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Trevor Phillips

Timings from conscription to start of basic training

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Trevor Phillips

Does anyone know what the approximate timescales were from a person receiving a call up letter to then travelling to the recruiting centre to physically sign up, and also the timescales from signing up to the commencement of basic training? I'm trying to piece together rough timescales for my great grandad's war service, and while I know a lot about his time over in France I don't know much about the period from conscription to basic training to starting his active service. He had to travel from Lymington in the New Forest to Winchester on 12th September 1916 to sign up (for the Durham Light Infantry) and I assume recruits were able to travel home to collect their belongings and say their goodbyes before departing for their basic training? Also, on completion of basic training I assume new recruits were allowed a home visit before departing for the Western Front? 

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ss002d6252

Who is he ?

 

Craig

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Trevor Phillips

His name was George Wallis. After basic training he was enlisted with the 1/7th DLI in January 1917, and then in June 1918 transferred to the 20th (Service) Bttn DLI. He died of wounds near Boulougne on Oct 30th 1918. In a few weeks we're going to visit his grave to mark the 100th anniversary of his death, and also visit some of the 20th Bttn's old battlefields around Ypres where he would have fought. I've done a lot of research via the battalion war diaries and through the two excellent books on the Fighting Pioneers and Wearside Pals, and the latter's author John Sheen was kind enough to give me some helpful advice. We can only guess at the exact date of his wounding but, as mentioned, the only other thing I'm not sure about is the actual signing up process. I'm intrigued to know how much time he had between being enlisted and going off for basic training as he had six young children and this must have caused huge upheaval in the household. I'm also assuming he would have done his basic training up in the north east, although I believe that the DLI also had bases down south too.

Edited by Trevor Phillips

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ss002d6252

The effect's records show a war gratuity of £12 for #203780 Wallis:

image.png.1fa7131ee7a46ccc1d5608cdf1ac7f78.png

https://wargratuity.uk/war-gratuity-calculator/

 

By late 1916 all eligible men were automatically entered in to the army reserve and then called up as and when the army needed them. A notice period of a month was typical prior to a man being called up for service although he could ask for a deferral in some cases. Heading off to the DLI in Sep would have been after his notice period so he would not have returned home until he was granted leave.

 

Training was typically 5-6 months.

 

When was George born ?

 

Craig

Edited by ss002d6252

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MaxD

He has a record on FMP which shows his earlier service.   After signing on the dotted at Winchester on 12 Sep 1916, the next significant date is 15 Sep 1916 when his record appears to show him at 2/8 Bn DLI who at that time were in Basingstoke.  In October he is with 5th Reserve Bn DLI (which I find no detail about?).  That would fit with what Craig says and indicates he had some training before what was presumably his later recall.

 

Max

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ss002d6252
Quote

In October he is with 5th Reserve Bn DLI (which I find no detail about?).

The 5th Reserve Bn was an amalgamation of the 3rd line battalions of the DLI TF, formed in Sep 16 at Newcastle.

 

Craig

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Trevor Phillips

Thanks chaps, that's really helpful. Maybe George did his basic training with the DLI at Basingstoke - perhaps this is why he was selected for that particular regiment. I've always wondered why he was enlisted into a regiment so far from his Hampshire home. He was 36 when he signed up and was a carter and agricultural worker by trade - would his profession and age perhaps have influenced his enlistment in to the Pioneers battalion when he first went to France? 

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ss002d6252
14 minutes ago, Trevor Phillips said:

Thanks chaps, that's really helpful. Maybe George did his basic training with the DLI at Basingstoke - perhaps this is why he was selected for that particular regiment. I've always wondered why he was enlisted into a regiment so far from his Hampshire home. He was 36 when he signed up and was a carter and agricultural worker by trade - would his profession and age perhaps have influenced his enlistment in to the Pioneers battalion when he first went to France? 

He didn't choose the regiment, under conscription the army decided where he went.

Craig

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Trevor Phillips

Thanks Craig, I knew that recruits couldn't choose their unit (otherwise presumably the Pay Corps would've been well over-subscribed!), I just wondered if a conscript's civilian occupation would influence the decision on which unit they were ordered to join, especially if they had any particular skills (miners becoming tunnellers, for example). In my great grandad's case, would a beefy agricultural worker make a good pioneer? It was probably more down to pot luck.

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MaxD

In his case, his civilian job was given as labourer which is pioneer by another name!  As well as age, his medical category was B 2 which qualified him for lines of communication duties in France ie not front line (although pioneers regularly were in just as much danger as the forward troops!)

 

Max

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Trevor Phillips

Cheers Max - I just had another look at his enrolment form on FMP. Interestingly, I notice the words 'his mark' have been written after his signature - presumably this means he couldn't read and write? This might explain why under 'married' he, or the person who filled in the form, initially wrote 'No' and then changed it to 'Yes' - not a question most men would get wrong!

