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Signals and Telegraph Service in Mesopotamia


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Can anyone help me find out about the signals and telegraph service in Mesopotamia after it was set up in late 1916 as my grandfather Captain Hubert Greene RGA was in Mesopotamia from then until 1921( latterly as part of the Iraq administration) when he returned to civilian life in the Indian Post and Telegraph service. There were also one or more Lines of Communication Signals companies set up in late 1916..  I believe most of the telegraph ;ines in large towns and cities in the area were already owned and operated by the Indian Government Telegraph Dept. My grandfather and others were mentioned in dispatches by Maude. His is dated 10th April 1917 under 'Government Telegraph Dept , though he is also on the RGA list attached to the copy of the despatch in the National Archives. The India Army RGA list doesn't mention his Company during this period so I have been unable to link him with a unit or any events at any time before or after the fall of Baghdad.  before this period he had been in Aden with Coy 70 RGA having been commissioned in Dec 1912 as a 2nd lieutenant .

I have looked at Maude's despatch for April- Sept 17 at Kew  . I was wondering where I could find out more about the Signals service and the technological advances they were involved in there. My grandfather was an engineering  graduate in  India and was a Deputy Supt, telegraph traffic in the P & T dept by 1914. Maude's despatch includes the following paragraph which is the only reference why some of the P & T staff were mentioned in despatches. 

 image.png.0658af2ef7e4f309002c71a7dc4b30db.png

In the National Archives at Kew are listed nearly 50 unit war diaries of signal troops and corps. In 2019 I looked at the diaries of the Director of Signals and Telegraphs, but have not progressed further.

My grandfather was quite senior in the P & T service later, and  he was called out of retirement during WW2  to help set up the British Army communications in India but that's another story for elsewhere.  

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charlie962

Welcome to the Forum, jude53.

 

Can I take it that you created the profile on Lives of the First World war, that contains quite a few records relating to him?

 

That Lives listing will save duplication of effort by Forum pals.

 

The history of the Signal Service in Mesopotamia was , I believe, proposed but never finished so you have to scratch around in other histories to find snippets.

 

I'll also try.....

 

Charlie

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Yes, The profile on The Lives of the First World war is my grandfather . Hubert Eugene Greene. b 1883 .  

 

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charlie962
1 hour ago, jude53 said:

the signals and telegraph service in Mesopotamia after it was set up in late 1916

The War Diaries you referred to for Director Signals and Telegraph start in 1915 and the various newspaper clippings I've seen sw Indian Telegraph Dept involvement in Mespot from 1914 ?

 

Am I looking at the wrong activity ?

Charlie

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41 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

Does his MiD say Mr HR Greene rather than Captain ?

yes, Though he was a Captain as of Dec. 2016. 

 

12 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

The War Diaries you referred to for Director Signals and Telegraph start in 1915 and the various newspaper clippings I've seen sw Indian Telegraph Dept involvement in Mespot from 1914 ?

 

Am I looking at the wrong activity ?

Charlie

I dont think so. Clearly the main telegraph lines between towns pre war ere owned and operated before the war by the ITD , a civilian activity. A very different and significantly more challenging activity would be needed in a war situation.  I found a paper written in 2014 by an academic from Salford Uni a few weeks ago ' Technological adaptation in a global conflict : the British Army and communication beyond the Western front 1914-1918   by Brian Hall. This mentioned the setting up of the signals service in 1916. and the Lines of Communications Signal Company to address the problems of the preceding months.  

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charlie962
2 minutes ago, jude53 said:

setting up of the signals service in 1916

I've no doubt that re-organisation was required in most departments in Mespot during 1916. But the basic services existed from the start, be it Wireless, Telegraph, Telephone etc.  I think I copied that Salford Thesis- I will check.

 

Charlie

5 minutes ago, jude53 said:

Though he was a Captain as of Dec. 2016. 

!!

 

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The British Library has a series of printed publications catalogued as War Diaries including Mesopotamia. (These appear to be different to War Diaries at The National Archives, which are not printed publications).  

IE Force 'D' [Mesopotamia] IOR/L/MIL/17/5/3223-3892, including IOR/L/MIL/17/5/3788 A table of the contents of the war diaries of the Mesopotamian Campaign. PERHAPS there may be something relevant.

