Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

A 15 year mystery finally solved? - My Great Grandfather's alias!


RedCoat
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

 

Opinions needed on this long winded post! Its taken me 15 years to get here and I am rather excited so please bear with me!

 

My journey to find my Great Grandfathers First World War service started in 2005. I had nothing to go on apart from two postcards, one taken c1919 with my GG in civilian dress wearing a Silver War Badge and another photo of him taken c1940 in Battle Dress wearing the ribbons of a 1914 or 1914/15 Star Trio. I had also been told that he'd been gassed at some stage and had his wedding certificate from 1917 that stated he was with the "1st Essex Labour Battalion", an impossible unit so assumed that he was in the Labour Corps.

 

Easy I thought, look at the MIC's and find an Edward George Howes with a Trio + SWB and go from there - no luck! 

 

There were no Edward George's at all, so I started looking for Edwards. Edward was born in Norfolk so I hoped he had joined his local county regiment, the Norfolk Regiment. I found a contender, awarded a trio etc but his DOB and Enlistment date was far too early to match with my GG who was born in 1892 - no one else fit either.

 

I hit a brick wall for a few years until I decided to apply for his Second World War records, hoping he had declared his former service. When I received the records I was pleased to see he had - "Pte Army, 27th December 1914 - March 1919, Essex Regiment"

 

Great thought I, find an Edward who served in the Essex Regiment, but there were NONE!

 

Knowing my Great Grandfather was at times a naughty boy, I started to look at the MIC's and found a Thomas George Howes of the 1st Essex Regiment who later served in the Labour Corps. I looked him up on the Silver War Badge roll and found him there - Enlisted 8th January 1915 and was discharged in March 1919 from Sickness, he was also born in 1894, my GG in 1892! His MIC stated he served in Gallipoli from November 1915, which also aligns with my GG's 1914/15 Star Trio. I then found Thomas in the Pension Cards - He claimed a pension in 1919 and was living as a married man (no wifes name listed) in St Ives Huntingdonshire, the same town that my GG lived in. The pension card states Thomas was discharged due to "Disorderly Action of the Heart" - my GG died of complications with his heart.

 

Then, last week a new newspaper was added to the FindMyPasts archive. I searched for Edward George Howes and up pops an article from 1940 talking about my Great Grandfather and his three sons who were serving in the armed forces. In the article Edward mentions he "served in the Dardanelles and France with the Essex Regiment and was gassed."

 

So if we summarise my 15 years of findings I am certain that Thomas George Howes is actually my Great Grandfather Edward George Howes.

 

  1. My GG stated he enlisted on the 27th December 1914 - Thomas officially joined on the 8th January 1915, only 13 days apart.
  2. Thomas enlisted in the 1st Essex Regiment, consistent with the odd occupation of "1st Essex Labour Battalion" on my GG's marriage certificate, and my GG's declaration that he served in the Essex Regiment.
  3. Thomas transferred to the Labour Corps, as did my GG.
  4. Thomas has the same middle and last name as my GG.
  5. Thomas served in the Dardanelles and then presumably France, the same as my Great Grandfathers declaration.
  6. Thomas was awarded a Silver War Badge and discharged in March 1919, the same as my Great Grandfather.
  7. Thomas was born in 1894, my Great Grandfather 1892.
  8. Thomas claimed him pension from St Ives Hunts, the same town as my Great Grandfather lived in.
  9. Thomas was discharged due to DAH, my GG died from heart problems.

 

Apologies for the rambling post but I would like to hear some thoughts!

 

Cheers

 

 

Edited by RedCoat
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi,

I think you can stop searching...well done.

Thomas George Howes,  Pte. 20864  Essex Regt. Disemb 6.11.15 to 2b,  Disch.20.3.19 Pte 158105 Lab.Corps. SWB No B270911.

Regards Barry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great work well done

 

Below is the link to the Essex Regiment museum based in Chelmsford, Its a long shot but they may have a photo or some further information

 

https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums/whats-on/military-exhibition/family-history-searches/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only extra thing I could suggest is, if you look at his pension card, you will see the address is Ramsey Rd, St Ives, Hunts. You could try to tie to that

 

You could look for the electoral roll for St Ives to see if that gives an address.

 

I see he is still in Norfolk in 1911 census, what is the address on his 1917 marriage cert?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The records of James Arthur Porter (158100 Labour Corps) may be of interest. They show:

 

  • Served in UK with 3rd Battalion Essex Regiment from 27-8-1915 to 19-2-1917
  • Transferred to the 29th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment on 20-2-1917
  • The range of numbers 149641 to 162640 in the Labour Corps where allotted to the 29th (Works) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment according to "No Labour No Battle" (Lee/Starling)
  • Transferred to the Labour Corps and posted to the 5th Labour Battalion on 18-5-1917

 

Porter was later posted to the 326th (Home Service) Employment Company though there is no reason that any of his fellow transferees in MAy would have followed the same route.

