Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Tracking down a Somerset Light Infantry officer


Steve Goodall
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi all, I've recently acquired the British War and Victory medals for a 2nd Lieutenant J Abbott and as with all the medals I buy, I'd like to research his family history. However, as I'm sure you know, it can be a bit difficult tracking down officers, if all you have to go on are an initial and surname - especially if they have a fairly common name.

I was lucky with the another set of officer's medals I have, awarded to Edward Innes Lawrence Pym. Not too many of those around I'm sure!

There are a few candidates for my J Abbott, but the one I think may be most likely is a J Abbott, who served with the Somerset Light Infantry.

I've found a couple of SLI Medal Roll entries (via Ancestry). One is for a John Abbott who, according to his MIC was a C/Sjt (CQMS), promoted to 2nd Lieut in Feb 1918.

There are a few things with this chap that seem to strike him off as a candidate though, but I guess he could be a possibility?

The other, more likely person, is just named J Abbott, 2nd Lieutenant on the Officers (Various Regiments) SLI Medal Roll and I can't seem to find a MIC for him.

Can anyone suggest a direction to head in to help identify the right person? I've skimmed through the available war diaries for the SLI but J Abbott didn't seem to leap out at me anywhere.

One other thing that may or may not be relevant is that on the engraving on the edge of the medals, the last 'T' in Abbott is slightly larger, which suggests to me that the name was originally incorrectly spelt, or the engraver was having a bad day?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Steve Goodall said:

I've found a couple of SLI Medal Roll entries (via Ancestry). One is for a John Abbott who, according to his MIC was a C/Sjt (CQMS), promoted to 2nd Lieut in Feb 1918.

The other, more likely person, is just named J Abbott, 2nd Lieutenant on the Officers (Various Regiments) SLI Medal Roll and I can't seem to find a MIC for him.

To factor in the possibility that the Medal, and thus the MiC originally bore the surname Abbot, (one T), I did a wildcard search on the National Archive catalogue for Abbo* who served in Corps = Somerset and Rank - Lieutenant. There were three matches, all Abbott (two T's), but only one with a forename starting with a "J". That is John Abbott, formerly Colour Sergeant 7435 Somerset Light Infantry. John was already in India at the outbreak of the war with the 2nd Battalion.

The LLT has the 2nd Battalion stationed at Quetta .https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/prince-alberts-somerset-light-infantry/
If John stayed with them throughout he would only have served in India, so his service medal entitlement would have been only the British War Medal. As a Garrison unit not in a Theatre of War they were not required to keep a War Diary. Somewhere along the way he must have served in a Theatre of War to also have become entitled to the Victory Medal.

As you say the MiC records that he was commissioned 18th February 1918. The relevant page of the London Gazette is Page 4368 of the Supplement to the London Gazette dated 10 April 1918. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30621/supplement/4368

That shows Company Quarter Master Serjeant John Abbott to be a Second Lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry, effective 18th February 1918. As he hasn't been commissioned via an Officer Cadet Battalion I suspect he was still either in India or was serving in Mesopotamia - the section above him refers to NCO's who were to be 2nd Lieutenants for service in the field. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30621/supplement/4368

A check of Officers long papers in the National Archive catalogue using search criteria "Abbott" + "Somerset" brings up only three matches - the same three for whom there are MiC's

So I suspect your John Abbott and your J. Abbott are one and the same. First line of enquiry is does the page number reference on the service medal roll match the page number reference on the MiC for John Abbott?

Cheers,
Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Peter for spending the time helping me with this. The MIC page number tallies with the Medal Roll for John Abbott on the Other Ranks Roll. The J.Abbott listing is in an Officers Roll. Would it be usual to have a mention in two rolls if you're promoted through the ranks? The first roll has Victory Medal crossed out at the top of the page, but John's entry has NW/5/ reference, which I think means he was eligible for both?

It looks like this John Abbott's service records are available at the National Record office so I think I'll book a trip there in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully that'll tell me where he served after serving with the 2nd battalion in India and where he became eligible for both medals. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

43 minutes ago, Steve Goodall said:

The MIC page number tallies with the Medal Roll for John Abbott on the Other Ranks Roll. The J.Abbott listing is in an Officers Roll. Would it be usual to have a mention in two rolls if you're promoted through the ranks? The first roll has Victory Medal crossed out at the top of the page, but John's entry has NW/5/ reference, which I think means he was eligible for both?

