War Service in World War 1
This appendix gives details of some of the railwaymen associated with Ashchurch who fought in World War 1. It is necessarily incomplete because of the difficulty, as shown elsewhere, of identifying Ashchurch residents in the years immediately following 1911, especially those posted there for very short periods. It includes details not only of those shown to be working in the village at the time, but also others who were associated with the village in that they were born in or worked in Ashchurch before the war and who were then still in railway employment elsewhere. There will possibly be other names to be added.
For background: When war was declared volunteers were encouraged to come forward, many of them joining existing territorial battalions of the army. Later in 1914 and in 1915, as a result of the Kitchener campaign, more volunteers joined newly formed battalions. But it was not enough and conscription was introduced in 1916, for which those who qualified for conscription attested in late 1915. Among the Ashchurch-associated men there were some who volunteered early. All the rest appear to have attested in late 1915. However, many rail jobs, those devoted to track upkeep and to running the service, had special status exempting them from service. This changed in 1917 and in the middle of that year those who had attested were called to service.
Most of those whose records have been seen and whose service is detailed below served in the railway troops of the Royal Engineers, in France and the Middle East. In most cases the authorities took advantage of their civilian qualifications, for example as clerks and railway telegraphists.
The Midland Railway created a list ("For King and Country") of those in its employ who enlisted for service before November 1914, within about three months of war being declared. There are fourteen names from Ashchurch. They are included in the listing below, even where there is a lack of other documentation associating them with Ashchurch.
The military documents used are described in the Sources chapter herein, together with some of the constraints. These include problems in reading some of the documents, accounting for the references below to unreadability. Sometimes suggested text is given in square brackets.
Raymond was living in Ashchurch when war was declared, working as a carpenter for Midland Railway. He was conscripted into the Royal Engineers Railway Troops in 1916 and served as a carpenter in Salonica. He returned to Ashchurch after the war.
From medals card and RE medals lists
from the "burnt documents"
|11/11/15||Attested in Tewkesbury, placed on the army reserve.|
|10/3/16||Mobilised to the Royal Engineers Railway Troops Depot, serial number 150821|
|6/9/16||embarked Middle East Force|
|9/12/16||transfer to 273 Railway Co, occupation carpenter, serial number WR295265, rank sapper|
|1/10/18||admitted to 49 Stationary Hospital , Salonica, with malarial fever|
|20/4/19||embarked Salonica for UK|
|unknown||28 days hospital treatment at Shoreham-on-Sea|
|2/10/19||demob London to reserves, address 11 Newtown Cottages, Tewkesbury|
|Pre-demobilisation medical check confirms previous malaria. Any disability was less than 20%. All bodily functions normal, no case for any claim.|
|Home||10/3/1916 to 7/9/1916|
|en route||8/9/16 to 19/9/16|
|Salonika||20/9/16 to 20/4/19|
|en route||21/4/19 to [record blank]|
Ernest lived in Ashchurch before World War 1, at school, his father a relief signalman with the Midland Railway. By 1917, when Ernest was called up into the army, his family had moved to Saltley, Birmingham and Ernest was living at Kettlebrook, Tamworth, unmarried and working as a railway telegraphist. Details here. Presumably, like many railway employees, he had attested in late 1915 and his callup had been delayed because of his protected occupation status.
He gave no preference for service and was allocated to the Hussars (5 Reserve Cavalry Regiment). But a compulsory transfer followed, moving him to the Railway Operation Division of the Royal Engineers, and he was posted to the Middle East, where he worked as a railway telegraphist, later a telegraph supervisor. He may have chosen to remain for a short while after the armistice, as he did not return to the UK until 1920. In 1919 he had raised his skills level with the army and in 1920 was promoted to sergeant, both while still in the Middle East. (The promotion does not follow through on all documents shown below, some of which continue to quote his basic rank as sapper). He ended with an exemplary report from the army.
