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Heavy Section MGC


Gareth Davies
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Can anyone provide a definitive date for the formation of the Heavy Section of the MGC? It was sometime in the period Mar - May 16 but I am keen to get an exact date.

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I believe the first commanding officer of the Heavy Branch M.G.C. was Ernest Dunlop Swinton, D.S.O. He was appointed to Special Duty on 19th March 1916. Formation of the Heavy Branch M.G.C.? Googling his name - a biography credits him with "raising" the Heavy Branch M.G.C. He is also named in the L.L.T. as its first commander.

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29533/supplement/3542

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The first reference in the amendments to the Pay Warrant appears in Army Order 253 of 1916. I don't have a date for this, but other Pals can probably help.

Ron

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Harry:

Indeed. But it doesn't give a date.

There are a number of Gazette entries (from Gazettes published in May) that attach officers to the Heavy Section at dates in mid to late April. But Glanfield (in The Devil's Chariots) says 1 May as the formation date but that doesn't make sense to me; how could someone be attached to the Heavy Section in Apr if it didn't exist?

Ron:

I will go searching,

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My sources inform me that the Tank Detachment was formed 16th February 1916, under Colonel Swinton, briefly renamed as the Armoured Car Section, Motor Machine Gun Service, before being renamed again in May 1916 to become the Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps.

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Sir Ernest Swinton's obituary published in The Times on Wednesday, March 17th 1951 may be of interest, it mentions his involvement in raising the heavy branch M.G.C.

post-43672-0-10903000-1462130130_thumb.j post-43672-0-33393900-1462130164_thumb.j post-43672-0-16047500-1462130198_thumb.j

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That's more grist to my mill Harry, thank you (but sadly not definitive).

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My sources inform me that the Tank Detachment was formed 16th February 1916, under Colonel Swinton, briefly renamed as the Armoured Car Section, Motor Machine Gun Service, before being renamed again in May 1916 to become the Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps.

Do your sources have a reference?

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Col D.

The London Gazette of 3rd April made a mistake with the heading. They omitted "Heavy Section". It was amended on 6th May. ...which effectively pushes the date to early April at least. See below.

The second page of the announcement makes corrections for a long list of names gazetted on 19th, 25th, 26th and 28th April under the wrong headings.

post-55873-0-09877700-1462178185_thumb.j

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Thank you Martin. This certainly backs up Stern's account.

A couple of follow on questions:

a. Can an officer be attached/appointed/transferred to an organisation (the Heavy Section) ahead of the date of that formation's creation?

b. Is it possible that the officers in the Gazette extract shown above were attached/appointed/transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Motor Machine Gun service) in early Apr 16 and then when the Heavy Section was created (perhaps on 1 May 16) their attachment/appointment/transfer was Gazetted as having been direct in to the Heavy Section, thus saving the effort of a second Gazette entry?

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Thank you Martin. This certainly backs up Stern's account.

A couple of follow on questions:

a. Can an officer be attached/appointed/transferred to an organisation (the Heavy Section) ahead of the date of that formation's creation?

b. Is it possible that the officers in the Gazette extract shown above were attached/appointed/transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Motor Machine Gun service) in early Apr 16 and then when the Heavy Section was created (perhaps on 1 May 16) their attachment/appointment/transfer was Gazetted as having been direct in to the Heavy Section, thus saving the effort of a second Gazette entry?

The LG makes it clear that the promotions and appointments were under the MMG Heavy Section on 3rd April. Edit. I don't believe anyone could be gazetted to a unit that did not exist). If the MMG Hy Sec was formed after this date one would expect to see them gazetted under MGC (MMGS) and then transferred from MMGS to MMGC Hy Section and for that to be gazetted separately. That was the form. Sometimes one sees promotion, and subsequent promotions and/or transfers all bundled into one announcement. This did not happen in this case and I would suggest the MGC Hy Sec existed on 3rd April 1916 for sure.

If you look at the original 3rd April entry it lists the usual suspects including the CO (Bradley DSO), Adjutant (Tippets) and QM (Turner)- all their appointments were antedated to 24 March 1916. It is important as these are appointments (Adjt and QM) rather than just promotions. It would be unusual to appoint them as CO, Adjt and QM in the MMGS only to transfer them to the MMG Hy Sec days later. If that had happened one would expect to see a separate LG announcement to show the transfer.

To my mind the evidence points towards this date - 24th Mar 1916 - as the formation date based (in particular) on the ADjt and QM taking up their appointments on this date.

Edit. The only caveat is if the MGC (MMGS) ceased to exist after this date? If the 'transfer' was simply a renaming of the MMGS as the MGC Hy Sec then it is possible that the formaton of the MGC Hy Sec was after 24th March but certainly not after 3rd Apr 1916.

