On this day……. 100 years ago; 04/08/1914

Remembered today:
CH.8671 Private G. Davies Royal Marine Light Infantry
A Chatham Division Royal Marine, he is buried in Middlesex at St.Pancras cemetery.

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.


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.




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….. 🙂

South African Air Force Pilot’s Gallantry in Ethiopia



Captain Wheatley was awarded his AFC on the 14th June 1945 in the birthday honours list. Captain Wheatley had on numerous occasions shown himself to be a gallant man and extraordinary pilot.

Now I am sure most of you can read the original newspaper cuttings I have posted here, but here is a quick run down of what happened:

A European Captain fighting with the Ethiopian Patriot Army had been gravely wounded fighting against the Italians during a pitched firefight lasting many hours, and needed extraction for treatment quickly, the Ethiopians set up a rough landing strip by clearing some scrubland and Captain Douglas Wheatley South African Air Force volunteered for the mission. He showed extreme bravery and skill in landing and taking off in such difficult conditions, although the captain sadly later died from his wounds.


VC011 VC012

Less than 100 Air Force Crosses were awarded to South African Air Force pilots for the whole of WW2.


Captain D.G.R.Wheatley spent from October to December 1940 flying Hartbees carrying out a variety of training exercises from Dive Bombing and Ground Strafing to General Reconaissance. From January 1941 until May 1941. From June 1941 he began his combat with bombing on Billo and Baccon. In August 1941 he carried out a total of 11 bombing missions mainly on Gondar and Debareck. He carried out on these missions throughout the rest of 1941. On 11.11.1941 his Second Pilot Sefton was badly wounded in action and died the following day. He carried out his first ground strafe ten days later firing 500 rounds. Gondar surrendered on the 27th November and in the log book he notes “Saw White Flag”. [The Battle of Gondar was the last stand of the Italian forces in Italian East Africa during the Second World War. The battle took place in November 1941, during the East African Campaign. The Italian garrison of 40,000 was commanded by Generale Guglielmo Nasi ] He began Night Flights in March 1942 and in August began training on Oxfords. In November 1942 he was posted to 66 Air School, Cape Town, and began conversion to Ansons. This training led to Anti-Submarine patrols and he fired a number of depth charges and carried out numerous patrols until June 1943. For the remainder of the war he spent his time flying Ansons and continued to carry out a combination of Anti-Submarine patrols, Training, Reconnaisance etc.



An interesting turn up for the books………

Back in deepest darkest history (well 2002, but then again it feels like an age ago), I was doing my work experience in Spinks auction room in London, and it was shortly after this that I went to my first proper auction, and purchased amongst other things my first Distinguished Service Order, (DSO), I found what I thought was a nice group of medals to an almost unknown Brigadier General Tristram “Tiger” Lyon-Smith.  I started my research into him and I found a rather good amount of background information.



From his Obituary:

Brigadier Tristram Lyon-Smith CBE DSO, Late RA (Retd)

Brigadier Tristram Lyon-Smith died at the Winchester Clinic on 29th November 1982, aged 87 years. Known as Tiger to all Gunners he was born in 1895, was educated at Uppingham and the RMA Woolwich and commissioned into the Royal Artillery in September 1914.

He served in FRance and Belgium almost the entire war, was promoted to Captain in 1917, was wounded and mentioned in Dispatches.

These years made a lasting impression on him and undoubtedly affected his subsequent attitude towards discipline and training.

Inthe inter-war years he served in England, Egypt and twice in India [21/3/1923 – 20/1/1927] ; Got his ‘Jacket’ as Battery Captain of The Rocket Troop and commanded Eagle troop. His interest in Sport, particularly Cricket and Horses, formed an important part of his life.

In 1940 he commanded a regiment in the BEF returning through Dunkirk. A year later he was a Brigadier commanding The Support Group in the newly formed 6th Armoured Division.

Here his early experience in the First War and his many years as regimental officer gave him the opportunity to form and train, most successfully, a Support Group consisting of four Gunner regiments and one infantry battalion.

As one of his CO’s at the time writes ‘His energy , enthusiasm and refusal to accept anything but the best, judged by his own high standards was a spur and an inspiration. Also a penance to the less dedicated, who he soon weeded out.’

He was a man of very direct character who faced any problem head on and was not deflected by difficulties. If at times he was rather outspoken with his contemporaries and seniors, his juniors such as Battery Commanders and NCO’s learnt to take heed of what he taught and his appearance on muddy positions or at OPs with words of encouragement, advice and occasionally praise, was welcomed in the battles of North Africa and Italy.

With the advent of Radio he was one of the first to realise that massed artillery fire could be controlled from an OP quickly and efficiently.

He left 6th Armoured Division in Italy in 1943 to become CRA 7th Armoured Division for the Normandy Landings and the advance across France into Germany in 1944 and 1945.

He was sadly to lose two wives, Phil in 1947 and Mabs in 1972. He leaves a daughter, Antonia Hunt; to her we offer our deepest sympathy.

Now it mentions in 1940, he commanded a regiment in the BEF, coming back through Dunkirk, what it doesn’t mention is that at this point his daughter had been left behind trapped in France…. but more about his daughter Antonia later….

He was awarded a DSO on the 16th May 1943:


He was then awarded a CBE on the 14th May 1945:


Tomorrow…. Tristram’s daughter, and her interesting war time exploits.


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


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.







18th of May 1268….. Antioch falls to the Mamluk Sultan Baibars in the Battle of Antioch.

The Crusades, were a series of religious wars, starting in 1096; it was started by Pope Urban II to retake the holy land, from the Muslim conquests of Levant (632-661), in response to an appeal from Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who requested that western volunteers come to his aid and help to repel the invading Seljuq Turks from Anatolia.  This concluded in the Recapture of Jerusalem in 1099.


