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Annsamtree

John Nicholls Labour corps 325104

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Annsamtree

I am trying to put my Grandfathers service together from his service numbers as I am unable to find any service records for his time.

His details are:

John Nicholls Born 23 Dec 1889

 

served with  Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regt      3231/200850

                    Labour corps      325104 

                    RGA       309257

                    RE     325104

 

I have looked up what service records I could find in that batch(325101/102) and both were  both transfered to 535 HS EM coy on 30 Jun 1917.Both served with KORL before transfer.

Looking at the medal rolls it would appear most transfered from this Regt.

 

I am interested to find any information I can about my Grandfather but also about 535 HS EM coy as I am struggling to find any information on it.

 

Many thanks

David Nicholls

 

 

 

 

 

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kenf48

535 Home Service Employment Company was attached to the Western Command Labour Centre.  It did not serve overseas so no diary. Essentially their duties were that of an Employment Company, as detailed on the LLT.  They did not operate as a single cohesive unit.

 

Looking at your man's record and without going too deeply into it I'd suggest he was posted to a home based unit of the RGA on shore defences from the Labour Corps.  

His number in the RE was 432608.  He was a Pioneer and that was his final posting, it was also probably a home posting.

 

 

As you are probably aware the number 200850 was indicative of serving in the 4th Battalion KORL when the renumbering took place between January and March 1917, these numbers were generally allocated on length of service so ***850 was probably early enlistment in the 1/4 or 2/4 Battalion.  I would suggest the latter which was based at Oswestry in 1917, which fits with Western Command.  That said he probably joined the 1/4 in France as a reinforcement draft on 25.12.1915.  His 14-15 Star is recorded on the RE Rolls under his original KORL number i.e. 3231

 

Ken

 

 

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Annsamtree

Thank you for reply and sorry for the delay in replying. I have trying to understand the relationship between the units and his service.  I have been told he may have been wounded in Aug/Sep 1916 so I think he may have been transfered back to Britain and possibly moved to the 2/4 Battalion possibly transfering to Labour corps in Jun 1917. 2 service records around his number have transfer dates of 30 Jun 1917, was this the time when the Labour corps came into force and a "mass" transfer from the reserve battalions into the corps?

 

Was the 535 HS Coy based in Oswestry?

 

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kenf48

It appears your grandfather enlisted in the  ‘second line’ 2/4th (Territorial Force) Battalion KORL on or around the 12th April 1915.  

 

The service records of Pte 3230/Leigh and Pte Atherton 3238/200855 have survived, both enlisted on that date at Preston.  You are a little unlucky in that the service record of 3232/200851 Seed has survived he probably stood next to your grandfather and appears to have been in the same draft to France.  Unfortunately some key documents in his record that may have put more flesh on the bones of your grandfather’s posting are missing.  Pte Seed attested on the 12th April at Preston and following a medical posted to the 2/4th on the 15th April.  On joining the Battalion on the 15th April  Pte Seed signed the Imperial Obligation, agreeing to service overseas.   By this time signing the obligation was more or less compulsory.  (Pte. 3230 Leigh followed a different path so was not renumbered to the KORL.)

 

We know your grandfather landed in France on Christmas Day 1915.  The war diary of the 4th Battalion shows a draft of 63 men arrived on the 9th January, recorded as “the largest yet”.  The draft would first have gone to the Territorial Infantry Base Depot at Rouen where for two weeks or so they would receive further training and have their fitness for front line duty assessed.

 

I can’t find him in a wounded list, war diaries seldom mention men by name.  Lists were published locally and nationally throughout the war.  Men were evacuated back to the U.K. to recover, a ‘Blighty one’.  They usually went on the Depot or Reserve strength while in hospital/convalescence.

 

We don’t know if he went back to the 1/4 but it seems doubtful.  We do know he was still serving with the 4th Battalion when renumbered no later than March 1917.

As you have established he transferred to the Labour Corps around June 1917 and yes, 535 HS Employment Company was, for administrative purposes based at Oswestry.  Men may have been employed throughout the Western Command District. 

