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dfmc

Officer Training 1917

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dfmc

My grandfather was commisioned as a second lieutentant in the 11th Batallion the Rifle Brigade on 18th December 1917 . Have you any idea what sort of period of training he would have had to go through before getting his commision. Would there have been a period of basic training first plus a period of officer training thereafter? Also have you any idea where this training might have taken place?

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centurion

It would depend on where he was coming from - was he already serving in the army? If so was he commissioned in the field? or sent off to a cadet battalion? Alternatively was he from a schools or university Officer Cadet Unit? Or did he apply for a commission when a civilian? All of these could affect how (and where) he was trained. For example men already serving would have had basic training already whereas someone coming straight from civilian life would not.

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Ron Clifton

Hello dfmc

One man I researched was a sergeant in the ASC. He was recommended for a commission and sent home in July 1917. He wanted to serve in the Tank Corps, was trained in an Officer Cadet Battalion, and commissioned in February 1918, being posted to the Tank Corps Reserve Depot. He joined 1st Bn in the field in May 1918 (and, incidentally, won the MC in August).

This covers some of the various combinations mentioned by centurion: he was a serving soldier, but his commission was in a different Corps so a measure of additional specialist training was required, as well as what might be called training specifically as an officer.

Ron

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centurion

Hello dfmc

One man I researched was a sergeant in the ASC. He was recommended for a commission and sent home in July 1917. He wanted to serve in the Tank Corps, was trained in an Officer Cadet Battalion, and commissioned in February 1918, being posted to the Tank Corps Reserve Depot. He joined 1st Bn in the field in May 1918 (and, incidentally, won the MC in August).

This covers some of the various combinations mentioned by centurion: he was a serving soldier, but his commission was in a different Corps so a measure of additional specialist training was required, as well as what might be called training specifically as an officer.

Ron

Actually it covers only the second of my possibilities which probably represents the majority (or close to) of cases in the 2nd half of the war at least. A man commissioned in the field would probably continue with his unit, quite possibly without any additional officer training although something might be organised by the time he didn't need it anyway having learnt on the job as it where. If as in Rons example he was recommended for a commission he'd go to a Cadet Battalion before being commissioned (and probably escape basic training) in this case it seems usual (but not impossible) for him not to return to his original unit (although he might go to another battalion in the same regiment). If he need additional specialist training (for example a man going to the RFC or the tank corps ) this would happen after commission and if he failed this he would be transferred to an infantry unit as an officer.

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Ron Clifton

... A man commissioned in the field would probably continue with his unit, quite possibly without any additional officer training although something might be organised by the time he didn't need it anyway ...

Are you sure, centurion?

My impression (albeit based only on second-hand or anecdotal evidence) is that a man commissioned from the ranks would NOT normally serve with the same unit as an officer. It would have been difficult for such an officer to maintain sufficient "distance" from men he had served alongside in the ranks.

Henry Williamson (who wrote "Tarka the Otter") was in the London Rifle Brigade as an OR, but was commissioned into the Bedfordshire Regiment (or possibly vice versa - I don't have my source to hand).

Ron

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centurion

Are you sure, centurion?

My impression (albeit based only on second-hand or anecdotal evidence) is that a man commissioned from the ranks would NOT normally serve with the same unit as an officer. It would have been difficult for such an officer to maintain sufficient "distance" from men he had served alongside in the ranks.

Henry Williamson (who wrote "Tarka the Otter") was in the London Rifle Brigade as an OR, but was commissioned into the Bedfordshire Regiment (or possibly vice versa - I don't have my source to hand).

Ron

Yes but he wasn't commissioned in the field ie on the spot which by definition must mean within the unit where you are serving. Many men were commissioned from the ranks BUT this is not the same as commissioned in the field. Many commissioned in the field were to fill vital gaps as quickly as possible. General French once commissioned batches of men who went into battle the next day with their unit wearing paper badges of rank on their OR jackets. Tomorrow I'll dig out specific references and examples.

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Ron Clifton

Ah, I see the distinction you are drawing.

It would be interesting to know how many men so commissioned did actually remain with the same unit beyond the short term. This would be a major research project but if you have evidence from a small sample, I and other Forum Pals would be interested in it.

Ron

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centurion

I'll try and dig something out this evening (or tomorrow which is my day off - although now my wife is back home I seem to have much less free time on days off!)

Re "It would have been difficult for such an officer to maintain sufficient "distance" from men he had served alongside in the ranks." being a reason for not commissioning a man in the unit in which he had originally served its worth noting that many field commissions went to men who were already NCOs of some standing and who had presumably already overcome this problem.

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Piorun

I share your views on this Centurion, although Ron poses an interesting exercise. On a personal not, I'm glad to read that your Commanding Officer has returned to her unit. Kindest regards, Antony

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charlesmessenger

I think the may be a little confusion here. The situation by 1917 was that basically commissions were granted as follows:

a. Regular commissions via Sandhurst and Woolwich.

b. Regular commissions for prewar Regular soldiers, who were commissioned in the field and did not undertake any formal officer training.

c. Temporary commissions via an officer cadet battalion. No one could attend an OCB without previous service in the ranks or in a school OTC.

A Temporary commission could be converted to Regular, but it meant losing seniority previously gained.

There was no hard and fast rule about officers commissioned from the ranks returning to their original unit. It was very much a matter for the CO.

