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Remembered Today:

Farrier St Sjt. A. W. Phillips


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I am seeking information regarding the death of  Far.Staff Serjeant Arthur William Phillips, No 147994 of the Royal Garrison Artillery who was KIA on 31 May 1918.  He was with the 36 Siege Battery.  36 was an 8” Howitzer Battery part of 78 Brigade RGA.

Assuming that most men were killed near where they fell I am interested to find out if there was a battle at the time of his death or if he was just unlucky as being in the wrong place.

The War Diary for this unit finished in January 1918, I cannot find any evidence of a Field Hospital in the vicinity and neither were there any close CCS’s.

 I have his medal card but to date have no Attestation Papers, I have been searching for 10 years so assume they were lost in the bombing.  I tried Firepower just before it closed and the Curator Mark Smith gave me information pertaining to his role as a Farrier but nothing else has been forthcoming. Can anyone here throw some light on the action that may have resulted in his death please?

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Have you searched the forum for previous threads about 36th Sge Bty?

 I would suggest following Paul's advice about obtaining the Brigade diary that the battery was attached to ( downloadable from the NA site). He may not be mentioned but it may give you a location for the battery and the type of work they were doing.


Are you sure he was a farrier and not a fitter? Was he a farrier before the war?



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Thank you Kevin. I was told by Mark Smith the Curator of Firepower that he was a Farrier, he had been a Plumber before joining up so perhaps metalwork proved useful in his trade. So I need to find 78 Brigade's War Diary then, right I will search for that. Can you tell me how to search the forum please?

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Sorry I am just finding my way around this site. Found search top right and searched for "36th Siege Battery R.G.A." In inverted commas but nothing showed up. Am I being too specific by putting the inverted commas? Before that I got all sorts of answers including R.A.F  36's?

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Hello StonehengeMaid, and welcome to the Forum!


The relevant diaries are available to download for about £3.50 from Kew, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk in this file:

WO 95/229 78 Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery 1916 Nov. - 1919 July  
WO 95/229 36 Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery 1915 Sept. - 1918 Jan.  
WO 95/229 108 Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery 1916 July - 1918 Feb.  
WO 95/229 139 Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery 1916 Aug. - 1918 Mar.  

As there are several diaries in the same file, you may need to add a suffix such as /1 to the file reference. After January 1918, most Heavy and Siege Batteries stopped keeping separate files, as in this case. I don't think these diaries are available yet on Ancestry or FindMyPast.


At the end of May 1918 five British divisions were sent to what had previously been a quiet area of the French front, on the Chemin des Dames, to recover from the battles of March and April, only to suffer the full force of the third stage of the German offensive. It is possible that 78 Brigade RGA was with them, which would explain a death on 31 May. Men other than officers are rarely named in war diaries, but a farrier staff-sergeant was a fairly senior NCO so he might be mentioned, even if his name is not given. The diary should give the location, even if only as a map reference.


Your difficulties with searching are more likely to be with using 36th instead of 36 as the battery number.




Edited by Ron Clifton
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Thank you Ron,

That is great, I will order the 78 Brigade Diary.  Varennes seems to be away from all the other sites although as the crow flies not too far from Thiepval so it will no doubt make an interesting read. I have just been reading the WD for Lord Strathcona's Horse when they arrived on Salisbury Plain, poor chaps experienced some of the worst weather for years but interesting all the same.

Thank you again.


S. Maid.

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If he was indeed a Farrier I expect he would have been back with the transport/horse lines rather up with the actual guns. I expect he fell to shell fire from counter battery fire or maybe air attack. Or if the battery was over run he could have fallen in a fight with attacking enemy troops. Good luck in researching him & please post what you find.

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I would suggest that the GWGC has his correct appointment as Ftr. (Fitter) Staff Sergeant. If they haven't I would like to know why a Farrier Staff Sergeant was posted to 36th Siege Battery.


Anyone genuinely researching this battery can listen to an officer who served with this battery on the IWM site - http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80007113 .





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Well that's a turn up! Mark Smith sent me a write up about him being in charge of the horses and making sure they were shod etc. The number of horses required etc. so this is a revelation.  So would a fitter be dealing with the gun mechanism and the workings of the gun or something else?  Any information you could supply would be welcome. 

