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20th KING'S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS (PIONEERS)- TITLE AND WAR GRATUITY


ALAN MCMAHON
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  As I believe their are keen fans of the KRRC out there, then can I ask 2 small questions that might have an answer out there somewhere?

1)  20 KRRC is a Pioneer battalion- British Empire League Pioneers.  While fully aware of the proud traditions of this regiment, why did the men in it retain the rank of "Rifleman" rather than "Pioneer" if they were not actually riflemen?

2)   The advertisements all over the south of England in late 1915 seeking recruits for 20 KRRC  state that men would get an extra "2d a day  more pay than any other infantry regiment"  Would anynoe know if higher pay affected War Gratuity?

image.png.8ec2e080686d9041350b7245dd32b0ef.png

 

 

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28 minutes ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

Would anynoe know if higher pay affected War Gratuity?

It wouldn't.


Craig

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2 hours ago, ss002d6252 said:

It wouldn't.


Craig

   Thank you Craig- I thought not but a combination of service number and backtracking on War Gratuity suggests a man I am interested in enlisted underage just after Christmas 1915, having just turned 17. I wanted to cut out error by closing off the "extra pay" route.

 

 

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5 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

why did the men in it retain the rank of "Rifleman" rather than "Pioneer" if they were not actually riflemen?

Soldiers in Pioneer Battalions were infantry men first and foremost.

Regards

Russ

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9 hours ago, RussT said:

Soldiers in Pioneer Battalions were infantry men first and foremost.

Regards

Russ

      Thanks Russ- It seems an obvious question  but KRRC  has a long tradition of little privileges and traditions that would be frowned on in other regiments.  There must have been many an infantryman during the Great War pulled up by a Sergeant-Major for unclean (not shiny enough) buttons, for example, who wondered why the 60th were allowed to have black ones.  Various accounts of some generals favouring their fellow riflemen are extant for both world wars- how Plumer had a clutch of black-buttoned riflemen on his staff in the First, and the same with Jumbo Wilson in the Second.

   As it is,  CWGC  lists 2564 men  as casualties in the Great War with the designation of "Pioneer"-  so the rule that all are infantrymen first and pioneer second seems not to have applied at Winchester. Similarly,the survival of 20 KRRC as a "Pioneer Battalion" does show some degree of influence given the reorganisations of 1916-1918 with the Labour Corps.  Just wondered if there was any record of 60th influence in keeping things the way they wanted.

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1 hour ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

 As it is,  CWGC  lists 2564 men  as casualties in the Great War with the designation of "Pioneer"- 

Which regiments were these 2564 men?

As I understand it, Royal Engineers used Pioneer as the entry level solider with Sapper only being applied once a trade qualification had been passed. 

Just wondering if most of the men above might actually be RE?.

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8 hours ago, Alan24 said:

Which regiments were these 2564 men?

As I understand it, Royal Engineers used Pioneer as the entry level solider with Sapper only being applied once a trade qualification had been passed. 

Just wondering if most of the men above might actually be RE?.

It was an infantry pioneer  battalion whose basic rank was private. It has nothing to do with the Royal Engineers I’m afraid.

TR

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves
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3 hours ago, Alan24 said:

Just wondering if most of the men above might actually be RE?.

   Thank you Terry and Alan24.   Of course, all but a handful of those casualties listed  as"Pioneer" are in the Royal Engineers.  A curious exception is the clutch of casualties listed with the rank of "Pioneer"  and of the 11th Hampshires- like 20 KRRC, a battalion used as divisional troops and pioneers.   It proves the point that the Army moves in more mysterious ways than the Almighty

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There was no rank of pioneer outside of the Royal Engineers at that time, as Terry Reeves has confirmed.  At best there might be mention of pioneer as an ‘appointment’ for a British private employed in his battalion’s pioneer section and that is unlikely to be an official designation in casualty rolls.  It’s also worth pointing out that pioneer battalions and Labour Corps companies were entirely different roles during WW1, without any meaningful association.  Where the confusion is caused is that early in WW2 the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps was formed to encompass both those roles and also subsume the unqualified manual skills and simple construction tasks (usually under RE supervision) that might’ve been carried out by RE pioneers in WW1.  

