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1914-15 Star medal rolls - Expert advice sought.


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Hello - I am not a 'medals' person, so apologies if this question sounds ill-informed.

I have been transcribing the 1914 Star and 1914-15 Star medal rolls for the Royal Sussex Regiment (over 9,000 names and some repetitive stress injuryyyyyyyy). Part of the aims are to compare the numbers on the rolls with the reinforcement drafts mentioned in the diaries. The names are also mentioned in the 2nd Bn ledger held in the West Sussex Records Office. The numbers sent out align very well with the drafts received and the medal roll numbers in the corresponding dates for the 1914 Star medal roll..... however when we move into the early dates for the 1914-15 Star medal roll, things go a bit awry...

The records show big discrepancies between drafts and the medal roll:

Date...................Records.....Roll

10 Nov 1914............93.........93

23 Nov 1914..........176........125

29 Nov 1914..........231........156

There are large shortfalls in the 1914-15 Star medal rolls. For late Nov 1914 alone, I am missing 126 men. The other difference between the 1914 Star roll and the 1914-15 Star roll is the 'remarks' column. the 1914 Star roll's remarks columns are crammed with info and show hundreds of men who ended up with other regiments. The 1914-15 Star has limited data on this....which makes me wonder if the 1914-15 Star medal roll is missing all the men who were subsequently transferred to other units. The gaps seem simply too large to be explained any other way. I have considered the possibility that drafts sent out were split and arrived on a staggered basis but the dates of disembarkation are within the tight parameters of the three key dates above. I have eliminated some possibilities, I have phoned a friend and now I am asking the audience...My questions are:

1. Is it likely that the roll records of men transferred out would normally be missing from the 1914-15 Star rolls?

2. Where would one normally find the 1914-15 Star entitlements for men who subsequently transferred to other regiments? On the Royal Sussex Regt roll or on the roll of the regiment they transferred to?

3. Is there any other explanation for these missing men?

Any informed responses would be gratefully received. Thank you in advance. MG

PS. As an Aside, the 1914-15 Star medal roll has hundreds of men who transferred-in and qualified for the medal with other units. This list is in the second file (ledger). When I search for these men on Ancestry none produce a return under the MICs yet they are clearly shown under the medal roll. Many are Sussex Yeomen qualifying with this unit in 1915 and subsequently being absorbed by into the 16th (Sussex Yeomanry) Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, so it is definitely a list of men who earned their 1914-15 Star with other units who were later absorbed into the Royal Sussex Regiment. It is very odd. MG

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1. Is it likely that the roll records of men transferred out would normally be missing from the 1914-15 Star rolls?

Might be an obvious question but have you tried just the name and number ? - if the star is on another units roll then only the name and number will match, the unit will be different.

Craig

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Might be an obvious question but have you tried just the name and number ? - if the star is on another units roll then only the name and number will match, the unit will be different.

Craig

Answer D. "all of the above"... RSR as primary unit, secondary unit, no unit entered, name only , number and Regt etc etc...and permutations and combinations of the above. I am less worried about the transfers-in...my main concern is I have 126 'originals' 'MIA' so to speak... and since I don't yet know who they are I cant search by name.

I should also mention I have yet to compare my transcription with the ledger for the 3rd Bn which should in theory list every man sent out by number and date....

Edit: My instincts tell em there is a third ledger with the RSR men who transferred out that has not been picked up by Ancestry's otherwise useful medal roll access.

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my main concern is I have 126 'originals' 'MIA' so to speak... and since I don't yet know who they are I cant search by name.

I doubt you can do much until you can identify the names (at least then you should be able to check the MIC) - I must admit I have comes across some DLI men (of whom I no longer have the list - thanks, kids) who I cannot find on the rolls but they have a MIC for the 14-15 star.

Craig

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1. Is it likely that the roll records of men transferred out would normally be missing from the 1914-15 Star rolls?

2. Where would one normally find the 1914-15 Star entitlements for men who subsequently transferred to other regiments? On the Royal Sussex Regt roll or on the roll of the regiment they transferred to?

3. Is there any other explanation for these missing men?

1. Yes. The medals rolls were compiled by the unit responsible for the man at the time the roll was created. Any man still on the RSR's books in late-1917/early-1918 (1914 stars) would have their medals issued through the RSR. Anyone transferred out would not appear on their rolls.

2. The new unit took on the responsibility for issuing the men's medals

3. It's probably a safe bet that any man missing from the RSR rolls will be recorded elsewhere, and that they did not die or were not discharged while serving with the RSR.

