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16th (S) Battalion (Public Schools) Middlesex Regt 1916


Liz in Eastbourne
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I am researching a young man who was a private in this battalion for eight or nine months before going to an Officers Cadet Unit and being commissioned into another regiment.

According to the Long, Long Trail and other sources, the 16th Bn (Public Schools) of the Middlesex Division, formed in September 1914, landed in France in mid-November 1915 with the 100th Brigade, 33rd Division but left in February 1916 and went to GHQ Troops.

Please could someone explain to me what this meant?

Was this battalion involved in any frontline service between landing in France in mid-November 1915 and its participation in the Battle of Albert on 1 July 1916?

Liz

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Liz

The 16th Mx went to 29th Division when that division arrived in France in early 1916 (from Gallipoli via Egypt). It remained with 29th Division until the battalion was disbanded in early 1918 but saw action on 1st July 1916 and on other occasions. However; I presume it still sent a number of suitable candidates off to OCBs for officer training throughout this time. It saw front line service from November 1915 to Feb 1916 but was not involved in any major attacks.

Several battalions of 33rd Division, in early 1916, were sent to GHQ troops whilst it was decided what to do with them - they contained lots of well educated men who would make good potential officers. The 18th, 19th and 21st Royal Fusiliers were disbanded to provide officer candidates having gone to GHQ Troops in this way. This may have been the plan for the 16th Mx but they were reprieved and sent back to see action. GHQ Troops was an umbrella for battalions not assigned to fighting divisions and employed directly under GHQ. A battalion of the Artists Rifles spent the early years of the war in this way providing guards for GHQ and other installations whilst providing officer candidates for gazetting.

I'm sure another forum member may be able to provide a more succinct response. There is a relatively recent battalion history which covers from formation to 1st July 1916 in detail - the title and author currently escape me as my copy is at home.

Kind regards

Colin

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Thank you very much, Colin, that's exactly what I wanted to know, and very succinct too.

The young man in question was gazetted 2/Lt from an OCB on August 5 1916 so must have been in training from about March 1916 and wouldn't have been with the battalion on the Somme. I was wondering if he could have been involved in any major action between late November and Feb/March - clearly not.

Could I ask you a supplementary as you know about these public school battalions?

When the battalion was formed in September 1914, would there be anything untoward in a young man whose 18th birthday was not until mid-October being accepted then and there, given that they were to spend over a year training in England? I had thought there was a fairly rigid rule especially at the start of the war but he does seem to have joined up right away.

Liz

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Hello Liz

Does your young man have a name.

It should be possible to work out an enlistment date and point you in the direction

of his offices service file at the NA which should have his original attestaion papers

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Liz

I'm not that great of 16th Mx - I've more interest in the RF US battalions. Regarding age, I think there was plenty of scope for getting into such a battalion if you were slightly under age but looked old enough, and went to the right school. I know a lot of boys joined up under age. However, I'm not sure if the delay to going to France was an issue - most UPS/Public School men believed that they would be going abroad relatively quickly - a number could have been gazetted as officers, having been to the right school or university, and been trained by their OTCs. They chose to enlist in battalions such as these to see action quickly rather than have to undergo the delays of officer training. A steady trickle of men elected for commissions whilst still in the UK as they realized that they would not get out to the war quickly whilst in the ranks. This drain delayed departure further as untrained men had to be assimilated to remake up the numbers in these battalions. They eventually got to France only to serve for a few months in various quiet sectors before most were sent back to OCBs for training and gazetting.

The UPS men were attested pretty rapidly (thousands in a matter of days) and seemingly didn't even get service numbers assigned until late in 1914! It was likely similar in 16th Mx. Theoretically the rules were rigid but there was less time to check in many cases and soldiers probably didn't have to bring along a birth certificate.

If he was gazetted 5/8/16 it would depend on which OCB he went to as to his date of departure from the battalion. I would judge from similar men in the RF UPS that he left in late March or very early April. It's worth getting his officer file as Peter suggests for more details

Kind regards

Colin

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Hello Peter,

He does indeed, and I have the file number; my reason for avoiding mentioning it was simply to avoid wasting people's time spent in helpfully piling in with lots of information that I've already got from the records, London Gazette, Times, school, etc, rather than the specific query I originally placed.

But on this supplementary question you are absolutely right, I shall have to go and check if I want to know precisely when he enlisted and what he gave as his age at the time. I am researching/writing/editing a collection of biographies connected with a local memorial and someone has already looked but not apparently got this information. It doesn't mean it's not there.

Liz

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Colin

Again, you've given me a much clearer idea of what was going on and also why he chose to enlist as a private.

I'll be going to Kew in a couple of weeks and will get the file up.

The family are convinced he lied about his age so there may be something in it, but it was only a matter of a few weeks.

Many thanks for all your help.

Liz

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