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2nd Lieut E Flatt, 5th/6th Royal Fusiliers - help needed to uncover my GFs final posting/service


SaraF
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My grandfather, Ernest George FLATT joined up on 8th Sept 1914 and initially joined the 4th East Surrey Regt, transferred to the 11th ESR and then joined the 9th ESR and served in France from October 1915 through to February 1917 when he was discharged to Officer Cadet School at Pirbright. His ESR service number was 2639.

I have his service record from TNA and have also found the 9th ESR war diaries on line these, together with the book The Journeys End Battalion, have allowed me to get a really comprehensive understanding of where he fought and the conditions he endured. 

However, I am really struggling to understand what happened to him after Officer Cadet School as the pieces of information I have really don't tie up.

He started his training on 07/04/17 and on completion (Gazzetted on 01/09/1917) - he joined either the 5th or 6th Royal Fusiliers (regt number 192722) - but his service record does not cover any of his service after this date. I have a few pages of his diary which describe him sailing to Alexandria aboard the P&O Liner Caledonia, embarked on the ship on June 25th 1918 and landed Alexandria on June 30th. From there he moved "to Fayoum to join the 21st RBs on 4th July". He was clearly not happy in Egypt - struggling with the heat and the flies. His diary entries do not give any clue to what he was engaged in doing until the final page I have on 1st Sept when the entry reads "... everyone excited as to move, some idea of France". 

Looking at the Royal Fusiliers history online I am struggling to see how he ended up in Egypt or indeed what he did between joining the RF's and sailing to Egypt - a period of around 6 months. He was demobbed via Purfleet Dispersal Centre on 24th May 1919. 

I appreciate that I am fortunate to know what I already know but any help in piecing together his officer service would be wonderful. 

Thank you 

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Welcome to the forum. 

His officer service record is held by the National Archives but is not digitised so you would need to visit or pay a researcher.

WO 339/102199

Charlie

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@charlie962 Hi and thanks for your speedy reply! 
I have ordered and received the service record you mention and whilst it is pretty comprehensive for his service with the ESR unfortunately it contains virtually nothing about his service as an officer. 

I wonder if he went to Egypt with the 39th or 40th Royal Fusiliers - The Jewish Battalions - would they have officers who weren't Jewish?

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27 minutes ago, SaraF said:

"to Fayoum to join the 21st RBs on 4th July".

Hi @SaraF and welcome to the forum.

Before I go off on a wild goose chase can I just confirm he joined the Rifle Brigade, (RB) rather than some unit of the Royal Fusiliers, (RF).

Cheers,
Peter

 

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@PRC Oh, I'm afraid I don't know. The only reference to RB's is in his diary entry mentioned above and to be honest I didn't know what it stood for. All the info I have - including his medals - has him as 5th or 6th Royal Fusiliers.

By the way, he was a Dereham boy, born and bred - which may pique your interest!

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@PRCSorry, me again ... I've looked at his medals again and there is also what I believe to be his cap badge, photo attached. And a close up of his tunic badge (sorry, there's probably a proper name for this).

Does this help?

IMG_8024.jpg

IMG_8025.jpg

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44 minutes ago, SaraF said:

The only reference to RB's is in his diary entry mentioned above

No worries - just wanted to make sure it wasn't a typo as RB, aka Rifle Brigade, opens up a different set of avenues to explore.

Unfortunately our parent site, the normally reliable Long, Long Trail, doesn't have too much specific to the 21st Battalion, Rifle Brigade.

18th (London); 19th (Western), 20th (Northern), 21st (Midland), 22nd (Wessex & Welsh), 23rd (North Western) and 24th (Home Counties) Battalions
Formed in accordance with an Army Council Instruction on 29 November 1915. The battalions were made up of supernumerary TF Companies, formed from National Reservists who were used for guarding vulnerable points in Great Britain. They were posted for garrison duty overseas in 1916. The 18th, 23rd and 24th went to India; 19th and 20th to Egypt. The 21st went to India via Egypt, and the 22nd Salonika via Egypt.
https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/the-rifle-brigade-1914-1918/

That would put 21RB in Egypt at some point, although whether that was at the same time as you Grandfather was there would take some more digging. Unfortunately as Line of Communications troops they would not have been required to keep a War Diary.

1 hour ago, SaraF said:

By the way, he was a Dereham boy, born and bred - which may pique your interest!

If it piques mine it will double pique the East Dereham queen @Kitty55 :) - although she's not been popping on here too much recently. (This is where you tell me you meant West Dereham !) Kitty may well have had cause to research Ernest as she was writing a book on those from the Town who had served.

