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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Servants, batmen, orderlies can anyone help?

Rob Chester

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I want to do some research into the war experiences of servants that joined the army, and also of those who went into "service" in the Army - such as Mess orderlies, Bat Men etc. Women as well as men. Can anyone recommend any memoirs/histories etc that would be worth looking at? Or have any anecdotes they would be willing to share.



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Have a look at the IWM document archives and the Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds. Enter your search term on their website - "servant" would be a good to start off with. That should bring up a list of collections which you can make arrangements to go and read.

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The following condolence letter I have written by a batman to the mother of his officer may be of interest. I posted this previously in the 2006 thread: "What did a batman do?"


Dear Mr. & Mrs. Hopkins

Kindly excuse me taking the liberty of writing you, but I feel as I must, as I was Mr. Hopkins servant. may I express my deepest sympathy of the sad news of the death of your son, which occured on Good Friday afternoon. he was keeping the hearts of his men up wonderfully & we were in a very hot corner when he got the fatal blow. we think it was by a sniper. it might ease your sorrow to know that he suffered no pain. death was instant. I had been his servant since last August & we had been together in many a warm corner since then & we were only congratulating ourselves the day before on the luck we had had, for we were all through that terrible Cambrai fight which started on the 30th November & we were not touched.

Mr. Hopkins did spendid work there & though only a Junior Officer then, when nearly all the officers were gone, he acted as Colonel & he should have been decorated for it. he had no fear & would volunteer to go anywhere. he was very much liked by all his men & was in command of his Company at the time when his death occured. we had been through 7 days of severe fighting & only two officers in his Company were left.

I was not actually on the spot when it occured & I was told the sad news a few minutes later. I shall always remember Mr. Hopkins as a perfect gentleman & a friend. I asked him for a Photo of him & he had promised me one, so if you have a spare Photo which you can part with, may I beg it of you please for remembrance sake. now I must close, hoping this sad news will not come as a great blow, but it has happened to a good many brave fellows in our Battalion. you can think in the future that he died as a Brave Soldier, he had done his duty well. I should be very pleased if you could drop a line in return, so I know you have received the letter. his kit will be sent home shortly so must close.

I remain yours Sincerely,

R. Foster

200642 Rflm R Foster

B Coy

11th Batt KRRC



Letter written by Robert Foster, No. A/200642, KRRC, who prior was No. 1230, Cambridgeshire Regt.

Second Lieutenant Arthur Martyn Hopkins, 11th Bn, KRRC, was KIA 29 March 1918, during the 59th Brigade's forced withdraw from the area around Mezieres. (CWGC states 28 March, condolence telegram from War Council and Annals of KRRC, Vol. V indicate the 29th). He was born 8 June, 1898, to his father, Martyn, a schoolmaster, and his mother, Sarah, a school headmistress. They lived in Camberwell, County of London. Although Rflm Foster's letter is written to both parents, Martyn Hopkins had predeceased his son, dying 5 February 1915.



Initials: A M

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Regiment/Service: King's Royal Rifle Corps

Unit Text: 11th Bn.

Date of Death: 28/03/1918

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 61 to 64.




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Thanks. Plenty of information there. Interesting letter, thanks Chris and I will see what they have in Leeds, John, handy for me as I am in Bradford

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Broadening the topic out, does anybody know if there were rules governing servants, ie - is there anything about them in Kings Regulations. Also mess orderlies etc, presumably there would have been rules for servants/mess staff etc and outlines of duties does nybody know of any of these or where they might be found.

I am trying to see if there is enough material here for a talk/article

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My wifes Grand Father was Pte. Albert Charles Hearse: Died Wimereux , France 1917 he was then 258007 Lab. Corp (Supt. of Officers Mess at H.Q. after trench foot) his Worcs Reg numbers were 6611 and 3796 and 242170.

We understand he went into Worcs Reg early 1900's. He was a gentlemans Servant on 1915 Birth Cert of Daughter and 1917 Birth Cert of son, he was in army at that time and we wondered if he was officers servant/batman etc.

On Alberts grave, after the family inscription is the line 'Faithful Friend'. ? Who was he faithful to ? I am interested to see how you get on with your research. I will keep you posted on what and how I find out Alberts history.


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the noun Batman seems only to appear in War Establishments ................ as the scales are as "soldier servants" in peace, it may well be the one became the other.

The noun Batman is not in the Index of KR.

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Graham, was Albert a servant in peace time?

Grumpy, thanks for Standing Orders and the KRs they really do shed a bit more light on the subject. Interesting that in the RWF a list of servants was kept in the Mess recording thir service etc. I wonder if that was the case with other regiments and whether any survive. I also thought it was interesting in the KR that servants were expected to have served either a year or 18 months in the ranks. I wonder how strictly that was enforced especially in cases where officers joined up alongside their servants.

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Found Grumpy's info very interesting. Thanks for that it, will help a great deal.

With regard to Albert and his career, we don't know is the answer. His no. for Worcs Reg. gives him as joining 1902 as 17 years old, previous occupation at 1901 census was engine cleaner, Albert is not on the UK 1911 census. He has 4 regiment nos and it would look like he was in continuous army service (some time in reserve) until his death 1917. Twelve years 1902-1914 - Reserve and recalled - Trenches then home with trench foot- then labour corp 1917 is my thoughts, but I have no proof yet only his Nos.

He married in 1914 and previously his wife was 'A Ladies Companion' again to whom we don't know. She travelled abroad a lot before marriage.

Family rumours: Albert and Elsie his wife worked for same family, thats how they met.

I will keep on lookig, I am due a 'Break through'


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I have had a look at near contemporary Foot Guards Standing Orders: they refer to Officers' servants and also to batmen, but no description of duties of latter, not even indexed.

I cannot find a reference to the peacetime distinction of usage but believe that sergeant-majors and indeed any NCO at or above full sergeant could employ a soldier batman.

Grateful if anyone can provide batman peacetime chapter and verse, Guards or otherwise.

War Establishments have batmen only and in the context of officers' servants and grooms.

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