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Remembered Today:

What did bandsmen do in times of war?


Graham Anstey
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I'm researching my great-grandfather Thomas Francis Keane who was a sargeant drum major in the East Lancashire Regiment (50th Notts). He started as a clarinet player and by WWI was a drum major and sargent instructor drum major. By this time he was with the 7th (Service Battalion ELR) having signed a One Year's Service Attestation in 1914 at the age of 56. His son, also Thomas Francis (!) was a bugler in the same Regiment, but I've not conclusively identified the Battalion yet.

My question is what would they have done during the war? My understanding is that in WWII they acted as stretcher bearers, but would this have been the case in WWI? I've not found any indications that he was in the RAMC.

Any help much appreciated.

Graham

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First things first.

Bandsmen and buglers were two different things entirely

A bugler [who was also trained as a drummer] was a combat soldier, who acted as a signaller within the battalion - bugle calls directed soldiers to advance or stay still, cease fire, stand down, reveille and so on and so forth.

Bandsmen were indeed bandsmen and did what bandsmen do - although in my day they also served as the defence platoon guarding battalion headquarters - used to drive the Drummie mad, because Bill was something of a fire-eater, but his drummers and bandsmen liked to keep their heads down. No doubt, had the need arisen they could have been pressed into service as stretcher bearers but within the battalion in time of need - there was no connection with the RAMC

Edited by 6RRF
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The band of 7th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers served as regimental stretcher bearers at Gallipoli. 

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1 hour ago, Graham Anstey said:

I'm researching my great-grandfather Thomas Francis Keane who was a sargeant drum major in the East Lancashire Regiment (50th Notts). He started as a clarinet player and by WWI was a drum major and sargent instructor drum major. By this time he was with the 7th (Service Battalion ELR) having signed a One Year's Service Attestation in 1914 at the age of 56. His son, also Thomas Francis (!) was a bugler in the same Regiment, but I've not conclusively identified the Battalion yet.

My question is what would they have done during the war? My understanding is that in WWII they acted as stretcher bearers, but would this have been the case in WWI? I've not found any indications that he was in the RAMC.

Any help much appreciated.

Graham

Courtesy of Ron Clifton:

War Establishments make it quite explicit that on mobilisation the band was broken up and distributed among the companies, the majority being employed as stretcher bearers. However, this applied to the line infantry, where each battalion had a band. The Guards regiments each had a regimental band instead of battalion bands, and War Establishments is again explicit, in that these were left in the UK on mobilisation. This does not, of course,preclude the Guards bands going to France to entertain the troops.”

Also see:

1.https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/297704-men-at-work/page/2/#comment-3120534  (page 2 refers)

2.https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276787-ww1-infantry-stretcher-bearers/#comment-2821033

3.https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/228232-henry-joseph-richards-4th-welsh-bandsman/#comment-2266891

 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Many thanks folks. Sounds like I have more reading to do :D

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As GRRF says...

My understanding is that the Regimental stretcher bearers took wounded soldiers to the Regimental Aid Post, where they were then collected by RAMC stretcher bearers to be taken further back from the front.

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7 minutes ago, Graham Anstey said:

Many thanks folks. Sounds like I have more reading to do :D

Much useful detail has been posted in the forum over the years.  I’ve included three threads relevant to your specific query just above, some of which include illustrations.

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Here are some newspaper clippings relating to Thomas Francis Keane that some of you might find interesting.

Graham

TomKeane2b.jpg

MrsKeane1.jpg

TomKeane1.jpg

TomKeane2a.jpg

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Thank you.  The photo accompanying the article gives just a tantalising view of the mess dress worn by his sergeants’ mess at the time.  We can see it took the form of a shell jacket with white faced standing collar (as opposed to roll collar) that bears the regimental collar badge of a plain gilt rose.  Underneath it you can make out a waistcoat (aka vest) and his sergeants sash worn beneath.  It was a very smart arrangement and entirely regulated within the regiment, unlike the officers dress that was determined centrally by dress regulations.  There was no public funding for sergeants’ mess dress and most regiments subsidised them via profits from the the regimental PRI and grants raised via mess subscriptions.  They were affordable through purchase from native tailors in the regimental bazaar and not generally seen in use for battalions on the home establishment.

