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GenetB

Private Thomas William Lowe, South Wales Borderers

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GenetB

I am trying to find out where my great uncle might have served in the Great War. I have managed to find his medal card and his pension record card, which tell me that his regimental number was 31715, and that he served with the South Wales Borderers. His Pension Card , Army Form W3997, says that he was transferred to the 5th Reserve Battalion SWB on 27th January 1920.

I fear his Service Record is amongst the 'burnt' records, but my brief incursion into the numbering system suggests to me that he may not have enlisted until late 1915 and thus not seen any action until 1916. I can find nothing that tells me what battalion he served with - would it be fair to assume that if he was transferred to the 5th Reserve Battalion, he had therefore served in the 5th Service Battalion, or would that be too logical an assumption? I know that men were moved from one unit to another?

His brother, Private Albert Edward Lowe, reg. no. 267495, originally enlisted with the SWB but was re-assigned to the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, which became a Pioneer Battalion with the 29th Division, so it is possible that Thomas would have followed a similar route . . .

I am trying to write a memoir of the Great War actions of my various ancestors so any help with this one would be appreciated.

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Langdon

Welcome to the Forum.

At Ancestry I found his medical records (under Pension records) and there's a lot of detail to sift through but the following might explain why he was awarded the British but not the Victory medal:

Former Shunter for GWR

Joined on enlistment the 4th Battalion on 11.12.15, posted for duty 09.08.17 at Cardiff. There is a reference later in the records to transferring to 3rd Battalion but no date.

Disembarked Devonport 10.10.17, landed Bombay 04.12.17.

From 04.12.17 to 07.01.18 he was in Calaba War Hospital.

14.01.18 - Joined 5th Reserve Battalion for duty.

From 17.07.18 to 19.09.18 he was in the Kirkee Military Hospital.

From 05.10.18 to 16.01.19 he was in Deccan Bridge War Hospital in Poona.

Transferred to Class Z Army Reserve 27.01.20

(Class Z Reserve was authorised by an Army Order of 3 December 1918. There were fears that Germany would not accept the terms of any peace treaty, and therefore the British Government decided it would be wise to be able to quickly recall trained men in the eventuality of the resumption of hostilities. Soldiers who were being demobilised, particularly those who had agreed to serve "for the duration", were at first posted to Class Z. They returned to civilian life but with an obligation to return if called upon. The Z Reserve was abolished on 31 March 1920.)

There is in these records a reference to catching Malaria in Salonika in 1917 but it's the only reference to that theatre of war and looks like an error.

Mike

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GenetB

Thank you so much for this. I will check out the records on Ancestry, still a beginner at all of this! So it looks like he arrived in India with Malaria - contracted on the boat? Or perhaps the boat went via and docked at Salonika en route and he contracted it there? Either way he spent a lot of time in hospital.

He appears to have gone back to the railways post-Army.

Thank you,Mike, you have given me a lot to work on.

Genet

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GenetB

Mike, I can't seem to upload the full medical record at all. Is there any information on what condition/ illness he was being treated for during his various hospital admissions?

I have being trying to piece together what the 5th reserve Battalion was all about, and there is a lot of information on another forum - kirkee India April 1919 - but it is all rather confusing!

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Langdon

Here's the record -

There's malaria, epilepsy - and injuring his foot as he disembarked at Bombay docks!

Mike

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GenetB

Thanks for the link, which I finally managed to get through. Sadly, it transpires that this soldier is not my great uncle, once I read the next of kin reference I realised this was a false trail. His continued hospital stays might be interpreted by some as malingering but probably an unfair criticism given conditions at the time.

Anyway, thank you for your help, it's back to the drawing board. I am pursuing enquiries under the name of Thomas Lowe and have found four or five SWB enrolees, one of whom has similar four digit then six digit numbers to Albert Lowe, the brother of Thomas. It would seem logical to assume that they might have enlisted together, but I haven't found much beyond a medal card so far. Learning a lot about the TF and the numbering system, though!

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Langdon

The wrong Thomas Lowe was a fascinating read tho'!

Similarly, a wrong turn recently took me to an overseas service record with an incredible disciplinary record which included, in amongst the insubordination, swearing and "hesitating to obey a command", a punishment for shooting dead a tame ostrich!

