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Remembered Today:

Trooper or Private?


BereniceUK

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I came across a memorial to Trooper Walter Ronald Repton of the 1st Worcester Yeomanry who died at Katia on 23.4.1916. On checking his details on the CWGC database I found his rank given as Private (2675) and his regiment as the Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars (Worcester Yeomanry).

Which is the correct rank?

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Technically I believe he was a Private. The rank of Trooper was used in the Household Cavalry during the Great War, but Private for the rest. Trooper was extended to Line Cavalry 9and, presumably, Yeomanry) in about 1922.

As for the regiment, Queen's own Worcestershire Hussars was (I belive) the corerct title, but abbreviated to Worcester Yeomanry. 1st refers to the First Line unit, again, correctly 1/1st, with a 2/1st also in existence.

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Yes there were no Troopers, officially at that time, just as there were no 'Guardsman' or 'Rifleman' and all were privates until 1922. Interestingly, at the time 'Trooper' was the common nomenclature for a cavalry soldier's mount and 'Charger' for his officer's.

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He was definitely a Private. But ... as in the examples of Guardsman and Rifleman above, certain terms known as "styles" were allowed to be used by certain regiments and units. I have never looked at the technicalities of the use of Trooper in the Yeomanry but it seems to have been in such common use that I would be willing to bet that it was an officially approved style.

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Thank you for all the quick responses. I did wonder if the use of 'Trooper' on the memorial was a legacy of the South Africa War. I've seen a South Africa War roll of honour where several of those named were listed at the time as Trooper and were members of a Yeomanry.

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One of my Great Uncles was already in the Glamorganshire Yeomanry when war broke out and they appear to have normally referred to the rank and file as troopers whatever the official terminology was

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One of my Great Uncles was already in the Glamorganshire Yeomanry when war broke out and they appear to have normally referred to the rank and file as troopers whatever the official terminology was

Yes in the end it was merely recognition of what was widely being used unofficially within the regiments anyway. I think that in the case of 'Trooper' the Regular Army's reluctance might have been partly because of the nomenclature of the horses, which was of very long standing. The part-timers of both the yeomanry and rifle volunteers (by WW1, 'Territorials') had long done their 'own thing' anyway. That said, even Cromwell had reffered to his "russet coated troopers", so perhaps it was just a return to an earlier form.

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The CWGC will use the official position (what was on the books so to speak) whereas entries on memorials etc will tend to reflect actual custom and practice (how they were normally referred to)..

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Certainly still common usage in 1916 - given this rather long book title

With cavalry in 1915 : the British trooper in the trench line, through the second battle of Ypres (1916) by Frederic Coleman, published in 1916

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I have a fair bit of material on the Worcesters at Katia if you'd like to PM me. Repton was part of the original Yeomanry who embarked Avonmouth 9/4/15 and arrived Alexandria on the 24/4.

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Among the 12 Regiments represented in the 2nd Mounted Div (a Yeomanry Div) at Gallipoli (1915) only one War Diary uses the term Trooper (Sharpshooters) - all the others refer to Private. The title 'Tpr' is used in five of the published histories for this period (1915)- all written after 1922 . The 2nd Mounted Div in 1915 included the Worcestershire Yeomanry

The following use the term Tpr:

Middlesex Hussars - published history

Roughriders - War Diary

Roughriders - published history by A S Hamilton MM

Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry - published history

Derbyshire Yeomanry - published history

Westminster Dragoons - published history

by contrast -

Dorset Yeomanry - published history refers to Ptes

Warwickshire Yeo - published history refers to Ptes

Sherwood Rangers - published history refers to Ptes

South Notts Hussars - no mention.

However there are a number of self-styled 'Trooper's' Diaries and accounts...Bulwinkle, Potts, Cooling,

I have all the available War Diaries and published histories transcribed for Gallipoli (Aug-Nov 1915) and the word search on Pte, Private, Tpr and Trooper only found the above examples. There are also 23 private diaries transcribed, none of which use the term Trooper or Tpr, so I would suggest the term was not as widely used in 1915 as we might have thought - the results certainly surprised me. Doubtless as the war progressed things changed. - Only one example in the War Diaries - the Sharpshooters, which makes me think that maybe there were some ex-Household Cavalry men in the ranks given it was one of the London Yeomanry Regiments. Just a thought.

MG

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The Worcestershire Yeomanry have a number of records in the Museum, I know the Archivist if you want me to contact him send me a PM please. The same can be said for the Warwickshire Yeomanry who were titled Pte in WW1. Steven Broomfield above was spot on with his statements. Could you tell us where the Memorial is as the archivist of the Worcestershire Yeo Museum would like to know, i'm sure.

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As I've mentioned before, elsewhere on the Forum, Anglesey in Vol 8 of his History of the British Cavalry notes that the use of "Trooper" was extended to Line Cavalry in (IIRC) 1922 or thereabouts. On matters like this I am more than happy to accept his word. One would assume it involved those Yeomanry regiments which hadn't been converted to other roles at that time.

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Interestingly the CWGC headstones at Galllipoli are all "Pte" Bloggs. I have well over 100 photos of Yeomanry headstones and none have 'Tpr'. I am fairly certain these were all made after 1922, so it would seem CWGC (or rather its predecessor) used rank titles that related to the year the men died.

