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jrhardy

Demobilisation dispersal Camps

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jrhardy

I am trying to identify the demobilisation dispersal camp through which a Private from the Gordon Highlanders, who lived in Dundee before and after his military service, would have passed. Of the three camps in Scotland, the most likely is Kinross.

As part of this I have pulled together a draft list of all the camps that elsewhere on the site are said to be 17 or 18, and in a newspaper report 20. Six were in use by 10 December 1918. It is possible that some of these were disembarkation camps for troops from Europe rather than dispersal camps, or served both functions.

I would appreciate any corrections, amendments, etc., to this list to ensure its accuracy.

I would also be interested if anyone has a copy of Army Form Z. 11 (Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity) with the stamp of the Kinross dispersal camp.

Dispersal units:

  1. Byfleet, Surrey
  2. Chisledon, south of Swindon
  3. Crystal Palace, London
  4. Fovant, Wiltshire: covered the Channel Islands, Devon, Cornwall, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Somerset and Wiltshire
  5. Harrowby, Grantham, Lincolnshire
  6. Heaton Park, Manchester
  7. Kinmel, near Rhyl, Wales (Canadian Forces)
  8. Northfall Meadow, Dover
  9. Prees Heath, Shropshire
  10. Purfleet Camp, Beacon Hill, Purfleet, Essex
  11. Ripon, North Yorkshire
  12. St. Martin’s Plain, Shorncliffe, Folkestone
  13. Seaford, Sussex (Canadians)
  14. Thetford, Norfolk
  15. Weymouth, Wiltshire (Australian & New Zealanders)
  16. Wimbledon Common, London
  17. Woodcote Park, Epsom, Surrey
  18. Duddingston, Edinburgh
  19. Longman, Inverness
  20. Kinross, Scotland

John

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jrhardy

Below is a revised list of the dispersal camps used for discharge/demobilisation in 1918-1920. The major change is that the third dispersal camp in Scotland was Georgetown, Glasgow, instead of Longman, Inverness. There were 17 as o f17 January 1919 rather than 20 proposed 10 December 1918..

Please let me know of any errors, amendments, etc,

DISPERSAL CAMP

DATE OF ESTABLISHMENT

COMMAND

AREAS COVERED

Wimbledon Common, London

First camp established and used to test processes on 9 December 1918.
Placed in reserve 14 January 1919 when replaced by Crystal Palace.

London

London District and Eastern Command for UK men.
(IXB) Northampton, Hunts, Buckingham, Bedford, Hertford, Essex

Chisledon, south of Swindon

First phase 10 December 1918

Southern

(VII) Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and several of the Welsh counties.

Park Hall, Oswestry, Shropshire

First phase 10 December 1918.
Closed 16 March 1919.

Western & Ireland

Western Command and Ireland.
IA amd IVB Wales and XI and XII Ireland.

Ripon, North Yorkshire

First phase 10 December 1918.
Disbanded 15 January 1920.

Northern

VA and VB. North East

St. Martin’s Plain, Shorncliffe, Folkestone

First phase 10 December 1918.
No. 1 Dispersal Camp closed 29 March 1919.

Eastern

Same area as Wimbledon but for overseas men.
About 800 men daily (1 March 1919)

Duddingston, Edinburgh

First phase 10 December 1918

Scottish Command

South-East Scotland, (IIA & II).
710 per day. 1,200 per day and staff of 600 as of 14 January 1919.
5 weeks to 14 January 1919, 350 officers & 19,000 men.

Crystal Palace, London

Opened 14 January 1919 and replaced Wimbledon Common. Still in service October 1919.

London

London District and Eastern Command for UK men

Fovant, Wiltshire

Disbanded 15 January 1920.
Converted to Rest Camp for overseas soldiers for demobilisation.

Southern

VIII. The Channel Islands, Devon, Cornwall, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Somerset and Wiltshire

Harrowby, Grantham, Lincolnshire

Opened 23 December 1918.
No. 1 Dispersal Unit closed 3 May 1919.

