Tag Archives: first world war

11 March 1915 – 2/39 Garhwal Rifles – Unit War Diary


At 5.a.m. orders were received placing the Battalion at the disposal of the G.O.C Dehra Dun Brigade, in connection with operations to be under-taken on the morning of the 11th. The Battalion was ordered to support the Right flank of the Dehra Dun Brigade, which was to attack the BOIS de BIEZ that morning. Accordingly the Battalion marched off once more and reached their appointed position on the R. flank of the Dehra Dun Brigade at about 6.30 a.m. The morning was foggy and cold. The Battalion took up a position in the open ground in front of trenches captured the previous day and now occupied by the 2/Leicester Regiment and the Seaforths. Touch was gained with the 2nd Gurkhas on our left and all as in readiness to support them when they advanced. The prospect was not a pleasing one as, the ground was absolutely open for 800 yards, and it was across this that the Battalion would have to advance, as it was, the battalion lying out there in the open suffered a good many casualties from rifle fire and snipers, and eventually the C.O. ordered their withdrawal into and behind the trenches, where some dead ground in an orchard afforded a certain amount of cover. here the Companies entrenched themselves, A report was sent into the G.O.C. Dehra Dun Brigade explaining the situation and pointing out the extreme difficulty of the task allotted to the Battalion, i.e. to advance under fire from 3 sides across the open ground. Meantime our guns shelled the BOIS de BIEZ heavily the enemy replying occasionally with rifle and machine gun fire. Considerable movement was seen in the German trenches opposite the Battalion, and it was evident that a good number were collecting there. the Bombardment of the BOIS de BIEZ continue practically all day, till about 4.p.m. Rations were brought up for the men by a party fo the 28th Gurkhas, the first food the men ha since leaving RICHEBOURG St VAAST, except what they had in their haversacks with them.

The Germans opened a fairly heavy shell fire all along the line from 4 to 5.30 pm, but no much [sic] damage was done.

At 12 midnight orders were received from G.O.C. Dehra Dun Brigade to march to billets at LA COUTURE. Which was reached at 3.a.m.

Casualties during this day.

Casualities - 11th May 1915

Casualties – 11th May 1915

Captain J F Parkin, 113th Infantry (attached) had been wounded on 10th instant while doing duty as Brigade Bomb gun officer through the busting of one of his own bomb gun while assisting in the attack on NEUVE CHAPELLE.


The Unit War Diaries are held at the National Archives. This time I find myself hearing echos of Drake-Brockman’s voice in the understandable irritation in this account and its overview of the day, and I find myself wondering if he dictated it. 

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Posted by on 11 March, '15 in 39th Garhwal Rifles, Neuve Chapelle


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9 March 1915 – 2/39 Garhwal Rifles – Unit War Diary


Cold morning with wind and frost, with some snow during the day. Final preparations made for going into trenches to night, taking over Bombs, ammunition etc.

Orders received to march to position of assembly in 6th Jat trenches along ESTAIRES-LA BASSÉE road at 1.30 a.m. on 10th.

The Unit War Diaries are held at the National Archives. As Adjutant, Ted was often responsible for writing them. It’s hard to tell when he wrote them because they are often typed, though sometimes his voice comes through.  

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Posted by on 9 March, '15 in Neuve Chapelle


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Letters and photographs

Letters and photographs

My great-grandmother was a true family historian. As well as her sons’ First World War letters, she kept diaries going back to the 1820s, family photographs of when she was a child in the 1860s, her children’s letters from school, their school reports, and photographs throughout the first four decades of the 20th century. I don’t know how many boxes there are altogether, a good half dozen or so, and a couple of trunks.

It’s daunting. As I teenager I sometimes felt that dead people were more important in my family than live ones were.

Having said that, this doughty group are now my Windows Desktop. The child is my great grandmother, the one who kept all the letters. I love her hand-on-hips stance and the way her head-tilt echoes her own grandmother’s. I just find it very odd to realise that I share so much DNA with these people when I can see their faces but I’ve no idea of their names.

Assorted Ancestors, mid 19th Century

Assorted Ancestors, mid 19th Century. 

Back to the First World War. Here are some things I took photos of at the weekend to blog about and to share on twitter.


