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New Testaments


supersub
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Hi, everyone,

I see that over the years there have been occasional mentions of pocket New Testaments given to soldiers - though no lengthy discussions, as far as I can see. It seems that they were given away by a number of organisations, including the Church of Scotland. I have one that belonged to my grandfather, Pte Henry Wilson Baker (born 7/1/1890), who was in the Army Service Corps. As you can see from the picture, this one was handed out in St Albans in 1915 "in remembrance of the stay of the troops in the city" (wish I could read the pencil inscription). It has a printed message from Lord Roberts, who, of course, was dead by 1915, so I'm not sure how much comfort that would have been!

Having said that, the little book survived, whether it was read during the war or not. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows anything about the history of these New Testaments. I'd also be interested to know what my grandfather was doing in St Albans. He was a librarian in west London before the war (though listed as a farm labourer on my mother's birth certificate in 1925) and he joined up from the reserve. He was sent very quickly to Le Havre, which suggests to me that he didn't need that much training for a desk job - so what was in St Albans? Was it a regular training camp?

Thanks in advance. I've been an occasional visitor to this site over the years, and have always been impressed by the knowledge of members. Now that I'm on the Birmingham University WW1 MA course, I will no doubt be a more frequent visitor.

New Testament.jpg

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3 hours ago, supersub said:

I'd also be interested to know what my grandfather was doing in St Albans.

Hello supersub, thanks for posting this picture, a very interesting personal item. I don't know any more about the distribution of Bibles in the Great War but I can tell you a bit about the St Albans connection as I understand it. By 1915 hundreds of thousands of men needed to be trained and sent to France. Southampton was a main port to ship the men and equipment over from. So the men need to be in the south of England or at least closer to where the port is. Rail links are also needed.  Salisbury plain will have been full of tented camps by this stage so a camp called 'Britons Camp' was set up near to St Albans. Houses, schools and the like were also used to billet soldiers in the town. There is a link here; http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/data/occupations/military/military-ww1-st-albans-britons-camp.htm  telling us some information. GWF member @FROGSMILEis a mine of information and may be able to flesh my thoughts out somewhat please? There were camps set up all over the UK from what I have read over the years. The penciled writing may get deciphered if we could have a closer picture of that part. Best Wishes, Bob. Edit here; As St Albans is close to London it makes scene to have a camp there to accommodate all the men from London.

Edited by Bob Davies
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15 hours ago, Bob Davies said:

Hello supersub, thanks for posting this picture, a very interesting personal item. I don't know any more about the distribution of Bibles in the Great War but I can tell you a bit about the St Albans connection as I understand it. By 1915 hundreds of thousands of men needed to be trained and sent to France. Southampton was a main port to ship the men and equipment over from. So the men need to be in the south of England or at least closer to where the port is. Rail links are also needed.  Salisbury plain will have been full of tented camps by this stage so a camp called 'Britons Camp' was set up near to St Albans. Houses, schools and the like were also used to billet soldiers in the town. There is a link here; http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/data/occupations/military/military-ww1-st-albans-britons-camp.htm  telling us some information. GWF member @FROGSMILEis a mine of information and may be able to flesh my thoughts out somewhat please? There were camps set up all over the UK from what I have read over the years. The penciled writing may get deciphered if we could have a closer picture of that part. Best Wishes, Bob.

As Britain headed to war in August 1914 the TF was mobilised. Following War Office home defence plans, the St Albans-based territorials moved to Essex and East Anglia to help defend against a possible German invasion. They were quickly replaced in the city by TF units of the 2nd London Division, which had St Albans as its war station.”

From the LongLongTrail:

“The history of 47th (2nd London) Division

The 2nd London Division* was a formation of the Territorial Force. It was formed as a result of the reforms of the army carried out in 1908 under the Secretary of State for War, Richard Burdon Haldane and was one of 14 Divisions of the peacetime TF.

* Not to be confused. This was a “First Line” TF Division. It has “2nd” in its title simply because there were two in London. The other was the 56th (1st London) Division.

1914

The units of the Division had just arrived for annual summer camp on Salisbury Plain when emergency orders recalled them to the home base. All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5 August 1914 and moved to concentrate in the St Albans area by mid August 1914. In October the Division was warned that it would go on overseas service. Many units were detached from the Division and sent independently to France as sorely-needed reinforcements for the BEF.

1915

Units began to cross to France on 8-9 March. 5th London Brigade was ordered to Cassel, and the rest concentrated near Bethune by 22 March. 5th London Brigade then rejoined. The 2nd London was the second TF Division to arrive complete in France.”

For Order of Battle (structure) see: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/47th-2nd-london-division/

Concerning the bible you can see another example and read more about them here: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/300778-old-bible-found-any-info-appreciated/#comment-3157920

See also: https://www.stalbanshistory.org/category/social-history/war-and-its-impact-on-st-albans/the-home-front-in-st-albans-during-the-first-world-war

 

 

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Edited by FROGSMILE
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20 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

As Britain headed to war in August 1914 the TF was mobilised. Following War Office home defence plans, the St Albans-based territorials moved to Essex and East Anglia to help defend against a possible German invasion. They were quickly replaced in the city by TF units of the 2nd London Division, which had St Albans as its war station.”

