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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Machine gun corps


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Hi folks,My Grandfather Lance corporal William Sherborn was in 31st Battalion Machine gun corps and was K I A on 12th April 1918 during the Spring offensive,he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert memorial as one of the missing so Was killed in this area,I have visited this area three times.

As the M G C did not fight together,is there any way that I can discover which regiment he was assigned to at the time of his death?

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From what I can gather from LLT is that they part of 31st Division but only formed 21/2/18. This may mean he was originally in another battalion.

Click on Long Long Trail top left of page , Click on regiments then MGC Battalions.

As I think most MGC's were numbered as the same as Brigade number ie 31st MGC I went straight to 31st Brigade and there is a history for them.

If you take your time you maybe able to find out more.

I am sure that a MGC specialist will be along soon!

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Not quite. Generally, Machine Gun Companies were numbered according to the Brigade to which they were assigned, with an additional Company as Divisional troops, from 1915 to early 1918. From early 1918, the Brigade Machine Gun Companies were merged at the Divisional level to form Divisional Machine Gun battalions. So in this case, you need to refer to the 31st Battalion - which will be with the 31st Division.

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By 1918 they were Divisional Troops so the short answer is 'no', but all is not lost!

As Phil notes above original members of the Machine Gun Companies were often 'brigaded' with their original units but by the 1918 reorganisation of the Corps this no longer held true. There is some confusion over his number but taking the mic reference as correct i.e. 90128, rough guess he joined the MGC March/April 1917 and was probably sent overseas a couple of months later. SDGW notes he was previously in the ASC but did not go overseas with them according to the mic.

31st Division, originally a 'Pals' Division', underwent a major reorganisation in February 1918 but by the time he went overseas the 'Pals' structure was nowhere near as strong due to losses in the field.

There is a graphic online account of the Battle of Hazebrouck between 11th -13th April 1918 on Andrew Jackson's brilliant Accrington Pals site http://www.pals.org.uk/lys.htm which includes plans and deployments from which you will see the Division was fighting on a fairly limited front, even with a war diary I don't think you will be able to pin it down much closer due to the tactical deployments in this period, though happy to be proven wrong.

The founder of the LLT and this forum Chris Baker has written a full account of the Battle of the Lys


and if you reference the Lys in your thread title either he or another forum member may have access to trench maps and will have studied the war diaries.

The war diaries for 31st Division 92/93/94 Brigades have all been digitised and are available from TNA for £3.36 each




Regrettably it does not appear the 31 MGC Diary has survived (and those for the MGC that are at the TNA tend not to have been digitised yet) .

I don't know if you know but 2nd Lieut Harrison 31st Bn MGC was killed the same day, it's often easier to track the movements of officers - though of course that doesn't mean he was with L/Cpl Sherborn when he died.

2/Lt Harrison is interred at Aval Wood Cemetery, Vieux-Berquin (where interestingly, the CWGC notes there are 155 'unknowns') and his remains were 'brought in' later, presumably with some of the 'unknowns' which is quite intriguing.


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