from the medals card
from the RE medals list
from "absent voters" electoral register 1918 and 1919
from the “burnt documents”
|4/5/17||enrolled. No preferences so posted to 5 Reserve Cavalry Regt|
|22/11/17||compulsory transfer to RE Railway Operating Div, Bordon, sapper|
|2/3/18||joined SBD EEF|
|9/3/18||EEF, joined from England via GBD|
|23/3/18||joined BSD for course|
|31/5/19||qualifications raised to 'skilled' as a telegraphist [poss supervisor], see qualification certificate below|
|20/2/20||in ROD, promoted Sergeant (unpaid) vice T/Sgt|
|5/4/20||embarked Alexandria for UK, sapper|
|Also, two brief periods in hospital, not detailed here|
|home|| May 1917 to February 1918|
|en route EEF|| 7/2/18 to 8/3/18|
|EEF||9/3/18 [rest blank]|
Qualifications certificate, date unknown, signed by the Director of Railway Traffic, gives:
On demob, Certificate of Identity gives:
Final report from regiment, signed by OC Railway Operating Div, EEC
Austin and Leonard served as volunteers in the Leicestershire Regiment. Austin lost his life in action, Leonard was wounded. Reginald is possible the person of that name who served in the Army Service Corps.
Austin and Leonard were born in Ashchurch in 1892 and 1894 while their father was working as an inspector with the Midland Railway; Reginald in Tewkesbury in 1895. The family had left Ashchurch by 1901 and in 1911 were in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, the father still a railway inspector. Austin and Leonard were now also working for Midland Railway, as clerk and joiner respectively. Reginald was a garage apprentice.
Austin and Leonard were members of the 4th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment in 1914. This was a territorial unit, and they could already have been serving as volunteers, or could have joined when war broke out. They clearly joined together, having sequential service number 3298 an 3299. They deployed to France a day apart in June 1915 and served there with their regiment. Leonard was wounded, though remained a soldier until demobilisation in 1919. Austin was killed in action in October 1918 just three weeks before the armistice.
No firm record has been found for Reginald. There is a record of a man of that name as a corporal in the Army Service Corps, his service number shows that he served in transport, which might be compatible with his civilian occupation. But there is nothing firm to associate him absolutely. However, this is perhaps academic for the purposes of this study as it appears that, unlike his brothers, he was not a railwaymen.
The personal documents the brothers have not been found and may not have survived. The information is from other military documents, particularly medals records, and others as shown below.
from the medals records, Soldiers Who Died in the Great War, and Find a Grave:
from the medals records and Silver War Badge list
J Dovey was included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a porter. Other sources show John Borthwick Dovey as a regular soldier who was probably living in Ashchurch when he enlisted in 1911. He may have been a railwayman, a profession which he resumed when he was discharged sick just before the end of World War 1. He was born in Birmingham in 1892 and at some point was adopted by a Thomas Arnold. The next information is his enlistment into the Royal Field Artillery on 6th January 1911, and his being in barracks in Havant, Hampshire as a gunner, in April of that year. There are two extracts from military pension documents (the originals have not been seen), one of which gives an address as care of Mrs Whittingham at Aston Cross, near Tewkesbury, the other at Stourbridge. Mrs Whittingham lived at the Elms at Aston Cross, Ashchurch. She was the wife of Richard, railway "servant". In April 1911, soon after John Dovey enlisted, she had two boarders, one of which was a railway employee. It is likely therefore that John Dovey was working as a railway employee at Ashchurch when he enlisted.
John Dovey served in France during the war. His unit, 37 (Howitzer) Battery was in Ireland when war broke out but transferred to France in mid-1914, and took part in the early battles (Mons, the Marne etc). John was wounded and discharged in April 1918, just before the end of the war.
He perhaps did not return to Ashchurch. He was living near Bristol and working as a signalman, when he married in Cheltenham in 1931. In 1939 he was living in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, a railway porter. He died in 1951 at the age of 58 at an address in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.