Experience tells me that most of the men you're looking for will be on rolls for the Labour Corps or Royal Defence Corps. The Labour Corps 14 and 14/15 star rolls are arranged according to the various other units the man in question served with in order to qualify for the star.

Edit; the best bet is to search for the missing numbers one by one (some, of course, will be duplicated with men in other R Suss R battalions - reference to the medal roll will help establish the relevant battalion the man served with).

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1. Yes. The medals rolls were compiled by the unit responsible for the man at the time the roll was created. Any man still on the RSR's books in late-1917/early-1918 (1914 stars) would have their medals issued through the RSR. Anyone transferred out would not appear on their rolls.

2. The new unit took on the responsibility for issuing the men's medals

3. It's probably a safe bet that any man missing from the RSR rolls will be recorded elsewhere, and that they did not die or were not discharged while serving with the RSR.

Experience tells me that most of the men you're looking for will be on rolls for the Labour Corps or Royal Defence Corps. The Labour Corps 14 and 14/15 star rolls are arranged according to the various other units the man in question served with in order to qualify for the star.

The LC and RDC have held quite a few men who I've had trouble identifying.

Craig

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Martin,

They'll be with the regiments they transferred to ultimately. So you'll need to check every other 1915 roll to find the missing men- which is why Ancestry's putting them online now makes finding the missing men feasible. So for instance, using the one Royal Sussex man I have: 9442 John Henry Garner 1st RSR. He transferred to the RFC and if you find his MIC for his 1914/15 star it's listed as being on the RFC roll. His BWM & VM are with the RAF too. So even though he earned his star with RSR, it's on the RFC roll which is not online yet.

That's why you have the 'odds and sods' at the back of the RSR rolls- they're transferees into RSR and so don't appear in the rolls of the units they earned the 1914/15 star with.

You are lucky that you have those RSR ledgers to provide an indication of name etc. But you'll have the quirks of Ancestry's indexing as to which number they used and the lack of full names in the 1914/15 roll to combat.

Best regards,

Matthew

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As my edit function is not working right now I'll add this here.

I'd agree that many will be found in the Labour Corps and Royal Defence Corps rolls. The Royal Engineers, Army Service Corps and Machine Gun Corps will also probably have a good few too.

You may be best off trying wildcard searches on the MICs for specific number ranges associated with the Sussex regiment to identify more of the ex-RSR transferees and where they ended up. If you find some going to an infantry regiment, it might indicate that a draft of returning wounded/sick was diverted at an IBD before the men could return to their Sussex battalion, and you could use that to your advantage in targeting that specific regiment's roll.

Matthew

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From my trawling through Ancestry, I have found what many of the others have said the Labour corps/Royal engineers & RDC had a lot of men from the RSR transfer over, once again a problem I found was how the regt was abbreviated and the fact that prefixes to regt numbers were often dropped and can confuse the issue when searching. It sounds as though you are not far off and its lucky that the 14 star & 15 star rolls are small in comparison with the remaining rolls.

Roy

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prefixes to regt numbers were often dropped and can confuse the issue when searching.

That's a good point, and very relevant to R Sussex regulars whose 'L' prefix might or might not be shown. Then there's the reservists, at least some of whom might or might not have a prefix ('3', or similar?). Quite a job.....

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Thanks one and all - particularly the confirmation that transferred-out are not usually listed on the original unit rolls.

1. It seems there is consensus that the transferred-out will be on other rolls. The curious thing is that the 1914 Star roll lists the transferred-out but the 1914-15 Star roll does not.

2. If the 1914 Star roll is any indication, Labour Corps is the prime location for the missing followed by RDC and ASC (as suggested), however the 1st (HS) Garrison Battalions of the Essex, Bedfords and Norfolks took in decent a number on RSR 14 Star men too. The dispersion of ex RSR Star men to other units is not concentrated.

3. I am aware of the duplicate numbers under different letter prefixes. In this case it is not an issue. The diaries and 3rd Bn records substantiate the numbers: they are simply not in the RSR 14-15 Star rolls, and as agreed they are likely buried in a hundred other units' 1914-15 Star rolls.

4. I have not (yet) constructed the continuous number roll. This will be done in time. 9,000 names/numbers is enough to get started with. Should be done by the weekend at this rate. i can safely say the BWM and VM rolls can wait for a rainy day.

5. The challenge with the MIC search based on regiment is that it also generates the BWM/VM men from 1916 onwards which more than doubles the size of the haystack.

6. Ditto RSR as secondary regiment and wildcard. It simply creates a larger haystack.

I think my best bet is to use the 3rd Bn Ledger, which should in theory list all the 'missing' men. All rather frustrating. I did not quite appreciate just how difficult it is to trace every man in a line infantry regiment who disembarked in 1914-15.