 

Thanks for pointing out the B2 medical category, I'd never even considered this before. Many, many years ago, long before I got into researching George's history, I vaguely recall a now long-dead relative mentioning a rumour that he may have been a stretcher bearer, but I've never been able to verify this and no-one else in the family has ever heard of it. Perhaps a B2 category soldier would have been given the job of stretcher bearer. In the book 'Fighting Pioneers' there's a photo of a group of stretcher bearers and one of them does bear a vague resemblance to George, although it's a bit grainy - maybe it is him. It's amazing how the deeper you research something, the more questions actually arise!

Edited by Trevor Phillips

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MaxD

I don't know how much detail you have but there is always more!.

 

He died in No 8 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux.  Emily received the sum of £16 11s 5d made up of his gratuity of £12 which Craig calculated earlier, the rest being pay owing to him.

 

The location of the hospital on the cliffs to the south of the town can be seen on aerial views quite clearly in the marks left on the ground.  Look at Google Earth and the large open spaces between and across the Wimereux to Boulogne Road between Wimereux and the village of Honvault are obvious.  Australian General Hospital no 2 was to the east of the road, No 8 General to the west opposite and No 14 Stationary to the north of the area.

 

Max

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Trevor Phillips

Max, that's amazing - I can't thank you enough for this info. Can I ask what resource you used to find this all out? We'll be spending time in the Boulogne area when we visit his grave at Terlinctun so I'll try to find the hospital site. Is there any way we could find out which casualty clearing station George might have been taken before he was transferred to the base hospital on the coast? When we visit Ypres next month we're staying just outside Pop (quite near Lijssenhoeck which I believe was one of the many casualty clearing stations). We assume he was wounded in the Ypres sector (the 20th DLI were fighting towards the River Lys near Kortrijk at the time we think he was wounded), so he probably will have gone to one of the CCSs around Ypres.

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clk

Hi Trevor,

 

It probably won't give you anything that you don't already know, but are you aware that has a will. Given that he made his mark when he signed up, I would suspect that he didn't actually write it himself. If you did get a copy it would come as a low resolution black & white scan of the original, and may only consist of a very few words.

 

The fact that he died at 8 Stationary Hospital that Max posted is likely to be taken from his Soldiers' Effects record - Ancestry link

 

Regards

Chris

 

 

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MaxD

Chris has give the link that provides his death location and detail.

 

As to where it was, this forum and its search feature, various maps and a few minutes mousing it all together! 

 

As to his route to the hospital.  It would be normal to start by looking at the medical arrangements for the brigade and division 20 DLI were in.  The main issue is that we don't know when and hence where he was wounded.  The reason that affects the route is well explained in the war diary of the Assistant Director Medical Services of 41st Division in which 20 DLI, in 124 Brigade, were fighting at the time.  Let us assume he was wounded in October.  There is a fine summary of the month in the diary so I would like to suggest you read that summary noting the twists and turns of the two divisions operating in the area and the fact that the route changed often meaning that which path he took is really impossible to establish.

Attached is just one page from that summary which is pretty clear.  May I suggest that you look at the whole thing and come back with queries.  You can download it for £3.50 from the National Archives here:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14055196

 

Max

 

Note the reference to Remy Sidings which is Lijssenhoek in October 1918 was where 10 CCS was at the time.

43112_2623_0-00036.jpg

Edited by MaxD
forgot the attachment!

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clk

Hi,

 

With a bit of work you may be able to establish a possible evacuation chain. As Max said, the main difficulty is establishing when he was wounded, and matching that against the medical arrangements that were in place at the time. Without specific documentation though, what you would end up with is a 'best guess'. 

 

His wounding should appear in the Casualty Lists that were published by the War Office. They are available online, but I don't have a subscription to access them. If you were to find him, then the men from his regiment (not necessarily the same Battalion) that are also recorded in the same report are likely to have been wounded within a couple of days of each other. You could then look to see if they have surviving service papers which might show their actual date of wounding, and from there make a reasonable assumption based on the medevac arrangements for his division at that time. 

 

To labour the point though, it would only be a guess. The theoretical and actual situation is often not the same thing.

 

Regards

Chris

Edited by clk

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Trevor Phillips

I've had a quick trawl through the casualty lists - well a three hour trawl actually (the sheer numbers of killed, wounded, missing and taken prisoner are absolutely mindblowing) but I can't find George in there yet. That was just searching through the October lists, so it may mean that he was either overlooked or maybe wounded before October. I have a newspaper cutting that reports that his wife was with him when he died, so I'd originally assumed the wound would have been inflicted some time before the actual death, given the timescales involved in informing his wife and getting her across the Channel. But now I'm wondering if he was perhaps wounded much earlier, maybe even in September. I suppose she could conceivably have been by his side for several weeks, although there must have been some sort of time limit on visiting?  Would they have transported a terminally ill patient back to England after a certain time?  I'll have another look through the casualty lists when I get a moment just in case I missed him, and start going back through September and beyond if necessary.

 

So if I can't find him in the casualty lists it looks as if it'll all be down to guesswork. If he was indeed wounded in October, the 20th Bttn war diary lists the numbers wounded on certain days, so I can virtually narrow it down to three or four dates in that month. 47 members of his battalion were wounded on October 21st as the Division pressed on across the River Lys. So, assuming it took a day or two to get George back to the base hospital, then a few days to inform and transport his wife across, the 21st seems most plausible. That said, 115 members of the battalion were wounded on October 25th, but I'm not sure if that would've given his wife enough time to get over before he died on the 30th. 

