1914 star; a first.

Tonight I got to hold something that I will always remember, a 1914 star trio, now, not unusual, or rare you might say, this man had no gallantry awards or particularly unusual service, in no far off places, to all intents and purposes it is a normal, run of the mill (not to denigrate his service in any way….) ww1; 1914 star trio…. However, this group had one distinguishing characteristic, not that you’d know it, unless you were told.

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The interesting, and 100% unique piece about this medal group is that, this 1914 star, was the very first star to be awarded…… yes the very first to be awarded!  To hold in your hand the first of anything is amazing, and this was no different.

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Trooper Reeves, shown here, just shortly after receiving his medal, and the caption states this was the very first award of the 1914 star.  Now, Trooper Reeves, your immortality is assured.  Maybe at some point I can find out some more about him, but for now I am content in the knowledge that I have held something, so rare and unusual that very few others will ever have the chance to.  I have also had the chance to share something so rare with my followers.

With thanks to the London Medal Company; for supplying the information on this fabulously rare trio…… http://www.london-medals.co.uk/

How to find a name from nothing….. logical deduction for amateur historians

Sometimes you’ll pick up a medal group, or even a photo or uniform, and it has medals but no name…. no doubt family historians have this probably on a more regular basis than one would think. I had this same problem a few years back, and I thought people might find it useful to see the logical sequence of how to discover who the person is.

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I bought a frame, and in it was a picture and a set of miniature medals (above – which are left to right);

 

1. Order of the Bath – Companion (CB)
2. Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (w. bar)
3. Queen’s South Africa Medal, 1899-1902
4. 1914-1915 Star
5. British War Medal, 1914-20
6. Victory Medal, 1914-18 (w. MID X5)
7. Army & RAF General Service Medal, 1918-1962
8. 1939-1945 Star
9. Defence Medal
10. British War Medal, 1939-1945
11. George V Coronation Medal, 1911
12. George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935
13. George VI Coronation Medal, 1937
14. Order of the Légion d’Honneur – Chevalier (France)

 

Now ordinarily five of these medals would contain a name, rank, number and regiment, however, with miniatures, ribbon bars and photographs you don’t always have this luxury. The process is fairly easy and deathly logical, however it does take some serious commitment, luck, and occasionally an intuitive jump.

So, I started by isolating all Distinguished Service Order’s before 1945 with a single additional bar (in the DSO awards book) – this came to roughly 800-900 awards, I was so glad it was only a few……

I then looked at this list and discounted all those who had not served in the Boer war, I then checked the regiments they were with and their regimental bar entitlement for the Queens South Africa medal.


Then I isolated all those awarded further bars (WW1, WW2) or other gallantry awards, discounting those who didn’t fit the medal list, and including those who did… my list was by this time about 60 people, getting closer all the time 😀

As it had come down to roughly 60 names; I had to go through these manually looking for similarities, I.e discounting any killed in WW1, those who had served abroad in WW2 anywhere that would have given him a WW2 star medal indicating service in Italy, France and Germany etc.

This left just 1 man who matched the gallantry awards, Order of the Bath and foreign awards etc. – (all in all roughly only 25 hours of research all tolled, one of my shorter searches 😀 ).

 

The man in the picture and who the medals belonged too…. is Lieutenant General Sir Michael Henry Barker.

 

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http://www.unithistories.com/officers/Army_officers_B01.html: [this website is an invaluable source for higher ranking officers.]

 

Education: Malvern College (1897.2-1902); Staff College (psc),

 

Military Service:

1902 served in Militia (4th Battalion The East Surrey Regiment), South African War (Queen’s Medal, two clasps 14 & 26) (embodied militia for 210 days)

04.07.1903 Commissioned, Lincolnshire Regiment

04.05.1910 – 03.11.1913 Adjutant, …

18.12.1913 – 05.1915 Adjutant, Special Reserve

1914 – 1919 served World War I (despatches, DSO and Bar, Legion of Honour, Brevet Maj., Brevet Lt.Col.): France & Belgium 12.05.1915-02.11.1917 & 26.04.1918-11.11.1918, Italy 02.11.1917-19.04.1918

26.04.1918 – 01.04.1919 Brigade Commander, 53rd Infantry Brigade, France

18.03.1920 – 31.01.1921 General Staff Officer, 2nd grade (GSO2), … (India)

