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Laceman

Help with a Royal Engineer 1915-1918

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Laceman

Dear All,

 

I've not so much lost my way, I just can't seem to get started....

 

I have a list of about 20 family servicemen from both World Wars to research but my Grandfather is proving to be my biggest problem.

 

Records as we all know are sketchy and all I seem to have to go on so far is his a date and location on his medal card which shows him entering the Egypt Theatre on the 17th September 1915.

 

His name is Arthur Reginald Voyce - Royal Engineers - No. 35028. Enlisted at Shepherds Bush on or around 23rd March 1915.

 

So, my less than expert guess, is that he arrived in Egypt in September 1915, possibly with the 1/2nd Field Company RE (later 510th) along with other replacements after the landings at Gallipoli earlier that year. The 1/2nd RE I think, were part of the 29th Division at that time. Not sure if he was deployed to the beachead??

 

Thereafter, I'm thinking he travelled with the 29th Division to France to then be involved initially at the Somme.

 

I'm kind of hoping that someone with a little experience can either debunk my theory (or support it) or even suggest other lines of research if anyone thinks there is another, more likely view.

 

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this and I hope you can help.

 

Chris.

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clk

Hi Chris,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

Findmypast has a hospital admission/discharge record for Arthur. It reads as:

 

First name(s): A

Last name: Voyce

Age: 32

Service number: 35028

Rank: Sapper

Completed service: 1 year, 4 months

Corps: Royal Engineers

Company: 88 Field Company

Admitted to 19 General Hospital (Alexandria) on 9.6.1916 suffering from colitis and bronchitis. Discharged 'to England' 12.7.1916

 

So it looks like at that time he was part of 13 (Western) Division. His medal rolls show though that he wasn't discharged to the 'Z' Reserve until 14.2.1919. Presumably he recovered from his ailments and continued to serve, but he may well have been recycled to a different unit/division.

 

Regards

Chris

 

 

 

 

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Laceman

Really appreciated Chris, thank you very much!

 

My theory is pretty is looking a bit shaky but you're right, he may well have returned and been recycled elsewhere. Family anecdotal evidence suggests that he served until the end of the war so I'll keep digging.

 

Thank you very much again for your help.

 

Best wishes,

 

Chris.

 

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Laceman

Sorry Chris, having now seen the document through another channel, I have an observation about which you may or may not be able to shed some light?

 

The Completed Service column as you correctly point out is 1 year, 4 months, but the 'Completed Length of Service with Field Force' column is blank? He's the only person on the list where it's blank and I'm wondering if he could have been re-assigned to the 88th for some reason at the time of hospitalisation? Seems kind of strange?

 

Don't worry if it's one of those inexplicable anomalies, I only ask in case there's a likely explanation that you have encountered before?

 

Best wishes,

 

Chris.

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Laceman

You might also be interested to see how my jigsaw is sort of coming together.

 

This is an old photo which was sent to me by one of my cousins. We could never understand what it was, where it was or indeed who was in it. Just a cross above one of the heads of the men in it.

 

Looking at the building, especially the middle eastern looking crenellations to the left hand side as you look at the photo, I'm wondering if it's the hospital in Alexandria and the man with the cross above his head is my Grandad??

 

Funny how doors get unlocked!

 

 

Grandad Voyce (maybe).jpg

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Mark1959

A bit of luck

There are a few surviving docs that ancestry has usefully indexed Arthur Reginald Joyce number 5028. But is in fact your GF, (I have advised ancestry of error)

https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=1219&h=1060909&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=1904

They do not add a great deal. Does show he was still suffering from Bronchitis on discharge

There is a Pension Card relating to his widow, Florence Eveline, from 1931. Just an admin card and adds nothing apart from her address at the time

edit

just noticed written on left side of one paper on the service docs is 17/9/15 to 7/7/16 and what looks like Dardinelles beside it. Whether he ever got to Gallipoli I doubt especially as medal card says Egypt. Suspect he never went overseas again. He enlisted 23/3/1915

Edited by Mark1959

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Laceman

Thank you for the information Mark, all really helpful.

 

I've seen the 'Short Service Document' but all the others are new to me. Where did you see the one that suggests he was still suffering from Bronchitis on discharge? Also, the sevice doc' that shows the reference to 'Dardinelles', where could I find that one?

