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Jim_Grundy

25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen)

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Jim_Grundy

I found an account from a Corporal Norman Spedding outlining some of his thoughts on the campaign in German East Africa yesterday. Thought Forumites might find it of interest:

"While millions of armed men are fighting almost at the bayonet point in Europe, there is a handful of white men, assisted by our Ashans and Indians, who are struggling to hold their own in British East Africa. Beyond the one Bukoba raid, when a small expedition travelled some hundreds of miles by land and water, and so successfully raided the town, destroying the wireless station and much war-like stores, the fighting of the 25th R.F. has been confined to patrol work.

"God knows, we have searched diligently for our enemy, trained negroes from German East, who seem to combine the hate of the Germans with their own devilish cruelty; and enemy well versed in the trackless ways of the bush, and commanded by white officers. Occasionally we find them, and occasionally they find us, and there is a great difference between these two conditions, for bush fighting means nothing more nor less than ambushing one’s enemy or being ambushed.

"Besides our human enemy, we have to combat fever, heat and thirst, and what seems to us to be worst than all, the eternal waiting – waiting for more troops, so that we may once and for all put German East Africa under the British flag. As for the country itself, we have seen practically all there is to be seen within trekking distance of the Uganda Railway. Kilimanjaro, with its snow-capped peak thrusting itself above the clouds, seems to be like the poor, always with us, and with the temperature well over 100 in the shade, so that the very sand is unendurably hot, it seems almost unbelievable that we are looking on deep frozen snow. We have crossed the Victoria Nyanza Lake, hunted big game on the Masai Plains, gone hungry, sore-footed, and half-choked with thirst, across the burning soda lakes, and now we are entrenched in a huge, shadeless, waterless forest desert, the last British outpost, and facing us on the distant kopje tops are the German outposts.

"As for our regiment, the 25th Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen), we comprise all classes and all conditions of men. Besides the average stay-at-home Englishmen, there is more than a sprinkling of colonials and adventurers, men from Valparaiso to Alaska, from Rangoon to the Fiji’s. Amongst our officers are such mighty hunters as Captain Selous, Rider Haggard’s famous ‘Alan Quatermain,’ and Captain Outram."

'Worksop Guardian', 24th December 1915.

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SteveE

Jim

Thanks for posting the account, very interesting. Would it be possible to get a copy of the original report?

Norman John Spedding was approved for service with the 25th Royal Fusiliers (#13589) around the 9th/10th March 1915. I'm sure he went abroad with the original contingent but his MIC makes no reference to the 1914-15 Star so can't confirm as yet (I believe it's because he transferred to the East African forces and I haven't checked their rolls).

He transferred to the East African Pay Corps (#7048) and then East African (Military) Labour Corps (#5581) before being commissioned (1st August 1916) as a Second Lieutenant with the same unit and subsequently promoted to Lieutenant (I don't have a date for that though). I have him travelling back to Mombasa from London as a Lieutenant on 29th August 1917 aboard the "Galway Castle". He relinquished his commission on 1st June 1919.

He was born at the end of 1885 to Elizabeth & James Wilkinson Spedding in Kilburn (or Brondesbury) depending on which census you take, in 1901 he was at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. I haven't found him in 1911 census but I think he's likely to be the N. J. Spedding who went to Canada in 1907 aboard the "Lake Manitoba".

Hope this is of interest.

Regards

Steve

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Jim_Grundy

Many thanks for the additional information, Steve.

In 1915 his father, James Wilkinson Spedding, was the Duke of Portland's house steward. His brother served aboard HMS Laconia and left an account of the sinking of the Königsberg on the Rufiji River in July 1915.

Will sort out getting you a copy of the original article.

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fatford41

Greetings

Would anyone know if a shipping Nominal Roll of this battalion 25th RF would exist and if so, how to obtain a copy?

I am trying to confirm my man was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen. Private Samuel Yule #12833 an original of the 25th.

Also interested in the others who were originals.

Cheers

Bob

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SteveE

Bob

In answer to your first question, as far as I am aware, no nominal roll exists for the 25th RF.

I am away from my records, and potentially Internet access, for the next week but will endeavour to answer any other questions on my return home.

Whether Samuel was a member of the L of F I can't answer, but would suspect that he may well have been due to his 'early' number indicating he was the 33rd man enlisted into the battalion.

From memory I seem to recall that he came over to the UK with the Canadians before being discharged and joining the 25th RF and had previous Anglo Boer War service, Royal West Kent Regiment comes to mind?

As I said I'll endeavour to answer any questions fully when I get home.

Regards

Steve

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fatford41

Hi Steve

Yes you are indeed correct. This man has been the subject of threads previously here and on the British Medals Forum. When I purhased his medals, He was an original in the 3rd Battalion, C.E.F. and subject of my most recent blog. I had no idea he was an original of the 25th so now I am endevouring to learn as much as I can on this famous battalion and it's men.

Cheers

Bob

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SteveE

Bob

Firstly, a slightly fuller answer to your initial question re: shipping nominal roll. Unlike the Canadian Expeditionary Force for which detailed rolls are available the British forces didn't usually go into such detail. An embarkation roll is available for the 25th Battalion but only lists the officers and a few senior NCOs by name, the other ranks are 'numbers of'.

Secondly, I've found your blog on Samuel Richard Yule and it's pretty comprehensive based on what is materially available and I'm not sure that I can really add anything to it.

There are a few minor corrections that you could make should you wish and I'll list them here for your reference:

1. "They were recruited and lead by their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Daniel Patrick Driscoll, C.M.G., D.S.O.". This should be D.S.O. only as Driscoll's C.M.G. wasn't Gazetted until March 1919.

2. "They sailed from London on the S.S. Neuralia, arriving in Mombasa May 6, 1915." The battalion arrived in Mombasa on May 4, 1915 not May 6.

3. "This may have included the actions September 3, 1915 at Maktau" Yule wasn't present at Maktau on September 3, only members of the 25th RF serving with the Mounted Infantry Company were present.

4. "from which 2nd Lieutenant Wilbur Dartnell was awarded his Victoria Cross." Dartnell was a Lieutenant when he was awarded the V.C.

5. "removed from East African in August 1917, the 25th Battalion was dissolved with members being sent to other units." The 25th Battalion wasn't disbanded until the end of June 1918.

6. "entitled to wear nil wound stripes and two blue chevrons" Yule was entitled to wear three blue chevrons.

7. "Ewart Grogan <snip> in his book Lost Lion of the Empire describes the 25th Battalion as follows; "nineteen months after it's arrival only 60 of the original 1166 Frontiersmen were left alive". This is just completely inaccurate. I don't know where Ewart Grogan got his numbers from but the 25th suffered nowhere near the casualty rate suggested. I would suggest that he meant to say that at the time stated only 60 of the original 1166 Frontiersmen were still serving with the battalion.

8. "The family remains not to be found in the 1891 Census" The family, consisting of Olivia (widow, aged 39) and the two boys Alfred H (11) and Samuel R (9) are living at 2 Park Crescent, Clapham, they are listed as "JULE".

I hope this helps.

Regards

Steve

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staunton

a Nominal Roll of original 25th RF could be reconstructed from 1914/15 Star (date arrival in combat zone) and BW/VM (battalion) medal Rolls. I lived 4 years in Kenya 1990s and usually took photos in any WWI cemeteries visited such as Voi with Dartnell VC

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