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Remembered Today:

34th Battalion MGC Somme from April 1916 to March 1917


Robert Patterson
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I was hoping to discover the deployments and or actions of the 34th Battalion MGC and in particular 101st Machine Gun Coy.

My great Uncle Pte Frederick William Warren 133283 served with the 34th Battalion MGC prior to his Transfer to the Reserve Battalion on 12 March 1917 after becoming a mustard gas causality. Uncle Fred survived and immigrated to Australia where it was thought that the Australian climate would assist with his rehabilitation.

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My great Uncle Pte Frederick William Warren 133283 served with the 34th Battalion MGC prior to his Transfer to the Reserve Battalion on 12 March 1917 after becoming a mustard gas causality.

34th Battalion MGC was not formed until late February 1918

Steve

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Dear Mark and Steve,

Thank you for your replies.

Steve, my assertion regarding the 34th Battalion MGC was based on the information provided in Fred's 'Transfer to Reserve on Demobilization Certificate dated 25th October 1919.

'Unit and Regiment or Corps 34th Battalion MGC' Attested on the 12th March 1917. This was just prior to his 18th Birthday.

Some time prior to 12th March, 1917, Fred became a casualty following a mustard gas attack.

Fred survived and immigrated to Australia where it was considered to have a better climate to help his damaged lungs. He lived in Sydney. Married in 1938. Had one son and passed away peacefully in his 85th year.

I had the great fortune to meet Uncle Fred as a young child and over the years had many discussions regarding the capabilities of the Vickers Machine Gun. These conversations were of great interest to my as a young Australian Army infantry officer with a reasonable understanding of the Australian Army's then current machine gun (GPMG M60) that could no achieve the same results at long range as the Vickers MG.

The only other piece of Fred's service information was that he was first appointed to 'The Training Reserve Battalion'.

There is much of Fred's service history yet to be discovered. I am attempting to obtain a copy of his service record and would appreciate any advice you may have.

Thanks again for your reply.

Kind Regards

Bob

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Hello Bob, and welcome to the Forum!

Just to clarify Steve's point, prior to March 1918 each infantry brigade had a machine gun company. A fourth company was added to each division in late 1917, and the four companies were formed into a battalion by February/March 1918. If your great uncle returned from the Reserve unit after recovering from being gassed, he probably served in 34 MG Battalion in 1918, but for the period you are interested in, it is the company War Diary you need.

Ron

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Dear Steve, Mark and Ron,

The following information has been received from Mr Graham Sacker, Historical Research, MGC Database.

'We are fortunate that his discharge certificate has survived. Without it, I would have been struggling!

Fred's service file has not survived - almost certainly one of the four million sets lost to fire during the blitz on London in September 1940.
Before your message, I had not come across a single document relating to his Great War service, apart from those to do with the issue of medals. (One of which you have seen)
Soldiers who joined the Corps in 1918 ( as in this case) are the most difficult to track. By that time all the MGC units that were ever formed were already in place somewhere in the world, and men who came along after the start of the year were allocated to units piecemeal, not in batches, and are consequently very difficult to place in a particular unit.
Your certificate does the business in this case.
We know that Fred was conscripted 12/3/1917 as soon as he became old enough to serve. Although I don't have his original Training Reserve number, I can say that he almost certainly carried out his basic military training with No 86 Battalion in the 20th (Reserve) Brigade, situated at Hornsea. This unit was renamed "C" Bn MGC in May of 1917 and all of its men were destined to serve with the Corps on completion. I believe that the group photograph that you have enclosed was taken at Hornsea. Many of the men (Fred included) are wearing the General Service button as a cap badge, which was very common. Other men are wearing regimental cap badges, but I cannot make them out. It was not unusual for men to be conscripted into an infantry regiment, and then sent to a TR Battalion, with a view to ending up in the MGC.
Even after completion of basic training, they all still had to undergo specialist instruction as machine gunners. In late 1917-early 1918, this probably took place at Clipstone Camp, near Mansfield, and only then would they have been allocated an MGC number. 133282 was allocated between 11-13/2/1918, and since the training there only lasted six weeks, we can guess that Fred went to France about the end of April 1918.
He would have been sent from Folkestone to Boulogne, and thence by train to the MGC Depot in France, at Camiers, close to Etaples. Here there would have been yet more training in how to stay alive in the trenches, exposure to poison gas, issue of equipment, and finally allocation to a unit at the front.
Fred was obviously sent to the 34th Battalion - the machine gun element of the 34th Division. At the time, it was in need of substantial reinforcement, having been badly knocked about during the German Spring Offensive (March - May 1918). The Division had been withdrawn from front-line service at the end of April and had to be completely re-formed with new infantry battalions. Here is a short history of 34 Bn MGC, from formation:

34 Bn

formed 26/2/1918 from 101/102/103/240 MG Companies.

Served (1918 ‑ until 21/4/18) with 15 R Scots, 16 R Scots, 11 Suffolk, 22 Northumberland Fusiliers, 23 Northumberland Fusiliers, 25 Northumberland Fusiliers, 9 Northumberland Fusiliers, 10 Lincs, 1 E Lanc, 101/102/103 Trench Mortar Batteries, CLII/CLX Brigades Royal Field Artillery, X34/Y34/Z34 Med Trench Mortar Batteries, V34 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, 207/208/209 Field Companies Royal Engineers, 34 Division Signal Coy, 18 Northumberland Fusiliers (Pioneers), 102/103/104 Field Ambulance.

Engagements: 21‑23/3/1918 Battle of St Quentin (VI Corps/3 Army), 9‑11/ 4/1918 Battle of Estaires (XV Corps/1 Army), 12‑15/4/1918 Battle of Bailleul, 17‑19/4/1918 1st Battle of Kemmel Ridge (IX Corps/2 Army).

Served (1918 ‑ after reconstitution on 1/7/18) with 2/4 W.Surrey, 1/4 R Sussex, 2 Loyal North Lancs, 1/4 Cheshire, 1/7 Cheshire, 1/1 Herefords, 1/5 King=s Own Sco Borderers, 1/8 Scottish Rifles, 1/5 Argyll & Suth Highlanders, 101/102/ 103 Trench Mortar Batteries, CLII/CLX Brigades Royal Field Artillery, X34/Y34 Med Trench Mortar Batteries, 207/208/209 Field Companies RE, 2/4 Somerset Light Infantry (Pioneers), 102/103/104 Field Ambulance.

Engagements: 22/7‑3/8/1918 Battle of the Soissonais and the Ourcq (XXX French Corps/10 French Army), 1/8/1918 Capture of Bergneux Ridge, 28‑29/ 9/1918 Battle of Ypres (X Corps/2 Army), 14‑19/10/1918 Battle of Courtrai, 25/10/1918 Ooteghem, 31/10/1918 Tieghem (II Corps/2 Army), 1/11/1918 to Corps Reserve. 14/11/1918 Advanced to Lessines. 12‑19/12/1918 S W of Namur. 29/1/1919 Right of X Corps sector of Cologne bridgehead. 15/3/1919 Renamed as Eastern Division. Amalgamated 21/11/1919 with 62 Battalion as 34 Battalion.

At the end of the war, it was one of the Divisions chosen to become part of the occupying forces in the Rhineland, near to Cologne. We can see from Fred's discharge paper, and the Medal Roll copy which I can attach, that he was not sent home until October 1919.
Sadly, I can't tell you anything else, but believe me, you have done well to know even this small amount - a very high proportion of late entry soldiers are a complete mystery. I hope that the above has added a little to your knowledge.'
Very Best Wishes,
Graham Sacker
Historical Research, MGC Database.
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Robert,

You have quite a bit of info to go on with there, well done.

Mark

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