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First men in France?


Muerrisch
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Something I/we ought to know. The thread on single 1914 stars has started me off.

I imagine that some officers and possibly NCOs and batmen were in France on duty from when the Archduke was shot, setting aside Embassy attaches. I know that the staff of the disembarkation ports of Rouen and Boulogne landed 10th August [stand To! issue 11]. I know that the four Lines of Communication battalions began to land on 11th August.

However, the 1914 medal rolls are littered with earlier [frankly unbelievable] dates.

So, the question: who/ what were indeed in France/ Flanders on duty before 10th August.

A supplementary question is what were the dates of entry on the rolls?

Come on, we really ought to know this one!

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According to Lyn McDonald it was Lt E L Spears who crossed to France late July1914 for intelligence work with the French.

Probably someone earlier though?

Bob.

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First men in: Royal and Merchant Navy, but such duties didn't qualify them for the 1914 Star.

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Here's my grandfather's MIC, as mentioned in the other thread. I don't know if his service record is at Kew - was hoping it would be among the Ancestry selection, but no luck there.

I understand that he was in Aldershot at the outbreak of the war.

post-16674-1193834446.jpg

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As I understand the rules, to qualify for the 1914 Star you had to be in France as part of a formed unit. Draft-conducting officers, or those escorting replacement horses, who went home afterwards, did not qualify and, on this basis, Embassy staff would not either. 2/Lt Spears was an official liaison officer and presumably qualified as part of GHQ Staff.

Advance parties of formed units would have qualified and these are the most likely canidates for early awards.

Ron

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Barbara Tuchman in 'The Guns of August' says that embarkation began on the 9th August with transports leaving every 10 minutes

Tim Carew in 'The Vanished Army' says that emarkation began on 12th August with 13 ships an hour for the next 5 days (on average)

:wacko:

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If embarkation of troops started on 9th ( John Keegan says 14th) then advance parties would have been there before that. War was declared on 5th? I rather think that troops going to France on 9th were advance guards with the main bodies a few days later and in full flow by 14th.

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The original grant of the 1914 star [NOT the clasp] to all ............... who served on the establishment of a unit of the BEF between 5th August and midnight 22/23rd Nov.

This seems to exclude those on detachment from their unit, like advanced parties: 'unit' usually means a Lt Cols command [Major of RA] and the 'unit is deemed to be where its HQ is.

So, pre 10th Aug dates would seem to need very sceptical scrutiny but are not impossible.

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My aunt understood from her parents that her father was sent to France "as soon as war was declared". Which should not, of course, be taken literally, but as Jim was a senior NCO in charge of supplies, it seems likely he would have been among the first to be put in place.

Unfortunately for posterity, when Jim died my grandmother buried all his letters with him (and, I suspect, his medals, as no one seems to have them).

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If embarkation of troops started on 9th ( John Keegan says 14th) then advance parties would have been there before that. War was declared on 5th? I rather think that troops going to France on 9th were advance guards with the main bodies a few days later and in full flow by 14th.

Keegan also talks about the Russian preparations for was which he states were going on in July 1914. He also mentions the Franco-Russian Convention in which each country agreed to inform the other should one decide to mobilise. As a member of the Triple Alliance, I owuld have thought that France would have quickly communicated to Britain the intentions of the Russians. If it was probable that British troops would have to fight in France, I would have thought that we would have sent a contingent there at the earliest opportunity.

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This might not fit here since you mentioned “first in France”, but you also mentioned “France/Flanders”. So I’ll put this up for historical interest to be punted around a little bit. This is from the 2nd Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers War Diary. How accurate is it? I suppose it’s anyone’s guess.

From 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers War Diary – October 1914

Lyndhurst Camp Hants

4-10-14

11am – 7pm

H.Q. C & D Coys and ½ transport marched to Southampton docks & embarked on transport No 47 SS Cymbric

8pm

A & B Coys and ½ transport marched to Southampton docks and embarked on transport No 36 SS Lake Michigan.

Southampton

5-10-14

8am

SS Cymbric sailed and reached Dover at 7pm. Ship left at 9:30pm.

Zeebrugge

6-10-14

6am

SS Cymbric arrived at Zeebrugge, Belgium. ½ Bn disembarked and entrained for Bruges, occupying billets at St. Croix village.

(No mention made in the diary of where or when the SS Lake Michigan sailed or arrived.)

6-10-14 to 14-10-14

The 2nd Bn RSF was marching everyday during this period and finally arrived at Ypres on 14-10-14.

The diary mentions other units such as the Wilts R during this period of time from 6-10-14 to 14-10-14 when they arrived at Ypres and went into action very soon afterwards. So there were certainly other units that must have embarked and sailed about the same time as the 2nd RSF if they were together during this period. And I would imagine that whole units also went to France during this same period of time.

I don’t know if the RSF were first into Belgium, and I’m not posting this to say they were. It hardly matters, in my point of view, as most of the men in the 2nd Bn RSF were decimated in the fighting around Ypres, including my Great-Uncle. They fought long, well and hard as did all of the “Old Contemptibles”.

