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Remembered Today:

Identification of Officer


Anne Howes
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I wonder if anyone can help me identify this officer (I assume) from WW1? The photo was in the family album with no caption.

None of my relatives were officers, but perhaps this was one of their CO’s, if I knew which unit it was.

Many thanks in advance

Anne 

0EAAD8D2-C177-4A4C-BC03-0A41D7D4F786.jpeg

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For what it's worth, I don't think he's an officer no badges of rank visible. What regiments did your family serve in? 

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Ok, thanks, Michelle.

He served in the Household Battalion and the Grenadier Guards 1916 to his death on 13/4/1918

It was the sword that made me think it was an officer

Anne 

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Hi Ann

 

I agree with Michelle. I don't think he's an officer. He's wearing a bandolier for small arms ammunition over his shoulder. An officer would have worn a Sam Browne belt. It's difficult to tell which branch of the army he was in from the photo. If you could scan his head and shoulders at a high resolution, experts here might be able to identify his regiment of corps. It might be artillery, Army Service Corps or cavalry or yeomanry.

 

Robin 

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The photo fits with an early member of the Household Battalion (HB) and probably dates from pre-war.  The HB was formed from the regular reservists of the three Household Cavalry Regiments (1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards), who then fought as dismounted infantry.  As he’s mounted, wearing a bandolier for his ammunition, and most significantly equipped with the 1892 pattern, special household cavalry sword (and sword knot), it probably shows him either, while still in service with the Household Cavalry, or at the latest when called up from the reserve and before being posted to the HB.  The pre-war initial engagements with the household cavalry were quite short if I recall correctly (3-years I think), which had the effect of creating a large reserve and so hence surplus men for the HB.

 

NB.  Interestingly the Household Cavalry Regiments (all three) had literally only just been issued with regimental cap badges as the war began.  Before that they had been quite unique in not having a culture of wearing a cap badge in undress headwear at all (singularly unlike the Foot Guards).  Once the HB was formed they too were provided with their own special pattern of cap badge that you can see below.

 

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Edited by FROGSMILE
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Yes it’s a Household Cavalry cap badge, Anne.  That confirms that the photo was taken when he was presumably recalled from the reserve upon the outset of the war, as the cap badges were new and only just introduced.  If his service record still existed (unlikely but not impossible) it should indicate his original regiment (one of the two Life Guards or Royal Horse Guards), but if he only served overseas with the HB and GG his medal index card will probably not mention his origins.

 

6AA7FB7E-7B4E-4BAD-A64D-9AF075D494E8.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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3 minutes ago, Anne Howes said:

Thanks for that, so does this mean the photograph can be no earlier than 1914? 

Yes I believe it does.  If he had a period of service pre-war (the uniform he’s wearing was introduced in 1902 and the cap in 1905) then he would not have the cap badge that we can see.  Initially the HC wore the cap without any badge, just as they did with their smarter, coloured forage caps.  It was only in 1914 that the badge we can see him wearing was introduced.

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And these are the cap badges that were adopted by the three regiments subsequently.

 

 I cannot determine on my small phone screen if he’s wearing one of these badges rather than the generic HC badge, used by the composite mounted squadrons, that I’ve shown you above.  
 

Either way, he was one of those men posted instead to the dismounted Household Battalion, where he fought as an infantryman and subsequently went to the Grenadier Guards (either after the HB was disbanded and dispersed, or perhaps after wounding, recovery, and return to the line). 
 

NB.  The badge does appear to be a darker hue in your photo which leans towards it perhaps being Royal Horse Guards badge (see below) if it is not the composite squadrons badge above.

 

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0C58CD29-84B3-42CE-B012-E3E5111FB1C4.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Who do you think it is Anne?

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Thank you for all this information, it’s been invaluable in deciding whether or not the soldier in the picture was perhaps my partner’s grandfather. 

We still think it could be either Private Victor Alexander Gower, service number 30596, killed on 13/4/1918 in defence of la Couronne, or possibly his elder brother Thomas E (Edwin?) Gower, about whom I have no information.

Below is a photo of Victor Alexander Gower, could it be the same man? And what does the badge on his shoulder signify? 

With thanks to all contributors,

Anne

 

08FB3941-D41C-468A-9AA2-55AA902FC0DD.jpeg

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15 minutes ago, Anne Howes said:

what does the badge on his shoulder signify? 

 

Its a Life Guards shoulder title badge

 

962782909_LG.JPG.160f330fdd9b0cd5003b2f9abf801082.JPG

 

I'm sure Frogsmile will be along shortly to expand on your question

 

Ray

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20 minutes ago, Anne Howes said:

Thank you for all this information, it’s been invaluable in deciding whether or not the soldier in the picture was perhaps my partner’s grandfather. 

We still think it could be either Private Victor Alexander Gower, service number 30596, killed on 13/4/1918 in defence of la Couronne, or possibly his elder brother Thomas E (Edwin?) Gower, about whom I have no information.

Below is a photo of Victor Alexander Gower, could it be the same man? And what does the badge on his shoulder signify? 

