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jimk1969

Army Service Corps,Expenditionary Forces Canteen

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jimk1969

Hi, my name is Jim and I'm new to the group. I am currently researching an individual who served in WW1 and I would like to ask if anyone in the group can help steer me in the right direction or share their knowledge. The gentleman I am currently researching is William Desmond Taylor and I'm sure most of you have heard of him. WDT enlisted in the British Army in 1918 while living in the U.S. There was a British recruitment effort in America to enlist British subjects who lived in the U.S. and WDT answered the call and was sent to Camp Fort Edward in Nova Scotia, Canada in August 1918 as a private in the British Army. He was assigned the 5th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and after two months he was advanced in rank to sergeant major. He went to England and was assigned to Hunslow Barracks in November 1918 and was commissioned Lieutenant. Taylor was transferred to the Expenditionary Force Canteen, Royal Army Service Corps, stationed at Dunkirk and was second in command to Major Meagher. He was discharged from the service at the beginning of May 1919 and became a Captain in the British Reserve. All this information is available online especially on the website Taylorology. I am currently looking for Taylor's military record and I know that the record may no longer exist because of the bombing of London during WW2. I have searched the Kew at the British Archives for the information but haven't had much luck. I would like to find a war/ regimental diary for the unit Taylor served in and I have searched for a war diary on the British Archives website but I haven't found one. One problem I have is I do not have his regimental number to help me search. If I can find the number I'm sure it would help lead me to more discoveries. I would appreciate any help the group can offer me. Thank you. Jim

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Maureene

For a general history, see the online book A Short Account of Canteens in the British Army by John Fortescue 1928 HathiTrust Digital Library, (possibly not accessible in USA etc). Includes WW1, when the organisation was known as the Expeditionary Force Canteen, EFC

 

As an officer, I think there could be a record in the National Archives, (Kew) series

WO 374 - Officers' services, First World War, personal files, Territorial and temporary officers.    There are Index records only, not actual files, on findmypast (pay website). If there is a record, you would need to get a copy of the file from the National Archives.

 

Perhaps some one else can confirm, or otherwise advise, but I doubt that there would be a War Diary for  the Expeditionary Force Canteen, as the personnel were support staff, not actively fighting.

 

Cheers

Maureen

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HarryBrook

Hi jimk,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

I do not know if you have exact dates of when he was commissioned and relinquished his commission. He was appointed as a temporary Lt. (without pay and allowances) on 15 January 1919 per the notification in The London Gazette https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31145/supplement/1333 and relinquished his commission on 14 April 1919 on ceasing to be employed and retained the rank of Lt. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31334/supplement/5885 

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clk

Hi Jim,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

7 hours ago, jimk1969 said:

One problem I have is I do not have his regimental number to help me search.

 

Officers didn't have regimental service numbers as such. What they did have was an officer admin number. In his case (from the index of long numbers) it appears to be...

 

image.png.75bfe5da9f6983e177c82947b5b1688c.png

 

image.png.3b8cd1d6980d56094c4ad19b5a79b217.png

Images sourced from the National Archives

 

Regards

Chris

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jimk1969

Thank you Maureene and Harry for your replies. Any information I have on Taylor's brief time in the military comes from secondary sources and thank you Maureene for your book suggestion and Harry for the London Gazette articles. My next step will be to make a request for his military record with the British Archives and hope the record wasn't lost in WW2. Taylor was also involved in the court martial of another soldier who supposedly stole army property and was turned in to the military authorities by him. I would like to find the information on this but since I do not know the soldiers name who was court martialed it will be difficult to find. Thank you again for your help. Jim

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jimk1969
15 minutes ago, clk said:

Hi Jim,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

 

Officers didn't have regimental service numbers as such. What they did have was an officer admin number. In his case (from the index of long numbers) it appears to be...

 

image.png.75bfe5da9f6983e177c82947b5b1688c.png

 

image.png.3b8cd1d6980d56094c4ad19b5a79b217.png

Images sourced from the National Archives

 

Regards

Chris

Thank you, Chris for this bit of information. I have searched the archives catalog for any information about Taylor and wasn't successful but you were able to find this tells me that there should be more to find. 

 

23 minutes ago, clk said:

Hi Jim,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

 

Officers didn't have regimental service numbers as such. What they did have was an officer admin number. In his case (from the index of long numbers) it appears to be...