 

The same 18-5-1917 apply to 158020 Ernest Robert Brown, 158114 Henry Robinson and 158143 Austin Bates. All transferred to the Labour Corps on 18-5-1917 but went to different Labour Corps companies thereafter. Dates of transfer to the 29th (Works) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment vary from late 1916 through to early 1917.

 

 

Stephen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, corisande said:

I see he is still in Norfolk in 1911 census, what is the address on his 1917 marriage cert?

Hi,

Perhaps the same address will be on his son's birth cert. Kenneth George Howes, 18th Dec, 1920 St.Ives,3b,467, Mother Adams.

If he had been a "naught boy" as posted originally  then perhaps he borrowed his elder brother's middle name Thomas when he signed up.

Regards Barry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi all,

 

I do not have a copy of the Marriage Certificate, the details of his occupation were notes I made over a decade ago. Perhaps I will need to order the certificates. 

 

I am certain he is my man - there is simply too much coincidence. 

 

Cheers

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, RedCoat said:

I am certain he is my man - there is simply too much coincidence. 

 

I too am pretty sure that he is your man. What I was suggesting is to turn it into being 100% sure :)

 

Depends if you want to spend money on the marriage and birth certs for the extra confirmation

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By 1940 he had moved to a different address in St Ives, and it gives his WW1 record

 

howes.jpg.bddca0cada342cb186b0b9861134b396.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There were a number of drafts from the Norfolk Regiment to the Essex Regiment from August 1915 onwards, primarily from the 3rd Battalion Norfolks to the 1st Battalion Essex. In part the number of drafts was driven by the significants loss, killed and seriously injured, among two drafts totalling over 300 Norfolk who were lost in the torpedoing of the HMT Royal Edward on the 13th August 1915.

 

To see if your great grandfather might have been part of such a draft I tried cross-referencing Essex Regiment men with nearby service numbers who are recorded on the CWGC database with their entry on the SDGW to try and establish which unit your great-grandfather might have trained with in the UK. Whereas other sources for men who have no surviving service records seldom mention UK only units, there is a tendency on SDGW to reference the first unit served with as an additional note.

 

20851 Private C Cooley 1st Battalion. Died 01/07/1916.

SDGW Clifford, died of wounds, formerly 17574 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20855 Private Robert Frost 1st Battalion Died 14/04/1917.

SDGW Killed in action, formerly 18022 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20856 Lance Corporal Harold Fiske. 2nd Battalion. Died 15/07/1918 aged 25.

SDGW, died of wounds. Formerly 17780 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20859 Private James Garwood. 13th Battalion. Died 28/04/1917.

SDGW, killed in action, formerly 17857 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20860 Private Ernest Germany. 1st Battalion. Died 14/04/1917.

SDGW, killed in action, formerly 3/10303 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20861 Private Percy Haliday 1st Battalion. Died 01/07/1916 aged 19.

SDGW, killed in action, formerly 9/5415 East Kent Regiment.

 

20869 Lance Corporal Arthur Howlett, 1st Battalion. Died 14/04/1917 aged 34.

SDGW, killed in action, formerly 17795 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20870 Private T Hudson, 1st Battalion. Died 22/11/1916.

SDGW, killed in action, formerly 17796 Norfolk Regiment.

 

20872 Lance Corporal Ernest Alfred Keeley, 11th Battalion. Died 15/09/1916 aged 38.

SDGW, killed in action, formerly 18738 Norfolk Regiment.

 

Observations:

1: If you discount Haliday as an anomaly, then this was a draft from the Norfolk Regiment, most likely the 10th Battalion, but possibly the 3rd. The Norfolk Regiment service numbers are mostly around the later Kitchener Army K4 recruits, and the 7th, 8th and 9th Battalions were already out in France by the time these men went to the Essex Regiment.

 

2: Looks like the new Essex Regiment service numbers were issued in alphabetical order – ones earlier in the 208xx range for men on CWGC weren’t, so might be possibly to identify the approximate size of the draft and tie this into the 1st Essex war diary for the arrival of a draft.

 

3: How lucky your Great Grandfather was to survive.

 

You could try looking to see if any of those men or others with nearby service numbers have surviving service records in order to understand the early part of his army career.

 

Hope that helps,

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, RedCoat said:

I certainly will, I wonder how the COVID lockdown is affecting the BMD service?

 

Cheers

It's not a problem....order them from the GRO website, £7 for a Pdf version by email, usually takes about a week.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi

1939 Register His wife Mabel Elizabeth (nee Adams) b.2.4.1897 is at 52 Little Farthing Close  next door to the address in the newspaper article, with 6 of her children. Interestingly there are 3 Adams's at No.54 no doubt  her relatives.