04.02.1921 – 12.02.1924 Instructor, Senior Officers’ School, Belgum, India

22.03.1927 – 22.03.1931 transferred as Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment

02.04.1931 – 30.03.1933 Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster-General (AA&QMG), 4th Division (Eastern Command) (Colchester)

31.03.1933 – 30.09.1935 Brigadier General Staff, Horse Guards (Eastern Command) (UK)

01.12.1936 – 13.07.1939 Director of Recruiting and Organization, War Office (CB)

14.07.1939 – 04.03.1940 General Officer Commanding, British Forces in Palestine and Transjordan (temporary) (despatches)

07.03.1940 – 21.04.1940 General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Aldershot Command

22.04.1940 – 07.06.1940 specially employed as Corps Commander, I Corps (France) [handed over command 31.05.1940 to Maj.Gen. H.R.L.G. Alexander]

07.08.1940 – 15.02.1941 specially employed as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Aldershot Command

15.08.1941 – 15.10.1946 Regular Army Reserve of Officers [attained age limit]

Deputy Regional Commander for Civil Defence, London 1941-1942.

Colonel, York and Lancaster Regiment, 01.04.1936-20.03.1946.

Deputy Lieutenant (DL), Essex, 03.06.1946.

 

So there you go with a bit of perseverance, you can find out who someone is in a photograph, or who the medals you have were awarded too….. 🙂

The last casualties of the Great War for Civilisation……….

On the 11th of November, 861 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed. Now most of us will never have heard of any of the men killed on this day, but I would like to bring just two of their names to your attention. The first is a man called George Ellison and the second: George Laurence Price. Why? Because on the 11th November 1918, just half an hour before the Armistice came into effect, Private Ellison was killed, making him officially the last British Soldier to be killed in the Great War for Civilisation; 1914-1918. The Second man; George Laurence Price, was killed at 10.58, 2 minutes before the war ceased, became the last Commonwealth soldier killed in the Great War.

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Private George Ellison; 5th Royal Irish Lancers.

Ellison was born and lived at 49, Edmund Street, Bank, Leeds, he was the Son of James W. and Mary Ellison. Early in his life, he joined the army as a regular soldier, but had left by 1912 when he got married to Hannah Maria Burgan and had become a coal miner. Sometime just before the outbreak of war he was recalled to the army, joining the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, serving in the army at the start of the war. He fought at the Battle of Mons in 1914, and several other battles including the Battle of Ypres, Battle of Armentières, Battle of La Basee, Battle of Lens, Battle of Loos, and Battle of Cambrai on the Western Front. He was killed an hour and a half before the armistice, on a patrol on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium.

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Private George Price; 28th ‘Northwest’ Battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment)

He was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, on December 15, 1892, and raised on Church Street, in what is now Port Williams, Nova Scotia. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, when he was conscripted on October 15, 1917. He served with “A” Company of the 28th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. On November 11, Pte Price was part of an advance to take the small village of Havré. After a crossing of the Canal du Centre into the town of Ville-sur-Haine under German machine gun fire, Price and his patrol moved toward a row of houses intent on pursuing the machine gunner who had harassed their crossing of the canal. The patrol had entered the house from which they had thought the shooting had come, but found the Germans had exited through the back door as they entered the front. They then pursued into the house next door and again found it empty. George Price was fatally shot in the region of his heart by a German sniper as he stepped out of the house into the street, against contrary advice from a house occupant, at 10:58 a.m., November 11, 1918. He died just 2 minutes before the armistice ceasefire, that ended the war, came into effect at 11 a.m

Now there are other soldiers I should name here as well:

USA: Pvt Henry Gunther of Baltimore, MD, Company A, 313th Infantry, 79th Division of the US Army: Died 10.59 11/11/1918 Officially, Gunter was the last man to die in World War One. His unit had been ordered to advance and take a German machine gun post. It is said that even the Germans – who knew that they were literally minutes away from a ceasefire – tried to stop the Americans attacking. But when it became obvious that this had failed, they fired on their attackers and Gunter was killed. His divisional record stated:

“Almost as he fell, the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed.”

