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laughton

Officer Gordon Highlanders: F924 Cabaret-Rouge 21.D.15

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laughton

I was looking for our Corporal of the 87th Battalion and I noticed the British lad in the neighbouring grave. My initial assumption for this Officer of the Gordon Highlanders would be in March 1915, so I searched January through March and only these six (6) appeared and all in March. I noted some references for the Gordon Highlanders back in this area in August-September 1916 but I did not see any unknowns in applicable memorials.

 

Problem is that I can not retrieve the war diaries, thus it would appear that Ancestry.ca or Ancestry.co.uk do not really have all the war diaries that are at the National Archives. Would I be correct that the 6th Battalion is actually the "1/6th (Banff and Donside)" Gordon Highlanders? I did search the GWF and found the topic about the war diaries, which are listed for the battalion.

 

Does anyone have information on the holdings of Ancestry and the War Diaries, as it relates to how many of the units they have covered. Is this a case where Ancestry has only what National Archives has scanned. So if not scanned they are not on Ancestry? I can't find an answer to that question on Ancestry.

 

Perhaps someone with specific knowledge of the Gordon Highlanders can assist?

 

surname forename death rank unit
SMITH, M I D GEORGE 13-03-15 Captain 6th Bn.
LAING HARRY DAVIDSON 13-03-15 Captain 6th Bn.
ROSS WILLIAM MUNRO 11-03-15 Lieutenant 2nd Bn.
LETTERS THOMAS ARTHUR 13-03-15 Lieutenant 3rd Bn.
GLOSTER HENRY COLPAYS 13-03-15 Lieutenant 6th Bn.
INGLIS HENRY MONTGOMERY 13-03-15 Second Lieutenant 6th Bn.

 

doc2113973.JPG

 

e7e1csbwvaqwpud6g.jpg

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rolt968

In theory at least, ancestry has digitised the war diaries of all the infantry battalions in France and Flanders and at Gallipoli plus much else. Unfortunately the indexing is inconsistent. Some battalions being indexed as themselves, others as parts of brigades or divisions or as army troops. In a recent thread Craig explained how to use the reference from the National Archives catalogue to search ancestry

 

Ancestry certainly have 1, 2 and 1/6 Gordon Highlanders war diaries (though sections may be missing). (I see that I have downloaded part of each of them.) 3 Gordon Highlanders was the home based Special Reserve battalion, so presumably Thomas Arthur Letters was commissioned into the Special Reserve, but was serving with another battalion.

 

RM

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micks

Yes, the diaries for the 2nd and the 6th Gordon Highlanders are available on Ancestry.

 

Earlier this year I presented a case to the CWGC regarding the grave of the unidentified Staff Sergeant of the 6th Gordon Highlanders    ( CQMS  C.J. Niven ) who is buried in grave X.E.17 at Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery.

 

The 2nd and the 6th Gordon Highlanders were serving in the 20th Infantry Brigade, 7th Division during March 1915 with both of these battalions in the 36.M.29 area on the 13th March. The 2nd Gordon's were holding the front line trenches when the 6th advanced over this front with the objective of capturing the German positions in M.30.d. 

 

Lt/Colonel McLean is the only officer from this battalion that was killed on this day whose remains were able to be identified after the war. The others lie in a number of other cemeteries but unfortunately they are just named as officers of the 6th Gordon Highlanders. One of these men is also in Cabaret Rouge in grave XVIAA.33.

 

The 6th was a territorial battalion with the T/6/Gordon title so it is possible that your man is either Letters or Ross.

 

 

Mick

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laughton

Thank you both for your assistance. On the learning curve for the UK based units and war diaries. I should have been clearer that what I could not find was the war diaries for the 6th Gordon Highlanders prior to June 1916. Based on what you said, I snipped the reference off the UK National Archives Site WO 95/1657/1 and used that in the keyword box, which sent me to Various (Infantry Bridages, 7th Division) - their spelling of "Brigades", not mine. That then sent me to the war diary I was trying to find:

 

Gordon Highlanders, Grenadier Guards, Machine Gun Corps, Scots Guards (867 pages)

 

I am not sure I understand why you can not just search for "Gordon Highlanders, 6th Battalion" (or 1st/6th)? As I said, I am on the learning curve. Much simpler process over on this side of the pond! Fortunately for me, the 6th Bn Gordon HIghlanders was at the beginning of the 867 page file. Page 10 is the start of the REPORT OF OPERATIONS 10th to 14th March 1915.

 

I am not sure what is meant by Mick's comment:

Quote

The 6th was a territorial battalion with the T/6/Gordon title so it is possible that your man is either Letters or Ross.