 

My mum always told me that he died in 1929 as a result of being gassed at the Somme so I'm kind of sure he did go back overseas. His death certificate showed his lungs were in a real state citing: emphysema, pnumonia and asthma all contributing to heart failure. 

 

Thanks again Mark, between you, Chris and a PM from another forum member, I've made more progress in an hour than I have in the last three months!

 

Best wishes,

 

Chris.

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Mark1959

Look on the far left of this page, Written up from the bottom for the Dardinelles bit.

This page relates to his discharge. Note "Bronchitis" 20% disability.

No sign he was on the Somme.

He did die in 1929

Probate https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=1904&h=5919859&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=1219

Born 3/9/1884 according to Baptism record https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=1558&h=4593286&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=1904 

The beauty of the forum is that there is a great breadth of knowledge and the contributors collectively will often come up with an answer when none appears possible

 

 

Edited by Mark1959

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Laceman

That pension document is definitely a new one for me, thank you.

 

The service doc image is much clearer than the one I have. On mine, the whole of the left is blackened out so the Dardinelles reference is obscured.

 

Much obliged as always, thank you Mark.

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clk

Hi Chris,

 

On the edge of one page of his service record it does show:

 

image.png.48ae859bb64cd67cd6518c310001507b.png

Image sourced from Ancestry

 

That would seem to imply that he left the UK on 16.9.1918, bound for service in the Dardanelles 

 

On the same page it shows:

image.png.8e699b43f72fbc44e436be63ac4b9b6e.png

Image sourced from Ancestry

 

So, no later than 1.6.1918, he was serving with (what I think reads as) number 12 section 595th Tees Fortress Company. That sounds like it might be another name for 595 North Riding Fortress Company, Royal Engineers.

 

4 hours ago, Laceman said:

I'm wondering if he could have been re-assigned to the 88th for some reason at the time of hospitalisation?

 

That would have been the unit he was serving with when he was admitted to the hospital. As an observation, I would say that when he left for the Dardanelles, 88 FC were in Gallipoli, so he may have been sent out as a reinforcement. On Ancestry their war diary for their time in that theatre starts here. Given the closeness of dates of when he was sent overseas, to when the 88 FC left the Gallipoli theatre I was wondering if didn't actually join them there.

 

4 hours ago, Laceman said:

Looking at the building, especially the middle eastern looking crenellations to the left hand side as you look at the photo, I'm wondering if it's the hospital in Alexandria...

 

 I think that you may very well be right. My great uncle (back row, far right as looking) in stripped down 'hospital blues' at 19 General Hospital...

image.png.0f7395e3813d998f969b51e34999c3e6.png

 

Regards

Chris

 

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Laceman

Hi Chris,

 

That is truly amazing, particularly the image with the same wall decoration behind your great uncle.

 

It'll take a while to digest the information you have provided, not least to get over the time I have spent barking up the wrong tree (or trees!).

 

Thank you very much again. I hope I can repay the favour sometime.

 

Best wishes,

 

Chris.

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clk

Hi Chris,

 

No problem. On the Back he wrote...

image.png.2c7ef963c6cfc30305e0255a024eb5bd.png

 

The only other relevant image I have is...

image.png.e4aa8ce4418d5a2e92037c2155e3e9a6.png

image.png.8348686aaf0ec0b1231a974c87e1d64c.png

 

Regards

Chris

 

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Laceman

Hi Chris,

 

I actually saw this image where you had posted it on another thread but I hadn't appreciated the link at the time, certainly makes sense though.

 

I've had a chance to get my head around the info that you and Mark supplied me with and I have kind of re-booted where I am...... I think?

 

I have assumed that you made a small typo in an earlier post when you suggested that my GF left the UK on the 16.09.18 where I think you meant 16.09.15? (pic attached).

 

Based on that date my new perameters are:

 

He enlisted on the 23.03.15

UK to Dardanelles 19.09.15

Back to the UK 27.07.16

*****Gap of 2 years*****

Posted to 595 RE Tees Fortress Company 01.06.18

De-mobbed to Z Reserve 14.02.19

 

If I have misunderstood anything you have said, perhaps you'll be kind enough to put me straight?