 

The transfer was shortly after the Labour Corps came into being, and the creation of the HS Employment Companies was set out in Army Council Instruction 837 23 May 1917.
 See https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/definitions-of-units/what-was-a-divisional-area-or-home-service-employment-company-of-the-labour-corps/

 

Turning to the RGA,  309252 Wilson, medical category B2 after being wounded while serving with the RFA,  was compulsorily transferred to the RGA on the 5th October 1917 and posted to the Anti Aircraft Depot.  It therefore seems likely this accounts for your grandfather's transfer to the RGA, it wasn't shore defence as I previously suggested but the anti-aircraft section.   Drawing conclusion from just one record should be treated with caution but it fits with his final posting to the R.E. 

We don’t know which AA unit your grandfather served with but if you can find the Absent Voter List for where he lived it may give his unit.

 

Finally we have 432604 Foxcroft formerly RFA transferred to the Royal Engineers on the 6th September 1918 and posted to the Searchlights Depot Tyne Electrical Company Gosport. He was ‘remustered’ as a Sapper on the 4th December having been declared a ‘proficient electrician’ since the 25th October.  He had also been wounded in France but I think it was just coincidence he also came from Preston.  Another wounded man 432605 Wilson followed a similar path.

 

So to summarise, my interpretation of Sapper Nicholls service is:-

 

enlisted 2/4 KORL on or around 12th April 1915.

 

He went to France as part of a reinforcement draft to the 1/4 KORL disembarking in theatre on 25.12.1915 and joining the Battalion in the field on the 9th January 1916.

 

He was wounded on the Somme in August/September 1916 and repatriated to the U.K. (need to check wounded lists)

 

After recovering from his wound we can assume he was no longer fit for front line duty and was posted to the 2/4 Battalion at Home, in all probability medical category B2.

 

He was transferred into the Labour Corps and 535 Home Service Employment Company in June 1917.

 

Later that year,  probably on or around 5th October 1917 he was posted to an Anti Aircraft Company of the RGA, we don’t know where he served or what his duties were but eventually he was trained as an electrician. He was transferred to the Royal Engineers with the task of maintaining the electrical equipment, particularly the searchlights, in an anti aircraft unit.  By the time he qualified it seems likely the Armistice had been signed and the threat of air raids on Britain had receded.

 

Ken

 

 

 

 

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Annsamtree

Thank you Ken for the very detailed analysis. I was led to the casualty list in the Times for the 14 Sep 1916 where he is mentioned as being wounded, Would I be right to assume he was wounded on 8 Aug 1916 during the attack on Trones wood rather than the Battle of Ginchy on 11 Sep 1916 as I think this would be too soon for the 14 Sep  newspaper.

 

I agree with you on his transfer to the RGA, according to the LLT those numbers were assigned to the Lancashire Heavy Brigade, where he went is a mystery.

His transfer to the RE I believe took place at the same time as other in that batch of numbers around early sep1918. I think they went to RE Searchlight depot at Gosport for training before moving onto a AA Co. I suspect possibly the 47 AA Co at Dover or maybe the unit at Chatham, the reson for this idea is he married my Grandmother in early 1921 in Dover.

The only problem with this is Terry Reeves informs me that this number(432608) was issued in 1917 to the West Lancashire signal coy.

 

many thanks for everyones input 

David Nicholls

 

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kenf48

I would agree Trones Wood, the casualty lists did 'lag' as was recently discussed elsewhere on the forum.

 

Whilst I would always acknowledge TR's expert input on the RE:-

432602

432604

432605

432610

were all issued to men whose service records survive and were transferred to the RE Searchlight Depot August 1918.

432608 fits in that series.

 

Ken 

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Terry_Reeves

It may well be that he was transferred to the searchlight depot in late 1918, however he was with the signal service prior to that. It is interesting that he was an electrician, as Army, Corps and Divisional Signal Companies had one electrician on their respective establishments to operate the portable electric lighting sets within the units By 1917 there was a severe shortage of tradesmen in the RE and many men were transferred from other regiments and corps to try and make up the shortfall.  His transfer to a searchlight unit late in the war does not come as a a surprise.