 

image.png.75bfe5da9f6983e177c82947b5b1688c.png

 

image.png.3b8cd1d6980d56094c4ad19b5a79b217.png

Images sourced from the National Archives

 

Regards

Chris

Thank you, Chris for your message and the images. I have searched on the British archives website for any information about Taylor and didn't have any success but you knew exactly where to go. I will admit I do not know much about the military but I am willing to learn. The officer admin. number you sent me should help me find more information about his brief military service. Am I reading it correctly is the number 404 or Ta/404? Thank you once again for your help. I really appreciate it. Jim

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Keith_history_buff
32 minutes ago, jimk1969 said:

Thank you, Chris for this bit of information. I have searched the archives catalog for any information about Taylor and wasn't successful


I found it puzzling there are no results in WO 374 for William Desmond Taylor. The London Gazette entry does not suggest that he served after 1920, with the result that the Army Personnel Centre would not have his service record.

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jimk1969

Thank you Keith for your message.William Desmond Taylor didn't serve in the British Army after 1920. He returned to Hollywood to resume his film directing career. Taylor was murdered on February 1,1922 in his Hollywood bungalow by an unknown assailant. The newspapers reported many false claims in the weeks after his death. Some reports were accurate. The newspapers reported that Taylor had been in the British Army during WW1 and the police found some paperwork at his home which included his service papers. The newspapers didn't publish any substantive information from the papers but did publish his service number F-56979. I emailed the British Archives asking them if they could help me with a search and I included the service number F-56979. The archives informed me that the number I gave them was a regiment number not a service number. Obviously, the newspapers reporting the service number were wrong. I searched the archives for his service record and I couldn't find them. Its possible that the records were destroyed during WW2 so not finding them makes sense.

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PRC
10 hours ago, jimk1969 said:

WDT answered the call and was sent to Camp Fort Edward in Nova Scotia, Canada in August 1918 as a private in the British Army. He was assigned the 5th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and after two months he was advanced in rank to sergeant major. He went to England and was assigned to Hunslow Barracks in November 1918

 

Probably stating the obvious, but would appear very unlikely he entered a Theatre of War before the 11th November 1918 and so no service medals.

 

10 hours ago, jimk1969 said:

He was discharged from the service at the beginning of May 1919 and became a Captain in the British Reserve.

 

4 hours ago, HarryBrook said:

relinquished his commission on 14 April 1919 on ceasing to be employed and retained the rank of Lt. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31334/supplement/5885 

 

Not sure why he would have been promoted or retained on the British Army Reserve if he had relinquished his commission - especially if he was going to live in the States and given his age - see below.

 

Therefore given the relatively short period that he was actually commissioned his file must have been fairly small to begin with. As no-one seems to have found any details of a War Pension claim, and no medals awarded, and he died in 1922, I would suspect his record would have been weeded practically out of existance even before WW2. In short there may be nothing to find.

 

There may actually be more in contemporary Hollywood newspapers for 1918/19 as he was some kind of celebrity \ well known individual.

 

His wikipedia page gives his birth name as William Cunningham Deane-Tanner, born County Carlow, Ireland on the 26th April 1872.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Desmond_Taylor

 

He appears to have arrived back in New York on the 9th May 1919 aboard the SS Baltic. He gives his occupation as Director and his eventual destination was Los Angles. No reference to Army rank there.https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J67J-CPP

 

I see the various online reports of his death record him as 50 years old when he died on the 1st February 1922. A good match for him therefore appears to be the 49 year old William D. Taylor recorded travelling from Southampton to New York in 1921 aboard the SS Olympic. Unfortunately I couldn't find him on the passenger lists available to me.

 

Hope some of that helps,

Peter
 

 

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jimk1969

Peter. Thank you for your message. Actually, I knew William Desmond Taylor was born William Cunningham Deane-Tanner on April 26,1872. I know more about his early than I do about his time in the military. I understand he had a very brief enlistment and I was hoping some of his military record could be found so I could fill in that part of his life which his not known completely. It makes sense if his record was purged before WW2. I was given a suggestion by another researcher to search for a war diary which may help give some information regarding his time in the service. From what I understand, Taylor had served under Major Meagher in the Cantens at Dunkirk and this information comes from online sources and others researchering his life. I wanted to find a regimental or war diary and hoped one or the other would mention Taylor. If I can not find a diary then I will continue searching for other sources of information. I appreciate your help. Thank you. Jim

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PRC
1 hour ago, jimk1969 said:

Actually, I knew William Desmond Taylor was born William Cunningham Deane-Tanner on April 26,1872

 

I'm sure you do - it was more to alert others that when it comes to looking for British military records and references it opens up another line of enquiry. The shipping record for 1919 for example is indexed by familysearch under both names even though the passenger manifest only shows William Desmond Taylor. The same source has a number of U.S. newspaper clippings, some of which reference both variants. If he was seeking to avoid attention he may have served under his birth name, although the London Gazette entries suggest otherwise.