From pension record card:
63984, gunner, RFA, 37 Battery, served 6/1/1911 to 9/4/1918, discharged through wounds according to King's Regulations para 392 xvi
1911 census, at 4 Depot, RFA, Havant, gunner, age 19, soldier, born Birmingham, Warks
W Ellery was included in the Midland Railway list of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a porter. Other sources show Joseph William Ellery as a Gloucestershire man, born in Haresfield in 1890 and living there in 1891 and in Coaley in 1901 and 1911. His father Andrew was a farm worker. He himself was working as a railway porter in 1901. No documentation has been found, other than from railway sources, to show him at Ashchurch. However, railway porters tended to be posted around. If he spent time in Ashchurch, as an unmarried non-householder he would not have qualified for inclusion in the electoral registers of the time.
During World War 1 he served in the Gloucestershire Regiment, a volunteer under the Kitchener initiative, enlisting in the 9th Battalion which was raised in Bristol in September 1914. His regiment deployed to France in November 1914 and on to Salonika in November of that year. It remained there until June 1918. Joseph was a private. At some stage he was transferred to the Labour Corps, typical of a man who had been withdrawn from front-line service due to wounds or sickness. He was released normally in March 1919 with the British and Victory medals and the 1915 Star.
There s no evidence that he was in Ashchurch after the war. He was working as a signalman and living in Gloucester when he married in Upton St Leonards, near Gloucester, in 1920. Thereafter he remained in the area, at Upton St Leonards, still a signalman in 1939. He died there in 1967 at the age of 77.
From the medals cards:
When war was declared James was working in Ashchurch as a telegraph clerk for Midland Railway. He attested for military service in late 1915 but, presumably because of his protected occupation, he was not called up until mid-1917. He was mobilised into the Railway Troops of the Royal Engineers and at the end of the year was posted to Italy. There is little information on the course of his service, see details below. In 1919, while on leave in the UK, he was admitted to a military hospital in Bristol, from which he was discharged from the army in July 1919 under paragraph 392 (xvi) of King's Regulations as unfit for further military service. The nature of his illness or perhaps wounds is not known. However he was declared as 50% disabled, attributable to his service, and he was awarded a pension.
from the medals card
from the Silver War Badge list
from the "burnt documents"
|26/11/15||Attested, place unreadable|
|27/11/15||to army reserves|
|7/8/17||Identity Certificate to Royal Engineers signed by Midland Railway Telegraph Superintendent. Trade Midland Railway Gd signalman.|
|16/8/17||posted [?RVDRB?] Ordon|
|21/11/17||embarked [for] Italy|
|1/12/17||joined [unreadable] unit from England through DWGT [some unreadable]|
|24/4/18||posted from DGT Italy|
|3/5/19||transferred to UK|
|?/?/?||admitted military hospital Southmead while on leave, discharged the service according to KR para 392 xvi|
|1/7/19||release from Special Military Surgical Hospital, Southmead, serial WR275505, Sglr, RE RT|
|Home 15/8/17 to 20/11/17|
|Home 4/5/19 to2/?/19|
Henry served as a railway clerk in Ashchurch for perhaps two years from 1906 as part of his series of postings with Midland Railway. When he attested for military service at the end of 1915 he was living at Studely in Warwickshire, still a railway clerk. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of his protected employment status, he was mobilised in July 1916, but transferred to the Royal Engineers Railway Troops a year later. (Perhaps the 1916 record could be a clerical error, for the paper bearing his name shows him as a Guard 3rd Class). He served in France, though there are no details of the type of work, and he was duly released from service in 1919.
from the medals card
from the "burnt documents"
|10/12/1915||attested [unreadable] station, Sudeley, allocated to RE Railway Operating Division|
|10/12/15||to army reserve|
|28/7/16||mobilised, trade and qualification: Guard 3rd class|
|24/4/17||transfer to Railway Troops Depot, RE|
|8/6/17||to B[ritish] E[xpeditionary} F[orce]|
|17/6/17||joined unit [unreadable] from England|
|9/5/19||despatched to UK. Over-age|
|8/6/19||demob London to Z reserve, address 21 Hill Ave [rest unreadable]|
Disability statement [no disabilities] at Rouen, France on 6/5/1919 and Certificate of Identity issued on demob
Hill was included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a shunter. He has not yet been identified in other documentation.
