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No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby pbutt » Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:25 pm

I hope you have success there. The Glos Family History Society and Glos Record Office,are also very helpful. Both are located next door to each other. :)
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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby JaneyH » Sat May 03, 2014 3:44 pm

I thought I'd come back to this post as I've just had a bit of a break-through tracking down my great-grandfather's military service.

I've applied for a copy of the birth certificate of Oliver's son, George Godwin, who was born in October 1915 - in the hope that it might mention a military connection. Bingo! In the occupation column it says "Private 13th Bt Gloucester Regiment; coal hewer". I've only done a little searching since, but I've established that the 13th battalion was a Pioneer Battalion, whose main role was ... digging trenches. This would appear to bear out the story from my Mum, handed down through the family.

It is still a little odd that there is no Medal Index Card for him, as this would suggest he didn't actually serve outside England. The fact that his being a discharged soldier in receipt of a pension was mentioned in a court of law would suggest to me that this much was true. So, armed with more details I'm going to apply to the Western Front Association for a pension record search.


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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby Sylcec » Sun May 04, 2014 12:10 pm

Good luck with your further application for records Janey. Delighted to read that the birth certificate was so informative. Was interested to note your mention of "Pioneer Battalion" as I believe these were a fairly new part of the British Army. There was a long tradition of Pioneers in the Indian Army, and when introduced to the Australian Army in WWI I was under the (obviously wrong) impression that the AIF were the first to have Pioneer Battalions since the I.A.
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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby JaneyH » Sun May 04, 2014 2:12 pm

Sylvia, I'm very much a novice on military history, but I did read somewhere that the British Army Pioneer Battalions were only started part of the way through the war. It is more than possible that they adopted the Australian model!

What I do know is that the 13th Batt. of the Gloucestershire Regiment was raised in the Forest of Dean, at the behest of the local Member of Parliament. I've been sent much more reading material by the F-o-D Family History Trust, who have been an amazing source of local insight into my research.
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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby Stephtea » Tue Aug 04, 2015 3:48 pm

Hi there,
I am the granddaughter of sergeant John bowdler, and my grampy has done a lot of research into the bowdler family and he may have some answers as to why his uncle Oliver did not recieve any medals. In fact apart from the mons star only 2 other medals were issued which were nick named the two fried eggs which was the war and victory medals. These were issued to every soldier who fought in the First World War. Uncle Oliver was a volunteer because as a miner he was in a reserved occupation. However the royal engineers wanted to form a tunnelling squadrant and rather than fish out all the miners who volunteered for milTaryy service they went to various coal mines and asked for volunteers to form the squadrant. Those that volunteered were taken away, weren't in medically examined, were put into an army uniform, they weren't even trained, weren't allowed to carry a riffle, didn't know the ranks of the army and were simply given a picks and shuvels. They were given uniforms because if they were caught in civilian clothes they would have been shot as spies. This could be why you cannot find any service records of Oliver as he wasn't a fully trained soldier.
Hope this helps
Kind regards,
Stephanie Tea
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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby JaneyH » Tue Aug 04, 2015 4:20 pm

Dear stephtea,

How wonderful to hear from you, and fascinating to read the story from your Gramps.

I've discovered more information over the last year which I'll update this discussion thread with this evening. (I'm on the train home from work right now.)

Janey


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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby JaneyH » Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:00 pm

Stephtea,

Back home now and logged in properly!

I don't have a Bowdler with first name John in my family tree so far, but if I'm following correctly then if Oliver William Bowdler was an uncle to your grandfather, then his father (your great-grandfather) must have been a brother to Oliver. (My research so far suggests that Oliver was the 6th of 12 children: seven boys and five girls.)

Since posting my queries here last year I've obtained Oliver's Army pension records from the Western Front Association. This confirms that he was a private in the Gloucestershire Regiment, and his service number is given as 17909. While I've so far been unable to find any enlistment records, online sources suggest that this service number is likely to have been issued in the first quarter of 1915 (i.e. pre-conscription). The pension record shows that he was discharged from the Army on 16 June 1916, stating that he suffered from tuberculosis. It therefore seems that Oliver served in the Army for perhaps just fifteen months.

There is still the question of whether he served abroad or not. The history of the 13th Gloucestershire Regiment (on the 'Long, Long Trail' website and regimental diaries) shows that they arrived in France in March 1916 as part of the 39th Division and spent the months of April, May and June 1916 reclaiming old trenches. Since there are no campaign medals for overseas service (1914/15 Star, British War Medal or Victory Medal) I suspect that Oliver never actually made it to France. (Bear in mind that he was over 30 and married with children by the time he joined up.) Instead, might he have been involved in training other troops prior to them being sent to the Western Front? As he was invalided out he would probably have been eligible for the Silver War Badge, but again I've not found a record of him being awarded one.

I do have lots more information on Oliver William Bowdler, and have also traced his family tree back three more generations. If you'd like to PM me your email address then it would be wonderful to share more information.

Janey
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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Aug 04, 2015 11:06 pm

I can't find any record of O W Bowdler, 17909 in the Gloucesters in the Medal Index Cards, Rolls or Silver War Badge. I've tried loosening those criteria - e.g., I looked in the Silver War Badge for any Bow* in the Glo* regiment. Nothing.

I'm slightly surprised he isn't in there. While the SWB was introduced in September 1916 after his discharge in June, the Long Long Trail http://www.1914-1918.net/soldiers/swbrecords.html does say that its issuing should have been retrospective, i.e. to anyone discharged earlier.

Assuming that we are all correct and that he isn't in the Medal Index Cards or Medal Rolls, then there is no need to suspect he never got to France - it's "definite" that he didn't. (I will now be assaulted by umpteen proven instances of missing medals!) Let's just say that we're as certain as we can be that he didn't.

I would agree that first Q of 1915 was when he joined - in fact, I'd say January 1915, as I found John Brookes joining on 18 January 1915, the 13th Gloucesters as 17914. (Referred to as the 13th Pioneer Battalion (Forest of Dean). That means Oliver's papers (as 17909) would have been processed by the clerk just 5 sets of papers before John Brookes. Unless the clerk's papers were in a total mess, then Oliver would have joined up just before - or, depending on the vagaries of the postal service - just after John Brookes. It does not mean he was standing 5 in front of John Brookes in the queue - that really is pushing it too much. (Though he might have been!)

Hm. That missing SWB bugs me....
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Re: No luck tracing WW1 service - any ideas?

Postby JaneyH » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:03 am

Adrian,

Many thanks for you taking the time to look over what I've tentatively concluded about my great-grandfather's Army service. This has been my first attempt looking at military records so it's good to know I've got things right.

I got so involved in researching Oliver that I even visited the Forest of Dean last autumn to uncover more information and to see where he lived and worked - a wonderful trip!


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