 

I suspect that other than the London Gazette entries, the military document sources for him as William Desmond Taylor no longer exists and I can't see anything in the National Archive catalogue for him as Deane-Tanner either.  Hopefully others will have more luck.

 

Cheers,

Peter

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jimk1969

I have a document I found on Ancestry under U.S.,Residents Serving in the British Expeditionary Forces,1917- 1919. Taylor put down as his birthdate March 26,1877 instead of April 26,1872. This is an example of him trying to coverup his true identity. The false birthdate he entered on the form may help in a search. Thanks. Jim

42901_647350_0560-00095.jpg

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clk

Hi Jim,

 

4 hours ago, jimk1969 said:

Am I reading it correctly is the number 404 or Ta/404?

 

I think so, but it could possibly be 'Ja/404' - I'm not 100% sure. Where a number has a prefix, I've seen in some documents the '/' is omitted - so written as something like 'Ta404'.

 

3 hours ago, jimk1969 said:

...Taylor was murdered on February 1,1922 in his Hollywood bungalow by an unknown assailant...The newspapers reported that...the police found some paperwork at his home which included his service papers...

 

If that were the case. as an unsolved murder, might the papers be buried away in a case file held by a Courts/Coroners/Police archive?.

 

Regards

Chris

 

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jimk1969

Chris,

Unfortunately, the police claim that the files on the case are gone and members of his family are leery of people who are researching the case so they prefer not to talk to researchers. If you are interested in the case you can go to the website Taylorology.com which has a collection of documents related to the case or join the William Desmond Taylor Facebook group. Bruce Long is the administrator of both and he has a vast knowledge of the Taylor case. Some of the information I shared with this group I got from Taylorology. I'm not trying to solve the murder but I'm trying to fill in some of the blanks concerning his military service. I will try variations on the number you provided me and see if I can find more information. Thank you. Jim

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jimk1969

Chris,

Can you tell me what the serial numbers on the P.M G.O. form mean? When Taylor enlisted he was a private then advanced in rank to Lieutenant and I was wondering will the serial numbers on the form be his service number assigned to him when he enlisted. Thank you. Jim

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clk

Hi Jim,

 

Sorry, I don't know. Are there any other examples of those cards for men whose records you can trace, to see if the numbers align?

 

Regards

Chris

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, jimk1969 said:

Chris,

Can you tell me what the serial numbers on the P.M G.O. form mean? When Taylor enlisted he was a private then advanced in rank to Lieutenant and I was wondering will the serial numbers on the form be his service number assigned to him when he enlisted. Thank you. Jim


Some important points to emphasise that I hope might assist you a little:

 

1.  The regiment that he joined initially would have allocated him his first regimental number (there was no system of whole ‘Service’ numbers at that time).  His regiment was the Royal Fusiliers, which had been allocated to the City of London as a recruiting focus in 1881, and in WW1 its headquarters and depot was at Hounslow (but later moved to the Tower of London).  The Royal Fusiliers were one of several ‘large’ regiments at that time meaning that they had four regular battalions (1st to 4th) and these were serviced (supported with training and recruiting) by two ‘reserve’ battalions (5th and 6th).  Both of these latter started the war at the then depot and then moved as follows:

 

5th and 6th (Reserve) Battalions
August 1914 : in Hounslow. Training units, they remained in UK throughout the war.
Moved to Dover in August 1914; 6th went to Carrickfergus in late 1917.

 

2.  This suggests that Taylor would ostensibly at least have been destined to go to Dover to complete some sort of basic training unless a special deal was agreed very early on (which seems likely given his age) for him to move quickly and with minimal bureaucracy to the canteens organisation.  It has made me wonder if in his earlier life before going to America he had served as an auxiliary soldier in the Volunteer Force, or Militia, although that is merely speculation.  Either way a special arrangement seems likely for a man in his late 40s.
 