We found several blank envelopes pre-printed:

“I certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters”.

Spies don’t lie, obviously. Hmm.

Private and family matters


We also found several blank cards for sending from hospital, but this one had been completed and posted to my grandmother from my grandfather telling her he was sick. And how extremely English he was: “I am quite well, I have been admitted into hospital sick”.

Ted Sick 1917


This is the envelope of a letter which has been damaged by immersion in sea-water. Several of their letters were on ships which were torpedoed, as indeed were two of my great-grandmother’s sons.

Damaged by imersion in sea water


I’m taking the photographs to be scanned on Friday, but here is one I photographed at the weekend. It shows soldiers of the 1st Btn the 39th Garhwal Rifles, probably during World War One. The question in my mind is are they in India, France, Egypt or Mesopotamia? I think the latter, but am happy to be told otherwise.

Soldiers of the 1st Btn 39th Garhwal Rifles with Lewis Gun, World War 1

Soldiers of the 1st Btn 39th Garhwal Rifles with Lewis Gun, probably during World War 1

I photographed this photograph to find out what kind of gun it was. Such is the power of twitter, that within five minutes, I had this answer:

I’m very excited by the photographs I’ve got for scanning and I’m looking forward to beign able to share really good photographs of the five brothers, their sister Ben and most of the rest of the family over the next few weeks and months.


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Posted by on 20 March, '14 in 39th Garhwal Rifles, About


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Ted and Topher at school

Ted as a schoolboy

Ted Berryman as a schoolboy

Ted and Topher went to Kings Canterbury, though they weren’t there at the same time because Topher was ten years younger than Ted.

I contacted all the boys’ schools a couple of months ago, and Peter Henderson who acts as the archivist at Kings sent me records about Ted and Topher from the school magazine and letters that they wrote to the school about their wartime service.

I particularly like the report from when Ted was in the school’s rugby First Fifteen in 1901 (see scan below).

Ted was

“A light forward, but works well, and is the best dribbler in the team, though rather slow.”

Do look out for his team-mates: Deane was a

“Good vigorous forward of a fighting tendency, who always did his share of honest shoving”

and Huyshe was a boy who

“rejoices in a muddy day”.

This is charming until one thinks of Passchendaele.  That thought made me wonder what happened to Huyshe, and it turns out he survived the war and was a cricketer and schoolmaster.

Report on Ted’s season in the school rugby 1st XV (1901)

Ted Berryman’s Rugby Report

The letter that Ted wrote to the school during the war was full news of other old boys and I’ll put it on the site when its centenary comes around, though I’ll quote a bit now.  An O.K.S, was an Old Kings Scholar.

Two days ago there occurred what must be one of the shortest O.K.S meetings on record. We were marching down the road when we met a battalion marching the other way. Who should accost me suddenly from the ranks but Captain G. C. Strahan and as Macear was marching with my company, we had a meeting — the three of us — lasting exactly 15 seconds, just while our respective companies were passing each other, and the of course we had to break up our meeting and rejoin our commands.

He ends the letter touchingly saying

Best of luck to your all and when there are re-unions and O.K.S meetings “after the war” — that vague and problematical period — may I be there to see.

When Topher wrote, he was tireder; his war-time experiences were more unrelenting than Ted’s and it shows:

On the whole we have not had such bad luck, but we certainly have had rotten times. I shall be very glad when the war is over. To me it seems that it will never end. Where we are now the trenches are in the same place as they were at the beginning of the war.

I am very grateful to Peter for sending me these things from the school’s archives, it’s lovely to have a glimpse of the two of them at school.

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Posted by on 10 March, '14 in About, WWI


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These are the stories of our young men

Three projects that have caught my eye are projects where people are using the internet and other ways of researching family history to uncover the stories of their local heros.

Flintshire War Memorials

The first that I noticed was @NamesOnStone who is one of a group of people researching the story of all the men who died in the Great War 1914-18 and are remembered on the war memorials of Flintshire, North Wales.

These are the stories of the young men who had attended our schools, played in the lanes and streets of our towns and villages and worked in the fields, mines and industries of Flintshire before they went off to their deaths fighting for King and Country. –

I asked @NamesOnStone to suggest stories links for this blog and these are the ones she suggested.

