Category Archives: British Empire

The 11%, more thoughts.

My last blog generated a lot of interest. I appreciate the responses. All were kind and friendly. The disagreements were friendly, polite, appreciated, the best of Social media.

Thank you to everyone.

Here are a few more thoughts and questions, based on the blog and responses.

There is a view that the percentage of the dead should have been a percentage of those who served in combat, not of the whole Army.

The dead were whole Army dead. Their deaths occurred all around the world. Not all were combat deaths. They were soldiers who died while serving.

If you take deaths from combat, ie, Killed in action, or died of wounds as a percentage of those who served in the combat area/zone/frontline it would be expected to be higher. It might not be for various reasons. Some are mentioned below.

There are questions though.

Where did combat take place?

Was the combat zone static or fluid?

Between what dates did combat in the combat zone occur?

Was Le Havre in the combat zone?

Was Boulogne?

Shorncliffe?

Did a soldier on a troop ship going to India, serve in a combat zone while the ship was in the Mediterranean?

Did Kitchener die in Combat?

If not,

Did the soldiers who died on the Hospital Ship Anglia die in combat?

Did a soldier who died as a result of a bomb dropped from an aircraft in France die in combat?

If he did,

Did a soldier killed by a bomb explosion during the Folkestone bombing die in combat?

Did a soldier shot while in a rear area die “In Combat”?

Then there are the soldiers who died because of illness.

The men who would have died anyway, no matter where they were.

Then there are the men who died on their way to or from the frontline.

I do not have the answers. They are only thoughts.

 

 

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The Cult of the #FWW’s 11%

To a greater or lesser extent all who are interested in the First World War, myself included, are members of this British cult. Some are fully paid up and will exclude all others.  Looking at posts on social media it is easy to see why more than a few think the war was a war in which most British soldiers were killed and the rest shot at dawn on their fourteenth birthday. If you are going to go on a Munro bagging style of tour to put poppies on the graves of VC holders, Boy Soldiers, Shot at Dawn, remember the idea of the graves is every soldier should be treated the same in death. That is why they look the same. Place a poppy on the graves surrounding your own particular Munro. Perpetuated by companies and their agents to endless tours of cemeteries and memorials along the Western Front in the guise of “Battlefield Tours”

First, who are the 11%?

Some are the Missing, buried in unknown graves.

Some are Resting in Peace in Silent Cities.  They are buried in Cemeteries.

Some are just resting in France. No, they are not.

Some are sleeping. If you think this, wake them up.

Some are Standing easy. Not my favourite phrase.

They are not “Pining for the Fjords “, but they are all DEAD. Most are buried in cemeteries under six feet of soil, none are asleep, resting, or standing. They are all dead. If you believe in Heaven and hell, for you, that is where they are. If not they are just Dead.

A whole wars narrative based on just 11%. Their stories are important and should be told. But not at the expense of the 89% who survived the war. Their stories need to be told too.

The connection with the First World War needs to be made too. The experiences of the war shaped their attitudes.  What they thought of defeat, victory, the future. What happened to them. The leaders who fought the second world war were forged by the first. Churchill just didn’t disappear after Gallipoli and emerge phoenix-like in 1940.

Many of the Generals of the second fought in the first Bernard Law Montgomery did not crawl rat style from the sands of North Africa. The connection needs to be made to the first.

Then there are the ordinary stories. People such as Captain Darling, yes that really is his name. Lived for a while in Folkestone. He was the guide on one of the first tours of Vimy and Arras in January 1919.

People such as Robert Goddard, farmer farmed not far from Folkestone. He knew Ewart Alan Mackintosh. (google him).

George Dore, his regimental number was “1”

Stories, like that of Lewis Gedalovitch, yes Russians did serve in the British Army. Came home and divorced his wife.

Sad stories such as Duncan Mackintosh, died wounds in 1927.

The First World War is not solely the possession of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Royal British Legion (who appointed them the guardians of remembrance anyway?) or the 11%.

It belongs also to the 89% who survived. It is up to us to remember them too.

Folkestone’s #FWW Myths

The Myth the British Army left from Folkestone in 1914.

The Myth, Millions marched down The Road of Remembrance, (the Slope Road)

The Myth, The Harbour Cafe’s visitors book was signed by soldiers going to France.

The Myth, All soldiers left from Folkestone.

The Myth, Ten Million left from Folkestone.

The Myth, you could hear the guns firing in France.

Myth, a Mothers last Kiss, the story of William Francis Poile 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

The Old Contemptables left from Southampton. Folkestone was not a military port until the end of March 1915.

Tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands, let alone millions marched UP as well as down the Slope Road, (The Road of Remembrance). Most soldiers arrived at the harbour by train.

By no means did all soldiers embark from Folkestone. Avonmouth, Dover, Ramsgate, as well as other ports were used to embark troops for France.

