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Remembered Today:

1/3rd W Lancs Field Ambulance, 55th (W Lancs) Division


Buffnut453

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The photo below shows my relative Eva Gamble and her husband, James Gerrard. 

 

5a54207b63760_EvaGambleandJamesGerrard.jpg.befe85624468480756e1eb488419bf84.jpg

 

 

I just learned that James was awarded the Military Medal (Gazetted 2 Nov 1917) while serving with the 1/3rd West Lancashire Field Ambulance.  I'm guessing the action that resulted in the medal award took place sometime around the end of July or early August 1917 but I'm having no joy locating any records that add details.

 

Unfortunately the War Diary for the 1/3rd West Lancs Field Ambulance, accessible through Ancestry.com, is pretty useless, the CO, Lt Col Coffey, treating it like his own personal diary with nary a mention of the actions of his soldiers - he filled most of the pages with meetings attended, tentage requirements and time spent on leave (it's never a good thing in a War Diary to see the word "I" come up too often, if at all!).  I've also tried searching for any 55th (West Lancashire) Division online records (again through Ancestry.com) that might indicate the action for which James received his medal with no joy.

 

Any experts out there have any other ideas of where to look to find out more details of the action that resulted in this medal award?  

 

Many thanks,
Mark

Edited by Buffnut453
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I wonder if this is any help? You might need to read through.

If you have Ancestry Access

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/interactive/60779/43112_2969_2-00000?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.co.uk%2fsearch%2fdb.aspx%3fdbid%3d60779%26path%3d&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnBrowsing#?imageId=43112_2969_2-00003

Royal Army Medical Corps 
57th Division 
Piece 2969/2: Assistant Director Medical Services (1917 Feb - 1919 Mar)
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5 hours ago, jonbem said:

I wonder if this is any help? You might need to read through.

If you have Ancestry Access

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/interactive/60779/43112_2969_2-00000?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.co.uk%2fsearch%2fdb.aspx%3fdbid%3d60779%26path%3d&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnBrowsing#?imageId=43112_2969_2-00003

Royal Army Medical Corps 
57th Division 
Piece 2969/2: Assistant Director Medical Services (1917 Feb - 1919 Mar)

 

Many thanks for that pointer jonbem.  I was struggling to find the medical section of the 55th DIvision records.  It certainly helps and gets me in the right area.  An entry on 29 Aug 1917 states that 21 members of the Field Ambulances were awarded Military Medals for services during the Passchendaele offensive in early August.  I suspect James Gerrard received his MM for actions around that time. 

 

I'm also trying to encourage a member of my family back in Blighty to visit the Liverpool Central Library where the 55th Division's records are stored in hopes there may be more info there. 

 

That said, if there are other online sources, I'm all ears!!! :)

 

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A previous reply included a reference to 57th Division, which was the second line to 55th.  I am not sure whether the Liverpool archives includes material for 57th Division but I will try to find out.

In any case your relatives would need to make advance booking - at least 48 hours ahead, and take identification with them, in order to see the 55th Div files.

ADDED: 

It appears that 3rd or 1/3 West Lancs Field Ambulance was with 55th Div from 16 Jan 1916, and so the Jeudwine Archives at Liverpool Central Library may hold what you need.  There could be a kind soul who would look this up for you, but I am afraid that is not me!

Daggers

Edited by daggers
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Yeah...I used the link provided to 57th Division to naviguess my way to the equivalent record for the 55th Division.

 

Thanks for the tips but already been to the Liverpool Archives website and noted all their criteria - 48 hrs in advance, form of identity, limit on the number of documents etc.  Funny how spoiled we've become with the plethora of online resources that, suddenly, it feels really frustrating to actually have to visit an archive in person and turn pages! :D

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The reference for records in the Jeudwine Papers you need to order in advance is: 356 FIF/6/6/5, 1-4, Royal Army Medical Corps Immediate Awards. 

Unfortunately, they're not 100% complete, but you might be lucky.

Edited by IRC Kevin
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Thanks IRC Kevin.  That info confirms what I could find using the Liverpool Central Library's online search capability...but I'm not hopeful based on the dates listed on their index.  The most likely is 356 FIF/6/6/5/2 which is dated July 1917 but the index for that file makes no mention of 1/3rd WLFA.  My only hope is that James Gerrard's recommendation got included in those of 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance given that 1/3rd WLFA bearers were seconded to 2/1st WFA from 30 July to 4 August 1917.    