What is interesting is that roughly 28% of the late November cohorts are 'missing' which perhaps gives some idea of the numbers likely wounded/injured/sick who were evacuated and recovered sufficiently to serve elsewhere - possible having been medically downgraded. My speculation. MG

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This may be something which is easily knocked down, but I'll ask it:

If a man was wounded/sick earlier in the 1914 campaign, returned to the UK, and recovered sufficiently to go back to the Regiment in France by 29 November, might he not be counted twice as regards original BEF and then draft numbers - but he'd only get one Star entry?

Clive

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This may be something which is easily knocked down, but I'll ask it:

If a man was wounded/sick earlier in the 1914 campaign, returned to the UK, and recovered sufficiently to go back to the Regiment in France by 29 November, might he not be counted twice as regards original BEF and then draft numbers - but he'd only get one Star entry?

Clive

He should only get one star entry. A more interesting example would be, let's say, a doctor or driver who went overseas with a Red Cross convoy in August 1914 then returned to the UK and joined up, and went back to France in 1915. Both periods of service will be recorded on the MIC (and might even generate 2 separate MIC's), and would be recorded on on a 1914 star roll plus a 1915 star roll, but the earlier award will take precedence and the subsequent award wouldn't be issued (though I've come across duplicate issues).
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This may be something which is easily knocked down, but I'll ask it:

If a man was wounded/sick earlier in the 1914 campaign, returned to the UK, and recovered sufficiently to go back to the Regiment in France by 29 November, might he not be counted twice as regards original BEF and then draft numbers - but he'd only get one Star entry?

Clive

Yes. Absolutely. But these were very small in number. Almost insignificant. If a man was lightly wounded, it was unlikely that he was sent back to the UK, so would not appear twice on the disembarkation rolls. Only the more severely wounded were sent back, and typically they would take much longer to recover. The OH Medical Services 1914-15 F&F has a flow-chart showing the percentages.

The other reason that the recycled were low in number is that in 1914 to March 1915 there were lots of Reserves who were queuing up to go out. The number of recycled wounded/sick/injured was less than 5% in the 2nd Bn Royal Sussex Regt for example - based on drafts sent v reinforcements received. On a base of 1,762 men, the 2nd Bn received 77 more men than were sent out, suggesting these were recovered wounded/sick/injured from Base. Given the Royal Sussex Regt suffered 272 fatalities in 1914 (all 2nd Bn) and Killed: wounded ratios for the BEF in 1914 were 1 to 2.83 we might reasonably expect the 2nd Bn RSR to have suffered around 770 wounded. If 77 made it back from Base, it suggests around 10% made it back before the end of 1914. I would assume far fewer made if back from the UK during that period. Official data on this dynamic was not recorded until mid Jan 1915.

There are various data snapshots from MedStats suggesting very low percentages made it back to their original units within the recording period. Where units kept detailed records it is possible to resolve the cumulative numbers with the 1914 and 1914-15 Star rolls. In the samples I have looked at the differences are typically very small.

This is something I am working on in some depth, so any contrary data would be extremely welcome. Given the multiple factors we should expect some variance in the data across a hundred battalions (25 Brigades). MG

Edit. From Memory the 1914 Star roll is over 370,000 men. If we add the men who disembarked between 22nd Nov and 31st Dec 1914, it is easy to see at least 400,000 British troops having disembarked. The number of recovered wounded sent back from the UK needs to be considered against this figure.MG

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Im just wondering whether any of your missing men might show up on the Silver War Badge roll under 2nd or 3rd Bn, discharged men may have slipped the net

Roy

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Im just wondering whether any of your missing men might show up on the Silver War Badge roll under 2nd or 3rd Bn, discharged men may have slipped the net

Roy

A good point and an avenue that I have yet to explore. Once the 1914-15 Star roll is complete (a few days) Then SWB can be added.I have had a cursory glance. The Royal Sussex men on the SWB rolls are rather dispersed among other units. MG

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I posted my question about the wording on the Award Roll for my father's 1914-15 Star on the Subforum 'Service Numbers' in the Forum 'Other', as it followed on from my question about service numbers. But it didn't generate a reply so obviously that was the wrong forum. Perhaps an expert on these matters will see the question here and be able to answer my question. The Award Roll recently published on Ancestry UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920 for T O C Doherty has scribbled in pencil beside his name something that looks like "label prep (??) by ??". All the other men on the same page have either "label req." by their names or nothing at all about any labels. I have two questions really: 1) what is a label? and 2) what does the wording, which is hard to read, mean? I apologise if I've done the link wrong. Gillian

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