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Remembered Today:

Trying to find out where my Gt Grandfather won his DCM


Rosie 6

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My Husbands Great Grandfather Sgt Alfred James Brian (Brian is the correct surname) won his DSO below. Can anyone give us any idea where we may find information as to where he won this please? We are passing close by to Givenchy La Bassee on the way on holiday and would love to have a look around the area. Obviously we understand it may not be possible to find out exactly but any help would be very welcome. Thank you in advance Rosemary & Brian Wilmot

 

 

1915   Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal for part in  Battle of Festubert, May 1915.  London Gazette, 5 August 1915.  Citation reads:

   81 Sgt A.J. Brian, 23rd County of London Battn, TF

For conspicuous gallantry on 25th and 26th of May 1915, at Givenchy while working a machine gun under a very heavy  rifle, machine gun, and shrapnel fire in a captured German   trench.  His general conduct and bravery has set a fine example to others

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welcome to the forum

The DSO and DCM are different - being a Sgt its the DCM

Edited by Coldstreamer
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DSO was for officers

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The Ward \diary of the unit is on ancestry and the appendix for May 1915 describes the action of 26/6 May at Givenchy. This was an assault by 23rd Lomdons on a German trench. The trench referred to above. Parts of D Company took the the trench . The whole battalion was in the trench by 8.45 pm. The trench was then being "enfiladed by rifle and machine gun fire from the enemy". It then states "Our Machine guns went into action from Upper Cut". Battalion suffered heavy casualties. Scottish Trench and New Cut are also mentioned,

So if we can work out where these trenches were we can work out roughly where he was.

The report is here on ancestry

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Trench Map is 36NW1 This I believe is from 1918 but Upper Cut, New Cut and Scottish Trench are clearly shown

givenchy.jpg.68a8adb7b3c13dc0f2c0b73f410ce926.jpg

Edited by Mark1959
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Thank you for this. Can you please tell me which battalion he appears to be in during the time he won this medal so i can read the right pages. Thanks

 

 

 

 

c1902 Enlisted  in 4th Battn, East Surrey Regt. (Volunteers)  An early photo shows him with Cyclist Section

1904 Marr: @ 9 Basnett Rd, Battersea

1913    Awarded Territorial Efficiency Medal  (for which a minimum of 12 years service and training camps was required) (AO 120/1913)

A postcard sent to his mother from a training camp before outbreak of WW1 suggests he had been promoted to Sgt  not later than Aug 1914

1915   Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal for part in  Battle of Festubert, May 1915.  London Gazette, 5 August 1915.  Citation reads:

   81 Sgt A.J. Brian, 23rd County of London Battn, TF

For conspicuous galantry on 25th and 26th of May 1915, at Givenchy while working a machine gun under a very heavy  rifle, machine gun, and shrapnel fire in a captured German   trench.  His general conduct and bravery has set a fine example to others.

1915   Transferred to Machine Gun Corps (142 M/c Gn Coy) Regimental No 22318

1916   Appointed WO II,  21st June 1916  (Warrant, dated 14 April 1918 in MEB's possession)

Ex M/c Gunner J Gadsby refers to him thus:

(On joining 142 Machine Gun Company)  "I was received by a very martial Sergeant Major, who did not give me the impression that I was conferring a favour on his Company by my presence ....This gruff being with the overgrown Chaplin moustache was one Sergeant Major A J Brian, known...amongst other ranks...as ' the old man'.  First impressions are often mis- leading, and looking back now I think he fully deserved this rather affectionate title.

(Elsewhere, referring to High Wood and Bazentin, he adds)  "Our Alf (the 'old man') was a trump, and rushed about and saw to it that we had much-needed food and a good ration of rum."

(Crutchley, C E (ed), " Machine Gunner,1914-1918",  Folkestone, 1975, pp58 & 73)

Continued with TA after the end of the war,

1922   Awarded clasp to Terr Eff medal (AO 192/1922)  Army No now appears to be 6768003

1922   After disbandment of MGC, continued with 23rd London Regt until "late 1920's"

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Here is Sergeant Major Alfred James Brian he is first on the left with the stick and moustache. I think it is nice to see who we are talking about

 

 

 

AJB 1911-1914

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Hi Rosie 6,

 

31 minutes ago, Rosie 6 said:

Can you please tell me which battalion he appears to be in during the time he won this medal so i can read the right pages

 

As above, at the time of his DCM action Alfred was serving with the (1st line, 23rd Battalion - i.e.) 1/23rd Bn London Regiment - for an overview, click here. In post #5, Mark put a link to the relevant war diary page on Ancestry. Alternatively you could download it from the National Archives - see here. There is also a decent write up in the diary of 142 Infantry Brigade HQ - Ancestry link.

