Saturday, January 16, 2016

Chailey's VADs online

I don't think I've mentioned this before but even if I have done so, it won't harm for a repeat. The British Red Cross website is steadily populating with information about the volunteers who served during the First World War. The indexing leaves a lot to be desired and the cropping of the original images is amateurish, at best. Nevertheless, there are records there which many will find of interest. Commandant Margaret Cotesworth's card is above.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

370722 Rifleman Harold William Parkinson, 1/8th London Regiment

2537 Private Harold William Parkinson was a patient at Beechland House in 1917. He was there not due to wounds but due to sickness. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Rifleman Harold Parkinson
Post Office Rifles
Better known as
Bronchial Billy. Feb 28th 1917

[ha’penny stamp stuck in book]

By gum Its stuck HP

There is also a group photo of hospital patients pasted onto this page and it is possible that Harold is one of the many unidentified patients there. Nurse Oliver is certainly pictured (back row, third from left) as is the matron, Miss Marshall, who sits at the front with a small dog on her lap.

Harold Parkinson, the son of James Parkinson, was living at 10 Elm Park Avenue, South Tottenham, London when he enlisted with a reserve battalion of the 8th (City of London) Regiment (Post Office Rifles) on 9th September 1914. He was appointed acting corporal on the 26th September 1914 and posted to the 1/8th Battalion on the 10th February 1915. He arrived in France with the Post Office Rifles on the 18th March 1915 and was overseas for just over one year, returning to England on 22nd March 1916 as a result of sickness. He was discharged due to sickness on 22nd April 1917.

His reference to bronchial problems may indicate that he was gassed – he would certainly have been exposed to clouds of gas at the Battle of Loos in which the 1/8th London Regiment took part, and probably after that as well. There is, however, no reference to the reason for his discharge in the six pages of service record which survive in series WO 364.

Harold’s medal index card gives two army numbers for him; the second one: 370722, (which was allocated to him when the Territorials were re-numbered in early 1917), falls within the range of numbers allotted to the Post Office Rifles.

Bombardier Garland, Royal Artillery

Bombardier Garland is referenced only once in Nurse Oliver's album and that is in two faded photographs of a series of five, pasted onto a single page. I am unsure whether these photographs were taken at Beechlands or Hickwells although I suspect they were taken at Beechlands as one of the men, Trooper Hicks, was certainly a patient at Hickwells from May 1916 but transferred to Beechlands the following month. Another of these faded photographs appears to show lupins growing and as these plants bloom in late May / June and continue through to August, I deduce that Beechlands is the more likely location. But I could be wrong.

He appears in the photo above, on the far right, smoking a cigarette.  Other named men in this photograph are, from left to right:

Back row
Sergeant Milne, Private Hilton, Sergeant Richey

Middle row
Trooper Hicks, Private Foster, Rifleman Deers, Private Hart, Bombardier Garland

Front row

Rifleman Hardcastle, Private Dorchester, Rifleman R Nicholson

In the second photo, above, he is named as "Bdr Garland" stands, far right, next to "Mr Hughes".

There are 114 men with the name "Garland" who served overseas with The Royal Field, Horse or Garrison Artillery, not to mention men with the same surname who may have enlisted but did not serve overseas. Thus identifying this man beyond his name and rank is an almost impossible task.

Pte Dorchester

Private Dorchester is referenced only once in Nurse Oliver's album and that is in a faded photograph, one of a series of five, pasted onto a single page. I am unsure whether this photograph was taken at Beechlands or Hickwells although I suspect it was taken at Beechlands as one of the men, Trooper Hicks, was certainly a patient at Hickwells from May 1916 but transferred to Beechlands the following month. Another of these faded photographs appears to show lupins growing and as these plants bloom in late May / June and continue through to August, I deduce that Beechlands is the more likely location. But I could be wrong.

He appears in the photo above, the middle of three men, seated cross-legged on the ground.  Other named men in this photograph are, from left to right:

Back row
Sergeant Milne, Private Hilton, Sergeant Richey

Middle row
Trooper Hicks, Private Foster, Rifleman Deers, Hart, Garland

Front row
Rifleman Hardcastle, Private Dorchester, Rifleman R Nicholson

There is not enough information to positively identify Private Dorchester beyond his rank and surname, although he also appears in another undated and un-named photograph (below). Here, I believe he is the man seated far right with his arm in a sling. Trooper Hicks is also in this photograph, lying on the ground on the left.

6155 Pte Frank Chivers Dixon, 1st Wiltshire Regiment

6155 Private Frank Chivers Dixon was a convalescent patient at Hickwells in 1915. His (by today’s standards) politically incorrect entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

6155 Pte F C Dixon
1st Bn Wiltshire Regt

Wounded at Dixebusch Nr Ypres
May 11th 1915

God made the nigger
He made him in the night
He made him in a hurry
And forgot to make him white


He shares this page with entries from 2229 Trooper Alfred Rock of the Royal Horse Guards, 6271 Private Ernest Whitcomb of the 1st Middlesex Regiment, 22002 Private D Jones of the Army Service Corps and 1921 Private James William Salmon of the 4th Royal Fusiliers.

