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Royal Horse Artillery in India and Mesopotamia


mawhis
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Hi, 

I've been doing a bit of research about my Great-Grandfather, who enlisted before the Great War, and served with the RHA. The family's attempts to locate his service records are complicated by the fact that he enlisted underage, possibly under a fake name. The below is mainly based on family stories, plus a bit of my own research. Any further details that might help would be very welcome.

Name: Alfred Clarke Osborne

DOB: 14th November 1888 in Essex

  • Joined the RHA at the age of approximately 14/15, possibly under his stepfather's name - Stewart.
  • Served on the North-West Frontier and campaigned into Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass (I believe that this was with N Battery)
  • Was due to ship home in 1914, but due to the outbreak of the war was diverted to Mesopotamia, where he served throughout. (This would be consistent with the movements of S Battery)

Any help would be very gratefully received.

 

 

 

 

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Hi @mawhis and welcome to the forum.

Unless his unit was stationed in either Scotland or Ireland, or he was moving between postings on a non-Government transport, then he is very likely to turn up on the 1911 Census of England and Wales, as this covered British Army posts around the world.

A check just looking for a Horse Artillery man with the first names Arthur C. brings up three matches.

Driver Alfred Christopher Bell, aged 21, born Sidcup, Kent, and serving with "K" Battery, R.H.A., then in barracks at Sturry Road, Canterbury, Kent.
Gunner Alfred Charles Collis, aged 20, born Birmingham, and serving with "Z" Battery, R.H.A., then in barracks at Cantonments, Potcheptroom, Transvaal, South Africa.
Gunner Alfred Charles Willis, aged 24, born Holloway, London, and serving in "G" Battery, R.H.A., then in barracks at Trimulgheny-Sunderland, Deccan, India.

There are then another 30+ Alfred's , but none with surname Osborne, Stewart or Clarke.

Of the two units you are interested in,

Driver \ Farriers Assistant Alfred Lesage was serving with "N" Battery, then stationed at Ambala, India, but I couldn't readily find a man from "S" Battery.

Hart's Annual List for 1911 shows "S" Battery starting off at Lucknow but would be moving to Ambala. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/100802821 It was commanded by Major N.E. Tilney, with Captain A.R.B. Cossart.
Major Norman Eccles Tilney and Captain Arthur Raleigh Cossart can be found on the 1911 Census along with their unit, although they are on one of a number of institutional returns for the same location.

My line of reasoning is that while you will be unlikely to come across a muster roll for either Battery from WW1, the census, with age and place of birth, will give a muster roll plus additional information but minus the service number. By scrolling back and forth through the institutional return you may spot another family surname or a birth location that rings bells. Armed with that you can then go looking for any surviving service records, (most were lost in WW2 when German bombs hit the London warehouse where they were being stored), medal records, (Cards & Rolls) and pension claims.

Hope that helps,
Peter

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Welcome to the Forum,

If your research and family stories are true, and you are looking for someone enlisting in the RHA in 1902/03 and serving in Mesopotamia with S Battery, then the following will also be true:
He would have a five figure number 25xxx to 33xxx
He would be entitled to the 1914-15 Star with an entry date in theatre 5a of February 23, 1915 (or very close to it)

Sadly, the Medal Rolls don't reveal that many and only a few have service records. It may be worth exploring higher numbers in case he was not that young when enlisting. 

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7 hours ago, mawhis said:

The family's attempts to locate his service records are complicated by the fact that he enlisted underage, possibly under a fake name. The below is mainly based on family stories, plus a bit of my own research. Any further details that might help would be very welcome.

Name: Alfred Clarke Osborne

DOB: 14th November 1888 in Essex

  • Joined the RHA at the age of approximately 14/15, possibly under his stepfather's name - Stewart.

While he could have lied about his age, if he enlisted post Novenber 1902 then he wasn't technically underage. Units, by permission, were allowed to take on a few young recruits, aged 14, as musicians. I believe they would not go overseas until they were 18.

The standard term of enlistment then was 12 years, normally split between a period in the colours, (i.e. in uniform, in barracks, all full pay and subject to military discipline 24/7) and a period in the reserves, (back in civvy street, on half pay, attending occasional training and liable for recall in the event of national emergency). However from the examples of the few 14 year olds I've seen from this era they seem to always be signed up for 12 years in the colours. There was an option to sign up for 21 years in the colours to qualify for a pension but I've never come across an example of that being offered to anyone under 18.