Another world..

Mike

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clive_hughes

If you haven't considered this before, how about seeing which unit he is listed with in his local Absent Voters List 1918? You'd need to know exactly where he was resident in the spring of that year, since these lists are created by county/constituency and arranged by wards, rural districts, streets and villages etc., not alphabetically.

As long as he was serving well away from home and aged 19 or over on 1 April 1918, he should appear. Problem is that not all these lists survive: taking the SWBs general recruitment area as an example, Brecknockshire doesn't but Monmouthshire does; while Cardiganshire has a list but only puts "NM" (Naval & Military) against his name and not the unit details!

Local newspapers for his home area is another source, but a bit tedious to search without an index.

Clive

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GenetB

Thanks for that, Clive. as you say, Brecknockshire has no available Absent Voters List. However, I did find the records for Albert, brother of Thomas, and they have give me some leads. As I mentioned above, Albert was reassigned a 6 digit number when he joined the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, he was killed in action in France, which was sad but did result in some correspondence relating to a memorial plaque - this required details of all the siblings and their location at the date of the letter, which was 1920. It is somewhat confused but there is reference to the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers at ?Assay Barracks. Jhansi, India. This is logged against one of the sisters and its not impossible that she joined the Territorial Nursing Corps but probably not as not posh enough, so more likely that the reference is to Thomas. Now there is a Thomas Lowe with a 6 digit number who enlisted with the South Wales Borderers and the number - 201167 - suggests he was assigned to the Brecknockshire Battalion. This appears to have become part of the 44th (Home Counties) Division, a formation of the Territorial Force. This division was involved with the 'exchange' of Indian troops for British ones, who performed miscellaneous eg garrison duties in many parts of India.

So this sort of ties in with a possible route for Thomas but I can find no Service records so far. I believe that some units remains in India after the end of the war, was the Brecknockshire Battalion one of them? Help!

Shooting harmless ostriches? Hm, cant compete with that. The worst Albert seems to have done is to stay out drinking one night beyond his permit, punishment 48 hours detention.

Have a good evening, gentlemen.

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GenetB

Do you speak Welsh, Clive? I am learning, but not so much spoken down here in Crickhowell

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kenf48

Both the mic for William Thomas Lowe (31715) and William Lowe (3413/201167) show they were both awarded the British War Medal only, therefore neither served in a theatre of war but 'left their native shore' so the most likely posting was service in India.

As you have noted 3413/201167 is the 1/1st Brecknock Bn and the fact both numbers are shown on the card indicates he was serving in India prior to the TF renumbering in March 1917. The Battalion went to Aden which was a theatre of war, so either he didn't go with them or he joined the Bn after August 1915. The SWB history notes the first replacements arrived in May 1916. The Brecknocks were the last Battalion of the SWB to return home in November 1919. However as with other Battalions miners were released first and by the end of January 220 men had left in two large batches. Following other moves the Battalion at the end was barely the strength of a full company. It was noted not many of those who had left with Battalion five years previously were still serving.

31715 is a bit more problematic. If he'd been serving with the Brecknocks in March 1917 he would have been renumbered with a six digit number (even if he was a conscript). Anyone serving as a regular after 1920 would have a seven digit number, the 14-18 history of the SWB does not give the deployment of the 2nd Bn in 1920. However Thomas is clearly shown as back home at Newgate Street, as it's witnessed by a minister I'd assume it's correct, perhaps the mother gave the sister's maiden name but she was with a soldier ?

Albert was 2932 2/1 Brecknockshire, I notice his father was also called Thomas, is it possible he enlisted in the TF for 'home service' and found himself in India?

The Medal Rolls should reveal which Battalion each served in. I'd agree the second man was probably a Derby Scheme recruit attested late 1915.

Ken

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GenetB

Thanks, Ken, for the additional information. I had not actually locked on to the fact that Thomas was registered at home and therefore back from his service ( what his sister might have been doing in India is another mystery for another day!). But everything points to this Thomas being my great-uncle. So I am going to consign Thomas Lowe number 31715 to history and follow up on Thomas Lowe Number 201167.