Married 10.11.1917, St.Ives, 3b,651

Regards Barry

 

Edited by The Inspector
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 26/11/2020 at 10:43, PRC said:

You could try looking to see if any of those men or others with nearby service numbers have surviving service records in order to understand the early part of his army career.

 

As it helped one of my own projects. I accepted my own challenge :)

 

It initially looked like he was part of a draft that ran from either 20834 F Andrews or 20835 Thomas E Allen through to 20914 Christmas James Wilson, but while checking on past that, after a couple of senior NCO’s I was back into Privates starting with A who had come from the Norfolk Regiment.

 

Concentrating on the 80/81 men in the first batch, their former Norfolk Regiment number could be identified for 27 of them from straightforward sources like Soldiers Died in the Great War, Medal Index Cards and surviving Service Records. A bit more digging could turn up even more. They included a couple of Norwich men, but nearly all of the 27 were from Norfolk.

 

On 26/11/2020 at 10:43, PRC said:

Observations:

1: If you discount Haliday as an anomaly, then this was a draft from the Norfolk Regiment, most likely the 10th Battalion, but possibly the 3rd. The Norfolk Regiment service numbers are mostly around the later Kitchener Army K4 recruits, and the 7th, 8th and 9th Battalions were already out in France by the time these men went to the Essex Regiment.

 

2: Looks like the new Essex Regiment service numbers were issued in alphabetical order – ones earlier in the 208xx range for men on CWGC weren’t, so might be possibly to identify the approximate size of the draft and tie this into the 1st Essex war diary for the arrival of a draft.

 

It was a looser alphabetical order in that the “A” names came first, but a mixed jumble of such “A” surnames, hence why I don’t know if it starts with Andrews or Allen.

 

A couple of examples probably illustrate the early part of your Great Grandfathers military career.

 

Here are parts of the Statement of Services pages for 20878 James Loades, ex 12804 Norfolk Regiment.

 

1375862505_JohnLoades12804NorfolkRegimentStatementofServicesourcedFindMyPastcrop.jpg.0f7ede7d574690e77562fd22370a1de5.jpg

(Image courtesy FindMyPast)

 

And 20902 Frank Charles Sullivan, ex 18705, Norfolk Regiment.

 

1429298138_FrankCharlesSullivan18705NorfolkRegimentStatementofServicessourcedFindMyPastcrop.jpg.837662337e384c03712ed83333758df2.jpg

(Image courtesy FindMyPast)

 

Both initially served with Norfolk Regiment New Army Battalions but in May/June 1915 they were transferred to the 3rd Battalion Norfolk Regiment.

 

Subsequently they volunteered to be transferred (Loades) or were simply compulsorarily transferred (Sullivan) to the 3rd Battalion, Essex Regiment, on the 10th September 1915. By the 23rd September 1915 they were on their way to join the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment, then serving with the Expeditionary Force in the Mediterranean.

 

Of course while identifying that Thomas George Howes almost certainly enlisted with the Norfolk Regiment, it doesn’t automatically make him your great grandfather, but must increase the odds it is.

 

On 26/11/2020 at 09:17, The Inspector said:

Thomas George Howes,  Pte. 20864  Essex Regt. Disemb 6.11.15 to 2b,  Disch.20.3.19 Pte 158105 Lab.Corps. SWB No B270911.

 

What I did note in passing is that where Medal Index Cards were prepared by the records office of the Essex Regiment for this draft, the date of disembarkation was the 9th October 1915 and the Theatre of War is 2b – i.e Gallipoli.

 

When the MiC were prepared at other Records office – Labour Corps \ Royal Engineers etc, the dates and theatres varied widely, starting from the 23rd September 1915 and going through into November and showing men first landing in Theatre 3, (then Egypt) and even 5a Mesopotamia. While those are theoretically possible, I tend to work on the basis that record clerks that had the same set of circumstances for a 1,000 man deploying overseas for the first time or a draft running to hundreds would be likely to remember dates and theatres better then record clerks that had hundreds of names to add to medal rolls under time pressure and for each one the service files had to be examined. The odd dates and theatres I suspect arise from a cursory glance for the first things that stood out. Unfortunately the records clerks weren't thinking of us poor old researchers trying to make sense of it all over a 100 years later.

 

So possibly disembarked 6.11.15 may be mis-leading.

 

The Silver War Badge Roll also shows Thomas George enlisted 8th January 1915. If it was with the Norfolk Regiment then his number would be likely to fall between 17850 (enlisted 06/01/1915) / 17851 (enlisted 04/01/1915) and 17855 & 17862 (enlisted 09/01/1915). The only Norfolk Regiment service number in there that I can't currently account for is 17854.

 

Hope that is of interest,

Peter

Link to comment
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
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...