Thought it would be too simple a solution but it had to be worth a try. Of course it could still be two separate individuals - plenty of reasons why there's not an obvious MiC for J Abbott, and plenty of reasons why there might not be long papers showing up in the National Archive catalogue. Similarly there could be explanations for why a run through the November 1918 British Army only produces a match for John Abbott, (unhelpfully just shown as "Abbott" but a Second Lieutenant with seniority from the 18th February 1918) but no other J. Abbott. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/123099537

That 2nd Lieutenant Abbott is on the establishment of the Regular Army Battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry but there is no indication of with which unit he was serving.

So nothing conclusive, but the lack of an alternative candidate in three sources does tend to make me think John and J are one and the same.

Should it be the pre-war regular John Abbott, stationed at Quetta with the 2nd Battalion in August 1914, then Paul Nixons' site tells us that the Regular Army Battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry would have issued regimental number 7435 at some point between the 7th March 1904, (7262) and the 25th January 1905, (7628). https://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2010/12/somerset-light-infantry-1881-1914.html

In fact using the records in the WO97 series of pre-war service that can be narrowed down considerably.

7434 John Colwell attested for a short term enlistment, split 3 and 9, at Swansea on the 27th September 1904. He was then serving with the militia 3rd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. He reached the depot at Taunton on the next day, and after initial training was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 7th January 1905.

7438 William Templeman attested for a short term enlistment, split 3 and 9, at Taunton on the 27th September 1904. He was then serving with the militia 3rd Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. He reached the depot at Taunton on the 30th, and after initial training was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 7th January 1905.

For John Abbott to have been still in the colours in August 1914 its likely he either extended to the full 12 years with no period in the reserves, or signed up for a long service enlistment. His relatively high rank might hint at the latter.

It may also be possible to track him down on the 1911 Censuses.

Harts 1911 Annual Army List shows that at the start of the year the 1st Battalion were stationed at Portland while the 2nd Battalion were stationed at Malta. By the start of 1912 the 1st Battalion were at Bordon and the 2nd Battalion at Tientsin. Along with the 3rd Battalion and the Depot at Taunton, all of those locations would have been covered by the Census of England & Wales. But in keeping with the medal rolls and everything else, John Abbott appears to be highly elusive. It may be a question of scrolling through the actual returns - I've come across instances before where the entry has been struck through as a man is on leave and so the entry has not been transcribed and indexed.

So the best I can do is the entry in the 2nd Quarter Army List of 1919 which shows his (Army) date of birth as the 24th November 1885 and that he had served 13 years and 147 days in the ranks prior to being commissioned. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/88131179

Hope some of that helps,
Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 1939 register for Taunton-based John Abbott says (just about as it's creeping off the page) that he was a retired Lieut in the SLI having done 16 years' service as a regular, so this may tally with what you've found out about the regulars? I'l have a look through some of the documents you've highlighted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Assuming that date of birth is correct and not one made up to allow him to enlist underage , and allowing for the 42 days after the event that a birth could be legally registered, then at a push you'd be looking at a birth registration in Q4 1885 / Q1 1886.

Assuming he was born in England & Wales,  that the birth was even registered and that his surname at birth was Abbott, (all quite BIG assumptions!), then your choices appear to be:-

1267398064_FreeBMDscreenshot.png.b82e1139cf7d3805841d415ecbc5efa0.png

Image courtesy Free BMD.

The Chard registration in Q1 1886 is that one that sticks out - particularly as there are also no middle names. Mothers' maiden name was Symes. No obvious death in Somerset while a child.

The Chard civil registration district included the civil parish of Wambrook. https://www.ukbmd.org.uk/reg/districts/chard.html

May be a complete co-incidence but the baptism of a John Abbott, no date of birth available, took place at the Blessed Virgin Mary, Wambrook, on the 27th December 1885. Parents were Abraham, a Labourer, and Elizabeth. The family lived in the parish. https://www.freereg.org.uk/search_records/581828a3e93790eca392f5aa/john-abbott-baptism-somerset-wambrook-1885-12-27?locale=en

The marriage of an Abraham Abbott to an Elizabeth Symes took place in the same church on the 21st December 1869. https://www.freereg.org.uk/search_records/58186514e93790eb7fb8087a/elizabeth-symes-abraham-abbott-marriage-somerset-wambrook-1869-12-21?locale=en

Looks like the Parish Registers may be available on FindMyPast.

Armed with that I had another go at the 1911 Census and found a "24" year old Lance Serjeant John Abbott, born Chard, Somerset, who was recorded at St Andrews Barracks, Malta with the 2nd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry - not sure why that didn't come up earlier when I was searching. (Page 7 of one of the institutional returns, line 7).

Hope that helps and isn't too many red herrings,

Cheers,
Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great find Peter. That’s him alright. The reason he didn’t appear in a search was because his name had been transcribed as John Arnold. Chard is a couple of miles from where he was baptised.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...