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Cameron Highlanders - am I reding medal card correctly?

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Cameron Highlanders - am I reding medal card correctly?

Postby phsvm » Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:52 pm

A friend of mine is keen to find out more about her father in law but I'm not getting very far with this. Can any one help me move this on?

John Rae was born on 26 July 1897 in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire.

His medals which the family have show he was in the Cameron Highlanders, was a private and his number was 24343. They know (although I don't know how) that he was in Belguim in 1917 and it's rumoured that he was at Paccshendaele.

He never spoke much about his service, but did occasionally mention Belgium and Passchendaele. In the 1920’s he, together with two or three friends who had also served, took several summer holidays in Belgium, unusually for working men at that time! In 1971 my friend and her husband took his parents to war sites that he remembered in Flanders, and he was much moved, particularly at Ypres and at the Menin Gate. That was about the only time he talked about his service years.

I've found his medal card which confirms his number, rank and regiment but it also states 'Labour Corp 4005'.

I know nothing of the Cameron Highlanders except what I have read on the internet about different battalions. From my reading I understand it to indicate that it is unlikely that he enlisted with one of the regular battalions - they were either disbanded early on or weren't on the Western Front.

I'm also reading it that he was most likely to have been with the 9th (Labour) Battalion as this appears to have transferred as the "7th and 8th Labour Companies to the Labour Corps in April 1917."

Would I be correct in these assuptions? If I am is there any way I can find out more about his military service? If I've got this completely wrong can anyone put me back on the right track?

Many thanks for any help anyone can give.
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Re: Cameron Highlanders - am I reding medal card correctly?

Postby Sylcec » Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:13 am

Well - his medal card certainly shows both Cameron Highlanders (# 24343) and Labour Corps (#4005). He did not see service overseas before 1916 or would have received a 1914/1915 star.

I've not found any service or pension record on Ancestry for him, so this was probably lost in the blitz and not one of the recovered burnt documents. However, there are many poorly or un-indexed fragmentary records, so it could be worth checking them all.

Looking at The Long Long Trail and searching for Cameron Highlanders, I suspect that he may have originally been in the 1/4th Battalion and eventually transferred to the Labour Corps in 1917:
"August 1914 : at Inverness. Part of Seaforth & Cameron Brigade in the Highland Division. Moved to Bedford
20 February 1915 : left the Division and landed at Le Havre, and three days later joined 24th Brigade in 8th Division on the Western Front.
8 April 1915 : transferred to 21st Brigade in 7th Division.
20 December 1915 : transferred to 91st Brigade in same Division.
7 January 1916 : transferred to 154th Brigade in 51st (Highland) Division.
28 February 1916 : left the Division, moved to base and was disbanded. It is known that more than 300 of the 1/4th Battalion men were physically sent to join the 1st Entrenching Battalion, a collection of men of mixed regiments that was used to provide manual labour behind the lines, before the establishment of the Labour Corps in 1917. Just over 100 remained as a "Base", but what they actually did is unknown. Whatever was left of the old 1/4th joined the 1st Battalion in the field in late 1916."

Reference to The National Archives' War Diaries may in the end be very helpful for you, but first, would suggest that you post your query on the Great War Forum where you will get plenty of specialist advice.
Good hunting! Sylvia
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