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Connecticut

Pte John James Sproule 25504, 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

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Connecticut

I am researching John James Sproule of the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  My only source for his regiment is a copy of a photo with a caption which was provided by a distant relative.  That person does not know where the photo and caption came from, but it appears to be from a museum or some sort of photo display (there is a similar one for his brother, KIA in 1914).   

 

FROGSMILE, a member here, in the uniform forum was kind enough to answer my inquiry about his cap badge, which does not appear to be R.I. Fusiliers.  

 

"No the badge isn’t that of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  It looks to me like Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), who were responsible for the storage, in depots of various sizes, of war materiel such as ammunition, rations, water, fuel and fodder for transport.  The ‘white thing’ at his shoulder is a clasp knife lanyard, as was issue to all soldiers to secure the knife in the top pocket.  Many men plaited the lanyard to shorten it and turn it into a form of decoration.  The AOC were a service support corps and so non-combatant.   In the years 1917-18 a shortage of infantrymen led to significant numbers of men of the right age and fitness being combed out from non-combatant corps and posted to Infantry regiments.  Perhaps that is what happened in this case.  The AOC was a part of the Army where a man with above the average numeracy and literacy might serve, as it predominantly involved the running of accounts and keeping tally of consumption and restocking."

 

However, assuming he was in the RI Fusiliers with that regimental number,  the pension records indicate a wound which caused him to be discharged in 1917, leaving unresolved whether the caption of no serious wounds translates into the allowance he received.

 

I have his medal card

 

I would be grateful for advice and analysis.   

 

 

John James Sproule.png

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Screen Shot 2019-07-10 at 5.31.43 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-07-10 at 5.32.14 PM.png

JSproule medal card.jpg

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PRC

To get things started before the experts jump in I did a wild card search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database using the criteria Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and 255*

 

One of the nearest matches was 25508 Private Charles Galway, of the 9th Battalion, who died on the 1st July 1916. The information for him on Soldiers Died in the Great War is that he was Killed in Action. (CWGC has him remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.). There is no former unit information shown on SDGW – doesn’t mean he didn’t have one, but it’s presense might have shown if he had come from another unit like the AOC.

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/750663/galway,-charles/

 

A check of the National Catalogue shows only one instance of the service number 25508 with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers – at least as far as MiC’s go. As the 9th was a (War) Service Battalion I’d only expect one, but with many of the bigger regiments the same number can appear multiple times  - usually with a prefix which isn't then always included \ included correctly in other record keeping. Charles too only qualified for the Victory Medal and British War Medal, so first served in a Theatre of War after the start of 1916.

 

If, (and it’s still an if), John James Sproule joined at round about the same time as Charles Galway, then we can rule out the weeding out in 1917-18 theory as to how he got from the AOC to the Inniskillings.

 

Another man with a nearby service number is 25516 Corporal William Jameson, also of the 9th Battalion, who died on the 29th March 1918 and who is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial.

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1583341/jameson,-william/

He too was Killed in Action according to SDGW, which again has no former unit shown.

 

Once again the National Archive has only one MiC for Service number 25516 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. William Jameson too only qualified for the Victory Medal and British War Medal.

 

The Long, Long Trail has the 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers landing in France in October 1915, so these men didn’t go out with the Battalion. I suspect they were a draft from one of the Regiments UK based training battalions that were sent out during the spring or early summer of 1916.

https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/royal-inniskilling-fusiliers/

 

You might want to check the service numbers either side of John James Sproule to see if those men have surviving papers as they may give some insight into how and when John arrived in France and Flanders.

 

As to the Army Ordnance Corps connection – I assume there is no other picture to compare with to make sure there has not been a mis-identification. Presumably John and the picture of his brother bear some resemblance as well.

 

Hope that helps,

Peter

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Connecticut
Posted (edited)

Peter:

 

Many thanks. If you're not an expert, I will be blown away if the real experts arrive.

 

I do not have another photo and am not optimistic about obtaining one. I have attached the only photo I have of his brother Robert.  He does bear a resemblance to Robert(Irish Guards), who is wearing a sash in his photo, indicating an Orange connection, perhaps.  I know the 9th R. Innis. Fusiliers was formed from a Tyrone group of UVF (from, among other sources, the Orr & Truesdale books on the 36th Division.   