1C7D6CB1-D230-465E-87D9-88E3AA3EB19B.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Searching through my photos I've found another one of him, with the rest of the drums (He's centre back, with moustache). I've also found two other photos that are either his son or grandson, or both (all called Thomas Francis!). The son emmigrated to South Africa (family knowledge from a living descendant), and I have found a possible on the passenger list for the "Arundel Castle" departing Southampton 9th Jan 1931. Would be interested to know whether the uniform is British or South African, and what can be gleaned from it. 

Graham

Thomas Francis Keane 1.jpg

FrankKeane1.jpg

FrankKeane2.jpg

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They are corps of drums/bugles (rather than band) of the same regiment, but 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Lancashire, and your subject’s successor (3rd generation in the regiment according to your details) is marked out with a pen score.  He is the same fellow as the sergeant wearing the cap (I’ll try to ID his cap badge**).  The group photo dates to around 1899 going by their uniform and field service caps.  See battalion’s insignia below.  It was one of those that deployed service companies to South Africa during the 2nd Boer War, thus earning the honours on their badges.

The other older man without cap is in an Ordnance unit but possibly within a Dominion’s armed forces.  He appears to be an officer or perhaps warrant officer going by his age (I can’t see any hint of rank pips on his shoulder)

**he is a sergeant of South Africa Police.  The older man is Union of South Africa Army Ordnance Department.  Notice short scroll.  It suggests successive generations of the same family.

NB.  Note the typical Austrian knot cuff decoration of Volunteer Battalion men and the fact that because the VB were previously Rifle Volunteers they commonly wear a bugle badge instead of their regular equivalent’s  drum badge.  In this photo both bugle and drum badges can be seen.  It’s quite unusual and certainly wouldn’t be seen in a regular battalion.

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Edited by FROGSMILE
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WOW! The knowledge on this forum is amazing. When you say 2nd Volunteer Battalion is that different from the 2nd Battalion ELR? If so, how would it appear in war diaries etc.? It's all new terminology to me and I'm still getting my head around it. On his service record (at time of discharge) in August 1918 his unit is given as "Depot East Lancs Regt". In 1919 he applied for the "Kings Certificate" and signed it "Late RQMSergeant 7th East Lancashire Regiment". He first signed up in Sept 1871 aged just 14 into the 59th Regiment and appears to have been with the Regiment from then on. I'm still working my way through his papers, but may need help decoding some of it in the future.

I noticed he was crossed out on the embarkation list, and am still trying to work out the significance of this. If he didn't go on this date, then I'll have to dig further as that was the only plausible match when I searched.

 

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On 01/11/2022 at 17:55, Graham Anstey said:

WOW! The knowledge on this forum is amazing. When you say 2nd Volunteer Battalion is that different from the 2nd Battalion ELR? If so, how would it appear in war diaries etc.? It's all new terminology to me and I'm still getting my head around it. On his service record (at time of discharge) in August 1918 his unit is given as "Depot East Lancs Regt". In 1919 he applied for the "Kings Certificate" and signed it "Late RQMSergeant 7th East Lancashire Regiment". He first signed up in Sept 1871 aged just 14 into the 59th Regiment and appears to have been with the Regiment from then on. I'm still working my way through his papers, but may need help decoding some of it in the future.

I noticed he was crossed out on the embarkation list, and am still trying to work out the significance of this. If he didn't go on this date, then I'll have to dig further as that was the only plausible match when I searched.

 

2nd Volunteer Battalion was different to 2nd Battalion, which was regular.  Between around 1887 and 1908 the VBs were numbered separately in their own sequence, so there were often two each of 1st 2nd and 3rd (sometimes 4th too).  That ended in 1908, when the Territorial Force was established and all battalions were numbered in a single chronological sequence.  So 2nd VB  became 5th TF.

