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Remembered Today:

South Wales Borderers

Taff E

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I have a request and that is could you review what I am posting below...and please, please point me in the (any) direction that may help me resolve this dilemma...I'm voluntarily researching the names on a WW1 War Memorial and have encountered some problems, but this one is causing me to 'gibber' !

My summary, I suppose, is this :

Called up late / Alloted to Training Battalion - remained there for a period / Sent overseas / Not present in an Active Theatre / Attached to a Parent unit 1919 / died enroute home. But.......you may know better !!!

Apologies for length, but trying to sort out my thoughts on what I've found so far :

Rees GRIFFITHS Lance-Corporal 31444, South Wales Borderers.

Depending on the record you read, Rees served in the 3rd (Reserve), 4th and 5th (Reserve) Battalions.

Virtually no records have survived, and the above information is taken from the CWGC grave record, his Medal Index card, SWB Medal Roll, the AVL the Soldiers Effects register and the South Wales Borderers Roll of Honour.

But, I have a couple of issues relating to this information:

AVL – completed either by the soldier of relatives in UK. This states Rees was with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.

The 3rd was the Training Battalion and never deployed overseas. However, it would be used as the 'Admisinstrative' Base for SWB soldiers who were, perhaps, home on leave. So either Rees was home when the list was compiled (February 1918), or information was supplied by a family member and it was the only address they had at the time. However, its more than likely that Rees served with 3rd Battalion at some point and may have done so on the 'Staff' initially (as an instructor or similar, perhaps?).

CWGC – Rees died, according to the CWGC records, on 17th December 1919, aged 25, and is buried in PORT SAID War Memorial Cemetery (Grave R.12), and at the time of his death was serving with the 5th (Reserve) Battalion, SWB.

My problem with this is, primarily, two-fold. First, there was no such unit as 5th (Reserve) Battalion, SWB and secondly, neither the 4th nor 5th Battalions of the SWB existed in December 1919 (more on this below).

Medal Index Card: This lists only the award of the British War Medal, and no other information is included.

SWB Medal Roll lists him as receiving the British War Medal and is annotated 'Infantry Brigade Depot, India' [WO329/1111 Roll J/1/101A Pages 1A-285A].

Soldiers Effects Register (entry 976164): This lists Rees as 4th Battalion, and in 1920 payment of his Back Pay and War Gratuity (War Grat) were made to his father, Joseph. The record is annotated 'War Grat paid by India'.

SWB Roll of Honour lists Rees as serving with 4th Battaliion.

Overall, I think I'm happy that Rees was at some point a member of 4th Battalion !! But what was his history ?!

What we do know:

The only medal recorded as having been awarded to Rees was the British War medal – this means he did not enter a Theatre of War before the Armistice, but had departed UK for Overseas service prior to the Armistice.

By 31st October 1918, 4th Battalion were, as part of 40 Brigade, 13 Division, located North of Kirkuk in, what is now, Iraq (Mesopotamia then). In April they were in Amara, and it seems those that were left (demob had begun) – a total of 14 Officers and some 200 men - went at some date in April from there to India, as the records show the 4th Battalion embarked in India for UK that same month (April). By August 1919, they were in Brecon.

From the lack of a Victory medal and his being recorded as being in an IBD in India, I can only assume that Rees did not serve with the 4th Battalion in any Theatre of War. However, it is possible that he joined the Battalion after their arrival in India in time for them to sail back to UK.

The Medal Roll (I only scanned pages 1 – 25, 289 and 290 mind) lists those awarded only the British War medal, and in those pages 42 names were listed as “Drowned at Sea enroute” but no dates are given.[opens up a new line of research, but I didn't follow it ...at least, not yet].

The following 14 pages listed the recipients as IBD India (as I presumed the rest will do so as Rees was page 52 and pages 289 and 290 (the last page) also lists recipients as SWB, IBD India).

4th Battalion was actually disbanded in August 1919 after their return home.

CWGC and to Rees being 5th (Reserve) Battalion.....which didn't exist. Apart from anything else, the 5th (Pioneer) Battalion disbanded in June 1919. There were 3 Reserve Battalions – 9th, 13th and 14th, but they were renamed after Armistice and all served in Germany and Southern Ireland, not Egypt or India (51, 52 and 53 Battalions). So that record has to be erroneous.

So, back to Port Said Cemetery. Could it be that enroute UK from India, which would have taken them through the Suez Canal, Rees was taken ill? If so, possibly taken off the ship in Port Said and into one of the remaining hospitals where, after a number of months, he died?

Port Said was the site of the 31st General Hospital, 15th Stationary Hospital, and 26 Casualty Clearing Station, but I can find no record stating which, if any, of these existed in late 1919, though there were British Military Hospital facilities in Egypt in the 1920's and during the Egyptian Uprising (ended 1922). Unfortunately, none of their records appear to have survived beyond Gallipoli (26 CCS) so I don't know when these specific facilities 'closed' or operated (excuse the pun, not intended!) mid 1919 onwards.

