Category Archives: British Empire

December 4th. The Changing Face of Embarkations

On the 4th December 1915 a spy and a battalion embark

Marta Hari, Crossed to France on the SS Arundel

The 15th Service Battalion of the Welsh Regiment embark. including Private 20373 Joseph Thomas Walch, and Private 20198 John Whelan,

A year later it was mostly Drafts, Returning Wounded and Reinforcements.

4th December 1916

Private 1427 Romany Roy Gray, 3/1 Norfolk Yeomanry. Joined 17 Infantry Base Depot. Posted to the 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, allotted a new number 29660. Romany had first embarked to France on the 8th October 1915. Wounded in action he became a Prisoner of War in 1918.

Sergeant 29768 William Walker, Norfolk Regiment. A pre-war, William first enlisted in 1908. From 17 Infantry Base Depot William is posted to the 7th Battalion.
Private 34136 Arthur Westhead, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Posted to the 6th Battalion he joins them on the 12th.

Private 40974 Albert Arthur Wadhams, King’s Own Scottish Borderers. In April 1917 Albert is transferred to the 1st Dragoons.

Private 40975 James Adolphis Warrier, King’s Own Scottish Borderers. Arrived at 21 Infantry Base Depot the following day. Posted to the 9th Service Battalion, he joins them on the 13th January. Attached to the Sanitary Section on the 1st January 1917.

Sapper 2154 John Hunter Brown 8th Field Company Australian Engineers, Australian Imperial Force. He is returning to active service after being hospitalised because of wounds. John is discharged from the Australian Army as being medically unfit in 1919.

Private 2397 Wallace Roy Crichton Australian Imperial Force, ex 12th Training Battalion. Part of 5th Reinforcements 46th Battalion. He proceeds to Boulogne on the SS Princes Victoria. Captured by the Germans, he becomes a Prisoner of War on the 11th April 1917. Badly wounded, his right Leg is amputated. He is repatriated via Holland in January 1918.

The Day David Bowie Embarked from Folkestone #FWW

On the 8th November 1915, David Bowie embarked for France. Bowie would be awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Included are the Units which embarked and three other soldiers who also embarked on the same day.

Advance Party from 33rd Division.
16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment, part of 90th Brigade, 30th Division. The battalion set off for Folkestone from Amesbury station at 5:30 a.m. As usual, the transport and details left for Southampton.
17th (Service) Battalion (2nd City Pals.) The Manchester Regiment had a choppy crossing.
18th (Service) Battalion. Manchester Regiment, a “none to smooth crossing.”

Private 7599 David Bowie, 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment. Awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field, during actions on the Somme during July 1916.. Gazetted, London Gazette Supplement 29827, page 11138 Supplement to the London Gazette, 16th November 1916, published 14th November 1916. David is diagnosed with Pyrexia of Unknown Origins on 26th January 1917. Transferred back to England on the 24th of February. For the rest of the war, he served in England, with the Royal Defence Corps, Black Watch and finally the Army Service Corps. Transferred to the Reserves on the 19th February 1919.

Private 6379 Wilfred Gaffney 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment. He is wounded in action on the 1st July 1916.

Private 17/8428 Harold Bowden, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment. He is admitted to 5 Casualty Clearing Station with Inflammation of the Connective Tissue both ankles on the 13th February 1916. Invalided back to England on the St Patrick on the 2nd March 1916. Discharged as being no longer physically fit for war service on the 28th of September. His disability is listed as “Otitis Media” caused by measles seven years previously.

Private 17/9214 Frederick Finney, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Wounded in action on the 1st July 1916, a gunshot wound to the left hand, Transferred back to the United Kingdom he returns France in November 1916 when he will be posted to the 12th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Wounded in action again in July 1917. He is once more transferred back to the United Kingdom. On the 27th March 1918, he will return to France, again from Folkestone.

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.

 

 

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.