Edited by FROGSMILE
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4 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

There was no rank of pioneer outside of the Royal Engineers at that time, as Terry Reeves has confirmed.  At best there might be mention of pioneer as an ‘appointment’ for a British private employed in his battalion’s pioneer section and that is unlikely to be an official designation in casualty rolls.  It’s also worth pointing out that pioneer battalions and Labour Corps companies were entirely different roles during WW1, without any meaningful association.  Where the confusion is caused is that early in WW2 the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps was formed to encompass both those roles and also subsumed the unqualified manual skills and simple construction tasks (usually under RE supervision) that might’ve been carried out by RE pioneers in WW1.  

   Fully agree with what you write-which had always been my general understanding anyway.   I was perplexed-a little (as usual)- because 20KRRC was deliberately raised as pioneers-as per the advert seeking recruits- and there seemed to be no question that they were first and foremost  pioneers-in a specifically named pioneer unit- and no question that they were  NOT first and foremost infantrymen.

     The only real exception on CWGC is 6 men of 11th Hampshires all listed as "Pioneer" and all killed in 1918.

        There again, if the British Army always worked in less than mysterious ways, then GWF would be a lot more boring.........

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2 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

   Fully agree with what you write-which had always been my general understanding anyway.   I was perplexed-a little (as usual)- because 20KRRC was deliberately raised as pioneers-as per the advert seeking recruits- and there seemed to be no question that they were first and foremost  pioneers-in a specifically named pioneer unit- and no question that they were  NOT first and foremost infantrymen.

     The only real exception on CWGC is 6 men of 11th Hampshires all listed as "Pioneer" and all killed in 1918.

        There again, if the British Army always worked in less than mysterious ways, then GWF would be a lot more boring.........

Although it might not have been clear from the recruiting media - they were after all seeking experienced manual workers ideally - it’s not true that they were foremost pioneers.  They were always trained as infantrymen +.  The ‘plus’ being pioneer skills.  This was not a new concept at all, but one that originated in British-India, where such pioneer battalions were first raised as “intelligent labour, also trained to fight as infantry”, a concept promoted by Lord Roberts  (“Bobs” to the troops).  It was there in India that the pioneers ability, in particular, to create and enhance routes of communication to get an Army from A to B, and then join the infantry firing line at the end of it (or indeed along the way), was valued and developed.  
When France and Flanders descended into trench warfare, with communication routes turned into quagmires and impeded roads, it was realised that there was utility for such units, and eventually settled upon that they should be categorised as ‘divisional troops’, with one battalion allocated to each infantry division.  
To create the initial numbers extant infantry battalions were selected because they came from areas where manual Labour was the prevailing employment, but as this was insufficient to meet the necessary number of units, others were raised from scratch, and it’s these that you’re referring to as advertising from the outset as seeking pioneers.  Nevertheless, they were infantry with pioneer skills rather than pioneers with infantry add-ons, and their training was organised accordingly.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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7 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

It proves the point that the Army moves in more mysterious ways than the Almighty

I'm not convinced it proves the point about the Army - rather it might well prove some sort of point about the CWGC (IWGC) in choosing, for some bizarre reason, to honour these men with the "rank" Pioneer. One man in this odd group of six which you have found is actually a 2nd Battalion man !!

If you look at the original burial records there is a bit of a mix - some don't note an explicit rank at all - but some do - and they are the familiar ranks e.g. Pte, L/Cpl. One has "Pnr" crossed out and replaced by "Pte" - but then has gone on to be commemorated as a Pioneer. Out of the circa 200 men who died with the 11th Bn Hampshire Regiment, just these few have been given the "rank" Pioneer.