FRANCE: Augustin Trebuchon from the 415th Infantry Regiment. He was a runner and was in the process of taking a message to his colleagues at the front informing them of the ceasefire. He was hit by a single shot and killed at 10.50. In total, 75 French soldiers were killed on November 11th but their graves state November 10th. Two theories have been forwarded for this discrepancy. The first is that by stating that they died on November 10th before the war had ended, there could be no question about their family’s entitlement to a war pension. The other theory, is that the French government wanted to avoid any form of embarrassment or political scandal should it ever become known that so many died on the last day of the war. [http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/november_11_1918.htm]

Augustin Trébuchon was born at Montchabrier (near Le Malzieu-Ville in the Lozère) on 30 May 1878, with four younger brothers and sisters. His mother died when he was young and his father nine years later. He had been in the army since the war began in 1914. He was a communal shepherd and played accordion at village marriages before volunteering for the army on 4 August 1914. He joined the 415th Infantry Regiment as a messenger. He had already served in the second battle of the Marne and at Verdun, Artois and the Somme before arriving in the Ardennes at the end of the war. He had twice been wounded, including badly in his left arm by an exploding shell.  Upon his promotion to the rank of Soldat de Première Classe (Private First Class) in September 1918 it was said that he was “a good soldier having always achieved his duty, of remarkable calm, setting the best example to his young comrades.”

Trébuchon, as a messenger, knew an agreement had been signed before the rest of his unit. At Vrigne-sur-Meuse, in the Ardennes, the 163rd Infantry Division was ordered to attack an élite German unit, the Hannetons.  General Henri Gouraud told his men to cross the Meuse and to attack “as fast as possible, by whatever means and regardless of cost”.  It has been speculated that the attack was to end any possible hesitations by German negotiators at Compiègne, that Maréchal Foch believed the Germans were reluctant to sign and so ordered Général Philippe Pétain to press on across the Meuse.

Trébuchon was halfway between Sedan and Charleville-Mézières. Rain was falling and the Meuse was flooding. Its width was put at 70m. The temperature was well below freezing. Warfare had destroyed bridges across the river and sappers worked by night and in fog to build a plank footbridge across a lock. There had been no reconnaissance of the other bank because bad weather had kept the spotter plane on the ground. Around 700 men crossed the river a little after 8am, taking a telephone wire with them. Some fell in the river and the first deaths were by drowning.

The fog cleared at 10.30am and the French could see the Germans installed a little higher than them, a few hundred metres away. The French were spread over three kilometres between the Meuse and a railway line. The Germans opened fire with machine guns. The French sent up a spotter plane now that the fog had lifted and the artillery on the other bank could open fire without fear of killing their own side. Darkness fell again at 6pm and the battle continued until news of the armistice arrived.

The last of the 91 French soldiers to die was Trébuchon, “with a red hole in his right side”, probably a figure of speech as this expression comes from Arthur Rimbaud’s very famous poem “Le Dormeur du Val” (The Sleeper in the Valley). He was 40. He fell near the railway line with his message still in his hand. It read “Rassemblement à 11h 30 pour le ravitaillement – “Muster at 11.30 for food.” The armistice followed and the French withdrew without honouring their dead.

GERMANY: Lieutenant Tomas: After 11:00, he approached some American soldiers to let them know that, since the war was over, he and his men were vacating a house and it would be available. Unfortunately, no one had informed the Americans of the Armistice and they shot him.

Once, Twice, Three Times a Hero……………….

S992 Major (Quarter-Master) J. P. Dobson, MBE, DCM**, MM, ED: 9th Btn York & Lancaster Regiment

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During WW1, thousands of men were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (second to the VC for an other rank), however only nine men received this award three times…. These men were:

 

CSM AJ Bonser, 2/4th London Regt, 1st London Division, Royal Naval Division, 53rd Division. Disbanded June 1916
P.O. JG Cowie, Hood battalion, RNVR, 63rd Royal naval Division
CSM JP Dobson, 9th York and Lancaster, 23rd Division
L/Sjt JJ Hickman,17th (1st Football),Middlesex, 33rd and 2nd Divisions
Sjt C Leadbeater, 1/5th Lincs. 46th Division
Sjt W Logan ,2nd Batt. Royal Highlanders. Meerut Division Indian Army, 7th indian division
Sjt G Mitchell, 2nd Batt. Royal Highlanders.Meerut Division Indian Army, 7th indian division
CSM S Phillips, 1st Batt, Worcestershire Regt. 8th Dividion
Sjt GH Soles, Canadian Infantry, 3rd Candian Division.
CSM TE Woodward, 2nd Batt, R Scots Fusiliers. 7th, 30th, 40th and 9th Divisions.