 

There is still loads of digging to do to find what he was up to in Egypt for a year-ish and then what he did between coming back to the UK and being posted to 595 in June 1918. Having said that, I'm not that bothered because I always had that niggle that I was way off base in my original guesswork. At least now I have a clearer, albeit still foggy path.

 

Thanks again chaps, I'll bore you senseless if I unearth anything interesting.

 

All the best,

 

Chris.

 

Typo clk.jpg

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clk

Hi Chris,

 

1 hour ago, Laceman said:

I have assumed that you made a small typo in an earlier post when you suggested that my GF left the UK on the 16.09.18 where I think you meant 16.09.15?

 

Yes, my mistake. Sorry.

 

1 hour ago, Laceman said:

UK to Dardanelles 19.09.15

 

I think that may be 17.09.15. I think what happened was the clerk originally wrote '16', but the '6' bit was overwritten by a '7', making it look a bit like 19. It would make sense that the record would then read as he served 'at home' from 23rd March 1915 to 16th September 1915, then left the UK mainland on board a ship on 17th September 1915, and was destined for the Dardanelles.

 

1 hour ago, Laceman said:

Posted to 595 RE Tees Fortress Company 01.06.18

 

I don't think that you can be sure of that. What the record says is that he was appointed as a paid acting 2nd Corporal with the unit on that date. He may have been with the unit for some time before he received his promotion. 

 

2 hours ago, Laceman said:

There is still loads of digging to do to find what he was up to in Egypt for a year-ish

 

For me the problem is that the records indicate that he was part of 88 FC when he was admitted to hospital in Alexandria, but we don't know if he might have served overseas with another unknown unit prior to joining them. The other factor to take in to account is that 88 FC weren't in Egypt when he was admitted to hospital. In June 1916, 13 (Western) Division were in Mesopotamia. So my guess would be that he fell ill there, but was evacuated to Egypt to receive treatment, and then further evacuated back to the UK to receive further treatment/recuperation.  It probably won't mention Arthur by name, but the war diary for 88 FC from March 1916 is available to download from the National Archives - link.

 

Regards

Chris

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clk

Hi,

 

The plot thickens. In the 19 General Hospital ledger, something that I hadn't picked up on, Arthur and some other men have a bracketed comment against their names...

image.png.46388e313b03421f0ccf76db599520f5.png

Image sourced from Findmypast

 

So, it does look like Arthur fell ill in Mesopotamia, was evacuated to India, from there to Egypt (on board the Hospital Ship 'Egypt' ?), and then back to England.

 

Regards

Chris

Edited by clk

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Laceman

Blimey Chris, you're a marvel!

 

Sound advice indeed in post 14 and all points well made. I'll keep them in mind, thank you.

 

Post 15 really does thicken the plot. I'll have a good read of those war diaries, it'll be a long night. :-)

 

Thanks as always Chris.

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clk
18 hours ago, clk said:

Arthur and some other men have a bracketed comment against their names...

...including 1459 Blundell (RFA), whose papers show that the 'Egypt' sailed from Bombay.

 

image.png.2d0936e1347340d61b60b109bd01f67a.png

Image sourced from Findmypast

 

Regards

Chris

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clk

Hi Chris,

 

Bear with me, I'm thinking out aloud.

 

Looking at his section of the RE 14/15 Star Roll, there only seems to be one other man with an overseas date of 17.9.1915, theatre '3'. There are probably others in other sections of the Roll

 

Papers for him (35264 Savage) show:

image.png.fb63cea24c7fe67f8f747c058e984475.png

Image sourced from Findmypast

 

The 'Grampian' then appears to have gone on, arriving at Mudros on 21.9.1915. The war diary for the Embarkation Officer (Mudros) shows:

image.png.a2792f23285c7d395b33bc3a41566be6.png

image.png.5921ac548f5ca235734f37b13c9de523.png

Image sourced from Ancestry

 

It's interesting to note that when the Grampian arrived at Mudros she appeared to be carrying reinforcements for the 13 (Western) Division, and some RE men. It's not clear if some of those men might have been with her all the way from the UK, or if they all embarked on her in Alexandria.