Thank you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I acquired the two War Diaries for 36 Siege Battery and 78 Brigade and spent several hours having a very interesting read.  The 36 SB diary told me nothing very much although I did not read all of it and concentrated on the last few days.  Nowhere in the diary did it say exactly where they were although the 'Place' was shown as Q27b. I am attaching a short schedule copied from the diary.  My apologies for some missing words, I have tried to be as accurate as possible with abbreviations, shortened forms and punctuation but as this document was written in pencil some of the words are too indistinct.  There is nothing that indicates when St Sgt Phillips was killed although there are some abbreviations that I cannot find listed and am unable to decipher their meaning,  MOK's. Could someone enlighten me please? There are two of these in the early morning of the 31 July when the 36SB Fired 100 Rnds on CB Targets 1b67.

Also an anomaly regarding his number.  on the documentation shown in kevinrowlinsons reply his number is shown as 147944 on his grave the number is engraved as 147994, Which would be correct?

36 Siege Battery War Diary  &   78 Brigade. War Diary


 36 SB appears to be rather slack during the last few days that the diary was kept. For example

13 Jan 1918   Fired on Sonnet Farm    8 Rounds.

15 Jan.             Lt Col H Lewis CO of 78HAB visited the Battery.  Proposed moving two guns.

16 Jan               Selected position for two guns.  Restacked the ammunition.  Hut received (through Brigade)for men.

19 Jan               Lt R K Pearson left Bty to attend III  Army Physical Training Course.

22 Jan  5.30pm.  “Vicinity heavily shelled in the afternoon after hostile Battery had registered in the morning.  Guns           No. 5 & 6 temporarily put out of action and   ?   destroyed and plug broken in       No.4 due to hostile shelling.  Aeroplane shoot had to be abandoned.

31 Jan   12.30 – 4.50pm       X Roads R23c 60 Rounds.  Unloading wharf  MZ0a 55


These are the last entries in the 36 SB War diary.


Below is the War Diary for 78 Brigade showing some detail over the last few days of May.












78 Brigade HQ moved from Hedauville to HQ prepared on the Hedauville-Varennes Road.






The following promotions and awards made during April

165978 Ftr St Sjt J Parsons 108SB MM

Lt A.V. MacKean 108 SB  M.C.

Lt Col. J Gardner, Commanding 78 Brigade, RGA






Hostile activity became extremely active6” Hows fire 355 Rnds on S.O.S. between 4.25 & 6.0pm.  8” Hows fired 29 Rnds on S.O.S. between 5.33 – 6.0pm






36 SB fired on suspected balloon position 10 Rnds






36 SB fired 5 Rnds on Battery of R27CS300 which was severely gassing 87SB’s position.






6” Hows harassed Campbell Ave. and bridges at Q18 b 70 125 Rnds Q18b 84  R13 A 26






36 SB fired 100 Rnds on CB target R26C70 Plane observation 2MZ3Y 5 A11B 4 MOK’s  2 MA 2MB





Night 30/31

Operation by 35th Div in Aveluy Wood. 6” & 8” Hows took part in these ops.  6” Hows firing on area in W4 & A6.  12.55 – 2.55am 371 Rnds.   6” & 8” fired 93 Rnds during the preliminary bombardment on Northern edge of area W4a & c.  From 2.25 – 2.37 6” Hows fired a protective barrage W4D7575 – W4D 45.20 57 Rnds.




4.55- 6.05



36 SB fired 100 Rnds on CB Targets 1b67, Plane observations  2Y62 8A8B 2 MOK

36 SB Registered on W10A46 by Plane observation 21 Rnds.





During the night the brigade took part in further operations by 35 Div. in AVELUY WOOD.  8” Hows fired 59 Rnds and 6” Hows fired 320 Rnds on the wood during the preliminary bombardment.  Protective barrages were put down at 12.25am, 3.25am.

  ?       ?      from 12.45pm and 2.45pm.  While the 8” bombarded the Northern edge of the area W4B & C and 139 SB bombarded Ravine W16A.  Altogether 6” Hows fired 989 Rnds and 8” 213 Rnds.

Edited by StonehengeMaid
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