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War Diary 38 IBD (Infantry Base Depot) Etaples 1916

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I am trying to understand the context to some letters a cousin has transcribed. They are from an officer who spent 3 weeks at 38 IBD in SepOct 1916 on his way to the Front.

I've been lucky. The War Diary for 38 IBD survives (WO 95/4186/2) for the period Nov 1915 (formation in UK) until Nov 1916, I've downloaded a copy and I found my man's arrival and departure. I also find the names initials and regiments of other officers mentioned in his letters. I thought I'd summarise briefly what is in the War Diary and then ask a couple of questions please.

1. 38 IBD was formed 27.11.15 and went to France with the 38th Welsh Division arriving Etaples 4.12.15

2. Permanent staff are listed as:

CO Major KR Balfour 1st Royal Dragoons (Kenneth Robert, 1863-1936, served Boer War IY and came out of the Reserve in 1914 to Staff duties. Googling will bring up a number of hits, particularly for 2 of his sons for their work in WW2) Still CO Nov 1916.

Adjutant initially 2nd Lt B Lavis Banks, 15th Hussars

replaced 10/2/16 by Lt OC Guinness, 2nd Worcestershire (Owen Charles,OBE 1919, 1894-1970, seriously wounded (lost a hand- see below) 20/9/14 a month before the famous action at Ghelevelt. ) Still Adjutant Nov 1916.

QM Lt JR Beaton

Plus 9 NCOs and men

3. Until Aug 1916 38 IBD supplied 38 Division, hence principally Welsh. But after the losses of the Somme IBDs switched to providing reinforcements for Regiments by recruiting areas and for the IBD this meant East and West Surrey plus Buffs. See LLT article on IBDs

and a book by Charles Messenger, A Call to Arms (Edit I confess have not yet read his book in full and I now realise it might answer some of my questions below !)

4. For Dec 1915 and first 2 weeks of 1916 the names and army numbers of about 100 Welsh ORs are noted. Thereafter, like most war diaries, only the officers get named. Worth a look through if you know someone passed through Etaples in this period on the way to 38 Welsh Division ( I can tell you if it is worth spending the £3.30).

5. For the whole period of this Diary the officers coming and going, even briefly, have name and initials and usually Regiment on arrival and destination on departure. Very helpful if you want to trace a comrade etc as I did. (Too many for me to look through unless you know the date within a few days)

6. There is little other information to be gleaned? A couple of GCMs.No mention of any significant discipline issues. The little Mutiny at Etaples in Aug 1916 (edit ? what did I mean?) is not referred to. The movements are to/from England, the Front and Hospital. Also sometimes 'Conducting' duties, ie where an officer has to escort a batch of men to their end Unit.

7. A number of Officers are mentioned as, eg, 'Arrived ex Front as Training Officer' or 'Arrived as Instructor at Training Camp.

Would these be the Canaries?

Would they be under the IBD or some central training establishment.?

What was the responsibility of the IBD ? the actual training or just the admin?

Did the IBD say which individual went where? if not, who did?

What 'Tests' did the Men and the Officers have to pass, if any ?

The letters I've just been reading suggest that the CO and Adjutant were good types. For example of the adjutant he writes:

He is merry and bright and told me he does not miss his right hand at all now. He lost his hand at the battle of the Aisne. He got to within 50yds of an enemy machine gun and it opened on him. Luckily for him it was a bit wide of the mark but about a dozen bullets passed through his right wrist and nearly severed the hand. It had to be amputated. He has a knife which fits into the stump and he gets on well at dinner. He writes with his left hand.

but I think that some of the instructors were not so well thought of ( I am reading between the lines in that he says things that are too polite about the instructors). They also make passing reference to Tests.

I hope someone can help me with a bit of detail please.


Edited by charlie962

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A sample page of 38 IBD War Diary Sept 1917. Good for officers names but not ORs. With thanks to Nat Archives WO95 4186/2


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