Your comment about him serving in India before the re-numbering in MArch 1917 would tie in with his brother, Albert, who signed up in November 1914 with a 4 digit number and was posted in July 1916. Albert did originally sign up for Home Service but I believe that this status was rescinded and all soldiers became available for overseas service in 1916, was it? He went with the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Reg. to France and served with them until he was killed in action in April 1918, in the Lys Battlefield Zone. The date would suggest that although he was in the Pioneer force, he got called to fight in the defence of Nieppe Wood and the reinforcing of the Bailleul Line. Need to consult the War Diary for more precise information.

I would like to get more specific information on where precisely Thomas was serving in India, and what he was doing but I guess as a Pioneer it was the donkey work. Maybe the Regimental Museum will be able to help. But I have at least identified him!

Next subject for investigation is my grandfather, Charles Alfred Lowe, the youngest of the three brothers, who enlisted with the Royal Engineers Signals Division in October 1916, number 372283. I have him at the Bedford A Signal Depot, Recruit Training but need to follow him from there. Although he signed up for 5 year Short Service, he was also registered as back at home in 1920, though I believe he was signed off to the RE Reserve Battalion . . . Question is where and if he might have served abroad.

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GenetB

It didn't even occur to me that a wife might have accompanied her husband. I have Sarah married in 1914 to Joseph Charles Collins, 1911 Census records him as a coal miner so I guess he would have been ripe pickings for a 'Pioneer' rĂ´le. I will check him out in the SWB. If a miner he would presumably have been one of the first back home, so why would Sarah be still in Jhansi in 1920?

As a matter of interest, why did Alberts parents have to declare all the siblings for his memorial plaque to be sent? Pl

Eased that she did tho'

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clive_hughes

Yes GenetB I am a Welsh-speaker from Bangor, Gwynedd. I live the other end of North Wales now, and there's not much demand for it here either! All the best with your studies.

The TF enlistment forms well into 1915 were the standard pre-war ones for 4 years Home service. But many men would be asked especially from September 1914 onwards to sign Army Form E624 (or make a verbal declaration) volunteering for Imperial service - many the same day they enlisted. The Forms are tucked into many surviving files as evidence. Home service for a new recruit wasn't allowed after March 1915, but for those who had managed to resist the pressures the right was finally abolished in the Military Service Act Part 2, May 1916. How the men were treated after that varied: some were just assumed to have had their former Home rights rescinded and were available (if fit etc.) for posting abroad. In theory though, if they still refused they should have been discharged and became available for conscription unless they successfully appealed to a Tribunal on the standard grounds (undertaking work of national importance etc.).

The TFNS nurse might well have left a paper trail. Try starting a separate thread asking about her.

Clive

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kenf48

Albert signed the Imperial Service obligation, i.e. volunteered to serve outside the UK on 23 January 1915.

As he enlisted on the 6th November I suspect it was during/at the end of basic training, at the time he was serving at South Hook Fort on coastal defence.

Returning to the 1/1st Brecknockshire in India, I'm not sure what evidence there is that Thomas was a Pioneer, however the Battalion was stationed at Mhow (the Jhansi Brigade was, incidentally part of the 5th (Mhow) Division Indian Army so it looks like the 2nd SWB took over from them). The history notes one Company at a time was stationed at Indore. In the hot weather detachments were sent up to the hills and in cold weather they were mostly in camp. Some drafts went to Mesopatamia, other parties were found for 'specialist employment' and such duties as guarding POWs. 'The duties', the history notes, 'which fell to a British Battalion at an Indian station in the plains proved to differ little from the normal routine of peace'.

Ken

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GenetB

I understood the 1st Brecknockshire to be a Pioneer Battalion but maybe I got that wrong . . .

Was there any particular selection process at enlistment that determined if eg a less fit individual would be posted to a non-conflict theatre? I am just intrigued that Albert got posted to serve in France while Thomas his brother ended up in India.

Will pursue the nursing thing a bit further but I wonder if she had simply accompanied husband to India. If the 2nd SWB took over in Jhansi then maybe I look for Joseph Collins there.

Thanks all Diolch yn fawr

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Scalyback

http://www.royalwelsh.org.uk/downloads/B07-10-SWB-WW1-BrecknockshireBattalionTF.pdf

Some reading for you.

EDIT Are you getting confused between the South Wales Borders, Monmouth Regiment and the Brecknock regiments? On a cursory read they are all mentioned yet not tied down.

