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Pte John Roberts #7839 RAMC


canadian gunner
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I have just discovered this cousin in my family tree. He joined in June 1914 In October he was given 14 days detention and then dismissed the service under KR 392 (xi) misconduct. On his record his conduct is bad and he is described as being incorrigible and worthless. 

My question is what could he have done to get tossed out when they needed every man possible? The only things that come to mind is he got into the drugs or he had a mental breakdown. He joined at Newport and was training at Aldershot. He hadn't been overseas and I have found nothing on him after 1914.

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36 minutes ago, canadian gunner said:

I have just discovered this cousin in my family tree. He joined in June 1914 In October he was given 14 days detention and then dismissed the service under KR 392 (xi) misconduct. On his record his conduct is bad and he is described as being incorrigible and worthless. 

My question is what could he have done to get tossed out when they needed every man possible? The only things that come to mind is he got into the drugs or he had a mental breakdown. He joined at Newport and was training at Aldershot. He hadn't been overseas and I have found nothing on him after 1914.

 

It was early in the war and attempts to keep up prewar standards were still strong.  Later on there was a much more nuanced attitude that made more of an effort to place a man where he was best suited.  That said, every man had to be imbued with at least some modicum of discipline but there were always those misfits of whom NCOs despaired.  In general, for a man to be dismissed he would have to be awful in almost every regard.  Not following orders, being late on parade, dirty uniform and equipment, unfit, lazy, dumb insolence, answering back to NCOs, the list can go on.  There is that apposite saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink and that probably sums it up best.  Short of shooting a man, which was only permissible for the most serious offences in the face of the enemy, there was only so much that could be done, and once that stage was reached it was best to simply get rid of the individual concerned.  If you did not do so then not only would that individual take up more and more of the NCOs valuable time, but the bad behaviour acts like a rot that can affect the other men too.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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That sounds reasonable. There is another kicker with this too. I found that he had joined the 3rd Welsh Regiment in 1907 and there is a note on the form saying he joined the regulars in 1908. Unfortunately there is no mention of what unit. In his 1914 attestation he said no to have been in the forces previously. A very odd situation.

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9 minutes ago, canadian gunner said:

That sounds reasonable. There is another kicker with this too. I found that he had joined the 3rd Welsh Regiment in 1907 and there is a note on the form saying he joined the regulars in 1908. Unfortunately there is no mention of what unit. In his 1914 attestation he said no to have been in the forces previously. A very odd situation.

 

Are you 100% positive that they are all referring to the same man?

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15 minutes ago, canadian gunner said:

Yes because, fortunately, they both reference his father and the small town in Glamorgan that they live in.

 It's a shame then that his attestation documents do not appear to have survived?  The Militia battalions (3rd that you referenced) were at that time a large part of the recruiting activity of each regiment, a fact that has largely been forgotten now, and were used as a pool of young men from which to encourage a transfer to the regular army.  In short, at the end of the 6-Months Militia training the most promising were approached to join the regulars rather than stay in the Militia and return to civilian life, albeit as an auxiliary ready for call-out and obligated to return each year for a summer training camp.  From each Militia intake there would usually be at least some who liked the life and so transferred to the regulars.  It seems possible that that is what happened with your man.  However, the flavour of life with a regular battalion was very different to that with the Militia and some men got a shock, did not settle down and then had to purchase their discharge.  Some did not have the financial wherewithal or discipline to save up and so attempted to get themselves discharged via bad behaviour (and thus for free).  Ergo we do not know how long your distant cousin stayed with the regulars after joining them in 1908.  I suspect that he might not have stayed very long, although that is just my speculation based upon his later behaviour.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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I have the attestation papers both for the 3rd Welsh (1907) and the RAMC (1914). I have found nothing on the 1908 enlistment. If he did you reg force and then bought his way out makes one wonder why he went back in before the war.

My great grandfather was with the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Welsh Regiment and his wife wouldn't let him volunteer for South Africa. Two of his sons were with the 5th Welsh (Terriers). On call up one went to the 1/6 Welsh because they were going to France. The other went north with the 1/5 and then transferred to the 16th RWF and went over in 1915.

