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Royal Garrison Artillery Unit - Help, Please!


davem43624
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I'm new to the Great War Forum, and I desperately need some help from the experts.

I'm trying to trace my maternal grandfather's military career. He seems to have been a career soldier in the Royal Garrison Artillery. At one time I had his lapel badge, which was RHA, but my sister has his medals and assures me that he was RGA. His regimental numbers were 34182 and 1406045

His name was Ernest Robins, and he was born on 22 Jan 1887 in Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire.

I think I have him in the 1911 census, at Newhaven Fort (no. 1 Depot) , but searches of various newspaper archives have not turned up any mentions of him, either good or bad.

I don't have his WW1 attestation - one of the many records that actually did burn, I suppose. I do have his medal card, and several reords from the NW Frontier. He has the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Grandad's first campaign medal was the India General Service Medal 1908 with clasp "Afghanistan NWF 1919", followed by the clasps for "Waziristan 1919-21" and "Mahsud 1919 - 1920". The documentation for these medals show that the ubit was to be given as "RGA", whicch is not helpful! The medal card gives his 1st theatre of war as "5g", which I believe means India.

He was home for a spell: he got married in Tooting in Aug 1922, to Connie Powell, aand his eldest daughter was born in the UK (Tooting) in August 1924. At that time, he was wearing a sergeant's stripes in a photo of the three of them.

The only indication of a unit comes on my mother's birth certificate: she was born in the Families Hospital in Khanspur on 16 Jun 1927. Grandad is in 3rd Light Battery, based nearby at what I think reads "Bava Gali", but is more likely "Kuzagali", which actually exists (Google Maps!). The battery C.O. is Major A. Burrows.

Can anyone give me any idea of how and/or where I can go to find out more, please? Also whether there may be any photos available of his battery in India/Pakistan? Finally, Grandad suffered with terrible nose-bleeds: he kept a bucket by his chair. Does anyone know if this was a common complaint for artillerymen?

Thanks

Dave

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Hi Dave,

welcome to the forum.

I don't know how much it helps but Major Snowdon - ex officer commanding 293 siege battery - was back in India post war. he was officer in command of the Makin column sent to occupy Waziristan. the two batteries he commanded were - 12 British Pack Battery and 1st Royal Kohat, both RGA units. I note your mans medal for the Waziristan campaign so there could be a connection here?

some one who knows more will be along soon and should certainly help with his war service. does the MIC not read - claims for 1914-15 star made by OC number 6 HB (heavy battery) RGA 29-03-1919??

Can you spot him on this link below - its a long shot but you never know

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=220777&view=findpost&p=2186210&hl=%2Bbattery+%2Brga

regards

Sean

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Dave,

He would have enlisted around the 12th Jan 1911 and been first sent to No. 1 Depot, Newhaven. Within a couple of months he would have probably been posted to a regional company before being posted on to 6th Mountain Battery in India (probably at the start of 1912). Sean was very close.

You can see he received the Indian General Service Medal with clasps for Mahsud and Waziristan, but there appears to be a third on the medal he is wearing.

Unfortunately the war diary for this battery only covers May- Aug 1919 so you would have to find the higher formation diaries it was attached to.

Given he seems to have enlisted again after the war there is a real possibility that his records are held by the MOD. Certainly worth pursuing and they can be found at https://www.gov.uk/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records .

He had extended his service to 12 yrs on the 21 Jan 1919, and re-engaged again to complete 21 yrs on the 13 Dec 1922. Discharged 8th May 1933. You should get his last attestation sheet which is available on Find my Past.

Kevin

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Sean and Kevin

Thanks very much for the important clues you've given me.

Looking at the MIC (just worked out what it means!) I can see what you mean, Sean, but before that it was just a meaningless jumble of characters to me. I'll see if that gives me any further lines for research. I've seen the photo before, in a Google search, but I don't think Grandad is in it - shame! I do have the indexes for his campaign medal/clasp awards, as well, but they were too big to post.

I've researched the various campaigns Grandad took part in, but he (and the RGA) don't get any mentions in the many articles available on the internet. I also investigated the geographical areas for which the medals were awarded. As an example, for the Afghanistan clasp, he could have been anywhere between the Indus and E/NE Persia, so that didn't exactly help.

