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Remembered Today:

Artillery Clerk role?


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Helen48

Hi, I wondered if anyone could give me more information about the role of an Artillery Clerk in WW1  - this title is cited alongside rank of Bombardier and Acting Sergeant in November 1916 on the Western Front with the Royal Garrison Artillery, 

 

I have looked at the Artillery Clerks association website and it gives lots of information without actually giving a basic overview of what an artillery clerk did. Was this recognised as additional responsibility and would duties have been different? 

 

Kind Regards

 

Helen

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Matlock1418

I believe this is the other thread is relevant

:-) M

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Helen48

yes, i posted this too - I know he was artillery clerk, I am now posting to try to find out what that involves

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Matlock1418
2 minutes ago, Helen48 said:

yes, i posted this too - I know he was artillery clerk, I am now posting to try to find out what that involves

I know - but trying to help you, and other members, to avoid any potential duplication it is handy to have in a single thread when relating to a particular man.

Hope you get your answer, as I too would like to know.

Good luck.

:-) M

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Helen48

Ah, got you - thanks for helping. Let's hope we get some answers! 

 

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FROGSMILE

The artillery clerk was primarily responsible for personnel records (what we would now call in civilian life human resources (HR)) and the forward link of an Army branch called the Adjutant General’s Office that ran backwards to the Base.  In effect, it was then the Army’s administrative system for running all personnel matters including postings (movement between units), discipline (including the administration of punishments), promotions, pay and allowances.  That was their raison d’etre.


They were a branch of specialists with their own rank structure (so that career progression was encouraged) and as such they were trained progressively in matters such as service (military) writing protocols (letter and form layouts), routine mail receipting, filing, classified documentation (secret, etc.), typing and note taking.  They were responsible for the receipting and recording of all documentation as it arrived at the headquarters of their particular unit, ensuring that it arrived with and was seen by its intended recipient, forwarding any actions that arose from its content and then filing as necessary.  
 

The office they operated in was called an Orderly Room.  It was headed up by an NCO chief clerk who worked under the officer in charge, who varied according to the size of the unit, but most commonly was the brigade adjutant.  
 

As well as correspondence flowing to and fro there was a stock of pre printed administrative ‘forms’ for all manner of things from indents and rolls, to reports and ‘returns’ (status indicators), and these had to be monitored and reordered as necessary.  
 

As well as the typing up and reproduction of instructions using carbon paper and small ink based printing machines (hand cranked), there were routine orders to compile, receive and issue, according to the unit level.  
 

In general, each day was largely focused on three types of routine order. First was Unit (Artillery Brigade) Part One Orders that contained all the detail at artillery brigade level including lists of officers on duty and tasks that had to be organised with emphasis on when, how and by whom.  Next was Unit Part Two Orders that listed all matters pertaining to personnel, their movements, training, pay and allowances and this was linked with the Base (main HQ at rear) where such details were recorded.  Finally came any Sub-Unit (battery or company) Daily Detail, which contained similar details to those in Part One orders, but focused on the lower level day-to-day activity.  In particular it listed routine for the day (reveille timings, fatigue parties, meal routines, guards and other duties).  These orders were issued and distributed every day.  
 

There was also a duty clerk each day who was responsible for staffing the office during the night so that there was a 24 hour reaction capability and in war this was part of the 24/7 operation involving a whole range of other personnel and officers.  
 

One of the biggest and important focuses of the artillery clerk was the maintenance of Nominal Rolls for his unit.  These were constantly changing as men were posted in and out, as well as keeping up to date with casualties (wounded and dead) and those attending training courses.  
 

Reports and returns were constantly demanded by the superior formation headquarters (usually to a schedule: daily, weekly, monthly) and the artillery clerks formed the engine room in compiling and collating the necessary information and ensuring that it was dispatched to the relevant destination in a timely manner.  This latter was a constant and time consuming battle.  
 

In addition to these daily routine duties they also assisted with tactical outputs such as the typing up and distribution of orders and artillery fire plans for barrages during offensive operations, as well as standing orders (SO) and standing operating procedures (SOP), for a whole range of unpredictable circumstances.  A sort of compendium of ‘what ifs’.
 

I hope that gives you some small idea of the artillery clerks role and activity.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Helen48

Thanks so much for the detailed response. This is fascinating and provides really good insight. I really appreciate you taking the time to reply. 

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FROGSMILE
11 minutes ago, Helen48 said:

Thanks so much for the detailed response. This is fascinating and provides really good insight. I really appreciate you taking the time to reply. 

I’m glad to help Helen.  Clerical duties in those days were discrete to each corps and although it led to great expertise it was only in the larger parts of the army such as the artillery that a proper career progression that was not dead men’s shoes could be created.  In today’s army that system was some years ago replaced by having all clerks within a single overarching Adjutant Generals Corps, but ironically with the advent of the digital revolution and now artificial intelligence, as well as a leaning towards self administration, even that Corps is now truncating with its existence in current form in doubt.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Matlock1418
31 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

I hope that gives you some small idea of the artillery clerks role and activity.

Not so small an answer - many thanks FS.