 

As Max suggested, I also downloaded the diary of the Assistant Director Medical Services of 41st Division which is extremely helpful and, based on the above suppositions, gives an idea of how George might have been taken away from the battle. It's interesting that, by Western Front standards, the war had become relatively fluid by mid-October, and as a consequence the distance between the aid posts and stations was much more stretched out. The diary mentions the distance between the front and the CCS being much too far, and talks of the physical strain on the stretcher bearers who had to make much longer relays than would normally be expected. From this, I think it's fair to say that it would have been a pretty lengthy and harrowing journey for any wounded soldiers being transported back to the nearest CCS. Looking at the diary's descriptions of the terrain and weather conditions, it's amazing the stretcher bearers found their way back at all.

 

Thanks to you chaps for all the advice and links - it's really most appreciated.

 

Trevor

Edited by Trevor Phillips

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Trevor Phillips

To put a face to the name, here's the only photo we have of my great grandad George Wallis. My grandad Tom is on the far right of the photo.

Georhe Wallis.jpg

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clk

Hi Trevor,

 

Might there be any merit in looking for service files for men of the 20th Bn who died around the same date, and are buried in the same cemetery? For example

 

image.png.60f2843ad9abe6054012aa686c56b251.png

 

Regards

Chris

 

 

 

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Interested

Just to give you some background, the Military Cemetery at Ljissenthoek started off as a hospital at Remy railway sidings, as the hospital in Poperinghe kept being shelled.  There is a Guide giving many details available from the Cloth Hall Museum in Ieper, and the cemetery now has a visitor centre and some "loos" but no coffee shop.

I hope you have a good trip.

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Trevor Phillips

The time has finally arrived! We're off to the Salient tomorrow, trench maps in hand and about 15 books, guides and notes in rucksack. We've not managed to find out exactly where Great Grandad was wounded, but we can at least visit some of the places we know for sure his battalion were in action. On the way home we intend to drop in to the visitor centre Ljissenhoeck before we move on to Boulogne to find the site of the base hospital where he died (almost exactly 100 years ago) before visiting his grave.

Thanks to all you people for the invaluable information you've given me - it's been more useful than any book or guide.

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MaxD

Have a good trip!

 

Max

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Trevor Phillips

Wow, what a place to visit. I probably needed a month to see all the places and sights I wanted to see as just about everywhere you drive there's some memorial, cemetery or crater to divert your attention. Hill 60 and the nearby massive Caterpillar crater were my highlights, and Tyne Cot obviously. I'd not been able to get my head round the fact that after the Australians had taken the lower two pillboxes at Tyne Cot it took another five days to capture the higher one (which is now covered by the Cross of Sacrifice), even though it's just a hundred yards or so up the slope. Having now been there, and seen the perfect view the German machine gunners would have had of the supplies and re-enforcements coming up the line, I understand why it took so long. Everywhere we went it appeared that the Germans were always looking down on the British trenches.

If anyone was planing a first time visit I'd definitely recommend the brilliant Passchendaele Museum at Zonnebeke, and the Plugstreet Experience which, if you've got kids or non-WW1 geeks with you, has a great short film explaining clearly how and why WW1 started (although it did shatter my 10 year old's illusion that it was all to do with a hungry ostrich). Whilst at Plugstreet we went to La Gheer where men from my local regiment, the Hampshires, fought off the Germans at great cost in October 1914, and from trench maps we identified the Bird Cage and experienced just how close the two frontlines were at that point. We followed the line of the Messines craters from Plugstreet in the south up to Hill 60. Each has its own story, not least the one at Spanbroekmolen where the mine failed to detonate on time and so the men of the Ulster battalions were forced to advance into a hail of machine gun bullets before some of those still alive were then killed in the explosion when the mine finally went up. We saw the demarcation stone near Kemmel where my great grandad held the front line with the 20th (Service) Battalion DLI in early July 1918, and we explored the area between Whitesheet and Vormazele where on 2nd September his battalion lost 3 officers and 23 other ranks in a failed attack.

I expected to see lots of tourists everywhere we went, but I couldn't believe how quiet it was out on the roads and battlefields. We even managed a symbolic kickabout at the Christmas Truce Memorial (and yes, we did leave our team's scarf on the memorial). The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate was another matter and anyone wanting a good view should get there very early. It was quite crowded when we attended and with so many people holding up mobile phones, from the back it did have the air of an Adele concert. Fortunately, that morning we'd been at the Menin Gate and we'd met a lovely old Scotsman who played Abide With Me for us on his bagpipes. It was a very moving moment and one I won't forget.

My only slight disappointment, apart from not getting round to seeing everything, was the very large London-Eye style wheel directly outside the Cloth Hall which somewhat ruined any photos of the Ypres town square (although I will admit that at night the illuminated wheel can be seen from all over the Salient and looks quite impressive). Overall though, a brilliant and memorable few days, I will definitely be going back one day.

Now it's time to research my other grandad's war - who's the expert on Mespot on this website?

DSC07037.JPG

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