Albert was shown in the Midland Railway For King and Country record among those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed services before November 1914. He was a labourer. He was already a Territorial with the county regiment and had previous experience as a regular soldier. He became a regular soldier again when war was declared.
A. Pre-war background (from the "burnt documents"):
Albert attested in Tewkesbury in 1909 for four years Territorial service in the UK with the 5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was 33 years and 4 months old, had been born in Aston, Warwickshire, was married, a farm labourer living in Stoke Orchard in Gloucestershire. He had had previous service with the 2nd Battalion of the regiment. Albert attended camps in the summers of 1909-1913, during which time he rose to the rank of sergeant. He reengaged in March of 1913 and 1914.
B. War service
On 4 August 1914, the day following the outbreak of war, he was "embodied" as a regular soldier in his battalion. He went to France in March 1915 but was there for only a little over six months, before he was released through sickness.
There is little documentation covering the war period. On one page he gives the address of his next of kin, his wife, as [?Cast] Street in Tewkesbury. Presumably this was also his address.
From the medals record and Silver War Badge list:
from the "burnt documents":
Keylock was included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a labourer. He has not yet been identified in other documentation.
Ernest Victor Stephen Nunney was born in Ashchurch in 1894, his father a railway ganger. He was at home in 1901, his father died in 1906, and in 1911 he was still at home in Ashchurch with his widowed mother, age 17, unmarried and working as a railway labourer. After war was declared he enlisted as a volunteer into 10th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. This was a Kitchener battalion, raised in Bristol in September 1914 and his service number is consistent with enlistment probably in the mid-autumn of 1914. In August 1915 he was posted with his battalion to France. The following month he was killed in action. After the war his mother continued to live in Ashchurch (Northway) until 1925 after which she disappears from the Ashchurch record. She appears to have moved to Bredon, just north of Ashchurch, where she had been born.
Ernest is remembered at the Loos Memorial in the Pas de Calais area of France, and is listed on the war memorial at Tewkesbury, Gloucs.
from the medals card and regimental list :
from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
10th Bn, Gloucestershire Regiment, 16068, age 21
son of Helen Nunney of Church Street, Bredon, Tewkesbury, and the late James Nunney.
from effects of soldier killed in war
1/3d [one shilling and threepence] plus War Gratuity of £3 to mother Helen, executrix
Mallett was included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a shunter. He has not yet been identified in other documentation.
Matty was included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a labourer. He has not yet been identified in other documentation.
These were the three sons of William Rossell, a sub-inspector of the Midland Railway, living in Ashchurch at the beginning of the war. In 1911 all three were at home, unmarried, and employed by the Midland Railway, Percy (22) a painter, Leonard (19), labourer, and Herbert (16) labourers, or storekeeper, see below. The two younger sons served in the war in the Gloucestershire Regiment, Leonard in the 8th (Service) Battalion, Herbert in the 9th. Both were volunteers, Herbert enlisting before November 1914 and Leonard probably in late 1914 or early 1915. Leonard lost his life in action in 1916. Percy may be the person of that name who served first in the Worcestershire Regiment then the AFC which would become the Royal Air Force in 1918. The surviving brothers, Herbert and Percy, returned to and lived in Ashchurch after the war.
