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RGA 378th SB – A fascinating find – Names listed


JefR

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It's not often in life that you come across something unique, but I'm sure this is. I doubt that the roll call of any other military unit has ever been presented as an entertainment!

Some six years ago, I was researching my grandfather's war in the 378th Siege Battery in Palestine and I'd done the usual things – MIC, medal rolls, unsuccessful search for his service record etc. - then in answer to a query on the forum, Paul (ororkep) mentioned that the letters of Charles Winterbourne, who also served in the 378th , are lodged in the Liddle Collection at the Brotherton Library of Leeds University, so I took the opportunity to investigate.

Charles Winterbourne was a bombardier in the battery who wrote frequently to his sister Alice during the war, and there are 63 letters covering his service during WW1. The letters were transcribed by his son, Rev, G Winterbourne, into a closely typed volume of around 80 pages, which I was allowed to photograph. A lot of space in the correspondence is naturally taken up with family matters, "Thanks for sending the socks", "How is uncle Charlie getting on?" etc, but in between there are telling descriptions of the life they were leading and the conditions they were experiencing in Palestine.

Tucked away in an appendix to the volume there is a fascinating piece that I think Winterbourne wrote as a script for an entertainment of some kind. It's obviously intended to be spoken, but what is really interesting is that it incorporates the names of 55 men in the battery. I think it was probably a monologue for a battery smoker or concert party – and from what he says elsewhere in the letters, it seems to have been very well received. I can imagine a lot of nudging, joshing and ribald comments going on. Personally, I was very pleased to see that my grandfather Gnr Fred Peckham was mentioned.

The following is a transcript of the document. My only editing has been to emphasise the names for clarity.

378 SIEGE BATTERY - Past & present

The undermentioned was suggested to me by overhearing the two following words "heavies laden" (Sladen) during some conversation, which I offer with apologies to all Officers, NCOs & men of the above battery.

The battery which has been formed for a considerable period were hard in (Harding) training for a very (Avery) (Long) time before proceeding on active service. The guns which are painted a mixture of "Green", & "Brown" are fitted with a new device, that, by simply turning a handle allows you to insert the tube, and cocks (Hancocks) the lock. But otherwise they are the same as another gun, as all guns have a lock (Havelock). Although we have a number of horses attached to us we have only one "Driver", who was probably a "Carter" in civilian life but of that I am not sure, as he may have been something more (Moore).

The battery which is the proud possessors of a library has only got one "Reader" which would give the impression that they are an uneducated class of men who would stand and "Gossip" instead of doing their work. Our mascot, which is a black cat [its name was probably Tip; in the 1920s he had a series of cats, all of them given that name in memory of the original.] is very friendly with a "Martin" we have who, although not a "Singer" often whistles ""Henry" the eighth I am", & "White" wings, they never grow weary", which has been a "Boon" & a blessing to a good many whilst "Bowen" down to the inevitable, as it has kept them cheerful where otherwise they "Wood" probably get "Searle"-y & discontented. Although we have only one "Walker" amongst us, & we get "Heaps" of practice at it, we can hold our own at sports, especially in the field with the "Ball" where we are anything but "Guys" & stick to our opponents like a "Leach" until! the game is won. Although at present we are comfortably domiciled in bivouacks, & wake up in the morning as fresh as a rose "Budd" we have seen the time when we only had the "Evans" for a roof & should have been glad of a farmer's "Barnes" to sleep in, whilst other nights we were "Hambling" along behind the guns smoking "Wood" "Bines".

We have always been different to Mother "Hubbard" as we had some old ham (Oldham) in the cupboard as well as some "Veal" which was issued as they rang the camp bell (Campbell). The only thing we were short of was water as, like ourselves, the "Brookes" at the "Bott"om of the valley were dry. We have men from "Bamford" "Marsden" "Peckham" and other places & different trades represented, such as "Turners" & "Smiths" but you never see them working at their trade, not even making a few "Staples", but none of us work on Sunday as a rule, for like good Scotchmen we go to "Kirk" if there is one available.

Previous to the battery drawing their stores they had a "Pickett" that was foolishly left behind, as well as some men, which were replaced by a "Newman" or two from other places. There was one especially left who should always have been "Wright" but was more often wrong as, for instance, if you asked him how much a heavy gyn would lift, you would have to wait while he (Wylie) studied a bit, then he would probably answer - a ton (Hayton) in fact he was always making a "Nash" of things. We often "Argue" among ourselves on little things such as the difference between a "Selvey"-gee and a sling, especially at the canteen after "Pay" has been issued, which is usually drawn once a week from "Lloyd"s bank. Although we are inclined to be windy at (Windeatt) times we did not "Duffett" & act the "Coward" when in action, but gave the Turk a "Pummell"-ing & although we did not have a Jack "Johnson" or two coming our way, you must "Grant" us this, that we were in danger of getting something worse than "Boyle"s & "Burns" whilst on the "Edge" of the Wadi. Some of us are undoubtedly getting tired of the East & if we were asked where we should like to go we should say "Why, west man," "Westman", with which remark I will close, hoping that no one takes offense at the above is the sincere wish of your

Respectfully - A/Bdr Chas Winterbourne

P.S. I composed the above while in rest camp for a few days after the Beersheba & Gaza offensive, from names in the battery. There is a great deal of dry humour in it that you will not be able to appreciate owing to not knowing the men.

P.P.S. Our OC's name is Sladen but they should have replaced a "m" where the "n" is, & then spelt the name backwards & you would have found what he came out here for.

The Battery OC was the first name mentioned, Maj. Douglas Brooke Charles SLADEN DSO, and the postscripts to the piece were clearly part of the letter to his sister – not part of the entertainment!

The censoring officer, 2nd Lt Claxton, is to be congratulated for letting it through, or the names might not have survived and we might not have had the pleasure of reading it today.

I've put together a spreadsheet containing all the names I found in the letters, and others that I have since collated from other sources - there are now 91 names in total. Anyone with an interest can download the list from the Dropbox link below: –

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/bnzkethfou5k70o/AACkg0hy9i_4WhllUOcd7LbSa?dl=0

And 2nd Lt Claxton's son, Humphrey, who's forum posting on 6th Aug 2014 reminded me that I should have posted this finding many years ago, confirms that he will be happy to provide an excellent photograph of the Battery's officers on receipt of a PM (forum name HKHC).

As I said at the beginning, is not often you come across something unique.

JefR

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Jef,

Good you see you followed up on that lead and found it worth while.

Some other men who are mentioned and whose records have survived.

69932 Vincent Bamford

66992 Albert Henry Martin

85653 Matthew Selvey

114554 Cecil Beaconsfield Wood

I do not know whether the names were underlined in the original text but did wonder whether the "Johnson" could be "Jackson" (Jack Johnson reference), if so,

54830 Ernest Jackson

I will post any others I see once I have gone through all my data sheets.

Kevin

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Jef,

Having looked at your attached sheet again I notice that it obviously includes some men who are not mentioned in the document. If you are trying to compile a nominal roll for the battery then I could possibly add some more names other than those highlighted. Pm me if that is the case.

Kevin

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