Not so small a role either - and likely why Frederick Clarke got a MiD in 1916, he'd have no doubt earlier been a very busy man.

:-) M

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edwin astill

Further to this, perhaps our Gunner experts could say whether each gun had a log book recording number shells fired, maintenance etc, and who would have been responsible for keeping these.

 

Edwin

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FROGSMILE
On 07/05/2021 at 10:34, edwin astill said:

Further to this, perhaps our Gunner experts could say whether each gun had a log book recording number shells fired, maintenance etc, and who would have been responsible for keeping these.

 

Edwin

I know of those to which you refer Edwin.  My understanding is that they were the responsibility of the Battery Quarter-Master Sergeants (RFA/RHA) and Company Quarter-Master Sergeants (RGA), but under the auspices of the BK, with returns (after firing) provided by the Sergeant Sub-Section (Detachment) Commanders.  The statistics were then fed into unit reports and returns.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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FROGSMILE
54 minutes ago, Matlock1418 said:

Not so small an answer - many thanks FS.

Not so small a role either - and likely why Frederick Clarke got a MiD in 1916, he'd have no doubt earlier been a very busy man.

:-) M

Yes, the artillery clerks branch only recruited highly literate and numerate men and a relatively high proportion of them were commissioned in later decades.  However, for quite a number of years they were less favoured for commissioned roles (station officers) when compared with other artillery branch WOs because it was felt that they had less experience of working with soldiers (which was true).

Edited by FROGSMILE
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battiscombe

It may be worth noting that these were important at a Divisional level - the Divisional Artillery commanders  seem to have had 2 x RGA Artillery clerks (commonly Bombardiers) on their small Div Artillery HQ [originally of 23]. One long-serving Artillery Clerk in 2nd Division RA HQ was also a boxing champion.. MID in 1919.

 

As I recall I have seen in 1916 CRArtillery diaries [maybe at Corps level rather than Divisional?] special mentions for such artillery staff for their work in preparing plans for 1916 offensives ..which will have gone forward to become such official 'MentionsID'.

 

2 clerks appear in the Divisional RA HQ establishment (1915).   1 'clerk' is listed in the RFA Brigade HQ establishment.  I dont know about RGA Brigades ..

Edited by battiscombe
error corrected
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FROGSMILE
3 hours ago, battiscombe said:

It may be worth noting that these were important at a Divisional level - the Divisional Artillery commanders  seem to have had 2 x RGA Artillery clerks (commonly Bombardiers) on their small Div Artillery HQ [originally of 23]. One long-serving Artillery Clerk in 2nd Division RA HQ was also a boxing champion.. MID in 1919.

 

As I recall I have seen in 1916 CRArtillery diaries [maybe at Corps level rather than Divisional?] special mentions for such artillery staff for their work in preparing plans for 1916 offensives ..which will have gone forward to become such official 'MentionsID'.

 

2 clerks appear in the Divisional RA HQ establishment (1915).   1 'clerk' is listed in the RFA Brigade HQ establishment.  I dont know about RGA Brigades ..

Yes they seem to have been recognised as important at each level.  In 1914 there was one artillery clerk with each battery in an RGA heavy brigade.  A point I omitted to mention is that there were no gunner ranks within the branch and once accepted into the branch the minimum rank was paid acting bombardier.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Helen48

Great info - thanks everyone. Glad to know that he was skilled - he became acting Sergeant but did not have a commissioned role so this gives good context.  I believe he went on to be a commercial clerk after the war so made use of his training. He lived until the age of 60. I last have info about him being in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1921 this is where the envelope was postmarked that contained his nod from WC after the war that is the picture in the original post. Postmark is to 1st Brigade, RFA (field artillery, presumably?)- suspect he was serving as part of the Irish War of Independence but cannot find his service records so presume these were victim the fire at the records office as understand that  many WW1 service records were destroyed. 

 

If anyone can throw any further light on probable service then please feel free to comment 

1st Brigade RFA post.jpeg

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FROGSMILE

Yes RFA does refer to Royal Field Artillery.  Before the war Kilkenny Military Barracks (as opposed to police barracks) was the base of 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment (pre 1908 a militia (auxiliary forces) unit).  During the Irish War of Independence the barracks was used as a British Army base but also a place where IRA prisoners were held.  It seems from your letter that there was a RFA unit there (1st Brigade RFA according to the letters rubber stamp) at the time of partition when the barracks was handed over by the British to Free State Forces following the treaty agreed in London (that subsequently caused so much controversy and led to the bitterly contested Irish Civil War).  There are some wartime details of the RFA unit here: https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-royal-artillery-in-the-first-world-war/batteries-and-brigades-of-the-royal-field-artillery/i-brigade-of-the-royal-field-artillery/

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Hi Helen,

 

The medical record referred to in the other topic intimates that at the time of his (accidental??) head wound, he was serving with the 3rd Army HQ

 

image.png.62ab2314aceb78dbdb83d5befa5232c0.png

 

 

image.png.56decce3e858b1d0b64b89dff12a0509.png

 

 

image.png.e7ad045ae6268872752d280f9ceefccd.png

 

image.png.7e29f85034640f8c8fdfbbccf942fc52.png

 

image.png.97ae7a0e53dab6c5714ec8e0287c1446.png

Images sourced from Findmypast

 

Regards

Chris

 

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FROGSMILE

It’s almost certain then that he was working for the CRA (Commander Royal Artillery - at ‘Army’ level) - a very prestigious level to be employed at as an artillery clerk.

