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Remembered Today:

Private to 2/Lt in one move, early in War


Myrtle
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It may actually have been easier to go from private to officer in one leap than via an NCO's rank. The hole left by the loss of a private was probably easier filled than that from losing a sergeant and commanding officers may have been more reluctant to recommend the latter for officer training.

But would it not be wiser to commision the Sergeant, and move everyone else up one rank? One rank at a time would be easier for the young Private to handle.

Ray

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But would it not be wiser to commision the Sergeant, and move everyone else up one rank?

Serjeants were often seen as the men who ran a battalion and so it was often better to leave them in place.

Craig

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But would it not be wiser to commision the Sergeant, and move everyone else up one rank? One rank at a time would be easier for the young Private to handle.

Ray

Serjeants were often seen as the men who ran a battalion and so it was often better to leave them in place.

Craig

My grandfather, a medical student at Glasgow University, became a private in the 5th Scottish Rifles In November 1914, and served on the Western Front for most of 1915. In November 1915 he was selected for officer training; as the history of the 5th Scottish Rifles says (page 61):

"On 1st November the Brigadier interviewed another batch for commissions and we lost a further thirty men before the end of the month."

So it was their own commanding officer who chose the men to go for commissions, and so no surprise that all the few that I have so far tracked down from this batch were privates or lance-corporals. Presumably sergeants were too valuable a resource.

William

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I don't know but perhaps the attitudes of very senior staff officers have changed but I doubt it.

Harry

Harry

I would hope that attitudes have changed. Coming across George McEntee made me wonder if men who were promoted swiftly from privates to officers early on in the war came from particular backgrounds. I know of another carpenter's son (occupation gardener) who joined the RAOC in September 1915 and then was transferred to the North Staffordshire Regiment as a private. He was promoted directly to the rank of Second Lieutenant much later in the war, on 30th April 1918 and was killed in action on 8th October 1918.

I like the story of your comment to the Brigadier.

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Regarding sergeants being commissioned there are arguably two schools of thought - first that becoming a Second-Lieutenant requires a significant change to an individual's mindset and considerable further training; sometimes by the time a soldier has reached sergeant they can be set in their ways and not as receptive to officer training. The other would be, certainly by later in the war, that many platoons are commanded by sergeants, due to high attrition rates among inexperienced young officers, and by the fact that they have demonstrated their ability to command a platoon in action sergeants get sent for officer training.

Kind regards

Colin

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due to high attrition rates among inexperienced young officers, and by the fact that they have demonstrated their ability to command a platoon in action sergeants get sent for officer training.

This certainly happened with the 6th DLI during the war - many of the more experienced NCO's were commissioned after the battalion had gone to France.

CSM Hugh McNair was commissioned by Oct 1915

CSM H Walton commissioned in Feb 1916

L/Cpl Neasham commissioned in May 1918

etc

Many of then more experienced NCO's had certainly had command experience by the time they were commissioned.

Craig

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But would it not be wiser to commision the Sergeant, and move everyone else up one rank? One rank at a time would be easier for the young Private to handle.

Ray

Everyone?

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It's not just the mindset, A sgt will have training at his duties. Why move everyone slowly through the ranks, when you have fresh trained troops that need a "battle trade". The private would have to learn L/cpl duties, then cpl then sgt then any specialist sgt duties then WO duties, then commison in anything from a few weeks to a few years?. A private that can show leadership, just send him to cadet battalion to learn.

Beau, attitudes have changed slightly. I was however warned off your mob for commison due to no background in anything to do with horses. Schools service and regiment vists try to match the man/lady to the regiment.

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It wasn't a case of managing an individuals military career progression as might occur in modern peace time. The issue was the pressing need to find large numbers of junior commanders in a war time situation. See the comment by FM French (quoted in my earlier post) when he instituted the officer training battalions starting with the Artists Rifles and the HAC. Just sending off large numbers of sergeants for officer training might leave fighting battalions dangerously under organised as all the newly promoted corporals who replaced them would be inexperienced in this role (and effectively not trained as sergeants)

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I know Myrtle. I can't comment on the issue you're exploring but I did smile at your very understandable comment that "had (he) not worked at Kensington Palace, he wouldn't necessarily have served as an officer". It's a pretty common perception of the officer class but apart from the Guards, the Household Cavalry and some of the oldest regiments of the line, "needs must" so to speak and the elevation of "pretty ordinary but able" people are often given commissions in line and service regiments and corps. I know this to be a fact because I myself, a CofH in the Royal Horse Guards was commissioned into the Royal Army Educational Corps despite the fact that I came from a working class (but wonderful) family in Liverpool and despite the fact that my father was a postman (God bless him).

I remember a visit to the Army School of Education at Beaconsfield by a brigadier who asked me, a newly commissioned 2Lt, what my father did. I told him he was a postman and was amused at the brigadier's surprise. I quickly added, rather mischieviously I'm afraid, that he was the best postman in the north west. That amazingly made everything OK in this man's eyes. I don't know but perhaps the attitudes of very senior staff officers have changed but I doubt it.