 

Does that mean there was something that eliminates the Officers of the 1st/6th Battalion, because the COG-BR says "Gordon HIghlanders"?

 

My notes from the war diary of the 1st/6th Battalion (March 1915):

  • the report is from Captain J. M. Cook, Acting Commanding Officer (note below that Lieutenant Colonel McLean was killed)
  • marched to near Brigade Headquarters on the Thursday the 11th at M.29.C, so that puts them in the area for sure
  • Captain Laing and 2nd Lieutenant Inglis were killed on Friday the 12th before noon, during which tie the battalion was subjected to heavy artillery fire (not on the 13th as reported by the CWGC)
  • there is mention of the 2nd Gordons in the firing line
  • attack went forward on Saturday the 13th at which time Lt. Col. Colin McLean was killed at about 7:30 am while going out front to get information and just about to enter the trench held by the 2nd Gordons
  • the attack was to go forward at 9:30 am, after the bombardment - half companies "A" on left, "B" on right, "C" on the right supporting "B" and "D" on the left supporting "A"
  • they occupied a shallow trench about 100 yards left and front of the 2nd Gordons
  • 3 Officers are reported killed on the 13th, so we know that was McLean, Smith and Gloster (only the C.O. is mentioned by name)
  • 11 other officers were reported wounded, none are reported missing, suggesting that all the officers were buried in known graves

The COG-BR 2484695 for Lt. Col. McLean tells us that his remains were recovered at 36.M.29.b.50.05, which places him 50 yards due north of where the remains in 21.D.15 were located.

 

Lieutenant Letters is not mentioned as serving with the 1st/6th, killed at that time, nor is he on the Nominal Roll prepared on the 15th. That eliminates him as having any association with the 1st/6th at that time.

 

Although I have not yet retrieved the war diary for the 2nd Battalion (still hunting without much success!), it would appear that they were in the front line, which would make it unlikely that the remains are those of Lt. Ross.

 

There was no information in the prior months as to which Officers were with what Coys, nor did I find any specifics about the boundaries of the 6th Battalion. Thus I have not yet been able to establish whether the officers killed were on the left or the right. All we know is that Lt. Col. McLean was to the left of the remains in 21.D.15.

 

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rolt968
2 hours ago, laughton said:

Thank you both for your assistance. On the learning curve for the UK based units and war diaries. I should have been clearer that what I could not find was the war diaries for the 6th Gordon Highlanders prior to June 1916. Based on what you said, I snipped the reference off the UK National Archives Site WO 95/1657/1 and used that in the keyword box, which sent me to Various (Infantry Bridages, 7th Division) - their spelling of "Brigades", not mine. That then sent me to the war diary I was trying to find:

 

Gordon Highlanders, Grenadier Guards, Machine Gun Corps, Scots Guards (867 pages)

 

I am not sure I understand why you can not just search for "Gordon Highlanders, 6th Battalion" (or 1st/6th)? As I said, I am on the learning curve. Much simpler process over on this side of the pond! Fortunately for me, the 6th Bn Gordon HIghlanders was at the beginning of the 867 page file. Page 10 is the start of the REPORT OF OPERATIONS 10th to 14th March 1915.

 

I am not sure what is meant by Mick's comment:

 

Does that mean there was something that eliminates the Officers of the 1st/6th Battalion, because the COG-BR says "Gordon HIghlanders"?

 

 

In theory, yes.

 

The shoulder titles of 1/6 Gordon Highlanders had three rows T (top row), 6 (middle row), GORDON (bottom row, curved). So in theory at least a body discovered with a single row GORDON shoulder title could not be from 1/6 Gordon Highlanders.  However eventually it was not unknown for the upper rows to be "lost" (in some cases literally as the 3 row title broke). However as early as March 1915, this seems less likely.

 

RM

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Andrew Upton
56 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

 

In theory, yes.

 

The shoulder titles of 1/6 Gordon Highlanders had three rows T (top row), 6 (middle row), GORDON (bottom row, curved). So in theory at least a body discovered with a single row GORDON shoulder title could not be from 1/6 Gordon Highlanders.  However eventually it was not unknown for the upper rows to be "lost" (in some cases literally as the 3 row title broke). However as early as March 1915, this seems less likely.

 

RM

 

Unless I have missed something, we are talking about officers, who as a general rule didn't wear shoulder titles on their uniform - as opposed to OR's who did.

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laughton

I had interpreted the COG-BR wording to mean that he had been identified as a GORDON HIGHLANDER from his Regimental Buttons. I have no idea if all units of the Gordon Highlanders would have had the same buttons.

