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Lyndale

What did an AOC Armourer Sergent do?

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Lyndale

Dear Forum Listeners,

I'm researching what Army Ordnance Corps unit in France my friend's grandfather served in? His name is Armourer Sergeant George Percy Kirke, No- A/1794 but his service file has not survived and his two Medal Rolls add no information identifying his AOC unit(s).

Kirke's medal index card shows that he entered France on 9 Sept 1915 as an Armourer Sergeant, was later promoted to Staff Sergeant and was discharged to the Z Reserve 19 March 1919. 1915 Star, BWM, VM.

He was working overseas as an Engineer and returned to UK on 14 Nov 1914 specifically to enlist and his low number suggests he enlisted Dec 1914 or Jan 1915.

Can anyone help with the following questions please...

1. What was the responsibility of an AOC Armourer Sergeant?

2. Would he have been posted to one of the many Ordnance Mobile Workshops with Army/Corps HQ's or have worked at a base ordnance depot?

3. Does his number A/1794 provide any clue to when he enlisted?

Family stories claim that Sergeant Kirke was present at Ypres and Passchendale, the latter apparently is where he suffered a bayonet wound to his leg.

Any information would be most appreciated, Lyndale in Melbourne AUS.

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Ron Clifton

Hello Lyndale

There were some armourer-sergeants in AOC units but the majority served with infantry battalions (one per battalion). Their job was basically to keep the unit's rifles (and bicycles, oddly enough) in good repair.

Ron

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stevebecker

Mate,

I am unsure about the British Army but most Armourers were members of a unit (either Infantry & Cavalry even a AFC Sqn had armourers) there job was as stated to repair and maintain weapons and other mechanical equiptment.

In the AIF all Armourers were transfered into the AOD or AOC (Army Ordnance Dept or Corps) during late 1917 to bring them in line with others in the AOC. This was a paper change as these men stayed in there units still doing the same job, only they were now administed by the AOC.

S.B

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nigelfe

Yep, repair broken weapons (rifles, pistols, MGs), if they were repairable, basically a matter of replacing broken, missing or worn parts. They didn't do much 'metal bashing'. Their tools would fit in a simple small toolbox or bag.

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Lyndale

Dear Ron, Steve and Nigel,

A 'Thank-You' to all three of you for your prompt replies.

Whilst I now live in Australia, I was indeed referring to the British AOC of WW1, nevertheless what you've told me so far goes a long way to explaining why Sgt Kirke was bayoneted in the leg and his descendant family claiming that he spent over three years in the trenches, because I always perceived that AOC Armourers were fixing weapons well back behind the lines in safe base repair depots.

I guess there is no document now that I can pursue to uncover just what AOC unit he was with or what line unit he was attached to?

Regards Graham (Lyndale) Caldwell.

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Ron Clifton

Graham

About sixty per cent of British soldiers' WW1 records were destroyed in the Blitz in 1940 (they were stored in a warehouse in South London) but those which survived should be available inline through Ancestry.com or FindMyPast. You may be lucky!

Steve

Yes, armourers were trained by, and "badged" to, the AOC though most of them served with infantry battalions and other line units. The same applied to battalion medical personnel, who were RAMC members attached to units.

Ron

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Lyndale

Hi Steve & Ron, Thanks for additional info; regret his service file did not survive, nor was any AOC unit listed on Kirke's Star or BWM/VM medal rolls, but at least his family know where he fought and was wounded as per my first post. From both your info about being attached to infantry btns I'm now guessing that after wounding, but more probably after promotion to Staff Sergeant, Kirke was probably unattached from that role and got a billet back at a main repair base?

I'm also assuming that the "A" prefix to his AOC service number A/1794 stood for "Armourer"?

Cheers Graham (Lyndale)

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battiscombe

I think RFA field artillery batteries also ran to a AOC sgt - I have a few battery photos which include an AOC man amongst its RFA NCOs... one I know with an S/number in A Battery 182nd Brigade

this photo in late 1917 seems to have a AOC sgt amongst these gunners - front row seated our right..

