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. 

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