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Private_Robertson4568

WW1 Infantry Stretcher-Bearers

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Private_Robertson4568
5 hours ago, charlie962 said:

Liana Markovich, University of  NSW,  wrote this dissertation in 2015 that is very helpful. She might have produced a book since ?

 

Charlie

Thankyou. It is awesome information.

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Paul Bradford
19 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:


That is enormously evocative for me because in a career of 40-years some of my happiest times were as a pioneer. The pioneer concept began, at least in its modern guise, in the British-Indian Army, and FM ‘Bobs’ Roberts was a great  supporter and advocate.  All men were to be trained as infantry with semi-skilled engineering skills.  As such they could wield a shovel like few others, but were equally adept with a rifle, which was always carried and well used.  As fast follow on troops intended to secure, improve and hold captured trenches, from 1917 they carried double the usual number of Lewis Guns with 4 per platoon instead of 2.  Several, so armed pioneer battalions played a leading part in slowing down the Kaiserschlact advances of March 1918.

Thank you for that information Frogsmile, as I never realised that was the case. I had just assumed that his role was less Infantryman and more Workman, if you like. I had read the War Diary and found out that Andrew was wounded by a shell burst while they were making road repairs to the Guilemont to Ginchy Road. I googled that and there was mention of Ernst Junger (A German Soldier) and 'Storm of Steel'. He had been in Ginchy prior to my Grandfathers arrival in the area but was convalescing after being wounded. I seem to remember that Ginchy had been taken by the time Andrew and his colleagues were making the repairs, but Jungers' story made me research further. I read somewhere to try and obtain an earlier translation of his book as later editions were 'sanitised.' I obtained a 1929 translation and it made for very interesting reading.Then looking at photographs of the area at the time brought it closer to home, especially seeing photographs of Pioneers doing road repairs and wondering if Andrew was one of them. I have visited his grave, but have plans to visit the Guillemont to Ginchy Road in the near future.

Regards

Paul

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Muerrisch

Australian Army Badges Cloth Insignia of the Army in Australia, 1860-1993

Cossum, J. K.

Essentially a scrapbook, with little documentation regarding dates in use, and too many mistakes.

 

He does, however, illustrate the two versions of entwined SB in full circle, and the khaki version in use by as late as 1917 on Australian Imperial Force, left arm

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FROGSMILE
1 hour ago, Paul Bradford said:

Thank you for that information Frogsmile, as I never realised that was the case. I had just assumed that his role was less Infantryman and more Workman, if you like. I had read the War Diary and found out that Andrew was wounded by a shell burst while they were making road repairs to the Guilemont to Ginchy Road. I googled that and there was mention of Ernst Junger (A German Soldier) and 'Storm of Steel'. He had been in Ginchy prior to my Grandfathers arrival in the area but was convalescing after being wounded. I seem to remember that Ginchy had been taken by the time Andrew and his colleagues were making the repairs, but Jungers' story made me research further. I read somewhere to try and obtain an earlier translation of his book as later editions were 'sanitised.' I obtained a 1929 translation and it made for very interesting reading.Then looking at photographs of the area at the time brought it closer to home, especially seeing photographs of Pioneers doing road repairs and wondering if Andrew was one of them. I have visited his grave, but have plans to visit the Guillemont to Ginchy Road in the near future.

Regards

Paul


Pioneer battalions were tough as old boots and took huge pride in their role, wearing their special, identifying collar badges with pride, at a time when the majority of infantry battalions wore no collar badge at all.  They had a great, can-do attitude, and you can rightly take pride in your grandfather, as I know that you do.

8BB0F898-76BB-44B1-972F-9C6855E9A3F8.jpeg

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4937948D-52F1-4B5A-ABC6-473F978FAEF6.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Muerrisch

If proof were needed that it was a status thing to be pioneers, the Foot Guards produced a pioneer battalion..

Incidentally I think badge pairs have the pick inwards..

 

Good quality authentic originals remain very affordable from reputable dealers ..... they are beautiful, simple, well crafted little jewels. Be sure to buy a matching pair, as there are manufacturers variations.

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Paul Bradford
11 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:


Pioneer battalions were tough as old boots and took huge pride in their role, wearing their special, identifying collar badges with pride, at a time when the majority of infantry battalions wore no collar badge at all.  They had a great, can-do attitude, and you can rightly take pride in your grandfather, as I know that you do.