Northern

VIA. Lincoln, Leicester, Rtuland
Total 2,388 officers and 77,145 other ranks.

Prees Heath, near Whitchirch, North Shropshire

Disbanded 15 January 1920. Converted to Rest Camp for overseas soldiers for demobilisation.

Western

VIB. Stafford, Derby & Notts

Northfall Meadow, Dover

Dispersal Unit disbanded 2-14 May 1919.

Southern

XC. Kent & Sussex

Purfleet Camp, Beacon Hill, Purfleet, Essex

After 15 January 1920 acted as Dispersal Unit for overseas soldiers arriving at Dover, Folkestone or the Thames. Dispersal Camp closed 10 September 1920.

London

XA. Middlesex, London North of Thames.
XB. Surrey, London, South of Thames.

Thetford, Norfolk

Converted from training camp on 18 November 1918.
Closed 13 March 1919.

Eastern

IXA. Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge

Georgetown. Glasgow

Announced 14 December 1918. This was (Munitions) Factory 1 of National Filling Factory No.4 and was ready for demobilisation by 21 December. Factory 2 was handed over 31 December for use as the Main Ordnance Depot for Scotland.

Scottish

South-west Scotland.
2,000 per day.

Kinross, Scotland

2 Dispersal Units

Scottish

IA and IB. North of the Forth.
1,000 per day.

Clipstone, near Mansfield

3 Dispersal Units - stamp for No. 6.

Northern

VB. and VIB. Area, including Yorkshire

Heaton Park, Manchester

In service by 6 January 1919.
1 Dispersal Unit.

Western

III. Lancashire, Westmorland,
Cumberland, and the Isle of Man

These camps were fed by rest camps on the other side of the Channel and embarkation was:

  • Calais to Dover,
  • Dieppe to Newhaven and Shoreham,
  • Dunkirk (Mardyke Camp) for Harwich or Tilbury as an alternative.
  • Le Havre to Portland (Weymouth) and Southampton and probably Ireland,

Boulogne to Folkestone was reserved for other military purposes and civilian traffic. Le Havre was supported by a rest camp at Rouen. Marseilles acted as a transit point for transfer to trains for transport to the Channel ports.

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Terry_Reeves

John

These might help fill in a few gaps. Each Dispersal Area had a Dispersal Station, which in turn administered one or more Dispersal Camps. The letters in brackets are the Dispersal Stations for the counties listed. Some groups of counties do not have Dispersal Stations of their own, but may have come under adjoining counties, however that is supposition at the moment. Ireland appears not to have any Dispersal Stations , but I have seen a stamp for Irish Command Discharge Centre.

IA Shetland, Orkney, Outer Hebridies, Skye, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverneshire, Aberdeenshire, Forfar, Kincardine, Clackmanan, Fife [Kinross]

IIA Kirkudbright, Dumfries, Roxburgh, Selkirk, Peebles,Haddington,Linlithgo,Berwickshire, [Duddingston]

1B Perthshire, Stirlingshire, Roxburgh, Selkirk, Peebles, Dumbarton, Renfrew, Mull, Jura, Islay, Arran [Georgetown]

II B Ayreshire, Lanarkshire, Wigtown

III Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, Lancashire, Isle of Man [Heaton Park]

IVA Cheshire, Flintshire, Anglesey, Carnarvon, Denbigh, Merioneth, Montgomery, Shropshire, Radnor, Hereford. [Oswestry]

IVB Cardigan, Pembroke, Carmarthen, Brecknock, Glamorgan, Monmouth.

VA Northumberland, Durham, (also includes Berwick-on-Tweed)

VB Yorkshire [Ripon North]

VIA Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Rutland [Harrowby]

VIB Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire [Clipstone]

VII Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire Berkshire. [Chisledon?]