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7 minutes ago, Buffnut453 said:

Thanks IRC Kevin.  That info confirms what I could find using the Liverpool Central Library's online search capability...but I'm not hopeful based on the dates listed on their index.  The most likely is 356 FIF/6/6/5/2 which is dated July 1917 but the index for that file makes no mention of 1/3rd WLFA.  My only hope is that James Gerrard's recommendation got included in those of 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance given that 1/3rd WLFA bearers were seconded to 2/1st WFA from 30 July to 4 August 1917.    

 

My experience with the infantry awards in this archive is there's been quite a bit of misfiling over the years and it's always worth actually ordering a spread either side of the dates you're after, or if it's within your 'daily allowance' of six folders, the lot. The staff there are very good about letting one go over the allowance with this archive as some of the folders are very thin- sometimes just one document. 

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Thanks for the insights.  I was also going to check out 356 FIF/6/7/1 (55th Div awards gazetted 3 June 1916) and 356 FIF/6/6/32/5 (nominal roll of recommendations for Military Medal (May 1918)).  My next challenge is accessing the records given that I live in the States...but that's another story/problem. :)

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  • 2 months later...

Check the ADMS records for the Division as they sometimes offer some good information, also available via ancestry.

 

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44 minutes ago, bobster said:

Check the ADMS records for the Division as they sometimes offer some good information, also available via ancestry.

 

 

Hi Bobster,

 

I have the ADMS records for the 55th (West Lancs) Div and they include some interesting details, including a report by a Bearer Officer of the challenges faced in recovering wounded from the battlefield under the conditions prevalent during 3rd Ypres.  It also records some 21 RAMC ORs receiving the MM, one of which was recipient of a Bar to an existing MM award.  As far as I can tell from the Gazette records, around half of the awards, including the MM and Bar recipient, came from 1/3rd West Lancs Field Ambulance.

 

Cheers,
Mark

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Awards to ORs in 55 Division for the July attack below. (Taken from Divisional A&Q records) Unlike the Gazette which tends to spread them over several editions, they're virtually all together. (There are probably the odd one or two appearing in other places in the records, but this is the main listing.)

 

 

55 Div1.jpg

55 Div2.jpg

55 Div3.jpg

55 Div4.jpg

55 Div5.jpg

55 Div6.jpg

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5 hours ago, IRC Kevin said:

Awards to ORs in 55 Division for the July attack below. (Taken from Divisional A&Q records) Unlike the Gazette which tends to spread them over several editions, they're virtually all together. (There are probably the odd one or two appearing in other places in the records, but this is the main listing.)

 

Wow!  Thanks Kevin.  That's a huge help.  That's the first official documentation, other than his MM sequence number, that formally links Jim Gerrard to the events of 31 July 1917.  I had a strong suspicion but it's nice to have the official confirmation. 

 

Lots to mull over in that list.  Where is the original located?  Is it with the other 55th Division records in Liverpool Central Library?

 

Kind regards,
Mark

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5 hours ago, Buffnut453 said:

 

Wow!  Thanks Kevin.  That's a huge help.  That's the first official documentation, other than his MM sequence number, that formally links Jim Gerrard to the events of 31 July 1917.  I had a strong suspicion but it's nice to have the official confirmation. 

 

Lots to mull over in that list.  Where is the original located?  Is it with the other 55th Division records in Liverpool Central Library?

 

Kind regards,
Mark

 

It's the Divisional A & Q Diary. Available for download from the National Archives for £3.50. (Downloaded in three parts and they're in the third tranche) 

 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14055922

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14 hours ago, IRC Kevin said:

 

It's the Divisional A & Q Diary. Available for download from the National Archives for £3.50. (Downloaded in three parts and they're in the third tranche) 

 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14055922

 

Brilliant!  Thanks a bunch. 

 

Cheers,
Mark

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Mark

And there may be more in the Routine Orders of 19 Corps A&QMG.

Brian

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4554114 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4554115

Edited by brianmorris547
additional info
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15 hours ago, brianmorris547 said:

Mark

And there may be more in the Routine Orders of 19 Corps A&QMG.

Brian

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4554114 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4554115

 

Thanks Brian.  I'll give those a gander.  My guess is that the higher up the command chain, the less detail...but I'll give them a try.


Cheers,
Mark

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Mark

I would imagine that he was awarded the MM for recovering wounded under fire on 31/07/1917. Have you tried the local papers. The EG shows that he was from St Helens. The papers are normally on microfiche at the town Central Library History Centre. A good chance of a report and photograph.

