Sunday 4 December 2016

Army Form W.3118 - Field Medical Card

This Field Medical Card, officially Army Form W.3118, is uncommonly seen in surviving service records. It would have been completed when a man was admitted as a casualty to a Field Ambulance and would have accompanied him on his journey to the casualty clearing station and then base hospital - if he made it that far.

This particular card was part of a run printed in March 1917 and started its particular journey in September 1917 when Corporal Vernon Swatman of the 2/5th South Staffordshire Regiment was admitted to the 2/2nd North Midland Field Ambulance as a battle casualty with a smashed kneecap.

The images on this blog post are Crown Copyright The National Archives.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Army Form B.271A - Attestation

This attestation form which, so it says at the top, came into effect from September 1921, marks quite a departure from those attestation forms used prior to this date. For a start, this is a two-page document rather than a three or four-page form, and of these two pages, the first page is almost entirely given over to the conditions; the "contract" of enlistment between the man and the "Crown".

Page two asks for some new information but there is also a lot missing. The nationality of the recruit's parents is requested, as is the recruit's date of birth and number of dependent children. Missing from this form though are next of kin details, marriage details, children's birth details and a physical description on enlistment.

Also, noticably missing from this 14-year-old's paper is his regimental number which would normally have been applied when he presented himself at the regimental depot. It makes me wonder whether this lad did actually see the attestation through.

My grateful thanks to Graham Thompson for sending this form to me. This particular issue dates to June 1927 and was obviously still in use when Frederick Gray signed up in April 1928.

Saturday 19 November 2016

New monarch, old attestation form

This from, which was completed in December 1837, is lovely, but it's lovelier still if you read from bottom up, starting with that hugely ornate Royal cypher.

What a lovely piece of artwork. Now scroll up further still:

King William IV had died on the 20th June 1837 and Queen Victoria would be crowned a little over a year later on the 28th June 1838. Nevertheless, she was the uncrowned queen by December 1837, although new stationery had obviously not been ordered. Whoever attempted to alter "His" to "Her" did a pretty good job of the letter I, but in those pre-corrective fluid days, changing a letter S into a letter T was always going to be problematic.  It seems almost pedantic to point out that the royal crown should also have been changed. The one guarded by the lion and the unicorn is King William's crown, Queen Victoria's would be a different shape.

Friday 18 November 2016

Army Form B.179 - Medical History of an Invalid

This four-page form was in common usage in Her Majesty's Army and this particular example dates to 1896. It would ultimately be replaced by Army Form B.179a which would be more gently titled, Medical report on a soldier... This document was one of the standard forms which was to be included in a file of discharge documents and is one of the few files which does not seem to have been routinely weeded by the War Office / Ministry of Pensions or MoD. They obiously recognised its imporatnce as a historical summary of service and for today's military or family historian it is no less important.

The opening page, above, gives a good general summary of service, which in this example amounts to 16 years service at home, in Gibraltar and in Egypt. Date of enlistment, date of form-filling and age of the soldier are all present making this a very useful document indeed.

The pages which follow detail the nature of the disabilty, the degree to which it affects the individual and, finally, the opinion of the Medical Board. Questions throughout the document examine the character of the man. What are his havits like? Has he been a defaulter? Has the disability been "aggravated by intemperance, vice or misconduct?" Given the fondmness of alcohol by the British soldiery in general, it was hardly an unreasonable question to ask. 

In this particualr case, theman in question was a staff sergeant whose habits and conduct were rated as "Regular, Very Good, Temperate" and his tubercle of the lung was not adjudged to have been as a result of his own imprudence.

It's a shame that this form does not a give a permanert address for the soldier, simply a hospital or station transferred to for further disposal. In this case, the man was sent to the Herbert Hospital in Woolwich which, 120 years later has been converted into flats called the Royal Herbert Pavilions. Sales prices today are in excexx of £400,000.

Images reprodiced here are Crown Copyright, The National Archives.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Army Form D.489 - Certificate of Sobriety & Trustworthiness

This documents is very much of its era. Even contemplating issuing such a form these days would no doubt be seen as an infringement of human rights. However, back in 1915 when this form was issued, it would have been perfectly reasonable for an employer to request this evidence particularly, it has to be said, in the light of the British soldier's fondness for alcohol.

In this case however, Henry Tomkins, already a veteran of Gallipoli and the Somme, was still only 16-years-old when this form was completed. He was pulled out of the army at the request of his mother who had already seen Henry's twin brother William killed in April 1916. Henry would later join the Royal Navy and end his naval career as a stoker petty officer.

You can read more about Henry Tomkin's military service on my World War One veterans' blog. Henry's army record and navy record both survive in WO 364 and ADM 188 respectively and both can be viewed on Findmypast. Henry's army record is particularly interesting as it contains much correspondence from his mother - as well as this quaint document.