VIII Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, IoW, Devon, Channel Islands, Cornwall, Scily Isles [Fovant]

IXA Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk [Thetford]

IXB Northants, Hunts, Bucks, Herts, Essex [Purfleet]

XA Middlesex

XB Surrey & North London [Crystal Palace]

XC Sussex [seaford] Kent [shorncliffe]

XI Donegal, Londonderry, Antrim, Co Down, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Armagh, Louth, Carlow, Dublin, Wicklow, Cavan

XII Leitrim, Slogo, Mayo, Rosscommon,, Galway, Longford, West Meath, Meath, King's County, Killkenny, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Galway.

With regard to dispersal units, you may wish to add Richborough in Kent, where there were several large IWT camps. This came under the Shorncliffe Dispersal Station.

TR

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jrhardy

Hi Terry

A rather belated - 6 months!- thank you for this information. Selling flats and moving has proved a bit of distraction over that time.

This is a big help in crossing the 'ts & is'. Somewhere I have a reference to Ireland and a recollection that this was done in England to minimise the risks of disturbances if it was done in Ireland

Thanks

John

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Terry_Reeves

My pleasure John. It goes to show how complex it was to demobilise large amounts of men and get them in the right place for convenient transport to their home locations.

TR

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Moonraker
Fovant and Chisledon camps were two of the demobilization camps in Britain which had a target of processing 40,000 discharges a day, a figure some thought would be difficult to attain. Baron Prittie devoted a chapter of his autobiographical Khaki and Rifle Green to his command of the unit at Chisledon Camp: 'Arriving there I found a scene of indescribable confusion. About a hundred men had turned up [as part of his unit] and a pretty rotten lot they were, all of considerable age and none of them had been overseas'. For guidance, he was supplied with a demobilization book from Japan (hopefully translated into English) as that was the only country to have disbanded a more or less civilian army after its war with Russia in 1904-05.


Prittie's teams worked from 6am to midnight and, he says, once discharged 10,000 men in a day with time to spare, compared with a War Office estimated target of 3,000. High-placed visitors never quite believed that men reaching the camp by 10am would leave it by 4pm and insisted on going through the process for themselves. Steel helmets were popular souvenirs, though when one visitor thought the men would like to retain their tattered greatcoats as mementos there were no takers. The reason emerged when civilians complained that men arriving by train had left 'a lot of little things behind them', resulting in a delousing station being set up. Then church leaders thought it a shame that the returning heroes had to go home in rags so a re-clothing section was instituted to issue them with clean khaki (which, Prittie thought, would soon be sold for what it would get).


Then Prittie's own 'home servicemen' (those who had never served overseas), composed of 'fathers and grandfathers', mutinied, wanting priority in the return to civilian life. He had a word with the major commanding the camp's machine-gun school:


Then I went out onto the porch of the orderly-room. About a thousand men were howling: 'We're going to be demobbed first.' A note on the bugle and then a dead silence till I took up the tale. 'There are Lewis guns in position commanding every street. My signal on the telephone and they open fire. Ten seconds to get to your huts.' The allowance of time was over-generous. In 5 seconds every home Serviceman was under his cot. I walked around with my staff and made the necessary arrests. Those who had yelled the loudest in front of the orderly-room.


As a precaution Prittie arranged for a squadron of Reserve cavalry to come up from Tidworth, followed next morning by a train-load of armed riflemen.


However he sided with the men when they complained after their rations were drastically cut because they were deemed to be performing 'sedentary duties'. He told the War Office that 8,000 soldiers were expected the next day and might take their revenge on Swindon if his unit was not functioning. Full rations were quickly reinstated.


One day Prittie heard from Horatio Bottomley, editor of the pro-soldier magazine John Bull, that a Labour Member of Parliament had received a complaint about a constituent who had been demobbed at Chisledon. It was claimed that the man had been kept waiting in snow and sleet for eight hours, had been jammed for the night into a leaking tent with twenty others, had not been fed, had stood about next day until he was turned out of camp at nightfall without food or railway ticket, and on finally reaching home had died from pneumonia. Prittie replied that there had been no snow and, as the men were in huts, no tent, the private had spent two hours in camp, half of the time being spent consuming a large hot meal, before departing with ticket and gratuity, but he had taken three and a half days to find his way the sixty miles to home. Bottomley, who had known Prittie before the war, accepted this version.


