Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

"Accidental Death" — BARKUS


Recommended Posts

Shmorganzola

This is such an education, thank you Voltaire. Utterly fascinating, if a little bewildering, but all makes good sense. One can easily imagine how fluid the attachments would be.

 

Returning to the Medal Roll (just so I have absolutely got this):

 

  • The parentheses after the 114 Coy and MG Corps. These are the typewriter equivalent to 'curly brackets' that lump these 2 lines together?
  • I am confused by the 'floating' 10th Welch R underneath these lines. Is this separate (hence my thinking he had returned to his Bn), or does it still joined to the lines above?

For future understanding !

 

Thank you.

 

A
 

Link to post
Share on other sites
voltaire60

Parentheses just means that the unit and rank details continue on the next line.   Wish I could read what the inked-in word says-  With cataracts,, my best guess is "Nazi"-which would be quite a revelation!!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
49 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

British Newspaper Archive (Not a subscriber until cataract op.) suggests that  Private Hockey was first reported as 2Died", not KIA

 

image.png.8afe138b7c475323fa2148ec507a7cad.png

Hi Voltaire,

Without full context and start of section to sort out the sequence of punctuation [and I can't read BNA either!] I could perhaps read that as Hockey was "Previously reported killed, now reported Accidentally Killed ..." [same sort of entry as Barkus either way I think - rather further adding to the suggestion that both perhaps came to a similar end].

Anyone looked at Hockey in more detail?

??

:-/ M

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

killed.jpg.d0faf97d6249eb57d2a9e8fee61d85ff.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Admin
3 hours ago, Matlock1418 said:

 and also described therein as a "Quiet day"

 

Yes, I was making the observation clearing (or cleaning) drains on the Western Front in September 1917 had the potential for great danger.  Mustard gas was first introduced by the Germans in this sector in July 1917.  One of the properties of the gas is that it persists on the battlefield settling in water and forming an oily liquid.  The settled gas in the environment remains an active pollutant for weeks. 

In the same way sewage workers today can be overcome by noxious fumes if the air is not monitored, men engaged in this activity would be exposed to potential chemical and environmental hazards. 

 

Of course my suggestion is speculative and there is no evidence to support it, but I tought it worth considering.  A couple of accidental deaths for men engaged in this routine activity would be 'a quiet day'.  I was aware this observation had previously been mentioned, the clearing of drains and the associated risks which were probably not so well managed, had not.  Neither was the fact the relieving Brigade had been bombed coming up to relieve the 114th and whilst holding the position previously occupied by them was regularly shelled in the following days, resulting in a handful of casualties recorded on each day they were in the line.  Either they were very unlucky or the diarist of the 114th Brigade, as previously mentioned did not consider a few shells and a couple of deaths significant enough to record.

Link to post
Share on other sites
voltaire60

Discovery National Archives suggests a call to the regimental museum might be worthwhile- It seems to hold another run of war diaries,which might be fuller,and with attachments no longer with the TNA one

 

image.png.d1575188a4772ab416a625889c42560c.png

Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
52 minutes ago, kenf48 said:

Yes, I was making the observation clearing (or cleaning) drains on the Western Front in September 1917 had the potential for great danger.  Mustard gas was first introduced by the Germans in this sector in July 1917.  One of the properties of the gas is that it persists on the battlefield settling in water and forming an oily liquid.  The settled gas in the environment remains an active pollutant for weeks. 

In the same way sewage workers today can be overcome by noxious fumes if the air is not monitored, men engaged in this activity would be exposed to potential chemical and environmental hazards.  ... ...

 

The fact that it was a "peaceful/quiet" day does suggest no massive amount of direct enemy action or just desensitised by relativity so "cleaning/clearing of drains" appear a possibility -  I did think about such - and as can other gases be a potential hazard in confined locations

[CO, CO2, H2S etc. - all of which can bring about rapid collapse and death, including often to another who attempts a 'rescue' - within latrines have a bad reputation - I have done 'confined space' working = not to be undertaken lightly!]