SWB(old 24th of foot) are the regular regiment with depot at brecon, Monmouth regiment being the TF element of the SWB alongside the Brecknockshire regiment.

Only the 5th and 6th service battalions of the SWB and 1/3rd mons at some point being a pioneer battalion.

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GenetB

I read very clearly that the 1/2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, to which Albert belonged, became a Pioneer battalion under the 29th Division, and I believe I saw reference within Alberts records to Pioneer status.

As far as Thomas is concerned, he did not serve in a theatre of war and was in India, with what I assume was not a front line force but a garrison force, which the 1 st Brecknockshire appears to have been.

I am very new to all this Army stuff and trying to trace my way through re-numberings and re assignments as the war progressed so you must forgive my amateurism and ignorance. Things are becoming clearer gradually.

Can anyone clarify what element of the SWB might have been in India in 1920, at Jhansi? Sarah, the sister, was there, with her husband, who was a coal miner living Newport in 1914 and therefore one assumes enlisted with one of the SWB battalions. Joseph Charles Collins, born 1891 or thereabouts.

Have a good weekend, all

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Scalyback

1/2 Mons Pioneer in1916, you are correct. My typo, oops.

I will check SWB movement when I get home. Strangely I have just left regimental museum!

Newport was SWB recruitment but don't rule out Welsh regiment either. Welsh regiments are strange beasts

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kenf48

EDIT Are you getting confused between the South Wales Borders, Monmouth Regiment and the Brecknock regiments? On a cursory read they are all mentioned yet not tied down.

SWB(old 24th of foot) are the regular regiment with depot at brecon, Monmouth regiment being the TF element of the SWB alongside the Brecknockshire regiment.

The only confusion seems to be because we're talking about two maybe three different soldiers (and recently third or fourth) all on the same thread.

To recap Albert's service record survives he enlisted Private (not Pioneer or anything else just Private) 2932 in the 2/1st Brecknockshire Reserve Battalion SWB on the 6th November 1914 (all documentation for a TF enlistment, his peacetime occupation listed as 'farmer'). He was sent to France on 30th July 1916 and posted to the 2nd Monmouthshire Regiment the same day. The following day he arrived at the Infantry Base Depot Rouen and joined the Monmouthshire Regiment where he remained until posted missing and then killed in 1918. He was probably renumbered on transfer, and then definitely renumbered in the six digit series when the whole of the RF was renumbered in 1917.

As for his brother Thomas Lowe there is still some element of doubt as to which one was which (see my post 11) but the OP has decided it is not Thomas William Lowe. Both were in the SWB and both were awarded the BWM and as the only battalion of the SWB that did not enter a theatre of war (and even they did briefly) it can only be the 1st Brecknockshire Battalion.

Ken

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Scalyback

The only confusion seems to be because we're talking about two maybe three different soldiers (and recently third or fourth) all on the same thread.

To recap Albert's service record survives he enlisted Private (not Pioneer or anything else just Private) 2932 in the 2/1st Brecknockshire Reserve Battalion SWB on the 6th November 1914 (all documentation for a TF enlistment, his peacetime occupation listed as 'farmer'). He was sent to France on 30th July 1916 and posted to the 2nd Monmouthshire Regiment the same day. The following day he arrived at the Infantry Base Depot Rouen and joined the Monmouthshire Regiment where he remained until posted missing and then killed in 1918. He was probably renumbered on transfer, and then definitely renumbered in the six digit series when the whole of the RF was renumbered in 1917.

Agree he would be a private no matter what. However 2nd battalion Mons from 1916 was a pionner battalion wearing the collar dogs with the pick and shovel. So the OP is correct about him being a pionner I belive but would be as you say titled private.

As for his brother Thomas Lowe there is still some element of doubt as to which one was which (see my post 11) but the OP has decided it is not Thomas William Lowe. Both were in the SWB and both were awarded the BWM and as the only battalion of the SWB that did not enter a theatre of war (and even they did briefly) it can only be the 1st Brecknockshire Battalion.

Again agree. This battalion IS NOT a pionner unit. The OP should read the link I provided above.

Ken

Ken I agree, see my bold above.

OP India was not any less a posting than F&F both brothers done they bit.

