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Remembered Today:

Major Arnold Wilson Birch

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I am researching the Military career of the above who served in the 24th Foot and earned the South Africa Medal with an 1879 Clasp. He also got a Silver War Badge and this is where I have drawn a blank so far. What did he do in the Great War? I can find him in two London Gazettes LG 6 Nov 1914 page 9017 and LG 22 Dec 1915 both under Special Appointments - Commands and Staff . In the later Gazette the other man is a Capt Edmund Thomas Chivers Bower GSO in Military Intelligence and I am wondering if my man was too. Both were Regular Officers in Victorian Times. In fact Bower also appears in the same 1914 Gazette entry as Birch

Before the War Major Arnold W Birch was a member of the London Stock Exchange and he went back to working there after the war. All I could find apart from his two LG Entries was his Silver War Badge Roll. There are no Officer papers in WO339 or 374 but there is an outline of his Victorian Career in WO76 up to 1891. I have had his silver war badge 34 years


Here below is some further background on his Military Career


Anything anyone can tell me or suggest as avenues to pursue will be gratefully received 


Many thanks




Military Service

Arnold first entered the Army on the 14th June 1876 aged 18 when he joined the 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia as a Sub Lieutenant and his appointment appeared in the London Gazette


Less than two years later in February 1878 he joins the Regular Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 11th Foot (The Devonshire Regiment) and following announcement appeared in the London Gazette. 11th Foot;- Lieut A W Birch 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia to be 2nd Lieutenant in succession to Lieut R S I O’Brien promoted. Dated 16th Feb 1878.

1879 was an eventful year for the British Army starting in January with the Battles of Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift when the 24th Foot were heavily defeated by a massively superior force of Zulus.


In England the news of the disaster had stirred the nation and there was no shortage of volunteers from other regiments to transfer to the 24th. Men from 17 regiments were taken on so that 520 new soldiers were sent out to southern Africa on the 'Clyde', setting sail on 1st March 1879. Unfortunately, the Clyde hit a reef between Dyer's Island and the mainland on 4th April. The men were disembarked, but before the baggage could be unloaded the tide rose and the ship sank. They eventually reached Durban on the 11th and marched to Dundee where they were united with D and G Companies who had been posted at Helpmakaar at the time of Isandhlwana.

Arnold may well have been one of those soldiers onboard, but it is unlikely as the Gazette announcing his transfer is dated after the Clyde left and his Officer papers suggest he embarked to South Africa on the 19th April.  The announcement in the London Gazette 25th March 1879 states “2nd Lieut A W Birch from the 11th Foot to be 2nd Lieut in succession to Lieut Francis Pender Porteous Killed in Action dated 26th March 1879”. Porteous had been killed at the Battle of Isandlwana. He was in command of A Company (some sources saying he was in temporary command of E Company). Regardless they initially stood their ground against overwhelming forces of Zulus but where eventually overcome. Porteous’ body was never found. It probably lies in one of the mass graves that today litter the battlefield, Francis Pender Porteous was aged 31 the son of J P and Emily Kemble of Jamaica.  If Arnold did indeed replace Porteous then he would have gone to the 2/24th Foot a fact that is confirmed by his officer file again. On the 19th April 1879 Arnold set out for South Africa to join his new Regiment and it was the 17th May when the transfer was completed to the 2/24th Foot.  He stays with them until 24 Oct 1880 when he transfers to the 1/24th foot. Both Battalions of the 24th Foot where in South Africa at the time.

After Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift

The 2nd Battalion remained at Rorke's Drift after arriving there to relieve B Company. They spent a miserable time without tents and covering and had to sleep on muddy ground. This state of affairs lasted 3 months during which time 12 men and one officer died of sickness and 13 men and 2 officers were invalided. The battalion was then split for various duties including building Fort Warwick on the Itelezi ridge. They did not take part in the Battle of Ulundi but when Lord Wolseley took over command, two companies, F and H provided his escort. After that the same companies had to go to Isandhlwana and bury the dead. At the end of 1879 the battalion was ordered to Gibraltar which they reached on 12th Feb 1880. Arnolds Papers show he is serving in Gibraltar from 13 Jan 1880 to the 11th August 1880 and he returns to the UK on the 23 October 1880 after a 2 month stop off in the East Indies.


His Battalion returns to the UK and the 1881 Census shows him with them in Colchester as a Lieutenant. He is still garrisoned in Colchester in 1882 when he marries Amy Gertrude Eyre at St Mathews Church in Burnley on the 21 June 1882 and the marriage certificate confirms this and his rank as Lieutenant with the 24th Foot. 

The rest of Arnold’s service with the 24th Foot is in the UK. He is promoted to Captain on the 15 August 1885. This is confirmed in the LG 26 Jan 1886

Lieutenant Arnold W. Birch to be Captain, vice G. K. Moore, seconded for service in the Army. Pay Department. Dated 15th August, 1885.