Leonard and Herbert
Their service numbers and the fact that they were posted abroad in 1915 indicate that they were volunteers who had enlisted probably in the autumn of 1914, perhaps when or soon after the battalions were formed in Bristol in September 1914. The 8th Battalion deployed to France in July 1915, the 9th in September of that year, proceeding from there to Salonika in November. No personal documentation has been seen, and the information shown below is from medals cards and lists. It will be seen that while Leonard remained a Private, Herbert advanced in rank to Colour Sergeant, also shown as Lance Sergeant.
from, inter alia, medals card and lists, Commonwealth War Graves listing
from the medals card and lists
Appears on the Midland Railway For King and Country list as a storekeeper, enlisted from Ashchurch before November 1914
There is documentation (medals cards) on a Percy E Rossell. These show that he began as a private in the 13th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment and transferred to the RAF. The 13th Battalion was formed in Plymouth in November 1914 and became a reserve/training battalion the following year and did not go overseas. The medals must therefore have been awarded for service abroad with the RAF. They do not include a 1914/15 Star, indicating that he went abroad no earlier than 1916 and may thus not have been a volunteer. There is nothing to say whether or not this was the Percy Edward Rossell from Ashchurch, but he has not otherwise been found in military documentation.
Wilfred was a railway telegraphist in Ashchurch in 1914 when war was declared. He volunteered for service in September 1914 and was placed in the Royal Engineers, but as a telegraphist in a signals company rather than with the railway troops. He served in France, and was still working in the railways when he was married in England in 1923. His name is included as telegraphist from Ashchurch on the list of Midland Railway employees ("For King and Country")who volunteered for service before 18th November 1914.
from the medals card and list
from the "burnt documents"
|3/11/14||enlisted into the RE, Pioneer|
|18/11/14||to [...] Signals Company|
|../3/16||awarded certificate of trade proficiency, promoted to sapper|
| to 40 Casualty Clearing Station (gas "must")|
then to hospital in Trouville.
|21/1/19||after leave in UK, to 3 Australian Hospital, Abbeville|
Protection Certificate on demob includes:
Correspondence of interest:
Handwritten letter headed Midland Railway, Traffic Department, Ashchurch Station, and dated 3/11/14 [the date on which Wilfred Shorney enlisted] and signed by W Watkins, stationmaster at Ashchurch:
The bearer W J Shorney is an experienced Telegraphist and has been in the service since June 28th 1904. He has always performed his duties in a satisfactory manner.
Certificate of Trade Proficiency (examination in a military workshop, 9/11/14 at Chatham)
I have tested 56594 Shorney W J and found him to be an indifferent telegraphist on a [?hounder, ?sounder] circuit. He states that he is accustomed to the Bell and Single Needle, but there are no facilities at this office for testing him on these instruments.
Letter to unknown dated 2/1/1915 headed Midland Railway, Telegraph Department, Superintendent's Office, Derby and signed by J A Smith, Chief of Staff, on behalf of J Sayers, Telegraph Superintendent
This is to certify that under the present Rules and Regulations of the Midland Railway Company the salaried staff whose annual salaries do not exceed £160 per annum are entitled to certain provisions in cases of sickness and disablement and in consequence thereof are not insured under the National Insurance Act 1911 as employed contributors. Sapper W J Shorney comes within the above stated regulations and is therefore exempt from National Insurance.
Alfred was born in Ashchurch, son of John Trapp, a railwayman working at the Provident Stores there. As yet unmarried, he followed his father to Elmstone Hardwick near Cheltenham when John left railway employment after the turn of the century. In 1911 he also was working for the railway, as a clerk, presumably at Cheltenham. He served in World War 1. Personal documentation has not been seen, perhaps has not survived. The medals card shows that, as with other railwayman of his type, he served abroad in the Railways Division of the Royal Engineers.
from medals card and RE medals list
Frederick was born in Ashchurch, son of John who worked in the Provident Stores. He may have been a telegraphist in 1901, but if so, this was short lived as he would later transfer to the Provident Stores, where he was in 1911. He served in the infantry in World War 1. Infantry service, the fact that after attestation his callup was not delayed, and the fact that he described himself on attestation simply as a labourer, may suggest that he was no longer in railway employment. Also, he attested in December 1915 at Gloucester rather than Tewkesbury, suggesting that he had moved residence. In mid-1917 he was transferred to the Labour Corps. This was typical of men withdrawn from the front line through wounds or sickness but who were still able enough to provide service in the rear or at home, the former in this case. His new unit was an Artizan [sic] Company.