3.  The linear successor to the Royal Fusiliers still has its regimental headquarters and associated museum in the Tower of London.  The museum does run a research function, although to what degree they can assist I do not know.  You can contact them via the website here (Covid permitting): 

https://www.fusiliermuseumlondon.org/home

Edited by FROGSMILE

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jimk1969

Thank you for the information. It will help me in locating any records if any still exist. The newspapers reported after his death that there were papers in his home that gave a service number F-56979.This number is what I have been going by when I have searched for WDT's records. I emailed the British Archives and asked if the service number I had was correct I was told it was a regiment number. I understand that his record may not exist so I won't be surprised if it is gone completely. There is a story about Taylor having turned in a Sergeant who stole army property and Taylor was responsible for the his court martial. I have no idea if this story is true but it was reported in the newspapers and several independent sources claim it was true including Taylor. I would like to find it if it still exists.I do know his brother, Denis Gage Deane-Tanner served in the Boer War and it is possible Taylor may have served in the military but it would have to be before 1891 because he emigrated to America and stayed up to 1922. I appreciate your help. Thank you. Jim

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jimk1969
1 hour ago, clk said:

Hi Jim,

 

Sorry, I don't know. Are there any other examples of those cards for men whose records you can trace, to see if the numbers align?

 

Regards

Chris

Chris,

I did look on Ancestry to see if any numbers alnged but I haven't had any luck so far. There are several other cards with 2-3 sets of serial numbers written on the cards. I thought the numbers on Taylor's card would help me find his records but they seem to be for another purpose since I searched for his records using those serial numbers and nothing popped up. Thank you for your help.

Jim

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, jimk1969 said:

Thank you for the information. It will help me in locating any records if any still exist. The newspapers reported after his death that there were papers in his home that gave a service number F-56979.This number is what I have been going by when I have searched for WDT's records. I emailed the British Archives and asked if the service number I had was correct I was told it was a regiment number. I understand that his record may not exist so I won't be surprised if it is gone completely. There is a story about Taylor having turned in a Sergeant who stole army property and Taylor was responsible for the his court martial. I have no idea if this story is true but it was reported in the newspapers and several independent sources claim it was true including Taylor. I would like to find it if it still exists.I do know his brother, Denis Gage Deane-Tanner served in the Boer War and it is possible Taylor may have served in the military but it would have to be before 1891 because he emigrated to America and stayed up to 1922. I appreciate your help. Thank you. Jim


The number allocated by the Royal Fusiliers would indeed have been a “regimental” number, but only applied whilst he was of ‘other rank’ grade (i.e. enlisted man).  
 

Was he subsequently commissioned with (wearing the insignia of) the Royal Fusiliers, or was it a commission with the Army Service Corps (Expeditionary Forces Canteen)? The latter would be more logical.
 

You might find this thread useful for background information: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/267346-army-service-corps-canteens/

 

8DFE4415-A806-4390-8332-093380E098FE.jpeg

6D74C016-534C-4E44-A12D-881DE69EB3DA.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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jimk1969

Thank you for sharing the thread. I am going to send you a photo of Taylor in his uniform. There are several photos of him online wearing his uniform. 

Jim

6268.jpeg

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

Well that photo confirms that he was commissioned with the Army Service Corps - Expeditionary Forces Canteen. He’s wearing the rank of a captain.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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jimk1969

Thank you for confirming it. Would a war diary exist that would have Taylor mentioned in it which will help me piece together parts of his military service? How can I find it?

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jimk1969

Do you know of anyone who has hired a researcher through the website Forces War Records? I have been considering hiring a researcher that Forces War Records offers but I haven't made up my mind. 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
On 24/06/2020 at 03:20, jimk1969 said:

Thank you for confirming it. Would a war diary exist that would have Taylor mentioned in it which will help me piece together parts of his military service? How can I find it?


No, you have been given good advice on that question already.  I don’t think that you fully understand what he did.  He was simply a glorified canteen manager, and looked after the organised refreshment of troops.  That’s what the EFC did.  Only combatant and frontline service-support units were required to keep a war diary and the only combat that an EFC would have seen, apart from the occasional bombing raid in 1918, would’ve been a drunken brawl.  That’s not to decry what he did, it’s to be realistic. I think that he probably only got into the EFC in the first place by someone influential that he knew pulling strings.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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