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Remembered Today:

3rd Division Signal Company, Royal Engineers, 15th Hussars,


Mermaid

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Please excuse my absolute ignorance - this is probably a stupid question and I'm not even sure it's in the right place!

I would like to search the newly released digitised War Diaries held by the NA but am not sure of the right search criteria. I'm looking for anything related to the time/place my great uncle served. The information I have regarding him and his unit etc. is:

Despatch Rider (Corporal) No. 28159 in the 3rd Division Signal Company, Royal Engineers and attached to the 15th Hussars. Enlisted at Chatham, Kent. Theatre of War: Western European Theatre

He died on 12 November 1914 near Veldoek in the first battle of Ypres and had apparently been offered a commission shortly before his death.

I searched for '3rd division signal company', sorted by date and of the results, the most likely seemed to be this: WO 95/1404/3

Would someone be able to confirm if this is what I'm looking for or not please?! If not, please could you advise on the correct method of searching. Once I know I'm at least looking at the right thing I intend to buy the record to view the full details.

Many thanks.

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"A" Squadron, 15th King's Royal Hussars were the mounted squadron attached to 3rd Division at the outbreak of war. As part of their job was relaying messages, having a Signal Service motorcyclist attached would seem to make some sense.

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  • 2 weeks later...

:( I'm back - and disappointed :(

The diary cover states that the period it covers is Aug 1914 - May 1919 and that Feb/Mar/Apr 1915 and Jan/Feb/Mar 1916 are missing. The next page, the typewritten 'daily' entries begin 7 Mar 1915 and go through every few days until 17 Apr 1915. There is then a second cover stating Vol 1, 5 Aug - 31 Dec 1914, followed by a handwritten piece listing the route marched from 5 Aug 1914 to 31 Dec 1914. The next page lists those wounded/killed/missing - one wounded, one killed, both in Oct 1914. Another cover follows stating Vol 2, 1-31 Jan 1915 and the 'pattern' repeats.

According to De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour and the memorial certificate provided by the CWGC my man, Ernest Rigby, died on 12 Nov 1914. Apparently, a few days earlier, he had written home saying that he'd been offered a commission. Although I didn't expect him to be mentioned by name I had hoped that there would a little more detail as to circumstances, what was generally happening etc. and hopefully confirming the commission offer. I'm also surprised that he doesn't appear on the list of wounded/killed/missing.

Am I just 'unlucky' in that the typed details don't start until Mar 1915? Are they missing, perhaps filed elsewhere or included with another company? Why is his death not recorded? There was plenty of room on the page below the two mentioned so might it be recorded elsewhere? It must have been recorded somewhere for De Ruvigny and the CWGC to know mustn't it?

As you can see - a lot of questions and I don't know where to look - or indeed, if there is anywhere else to look. I don't understand the army structure and am not familiar enough with events to try another tack. Any help would be very much appreciated.

Thank you

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I am afraid that you have found a particularly poor example of a diary, at least for the period in which you are interested. Just one line to cover a whole month, and that just giving the location, is unusual. You could try the diary of the Commander Royal Engineers of 3rd Division; you could try the diary of "A" Squadron of 15th Hussars. They may give a little more detail on activity, and the Hussars diary may even mention his death - but diaries do not usually mention men who may have been offered commissions.

STOP PRESS - just found that I have "A" Squadron's diary and the death of Cpl Rigby is mentioned, along with much more detail of what was happening on the day. "Cpl Rigby motor cyclist killed by shrapnel".

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Well done Chris. Unusual for the death of an OR to be mentioned specifically.

I seem to remember the death of a motorcycle despatch rider being described in a book about the early part of the war - perhaps one of Coleman's books - "With the Cavalry" ?

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Wow Chris - that's fantastic! Thank you! I've just searched the NA and come up with this: WO95/1399/1. I hope it's the right one as I'm about to get it ....

Old Sweats - thank you too. I've managed to find an online copy of the book you mention so will see what I can find.

I feel a bit of a 'dimwit' about all of this so really do appreciate your help .....

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  • 6 months later...

all very interesting! I'm researching the motorcycle despatch riders who went out with the BEF in 1914, particularly those who landed in August and September. I looked at 3rd Signals Coy war diary when I was at TNA last year, and made a note that this diary was "the briefest war diary I've yet read".

Thus Chris's discovery that he was attached to the Divisional cavalry is most revealing - and suggests the value of looking at the diaries of related units as well as those to which the soldier belonged.

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Well done Chris. Unusual for the death of an OR to be mentioned specifically.

Actualy while tagging in Op War Diary we've found that it seems more common in early 1914, maybe a hangover from peacetime soldiering, while they still had their regular officers? For example the diary of 1 Glos in Oct 1914 gives detailed lists of casualties by name and number, including the slightly wounded. By Nov/Dec they have lost so many officers that at times there was no-one to make the lists and the diary comes up with such one-liners as "213 men answered the roll call. No accurate casualty count could be taken but it was estimated at 300 mostly dead". ORs do get more mentions than you might think and it does also depened on the unit. Again we found it more likely in a smaller unit diary (an RE Fd Coy that I did were especially good) than in a Battalion one.

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The history of the 15th Hussars in the Great War is downloadable here:

http://www.lightdragoons.org.uk/downloads.html

A Squadron's time on the 12th November 1914 is noted on page 94, but Cpl. Rigby is not mentioned.

Steve.

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