Guy Mace of the Royal Engineers was less impressed when he arrived at Chisledon at 3.15pm on 24 February 1919, finding 'utter chaos … no one knew anything or what we were supposed to do'. After an hour or so Mace and his comrades marched to a large shed, where they handed in certain items of kit and their rifles and had 'a meal of sorts'. He finished the demobilization process at 7pm but was not allowed to leave camp until he caught the 10pm train for Swindon that departed an hour late.


One lieutenant managed to be issued with a warrant to travel from Swindon to Edinburgh via Penzance! The War Office had recently refused Prittie's request for a Bradshaw railway timetable, a map of the British Isles and regional railway guides, and this was pointed out to higher authority when it queried the roundabout journey. The requisite publications arrived shortly afterwards.


(Let it be whispered, I've sometimes wonder whether to apply just a few grains of salt to some of Prittie's statements.)


The dispersal unit at Fovant Camp disbanded on 15 January 1920, with men who had served overseas and were still to be demobilized in south-east England then going to Purfleet in Essex. A rest camp was established at Fovant for drafts disembarking at Southampton and Devonport and due to be demobilized elsewhere. This rest camp remained until June, when the drafts then went to Shorncliffe.



Moonraker

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jrhardy

Some MPs did raise questions in the House on the treatment of their constituents, and the one mentioned by Bottomley may be one of the cases raised by Mr Clough on 24 March 1919 regarding Clipstone. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1919/mar/24/transport-conditions#S5CV0114P0_19190324_CWA_57

The MP for Skipton, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Roundell had first-hand experience and described the practical issues in his maiden speech. The command depots were over-crowded and the administrative staff had far more work than they could cope with. Men arrived every day with the expectation that they would be instantly demobilised. This included prisoners of war in batches of 290 to 400 men. The camp was on level ground with bad drainage and “was practically a morass and a swamp”. The men were “kept there day after day, after coming from Germany, till their hearts were sick at the treatment they received.” His last complaint was the failure of the War Office to provide enough forms – “At the beginning of the month of February I had no less than 600 men waiting, hanging on, who ought to have been demobilised sooner; and they were not being demobilised simply because we could not get the necessary forms from London.” He was eventually forced to get forms typed at the expense of his own canteen account. The discontent and trouble in the battalion would never have occurred “had it not been for the bad working out of the demobilisation scheme”.

Hansard Debates. 3 March 1919, vol. 113, cc 133.

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1919/mar/03/number-of-land-forces#S5CV0113P0_19190303_HOC_401

I still find the demobilisation programme impressive given the numbers, the transport logistics, the social unrest, the 'mutinies', and the confusing and shifting criteria to qualify for demobilisation, and the need to maintain force numbers until peace was signed and for the Army of Occupation, the Russian campaigns, India, etc. . This was one aspect of shifting from a war footing that the Government planned in advance and even held a trial of the processes in contrast to the absence of planning for the repatriation of prisoners of war that was an ad hoc muddling through (apart from the Danish Scheme). The main objective, however, was not achieved - minimising unemployment - though much of this was outside of their control.

John

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GordB

Question fellas... where would POW's that were held until the end of the war have been dispersed?

My great grand uncle Francis Burt was held in Munster III from May until January 1919 and released.

His still living 87 year old son says his father was in a dispersal camp before returning to Bristol. Any ideas what his journey would have been like?

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jrhardy

The principle was that a soldier was sent to the dispersal camp nearest to his home location - assuming this was Bristol for Francis Burt, he should have been sent through Chisledon (see Moonraker's note above) where he should have been processed within 24 hours before being given two months furlough. If he qualified for demobilisation - and the criteria were quite complicated and continually changing - this would have been the end of his service. If not he would either been transferred to the reserve or reassigned to the Army of Occupation, Ireland, Russia, India, etc., according to the disposition of his regiment.

