undertones of War”.

However, what I would seek help from some of you very experienced and knowledgeable folk with are the following questions:

(1) Is it reasonably safe to assume that if his WO329 entry refers only to the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Tank Corps he did not serve with any other Regiment/Corps?

(2) I know that he enlisted on 3rd December 1915 (date given on discharge certificate). In a typical case, approximately when would he have been likely to have joined the 11th Royal Sussex on the Western Front?

(3) I know that he was in the Tank Corps on 9th April 1917, when he won a MM on the first day of the Battle of Arras. He is not named in the records relating to the Battle of the Somme, so I consider it likely (although not certain) that he was not in the Tank Corps (I appreciate that was not then its title) at the time of the Battle of the Somme. However, I would be interested in what the experts out there think is likely to be the latest date upon which he could have transferred to the Tank Corps if he was sufficiently trained to be in action on 9th April 1917.

(4) A family source whom I consider might not be entirely reliable has said that he can recall my grandfather saying that he had been in tanks when they still had the steering wheels attached to the back of them. Does anyone know when the Tank Corps entirely discarded these tail wheels?

Any help gratefully accepted.

Simon Bull

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Simon - do you have his regimental number when in the Royal Sussex?

I have long been interested in this unit, so should be able to help.

You might find the following of interest:

http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/11th_ro...ex_regiment.htm

Incidentally, the Tank Corps didn't exist until July 1917, so they were still part of the HB MGC at the time of Arras.

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The Mk I and II tank with tail wheels were still in service in April 1917 and were at Arras. The Mk IV, without tail wheels, did not come into service until May 1917.

Given that 11 Royal Sussex crossed to France in March 1916, it is just possible that your Grandfather joined them on enlistment, since the basic training was 14 weeks long. On the other hand, he could have been trained by the 14th (Res) Bn and then posted to 11th Bn in France.

Charles M

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December 1915 is unfortunately not a great indicator of when he may have joined his unit at the front. It is likely that he in fact attested at this time under the Derby scheme. He would have been called up under that scheme some time later, and after a period of training moved to France.

I have seen papers of quite a few Derby scheme men who were joining their battalions in France in the latter days of the Somme 1916, for instance.

Given the timing of his MM (and presuming he was definitely gone from the Sussex by then) it is possible that he was with the Sussex for only a fairly short time.

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Gosh – so much help so quickly!

To reply to points raised so far:

Paul

(1) On the medal roll there is a number 15840 after 11 Royal Sussex, which I assume to have been his regimental number. Any help you can give as a result would be greatly appreciated.

(2) Whilst I did know that the Tank Corps was the HBMGC before it was the Tank Corps I had forgotten that this change had not happened by the time of Arras – thanks for reminding me.

(3) Website you guided me to (?your own website?) is very interesting. He hailed from the Stamford area, and press reports in the local papers there reporting his receiving his MM say he was teaching at Colebrook School in Bognor before he joined up. Presumably therefore he is likely to have been in D Company of the Battalion.

Charles

(1) Are you sure you are right about tail wheels still being in service as far into the war as Arras? I had understood that experience of the tail wheels on the Somme led to them being removed and the Mark I and II being run without them. Certainly (e.g.) photograph 20 in “Cheerful Sacrifice” seems to show a tank without a tail wheel at Arras. I have always assumed that they were discarded either between Arras and the Somme, or late in the Battle of the Somme, but not known exactly when.

(2) Thanks for the information re when 11 Royal Sussex went to France. This is interesting.

Chris

Can I add one extra ingredient into the story? When he joined up on 3rd December 1915 he was in fact 18 and 1 day, having been born on 2nd December 1897. He lied and said he was born in 1894 (this is apparent from his demobilisation certificate). Is it still likely that he was attesting under the Derby scheme, given his age? I am not sure about the details of the age groups to which the Derby scheme was applicable.

Thanks for all your help gents.

Regards

Simon Bull

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With a number like 15840, which would have had a 'G' prefix (indicating he had joined for four years or duration of the war), he was not an original 11th Bn man. He would have joined the 3rd, 10th or 2/4th Battalions of the Regiment, and trained with them in England before being sent in a draft to join the 11th Battalion; probably in the August-September 1916 period.

