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Royal Engineers - Please can anyone help me interpret these records?


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D Pritchard

Hello. I would be very grateful if anyone could help me interpret these records of an ancestor of mine which I came across on Ancestry and My Heritage. I know very little about the army and WW1, but am learning!

 

So far I have established that he was a Royal Engineer - (also nicknamed ‘the moles’ because they constructed tunnels).

 

On the card it says that Ernest (John) Santer first served in Egypt. I have a copy of an army  picture which I believe was of him in Egypt.  I also have a picture of him wearing a long army coat on a horse, which I can only assume is when he was in the European Theatre of war.

 

I think he worked with horses and read that horses were used to transport guns, supplies etc. I would be interested to find out more about the locations he was posted to and what his battalion did. I am not sure which battalion of the Royal Engineers he was in as I don’t fully understand the abbreviations on these records. Thank you.

5AC8DA1B-71A0-4240-832A-4573CAB82106.jpeg

 

santer medals.jpeg

Edited by D Pritchard
uploaded too many copies of same docs.
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Just in case you did not realise, his MIC also confirms he qualified for the 1914/1915 Star, which is subject to a separate medal roll - image here (courtesy of Ancestry).

 

We do have RE experts on the Forum - so hopefully they will be along to add some background/context.

 

I see his rank was originally as Driver - so very much something to with horses - but I'm not sure what w.r.t the RE.

 

He ended his service as Acting Quarter Master Serjeant.

 

The RE had sub-units called Companies (c.f. Battalions for Infantry)

 

Regards

 

Russ

 

 

Santer.JPG

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ss002d6252

The vast majority of RE men went nowhere near tunnelling.

 

His initial role within the RE was as a driver, so he would have worked with horses most likely - which ties in with your pictures.

 

He was initially a Driver (rank Private) and then became a 2nd Corporal (II Cpl - similar to a Lance Corporal) before he became the Acting Company Quartermaster Sgt.

Craig

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Any idea of his job before or after the war?

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D Pritchard

Thank you @RussT no I didn't realise about the 1914/15 star - very interesting. Thanks for info about companies Vs battalions!

 

@ss002d6252 thanks for explaining his roles.

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His pre war occupation may be shown 1911 Census

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3 hours ago, D Pritchard said:

I think he worked with horses and read that horses were used to transport guns, supplies etc. I would be interested to find out more about the locations he was posted to and what his battalion did.

 

Ernest J. Santer was born in 1885 in Cranbrook Kent, where his father was the long serving postman.  In the 1901 Census he was described as a grocer’s assistant.  As noted on the mic (the abbreviation 'em' for ‘emblem’) he was mentioned in despatches for service in Mesopotamia.

General Marshall's Despatch 1st February 1919.


He is listed in the London Gazette 5June 1919 page 7243
Serving in the Royal Engineers ‘Signal Service’

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31386/page/7243

 

The Despatch which covered the operations of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force frm the 1st October 1918 to 31st December 1918 Mesopatamia and NW Persia

was published in the London Gazette 8th April 1919

 

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31287/supplement/4739

 

This is a very interesting period, Marshall and his army defeated the Turks and signed an armistice on 31st October.  A force was then sent to Baku to protect the oilfields and ports.  He specifically mentions the work of the engineers in maintaining the road and presumably communications at paragraph 30.

 

You now need an RE specialist to identify which units went from Egypt where he disembarked in 1915 to Mesopatamia (via India in all probability). Unfortunately lots of 'scratch' units were set up at this stage of the campaign so may be difficult to pin down.

 

For more information on the Mesopatamia Campaign and many sources forum Pal Maureene's page

 

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

 

(His brother was also mentioned for service in France as the newspaper says Lord French that would have been 1914-1915.)

 

Screenshot 2021-04-19 at 00.09.08.png

Image from BNA Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser 20 May 1921

 

 

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Thanks kenf48 I was hoping his occupation might give a clue to which branch of RE he might have been . Grocers assistant does not seem too technical !

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9 hours ago, johnboy said:

Thanks kenf48 I was hoping his occupation might give a clue to which branch of RE he might have been . Grocers assistant does not seem too technical !