 

TR

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kenf48
4 hours ago, Terry_Reeves said:

It may well be that he was transferred to the searchlight depot in late 1918, however he was with the signal service prior to that. It is interesting that he was an electrician, as Army, Corps and Divisional Signal Companies had one electrician on their respective establishments to operate the portable electric lighting sets within the units By 1917 there was a severe shortage of tradesmen in the RE and many men were transferred from other regiments and corps to try and make up the shortfall.  His transfer to a searchlight unit late in the war does not come as a a surprise.

 

TR

 

There is no evidence that he was serving in the Royal Engineers in a Signal Company in 1917.  On the contrary his RGA number suggests a transfer to the RGA in October 1917.  Where the records survive men in the series 432601 - 432610 previously served in artillery  and again where the records survive were permanently transferred to the R.E. in August/September 1918.

 

432601 formerly Gunner RFA (medal records)

 

432602 no evidence of dates of early service appears in a fragment on FMP

Part II Orders 564 Hants (Works Co) R.E. Undated but references in the text to April 1919. Formerly Gunner RFA 1973/3753/687253

 

432603 formerly Gunner RFA (medal records)

 

432604 Foxworthy wounded in France 17.9.1917 while serving as Gunner RFA

2563, renumbered 697407 Medically examined on 11th March 1918 at R.A. Command Depot Ripon and downgraded to Bii. This was when he was finally discharged from hospital following his wound on the 15 March  1918so no service in the R.E. in 1917.  On the 16th March 1918 posted to Command Depot and 6 Reserve Brigade RFA.

Transferred to RE 6.9.1918.

 

432605 Wilson wounded in France on 16.2.1918. while serving as a Driver in the RFA 2011/ 687415 (West Lancs).Once again posted to 6 Reserve Brigade and transferred to the R.E.,report dated 7. 9.1918.

 

432606

 

432607

 

432608 as above formerly R.G.A.

 

432609 formerly TF 2583/675973 R.F.A.

 

432610 Barton  Repatriated from France 17.4.1917 (Gassed;neurasthenia) while serving as Gunner R.F.A.

Transferred to the R.E. 28.8.1918.

 

Neither Foxworthy nor Wilson could have served in the R.E. in 1917, both were in France in the R.F.A. or in hospital for the whole of that year.  We don't know where Barton was once he was repatriated but his transfer to the R.E. is clear.  

 

 It's not credible that 432608 was allocated to Nicholls in 1917, the sequence is clear and shows men being transferred from the RFA in some instances from the West Lancashire (TF) Battery  (there is no evidence Nicholls served in that unit) and then being posted to Home Service anti aircraft batteries, or more accurately for training as electricians as this excerpt from 432604  Foxworthy's record shows:-

 

Screenshot 2019-11-16 at 21.57.03.png 

 

Courtesy of FMP

 

The transfer entry is signed by CO C Battery 6 Reserve Brigade RFA. so it's safe to assume he was on the RFA strength when transferred.

 

Where the records survive none of the men were electricians before they joined the R.E. in 1918, but they all show either L.E.E. or the reference to Tyne Electrical Co.

 

What evidence is there that Nicholls was serving in a Signal Company of  the R.E. in 1917?  If he was why was he given a number which was clearly allocated in 1918?

 

Ken

 

 

 

 

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Terry_Reeves

Ken

 

The RE TF number 432608  was in a block of numbers issued to West Lancs Divisional Signals Company, these lists were drawn up in 1917 - see LLT. I also have a separate record of these numbers, which reads the same.  Maybe the number was issued later, but that  is a conundrum yet to be solved. With regard to his trade of electrician, it might be that he had trained as an electrician pre-war, we simply do not know because his record does not exist. No matter, I can see the logic of your argument, but something does not seem quite right.

 

On a more positive point these are the RE AA Searchlight Companies that served in the area which the OP is interested in:

 

45 AA Company - Sheerness

46 AA Company - Chatham, Kent Fortress Company RE

47 AA Company - Chatham, London Electrical Engineers

59 AA Company - Kent Fortress Company RE

 

The source is The History of the Tyne Electrical Engineers, Royal Engineers 1884-1933 (1933)

 

TR

 

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kenf48
17 hours ago, Terry_Reeves said:

The RE TF number 432608  was in a block of numbers issued to West Lancs Divisional Signals Company, these lists were drawn up in 1917 - see LLT. I also have a separate record of these numbers, which reads the same.  Maybe the number was issued later, but that  is a conundrum yet to be solved.

