Sunday, 24 January 2016

Reunites: How to, using The Register

All collectors of medals and many families searching for their ancestor's medals will be looking for a missing medal (or medals) to make a group whole again. Effecting a reunite is a holy grail, and generally takes luck more than anything.

The internet and databases are improving the chances of a re-unite. The internet makes it possible to advertise for a re-unite using forums and message boards, databases allow records of medals offered for sale to be kept. The trick is now to unite the two to actively join the seeker with the seller.

The Register makes this possible. The Register now shows records of QSAs and KSAs and other medals that have been offered for sale. There are over 17,600 records of medals for sale from auctions, medal dealers and also medals in a private collection, at least you know the medal exists. Amongst these records I have seen many possible reunites - some are listed below.

Just this weekend records in The Register allowed me to contact a family researcher seeking a QSA to reunite with his great-grandfather's Distinguished Conduct Medal - QMS 1261 T Hogan, King's Royal Rifle Corps . The QSA had appeared on a dealer's list. The family researcher had originally posted a request on the British Medals Forum in 2013.

You can use The Register to directly register an interest in a soldier by simply buying that man's record (or woman, The Register holds records for nurses). Every time that record is updated you receive an email telling you the record has been updated. The update could be new information or that a medal connected with that person has been listed for sale. Once purchased there is no further cost, you will always be eligible for update emails. Just remember to keep your email address updated.

The Register is the only automated re-unite register actively linking searcher and seller. Try it!

Re-unites noted so far:

* Nursing Sister MB Alexander, Scottish Hospital: QSA and KSA with Scottish National Red Cross Hospital and St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association Tribute Medal 1900
* Sgt-Mjr H Arnold, Australian Horse: DCM and QSA with Gunnedah and District Boer War Tribute Medal
* Lt JA Baillie, Steinaecker's Horse: DSO,QSA,Coronation 1902 with Victory Medal
* L-Cpl R Belsey 4338, 9th Lancers: MM (in a museum) with QSA,KSA,Victory Medal
* Cpl HL Byas, British South Africa Police: British War Medal with 1914-15 Star
* Pte H Clarke 5075, 6th Dragoons: QSA with KSA
* Pte G Clayden 477, Rifle Brigade: QSA with KSA
* Scout W Coles 10057, French's Scouts: QSA with KSA
* Pte FW Collins 3761, Middlesex Regiment: QSA with 1914-15 Star trio
* Pte J Cunniff 2022, Scots Guards: QSA with KSA
* Gnr HJ Davis 59257, RHA: QSA, KSA with LSGC
* Cpl A Grainger 2454, Buffs: IGS with QSA
* Pte J Gun 4384, Seaforths: Queen's Sudan with IGS and Khedive's Sudan
* Pte C Haines 4344, South Wales Borderers: QSA with KSA
* AB RJ Harris, HMS Magicienne: QSA with African General Service
* QMS 1261 T Hogan, KRRC: QSA with DCM and Militia LSGC
* Major AL Howard, Canadian Scouts: DSO and QSA with Northwest Canada medal (locally engraved)
* Cpl E Ibbotson 8226, RE: QSA with MC, DCM, 1914-15 Star
* Gnr H Jackman 85631, RFA: QSA with LSGC and Coronation 1911
* Duffadar DM Khan 1706, 18th Bengal Lancers: QSA with Order of British India
* Pte J King 3152, 19th Hussars: QSA with KSA
* Lt-Col CVB Kuper, RA: QSA with 1914-15 Star trio
* Trpr ID Mackenzie 520,  Rhodesian Regiment: QSA with BSAC
.............. and there are more.

Of course the record medals sold works the other way: identifying splits which I blogged earlier.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Research Puzzles: FL Hide

Research Puzzles are blogs showing examples of research where some of the usual pieces are missing, like service papers or a medal roll entry.

Shoeing-Smith 3112 FL Hide 14th Hussars died of enteric fever at Fort Napier, Pietermaritzburg, Natal on 27th February 1900. He appears in the casualty roll, there are no service papers as expected for a casualty, no entry in Soldier's Effects. Surprisingly no entry has been traced in the medal rolls.