You could ping the CWGC to ask what has possessed them to commemorate these men in this odd way, point out the original records to the contrary and ask them kindly to correct their records.

I do note that SDGW also compounds the "problem" by assigning them the "rank" Pioneer. On the other hand the more authoritative source, Soldiers' Effects Register, names them with their proper army ranks.

Regards

Russ

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12 hours ago, RussT said:

I'm not convinced it proves the point about the Army - rather it might well prove some sort of point about the CWGC (IWGC) in choosing, for some bizarre reason, to honour these men with the "rank" Pioneer. One man in this odd group of six which you have found is actually a 2nd Battalion man !!

   Thanks Russ- the Army is exonerated from the charge of obfuscation. Yes, it is likely a reporting misunderstanding with CWGC-there is little point raising it as it will be the same as with the recent thread regarding  the variation in headstones  with "Guardsman", etc- it would only be remedied come routine replacement. I wanted to make sure that there was not some sort of admin. wrinkle to explain away the use of Pioneer v Rifleman-and whether, in fact, there was a difference in treatment due to pioneer work.

    A reading of the war diary  shows that the work was far from "behind the lines"- 276 men of 20 KRRC were killed during the war and there are references in the war diary to awards for gallantry-MC,MM,DCM which shows this was not an easy billet. And, yes, despite being "pioneers" they were indeed first and foremost "Riflemen".  Most of the rifle training seems to have taken place AFTER the battalion arrived in France in March 1916-it was tagged to the 63rd RN Division for this- the situation where Royal Navy officers were teaching  rifle work to a large group of,effectively, uniformed navvies must have been a tad surreal. But the war diary does remark on the enthusiasm of the men while doing it. 

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I’m not sure there was a suggestion that the pioneers operated behind the lines, that was the Labour Corps role, and the two specialisms had different functions as mentioned.  As integral parts of infantry divisions, the pioneers worked forward and often aided with improving trench construction where it was damaged, or inadequate.  As well as skilled digging, the existence among them of e.g. carpenters and stonemasons, as referred to in your recruiting advert, meant they could assist with all manner of construction tasks.  Tactically, during planned assaults they were often tasked with following up assaulting battalions with the mission of creating new communication trenches and reversing captured enemy trenches so that parapets and parados, etc. were ready for repulsing swiftly mounted enemy counter attacks.  To facilitate further that purpose they were at one point equipped with an increased establishment of Lewis Guns, precisely so that they would be even more effective when acting as infantry.

0611BB2B-1BE5-4419-84F1-6BC44B66F521.jpeg

08B272B1-0B3D-41E0-B165-FFFDFE7644B7.jpeg

A01776EF-698D-40D3-8277-0D81008726C5.jpeg

F218C13B-4090-4C81-827C-DF64003C9659.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Slightly off topic to your original query but have you seen this earlier thread 

The link to the download is still ok. Mitchinson draws on the original for his account "Pioneer Battalions in the Great War - Organised and Intelligent Labour". It covers training before deployment on active service.

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28 minutes ago, kenf48 said:

Slightly off topic to your original query but have you seen this earlier thread 

The link to the download is still ok. Mitchinson draws on the original for his account "Pioneer Battalions in the Great War - Organised and Intelligent Labour". It covers training before deployment on active service.

Thanks Kenf.    I had seen the book years ago but completely forgotten it in the current  thread!   Turberville was an officer with the battalion and a distinguished professional historian in later years who wrote extensively on the House of Lords.   Thank you very much for reminding me.....  I really must get my memory tested.   As a sidenote to a sidenote-about the dangers of being a pioneer with  20 KRRC, here is Turberville's  Gazette for the MC in 1917:

image.png.3da144b96d7820e14bda3165f743aa1d.png

 

1 hour ago, FROGSMILE said:

I’m not sure there was a suggestion that the pioneers operated behind the lines, that was the Labour Corps role, and the two specialisms had different functions as mentioned.  As integral parts of infantry divisions, the pioneers worked forward and often aided with improving trench construction where it was damaged, or inadequate.  As well as skilled digging, the existence among them of e.g. carpenters and stonemasons, as referred to in your recruiting advert, meant they could assist with all manner of construction tasks.  Tactically, during planned assaults they were often tasked with following up assaulting battalions with the mission of creating new communication trenches and reversing captured enemy trenches so that parapets and parados, etc were ready for repulsing swiftly mounted enemy counter attacks.  To facilitate further that purpose they were at one point equipped with an increased establishment of Lewis Guns, precisely so that they would be even more effective when acting as infantry.

