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NickTheDuck

Royal Engineers question about "I.W & D; RE"

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NickTheDuck

Hello,

Please can someone advise me about the structure of the Royal Engineers companies. I am trying to find out which company my great grandfather John Bernard Reeves served in. I have confirmed these details from the 1918 absent voters electoral roll: 1918 - 12 Guest Street, All Saints Ward - John Bernard Reeves, 344011, I.W. & D; RE

I understand that the abbreviations “I.W & D; RE” stand for “Inland Waterways & Docks; Royal Engineers”. That is to say, the regiment was called “Royal Engineers” and the unit was called “Inland Waterways & Docks”.

John Bernard Reeves died on the 10 March 1919 of pneumonia and bronchitis, after the war had ended. He was buried at St.Joseph's RC Church, Nechells, Birmingham. His CWGC grave gives his service number as "WR/344011".

I believe the abbreviation “WR” in his service number was used for people in the “Waterways and Railways” unit. At present, I don’t know if this is a sub-unit of the “Inland Waterways & Docks”, or if they are just different names for the same thing. Please can someone tell me if this is the case.

I have already looked on The Long, Long Trail website. Unfortunately, the webpage designated for Inland Waterways & Docks companies has not been written yet!! http://www.1914-1918.net/iwd.htm

He was supposed to have been gassed on The Somme in 1916, which most likely damaged his lungs. When he died (after the war ended) his widow never got a war pension. She was a seamstress, but because of the lack of men, there were few men to make suits for. A tragic tale.

There doesn't appear to be a WW1 Medals Roll Index Card for him so I can't provide much more info.

Hope someone can help.

Kind regards,

Nick The Duck

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Michelle Young

Hello NTD and welcome to the GWF

There are 2 MIC on Ancestry to a J Reeves in the IW&D RE, not the same numbers but might be worth you looking at them?

Michelle

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rksimpson

Hi

here they are in a list of John Reeve's of th RE from National Archives-

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/search-results.asp?searchType=browserefine&mediaarray=*&first_date=&last_date=&CatID=10&pageCount=3&query=first%5Fname%3Djohn%7Clast%5Fname%3Dreeves%7Ccorpname%3Droyal+engineers&queryType=1&pageNumber=1&sortSpec=first%5Fdate+desc

As Michelle has said they should also be on Ancestry, and a better picture

I would think it would be the other way around, IW&D being part of WR.

regards

Robert

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Terry_Reeves

There was a huge reorganisation of transport in 1917 as result of the Geddes report. As a result, large numbers of men were drafted to the railways and the lnland Water Transport to which the Docks were added. Units in these organisation were came under the umbrella of a new organisation Transportation Troops. In March 1918, all these men were given a number with the WR pre-fix which denoted them as Transportation Troops. This also included road construction and quarrying units.

If you care to search the forum, I posted, sometime ago, Home units of the IWT and also an outline of the IWT organisation In Mesopotamia. When I get the time, I will post something about the IWT organisation on the Western Front. Those with relatives who served with a UK based unit may be lucky to find which one it was, if they can find service documents. Those who are looking for specific IWT units on the Western Front will find their chances very slim indeed.

Quack

TR

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kenf48

I believe the abbreviation "WR" in his service number was used for people in the "Waterways and Railways" unit. At present, I don't know if this is a sub-unit of the "Inland Waterways & Docks", or if they are just different names for the same thing. Please can someone tell me if this is the case.

He was supposed to have been gassed on The Somme in 1916, which most likely damaged his lungs. When he died (after the war ended) his widow never got a war pension. She was a seamstress, but because of the lack of men, there were few men to make suits for. A tragic tale.

There doesn't appear to be a WW1 Medals Roll Index Card for him so I can't provide much more info.

The prefix WR was used for soldiers in Royal Engineers specialist transportation units, therefore the Railway Companies and the Inland Waterways and Docks may share the same prefix, but they were completely separate, although often worked alongside each other, e.g. light railways moving stuff around the docks

The I.W. & D companies were formed in 1915 originally operating barges in the Middle East and France, later they operated cross channel barges from Richborough in Kent carrying arms and ammunition as well as construction materials and the heavy stuff the BEF needed

http://www.open-sand...orough_port.htm

They tended to be recruited from civilian watermen, or barge operators and were tested to Army standards, as well as specialists the Companies would also require other soldiers for less skilled work. If you have access to the 1911 Census this may give an indication of his pre-war occupation. Skilled men were not only paid at an enhanced rate but often received fairly rapid promotion.

Coincidentally on Ancestry there are a couple of John Reeves; one Pioneer 314654 was conscripted on 12th September 1917, he was aged 54 and from Wisbech he was posted to Richborough and was 'employed on Cross Channel service at various times' however in spite of this it appears he only received the Silver War Badge when he was discharged; the second 344048 was conscripted on 3 April 1918 - promoted to A/Sergeant on 16th April and then remained at Chepstow for the duration of the war.