 

However today the man I want to tell you about is Company Seargent Major J.P.Dobson, a true action man.

 

He finished his career as a Major, one of 9 men to hold the DCM 3 times, as well as hold an MBE, an MM and an Al Valore Militaire presented by the King of Italy for gallantry.

 

MM; 11/11/1916
Around this time the 9th Btn Y&L, I believe, were at the Somme.

Unfortunately, no citation for this award.
DCM; 25/NOV/1916
Around this time the 9th Btn Y&L, I believe, were at the Somme.

S992 Sjt. J. P. Dobson, 9th Btn York & Lanc. R.

For conspicuous gallantry in action. He organised and led a bombing party and repulsed an enemy counter-attack. He assumed command of his company, displaying great courage and initiative. Later, although wounded, he greatly assisted in repulsing an enemy bombing attack.

DCM 1st bar; 17/Apr/1917
Around this time the 9th Btn Y&L, I believe, were at Arras.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He consistantly did magnificient work throughout the operations. When a shell burst in the trench and buried two NCO’s, he was the first to go to their assistance, and, under heavy fire, dug them out, thereby saving the life of one of them. His splendid example did much to reassure the men under very trying conditions.

DCM 2nd Bar; 19/NOV/1918
Around this time the 9th Btn Y&L, I believe, were at Piave/Sacile.
8992 C/S/M J.P.Dobson, DCM, MM , 9th Bn, Y&L Regt (Snaith) (ITALY)

For conspicuous gallantry and daring on the 30th-31st October 1918, in the Piave battle. He commanded a patrol in front of of our line, and in face of machine gun fire and rifle fire gained valuable information. On 31st October, during the attack on Sacile he led his men, under heavy fire from the houses, right down the main street, capturing it and taking many machine guns and prisoners.

Al Valore Militaire (Italy); 25/MAY/1917

Presented by the King of Italy for gallantry rendered during the campaign.

MBE: 2nd June 1943;
Major John Pearson Dobson Y&L Regt’, I believe he got this MBE for consistent good work.

 

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The Live Bait Squadron…. HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy… 22nd September 1914

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Recently I attended a family history fair, and on one of the stands, was a leaflet asking for information on the “Live Bait Squadron”, something I hadn’t heard of until now…..

Three large but old British cruisers -HMS Cressy, Hogue and Aboukir- were shot at and went down just off the Dutch coast. Eight torpedoes launched by stealth from German submarine U-9 sufficed to sink the ships whose crews were totally unprepared for the attack. The action lasted barely 90 minutes, an attack which awoke the Grand Fleet to the dangers of the U-boat – but condemned 62 officers and 1,397 men to a watery grave. Weeks after this catastrophe, bodies of British sailors were washed ashore on the Dutch coast. A few dozens of these men are buried at cemeteries in Holland. Of the combined crew of 2296 there were 837 survivors, a few hundred of whom could be rescued by Dutch merchant vessels. The wrecks of the three unfortunate cruisers still rest on the seabed, forming as many mass graves.

By early August 1914, the British naval fleet was at fighting strength. The aged ships received their new crews and underwent a thorough clean up before setting out to assume their patrol duties on the North Sea. They were HMS Cressy, Hogue and Aboukir. Obsolete, unwieldy, badly armed and poorly armoured, these had been mothballed just before the war as being out of date, and no longer fit for peacetime service.

Those old cruisers of the Bacchante class were considered totally unfit to take part in modern warfare at sea. Because of this they were soon given the rather wry but spot-on surname The Live Bait Squadron, first within the Navy and later, after the disaster, also in popular speech. Together with sister ships they were assigned to a patrol unit of the North Sea fleet, making up the 7th Cruiser Squadron of the Southern Force. Their homeport was Harwich in the Thames estuary, not far from the River Medway embouchure. And not only the ships – the thousands of reservists who manned the cruisers were also mostly from the Medway region.

