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JefR

39th Siege Battery - how did it fit into the artillery command structure?

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JefR

I'm trying to follow a group of 54 men from the Lancashire and Cheshire (TF) RGA who transferred to the 39th SB in June 1915.   Next steps will be to pick up surviving service records and then the war diary - but before doing that I'd like to get a feel for the bigger picture.

There must be lots of sources, but the Artillery is a mystery wrapped in an enigma to me, and I'm hoping someone can save me a good deal of time.

Can anyone tell me how 39th SB fits into the command hierarchy - which Brigade / Division / HAG / Army etc were they a part of ?

JefR

 

 

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ALANJONES

Jeff,

Watch out for references to 39th Battery Royal Field Artillery - not the same as the Siege Battery in the Royal Garrison Artillery!

Your best bet is to first identify how the 39th fitted in is to go to the National Archives online and order this document online for £3.50 (unless some other kind soul on this Forum knows the answer for 39th SB):

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4558646 

 

Reference:  WO 95/5494

Description:

List of Royal Artillery, Army Service Corps, Machine Gun Corps and Medical Units with the Division, Corps or Army they fought with. Siege Batteries Canadian Siege Batteries Heavy Batteries Army Brigades RH & RFA Army Service Corps Units ASC Companies HT & MT Mechanised Transport Companies Index to RASC companies Machine Gun Units, Tank Corps, Mountain Batteries Armoured motor cars and Heavy Artillery Entrenching Battalions Medical units in France Hospitals, Casualty Clearing stations, Ambulances Medical stores, Specialists, Mobile Laboratories and X-ray units.

 

It's the best start point and then, having identified the various HA Brigade/Group etc you can get their war diaries and work out a lot of the 39th's history. These will be very varied. Exceptionally they will mention individuals. 

 

You can search this for fatal casualties from the Battery - http://www.hut-six.co.uk/cgi-bin/search1421.php  

Also look at this recent posting on this Forum for other sources https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/261124-importantuseful-online-sources-of-information-1914-1918/ 

 

If you have time etc. the Heavy Artillery command diaries for Divisions and Corps often list specific locations and tasks for individual batteries - this is time consuming.

If the Battery was part of a Canadian or ANZAC organisation their diaries are more readily (free) online most are now on the NA but at a cost of £3.50 each .....

Look at Farndale's History of the RA in WW1 and also the Official Histories - they may not mention the specific battery but sometimes the HAG/Heavy Brigades.

[I did not spot a specific diary for 39th SB but this might be of interest:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/017b598d-da95-4dc6-9f49-1aca486344bf] 

 

Alan

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petwes
Posted (edited)

JefR

Alan has given some very good advice above.  However because Siege batteries were generally allocated to Corps or Army taking a top down approach to start with can be difficult in my experience. 

You are fortunate that what looks like one of the better war diaries exists for 39 SB and should take you up to the end of 1917 at least.  Personally that is the point I would start from in this case and then work your way upwards using the resources mentioned previously.

 

Peter

Edited by petwes

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Ron Clifton
Posted (edited)

Hello JefR

 

As Alan has pointed out, WO95/5494 contains a list of all the Siege Batteries giving their attachments to Heavy Artillery Groups (HAGs), and the allocation of HAGs to Armies. It can be downloaded from the Kew website, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk for only £3.50. I did this recently and I reckon that it is the best £3.50 I have spent for many years!

 

From early 1918 HAGs were redesignated Brigades RGA with a more or less permanent allocation of batteries, and individual battery diaries were generally discontinued at that point. The brigade diaries can also be downloaded from the Kew website, but are not yet available on Ancestry or FindMyPast.

 

39 SB went to the Western Front in November 1916. It was originally equipped with four 8-inch howitzers but later acquired two more.

 

Ron

Edited by Ron Clifton

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spof
2 minutes ago, Ron Clifton said:

39 SB went to the Western Front in November 1916

 

Ron

 

It was actually November 1915.

 

 

39SB.JPG

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JefR

Once again the forum has nailed it!  Good advice indeed.

It sounds like WO 95/5494 is just what I was hoping for.  I'll certainly download it - at 160 Mb it deserves a USB stick of its own !

Many thanks Alan, Petwes & Ron and especially Spof - your comprehensive itinerary of one HAR and 9 HAGs is an eye-opener - that's the way to keep records, I'm very impressed

 

Jef

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Ron Clifton
4 hours ago, spof said:

 

Ron

 

It was actually November 1915.

 

Thanks Glen. I need another eye test!

 

Ron

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petwes
Posted (edited)

Jef

The clip Spof attached is taken from WO95/5494 and is an example of the details available therein.  I would love to know how, when and by whom  it was compiled! You will also find the allocation of HAGs to Armies.

However I am fairly certain what isn't contained is the allocation of HAGs to Corps (at least I've missed if they are). That means finding the Corps diary for a particular battery relies on first finding a HAG diary if it exists and then manually finding if their Corps allocation is mentioned.  Then you need to find the diary for the relevant Corps Commander Heavy Artillery, (there might be also a diary for the Corp Commander Royal Artillery but this is often more concerned with Divisional Artillery i.e. RFA etc).  Sometimes for certain months the whole block of diaries is missing; no Siege or Heavy Battery, no HAG diaries and no Corps diaries. 

I should also mention that until the whole mess was sorted out and batteries stayed in one HAG, batteries moved from HAG to another and HAGs switched between Corps as needs must!  HAGs sometimes were lent to other Corps or operated as Double Groups. In the case of Double Groups you might find one HAG was responsible for administration and the other for operations so both diaries need to be looked at to get the full picture.

In all cases the quality of the diaries vary from the brief "In the Field", "x00 rounds fired" to the very detailed which are to be treasured. There are also the vaguely irrelevant ones written by aspirant official historians which contain details of what the author thought everyone else was up to ("The infantry advanced" "Many prisoners taken") but forget to tell us what they, themselves were actually up to.

 

Peter

Edited by petwes

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Ron Clifton
16 hours ago, petwes said:

However I am fairly certain what isn't contained is the allocation of HAGs to Corps (at least I've missed if they are).

That is correct. The HAG allocations in WO95/5494 are to Armies only.

 

Ron

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petwes

Ron

Thanks for the confirmation.  I would have kicked myself if it was lurking in there! I have a part finished Database of siege and heavy battery allocations to HAGs and Armies; one retirement project will be to try and add the Corps to the list.

 

Peter

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Ron Clifton
54 minutes ago, petwes said:

have a part finished Database of siege and heavy battery allocations to HAGs and Armies

That makes two of us!

 

Ron

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ALANJONES

And, as ever, I've learnt something new! Having only worked with Heavy Batteries I had been spared the 'Army' searching!

Alan

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JefR

Peter - my last posting was prior to downloading the W 95/5494 documents which I have now skipped through very briefly and will now study in more detail.
As you rightly point out I was somewhat optimistic.
Last time I traced a siege battery it was some years ago, it was Palestine, and it was surprisingly well-documented - France and Flanders is much more complex and clearly a very different proposition.
It's encouraging to know that you and Ron are on the case. I wish you every success in your endeavours, and my thanks for your help and advice.
Jef

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