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Maureene

Volunteer Motorcycle Machine Gun Battery (from Calcutta, India)

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Maureene

Does anyone know anything about the Calcutta Motor-Cycle Machine-Gun Battery?

I have found some references to an autobiography posthumously published in 2007 called Chota Sahib... You've Had a Busy Day by Charles Nida. It appears the author joined this unit in 1915 or 1916 and underwent some training in the North West Frontier area of India. He appears to have been part of the 25th Motor Machine Gun Battery (Calcutta Volunteers). The unit was disbanded on arrival in Belgium without seeing action. This was probably in 1916, as the book indicates he was in India 1913-1916.

Sample pages from this book may be read on Google Books, but unfortunately none of the pages dealing with the Motor Machine Gun Battery

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=3MefAgAAQBAJ&pg=PP1

There is a description of the book here from the publishers website Undead Tree Publications http://www.maxclark.me.uk/undeadtree/chota_p1.htm

Perhaps someone has read the book or otherwise knows of the circumstances which led to the unit being disbanded on arrival in Belgium without seeing action?

Cheers

Maureen

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charlesmessenger

Maureen

According to my records, 25 Bty MMGS was moblised in India in May 1917 and then served in Egypt from July 1917 until disbandment in January 1918.

Charles M

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Maureene

Thanks Charles for this information

Cheers

Maureen

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Maureene

I am now able to read more online of the book mentioned above, and as a result have been able to read about the establishment of this Battery.

There is now a FIBIS Fibiwiki page called 25th Motor Machine Gun Battery (Calcutta Volunteers)

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/25th_Motor_Machine_Gun_Battery_(Calcutta_Volunteers)

I have found a few references to Medal Index Cards for some of the members of the Battery, which are on the Fibiwiki page. Can anyone advise if this means there will be a medal roll with names on it, for the whole Battery? I don't have access to Ancestry for the MICs or the medal rolls.

Cheers

Maureen

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mcassell

A booklet was published in 1919 by Major F W Heilgers (the original CO of 25 Battery) giving details of its service and giving a list of personnel (with addresses but no army numbers). I do not have a copy but wrote down some details from one I saw at a fair. The battery was formed in October 1916 from personnel of the Calcutta Presidency Battalion and other Indian volunteer units and was mobilized on 1 May 1917 and sent to Egypt on 13 June 1917. It was issued with 18 sidecar outfits (presumably Clynos) and 10 solo machines in August 1917. The Clynos proved unsuitable for desert work and the battery was disbanded in December 1917. Some of the personnel were posted to other MGC units, others were sent back to India and a few were commissioned ( including quite a few into the RFC/RAF), As far as I can tell, the personnel were issued with numbers in the 96300 to 96380 range. Hope this is of help.

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Maureene

Gunner parr, many thanks for this information. I think the booklet by Major F W Heilgers must be extremely rare, as I cannot find any other reference to it at all. It's great that you took details.

Cheers

Maureen

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mcassell

Yes, I regret not buying it as I have never seen another. It was very expensive at the time, however. I only have one other officer of the battery besides Heilgers - a Lieutenant CA Ainslie. His medal index card has survived but gives no christian names and I have not been able to identify him or any other officers from the battery. Any info you might come up with would be of interest. gp

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Maureene

I have the following information on Frederick William Heilgers, who changed his surname in 1919 to Hillyers.

Appointed Lieutenant, Cavalry Branch, Indian Army Reserve of Officers 30th October 1914.

The London Gazette Publication date: 29 December 1914 Issue:29021 Page:11150

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29021/page/11150

Appointed Temporary Captain, IARO 8 January 1917

The London Gazette Publication date: 20 March 1917 Issue:29993 Page:2766

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29993/page/2766

Awarded the Military Cross: Captain Frederick William Heilgers No 2 Light Armoured Motor Battery, MG Corps (Egypt).

The London Gazette Publication date:14 February 1919 Supplement: 31183 Page:2375

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31183/supplement/2375

With “the statements of service for which the decorations were conferred”

The London Gazette Publication date:29 July 1919 Supplement: 31480 Page:9740

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31480/supplement/9740

Frederick William Heilgers changed his surname to Hillyers April 1919.

The London Gazette Publication date: 4 April 1919 Issue: 31271 Page: 4481

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31271/page/4481

There was a Frederick William Heilgers who was married in 1902 at Asansol India who could be him, or could possibly be a relative http://search.fibis.org/frontis/bin/aps_detail.php?id=1092620. This marriage is also on findmypast, and the image available advised he was a mining engineer, age 23, father William.