0611BB2B-1BE5-4419-84F1-6BC44B66F521.jpeg

08B272B1-0B3D-41E0-B165-FFFDFE7644B7.jpeg

A01776EF-698D-40D3-8277-0D81008726C5.jpeg

F218C13B-4090-4C81-827C-DF64003C9659.jpeg

   Thank you for your time and trouble on this- Are the pics. available for use without annoying a copyright holder??

Edited by ALAN MCMAHON
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13 minutes ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

Thanks Kenf.    I had seen the book years ago but completely forgotten it in the current  thread!   Turberville was an officer with the battalion and a distinguished professional historian in later years who wrote extensively on the House of Lords.   Thank you very much for reminding me.....  I really must get my memory tested.   As a sidenote to a sidenote-about the dangers of being a pioneer with  20 KRRC, here is Turberville's  Gazette for the MC in 1917:

image.png.3da144b96d7820e14bda3165f743aa1d.png

 

   Thank you for your time and trouble on this- Are the pics. available for use without annoying a copyright holder??

I’ve no idea about the copyright, all I can say is that they’re in the public domain and associated with NZ and Australia.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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21 hours ago, RussT said:

I'm not convinced it proves the point about the Army - rather it might well prove some sort of point about the CWGC (IWGC) in choosing, for some bizarre reason, to honour these men with the "rank" Pioneer. One man in this odd group of six which you have found is actually a 2nd Battalion man !!

    Hi Russ-  Just as a curiosity- the 2KRRC man listed as Pioneer was killed serving with 20KRRC- The Turberville history  confirms that A Company was doing work in the night of 28. April 1918 at Hinges, north of Bethune. A German shell caused 23 casualties-the 6 killed, including Rifleman Albert Jeffries, 2nd Bn (probably) are all buried side by side at Chocques. Looks like a transcription error of 2 instead of 20.

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Alan

Just out of interest, did this man have previous service with the RE? post his name and  I will check.

TR

 

 


 

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2 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

Hi Russ-  Just as a curiosity- the 2KRRC man listed as Pioneer was killed serving with 20KRRC

I was posting about 11/Hampshire men in response to your earlier post also about (I'd assumed) 11/Hampshire men where you wrote that other than RE men there were a "clutch of casualties listed with the rank of "Pioneer". So I looked at that "clutch" in the Hampshires and, sure enough, I found 6 men one whom was a 2nd Bn man as I mentioned.

If you are saying that it was a 2/KRRC man (serving with the 20/KRRC) then either my post wasn't clear, yours wasn't or both of our posts weren't clear !! But from that earlier post of yours you gave the impression (to me at least) that all the men in the CWGC with the rank of Pioneer were RE except the clutch you found in the 11/Hamphires. That's why my contribution, for what it's worth, concentrated solely on the 11/Hampshires. I didn't look any wider because I took it at face value from your post that there were no other examples (except for RE men, as we would expect).

I've no idea whatsoever whether this post of mine is clear or just confuses things even more or I am forever misreading or misinterpreting the subject of the thread. I'm happy to dip out - I contributed only out of mild curiosity. In my view (others can debate otherwise) I was content with my contribution clarifying the situation but I'm happy to see if different or alternative interpretations come to light and possibly prevail.

Regards

Russ

 

 

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2 hours ago, Terry_Reeves said:

Alan

Just out of interest, did this man have previous service with the RE? post his name and  I will check.