Thank you FROGSMILE. The 5th Leicestershire TF headed down to Luton mid August 1914. So all part of a huge mobilisation.

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Wow, that's amazing - I knew you guys wouldn't let me down! I am fantastically grateful to you both. Brilliant - and thank you!

And if anyone has any information on the books, I would love to hear it...

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37 minutes ago, supersub said:

Wow, that's amazing - I knew you guys wouldn't let me down! I am fantastically grateful to you both. Brilliant - and thank you!

And if anyone has any information on the books, I would love to hear it...

St Albans was home to ‘C’ Squadron, Hertfordshire Yeomanry; ‘B’ Company, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment; 1st Hertfordshire Battery, Royal Field Artillery and one section of the ammunition column.  It’s very likely that “friends in St Albans” presented bibles to men in one or more of these units.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Thanks, again. At Bob's request, here's a close-up of the pencil inscription, but if you can make any sense of it, you are a better man than I!

new testament 2.jpg

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2 hours ago, supersub said:

Thanks, again. At Bob's request, here's a close-up of the pencil inscription, but if you can make any sense of it, you are a better man than I!

Well, we don't have a lot to go on but sometimes if one makes a start then others join in, with luck @Michelle Young who is a wiz with this sort of doctors hand writing and before too long you may get a result.... or not :lol:  First word starts; Intere.......... that could be 'interesting' ? Third line down in the middle just below the border line; ..........eath   or ........eak which could be speak?  The whole inscription may be a reference to a Bible passage? Or a reference to someone speaking at the Abbey on the 5th. Though it does look like Gin. I will have a fresh look later after a beer!

Edited by Bob Davies
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  • Admin

First word-Entered? 

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37 minutes ago, Michelle Young said:

First word-Entered?

Yes I can see where you are coming from Michelle, that was my first thought, a letter 'e'  thanks. Try this; edit or this;

St Albans.jpg

968209788_NewTestament.jpg.cacf3d1ca615d0740164826d77b0fb6b-001.jpg

Edited by Bob Davies
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I can’t make out any other word apart from the first word , which definitely has entere as part of it. 

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12 minutes ago, supersub said:

I wondered if the second line started "French" ("trench"?).

Could be, I have 'friends' and  'France' jotted down here along with 'abbey', 'Albans', 'St', 'beneath you', 'Interesting', 'Entered'. Do you have his service number, then we can find his MIC and see when he went to France? Edit here, also 'Happy Christmas'

Edited by Bob Davies
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I wondered whether I could possibly read "Rouen" as the 2nd line down, and "Abbeyville", i.e. Abbeville as the last line, and, if so, whether the writer might have been trying, illegally, to make a record of where he went on arrival in France. If so, could there be a "5th" on the right of the third line down,  and a "6th" opposite Abbeville, those being dates? Could the place below Rouen (if Rouen it is!) be "Neuchatel", that being between Rouen and Abbeville?

If this was a correct interpretation of the soldier's intentions behind the writing, "Entered France" or " Entered Le Havre"would be logical for the top line, possibly with a date, and I do think that I can see some evidence of writing beside "Entered", but, if so, it has been thumbed away virtually to nothing.

The above is largely speculation, but, to speculate further, after Abbeville the soldier may have either ceased recording places visited in order to comply with army regulations, or was able to obtain a separate notebook or piece of paper to make his record.

Edited by A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy
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46 minutes ago, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

I wondered whether I could possibly read "Rouen" as the 2nd line down, and "Abbeyville", i.e. Abbeville as the last line, and, if so, whether the writer might have been trying, illegally, to make a record of where he went on arrival in France. If so, could there be a "5th" on the right of the third line down,  and a "6th" opposite Abbeville, those being dates? Could the place below Rouen (if Rouen it is!) be "Neuchatel", that being between Rouen and Abbeville?

If this was a correct interpretation of the soldier's intentions behind the writing, "Entered France" or " Entered Le Havre"would be logical for the top line, possibly with a date, and I do think that I can see some evidence of writing beside "Entered", but, if so, it has been thumbed away vitually to nothing.

The above is largely speculation, but, to speculate further, after Abbeville the soldier may have either ceased recording places visited in order to comply with army regulations, or was able to obtain a separate notebook or piece of paper to make his record.

I believe that you wondering may well have solved it! Or at least got most of it. 'Abbe......' and a '5' and '6'. I thought the '5' was 'St' and the 'abbe' meaning the 'Abbey at St Albans' but in another light it is '5', then I was thinking an address. I see the '6' now. There is an 'L' on the top line but as you say most of it is gone. Great sleuthing and logical thinking by A Lancashire Fusilier By Proxy :D 'and L.....' shown below;

1651153403_newtestament2.jpg.fec8c6bffadd5ee7b66474f065f9a37f-001.jpg

Edited by Bob Davies
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53 minutes ago, Bob Davies said:

I believe that you wondering may well have solved it!