As a water insoluble liquid mustard gas was a distinctly possible hazard in some locations I would think

[Heard a very long time ago an oral report circulating in my family of a relative getting 'burned' after diving for cover in a water-filled shell hole (of course it could have been an old Yellow X shell hole, but I think he would probably have come of worse than he reportedly did)]

I also believe that like other hazardous gases the reported specific 'garlic' smell of the mustard gas becomes less noticeable, nose becoming de-sensitised to the smell, over time with extended exposure to low concentrations and a reduced awareness of the risk and of course if attacking the lungs through chronic or acute exposure would be a horrid scenario.  Might have thought that, other than extreme acute exposure, chronic would require medical treatment and thus more a scenario possibly leading to 'Died of Wounds'

And of course there would be potential risk of an unsupported / badly supported drain or a trench collapsing and crushing anyone within.

Or previously unexploded munitions ...

Again just speculating and throwing into the mix of hypotheses like you.

As has previously been said ... sadly so many ways to die on a peaceful/quiet day.

 

Additional sources such as Voltaire's latest interesting suggestion do seem worthy of a look.

:-/ M.  

Edited by Matlock1418
addit
Link to post
Share on other sites
Shmorganzola
10 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

Parentheses just means that the unit and rank details continue on the next line.   Wish I could read what the inked-in word says-  With cataracts,, my best guess is "Nazi"-which would be quite a revelation!!

Dear Voltaire, thanks for the advice about the regtl museum, another resource to plunder. Smashing.

 

As for the National Socialist scribble, I too am flumoxed by it. It could be NaTL, Nash, Wash, hash, none of which makes sense to me !

Link to post
Share on other sites
Shmorganzola
6 hours ago, Matlock1418 said:

 

The fact that it was a "peaceful/quiet" day does suggest no massive amount of direct enemy action or just desensitised by relativity so "cleaning/clearing of drains" appear a possibility -  I did think about such - and as can other gases be a potential hazard in confined locations

[CO, CO2, H2S etc. - all of which can bring about rapid collapse and death, including often to another who attempts a 'rescue' - within latrines have a bad reputation - I have done 'confined space' working = not to be undertaken lightly!]

As a water insoluble liquid mustard gas was a distinctly possible hazard in some locations I would think

[Heard a very long time ago an oral report circulating in my family of a relative getting 'burned' after diving for cover in a water-filled shell hole (of course it could have been an old Yellow X shell hole, but I think he would probably have come of worse than he reportedly did)]

I also believe that like other hazardous gases the reported specific 'garlic' smell of the mustard gas becomes less noticeable, nose becoming de-sensitised to the smell, over time with extended exposure to low concentrations and a reduced awareness of the risk and of course if attacking the lungs through chronic or acute exposure would be a horrid scenario.  Might have thought that, other than extreme acute exposure, chronic would require medical treatment and thus more a scenario possibly leading to 'Died of Wounds'

And of course there would be potential risk of an unsupported / badly supported drain or a trench collapsing and crushing anyone within.

Or previously unexploded munitions ...

Again just speculating and throwing into the mix of hypotheses like you.

As has previously been said ... sadly so many ways to die on a peaceful/quiet day.

 

Additional sources such as Voltaire's latest interesting suggestion do seem worthy of a look.

:-/ M.  

 

Thanks again, all giving food for thought and paints a more detailed picture of all myriad possibilities that I hadn't even considered, so thanks a lot.

 

There must be something in the coincidence of Hockey, I think you chaps are correct...

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
headgardener
10 minutes ago, Shmorganzola said:

 As for the National Socialist scribble, I too am flumoxed by it. It could be NaTL, Nash, Wash, hash, none of which makes sense to me !

