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Remembered Today:

Where Commission Documents personally signed by the King?


shaun_gillespie
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Today we couldnt believe we found my Great Uncles original Commission Document in an envelope in a lost drawer, making him a Second Lieutenant in October 1917, he was in the Liverpool Rifles (Kings Liverpool) and his name was James B Fenn. The brother of John Edmund Fenn that a few of you have helped me with already!

My question is just...is this actually signed personally by King George as it appears, or is it a quality print of his signature. it looks to be in ink, different to the standard print on the document. It also has a Royal Imprint on it.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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No.

One signed 15 Dec 1917, commission effective 21 Dec is 'By Command of His Majesty' and signed by a R M(?) W(?)ade. One from HM in 1963 is similarly worded (but different signatory).

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I belive Queen Victoria was the last to sign all the commisions in person. But failing health and a the Boer war stopped that.

From a WW1 perspective, how many commisoned? Would of been a bit of RSA signing them all.

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No. The commission for partner's grandfather (11 Jan 1915) stamped.

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Hello Shaun and Nigel

I think they were signed personally by the Monarch in pre-Great War times but with the massive increase in commissions they moved to using a rubber-stamp facsimile. I believe the signature "George R I" should appear at the top lerft corner?

They were also signed on behalf of the Army Council. R H Brade was the Secretary of the War Office throughout the Great War.

Territorial officers' commissions were signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County.

Ron

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Many thanks everyone, it is exactly as you described it Ron, something we will now be treasuring, and just glad it was rediscovered!

All the best

Shaun

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I have one where the commission is dated 6 Feb 1952, in the last days of the reign of King George VI, but signed by H.M. the Queen.

Presumably there was a little leeway in these things.

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6 Feb 1952 was actually the day that the King died, so he couldn't have signed it, but presumably it was drawn up some time earlier.

Queen Victoria did not die unntil late Jan 1901, so I am surprised that a document dated 1900 was not signed until a year later but, as you say, there may be some leeway in these matters.

Ron

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Possibly he was a field promotion in South Africa which was confirmed later. I believe it was the practice in such cases to back date the commission to the time when he started acting as an officer rather than when it was confirmed. If so the commission document could have been drawn up late in 1900 but dated as shown and signed in early 1901.

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Yes facsimile signature top left, but the Commission is issued and signed by royal command. RH Brade makes sense, there's something written in the same hand above the signature but even less readable than the 'Br'. Bottom left corner has recipients full name, rank (2Lt) and 'Land Forces'.

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...I think they were signed personally by the Monarch in pre-Great War times but with the massive increase in commissions they moved to using a rubber-stamp facsimile...

Possibly a bit more sophisticated than rubber stamping, which usually look like just that (even more so if the stamp has become worn after heavy use): according to Wikipedia ( :o ) so called 'Autopens' for producing realistic facsimile signatures had, by WW1, already been in existence for some time with the earliest dating back to 1803! Click

NigelS

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Nigel

If Sir Reginald Brade's signature is not a facsimile he may have had RSI by the time he signed it!

Could the bit above his signature be "By order of the Secretary of State/the Army Council" or something similar?

Ron

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Something like P.sec.W then a longish word something like heard?????ough.

It's under glass so I can't examine the writing very well and probably need to use decent light, it could be facsimile but better quality than the King's!

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P M W Macdonough surely?

Edit:

(Although Lt Gen Sir George Mark Watson Macdonough, Adjutant General to the Forces, looks more likely - but I can't read the first initial as a "G")

Edit; Edit:!

But I now see a 1911 reference to Lt-Col P M W Macdonough in the War Office

David

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I'd say it was a badly-written G, because I am sure it is the then Adjutant-General, who was a member of the Army Council. It would be appropriate for two members of the council (the AG and the Sec) to sign it, just as I believe naval commissions were signed by two Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

Perhaps Sir George had RSI too!

Ron

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Any idea what Lt-Col P M W Macdonough was doing 1914-18 so that we can exclude him?

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Edit; Edit:!

But I now see a 1911 reference to Lt-Col P M W Macdonough in the War Office

David

David

I think someone else must have mis-read a signature!

In the Aug 1914 Army List, there are no Macdonoughs and only one McDonogh, namely G M W. He was at the War Office, as a colonel, promoted to that rank on 30 Oct 1912 and therefore presumably a lt-col in 1911. It is surely too much of a coincidence to think there were two officers with such similar names, bot working in the War Office at the same time.

Ron

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Ron

Looks feasible (and water-tight) and for the AG to facsimile-sign seems sensible. But, ... I have always read the first initial as a P and struggle to read it as a G - were there "odd" ways of writing Gs (like reversed Fs used to be popular?)

Refs to P M W MacDonough:

  • National Archives: Letter of thanks from [General] P.M.W. Macdonough, War Office, to 5th Earl for above memo. G173/26 11 Oct. 1912
  • Surrey History Centre Archives: Letter from PMW Macdonough, Intelligence Branch, British Army in the field, asking RCO if he is interested in being attached to the 'British Mission' at Belgian HQ Reference 5337/7/114, 7 Jun 1915
  • PRO cited in French, SPY FEVER IN BRITAIN, 1900-1915 The Historical Journal (1978), 21: 355-370 : P.R.O., W.O. 32/9098, Lt.-Col. P. W. Macdonough to Maj.-Gen. A. J. Murray, 11 Oct. 1911.

Anyone near TNA able to look at the first or last of the above?

David

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  • 3 weeks later...

Queen Victoria did indeed sign personally all warrants during the first years of her reign. However, there were so many warrant to sign that after many years (bureaucrats don't think quickly) it was relaised that not only were officers waiting for years for their warrant, in some cases they had retired or even died before they arrived!

So, the practice was abandoned by, I think, the 1880s. After that someone had the job of sitting with a rubber stamp or similar and 'signing' the warrants. Presumably the same thing happens today.

Incidentally, diplomats get a warrant addressed to 'my worthy and well beloved friend'. These also are signed by the Sovereign. Many are mounted by the recipients. I don't like to tell them about the rubber stamp.

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The "P" could and still does stand for "per". In this case, though, it seems a toss-up whether George Mark Watson M signed himself "M.W." or whether P.M.W. M signed himself "P.M.W.". Seems to favour the latter. Antony

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