 

On 18/02/2020 at 19:04, clk said:

It would make sense that the record would then read as he served 'at home' from 23rd March 1915 to 16th September 1915, then left the UK mainland on board a ship on 17th September 1915, and was destined for the Dardanelles.

 

If I were to change my thoughts on that, it might be the case that Arthur's 'home service' included his travel time from the UK to theatre '3' (Egypt) which would fit with his and Savage's medal roll date. If he didn't actually disembark/stay in Alexandra, and continued on with the Grampian, that might explain the 'Dardanelles 17.9.15 - ' comment in his service papers. I think though that the very real danger (in the absence of full service papers, etc for Arthur) is to blend knowns with convenient non directly attributable information, to come up "facts".

 

If, big if Arthur was sent from Mudros to 88 FC in Gallipoli, then after the Grampian arriving on 21.9.1915, the war diary for 88 FC next records reinforcements being received on 13.10.1915.  

 

As I said ... just think out aloud !

 

Regards

Chris

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Laceman

I had a read of the War Diaries, a bit of a speed read and nothing of any great note but interesting nonetheless.

 

The only personel I saw mentioned in the diaries were officers and senior NCO's. I'm guessing that as is generally the case, incidents realting to other ranks were viewed as less important.

 

In June and early July, it was noted that at least three officers were evacuated as 'sick', so quite probably there was a considerable number of other ranks who would also have been pulled out of the line.

 

Over that period, a short while after the attempt to relieve the besieged garrison at Kut, most of the engineering activity involved water. Acquiring it, creating bathing areas, preparing horse troughs, digging sumps and mud pits, Loads of things like that and with the poor quality drinking water, the heat, the humidty, the weather (torrential rain) and with the constant plagues of flies I expect most of them were sick to some extent, some worse than others. I think it most likely that the constant contact with dirty water was the overwhelming factor.

 

I read some statistics which are staggering on Wikipedia I think:

 

The British Empire forces suffered 85,197 battle casualties in Mesopotamia. There were also 820,418 hospitalizations for non-battle causes, mostly sickness. Of those, 16,712 died, 634,889 were treated and put back on duty in-theatre, and 154,343 were permanently evacuated from the theatre. Those evacuated accounted for some 18.8% of total non-battle casualties, while those who died were 2%. By comparison, 49% of those wounded in battle (26,814 men) were evacuated, and 8.9% (5,281) died. Thousands more died out of theater from injuries and sickness incurred here, or died in Ottoman captivity. Total British military deaths in the Mesopotamian Campaign, including from the latter causes, were 38,842 (1,434 officers and 37,408 men), including 28,578 from sickness and other non-battle causes (including prisoners). The unusually high ratio of non-battle to battle casualties in Mesopotamia, and the unusually high incidence of permanent losses among non-battle casualties had much to do with the geography of the area of operations. It was unhygienic, extremely hot in the summer, extremely cold in the winter, composed primarily of either sandy deserts or marshes, and was underdeveloped, meaning men had to be transported large distances for medical attention.

 

I also found a FBook page relating to the account of a sapper with the 88th Field Coy who relays his experience of one of the attacks on Turkish trenches on the 5th April 1916. There is a document relating to his evacuation after he was shot in the ankle which I guess is topical rather than relative to what we have been discussing.

I don't think I can copy and paste it here but I'll add a link to it in case you find it of interest (you've probably alrerady seen it). Anything else I can find I'll add it to the thread. 

https://www.facebook.com/117600881609310/photos/sapper-james-flint-88th-field-company-royal-engineers-was-wounded-in-mesopotamia/1608098839226166/

Thanks again Chris, much obliged for all the info. Cheers, Chris.

 

 

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Laceman

LOL, simultaneous posting!

 

I'll read up on what you added now. ;-)

 

Thanks Chris.

 

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Laceman

Hi again Chris,

 

You seem to have access to some very useful stuff. I do get what you say about making the crime fit the suspect but it does sound pretty logical, albeit as you say 'ifs and supposition'. Still a clever bit of cross referencing whichever way you look at it!

 

They must have been turning personel over quite a bit, on October the 6th 1916 (a year after you are talking) they had another 55 sappers arrive to reinforce them to bring the 88th back up to full strength. That's quite a lot for a Field Coy I think?

 

Best wishes,

 

Chris.

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