 

NB.  The CRA not only commanded the artillery, but was the de facto deputy to the GOC (General Officer Commanding) 3rd Army.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Matlock1418
16 minutes ago, clk said:

he was serving with the 3rd Army HQ

 

12 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

It’s almost certain then that he was working for the CRA (Commander Royal Artillery - at ‘Army’ level) - very prestigious level to be employed at as an artillery clerk.

By 1917 Frederick Clarke's 1916 MiD certainly seems to have done him a big additional favour in him going places.

BTW Helen, The MiD card is a very nice artefact for you to have/be custodian of.

:-) M.

Edited by Matlock1418
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Helen48

Forgive my ignorance but I don't understand the importance/relevance of 'army level'...or CRA. Presumably this refers to him being in 3rd Army HQ? I read that the 3rd Army was largely operational in the Western Front and this ties in with his accidental head injury sustained in St Pol. Seems quite a major injury as was initially hospitalised in January and was still receiving hospital treatment in March. I'd love to know how he sustained it! He was acting sergeant at this time I believe (bombardier). How does 'Army level' differ from his rank in the RGA?

 

Alas I am not the owner of the MiD..it belongs to Freds granddaughter and I am researching on her behalf but I agree its quite a memento! 

 

Thanks so much for all of the information you have all provided.. Its really helpful in understanding his likely war service

 

 

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Matlock1418
11 minutes ago, Helen48 said:

Alas I am not the owner of the MiD..it belongs to Freds granddaughter and I am researching on her behalf but I agree its quite a memento!

My apology, my mistake - I'm sure his GD is very proud of him and his service and treasures the card - I hope the next responsible custodian has been pencilled in.

As for the "Army" stuff - I feel sure FS, or an other(s), will be happy to help explain [I can't!]

:-) M

 

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FROGSMILE
On 07/05/2021 at 21:11, Helen48 said:

Forgive my ignorance but I don't understand the importance/relevance of 'army level'...or CRA. Presumably this refers to him being in 3rd Army HQ? I read that the 3rd Army was largely operational in the Western Front and this ties in with his accidental head injury sustained in St Pol. Seems quite a major injury as was initially hospitalised in January and was still receiving hospital treatment in March. I'd love to know how he sustained it! He was acting sergeant at this time I believe (bombardier). How does 'Army level' differ from his rank in the RGA?

 

Alas I am not the owner of the MiD..it belongs to Freds granddaughter and I am researching on her behalf but I agree its quite a memento! 

 

Thanks so much for all of the information you have all provided.. Its really helpful in understanding his likely war service

 

 

Helen it’s basically a hierarchical structure in ascending size with Battery or Company at the bottom, then Artillery Brigade (i.e. comprising several batteries), then Division (comprising of several Brigades), then Corps (ditto), then finally Army (ditto) at the top.  By 1918 Britain, with the vital aid of its Dominions, had put five Armies (1st to 5th) into the field.  The largest deployed force it ever created. Each of those levels had some artillery clerks working in the HQs, perhaps you can imagine how elevated it felt for your forebear to be working in the 3rd Army HQ, for the commander of the entire 3rd Army artillery, when compared with working in an Artillery Brigade (nowadays this latter would be called an artillery regiment).

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Helen48
Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

Helen it’s basically a hierarchical structure in ascending size with Battery or Company at the bottom, then Artillery Brigade (i.e. comprising several batteries), then Division (comprising of several Brigades), then Corps (ditto), then finally Army (ditto) at the top.  By 1918 Britain, with the vital aid of its Dominions, had put five Armies (1st to 5th) into the field.  The largest deployed force it ever created. Each of those levels had some artillery clerks working in the HQs, perhaps you can imagine how elevated it felt for your forebear to be working in the 3rd Army HQ, for the commander of the entire 3rd Army artillery, when compared with working in an Artillery Brigade (nowadays this would be called an artillery regiment).

Many thanks - seems like he did well for himself and was obviously very capable!

 

 

Edited by Helen48
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FROGSMILE
1 hour ago, Helen48 said:

Many thanks - seems like he did well for himself and was obviously very capable!

 

 

Yes it would seem so Helen.  The very fact that he was an acting sergeant within that specialised discipline indicates that he had progressed his understanding and competence quite quickly.  

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Hi Helen,

 

image.png.d4fe97e63cfa0552e82906cfb4891b7b.png

 

image.png.8ba742ed802ad5a7ba9088b64cb6e365.png

Images sourced from Findmypast - Royal Artillery Attestations

 

Under his 1403049 number the MoD appear to hold what's left of his service file.

 

image.png.328731f44d42830ae1eb6ca07424099d.png

 

Regards

Chris

 

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