Your subject would in theory have been too old to go to France in WW1 and appears to have served initially with the Depot.  I’m not sure what “7th” refers to and would need to see the document.  There was a 7th war raised (Service) Battalion of the East Lancs in France.  He might well have helped raise it at Preston, and then been its RQMS while training, but then not deployed with it to France (hence being removed from the embarkation list).  But the newspaper article says he did go so perhaps he went with the 7th.  War diaries were made a mandatory requirement for battalions serving overseas following very poor record keeping during the Boer War.  You would need to look up the 7th’s war diary to see if there’s any mention of him.

According to the newspaper article he joined as a Boy Entrant to the band aged 13, rather than 14.  The minimum age for enlistment went up after each of the major wars in the 20th century.  It was age 12 until 1902 when it became 14.  After WW1 it became 15, which it remained until 1975 when it became 16.  It is currently 16.5, as long as remaining in an accredited form of apprenticeship, if not in full time education until 18.  I enclose a photo of a Boy Entrant to the East Lancs pre WW1.

 

D437D641-3ABF-4E70-8D1D-9E169923F0AB.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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If I remember correctly, Lyn MacDonald's book "1914" has a nice account from a regular army bands mans. It gives a good idea of their duties and what happened to them during mobilization.

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Here's some of his records. I've only had a quick skim through, and need to work through them properly to capture everything. As I'm recording it all in my family history database I've got a lot of transcribing and recording to do!

Graham

 

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Medal Card T Keane Meritorious Service Medal WO-372-24-95216.pdf Medal card Thomas Keane WO-372-11-101359.pdf

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Fantastic survival of a quite complete service record.   I’ve been able to read it in its entirety and will write up a summary for you tomorrow afternoon if that helps.  So far six things to note:

1.  Age when attesting as a Boy conflicts with his statement to the newspaper, not quite sure why.  He was an Irish lad from Athlone, Co Meath and a barracks brat.  In 1881 the conditions of the revised service act that year permitted him to count his service as a Boy to reckon towards pension. He was also granted good conduct pay. 

2.  He became the battalion’s Drum Major and so almost certainly was previously a Boy musician in the band.

3.  He did indeed go to France with 7th Service Battalion 1915-1916 and then returned home, serving rest of war in Britain. He qualified for three war medals to add to those he earned in India (including LSGC).

4.  His highest educational achievement was only a 3rd Class Education Certificate, which would have made things quite difficult for his later career.  Indeed he reverted from QMS to Colour Sergeant at his own request before subsequently applying to join the permanent staff of 2nd Volunteer Battalion as an instructor.

5.  He re-enlisted during WW1 and after an initial period at the regimental depot Preston (shared with Loyal N Lancs) as a member of the National Reserve (formed from veterans) and forming a Supernumerary Company, he subsequently joined 7th (Service) Bn East Lancs as RQMS when it was raised in the town.

6.  In 1923 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal “with annuity” (an annual cash payment - the medal came in two levels, with and without annuity - the latter going to those “most deserving”).  It (the MSM MIC) appears to confirm that his substantive rank never got beyond Colour Sergeant (this would be because of his 3rd Class Education Certificate).  

Edited by FROGSMILE
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12 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

Fantastic survival of a quite complete service record.   I’ve been able to read it in its entirety and will write up a summary for you tomorrow afternoon if that helps.  So far six things to note:

1.  Age when attesting as a Boy conflicts with his statement to the newspaper, not quite sure why.  He was an Irish lad from Athlone, Co Meath and a barracks brat.  In 1881 the conditions of the revised service act that year permitted him to count his service as a Boy to reckon towards pension. He was also granted good conduct pay. 

2.  He became the battalion’s Drum Major and so almost certainly was previously a Boy musician in the band.

3.  He did indeed go to France with 7th Service Battalion 1915-1916 and then returned home, serving rest of war in Britain. He qualified for three war medals to add to those he earned in India (including LSGC).

