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Remembered Today:

James Harmer: 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade


jgjharmer
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I've been trying for years to find good information about my grandfather James Harmer, who was with the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (Reg. no. 1568). I know some already from a mixture of family lore and research. We believe Jim (from the tiny village of Ruscombe, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire) joined the Rifles shortly after the turn of the century, serving in India right up until the start of WW1. His medal roll - "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred" - tells us that he got to France in November 1914, so qualifying him - just - to be an Old Contemptible. In March 1915 family legend tells he was severely wounded during the Battle of Neuve Chappelle; my father has often told me of the appalling scars he carried across his chest for the rest of his life. Nothing more is known about his service other than that he apparently ended up in Ireland with 2nd Battalion after the War and was once again injured, this time in a scrap with republicans, an injury that we believe ended his career. I'd dearly love to know the following:

when did he enlist?

what was his rank (the medal roll lists him as a private but my father swears he was, at one time, a CSM)?

is there any listing of his injury at Neuve Chappelle, and/or Ireland?

does anyone have photos of men of the 2nd Battalion from 1914-15, or even in India a few years before?

can someone tell me about wound stripes? I have an old photo that shows him with what I am told are wound stripes on his sleeve. Was it one stripe per wound; how did it work?

I have done a lot of research over the web, and also went to Kew where I got a print out of his medal roll, but to be honest I got a bit overwhelmed there and was on very short time (I no longer live in England). I also had some help from the Regimental Museum Archives, though they had no specifics they could give me about Jim himself.

If anyone can suggest ways forward, or - hoping against all hope - has ever come across reference to Jim in family papers or anywhere else, I'd be really grateful if you could let me know.

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Gloucesterboy,

Will have a little dig around for you, but can confirm one of your family legends, He went to France as a Private which is shown on his 1914 Star Roll, however his British War Medal/Victory Medal roll does indeed show that he attained the rank of Temporary Sergeant (see attachment)

He went over to France with the 2nd Rifle Brigade, who arrived in Havre on the 7/11/14, which is shown on the 1914 Star Roll. Will see what we can come up with re enlistment.

The casuaty figures for the 2nd at Neuve Chapelle were horrendous, unfortunately the battalions war diary is a little sparse on details.

Andy

post-1871-1210155975.jpg

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Gloucesterboy,

Your grandfather enlisted in March 1906, it looks like he went straight to the 2nd Rifle Brigade from England. The 2nd RB's were in Chaubattia, India during 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909. Calcutta in 1910 & 1911. Rawalpindi in 1913 & 1914.

The left India on the S.S. Somali on the 20/9/14 and arrived in Liverpool on the 22/10/14.

Andy

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In 1919 the Battalion was in Aldershot for a period of time building back up to strength after a lot of their strength went back to civilian life. In 1920 and 1921 the Battalion were in Ireland and quite spread although there appears to have been quite a few skirmishes with the Sinn Feiners with a lot of raids and arrests made.

Andy

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Gloucesterboy,

Your grandfather enlisted in March 1906, it looks like he went straight to the 2nd Rifle Brigade from England. The 2nd RB's were in Chaubattia, India during 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909. Calcutta in 1910 & 1911. Rawalpindi in 1913 & 1914.

The left India on the S.S. Somali on the 20/9/14 and arrived in Liverpool on the 22/10/14.

Andy

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Gloucesterboy,

Your grandfather enlisted in March 1906, it looks like he went straight to the 2nd Rifle Brigade from England. The 2nd RB's were in Chaubattia, India during 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909. Calcutta in 1910 & 1911. Rawalpindi in 1913 & 1914.

The left India on the S.S. Somali on the 20/9/14 and arrived in Liverpool on the 22/10/14.

Andy

This is amazing! I've tried with limited success for years and you've come up with new information in just a few minutes. I cannot thank you enough. May I ask where you found the enlistment information? I can't wait to tell my father - he'll be especially delighted to read about the temporary rank of sergeant, which will really put his mind at ease. Does it say anywhere when he was "made up"? Many, many thanks once again!

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Gloucesterboy,

This is your grandfathers medal index card. I can e mail the full sized version if you require it for your records.

Regards. Llew.

JHarmerMICSmall.jpg

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Goucesterboy,

The enlistment date was found out by matching old soldiers files that I have photographed at the Archives in WO97, these are all soldiers that enlisted between 1901 and 1913 in the Rifle Brigade, if my addled memory serves me correctly, and matching them against the enlisment dates in the Silver War Badge Rolls. The Silver War Badge Rolls sometimes throws a spanner in the works regarding the numbers with an odd one here and there not quite right but when matched against the WO97 files it comes out in March 1906, but what day I could not tell you.

The WO97 files at Kew quite often, in my experience, hold WW1 papers as well although they are not supposed to do, but after recent experiences with the Archives, it is becoming very apparent that they do not know what they have there or what is even there, poor show to my mind, but thats another story.

I have not come across your grandfathers file whilst at Kew and it is not on Ancestry, do you happen to know a date when he had to leave the army. I ask this as the 2nd RB's time in Ireland was 1920 & 1921, in 1922 they were in Chanak, there could be a possibility that his papers are still with the Army Records Office.

Now I will have a little look to see what pictures I have for you.

Andy

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OK,

I am not sure how long the training was in those days, perhaps someone can advise you on that. The 2nd RB had a draft of 45 NCO's and men in late March 1906, do not think he would have made that draft, the next draft for the 2nd I can find is in 1907, on the 12th January the 2nd Received a draft of 183 NCO's and Riflemen from England, the next draft being in Oct 1908 when 100 Riflemen joined from England.

