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taylorsearcher

Alfred Nelson BAKER

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taylorsearcher

My Great Grandfather - Alfred Nelson William Beckley bAKER served in the Boar War and WW1 and was killed in a fatal accident in France.

 

His gravestone in Sanctuary Wood cemetery has the Regimental Crest of the Royal Fusiliers and the inscription as follow:-

 

90 C. SERJT. MAJOR

A.N. BAKER

1st Bn. LONDON REGT. R. FUS.

19th OCTOBER 1918 AGE 51

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show the following:-

 

Reg.                             London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)

Unit Text                     1st Bn.

Secondary Unit Text   Labour Corps

Secondary Unit Text   transfd to (199140) 58th Coy

Service No.                 90

 

His Medal Record Card records the following:-

 

Corps         Rank               Reg. No.

R. Fus.       A/WO Cl. 1      200010

Lab C.                                199140

 

 

Previously, when attesting and serving (twice) in South Africa, he was in the 2nd Bn. Royal Fusiliers with Reg. Nos 8972 and 9097, respectively.

 

My questions are:- where does the Service number 90 come from; and why does the gravestone ot metion the 58th Labour Company in which he was actually serving when he was killed ?

 

    

.

 

 

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jay dubaya

Since he was serving with a TF unit - 1st (City of London) Rgt (Royal Fusiliers) and given his original low number 90 this may suggest a very early enlistment into the battalion, the battalion had its origins in the 1st Volunteer Bn Royal Fusiliers and I would suspect he had served with them prior to the formation of the new battalion in 1908. During late 1916 early 1917 all units of the TF were renumbered and the number block allocated to the 1st London Rgt was 200001-230000 and I note Alfred's number is 200010 so one would expect this number to be on the headstone. Other forum members may be able to give a timeframe for the Labour Corps number being issued.

 

J

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charlie962

If you look for records with similar Labour Corps service numbers you will see that there are a number of ex 1st Londons with very close numbers. Clearly a big transfer of the old and infirm, I think early 1917 (edit I think May 1917) or maybe even late 1916 ? Because of this timing the majority would not have been issued with a new 1917 London Territorials service number.

 

J has explained the origin of the '90'. Because he died whilst in Labour Corps and given the date of transfer then I think that the CWGC are correct showing the Service Number when he died and his previous London number 90 rather than 200010.

 

Charlie

Edited by charlie962

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taylorsearcher

Thanks for that j.  He had been in the RF for many years, and circa 1902 he was awarded the Volunteer Long Service medal. and yes, signed up twice for South Africa in 1901 and 1902.

 

your answer does explain where the 200010 number comes from, but not why The 58th Labour Company is not mentioned, or is it because the RF was more prestigious than a Labour Company.  Does anyone else have a suggestion.

 

Thanks

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charlie962
2 minutes ago, taylorsearcher said:

or is it because the RF was more prestigious than a Labour Company.

Whilst not wishing to denigrate in anyway the work of the Labour Corps, of course Baker would have considered himself firstly a Fusilier and a front-line man. But I don't know what choice there was for the headstone.

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taylorsearcher

Back to the numbers....

when he attested in 1901 and then again in 1902, to join the 2nd Bn RF, he stated that he was already in the 1st Volunteer Battalion RF. Does that mean that number 90 would have been his original number in the volunteers? Sadly, his WW1 Service papers were destroyed, so his activities in the RF and date of transfer to the LC remain a mystery. 
 

Separately, I am told that, as a rule, War Diaries for Labour Companies we’re not generally recorded.  Whether or not this is true, the activities of the 58th were recorded by their commanding officer Capt T C Thomas, O.B.E., M.C. In a book called “With a Labour Company in France, being the war diary of the 58th Labour Company”.  Again, I am told that in general, War Diaries do not mention names of Other Ranks - unless particular acts of br@very, etc.  Luckily, this book DOES mention the details of the demise of CSM A N BAKER, evidently highly regarded by his men. Unfortunately, it does not record his joining the company.

 

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travers61

If he was serving in the volunteers in 1908 when the Territorial & Reserve Forces Act of 1907 came into force, he would have been renumbered in a new sequence for his Battalion.