4.  His highest educational achievement was only a 3rd Class Education Certificate, which would have made things quite difficult for his later career.  Indeed he reverted from QMS to Colour Sergeant at his own request before subsequently applying to join the permanent staff of 2nd Volunteer Battalion as an instructor.

5.  He re-enlisted during WW1 and after an initial period at the regimental depot Preston (shared with Loyal N Lancs) as a member of the National Reserve (formed from veterans) and forming a Supernumerary Company, he subsequently joined 7th (Service) Bn East Lancs as RQMS when it was raised in the town.

6.  In 1923 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal “with annuity” (an annual cash payment - the medal came in two levels, with and without annuity - the latter going to those “most deserving”).  It (the MSM MIC) appears to confirm that his substantive rank never got beyond Colour Sergeant (this would be because of his 3rd Class Education Certificate).  

Thanks so much for this. Some of it I already knew, some of it I would probably have never realised the significance of. And the background info is most useful. I'm actually looking forward to working through this methodically and logging it all. There were a few more pages, but they were mostly either requests or receipts for some of his medals, and his King's Certificate (which I need to Google).

Graham

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3 hours ago, Graham Anstey said:

Thanks so much for this. Some of it I already knew, some of it I would probably have never realised the significance of. And the background info is most useful. I'm actually looking forward to working through this methodically and logging it all. There were a few more pages, but they were mostly either requests or receipts for some of his medals, and his King's Certificate (which I need to Google).

Graham

I’m glad it helped.  I won’t trouble to give a more detailed rundown then and just leave it for you to ask questions about anything unclear as you go through them.  It’s among the best set of records I’ve seen.

I’m very puzzled about what you say is an image of him stood centre rear (with moustache) in the group photo of drummers/buglers.  According to the records he was a drum major, but that man is neither dressed in the uniform for that appointment, nor wearing the identifying features of a sergeant.  Although both his upper arms are obscured and so hiding any rank badges, he is wearing an ordinary style of drummers tunic and is also missing the diagonal white pouch belt worn as a distinction by sergeants of Volunteer units (this is specifically instead of the red woollen sash worn by regular sergeants).  This suggests that the man is not actually him.  If you compare him with the face in the newspaper article that seems to be borne out.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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2 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

I’m very puzzled about what you say is an image of him stood centre rear (with moustache) in the group photo of drummers/buglers.  According to the records he was a drum major, but that man is neither dressed in the uniform for that appointment, not wearing the identifying features of a sergeant.  Although both his upper arms are obscured and so hiding any rank badges, he is wearing an ordinary style of drummers tunic and is also missing the diagonal white pouch belt worn as a distinction by sergeants of Volunteer units (this is specifically instead of the red woollen sash worn by regular sergeants).  This suggests that the man is not actually him.  If you compare him with the face in the newspaper article that seems to be borne out.

Ooh, how interesting. We (the family) have always assumed it was him. I wonder if it was a relation of his (father/brother/son). Don't suppose it's possible to estimate a date for this photo is it? I'm not sure which of my extended family holds the original, so can't check to see if there's anything written on the back.

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28 minutes ago, Graham Anstey said:

Ooh, how interesting. We (the family) have always assumed it was him. I wonder if it was a relation of his (father/brother/son). Don't suppose it's possible to estimate a date for this photo is it? I'm not sure which of my extended family holds the original, so can't check to see if there's anything written on the back.

The caps indicate a date late 1890s to early 1900s, so around the time of the 2nd Boer War. I’ve already said to you that the young man in the row in front and marked by an ink pen stroke is the same individual as the police sergeant in South Africa, but you didn’t acknowledge.

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1 hour ago, FROGSMILE said:

The caps indicate a date late 1890s to early 1900s, so around the time of the 2nd Boer War. I’ve already said to you that the young man in the row in front and marked by an ink pen stroke is the same individual as the police sergeant in South Africa, but you didn’t acknowledge.

Ah, yes. Apologies, I missed that one amongst all the other fabulous information you have supplied. I now just need to work out which one he is, but with a timeframe of 1890s give or take, I should be able to tie it to the correct one in my database.

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