So if for example he did sign up for 12 years in the colours in November 1902, he would still have been in the Army at the time of the 1911 Census of England & Wales. and would have been liable for service until November 1914. So probably not quite due to ship home in August 1914 when Great Britain joined the war but it may well have felt like. And of course every month past November 1902 that his original enlistment began, the bigger the gap between when Britain joined the war and when he would otherwise have been sailing home.

As his 12 year enlistment would have been up during wartime, the Army could retain him for up to another 12 months. In the run up to the end of that period he would have been offered a bounty to sign on again for the duration of the war. But many regulars and pre-war Territorials whose period of enlistment was up did choose to leave the Army. An amendment to the Military Services Act, which introduced conscription in early 1916, had to be passed to make those who had left subject to conscription, and making the period of enlistment for all those still serving duration of the war.

Flipping the argument, if he did manage to persuade the Army he was 18 in 1902-1904 then:-
If he signed up for 21 years he could still have been in India at the outbreak of war, but would then have been liable to serve in the post-war Army unless he was medically discharged \\ dishourably discharged \\ purchased his release or was let go as surplus to requirements.

If he signed up for 12 years in the colours same scenario as if he signed up aged 14/15.

But if he enlisted for 12 years on a split, the most common for pre-war artillerymen I believe being 6 and 6, 3 and 9 and 9 and 3, then the maths works against him still being In India when Britain joins the war, and even against him being in the colours at the time of the 1911 Census for some of the options.

With so many individuals there is always the possibility of some obscure combination that cuts across what I've just written. But even though there appears to be no obvious candidate by name on the 1911 Census of England & Wales, it isn't necessarily a case that he lied about his age as well as his name.

Cheers,
Peter

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Thanks Peter. I'll have a look through the census records myself in the next few days. Ultimately, it's likely that quite a few details have been lost/changed in the telling of the story, but I'll keep looking.

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Well, he has a file with the MOD that should contain his previous service.

osborne.jpg.ec16be8e421b8c63cf1c7d731605ac6d.jpg

The number 6001733 puts him in the Essex Regiment after the August 1920 renumbering.
See https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/new-british-army-numbers-issued-in-1920/

There is a lengthy wait to get these file details but it should be worth it.
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records
There is talk of these being handed over to the National Archives at some point.
 

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6 minutes ago, David Porter said:

Well, he has a file with the MOD that should contain his previous service.

osborne.jpg.ec16be8e421b8c63cf1c7d731605ac6d.jpg

The number 6001733 puts him in the Essex Regiment after the August 1920 renumbering.
See https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/new-british-army-numbers-issued-in-1920/

There is a lengthy wait to get these file details but it should be worth it.
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records
There is talk of these being handed over to the National Archives at some point.
 

Thank you so much.

 

I had been told that he served with the Essex Yeomanry, at least for a time, but thought that it must have been a mistake, as I couldn't see a record of them having served in India. 

 

Thanks again to both of you for being so generous with your time. 

Edited by mawhis
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Looking for Alfred Osbornes \ A. Osbornes who have a MiC and served with the Essex Regiment brings up -

2647 Alfred Chas Osborne - MiC for Silver War Badge shows enlisted 13th October 1914 and was discharged from the 6th Battalion, Essex Regiment on the 17th March 1916 as no longer physically fit for war service (Kings Regs paragraph 392 (xvi). No overseas service. Previous number was 1924. No surviving service records.

45147 Alfred Osborne - MiC for Silver War Badge shows called up 2nd August 1917 and discharged 8th March 1918 aged 42. Surviving service records shows him as an Alfred Walter Osborne.

17803 A. Osborne. First landed in France 24th July 1915 serving with the 10th Battalion. Discharged to Class Z reserve 17th February 1919 so not a serving pre-war Regular - they would have gone to the Class B Reserve. No surviving service records.

202997 Alfred Osborne also served as 271628 Hertfordshire Regiment. Only qualified for Victory Medal and British War Medal, so did not serve in a Theatre of War until on or after the 1st January 1916. The Essex Regiment number most likely came from service with one of the reserve Territorial Force Battalions before being sent overseas. No surviving service records.

As the Army returned to a peacetime size there was a certain amount of rationalisation and moving of individuals from units being moth-balled into those that would remain. But postwar the Essex Yeomanry would go on to be part of the Royal Artillery, rather than the Essex Regiment, so the later service number would seem to place A.C. Osborne in the Essex Regiment.