1 hour ago, SaraF said:

(regt number 192722)

Officers didn't have Regimental \ Service numbers in the conventional sense in the Great War.

1 hour ago, SaraF said:

he joined either the 5th or 6th Royal Fusiliers

The October 1918 and November 1918 British Army Monthly Lists put him attached to the Regular Army Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers - thats the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th - rather than the 5th (Reserve) or the 6th (Extra Reserve). Unfortunately in both months it doesn't show which specific Battalion he had been posted to or whether he was then attached elsewhere.

October 1918 - see column 964a as E. Flatt. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/103123876
November 1918 - see column 964 as E. Flatt. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/123098853

The collar badge you posted is common to all the Fusilier Regiments.  The other badge you've posted is for a qualified marksmen.

Hope that helps,
Peter

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@PRCMany thanks, Peter.

I know Kitty - by e mail and FB - she is still working on her WW1 soldiers book but is still at A! 

I have promised her use of what I know about Grandfather Flatt when she is ready for it.

I'll look through the links later and see what I can piece together. 

Sara

 

 

 

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The collar badge is that of the Royal Fusiliers. The crossed rifles are not a cap badge, but represent a marksman proficiency badge. I don’t know if officers wore these, @FROGSMILEwill know, if I haven’t poisoned him with my home made marmalade! 

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2 hours ago, Michelle Young said:

The collar badge is that of the Royal Fusiliers. The crossed rifles are not a cap badge, but represent a marksman proficiency badge. I don’t know if officers wore these, @FROGSMILEwill know, if I haven’t poisoned him with my home made marmalade! 

Hello everyone.  The collar badge matches with the Royal Fusiliers as Michelle has swiftly spotted.  Officers did not wear skill at arms badges apart from bombers and trench mortars grenades/bombs (for reasons unknown to me).  They certainly did not wear the marksman’s crossed rifles badge, not least because they were never officially armed with rifles as their principal firearm (although a few carried rifles whenever the opportunity arose).  I’m assuming that the crossed rifles relates to our subject’s service in the ranks.

P.S. Marmalade superlative 😋

960E587E-D524-43AB-8B9B-E3AEF42E89ED.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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20 hours ago, PRC said:

That would put 21RB in Egypt at some point, although whether that was at the same time as you Grandfather was there would take some more digging. Unfortunately as Line of Communications troops they would not have been required to keep a War Diary.

Should he have been attached to the 21st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, then as a Garrison Battalion you may well struggle to find mention of them in the usual sources.

However as a Garrison Battlion the ranks would have been filled with men in the lower grades of fitness and predominantly older men to boot. The upside of this, although rather macabre, is that while they were not going to have combat casualties, there is probably an increased chance that these men will succumb to ill-health or accident. By following the trail of their graves it can sometimes be possible to roughly sketch out the Battalions movements. By implication that will also give your grandfathers’ whereabouts.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website shows 53 men of the 21st Battalion / 21st Midland Battalion recorded as Great War fatalities.

A quick check of those brings up:-

15th April 1917.

Riflemen S/33011 Harry Stanley Dennis, drowned at sea (from H.T. Arcadian). Remembered on the Mikra Memorial, Greece. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1647801/
Same for Rifleman S/33016 Henry Gale. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1647835/
And Rifleman S/33015 William Arthur Grainger. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1647850/
And Rifleman S/33030 Oscar Elliott Marshall. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1647952/
And Rifleman S/33028 Harry Martin. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1647953/

And a number of others.

Lance Corporal S/32995 John Daniel McGregor, died 15th April 1917, is buried at Syra New British Cemetery, Greece. Syra New British Cemetery was made in June 1921, to take the scattered Commonwealth war burials from the islands of the Cyclades. More than half of the graves are those of men drowned when the Transport "Arcadian" was torpedoed and sunk on 15 April 1917 in the middle of this group of islands. https://www.cwgc.org/visit-us/find-cemeteries-memorials/cemetery-details/69003/syra-new-british-cemetery/

13th October 1917.

Rifleman 203983 C.F. Morris is buried at Alexandra (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/476825/

30th December 1917.

Rifleman 204237 C.Watts is buried at Alexandra (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/477336/

28th February 1918.

Rifleman 209436 J.A. Sives is buried at Alexandra (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/477132/

2nd April 1918.

Rifleman 204134 J. Stanton is buried at Alexandra (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/477195/

3rd July 1918.