I cannot find anything on Lieutenant CA Ainslie, in the London Gazette or elsewhere. I think it is almost certain he would have belonged to the Indian Army Reserve of Officers. There is a publication at the British Library Alphabetical list giving particulars of officers of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers / [issued by] Army Headquarters, India, Military Secretary’s Branch, in five volumes which may/should have information about him.

Cheers

Maureen

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear GWF enthusiasts,

I have the medals, portrait photos, and MMG service records of Henry Reginald Corbett (1891-1973), from Calcutta - who was a Guard on the East Indian Railways and a Volunteer.

He joined the F. W. Heilgers unit and went out to Egypt as a Corporal.

When the MMG Battery was disbanded, some were allowed to return to India (!), but the more stout-hearted trained as pilots with the RFC (as related).

Corbett, however, joined the Indian Army Reserve of Officers and subsequently saw active service on the Frontier (war medals; medal with two clasps).

Corbett became an A/Capt., 2/69 Punjabis, which was quite an achievement, even in wartime, for a home-grown former Railways Guard.

He was loaned to the Supply & Transport Corps for the Waziristan campaign, and was Asst. Cmdt. 5th Govt. Camel Corps, at Khirgi (Lieut.), 1919-20. After returning to 2/69 Punjabis, he was released from the IARO.

Corbett rejoined the East Indian Railways, and also the Volunteers (LS Medal). He enjoyed a family life in Dinapore, prior to Partition and return to UK and a different form of employment...

Kindest regards,

Kim.

Kimberley John Lindsay.

post-122353-0-79046700-1435770165_thumb.

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Maureene

Interesting to read about Corbett. Thanks for posting Kim.

Cheers

Maureen

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Fellow GWF enthusiasts,

This is what Corbett looked like, circa 1919.

Kindest regards,

Kim.

Kimberley John Lindsay.

post-122353-0-65846500-1435879247_thumb.

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mcassell

I have the following information on Frederick William Heilgers, who changed his surname in 1919 to Hillyers.

Appointed Lieutenant, Cavalry Branch, Indian Army Reserve of Officers 30th October 1914.

The London Gazette Publication date: 29 December 1914 Issue:29021 Page:11150

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29021/page/11150

Appointed Temporary Captain, IARO 8 January 1917

The London Gazette Publication date: 20 March 1917 Issue:29993 Page:2766

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29993/page/2766

Awarded the Military Cross: Captain Frederick William Heilgers No 2 Light Armoured Motor Battery, MG Corps (Egypt).

The London Gazette Publication date:14 February 1919 Supplement: 31183 Page:2375

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31183/supplement/2375

With “the statements of service for which the decorations were conferred”

The London Gazette Publication date:29 July 1919 Supplement: 31480 Page:9740

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31480/supplement/9740

Frederick William Heilgers changed his surname to Hillyers April 1919.

The London Gazette Publication date: 4 April 1919 Issue: 31271 Page: 4481

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31271/page/4481

There was a Frederick William Heilgers who was married in 1902 at Asansol India who could be him, or could possibly be a relative http://search.fibis.org/frontis/bin/aps_detail.php?id=1092620. This marriage is also on findmypast, and the image available advised he was a mining engineer, age 23, father William.

I cannot find anything on Lieutenant CA Ainslie, in the London Gazette or elsewhere. I think it is almost certain he would have belonged to the Indian Army Reserve of Officers. There is a publication at the British Library Alphabetical list giving particulars of officers of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers / [issued by] Army Headquarters, India, Military Secretary’s Branch, in five volumes which may/should have information about him.

Cheers

Maureen

My thinking is that Lieutenant Ainslie is actually Claude John Ainslie and not CA Ainslie as the medal card has it. I have found some notes that I made some time ago and have Lieutenant R. B. Culbertson (ex-Kent Cyclists) and Lieutenant Charles Michael Horsfall as attached to 25 MMG Battery, though whether this information came from the Heilgers booklet, I do not recall.

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mcassell

Surprisingly, virtually all the members of 25 (Calcutta) MMG Battery have surviving service records. I have found 80 names with the first (96301 Gunner A. St C. O'Leary) enlisting on 22 August 1916 and the last (96383 Gunner A.E. O'Shea) enlisting on 12 November 1917 - a few weeks before the unit was disbanded. Contrary to what I wrote down from the Heilgers booklet, only 12 men were from Calcutta volunteer units. Quite a few came from the East India Railway Volunteer Rifles and the Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles, those from the latter being tea planters. Hope this is of interest. gp

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Maureene

It's interesting to see your photograph Kim, and thanks for the additional information gunner parr. At least some of the East Indian Railway Volunteers were from Calcutta. as trains of the East Indian Railway ( E I R) travelled to and from Calcutta.