from medals card
from the "burnt documents"
|8/12/15||attested and medical examination Gloucester, medical cat Bii|
|9/12/15||to army reserve|
|15/6/16||posted to Royal Berks Regt|
|24/7/16||embarked Southampton for le Havre|
|14/5/17||transfer to Labour Corps|
|13/8/18||posted to 834 Area Emp[loymen]t (Art[izan]) Coy|
|10/3/19||to UK for demob|
|???||demob to class Z reserve|
|Home||16/6/16 to 23/7/16|
|France||24/7/16 to [record blank]|
Joseph was born in Ashchurch in 1890, son of Charles, railway employee, carpenter in 1901. He followed his father into a career in the railways and in 1911 was lodging in Gloucester, an engine cleaner. Perhaps he moved to London, for at the beginning of the war he enlisted at Mill Hill into the Duke of Cambridge's Own Middlesex Regiment, which was raised there in August 1914. He was clearly a volunteer. He crossed to France in May 1915, rose to the rank of Corporal. He lost his life in action in October 1916. He is buried at Longueval Road Cemetery in France and is remembered on the Ashchurch War Memorial. None of his personal documents has survived, all the information being from records as follows.
from the medals card and list of soldiers' effects
Turner was included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914. He was a labourer. He has not yet been identified in other documentation.
H P Venn is included among the names of those from Ashchurch listed in the Midland Railway 'For God and Country' who enlisted for war service before November 1914. Some of his military documentation has survived.
He was a railway porter living at home in Tewkesbury, unmarried, when he volunteered in September 1914 and was posted to the Gloucestershire regiment into a new battalion formed as part of the Kitchener 3rd New Army. Most unusually and while still at the regimental depot, he was appointed Corporal only a few weeks later, and then to his battalion, the 9th. Six months later he was a sergeant.
In the autumn of 1915 he went with his battalion to the Western Front, first Belgium then France, later to Salonika. There is a reference also to 5 months in Italy. His service was plagued by illness, including dysentry, which in 1916 required hospital treatment in Salonika, then Malta, then the UK. Posted back to France he fell ill again (details are sketchy) and was in hospital in Marseilles. At this point he was transferred to the Labour Corps, which was the destination of those withdrawn from the front line through wounds or sickness but who were still capable of rearline service.
He was released in the spring of 1919 to his mother's address in Tewkesbury.
from medals card and list
from the "burnt documents (extracts from a number of docs):
|4/9/14||attested into Gloucestershire Regt, Bristol|
|3/10/14||posted to 9th Battalion|
|11/11/15||embarked at Marseilles|
|5/6/16||admitted 28 General Hospital, Salonika, diarrhoea|
|7/6/16||admitted Cottonsea Hospital, Malta|
|22/6/16||invalided to England on Carisbrook Castle|
|29/6/16||posted to Depot (3rd Bn)|
|29/6/16||to 18/9/16 in 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth|
|18/12/16||joined 55IBD and posted 1st Bn, Rouen|
|3/1/17||posted 2nd Bn [another source gives 12th]|
|30/5/18||to July, references to sickness, malaria,, 15 Field Ambulance|
|4/7/18||transfer to 895 Area Employment Co, Labour Corps|
|20/7/18||to hospital, Marseilles|
|11/8/18||to 25/8/18, UK leave scheduled, later cancelled|
|2/8/18||return to duty|
|5/3/19||transfer to the UK|
pre-release medical at Marseilles base: 75 per cent disability, much unreadable but includes 'deformity of dorsal vertebrae'.