The Crusades are split by historians into several periods:

First crusades: 1096-1099

Second Crusades: 1145-1149

Third Crusades: 1189-1192

Fourth Crusade:  1202-1204

Fifth Crusade: 1213-1221

Sixth Crusade: 1228- Circa 1243


Seventh Crusade: 1248-1254

Plus inter crusade periods of unrest and expedition followed by the “Late Crusade Period”, into which the Siege of Antioch falls.


The (second) siege of Antioch occurred in the Late Crusade period; it was the last part of the conflict and effectively sealed the end of the Crusades;


“The fall of Acre closed an era. No effective Crusade was raised to recapture the Holy Land after Acre’s fall, though talk of further Crusades was common enough. By 1291 other ideals had captured the interest and enthusiasm of the monarchs and nobility of Europe and even strenuous papal efforts to raise expeditions to liberate the Holy Land met with little response. The ideal of the Crusade was irretrievably tarnished. The Latin Kingdom continued to exist, theoretically, on the Island of Cyprus. There the Latin Kings schemed and planned to recapture the mainland, but in vain. Money, men, and the will to do the task were all lacking. One last effort was made by King Peter I in 1365, when be successfully landed in Egypt and sacked Alexandria. Once the city was pillaged, however, the Crusaders returned as speedily as possible to Cyprus to divide their loot. As a Crusade, the episode was utterly futile.

The fourteenth century saw some other so-called Crusades organized, but these enterprises differed in many ways from the eleventh and twelfth century expeditions which are properly called Crusades. The “Crusades” of the fourteenth century aimed not at the recapture of Jerusalem and the Christian shrines of the Holy Land, but rather at checking the advance of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. While many of the “Crusaders” in these fourteenth century undertakings looked upon the defeat of the Ottomans as a preliminary to the ultimate recapture of the holy Land, none of the later crusades attempted any direct attack upon Palestine or Syria.”Ludolph of Suchem, Description of the Holy Land and of the Way Thither, trans. Aubrey Stewart (London: Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society, 1895), XII, 54­61. reprinted in James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 268-72


In 1268 Baibars [Sultan of Egypt and Syria] besieged the city of Antioch which was “badly defended by its patriarch and abandoned by most of its inhabitants,” [Joseph Michaud, History of the Crusades, Wm. Robson, trans. 3 vols. (London: Routledge, 1881), Vol. 3, p. 17.] capturing it on 18 May after a relatively feeble defense. [Michaud, History of the Crusades, vol. 3, pp. 17-18; Jean Richard and Jean Birrell, The Crusades, c. 1071-c. 1291 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 419.] Antioch had been weakened by its previous struggles with Armenia as well as internal power struggles, and Antioch’s inhabitants were quick to agree to surrender; on the condition that the lives of the citizens within the walls would be spared.  Something which in earlier years had not been guaranteed, after the years of the first Crusades, anyone found aiding and abetting the enemy was executed; Christian and Muslim, by the Crusaders, Saladin however had been content to let both sides co-exist in Constantinople, as long as certain rules and etiquettes were observed.  Baibars reneged on this pledge; as soon as his troops were within the gates, brutally massacring everyone in the city. It is thought that 40,000 Christians were massacred and another 100,000 enslaved.[ Michaud, The History of the Crusades, Vol. 3, p. 18 ; available in full at Google Books. Note that in a footnote Michaud claims reliance on “the chronicle of Ibn Ferat” (Michaud, Vol.3, p.22) for much of the information he has concerning the Mussulmans.] Afterward, Baibars secretary (who was also his biographer) wrote a detailed letter describing exactly what had been done to the people and the city:[The letter is excerpted in Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), 310; Richard and Birrell, The Crusades, 419; Michaud, The History of the Crusades, vol. 3, p. 18.]


    ‘Death came among the besieged from all sides and by all roads: we killed all that thou hadst appointed to guard the city or defend its approaches. If thou hadst seen thy knights trampled under the feet of the horses, thy provinces given up to pillage, thy riches distributed by measures full, the wives of thy subjects put to public sale; if thou hadst seen the pulpits and crosses overturned, the leaves of the Gospel torn and cast to the winds, and the sepulchres of thy patriarchs profaned; if thou hadst seen thy enemies, the Mussulmans trampling upon the tabernacle, and immolating in the sanctuary, monk, priest and deacon; in short, if thou hadst seen thy palaces given up to the flames, the dead devoured by the fire of this world, the Church of St Paul and that of St Peter completely and entirely destroyed, certes, thou wouldst have cried out “Would to Heaven that I were become dust!” ‘. (Michaud, 1853)


A portion of this article has been taken from:


Joseph Michaud, History of the Crusades, Wm. Robson, trans. 3 vols. (London: Routledge, 1881), Vol. 3, p. 17.

Arab Historians of the Crusades (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), 310



Deutsche Soldaten – Part One

Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Hans Schirmer,

5th Bavarian Infantry Regiment [Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hessen]:

Holder of the Iron Cross.


The death card, something common amongst Roman Catholics, shows that Hans was born on the 9th March 1887, in Rothwind, Bavaria.  He died on the 30th of October in Northern France.


The 5th Bavarian Infantry Regiment formed part of the 4th Royal Bavarian Division (under the auspices of the 7th Bayerische Infanterie Brigade [The 7th Bavarian Infantry Brigade]).    He was most likely killed at Messines fighting in the so called “Race to the sea…” in the opening months of 1914.  Here Hans fought in the same area as another NCO, who was later to cause problems in Europe.  The race to the sea, and the battle at Messines in 1914, is an often forgotten part of the Great War, and these soldiers who died in the early days, deserve to be remembered as much as those who died at the bigger actions, like the Somme.

A quick recap on the “Race to the Sea”;