Brian

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Hi Brian,

 

Yes, he's from St.Helens,.  Alas, the Central Library there has been closed for a year for "vital maintenance and repairs" with no estimated reopening date.  No provision was made for the public to access either the town's local history archive or their newspaper archive during the closure. 

 

Also, none of the local papers have been digitized for the British Newspaper Archive.

 

To say the least, it's frustrating.

 

Cheers,

Mark

Edited by Buffnut453
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  • 3 years later...

St. Helens Newspaper & Advertiser - 21 Sep 1917

OUR HEROES.

MORE HONOURS FOR LOCAL MEN.

3 D.C.M.’s AND 10 M.M.’s WON BY

ST. HELENS FIELD AMBULANCE.

As the majority of our readers are aware the part played by the West Lancashire Division in the recent offensive was no small one, and we are proud to know how well they distinguished themselves. But even good work cannot be done without a few casualties which had, owing to the greatness of the advance, to be carried in some cases the distance of four or five miles over shell-torn country. The reconquered ground was not only full of large and small shell holes, but owing to the very heavy rain each hole was a pond, and the roads were ankle deep in mud. With all these inconveniences against them the members of our own town’s field ambulance had to bring out the wounded which was done without a grumble, and so well that the relieving divisions congratulated them, saying they had never seen a battlefield cleared of its wounded so well while they had been out. The conditions were so bad that as many as eight bearers were carrying one stretcher case, and very often men had to be sent to give extra help.

In a speech by the Major-General of the Division, who inspected the field ambulance, after the battle, he said he didn’t know how the stretcher bearers ever managed to work so well; he found it extremely difficult to walk never mind carry a stretcher.

How the labours of our own boys have been rewarded can be judged by the following decorations and honours, only we should like to add that many brave deeds are done in a large modern battle that go unrecognised and unrewarded, but the people of St. Helens can be assured that the rewards of the West Lancashire Field Ambulance are magnificent, and the ambulance is a credit to the town. Even if more honours had been granted they would have been deserving as every stretcher bearer did his job well.

MILITARY CROSS.

Captain Rogers, G., awarded the Military Cross.

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL.

Sergt. Gee, W., since promoted to staff-sergeant, 24, Nuttall-street.

Sergt. Drury, J., 50, Brunswick-street.

Corporal Pinkney, Gainsboro.

MILITARY MEDAL.

The following have been granted the Military Medal:-

Corporal Allcock, R. P., Albion-street.

Corporal Burchall, J., 66, Crossley-road.

Corporal Blackmore, J., Widnes.

Lance-Corporal Brophy, J., 90, Lyon-street.

Private Hopkins, G., 65, Helena-road, Sutton.

Private Harrison, P., 63, Ashcroft-street.

Private Green, W., Liverpool.

Private Mitchell, M., 32, Carnarvon-street.

Private Gerrard, South John-street.

Private Heyes, H., Oxford-street.

Complemented for good work:-

Private Houghton, J., M.M., 3, Owen-street.

The list of war honours announced in a supplement to the “London Gazette,” the first two sections of which have already been published, include awards of the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. The following are the local recipients:-

MILITARY MEDAL.

Private J. Armstrong, R.A.M.C.

Private W. Coombes, R.A.M.C.

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SHNA-170921-p5.jpg

SHNA-170921-p5a.jpg

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Brilliant find, Dave.  Appreciate you transcribing the report, as well as posting images of the original.

Jim Gerrard's given address of South John Street was where his in-laws, William and Louisa Gamble, lived.  Jim and his wife Eva married in early 1916 just before he went to France so she probably stayed with her parents while he was service overseas. 

There are clear parallels between the sparse details contained in the article and the reports written by 1/3rd WLFA officers after 3rd Ypres.  

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@Buffnut453 , you are probably already aware, but the book At Ypres with Best-Dunkley by Thomas Hope Floyd gives an account of the battle on 31 July 1917 from the perspective of the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers. From recollection it doesn't say much specifically about the 1/3rd WLFA or the stretcher bearers, but, if you haven't come across it before, you might still find it interesting as an eye witness account of the battle.

My grandfather has also left an account of his service in the 55th Division, from its formation in January 1916 until September of that year, i.e covering Gerrard's early time in France, but again with not much specific mention of individuals in the 1/3rd WLFA, apart from a Lieutenant Edgar Harold McVicar, who was seconded to the 2/5th LF and treated my grandfather at the RAP shortly before his own death (he is one of my herores, and I have mentioned him elsewhere on this Forum). 

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