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Private John Hanlon (58042)


AlBino
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I've been trying to find out and work out what my Grandfather did during the Great War as our family knowledge is as follows:

 

He was awarded the Italian Croix de Guerra (Silver medal for Valour) in May 1919 - intimated in the London Gazette 17 May 1919. 

The local paper printed this:

 

    Italian Decoration for Local Soldier

    Private John Hanlon/Devons

Mr and Mrs Daniel Hanlon have received the gratifying intelligence that their son, Private John Hanlon, 8th Devons has been awarded the Italian Decoration, equivalent to the British Military Medal, for gallantry carrying messages under fire during the last Italian offence when the Austrian were driven back from the Pave to the Tagiliamento.

The award was presented by the recipient's Divisional General. Private Hanlon joined up shortly after the outbreak of the was and saw a great deal of hard fighting being wounded at Billercoiut on 14 October 1917. On leaving school he entered the service of the Kilmarnock Equatable Cooperative Society .....

 

We understand that after recovering from his wounds (mentioned above) he was sent to Ireland as we know he was spat on coming out of church (I'be heard Cork or Limerick as being the locations). But how he then ended up in Italy and with the Devonshires is a complete mystery to us. 

 

Any information that you might have that would fill in the gaps would be appreciated.

 

Thanking you in advance,

 

John

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His medal roll shows he was with the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, which did indeed serve in Italy.

 

It also shows he was earlier with the 98th Training Reserve Battalion (with Service Number 10/37659).

 

These details, on their own, appear to conflict with the statement that "Private Hanlon joined up shortly after the outbreak of the war....."

 

More work will be required to substantiate that assertion.

 

Regards

 

Russ

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Thanks for your replies!  I have his medal card from the National Archive and didn't realise that he could change his army number but now see that he would move from the reserves to regular he would be issued with a new number. does the 10/ prefix mean anything?

I know that I have very little info but as a start does anyone know which battalions were at Billercoiut on 14 October 1917.

I have been unable to find the place/village/town and suspect that the spelling is wrong?

The other thing that I don't understand is why would he be placed in an Essex regiment (i.e. the 98th) as I thought that they tried to  keep soldiers with others from the same place (the lads regiments) or had that stopped by the time he joined?

Sorry of these questions are easily answered but I'm new to all this.

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19 hours ago, AlBino said:

does the 10/ prefix mean anything?

He served with the 98th Training Reserve Battalion, the 10 prefix indicates he served at Aldershot, this Battalion of the Training Reserve was formerly the 14th (Reserve) Battalion of the Essex Regiment see https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/training-reserve/

 

How old was he?  It's possible he was an instructor with the T.R., on the other hand he would not be eligible for active service overseas until age nineteen.  (I found a Sergeant in the Gymnastic Corps numbered 10/37*** who was serving with the 98th T.R.).  That would at least explain the 'joined up shortly after the outbreak of the war' in the article.

The 'pals' battalions were essentially a product of 1914 to enable men who worked together to serve together, the first middle class recruits to Kitchener's 'New Army' were shocked by their comrades behaviour, the majority of whom were drawn from the typical lower class army recruiting pool.

 

Home service units are not usually shown on the medal rolls so I suspect he was not renumbered until he arrived in France and was posted to the Devons at the IBD.

As the only record we have are the medal rolls (and the newspaper account) it may be he was posted to the 1st Devons when he returned to the UK, for the administration of the issue of medals it was only neccesary to show the first and last unit, any interim units were not relevant.

 

I'm struggling to find his date of transfer to the Devons, he would have retained the same number whilst he remained with the Regiment irrespective of which Battalion he served in.  The series seems to be associated with Labour Battalions which doesn't seem appropriate for this soldier.

You may be right that Billercouirt is a misprint of Bullecourt but although the Battalions were engaged there earlier in 1917 they had left by October.

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On 15/12/2020 at 20:52, kenf48 said:

How old was he? 

 

He was born in 1890 so would be 24 at outbreak of the war. And was a butcher so not sure if that would have been something to train in (though he would know about knives and cleavers). Not sure if this helps but he was home by June 1919 when he was married!

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9 hours ago, AlBino said:

He was born in 1890 so would be 24 at outbreak of the war.

The Training Reserve was formed in September 1916, it is therefore unusual for someone with a TR number who is over the age of nineteen and who allegedly volunteered in 1914 not to have been on active service with another unit.  It is another example of the inconsistency in the newspaper account which of course is no reflection on Pte. Hanlon.   It just makes it more difficult to unpick his service.

The TR number is more consistent with a man being conscripted,or attesting under the Derby Scheme just prior to compulsory enlistment. Unfortunately what remains of his records ar not especially helpful.

 

 Ireland was a 'home posting' as it was part of Great Britain, therefore no medals were awarded for service there.  The only unit of the Devons to serve in Ireland was the 3/4th (LLT) and they did not go there until April 1918.  Usually the numbers can offer a clue but in this instance it's just making it more confusing as the 3/4th was a Territorial Force Battalion (though that distinction had virtually ceased by 1918 and it would have been made up of men too young/unfit for active service at that time.)  The 3/4th was a Reserve Battalion when men were fit for active service in a theatre of war they would have been posted out as a reinforcement.

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Found him in the casualty list of the Scotsman dated 10 November 1917 58042 Devons so was serving with them when wounded.

Unsurprisingly he is the only Scot wounded whilst serving with the Devonshires reported.  No Battalion shown.

