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1/5th Royal West Surrey, Murree, Aug 1916


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Pte Albert Pickett, service number T/4632, 1/5th Royal West Surrey, died on 30 August 1916 at Murree from pneumonia (Soldiers' Effects Register and British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns, although the latter records him as Arthur). His service number indicates that he enlisted on or about 25 November 1915. I'm wondering why he was sent to Murree when the 5th Battalion were sent to Mesopotamia in December 1915 (LLT). Would the battalion have retained a presence in India after the move to Mesopotamia? Could it be to do with his age - the Ecclesiastical Return says he was 19 but I have some reason to think he was actually only 16 when he enlisted. I've never researched a soldier who died in India/Pakistan so any help, or suggestions where to find more information, would be appreciated.

Roger

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The war diary for August 1916 shows a return which includes 47 O.R.s at the Base Hospital and 40 at the Base Depot from a total strength of 960.

Murree was a Hill Station he was probably sent there for the clean air. Men were typically evacuated from Mesopotamia via Basra to Bombay and then dispersed to hospitals on the sub-continent according to need.

If he had remained in India, as some did he would only have the BWM, if he went to Mesopotamia, then entered a theatre of war, therefore a pair.

The war diary is online http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/war_diaries/local/1_5Bn_Queens/1_5Bn_Queens_1916/1_5Bn_Queens_1916_08.shtml

Ken

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Thanks Ken, I hadn't thought about the medals as an indicator. Unfortunately I can't find a medal index card or medal roll entry for him on Ancestry! But it does seem to me that there would hardly have been time for him to receive training, deploy to Mesopotamia and then be evacuated to India, all between late November 1915 and end August 1916? Hence my belief that he must have gone straight to India on completion of basic training and the follow-on question of why he would have gone there given that the battalion had already deployed to Mesopotamia.

Roger

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Thanks Ken, I hadn't thought about the medals as an indicator. Unfortunately I can't find a medal index card or medal roll entry for him on Ancestry! But it does seem to me that there would hardly have been time for him to receive training, deploy to Mesopotamia and then be evacuated to India, all between late November 1915 and end August 1916? Hence my belief that he must have gone straight to India on completion of basic training and the follow-on question of why he would have gone there given that the battalion had already deployed to Mesopotamia.

Roger

Neither can I and I've also looked on FMP and TNA which usually works, he should at least have the BWM - I think it's called S*d's Law!

There is a service record for a Pte West who was 18 on enlistment on 7th June 1916 he was posted to India on 26/12/1916 and then joined the Bn at Ramaleh in December 1917, via Bombay and Basra leaving on 28th October 1917, under age for active service and held back in India until he was 20. He survived, but I'd agree November 1915 for Pickett that puts him in India if it follows a similar pattern of six months around April/May 1916. 5 days Bombay - Basrah

I'm not good with soldiers effects but isn't that '9th Secunderabad Division' not sure what it means in context but the 9th (Indian Army) Division did not serve in Mesopotamia but then again the soldiers below him have a similar note in the column 'Credits' 'Account and date' and they did die in Mesop!

Ken

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There is a service record for a Pte West who was 18 on enlistment on 7th June 1916 he was posted to India on 26/12/1916 and then joined the Bn at Ramaleh in December 1917, via Bombay and Basra leaving on 28th October 1917, under age for active service and held back in India until he was 20.

Ken,

I can't find this record on Ancestry, can you give some more details? Why would he be held back until he was 20, wasn't 19 the limit for active service at that time?

Roger

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My understanding is that troops weren't usually sent directly to Mesopotamia, that they trained in India first.

In addition the medical view was that young growing men were more prone to disease in India, and preferably should not be sent there until they were older, (at least in their 20s ) and I image for Mesopotamia the health issue was even more significant than in India.

Cheers

Maureen

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My understanding is that troops weren't usually sent directly to Mesopotamia, that they trained in India first.

That would certainly seem to fit this case, although it does beg the question: If the battalion has deployed to Mesopotamia, who provides the training in India for the replenishment drafts?

Roger

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Ken,

I can't find this record on Ancestry, can you give some more details? Why would he be held back until he was 20, wasn't 19 the limit for active service at that time?

Roger

Bertie William WEST Pte 243717 1/5 Queens

Fragment of record (4 pages) on FMP. I can’t find it on Ancestry either.

Doesn't really help simply an example that men were held back in India at the Base Depot. As to your question above the 1/4th Queen's remained in India but no doubt provided drafts for the 1/5th in Mesopotamia (most other British Regiments in India did). Both battalions originally based in Lucknow. Also as noted above replacements from the UK were sent to India and the IBD then posted to Mesopotamia, again usual route Bombay - Basra. Garrison duties in India continued much as before the war with men posted to various 'policing' duties.

​Incidentally although we usually associate the flu pandemic with 1918 some sources date it as 1917 - 1920. August was an especially bad month in India for the disease attributed to the weather conditions, still air, high humidity which may be why he was at Murree which was a hill station, though some distance from Lucknow. Certainly by September/October 1917 it was reported the fighting capacity of the Army in Mesopotamia had been greatly reduced by an influenza epidemic.

Now if someone could just find an mic!

Ken

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Thanks again both. So the picture that I am getting is that Pte Pickett enlisted in November 1915 and was probably sent for training with 3/5th RWS. He left for India probably in June 1916 (there is a record for Pte 4540 William Dennis attested Guildford 11 Nov 15 and left for India 13 June 1916 after training with 3/5th). After arrival in India about mid July he probably went to Lucknow where he was to train with the 1/4th RWS before joining the 1/5th in Mesopotamia (the aforementioned Pte Dennis left India for Mesopotamia in November 1916 but his record doesn't say where he spent his time in India). While in Lucknow he became ill and was sent to the cooler climes of Murree to recover (or maybe the 1/4th were at Murree for the summer and he went there to join them?) Sadly he died on 30 August 1916, a long way from home and family and probably only just 17.

Roger

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  • 5 months later...

Dear Friends,

I maintain burial records of Old British era Cemeteries in Pakistan (formerly British India before 1947).

I photographed this headstone in Murree in 2005. And I cannot find a clearer image.

The grave is in the New Murree Cemetery, Pindi Point, Murree Hills:

The soldier (name not clear) "died in Murree of wounds received in Mesopotamia....erected by his comrades"

The name is not very clear and could this be Private Albert (Arthur) Pickett's OR if it is another soldier then I find it very interesting that he died in Murree of wounds received in Mesopotamia in WW1. Murree was established as a hill-station/ convalescence depot by the British to escape the heat of the Indian plains. It was built like a typical English town and served as their "Home away from home"

Is it also possible that Pte Pickett was sent to Murree from Mesopotamia to recover and died of pneumonia. (The influenza epidemic was in late autumn months of Oct/Nov whereas he died in August)

The grave is in the section where burial years range from 1912-1920

Thank you very much for helping me in identifying this person's identity.

post-15613-0-50732400-1440707496_thumb.j

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I'd suggest this is the grave of Corporal (A/Sgt) Peter Prince d. Muree 12 September 1916. (Soldiers Effects).

Commemorated on the Karachi Memorial

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1450896/

SDGW shows 'Died' in 'Mesopatamia ', this usually means he died as a result of illness or accident but as the location is also incorrect I don't set too much store on the accuracy of the record. Soldiers Efeects is an official record, and as it concerns money likely more accurate!

The name on the stone is '(?cp)L P PRIN***' not 'PICK***', or Pickett. So no connection to the subject of this thread if you want to take it further, and congratulations by the way on your efforts to remember these 'forgotten' men, you may do better to start a separate thread.

Ken

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