Of course one possibility is that the A.C. Osborne born 14th November 1888 for whom the MoD hold papers is a completely different individual. As the fee is non-refundable it might be worthwhile checking there aren't alternative candidates. A birth on that date could have been registered in England and Wales in either Q4 1888 or the very start of Q1 1889 without incurring a fine.

As well as Alfred Clarke Osborne, (Q4 1888, Maldon, Essex) in the civil birth records for England & Wales there is also:-

Q4 1888

Allan Caleb Osborne - Godstone District. Most likely died in the Croydon District of Surrey in Q1 1960. (1960 Probate Calendar has an Allan Caleb Osborne who died in Croydon Hospital 5th January 1960). There are some short service service papers for an AllEn Caleb Osborne, who was born Caterham, Surrey, (Caterham was in the Godstone Civil Registration District for Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1837 to 1934), born approximately August 1888 who re-enlisted in December 1919 in the Royal Army Supply Corps for one year. He had previously served 3 years 5 months in the RAF \ RFC, being discharged on the 17th April 1919 to the Class Z Reserve. He was discharged from his latest period of service in December 1920 with a home address in Croydon. An Allen C Osborne can be found on the 1939 Register living in Croydon and with the date of birth of the 13th August 1888.

Q1 1889

Alfred Charles W Osborne - Woolwich District. Probably the death of and Alfred Charles W. Osborne recorded in the Woolwich District in Q3 1889, aged under 1 relates.

So you can't rule out that the man with records at the M.O.D. was born outside England & Wales, or that his birth was registered under another name but does tend to rule out the most likely alternative candidates.

Hope that helps,
Peter

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30 minutes ago, PRC said:

Looking for Alfred Osbornes \ A. Osbornes who have a MiC and served with the Essex Regiment brings up -

2647 Alfred Chas Osborne - MiC for Silver War Badge shows enlisted 13th October 1914 and was discharged from the 6th Battalion, Essex Regiment on the 17th March 1916 as no longer physically fit for war service (Kings Regs paragraph 392 (xvi). No overseas service. Previous number was 1924. No surviving service records.

45147 Alfred Osborne - MiC for Silver War Badge shows called up 2nd August 1917 and discharged 8th March 1918 aged 42. Surviving service records shows him as an Alfred Walter Osborne.

17803 A. Osborne. First landed in France 24th July 1915 serving with the 10th Battalion. Discharged to Class Z reserve 17th February 1919 so not a serving pre-war Regular - they would have gone to the Class B Reserve. No surviving service records.

202997 Alfred Osborne also served as 271628 Hertfordshire Regiment. Only qualified for Victory Medal and British War Medal, so did not serve in a Theatre of War until on or after the 1st January 1916. The Essex Regiment number most likely came from service with one of the reserve Territorial Force Battalions before being sent overseas. No surviving service records.

As the Army returned to a peacetime size there was a certain amount of rationalisation and moving of individuals from units being moth-balled into those that would remain. But postwar the Essex Yeomanry would go on to be part of the Royal Artillery, rather than the Essex Regiment, so the later service number would seem to place A.C. Osborne in the Essex Regiment.

Of course one possibility is that the A.C. Osborne born 14th November 1888 for whom the MoD hold papers is a completely different individual. As the fee is non-refundable it might be worthwhile checking there aren't alternative candidates. A birth on that date could have been registered in England and Wales in either Q4 1888 or the very start of Q1 1889 without incurring a fine.

As well as Alfred Clarke Osborne, (Q4 1888, Maldon, Essex) in the civil birth records for England & Wales there is also:-

Q4 1888

Allan Caleb Osborne - Godstone District. Most likely died in the Croydon District of Surrey in Q1 1960. (1960 Probate Calendar has an Allan Caleb Osborne who died in Croydon Hospital 5th January 1960). There are some short service service papers for an AllEn Caleb Osborne, who was born Caterham, Surrey, (Caterham was in the Godstone Civil Registration District for Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1837 to 1934), born approximately August 1888 who re-enlisted in December 1919 in the Royal Army Supply Corps for one year. He had previously served 3 years 5 months in the RAF \ RFC, being discharged on the 17th April 1919 to the Class Z Reserve. He was discharged from his latest period of service in December 1920 with a home address in Croydon. An Allen C Osborne can be found on the 1939 Register living in Croydon and with the date of birth of the 13th August 1888.