 

It almost certainly doesn’t relate to your man’s service. It just looks like the name or initials of one of the clerks who signed off the medals when they were issued. The rolls are full of little annotations like that.

Edited by headgardener
Link to post
Share on other sites
A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy

 

Schmorganzola, I do hope that you are able to make progress with discovering more about the circumstances of your relative’s accidental death. It certainly seems that finding a private account from someone else who was with the Battalion might be the best chance, so good luck with that.

I don’t want to hi-jack the thread away from your specific enquiry about what happened to Barkus, but you may have some thoughts from your own perspective about what I am going to say.

Some of the comments earlier in this thread were about accidental deaths generally, including

 

On 20/08/2020 at 13:14, voltaire60 said:

When I had to read the War Diary for 13th Essex on the Somme (West Ham Pals), they lost half a dozen men to carbon monoxide poisoning  in a dugout.

 

and observations regarding how such deaths were commented on, such as

 

On 20/08/2020 at 22:32, david murdoch said:

It's a harsh reality of the times that a man's death often doesn't warrant a line in a war diary unless there was some doubt about the circumstances of his death

 

Since I became interested in WW1 on discovering my grandfather’s diary, I have occasionally offered - or been asked to - find out more about the fate of friends’ relatives. I am certainly no expert, though hopefully I am learning all the time. Anyway, one friend never knew his grandfather, a 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusilier, and apparently the family never mentioned him at all. I easily found the CWGC’s record, which gave my friend his date of his death (24 November 1914) and place of commemoration (Ploegsteert), and then, when the NA began allowing free downloads, I found the MIC, which told him his grandfather entered France on 13 August 1914, confirming the KIA as 24 November 1914.

I then thought that I would download the Battalion War Diary for him, but curiously found no record of any casualties on 24 November 1914. There is reference to sniping, and 5 men being wounded by a shell, but nothing that can be interpreted as recording a death, in contrast to the previous day when heavy shelling and 12 casualties are recorded.

Then I noticed that a couple of days earlier there is this entry: “Remained in trenches covered with icicles, thermometer well below freezing point. Experimented with charcoal braziers in trenches”, while the entry for 24 November goes on, after recording the 12 casualties mentioned above “(one man being asphyxiated by charcoal fumes from the braziers, which were not a success)”.

So at that stage I was totally convinced that my friend’s grandfather had died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the early hours of 24 November 1914, his death appearing in the Battalion War Diary entry for 23 November 1914, and – and this is the point of this post – I was faced with a quandary; would it be better to say nothing, or, if I told my friend what I had discovered, would he find solace in the fact that his grandfather had at least been warm and either asleep or unconscious when he died, or would I be shattering a long-cherished illusion that his unknown grandfather had died valiantly in action? The quandary was made much worse by those awful words “the braziers, which were not a success…”. No doubt that is “stiff-upper-lip-speak” for “the braziers were a total disaster”, but they do not place much value on the life that had been lost in the experiment. It would have been rather better if the man filling out the diary had thought it appropriate to comment “We instructed the men to cease use of braziers with immediate effect” (which, incidentally, no doubt they did).

So, Schmorganzola, is knowledge better than no knowledge whatever the truth?

I had determined that I wouldn’t tell my friend anything other than that he could download the Battalion Diary from the NA for free if he was interested, thus leaving the choice of knowledge or no knowledge to him.

There is an addendum, however, in that I then discovered that the CGWC’s records have no deaths at all for the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots on 23 November, but 19 deaths the following day. How on earth can that be squared with the Battalion War Diary?

Anyway, from the point of view of my friend, there is no longer any reason for not sending him a link to the War Diary, as he can choose the scenario he prefers for how his grandfather died, and the earlier part of the diary gives an unusually full description of was happening to him in the 3.5 months leading up to his death, which I think would definitely be knowledge he would like to have.