To my knowledge these publications have not been digitised and require a personal visit or a researcher  (if Covid restrictions currently allow this)

See  the FIBIS Fibiwiki page  https://wiki.fibis.org/w/First_World_War#British_Library_holdings

 

If  Captain Hubert Greene was in the Indian Army WW2, it may be possible to enquire whether there is a surviving Service record, see the FIBIS Fibiwiki page https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Army#Records

 

The following aren't directly relevant, but may add some background

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Mesopotamia_Campaign including https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Mesopotamia_Campaign#Historical_books_online

 

Perhaps there might be something in online versions of History Of The Great War: The Campaign In Mesopotamia 1914-1918 .

 

 

With Horse and Morse in Mesopotamia: The Story of Anzacs in Asia edited by Keast Burke 1927. Includes Pack Wireless Signal Troops from Australia and New Zealand. NZsappers.org.nz has two digital files/series, the first contains some digital pages which are of very poor quality. The second series of files from nzsappers.org.nz Pages 1-70, pages 71-132; pages 133-206 .

 

From different Fibiwiki pages, but perhaps may add background

The Indian Sappers and Miners by E. W. C Sandes [Edward Warren Caulfeild] 1948. (726p). nzsappers.org.nz. Covers the period from the pioneers in 1759 to the prelude to the Second World War.

 

"An Unofficial History of the Signal Service with the British Salonika Force 1915-1918" by Capt C C S White The Royal Engineers Journal. Part 2 Scroll to pages 97-108 Vol XLI No 1 March 1927. Includes the Occupation of Constantinople. (Part 1 Scroll to pages 647-658 (the digital file commences page 537) Vol XL No 4 December 1926) nzsappers.org.nz.  This is a different theatre of war, but perhaps illustrates the type of conditions.

 

FIBIS Fibiwiki page Post and Telegraphs Department

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Post_and_Telegraphs_Department#Indo-European_Telegraph

FIBIS Fibiwiki page Indian Civil Service

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Civil_Service

 

Cheers

Maureen

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12 hours ago, Maureene said:

The British Library has a series of printed publications catalogued as War Diaries including Mesopotamia. (These appear to be different to War Diaries at The National Archives, which are not printed publications).  

IE Force 'D' [Mesopotamia] IOR/L/MIL/17/5/3223-3892, including IOR/L/MIL/17/5/3788 A table of the contents of the war diaries of the Mesopotamian Campaign. PERHAPS there may be something relevant.

To my knowledge these publications have not been digitised and require a personal visit or a researcher  (if Covid restrictions currently allow this)

See  the FIBIS Fibiwiki page  https://wiki.fibis.org/w/First_World_War#British_Library_holdings

 

If  Captain Hubert Greene was in the Indian Army WW2, it may be possible to enquire whether there is a surviving Service record, see the FIBIS Fibiwiki page https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Army#Records

 

The following aren't directly relevant, but may add some background

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Mesopotamia_Campaign including https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Mesopotamia_Campaign#Historical_books_online

 

Perhaps there might be something in online versions of History Of The Great War: The Campaign In Mesopotamia 1914-1918 .

 

 

With Horse and Morse in Mesopotamia: The Story of Anzacs in Asia edited by Keast Burke 1927. Includes Pack Wireless Signal Troops from Australia and New Zealand. NZsappers.org.nz has two digital files/series, the first contains some digital pages which are of very poor quality. The second series of files from nzsappers.org.nz Pages 1-70, pages 71-132; pages 133-206 .

 

From different Fibiwiki pages, but perhaps may add background

The Indian Sappers and Miners by E. W. C Sandes [Edward Warren Caulfeild] 1948. (726p). nzsappers.org.nz. Covers the period from the pioneers in 1759 to the prelude to the Second World War.

 

"An Unofficial History of the Signal Service with the British Salonika Force 1915-1918" by Capt C C S White The Royal Engineers Journal. Part 2 Scroll to pages 97-108 Vol XLI No 1 March 1927. Includes the Occupation of Constantinople. (Part 1 Scroll to pages 647-658 (the digital file commences page 537) Vol XL No 4 December 1926) nzsappers.org.nz.  This is a different theatre of war, but perhaps illustrates the type of conditions.

