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Pte.William G Webb, 88683 MGC, previously RASC


Webb65

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Hello all, I intend to visit my Great Uncle William’s grave in Cabaret-Rouge, Souchez this August, on the 100th anniversary of his death.

That’s spurred me into doing some research into his time in the army during WW1.

 

From Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, I have the following:

William George Webb

Birth Place:         Langport, Somerset

Residence:          Langport

Death Date:        23 Aug 1918

Death Place:       France and Flanders

Enlistment Place:              Castle Cary

Rank:     Private

Regiment:           Machine Gun Corps

Battalion:             (Infantry)

Regimental Number:      88683

Type of Casualty:              Killed in action

Theatre of War: Western European Theatre

Comments:        Formerly S4/158530, R.A.S.C.

Other Records:  William George Webb – Machine Gun Corps 88683

War Diaries (France, Belgium, Germany): Machine Gun Corps P162

 

I know nothing of his RASC service. By trade he was a Baker, so the RASC seems a sensible fit. I’ve a partly legible, scanned & downloaded copy of his Form B 2512, but it’s hard to make out any detail.

There are various numbers crossed out, such as 33920 written immediately above question 1, and his MGC number 88683 and a stamp for the MGC at the top of the form.

The approving officer’s date looks like 27-3-16, but the Magistrate’s date above that says 10 December!

I think it looks like he was called up in 1916 (aged 26 and a half), but it’s very feint.

 

I’m partly guessing about him being in the 52nd Battalion MGC when he died; the only evidence I have is a downloaded copy of the register of soldiers’ effects – the entry looks like the 52nd to me.

 

I think a trip to Kew might be in order to view the MGC war diary to see if I can find any more information about where he died. I think this is the diary I need, if he was in the 52nd Battalion?

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7354818

 

From the CWGC entries, it seems he was originally buried at Blaireville Orchard (51c.X.4.d.2.9), along with 2/Lt W.R Moss – who is recorded on the burial record as 25/M.G.Batt. Both recorded as KIA on 24th August 1918.

 

What does intrigue me is that in the later burial record for Cabaret-Rouge, William’s date of death is changed to the 23rd (not 24th), and 2nd Lt Moss to the 22nd.

In addition, 2nd Lt Moss’ initials have changed to P.W, from W.R, and he’s now recorded as being 59th Battalion.

 

I appreciate at the time of their deaths, record taking may have been a bit hurried, and presume that subsequent investigations when they were moved from Blaireville to Cabaret-Rouge threw up more details. It does make me wonder if Great Uncle William was 59th Battalion too?

 

One other item of interest that struck me is that in Alastair’s excellent "Grandpa’s MGC Notebook", there’s an entry on page 88: “2nd Lieut PW Moss, 25th Battalion Machine Gun Corps; wounded but survived.” I wonder, since I think the 25th were broken up and parts moved into the 59th, if we’re talking about the same 2nd Lt. Moss?

 

Thanks for any help,

Steve

 

Edited by Webb65
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Welcome

Well, this is a bit of a tangled web(b).

Amongst his papers there is another record that shows the following

Sailed Folkstone to Boulogne 28/3/18 thence to the Base Depot (BD) at Camiers

5/4/18 - joined 40 Battalion MGC
5/5/18 - back to BD at Camiers

18/5/18 - joined 52nd Battn MGC

 

Another docs shows enlisted 10/12/15 and mobilised 3/3/16,. Stayed with ASC and the 97th and 98th training reserve battalions (33920 is from this TR period from Dec 1916) in UK until 14/3/17 when he is transferred to MGC. To France with MGC 3/6/17 thence to a BD. To 122 Company MGC 10/6/17. Wounded on 23/9/17. To UK 5/10/17 - spends 84 days in hospital, Shrapnel wound right knee. Spent time on leave in Somerset around the New Year. Back to France as above. Doc shows killed in action as 23/8/18 and with 52nd Battn MGC

Edited by Mark1959
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Looking at the War Diaries which are very detailed including map refs. It mentions the various companies of the 52nd. We do not know which company WGW was in. 

Casualties

23rd One other-ranks killed. 1 wounded (poss in B Company)

24th 13 OR wounded, 1 missing.