One could not be gazetted to a unit that did not exists and one could not be gazetted to two units at the same time. The LG makes thousands of errors so counter-evidence needs to be thoroughly explored via the index. One often sees LG announcements and days, weeks months later subsequent announcements that cancel (rather than relinquish) the original announcement. I have a few examples in my trawling of the Guards commissions in 1915.

MG

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Martin

Thank you. And please excuse my questions, I was trying to cover all bases and not be biased in the questions I was asking. I too believe that it was formed in March but my study is being repainted and I can't get to my notes right now. But others (whose research I respect) were inclined towards 1 May as the date.

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To confuse things, this entry has Colson going to the MMGS on 6 Apr 16.

post-61373-0-54070900-1462182412_thumb.p

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Martin

Thank you. And please excuse my questions, I was trying to cover all bases and not be biased in the questions I was asking. I too believe that it was formed in March but my study is being repainted and I can't get to my notes right now. But others (whose research I respect) were inclined towards 1 May as the date.

Unless you can find a subsequent LG announcement that amends all the announcements under MGC Heavy Section for April, I think you can safely say the Heavy Section existed from 3rd April. Under King's Regulations the LG is the authority for promulgation of announcements. Any subsequent changes had to be gazetted eventually.

If one looks at the formation of other units - such as the Welsh Guards - their existence started with a Royal Warrant on 26th Feb 1916. I am not sure if the MGC Hy Section required a Royal Warrant but there must be an official record of its formation.

One other important factor. If the unit had not existed their promotions and would be been gazetted MGC 'supernumerary to establishment' and then, later been brought onto the establishment. I have never seen any appointment such as Adjt or QM 'supernumerary to establishment'. The Guards show lots of supernumerary promotions immediately before they added extra battalions that were not yet approved by the King. Once the establishment had been sanctioned they came onto the establishment.

MG

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Thank you.

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To confuse things, this entry has Colson going to the MMGS on 6 Apr 16.

I think this shows Colson already in the MMGS and simply being promoted to take over from Bradley who had been transferred to the MGC HY Section.

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Yes, I think so, thank you.

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LG shows that the MMGS continued to exist after the formation of MGC Heavy Section. This supports the idea that the LG announcements of 3rd Apr of the appointments of the Adjt and QM were to the Heavy Section. Also worth noting the few dozen transferred in April (I lost count). I think the sequence of events here is:

1. Unit formed

2. Men transferred in.

When new battalions were raised this was the protocol. viz Guards, New Armies, 2nd Line TF etc.

Could 1st May be its first inspection or some other significant date when if officially came into the order of battle?

MG

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I think 1 May is the date that ORs were appointed/attached/transferred to the HS.

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Since John Glanfield's name was mentioned with a word of doubt about his comments in "The Devil's Chariots" I contacted him and asked if he could expand. John has given me permission to reproduce his reply.

Gwyn

The Heavy Section was formed 1 May as stated in ‘Chariots’. It’s a bit of a tangle to unravel the sequence and timing of unit titles but I’ve compiled the following batting order which I hope will be helpful. See I May for HS MGC details.

14.2.16

Conference at War Office chaired by Brig-Gen FRC Carleton, CB Director of Ordnance. Others present incl Lieut-Col ED Swinton DSO. Lt-Col. RW Bradley DSO commanding the MMG Service. Lieut AG Stern RNAS 20 Sqdn.

Conf recommended that

1. the “Tank Detachment” should form part of the Motor Machine Gun Service of the MG Corps.

2. personnel to be found from men of the MMGS then at Bisley and surplus to req’ts.

3. Rates of pay at Field Artillery rates, as for Motor MG Service.

4. Existing personnel of 20 Sqdn RNAS to be given opportunity to leave the Navy and join MMGS at Army pay rates (lower than Naval). If they prefer to stay put the Admiralty will discharge them anyway.

Record of Conference. TNA. WO32/5754.

16.2.16

Formation of the Tank Detachment, Machine Gun Corps at Bisley Camp under command of Colonel ED Swinton.

6 Companies of tanks formed, A-F.

TM: RH86 TC (box 1): 041.5 (D)

28.2.16

Telegram to Lt Col Swinton instructing him to assume command of 'Tank Detachment to which you have been appointed at Bisley.