 

Thank you for explaining about the shoulder title variations, always willing to learn more.

 

If I understand the war diary text and maps correctly, it would appear that the remains were found on the right flank of the attack from the northwest.  IF true, that means a focus on an Officer of "B" Coy in front or "C" Coy that followed.

 

Unless there is a great revelation in the historical documents, it does not appear that we could identify the Officer, but it is always worthy of an attempt. Any family member that is missing one of those listed can go to the grave site and ask "Is that you?" and pay their respects. In a few cases to date, we have shortened the list when we have found one of the others on the list. I should go look to see if they found any of the others when they uncovered Lt, Col. McLean at Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery, La Gorgue. I have not downloaded the documents for that cemetery to date.

Edited by laughton

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micks

Yes, officers did not wear shoulder titles but they did have collar titles.

 

If you locate four unidentified officers who carry the 6th Gordon Highlanders collar title then by deduction your man must be Letters or Ross.

 

Besides the officer buried at Cabaret Rouge I remember locating others at either Vieille Chapelle New British Cemetery or Rue-des-Berceaux Military Cemetery.

 

Mick

 

 

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rolt968
11 hours ago, Andrew Upton said:

 

Unless I have missed something, we are talking about officers, who as a general rule didn't wear shoulder titles on their uniform - as opposed to OR's who did.

Alas, mind not entirely on the task in hand.  Note to self: Read the whole thread carefully!

RM

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laughton

I believe the top entry in this different COG-BR exhibits what you are suggesting would be reported for at 6th Gordon shoulder title:

 

(T) 6/Gordons

 

doc2484702.JPG

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Andrew Upton
18 hours ago, micks said:

Yes, officers did not wear shoulder titles but they did have collar titles.

 

If you locate four unidentified officers who carry the 6th Gordon Highlanders collar title then by deduction your man must be Letters or Ross.

 

Indeed, but unless the 6th did things differently, my understanding is that Gordons Officers of a Territorial battalion would have worn the bronzed Sphinx's (usually with the Egypt bar replaced with the plain type) on their collars over the letter T. None of which would be able to identify a specific battalion.

Edited by Andrew Upton

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rolt968
4 minutes ago, Andrew Upton said:

 

Indeed, but unless the 6th did things differently, my understanding is that Gordons Officers of a Territorial battalion would have worn the bronzed Sphinx's (usually with the Egypt bar replaced with the plain type) on their collars over the letter T. None of which would be able to identify a specific battalion.

Agreed.

But in this case if I have read it correctly, the only possible TF officers came from 6 Gordon Highlanders.

RM

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Andrew Upton
2 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

Agreed.

But in this case if I have read it correctly, the only possible TF officers came from 6 Gordon Highlanders.

RM

 

Not disagreeing with that, just dispelling the idea about a 6th Territorial Battalion Officer of the Gordon Highlanders being distinguishable from any other Territorial battalion of the same purely on his collar badges (unless there are any battalions that had their own little difference, like the 5th Seaforth Highlanders).

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micks

 Andrew

 

I don't understand your statement. You dismiss the possibility of an officers collar title for the 6th Gordon Highlanders and then you provide an example of an exception to the rule.

 

In grave XVIAA.33 at Cabaret Rouge is buried an unidentified officer of the 6th Gordon Highlanders. The burial return records that there was no cross and that this serviceman was identified by his officers clothing, boots and numerals. If he wasn't identified by his collar title then how did they draw the conclusion that he was from the 6th ?

 

I would be interested in obtaining more information on this subject as I have come across other cases from the 9th Highland Light Infantry and the 10th King's Liverpool Regiment which would indicate that officers from these territorial battalions also wore unique collar titles.

 

Any way I'm out the door for a long hike in one of our national parks and I won't be back until next week so everyone have a great Christmas.

 

Mick 

 

 

 

 

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voltaire60

   Without being facetious in this serious matter, then I feel constrained to point out the obvious, which seems to be missing here. The remains of any casualty are what the GR people had to work with. There seems to be an assumption here that casualties were buried in full parade ground inspection kit-which is far from the case. And a great many bodies were not buried whole.

    Many, many photographs of the Great War show British infantry in all sorts of kit. Look at Battle of the Somme-  say, the famous picture of the wounded man being carried. No jackets, no badges, no caps.

    Unless I miss something here, the choice is- WITH shoulder titles=OR. Officers kit=Officer (Not rocket science that one)  Looks like GR got it right as far as they could. Again, this conundrum looks as if it is crackable-and again, I will have a go at the relevant officer files at Kew to see if there is anything extra in them

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Andrew Upton
43 minutes ago, micks said:

I don't understand your statement. You dismiss the possibility of an officers collar title for the 6th Gordon Highlanders and then you provide an example of an exception to the rule.