Harry

If I recall correctly RA Lloyd claimed in his Book "A Trooper in the Tins" (later published as "Troop Horse and Trench") that the Life Guards didn't recommend a single OR for a commission during the Great War. MG

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The point I was trying to make Mr C. Privates are yet in the full loop of Battalion life. Under trained Cpls and Sgts are not a good thing to have. It's not career managment in anyway.

Martin, Is that commison to a Guards regiment or commison to any regiment/corps?

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The point I was trying to make Mr C. Privates are yet in the full loop of Battalion life. Under trained Cpls and Sgts are not a good thing to have. It's not career managment in anyway.

If you look at the post timings we were both making the same point simultaneously - you pressed the send key just before me.

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The point I was trying to make Mr C. Privates are yet in the full loop of Battalion life. Under trained Cpls and Sgts are not a good thing to have. It's not career managment in anyway.

Martin, Is that commison to a Guards regiment or commison to any regiment/corps?

If I recall correctly It was any commission. He was rather bitter about it. I would have to check in the book which might take some time to find it again. Unless it is in the intro or the summary I doubt I will find the quote quickly.

Regards MG

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This certainly happened with the 6th DLI during the war - many of the more experienced NCO's were commissioned after the battalion had gone to France.

CSM Hugh McNair was commissioned by Oct 1915

CSM H Walton commissioned in Feb 1916

L/Cpl Neasham commissioned in May 1918

etc

Many of then more experienced NCO's had certainly had command experience by the time they were commissioned.

Craig

Craig

It doesn't seem unusual for CSMs to have been made officers. The 1915 promotion on this list, CSM Hugh McNair, looks as if he may have been a regular soldier at the start of the war ?

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In my very limited experience of the modern regular army I've come across those entering Sandhurst from TA and Regular Service with the ranks from junior ranks up to Corporal but seldom after that; this also may be due to terms of service requirements for junior officers - to get to Sergeant will mean that a potential candidate may not reach the age requirements for officer service. Sergeant is a difficult rank in that returning to officer training and becoming a second lieutenant can be considered a considerable loss of prestige and starting from the bottom again after a lot of hard work to reach the sergeants' mess. This doesn't represent late entry commissions - the commissioning of warrant officers direct to captain somewhat later in their careers. As was shown further up the thread some warrant officers choose to remain as warrant officers and would rather remain as warrant officers than opt for commissioned service. Apologies if this is a little off-topic but whilst the modern army still has links to the past.

Kind regards

Colin

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The 1915 promotion on this list, CSM Hugh McNair, looks as if he may have been a regular soldier at the start of the war ?

He wasn't a regular - he had however served 7 years in the T.F. and I suspect he was also a volunteer pre 1908. The majority of the senior sgts had 6-7 years T.F. service and volunteer service.

There were regular NCO's attached to the bn but promotion doesn't appear to be common for them -e.g. RSM George Perry was attached to the Bn He had been a regular since 1884 and was easily the most experienced man. He reached the level of RSM of the battalion.

Craig

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There were regular NCO's attached to the bn but promotion doesn't appear to be common for them -e.g. RSM George Perry was attached to the Bn He had been a regular since 1884 and was easily the most experienced man. He reached the level of RSM of the battalion.

A post that would carry a large responsibility and require experience (and wisdom) far beyond what most junior officers were expected to have.

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Harry

I would hope that attitudes have changed. Coming across George McEntee made me wonder if men who were promoted swiftly from privates to officers early on in the war came from particular backgrounds. I know of another carpenter's son (occupation gardener) who joined the RAOC in September 1915 and then was transferred to the North Staffordshire Regiment as a private. He was promoted directly to the rank of Second Lieutenant much later in the war, on 30th April 1918 and was killed in action on 8th October 1918.

I like the story of your comment to the Brigadier.

Me too Myrtle .

Thank you for your kind comment.

Harry

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If I recall correctly RA Lloyd claimed in his Book "A Trooper in the Tins" (later published as "Troop Horse and Trench") that the Life Guards didn't recommend a single OR for a commission during the Great War. MG

That doesn't surprise me Martin. "A Trooper in the Tins" was recommended to me by a member of this forum whose relative served with The Life Guards throughout The Great War. He appears to have been a rather impressive soldier but never made the jump from "Other to Officer rank". Ironically, he did prove his worth when the war ended by gaining very impressive educational qualifications (while serving) and transferring into the Army Educational Corps as it then was. Unfortunately though it wasn't an all officer corps in those days, and he ended up a WO1.

It's worth bearing in mind though that by no means everyone wanted/wants a commission. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that the majority of those who proved/prove their worth in this respect were/are more than happy to remain in the

ranks or pursue a career outside the services.

Harry

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That doesn't surprise me Martin. "A Trooper in the Tins" was recommended to me by a member of this forum whose relative served with The Life Guards throughout The Great War. He appears to have been a rather impressive soldier but never made the jump from "Other to Officer rank". Ironically, he did prove his worth when the war ended by gaining very impressive educational qualifications (while serving) and transferring into the Army Educational Corps as it then was. Unfortunately though it wasn't an all officer corps in those days, and he ended up a WO1.

