Thursday, December 6, 2012

William James Beales (b 1897) in World War 1

While I was looking for the war-time records of Granddad Thomas Henry Ward, I also had a look for those of William James Beales, his future brother-in-law. Because his name is fairly unusual, William's Medal Roll Index card was relatively easy to find. As an added bonus it also contained his address at 13 Campion Road, Colchester.

William James Beales and his sister Rosina
The card is full of abbreviations which I'm still trying to interpret. What it shows is that William joined the Essex Yeomanry initially, then transferred to the Royal Reserve regiment of Cavalry and finally to the Machine Gun Corps (with a change of regimental number each time).

He must have remained in the army beyond the end of the war in 1918 because he received an Indian General Service medal, which was awarded to everyone who served in the so-called "Third Anglo-Afghan War" of 1919.

The Machine Gun Corps was formed in 1915 and included infantry, cavalry and motor units. The Essex Yeomanry were associated with the 8th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry division, though it's unclear if this was William's unit. According to the website Golden Map
The MGC saw action in all the main theatres of war, including France, BelgiumPalestine,Mesopotamia, Egypt, Salonika, East Africa and Italy. In its short history the MGC gained an enviable record for heroism as a front line fighting force. Indeed, in the latter part of the war, as tactics changed to defence in depth, it commonly served well in advance of the front line. It had a less enviable record for its casualty rate. Some 170,500 officers and men served in the MGC with 62,049 becoming casualties, including 12,498 killed, earning it the nickname 'the Suicide Club'.
It would be fascinating to know whether William Beales and Thomas Ward served together at any time during the war. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

At last - a regiment for Thomas Henry Ward

Over the past couple of years I've searched through the military records on Ancestry umpteen times, looking for some clue as to which regiment Thomas Henry Ward belonged to during his army service in World War 1. I found dozens of Thomas H Wards, and hundreds more plain Thomas Wards, but none of the records I looked at had enough information to identify them as the correct Thomas. Even knowing that he served in Mesopotamia and India didn't help.

Obverse of the
Victory medal
But this week I came across a card in the Medal Rolls Index for a Thomas Henry Ward who served in the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC). And there on the back of the card was an address (which is fairly unusual on such cards) - 17 Clifton St, Milnrow. So, now I know his regiment! What I don't know is how I missed seeing the  address on the card before. Perhaps I overlooked it, although it's quite clear. The card doesn't come up using Milnrow as a keyword or place of residence.

The Medal Rolls Index contains millions of cards. Almost every soldier who served overseas in World War 1 was awarded some sort of medal, often more than one. Each soldier had an Index card on which the army listed what medals they were entitled to, along with details such as their regiment(s) and regimental numbers, where they served and so on. Most cards contain very few details.

Reverse of the
Victory medal
The Index card for Thomas Henry Ward shows that he was a private in the Army Ordnance Corps (which became the RAOC from 1918), regimental number 029248 (1). He was awarded a Victory medal (not to be confused with the Victoria Cross!) and the British War medal. The Great War website gives details about these medals.

There is also an entry for the GSM - General Service Medal - with a clasp for service in NW Persia. Then for some reason the reference to the GSM has been crossed out and the word "ineligible" added, but leaving the words about the clasp for NW Persia intact. The GSM was usually awarded for service beyond 1918, with clasps for various campaigns such as the one in North West Persia in 1920. The clasp was never awarded without a medal. I'm still trying to decipher from the various handwritten notes and numbers whether Granddad received the GSM and clasp or not.

On the back of the card is a reference to Hilsea, near Portsmouth, which was an RAOC depot  from 1918 and their barracks from 1921. This is followed by more letters and numbers which I've yet to decipher, and then "3.11.23 GSM clasp". I think the reference to 1923 is the date on which the medal was awarded or delivered. Below that is the Milnrow address. So overall it looks possible that Granddad was not demobbed in 1918 but continued on in the army until at least 1920.

(1)Unfortunately I don't think the copyright rules allow me to put up a picture of the card itself, but I can send a link if anyone wants it.