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Remembered Today:

"Did not make prisoners" - reduction in rank


PaulC78
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I have a copy of one of my great uncle's war letters, at the end of which he says the following:

When you write again just put Driver as I had a row with the Sergeant Major said I did not make prisoners so went and seen the Colonel and gave up the stripe

His MIC and medal roll entries show that he reverted from Bombardier to Gunner (not Driver) on 14 March 1916, and from this brief line in his letter it sounds like he did so voluntarily. But I'm curious what he meant by "did not make prisoners" - does this mean that his superiors would have expected him to capture more Germans?

Any thoughts on the above would be appreciated!

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The notes suggests voluntarily, Rev OR - reverted at own request

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Anyone say if its likely the artillery would be capturing prisoners as Id have thought more likely something infantry would be doing

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Soldier's rank

Many of the ranks within the Royal Artillery have been abbreviated. The soldier's full substantive rank is given with any acting 'A' or temporary 'T' rank in brackets afterwards. During WWI, the artillery rank structure included corporal which was removed from the regiment in the 1920s and Serjeant became Sergeant. The WWI War promotion ladder consisted of:

• Gnr – gunner
• Bdr – bombardier (one stripe)
• Cpl – corporal (two stripes)
• Sjt – serjeant (three stripes with a gun above)

Not much of a demotion?

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Are you sure it says 'make' and not 'take'?

Pretty sure. This is the relevant portion of the actual letter, I only have a photocopy to work from (the photocopy is slightly more readable than this scan) but it does appear to say "make".

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So he meaning 'make' prisoners as in 'take' prisoners and the row with the Sgt Major was because he didn't (for whatever reason) want to 'make' the Germans prisoners.

Craig

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Would a bombardier/gunner be close enough to the front line to take prisoners?

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Neither of my suggestions will be totally satisfactory or complete , but for the sake of discussion here goes:

it is common enough, I think, to say that a captured man was "made prisoner," so could this be an extension of that usage ?

Or could it be that a hastily written note omitted something . . . . e.g. "the sergeant major said I didn't make prisoners work hard enough . . ."

Just a thought.

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Don't read it as prisoners but more personals. Short hand for a personal parade of sorts within the unit. Did't make it, had set to with the SM so went to Col and said i'm not to be trusted with strip, as I one is not soldier like in time keeping.

Side point Gunner and Driver are the same as private, the RA used both Gunner and Driver.

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Here is another interpretation ...

I have often read that when the Infantry attacked the German trench lines that they were too busy fighting and German prisoners were simply disarmed and "sent back".

Meaning they were instructed to proceed towards the rear (ie. the old British lines) obviously with hands in air and shouting "Kameraden" all the way, as was the custom.

Now the artillery Gunners would have had people involved in selecting any opportune targets on the battlefield. What if said Bombardier offended by targetting prisoners.?

I know this suggestion is somewhat controversial, but in the heat of battle it would be difficult to discern between lines of German attackers, or those that are surrendering.

This is one possible way (in my opinion) that it could be construed that a Gunner "did not make prisoners". Sounds terrible to us now, but part of life in such a horrible war.

Cheers, S>S

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Thanks to everyone for the comments, all good suggestions so quite a bit for me to mull over. I appreciate the help!

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