Ten million is more than there were soldiers in the Army. The true number may never be known, but 2-3 million is a better estimate.

If all the British army’s artillery fired at exactly the same time a slight rumble might have been heard.

William Francis Poile. The 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers embarked from Southampton, not Folkestone (War Diary). If he was part of a draft he would have arrived at the harbour by train. No time to see anyone. Not possible for a civilian to get to the train. No time to go and visit his Mother who lived in Stelling Minnis, not Folkestone. A lovely story but a myth.

A few true odds and sods.

More American Units march down the Slope Road than Canadian Units did. Although more Canadian units embarked from Folkestone than American Units.

Canadian Units marched from Shorncliffe down the Military Road and along the LOWER Sandgate Road.

Churchill, Sassoon and Walter Tull were all at the Harbour on the same day.

One soldier who embarked at Folkestone served in the British, then French, and finally in the American army before the end of the war.

 

Embarkations Folkestone 9th June 1917.

Apart from the different Units that embarked on the 9th. The Grenadier soldiers are evidence that Drafts for Regiments left from England and Drafts for Battalions were organised in France.

Looking at the Regimental Numbers A picture of the size of a draft fom England also starts to emerge.

Surprised that a Soldier from the Grenadier Guards could serve on attachment to Inland Water Transport.

9th June 1917

Private 202224 Edward Abernethy, 4th Battalion (Reserve) Border Regiment. Edward spent two weeks at 25 Infantry Base Depot before being posted to the 1/5th Battalion The King’s Liverpool Regiment.

Private 162555 Albert Edward Adams. He Joined the Labour Corps Base Depot on the same day. Posted to 12th Labour Company on the 12th June 1917.

Private 51085 Arthur George Adams, Manchester Regiment. Arthur enlisted on the 12th December 1915. After training he is posted to France and joins 25 Infantry Based Depot. He is then transferred to 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Wounded in action at Ypres he is sent back to England. He returns to France again via Folkestone on the 4th September 1918.

Private 11558 Thomas Allard, Grenadier Guards. Posted to the 1st Battalion he joins the 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 26th June. Joins the 1st Battalion in the field on the 27th July.

Private 27183 Sidney Boot , Grenadier Guards. He joins 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 26th June. Joins the 1st Battalion in the field on the 27th July. Discharged on the 31st March 1920.

Private 27841 Joseph Henry Finney, Grenadier Guards. He joins 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 24th June. Joins the 3rd Battalion in the field on the 31st July.7

Private 28363 John Thomas Wakeland, Grenadier Guards. Joins 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 26th June and 1st Battalion in the field on the 8th August. Between the 1st January 1918 and the 21st February he is attached to (a?) New Zealand Tunnelling Company.

Private 27857 Walter Bertram Walters, Grenadier Guards. Posted to the 3rd Battalion. On the 24th June he is posted to 7th (Guards) Entrenching Battalion. It is not until the 31st July that Walter joins the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards in the Field.

Private 27625 William James Watkins, Grenadier Guards, posted to the 1st Battalion. He joins the 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 27th and the 1st Battalion in the Field on the 8th August. For a week in January 1918 he is attached to Inland Water Transport. He is attached to Inland Water Transport again from the 2nd February 1918 until the 22nd March 1918.

Private 27844 John William Watson, Grenadier Guards, he is transferred to the 3rd Battalion the following day. On the 24th he is posted to the 7th (Guards) Entrenching Battalion, and on the 31st July he joins 3rd Battalion at the Front.

Private 27981 Albert George Webb, Grenadier Guards. Posted to the 1st Battalion, joined 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 27thand the 1st Battalion in the field on the 8th August.

Private 28146 Walter Welch, Grenadier Guards. Posted to the 3rd Battalion. On the 24th June he is posted to 7th (Guards) Entrenching Battalion. It is not until the 31st July that Walter joins the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards in the Field.

Private 32954 Samuel Bellamy Wells Suffolk Regiment. Samuel had first crossed from Folkestone on the 18th October 1916. Joining the 2nd Battalion on the 12th November 1916 the next day he was admitted to a field Ambulance suffering from Dysentery and was transferred back to England. He is now returning once again to France from Folkestone. He arrives at 15th Infantry Base Depot on the 10th June. Posted to the 12th Battalion Suffolk Regiment he joins them in the field on the 4th(?) July. He is wounded in action on the 26th September, Gun shot wound to the left shoulder and transferred back to England circa 11th October.

Guardsman 27704 Harry White Grenadier Guards. Posted to the 1st Battalion. He joined the 7th Entrenching Battalion on the 26th and the 1st Battalion in the field on the 8th August.

Lance Corporal 19969 John Whittington, Grenadier Guards. Posted to the 1st Battalion. He joined the 7th Battalion on the 26th. John had embarked from Southampton in 1915 but he had been wounded in action. A gun shot wound to the right leg, face and shoulder and transferred back to the United Kingdom in September 1916.