Q1 1889

Alfred Charles W Osborne - Woolwich District. Probably the death of and Alfred Charles W. Osborne recorded in the Woolwich District in Q3 1889, aged under 1 relates.

So you can't rule out that the man with records at the M.O.D. was born outside England & Wales, or that his birth was registered under another name but does tend to rule out the most likely alternative candidates.

Hope that helps,
Peter

Thanks Peter. The Maldon, Essex entry is him.

I'm getting the paperwork together now to send to the MOD, so we'll see what comes back. My working theory, based upon what I've been told and what has been posted here, is something like this:

1902-1906 - He runs away from school a couple of times, tries to join the Army, but is recognised by a member of the Champion de Cresigny family (Local nobility) and sent home, but is allowed to spend time with the Essex Yeomanry Royal Horse Artillery. 

November 1906 - Joins the Royal Horse Artillery and ships out to India on the SS Dongola on a 9/3 split,  which would schedule him to be coming back in November 1915, and is posted, at some point, to the North West Frontier.

Early 1908 - Campaigning in Afghanistan (There are very few British Military actions in Afghanistan at the start of the 20th Century, other than 2 at the beginning of 1908, as far as I can tell)

February 1915 - Sent to Mesopotamia with S Battery, 6th Indian Cavalry Brigade.

November 1915 - 9 years are up, but his term is extended due to the war.

Early 1916 - Conscripted until the end of the War

1918 - The war ends, he leaves the regular army, and is transferred to the Essex Regiment to serve his remaining 3 years in the reserve.

August 1920 -  Issues Number 6001733 by the Essex Regiment

Approx. November 1921 - Leaves the reserve.

I had already typed all of that out when I found him in the 1911 Census! 78th Battery Royal Field Artillery, based in Campbellpore, North West Frontier Province!

Thanks to everyone who helped with this. You went far beyond anything I expected.

 

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1 hour ago, mawhis said:

November 1915 - 9 years are up, but his term is extended due to the war.

Early 1916 - Conscripted until the end of the War

1918 - The war ends, he leaves the regular army, and is transferred to the Essex Regiment to serve his remaining 3 years in the reserve.

His liability was for 12 years service, so he was in the Army until November 1918. He wouldn't have been transferred to the reserves only to be recalled straight away. And because it was a National Emergency he was liable to be retained for up to another 12 months after that.

Many men came home to find there was no work or missed the camaraderie and signed up again for one of the short term enlistments - normally 1 to 4 years. Others took the bounties that were on offer to extend beyond the 12 years and so remained in the Regular Army. Others would join the Territorial Force, particularly during periods like the General Strike.

Is he the Alfred C. Osborne who married an Ellen Claxon in the Maldon District in the October to December quarter, (Q4), of 1919. If so Grooms occupation on the wedding certificate would be a good indicator of whether he was still in the Regular Army. Similarly for any children of the the couple, fathers' occupation on the birth certificates.

And if you have the address he was at prior to marriage on the marriage certificate you may also be able to track him down on the 1918 & 1919 Absent Voters Lists - see our parent site for details of how this can help - https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/finding-soldiers-through-the-1918-absent-voters-lists/

2 hours ago, mawhis said:

I had already typed all of that out when I found him in the 1911 Census! 78th Battery Royal Field Artillery, based in Campbellpore, North West Frontier Province!

I see he is down as a 22 year old Gunner born Colchester, Essex.  That should still in theory leaves us with a MiC to find. While there is a MiC for a Gunner 48369 Alfred Osborne, Royal Field Artillery, who first landed in Mesopotamia on the 17th November 1914, he would die a Prisoner of War of the Turks in June 1916, having been captured in May. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have unhelpfully shown his surname as Osborn, but sources like Soldiers Died in the Great War stick with the Osborne spelling. CWGC has him serving with the 76th Battery and the 30 year old son of Frederick and Emily. SDGW has him born Lambeth, Surrey. So not really a match for the man on the 1911 Census, but of the other 5 Alfred Osborne's with a MiC, there is one Alfred H, two Alfreds who first served in France in 1914/15, and two who only qualified for the Victory Medal and British War Medal.

Like the MiCs for a man serving with the Royal Horse Artillery there is no standout match for your man.

Cheers,
Peter

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