Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Moonraker

Dropping rank at one's own request

Recommended Posts

Moonraker

I'm working my way through the 1970s TV drama series Wings on YouTube. (See here for a brief thread that I started and closed) and have got to episode 10 in the first series. A very bumptious upper-class cavalry lieutenant  arrives as a navigator. (He's played by Jeremy Child, in real life a baronet.) He boasts of more military experience than anyone else on the airfield, having served in the South African War and risen to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; he also sports a VC ribbon (but no others, which we may attribute to a wardrobe slip-up). With no role for the cavalry and having joined up to fight he's "dropped quite a bit of rank". And he's not impressed when he discovers that his pilot is a sergeant.

 

Dramatic licence, no doubt, but were there many cases of WWI officers seeking such demotion? I can vaguely recall cases of NCOs wanting to revert to private because they were uncomfortable, and also of WWII RAF officers dropping a rank (or refusing promotion) to fill a position of their own preference.

 

Moonraker

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Graham Topham

For an example of an NCO - my great grandfather's second cousin was in the Royal Dublin Fusilier's and was demoted at his own request from corporal to private just before the outbreak of the First World War.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PRC
3 hours ago, Moonraker said:

having served in the South African War and risen to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; he also sports a VC ribbon (but no others, which we may attribute to a wardrobe slip-up). With no role for the cavalry and having joined up to fight he's "dropped quite a bit of rank".

 

My understanding was that the British Army suffered from a shortage of officers so unlikely this sort of dropping a significant number of ranks would happen at the individuals request. More likely a man would resign his commission in a Home Service only unit and enlist in the ranks to see combat - with the option that their "natural" flair for leadership would see them promoted or even commissioned.

 

Reading the above did though make me think of one scenario I have come across in researching officers who died in the Great War. In the years running up to the outbreak of the war, I've come across numerous instances where Lieutenants and Captains in the Yeomanry, (and Territorial Force), have routinely resigned that commission in order to take up a Regular Army Commission - inevitably as a Second Lieutenant.

 

Now in your fictional example, as the Imperial Yeomanry, (made up in part of volunteers from the Yeomanry Regiments), was a significant force in numbers terms in the Boer War, and sickness was a major cause of losses in all units, it's just about plausible that a Yeomanry Lieutenant \ Captain could find himself an acting-Yeomanry Lieutenant Colonel. However there would be no straight translation into the Regular Army at that level and should they wish to transfer they would inevitably come in at a lower level even after reverting to their substantive rank.

 

Mind you - the ribbons bit is still poor continuity :)

 

Hope that makes sense,

Peter

Edited by PRC
Typo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
8 minutes ago, PRC said:

I've come across numerous instances where Lieutenants and Captains in the Yeomanry, (and Territorial Force), have routinely resigned that commission in order to take up a Regular Army Commission - inevitably as a Second Lieutenant.

And that still happens today - though I think they retain the higher pay scale through RMAS and beyond until they have ultimately caught-up/overtaken their earlier rank.

Edited by Matlock1418
addit

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
3 hours ago, Moonraker said:

arrives as a navigator

Navigator? = large bomber??? [not seen the programme so don't know the scenario]

Observer?

Another wardrobe slip?

3 hours ago, Moonraker said:

And he's not impressed when he discovers that his pilot is a sergeant.

In two-man crews - artillery observe spotting etc. - Think that may have often been the case - the serjeant pilot was only the 'bus driver' [no pun intended but it seems to work nicely] and the officer observer usually considered the 'brains' of the outfit.

Not sure about the class consciousness/attitude but sure it probably did happen - perhaps until the serjeant pilot saved the officer's bacon in combat!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rolt968

Among the men I am researching is one who seems to have resigned his commission (2/Lt) in a yeomanry regiment to serve in the ranks in an infantry regiment to get to France more quickly. he was killed while serving as a private. (No disrespect or disbelief implied by "seems", I haven't researched him properly yet.)

 

Reading the Army List for 1914 reveals some TF officers who held a lower rank in the Reserve of Officers.

 

RM

Edited by rolt968

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gardenerbill

Another NCO example. Bernard Livermore authr of "Long 'un: A Damn Bad Soldier", was reduced to a Private from Corporal at his own request.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pierssc

I've got "Wings" on DVD - I missed it first time round.

 

I must say dropping a rank or several for the RFC rings a bell in my mind, but can I find anything...?

 

The only example I can easily turn up, and it is NOT on all fours with the situation you mention, is the case of William Ronald Read, who joined the RFC from the 1st  Dragoon Guards in 1913 and flew to France in August 1914 as a 2nd Lieutenant.  By March 1916 he had risen to temporary Major and was commanding a squadron, but becoming disillusioned, requested and obtained a transfer back to his regiment in 1917 in his substantive rank of Lieutenant.  He then changed his mind and reapplied for the RFC and somewhat unusually was taken back after 4 months - still as a Lieutenant, though he was promoted back to Captain after about a further month.  He eventually made it back up to Major and commanded 216 Squadron RAF.  Clearly this isn't the same sort of situation because Read was dodging up and down between substantive and temporary ranks rather later on in the war than Wings is set in. 