The three South Downs had lost heavily at Richebourg on 30th June 1916 (350+ KIA, 1100+ WIA); no G prefix men served with the units prior to 30.6.16, so he would have joined after that as a replacement.

I have some 11th Bn rolls and casualty lists (wounded) and will check if he appears in any of them.

That was a page from own website; I will eventually have all the Royal Sussex battalions on there.

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Simon,

To answer one of your early points, WO329 is pretty good at recording information. Whilst I do not believe it is always entirely accurate about the order in which men served in various battalions, I would be pretty certain that these were his only two units.

Rob

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Simon, I think his age pretty well confirms that his was a voluntary enlistment under the Derby Scheme. If his story is anything like a few other 18 year old Derby men I have researched, it is unlikely that he would be shipped to France before his 19th birthday.

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Simon

You are quite right over the steering wheels. On double checking I see that they were abandoned at the end of the Battle of the Somme. One can therefore deduce that your Grandfather transferred to the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps before November 1916.

If he falsified his age, he would at `age 21' and presumably single have been in Group 4 of the Derby Scheme and would have been called up for service on 25 January 1916, when Groups 2-5 were summoned to the Colours. Given the 14 weeks training, the earliest he could have got to France was probably early May 1916.

Charles

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Simon

Really to just confirm Charles's post about the Derby Scheme. My Grandafather enlisted on 10th December 1915 as a single man on his 21st birthday, and joined his training unit on 26th January 1916.

Terry Reeves

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May I come back again on the Derby scheme, as there is one aspect of this matter which i do not understand?

My grandfather lied about his age and made himself appear to be 21 when he was actually, just, 18. I have always assumed that this must have been because, as I understand it, although one could join up at 18, one had to be 19 to go overseas to fight in 1915/1916 and he did not want to be barred as too young.

Accordingly, why should he register under the Derby scheme, (which clearly would have delayed him gong to the front) when he was plainly very keen to get there as quickly as possible? My understanding of the Derby scheme is limited but, as i understand it, in return for expressing a willingness to be recruited one, in effect, took one's place in a fairly lengthy queue, and, in the meantime, had no stigma of cowardice to face.

For this reason I would tend to assume that he must have been a "pure" volunteer as opposed to someone coming in via the Derby scheme.

The fault in my logic may be that once the Derby scheme was introduced there was no longer an option to volunteer in any other way.

Could someone assist me in my ignorance?

Thanks again for all for your help.

Simon Bull

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Just a thought, but I do wonder if the 1894 and 1897 might just be a clerical error as 4's and 7's are numbers that get confused more often than most, there being several different ways of writing each numeral. I assume his actual birthday (was it 2nd December) is unchanged in each case. If this was the case perhaps he simply signed up when he reached 18.

I know from my own experiences that an exploration of possible clerical errors has unravelled many mysteries, and I am sure other contributors have found the same. It gets even worse when translation between languages is concerned and I could (but won't) name one significant WW1 figure who earned a "no holds barred" rebuke from C in C MEF for a major clanger which turned on a piece of translation.

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Simon,

With your grandfather being from the Stamford area, have you had a chance to look him up in the book "Stamford & the Great War".

The museum at Stamford has a copy and have been very good to me at sending scans of pages showing references to my great-grandfather and his brothers.

If he's included should show year of enlistment, and as he was decorated might include something new for you.

All the best,

Jim

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Simon

Under the Derby Scheme all males aged 18-41 were invited to voluntarily register for military service. Therefore your grandfather, even though he was a volunteer, was part of the scheme. If he gave his true age of 18, he would not have been actually called up until May 1916 at the earliest and then, as you rightly surmise, would not have been sent abroad until he reached 19. My conclusion is that he did give a false age or otherwise he would not have had the time to put in his stint with the 11th Royal Sussex prior to transfer to the HBMGC.

Charles

PS If you want to read about the experiences of an 18 year-old Derbyite may I recommend Norman Gladden's `The Somme 1916: A Personal Account'.

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You've probably got all this, but here are the entries from my MGC database as to his London Gazette entry:

75290 LINCOLN AH GNR MM 26/05/1917 5193 HEAVY BCH

To translate; Regimental Number, Surname, Initials, Rank, Award, LG Date, LG Page.