WO32/5754

29.3.16

Motor Machine Gun Corps “S” Detachment

W.D. Bird DSD to GOC A’shot. TNA. WO32/5754

20.4.16

Hand-written memo from Lt-Colonel PE Lewis, Adjutant-General’s office, War Office (‘AG1’):

“The new title ‘Armoured Car Detachment, Machine Gun Corps’ seems liable to cause confusion as there are already armoured car units in existence belonging to the Motor Machine Gun Service. … Would it not be better to call it the Heavy Section of the Motor Machine Gun Service, the cycles and light cars forming the ‘Light Section’. TNA. WO32/5754

1.5.16

War Office to C-in-C Home Forces.

“The Tank Detachment of the Machine Gun Corps is a detachment of the MGC in the same way as the Motor Machine Gun Service is, and for the present the two are located together at Bisley”. But whilst the MMGS was under Haig’s orders for training etc. the Tank Detachment “will be directly under the War Office for trg, orgn & eqpt, and under A’shot Cmd for discipline & admin”.

“For official communications it is considered advisable to change the name of this detachment to ‘Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps.”

TNA. WO32/5754l

25.9.16

Memo Butler at GHQ to Whigham.

Says general consensus favours naming unit the Tank Corps. “I do not care for the name very much myself, but must confess I have not thought of anything better.”

(The Heavy Branch MGC became The Tank Corps, by Royal Warrant.

L Hart says 27 July. The Tanks p.107. Most/all(?) other authorities say 28 July). TNA.WO158/836

Whigham agreed: ’I can think of nothing better than ‘Tank Corps’. That sobriquet has certainly come to stay’. (reply to Butler, 28/9/16. same TNA ref).

9.10.16.

Haig, proposals to W.O.

Letter signed for C-in C by J Burnett-Stuart at GHQ. TNA. WO158/836

A new Corps to be formed, Tank Corps’ comprising:

a) Admin HQ in England. Under WO & responsible for admin of Corps as a whole. Deal with prov’n of personnel, tech material, formation/trg of units, unit m’tce in the Field as regards personnel, vehicles, spares, material.

B)Fighting HQ in France. Cmd Corps in the Field & responsible for adv trg and tactical empl under orders of C-inC.

c) Units organisation. In Bdes, Bns, Coys & Secns. Unit of orgn to be the Bn comprising a HQ, 3 Coys & a Workshop. 3 Bns form a Bde.

d) Workshop orgn. Central Depot/Repair Shop in France plus mobile w’shops at 1 per Bn.

e) Eqpt & Stores. Tanks, vehs & related to be copnsigned direct to Tk Corps in France through ‘Base Park’ Sections to be formed at ports to receive and deliver to Corps.

f) Dress. Special uniform and special badges to be adopted.

20.10.16.

WO to Haig.

Admin objections to the formation of a new Corps - “The ‘Tanks’ will therefore continue to form the Heavy Branch of the MGC.” TNA. WO158/836

28.7.17

The Heavy Branch, MGC became The Tank Corps, by Royal Warrant.

RTC - Short History, 1931. p.113

L Hart says 27 July. ‘The Tanks’ p.107.

The above is reformatted from a table – hope it reads OK.

Yes by all means post it in reply on my behalf. Thanks.


Sorry for the stray smiley - not sure where that came from. :blush:

Gwyn

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Since John Glanfield's name was mentioned with a word of doubt about his comments in "The Devil's Chariots" I contacted him and asked if he could expand. John has given me permission to reproduce his reply.

Gwyn

The Heavy Section was formed 1 May as stated in ‘Chariots’. It’s a bit of a tangle to unravel the sequence and timing of unit titles but I’ve compiled the following batting order which I hope will be helpful. See I May for HS MGC details.

14.2.16

Conference at War Office chaired by Brig-Gen FRC Carleton, CB Director of Ordnance. Others present incl Lieut-Col ED Swinton DSO. Lt-Col. RW Bradley DSO commanding the MMG Service. Lieut AG Stern RNAS 20 Sqdn.

Conf recommended that

1. the “Tank Detachment” should form part of the Motor Machine Gun Service of the MG Corps.

2. personnel to be found from men of the MMGS then at Bisley and surplus to req’ts.

3. Rates of pay at Field Artillery rates, as for Motor MG Service.

4. Existing personnel of 20 Sqdn RNAS to be given opportunity to leave the Navy and join MMGS at Army pay rates (lower than Naval). If they prefer to stay put the Admiralty will discharge them anyway.

Record of Conference. TNA. WO32/5754.

16.2.16

Formation of the Tank Detachment, Machine Gun Corps at Bisley Camp under command of Colonel ED Swinton.

6 Companies of tanks formed, A-F.

TM: RH86 TC (box 1): 041.5 (D)

28.2.16

Telegram to Lt Col Swinton instructing him to assume command of 'Tank Detachment to which you have been appointed at Bisley.