Charles enlisted in 1914 as a volunteer, served as an infantryman and was eventually posted to the railway troops of the Royal Engineers. He was born and baptised in Drybrook, Gloucestershire, in 1889 his father a lime-burner. Between 1906 and at least 1911 he was in Stonehouse, working for Midland Railway as a machine lad, then assistant porter then full porter. In 1911 his father was also working for the railway, a platelayer.
He was living in Ashchurch in 1914, a railway porter, parcels porter, shunter (the sources vary), when he volunteered for service a month after the declaration of war and was enlisted into the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was soon transferred to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, with whom he went to France and then on to Salonika. In 1917 he was transferred to the Royal Engineers there and placed in the Railway Operations Division, to 19 Railway Operations Company. He was promoted to Lance-Corporal. He contracted influenza and on return to the UK spent a short period in hospital before release from the army. After the war he returned to live in Ashchurch. His name is included in the Midland Railway list (For King and Country) of those from Ashchurch who enlisted in the armed forces before November 1914, shown as a parcels porter.
from the medals card and Corps list:
from the "burnt documents":
|4/9/14||enlisted at Tewkesbury, medical cat A1|
|22/9/14||joined Gloucestershire Regiment Depot, Bristol|
|1/10/14||posted to 9th Battalion, Glos Regt|
|9/1/15||transferred to the 8th Bn Ox & Bucks Light Infantry|
|18/9/15||to BEF [France]|
|17/11/15||to MEF [Salonica]|
|../12/15||in 1st Stationary Hospital, Salonica, dysentery|
|25/3/17||posted to Royal Engineers, Railway Operations Division, sapper|
|21/10/17||at 19 Railway Opn Coy, appointed paid Lance Corporal|
|25/12/18||influenza in Salonica|
|28/2/19||returned to UK, entered 1st W G Hospital, Liverpool, influenza|
James was the son of the stationmaster at Ashchurch, where he worked first as a goods clerk then as a booking clerk. He had left to work at Great Malvern by 1914. That year he volunteered to serve in the army. For details of a brilliant period of army service, in which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was decorated, see here
A Witts (no second initial given) was one of the names shown in the Midland Railway For King and Country list of those who enlisted from Ashchurch within the first three months of the war. He was a porter. Perhaps he is the Albert James Witts who was born in the Tewkesbury district in 1886 and who lived practically his whole life in the village. In 1901, like his father, he was working as an agricultural worker, in 1911 a member of staff (attendant) at the "county lunatic asylum" in Gloucester. In 1913, when he married in Ashchurch, he was working for the railway, a platelayer.
His entry in the 1918 electoral register as a absent military voter confirms that he had service in the armed forces and there is a medals card for an Albert J Witts showing service in the Royal Engineers, a sapper with serial number 285103, then WR 290063. He was awarded the British War and Victory medals. The name and initials and service with the railway troops of the Royal Engineers are compatible with this being the Albert James Witts from Ashchurch. There is perhaps a slight inconsistency in that he was a platelayer in December 1913 but was a porter when he enlisted a year later. Also the absence of a 1914 or 1915 Star in his medals listing means that he went overseas no earlier than 1916, which is unusual for a man who enlisted in 1914.
The Midland Railway's list of those who enlisted prior to November 1914
|Dovey J B||porter||Traffic - Coaching Section|
|Ellery J W||porter signalman||Traffic - Coaching Section||See above|
|Hill J||shunter||Traffic - Coaching Section|
|Mallett J||porter||Traffic - Coaching Section|
|Wadley C E||parcels porter||Traffic - Coaching Section|
|Witts A||porter||Traffic - Coaching Section||See above|
|Venn H P||parcels porter||Traffic - Coaching Section|
|Huggins A||labourer||Traffic - Way and Works|
|Keylock W||labourer||Way and Works|
|Matty P||labourer||Way and Works|
|Rossell H H||storekeeper||Way and Works|
|Turner A||storekeeper||Way and Works|
|Shorney W J||telegraph||Telegraph - Traffic Branch||See above|
This data has been researched and produced by Brian Harringman. Comments, additions, and especially corrections would be gratefully received.