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KernelPanic

50th Division, 4th Northumbrian Howitzer Brigade (RFA) 1915 WD: Interpreting positional information

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KernelPanic
Posted (edited)

Here are three excerpts from May and June 1915. 

 

1) What does the ‘X’ (red ovals) refer to? A first I thought it was ‘cross-roads’, then I wondered ‘side’ as in right side, left side. But neither seem to make much sense. Then in the third panel there is “Left X 2000x”, "Rt X 1700x". I presume the subscript x refers to ‘yards’, but I’m at a loss with the X. Any ideas? Is it just 'position'?

 

2) Does the abbreviation in the blue ovals refer to railway?

 

3) In the second and third panels there are references to 'wagon lines'. Would those be the ammunition supplies, or general brigade supplies, or impossible to know?

 

4) The author of the diary for April – June 1915 didn’t use the usual map coordinate system when referring to locations, only place names, compass references (N, S, SW etc), and distances. Is this unusual? I would have thought the map coordinate system would have been required.

 

Thanks

 

WO-95-2820-1 (Crown Copyright)

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Edited by KernelPanic

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Acknown

I don't know the answer, but that hasn't stopped me before!

I think that 'Rly' is certainly 'Railway'. If you can find a contemporary map of where the brigade was, it may show this to be the case.

I think that 'X' means an element of an artillery battery. 'Section' (a section of guns). So; 'left section of 4 in(ch) Bty (battery)'. I don't think it's a usual abbreviation. An 'X' normally signifies a brigade. He's also used a small x for 'yards'.

Others will know ...

Acknown

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KernelPanic

Thanks Acknown

 

I believe the brigade was located east of Ypres in the vicinity of the Menin Rd at this time. The railway must have be the line running from Ypres-Zonnebeke.

 

Gun or a section of guns make sense. If so the last line of the first panel would read "Rear section/gun(s) ordered not to fire North of railway". The Brigade had two batteries, the 4th and the 5th, presumably each divided into sections. 

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Acknown

Not sure about 'sections', it's probably 'troops' nowadays. I think WW1 was the former, but we need an artillery expert to tell us. How about adding an 'artillery' tag to your post?

Acknown

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MaxD

The wagon lines is where the horses, ammunition, gun limbers and the general service wagons were taken a short distance away foro the gun position itself.  The term remains in use in the Gunners today, regiments keep their vehicles in wagon lines not garages.

 

The x appears here to denote a section (the diary uses the proper word later on).  I believe the battery was 4 guns at that time but I stand ready to be corrected.

 

The use of location names is pretty standard, although grid references can also be found (and one case I've seen of a latitude and longitude).  Someone may have the relevant indtrsuctions for the completion of war diaries?

 

Max

 

 

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rflory

A section of a battery is a subdivision of a battery, usually two guns commanded by a subaltern although if the section is separated from the remainder of the battery it might well be commanded by a captain or the battery commander. 

 

Individual war diaries use different notations to show the location of the unit which often changes through time and with new commanders. Artillery brigade war diaries often show no location but rather indicate 'in the field'.

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KernelPanic
On 18/06/2019 at 08:04, MaxD said:

The wagon lines is where the horses, ammunition, gun limbers and the general service wagons were taken a short distance away foro the gun position itself.  The term remains in use in the Gunners today, regiments keep their vehicles in wagon lines not garages.

 

The x appears here to denote a section (the diary uses the proper word later on).  I believe the battery was 4 guns at that time but I stand ready to be corrected.

 

The use of location names is pretty standard, although grid references can also be found (and one case I've seen of a latitude and longitude).  Someone may have the relevant indtrsuctions for the completion of war diaries?

 

Max

 

 

On 18/06/2019 at 08:21, rflory said:

A section of a battery is a subdivision of a battery, usually two guns commanded by a subaltern although if the section is separated from the remainder of the battery it might well be commanded by a captain or the battery commander. 

 

Individual war diaries use different notations to show the location of the unit which often changes through time and with new commanders. Artillery brigade war diaries often show no location but rather indicate 'in the field'.

 

My thanks to you both. I knew virtually nothing about how these artillery Brigades, so this all very helpful. I'm particularly interested in how they were supplied.

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MaxD
Posted (edited)

Ammunition supply was the province of the Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC).  There is a long piece on Wikipedia which although it may contain errors, the general thrust is OK. 

here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammunition_column

 

Note that up to May 1916 the Divisional Ammunition Column comprised the four Brigade Ammunition Columns (BAC), one each for the four brigades.  Collectively they were known as the DAC.

 

You should also read the war diary of 50 Division's own Ammunition Column here on Ancestry: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/interactive/60779/43849_2820_3-00000?backurl=&ssrc=&backlabel=Return  The entry on 1 May 1916 records more succinctly,the army decision to re-organise the system to merge the BACs into one DAC with a headquarters and an A and B Echelon

 

As far as other supplies are concerned, this piece will help:

https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-army-service-corps-in-the-first-world-war/

The chain ends at what the piece calls the forward dumps where the responsibility then became that of the quartermaster staff of the (in this case) RFA brigade and then batteries, all of whom had a Q staff to bring forward rations, water, feed for the horses and the many other things needed.

 

Inevitably, a sparse and simplified skim over a vast subject!

 

Max

 

Edited by MaxD

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KernelPanic

Thanks Max, this is very helpful information. I'm currently researching possible roles for a relative who served in the ASC Horse Transport attached to the 50th Division. According to his embarkation date in April 1915, it's possible he was first attached to the 4th Northumbrian Howitzer Brigade before moving over the Divisional Train at some point. Knowing how these artillery brigades were supplied, particularly in 1915, helps me put the bits together, even if his details will forever remain very sketchy. Unfortunately his service record is gone.

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MaxD

Another diary -  50th Div Train at National Archives https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7354707

 

here on Ancestry https://www.ancestry.co.uk/interactive/60779/43849_2825_0-00000?backurl=&ssrc=&backlabel=Return#?imageId=43849_2825_0-00791

 

The four companies were all horse transport companies (no individual diaries unfortunately) - do you know his company?

 

Max

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KernelPanic
Posted (edited)

Unfortunately I don't know his company. Going by the Medal rolls, all the men who are around his service number (T/977) ended up in No 1 Company, but those records are from later on  in the War. I have a slew of WDs from the 50th Div for 1915 early 1916, including the Div Train. But it's not that helpful. Although it notes the various positions of each Company, virtually all of the day to day accounts record only what the OC was doing and where; mostly meetings at Divisional HQ and visits to the various Brigade HQs. There are almost no specifics on individual company activities.

 

What is helpful and quite interesting is to link the Train info with the WD of the Divisional Supply Column. It has some maps of convoy routes along with the locations of railheads and refilling points, which can be linked to info in the Train WD. I've plotted all these locations etc on the contemporary maps using the various coordinates that are provided, and I'm ending up with quite a nice picture of the supply routes etc. for the Division. But I've not yet incorporated any info for the Divisional Artillery, hence my original question. But all together it can only give the broadest of pictures of what my great-grandfather might have been doing and where.

 

 

Edited by KernelPanic

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