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Queens West Surrey Regiment


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Gary Clarke

Hello Folks - I've just joined the Forum, and I wonder if anyone can shed light on a query I have re my great Uncle, Wilfred Arthur Hare? Wilfred is buried in St Severe Cemetery, Rouen, having died of wounds 28th September 1918. He was a private in the Queens West Surrey Regiment, and I think his service number was 69316. I attach a photo of him (taken when he first joined up), notification to family of death, original photo of his first grave marker cross - photo sent to his mother. My key query is....what was he doing in the West Surrey Regt? Wilfred was born and bred in Norwich, Norfolk - an ordinary working class Norwich lad - so how come he was not recruited into the Norfolk Regt? The only link I can see is that both the West Surrey 1st Batt and a batt of the Norfolks were both in the 12th (Eastern) Division in Sept 2018. Also, checking the West Surrey war diary, their only significant action in Sept seems to have been on 21st Sept where more than 100 other ranks were injured - is it safe to assume Wilfred was injured in that action? is there any way of finding out? Thanks for any help you can offer.

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37 minutes ago, Gary Clarke said:

My key query is....what was he doing in the West Surrey Regt? Wilfred was born and bred in Norwich, Norfolk - an ordinary working class Norwich lad - so how come he was not recruited into the Norfolk Regt?

 

I recommend you have a look at the Long Long Trail (LLT) website, link top right.

What you are asking is a FAQ

https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/faq-concerning-researching-soldiers/faq-can-i-assume-my-soldier-served-with-a-local-regiment/

 

I also suggest you follow the links to the Training Reserve etc. I assume your relative was aged 18 or less.  At the time he enlisted men were not sent on active service overseas until aged nineteen.  Close service numbers where records survive suggest his route to France, where he arrived in February 1918 was:

Deemed to have enlisted on his eighteenth birthday

Posted 255th Training Reserve which became 23rd Training Reserve Battalion, the badge he is wearing in the uniform photograph is that of the Training Reserve.

From there posted to 52 Graduated Battalion (see LLT) Royal West Surrey

The Graduated Battalions were comprised of Companies of youths of a similar age.

He was in a group posted to France on the 18th February 1918, the card shows in September he was 19 and 8 months so spot on for active service overseas at nineteen in February.

 

At the Infantry Base Depot he was posted to the 11th R. Sussex Regiment and numbered 18705 (this is probably the details on his medals as it is noted as his first unit on entering a theatre of war) whether he actually served with them in the field is moot.

 

He was in a group transferred to the Queen's (RWS) from the Base on the 6 July 1918 and renumbered 69316.  Suggest he was in a draft that arrived at the Battalion in the field on the 12th July 1918 though the war diary does not note incoming drafts.

 

There is every possibility he was wounded on the 21st September as he was moved up the casualty evacuation chain to the base at Rouen, equally he could have been wounded in the action on the 26th September, which tbh seems more likely even though the diary does not mention casualties for the latter. It was one or the other, your guess is as good as mine.

If you have not seen the Cemetery details on CWGC there were a number of hospitals at Rouen

https://www.cwgc.org/visit-us/find-cemeteries-memorials/cemetery-details/2800/ST SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN/

 

 

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Hi @Gary Clarke and welcome to the forum.

 

As Ken has already indicated, by the stage he was called up it would be more surprising if he did end up with a unit from his county of birth.

 

I've dropped you a PM with some family details and the two war memorials I'm aware of in Norwich where he is remembered. In case you can't see it yet, you need to make a second post in the main forum before you will have access to the private messaging system.

 

Cheers,

Peter.

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charlie962
16 hours ago, kenf48 said:

There is every possibility he was wounded on the 21st September as he was moved up the casualty evacuation chain to the base at Rouen, equally he could have been wounded in the action on the 26th September, which tbh seems more likely even though the diary does not mention casualties for the latter. It was one or the other, your guess is as good as mine.

The only other man of the RWS quoted in the same Daily casualty list (28/10/18) was also a 6th Bn man,Hall 66744, who died 25/9/18.

So Hall's wounding would have been 21st, maybe (but not conclusive) Hare was also ?

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Gary Clarke

Thank you so much for your replies. I managed to visit Wilfred's grave (with my youngest son) on 28th Sept 2018 - exactly 100 years since his death. As far as I know, we were the first of his family to visit him in a century! Extremely moving. I will follow up this information thank you - it's inspiring to start to get some real detail about Wilfred, having only known him from a sepia photograph all my life. Best regards - Gary

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Gary Clarke

Hello again Peter, and anyone else who was interested in the story of my great uncle Wilfred of the Queens West Surreys.

I am attaching the photograph of Wilfred and his mother. You will note he now wears the West Surrey cap badge (different to the one on his original recruitment photo) - which was explained by a colleague (above) on the forum previously of course. You may agree with me that Wilfred looks to have gained weight! Which fits with Aunt Hilda's story told to me in the 1970's of how is mother (Ellen Hare) reacted when informed of his death: "the Army took my son, fattened him up like a goose, then killed him!" I guess this was taken shortly before he was posted to France, ie his last know photo, 1918. The reverse of the card shows it was made by Read's Studio of 21 Wensum St. Norwich.

I find it fascinating to have these words, which Hilda says were verbatim, from my great grandmothers own mouth. Dead for a century, unknown to me, yet somehow hearing those words in my head takes me back in time 103 years to be in her presence. She comes back to life, briefly. I wonder how rare it it is for us to have the words of a working class woman, expressing her thoughts on her loss?

Best regards, Gary

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Interesting badge on his lower left forearm - unfortunately too low a resolution to make anything out. Perhaps one of the badge experts will have an idea.

 

Hope you don't mind but I've re-orientated the picture to stop me, (and probably others), developing a crick in the neck :)

 

1064376396_21668262_WilfredandMotherrotated.jpg.9390d7144284f2b836d5a53248c3f72f.jpg

 

Cheers,

Peter

 

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The badge is a ‘trade or proficiency badge’ impossible to say at this level of magnification but my guess would be ‘Lewis Gunner’, i.e. if you can increase the size ‘LG’ within the wreath but there are other possibilities.

 

it was relatively common for young soldiers, whilst waiting to come of age for overseas service, to learn additional skills probably if keen to relieve the tedium of garrison duty in the U.K.  As you say he was probably on embarkation leave when the photograph was taken.

 

As for his mother’s remark it’s impossible for us to understand  her bitterness and grief, but it was a common reaction, though as you say not often recorded for posterity.

Women outnumbered men at Remembrance ceremonies between the wars, many veterans boycotted them.  

 

 

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1 hour ago, kenf48 said:

The badge is a ‘trade or proficiency badge’ impossible to say at this level of magnification but my guess would be ‘Lewis Gunner’, i.e. if you can increase the size ‘LG’ within the wreath but there are other possibilities.

 

Thanks Ken. My first thought was crossed rifles surrounded by laurels - the sort of thing I've seen described on the forum as awarded to the best shot in the company \ battalion. I then tried upping the size and resolution to rule that in or out, but just ended up confusing myself :)

 

Cheers,

Peter

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Gary Clarke

Hello Folks - re the badge on my great uncle's uniform, I have managed to get a better magnification of it - hereby attached.

 

Best regards, Gary

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charlie962

as kenf48 said, it looks like the LG badge

 

image from britishmilitarybadges.co.uk

964979776_GWFLewisGunnerBadge.JPG.9570ce3a169c1175932ac932216028b4.JPG

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