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Remembered Today:

Royal Fusiliers & 19th Manchesters

james drury

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Hi all 

Just wondering if any Royal Fusiliers experts could give any tips. 

Looking at a man  GS10007 Harold Purbrick. 

No service record - as far as I can see. 

Have his medal rolls - states 9th RF 6th - 11th July 1916 then attached to 19th Manchesters 12th July to 16th  Feb 1919

Have the war diary for both the 19th Manchesters an 9th RF. 

19th Manchesters WD notes A draft of 224OR including men from the RF  joining  the  19th Manchesters at Corbie on the 13th July so I assume he was part of this attached draft. 

My assumption was he headed to France in July 1916 intended for the RF but was sent / attached to reinforce the 19th Manchesters on arrival with the other  223 men - have checked the RF medal rolls for men doing the 19th Manchesters on the 12th July  and all say attached - would this mean a short attachment to support, the Manchesters were quite depleted in strength at this point. 

Harold is taken POW on the 7th October 1916 at Gaudecourt  - the 9th RF were involved in an attack there on this day. His POW paperwork state B Coy 9th RF as his unit. 

Would it be usual for a man to be attached to a different unit on arrival in France for a short period, assuming this is what happened, then posted to his intended unit at a later date. 

All tips much appreciated - still learning... 

Thanks :-)




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He appears in War Office Daily List No.5763 dated 4/1/1919 as Released Prisoner of War from Germany, arrived in England. 

Not come across that many who were re-deployed for a short period after disembarkation in theatre. Permanent redeployment was fairly common

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Don't know if the image attached is of interest, he married shortly after he returned to the UK (image courtesy of Find My Past)

Purbrick marriage.jpg

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Thank you all :-)

Hadn't seen the marriage cutting so thanks for that :-)

I did wonder about the short term attachment to the Manchesters that's what made me curious - a fair few of the RF 'attached draft' were taken prisoner on the 23rd July - on their POW records for all of them I have found so far it states 19th Manchesters as their unit not RF. 

With Harolds  POW stating records RF I assumed he was with them by this point.  the 19th Manchesters were not near Gaudecourt  in October 1916 either. 

guess will never really know  - have been through the brigade and divisional diaries for the RF and 19th and no clue really. 

Thanks for all there help though ill keep hunting  - you never know :-)


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Another quick question if you don't mind. 

I have found a newspaper article that gives his enlistment date as 25th November 1914 at Uxbridge drill hall - it was his 18th Birthday on the 29th November. 

On his medal roll he is noted as entering France on the 6th July 1916. 

Would it be normal for someone enlisting in late 1914 not to go to France until mid 1916 ? 

I'm assuming he went to Hounslow to the 5/6th Battalion for training following enlisting but that a pure guess.

Any tips again appreciated.  

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James-   The answer to the conundrum is the "First Day" on the Somme and the subsequent attempts to batter through during the following week or so.  1st July has created -justifiably-it's own folklore and history as if it stood alone-58,000 casualties with 19,000 dead. Alas, the following 10 days were just as brutal, so that the number of depleted battalions was great. Of the Royal Fusiliers alone, some 20 battalions (out of 47 formed)  saw service on the Somme.

    By the weekend of  Saturday 8th-Sunday 9th July 1916, there was a manpower crisis. Losses were so heavy that even rushing the greatest number of reinforcements available in England over to France would not reinforce all the battered battalions and a considerable number -even with reinforcements-would still be understrength for continuing offensive operations, let alone the peril of holding the British lines against German counter-attack (always a strong possibility at any time)

     9 RF lost heavily during an attack of 36 Infantry Brigade of 12th (Eastern) Division in an attempt to take Ovillers on 7th July-the other battalions being 8RF and 7th Royal Sussex.  8Rf came out with no officers left standing and only 80 men or so.   9RF fared slightly better, coming out of the line with about 180 men.  But simple arithmetic shows that a reinforcing draft of 223 men, added to 180 would still leave 9RF at around half "normal" battalion of 800-and still too depleted for further action.

      Thus, the army authorities did not reinforce all the battered battalions as all this would achieve would be that most battered battalions would still be too much understrength. Instead, drafts arriving from England were diverted either by transfer or attachment to bring as many battalions as possible up to strength.   This is particularly noticeable with Royal Fusiliers drafts, who were generally diverted to any battalion of the Royal Fusiliers to get at least some battalions back to strength. I have a casualty of 3RF who was killed serving with 10 RF having arrived in France and transferred in this way.

   19th Manchesters  had lost 77 men killed since 1st July, mostly in action on the 7th. Alas, I do not know it's tally of wounded.  But the 9RF draft would seem to bring it back to strength.

     And, yes, many late-formed battalions only arrived in France in the early Summer of 1916.   Theere is some material on 9RF in the book by O'Neil "The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War", which can be downloaded from archive.org for free.    The only other real source of information is the splendid book by the late Charles Messenger:

Brief but glorious / [by Charles Messenger].

Charles Messenger, 1941-

London : One, 2007.

     He was commissioned to write a history of 9RF  and did a very good job  with sparse materials. As the book was effectively privately published, I regret I do not have it as it tends to be expensive.  But, of course, there will be members of GWF who do have it and look up stuff for you. From memory and reading it for another 1917 casualty, I cannot recollect anything about movement of intended drafts.  It does not seem to be mentioned in the 9RF war diary -but, there again, diversion of drafts is not usually a matter that would be mentioned anayway. But if anyone had found out what happened, it would have been Charles Messenger so worth having a look at the book. I do recollect on reading it that the battalion, for various reasons, was slow in getting to war readiness.



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Thank you so much for the amazing reply - I will  follow up on the suggested reading :-)

Have looked at the strength of the 19 Manchesters, 

1074 on the 30th June  and 839 on the 7th July  

draft of 89 arrived on the 9th July  and  light casualties until the 12th July when the draft of 224 RF, Surrey and Sussex were attached 

Your suggestion makes perfect sense that the draft would take the Manchesters back to almost full strength. 

Thank you :-)

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