Author Topic: Just joined - researching the 16th Bn at Montauban and one letter writing Cpl.  (Read 629 times)

Offline Metrix

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Thanks for letting me join the forum.

I have recently begun curating my wife's grandfather's collection of letters and memorabilia.  He was 7409 A.J.Lawley and served from the formation and training at Heaton Park through to getting a bullet wound at Trones Wood on 10th July 1916.  I have a large number of his letters throughout this period - some from family to him whilst joining up and training, and then all of his from his service in France up to repatriation in 1916 to the Welsh War Hospital at Whitchurch.  I have his diaries, which he kept in his pocket books, and various photographs in England.  I know I have all the letters except two as he noted them in his diary.  One is missing sent on 8th July 1916.  The other missing one was sent in late November 1915 but was stopped by the censors after which he lost his LCpl stripe for sending coded messages to his mother about his location.  He was in C Company during the Montauban assault on 1st July 16 and then got promoted to Cpl when the remnants of the battalion reformed for the attack a few days later on Trones Wood.  After his repatriation I have various letters from him and some from colleagues whilst he went through the medical system over two years, having a silver plate put into the back of his head, and his negotiations with the various authorities about his disability pension.  My wife is currently reading the 100 plus letters to him from a nurse at the hospital over the four years after his arrival there, up until they married. (They seem a bit personal to me and she is selecting those which she feels are relevant to my research - less about love and more about his pals).

I would be interested to know more about the battalion over that period but will probably keep my questions until I have undertaken some more detailed research. I am cross referencing his diaries and letters with the War Diaries of 16th Bn, 17th Bn (who they tended to swap locations and trenches with) and the brigade, and Lt Nash's and the official history.  I am also compiling a list of all those mentioned in his letters and diaries and will post when I have finished that work.  I will draw some key facts together about his service if anyone is interested and if they would find it useful for cross referencing with their relatives from the same time.

Look forward to interacting,

Metrix.

Offline mack

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hiya metrix
ive done a lot of work on the 16th battalion,if you post the names in his letters i may be able to help you with them

welcome to the forum

mack

Offline Tim Bell

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    • Grandad's Journey
Hi Metrix,
It sounds like you have some wonderful material to work through.  Michael Stedman's book, Manchester Pals; Battleground Europe, Montauban (Maddocks) and Trones Wood - Guillemont (Stedman) and are all great resources for the history and anecdotes.  Your interest overlaps with numerous other Forum members and I hope we can add some details for your quest.
I'm currently reading Vera Lynn's letters to her boyfriend & brother. It's not the romance that keeps me going, more reading the values, motivations and social graces of the time.  Your wife's records have a depth of value beyond the immediate level.
BTW it was illegal to keep a diary (Nash incl), so you're lucky to have it and I look forward to hearing more.
After all his traumas it's amazing to see Arthur lived to be 100. Wow.
Welcome to the forum.
Tim
« Last Edit: August 21, 2021, 06:48:53 AM by Tim Bell »
Following one Platoon and everything around them....
http://17thmanchesters.wordpress.com/about/

Offline themonsstar

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Hi Metrix
Welcome to the site, have a good look around the site, as there is lots of research from members, which may help with your research.

All the best
Roy

Offline Metrix

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Hi Mack,

Thanks.  One early question I have is about regimental numbers and attestation.  Given that the 16th, as the first pals battalion, was recruited end Aug/early Sep 1914 (helpful stuff in Stedman's Manchester Pals) I am surprised to find Arthur's attestation in Feb 1915.  I have his letter dated 7th Feb to his parents in which he is delighted to report that he went over to Heaton Park with his uncle, and the doctor allowed to join despite being virtually blind in his left eye. Nice match of his description with the doctors report in his service documents, with no mention of eyesight.  His number is 7409 so when would the regimental numbers be issued, and were there latecomers joining the 16th in Feb 1915?

Hope you can help.

Offline Metrix

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I notice from Tim's site about the 17th Manchester's and the 'Steel Helmet' a map of Montauban and it's strongpoints referenced WO95/2339/2 which is similar to the one in the 90th Bde war Diary.  In Arthur's tunic when he got back to UK was a copy of this map marked with company boundaries for A and B Coy 16th and a few other notes.  Arthur ended up in Montauban Alley and was promoted Cpl after the assault on 1st July so don't know if he was issued it as a section Cpl before or after the assault itself.  Would these maps have been widely issued?  I know from his letters that he used it during 1919 and 1920 to explain to families of some of his pals who died that day where their sons were killed and may have been buried.

Offline mack

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hiya metrix
the 16th battalions numbers began at 6200 and ran into 7800 numbers,those with 7800 numbers started to enlist in late may 1915 and still enlisting in june 1915

mack
« Last Edit: August 30, 2021, 01:29:16 PM by mack »

Offline Metrix

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Thanks Mack.

I assumed that the battalions filled up in order, 16th, then 17th, then 18th etc.  Why were they still recruiting to the 16th as late as June 1915?  Cpl Lawley's letters refer to him 'deciding' to join the 16th as he had some kind of connection there. Was that the way it was planned or did gaps in the number of men appear as training developed?  And how easy would it be to have joined in Feb 1915 when most of the battalion were training from Sept 1914?


Offline mack

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they were still recruiting for the 16th battalion because they still needed a regular supply of men and that was the case with the other pals battalions
using the 16th batt as a example,heres how it worked,when they advertised about raising a battalion made up of men who either worked  togethor,went to school togethor,or groups of friends etc etc,there was a clamour to enlist in the battalion,this began on 26th aug 1914 and  the battalion was complete by 1st september,a lot of men were turned away,so on the 28th aug it was announced that they were raising a 2nd pals battalion and by the 3rd september this was completed but there were still hundreds of men who still wanted to join the pals so on the 5th of september they began raising a 3rd pals battalion,which was completed by the 7th sept,recruitment still carried on for these three battalions because natural wastage would reduced them down to three under strength battalions

natural wastage
non of these men had been medically examined yet and by the time the medical officers had finished,many had been rejected,these men needed to be replaced by the next batch of recruits and so on,it was a sort of conveyor belt of men replacing men,when their training began,even more were discharged as unfit

mack