 

FIBIS Fibiwiki page Post and Telegraphs Department

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Post_and_Telegraphs_Department#Indo-European_Telegraph

FIBIS Fibiwiki page Indian Civil Service

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Civil_Service

 

Cheers

Maureen

thanks Maureen. I have been a FiBiS member for many years and  have looked at the fibiwiki pages but it is worth revisiting  them as additions do get made.  I had no luck with finding a service record at the British Library and they advised that as the RGA was British Army, any record was likely to be at Kew.

I will look into the IOR war diaries for Mesopotamia. I haven't come across these during my many visits to the india Office records at the British Library. 

 During WW2 my grandfather was re-employed through the Civil service. He had retired on ill health grounds in 1938 as the Chief Superintendent of the Telegraph Traffic service in Bombay, but he was back on the India Office list from 1941-1947. 

 

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charlie962

For the Mention in Despatches I think the RGA appointment is misleading.

 

Here are the references in Maude's Despatch. I show, courtesy LondonGazette, the period covered by Maude's Despatch and the particular entry for Greene:

1603098644_MespotGWFThreadSignalsandTelegraphGreeneMiD2.JPG.4d05340321a50a7fe4be97d18e93b05d.JPG2020814422_MespotGWFThreadSignalsandTelegraphGreeneMiD.JPG.c1d88b7932924f9bb7eb6d363be9bebe.JPG

 

Here is the 1934 India office List entry. I don't believe he appears in earlier editions.

 

213912585_MespotGWFThreadSignalsandTelegraphGreeneIOList1934.JPG.1c9b70b88d2739604d5d3c59c4b5fc85.JPG

 

My reading of all this is that Greene was working as a Civil Servant in Mespot for the Indian Telegraph Department when he earned his MiD.

 

The period covered by the despatch was from Maude's appointment as CinC MEF until after the capture of Baghdad. The appointment of Maude resulted in further massive reorganisation (started during 1916) of all units and increases in manpower and material after the disasterous campaigns in late 1915 early 1916 when the restrictions place on the MEF- caused principally by the command in India (discuss!)- meant failure of brave efforts to relieve the British garrison at Kut. 

 

Maude, with his much larger and better structured Army,  then led a successful campaign culminating, in this phase,  in the capture of Baghdad.

 

As the Army advanced past Kut and on to Baghdad the telegraph and telephone system had to be extended. The Turks destroyed the installations in Baghdad before capture so they had to be rebuilt. Exactly where was the division of responsibilities between Army Signals and the India Telegraph Dept I am unclear but, as the extract you posted from Maude's despatch shows, it will have required a high sense of duty and efficiency to keep up with the changes. The War Diary you mentioned of Director Signals and Telegraph gives some idea but only covers the Army end.

 

The Medal Card that you noted at National Archives for  Lt H Greene RGA  is indeed in the same despatch as Hubert but under RGA.  However I believe that card refers to Howard Greene MC, RGA who served in Mespot with 104 Heavy Bty RGA and later Iraq 1919. He was born 4/6/1893 and ended up adding a DSO and CBE, I believe.     I also think it is Howard's GSM Iraq Medal Roll that you have posted on Lives ?

 

On 25/01/2021 at 16:51, jude53 said:

he had been in Aden with Coy 70 RGA having been commissioned in Dec 1912 as a 2nd lieutenant .

Could you perhaps expand on this please? I see you have a 1914 Indian Army List picture but It is 90° out and too indistinct for me to read. Are you absolutely sure that this H Greene is your Hubert Eustace Greene? I agree there is a Lt H Greene with 70 Coy RGA in 1914.

 

I hope this is helpful

Charlie

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21 hours ago, charlie962 said:

For the Mention in Despatches I think the RGA appointment is misleading.

 

Here are the references in Maude's Despatch. I show, courtesy London Gazette, the period covered by Maude's Despatch and the particular entry for Greene:

1603098644_MespotGWFThreadSignalsandTelegraphGreeneMiD2.JPG.4d05340321a50a7fe4be97d18e93b05d.JPG2020814422_MespotGWFThreadSignalsandTelegraphGreeneMiD.JPG.c1d88b7932924f9bb7eb6d363be9bebe.JPG

 

Here is the 1934 India office List entry. I don't believe he appears in earlier editions.