Appendices indicate other casualties around this time.

The 25th, Moss's Battn, is mentioned as being relieved on the night of 23/24th.

It may be possible to work out if he was the man killed and reported on 23/8. we would have to look at the other casualties and do a process of elimination.

The War Diary of the 25th Battn show Moss was killed on the morning of 23/8/18.

 

You can download the 52nd's WD on the NA link you gave for £3.50

Edited by Mark1959
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Medical records show

He was admitted to 139th Field Ambulance for "Pyrexia of Unknown Origin" on 8/7/17. That is a fever. He returned to duty on 20/7. And re-admitted for same reason on 23/7/17 and discharged back to duty 26/7. He was with 122nd Company as indicated above on these records.His wounding on 23/9/17 would have been at the Battle of the Menin Road - 122 Company were in the 41st Division

Edited by Mark1959
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Mark, I don't know how to thank you - that's an amazing amount of info.

I might be being a bit daft, but it brought a bit of a tear to my eye to read - really brings William to life, as it were.

Somewhere in the family photos there's a  snap of him with an Aussie soldier at home in Somerset - probably on leave after recovering from the shrapnel wounds.

 

It amazes me that there's so much detail available, and that we may even be able to pinpoint him to the 1 OR killed on the 23rd. Where on earth do you find all that info? A novice like me is just stumbling in the dark!

Many thanks, Steve

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Various sources but mainly the big genealogy sites. As my GWF colleagues would say we have just become very efficient at digging things out. There are also experts in particular area or regiments. 

You are in luck; for other-rankers you only get this level of detail in perhaps 1 in 20 cases. In some cases there is virtually nothing surviving - there was a fire during the blitz that destroyed most of the personal records.

Once I have time we will see if it is possible to identify if WGW was the man killed on 23/8.

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Mark - again many thanks.

I didn't appreciate that the NA download would be the whole war diary, I thought it might be a snapshot of a certain period - well worth £3.50. I'm just West of London, so a trip to Kew wouldn't be hard, but downloading the diary would be a lot less hassle.

 

Very interesting that he moved around so much (to my mind) - I always imagined that once you were posted to a unit, that was it - the whole "Esprit De Corps" kind of thing.

 

Details such as only spending a month with 40th Battalion, before returning to the Base Depot and being reassigned to 52nd, intrigue me. I guess, with the losses on the scale they were in WW1, whole units would be effectively written off and the remaining men dispersed, as Alastair mentions in his Grandpa's MGC notes.

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Some additional ASC information.

The number S4/158503 was allocated at the end of 1915 (ties in with attestation date 10/12/1915 in his service papers).

S4 prefix is for supply, Bakers were part of supply in the ASC and 4 is Kitchener's 4th volunteer army.

Form B2512 is the Derby scheme attestation form, details of the Derby scheme can be found on the long long trail web site, Derby scheme volunteers were put on a reserve list to be called up later, hence a mobilisation date of 3/3/1916.

His medal index card references only his Machine Gun Corps service, again this ties in with the service record and indicates his ASC service was all home based.

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Many thanks Gardenerbill; i was wondering how to find out about his ASC service.

I'm also grateful for the explanation of the date discrepancy between December 1915 and March 1916 - I'll see if I can successfully upload his B2512 in this post.

I'll also read up on the Derby schemes on LLT.

Cheers, Steve

B2512 short service.jpg

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On 24/04/2018 at 08:56, Webb65 said:

 

 

 

 

Very interesting that he moved around so much (to my mind) - I always imagined that once you were posted to a unit, that was it - the whole "Esprit De Corps" kind of thing.

 

Details such as only spending a month with 40th Battalion, before returning to the Base Depot and being reassigned to 52nd, intrigue me. I guess, with the losses on the scale they were in WW1, whole units would be effectively written off and the remaining men dispersed, as Alastair mentions in his Grandpa's MGC notes.