8BB0F898-76BB-44B1-972F-9C6855E9A3F8.jpeg

2021DCFF-5F0F-4346-B482-F816EF6C55E2.jpeg

2BD71A0F-23AD-4D98-A5A9-9D54C231EBA3.jpeg

FE188A7D-E46D-447B-B96A-F5ED26F382F4.jpeg

5DE60C2B-9C26-4D1B-8C8D-9D17303E6C67.jpeg

18031CDC-46CC-4A4E-B358-121AEE559CBE.jpeg

B234A2AE-2BD0-40F4-BA1C-F1C6C23C6CE5.jpeg

A6DCE72D-6318-4404-9E8C-6FB84C09B324.jpeg

4937948D-52F1-4B5A-ABC6-473F978FAEF6.jpeg

Hello Frogsmile,

Each posting of yours gives me so much more information! For that, I truly thank you. I couldn't see the collar dogs on his photograph and then realised that although his rank was Pioneer, his Regiment was The Royal Engineers. Although many Regiments have their own Pioneers, I'm not sure that Andrew would be classed as the same, but I stand to be corrected.

Regards

Paul

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FROGSMILE
11 hours ago, Paul Bradford said:

Hello Frogsmile,

Each posting of yours gives me so much more information! For that, I truly thank you. I couldn't see the collar dogs on his photograph and then realised that although his rank was Pioneer, his Regiment was The Royal Engineers. Although many Regiments have their own Pioneers, I'm not sure that Andrew would be classed as the same, but I stand to be corrected.

Regards

Paul


Now it’s your turn to surprise me, as the RE ‘Pioneer’ has been virtually lost to historical memory and if you googled that term you would find a link explaining pretty much all the pioneer categories apart from the RE version.

The RE Pioneer only existed between 1912 and 1920 and was born because of a shortage of men with artisan trade skills who were paid at a higher rate for their expertise.  It was recognised that there was a need for a more generalised RE soldier too, i.e. one who could carry out simple military engineering in field conditions, such as low level fortifications, wiring, obstacle creating and breaching, and road construction, as but a few examples.  In short, a semi-skilled labourer.  Formed into RE Labour Battalions, these RE pioneers were, unlike their artisan colleagues, not paid a premium wage, in just the same way as infantry pioneers were not either.  Nevertheless, in specific circumstances they supported operations under RE aegis.  Their semi-skilled and low pay employment was eventually seen as undermining the RE brand of highly educated, highly skilled and highly remunerated professional engineers, and with the retrenchment of defence spending after the war they were discontinued.

 

Afternote:  The pioneer role has always tended to be seen as something of a luxury in peacetime and when WW2 broke out in 1939 it was soon realised that pioneers were needed again and so a separate pioneer corps was created in 1940, which became enormous by the wars end.  With the need to close down an Empire after that war the pioneers continued in existence until merged into the Royal Logistics Corps in 1994, where they continued to exist as a function under the logistics banner.  Ten years later, in 2014 and despite an excellent reputation and continuous activity in the role at which they excelled, they were rather shamefully sacrificed by the RLC as a cost savings measure during coalition government driven defence cuts.  Once again they are in suspension, but I have no doubt that they will have to be raised again when the nation faces any large scale war in the future.

 

CC151441-432A-45FD-B8F8-3A32213721FF.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Paul Bradford

Frogsmile, Again, thank you. I never realised the importance of their work. Important, yes in terms of road repairs, enabling onward movement of troops and supplies as well as wounded and relieved troops to the rear, but, I was not aware of their use as much as front line troops.

Paul

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FROGSMILE
2 hours ago, Paul Bradford said:

Frogsmile, Again, thank you. I never realised the importance of their work. Important, yes in terms of road repairs, enabling onward movement of troops and supplies as well as wounded and relieved troops to the rear, but, I was not aware of their use as much as front line troops.

Paul


If you would like to learn more about their work during WW1, I recommend the book by K W Mitchinson shown above.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Paul Bradford

Thank you Frogsmile. I read a review (on which this particular site only had one) which was very good and I have ordered the book.

Regards

Paul

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FROGSMILE
41 minutes ago, Paul Bradford said:

Thank you Frogsmile. I read a review (on which this particular site only had one) which was very good and I have ordered the book.

Regards

Paul


I’m sure you will find it interesting, Paul, but bear in mind that the book covers “pioneer battalions”, which were all infantry units.  Your forebear, however was a pioneer within an RE Labour Battalion, of which there were 11, and their role was different and not as focused on the support of infantry movement and consolidation of newly secured trench lines.  The RE units were more like road construction battalions.
 