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Well now, got a little bit more for you Gloucesterboy. In the 1911 Regimental Birthday Sports we can track him down to "E" Company where he won a special prize in the Boar Hunt, only one Harmer in the Battalion at this time.

post-1871-1210168943.jpg

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Goucesterboy,

The enlistment date was found out by matching old soldiers files that I have photographed at the Archives in WO97, these are all soldiers that enlisted between 1901 and 1913 in the Rifle Brigade, if my addled memory serves me correctly, and matching them against the enlisment dates in the Silver War Badge Rolls. The Silver War Badge Rolls sometimes throws a spanner in the works regarding the numbers with an odd one here and there not quite right but when matched against the WO97 files it comes out in March 1906, but what day I could not tell you.

The WO97 files at Kew quite often, in my experience, hold WW1 papers as well although they are not supposed to do, but after recent experiences with the Archives, it is becoming very apparent that they do not know what they have there or what is even there, poor show to my mind, but thats another story.

I have not come across your grandfathers file whilst at Kew and it is not on Ancestry, do you happen to know a date when he had to leave the army. I ask this as the 2nd RB's time in Ireland was 1920 & 1921, in 1922 they were in Chanak, there could be a possibility that his papers are still with the Army Records Office.

Now I will have a little look to see what pictures I have for you.

Andy

Dear Stiletto

I am sorry, I don't have a date for when he left the army and neither my dad, my uncle nor my aunt has any idea either. I'd love to know myself, as well as what he did between his wounding in 1915 and his wounding in Ireland but I fear I'll never know. Obviously he must have spent time in hospital after Neuve Chappelle but .... a blank trail. Interestingly, on the subject of Neuve Chappelle, my granddad told his children that what saved him was a purse of coins he had taken from a German body the day before he was shot; the bullets apparently struck the purse and ripped across rather than through his chest. My father vividly remembers the scars because Jim had two cobras tattooed on his chest - done no doubt during his years in India - which he would make "dance", to amuse his children, by flexing his muscles. One could hardly miss the ugly reminders of Neuve Chappelle on occasions like that.

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Gloucesterboy,

This is your grandfathers medal index card. I can e mail the full sized version if you require it for your records.

Regards. Llew.

JHarmerMICSmall.jpg

Dear Llew

You're very kind, and I really appreciate your help. However, I already have a copy of this; it was just about the only thing I managed to find at Kew by myself! Once again, many thanks for your help and interest!

Jerry

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Well now, got a little bit more for you Gloucesterboy. In the 1911 Regimental Birthday Sports we can track him down to "E" Company where he won a special prize in the Boar Hunt, only one Harmer in the Battalion at this time.

Good heavens! What a marvellous snippet!

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Two nearby Service Records on Ancestry give an idea of possible early movements:

1553 Denis Bagley, Enlisted 10-2-1906, joined Rifle Brigade Depot at Winchester 13-2-1906, posted to 3rd Bn after training 26-6-1906.

(Also Posted to 4th Bn 13-3-1907, embarked on H.T. Bramar Castle 13-3-1907, landed Malta 22-3-1907, Posted to 2nd Bn. 27-11-1907, "To India 27-11-1907", to Chaubattia 8-4-1908; to Fort William, Calcutta 16-12-1909; to Darjeeling 31-10-1910. KIA in Great War.)

1557 Frederick Allen, Enlisted 12-2-1906, joined Rifle Brigade Depot at Winchester 12-2-1906, posted to 3rd Bn after training, 27-6-1906. Stayed with 3rd battalion, KIA in October 1914.

If nothing else they suggest that the training period would have been until Approximately June 1906, so the March 1906 draft is unlikely in my opinion.

Steve.

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Two nearby Service Records on Ancestry give an idea of possible early movements:

1553 Denis Bagley, Enlisted 10-2-1906, joined Rifle Brigade Depot at Winchester 13-2-1906, posted to 3rd Bn after training 26-6-1906.

(Also Posted to 4th Bn 13-3-1907, embarked on H.T. Bramar Castle 13-3-1907, landed Malta 22-3-1907, Posted to 2nd Bn. 27-11-1907, "To India 27-11-1907", to Chaubattia 8-4-1908; to Fort William, Calcutta 16-12-1909; to Darjeeling 31-10-1910. KIA in Great War.)

1557 Frederick Allen, Enlisted 12-2-1906, joined Rifle Brigade Depot at Winchester 12-2-1906, posted to 3rd Bn after training, 27-6-1906. Stayed with 3rd battalion, KIA in October 1914.

If nothing else they suggest that the training period would have been until Approximately June 1906, so the March 1906 draft is unlikely in my opinion.

Steve.

Thanks Steve! This is all helping immensely to build up a fascinating picture for me.

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Gloucesterboy,

I have several pictures of the 2nd during your grandfathers period with them. They are quite old now and do not come out well with resizing to fit forum requirements. If you send me your e-mail address I will get these off to you along with his Medal Rolls and the Battalions records for the years he was with them but you might have to wait until next week as I am off to France on Friday morning for a longish weekend.

Have to agree with Steve re the March 1906 draft, so we are probably looking at the January 1907 draft.

Andy

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  • 2 years later...

Does anyone have information about my father Michael O'Keefe. He was in the 2nd battalion the Rifle Brigade and was in India in 1914. I know that the Battalion left India on 20 Sept 1914 in the Somali. After arrival in the UK it came under the orders of the 25th Brigade in 8th Division. He was captured about 6 months before the end of the war. I would be grateful for any other details

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