 

213912585_MespotGWFThreadSignalsandTelegraphGreeneIOList1934.JPG.1c9b70b88d2739604d5d3c59c4b5fc85.JPG

 

My reading of all this is that Greene was working as a Civil Servant in Mespot for the Indian Telegraph Department when he earned his MiD.

 

The period covered by the despatch was from Maude's appointment as CinC MEF until after the capture of Baghdad. The appointment of Maude resulted in further massive reorganisation (started during 1916) of all units and increases in manpower and material after the disasterous campaigns in late 1915 early 1916 when the restrictions place on the MEF- caused principally by the command in India (discuss!)- meant failure of brave efforts to relieve the British garrison at Kut. 

 

Maude, with his much larger and better structured Army,  then led a successful campaign culminating, in this phase,  in the capture of Baghdad.

 

As the Army advanced past Kut and on to Baghdad the telegraph and telephone system had to be extended. The Turks destroyed the installations in Baghdad before capture so they had to be rebuilt. Exactly where was the division of responsibilities between Army Signals and the India Telegraph Dept I am unclear but, as the extract you posted from Maude's despatch shows, it will have required a high sense of duty and efficiency to keep up with the changes. The War Diary you mentioned of Director Signals and Telegraph gives some idea but only covers the Army end.

 

The Medal Card that you noted at National Archives for  Lt H Greene RGA  is indeed in the same despatch as Hubert but under RGA.  However I believe that card refers to Howard Greene MC, RGA who served in Mespot with 104 Heavy Bty RGA and later Iraq 1919. He was born 4/6/1893 and ended up adding a DSO and CBE, I believe.     I also think it is Howard's GSM Iraq Medal Roll that you have posted on Lives ?

 

Could you perhaps expand on this please? I see you have a 1914 Indian Army List picture but It is 90° out and too indistinct for me to read. Are you absolutely sure that this H Greene is your Hubert Eustace Greene? I agree there is a Lt H Greene with 70 Coy RGA in 1914.

 

I hope this is helpful

Charlie

Charlie,

This is very helpful. I think I have made a mistake and I now think that the H Greene RGA records are not for my grandfather. The anecdotal evidence from his son more than 10 years ago was that our Hubert Eugene Greene had been a captain of signals in Mesopotamia . When I searched the Gazette some years ago, I found other H Greenes who were MID  in Mesopotamia who I was able to discount but Howard did not surface.

Then, I hadn't seen a copy of the 'certificate' signed by Churchill. I assumed when I saw the date April10th 1917 that this related to the 'action' not the date of the despatch. The gazette list you found is identical to the typewritten list in the National Archives of which I have a copy for Maude's despatch ending April1917.

  

It  has troubled me for a couple of years how someone could be commissioned Dec 1912 , yet be working as a civilian as HEG was in 1913 . Prior to the pandemic I was working through the annual IOR/V13 civil lists for the Post and Telegraph Dept in the British Library for several ancestors. These list the job roles and locations of most employees. The gap to close is 1913-1918 ! I jumped the war years during my last visit due to time constraints, as I wanted to confirm the retirement of 2 great grandfathers both Telegraph superintendents!  

HEG first appears in the india Office list in 1933 but I can track him before that in the civil lists. 1918 states he is ''not in a substantive post''. ''On foreign service with the Iraq administration.'' 

Attached is the entry for H Greene Indian Army list July 1914 , and I have most subsequent entries till January 1921 .  I couldn't find him after that which also contributed to my mistake I think.  

 I have asked a fellow member of my U3A family history group to find Howard Greene's record in Fold3.!

 

Good to get the record straight  though conscious that there shouldn't be an entry in The lives of the First World War.

I will have to review Brian Hall's paper for some gleanings.

Judith 

1914 july IA list H Greene.pdf

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charlie962

Judith,

Good that we can eliminate those bits about RGA.