And how did 42 soldiers 'drown enroute'....possibly to UK ?

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Regarding the 5th Reserve Battalion. I have seen many refrences in RWF to a similar Battalion (i.e their 5th Reserve Battalion) which 'doesn't exist'. I haven't properly bottomed it out and can't find my notes. My impression is that it was a Depot Battalion in India handling the drafts for that Theatre.

I suggest, to get a better understanding of when he enlisted/called up and subsequent movements, that you look for surving records of the others around him on that BWM Roll. A quick look shows that 31446 David Daniel George has 'Pension' papers. He was mobilised 30/7/1917, to 3rd Bn 1 8 1917, To India 2 12 1917. Finding a few more should confirm the pattern.

Regarding the 'drowned enroute' issue. Do a dip sample on CWGC to get the date(s). I'd say they were on troop transports sunk in the Med on the way to India.


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Hywn, many thanks for your tips on research, and I'll follow them up. Interestingly, the first name on the Medal Roll was a member of the RWF, second to AGS. Rest SWB. - the RWF man was 32702 T/Cpl Thomas Darcy (listed also as 6487) but no location given; the second was ACSMI Henry Edwards, nr 385, AGS, listed also as nr 7078 - Drowned at sea..

My thanks for the 'leads'


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I've a quick look at the drowned at sea ones. Seem to be a lot for 2nd Bn 13 8 1915 and they are on Helles Memorial, Gallipoli. I don't know enough about SWB to comment about what happened.

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That would be correct for 2nd Bn - Landed at Helles in the April, then moved from Helles to Suvla Bay in the August. 4th Bn also in Gallipoli, arrived in the July. Both evacuated to Egypt in Jan 16 - 4th stayed there, 2nd went on to join BEF.

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SWB history (Atkinson) mentions 'Some drafts turned up...one of them, 11 strong, being the sole survivors of 83 men torpedoed on the Royal Edward between Alexandria and Lemnos...' This is not clearly dated but seems to be August 1915.


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From British Merchants Lost 1914-18

"Royal Edward, 11,117grt, 13 August 1915, 6 miles W from Kandeliusa, Aegean Sea, torpedoed without warning and sunk by submarine, 132 lives lost including Master "

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My analysis:-

He was probably a Derby Scheme man, or conscript who was mobilised to the 3rd Bn South Wales Borderers on or around the 1st August 1917.

On completion of training he and his comrades would have been posted to an active service unit. He was posted to the 4th Battalion and in all probability proceeded to India around November 1917. However it's entirely possible the AVL is correct and he had not left for India when it was prepared.

On arrival at the Base Depot men would have gone on to join the 4th Battalion on active service in Mesopotamia or remained on garrison duty in India, including the Garrison Police, Bombay. Atkinson notes garrison duty in India remained pretty much as it was pre-war. CWGC shows 30482 Lewis was in 'A' Company 4th Bn I don't know if this was the HQ Company but he is in Kirkee New Cemetery and is one of your men on the BWM Roll.

The Brecknocks were in Mhow District but where the men who do not appear to have been numbered to the TF (i.e. 6 digits) joined them this is shown on the Roll as 'Brecks'. Record keeping in India seems pretty casual and I can only find reference to the 4th Bn for men on the BWM Roll on CWGC, not in surviving service records.

On the 27th November 1918 a group of men left the Battalion (sic) to proceed overseas. There is note on their records referring to the 5th Reserve Battalion (India) which was commanded by a Lieutenant so hardly more than a company and as noted at post 2 seems to be an administrative device for men detached from the Depot.

They left Bombay on the 29th November, arriving at the IBD Salonica on the 15th December. Atkinson notes the 7th Bn were being demobilised and 450 men, including 250 miners were sent home around this time. He says the 7th although reduced to two companies was reinforced by a draft from the 4th Bn. I would not be surprised as I've seen it before if the 4th Bn retained it's identity as one of these Companies, but I don't know for sure. What is known is men from this group were discharged from the 4th Bn not the 7th and do not appear to have been posted into the latter e.g. Morris Jones 31125

This composite Battalion remained in the Black Sea theatre until March then went round the Mediterranean, including Gallipoli, on various duties for a few more months during which time it was replenished by more drafts and men from other Regiments, with it appears men coming and going throughout this period. Eventually it was disbanded on or around the 29th November 1919. (Atkinson)

Egypt was the main medical centre for the MEF so it seems at some point he was evacuated there. At the time influenza was rife but in any event most men in theatre suffered from malaria, dysentery or enteric fever. As he died in hospital his death certificate might provide the answer.

Of course without a service record the only date we can be reasonably certain of is his mobilization on or around the 1st August 1917, but the above does at least offer an explanation for the 3rd; 4th and 5th Battalions.


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