Edited by A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy
Link to post
Share on other sites
Shmorganzola
23 hours ago, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

 

Schmorganzola, I do hope that you are able to make progress with discovering more about the circumstances of your relative’s accidental death. It certainly seems that finding a private account from someone else who was with the Battalion might be the best chance, so good luck with that.

I don’t want to hi-jack the thread away from your specific enquiry about what happened to Barkus, but you may have some thoughts from your own perspective about what I am going to say.

Some of the comments earlier in this thread were about accidental deaths generally, including

 

 

and observations regarding how such deaths were commented on, such as

 

 

Since I became interested in WW1 on discovering my grandfather’s diary, I have occasionally offered - or been asked to - find out more about the fate of friends’ relatives. I am certainly no expert, though hopefully I am learning all the time. Anyway, one friend never knew his grandfather, a 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusilier, and apparently the family never mentioned him at all. I easily found the CWGC’s record, which gave my friend his date of his death (24 November 1914) and place of commemoration (Ploegsteert), and then, when the NA began allowing free downloads, I found the MIC, which told him his grandfather entered France on 13 August 1914, confirming the KIA as 24 November 1914.

I then thought that I would download the Battalion War Diary for him, but curiously found no record of any casualties on 24 November 1914. There is reference to sniping, and 5 men being wounded by a shell, but nothing that can be interpreted as recording a death, in contrast to the previous day when heavy shelling and 12 casualties are recorded.

Then I noticed that a couple of days earlier there is this entry: “Remained in trenches covered with icicles, thermometer well below freezing point. Experimented with charcoal braziers in trenches”, while the entry for 24 November goes on, after recording the 12 casualties mentioned above “(one man being asphyxiated by charcoal fumes from the braziers, which were not a success)”.

So at that stage I was totally convinced that my friend’s grandfather had died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the early hours of 24 November 1914, his death appearing in the Battalion War Diary entry for 23 November 1914, and – and this is the point of this post – I was faced with a quandary; would it be better to say nothing, or, if I told my friend what I had discovered, would he find solace in the fact that his grandfather had at least been warm and either asleep or unconscious when he died, or would I be shattering a long-cherished illusion that his unknown grandfather had died valiantly in action? The quandary was made much worse by those awful words “the braziers, which were not a success…”. No doubt that is “stiff-upper-lip-speak” for “the braziers were a total disaster”, but they do not place much value on the life that had been lost in the experiment. It would have been rather better if the man filling out the diary had thought it appropriate to comment “We instructed the men to cease use of braziers with immediate effect” (which, incidentally, no doubt they did).

So, Schmorganzola, is knowledge better than no knowledge whatever the truth?

I had determined that I wouldn’t tell my friend anything other than that he could download the Battalion Diary from the NA for free if he was interested, thus leaving the choice of knowledge or no knowledge to him.

There is an addendum, however, in that I then discovered that the CGWC’s records have no deaths at all for the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots on 23 November, but 19 deaths the following day. How on earth can that be squared with the Battalion War Diary?

Anyway, from the point of view of my friend, there is no longer any reason for not sending him a link to the War Diary, as he can choose the scenario he prefers for how his grandfather died, and the earlier part of the diary gives an unusually full description of was happening to him in the 3.5 months leading up to his death, which I think would definitely be knowledge he would like to have.

Thanks for the in-depth thoughts and machinations on the lot (and dispensability) of the average Tommy at the Front.

For the record, I side with your opinion that, in terms of knowledge, Truth is better than None. How one creeps towards that Truth is the issue at hand, but we have to ercognise that we may never get that.

Still, lots to contemplate here, including the Regimental Archives.

Thanks for the wisdom, and likewise good luck with yours.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Matlock1418
On 20/08/2020 at 11:41, Shmorganzola said:

His death is recorded as 'Accidental' on a couple of sources

Having just found another case of tragically 'accidentally killed'

[Sleeping in a hut and a gale blew a wall down on top of it burying the four occupants - one died, Pte. Samuel R Burnside, M2/113718, ASC]

There is an official Army Form [isn't there always one!] for the reporting of such.

