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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

James Watson Niven


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I’m looking for information on my grandfather, James Watson Niven, born in 1898.


I have copies of his RAF records which state that he was previously in the Army - these also contain a marginal note “652145 Gnr. Niven J.W. R.F.A”.  I assume that “RFA” stands for Royal Field Artillery, but can find no information on his Army service.


I have two photos of him, one captioned that he was stationed in Ireland aged around 18... this fits in with family stories of him, which relate that he was involved in some way with a POW camp there.  However the photo below (seated on the desk) shows him in what I believe is a Scottish Horse uniform, although the other two gentlemen in the photo appear to be from an artillery regiment.


Any help would be appreciated, thank you.



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Not an expert but it does look like a Scottish Horse uniform to me.



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There is a second RAF record that you may not have seen. This contains little info and is his officer form. It does indicate as a RAF officer cadet on demob he was granted the Honorary rank of 2nd Lt from the date of demob. This was published in the London Gazette in March 1920


Bottom entry on the left.

The officer form say 652145 RFA at the top and the LG entry repeats this number. It is noted a number of the other cadets are showing army numbers. I am not sure there is any doubt he was at some time and on transfer to the RAF was in the RFA. The picture may suggest Scottish Horse, then RFA then RAF. but no documentary proof of the first assignment. 

Edited by Mark1959
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The LLT page


Suggests the Scottish Horse only had units in Ireland from April 1918. He was sent to RAF at beginning of July 1918 to be trained. Rather suggests the SH to RFA to RAF may be unlikely to be correct.

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Thanks for the link to the London Gazette, Mark... very interesting.

Based on Air Ministry Form 175 he joined the Army on 21-2-1917.   The RFA assignment seems possible given the uniform of the other two gentlemen in the photo, so I was wondering if he had joined the Scottish Horse as a “Territorial” then the Army proper in 1917 with subsequent transfer to the RFA.  I’m not sure where the photo which I attached earlier was taken, but the photo I have of him in Ireland shows him in shirtsleeves so the uniform is harder to identify... there is another character in the background with an artillery badge, so maybe it was his RFA service that took him to Ireland.

Thanks again,



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