The key to unlocking the history of Shoeing-Smith Hide is his memorial plaque. The best source for memorials is The Register. Hide's life has been commemorated buy his regiment who erected a plaque for each of their casualties of the War.

Thanks to Christ Church, Seaside for opening the church.
The memorial tells us his first name, "Frank" and with this and the location of the memorial, Christ Church, Seaside, Eastbourne, East Sussex you can begin genealogical research.

Frank Leopold Hide was born in 1875 in Christchurch parish, Eastbourne to Samuel and Sarah. He was the third of 11 children. Frank enlisted into the 14th Hussars in late 1891/early 1892. In the army he learnt the trade of shoeing-smith. He served in the Anglo-Boer War in Natal with the Natal Field Force. The lack of a medal roll entry is unusual for a soldier. The cavalry rolls have been databased are on The Register. His omission from these rolls and his trade of shoeing-smith indicate that he served with the Remount Department in Natal. There are separate rolls for the Remount Department, these have only been fully databased by Ancestry whose index is highly suspect. A manual search of the Remount Department rolls have failed to find an entry for Hide. Hopefully one day his QSA will surface.

Four brothers of Frank served in the military, one Sidney Hide died during WW1 wounded at Gallipoli with the Collingwood Battalion Royal Naval Division.

If you have any Research Puzzles you need help with - please email me.

Research Puzzles: FC Froggatt

Research Puzzles are blogs which are examples of research where some of the usual pieces are missing, like service papers or a medal roll entry.

The QSA to Pte 4885 FC Froggatt 7th Hussars is currently offered by London Medals (this link will break when someone buys the medal). Froggatt earned the classic "state and date" combination of clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. On the surface this is an "ordinary" medal, very common for the War and without a battle bar to give any indication of what action Froggatt saw. Additionally there are no service papers, a dull medal then?

However by looking around and delving deeper we can construct a story of "the man behind the medal".

There is a WW1 Medal Index Card for a Pte FC Froggatt, 18th Hussars (5401) and 14th Hussars (4/47513). The card is stamped "1914 Star" and contains the remarks that Froggatt's application was forwarded by the OC Reserve Regiment of Cavalry (India) with a disembarkation date in 1916. The MIC also shows the application was turned down. Curious. But, is this the same FC Froggatt as fought in the Anglo-Boer War?

Additionally in The Royal Tank Corps Enlistments on FindmyPast there is an entry for Pte 19139 Frederick Charles Froggatt. This shows he transferred to the Tank Corps on 22-05-1919 from the 14th Hussars number 47513. We have a link to the MIC, but of the link to the QSA?

The Enlistment shows Froggatt enlisted into the army on 16-10-1899 at Great Yarmouth age 19 years 6 months, a clerk. So, he is old enough to have fought in the Anglo-Boer War, but what is the connection between the QSA and the MIC? The MIC and the Tank Corps enlistment make no mention of the 7th Hussars, the regiment Froggatt fought with in the War.

Using the Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog we can estimate the year and month of entry just using a service number. Looking at the two four digit numbers for the 7th and 18th Hussars, the five digit 14th Hussars number was issued from 1916 onwards.

Number 4885 7th Hussars was issued October 1899, number 5401 18th Hussars was issued October/November 1900. The enlistment date into the 7th Hussars number 4885 matches the enlistment date given on the Tank Corps enlistment. We now have a link between the QSA and the Tank Corps.

How can we explain the MIC, which does not mention the 7th Hussars and the four digit number for the 18th Hussars which was issued in 1900 when Froggatt was with the 7th Hussars and remained with them until after the Anglo-Boer War. The QSA medal roll does not contain any remark to show Froggatt came from or joined the 18th Hussars.

From January 1907 all service numbers for hussar regiments were issued centrally, number 5401 was issued in March 1910.

