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Remembered Today:

1st Machine Gun Corps & 39th Battalion


Jayenn
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I'm researching a soldier, Private Thomas Newland, who was killed in 1918. A Church memorial says, “THOMAS NEWLAND, 1st Machine Gun Corps, 1918” while the CWGC website, says, "Private T. NEWLAND, 19827, 39th Bn. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), who died on 03 April 1918". It seems to be the same man but is it? My question is - was the 1st Machine Gun Corps anything to do with the 39th Battalion, in 1918?

Needless to say, his service records haven't survived.

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There is a MIC for Thomas Newland

MGC No 10827 Possibly 0 misread as 9?

Royal Sussex Regiment No 3636

Medal Roll MGC/101B7 page 658

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Thanks Johnboy,

Yes, I have that MIC and knew about the different service number, which is why I would like to know if the 1st Machine Gun Corps had anything to do with the 39th Battalion. I can't prove it from anywhere on the Internet or in any books that I have. If I could make that link, that would, at least, link the memorial to the CWGC information - and to the "Soldiers Died in The Great War". It would mean that the three sources are, almost definitely, talking about the same man. It wouldn't give me much information, perhaps, but more than the memorial gives!

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I have seen other men shown as MGC 39th Bttn at the same cemetery March 1918.

Villers-Faucon was captured by the 5th Cavalry Division on 27 March 1917, lost on 22 March 1918, and retaken by the III Corps on 7 September 1918.

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There is no such unit as '1st Machine Gun Corps' so that is the first error on the Church Memorial.

The MGC was originally organised into Companies, so 1st MGC Company was formed in the 1st Brigade 1st Division and following the reorganisation in 1918 named the 1st Battalion MGC

The 39th Bn MGC was part of the 39th Division which contained the three 'Southdowns' Battalions unfortunately no prefix is show on Newland's numbers which would confirm him as a Southdowns man. However also killed that day and interred in the same cemetery was SD/547 Seall 11th Bn Royal Sussex, he was from Worthing and the SD prefix identifies him as a Southdowns man

Newland was born in Hastings so I suspect he was in a Southdowns Bn of the Royal Sussex and was trained on the Vickers machine gun attached to the Battalion. When the MGC was first formed these soldiers were often 'brigaded' with their original units so if this happened in this case, and it is speculative he would have been in 116th MG Company which, in 1918 became the 39th Battalion MGC. His relatively low number for the MGC suggests this was so.

So the short answer to your question - was the 1st Machine Gun Corps anything to do with the 39th Battalion, in 1918? is 'No'.

However I'd suggest the likelihood is that it is the same man and whoever was compiling the Church Memorial did not know his exact unit. If the church is in Sussex it adds weight to the argument. He is shown as died of wounds which means he may not have been in action that exact date, in any event the records for this period tend to be sparse especially in 5th Army units.

The 1st Division was not heavily engaged during the first few days of the German offensive, not conclusive but again adding weight as does the fact the CWGC took the details from Army records whereas the Church authorities probably took it from relatives.

Ken

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Hello Kenf48,

Thanks for that information. That's why I couldn't find any link between the 1st and the 39th - there isn't one! The memorial has several errors on it and some of those errors are much worse than this. It's almost as though they didn't really know the people they were commemorating.

Now, the problem is that the only information on the memorial that is, probably, correct is his name and the year he was killed, 1918. The man on the CWGC website might be the same man but he might not be. If he's not then he wasn't born in Hastings and I haven't a clue where to go next. I think I'll have to accept the Hastings man as it's just a few miles along the coast from here, in Bexhill and probable that he joined locally.

I've just checked and I can't find his name on any list of men in the four Southdown Battalions and, as you say there is no "SD" prefix to his MGC service number.

The memorial actually says "Machine Gun Corps" and not "Company" - if this isn't a mistake, what would that mean?

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Hello again Kenf48,

Having had time to read your post again, my thanks and I shall work on the basis that it is the same man. I am sure that the people who put up the memorial did not know his exact unit.


Thanks again Johnboy - all information is welcome as you never know what might turn up!

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Hello Kenf48,

Thanks for that information. That's why I couldn't find any link between the 1st and the 39th - there isn't one! The memorial has several errors on it and some of those errors are much worse than this. It's almost as though they didn't really know the people they were commemorating.

Now, the problem is that the only information on the memorial that is, probably, correct is his name and the year he was killed, 1918. The man on the CWGC website might be the same man but he might not be. If he's not then he wasn't born in Hastings and I haven't a clue where to go next. I think I'll have to accept the Hastings man as it's just a few miles along the coast from here, in Bexhill and probable that he joined locally.

I've just checked and I can't find his name on any list of men in the four Southdown Battalions and, as you say there is no "SD" prefix to his MGC service number.

The memorial actually says "Machine Gun Corps" and not "Company" - if this isn't a mistake, what would that mean?

What I actually meant is that there is no SD prefix to his Sussex number (his MGC number would not have this prefix). SDGW show him enlisting Tunbridge Wells

It would be correct to write 'Machine Gun Corps' (often abbreviated to MGC on memorials), but not '1st Machine Gun Corps'.

In the 1911 Census there is a Thomas Newland age 23 living with his widowed mother Emma and younger siblings in Brighton.

His deceased father was born 'on board ship in the Irish Channel', in 1901 they were In Brighton working as umbrella makers an older brother W. Newland is also listed but can't find a Bexhill connection.

Ken

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Jayenn

The war diary records that the battalion were at rest on 3rd April. However where he is buried, Villers Faucon, would be well behind the German lines as a result of their March 1918 offensive. As such he could have been killed during the fighting in late March 1918 and only recorded as killed on 3rd April, having been missing and his death date being unknown or he was mortally wounded in the fighting and succumbed in a German hospital as a PoW. Alternatively he may have been one of many PoWs helping the Germans clear the battlefields, which could be a dangerous job, during which he was mortally wounded.

Sadly no firm answer.

Kind regards

Colin

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Sorry Ken and Colin but I got no email to tell me that you had replied so thought that the topic was closed.

Thanks Ken, for the information - I didn't realise what you meant so thanks for clearing that up - and that's interesting about the '1st Machine Gun Corps'. There seem to be quite a few mistakes on the memorial but I'm sure there were on many other memorials.

Thanks for the information Colin - as you say, "sadly no firm answer" but several good suggestions and ideas, so I'm better off than I was before!

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