Griffith Piercy was shot by a female sniper on the 1st October 1918 when he was 21. His story and that of his brother William is full of family photographs.

Three brothers, Edgar, Rowland and Douglas Rogers were all at Gallipoli on the 7th August 1915 where two of them died. Douglas was killed first, and when Edgar went to help him he too was fatally wounded. Rowland found Douglas’s body and buried him, but Edgar was buried at sea.

Back. Left Ted Titley, Right Edgar Rogers Front. Left Douglas Rogers, Centre Rowland Rogers, Right Percy Rogers

Back. Left Ted Titley, Right Edgar Rogers
Front. Left Douglas Rogers, Centre Rowland Rogers, Right Percy Rogers

Charles Blackburne, his children Audrey and Peter and their governess Mlle de Pury, drowned when the ship they were on, the RMS Leinster was torpedoed by a German submarine on the 10th October 1918. Apart from the fact that these were civilian deaths, there is something horribly poignant about deaths so near the Armistice.

Peter and Audrey Blackburne. A watercolour by Miss K Mayers

Peter and Audrey Blackburne. A watercolour by Miss K Mayers

Castleton Lanterns

Then I had a twitter conversation with @ClassyGenes about whether spending so much of our time thinking and working on the First World War will lay our ghosts, and I discovered her Castleton Lanterns Project. She is trying to find out about men in photographs, the congregation of a Church, without even their names to start from.

In April 2013 we found a box of old lantern slides in the organ loft of Alexandra Presbyterian Church. The images were of soldiers and sailors in First World War uniforms.

There are 77 lantern slides in total which were made by the famous photographer Mr Alex. R. Hogg … ‘of our men at the front’… we have now established that the lanterns include both men who survived and men who were killed in action.

The Ulster Museum would like to give these slides a home, It is unusual to have this type of evidence gathered together with, we hope, an image of every serving son of the Castleton church community recorded for posterity.
Castleton Lanterns – About the Project

When I asked @ClassyGenes for some pages, these are the ones she suggested.

Samuel Fee, who was already a sailor at the start of the war (his service records describe his tattoos (a bust of a man and a figure of a woman) but he was killed aged 25 when the ship he was serving on was torpedoed. I don’t know what it is about him, but Samuel Fee seems to have a very modern face.

The story of Patrick Bryan Adair reminds us that people did survive fighting in the First World War, and this is one of the unique features of the Castleton Lanterns as a memorial project. He was a fire officer both before and after the war, and died in 1941.

Francis McCann, his brother James McCann and James Magill – as @ClassyGenes says “These three men and all the Castleton Lanterns men were closely connected, brothers, best friends, pals and colleagues. … It is sad to hear the stories of those who were lost or wounded beside those who lived and flourished and I’m sure the families who gathered to watch the lantern slide show in 1918 must have felt something similar.”

McCann Brothers, Castleton Lanterns

McCann Brothers, Castleton Lanterns

St Helens Roll of Honour

The St Helens Roll of Honour is a community project, run by and for the people of St Helens in Lancashire and tweeting updates @SHRoH. It’s designed to be easy for local people to comment and add content. They have pictures of the war cemeteries in Flanders and France, as well as the war memorials at home. When I asked for a story, this is the one they sent me:

Lance Corporal Bertrand John Allender who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. His parents were told of his death in a hand-written letter from his sergeant, who kindly told them “… he was always talking about his father and mother, all the lads of his section miss him very much and send their deepest sympathy, Bert suffered no pain as death was instantaneous in fact the lads did not know he was gone… ” Those letters were dreadful to write, and dreadful to receive, but at least the humanity shows through.

St Chads, Cheetham Hill

Not everywhere has such a sense of connection with the soldiers whose names appear on the memorials, or whose faces look out at us from the photographs. St Chads Church, Cheetham Hill in Manchester don’t even have their war memorial. (How do you lose a war memorial?) The only record they have is a photograph and not all the names are legible.

There are local projects all over the UK, a twitter search on the #ww1 hashtag is a good place to start.  Or browse the list of people I follow and the lists of people they follow, and so on.

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Posted by on 21 February, '14 in About


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