 

The 40th Division, to which the 40th Battalion MGC had been attached since the reorganisation of the Corps dating from the 1st March 1918, was broken up following heavy losses in May 1918 (it was later reconstituted but that's another story).  From the 1st to 10th May the MG Battalion was broken up, on the 5th May 'D' Composite Company entrained for Camiers (the MGC Base Depot) at 2.30p.m. for redeployment.  The previous day there had been a Ceremonial Parade and the presentation of decorations by the Divisional Commander.  

 

Incidentally the reorganisation, occurring just before the German Spring Offensive had little time to bed in and it's unfortunate but as a consequence CWGC records for the MGC are frequently inaccurate as to which unit a soldier or officer was serving in when killed.

 

Ken

Edited by kenf48
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Ken, that's good info, thank you. 

It's a revelation to me how much knowledge and information there is still available for events over 100 years ago.

 

Thanks again for helping me build a picture; it's like I had a couple of corners for a jigsaw and folks like you, Mark, and Bill have come along with the main pieces.

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  • 3 months later...

Morning all,

 

Was back in Somerset recently for a family wedding which meant I was able to get hold of the family box of photos and have a rummage.

 

Found a couple of William back in Langport. The first is presumably from his time on leave in the New Year of 1918 after the shrapnel wound to his right knee.

 

Inscription on the back says: "Will & his Australian chum Harry Wishart":

 

WGWebb_HWishart.jpg

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The next one shows him cleaning his kit in the yard of the family bakery. This and the one with Harry were sent to his brother who was serving in India with the SLI (someone else for me to track down one day!)

 

Inscription says "Don't smile. Note the pump handle!"

WGWebb_Pump.jpg

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Off to France this week to visit William's grave at Cabaret-Rouge on the centenary of his death.

 

My thanks again to those of you who kindly provided so much background info on William and his service life.

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Visited William's grave at Cabaret Rouge today. Also visited the fields south of Mercatel where he fell (found the only piece of the iron harvest here, donated by local farmer).

Apologies if pics are too large, can't seem to resize them on the phone. 

20180823_141110.jpg

Mercatel

20180823_115828.jpg

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After much poking around I believe it is not possible to say categorically he was the man killed on 23/8 as indicated in Post 6. I thought I had posted to say this. There is a high probability but without further evidence one cannot be categorical. The CWGC record certainly points that way. 

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Mark, as always my gratitude knows no bounds for the work you put in researching William. I know we can't be 100% certain on the records but being able to visit the areas in which he served and, possibly, where he fell has been amazing. 

This has been my first trip to any WW1 battlefield and it's certainly piqued my interest. I'm writing this having just locked up the car park at the Vimy Ridge visitor centre!

Tomorrow, before I have to head home, I hope to visit the tank Deborah and the Bullecourt museum.

Thanks again, Steve.

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  • 3 years later...

Hello Steve 

Just found your posts for William George Webb,  private 88683 from Langport  who served in WW1 and died towards the end of the war.

William Webb is my 1st cousin twice removed and I would like to knowore about him.

Your posts have given me some I formation about his short army life, but there is more for me to find out.

Not sure how we can communicate with each other, but would like to find out more about William and his sister.

Best wishes David Clark

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5 minutes ago, David George said:

Hello Steve 

Just found your posts for William George Webb,  private 88683 from Langport  who served in WW1 and died towards the end of the war.

William Webb is my 1st cousin twice removed and I would like to knowore about him.

Your posts have given me some I formation about his short army life, but there is more for me to find out.

Not sure how we can communicate with each other, but would like to find out more about William and his sister.

Best wishes David Clark

Welcome to the GWF

‘Steve’  has no visited us since 2019.  He is still registered and once you have two posts you can use the forums PM system just click on his name which will show his page then ‘ send message’ if he still has the same email as that registered with he will get your message.  So reply to this and you’re done hth

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I hope that Steve is still active and will see that I am trying to contact him, to find out more about Private William George Webb, from Langport.

David

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@Webb65hasnt been on the forum for a while, but this tag may alert him.

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On 23/04/2018 at 17:20, Webb65 said:

I think a trip to Kew might be in order to view the MGC war diary to see if I can find any more information about where he died. I think this is the diary I need, if he was in the 52nd Battalion?

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7354818

@David George WD - Currently free to download from TNA, subject to free registration

M

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