48th Battery Sergeants 1917

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nigelfe

I doubt that he was an armourer, a bty had very few rifles, most gunners did not have a personal weapon (a situation that lasted until about 1942),

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Ron Clifton

I'm also assuming that the "A" prefix to his AOC service number A/1794 stood for "Armourer"?

Cheers Graham (Lyndale)

I'm no expert on service numbers but I suspect you are right. The AOC basically trained its men as either armourers (looking after rifles etc) or as armament artificers, who had a similar role with the bigger stuff in the artillery, as Battiscombe has suggested. To make matters even more confusing, artillery units also had "artificers" in the form of smiths, fitters and wheelers, who were RFA or RGA personnel able to carry out routine maintenance of the guns and wagons.

Nothing is ever simple in the British Army!

Ron

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PPCLI

I guess there is no document now that I can pursue to uncover just what AOC unit he was with or what line unit he was attached to?

Hi Graham,

As stated, armourers were attached to specific units and a man quite often served with 'his unit' from embarkation. From the few specific names of armourers that I've found associated with a specific battalion, his date of entry into theatre of war is the same as the soldiers of the battalion. In this particular case, it is unlikely that you will be able to pinpoint the exact unit but it may be worth trying to find any battalion whose soldiers share the disembarkation date of 9 Sep 1915.

Looking at a page on the Long, Long Trail, a number of New Army divisions landed in France during September 1915. A possible candidate would be the 21st Division; LLT states, 'Advanced parties embarked for France began on 2 September and the main body began to cross the Channel five days later. Units moved to assemble near Tilques, completing concentration on 13 September.' It may be worth your while finding out if any infantry battalion disembarkation within this division is associated with 9 Sep.

Only a possible line for further investigation. All the best with your search.

Stuart

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kevinrowlinson

Graham,

I have found that looking at other servicemen's records may also shed light on what a man did, even if they were not attached to the same unit. It is very sad that it is sometimes easier to start with those that died. Using Geoff's wonderful search engine ( http://www.hut-six.co.uk/cgi-bin/search1421.php ) and using just "A" for number and "Royal Army Ordnance Corp" in units you will find 87 men that unfortunately died. The majority of these were attached to infantry units, where given, and you may find one closer to your mans number. I would strongly advise you, and anyone else, to look at the records of A/1005 George Melbourne Tucker. His records are almost complete and include his various certificates for the guns he could service, although a lot of the pages makes distressing reading.

I suspect that "A" does stand for "Armourer", although it is not clear from just this mans records.

Kevin

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Lyndale

Dear Stuart, PPCLI and Kevin, thank you all for your excellent contributions! The lateral thinking to check the other closely aligned AOC soldier surviving records (incl Tucker's) and to try to ID units around Kirke's disembarkation date is brilliant and over Easter I will be doing this, plus (see my first post) if any of those divisions, which I do have a liast of with embarkation dates, fought at Ypres or Passchendale and then narrow it down to probable battalions. I'll check if 21st Div was in these battles? Regarding RFA Artificers I've also come across a descendant of mine who was a Sergeant Artificer in the RFA in the Guards Division who was repairing field guns and I believe small arms. I had not seen the search engine you recommended to use, so thanks Kevin for that tip. As usual high quality help! Cheers Graham (Lyndale).

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SFayers

If 9th September 1915 is the date of disembarkation of your man (this is normally the case, though occasionally the date on an MIC is the date of embarkation or even the date of mobilization), and he was in an infantry battalion of 21st Division, then he would have been with 12th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (the other three battalions of 62nd Brigade and the divisional pioneers, 14th Northumberland Fusiliers disembarked the following day).

However, if the 9th September is his embarkation date then we could still be talking about any of the battalions of 62nd Brigade (12th & 13th Northumberland Fusiliers, 8th East Yorkshire and 10th Yorkshire) or 63rd Brigade (8th Somerset Light Infantry, 8th Lincolnshire, 10th York and Lancaster, and 12th West Yorkshire).

21st Division was certainly at the 3rd Ypres.

All the best

Steve

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Lyndale

Thanks for that extra info Steve.