The London Gazette 17th Sept 1886 notes that Captain Arnold Wilson Birch 1st Battalion South Wales Borders to be Adjutant of the 4th Volunteer Battalion South Wales Borderers in succession to Major E S Browne VC whose period of service in that appointment is about to expire. Dated 20 Sept 1886. Browne must have been some act to follow for not only did he win the VC in the Zulu War with the 24th Foot he went on to a much higher rank.

This is appointment is confirmed again in the London Gazette 1st Oct 1886 page 4785

The South Wales Borderers, Captain Arnold W. Birch has been seconded for service as an Adjutant of Auxiliary Forces. Dated 20th September 1886.

His terms as adjutant in the 4th South Wales Borderers comes to an end in 1891 as per the LG 6 Oct 1891 page 5222

4th Volunteer Battalion, the South Wales Borderers, Captain George Champney Palmes, the South Wales Borderers, to be Adjutant, vice-Captain A. W. Birch, whose term of service has expired. Dated 1st October 1891.

The London Gazette of 22 Sept 1891 notes the following

The South Wales Borderers, Captain Arthur B. Phipps retires from the Service receiving a gratuity. Dated 23rd September 1891. Supernumerary Captain Arnold. W. Birch to be Captain, vice A. B. Phipps. Dated' 23rd September 1891.

In April 1897 Arnold is promoted to Major.

LG 30th April 1897 Page 2368

The South Wales Borderers, Captain Arnold W. Birch to be Major, vice Brevet Colonel R. A. P. Clements, D.S.O., Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, promoted. Dated 8th April, 1897

LG 31 December 1897 Page 7855

The South Wales Borderers, Major Arnold W. Birch retires on retired pay. Dated 1st January, 1898. . Captain Reginald Campbell to be Major, vice A. W. Birch. Dated 1st January, 1898.

On the outbreak of the Boer War Arnold is looking again for an opportunity to serve and he joins the Royal Northern Reserve Regiment.  This Regiments were formed in July 1900 to plug the gaps left by units going to South Africa. Service was for 12 months, mainly drawn from ex-servicemen. They were disbanded at the end of the South African war and replaced by the Royal Garrison Regiment. His appointment was gazetted as follows

LG3 July 1900 Page 4124


Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel F. C. Keyser,. C.B., retired pay, to be Lieutenant-Colonel. Dated 13th June, 1900.

 To be Majors: — Major A. F. White, Reserve of Officers. Dated 8th June, 1900. •

Major J. Watkins, Reserve of Officers. Dated 8th June, 1900.

 Major A. W. Birch, Reserve of Officers. Dated 8th June, 1900.

Major A. D. D. Kelly, Reserve of Officers. Dated 9th June, 1900.

Major A. J. C. Wrench, Reserve of Officers. Dated 10th June, 1900.



LG 8 Oct 1914 Page 8020               Special Appointments

(Graded for purposes of pay as Staff Lieutenants.)

Dated 25th September 1914.

Major W. J. Lister, retired pay.

Major A. W. Birch, retired pay.


London Gazette War Office, 6th November 1914.


The undermentioned appointments are made: —

Special Appointments— (Graded for purposes of pay as Staff Lieutenants)—

 Captain F. T. Bacon, Reserve of Officers. Dated 17th September, 1914.

Captain E. T. C. Bower, retired pay. Dated 18th September, 1914.

Major A. W. Birch, retired pay. Dated 25th September, 1914.

Brigade Major— Captain E. C. Kensington, 130th King


London Gazette       WEDNESDAY, 22 DECEMBER 1915. War Office, 22nd December 1915. Page 12777

War Office, 22nd December, 1915                    REGULAR FORCES. COMMANDS AND STAFF.             

SPECIAL APPOINTMENTS. (Graded for purposes of pay as General Staff Officers, 3rd Grade.)

Dated 10th December, 1915.

Captain Edmund T. C. Bower, retired pay

Major Arnold W. Birch, retired pay.






Medals & Awards


A W Birch was issued the South Africa Medal 1877 -79 with the bar 1879. The Roll notes his medal was returned to the Royal Mint 17 Sept 1885 under the authority 68/SA/1593. Why that should be as he was certainly out in South Africa in 1879 and entitled to it. Maybe it was returned for amendment.

His only other award was the Silver War Badge No 290957 which he applied for on the 9th Feb 1918 and gave his address as C/O Royal Torbay Yacht Club, Torquay. Post Office Records for 1918 show he was working from an Office at 5 Lothbury in the City as a Clerk at the London Stock Exchange and his actual abode was Hillborough House, St Mary Church, Torquay. He still gives his home as the Army and Navy club in 1922 so that was probably where he stayed when in London at that time and why he had that address inscribed on his silver war badge.



Family History

Arnold Wilson Birch was born in Manchester on the 16 Dec 1857 and baptised at St Saviours on the 26th January by his father who was the Rector.  His parents were Edward Birch  later the Venerable Archdeacon of Blackburn and his second wife Eliza Maria.

He married Amy Gertrude Eyre at St Matthews, Burnley, Lancs on 21 June 1882 and his father officiated.