Private A 342842 Albert White, Army Service Corps. Posted to Expeditionary Force Canteen, Calais.

With a Machine Gun To Boulogne.

While no heavy machine guns were embarked at Folkestone in the First World War. Machine Gunners did embark at the harbour. All the following men were in the Guards Machine Gun Regiment. They all arrived at the Harbour by train. While embarking at Folkestone as a Company they were split up at Camiers. All survived the war.

 

29th March 1918

Private 1971 Joseph Bowerbank, Guards Machine Gun Company. He joined the Machine Gun Corps Base Depot at Camiers on the 30th. Joined a battalion in the field on the 16th April. Twisted both ankles playing football on the 4th October. In hospital and then convalescing 5th October-16th November. Returning to the Base Depot at Camiers on the 17th. He returns to England 4th March 1919.

Private 1000 George Fredrick Warren, No.4 Guards Machine Gun Company. He joined the Machine Gun Corps Base Depot at Camiers on the 30th. Joined his battalion in the Field on the 26th April. This was not the first time George had been to France he had seen service on the Western Front in 1914. This is probably the first time he crossed from Folkestone.

Private 29127 Ewart Bailey Watts, Guards Machine Gun Company. He joined the Base Depot at Camiers on the 30th. Joined a battalion in the field on the 9th of April.

Private 21572 William Weightman, 3 Company, Machine Gun Guards. Joined the Base Depot at Camiers on the 30th. He is qualified as a “1st Class Machine Gunner”. He joined a battalion in the field on the 14th April.

Private 131817 William Henry B Whitney, Machine Gun Corps Infantry. He joins 51 Battalion in the Field on the 4th April. Wounded in action on the 21st July. He is transferred back to England on the 7th of August 1918.

Australians with American connections who embarked from Folkestone 28th Dec 1916 and 14th May 1917

From my notes with the aim of letter some friends know about the brothers Hass. The dates are the date on which they embarked at Folkestone.

28th December 1916

Private 2166A Charles Lathorp Gray, ex-4th Reinforcements/48th Battalion Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force. Crosses to Boulogne on the SS Princess Clementine. He arrives at 4th Australian Division Base Depot the next day. Taken on the Strength of 48th Battalion on the 16th February 1917. Born in Ithica, USA Charles enlisted at Adelaide, Australia on the 27th April 1916. Wounded in action in April 1917. He is medically discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on the 14th January 1918.

Corporal 2517 Walter Theodor Hass, 48th Battalion Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force. He is killed in action 12th October, Aged 21. His brother Albert crossed to France from Folkestone on the 14th May 1917.

14th May 1917

Private 3156 Earle Nelson Gates, ex 15th Training Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Taken on Strength 57th Battalion ex 8th Reinforcements/57th Battalion. Born in Allegahanny City, Pennsylvania USA, enlisted in Broadmeadows, Victoria, Australia on the 17th October 1916.

Private 6948 Albert Fred Hass, ex 3rd Training Battalion, 10th Battalion. Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force. The son of Peter Heinrich Hass, of Peterborough, South Australia, and the late Lisette Hass (nee Lohmann). Born in Greenville, Wisconsin, U.S.A. He was killed in action between the 20th and 21st September, Aged 24. and has no known grave. His brother, Walter Theodor Hass also of the Australian Imperial Force was also killed in action. Both have no known grave and are commemorated on the Menin Gate.
They are the sons of Peter Heinrich Hass, of Peterborough, South Australia, and the late Lisette Hass (nee Lohmann). Both were born in Greenville, Wisconsin, USA..

Private 6785 John Charles Marchant, ex 2nd Training Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, he arrived at 1st Australian Division Base Depot the following day. Taken on Strength by 7th Battalion ex 22nd Reserves/7th Battalion on the 28th May. He is killed in action on the 4th October 1917 during an attack on Broodsiende Ridge near Zonnebeke. It is believed that 1st Divisional Burial Party, buried him. His grave can not be found and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate. John’s widow Mrs. Q. U. M. Marchant, lived at 822, Prarie Avenue, Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.A.

Home by Christmas #FWW

The following all have a connection to the 22nd December. All but one returns home.

Private Samuel Watson 5th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry, joined 20 Infantry Base Depot the following day. Transferred to the Royal Scots and posted to the 17th Battalion Roll on the 22nd December 1916 with the number 40660. He is then posted to the 13th Battalion, also on the 22nd December 1916. (yep two battalions on the one day.)

Embarked from Folkestone on the 22nd December 1916. Private 28401 Peter Anderson,(not me) Durham Light Infantry. On arrival at Boulogne Peter was stationed at 35 Infantry Base depot. From here, the next day, he is posted to the 20th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. A fortnight later Peter is again posted this time to the 14th Battalion. He is reported missing presumed killed on the 20th April 1917 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.