Rifleman 203728 W. Davies. Now buried at Cairo War Memorial Cemetery. He was originally buried at Minia War Cemetery, some 200km south of Cairo. But the graves there had to be moved in 1960 when maintenance could no longer be assumed. (see the CWGC webpage for the Cairo War Memorial  Cemetery under “History”. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/474087/

18th November 1918.

Serjeant 304331 G.W. Martin is buried in the Fyzabad Cantonment Cemetery, India. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1465911/

During the same period there are men of the 21st Battalion who are buried in the UK. I’m sure a bit more delving will turn up that these were men who died post discharge or who were medically repatriated to the UK before finally succumbing to their ill-heath while being treated.

22 hours ago, SaraF said:

From there he moved "to Fayoum to join the 21st RBs on 4th July".

345093427_FayumtoMinyaontheNilesourcedGoogleMaps.png.edf4b72b17de0cee69deba680f991dd0.png

Image courtesy Googlemaps.

If you follow the River Nile down the map you will see Fayum near the top of the above extract. Carrying on towards the bottom and you’ll see Minya – that’s the Minia where Rifleman Davies who died on the 3rd July 1918 was originally buried. The maps scale would indicate they were approximately 40 to 50 kilometers apart.

So seems likely the 21st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, were still in Egypt at the time 2nd Lieutenant Ernest Flatt arrived at Alexandra , and active in the area where he was headed for.

22 hours ago, SaraF said:

His diary entries do not give any clue to what he was engaged in doing until the final page I have on 1st Sept when the entry reads "... everyone excited as to move, some idea of France". 

Reading between the lines I would say it was not originally intended for the 21st Battalion to move onto India when they were first sent out to Egypt.

In fact rather than France they were sent to India, and were there by the 18th November 1918 when Sergeant Martin died and was subsequently buried in Fyzabad.

Hope that makes sense,
Peter

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@PRC @FROGSMILE @Michelle Young Thank you all so much for your input and amazing knowledge! 

I'm going to ask one more favour! There is one page of Ernie's record that has defeated me (attached). The top line says 11/R Fus but I wonder if the 11 in this case refers to the fact that he was at 11 Officer Cadet School, Pirbright rather than 11th Royal Fusiliers as no where else in his records is service with this regiment referred to. 

Does this sheet actually refer to him being injured/wounded? I think it is around the time he finished training and the word look a little like 'posting cancelled' which could tie in with him having suffered an injury of some description. Or I could just be making words up!

He had previously been wounded at Guillemont on 16/08/16 - and was away from the front for 3 months - so there may be a chance it was an issue with this old injury?

Any ideas as to what the words / numbers / symbols may mean would be great.

Sara

PS - where would he have worn the marksman badge? I'll look at my photos of him as an NCO and see if I can see it.

RC5223852-4cb45a54-6ba4-41ec-a02c-c510849701ce_WO_339_102199_005.jpg

Edited by SaraF
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The marksman badge was worn on the lower sleeve. 

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14 hours ago, SaraF said:

@PRC @FROGSMILE @Michelle Young Thank you all so much for your input and amazing knowledge! 

I'm going to ask one more favour! There is one page of Ernie's record that has defeated me (attached). The top line says 11/R Fus but I wonder if the 11 in this case refers to the fact that he was at 11 Officer Cadet School, Pirbright rather than 11th Royal Fusiliers as no where else in his records is service with this regiment referred to. 

Does this sheet actually refer to him being injured/wounded? I think it is around the time he finished training and the word look a little like 'posting cancelled' which could tie in with him having suffered an injury of some description. Or I could just be making words up!

He had previously been wounded at Guillemont on 16/08/16 - and was away from the front for 3 months - so there may be a chance it was an issue with this old injury?

Any ideas as to what the words / numbers / symbols may mean would be great.

Sara

PS - where would he have worn the marksman badge? I'll look at my photos of him as an NCO and see if I can see it.

RC5223852-4cb45a54-6ba4-41ec-a02c-c510849701ce_WO_339_102199_005.jpg

It seems to have been the battalion to which he was initially assigned (‘posted’), i.e. the 11th Royal Fusiliers, but then beneath it has been annotated ‘Posting Cancelled’.  Adjacent (right) is the authority for the cancellation referring to a Posting List with its identifying reference number and date.

NB.  Crossed rifles left slower sleeve or if a sergeant sometimes above his stripes on the right arm (indicating qualification as an instructor).