So it's very likely your man joined around the same time. If he was 'gassed on the Somme' in 1916 it is very unlikely (I hesitate to say he wasn't as nothing is certain but that's what I mean!) serving with the IW & D RE at the time. Either he was conscripted around March/April 1918 and did not go overseas (like 344048) therefore no medals issued and no medal index card, or he was transferred into the RE around the same time as a result of not being fit for active service having previously served in an infantry regiment and was employed in the 'second' or 'third echelon'.

The Companies at Richborough were varied and included specialist stores and shipbuilding Companies as well as the Marine Companies 70 -75 who were principally engaged in the Cross Channel traffic. a Google or forum search will probably reveal the full list.

Incidentally although the influenza pandemic of 1918 peaked in the UK around the turn of the year, it was still claiming victims through the winter and bronchitis and pneumonia were often the result and cause of death. It might be worth looking in the local newspaper for an obituary notice.

Ken

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Tyrim

Hello NTD and welcome.

kenf48 is right about movement into the RE from other units. My GF's history closely parallels your GGF's in that he was injured at the Somme in 1916. After recovering, he was transferred into the I.W. & D., RE and served with them for the remainder of the war. Like your GGF, he too died in March of 1919. When demobilized in January 1919 he was declared 50% disabled so I presume that's why my GM was granted a War pension. A pity your GGM wasn't as fortunate.

Good luck on your search,

Tyrim

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NickTheDuck

Hello NTD and welcome to the GWF

There are 2 MIC on Ancestry to a J Reeves in the IW&D RE, not the same numbers but might be worth you looking at them?

Michelle

Hello Michelle, and thanks for welcoming me!

Thanks for the suggestion. I researched some entries on Ancestry a while back, and unfortunately found no further info about my g.gf from doing this. For example, the John Reeves with the service number WR/344048 gave the address of Balham, S.W. London on discharge. I know that this is not my g.gf because he lived in Guest Street, Hockley, Birmingham. However, I agree it is always worth double-checking these things.

Kind regards,

Nick The Duck

Hi

here they are in a list of John Reeve's of th RE from National Archives-

http://www.nationala...rst%5Fdate+desc

As Michelle has said they should also be on Ancestry, and a better picture

I would think it would be the other way around, IW&D being part of WR.

regards

Robert

Hello Robert,

Many thanks for the list of Reeves from TNA.

Kind regards,

Nick The Duck

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NickTheDuck

The prefix WR was used for soldiers in Royal Engineers specialist transportation units, therefore the Railway Companies and the Inland Waterways and Docks may share the same prefix, but they were completely separate, although often worked alongside each other, e.g. light railways moving stuff around the docks

The I.W. & D companies were formed in 1915 originally operating barges in the Middle East and France, later they operated cross channel barges from Richborough in Kent carrying arms and ammunition as well as construction materials and the heavy stuff the BEF needed

http://www.open-sand...orough_port.htm

They tended to be recruited from civilian watermen, or barge operators and were tested to Army standards, as well as specialists the Companies would also require other soldiers for less skilled work. If you have access to the 1911 Census this may give an indication of his pre-war occupation. Skilled men were not only paid at an enhanced rate but often received fairly rapid promotion.

Coincidentally on Ancestry there are a couple of John Reeves; one Pioneer 314654 was conscripted on 12th September 1917, he was aged 54 and from Wisbech he was posted to Richborough and was 'employed on Cross Channel service at various times' however in spite of this it appears he only received the Silver War Badge when he was discharged; the second 344048 was conscripted on 3 April 1918 - promoted to A/Sergeant on 16th April and then remained at Chepstow for the duration of the war.

So it's very likely your man joined around the same time. If he was 'gassed on the Somme' in 1916 it is very unlikely (I hesitate to say he wasn't as nothing is certain but that's what I mean!) serving with the IW & D RE at the time. Either he was conscripted around March/April 1918 and did not go overseas (like 344048) therefore no medals issued and no medal index card, or he was transferred into the RE around the same time as a result of not being fit for active service having previously served in an infantry regiment and was employed in the 'second' or 'third echelon'.

The Companies at Richborough were varied and included specialist stores and shipbuilding Companies as well as the Marine Companies 70 -75 who were principally engaged in the Cross Channel traffic. a Google or forum search will probably reveal the full list.

Incidentally although the influenza pandemic of 1918 peaked in the UK around the turn of the year, it was still claiming victims through the winter and bronchitis and pneumonia were often the result and cause of death. It might be worth looking in the local newspaper for an obituary notice.

Ken

Hello Ken,

Thank you for the detailed information about the formation of the IW&D companies. My g.gf was a brass dresser before and after entering the war (based on details given in the 1911 census and on his death certificate) so I doubt if he had any experience with boats/barges before his military service.

Thanks for your thoughts about how he came to be serving in the RE after having been on The Somme. I'll probably never know for certain.

I forgot to say that John Bernard Reeves' CWGC headstone gives his rank as "Sapper". Any comments on that? Could a sapper have laid mines at The Somme? (Please excuse my ignorance about this subject.)

