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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Batman


mhurst

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No, not the Masked Crusader, but the 'soldier-servant' who looked after an officer's every need.

Was the term 'batman' used throughout the FWW,and was the first term quoted only ever used in books about the war, and never by the soldiers themselves?

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You know the forum search engine is very easy to use! However see

 

 

 

There are lots more entries - go and look.

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Thanks for these, but none of them actually mentioned the term 'soldier-servant', the use of which is really what I was trying to get at.

I tried putting that and 'batman' in the search engine and all I got was my own entry. I'm sure you will enlighten me as to what I'm doing wrong.

And before you correct me, I know that it is the Caped Crusader.

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Thanks for these, but none of them actually mentioned the term 'soldier-servant', the use of which is really what I was trying to get at.

I tried putting that and 'batman' in the search engine and all I got was my own entry. I'm sure you will enlighten me as to what I'm doing wrong.

And before you correct me, I know that it is the Caped Crusader.

The search engine defaults to searching in the post that is currently open. Click on the little lettering in the search engine thingy (technical term) at the top of the page and select forums.

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If the term Batman or "soldier-servant" relates to the looking after of Army Officers, is there another name for Stewards relating to the looking after of Royal Navy Officers. I can't imagine them being called "sailor-servants".

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Hello Anneca

The term "batman" precedes the war and is used as such in the official War Establishments. The alternative, officer's servant, is often found in memoirs or general readership books on the war by authors who think that batman is a slang term and can't be bothered to explain it!

(Although, on pondering a bit longer, I think officer's servant might occur in some of the more legalistic Army regulations, such as King's Regs or the Allowance Regs.)

Ron

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Some regiments - including mine - totally eschewed the word "batman" for officers' servants. "Orderlies" was the term we used, though "batman" was used for the RSM's gopher.

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The search engine defaults to searching in the post that is currently open. Click on the little lettering in the search engine thingy (technical term) at the top of the page and select forums.

Sorted. Thanks for the tip.

Melvin

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As ever George Coppard "With a machine gun to Cambrai" has an interesting insight of the duties of 'officer's batman' (his expression).

With his usual modesty he is unsure whether he was 'recommended' or 'relegated' to the job but he finds it a very enjoyable experience especially when he realises his officer regards him as a comrade. He frequently went on patrol with him when he acted as bodyguard, guide and guarantor (as George says it was not unknown for Germans to impersonate British officers - but presumably not O.R.s!). He looked after the food, and they ate together in their dugout and played the occasional game of cribbage. At one point his officer is taken ill and he accompanies him to hospital for eight days. He notes he had to work hard for the extra pay (half a crown a week) and that it could take all day to clean the mud off and spruce up the officer's gear. At the time he was in the Machine Gun Section of the Queen's and his officer Lt Wilkie was responsible for four guns. Out of the line he was employed in the Officer's Mess.

To answer your specific question Richard Holmes in 'Tommy' notes that in the pre-war army officers had servants and warrant officers 'batmen' although he says the terms became interchangeable (no doubt allowing for Regimental niceties as observed at Post 8) as the war went on.

He cites a number of examples of a similar relationship to that enjoyed by George Coppard, for example Siegfried Sassoon said of his batman Private Flook that they 'were very good friends'. There was a mutual concern often expressed in correspondence, although for balance he notes a mess servant in the RFC referring to his officer as 'an almighty tin god'.(pp 359-362)

As Coppard mentions when he joined up he (and many of his comrades) were 'terrified of officers', one of the difficulties was that pre-war officers were used to having servants and knew how to treat them but as the war progressed the extension of the officer class might have caused some levelling, but also some awkwardness.

Ken

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I think you will find that batmen only figure in War Establishments. The peace-time officer's servants were drawn from, and belonged to, the ranks. There was an official payscale in peace, depending on whether the officer provided "plencluths" for the servant or not. These servants were fully trained soldiers. When their "man" was away [and away without the servant, fairly unusual] they had to do duty in the Mess.

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Some conflicting posts here, but as I'm writing fiction about the 1914 army, I think I'll stick to 'batman'.

Thanks to all for your contributions.

Melvin

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

Researching a Soldier. He joined the RAF in August 1918. He is described as a 'Batman' and was sent to France. I think it has (H E) after B.E.F., does this mean anything ? What would this man's duties have been. He was in France until January 1919.

Regards

Catherine

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A batman was an officer's servant, and would be based wherever the unit - in his case a squadron presumably was based. There were surely airfields pretty much all the way along the front by that stage of the war. They did get moved about, and as movement started up again at that time a squadron might have been moved forwards behind the advance - but someone with an RAF interest might be able to advise on that.

Keith

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Have you been able to check the RAF service records from the National Archives? Much depends on his service number as many are still with the RAF. They don't always hold a lot of information, but you might get lucky.

Keith

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

  • Service records (1918-1922)
    Search by name of airman in AIR 79 in Discovery, our catalogue, for service records of RAF airmen with service numbers from 1 to 329,000 from the First World War. If the airman went on to see service in the Second World War his service record will still be with the RAF. If your search is unsuccessful and you do not know his number, use the name indexes in AIR 78.

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There are a number of threads on the duties of an officer's servant or Batman, for example

 

which has links to even more.

Although all commissioned officers were entitled to a 'servant' the organisation was probably slightly different in the RAF although essentially similar. For example they did not accompany their officer into battle so it's more likely they would spend more time as a mess-servant and general dogsbody than their counterparts in the Army. They may even have had shared responsibility for more than one junior officer.

Ken

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On 13/12/2012 at 05:01, kenf48 said:

There are a number of threads on the duties of an officer's servant or Batman, for example

 

which has links to even more.

Although all commissioned officers were entitled to a 'servant' the organisation was probably slightly different in the RAF although essentially similar. For example they did not accompany their officer into battle so it's more likely they would spend more time as a mess-servant and general dogsbody than their counterparts in the Army. They may even have had shared responsibility for more than one junior officer.

Ken

I think you are probably right about the latter. Various accounts by serving RAF officers at the time do not mention officer's servants. I wonder about the BEF HE reference. Perhaps he looked after someone senior at RAF HQ?

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I think you will find that batmen only figure in War Establishments. The peace-time officer's servants were drawn from, and belonged to, the ranks. There was an official payscale in peace, depending on whether the officer provided "plencluths" for the servant or not. These servants were fully trained soldiers. When their "man" was away [and away without the servant, fairly unusual] they had to do duty in the Mess.

I went a googling for "plencluths". The only result was this post! So, is this a mistake, or is there such a thing as "plencluths"?

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Dear Mods

A number of moderately humerous and inoffensive comments on this thread by me and others - re Batman and Robin - seem to have been censored, removed - "Mderated" if you prefer. Has their been a complaint, have we hade a moderate sense of humour failure, or has the spirit of Leverson infected the Forum? Any explanation welcome. Or do I have binning notice exoceting toward me?

Yours in bafflement

David

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