The image on this page is Crown Copyright, The National Archives.

Friday 5 August 2016

Army Form B.59 - Special Reserve attestation

This post will look at Army Form B.59, the document used to recruit men to the Special Reserve. It may be helpful to read this in conjunction with posts on my army service numbers blog which detail the Army Order announcing the creation of the Special Reserve in 1908  and the appendices to that Army Order. Men enlisted for six years' service which, in peace-time, would barely have affected their usual civil routines. There was an initial period of training - supposed to be six months - and like its predecessor, the militia, the Special Reserve was seen as an ideal way for men to assess whether they liked army life and, if they wanted to do so, to then enlist with the regular army.  

If a man was eighteen years old, he could join the regular army after three months' training. If he had not reached the age of 18, he could enlist with the regular army only after completing six months' training. Above all though, men joining the Special Reserve did so on the understanding that in the event their country went to war, they would be recalled for service with the regular army and would be sent as drafts to replace casualties in the regular (and latter 'service') battalions.

This obligation is made very clear in clause 17b which states (or asks): "Are you aware that if so called out you will be liable to be detained in Army Service for the unexpired portion of your term of service in the Army Reserve and for a further period not exceeding 12 months if so directed by the competent Military Authority?" Thus the regular army in 1914 (and earlier) was well prepared for a national emergency and could call upon a) serving soldiers b) soldiers who had been discharged to the army reserve c) men who had chosen to extend their period of reserve service by signing on for a further four years as Section D reservists d) men of the Special and Extra Reserve.

Men signing up for the Special and Extra Reserve signed up with their local regiment. So a man living in Essex would typically have signed up with the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Essex Regiment. Living in Essex, he would not have been able, for instance, to enlist with the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. This simple, logical fact means that if you know a soldier attested with a particular special or extra reserve unit, he must also have been resident in that particular recruiting district or catchment area.

In the examples I have posted on this page - and all images on this page are Crown Copyright, The National Archives - Martin Groden was born in Edinburgh but attested with the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) at Lancaster and must have been living in Lancashire at the time of his attestation in April 1914.  

The last document on this post is a General Mobilization notice which was sent to men of the Special Reserve in August 1914. I have written about this elsewhere. Click on the link to read more.

I research soldiers. Contact me if you need help.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Army Form E.624 - Imperial Service obligation

Men serving in the Territorial Force and Yeomanry were not obliged to serve overseas. The original terms of their enlistment stated that their obligation was for home service only. This form - Army Form E.624 - was the man's assent that in the event of a National Emergency, he could be sent anywhere outside the United Kingdom. Thousands of men signed this form and thus this is very commonly found in files for men who served with Territorial Force or Yeomanry units.

Helpfully, the conditions attached to the signing of this form are explained on the reverse. Note that a man was only obliged to serve with his own unit. He could not be drafted to another unit (condition 2). The badge mentioned in the final paragraph is very commonly seen:

Sunday 6 March 2016

Army Form E.522 - Militia Reserve Attestation

"The Militia Reserve", states the Army Book for the British Empire, published in 1893, "is a force, institited in 1867, enlisted from the militia of the United Kingdom, either for six years or for the residue of the man's militia engagement... A man in the militia reserve is liable to be called out for an annual training not exceeding 56 days with either regular or auxiliary forces in substitution for the ordinary militia annual training. He may be called out by Royal proclamation, and then becomes for all purposes a soldier in the regular forces, and can be appointed to any corps. He is not liable to serve beyond the unexpired term of his service in the militia reserve, except under certain eventualities when he can be detailed for one year longer. Until called out for permanent service he remains for all purposes a militiaman."

In 1899 in "The British Army", Lieutenant Colonel James Moncrieff Grierson - who had also authored chapters in the Army Book for the British Empire, wrote, "The militia reserve is not, what its name seems to imply, a reserve for the militia, but for the regular army. It consists of militia-men whose number must not exceed a quarter of the establishment of a battalion of infantry or a third of a battalion of garrison artillery, and who bind themselves in return for a bounty of £1 a year, to remain with the militia either 6 years or the whole time of their service."

Moncrieff Grierson continues, "On entering the militia reserve the men must be between 19 and 34 years of age, and must have passed through two drill periods of the militia; they are liable to be called out to a yearly practice of 56 days. Service in the militia-reserve cannot be extended beyond the age of 34."

The images I have used on this post are all Crown Copyright the National Archives (series WO 96) and relate to the service of Arthur Nixon (no relation) who had originally joined the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment as an 18-year-old in 1894. He joined the militia reserve in 1898, attesting to serve for General Service for the unexpired portion of his militia engagement.