Kevin - thanks again. Yes, the third clasp was for Afghanistan/NW Frontier 1919. Very useful that you've given me some dates to work on. I've had a sneaky peek at the service record site - seems a mite expensive at £30 a pop, but maybe I can persuade Mum to stump up half! I'm going to have to do it, of course, to try to complete the story. I'm on Ancestry myself - don't really like Find my Past, I'm afraid, but I will have to bite the bullet and do a pay-per-view. How on earth did you get the dates 21 Jan 1919 and 13 Dec 1922, and his discharge date 8 May 1933?

Grandad died in 1956, and I can remember (years later) taking Nan for a drive in the Aldershot area, around all the Army camps to the west - Church Crookham, Crondall, etc. Nan recognised a lot of the names, so I'm guessing that she was probably in married quarters there in the 1920s.

How would Grandad's family have got out to India and back - by troopship or commercial steamer - any ideas? I haven't found any records on Ancestry. Mum is sure they came back on a hospital ship, and she was sea-sick all the way up to Suez, she told me. I do have a few photos of Mum as a small girl in India, but none with any military connection,

I'll keep you posted on progress via this forum.

Dave

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Kevin

Thanks. The first really big clue! Would I be right in thinking that Grandad would probably have been assigned to this battery for most of his Indian service (at least up to 1919)? Ancestry has a 1500-odd page document on the artillery batteries in India, but only a handful of names were British, when I scanned it a few weeks ago. Now I can look for a specific battery, which will be a lot more help! I looked harder at the campaign medal indexes, and they definitely only say "RGA" - no unit for any of the several names on each document.

Cheers

Dave

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Dave,

I gave his unit, for which he was entitled to the 14/15 Star, in my first post; but never mind, you did at least follow up on my last.

It is impossible to say whether he stayed with the battery for the duration, including his possible service in the NWF after the war in Europe, or if he was posted to another unit. You need his service records. I could however probably find a few names of gunners who did serve with your relative in the 6th Mtn. Bty., and whose service records are available on Ancestry if you are interested. For interest in 1914 they were are Khyra Gali, but I haven't researched any of the batteries in detail- yet.

The IWM site has some photos of these batteries in action, although none of the 6th in India, at http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?query=%22mountain%20battery%22&items_per_page=10&page=1&f[0]=mediaType%3Aimage&f[1]=contentDate%3AFirst%20World%20War

Kevin

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Kevin

You're right, you did, and I'm afraid I missed it. I will read more closely next time!

Had a look at the IWM link - very interesting. Would 6th Mountain Battery have had similar guns? I guess they are guns that could be broken down and carried by mules/horses?

From The Long, Long Trail, 6th Mountain Battery was in 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division from May 1916, in II Mountain Brigade, and in 1 (Peshawar) Division before that and from Feb 1917. According to http://www.warpath.orbat.com/artillery/rga_btys.htm, 6th was in the Rawalpindi Division in Aug 1914. Those dates should give me more to search on.

Thanks

Dave

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There are reprints of the official histories:

The Third Afghan War 19191 Official Account

Operations in Waziristan 1919-20

In Waziristan the only RGA bty seems to have been 6 Mtn Bty (there were also several Indian Mtn Btys, FGA btys and a RFA bty).

In Afghanistan the RGA btys were 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 Mtn, 60 Heavy and a cadre of 68 Heavy. There were a lot of RFA btys and M Bty RHA.

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Nigel

Thanks for that info. Found the first document in "Naval & Military Press". The second is available on line, and the 6th MB do get an occasional mention. Should give me an idea of where they were, at least.

I've got a few other things to do that will distract me from this thread for a few days. I'll post again later in the week when I can get back onto it.

Cheers

Dave

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Dave,

When you return and have time have a look at the records of 26527 Walter James Duke. When one goes through service records you can sometimes see other members of the unit the man was with, either by promotion or on someones charge sheet. There is an A/Bdr Robins in this mans records and unless there was another Robins serving with the 6th Mtn. Bty. it is most likely your relative. Also gives places and times which helps.

Kevin

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Kevin

Thanks for the extra info: I've had a look. There is an a/bdr Robins, as you say. I can't think there would have been two bdr Robins in 6 MB, even if there were two Robins, so it is almost certainly him. I've looked at a number of others, without finding any more Robinses, though.

I rejoined FindmyPast and found the record you told me about - thanks VERY much - never ever thought I would see all Grandad's dates laid out like that!

Not much time to dig any further than that, yet, but will carry on as I can find the time.

Dave

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Starting to get back into it now, but checking all those soldiers' records is pretty tedious! Is there any way I can second-guess the system - for instance, does anyone know if gunners with regimental numbers similar to Grandad's would have been posted to 6 MB? How were regimental numbers allocated - was it first come, first served?