Noteworthy that he is listed as 'Gunner' - a usual indicator for Heavy Branch or Motors. A fairly quick turnaround; it could take 2-3 months for awards to be gazetted.

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And if I'd only scrolled down a line.... you knew he was awarded a Bar to the MM?

75290 LINCOLN AHJ GNR

BAR TO MM 09/07/1917 6825

And in short order, too. (In fact, I'm tempted to think the Bar is for Arras)

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Thanks to all those who have been so helpful to me. One of the enjoyable things about researching the Great War is the ready way in which one receives assistance from those more knowledgeable than oneself.

Some comments upon information people offered:

Paul

Thanks very much for the comments re the 11th Royal Sussex. The fundamental questions I sought to answer were when he might have joined the 11th Royal Sussex at the Front and when he was likely to have left them to join the Tank Corps (I accept this is a misnomer but I am using it for convenience). By telling me that he would not have been with the 11th Royal Sussex prior to 30th June 1916 you have answered a good part of my first question.

I would be interested to know whether he featured in the 11th Battalion casualty list. I know that he was wounded whilst he was in the Tank Corps but do not know whether he was wounded at all whilst with the Royal Sussex.

Incidentally, my mother (whose memory would not extend to earlier than the late 1930s) could remember my grandmother picking pieces of metal out of his skin with tweezers. He told my mother this was from the interiors of the tanks he had been in -- presumably what accounts described as "splash".

Martin

I do not think that this is a case of clerical error. One of the few things he ever told us about his war service (it was spoken of very rarely) was that he lied about his age when he joined up.

Jim

Thanks for the information about the availability of information on the Stamford area. This is something I have been wanting to follow-up. We have in the family 4 small press cuttings (each about 1-2 inches in length) from what are obviously local Stamford papers dealing with the award of his medals; his being posted missing; and then his being reported to be a prisoner of war. I have wanted for some time to try to see which Stamford area papers these came from, and whether there was anything else about him in those newspapers. I shall follow this up when I have the time, along with the book which you recommend.

Incidentally, if you have expertise on the Stamford area, do you know anything about the Eversley School where I believe he went to school? I believe this to have been a private (as opposed to state or public) school.

Charles

Thanks for the information about the Derby Scheme. Before I began this thread I did not realise that all those who volunteered once the Derby Scheme came into operation were, in effect, channelled through it.

Phil

It is ironic that you style yourself “staffsyeoman”, as my grandfather was born in Lichfield!

As far as the medals are concerned, the first medal was won in action on the 9th April 1917 (i.e. the first day of the Battle of Arras). He was involved in the capture of The Harp, a substantial fortification on the Hindenburg Line. I have not identified which tank he was in; although I have narrowed it down to have two or three possibles.

The Bar was indeed won at the Battle of Arras. On the 23rd of April 1917, probably in the attack on Roeux. I have arrived at a working hypothesis as to which tank he was in on the day in question, which I will test on the Discussion Forum on another occasion by a separate message.

I am proposing to post a separate message elsewhere about the time which Tank Corps training took. Any information gratefully accepted.

Thanks again for all the help which I have been given.

Regards,

Simon Bull.

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Using SDGW, I put in the search field 11th Bn. Sussex Regt. and in the service number field I put in G/158*(wildcard)

Results

17 returns

by date order the first casualty was

01.10.16, just one

21.10.16, four

and then so on in small numbers throughout the year and the following years.

G/15839 was KIA 25.01.17

G/15841 DOW 03.11.16

A possible conclusion from the above was that there was a draft to the battalion sometime at the end of September, the Battalion diaries will tell if this is so and this may give you an indication of when he joined the Bn. in F & F.

Just my way of messing around with the numbers, I can' t vouch for any accuracy in my method though!

Regards

Andrew

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Simon,

Caroline Sleight at Stamford Museum should be able to help you with a look up for Arthur in "Stamford & the Great War".

Address:Stamford Museum, Broad St, Stamford, Lincs, PE9 1PJ

Newspapers-you've best bet is the Stamford & Rutland Mercury, apparently they have them on microfilm at the local library.

I can't think of any schools in the area by that name (it's been a while since I was home), but a quick online search showed schools in Enfield, Hampshire, and a "prep" school in Suffolk.

Jim

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