 

1 hour ago, Rosie 6 said:

1922   ...  Army No now appears to be 6768003

 

What remains of his probably heavily weed service file (hopefully including WW1 papers) appears to be held by the MoD...

image.png.f57f88deea97888513bd16d83ad20b54.png

 

If you/your husband would like to get a copy (£30), there is advice on how to go about it, and what info they will release here, and a helpdesk phone number here. I understand that despite the general advice on the website, as Alfred was born over 110 years ago, they wouldn't require a copy death certificate with any application.

 

Are you Rosemary10520 on the Lives of the First World War website?

 

Regards

Chris

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Follow link to this map from 1916

https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465011

Givenchy is in the far NW - top right. 

Hopefully a trench map expert will be along soon and we will be able to work out where the named trenches are in modern day terms. 

Suggest edit title - edit your first post to include in title location of 23 Londons 25/5/15 or something like. 

Edited by Mark1959
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Hi,

 

His 14/15 Star roll record (Ancestry link) shows that he qualified for that award because he 'disembarked' in active theatre on 14.3.1915. Depending on how the regiment submitted their returns for the medal, the date sometimes reflects actual arrival overseas, and sometimes when the man left UK shores. The war diary for 1/23 London Regiment shows that they entrained at St Albans to travel to Southampton on 14.3.1915, and disembarked at Le Havre at 8:00am on 15.3.1915. I would be pretty confident to suggest that Alfred went overseas with the main body of his Bn, rather than following on shortly afterwards.

 

Whist Alfred served with the 4/East Surreys, it would most probably have been under a different (unknown) service number to his 81, 23/London Regiment number. It might be possible to date his 81 number by comparing to near service numbers for men from the same Battalion that do have surviving online service papers. It's always very dangerous to make an inference based on a sample size of just one, but the papers for #76 Beattie shows that he joined the 23rd Battalion (previously from 4/East Surreys) on 1.4.1908. If you were to get Alfred's service papers from the MoD hopefully they would confirm.

 

Regards

Chris

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54 minutes ago, HolymoleyRE said:

Hopefully you should be able to use the section in Mark's post #6 and cross reference with this filterable version from 1917... Open the search panel and you can adjust the transparency with then and now 

 

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15.972007591519555&lat=50.5318&lon=2.7576&layers=101464732&b=1

 

Andy 

Thanks Andy. Always struggle a bit with that website. About where the 9 is or just North.

Edited by Mark1959
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Hi Rosemary,

 

Welcome to the forum and this will get you pretty close.  It's actually a 1918 map but has most of the named trenches in post #6.  Maps from 1915 tended not to be as clearly organised.

 

The camera image is from Rue du Calvaire in Givenchy-les-la-Bassee and shows New Cut with a light blue pin and Upper Cut in blue.  Driving up a few hundred metres past the last house will show you the entire field.  Click on the image to expand it.

image.png.094bcb750174fce74bfd72b7772220bf.png

Source: tMapper and National Library of Scotland

image.png.3b9a8ae5c08f440508f77362d4e32ae9.png

 

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Well , thank you so much for all of your help. I cannot believe how much work you have done for us thank you so much. It is invaluable and  I promise I will come back and put up some modern day photos.

I have been reading the war diaries since last night they are fascinating and are so revealing especially when one of your own was there. This is so helpful

Thanks 

 

Rosemary & Brian

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17 hours ago, clk said:

Hi Rosie 6,

 

 

As above, at the time of his DCM action Alfred was serving with the (1st line, 23rd Battalion - i.e.) 1/23rd Bn London Regiment - for an overview, click here. In post #5, Mark put a link to the relevant war diary page on Ancestry. Alternatively you could download it from the National Archives - see here. There is also a decent write up in the diary of 142 Infantry Brigade HQ - Ancestry link.

 

 

What remains of his probably heavily weed service file (hopefully including WW1 papers) appears to be held by the MoD...

image.png.f57f88deea97888513bd16d83ad20b54.png

 

If you/your husband would like to get a copy (£30), there is advice on how to go about it, and what info they will release here, and a helpdesk phone number here. I understand that despite the general advice on the website, as Alfred was born over 110 years ago, they wouldn't require a copy death certificate with any application.

 

Are you Rosemary10520 on the Lives of the First World War website?

 

Regards

Chris

Hi Chris. I did sign up for the Lives of the first world war years ago

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I am reading through these War Diaries and the Commendations for the 25/26 May 1915 were said to be atatched but i cannot find them anywhere -any ideas please       /

 

Thanks

 

Rosemary

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I did not find the commendations either. They appear, unfortunately, to have parted company with the war diary in the dim distant past. I doubt it would have added to what is known from the published DCM citation. At least we have been able to pin point the location of his brave actions.

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