Edited by FROGSMILE
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51 minutes ago, SaraF said:

Any ideas as to what the words / numbers / symbols may mean would be great.

"Embarked 22.9.17
Disembarked for 39 I.B.D 23.9.17"

Despite the efforts of the Dover Barrage, submarines and surface raiders were still a problem at this stage of the war, and so most troopship crossings of the Channel went at night. It's not therefore uncommon for a mans journey to be recorded across two days.

He disembarked in France with an intended destination of 39 Infantry Base Depot. That was one of many Infantry Base Depots at Etaples and his arrival would have been less than two weeks after the main Etaples Mutiny. At that time it was not a happy place, with continued occasional outbursts of discontent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Étaples_mutiny

On arrival at 39 I.B.D. the intention was for him to go on to the 11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, but for some reason this was cancelled on what possibly looks like the 28th September 1917. It could be that he had health issues requiring hospitalisation for an unknown period, (so another officer would have been sent to 11th Royal Fusiliers in his place) or he could have been injured serving with one of the officer patrols deployed in Etaples to keep order - both speculation - but I suspect something happened healthwise which probably explains why is next appearance is in July 1918 in Egypt assigned to a Garrison Battalion.

Cheers,
Peter

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The book,

"A brief record of the advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force - under the command of General Sir Edmund H H Allenby, GCB., GCMG., July 1917 to October 1918." has a brief mention, in its Order of Battle, of the units remaining stationed in Egypt. This includes 20th and 21st Garrison Bns Rifle Brigade and in brackets against 21st it says ' to India 28/9/18'. There was also a Royal Fusiliers Garrison Bn, the 40th, but presumably he wasn't posted there because there wasn't a vacancy. 

There were four other Garrison Bns from various other regiments. 

Charlie

9 hours ago, PRC said:

or he could have been injured serving with one of the officer patrols deployed in Etaples

There were also the routine escorts of reinforcement parties to the front.

Edited by charlie962
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On 21/03/2022 at 21:58, SaraF said:

I have a few pages of his diary which describe him sailing to Alexandria aboard the P&O Liner Caledonia, embarked on the ship on June 25th 1918 and landed Alexandria on June 30th

That was presumably from Marseilles. Question then is what was he doing in France between 23/9/17 and 25/6/18? Did he remain at 39 IBD. Does their diary survive? @ss002d6252 has listed these in the past, I think.

SaraF, are there any other clues in his personal diary/papers?

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A little mention of him in the Lynn News and County Press February 1918

Lynn News & County Press 16 February 1918

 

I appear to have lost the ability to crop PDF images again! Sorry

George

 

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What does it say on the actual medal rolls ? There appears to be 3 on ancestry:

Flatt.jpg.c84ee312e54b78010cb0ff1fb38b3314.jpg

JP

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1 hour ago, helpjpl said:

 

What does it say on the actual medal rolls ? There appears to be 3 on ancestry:

Flatt.jpg.c84ee312e54b78010cb0ff1fb38b3314.jpg

JP

Sgt (14-15 Star):-  Disembarked 04/10/15. Theatre 1. Discharged to commission 31/07/17
WOII (BW & VM):-  9/ E. Surrey

Office , 2nd Lt. :-  Royal Fusiliers

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6 minutes ago, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

Sgt (14-15 Star):-  Disembarked 04/10/15. Theatre 1. Discharged to commission 31/07/17
WOII (BW & VM):-  9/ E. Surrey

Office , 2nd Lt. :-  Royal Fusiliers

So as the highest rank served at in a Theatre of War was WO11 (VWM and VM Service Medal Roll) can it be safely assumed he didn't serve as an Officer in a Theatre of War. He did apply for his medals, albeit in 1928, and there is reference on the MiC to BWM and VM entitlement being issued on what could possibly be an earlier page of the Roll -

511139412_ErnestFlattMiCsourcedAncestry.jpg.6c43a77272a378f4250a309ea5e77d0f.jpg

Image courtesy Ancestry.

Presumably he could have returned his British War Medal and had it amended to show the highest rank he served overseas as 2nd Lieutenant, but I don't know how far the rules allowed the inscriptions on the two medals to vary. Again presumably by the time he arrived Egypt no longer counted as part of a Theatre of War.

Cheers,
Peter

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3 hours ago, PRC said:

Presumably he could have returned his British War Medal and had it amended to show the highest rank he served overseas as 2nd Lieutenant, but I don't know how far the rules allowed the inscriptions on the two medals to vary. Again presumably by the time he arrived Egypt no longer counted as part of a Theatre of War.