 

Here are some more of my thoughts on Indian Telegraph Department, repeating some of what is already above:

 

1.   References may be found to Indian Telegraph Dept, Indian Government Telegraph Dept, ITD and IGTD.

 

2.   The Indo-European Telegraph Dept ran the facilities in Fao in prewar 1914, opening further offices in Basra 2/12/14 and Kurna 31/3/15 following the landing and advances of IEF'D'.  Expansion led to requests for aid from (it's parent ?) the Indian Telegraph Dept. At the end of March 1915, EL Bagshaw, a Superintendant in that Dept, was appointed Assistant Director of Telegraphs, IEF'D', and a large staff of men for office and line work was being set up by the DirGen Post and Telegraphs India.


3.   Article in The Englishman 5/1/17 (courtesy FindmyPast Newspapers) gives a simple overview:
           1156913121_MespotIndTelegDeptEnglishman5Jan17extract2.JPG.d71a98987068c34bd229f231edd579a2.JPG
The rest of the article refers principally to the activities in 1916 of Mr Gervase B Power who was one of several Assistant Directors of Telegraph in Mespot.


4.   Article by Brian N Hall in the Journal of Military History, 2014 :
         531408429_MespotIndTelegDeptJnlMilHist2014extract1.JPG.11c8d154ac1c1baf7ea50c4191c756e9.JPG1197012766_MespotIndTelegDeptJnlMilHist2014bextract2.JPG.5b8944f03bd73c524c5f51f93e9e5b11.JPG
There is a useful bibliography of sources at the end of his article.


5.   The War Diary of Director Signals and Telegraphs (WO95-4984,4985) makes frequent mention of Telegraph Dept throughout the war.

The 1916 reorganisation referred to by Brian Hall was part of a general reorganisation of all IEF'D' activity in Mespot following Parliamentary Commissions,changes in GOCs etc.

In Dec 1916 the senior Civil officers of the Telegraph Dept were given Temporary Army rank in the Royal Engineers to aid their authority.
  extract courtesy National Archives WO95-4985)

                698179094_MespotIndTelegDeptWO95DirSigTelegTempCommIssions1916.JPG.a72d8989dcaf222749d54b258b838419.JPG

 

6.   The list of those Mentioned in Maude's Despatch of April 1917 shows this temporary rank application:
                  303860557_MespotIndTelegDeptGreeneHEMiD.JPG.3aceb03a1299aed9b630a003493387f8.JPG
EL Bagshaw was now a T/Major RE and Director of Telegraphs
Cameron, DeSmidt, Gumbley and Power are all T/Captains RE and Assistant Directors.
Note GB Power is the same subject in the newspaper article referred to above.

HE Green(e) and others in this list are presumed not to have military rank if none shown.

 

7.  The War Diary of Director Signals and Telegraph has repeated refs to Bagshaw, Desmidt and Power as well as others who appeared in an earlier Despatch as MiD;  prior to Dec 1916 they are all referred to as plain 'Mr'.
There is no mention of Greene in these War Diaries up to mid 1917.

 

8.  There is reference in Hall to formation of a Line of Communications Company to absorb the staff but the only one I could see on Discovery Nat archives is WO95-5246-12 which fits for title but has nothing relevent to Telegraphs.

 

9.   The family story that

23 hours ago, jude53 said:

Greene had been a captain of signals in Mesopotamia

would work if in late 1917 or later he was given a temporary Commission in the RE similar to the ones I noted above. This would imply him being at a senior level in the Telegraph Dept.

 

10.  There are copies on archive.org of many India Office Lists and Indian Army Lists but they take a very long time to plough through. Might be worth checking 1918, 1919 or 1920 ?  It is a shame that the IOLs don't give his Mespot field service dates.

 

11.TempMajor (acting LtCol) Edward Leonard Bagshaw CSI DSO RE was the top man for this bit of Telegraphs. Did he leave any papers anywhere?

 

12. I suspect some indian Newspapers might have reports on Indian Telegraph Dept ?

 

 

Charlie

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Charlie, 

 I've looked at the Fold 3 documents about Howard Greene and feel sure I made an error. 

Back to looking at the ITD records and references to understand the background and what part my grandfather may have played. 