Putting all this information together gives us the following outline of Froggatt's military career:

Enlisted 1899 into the 7th Hussars for 12 years, fights in the Anglo-Boer War, transfers to the 18th Hussars March 1910 and is given a new number 5401. Froggatt's service expires 1911, he is either allowed to extend or joins the Reserves. At the outbreak of WW1 Froggatt is with the 18th Hussars, takes his discharge "time expired" and rejoins or is conscripted in 1916 into the 14th Hussars and is assigned to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment, presumably in India. Returning to the UK he is transferred to the Tank Corps in 1919. In January 1920 he is discharged and elects to join the 47th bn Royal Fusiliers who are stationed in Germany, and there the trail goes cold.

While we don't know what happened to Froggatt after 1920 the Tank Corp enlistments gives us vital and really interesting biographical data. Froggatt was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of RW Froggatt who was living there in 1919; great start for more research.

A humble "state and date" QSA now jumps to life with a little research and use of underused tools like enlistment dates. And of course we need to discover what the 7th Hussars did during the Anglo-Boer War - that's another blog.

If you have any Research Puzzles you need help with - please email me.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations

In 1899 the Distinguished Conduct Medal was the only gallantry medal that could be awarded to Other Ranks and was second in rank to the Victoria Cross. Over 2,000 DCMs were awarded for the Anglo-Boer War, it is unfortunate then, that for the vast majority of awards the citations have not survived. A significant number of awards for good service during the war and not action in the face of the enemy. Therefore when buying and or researching a DCM one cannot say for what action it was awarded.
For The Register I have been going through the DCM awards and it has become apparent that for many awards there is scope to determine the circumstances of the award. We probably won't be able to say that Pte Tommy Atkins charged with his bayonet, killing or capturing a great number of Boers. But more can be found, for example let's consider the award to Lance-Corporal 3510 William Brown (real name Fowler), 2nd bn Northumberland Fusiliers.
Fowler's medals were sold by Dix Noonan Webb the catalogue quotes from the “regimental journal”:

‘A, C, E, and F Companies sent up the Witwatersburg to clear the heights along the left flank. Stiff skirmishing on very steep and difficult ground, Boers holding heights ahead and some distant kopjes on left flank from which they kept up a heavy fire at long ranges. Privates Doyle and Jamieson of F Company were killed and four others wounded. Lance-Corporal Brown much distinguished himself here.'

This would suggest that Fowler’s DCM is for this action which has no date and just the approximate location of “Witwatersburg” – a range of hills or mountains. One is assuming too that the “Lance-Corporal Brown” is the same man as received the DCM.
That aside, Fowler’s service papers (WO97), not quoted in the catalogue, state clearly that he ‘Distinguished himself at Skeerpoort 04-08-1900' Is this the date and place of the action described in the regimental journal?

Unfortunately not, the two men mentioned as killed; Doyle (Pte W 5141) and Jamieson (Pte J 1656) are recorded as killed in action on September 5th, 1900 at Hartebeesfontein. The casualty roll confirms four were wounded at this place. So, there is significant doubt over where Brown won his DCM.

What do we know of the action at Skeerpoort on August 8th, 1900? There are no recorded casualties here for this date. The two histories of the Northumberland Fusiliers (Wood and Walker) do not help. Skeerpoort was not in The Gazetteer either, it has just been added. Skeerpoort is to the west of Pretoria below the Magaliesberg, a few kilometres east of the present day Hartebeestepoort Dam.

Eighteen men from a variety of units were casualties here (only one killed) from September 1900 to November 1901. The rugged Magaliesberg was a favourite bolt-hole for the Boers, the terrain favoured those with local knowledge. There were a few well known roads through the passes (“Neks”) that the British blocked. Later the British built a line of blockhouses across the top of the range. In early August 1900 British forces were preparing to block the Neks to prevent Christian de Wet crossing.
More reading around could reveal exactly what the Northumberland Fusiliers and Brown did to earn his DCM. It could be that Fowler's award, like others in the war were for more multiple acts over a period of time.
When I have completed work on the DCMs I will publish statistics on showing for how many DCMs the battle or location for which it was awarded are known. The challenge then is to do the research into individual awards to reveal more. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Imperial Light Infantry at Spion Kop - restating their casualties

The battle of Spion Kop (January 24, 1900) was one the most bloodiest battles of the war. This was the first action for the Imperial Light Infantry (ILI), a newly raised unit most of whose recruits were refugees from Johannesburg.