WO32/5754

29.3.16

Motor Machine Gun Corps “S” Detachment

W.D. Bird DSD to GOC A’shot. TNA. WO32/5754

20.4.16

Hand-written memo from Lt-Colonel PE Lewis, Adjutant-General’s office, War Office (‘AG1’):

“The new title ‘Armoured Car Detachment, Machine Gun Corps’ seems liable to cause confusion as there are already armoured car units in existence belonging to the Motor Machine Gun Service. … Would it not be better to call it the Heavy Section of the Motor Machine Gun Service, the cycles and light cars forming the ‘Light Section’. TNA. WO32/5754

1.5.16

War Office to C-in-C Home Forces.

“The Tank Detachment of the Machine Gun Corps is a detachment of the MGC in the same way as the Motor Machine Gun Service is, and for the present the two are located together at Bisley”. But whilst the MMGS was under Haig’s orders for training etc. the Tank Detachment “will be directly under the War Office for trg, orgn & eqpt, and under A’shot Cmd for discipline & admin”.

“For official communications it is considered advisable to change the name of this detachment to ‘Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps.”

TNA. WO32/5754l

25.9.16

Memo Butler at GHQ to Whigham.

Says general consensus favours naming unit the Tank Corps. “I do not care for the name very much myself, but must confess I have not thought of anything better.”

(The Heavy Branch MGC became The Tank Corps, by Royal Warrant.

L Hart says 27 July. The Tanks p.107. Most/all(?) other authorities say 28 July). TNA.WO158/836

Whigham agreed: ’I can think of nothing better than ‘Tank Corps’. That sobriquet has certainly come to stay’. (reply to Butler, 28/9/16. same TNA ref).

9.10.16.

Haig, proposals to W.O.

Letter signed for C-in C by J Burnett-Stuart at GHQ. TNA. WO158/836

A new Corps to be formed, Tank Corps’ comprising:

a) Admin HQ in England. Under WO & responsible for admin of Corps as a whole. Deal with prov’n of personnel, tech material, formation/trg of units, unit m’tce in the Field as regards personnel, vehicles, spares, material.

B)Fighting HQ in France. Cmd Corps in the Field & responsible for adv trg and tactical empl under orders of C-inC.

c) Units organisation. In Bdes, Bns, Coys & Secns. Unit of orgn to be the Bn comprising a HQ, 3 Coys & a Workshop. 3 Bns form a Bde.

d) Workshop orgn. Central Depot/Repair Shop in France plus mobile w’shops at 1 per Bn.

e) Eqpt & Stores. Tanks, vehs & related to be copnsigned direct to Tk Corps in France through ‘Base Park’ Sections to be formed at ports to receive and deliver to Corps.

f) Dress. Special uniform and special badges to be adopted.

20.10.16.

WO to Haig.

Admin objections to the formation of a new Corps - “The ‘Tanks’ will therefore continue to form the Heavy Branch of the MGC.” TNA. WO158/836

28.7.17

The Heavy Branch, MGC became The Tank Corps, by Royal Warrant.

RTC - Short History, 1931. p.113

L Hart says 27 July. ‘The Tanks’ p.107.

The above is reformatted from a table – hope it reads OK.

Yes by all means post it in reply on my behalf. Thanks.

Sorry for the stray smiley - not sure where that came from. :blush:

Gwyn

Gwyn (and John)

Many thanks for this. I am in the NA on Thursday so will follow this up then.

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Thanks Gwyn and also to John Glanfield

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The unit “title” order I have always understood was:-

Armoured Car Detachment of the Machine Gun Corps

Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (March 1916)

Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps (November 1916)

Tank Corps (July 1917)

….which I think reflects Gareth’s excellent resume…..I think

"MMGC “S” Detachment" - that's the first time I’ve come across this in the order of events !

My understanding is that the “Motor Machine Gun Service” (sic “– Royal Artillery”) was never a title for the unit eventually known as the “Tank Corps”, though it supplied many men, nor was it absorbed into the MGC(Motors) per say, and it continued as a stand alone unit of that name right until the end of the war. (I have 1918/19 MSMs and other awards still being issued to them as a unit - and therefore presumably they were still in the OBAT)

Likewise the Motor Machine Gun Corps (as opposed to Service) or Machine Gun Corps (Motors) remained an independent unit.

“Heavy Section” certainly still appears on the DCMs/MMs for November 1916 but had changed to “Heavy Branch” by Arras.

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Spooky timing, I was just reading a document that had your name on Geoffrey!

Yes, it is a new one to me too. I certainly don't want to prove John G wrong but I still have my doubts. I will have a dig at the NA on Thursday.

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