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Remembered Today:

query about battalion - 1398 Pte Ferdinand AUSTIN, South Lancs


Pat Atkins
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I've just started compiling a database of 2nd Bn South Lancs 1914 casualties, and I have a query about 1398 Pte Ferdinand Austin who was KIA on 27th October that year. His battalion is given in Soldiers' Effects as 3rd battalion, and his number certainly isn't right for the 2nd Bn (he enlisted in Liverpool in 1911). However, as a pretty 'standard' Regular Army regiment the South Lancs had one battalion (1st) in India, one at home and subsequently BEF in August 1914 (2nd), and one training battalion in the UK (3rd). The 3rd Bn were not deployed in an active role, but provided reinforcements.

 

My query is this: in what scenario might Pte Austin have been killed in action on 27th October 1914 at Neuve Chapelle, presumably with 2nd Bn as they suffered many casualties in that battle, but as a 3rd Bn soldier? I wondered about administration not catching up with reality during a period of some confusion (many 2nd Bn casualties are dated 24th October, for example, when the battalion was out of the line): perhaps he was a reinforcement who was killed soon after arrival*. I'm afraid this is a new one for me so I'm just guessing - is anyone aware of other, similar instances like this? Any help much appreciated, as ever, folks.

 

Cheers, Pat.

 

* Edit: Medal rolls have his entry into theatre as 15.09.14; he's listed as 2nd Bn for his medals.

Edited by Pat Atkins
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Third battalions of (most) line infantry battalions were not Regulars, but Special Reserve, and normally co-located with the depot at home. After the declaration of war they would hold ordinary reservists who had not been needed in August to make the home Regular battalion up to war strength, and these men would normally be called on as more reinforcements were needed.

 

This would seem to be the most likely scenario in Pte Austin's case, coupled as you say with a slowness in administration catching up. The fact that he was killed so early in the war does point to the likelihood of him being a recalled reservist.

 

Ron

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Aha - many thanks Ron, just the answer I needed. Explains the battalions system clearly, too, of which I turn out to have been in ignorance! 

 

I am now unsure as to where basic training was undertaken, however - not in designated supra-regimental units at this date, I presume (although on reflection - why not?). By the Regular battalions themselves, then? By the 'home' battalion? Recruitment pre-war for the South Lancs ran at about 300 men per annum, I believe, courtesy of Paul Nixon's blog. Will go away and start Googling...

 

Cheers, Pat.

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