Both the British War Medal and the Victory Medal should have the same inscription and rank, and show the highest rank provided it was held in a theatre of war. This did not apply to the 14-15 Star.  For the avoidance of doubt Egypt remained a theatre of war until the 1st November 1918, following the Armistice of Mudros which was signed on the 30th October 1918 between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain representing the Allies. 

The 21st Battalion embarked Suez on the 18th September 1918 for India disembarking Bombay on the 1st October 1918, it appears from surviving records they remained in India and were posted to Madras until 12 October 1919 when they embarked Bombay on the 'Dongola' for the UK.  Some men were repatriated in April "unfit to face another hot season".

We don't know if Lieut. Flatt was with them this time. In Egypt they were 3rd Echelon or Lines of Communication troops broadly engaged on the Suez Canal Defences, and in India their duties were what they had always been in that country, routine garrison duty or 'policing Empire'. India was not a theatre of war therefore no war diary and it does not appear one was kept, or has survived for their sojourn in Egypt.

 

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The chronology then seems to be:

1. Enlists and commences basic infantry training with the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, which along with the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion carried out that function in accordance with pre war plans.

2. Probably due to unmanageable volumes of Kitchener recruits, was instead posted to the 11th (Reserve) Battalion East Surrey Regiment formed specifically to train the New Army battalions rapidly being raised.

3. Upon completion of basic infantry training posted to the 9th (War-“Service”) Battalion for continuation training to prepare for service in France and Flanders (F&F), and subsequently embarked with that battalion on operations there.

4. After 2-years operational service in [erratum] F&F, where he rose rapidly to warrant officer II, showed leadership potential, applied for a commission, and was supported by his commanding officer and brigade commander (standard requirements).

5.  Underwent officer training at either, the No 11, or No 19 Officer-Cadet Training Battalions (OTB), based in Pirbright, Surrey.

6.  On completion of his commissioning course was accredited as a 2nd Lieutenant with the regular battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, but earmarked for/posted to the 11th (War-“Service”) Battalion Royal Fusiliers, based in France.

7.  Due to the after effects of an old wound, or illness of some kind, his posting was swiftly cancelled, and his future was reconsidered.  He would have been on the held strength (for administration) of 5th or 6th (Reserve) Battalions RF while categorised as sick in accordance with routine procedure.

8.  On return to some semblance of fitness, but probably medically downgraded, posted to the 21st (Midlands) Battalion of the Rifle Brigade**, initially in Egypt and subsequently to India, where he remained on routine garrison service until sent home in 1919.

**One of seven RB battalions formed as Territorial (i.e. auxiliary) units from reasonably fit, but more elderly men of the National Reserve (who were veterans of pre war regular or auxiliary service) that could be used for routine garrison service abroad.  The RB was really just a flag of convenience in these units made up of men from very varied backgrounds.

E30BCCC9-4EC4-471D-8884-E95C770A9595.jpeg

A0102210-186D-4D62-84C6-CACE5465D95F.jpeg

CDD2F53C-3009-4EC2-8DB0-AF97D6D6C06E.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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4 hours ago, kenf48 said:

Both the British War Medal and the Victory Medal should have the same inscription and rank, and show the highest rank provided it was held in a theatre of war. This did not apply to the 14-15 Star.  For the avoidance of doubt Egypt remained a theatre of war until the 1st November 1918, following the Armistice of Mudros which was signed on the 30th October 1918 between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain representing the Allies. 

Thanks @kenf48

Looks like what Ernest applied for in 1928 then was his Victory Medal and British War Medal and these would have been issued showing his rank of Second Lieutenant.

That does leave one small uncertainly - whether the original medals were ever issued with his rank as Warrant Officer II, and if so did they get returned? From the notes on the MiC it certainly looks like his entitlement did originally go through on a rank and file page of the East Surrey Regiment service medal roll. It was even written in the correct place on the MiC before being overwritten with the reference for the relevant page of the Royal Fusiliers Officer service medal roll.

I suspect if the original page of the East Surrey Regiment Roll can be tracked down his entry will either be cancelled, or will reference returned medals.

I quick check of MiC's shows that the roll page entries appear to be service number rather than surname order. MiC's for nearby service numbers shows:-

2637 Charles England E/1/103 B2 Page 305
2639 Ernest Flatt E/1/103 B2 Page 306

2640 Frank Fay E/1/103 B2 Page 306
2641 Arthur Field E/1/103 B2 Page 306

Cheers,
Peter

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