Nigel - not had time to follow up the documents you mentioned yet. I need to finish the current line of investigation first, and that is records of other soldiers in 6 MB. But I will get round to it sooner or later.

My sis says thanks, guys, as well. She's been doing this a lot longer than me, but not got this far!

Does anyone know if "pack battery" and "mountain battery" were interchangeable names for the same units? I've seen a number of references that seem to imply it, but nothing that looks like proof.

Cheers

Dave

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Dave,

If you have subscribed with FInd my Past then just put "6th mountain battery" in Optional keywords and "Royal Garrison Artillery" in Regiment. You should get 50 hits straight away. You could try various combinations of this. You will probably not find any particular number sequence except those who enlisted later and passed through "C" Mtn. Bty at Catterick and would have 4th Highland Mountain Brigade numbers, although not really having anything to do with them except training. Some of the 50 gunners mentioned may only show pre war service but without looking you will not know.

I would still try to see if the MOD has his records. Ask for money for christmas, or ask relatives whether they would like to chip in. He may have been posted to another battery. I think the name changed from "mountain" to "pack" some time after 1920, but I haven't seen the actual authorisation for it.

Kevin

EDIT.

If you look in the records of 300853 William Cooper you will see the names of the OCs and dates and places for the entitlement for the India General Service Medal and Clasp (Afghanistan NWF 1919).

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Hello Dave

During the Great War these batteries were still known as "mountain" although they used pack transport, but 2, 5 and 7 Batteries, which served briefly in France, were grouped as the "Pack Artillery Brigade".

A small pedantic point which doesn't actually affect your research is that 1st Royal Kohat MB was not actually part of the RGA, but of the Indian Mountain Artillery or IMA.

Ron

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According to the medal roll for the Afghanistan NWF 1919 clasp Robbins received that clasp to the India General Service Medal while serving with 6th Mountain Battery, RGA.

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Kevin, Ron & RFlory

Thanks very much for your info & suggestions.

I've spent the afternoon (yawn) going through your suggestion, Kevin, on FMP. I'm nearly at the end of the 2nd page of "6th mountain battery" hits. Don't know if I will finish tonight, but I have got some useful notes on locations from some of the soldiers. Just seen your edit, but not checked it out yet - will do later. I haven't forgotten about your MOD suggestion, but, again, will follow up on it later (lots of family troubles at the mo).

I've noticed, along the way, that some of the gunners seem to have bounced around a fair bit between different batteries, some mountains, some heavy and one siege. A few have also spent time in the infantry, one in th KDG and one in the 21st Lancers. One had a wife writing every so often to the RGA to enquire as to his whereabouts!

Thanks again

Dave

Kevin - sorry, the "yawn" was just because FMP is so slow, and doesn't show how many pages there are to each record, and so on. Good suggestion - works much better & quicker than keep referring to the medal roll!

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Dave,

Wading through records can be fun but eventually the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

Did any of your guys ever end up with 293 siege battery with your other distant relative as discussed off forum?

Regards

Sean

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Dave

If you have FMP access there is an entry for your grandfather in the Royal Artillery Attestation Books. It doesn't say anything about units, but gives you a bit more information.

He attested on 10 January 1911 at Guildford for 8/4 (8 years with the colours, 4 on the reserve).

He extended his colour service to 12 years on 21 Jan 1919.

He re-engaged for 21 years with the colours on 1 Dec 1922 (not long after he married?).

There is the name of his wife and marriage date.

There are the names and dates and birth places of two daughters (under 100 years so I won't post).

He was discharged on 8 May 1933 (under Para 370 (XXI) of King's Regulations) There is a key to KR reasons for discharge somewhere on the Long, Long Trail.

There are also the medals which have been mentioned.

Since he served until 1933 his service record will still be with the MOD.

I hope this adds something.

Edit:(I think someone has posted this information before me!)

R.

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Sean - thanks - 4 records to go! The problem is that after the 1st 40, they all start to look the same!

Kevin - thanks - got the info from William Cooper's record.

Ron - thanks for all that info. The daughters were my mother, still alive & kicking, and her sister Grace, now deceased. My mother was the one born in Khanspur. Funnily enough, I was out in that neck of the woods about 3 or 4 years ago on business, but the security situation made it impossible to get to Khanspur.