TR

 

 


 

 

   No, not that I know of . His name was FRANCIS HENRY CARR and he was born in Lansdowne Road, Tidal Basin (=Canning Town) on 15th November 1898.   The best I can do on date of enlistment by nearby service files is AFTER 20th December 1915 (Service no. 9815) and BEFORE 10th January 1916 (Service no, 9885).  He is listed as F.N.Carr on CWGC.   Given his age- just turned 17- and  enlistment being after the Derby deadline, then previous RE service is very unlikely.   That he got into 20 KRRC as a pioneer is because (I believe)  he came from a family of stevedores. I have no knowledge directly that he was in the same line of work but it would fit perfectly.

(By the way, you may be able to chip into the thread on  " George Robert Jones dob ~1887 Hoxton Middlesex", as he was casualty of a very serious gas attack -presumed to be one of the first Mustard- on 19th Londons, 28th November 1917-  With over 80% casualties on the day from gas, is there abything else known about this particular attack?- It would help the family member  chasing down his ancestor)

 

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1 hour ago, RussT said:

I was posting about 11/Hampshire men in response to your earlier post also about (I'd assumed) 11/Hampshire men where you wrote that other than RE men there were a "clutch of casualties listed with the rank of "Pioneer". So I looked at that "clutch" in the Hampshires and, sure enough, I found 6 men one whom was a 2nd Bn man as I mentioned.

If you are saying that it was a 2/KRRC man (serving with the 20/KRRC) then either my post wasn't clear, yours wasn't or both of our posts weren't clear !! But from that earlier post of yours you gave the impression (to me at least) that all the men in the CWGC with the rank of Pioneer were RE except the clutch you found in the 11/Hamphires. That's why my contribution, for what it's worth, concentrated solely on the 11/Hampshires. I didn't look any wider because I took it at face value from your post that there were no other examples (except for RE men, as we would expect).

I've no idea whatsoever whether this post of mine is clear or just confuses things even more or I am forever misreading or misinterpreting the subject of the thread. I'm happy to dip out - I contributed only out of mild curiosity. In my view (others can debate otherwise) I was content with my contribution clarifying the situation but I'm happy to see if different or alternative interpretations come to light and possibly prevail.

Regards

Russ

 

 

No Russ-Your sanity is unimpaired-  It was my mistake-   2 men both out of place listed as casualties of a "2nd Battalion)  The 2nd Hampshires man , Percy Gillingham, is a mystery- 11th Hampshires seem to have stuck with 5 figure service numbers (on the other 5 casualties)_, while Gillingham has a 6 figure number-Alas, I do not have a listing to hand of which number block went where.  

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12 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

, while Gillingham has a 6 figure number-Alas, I do not have a listing to hand of which number block went where.  

Percy Gillingham's number 355977 shows he was with 9th Hampshire (Cyclist) Battalion TF when they were renumbered in 1917.

One scenario is that he was serving at Home with 2/9th and rather post him to the 1/9th who were in India, he was posted to the Western Front to join a regular battalion, possibly as a result of the shortage of men following the Spring Offensive in March 1918.

Edit.

BWM &VM Rolls show that his first unit overseas was 11th (Pioneer) Battalion before going onto 14th Hants then finally 2nd Hants. 

Edited by Alan24
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11 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

The 2nd Hampshires man , Percy Gillingham, is a mystery

Even more of a mystery is that one of the records attached to his CWGC page shows him as a L/Cpl. so why he is listed as Pioneer is very strange. 

Soldier's Effects shows Pte (L/Cpl).

Edited by Alan24
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Alan

I asked about the RE connection because some 5,000 REs were transferred to Infantry Pioneer battalions, and many were transferred back to the Corps after a few months. I wondered if this might have some connection with the confusion.

The Pioneer - LCpl confusion might arise because Pioneer was his substantive rank and L/Cpl was an appointment not a rank.

I can’t add anything to the mustard gas attack.

TR

 

 

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