It's worth bearing in mind though that by no means everyone wanted/wants a commission. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that the majority of those who proved/prove their worth in this respect were/are more than happy to remain in the

ranks or pursue a career outside the services.

Harry

Lloyd's implication was that the mindset of the Life Guards' social elite simply could not contemplate making an OR a commissioned officer. As you know the Guards had an extremely high concentration of aristocrats*. The social conditioning of the period was very extreme. While other regiments might have shown much greater enlightenment by recommending ORs for commissions (and even commissions within their own regiments) the Life Guards appear to be alone in their stand. I am not aware of any other Regiment that did not commission men from the ranks. It would be interesting to see how many men were commissioned from the ranks in the Foot Guards. The absolute numbers will be low compared to a line Infantry regiments simply because the expansion of the Guards was very small compared to a typical Line Infantry regiment. Adjusting the numbers for the numbers enlisted would be an interesting study.

Almost every regimental history I have shows various appendices with lists of men, and one can see the men who were commissioned from the ranks. There would have been many thousands. I would have to very politely disagree with your last statement that the "majority" were more than happy to stay in the ranks. I assume this is your conjecture. I am genuinely curious what this is based on. I am not aware of any study that has been done in this regard, and I am not sure how one would go about proving (or disproving) this theory.

MG

* Some years ago I attempted to measure how 'aristocratic' the Yeomanry was, as I suspected the idea that Yeomanry was more aristocratic than most other units was exaggerated. The study got out of control and I ended up crunching the numbers on all the aristocracy who served in the war using "The Aristocracy in the Great War" by Gerald Gliddon and the usual tomes on the peerage. It was quite revealing. It is interesting to see just how concentrated they were in the Guards, the Yeomanry and some selected Line Infantry regiments. Interestingly the Coldstream Guards had the highest concentration of aristocracy which slightly surprised me (I had expected it to be the Grenadiers). Within the Yeomanry some Regiments had significantly higher concentrations than others - the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars for example was fairly socially 'elite' (for want of a better word). Interestingly despite having socially elite Officers, every Yeomanry Regiment I have looked at in detail had men commissioned from the ranks. These were not QM's commissions, rather commissions to ordinary talented men who would serve as troop officers.

One last thought on the Life Guards. I suspect that the titled officers in the Life Guards in 1914-18 were from ancient landed classes rather than the sons of titled wealthy industrialists, mill owners etc. We tend to find the latter in the Yeomanry. Even within the so called 'elite' there were deep divides between new and old money. This might have been another factor impacting the differences between attitudes in the Life Guards compared with the Yeomanry for example.

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From Gallant Gentlemen

"Graham Seton Hutchinson has revealed that when he commanded a machine gun battalion his company commanders were the son of a Scottish miner (M.C, D.C.M and bar), a Regular sergeant promoted from the Scots Guards (M.C, D.C.M), a wool salesman (M.C and bar) and a medical student (D.S.O, M.C). His adjutant was the son of a land agent (M.C and bar). None had been to public school."

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Lloyd's implication was that the mindset of the Life Guards' social elite simply could not contemplate making an OR a commissioned officer. As you know the Guards had an extremely high concentration of aristocrats*. The social conditioning of the period was very extreme. While other regiments might have shown much greater enlightenment by recommending ORs for commissions (and even commissions within their own regiments) the Life Guards appear to be alone in their stand. I am not aware of any other Regiment that did not commission men from the ranks.

You are absolutely right when you say that The Life Guards had "an extremely high concentration of aristocrats" as did the other half of the Household Cavalry: the Royal Horse Guards. The mindset you mention is intersting. Even today officers commissioned from the ranks, usually into QM or TQM positions are, in some ways, treated as "inferior beings". One example is on mess nights when commissioned ORs, immaterial of their rank, have to stand aside and let young officers precede them into the dining room.

I can't comment on how many, if any, members of the Blues were commissioned from the ranks during the Great War but the two Household Cavalry regiments are so similar in so many ways that I doubt very much if they would differ greatly.

I would have to very politely disagree with your last statement that the "majority" were more than happy to stay in the ranks. I assume this is your conjecture. I am genuinely curious what this is based on. I am not aware of any study that has been done in this regard, and I am not sure how one would go about proving (or disproving) this theory.

You could be right Martin. The basis of my comment is utterly non scientific. I served for twenty six years and one of the things I did notice was that soldiers were certainly not clamouring for a commission. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that in most cases, then and now, it was/is the last thing most ORs would even have thought/think about. During the Great War of course, the extremely high casualty rate amongst junior officers would not have gone unnoticed but both then and today the morale and professialism of the armed forces is based on the development of very close ties within a unit immaterial of how small or large that entity is.

One last thought on the Life Guards. I suspect that the titled officers in the Life Guards in 1914-18 were from ancient landed classes rather than the sons of titled wealthy industrialists, mill owners etc.

On this we can certainly agree. As for today, I can't of course comment but I would suspect that the balance has shifted towards those who are the sons of the wealthy, titled or otherwise.

Harry

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