M

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So when did the phrase "swear like a trooper" first appear in the lexicon of English?

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I might well be wrong, but I know Sterne mentioned the army swearing a lot in Flanders in Tristram Shandy. Was it in that book?

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All men of rank equivalent Private, in the Australian Light Horse Regiments and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were know as, and officially designated, Trooper. This had its origins from the pre-war Militia Mounted Rifle Regiments. Also during the Colonial gold rush times in Australia, the mounted Police were known as Troopers. As early as late August 1914 the Australian press were describing Light Horsemen as 'Trooper'. A search of the CWGC cemetery records for Gallipoli 1915 will also prove the existance of the rank of Trooper being used for all Australian and New Zealand mounted men who died and were buried in the various cemeteries at Anzac, and recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.

I can recall reading some years back of an order being issued to all Australian Light Horse Regiments in Egypt prior to the Gallipoli campaign, giving rise to the rank of Trooper being adopted as the official rank to denote a Private, but unable to now find any evidence to such an order, although the CWGC records would seem to legitimise its existance.

It is interesting that in the vast majority of service records for Light Horsemen, Private is the official term to denote rank when it comes to medical history, pay rates and other military records.

HM

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So when did the phrase "swear like a trooper" first appear in the lexicon of English?

The answer according to the OED.....1730s

trooper ("tru:p@®). [f. troop n. + -er1.]

1. a. A soldier in a troop of cavalry; a horse soldier. The term was used in connexion with the Covenanting Army which invaded England in 1640. It was used in the English Army in 1660. In the first establishment of Horse Regiments after the Restoration, the strength of a troop of horse was 1 Captain, 1 Lieutenant, and 60 Troopers.

1640 Bk. War Comm. Covenanters 1 That ilk trouper have for the twa pairt of the 40 dayes lone appoyntit be the Committie of Estaites xviij libs.

1694 Luttrell Brief Rel. (1857) III. 296 [They] were all mounted on gray and white horses, and new clothed, and are more like troopers than dragoons.

1703 Marlborough Lett. & Disp. (1845) I. 164 The troopers might embark with the two regiments of foot.

1844 H. H. Wilson Brit. India I. 199 The escort consisted of but two companies of native infantry and sixteen troopers.

1877 Field Exerc. Infantry 331 Two or more troopers should be with each support, to carry intelligence.

b. In various colloq. and slang phrases, esp. to swear like a trooper.

1739-40 Richardson Pamela (1740) I. 239 She curses and storms at me like a Trooper.

1785 Grose Dict. Vulg. T. s.v., You will die the death of a trooper's horse, that is with your shoes on, a jocular method of telling anyone he will be hanged.

1810 Sporting Mag. XXXVI. 122 The fellow..swore like a trooper.

1812 Lady Granville Lett. 12 Sept. (1894) I. 41 William Lamb laughs and eats like a trooper.

1842 S. Lover Handy Andy xli, Jack was heard below, swearing like a trooper.

1854 Badham Halieut. 443 A friend of his, 'eques fortissimus', i.e. one who lied like a trooper.

1884 Symonds Shaks. Predecess. iv. 160 Juventus..swears like a trooper.

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The answer according to the OED.....1730s

trooper ("tru:p@®). [f. troop n. + -er1.]

1. a. A soldier in a troop of cavalry; a horse soldier. The term was used in connexion with the Covenanting Army which invaded England in 1640. It was used in the English Army in 1660. In the first establishment of Horse Regiments after the Restoration, the strength of a troop of horse was 1 Captain, 1 Lieutenant, and 60 Troopers.

1640 Bk. War Comm. Covenanters 1 That ilk trouper have for the twa pairt of the 40 dayes lone appoyntit be the Committie of Estaites xviij libs.

1694 Luttrell Brief Rel. (1857) III. 296 [They] were all mounted on gray and white horses, and new clothed, and are more like troopers than dragoons.

1703 Marlborough Lett. & Disp. (1845) I. 164 The troopers might embark with the two regiments of foot.

1844 H. H. Wilson Brit. India I. 199 The escort consisted of but two companies of native infantry and sixteen troopers.

1877 Field Exerc. Infantry 331 Two or more troopers should be with each support, to carry intelligence.

b. In various colloq. and slang phrases, esp. to swear like a trooper.

1739-40 Richardson Pamela (1740) I. 239 She curses and storms at me like a Trooper.

1785 Grose Dict. Vulg. T. s.v., You will die the death of a trooper's horse, that is with your shoes on, a jocular method of telling anyone he will be hanged.

1810 Sporting Mag. XXXVI. 122 The fellow..swore like a trooper.

1812 Lady Granville Lett. 12 Sept. (1894) I. 41 William Lamb laughs and eats like a trooper.

1842 S. Lover Handy Andy xli, Jack was heard below, swearing like a trooper.

1854 Badham Halieut. 443 A friend of his, 'eques fortissimus', i.e. one who lied like a trooper.

1884 Symonds Shaks. Predecess. iv. 160 Juventus..swears like a trooper.

Thanks for the information concerning "swear like a trooper"

If I recall it right a certain "jolly swag man" had a bit of trouble with four troopers near waterhole which confirms the use of the name trooper down in the south of theplanet.

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