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.