The route he would have taken from Munster III is more difficult - the late date of January suggests he was among the last by which time things were more organised. Munster was reported as totally evacuated by 24 December 1918. He probably travelled by train to the Netherlands for Rotterdam and then to Dover or France for one of the channel ports. Then by train to his dispersal camp. The International Red Cross records available online for free do a include a few lists of repatriated prisoners (they begin with R rather than P or PA.

John

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GordB

The principle was that a soldier was sent to the dispersal camp nearest to his home location - assuming this was Bristol for Francis Burt, he should have been sent through Chisledon (see Moonraker's note above) where he should have been processed within 24 hours before being given two months furlough. If he qualified for demobilisation - and the criteria were quite complicated and continually changing - this would have been the end of his service. If not he would either been transferred to the reserve or reassigned to the Army of Occupation, Ireland, Russia, India, etc., according to the disposition of his regiment.

The route he would have taken from Munster III is more difficult - the late date of January suggests he was among the last by which time things were more organised. Munster was reported as totally evacuated by 24 December 1918. He probably travelled by train to the Netherlands for Rotterdam and then to Dover or France for one of the channel ports. Then by train to his dispersal camp. The International Red Cross records available online for free do a include a few lists of repatriated prisoners (they begin with R rather than P or PA.

John

Thanks very much John!

That helps at least give a snapshot of what happened after the war ended.

I wonder, do you know what actually occurred in the camps at the end? Did the Germans just open the doors and the soldiers left to find a British unit or did the British take over the camp and slowly release the soldiers?

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jrhardy

Research Note POW & Amistice.docxWorking Notes Armistice & Repatriation.docxBoth is the simple answer. It’s a big question which - from my limited reading - has not been adequately addressed by historians. Books like Robert Jackson’s ‘The Prisoners 1914-19’ and Lewis-Stempel’s ‘The War Behind the Wire’ have chapters on the Armistice and Repatriation. They limit themselves largely to individual accounts from diaries and the War Office interviews with returnees without providing detail on what was meant to happen and the diversity of what happened on the ground. It all looks like the ‘too hard’ box as they would need to cover the British plans and the relationships with the neutral countries of Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, and Switzerland, the disintegration of the German state and the socialist revolution, the economic situation and the state of the infrastructure of German railways and river shipping, and the influenza epidemic. There is a lack of research which uses German sources to describe the conditions in the neighbourhood of the camps.

Attached are some pages on an overview of the organisation of repatriation (see also the Danish Scheme at http://thedanishscheme.co.uk/index.htm)including a list of camps evacuated. Basically few plans had been made by anyone and it was all a bit ad hoc with the British effort focusing on transporting prisoners once they reached ports – they assumed that the German obligation to deliver the prisoners to the frontiers could be met. I tried to add a graph of the number of repatriated prisoners but the file was too big.

My reply also became rather long so I have put this into the other attachment with some notes on the camps mentioned in the two books mentioned above.

John

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jrhardy

The five collection camps are given in 'Barbed Wire Disease' as Friedrichsfeld, Limburg, Darmstadt, Mannheim and Rastatt.

John

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Moonraker

"Bathonian" described his experience at Fovant in the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette of March 8, 1919. His unnamed unit had arrived at Southampton and marched to a rest camp some miles away burdened with equipment, no provision having made to transport it. Next day the men marched in a downpour to Southampton Station and had to wait for six hours for a train in wet clothes.

"Arriving at Fovant in the afternoon, we were disposed of quickly. Our kits were examined and handed into ordnance, papers and forms were signed one after the other. One has to pass through some twelve or fourteen huts – each a different Army department – before being finally demobilised, I have never heard so much groaning and grumbling, so much bad language as I heard during the procedure of my demobilisation. The men were heartily 'fed up', weary, worn and fagged out."