 

The only other information I have on John James is he was married on 25 April 1916 in Tyrone.  (Occupation listed as soldier).  

 

I am considering another long-shot.  There is an older brother in the family named William.  I have found the attached MIC for a William Sproule in the AOC.   I have NO information one way or the other that the William Sproule of this family served in the army.  This creates an additional frustration because I cannot learn the provenance of the photo and the caption re John James.    Dates of birth are William (1885-1952);  Robert(1892-1914);  John James (1893-1969).

 

I would be grateful for a translation of the rank indicated on John James's pension record.  Certainly it's not Pte.

 

Robert Sproule.jpg

william Sproule AOC.png

Edited by Connecticut

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

The “rank on the pension record” is Lance Corporal, rendered in abbreviation in this case as L/Cpl, which was a common format.  In actuality this was not a substantive rank in the infantry, but an “appointment” for a substantive Private and generally unpaid, although each battalion commander was permitted a few “paid Lance Corporals” that were intended to substitute for a few Corporals acting up a rank, that were themselves often replacing Sergeants that were filling necessary, but unestablished posts.

The fact that the appointment is mentioned on the pension record suggests that either the clerk who filled it in did not know that it was not a rank, or that your subject was indeed of a “paid” category.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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ss002d6252

He was awarded a pension at a rate of 50% until at least 1924 - the pension may well have been reviewed after that point but the ledgers tended not to be updated as much so we'll likely never know.

A wound that caused a disability may have not caused a great deal of injury at the time but still have been enough to disable a person long-term - sometimes luck is on a person's side. however, in the example scales the Ministry of Pensions issued to medical boards a 50% pension was awarded for an injury along the lines of a lower leg amputation (and that sort of level of severity).

Craig

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PRC
Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Connecticut said:

 

The only other information I have on John James is he was married on 25 April 1916 in Tyrone.  (Occupation listed as soldier).  

 

 

I am considering another long-shot.  There is an older brother in the family named William.  I have found the attached MIC for a William Sproule in the AOC.   I have NO information one way or the other that the William Sproule of this family served in the army.  This creates an additional frustration because I cannot learn the provenance of the photo and the caption re John James.    Dates of birth are William (1885-1952);  Robert(1892-1914);  John James (1893-1969).

 

william Sproule AOC.png

 

 

If John James married on the 25th April 1916 in Tyrone I would suspect pre-embarkation leave. If he had gone out to France & Flanders even in January 1916, when the Battalion was mostly made up of men who had been at the front since October 1915, then it is very unlikely he would have got UK leave – even to marry.

 

One of the tests might be, (assuming they were married in church), was whether the marriage was by licence or by banns. At least as far as the Anglican church is concerned, the couple had to be present in the church for the three Sundays prior to the Wedding and the priest would announce the forthcoming event at each service. The Bishops’ licence got round that time scale, although it could be required for other purposes, (bride or groom were not of the Parish).

 

In my experience speed seems to be the main reason for the licence, so if the marriage took place by licence I would tend to go with the embarkation leave, while by banns makes it more likely he was with a unit that was training in the area.

 

As to the actual unit prior to going overseas, my understanding is that a soldier needed his commanding officers permission in order to get married – after all this would be an additional burden on the army financially with a dependants allowance and possibly the need for housing plus pension obligation – and so the wedding \ birth \ death certificates tended to show units rather than just  an occupation.  Is there no additional information for John – in the address area for instance – on the certificate?

 

Going back to that wedding date, if you have access to the 9th Battalion War Diary on Ancestry, or it can be downloaded from here for a small fee:-

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7354044

then may be worth checking the daily entries from the 26th April 1916 onwards to see if the arrival of drafts are recorded. One of those most likely included John James Sproule, (and Charles Galway and William Jameson).

 

As for the older brother William Sproule, I see from the MiC you have found that Private 07764 William Sproule also has an entry on the Royal Army Ordnance Corps Silver Badge List. The amount of information kept on this list varies considerably, but some include age at discharge. It won’t be totally conclusive, but as you have him as born 1885, he should have been circa 34 when he was discharged in 1919. If the list has the discharge age recorded then, while it might not rule him in, a significantly different age would probably rule that RAOC man out. It's also likely to give you date of enlistment, which, particularly if it was early in the war, might enable you to do a more targeted search of local newspapers.