With thanks to all contributors,

Anne

 

 

 

2nd Life Guards by the looks of things:

 

SHOULDER TITLE-VICTORIAN 2nd LIFE GUARDS '2/L.G' PRE 1902 BOER WAR | eBay

 

WW1 2nd Life Guards Regiment Tunic Button - 26mm

 

 

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Yes he’s 2nd Life Guards and I am 100% confident that he’s the same man as in the photo on the horse, the likeness is compelling.

 

For Anne:  This confirms his regiment within the Household Cavalry, and also his cap badge that I posted above.  The regiments of the Household Cavalry were probably the last in the British Army to receive an issue of the drab khaki serge service dress uniform that he’s wearing.  They received their issue in order to attend the 1912 Summer manoeuvres.  You can read about the 2nd Life Guards activities from the outset of WW1 here: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/cavalry-regiments/the-1st-and-2nd-life-guards/


What’s unclear is when he first enlisted.  His overseas service was clearly with the Household Battalion and then the Grenadier Guards, but it’s unclear whether he had prewar service or was a man who first joined the Army as a regular in 1914.

 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Good morning, I have been researching the Household Battalion (Dismounted/infantry ) for a little while but did not have Victor Alexander Gower in my spreadsheet.

 

 

Looking at his Medal Rolls and Medal Index Card (Courtesy of ancestry.co.uk) he was allocated Household Battalion Service number 3883 

 

To possibly  help narrow down the time frame of when he joined his regiments , the Household Battalion was formed on 1st September 1916 at Knightsbridge Barracks after intervention by The King as there were surplus reservists waiting to be posted to the 1st and 2nd life Guards, Royal Horse Guards.

 

A significant amount of Reservists from these Cavalry Regiments  were transferred to the newly formed Household Battalion Infantry  on the 1st September 1916. I believe the first  service numbers issued 1-1234 were allocated on the  1st September 1916.

 

I have a batch of Household Battalion Soldiers I was interested in that joined the Household Battalion and had no previous soldiering experience around the  12th January 1917 and they were allocated service numbers  between 2593-2635.

 

The following service numbers and joining dates regarding the Household battalion is from the armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com

 

3285 joined on 12th July 1917
3485 joined on 6th August 1917
3604 joined on 3rd September 1917

 

The Household battalion was disbanded on the 6th February 1918 and the majority of remaining soldiers were transferred to , Machine Gun Corps, Guards Machine Gun Corps Coldstream, Welsh, Scots and Grenadier Guards. 

 

If he wasn't injured prior to the disbandment I can find no record so far that he was but will have another look.

 

It is suggestive he may sadly only have served with the Grenadier Guards between 6th Feb 1918 until he was killed on the 13th April 1918.

 

His Soldiers effects record (Courtesy of Ancestry.) records his father was given a payment of £30 1s 11d which included a War gratuity of £13.

 

I know there are a lot of clever people on the forum who might be able to calculate his army service based on the payments?

 

 

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Thank you for posting that very interesting rundown Toontraveller, it has very usefully started to lift the veil on this man’s wartime story.  I imagine that his early service was quite humdrum until he was sent to the Household Battalion, and his eventual fate seems to epitomise the terrible casualties suffered by the infantry during 1918 that bear full comparison with the more famous ones (in public consciousness) of 1916.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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FROGSMILE,  thank you.

 

Hopefully every little piece of information helps to add to the story and will assist in leading to the identification of the soldier in the photograph. I love a mystery!

 

 

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Very minor detail to add, from Find My Past - there's a British Red Cross enquiry card for 30596 Vic. Alex. Gower, 1st Company, 4 Platoon, 4th Grenadier Guards; I can only see a transcript, not the card itself. It gives a missing date of 13/04/1918, but the enquiry itself is dated 02/08/1918. So he must have been listed as missing until at least the August of 1918, not a notably unusual circumstance (though particularly hard on family - my other half's grandfather was missing/KIA at Anzio in 1944 and I remember very clearly how bitterly her grandmother felt about the long period of uncertainty and waiting for news which followed, even many decades later). Knowing his company and platoon is fairly unusual, though, and may help locate him via the War Diary, memoirs, etc. 

 

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That’s excellent detective work, hopefully @Anne Howeswill be pleased to see it.

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Many thanks for all this information, I find it all fascinating.I thought it was particularly poignant that he was still listed as missing right through the summer of 1918. The defence of la Couronne, from what I have read, does seem to have caused terrible casualties in equivalent scale to those of 1916. 

If anyone can calculate his length of service from the final payment to his father, I would be very grateful. He seems to have had a liaison in 1916/17 (I can find no marriage certificate) which resulted in a child, who was then adopted, a not unusual circumstance in the chaotic times.

Thanks, Anne 

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3 minutes ago, BillyH said:

 

Apologies for butting into this post.

Frogsmile, I am trying to message you but the system is saying that  you cannot receive messages. Is your message box full?

Regards,  BillyH.

 

Hello Billy, perhaps it is full, I will check and weed it out and then contact you.  Weeding is something I’ve had to do regularly recently as I’ve tried to be selective with what I delete.

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5 hours ago, Toontraveller said:

 

 

I know there are a lot of clever people on the forum who might be able to calculate his army service based on the payments?

 

 

I can’t remember which forum member it is that can do that.  @Michelle Youngmight know ?

Edited by FROGSMILE
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