 

In grave XVIAA.33 at Cabaret Rouge is buried an unidentified officer of the 6th Gordon Highlanders. The burial return records that there was no cross and that this serviceman was identified by his officers clothing, boots and numerals. If he wasn't identified by his collar title then how did they draw the conclusion that he was from the 6th ?

 

 

As to part one - I claim no specific expertise as to the badging of officers in the Territorial Gordon Highlander battalions. I do however know the broad rules that generally apply (as outlined above), but there are occasionally some very rare exceptions (as in the 5th Seaforths). A brief search on the subject of the 6th Battalion Gordons appears to support what I stated in the broad rules. Unless someone with more experience in the subject would like to correct this, I still believe this to be the case, and either way believe that the idea of some sort of battalion specific ID coming into play is confusing the issue.

 

As to the second - how should I know? If they did not note exactly why they drew such a specific conclusion then, then we have no chance of doing the same nearly 100 years later with anything other than speculation! It could be as simple as some aspect of his clothing was marked to the 6th Battalion rather than any specific insignia being found. Or not...

 

On a third note, "Yes, officers did not wear shoulder titles but they did have collar titles" - I was very careful to include "general rule earlier", because as taken your statement is most definitely wrong - some units (mostly as exceptions) did have their officers in shoulder titles in lieu of collar badges, eg the Rifle Brigade and KRR:

 

Rifle Brigade:

 

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

 

KRR:

Image may contain: 1 person

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voltaire60
32 minutes ago, Andrew Upton said:

 

As to part one - I claim no specific expertise as to the badging of officers in the Territorial Gordon Highlander battalions. I do however know the broad rules that generally apply (as outlined above), but there are occasionally some very rare exceptions (as in the 5th Seaforths). A brief search on the subject of the 6th Battalion Gordons appears to support what I stated in the broad rules. Unless someone with more experience in the subject would like to correct this, I still believe this to be the case, and either way believe that the idea of some sort of battalion specific ID coming into play is confusing the issue.

 

As to the second - how should I know? If they did not note exactly why they drew such a specific conclusion then, then we have no chance of doing the same nearly 100 years later with anything other than speculation! It could be as simple as some aspect of his clothing was marked to the 6th Battalion rather than any specific insignia being found. Or not...

 

On a third note, "Yes, officers did not wear shoulder titles but they did have collar titles" - I was very careful to include "general rule earlier", because as taken your statement is most definitely wrong - some units (mostly as exceptions) did have their officers in shoulder titles in lieu of collar badges, eg the Rifle Brigade and KRR:

 

Rifle Brigade:

 

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

 

KRR:

Image may contain: 1 person

 

   Can you date the RB and KRR pics. at all?  Are they Great War?

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Andrew Upton
3 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

 

   Can you date the RB and KRR pics. at all?  Are they Great War?

 

They've been posted on the forum in the past, I wouldn't have them in my reference material if they weren't WW1.

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voltaire60
10 minutes ago, Andrew Upton said:

 

They've been posted on the forum in the past, I wouldn't have them in my reference material if they weren't WW1.

 

      Not doubting you, I assure you- Pictures just looked a bit inter-war to me.

 

       As for collar titles with "T", then here is 2LT  F.C.Aulagnier, 7th Essex (local to me-Walthamstow)- ironically, attached Rifle Brigade

 

(My source is unclear as to provenance but this may require acknowledgement to IWM, readily given)

 

Image result for officer rifle brigade

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gordon92
On 12/20/2017 at 15:29, Andrew Upton said:

Indeed, but unless the 6th did things differently, my understanding is that Gordons Officers of a Territorial battalion would have worn the bronzed Sphinx's (usually with the Egypt bar replaced with the plain type) on their collars over the letter T. None of which would be able to identify a specific battalion.

I am arriving rather late to this discussion.  Nonetheless, I would point out that very little can be concluded from the presence or absence of collar badges on officers' service dress jackets of the Gordon Highlanders.  There are photographs of Territorial officers of the Gordon Highlanders with Sphinx badges with no Ts below.  Some officers wore no collar badges at all.  I think all that can be said affirmatively is that if a T were present, the subject was a Territorial officer.  Other than that no other deductions can reasonably be made IMO.  This chaotic state pertained also to the other Highland regiments.  Only The Black Watch pretty much subscribed to the standard that only Territorial officers used the St. Andrew collar badge (both with and without the T) while regular and service battalions wore no collar badges.

Edited by gordon92

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