 

Coming at it from the other angle, if you know “your” William Sproule married, had children, or sadly lost one, during the time they were likely to serve, (1914-21), then well worth checking out the relevant marriage \ birth \ death certificates for the same reasons stated against James above.

 

Hope that helps,

Peter

 

 

Edited by PRC
Typo

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Connecticut
Posted (edited)

Thanks to all.  I did not think there would be anything else of use on the marriage certificate, so I did not provide it.  I have learned the error of my ways.  The marriage was by license.  

 

 

John J Sproule MR.png

Edited by Connecticut

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clk

Hi,

 

There is a medical record for 07764 William Sproule AOC which reads as:

 

First name(s): W

Last name: Sproule

Age:22

Service number: 07764

Rank: Private

Unit: Base Details, Army Ordnance Corps

Transferred from Hospital Ship "Vasna" 7.9.1917 to Hospital Ship "Assaye", transferred to Bombay 13.9.1917

Ailment: "Effects of heat".

 

Given his age, he wouldn't appear to be your William.

 

Regards

Chris

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Connecticut
Posted (edited)

Thanks and regards.  The name, and its derivations, were common enough that I did not want to strongly suggest the photo of his brother was substituted.  We know that occurred in the Jack Cornwell case, but those are vastly different circumstances.

 

I wonder if he transferred to the AOC after being wounded, but then was eventually discharged, having been photographed with the AOC cap badge.  I would need the experts to weigh in on how likely a transfer would be that escaped the records, particularly if his last assignment was to the AOC.  

Edited by Connecticut

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ss002d6252
4 hours ago, Connecticut said:

Thanks and regards.  The name, and its derivations, were common enough that I did not want to strongly suggest the photo of his brother was substituted.  We know that occurred in the Jack Cornwell case, but those are vastly different circumstances.

 

I wonder if he transferred to the AOC after being wounded, but then was eventually discharged, having been photographed with the AOC cap badge.  I would need the experts to weigh in on how likely a transfer would be that escaped the records, particularly if his last assignment was to the AOC.  

Medal records should show only the overseas service but, as I understand it, the medal rolls were administered by the last unit served with. He is shown on the Inniskilling's medal roll list so, on that basis, it would suggest that the AOC were not the last unit served with.

The pension record for Sporule would also show AOC rather than Inniskillings if he had last served with them.

I would have doubts that the man in the picture and the man in the paperwork are one and the same unless the AOC service was somehow before he enlisted in the Inniskillings.

Craig

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PRC

I struggled at first to find the family in the civil records - I was looking for a trace of William to see when \ if he married. I've got to admit the Irish Genealogy records are somewhere I don't often have to go so apologies if I've missed something obvious. The struggle seemed to be finding a farmer with the fathers first name George, (from the marriage certificate) and who were not Roman Catholics, given the link to the UVF.

 

There seems to be a likely family on the 1901 Census of Ireland but the relevant children all seem to be a year or two younger than the birth year you have given. Thus William is 14 in 1901, Robert is 7 and John James is 6 versus birth years stated above of 1885, 1892 and 1893, so looks to be very slightly more than rounding differences. Father was George, 35 and a Milk Seller, born County Tyrone, and mother was  Bridget, 44 and born County Donegal. They were living at Edymore, Camus, County Tyrone - or have I got the wrong family?

http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1901/Tyrone/Camus/Edymore/1753440/

I couldn't find that family on the 1911 Census of Ireland or any likely match.

 

4 hours ago, Connecticut said:

I wonder if he transferred to the AOC after being wounded, but then was eventually discharged, having been photographed with the AOC cap badge.  I would need the experts to weigh in on how likely a transfer would be that escaped the records, particularly if his last assignment was to the AOC.  

 

My understanding, and I'm battening down the hatches and waiting to be put right, is that the medal rolls and thus the MiC's were prepared by the Pay and Records office, not the battalion or the regimental depot. While he was with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers that would have been the office at Dublin. The AOC would have been covered by the office at Woolwich. If he transferred to the AOC then his paperwork would have been transferred from Dublin to Woolwich, (and thus, crucially for the accountants, also off the establishment budget of the 'Skins and on to that of the AOC). So when the VM and BWM medal rolls were being prepared in late 1919 the only Records office that should have held his records were at Woolwich.

