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Royal Engineers 8th Signal Corp


sflk75
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Hi

I am doing some research into my great uncle George William Batch who was a pioneer in the Royal Engineers and who I think going by his service record was in the 8th Signal Corp.

I've tried looking into what that particular division did etc but I am having a bit of trouble finding out.
I know he joined up in Hitchin on 8th February 1916 and going by a couple of letters he wrote in his service record he was'nt fit enough for service overseas but wanted to be medically re examined and was then posted abroad.

He was killed on 25th March 1918 and his name is on the panel at Pozieres Cemetary, his service number is 151760.

I have attached one page of his service record which I think shows he was in the 8th Signal Corp.

Any help anyone can give on his unit or maybe what their duties were would be much appreciated.

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sflk75

Welcome to the forum.

I presume 8th Sig Co refers to either the 8th Division's Signal Company or the Signal Company for HQ VIII Corps. The latter is less likely as I believe the Corps signal companies were referred to by letters (i.e. H Signal Company for VIII Corps).

If the former the Long Long Trail website (link top left) will have information on the division and the battles in which it served under Formations and British Divisions. The division was definitely involved in the German March 1918 offensive.

The war diaries can be viewed if you can get to Kew - 8th Div Sig Coy is WO95/1701 - this may mention where the unit was but is unlikely to give information on your man by name. These units were generally not involved in front line action but were at risk from shell fire or air attack.

This book may provide some background: http://archive.org/details/signalserviceine00prie

I know there are more knowledgeable people out there on these subjects so someone may have further information.

Kind regards

Colin

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Hi Coiln

Many thanks for your reply and all the info you posted. I will have at look at the list about the divisions and the link to the book to see what else I can find.

I don't expect to find any mention of him in war diaries entries but maybe I can build up a picture of what his unit was doing on the day he died .

There was a rumour given to my sister by my nan that he stepped on a mine or was blown up, but all I know is his body was never found as he has no grave. Once again thanks for your help and it looks like a visit to Kew to look at the war diaries for the day he died to see what his unit was up to is next up.

Simon

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Hello sfik75

There is a modern reprint of the History of the 8th Division, available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eighth-Division-1914-1918-J-H-Boraston/dp/1843421895/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380356428&sr=1-2&keywords=boraston

or you may be able to get a copy through your local library.

I camn thoroughly recommend Priestley's book as per the link Colin has posted. Despite being an official history it is written in a very readable style and there are several appendices at the end (around page 380, I think) showing the breakdown of men and vehicles in each type of signal unit.

I agree with Colin that we are looking at 8th Divisional Signal Company. His date of death indicates that he was killed during the early phase of the great German Spring offensive, the "Kaiserschlacht". The division was also heavily involved in later phases of this offensive, on the river Lys in April and on the Aisne in late May.

Good hunting!

Ron

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Hi Simon,

A Pioneer? Are you sure? I wonder if you mean Sapper.

If he was at the Hitchin Signal Depot then he was a contemporary of my grandfather and he would have been a signal engineer with the rank of sapper. Colin has mentioned that he was right in the thick of the Spring Offensive. I can send you an e-book of the 4th signal section, 3rd AIF Divisional Signal Company, which was around 15 km south of Pozieres at that time. Here is an outline of what they were doing and the kind of conditions your great uncle experienced [Edit: a divisional signal company allocated a signal section to each infantry brigade]:

From early 1917, ten [of the 4th signal section, 3 Div Signal Company] were killed in action or died of wounds and three bodies were never recovered. One of those
killed was an officer who offered his sleeping position in a blockhouse to a tired digger and was later
shelled outside. One died later in Australia, death attributed to war service. Nineteen were
wounded and two of these received gunshot wounds to the head while eleven were from gas shells.
The section killed 2 machine gunners and captured 13 prisoners, 8 of these when a runner single-
handedly cleared freshly-captured dugouts. Almost all members were recorded as working in areas
saturated with gas and many were individually targeted by shellfire / gas / machinegun fire or rifle-propelled
grenades. Two Military Crosses and Fourteen Military Medals were awarded.
My guess is that your great uncle was killed by a shell. If he was a linesman, then they were frequently targeted by the opposing artillery:
. . . a dangerous job that frequently
involved running between trenches in the open to locate a break in the signal wire. There are
numerous records of linesmen on both sides running between trenches while the opposing gunners
fired artillery at them. Surviving linesmen were renowned at correctly predicting exactly where the
next shell was going to land and diving into old craters at just the right moment. They quickly
learned the general standard of musketry from the opposing trenches as well as passing from one to
another known sniper locations and which sniper had a deadly aim.
Linesmen often received a Military Medal or Mention in Dispatches. Seven Military Medals were awarded to sappers in [4th section 3 Div Sigs]
and at least two more recommendations made. The citations typically use phrases such as
"going forward under heavy machine gun fire without regard for his personal safety to maintain the
lines to the battalion". Linesmen and runners often ran from one set of trenches to another across
the open ground and this made them targets for machine gun, snipers or rifle-grenades (known as
pineapples).
If you want a really good picture, read "Sapper Martin", "Diary of a Sapper" (Sapper Dadswell, AIF) or I can send you the 4th section e-book, which relates the story of my grandfather, who was at Hitchin Signal Depot (Shefford) and later on the Ancre-Somme junction for the spring offensive:
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I believe that a lot of recruits to the RE Signal Service were ranked as "Pioneer" because they followed trades for which there was no pre-1914 "trade test" which would have given them qualifications as Sappers.

Ron

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Hi Ron & WhitestarLine

What can I say except a big THANK YOU for all your help.....I wish I had joined sooner.

Ron Thank-you for the link regarding the book, been ordered and is on its way.

WhitestarLine if you could send me copies of those two e-books I would be most grateful as it would be great to try a build up a picture of his unit and of what he may have gone through.

Regarding his Pioneer rank , when I started researching I looked on the CWG burial site and on there is said Pioneer so I went by that but thanks for clearing that up.

As I said I don't expect to find him in the war diaries but the fact that some were mentioned in despatches you never know what might turn up.

Thanks again

Simon

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Just been looking at Priestley, page 280. The 8th Div Sig Co suffered 3 officers and 90 other ranks (33%) as casualties during the Aisne retreat. The 50th Div Sig Co had a 41% casualty rate. Many signallers became infantry soldiers and the brigade signal sections of a number of divisions were absorbed into the firing line. Priestley explains the unusually high casualty rate as explained partly by capture of forward personnel and partly by the fact that the Brigade Signal Sections became involved in the fighting. Fith Army provided a complete infantry company from signal company officers and volunteers, who held the reserve trenches in front of Amiens for five days under intermittent bombardment from artillery and low firing aircraft.

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