Frank Dixon was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire in August 1881. He appears on the 1891 census living with his family at 197 Cricklade Road, Swindon, Wiltshire. The household comprised: George Dixon (head, married, aged 44, working as a shoe maker), his wife Jane Dixon (aged 40) and seven children: Henry William A Dixon (aged 15, working as a shop boy), Annie Kate C Dixon (aged 13), Frank (aged nine), Walter Fred Dixon (aged seven), Sidney Gilbert Dixon (aged six), Wilfred Dixon (aged two) and Beatrice Dixon (aged one).

By the time the 1901 census was taken, the family had moved to 22 Devizes Road and the household had shrunk somewhat. George Dixon is recorded as a shoe finisher. Living with him and his wife Jane were Frank (aged 19, working as a bolt maker), Sidney (aged 16), working as a printer’s compositor. Wilfred (aged 12) and Ernest L P Dixon (aged seven).

Frank had enlisted in the 3rd Wiltshire Militia on 29th December 1899 whilst living in Old Swindon, attesting for a period of six years. His attestation papers give his age as eighteen years and four months whereas his medical record sheet, dated 30th December 1899, notes his apparent age as seventeen years and ten months. He was given the service number 6183.

On 16th December 1902, he enlisted in the regular army giving his age as twenty-one years and three months. He was given the service number 6155. On 13th February 1903, he completed his Certificate of Education (3rd Class) and on 18th July that same year, whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment, extended his period of army service to complete eight years with the colours. The date on which his army service would expire was given as 15th December 1910.

On 8th September 1904, Private Dixon completed his Certificate of Education (2nd Class) and followed this up on 26th September 1905 with the Certificate of Education (1st Class).

On 16th December 1910, he was transferred to the Army Reserve on the expiration of his army service. He was 29 years and three months old and by this time, living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He gave his trade as Labourer although for the past four years he had been employed in the army canteen. His conduct sheet reported his service as ‘exemplary’ and he had received two good conduct badges. Distinguishing marks were noted as a tattoo of a butterfly on his right forearm and a bugle on his left forearm. Frank must have had these tattoos done during his time with the militia. On transfer to the Reserve he gave his intended place of residence as 64 Havelock Road, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.

On 15th August 1914, still on the Army Reserve, Frank Dixon re-joined the colours and by 22nd October was in France with the 1st Wiltshire Regiment which formed part of the 7th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Division.

On 13th December 1914, he was admitted to No 8 Clearing Hospital at Bailleul suffering from the effects of cold and two days later was transferred to No 12 General Hospital at Rouen with rheumatism. On 24th December he was sent home to England. He was admitted to hospital in Weymouth on 17th February 1915 with gastritis and discharged on the 24th.

On April 27th 1915 he rejoined his battalion in France and was wounded in action at Dickebusch on 11th May. He was admitted to No 18 General Hospital at Boulogne two days later with a severe gun shot wound to his right thigh and on 17th May was returned to England. From 20th May to 12th September 1915 he was at West Hall VAD hospital and during that time, also spent time convalescing at Hickwells. (As can be seen, his autograph entry in Nurse Oliver’s album is dated 23rd July 1915).

On 12th September 1915 he was discharged from West Hall and it was reported that his wound was now healed and he was walking quite well.

On 15th December 1915, Private Frank Dixon was discharged from A Coy, 3rd Wilts Regt at Littlemore Camp in consequence of “the termination of his first period of engagement.” (Para 392 (xxi) King’s Regulations. He was described as 34 years and three months old, five feet, five inches tall with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He had completed exactly 13 years’ service (including the additional "bounty year" which he had been obliged to complete as his country was at war) and returned to South Africa. Had he still been in England in January 1916, whether he liked it or not, he would have been conscripted. Nevertheless, his military character was described as “exemplary” and by the time he was discharged he had been awarded a further good conduct badge.

The war diary of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment (WO95/1415), gives more details of the action in which he was wounded. On 1st May 1915 the battalion was at rest at Dickebusch, moving the following day to Elzenwalle. “Marched from Dickebusch and took over P sector of the trenches, relieving HAC. 3 men wounded.” The battalion remained at Elzenwalle until 11th May when it was “relieved by HAC about 9pm. 1 killed, 1 wounded.”

As only one wounded casualty was recorded on this day it can be reasonably assumed that this man was Frank Dixon. During their spell in the trenches at Elzenwalle from 1st - 11th May in what the diary describes variously as a “quiet”, “fairly quiet” or “very quiet” period, the following casualties are recorded:

Officers: 1 killed
Other Ranks: 3 killed, 15 wounded.