I still think the OP is getting the Mons and Brecknocks mixed up and diffrence between first line and second line, third line battalions.

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GenetB

Good evening, gentlemen, thank you all for your input, yes, it has taken me, a non-military person, a bit of effort to work my way through the confusions of the military system, and I thank you all for your help in explaining the differences between the various battalions etc. I have no issue with whether my ancestors were front line or second line, or where they served, I am simply trying to trace what they did and where. As has been said, every contribution was a valuable one, whether it was with a pick and shovel or with a rifle, and they all done their bit.

I acknowledge that the 1st Brecknockshire was not a Pioneer battalion and apologise if I appear stupid on the matter of differentiating between the functions of different units but I am getting there. I do need to visit the museum in Brecon, but wanted to do so with some knowledge of where my family served (did not want to appear a complete nerd ) before I got there.

As far as Thomas Lowe goes I still have no concrete evidence that I have opted for the right one but it seems logical to me that the two brothers would have enlisted round about the same time and would have had similar numbers ie 4 digit and 6 digit whereas the other Thomas has a 5 digit number. Call it female intuition but there we are.

I have still to find any specific documentation relating to Thomas but the hunt continues, I am nothing if not persistent and thorough. What is rather daunting is that the Lowe brothers are just one quarter of my family,I still have the other three families to sort out, heaven help me. more threads to follow!

Have a good Sunday, wherever you are, I am off to find the graves of Albert's and Thomas' parents up in Brecon, weather permitting.

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Scalyback

I was at Brecon today!

It is not a diffrence between front line or second line inhow close to the action it was. This is always hard to explain!

Before you had the original territoral battalions, so for simple terms 1st battalion "Boyos" these being a local Territoral force unit. On the start of war this battalion the first got duplicated. You now have the 1st and 1st/2(1/2) and in time this leads to the 3rd being produced being 1/3. At any time these can mearge to be on unit as the Mons did for time! Pals or service battalions just added to the regular regiments battalion numbers(as they are technically regular units) so you just get 9th/10th/11th etc. They all got into the front line(apart from depot and reserve battalions).

Bl**dy confusing? oh yes! No such thing as a stupid question, after all it all leads to your family history and the better understanding of the full picture. We all learn.

Btw my family is from crick!

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GenetB

Confusing indeed but it is slowly making sense. No recent military background in my family so all a new language.

Interested that you family from Crick. My husband was born here then moved away for many years and now we are back. A beautiful part of the world

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kenf48

The South Wales Borderers had only one TF Battalion, and in 1914 it was not numbered but known simply as the 'Brecknockshire Battalion'. The Territorial Force was formed in 1908 and it's principal purpose was home defence. See LLT http://www.1914-1918.net/tf.htm

The Brecknockshire Bn was in the South Wales Infantry Brigade, Welsh Division however when war was declared they were posted to the Home Counties Division for service in India and sailed on the 29th October 1914. The history records they were well up to establishment when war was declared and recruits 'poured in' in August so the Battalion was well over strength and those older and younger men ineligible or unwilling to serve overseas were replaced by the new recruits. Consequently it was one of the first TF units available for deployment overseas.

Albert as we have seen enlisted in the Reserve or Home Service Battalion, or the only Battalion of the TF that was available locally in November. A search through the local newspapers of the time will no doubt reveal a recruiting campaign by the County Association for men for the Reserve Battalion. One of the problems with the TF was that until conscription and direct recruitment into the TF ceased they always had problems keeping active service units up to strength.

The 2nd Brecknockshire Battalion was styled the '2/1st' in February 1915 and in April was stationed at Dale near the entrance to Milford Haven. It was around this time the Third Line TF units were formed, the idea being the second line would be available for active service overseas. However the Brecknockshires went through so many changes and reorganisations by the end of the year there were barely two companies in the 2/1st (or below half strength) and it was not until conscription it's numbers were augmented. Neither of the two reserve battalions of the Brecknocks served overseas.

My apologies regarding 31715 he was eliminated by you at post 5 so I'd go along with your intuition and it seems likely Thomas enlisted in the 2/1st Battalion, probably a few weeks after his brother. The local newspaper may have an account of Albert's death and often lists what siblings are doing.

Ken

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