The Natal Field Force casualty roll (Hayward & Son, ) (NFFCR) lists the casualties for Spion Kop. The NFFCR has long been known to be inaccurate and incomplete. David Humphry wrote about the problems with the NFFCR in Medal News in February 2002 citing the ILI casualty lists specifically.
Humphry noted discrepancies between the NFFCR and a list of casualties published in the Manchester Guardian, the NFFCR shows the men as "Missing-Released 06.06.00" or  "Missing-Released" the paper shows them as wounded. Which is correct?

As part of the continuous process to update The Register I have looked in detail at the ILI casualties drawing on information not yet used from The Times, medal rolls (WO100), regimental history and the discharge books (WO127). Here is a breakdown of the casualties between the NFFCR and new data in The Register:

  The Register NFFCR
Killed         33      29
DoW           2        1
Wounded         82      31
POW         28        4
Missing - Released          1      15
Missing - Released 06-06-00          0      45

A new piece of evidence has come to light in The Times which helped settle the issue over the number of men missing vs men wounded. The British prisoners taken by the Boers at Spion Kop were sent to Waterval camp near Pretoria. The camp was captured by the British in June 6, 1900 and most of the men freed; the Boers moved what they thought were "high value" prisoners eastwards. List of the men released from Waterval were published in The Times, the edition for July 27th listed 28 men of the ILI freed. This data has never been used in compiling the casualty rolls.

The 28 men listed in The Times as released and therefore actual prisoners are mostly found on the NFFCR list as "Missing - Released". Most of those in the category "Missing - Released 06.06.00", with that specific date of June 6 were not in the 28, but shown as wounded, two were killed . It appears the NFFCR has made a big mistake and overstated the number of real POWs and understated the number of wounded.

Further proof that these men were not prisoners comes from checking the medal entitlement. Fortunately the campaign to relieve Ladysmith was covered by two battle clasps: Relief of Ladysmith and Tugela Heights. The battle for Spion Kop is covered by the first clasp and Tugela Heights is for the subsequent battles starting on February 14th. Therefore if a soldier is captured at Spion Kop one would not expect him to have the clasp Tugela Heights and vice versa.

For all the men listed as wounded in The Times and "Missing-Released 06.06.00" they have the clasp Tugela Heights and many the next clasp for Laing's Nek. These men could not have been prisoners. The data in The Register for the ILI has been corrected to show the figures in the table above. These numbers match closely the figures published in the ILI history (With the Imperial Light Infantry Through Natal, Straker 1903 C Boscawen-Wright).

Other corrections have come to light; three men listed in the NFFCR as "Missing-Released" were in fact killed and Pte 215 J Hirst is listed on the ILI memorial on Spion Kop as killed. In fact Pte Hirst survived and served later in the Commander-in-Chief's Bodyguard. The ILI memorial also misses three men from the list of killed.

To confuse matters slightly, having used medal entitlement data to show men were not prisoners, four of those listed in The Times released from Waterval have the later clasps Tugela Heights and or Laing's Nek. It seems unlikely their names are on The Times list erroneously, perhaps the error lay in compiling the medal roll which has been known to happen too.

The moral of this story is not to trust one source, but start with The Register as it is the only casualty roll to be updated and corrected. Unfortunately the errors in the NFFCR have been blindly copied onto the internet for millions to use.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Defence & Relief: The Clasp Combinations for the sieges

There were four main sieges during the war, and a host of lesser known sieges. The four main sieges were:

Kimberley - 14th October, 1899 to 15th February, 1900
Ladysmith -  3rd November, 1899 to 28th February, 1900
Mafeking - 13th October, 1899 to 17th May, 1900
Wepener  - 9th April, 1900 to 25th April, 1900

Clasps were issued for the defence and relief of each of these sieges, (apart from Wepener which has no relief clasp) which are popular amongst collectors. Another angle is that of collecting defence and relief combinations and double relief combinations. From the data collected for The Register these are the available combinations and known medals to date are:

Defence of Kimberley - Relief of Mafeking    : 155 (420 - Kaplan)
Defence of Ladysmith - Relief of Mafeking    :   18 + 18 (33 + 184 with Elandslaagte clasp - Kaplan)
Relief of Ladysmith    - Relief of Mafeking     : 132 (209 - Kaplan)
Relief of Kimberley    - Relief of Mafeking     :     7
Relief of Kimberley    - Relief of Ladysmith    :    2
Relief of Kimberley    - (Defence of) Wepener :    3

There are no "double defence" combinations.

"Kaplan" refers to "The Medal Roll of the Queen's South Africa Medal with Bar Relief of Mafeking, 1980".

As more clasp data is input into The Register these figures are likely to increase, but I believe the relative scarcity of each combination will remain.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Q Battery RHA at Sanna's Post 31st March, 1900

The Register of the Anglo-Boer War has been updated with the names of the 138 men from Q Battery Royal Horse Artillery who served in this classic action. Three Victoria Crosses were awarded Q battery; one officer and two men who were elected by their comrades. The names are taken from a panel created by the battery to be placed in the men's mess wherever the battery was stationed. The location of the panel is unknown, it may have been destroyed during the bombing of London during World War II.

Sanna's Post or Koornspruit was a comprehensive defeat in an ambush of a British column by Christian de Wet and was the first reverse suffered by Lord Robert's all conquering army. Lord Robert's army had in four weeks reversed the defeat suffered by Lord Methuen at Magersfontein that had stalled the British advance in the west. Robert's men had driven the Boers back, captured over 4000 at Paardeberg and captured Bloemfontein the capital of the Orange Free State.

At Bloemfontein Robert's army rested, and allowed the Boers to regroup. de Wet was very keen to carry the war on and the ambush at Sanna's Post signalled his intent to attack wherever he could; a pattern that was to develop into the protracted guerrilla phase (October 1900 to May 1902).

Sanna's Post was a postal agency and railway station in the course of construction 30 km east of Bloemfontein. The action took place in a drift across the Koornspruit (a left bank tributary of the Modder River) on the farm Klipkraal. The location of the drift named after the farm, Klip Kraal Drift, is difficult to determine.  It is not marked on any contemporary map and may well be a variant of 'Waterworks Drift' - at the Bloemfontein waterworks on the Thaba Nchu-Bloemfontein road.

In order to destroy the Bloemfontein waterworks on the Modder River east of Sannah's Post and cut off the return of Brig-Gen R.G. Broadwood's force from Thaba Nchu to Bloemfontein, Chief-Cmdt C.R. de Wet took a commando of some 1,600 burghers and, splitting it in two, prepared an ambush in the bed of the spruit just west of the incomplete buildings of the railway station.  Broadwood's column arrived early on 31 March 1900 and bivouacked west of the Modder around Sannah's Post.  As dawn broke a few hours later, the bivouac was shelled by guns from the remainder of the commando led by Veg-Gen P.D. de Wet and orders were issued to continue the move westwards towards Bloemfontein.  As the transport waggons jammed together at the drift across the Koornspruit they were ambushed by C.R. de Wet's party which took five guns of 'U' battery Royal Horse Artillery. Q battery lost two guns. Broadwood managed to marshall the remains of his convoy to a drift upstream and continue westwards, but one-third of his column had been either killed, wounded or captured and he had lost seven guns and 83 supply waggons.  In considering the record of the attempts to save other guns from capture, Field Marshal Lord Roberts decided that this was a case of collective gallantry by the officers, drivers and gunners of 'Q' battery Royal Horse Artillery.  Accordingly Victoria Crosses were awarded to Maj E.J. Phipps-Hornby, Sgt C. Parker (elected by the noncommissioned officers) and Gunner I. Lodge and Driver H.H. Glassock (elected by the drivers and gunners).  For his gallantry on the same occasion, Lt F.A. Maxwell, Indian Staff Corps attached to Roberts' Light Horse, was also awarded the Victoria Cross.