 

Where the records survive the numbers were issued to men joining the Signal Company e.g. 432591 Taylor (though in his case it was to the Signals Depot):- 

 

432591.png

 

Courtesy FMP

 

Like Spr. Taylor the men in Pnr. Nicholls group were all TF men, and where it can be established through the records each had a Lancashire connection.   I think the answer to the conundrum is in the Medal Rolls, with the usual odd gap between numbers to account for transfers out there is a continuous run in the Rolls (Piece 454/455) from 432001 to these men.  There is then a gap to 432649/50 (two former RAMC Territorials) and the series ends.  After 432650 the next entry is 434018 formerly 745 R.E.(T), or the start of the series for the Lancs Fortress Coy (as service records confirm).  It therefore appears that from the TF renumbering block 432001 - 434000 allocated, as noted to the West Lancs Signal Coy only 650 numbers were issued.

 

The Records Office having renumbered the Sig Coy   simply used the numbers from, say 432601 to allocate to former Territorials and Lancashire men transferred to the R.E. at a later date.  

If we did a similar exercise, say with the Scottish Territorials, we could find numbers within the defined blocks being allocated elsewhere.  

 

As for Pte Nicholls civilian occupation the 1911 Census  would show his trade, but I don't have enough information to search.  As previously noted where the records survive none gave their occupation as electrician Foxcroft was an Assistant Tackler, whereas Taylor who did go to a Signal Company, gave his occupation on attestation as wireman.

 

Ken

 

 

 

 

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Terry_Reeves

There are, I think, some posts missing from the original. I am sure that the op said his relative’s marriage certificate in 1921 had on it he was a storeman in the RE. If that is the case he clearly re-enlisted and his service record may still be with the MoD which should solve to problem. 
 

David might want to contact  MoD Historical Disclosures.  The details are here:

 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/request-records-of-deceased-service-personnel

 

TR

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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charlie962

Terry, OP has a parallel thread called John Nicholls RE, to which you contributed.

 

This was my contribution:

583721352_GWFNichollsJMOD.JPG.5a498f2f2451e03ec3b7debd5715b958.JPG

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Terry_Reeves

Thanks Charlie, I thought something odd had happened.

 

TR

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Annsamtree

Sorry for the delay in replying, work, Firstly thank you all for the information you have provided it has been an eye opener. When I originally set out to try and trace my Grandfather's service I decided perhaps the best way to do this was to break it up into each section. I thought initially to start with the RE entry as that might be the easiest and latest one to work out. I looked through the service records and came to the conclusion 1918 transfer into tyne electical engineers, when Terry started saying the numbers were issued to a signals coy I decided to put this onto the back burner and try another number, I decided to go with the Labour corps number as I had no real idea what to expect. When Ken started to give me information on his previous service with the Kings Own Lancaster Rgt I was astounded, I was expecting this to be more complicated. Thanks also to Charlie 962 who gave me a date that my grandfather appeared in the casualty records, Sep 14 1916. From looking at the war diary it would appear he was wounded probably on the attack on 8 Aug 1916 on Tronnes wood at the battle of Guillemont. I agree with Ken with his transfer back to England and his service with 2/4 and then the labour corps transfer. His transfer to the RGA is still a little cloudy, I agree with Ken that AA looks a good bet. Back to his RE transfer I think possibly he was sent to the searchlights to be trained as an electrician. The question I ask is if he was trained as an electrician would he have held the rank of Pioneer or would it be something else?

As to his pre service life I cannot help you as I am unable to locate him in the 1911 census, The best candidate I have is an inmate in Worcester jail! To find him being attested in 1915 into the Kings Own Royal Lancaster was a surprise as he was born in London and until 1904 lived in the Islington area of London going in and out of the workhouse schooling system. He was then sent to a boys home in the East end. This is my final positive record of him until his marriage in Dover in 1921. I am unsure if he rejoined the RE after the war when he declared himself a Store man, I suspect he may have been a civilian working for the RE.

 

Many thanks to all those who have read and contributed to this thread.

 

David Nicholls

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