With regard to the date "9.9.15" (1) Kirke's MIC definately states "date of entry therein". (2) His 1915 Star medal roll states "Date of disembarkation". Therefore your research date fits 12/Nothumberland Fusiliers. He was born in the London area in 1886 and settled there after the war, but of course that makes no difference to the unit the authorities decide to place him with after AOC training. I'll next go check over Easter if 21 Div (and hopefully 12/NF) were also at Passchendale where Kirke was wounded. Cheers again Graham.

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Lyndale

Hi Steve again,

I've now found that 21 Div was at Battles of Ypres as you said and specifically the battles of Polygon Wood, Broodseinde and Second Passchendaele (Oct-Nov 1917) so the latter fits with his place of wounding. Also 12 Btn & 13 Btn amalgamated on 10 Aug 1917 to form 12/13/NF which suggests some kind of decimation in the ranks of both units shortly before that date in some kind of major engagement. It's claimed that Sgt Kirke (AOC) was bayoneted in the leg, which suggests very close-up hand to hand fighting. History of the 21 Div states that from 12-29 Jan 1919, 200 men per day were discharged, then almost 3000 men in Feb and during March 1919 763 of all ranks went home. Sgt Kirke's medal roll and MIC states that he was discharged to the Z Reserve on 19 March 1919. Facts are starting to fit thanks to your help, but of course it all has to be circumstantial, nevertheless somthing positive for the family of my friend to savour. Cheers again Graham.

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SFayers

Glad to have been some help Graham,

The ebarkation / disembarkation info I have for 21st Division was very kindly given to be by fellow forum member armourersergeant (quite an appropriate name given the subject of your topic!). Arm has a particular interest in 21st Division, and he may be able to suggest some further avenues of research if you send him a PM.

All the best

Steve

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Dave1418

Hi all,

armourers invariably deal with the small arms weapons and gun fitters the larger stuff both AOC badged. This role transferred to the REME in later years armourers dealing with everything up to 30mm gun fitters everything else

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stevebecker

Mate,

Of minor interest these are some AIF soldiers who were Armourers, to give you an idea of how they moved in the Army;

TAYLOR Jack Gleeson 3074 Pte 03 LHR 23R Tos 7-17 to 9Co RAOC Ordnance depot Cairo 3-18 to 3/AM armourer 67 Sqn (1 Sqn) AFC 8-18 to 2/AM 11-18 later WWII

MAXTED George Hon/Capt 04 LHR RHQ QM att AOD (AAOC) Ordnance 5-15 shown in AAOC history as salvage & water officer 1 Anzac Corps HQ resupply of Anzac troops being undertaken by ferries prom Hon/Maj 11-15? (G)? prom Hon/Maj Adjt/QM 1 Entrench Bn 5-16 rtn salvage & water officer 1 Anzac Corps HQ 9-16 DSO & MID - for his work as QM between Nov 1916 to March 1917 F&B disch 24-5-18 MU (Boer War ASqn/1 NSWMR (74) (NSWIR to Hon/Capt Cadets 1-7-12 CMF 3 years)

McILLMURRAY Nicholas Henry 350 Pte 12 LHR B Sqn att DSqn/7 LHR 8-15 to T/Cpl 10-15 revert 12-15 (G) to Cpl 2 LHTR 6-16 to T/Sgt 4 LHTR 2-17 rtn Arm/Sgt RHQ Ordnance AAOC 4-19

MORROW John 1849 Pte 8 LHR 13R Tos 2-16 to 47Bty/12 FAB 4-16 to AAOC S/Sgt fitter BHQ/12 FAB 7-16 att Ordnance Mobile Wkshp 3-17 WIA 20-10-17 gas at Rheninghelst near Ypres F&B to ME UK marine engineering

MURRELL George Campbell 144 Pte 04 LHR A Sqn to MG Sect 7-15 (G) to L/Cpl 4 LH MGS 2-17 (B) rtn T/Arm/Sgt RHQ/04 LHR 12-17 to Ordnance AAOC 2-18 att 9Co RAOC 3-18 rtn Arm/Cpl 4-18 to Arm/Sgt 10-18 (RAN Ldr Cooks Mate (1992) "HMAS Encounter" disch 26-2-13