I only just knew my Grandad, actually - we lived with them for a few years when I was very small. and he died in 1956, by which time we'd moved away. I remember him as a very red-faced man, and my bro (1 year older) remembers him as having huge nosebleeds, for which he kept a bucket by his chair. He had a big black wood travelling chest which was kept under the table; it held Christmas presents in the run up to Christmas. It is the only place I can remember lying in bed at night and hearing the jingle of Father Christmas's sleigh-bells! Grandad worked as a hotel commissionaire in civvy street, but I haven't been able to find out which hotel.

I'm going to have to get the MOD records. Will post again soon.

Cheers

Dave

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I've finished trawling through the 6 Mountain Battery Records on FMP - there were actually 45 hits, and a few were too early - 1900s rather than WW1 & after. I'm sure there must be more, and I can get at them the hard way, by reference to the BWM/Victory medal roll,, which gives the soldiers' battery numbers. Tried attaching the bits I'd found but they are too big. The relevant info is:

John G McCarthy: Khyber region, Jammud, Ali Masjjd(?), Landi Kotal, Landi Khana, Bakka (Bukka?). No dates with those, though, although it was for the Afghanistan/NWF Frontier clasp, which means 1919.

John G McCarthy: March 1917, Peshawar.

Frederick George Swan: Alimusjid May 9th - 23rd, Landi Kana May 23, Dakka (Dakha?) July 22 - Aug 15 - these must also have been 1919.

William Cooper: Landi Kotal May 11th, Dakha May 13th - 14th. Landi Kana till 4th Aug.

Herbert Percy Cockell: Peshawar 15/12/18, 15/6/19 "present with unit (mobilised for service)", 2/9/19, Peshawar (may not be a good location as he was in hospital, so the battery could have been elsewhere).

Possible problems: locations for the different gunners do not agree completely, which might mean that not all the battery was present at all locations. If Dakka/Dakha means Dacca, am I not right in thinking that is the capital of what was once East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and therefore hundreds of miles off to the east of the NWF region?

I've not been able to identify definitely any of these place names (except Khyber) from Google Maps, but I'll read up on the campaign, which should give me a better idea of where they are.

I've had a quick peek at the MOD records site - looks as if it has to be done by mail.

Thanks again for everybody's helpful suggestions.

Dave

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A little bit off topic, but something really spooky I've just found: a relative of mine, George Mayo, gunner, 24327/1402760, on my father's side of the family was in 3 MB, RGA. He served in India, and got the IGSM with Afghanistan/NWFF 1919 clasp! That means he and my granddad were involved in the same campaign. I've got his MICs (3 off, from Ancestry) but the only other record I've got suggests he was in the Royal Navy in 1902, signed on for 12 years (from FMP).

Dave

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  • 5 months later...

I came across this thread when I was searching for something else.

A comment about some of the place names. Any place names which include Gali were in the region variously known as the Galis (other spellings Gallis, Galies, Gallies, Gullies, Galiyat), also called the Murree Hills, which is located in the hills between Murree and Abbottabad. They were used only as summer cantonments. The remainder of the year the troops would have been based at places such as Rawalpindi, Abbottabad, or perhaps near the Khyber Pass.

There was also a summer cantonment in this general area called Ghora Dhaka (Gora Dakka) which is probably the Dakka/Dakha referred to above.

There is some information about these summer cantonments in the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Murree

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Murree

For some of the cantonments and locations near the Khyber Pass, such as Ali Masjid , Landi Kotal and Landi Khana, see the Fibiwiki page Khyber Pass

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Khyber_Pass

Cheers

Maureen

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  • 1 month later...

Sorry I've not posted recently. Unfortunately I caught a virus and it has taken months & months to shake off.

Maureen - thanks for the info and the links. I'm still puzzled, though: all the references I've looked at say that Khanspur was an infantry station, but Grandad was most definitely RGA/RA. Any ideas?

Nigel - thanks also for your info - I didn't know that, although obviously I knew that they had amalgamated somewhere down the line.

To other contributors - I've had several goes at getting Grandad's records from the National Archives, but I just can't make the ordering pages work - the links for Grandad found in a search do not work on the ordering pages, and the "report a problem" link gives a 404 error (page not found). Aaaarrrggh! Same for some other rellies I'm interested in.

Another question for anyone who has any info, please: is it possible to find the troopships involved in getting the units out there & back? Mum has finally remembered that she came back on the Nevasa in 1933, but she thought it was a hospital ship. From what I've read, it was a hospital ship at one point, but was definitely a troopship in the 30s.

Cheers

Dave

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