Thanks also for the idea of looking for an obituary - I'll have a look.

Kind regards,

Nick The Duck

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NickTheDuck

Hello everyone smile.gif

A big quacking thank you to everyone who posted a response to my request for info (and apologies for not responding individually to each of you.)

I do appreciate all the comments, and will be following up the suggestions for further research.

I'm impressed with the detailed responses - you guys know your onions!

Kind regards,

Nick The Duck

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kenf48

I forgot to say that John Bernard Reeves' CWGC headstone gives his rank as "Sapper". Any comments on that? Could a sapper have laid mines at The Somme?

Sapper was simply the equivalent of private in the Royal Engineers in WW1 (without getting too hung up there were also drivers and pioneers, then they followed usual ranks e.g. Corporal).

Mines in a WW1 context usually means tunnelling which both armies on the Western Front used offensively. There are experts on tunnelling companies on the forum but although Engineers these tended to be very specialised soldiers. The context of 'laid mines' I'm assuming you are referring to land mines which were a more defensive weapon, although available on the Western Front afaik they were not used, for example in the extensive way in which they were used in WW2 in the Western Desert, the land and nature of warfare i.e. artillery churning up the ground proximity of front lines etc would mitigate against that, but yes they could be laid as part of a trench defence system.

Sapper Reeves would have held that rank in the IW & D RE, I don't know what a 'brass dresser' was but it seems to imply a skill in metalwork therefore he could have been involved in repair and maintenance of the vessels (equally he could have been a deckhand - one of the men referred to in my previous was was a shoe salesman!) It's all a bit speculative. However given the Regimental Number he was not in the IW & D RE in 1916, of that I'm certain, and I think it unlikely he was in the RE then.

If he was on the Somme in 1916 there will be a medal index card somewhere with at least an entitlement to the BWM and VM but usually (if you look at the lists on Ancestry for example) all regiments in which a man served are listed. Nothing is certain, under age soldiers for example often changed their name when falsifying their age; deserters re-enlisted under false names but keep digging an a clearer picture may emerge, unfortunately family anecdotes that 'great uncle Harry was gassed on the Somme' may simply be an embellishment but often there is a nugget of truth somewhere.

Ken

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Tyrim

There is another thread on this site which discusses the Army in 1916 asking for men with skills that were needed in the RE. A quick google search shows Brass Dresser to be someone who was skilled at working brass. The occupation would fit very well with the I. W. & D. which needed to repair or fabricate replacement parts for their equipment. Again, my GF, a Sapper, was with them as a Blacksmith Striker. I'm not sure what the official organization structure may have been but at different times he's show with the I. W. & D., with a Railway Company and at a Train Troops Base Depot. I don't know whether or not these were distinct units of the RE or that Sappers were moved between them as needed.

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mbriscoe

I have a bit of interest in the RE Inland Waterways and Docks Unit because I am interested in the local Caledonian Canal and the USN minelaying operation in the North Sea which used the canal to transport mines to the East coast.

There is a Sapper John GAFFNEY buried in Kilmallie Old Churchyard which I noticed whilst photographing war graves for the War Grave Photographic Project.

I recently had a look to see if I could find out any more about him. I got the record of his death which showed that he died by drowning on 8th October 1918 but the death was not registered until 26th November 1918 suggesting that he might have drowned in the loch and the body not found immediately. He was billeted in the Banavie Pier Railway Station which would fit with working on the canal or harbour. I have had a look to see if I can identify him in censuses and his family but not managed to do so.

I looked in the local newspaper but could not find any mention of his death and also could not anything in the police log book. There was a police record of a Private Harry Graham of the RE 306158 who fell and sustained a severe scalp would on 18 March 1918 but he survived. I presume he must have been I W&D.

I just had a look in Geoff's search engine and there are 289 I W & D casualties and all the ones I checked were in the UK.

MB

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mbriscoe

Found today another member of the RE IWT / IW&D Company who drowned whilst working on the Caledonian Canal. I think I might have a look in main HIghland Archive to see if any others at the East end of the canal.

MB

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mbriscoe

Found today another member of the RE IWT / IW&D Company who drowned whilst working on the Caledonian Canal. I think I might have a look in main HIghland Archive to see if any others at the East end of the canal.

MB

Can't find the name of this second casualty in any of my notes! Will have to have another look at the police record book in the Archive. He drowned in Laggan Locks but was not buried locally so hard to find in the records.

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mbriscoe

Can't find the name of this second casualty in any of my notes! Will have to have another look at the police record book in the Archive. He drowned in Laggan Locks but was not buried locally so hard to find in the records.

Found my notes!

Sapper Patrick MULLEN age 38 from Newcastle on Tyne died at Laggan Locks, Invergarry on 1st November 1918. The report says he was closing the bridge over the canal when he fell into the lock and was drowned. It was 7.30 pm so would have been dark, his body was found 15 minutes later. He is buried in Newcastle.

He was married with two children.

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