 

  • I downloaded recently the search results from TNA re Signals & Mesopotamia . I can't remember whether I restricted my search to those available for download! I will see what covers early 1917. Tere were not many.  
  • I have saved the newspaper articles from FMP. one of them does mention the telegraphists etc wearing uniform. Quite possibly when my grandfather was involved in the Iraq administration he wore a Captain's uniform or similar.
  • I think it will be back to the British Library / india Office records in due course but I will check archive.org. Forgotten about that source.   I have looked for Iraq administration records at the British Library before but this time I will ask for help. I can also access the Times of India there.   
  •  I copied from Brian Hall's paper a few weeks ago the pages about Mesopotamia and the references, so plenty to follow up there. 
  • In the detailed summary of HEG's his career in the IOL 1937 there is some info about his field service but there may be more about the dates on the civil list v13. 

image.png.959ffef54fe5dd16d017b0f3c4f56afd.png

  • In the list of the men mentioned in despatches is EV Arklie, a similar age to my grandfather and also a Deputy Superintendent. They became friends in Mesopotamia and Arklie was a witness at my grandparents wedding in Bombay in 1921. I think it may be worth checking his entries in the civil list too. 

Quite a lot to follow up . 

Still plenty to look at while house bound !

 Judith 

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charlie962
1 hour ago, jude53 said:

In the detailed summary of HEG's his career in the IOL 1937 there is some info about his field service

I think that summary only starts with service that was gazetted from 1918. In other words it was in 1918 that he reached a grade that was routinely published in the Gazette of India.

 

it says

On Field Service  8 Sep 1918   Superior Traffic Branch, Second Division.

 

I'm puzzled though why it does show his period of leave prior to this but does not show his start date in Mespot.

 

 

I suspect fibis can tell you how to access this gazette but I know you will find some on archive.org. I tried a couple of quarters of 1918 but a quick search within  for his name didn't bring up anything. But I have not persisted.

Gazette Oct-Dec1918

Gazette Apr-Jun1918

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Charlie, 

 I have not been aware of the Gazette of India so will have a look . I have just posted on the FIBIS Facebook group asking about the Gazette of India. Don't recall it has been mentioned .

 

I have tracked 2 great grandfathers in I0R/V/13 up to Deputy Superintendent level from entry at age 18 to retirement year by year , so I expect that v13 will give me the 1914-1918 record of HEG..  It is just that I jumped forward from 1913 to 1919 when I last went to BL as I knew one great grandfather had died in 1920. For Deputy Superintendents and above V13 gives d.o.b, entry date to service, entry date to grade, job, where working , if on sick/paid leave / furlough . So really useful.

Just found a note on my spreadsheet tracking the service records in P & T . The April 1921 list of Superintendents Telegraph Traffic 'on leave or on deputation' states he started foreign service on 2/3/16. I have now found my scanned V13 entry which states this.

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charlie962
4 hours ago, jude53 said:

he started foreign service on 2/3/16.

excellent.

 

 

 

Do please add to this thread any updates on your Gf in particular anything about Telegraph Dept service in Mespot. It may also help someone at a later date.

 

charlie

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There are some Gazette of India online editions linked from two FIBIS Fibiwiki pages.  However, you need to do some conversions work to get current links on Archive.org,  as I have never updated the pages (due to the fact that this resource doesn't seem to be used much)

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Gazette_of_India_online

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Gazette_of_India_and_Calcutta_Gazette_(First_World_War)

 

Also FIBIS Fibiwiki pages  Indian Army List online   https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Army_List_online

India List and India Office List  https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Directories_online#India_List_and_India_Office_List

 

Maureen

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18 hours ago, charlie962 said:

excellent.

 

 

 

Do please add to this thread any updates on your Gf in particular anything about Telegraph Dept service in Mespot. It may also help someone at a later date.

 

charlie

I will certainly do so.  I have seen how  updates to my  postings on the FIBIS FB group have prompted more interest and more information  even after a couple of years as new people come on board. Already on my posting on the FIBIS group yesterday ,someone has mentioned  that her grandfather was in the IP&T during WW1and taught morse code to those going to Mesopotamia. I was surprised that they didn't already know Morse . Perhaps she means the army recruits. 

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