 

By 1911 he was working, and living, at 3 The Parade West Norwood as a 'provision assistant' which seems to be a step up, perhaps he drove the delivery van (?) and was recruited as a 'motor driver' for the Army. There are many contemporary advertisements seeking to recruit motor drivers to the Army as it expanded, the skill was not so ubiquitous in 1914.

 

Grocery - Quarter master? Transferable skills? i.e. supply, stores  etc.

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Pat Atkins

There were certainly plenty of horses in the RE Signal Service, for example cable-laying wagons and their additional mounted men.

393073051_RECablewagonsWesternfront.jpg.22ddada51832c8cb8ffb6c6a0de7d178.jpg

 

Edit: there's some film footage of cable laying (click here) from the Royal Signals Museum website, showing the other related mounted roles too.

 

 

Edited by Pat Atkins
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D Pritchard

@kenf48Thank you for taking the time to find all this information. It was much appreciated and certainly a surprise. Very interesting too. I think I will also try and have a look into his brother's service in France as well. So I am assuming then, that Ernest probably did not see service in France too, only Egypt.

 

@johnboyYes I see why you asked this and the transferable skills aspect. Thank you.

 

@Pat AtkinsThank you for this.

 

 

Some people may be interested to see the following pictures. I am attaching a picture of Ernest on a horse which I colourized. Plus another picture, not very clear but Ernest is front middle. I also have a picture which I think may have been mislabelled with another ancestor's name who was possibly also in Alexandria (but have not researched him yet) - I think Ernest is front row right. Also for historical interests is a random picture of a tethered horse, but I don't know what/who this relates to.1837527054_10.EJSanteronahorse-Colorized.jpg.a54cbe71b8b5af57e837ab20bdd0020d.jpg

 

 

santerww13.JPG

2. Harold Moss (think its not its ernest santer) Alexandria.jpg

4. Army Scene.jpg

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Just to clarify he first entered Egypt, a theatre of war as shown on the MIC on the 29th June 1915.  This meant he qualified for the 14-15 Star.  It does not mean he remained in Egypt for the duration of the war.  Egypt was the entry port for the Middle East theatre of war.  At this time there was fighting in the Dardanelles and troops were also deployed to defend the Suez Canal.  There was a very large base and many hospitals in Alexandria.

 

At some point he was deployed to another theatre of war, Mesopotamia where he earned a mention in despatches.  He would have sailed from Egypt to India which was the staging post for the Mesopotamia campaign.  It’s unlikely he was posted as an individual soldier.  The usual route was from India was Bombay to Basrah and from there to the front line. In the second and third photo they are wearing tropical uniform, and I suspect the pictures were taken in Egypt, the fez! 

The final photograph appears to have been taken in the U.K.probably when training,  as does the first one.

 

All we can say with certainty is the date he landed and the fact he was in Mesopotamia in the period covered by the Despatch what happened in between will need more research but it is unlikely he ever served on the Western Front in F & F.

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D Pritchard

@kenf48 Thank you for explaining this, it's very helpful. He certainly did some travelling! I would not have known any of this. Fascinating. Thanks too for clarifying the fact that it was unlikely he saw service on the Western front.

 

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Just an observation.

The MIC notes the Theatre of War first served in as "(1) Egypt".

The LLT notes that for disembarkations up to 31 December 1915:

1 - Western Europe

2 - Balkans

3 - Egypt

etc.

Medal roll theatre codes – The Long, Long Trail

Since he entered "(1) Egypt" on the MIC I am assuming that this was an error by the clerk.

Kindest Regards,

Tom.

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2 minutes ago, D Pritchard said:

@Tom Lang Yes, I see what you mean, thank you for pointing that out.

It's all part of your learning curve - mine too.

Tom.

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After a bit of googling he might have been in 2 Field Co RE

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1 hour ago, Tom Lang said:

Since he entered "(1) Egypt" on the MIC I am assuming that this was an error by the clerk.

 

Yes, a clerical error on the MIC - noting his 1914/1915 medal roll correctly has (3) = Egypt, and the roll pre-dates the MIC.

 

Regards

 

Russ

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A coincidense or doubting Thomas?

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