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Remembered Today:

121265 Pioneer Lennox James Houston R.E.


albert arnold
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Hello - I am just embarking on some research into my great uncle L.J. Houston. He was killed on 16th August 1917, I think during the Third Battle of Ypres. I am looking for some help to try and identify his unit. In his CWGC record, it says that he was with 8th Division Signals Section. On The long, long, trail, 8th Division is shown as having 3 Field Companies but no specifically signals company. If I wanted to find the unit war diary at the PRO for the unit he was with when he died, what would I look for?

Also: is it likely that he would have always been with the same unit and always attached to 8th Division?

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Albert,

What about the RE ?

Regiment, Corps etc.: Corps of Royal Engineers

Battalion etc.:

Last name: Houston

First name(s): Lennox James

Initials: L J

Birthplace: St. Andrews, Fifeshire

Enlisted: London

Residence: Edinburgh

Rank: PIONEER

Number: 121265

Date died: 16 August 1917

How died: Killed in action

Theatre of war: France & Flanders

Supplementary Notes: M.M. (8TH DIV. SIGNAL COY., R.E.).

HTH

Grant

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On The long, long, trail, 8th Division is shown as having 3 Field Companies but no specifically signals company. If I wanted to find the unit war diary at the PRO for the unit he was with when he died, what would I look for?

Albert

I think in this instance the 8th Division's RE entry on the LLT has missed off the Divisional Signals Coy.

The reference you need for the War Diary of the 8th Division's Signal Company is this one:-

WO95/1701 Divisional Troops: Divisional Signal Company 1914 Dec. - 1919 May.

Hope this helps.

Steve

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Don't know if you have this already but the award of his Military Medal was listed in the London Gazette #30312, dated 28th September 1917.

121265 Pnr. L. J. Houston, R.E. (London).

Link to the Gazette is Here

Regards

Steve

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Hi Steve, Thanks for your two messages. I had already found the London Gazette Entry (but thanks anyway) and one of the things I'm interested in is to know what his MM was awarded for ... I'm assuming that it was the action he was involved in when he was killed, but that may not be the case ...

In terms of numbering of Signals Sectiuons / Companies ... would the company attached to 8th Division have had its own number as an RE unit, or would it just have been subsumed under 8th Division?

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Hello yet again albert!

The divisional signals companies were all numbered according to their division, and did not have separate numbers in the main RE sequence. The same applied to signal companies with higher formations although some of these were lettered.

The Gazette entry merely gives the name and unit. There may be a reference to his act of gallantry in the War Diary, up to about three months before the Gazette entry.

Ron

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Hi Ron!

Thanks for this. With your and Steve's inputs I now know what I should be looking for. Is it likely that he would have served with the same unit all the time he was on active service?

albert

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Hi again Albert, as per your previous post re your G Uncle in the Royal Scots, James Houstons's will is also held at the National Archives of Scotland , reference SC70/8/658/42, the NAS site is running at snails pace as usual, but presumably his will is also on his AB4 paybook.

John

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The 2nd Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment were part of 8th Division. The following topic includes extracts from their war diary and the regimental history for the 16th August 1917.

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...mp;#entry744768

(The topic title says 1st Northants, but the topic does refer to the 2nd battalion in 8th Division...)

Steve.

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Thanks for this Steve .. looks very interesting and gives some idea about what they were involved in. I may well get back to you in due course for more info about what the 8th Division did,

albert

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Thanks John for the information re Lennox Houston. I can't get into the NAS catalgue at the moment, but I'll look up his will when I can. The date of his will might give some clue about when he joined up. He was 20 when he was killed.

Albert

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've now managed to get into the NAS site and found mention of Len's will which he made on 18/10/17 .. so this gives some idea of when he went on active service.

Can I ask for some guidance about the length of time between an action is which an award was won and it being gazetted? Lennox Houston's MM was in the London Gazette on 28/9/17; he was killed on 16/8/17. Any ideas about what sort of dates I should be looking at in the war diary to possibly find out what he got his MM for?

Albert

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Hello Albert

About three months. I suggest you look back as far as April 1917, the start of the Battles of Arras.

With reference to your earlier question, it is likely that he would have spent his whole service with 8 Div Sig Coy unless he had been seriously wounded and away from it for some time.

Good luck!

Ron

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm now back from my visit to the NA and I managed to have a look at the War Diary for the 8th Division Signals Company for August 1917. Lennox Houston is mentioned there both has having been awarded the Military Medal and as having been killed in action. The Division was in the area of Birr Cross Roads, Ziel House, Wee cottage, east of Ypres. Not surprisingly, most of the record is about the laying of lines and the problems maintaining channels of communication open

There are one or two clues about what he might have been involved in. In the list of casualties it states in brackets after his name (25th Brigade). I presume this means he was allocated to this brigade at this time which was under command of 8th Division. In an attached (typed) document entitled FUTURE D.R.L.S. ARRANGEMENTS, it says "6 Div runners will be attached to the 25th Inf Bde."