 

I'm not sure how this was done in 1908, but in theory in the 1917 renumbering, the men with longest service in the battalion got the lowest number, hence his 20010. His no 90 indicates it could have been the same in 1908, but I don't know for sure. Other less likley possibilities are alphabetically (surley Baker would be lower than 90) or by company (A coy 1-90).

 

If both done by seniority this does show that aprox 80 men of the battalion had left, been transfered, commisioned, killed, died, discharged etc between 1908 & late 1916.

 

From all I read, for some units being converted to a battalion of the London regiment was very upsetting, and a couple of units, the Hon Artillery Co & the Inns of Court Regiment never converted and their intended London Regiment Bn numbers remained unused.

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taylorsearcher

Thank you travers61 and others above for your suggestions.  Hopefully some else can shed some more definitive light on his having the number 90.

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jay dubaya

The number 90 will have been issued on 1st April 1908 or very shortly afterwards, number 401 was issued on 30th June 1908.

 

J

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PRC

I may be about to muddy the waters here. My initial thought was based on the statement made above:-

2 hours ago, travers61 said:

but in theory in the 1917 renumbering, the men with longest service in the battalion got the lowest number, hence his 20010. His no 90 indicates it could have been the same in 1908, but I don't know for sure.

which would imply 200001 to 2000009 should originally have even lower service numbers than 90 and ones from 200011 should be higher.

 

So I've just spent a happy quarter of an hour going through the Royal Fusiliers MiCs in the Discovery catalogue covering the range 200000 to 200040 and other than Alfred Baker i could only find one match that fitted that theory and to be honest not a lot else.

 

To deal with the one that matches there is a MiC for 200018 Serjeant Charles Stephenson, 1st Battalion London Regiment Royal Fusiliers who was previously Private 171, 1st London Regiment (if you struggle to find it on Ancestry, they have done their usual thing of indexing it as 2000 18 and as Chas Stephenson). He first landed in France on the 11-3-15. The back of the card is noted “G.O.C. 56th Ldn Div. fwds Rolls” (etc., etc)

 

What I did find is men who had been Royal Fusiliers with various numbers but who are shown as Labour Corps 200*** - a couple more are just shown as Royal Fusiliers in the Discovery catalogue, but when you look at the actual card they reference a Labour Company or the 36th Battalion Royal Fusiliers - a Labour Battalion.

 

Which leads me to think either this was their new Royal Fusiliers service number from March 1917 and their Labour Corps number has got lost in the administrative system.

 

Or the Labour Corps also used a service number range 200***, in which case the Service number on Alfred Nelson Bakers' headstone could be a Labour Corps one.

 

As to why no mention of the Labour Corps on the headstone, in my experience of documenting several thousand headstones here in the UK, that seems to be very common. From what I've read the Labour Corps never really won the hearts of those who served in it, and many chose to retain their old regiment cap badge for as long as possible. The only time I tend to see it used is when men served with no other regiment.

 

Hope that helps,

Peter

Edited by PRC
Typo

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taylorsearcher

Thank you PRC, curiouser and curiouser, maybe we shall get to the bottom of this yet.

 

anyone else ?

 

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charlie962
1 hour ago, PRC said:

So I've just spent a happy quarter of an hour going the Royal Fusiliers MiCs in the Discovery catalogue covering the range 200000 to 200040 and other than Alfred Baker i could only find one match that fitted that theory and to be honest not a lot else.

What about George Walker 37 then 200002. kiA 26/10/17 with 1st Bn ? What clue does Effects give as to Walker's enlistment ?

 

1 hour ago, PRC said:

in which case the Service number on Alfred Nelson Bakers' headstone could be a Labour Corps one.

The CWGC and MIC and SDGW all give his Labour Corps number as 199140.

 

1 hour ago, PRC said:

I may be about to muddy the waters here

hmmmm

 

Charlie

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Pat Atkins
27 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

What about George Walker 37 then 200002. kiA 26/10/17 with 1st Bn ? What clue does Effects give as to Walker's enlistment ?

 

2/1st Bn London Regt, War Gratuity £14-10-0. If only I could work it out myself!

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charlie962

Pat, I don't have the GratCalc either.

 

George Walker was sick in June 1915 and Hospital Admissions shows age 38 with 19yrs service incl 4 months with FieldForce. Not very helpful!

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jay dubaya

The 'GratCalc' says 'this man may have enlisted prior to the war or shortly afterwards. If he enlisted after the outbreak of war then the war gratuity indicates an enlistment in the period from 4th August 1914 - 26th August 1914.