  • REPORT OF ACCIDENTAL OR SELF-INFLICTED INJURIES = AF W 3428

You may wish to look out for one.

:-) M

Link to post
Share on other sites
david murdoch
7 hours ago, Matlock1418 said:

Having just found another case of tragically 'accidentally killed'

[Sleeping in a hut and a gale blew a wall down on top of it burying the four occupants - one died, Pte. Samuel R Burnside, M2/113718, ASC]

There is an official Army Form [isn't there always one!] for the reporting of such.

  • REPORT OF ACCIDENTAL OR SELF-INFLICTED INJURIES = AF W 3428

You may wish to look out for one.

:-) M

There's all number of accidental deaths - quite a common one was carbon monoxide poisoning in dugouts, with heaters and stoves. Accidental shootings were actually quite frequent - basically so many "off the street" soldiers negligent discharges and fire arms mishandling were inevitable. I have detailed account of one where two lads in a Motor Machine Gun Battery cleaning pistols and one shot the other in the throat. In the war diary one line notes the lad's death as "accidentally shot" then later day another one line notes "enquiry held". However the minutes and findings of this enquiry are saved as three pages in the victims service record. This is not on an official form, but typewritten and notes names of everyone involved and the officers who conducted the enquiry.  As part of my research I put together the events.

 

On the morning of 7th August  (1915) at 08:00.

A/Sgt Thorburn, A/Sgt J. Hall and Gunner S.B. Smith were in their billet – a granary in or close to Vaudricourt . Thorburn was cleaning his service revolver and Gunner Smith decided to do likewise and Sgt Hall left the billet. He (Smith) un holstered the revolver which was hanging on the wall and as he sat down opposite Thorburn, the revolver discharged and the round struck Thorburn in the throat at close range. Thorburn jumped up and staggered outside where he collapsed in the roadway. The injured man was attended by Smith and Hall and an RAMC Lieutenant from 46th Field Ambulance. Thorburn was dispatched to hospital at nearby Choques by motor ambulance, but died of his wound at 10:45.

In the court of enquiry later the same day it came to light that Gunner Smith was unaware that his service weapon was loaded and produced his own full issue of (24) rounds of ammunition. It transpired that the night before that Sgt Hall had borrowed Smith’s revolver without his knowledge to “go up to the trenches” as he did not have a service weapon of his own. He loaded it with ammunition borrowed from another Battery member Bombardier Sinclair. On his return he had hung it up in the billet still loaded and Gunner Smith was unaware it had been loaded.

The enquiry deemed the shooting an accident caused by the following.

Sgt Hall borrowed the gun and returned it loaded without Gunner Smith’s knowledge.

Gunner Smith did not examine his revolver prior to going to clean it and had it pointed towards Sgt Thorburn with his finger on the trigger.

There does not appear to have been any further action taken against Hall or Smith.

It’s clear that there were basic mistakes of handling firearms loaded or not and reflects on all of them being inexperienced volunteers not long in service, and barely a month in France.

Checking up on the individuals, the shooter was Gunner 127 Samuel Boyd Smith from Paisley who later was awarded the DCM in 1918

A/Sgt Hall was James Hall M2/101389 ASC who had joined the Battery as a fitter alongside Thorburn. He survived the war ending as private. They appear together on the BW/VM medal roll.

Thorburn has an entry in De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, which  notes more graphically the wound. He is noted as accidentally shot by a revolver in the Scotsman of 13th August 1915 and also an article with photo in the Daily Record.  So it would appear his parents received detailed and uncensored news of the circumstances of his death within a week. Possibly from an uncensored letter from one of his Scottish friends in the Battery, or from an officer.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Shmorganzola

Thanks very much Matlock and David for these additional thoughts. The Frontline brought so many dangers...

Anthony

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...