Can someone tell me what DRLS means?

Is it likely that a pioneer would have been attached to a brigade as a runner?

There is little mention in the War Diary of specific action which would have led to the casualties on 16th August 1917; did Brigades keep anything like a war diary?

Thanks, Albert

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Albert

It stands for Despatch Rider Letter Service. It may be that there was no particular action taking place at that time. Many men were killed by artillery or small arms fire outside of the major actions, on a daily basis.

25 Brigade War Diaries are at the NA:

WO 95/1724 25 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters 1914 Oct. - 1915 Aug.

WO 95/1725 25 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters 1915 Sept. - 1916 May

WO 95/1726 25 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters. Routine orders for Jan-Feb 1916 transferred to WO 95/1725, 11 June 1998 1916 June - 1917 Mar.

WO 95/1727 25 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters 1917 Apr. - Dec.

Terry Reeves

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Thanks for this Terry, very helpful. I shall keep these references for my next visit to the NA. Do you know whether being a runner was a typical task for an RE of pioneer rank, or could he have been involved in any number of activities?

Albert

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Albert

As far as I'm aware there were no runners in a Div Sigs Company. Pioneers were partially trained, or unskilled and would have assisted the trained men in the unit.

In 1917 Pioneers served at Company HQ, with the HQ of the Royal Artillery section and with the various signal sub-sections of that detachment. They could also be found with Number 1 (Cable) section and numbers 2, 3, and 4 sections.

TR

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Thanks Terry, this is helpful information. In the record of his award of the MM, it is actually noted that he was with 4 Section, but where it lists him as a casualty it says he was with 25th Brigade, and I wondered what he might have been doing there. I then put this together with the DRLS orders (which mention 6 divisional runners being attached to both 23rd and 25th brigades) and thought he might have been a runner ... but I suppose it would be wrong to assume that the divisional runners were part of the siganls company?

Albert

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Hello again,

I'm just refreshing this one to see if anyone can shed any light on what a Pioneer in a Divisional Signals Company might have been doing attached to an Infantry Brigade. I know I'm not going to get anything hard and fast on this, I'm just trying to get some idea of the range of possibilities of what my great uncle Lennox Houston might have been doing when he was killed. Like so many others, his body was never recovered.

Albert

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  • 1 year later...
Guest couttleberry

Hi Albert,

have tried to contact you through this site but for some reason I don't have access. I am the grand-daughter of William Will from Dumfries who enlisted with your great-uncle Lennox. My grandfather survived the War and started to write about his wartime exploits while he was in his late seventies. My brother currently has the journal, which I have not yet seen.

As far as I know they were great pals and from what my brother tells me appear to have been virtually inseperable. We believe that William was wounded at the same time as Len lost his life. They also were both awarded the MM, and I am trying to check out whether they were both involved in the same action which earned them the medal.

Hopefully you are still watching this site and so can reply.

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Hello again Albert!

Div Sig Cos were originally divided into four sections: one to work with Div HQ and the supporting services, and one to work with each infantry brigade. A fifth section was added later for the div artillery.

So you might expect to find in 8 Div Sig Co the following breakdown (although it might not have been quite so tidy as this):

No. 1 Section: 8 Div HQ

No. 2 Section: 23 Inf Brigade

No. 3 Section: 24 Inf Brigade

No. 4 Section: 25 Inf Brigade

No. 5 Section: 8 Div Art

If Lennox was a despatch rider, he may have ridden a motor-cycle: a skill which few battalion signallers probably had but which might not be regarded as a skilled trade by the RE, hence his status as a Pioneer.

All the above is basically informed guesswork but if I am right, it fits with all the known facts. But that is not the same as proof!

Ron

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  • 9 months later...
Hi Albert,

have tried to contact you through this site but for some reason I don't have access. I am the grand-daughter of William Will from Dumfries who enlisted with your great-uncle Lennox. My grandfather survived the War and started to write about his wartime exploits while he was in his late seventies. My brother currently has the journal, which I have not yet seen.

As far as I know they were great pals and from what my brother tells me appear to have been virtually inseperable. We believe that William was wounded at the same time as Len lost his life. They also were both awarded the MM, and I am trying to check out whether they were both involved in the same action which earned them the medal.

Hopefully you are still watching this site and so can reply.

Hi Couttleberry,

Thank you very much for your message and profound apologies for not having replied sooner. I've recently had to take a break in my researches but this is very exciting news. Since I was last on the forum I have taken possession of Len's diary: I shall check to see if there is any mention of your grandfather. I would love to establish contact with you and will see if I can send you a PM.

Albert

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