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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

RFA uniform?


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I came across this photograph of a distant relative on Ancestry today and, being a complete novice on the subject of this forum, would like confirmation that the soldier is wearing a uniform consistent with that of a Driver in the RFA. Also, is there anything in the photo to indicate the date that it was taken?

Details of the soldier are:

Robert William Bolam, service number RFA 34618, service number Labour Corps 518509. According to the medal rolls he was in 150 Bty and landed in France on 19/5/15. According to the Long Long Trail that would mean he was in 46th Brigade which was part of the 14th (Light) Division. I do not know when he transferred to The Labour Corps as his service records don't seem to have survived. Maybe the transfer could have been in around April 1918, when the 14th (Light) Division was withdrawn from the front line after suffering severe casualties in the battles of early 1918.


reduced robert w bolam.jpg


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According to No Labour, No Battle, p. 322, Table 15, the Labour Corps numbers in the range 489600 to 533000 were allocated in "October to January 1918". I assume from the context of the table that it is meant to be "October 1917 to February 1918".


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The uniform is consistent with him being a RFA driver. The cap badge is that of the Royal Artilllery (RHA, RFA and RGA), and he is wearing spurs.

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Many thanks rolt968 and squirrel.

I have been doing some more digging today and, it seems inevitably, there are more questions.

I located Robert W Bolam #34618 on a nominal roll of "C" Battery in 19/12/1915 in the 46 Brigade RFA War Diary. His rank is described as "Dr a/B\ ". Does anyone know what this means? Adjacent entries have rank as simply "Dr".

I still don't know when or why Robert Bolam transferred to the Labour Corps. I have only so far found two service records of soldiers with service numbers near 518509. Both were transfers under A O 204/16. I know that this Army order has been discussed on other threads but there doesn't seem to ever have been any definitive explanation of what this Army Order was. Has anyone found out the situations in which AO 204/16 applies?

The two records I found were of Percy Holdsworth Labour Corps #518532, transfer 18/5/18 and Ernest Howell Labour Corps #518512, transfer 2/5/18. These are both outside the dates anticipated by No Labour, No Battle p322 quoted by rolt968. Maybe the procurement of additional manpower was running behind target. Both these soldiers had been injured, which may have been the reason for applying AO 204/16.

It seems for the moment that the current best hypothesis for Robert Bolam's transfer is that he was transferred under AO 204/16 in around April/May 1918 because of injuries suffered in April 1918 (war diaries indicate high casualties in this period).

On the other hand Robert W Bolam did in fact live until 1949.


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