The 2nd Line of the 1st Bn wasn't formed until September 1914 (the 3rd Line January 1915), one may assume that the nucleus of the new battalion/s may have come from old hats of the 1st Bn, which now suggests that Alfred may have gone overseas with the 2/1st or even the 3/1st is a possibility (it gets muddy with the disbandendment of the 2/1st when the 3/1st was renamed the 2/1st in June 1916 and then the new 3/1st?.................eventually disbanded in France on 6th February 1918.) there is an interesting note on his roll entry regarding the return of medals on closing down of regiment which throws more suggestion that Alfred served with the 2/1st or 3/1st Bns. The TF re-numbering number block being used across all three lines and from what I see in the London Rgt. Medal Rolls most if not all are just recorded as 1st Bn. and so no differential between the lines. The low numbers cannot have been issued prior to the formation of the TF in April 1908 and I think it unlikely that low numbers would have been issued much later that that, number 2059 was issued on 12th August 1914 and 2333 on 1st September 1914. 

Edited by jay dubaya

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PRC
2 hours ago, charlie962 said:

What about George Walker 37 then 200002. kiA 26/10/17 with 1st Bn ?

 

Charlie,

 

The only criteria I used was Royal Fusiliers and 2000* on the Discovery Catalogue. The catalogue entry for George Walker only shows him as London Regiment, which is why I didn't pick him. I ought to know better than get involved in a Royal Fusiliers \ London Regiment  numbering discussion :)

 

2 hours ago, charlie962 said:

The CWGC and MIC and SDGW all give his Labour Corps number as 199140.

 

Agreed - just seemed odd that so many Royal Fusiliers were renumbered to a 2000xx Labour Corps number. I was just wondering if in fact that was their 1917 Royal Fusiliers number and that the administrative machinery overlooked their Labour Corps number which might  be in the 1991xx block.

 

However thats in danger of taking this thread off down a rabbit hole, so just ignore me - I find it usually helps !

 

Cheers,

Peter

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taylorsearcher
On 03/11/2019 at 20:50, taylorsearcher said:

b

Thanks for all of the above.

The Grave Registration Report for the Beythem Communal Cemetery (dated December 1920), where he was initially buried only refers to the 58th Labour Coy and his 199140 number, although a later published list for that cemetery records the 90 and 199140 numbers and 1st Bn. London Regt / Labour Corps; and is anotated that his remains had been moved to the Sanctuary Wood Cemetery.  Thereafter, the Concentration of Graves Burial Return (dated 1930) records only the 90 number and the 1st London Regiment.  Then the Graves Registration Report for Sanctuary Wood (dated August 1931)  only records the 90 number and 1st Bn. London Regiment !

 

My question is:-  if the Medal Card (for (all ?) his WW1 service) only refers to the Royal Fusiliers (200010) and the Lab. C. (199140), how did the authorities come up with the 90 number if the original Grave Registration Report for the original burial (Beythem) only records the 58th Labour Coy, and number 199140.  Which I would have thought was the information known by his colleagues at the time of his death.

 

Any ideas ??

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jay dubaya

It’s likely to be nothing more than the reams of paperwork from various departments never quite catching up with each other. The number 90 doesn’t appear on Alfred’s MIC because he never served overseas with that number and it may be that when the new six digit numbers were issued was at a similar time to when the transfer to the LC took place which is also likely to have been not long after Alfred arrived in France.

 

J

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PRC
On 04/11/2019 at 14:27, taylorsearcher said:

 Luckily, this book DOES mention the details of the demise of CSM A N BAKER, evidently highly regarded by his men.

 

Before I go off half-cock, (again!), can you enlighten us as to those circumstances. Soldiers Died in the Great War just shows him as "Died".

 

Thanks,

Peter

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Matlock1418
On 04/11/2019 at 13:32, charlie962 said:

Whilst not wishing to denigrate in anyway the work of the Labour Corps, of course Baker would have considered himself firstly a Fusilier and a front-line man.

 

22 hours ago, PRC said:

As to why no mention of the Labour Corps on the headstone, in my experience of documenting several thousand headstones here in the UK, that seems to be very common. From what I've read the Labour Corps never really won the hearts of those who served in it, and many chose to retain their old regiment cap badge for as long as possible.