Moonraker

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jrhardy

Thanks Moonraker for the quotation about Fovant. Bathonian's experience at Fovant are similar to those at other camps. The process was fairly quick and efficient but the men were not in a mood to tolerate any delays. His experiences of waiting for the train in rain for six hours is not typical as usually the trains went into the docks and the men were in sheds until they entrained.

John

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Tony Wilcox

Thanks for all this information.   My father's story was that he walked from Dülmen to the Dutch border, got a train to Nijmegen and then to Rotterdam.   He is listed as crossing to Hull on the SS Takada.   He then took a train to Catterick, eventually being demobbed at Purfleet.   His home was in south-east London;  his Protection Certificate is dated 31 Jan 1919.   What intrigues me is the number of references I have found, in demob accounts and elsewhere, to 'Purfleet, Surrey'.   One example is the account of Malcolm Bullock, Clare Balding's grandfather.  Has anyone any ideas as to why this should be?   I have not found a Purfleet in Surrey, or any evidence that the town at the northern end of the Dartford Tunnel has ever been separate from Essex.

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Retlaw

I have several men whose ZII records them discharged from hospital, stamped sick & wounded, so not all men went thro the nightmares recorded in the above threads.

I also have photographs of all or local newspapers from Aug 1914 - Dec 1919, I have read these many many times, and none of them record any men complaining about their discharge.

I met many  ex WW1 in my  patch over the years, and listened to their war stories, I even went on trips with them to France & Belgium, & stood with them on the battlefields, & at their mates graves,  non ever mentioned demob troubles. Makes me wonder if some of the events mentioned above,  weren't over stretched by a yard and a half,  by the moan a lots, the embittered few who make life uneasy for the majority, they and their ilk seen to breed like rabbits.

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CountryJohn
10 hours ago, Tony Wilcox said:

Has anyone any ideas as to why this should be?

 

My best guess would be because the town's name sounds not unlike the (militarily-familiar) 'Pirbright'.

 

John

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Moonraker

John's thought was also mine. (Googling leads to webpages whose authors think that Pirbright is in Essex and Sussex - it's actually in Surrey.) But it wasn't a demobilisation centre, whereas Purfleet in Essex was.

 

Further Googling for a list of demobilisation centres led me to the opening post of this thread (which confused me for a few seconds as I thought that in typing this reply I had somehow jumped to the opening post).

 

Many of the soldiers would have arrived at their demob centre tired and hungry and anxious to get out of the army. The process took only a day or so, after which they would have been on the way back to their homes and families. Many would have been unfamiliar with the part of the country where they were demobbed, and a few confusing the name, perhaps decades after the event, is understandable.

 

Moonraker

 

 

John's thought was also mine. (Googling leads to webpages whose authors think that Pirbright is in Essex and Sussex - it's actually in Surrey.) But it wasn't a demobilisation centre, whereas Purfleet in Essex was.

 

Further Googling for a list of demobilisation centres led me to the opening post of this thread (which confused me for a few seconds as I thought that in typing this reply I had somehow jumped to the opening post).

 

Many of the soldiers would have arrived at their demob centre tired and hungry and anxious to get out of the army. The process took only a day or so, after which they would have been on the way back to their homes and families. Many would have been unfamiliar with the part of the country where they were demobbed, and a few confusing the name, perhaps decades after the event, is understandable.

 

Moonraker

 

 

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Tony Wilcox

Pretty much as I thought.   I was just surprised that it appeared in the account of Malcolm Bullock, who was researched (apparently) by LLT for 'Who Do You Think You Are'.   Other occurrences are in 'The Politics of Protest', 'Life, Death and Growing Up on the Western front' and a Dracula play;  plus a couple of family accounts.   Dad was a Londoner, but he perhaps wouldn't have travelled around much prior to his war service.   Thanks for the prompt responses.

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