Embarked from Folkestone in June 1917. Corporal 7227 Alexander James Dean ex-4th Training Battalion Now 24th Reinforcements for 15th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Born in Advie, Scotland, Alexander had settled in Australia where he was married with 5 children. He decided to enlist on the 3rd August 1916. Twice wounded in July 1917, the second time self inflicted. Alexander is discharged from the Australian Imperial Force because of defective vision on the 22nd December 1917

Embarked from Folkestone on the 7th December 1917. Private 34595 Thomas George Waller, 3rd Battalion Essex Regiment. Not the first time Thomas has crossed to France. He had crossed on the 22nd December 1916, and before joining the 9th Battalion had joined 15 Infantry Base Depot. Indicating a possible crossing from Folkestone then. This time Thomas arrived at 15 Infantry Base Depot the next day, 8th December 1917. Posted to the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment. Thomas joins them in the Field on the 15th December.

Private 3/11414 William Merral West, Leicestershire Regiment. William enlisted in June 1914 and had already served in France. The first time he joined the 1st Battalion in the field on the 28th April 1915. After becoming sick in June 1915 he was transferred to the 8th Entrenching Battalion. Gassed in August 1915, and admitted to 18 Field Ambulance in December 1915 he was transferred back to England on the 5th January 1916. He is now returning to the front. He joins 12 Infantry Base Depot on the 22nd December 1916 and is posted to the 1st Battalion Leicester Regiment. He joins them in the field on the 9th January. Appointed paid Lance Corporal in May 1917. He will be wounded in action on the 13th March 1918. Gun shot wound to the face, chest, arms and legs, and his left leg fractured. Relinquishing his lance rank on admission to hospital. Transferred back to England on the Hospital Ship Causebrook Castle on the 7th April. He is discharged on the 13th February 1919, No Longer Fit For War Service.

Embarked on the 22nd December 1917. Private 50731 Andrew Buchan Watson, Royal Scots, he joined Scots Base Depot the following day. Posted to 17th Battalion Royal Scots he joins the Battalion in the Field on the 27th December. Wounded in action, gun shot wound to the back and neck on the 6th February 1918. He returns to duty on the 11th March and is wounded in action for the second time on the 24th March.

2nd Lieutenant W. G. R. Murphy
(Chinese) Labour Corps

William Murphy was born in the Parish of Northwood on the Isle of Wight. His father was a Scot from Edinburgh. On his attestation papers his nationality would be listed as “English”. Educated at Northwood and Newport William moved to Shanghai and worked as a Merchant’s assistant in a firm of importers. At Shanghai William and his wife settled down as ex-pats. After the outbreak of war in 1915 William joined the Shanghai volunteers. He remained a member of the volunteers for 2 years before he crossed to Canada on the 22nd December 1916, at his own expense, and attested in the Canadian Army Service Corps in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Vancouver, British Columbia on the 25th January 1917. After basic training in Canada Private W. G. R.. Murphy No. 200222 was posted to Shorncliffe, near Folkestone. Here on the 4h August 1917, William applied for a Commission in the Chinese Labour Corps. On his letter of application he listed his qualifications as follows:

“5 1/2 years business experience in
Shanghai during which period I
personally supervised a large
staff of native workpeople.

2 years Shanghai Military Vol-
unteers through which I frequently
worked with the native company both
on Parades and in camps.

I have a fair knowledge of Mandarin
and am conversant with the best methods
of producing results from these people.”

His certificate of recommendation was signed by Major General steel who was the Major General Commanding Troops, Shorncliffe, on the 17th August 1917. The Certificate of Nomination to a Particular Unit was signed by the Officer in Charge, Chinese Section, Labour Concentration Camp, Folkestone. Upon acceptance William Murphy was to be discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force enabling William to take up his commission. He was appointed temporary Second Lieutenant on the General List for employment with the Chinese Labour corps with effect from the 7th of September 1917, and was struck off the strength of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada on his Commission in the Imperial Army on the 8th September 1917. 2nd Lt W. G. R. Murphy first crossed to Boulogne, on the 26th of September 1917, when he was posted to Labour Corps Base Depot at Boulogne. On the 18th December 1917, while at Aberville, William was admitted to hospital with Bronchitis. A long standing perforation of the tympanic membrane, not caused by shell shock was also diagnosed. He was granted leave to an Officer’s Hospital from the 29th December 1917 until the 4th March 1918. He embarked from Le Havre on the 29th of December and disembarked at Southampton on the 30th December 1917. William survived the war and was released from service on the 31st May 1919 and relinquish his commission. He was to retain the rank of Lieutenant. William’s claim for travel expenses, presumably, from and to Shanghai, was deemed time barred in 1919.