MUTTON Archie 1108 A/Cpl 03 LHR 7R to MG sect (G) att WFF to 6 Sect/1 LH MGS to Arm/Cpl 3-18 AAOC Ordnance to Arm/Sgt 8-18

NEUSTADT Julius Leonard 1142 Pte 23Bn ACo to Sgt BHQ to AAOC Sgt Ordnance 5 Bde HQ (G) to AIF HQ Egypt 3-16 disch 31-12-17 family reasons AKA Julius Leonard Newstarr

SMITH Bert William 3327 Pte ICC 12R to 18Co/4Bn ICC 12-117 to T/Arm/Sgt Ordnance (AAOC) HQ/4Bn 1-18 to Arm/Sgt 4-18 to LH Dtls 7-18 to BSqn/4 LHTR (11 LHR) 7-18 to 11 LHR 1-19 (British Dragoon Guards 13 years)

WEEKS Maurice Arthur 577 Pte 02 LHR C Sqn (G) to L/Cpl 2-16 att WFF to Cpl 3-16 to Arm S/Sgt RHQ 7-16 to AAOC Ordnance 2-18 att RHQ/02 LHR 2-18 to AIF HQ 1-19 (Boer War Nesbitt's Horse)

Cheers

S.B

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nigelfe

Hi all,

armourers invariably deal with the small arms weapons and gun fitters the larger stuff both AOC badged. This role transferred to the REME in later years armourers dealing with everything up to 30mm gun fitters everything else

Although a year or so back there was a TA REME armourer who was trained as a gun fitter for L118 and his multi-skilling proved quite useful in Afg.

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Lyndale

Hi Steve B, thanks for that interesting list of AIF AOC men's career paths during WW1. On the same subject I had an opportunity this weekend to go study the career path of AOC Armourer S/Sgt No-A/1005 George Melbourne TUCKER as suggested by Kevin's (kevrow) post of 27 March. This man's service file has survived in the WW1 pensions on Ancestry.co.uk - which claims it holds 99 docs for him! - and provided information on the firearms certs he had to obtain etc. This regular AOC soldier served 1902-16, but his war years were in Africa, so only the BWM awarded. I'm not sure if there are 99 docs, I gave up after about 50, the vast majority being correspondence between his descendants and the War Office for the return of his personal effects after his death.

Also a thanks to Dave for joining the discussion. Cheers Graham (Lyndale).

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Peter35

Lyndale,

Notwithstanding your questions have been answered, I’ve done some research on Armourers and Artificers in the Victorian period which inevitably spilled over into the pre WWI period that may be of interest.

The genesis of the Armourer Section and Machinery Artificers’ Section of the AOC was the formation of the Corps of Armourer Serjeants in 1858. The purpose: “judged expedient to establish a more perfect system of obtaining duly qualified armourer serjeants” in the army and militia. From 1899 the Cavalry similarly “obtained” their Regimental Armourer Sergeants from the Corps.

Notwithstanding initially most Armourers joined already trained (as gun smiths / gun makers), and by 1893 it was mandatory they be gunsmiths by trade, they nevertheless were not promoted to Armourer Sergeant until receipt of a Certificate of efficiency upon satisfactory completion of training. This was initially at the RSAF, Enfield before the Corps moved to RSAF Birmingham in 1881.

By 1915 the majority started as boys and armourer privates and on a vacancy occurring “they go straight to staff sergeant” (unlike Armourer Artificers … see below … who were still made staff sergeants on enlistment “at once”). Recruitment of “only boys” continued to “before WWII”.

The “Instructions for Armourer Sergeants” Certificate remained the only training provided by the Army until the late 1890s. By 1900 Service Records show an apparent replacement “Instructions in Small Arms” course. However, Armourers now also undertook other courses: “Instructions in Maxim Guns” (1900); “Machine Guns” (1907); “1 Pr Q.F. Gun”; “Care & Repair of Bicycles” (1904) & “Instruction in Bicycles / Method of Keeping Bicycles G.S. – Mark I & II” (1906).

The Bicycles certificate was undertaken at the Ordnance College, Woolwich.