 

There is incidentally in the Kilmarnock Herald and North Ayrshire Gazette 6 June 1919 an account of 'War Honours Recipients receive Handsome Presentations' at Hurlford Parish Church, which includes a recipent of the DCM, a couple of MMs and your grandfather.

 

Neither tells us much more other rhan pushing back his Service in the Devonshire Regiment. It might be worth contacting the Regimental Museum 'The Keep' when it reopens I believe they can be very helpful (bearing in mind they are all volunteers)

 

Ken

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Ken - thanks for all the info - so it looks like he would have been trained at Aldershot when he joined the army and then moved to the Devonshires?? Seems strange he wasn't with a Scottish regiment. But great that we now know who he was with probably for all his service after training and we know that was after 1916. 

 

This is all fantastic and much more than I hoped for.

 

Thanks again!

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18 hours ago, AlBino said:

Ken - thanks for all the info - so it looks like he would have been trained at Aldershot when he joined the army and then moved to the Devonshires??

 

After a bit more digging -

have found a butcher from Oundle (Northamptonshire) who enlisted November 1914 and was posted to the ‘RLY.SUPPLY DET A.S.C.N.MID DIV’
(S4/039370 Frederick Dew)

Posted to the 98th T.R. Bn and renumbered TR/10/37639.  In turn he was posted to the MGC 84791 (that number dates from around February 1917).

 

I've looked at other numbers in the TR/10 series and it looks very much as though these were men who were 'combed out' of Home Service Units in the 'manpower crisis' of  early 1917.  They include men from the ASC; Military Police;and Pay Corps.  The date of compulsory transfer to the infantry was January 1917. 

It therefore seems likely the newspaper account was accurate and your grandfather may well have signed up early in the war and the Army initially posted him to the ASC and a 'Supply' depot in the U.K.  Unfortunately, in the absence of a service record I can't confirm this.  Someone may have access to the Pension Record in Fold 3 on Ancestry if he was granted a pension and that may give an enlistment date.  It is difficult to trace these numbers without a service record as they have no relevance to the issue of medals.

 

I was also confused as the Devon number was associated with the Devonshire Labour Battalion and I couldn't figure out how he ended up in the 8th/1st Bn. However, it seems most of the men posted to the TR in the cohort above were in lower medical categories, i.e. 'B' and 'C'; many ended up in the Labour Corps on its formation.  The Labour Battalions of the Devonshire moved into the Labour Corps in April 1917, so he may have simply remained in the infantry.

 

If that hypothesis is right it puts his transfer to the Devonshire Regiment around the beginning of March 1917. 

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At this point cursing the clerks at the Devonshires who completed the Medal Rolls in alphabetical order rather than numerical.  Generally there was no consistency across regiments as to the completion of the rolls but these seem particularly slapdash with any number being put down.

Anyway ploughing through them we find:-

 

58045 Ball

Formerly ASC S4/0399017

8th Devons

10th Devons

 

58046 Barnes 14-15 Star - entered theatre 7.7.1915
Formerly ASC S4/035847
1st Devons
8th Devons

 

58049 Harrison

Formerly RASC S4/O42250

1st Devons

8th Devons

 

58052 Ray kia A Coy 8th Bn kia
7th May 1917

1st Devons

8th Devons

 

Need to look at the 8th War Diary but we seem to have a sequence going on here, why they put your grandfather's T.R. number I don't know.  It also looks like a draft was destined for the the 1st but was posted to the 8th at the IBD on arrival in France.  S4/ prefix indicates 'Supply' in the ASC, typically this included butchers and bakers.

 

Slow progress but I think we're getting there and closer to a timeline, though I don't think we will be ever able to say when he originally enlisted.  In fairness to the clerks had they not put his TR number we wouldn't have found the sequence.  It does explain how he ended up in the Devons rather than a Scottish Regiment.

 

OK had a look at the war diary of the 8th Bn for 1917 February  to May (when Pte Ray kia).  There were two large drafts recorded in April which sounds about right, say 12 weeks with the TR from January, embarkation leave (if lucky) and then a spell at the IBD in France.  

The first was on the 9th April, '...a draft of 79 other ranks from the 3rd Reserve Bn Devons,some well trained NCOs but the men do not look promising and lack smartness.'; the second was a few days later on the 15th and looks more likely, "...Draft of 117 other ranks ...joined the Battalion. Men came from Devon, Hants and Wilts Training Reserve.  They have the appearance of being a fairly good draft."   The next draft of 15 recorded in the diary was on the 7-9 May which is after the action in which Pte Ray was killed and the battalion suffered considerable loss.

 

Your guess is as good as mine but on the balance of probability I'd go with your grandfather in the draft on the 15th. We should be able to find a service record amongst the 117 (he says hopefully).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi Ken - thanks for all the hard work - I wish I was more help?? 

 

Just though you might want to see the man you are investigation - not sure when it was taken though but he is in uniform. 

Gran and Granpa Hanlon.jpg

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4 hours ago, AlBino said:

Hi Ken - thanks for all the hard work - I wish I was more help?? 

 

Just though you might want to see the man you are investigation - not sure when it was taken though but he is in uniform. 

Fine looking fellow, he's not wearing any medal ribbons so my guess would be fairly early on.

 

I'm just giving you the bare bones and my interpretation.  You will need to firm it up, there are still many unanswered questions

 

Ken

 

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