Henry Reginald Corbett, whose details are posted above, by Kim, lived at Howrah, now a suburb of Calcutta, and his past military experience includes 'E I R Vols'" (East Indian Railway Volunteers)

Cheers

Maureen

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear GWF enthusiasts,

Here is the Henry Reginald Corbett saga in more detail. Any comments would be more than welcome.

Kindest regards,

Kim.

Kimberley John Lindsay.

H.R. Corbett.doc

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Maureene

Very interesting to read the results of your research Kim. Thanks for posting

Cheers

Maureen

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daggers

Gunner Parr

You are correct about Claude Ainslie, to whom I am related and once met in the late 1940s. He worked in Calcutta pre-1914. His grandson told me this:

"My grandfather, Claude John Ainslie, served with the 222nd MGC Company in 1917 and 1918 in Campbellpur, (modern Attock), in what was then British India. In 1913 he helped form the Calcutta Scottish and trained all recruits in the use of the Vickers, forming the 22nd (sic not 222) Machine Gun Battery. This was an Indian Army Unit. as he was issued with a British Commission in 1917.
He later in 1918 joined the staff of the Rawalpindi Division who fought in the 3rd Afghan War. ..."

I cannot vouch for his research but he is usually accurate. I have a note that his medal card shows his awards would be issued via the Indian Arrmy.

Daggers

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mcassell

Daggers, most interesting. I suspect that when 25 Battery was disbanded Ainslie returned to India and joined 222 Company, a MGC (Infantry) unit though I can't find his movement to MGC (Infantry) in the London Gazette. Thanks, gp

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david murdoch

Doing some research into the original 25th MMG Battery (MMGS). I've picked up several MMGS personnel noted as being 25th MMG, and having (MMGS) service numbers in the right range to have been original battery members. The battery was formed in UK probably last quarter of 1915 and just before MGC took over and cancelled plans for more batteries, and is the highest numbered battery I have come across. It was a "standard" MMGS unit of 3 sections (6 gun carriers, 12 ammo carriers, 5 solo motorbikes, CO's sidecar and 5 trucks). From UK battery photo April 1916 there were five officers and around 58 other ranks  - of these about 12 would be Army Service Corps. CO was Captain Sinclair.  I was looking at one man in particular - enlistment date 18/7/1915 and first unit served 25th Battery MMGS - unit at discharge 12th MMG Battery MGC(M). The battery was probably disbanded or re designated sometime in 1916 and those personnel transferred (probably quite a few to Heavy Section).

Looking at the Calcutta Volunteer Battery the original members have one or two digit initial service numbers and then later MGC(M) service numbers adding 936## in front of the original number. From information on forming they were an independent "stand alone unit" and then absorbed by MGC(M) and designated 25th MMG Battery. On the later attestations the unit is noted as 25th MMG Battery, and the 963## numbers being the original number allocated. I'm searching all the records to see when this change occurs as that should give a close date to MGC takeover/official nambing. I see one line on a service record  entered by "OC 25th MMG Battery" dated 8/7/1917 (noting Leaving Bombay 13/6/1917 and arriving Suez 2/7/1917). Regarding them being designated as  25th MMG, the original  MMGS Battery was already disbanded so that number was available. I will spreadsheet them in the same format as the other batteries so I can see where they all ended up - as I spotted one transfer to 13 L.A.M.B in Mesopotamia.

Regarding their forming it's most likely there was a good awareness in India of the MMGS among the motorcycling community as many of the volunteers were UK expats and likely they received copies of The Motorcycle sent out. Also as 22nd MMG Battery arrived in India early 1916 they probably caused a stir as nothing like them had been seen there. 

The 25th received equipment once they arrived in Egypt - possibly the motorcycles from another disbanded Battery. There should be a shipping list for the Battery  leaving Bombay on 13/6/1917 on H T Surada. The figure of 80 known members probably exceeds the actual battery size and likely includes later replacements.

calcutta.jpg

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pjwmacro
3 hours ago, david murdoch said:

Also as 22nd MMG Battery arrived in India early 1916 they probably caused a stir as nothing like them had been seen there.

David

Great research report both 25 Batteries! I have 22 Bty as departing Devonport 26 Feb 16, arriving Bombay 20 Mar. On board SS Beltana. Which was a pretty quick passage for those days!