 

His casualty form is at https://www.casualtyforms.org/form/19768 - see the second page.  Other details at http://airhistory.org.uk/rfc/people_index.html under "R".  He also has a Wikipedia entry.

 

With promotion in the peacetime army being slow, is it possible that the Jeremy Childs character could have won the VC in the Boer war as a young 2nd Lt, and risen (say) only to substantive Lieutenant by 1914?  It would be a bit sluggish (taking the example of John Salmond one might have expected him to be a substantive captain by 1914).  Rapid brevet promotion could then have followed in 1914/15.  Could he not have then dropped back to his substantive rank?  Possibly..... but I think we have a bit of dramatic licence here.  Mind you if the character had won the VC early on, and then enjoyed a disappointing peacetime career followed by rapid wartime promotion and then a drop in status, it might explain the insecurity and other flaws in his character which led to his being so touchy and falling out so badly with Sgt Farmer - though I think that's reading rather more into it than was intended.

 

As for the ribbon error, just take a look at the shape of the Wings they are wearing in the first series!  At least they improved those for series 2!

 

Child's character's antipathy to his Sergeant pilot didn't ring quite true to me.  Sergeant aircrew had a tough time.  Sgt George Eddington of 6 Squadron, quoted in Peter Hart's "Bloody April" wrote/said:

 

We were all professional soldiers.  I always said "Sir" and they always said "Sergeant" to me.  We had our job to do and we did our job.  I knew what time I was going up but I didn't know what job I was on until the observer came out, always an officer - I said "Good Morning, Sir" and we got on with our job.  When we came down he got out and went off to make his report.  He did all the reporting - what he'd found, what he'd photographed.  I went to the sergeants' mess or sat down on the aerodrome and took the sun - I had no further contact.  I couldn't make friends.  I had nothing in common - I didn't have access to the officers' mess, I didn't know what they thought.  In the sergeants' mess they were all fitters and riggers - I wasn't in their world any more than they were in mine.  Dreadfully lonely.

 

Ultimately of course the series is a work of fiction and while enjoyable should not be relied on for historical accuracy - particularly as there was a series of different writers, and it was in the lions/donkeys era.  There were all sorts of points at which I thought "Hmm, not sure about that" but that didn't stop me enjoying it.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
2 hours ago, Gardenerbill said:

Another NCO example.

No names: but seen this many times before, one or two chevrons back to none - on request.

And of course other times and even more stripes lost when 'busted'!

 

Have no direct examples or definitive info/stats, but I suspect NCOs tended to revert more than officers - in principle rather than numbers.

I wonder what the pro-rata figures were. ??

Edited by Matlock1418

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
6 hours ago, rolt968 said:

Reading the Army List for 1914 reveals some TF officers who held a lower rank in the Reserve of Officers.

??

At same time?

or when going into RO?

or when coming out of RO?

I'm not at all familiar with AL.

 

Later in time ...

In 1980s TA officers [all?] going into RARO kept same rank I think

Though I do know of a 1980s rank drop [or was it a rate of pay scale drop, or both] of a TA Major to Captain when moving from company command to PSAO [never was quite sure if this was a military or civilian admin appointment - know he was looking for more employment stability (think his civvy job was a bit uncertain and/or not his cup of tea) - the irony was that due to army re-org the battalion was disbanded (a great shame!) and he probably administrated himself out of a job  :-(  Great guy though]

Edited by Matlock1418
tweak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rolt968

The one case I can immediately bring to memory was a TF major and RO captain in 1914, he had previously been  a regular. He went to France with his TF battalion as a major. I don't think I have come across a case yet where the RO commission took priority.

 

RM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
2 hours ago, rolt968 said:

TF major and RO captain

Could an officer be RO (from the Regulars) and also simultaneously be an active TF officer?

If possible to be both in TF I suspect they would be up-ranked.

And if coming just out of RO what rank would an officer emerge? - I suspect they were often quickly up-ranked due to the need for experienced officers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rolt968

I wonder if the question should actually be the other way round.

In another thread I asked on mobilisation in August 1914 which commission carried priority the RO or TF?

RM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moonraker

Thanks for all the replies that took in areas with which I was unfamiliar. Two further "Wings" episodes featured Lieutenant Peter Conrad VC, and I saw no further clues as to when and why he had been awarded his VC. Given his disappointment with there being no role for cavalry in the Great War,  I would guess it was during the Boer War.

 

Though synopses and episodes are readily found on the Web, I won't say much more about the three episodes, though I thought some aspects of the plot to be unconvincing. Pig-headed and brave Conrad may have been, but surely he would have realised the foolhardiness of engaging a German plane carrying a machine-gun when he himself was armed only with a Mannlicher rifle.

 

However the episodes did illustrate the potential problem of having an NCO as pilot and in charge of the machine and a commissioned officer as observer. Earlier in the series, Sergeant Farmer's experience echoed that of Eddington's (post 8 above) after he had forced a German plane to land. He just returned to his tent, whilst his observer, Lieutenant Gaylion, caroused in the officers' mess.

 

 

Moonraker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...