 

Edit - just seen Craig's post so I think we can rule out wartime serving in the AOC as they didn't prepare the medal roll. I also think the information about his unit on the Pension Ledger Card also rules out the AOC, as it would have been the relevant Pay & Records Office, (Dublin or Woolwich) that would have dealt with the Ministry of Pensions.

 

As the Army was shrinking it's manpower in 1919 it still had Armies of Occupation and Wars to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as against the Bolsheviks and the Civil War in Ireland. Thus bounties were offered to men who would sign up to stay on for one or two years. Some did so straight away, while others returned after sampling civilian life. Most were released before the Regular Army resumed its peacetime status in 1921, (and records were transferred to the Ministry of Defence). Is it possible therefore that he left the Army and subsequently returned. Would explain no mention on the Service Medal Roll or the Pension Ledger Card.

 

That's clutching a bit at straws. To be honest the more likely explanation is that it just isn't a picture of John James Spoule :-(

 

Two more lines of enquiry.

 

1. Check the SWB list for James John to see if it confirms when he enlisted - many do.

2. Checking out the nearby service numbers to 25504 to see if you can surviving service papers for those man and from that establish when the number was most likely issued. The bigger the gap, (in theory), between when he enlisted and when he was posted to the Royal Inniskiliing Fusiliers, the more potential he might have served with another unit like the AOC.

 

To get you started here are the nearby service number details taken from the National Archive Discovery catalogue MiC records.

 

25495  No match

25496  John Sheppar then 702912 Labour Corps

25497  James Brown 11th Royal Innisikilling Fusiliers

25498  Joseph Jarvis then 101410 Liverpool Regiment

25499  David Holmes

25500  No match

25501  No match

25502  No match

25503  Samuel Beattie

25504

25505  William Early

25506  William Allen

25507  No match

25508  Charles Galway

25509  James Moody then 596849 Labour Corps

25510  John McIlroy

25511  James Moody then 367019 Royal Engineers

25512  No match

25513  No match

25514  No match

25515  George Widdrington then 565154 Labour Corps

 

Cheers,

Peter

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Connecticut

Cheers, PRC.   That 1901 census should definitely be the same family from research into the non-military sources.   Attached is the 1911 census form, which is minus Robert and married daughters.  Robert is enumerated in London at Chelsea Barracks with the Irish Guards.  

 

To be honest the more likely explanation is that it just isn't a picture of John James Spoule :-(

 

I understand this is a real possibility.  The provenance of the photo and caption would be immensely helpful, but I don't have it.  It could be a commemorative of local soldiers created in the last 20 years when family members with knowledge were not around. The distant relative told me he did not discuss the war or his service in her presence.

1911 Census 4.png

Screen Shot 2019-07-11 at 5.11.24 PM.png

Edited by Connecticut

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Connecticut

Please forgive the census form for Shields, which is not relevant.   Can't figure out how to delete it. :mellow:

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PRC

Hi,

 

If you have facebook I don't know if you've seen the reference to Robert on the "Old Strabane and its memories" group. Seems to be several relatives who have commented. Might be worth contacting them to see if other pictures of the brothers are available. Also the group has quite a big photo album - may be nothing there relating to this family but could be worth a try.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/451480941552540/permalink/2222539567779993/?comment_id=2534894429877837&comment_tracking={"tn"%3A"R"}

 

Cheers,

Peter

Edited by PRC
Typo

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Connecticut

Peter,

I have seen it.  Some people there are my only source of personal information.  I have been unable to learn the provenance of the photo and the caption from them, but I'm grateful to have it. 

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PRC

Worth a try :-)

 

I see there is another brother, Hugh, aged 26 on the 1911 census, who is not on the 1901 census living with his family. I can't find him on the 1901 Census of Ireland at all under either Sproule or Sproul. There is a 16 year old daughter Mary on the 1901 census,  and the birth records for her and Hugh in July 1884 has been noted "Twins".

 

At 16 in March 1901 he won't have been serving  overseas, but he could have been in the Army as a boy soldier, At 18, (circa July 1902), he could still have opted for a standard adult term of engagement like 7 years in the colours and five in reserve and so be back at home by the time of the 1911 census.

 

Has the possibility of Hugh been explored as a match for this man?

 

Of course with no conscription in Ireland it may be that neither Hugh or William served, although if he was a reservist Hugh would have been mobilised.

 

Cheers,

Peter

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