In 1891 whilst serving as the adjutant to the 4th South Wales Borderers, he was living at 81 Chapel Road, Abergavenny.

The 1911 Census shows him as a retired Major HM forces and Member of the London Stock Exchange. He and Amy have been married 28 years and had no children. They were living at Iverna Court, Kensington. 

He died on the 13th July 1931 at Tonbridge Nursing Home and was survived by his wife Amy

SWB Front.jpg

Silver War Badge Reverse.jpg

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the 1920 officers service book only has his Zulu War service, no WW1

Edited by ForeignGong
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Thanks for Looking 


I am hoping someone has the War Office List for 1915 or 16. I have the 1920 list but he is long gone by then



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^ Same on the Quarterly Army List, 3rd Quarter of 1915 and 2nd quarter of 1916. Classed as a 'Non-Effective Officer'. 

Edited by headgardener
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Thank you guys I really appreciate you responding to my challenge. I have found him in various Army Lists and this gives his war service up until he retired. I was hoping someone might have this book The War Office List and Admin Directory if they produced one for 1915 and maybe 1916. They have biographical info on the Permanent Staff in Alpha order but not an index of the Officers seconded. Maybe the info was too sensitive.  Here are details of the Military Intelligence Dept from my 1920 copy so you can see the type of info. I know Arnold got is SWB in 1918 so he would have left by then.

Bower is shown as an Assistant Military Censor on his SWB roll (he got a Silver War badge too) even though he retired from the Ox & Bucks LI round about the same time as Arnold when QV was on the throne. Arnold's SWB entry unhelpful shows him as South Wales Borderers but not what he was doing during WW1. 


I have also not been able to find his old school either.  His father went to Eton and whilst I dont think Arnold's school was quite so grand (Arnold's Mother was wife no 2 of 3).  As a clergyman's son I think he would have gone to a good school. 


Any suggestions or snippets that will move me forward on my research gratefully received. It is proving a very interesting challenge.


Many thanks





War Office List 1920 front cover.jpg

War Office List 1920 pages 104 to 105.jpg

War Office List 1920 pages 107 to 8.jpg

War Office List 1920 pages 108 to 109.jpg

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The Old Reptonian War Register 1914-1919 states:


Birch, Arnold Wilson. (Latham, 1872-1875). Major S Wales Borderers Retd. General Staff, 9/14; GSO3 12/15 to 12/17.


The Reptonian School Register 1933 has:


Birch, Arnold Wilson. Jan 1872-April 1875. Latham.

Son of Ven. Archd. Birch, Blackburn, Vic.  Born Dec 16, 1857. S. Wales Borderers. Zulu War 1879 Medal with clasp. Major, Retd. 1897.  Stockbroker.  Died July 13, 1931.

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Thank you Dick and thank you Tony that is a significant break through I am very grateful. That is really useful to pin down his school and interesting to note they have his WW1 service. 


Just need to pin down what his GSO3 job was 


Was he an Army Censor? If only I could find a War Office List. Looks like 1917 would be a good one too. 


Once again the Forum comes up trumps thank you



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It's an interesting story, and a frustrating quest.

In case you fail to turn up a War Office List for 1916 or 17, my best suggestion is that you look for an obituary & funeral notice. Schools like Repton have a very strong sense of tradition, and the Old Boys magazine will usually carry death notices - some quite detailed, others only a name and a date. I see that Repton Archives has a very active Twitter account, so it might be worth trying to contact them by DM. Funeral notices might give a list of mourners, and you may be able to work out how they were connected to the man in question which in turn may establish something about his role during WW1. Ultimately, some people left only a very slight footprint on the historical documentation, but these methods have worked for me in instances like this. 


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That is a really good suggestion thank you

I had some correspondence with the archivist 10 years ago and I still have his email. Fortunately for me he is still the same guy so watch this space. Even if he cant help I am sure he will appreciate a summary of my research on Birch to add to the archive. Last time he appreciated what I sent him and said he would try and dig out some photos. Sadly never heard anymore but he did send me a copy of the guy's house which helped illustrate my story so I was more than happy. More often than not these school archivists are very helpful which I was why I was so grateful to the forum for pinning his school down.






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I drive past repton daily if you have anything I can pick up for you/check just say the word

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Headgardener your suggestion was spot on and here is the gist of the response from the school which was really helpful


Normally my first port of call when answering an enquiry about a pupil of this vintage is the published School Register, and the Old Reptonian War Register. As you have already got access to the school register and the Old Reptonian War Register I checked the earlier editions for any extra information on A.W. Birch - unfortunately there isn't. I also looked in what are known as The Repton Terminal Letters, which were sent out to old boys every term to see if there was an obituary for him in 1931 - his name appears on a general list, but there are no accompanying biographical details.  It's not a complete blank and disappointment though, as I have found A.W. Birch on a Football XI team photograph from 1874. I have scanned this for you and attached it to this email. Arnold is seating second from left. 


I now have a great picture which out of respect for their kindness I ought not to upload here. I have checked the newspaper archive but no funeral details just a death notice.


Many thanks Andrew



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