 

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9 minutes ago, canadian gunner said:

I have the attestation papers both for the 3rd Welsh (1907) and the RAMC (1914). I have found nothing on the 1908 enlistment. If he did you reg force and then bought his way out makes one wonder why he went back in before the war.

My great grandfather was with the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Welsh Regiment and his wife wouldn't let him volunteer for South Africa. Two of his sons were with the 5th Welsh (Terriers). On call up one went to the 1/6 Welsh because they were going to France. The other went north with the 1/5 and then transferred to the 16th RWF and went over in 1915.

 

 

If you found nothing regarding a regular enlistment in 1908 then perhaps it is a family story that's incorrect?  I wasn't suggesting that he definitely purchased his discharge, just that he might have done.  It seems unlikely to me that he was happy in the regular army in 1908, but then suddenly hated it and was found "incorrigible and worthless" in 1914.

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The regular enlistment isn't a family story it's a note on the attestation papers that says to regular army 04/04/08. It's in red ink.

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24 minutes ago, canadian gunner said:

The regular enlistment isn't a family story it's a note on the attestation papers that says to regular army 04/04/08. It's in red ink.

Okay great, well that's a typical example of what I described, he was recruited initially by the Militia but then inveigled into the regulars.  Unfortunately there seems to be no surviving record of how long he stayed.  I can't recall offhand what year it was that the short service of 3 and 9 favoured at the time of the Boer War reverted to the 7 and 5 that the infantry preferred.

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I note you say 'found nothing on him after 1914'. His 'worthlessness' could well have dissolved under conscription in 1916. I don't know what they would have done with the same behaviour, assuming he was later conscripted.

TEW

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19 minutes ago, TEW said:

I note you say 'found nothing on him after 1914'. His 'worthlessness' could well have dissolved under conscription in 1916. I don't know what they would have done with the same behaviour, assuming he was later conscripted.

TEW

Given his vintage and record from 1914 I doubt they'd have taken him on again TEW.  That was one of the most damning character descriptions that he was given.

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Just an aside, though it might shine a light on this subject from a different angle.  One of my Anglesey casualties was born 1872 and served in the 4th (Militia) RWF for a couple of years before purchasing his discharge.  Subsequently he joined the Royal Anglesey RE (Militia), and from them elected to join the Regular RWF in 1893 on a full 12-year contract.  

 

Posted to 2nd Battn. in 1894 after training he deserted within a few months, and on return/recapture spent 22 days in prison.  From then on he regularly found himself in prison at home and abroad, with increasing amounts of time in the cooler (but alas no details of his crimes).  This culminated in a court-martial in Hong Kong in December 1901 which sentenced him to a full year's imprisonment.  Towards the end of this spell he was sent back to the UK and on landing was simply discharged (having served his sentence to the last day) as "incorrigible and worthless".  

 

On the outbreak of war in 1914 he was aged 42 and employed as a farm labourer on Anglesey, and for whatever reason contacted the War Office with a view to re-enlisting, mentioning that he had previously been discharged for misconduct of some kind.  In response they told him to approach the recruiting officer in Menai Bridge, taking their letter with him and a character reference for the past two years.  If he could pass the physical examination he would be accepted.  His employer furnished this reference, and he was duly attested on a Duration contract on 6 November 1914 (mentioning scrupulously in passing that he had also been convicted by the Civil powers and jailed for 14 days).  He was in France with 1st Battn. RWF by January 1915 and killed at Festubert on 16 May.  

 

While training he wrote to his partner a surprising letter, telling her that he felt he had to enlist to stop the Germans invading, and taking his leave of her and their children in such an affectionate way that I found it hard to reconcile this "incorrigible" with his previous service record.

 

Clive

 

 

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This one is going to take more investigation. Since he was a coal miner I'll try to see if he returned to the pits. That would prevent conscription. Maybe, like Clive's casualty, he re-upped when the war got going in earnest. No doubt about it though, that was the worst character report I have yet seen.

Thank you for your input.

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