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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

What and who was an orderly?


Rob Chester

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Hello All,

I am reading General Jack's Diary, and on several occasions he refers to Orderlies, for example at one point he rushes out to fend off a German attack accompanied by orderlies with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets as his guard. There are several references to Orderlies, but who and what were they? I thought that some units call the officer's servants "Orderlies" but he refers to his batman as his servant. In this context I assume that the orderlies were administrative staff attached to the his headquarters, but might they double up as officer's servants? How were they chosen? Was it a full time role? Any information would be much appreciated.

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Its a good question Rob.....Seems that officers of General Rank had a small team around them.....

You may find this earlier thread of interest....

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12919

KB

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I have medals to an orderly room sgt - so I presumed it was doing all the admin

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Covers a multitude of things = for example in a soldier's letter "Today I was mess orderly and hut orderly or in other words housekeeper "

The following may be of use

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The battalion orderly room was where the office work of the unit was done. The orderly room sergeant and orderly room clerk (a sgt or cpl) were more or less permanent appointments and had their own separate pay scales. There would also be men avaliable to assist with typing, carrying messages etc and other jobs of an admin nature, and these would be swapped arouind, probably on a monthly, weekly or even daily rota. "Gofer" is probably the modern equivalent.

A battalion medical officer had tweo orderlies, one of whom drove the cart with the medical stores. These were also longer-term appointments.

Batmen/officers' servants and grooms were a different matter and looked after their officers' kit and horses, but they might also find themselves rostered for various orderly duties.

Ron

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The Long Trail has the following definitions

Orderly A soldier accompanying an officer during an inspection or otherwise detailed for special duties. A manservant in a hospital, hospital train or casualty station

Orderly man. Two men from each platoon were appointed each day by rota or the caprice of the sergeant to do the odd jobs of tidying and cleaning the platoons's quarters. Their most important function was to fetch the platoon's food at meal times and distribute it fairly

Orderly Sergeant, Corporal and Officer are NOT "permanent appointments"

Orderly Officer An officer selected by rota to perform certain inspections and other duties relating to the whole of the battalion, for a period of twenty four hours. Almost all that private soldiers knew of the orderly officer was that he inspected the guard for the day and visited all platoons during dinner. This was a barrack or camp routine and not kept up in the line.

Orderly Sergeant Selected by rota for 24 hours - duties roughly parallel to those of the Orderly Officer

Orderly Corporal A corporal selected for temporary duty by rota Sometimes called the Orderly Dog

Orderly Room The administrative office of a unit.

It would seem that whilst the orderly room was run by a sergeant he was, confusingly, not the Orderly Sergeant but the Orderly room sergeant..

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Poking around in the dusty cupboards of history I have come to the tentative conclusion that, in peace, an officer had a servant, whom he paid and provided civilian clothes for, whereas in war, under the official War Establishment, an officer had a batman, not necessarily the same man.

In some regiments the servant/batman distinction was/is that commissioned officers had the former, and senior soldiers such as the sergeant-major had the latter.

There is also the potential confusion that the batman was originally associated with the pack animal carrying an officer's kit.

Rather a minefield.

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Poking around in the dusty cupboards of history I have come to the tentative conclusion that, in peace, an officer had a servant, whom he paid and provided civilian clothes for, whereas in war, under the official War Establishment, an officer had a batman, not necessarily the same man.

In some regiments the servant/batman distinction was/is that commissioned officers had the former, and senior soldiers such as the sergeant-major had the latter.

There is also the potential confusion that the batman was originally associated with the pack animal carrying an officer's kit.

Rather a minefield.

I thought the case was in the WW1 officers had officers servants appointed from within the unit and only the RSM had a batman

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I'd assume that then as later, when a unit was out of the line then each sub-unit appointed an orderly NCO (Cpl, L/Cpl level) (SONCO, BONCO or CONCO depending on the arm), who did various supervisory duties as required. I also think that in some case an orderly undertook the role of 'runner' in an HQ, no doubt someone will tell us if this position appeared on the org chart of some units, they existed in infantry platoons into the 1970s IIRC, technically a 'batman/runner' by that stage.

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...

Orderly Sergeant, Corporal and Officer are NOT "permanent appointments"

...

Orderly Room The administrative office of a unit.

It would seem that whilst the orderly room was run by a sergeant he was, confusingly, not the Orderly Sergeant but the Orderly room sergeant..

Centurion

I do wish you would read my posts properly before you jump in to "correct" them.

I never said that "orderly sergeant" etc were permanent appointments. I said that "orderly room sergeant" was a more or less permanent appointment, based on the pay scales and career-progressive promotion structure set out in the Pay Warrant 1914.

The orderly room sergeant might well have run the battalion orderly room in peacetime, but on mobilisation he was detached to form part of the AG's Office at the Base, as per War Establishments 1914 and later editions. It would have been a bit tricky to run an orderly room for a battalion iat Ypres or the Somme if he was in Rouen! Quite apart from swapping over every 24 hours!

LLT is generally a fairly reliable source - indeed, some of it is derived from my own research - but it is usually best to go back to primary sources for accurate information.

Ron

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The top orderly room post was ranked as the equal second highest other rank in the unit: although "fluid complemented" it was usually [in our period] filled by a soldier of rank quartermaster sergeant and appointment orderly room quartermaster sergeant [clerk in some regiments].

Thus the sergeant major was, until 1915, the only warrant officer on active service, and the regimental QMS was the senior QMS, the ORQMS was next in the pecking order.

In 1915 the two QMS soldiers became warrant officer class II.

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When translating German material, I use the term 'orderly' for lower-ranking men assigned to administrative/communications duties in battalion/regimental HQs. In quiet times, they would function as local message-carriers ('My compliments to Hauptmann Schmidt ... etc). During major actions, for example at Fromelles, when such HQs established a forward command post, and in particular when technical communications broke down, some of those 'orderlies' were then employed as runners, between rear HQ and forward HQ if necessary, and certainly between the forward command posts and other forward command positions. In the latter case, the HQ orderly would normally run the first 'leg' of a relay of runners, especially at night, in order to ensure, where possible, that each stage of the 'carry' was undertaken by a man familiar with the terrain.

These are, of course, the kind of duties that Adolf Hitler is believed to have performed in RIR16.

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