Bruce

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This seems to exclude those on detachment from their unit, like advanced parties: 'unit' usually means a Lt Cols command [Major of RA] and the 'unit is deemed to be where its HQ is.

Grumpy

I hesitate to disagree but an advanced party would still be on the establishment of its unit. In any case, when the whole unit arrived in France the advance party would naturally rejoin it and thus qualify for the Star. However, for the advance party, the "date of entry into theatre" would be the date they, as the AP, arrived in France.

(Incidentally, on another thread this week, I came across a man who had entered theatre on 12 August.)

What do you think?

Ron

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I cannot disagree ...... what we now need is evidence. The ASC medal roll might be very instructive .... given that at least 2 of the 3 ports were manned 10th August, was there an advanced party, and did they get the medal?

I shall be at Kew later this month .... worth a firkle about.

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The ASC medal roll might be very instructive ....

Jim's on page 1, according to his MIC ..... How many might there be to a page?

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If the standard form was used for the roll, it depends whether the clerk used single or double spacing, and in my limited experience, a number like 10 on a page is typical.

Jim is a real candidate for a very early date of entry. It would be good to see that page 1.

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Keegan also talks about the Russian preparations for was which he states were going on in July 1914. He also mentions the Franco-Russian Convention in which each country agreed to inform the other should one decide to mobilise. As a member of the Triple Alliance, I owuld have thought that France would have quickly communicated to Britain the intentions of the Russians. If it was probable that British troops would have to fight in France, I would have thought that we would have sent a contingent there at the earliest opportunity.

We are straying from the topic a bit here, but there was doubt about sending any troops at all, until almost the day of the declaration of war. KoK among others, wanted to wait until there were many more troops available. The declaration of war brought the resignation of Cabinet members. So, definitely no troops going anywhere before war was declared.

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Hey Ron, finally found the thread, heres the photo of the MIC and corresponding medals.

Unfortuantely I still cant figure out what he did or where he was stationed prior to the outbreak.

post-27028-1194064688.jpg

post-27028-1194064708.jpg

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Pals,

I imagine the situation was the same for just about every line Regiment of the BEF, but I can give details for the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.

The Regiment as a whole left Belfast on the 14th August and sailed to Le Havre, where they landed on the 16th. The 1914 Star Roll gives the names of 1075 ORs who landed on this date.

However there were some early arrivals:

9th August : 3 men landed

10th August : 1 man landed

12th August : 1 man landed

15th August : 1 man landed

Strangely the Officer's Roll only gives 16th August, even for one Captain who went over well in advance as Battalion Billeting Officer. He was accompanied by a French speaking Private as his servant, but this man's entry also only shows the 16th. A mystery.

Regards

Steve

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Given that the army scarcely trusted a private soldier to find the railway station and board a train, were these 'early' arrivals [unaccompanied by an officer] privates or what? I can imagine sending a colour sergeant or two, but not privates or junior NCOs.

My 'earlys' RWF[excluding the manic 4th bn man who landed apparently before war was declared], were all one day before the ship docked, landed 10th Aug and included RSM, CSM and a Sgt ...... BUT we know the RSM landed 11th because a very peeved CSM tried to beat him down the gang plank and lost, on 11th.

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Grumpy

What was the story behind the manic 4th bn man who landed apparently before war was declared?

Regards

Mel

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Sorry .... the date is manic, not the man! His DoE is very obviously in error ..... he a TF private and his battalion was not sent to theatre until November 1914.

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Grumpy,

You are correct, of course. I should have specified rank to assist in understanding;

9th August : 3 men landed : 2 x L/Sgt and 1 x Sgt

10th August : 1 man landed : 1 x Pte

12th August : 1 man landed : 1 x L/Cpl

15th August : 1 man landed : 1 x Pte

I expect the Privates would have been servants, whilst the Sgts were given a more responsible job. I can only assume that the compiler of the 1914 Star Roll for the Officers simply assumed that all the Officers of the Battn went over at the same time.

Regards

Steve

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"the date is manic, not the man! His DoE is very obviously in error "

Thank goodness - I had a vision of a rabid Welsh Fusilier running around Calais!

The 1st Royal Berks have a Pte C. Rose with a date of entry on 6th August (!). Twenty four ORs arrived on 12th August and the first officers arrived on 13th August with the mainbody of the Battalion.

Regards

Mel

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Grumpy,

You are correct, of course. I should have specified rank to assist in understanding;

9th August : 3 men landed : 2 x L/Sgt and 1 x Sgt

10th August : 1 man landed : 1 x Pte

12th August : 1 man landed : 1 x L/Cpl

15th August : 1 man landed : 1 x Pte

I expect the Privates would have been servants, whilst the Sgts were given a more responsible job. I can only assume that the compiler of the 1914 Star Roll for the Officers simply assumed that all the Officers of the Battn went over at the same time.

Regards

Steve

I want to believe these, but await something more substantial ..... I fall back on the doctrine of 'inherent military probability' and find difficulty with three sergeants pitching up seven days before the unit, and a string of officers, accompanied by servants ['batmen' technically, as war had been declared] straggling in by various means days before the main body. What were the officers and NCOs meant to be doing? Even the base staff did not arrive until 10th. What does the War Diary say?

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