From the Long Long Trail adjunct to this website:

 

”Army Council Instruction 985 of 20 June 1917”

 

”This ACI authorised the other ranks of the existing 1st to 11th RE Labour Battalions in France to transfer and became 700 to 710 Labour Companies of the Labour Corps respectively. Men affected by this transfer were renumbered in the Labour Corps range 289501 to 295100. 12th Labour Battalion in Salonika became 711 Labour Company of the Labour Corps and its men were renumbered in the range 348240 to 349500.”

 

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Private_Robertson4568

I March 1918 in Belgium my great grandfather was captured while manning an outpost with three other men on the front line. He would not have been a stretcher bearer while on outpost duty right?

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charlie962

Your GGF was captured 21/3/18 whilst with D company 2nd inf, near Zillebeke; He was unwounded. (source ICRC records PA37642)

 

That date was the start of the KaiserSchlacht German Spring Offensive when the front lines and more were rapidly overrun and large numbers taken prisoner.

 

As mentioned earlier in this thread your GGF may not have acted as a regimental SB all the time so I think you are right in assuming he was on sentry rather than stretcher duties at the time. I presume the fact that he was manning a forward outpost is a story passed down from him in the family and not in doubt ?

 

Charlie

Edited by charlie962

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Private_Robertson4568
On 29/01/2020 at 23:57, charlie962 said:

Your GGF was captured 21/3/18 whilst with D company 2nd inf, near Zillebeke; He was unwounded. (source ICRC records PA37642)

 

That date was the start of the KaiserSchlacht German Spring Offensive when the front lines and more were rapidly overrun and large numbers taken prisoner.

 

As mentioned earlier in this thread your GGF may not have acted as a regimental SB all the time so I think you are right in assuming he was on sentry rather than stretcher duties at the time. I presume the fact that he was manning a forward outpost is a story passed down from him in the family and not in doubt ?

 

Charlie

Yes. He was on outpost duty near Hill 60. It was on his mates red cross files.

Edited by Private_Robertson4568

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Edwards
On 15/11/2019 at 09:23, Private_Robertson4568 said:

My Great Grandfather, Private Guildford Spencer Robertson (4568) of the 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion, 1st brigade, 1st division served on the western front. He enlisted in 1915 and was sent on the frontline in late July 1916 in France during the Somme offensive. He was captured at Hill 60 in Belgium during the German Spring offensive.

He was a stretcher-bearer in an infantry battalion my grandfather told me. I have a patch that says 'SB' that he wore. Did infantry stretcher-bearers work full time as a bearer or part time? Were they in the frontline trenches in WW1? Did they have rifles? Did they also play infantry roles as well as bearing roles?

If anyone has information for me on infantry stretcher bearers please comment!

My grandfather was also a stretcher bearer in WW1, Private Lavis Oliver ‘Jack’ Edwards (5575) 20th Batallion. He hailed from the vicinity of Gloucester, NSW and tried to enlist locally when he was underage. Local recruiters wouldn’t take him. He then went to Sydney to try his luck there. He enlisted at 17.

He served on the Western front, in the trenches in France. On their arrival, the new recruits were inspected by the sergeant in change who clearly thought some of them underage.  Although tall, Jack always looked younger than his age. In his recruitment shot he looked about 13. Despite having just turned 18, Jack was asked to fallout, had his gun taken away, and was designated a stretcher bearer for the rest of the war. An ‘SB’ patch was attached to his uniform, which he kept afterwards as a memento. Jack always maintained it stood for ‘Silly ******’. Rhymes with hugger. Being a stretcher bearer, Jack’s job was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield during mutually agreed pauses in the fighting. This was done in strict order: Allied wounded, German wounded, Allied dead, German dead.  To help indicate his status as a non-combatant, he was also given a white handkerchief to wave, but was nonetheless shot at several times by crazed soldiers from both sides. Jack was wounded in action in September 1917, but returned to the front 3 weeks later. 
He survived the war and enlisted for WW2, thinking for sure they would give him a gun the second time round. Because he had a family, they sent him to dig ditches in Newcastle, NSW instead. Newcastle was fired upon once during the war by a Japanese submarine. Despite being taken by surprise, the battery managed to return fire within 15 mins.

Edited by Edwards
You censored my post containing genuine Australian casual swearing

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