By 1912, Armourers were responsible for the care, repair, browning of small arms (including lances, pistols, swords, and scabbards) bayonets, machine guns, “parapet” carriages, bicycles and for minor repairs to the metal work of accoutrements and equipment generally (helmets and chains, busby chains, lancer cap chains, and the brass work on the lancer cap). [Instructions for Armourers, 1912 ….. which were the same as the 1897 Instructions ….. except care of bicycles was included in the 1904 Instructions.]

From 1858, Armourer Sergeants were attached to Infantry Regiments and wore the uniforms of those Regiments. Similarly for the Cavalry from 1899. By 1893, but probably by 1883, attached to the Ordnance Store Corps.

The RA had their own Armourer Sergeants who were independent of the Corps of Armourers. However, I strongly suspect their Armourers were incorporated into the Ordnance Artificers in 1882. Interestingly, in the late 1880s, Armourer Sergeants from the Corps of Armourers were attached to the RA.

The Corps of Ordnance Artificers (and Armament Artificers) is frequently, incorrectly, confused with the Corps of Armourer Sergeants. This Corps was established in 1882 and was engaged solely on artillery work (but formed part of the Ordnance Store Corps and wore its uniform). In 1893 the Corps was redesignated Armament Artificers in the RA. They, like Ordnance Artificers, held the rank of Sergeant. Training was undertaken at the Artillery College / Ordnance College, Woolwich.

In 1896 a number of units were amalgamated to form the AOC, including the Corps of Armourers who metamorphosed into the Armourer Section and the Armament Artificers into the Machinery Artificers’ Section. Now wearing the AOC uniform, Armourers and Armament Artificers, besides being posted to Ordnance Store Depots for general district work, continued to be attached to Infantry battalions, Cavalry regiments and RA brigades.

The AOC was responsible for the “provision, inspection, and supply of all warlike stores, clothing, and necessaries”. Establishment strength in 1896 was 1311, comprising storemen (who dealt with storage of ammunition and spare parts), tradesmen / artificers (such as blacksmiths, fitters, wheelers, carpenters, saddlers, tent menders, electricians and welders), clerks and:

Armourer Section … of 312 (including India: 100; & 16 Sgt Mjrs (Warrant Officers))

Machinery Artificers’ Section / Armament Artificers … of 142 (including India: 2; No Sgt Mjrs).

By 1907 the Corps strength had increased to approximately 2236. Armourers now serviced volunteer and militia arms, previously carried out by the civilian staff at Enfield. The more intricate mechanism of the quick firing field gun necessitated the attachment of Armament Artificers to Field and Horse Artillery brigades as well as Coastal Artillery. Increased numbers were posted to India. These increased demands resulted in the combined Armourer and Artificer Sergeants (that is, excluding Sergeant Majors /Warrant Officers) increasing to 898. No substantial change took place until WWI.

You might find these interesting:

General Routine Orders

The following General Routine Orders, pertinent to small arms and associated equipment, were issued to British Forces in France during World War I, initially by Field-Marshal Sir J.D.P. French, followed by his successor, Field-MarshalSir Douglas Haig.

G.R.O. 1064 dated 8th August 1915

Repair and Alteration of Arms and Equipment.

No repairs or alterations of any kind to machine guns or rifles are to be carried out in workshops other than those of the Army Ordnance Department.

Minor repairs to arms should be executed by regimental armourers and equipment should be repaired by regimental artificers or in the mobile workshops of the A.O.D.

Any rifles or machine guns requiring repairs beyond the capacity of the regimental armourer should be sent to the Base Ordnance Depot, where the A.O.D. workshops execute any repair required.

G.R.O. 1081 dated 13th August 1915

Lamps, brazing.

Approval is given for the issue of one “Lamp, brazing, 1-pint,” to each Infantry Battalion and Cavalry Regiment for the use of Armourer Serjeants in carrying out repairs to machine guns.

Indents should be sent to Ordnance Officers concerned.

If you want to further your research, you will find Major General A Forbes’ A History of the Army Ordnance Services, Vol III, The Great War, very helpful. It’s on sale until Monday night, our time, here:

http://www.naval-mil...-great-war.html

State Library of Victoria holds a copy.

Regards,

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