To me these explanations have seemingly been the incentive to use an earlier regiment rather than the LC

In some ways I believe there might often also have been a bit of inter-regimental / regimental or regimental / corps rivalry going on often associated with kudos and status - 'Headstone envy' one might even suggest.

[Not that it helps here but I think that is why the RAF always went for RAF headstones in preference to the earlier regimental or RFC - plugging their own cause - though in a few cases I've seen a regiment may prevail  and used the "Att'd RAF" explanation to assuage the RAF (my interpretation) - thankfully the RFC are slowly getting the 'more correct' badge back when headstones are now starting to be replaced through natural wear/churn]

 

As for #90 - might it, and perhaps its use, have come from his family after his death in association with the LR/RF???

 

Not that this helps the explanation for #90 you might be interested to know that his Pension Ledger and Pension Cards (x2) all use Labour Corps and 199140

Thanks to the Western Front Association / Ancestry:

https://www.westernfrontassociation.com:2061/image/645669118?terms=alfred,1019,baker,nelson 

https://www.westernfrontassociation.com:2061/image/668205332 

https://www.westernfrontassociation.com:2061/image/668205334 

Some other interesting/useful reading there I might suspect

4 minutes ago, PRC said:

Before I go off half-cock, (again!), can you enlighten us as to those circumstances. Soldiers Died in the Great War just shows him as "Died".

Pension Cards (x2) show - "Accidentally killed"

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taylorsearcher

So, it seems we shall never get to the bottom of this.  Does anyone know what the process was back in the 20s / 30s when the IWGC were deciding / recording deceased soldiers’ details and whether or not his family were / could be involved in suggesting what should be listed.  Given what the above have suggested re the lesser (?) importance of the Labour Corps, perhaps his mother intervened.  I have seen a letter (written in the 30s) recording the fact that she complained that his original grave (in Beythem) was in a bad state and asked for his remains to be moved to a Military Cemetery, which was later acceded to, him being moved to Sanctuary Wood.

 

 

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PRC
4 minutes ago, taylorsearcher said:

So, it seems we shall never get to the bottom of this.

 

20 hours ago, PRC said:

Before I go off half-cock, (again!), can you enlighten us as to those circumstances. Soldiers Died in the Great War just shows him as "Died".

 

I have a suggestion that could potentially account for it but I'm waiting to hear more about the details of his death - "accidentally killed" covers a whole multitude of circumstances, some of which would support my suggestion and others rule it out. Feel free to PM me if you don't want to give details in an open forum.

 

Cheers,

Peter

 

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charlie962
17 minutes ago, taylorsearcher said:

 I have seen a letter (written in the 30s) recording the fact that she complained that his original grave (in Beythem) was in a bad state and asked for his remains to be moved to a Military Cemetery, which was later acceded to, him being moved to Sanctuary Wood.

This is on CWGC. He was originally on Grave Registration Report for Beythem as Labour Corps but when the reburial was organised the Registration report details were changed, it seems, to London Regt and service No 90. Perhaps this was strongly influenced by a family request ?

1147690764_GWFBakerANLondonCWGC.JPG.428941a6e6de8e2914f395f680a0e80d.JPG

Edited by charlie962

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taylorsearcher

PRC

 

Nothing sinister about his death.  Herewith quote from the book I mentioned above:

Chapter X

October - December 1918

 

"Shortly after midnight, I was awakened by the sergeant of the guard with the sad news that my C.S.M. had been killed on the railway near the camp.  He had left the train at Bailleul and was proceeding by road to join us.  Reaching Beythem, he had accepted a lift in a light railway train from the main road to our camp, but at the first points the truck jumped the rails and threw him under the tractor, killing him instantly.

It was a great shock to us all.  Sergeant-major Baker was an old veteran, the wearer of a long row of ribbons, who had by his courtesy, tact and consideration, endeared himself to everyone.  We buried him the next day in a soldier's plot in Beythem cemetery, amidst unusual regret that so gallant and honourable career should be terminated in such a terrible fashion."

 

Incidently, the long row of ribbons consisted of:-

Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal

Queen's South Africa Medal (three clasps)

King's South Africa Medal (two clasps)

Volunteer Long Service Medal

King Edward's Coronation Medal

King George's Coronation Medal

 

 

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charlie962

Great obit.

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