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WR/ Service Numbers WW1 Royal Engineers

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WR/ Service Numbers WW1 Royal Engineers

Postby Jayne8471 » Sun Aug 04, 2019 1:10 pm

My grandfather had 2 service numbers (42914 & WR/250044). I'm no military historian but my research to date suggests that the latter came into play after the Battle of the Somme (1916) up until which time he was in a Field Company (possibly 154th in the 37th Division of the VII Corps of the Third Army). Am I right in thinking that the WR number resulted from a transfer to the Waterways and Railways (Transportation ) Unit? And does anyone know if the WR was newly formed at that time or any particular reason why the transfer took place/new service number was issued when it was? Just wondering if there is any way that I can track him from this point ... although not holding out much hope without his service record. Pre-war he was a fireman with the North Eastern Railway Co qualifying as an engine driver relatively quickly on his return to civvie street. Many thanks.
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Re: WR/ Service Numbers WW1 Royal Engineers

Postby phsvm » Sun Aug 04, 2019 2:10 pm

If you put this information, plus your grandfather's details on the Great War Forum - some one will be able to help you.

Their members and an absolute goldmine of information and if they can't help, no one can.
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Re: WR/ Service Numbers WW1 Royal Engineers

Postby Mick Loney » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:15 am

Jayne, see if any family members have his medals. WW1 medals have service number inscribed on the edge
Mick Loney
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Re: WR/ Service Numbers WW1 Royal Engineers

Postby MoVidger » Sun Aug 11, 2019 3:36 pm

If you have a FMP subscription, search on other WR/ service numbers. I did a quick search and pulled up several Service Records which indicated men whose Regiment was Royal Engineers, but also had a WR/ number with a Unit/Battalion listed as "Railway Workshop Company" or variations thereof (e.g. Light Railway Workshop Company; Broad Gauge Railway Workshop Company; BG Workshop Company, Railway Operating Division, etc)

Here is a link which will provide further details: ... engineers/
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Re: WR/ Service Numbers WW1 Royal Engineers

Postby Lyndale » Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:57 am

Dear Jayne471, To answer your initial questions (1) the prefix ‘WR’ in the Royal Engineers stood for ‘Waterways and Railways’, but George W. Lancaster’s second number WR/250045 is in the RE sequence WR/250000-WR/250999, which were only allocated to RE Railway Division men. (2) The RE ROD (Rail Operating Division) was in existence on a smaller scale within the UK pre-war, but expanded rapidly from August 1914, when the first units went to France between Aug-Dec 1914.

Next up, I have found three surviving documents for your grandfather (1) his medal index card (MIC) which you’ve probably already sighted. He was a pre-December 1915 volunteer, because he received the 1914/15 Star, plus his MIC says he first disembarked in France as a Sapper, no- 42914 on 30-12-1915. A RE Sapper was equivalent to in rank to an infantry Private, but had the higher status of being a skilled man in a trade or in handling machinery. A RE man who did not have a trade, was ranked lower than Sapper, called in the RE a 'Pioneer'. (2) I’ve sighted George’s 1914/15 Star medal roll, which states on it “Royal Engineers – Transport”. (3) Also his BWM & VM medal roll, which adds nothing new. Both medal rolls are on Ancestry, separate to the MIC’s dataset.

WW1 regimental numbering was from identical blocks of numbers allocated to each regiment or corps by the War Office, thus men in different regiments had the same number. A man's number was issued upon reporting for training in strict sequential sequence, thus the RE man with number 42915 was just behind George on that day, but this does not necessarily mean that they were sent to the same RE company or unit. Luckily this man’s record (42915) has survived on FMP (should also be on Ancestry) summarised as follows: Sapper Herbert Walter Turnbull, no- 42915, from Co. Durham, occupation Railway Fireman, joined 1 Sep 1914 (take this as George’s same joining date). Herbert was posted to 82nd Field Coy RE (in 19th Division) but was transferred to the ROD in France on 25 July 1916 with new ROD number WR/250045, just one higher than George, thus they were transferred together the same date. When Herbert was discharged on 2-6-1919, his new address was in Sunderland, plus incidentally, Herbert was awarded the Military Medal when serving with 82nd Fld Coy.

It’s possible that George also served in 82nd Fld Coy RE, but not guaranteed. In Howard Williamson’s wonderful WW1 research books, where he investigated the numbering of the WW1 RE’s (“The Great War Medal Collector’s Companion", Vols 1, 2 & 3) he claims that RE block 42000-42999 was also issued to men in 68th, 74th, and 78th Fld Coy’s. If you tell me why you think George was in 154th Fld Coy, I’ll go check that out for you - contact me direct on GLJCALDWELL[AT]OZEMAIL.COM.AU The same books claim that the RE numbering sequence WR/250000-WR/250999 were men serving in the 109th, 110th and 295th Railway Construction Coy’s.
Regards Lyndale
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