7567 Pte John Currie, 10th Gordon Highlanders

7567 Private John Currie of the 10th Gordon Highlanders was a patient at Hickwells in 1915 after being wounded at the Battle of Loos. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album (which has been over-written at a later date in black ink), reads:

Pte J Currie
10th Gordons

Wounded at Hill 70 25/9/15 During the Battle of Loos

He shares this page with entries from fellow Scotsmen 18406 Private James Sweeney of the 13th Royal Scots and S/7793 Private Andrew Geddes of the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders.

John Currie probably enlisted in Aberdeen around September 1914. He arrived in France with the 10th Gordons (44th Infantry Brigade, 15th Scottish Division) on 9th July 1915.

He was wounded on the opening day of the battle of Loos on 25th September 1915 and three days later, arrived at the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton. On Tuesday 5th October 1915, John Currie was named in The Sussex Daily News (CURRIE, 7567, Private J, 10th Gordons) as being a patient at the 2nd Eastern General. He arrived at Hickwells on 13th October.

John Currie must have recuperated because at some point he was posted back to the 10th Gordon Highlanders but deserted on 10th August 1916. His medal index card shows an entitlement to the 1915 Star and British War and Victory medals but there is a hand-written note next to his British War and Victory Medals entry to the effect that they were retained under King’s Regulations 1743, presumably because he deserted.

Friday, January 01, 2016

12419 Pte Charles Chambers, 7th Norfolk Regt

Charles Chambers was a patient at Hickwells some time between September 1915 and April 1916.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

All honour to our soldiers true
Who fight in honour’s name
And honour to their dead chums too
For they shall share their fame

Pte C Chambers
12419 Norfolk Reg

He shares this page with SR/7386 Private William Haydon of the 1st Royal Fusiliers.

Charles Robert H Chambers was born at Morningthorpe, Norfolk on 29th March 1894. He was the son of Charles and Caroline Chambers and he appears on the 1901 census living with them and his two sisters at Hall Road, Morningthorpe. The household comprised: Charles (head, married, aged 37, working as a cowman on a farm), Caroline (aged 30), Edith M Chambers (aged 11), Ellen M Chambers (aged nine) and Charles Robert Chambers (aged seven).

By the time the 1911 census was taken, Charles was living with his parents and older sister, Edith, at The Vineyards, Bracon Ash, Norfolk. Charles, aged 17, is recorded as a farm labourer, and his father, Charles senior, as a farm bailiff.

Charles attested with the Norfolk Regiment at Norwich on 27th August 1914, enlisting for the duration of the war. He gave his occupation as farm labourer. He was given the army service number 12419 and posted to the 7th Battalion.

The 7th Norfolks, formed part of the 35th Brigade of the 12th (Eastern) Division. Although when Charles enlisted, the division was incomplete, training in the form of drill and route marching began immediately, the men drilling with wooden rifles in the absence of the real thing. By the end of May 1915, having re-located from Hythe to Aldershot (where four other K1 Divisions were also going through their final paces), the men were ready to embark for France. Divisional advance parties left on the 25th followed by the men, artillery, horses and transport. By 4th June, all units of the 12th Division had reached their concentration area. The following day the Division joined III Corps.

Charles arrived in France on 30th May 1915 and served with the battalion until wounded by a shell on 8th August that year. That month, the battalion was in trenches at Ploegsteert. The diary entry for the period 5th - 9th August reads:

“These days were spent furnishing working parties. Norfolk Avenue trench is well on the way to completion. Gaps in the wire entanglement, every 40 yards, in front of subsidiary line constructed. Nothing of importance happened during these days.”

At the end of the month the diarist details, in chronological order, the number of casualties sustained. Charles appears on the 9th August as: “12479 Pte C R Chambers. B Coy. Severely wounded.” The date in the diary is incorrect as by the 9th Charles was already in a hospital bed at Le Treport.

Charles was wounded in the feet and left arm and was taken first to number 88 Field Ambulance at Pont de Nieppe and then to the Number 2 Casualty Clearing Station at Bailleul. The following day he was taken to the 2nd Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport where he remained until 2nd September. He was then transported back to England aboard the Hospital Ship Newhaven.

The next entry on his service papers is for 9th April 1916, when he was posted to the 3rd Battalion. In the preceding months it is reasonable to assume that Charles would have been transported first to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital at Brighton and then to Hickwells. His wound had been severe enough to keep him in a Canadian hospital on French soil for three weeks and then kept him in English hospitals for a further seven months. He was discharged from the army on 13th September 1916 as no longer physically fit for war service. He had served his King and Country for over two years, of which a little over three months (95 days) had been served abroad.

On 23rd October that year, Charles wrote to the military authorities form his home address at Brockdish, Eccles, Norfolk, requesting his silver war badge. His character, noted on army documents, is recorded as “Very Good – honest and sober”.