Charles M

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centurion

I think the may be a little confusion here. The situation by 1917 was that basically commissions were granted as follows:

a. Regular commissions via Sandhurst and Woolwich.

b. Regular commissions for prewar Regular soldiers, who were commissioned in the field and did not undertake any formal officer training.

c. Temporary commissions via an officer cadet battalion. No one could attend an OCB without previous service in the ranks or in a school OTC.

A Temporary commission could be converted to Regular, but it meant losing seniority previously gained.

There was no hard and fast rule about officers commissioned from the ranks returning to their original unit. It was very much a matter for the CO.

Charles M

So how were people like Clement Atlee, who came in as a temporary 2n Lt fron civilian life, commissioned?

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truthergw

I'll try and dig something out this evening (or tomorrow which is my day off - although now my wife is back home I seem to have much less free time on days off!)

Re "It would have been difficult for such an officer to maintain sufficient "distance" from men he had served alongside in the ranks." being a reason for not commissioning a man in the unit in which he had originally served its worth noting that many field commissions went to men who were already NCOs of some standing and who had presumably already overcome this problem.

Although I am straying a bit off topic, I think I'd agree with that. I wonder if any privates or corporals were ever commissioned in the field? Any senior NCO would certainly have distanced himself from the men. That was one of the functions of the sergeants' mess.

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centurion

An interesting one, Lance Corporal Edgar Kinghorn Myles Worcesters was given a temporary Commission as 2nd Lt in the same Regiment on 20th Nov 1914, promoted Lt on 22nd July 1915 and then given a permanent commission as a 2nd Lt in the Welch Regiment on 7th January 1916 and transfered back into the Worcesters as a 2nd Lt but almost immediately being re promoted Lieutenant on 12th January 1917. (He also acquired a VC and a DSO during the war). So he stayed with his regiment after being commissioned but it seems he had to go to a different regiment to get a permanent commission and then transfer back - some arcane British army regulation?

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IPT

I have a man who had served as a private from 1915 to 1917. He then applied for a commission and was sent home for officer training in 1917 and returned as a 2nd Lt in a different regiment.

Does this mean that his CO would have had to recommend him? Could he have been from any class background by this stage of the war? Was it usual to go straight from a private to officer, without apparently being an NCO inbetween? What is the likeliest scenario in this case?

The Gazette states "from Officer Cadet Units, to be 2nd Lts", no mention of temporary.

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truthergw

Was Edgar by any chance a gentleman ranker? Rapid promotion through the ranks as far as sergeant was probably the norm in the early days of the Kitcheners Armies but commissions had to wait a year or more. The Somme and after saw the great increase in commissions from the ranks.

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dfmc

My thanks for your many contributions which alas raise more questions than answers as far as I'm concerned. Let me add some detail. My grandfather played professional football for Glasgow Rangers. He played regularly up to the end of the 1915-16 season which ended at the end of April 1916. He did not play again until October 1917 when he played up until and including the 9th of November 1917. He was commissioned 10 days later! I am not aware of his attending an OTC or similar. He went to Frane in February 1918. As an aside at the time of his commission he was already 36 years old. From the above it would appear he could only have gone through training between May 1916 and November 1917??

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truthergw

That would be my guess. He did his training and was either waiting for a posting or was able to combine Saturday games with his training for the latter months. As to why he sought or was offered a commission, I think you should look at elements peculiar to a Rangers player of the era. Where did he go to school? Of what organisations if any, was he a member?

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centurion

Was Edgar by any chance a gentleman ranker? Rapid promotion through the ranks as far as sergeant was probably the norm in the early days of the Kitcheners Armies but commissions had to wait a year or more. The Somme and after saw the great increase in commissions from the ranks.

Enlisted 20th Aug 1914 Commissioned 20th Nov 1914.

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centurion

I have come across a number who have applied for and gained a temporary commission without either being in an OTC or the ranks first. They do however appear to have had some one with influence to speak for them.

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dycer

From a Pioneer Battalion War Diary,preparing to assist 51st(Highland)Division's attack at Beaumont Hamel.

11th November 1916-Corporal T.E.Steele "B" Coy granted a commission direct to Battalion and posted to "A" Coy.

George

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charlesmessenger

I should have made it clearer that I am talking about the situation in 1917. In the early part of the war the granting of temporary commissions to men straight from civilian life was commonplace and it was in this way that the Kitchener Armies were largely officered. With the introduction of conscription at the beginning of 1916 and the establishment of officer cadet bns matters changed.

I weould stress that all commissions granted from OCBs were temporary even though this was not spelt out in the London Gazette.

Charles M

PS If anyone wants to explore officer selection and training they might like to look at the relevant chapter in my book Call to Arms. I think that this would answer a number of queries being raised on this thread.

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bigbill

Re Edgar Kinghorn Myles, VC, DSO, Mention - his father was a teacher, his mother was my grandmother's elder sister. Edgar gained Second Class Honours in the Oxford Local Examination when leaving East Ham Technical College in 1910. He was a clerk to the Port of London Authority 1911 - 1914. He enlisted in August 1914, and was discharged in November the same year (L/cpl) on recommendation for commission by his C/O, and subsequently was appointed to a temporary commission as a 2nd Lt.

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nigelfe

To help with eliminating possibilities, RMC Sandhust commisioned on 21 Dec that year.

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