If I have solved it, it is entirely down to your enhanced photographs, Bob. I did wonder whether the "L" might in fact be a 4.

Meanwhile, I have had a look at a few ASC MICs, and, provided that Henry Wilson Baker used both his initials, not just "H" (which is likely given that both initials are given in the bible), there are only a few possibilities, and all are on one sheet at NA, a copy of which is attached courtesy of that organisation. There is a card for one other H.W. Baker who was in the ASC, but he did not survive.

On the sheet below only the three cards in the left hand column show an entry into France in 1915. The top one's number has the prefix S4, which LLT tells us means the man joined a Supply unit in the fourth New Army, and could have been "a clerk, butcher or baker". The other two have the prefix M2, which LLT tells us means that they were in the Mechanical Transport section of the ASC, and probably also indicates that they had enlisted into a New Army. The bottom man's rank is given as "corporal", and he also has 2 other cards (one giving his initials as W.H.) recording that he was with the 24th Divisional Supply Column, and was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal which was gazetted on 18 October 1916. My understanding is that a Meritorious Service Medal was originally generally awarded only for long service, but that from 4 October 1916 the medal could be awarded to NCOs of all levels for "valuable service" regardless of the length of time a man had served. However, perhaps the OP would have known if his GF had been an NCO, and certainly if he had won a special medal. Perhaps the S4 man is the most likely, as the OP's GF, having been a librarian, could have been a clerk in the ASC without much training.

However, that man's entry into France on 11 March 1915, in fact the dates entry of all three of the men in the left hand column, might be difficult to square with them not reaching Neuchatel until the 5th of the month, unless they spent quite some little time in Rouen.

 

2070835183_HWBakerMIC0001.jpg.b349736fb6307e99b4fef2aea08b443d.jpg

 

Edited by A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy
To add the last para
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Great detective work, everyone, thanks so much! Annoyingly, I do actually have some of his service details, but they are stashed away in a box while we have some building work done. Maybe I should fight my way through the wreckage and try to dig it all out!

Thanks again for all your interest and effort.

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16 hours ago, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

I did wonder whether the "L" might in fact be a 4.

Yes A Lancashire Fusilier By Proxy the 'L' is a numeral 4 and standing away from the screen 'Le Harve' comes into view with your prompting! 5 and 6 below the 4. I looked for a Henry Wilson Baker ASC but there were a lot of them so I gave up and had a rum ration!

 

2 hours ago, supersub said:

Thanks again for all your interest and effort.

Happy to help supersub, your book 'Walking the Line' written by you and your wife looks interesting, I must find a copy some time. One day I will get over to France and have a look myself!

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6 hours ago, Bob Davies said:

Yes A Lancashire Fusilier By Proxy the 'L' is a numeral 4 and standing away from the screen 'Le Harve' comes into view with your prompting! 5 and 6 below the 4. I looked for a Henry Wilson Baker ASC but there were a lot of them so I gave up and had a rum ration!

 

9 hours ago, supersub said:

I do actually have some of his service details, but they are stashed away in a box while we have some building work done. Maybe I should fight my way through the wreckage and try to dig it all out!

If it is a "4" on the top line ideally there would be an H.W. Baker of the ASC who arrived at Le Havre on the 4th of a month, which probably means that none of my three 1915 entrants fit the bill. I see that Bob says he found a lot of Henry Wilson Bakers, so it's very probable that I may have missed other H.W. Bakers of the ASC who arrived in France in 1915, or maybe Supersub's GF didn't get there until early 1916, or possibly he used only one of his Christian names. It would certainly be interesting to know what Supersub can find out from the service records hidden amongst the building work ...

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Got it! As you can see, his attestation was signed at Bulford on March 6, 1915 - and he sailed from Southampton to Rouen four days later! I'm guessing he was in St Albans with the reserves...

 

Baker1.jpg

Baker2.jpg

Baker3.jpg

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4 hours ago, supersub said:

Got it! As you can see, his attestation was signed at Bulford on March 6, 1915 - and he sailed from Southampton to Rouen four days later!

Well done for braving the building works.

So the MIC that I selected as being the most likely one for your H.W. Baker is indeed his, as his number was S4/06457, and he is shown as "disembarking" at Rouen on 11 March 1915.

Here is another possible theory for the numbers 4, 5 and 6 then - the number of complete days he had been in the army. If so, if arrival in France was "4", he was excluding both 6 March 1915 and the day of arrival in France. Or might he have been allowed home briefly after attesting, so that he might have been counting days or nights away from home, starting from 7 or 8 March 1915?

We now also know that he was originally with the 47th (2nd London) Division. Their WD should show whether that would fit with proceeding to Abbeville a couple of days after being in Rouen.

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