Best Paul.

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pjwmacro
On 19/03/2015 at 06:45, Maureene said:

I have the following information on Frederick William Heilgers, who changed his surname in 1919 to Hillyers.

With a name like Heilgers (and the fact he changed it) was he if German origins?

Best, Paul

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Maureene

Paul, I would think the name would be of German origins, but possibly a number of generations back.  The Family may have gone to England from Germany, before someone went to India.

4 hours ago, david murdoch said:

 

Regarding their forming it's most likely there was a good awareness in India of the MMGS among the motorcycling community as many of the volunteers were UK expats and likely they received copies of The Motorcycle sent out. Also as 22nd MMG Battery arrived in India early 1916 they probably caused a stir as nothing like them had been seen there. 

The 25th received equipment once they arrived in Egypt - possibly the motorcycles from another disbanded Battery. There should be a shipping list for the Battery  leaving Bombay on 13/6/1917 on H T Surada. The figure of 80 known members probably exceeds the actual battery size and likely includes later replacements.

 

From the account by Charles Nida, Chota Sahib... You've Had a Busy Day from page 156.

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=3MefAgAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA156

When he joined, which was when the Battery was being formed, he was given a  flash with the words "25th Motor Machine Gun Battery (Calcutta Volunteers)"

It took some weeks for the full compliment od sixty six officers and men to be reached, which included three time-serving privates from the regular Army who were drafted in to make up the numbers.

He comments page 159 that no one knew how to ride a motorbike except the three officers, so the recruiting seems to differ from the UK, where there was a motor cycling community.

 

He also refers on page 160 to the cold nights in December in Rawalpindi where they were training, which would be consistent with the Battery being formed from  August 1916

when

On 04/07/2015 at 23:03, mcassell said:

Surprisingly, virtually all the members of 25 (Calcutta) MMG Battery have surviving service records. I have found 80 names with the first (96301 Gunner A. St C. O'Leary) enlisting on 22 August 1916 

Perhaps the date of October 1916 mentioned was when the full numbers were reached.

 

 Charles Nida, the author of the book quoted, 96334, seems subsequently to have became an RAF officer AIR 76 - Air Ministry: Department of the Master-General of Personnel: Officers' Service Records AIR 76/374/21 - Name Nida, Charles Henry George

 

Cheers

Maureen

 

 

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david murdoch

Looking at them as a group most of them (96301 - 96376) appear on the Machine Gun Corps (Motors) BWM/VM roll and due to their consecutive numbers puts them in a block of a few pages. On the remarks column shows quite a few receiving temporary commissions, and as been noted  a few to RFC - on a couple of records mentions Heliopolis where 3 SMA were based at the Palace Hotel, Heliopolis from October 1917. It provided theoretical instruction to prospective aircrew. The ones of specific interest to me are those who remained with MGC(M) after the battery was disbanded, as from the service records can place them in the rosters for the Motors units they ended up in.

30974_186163-00697.jpg

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Richard Kelly
On 01/07/2015 at 18:27, Kimberley John Lindsay said:

Dear GWF enthusiasts,

I have the medals, portrait photos, and MMG service records of Henry Reginald Corbett (1891-1973), from Calcutta - who was a Guard on the East Indian Railways and a Volunteer.

He joined the F. W. Heilgers unit and went out to Egypt as a Corporal.

When the MMG Battery was disbanded, some were allowed to return to India (!), but the more stout-hearted trained as pilots with the RFC (as related).

Corbett, however, joined the Indian Army Reserve of Officers and subsequently saw active service on the Frontier (war medals; medal with two clasps).

Corbett became an A/Capt., 2/69 Punjabis, which was quite an achievement, even in wartime, for a home-grown former Railways Guard.

He was loaned to the Supply & Transport Corps for the Waziristan campaign, and was Asst. Cmdt. 5th Govt. Camel Corps, at Khirgi (Lieut.), 1919-20. After returning to 2/69 Punjabis, he was released from the IARO.

Corbett rejoined the East Indian Railways, and also the Volunteers (LS Medal). He enjoyed a family life in Dinapore, prior to Partition and return to UK and a different form of employment...

Kindest regards,

Kim.

Kimberley John Lindsay.

post-122353-0-79046700-1435770165_thumb.

 

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Richard Kelly

Hi Kimberley

Henry Reginald Corbett was my great uncle so I was extremely interested to read this. I would like to see any photos you have of Henry very much

Kind regards 

Richard

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