There were 837 survivors of the combined crews of 2296. A goodly number of them were picked up by two small Dutch merchant vessels, SS Flora (287 survivors) and SS Titan (114). Most of them were taken to neutral Holland, where they received a warm welcome and medical and personal care. After briefly having been accommodated in some refugees’ camp, they were transported back to England, thanks to a flash of inspiration that must have hit some governmental official, claiming they were not to be regarded as prisoners of war now that they had come ashore on non-military vessels.

References:

http://www.livebaitsqn-soc.info/the-live-bait-squadron/

http://www.scarboroughsmaritimeheritage.org.uk/greatwar/f8-live-bait-squadron.php

https://navynews.co.uk/archive/news/item/5775

http://www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk/Information/Articles/Incidents/Survive%20Live%20Bait.htm

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=604

From Pupil to the Western Front: Alfred Victor Hedges MC; Part Three. Alberts thoughts on the necessity of war and Nuclear deterrents.

We follow on from Alberts wounding at High Wood, with this extract from a letter written in the 1980’s that harks back to his time in France in July 1916, and gives his thoughts on more modern ideals and wars, I will as a historian should, refrain on the whole from making heavy or biased comments based on modern ideals (and hindsight, something that most primary sources are not privy too), instead letting his words speaks for themselves across the ages.  It is not often we get a Great War veteran’s thoughts on Nuclear war and deterrents, so this source must be an almost unique opportunity to hear his opinions and thoughts, no matter your political standpoint.  It is however allowable to ruminate on his thoughts and to note, how even seeing the horror of some of the largest bloodiest battles in the Great War, he still held strong beliefs and a loyalty to his country and morals. Perhaps these are the signs of the values instilled by a Victorian/Edwardian education and home life?

“Last Saturday I watched and listened to the last night of the proms as I always do.  The main item was, as always, “Land of Hope and Glory”.   I remember singing it in the trenches in, early July, 1916.  The Battalion, made up to its full strength of 1,000, was on its way up to relieve other troops taking part in the Battle of the Somme.  We sang it with all our hearts, though we knew the casualty rate [would be high] – There were 100 left after we captured High Wood.  On the wall of Giggleswick Chapel there is a memorial, which Robert will know (the person the letter was written to, and presumably a former pupil), to one who died in the South African War.  “Dulce et Decoram est, pro patria mori”. – “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country”. 

The prevailing idea nowadays seems to be to get money out of one’s country.

We all volunteered, – conscription hadn’t come in then – and in the same circumstances, would do it again I’m sure.

War is a terrible thing, but so is the death toll on the rest of the world, sacrifices to the gods of pleasure and commerce.  And what about the conditions of life in the Third World?  I am a strong believer in the Nuclear Deterrent and am convinced that it has prevented another major war for many years past.  I was given a pamphlet outside St Peter’s by a Nuclear Disarmer and told him to look at his hands from which was dripping the blood of men and women and children.  The two bombs on Japan saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese men and women and children, who were planning to defend their country inch by inch, and also, of course, thousands of Americans. [Editors note:  The loss of life for attacking forces was also projected to be horrendous, so much so, that they were still issuing the Purple Heart medals produced for the intended Japanese landings until the 1960s] War is a terrible thing, but there is trust and comradeship and self sacrifice.  Worse things are happening in the big cities of the world.  And, if we disarmed, should we become another Afghanistan or Poland? No!  I am afraid that I stand on the Biblical statement of “A strong man armed”. ”

This letter shows some interesting thoughts. That despite being heavily wounded, permanently disabled, and having lost many friends and comrades, and undoubtedly, lead many men to their deaths.  He says that he would still do it all again, it was his duty to his country.  This does to me sum up all the hopefulness and expectation of the youth of that period.  However he, unlike the modern supposition that all who took part were horrified and traumatised, and never recovered, seemingly saw it as a duty, and a job.  Which although horrific; he himself admits to trepidation at seeing men mown down by machine gun fire in front of him, he does not shy away from saying war is occasionally necessary, for the greater good and he would repeat his experiences if required.  One wonders how much of this was perhaps reinforced by his knowledge of what happened in the Second World War when good men did nothing, I don’t think we shall ever know the full extent for certain, but I would invite you to continue reading his story and think upon his words, if you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave a comment below.