Category Archives: Soldiers’ records

Help collect soldiers’ experiences of WWI in their own words

Letters to his fiancee from Major General Lindsay Merritt Inglis
Letters to his fiancee from Major General Lindsay Merritt Inglis

With the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, lots of people are trying to understand the experiences of their grandparents or great-grandparents generation during the war, but it can be hard to find personal diaries, letters, photos and memoirs created by soldiers in WWI. Thanks to everyone who’s put historical documents online, you can make a meaningful contribution to the remembrance of the war. Help everyone understand the experience of soldiers in different  battalions in the First World War by recovering an original soldier’s voice and linking it to their unit so it can be found by others. (Here’s an example page for the 3rd (Auckland) Mounted Rifles, New Zealand.)

Have you got a few free minutes to take on a small research challenge?

Getting started is easy:

  1. Take one of the diaries, letters and memoirs listed on the Collaborative Collections wiki, and
  2. Match its author with a specific regiment or battalion.
  3. Send in the results via this form (also below) or edit the wiki directly.

You can get a sense of the battalions that need records by seeing which units have red names on these pages:

If you’ve never researched a WWI soldier before, some useful sites are listed at Researching World War One records.

 CENDARIThis project is part of a Transnational Research Fellowship with the CENDARI project at Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub. Contact Mia Ridge with any questions.
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Looking for New Zealanders in WWI

Letters to his fiancee from Major General Lindsay Merritt Inglis
Letters to his fiancee from Major General Lindsay Merritt Inglis

Have you got a few free minutes to take on a small research challenge?

Help everyone understand the experience of different Kiwi battalions in the First World War by contributing to an index of personal narratives created by the soldiers who were there.

Getting started is easy:

  1. Take one of the diaries listed in the National Library of New Zealand’s WW100 digitisation project, and
  2. Match its author with a specific New Zealand regiment or battalion.
  3. Send in the results via this form (also below) or edit the wiki directly.

Here’s an example for the 3rd (Auckland) Mounted Rifles, New Zealand.

If you’ve never researched a WWI soldier before, some useful sites are listed at Researching World War One records.

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Private Albert Bailey, service number 203353

This post collects the information I’ve found about Private Albert Bailey, service number 203353. [For now, it’s a stub record so I can access it to continue my research while travelling next week]

For background: I’m researching randomly-selected soldiers from Irish, British, Australia, New Zealand, Canadian or Indian WWI battalions/regiments to get a sense of the issues researchers face and the variations in available resources. It’s one part of my CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin. As always, any tips or links would be appreciated.

His Commonwealth War Graves Commission record states:

Date of Death: 20/04/1917

Age: 20

Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 1st/4th Bn.

Grave Reference: V. F. 18.

Additional Information: Son of Emma Bailey, of New Inn, Shillingford, Wallingford, Berks, and the late Albert Bailey.

 

Private Albert Bailey, service number 18320

This post collects the information I’ve found about Private Albert Bailey, service number 18320. [For now, it’s a stub record so I can access it to continue my research while travelling next week]

For background: I’m researching randomly-selected soldiers from Irish, British, Australia, New Zealand, Canadian or Indian WWI battalions/regiments to get a sense of the issues researchers face and the variations in available resources. It’s one part of my CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin. As always, any tips or links would be appreciated.

Grave Registration Report for Albert Bailey
Grave Registration Report for Albert Bailey s/n 18320

His Commonwealth War Graves Commission record states:

Date of Death: 23/03/1918

Age: 33

Regiment/Service: Army Cyclist Corps 18th Bn.

Grave Reference: II. D. 15

Additional Information: Husband of Alice Ann Bailey, of 69, Hewitt St., Nottingham.

Originally marked as an unknown soldier, he was later identified by his shoulder titles.

He’s listed in the Book of Honour written for St Bartholomew’s Church in Nottingham (the church was demolished but the book was deposited in Nottinghamshire Archives). Hewitt St doesn’t exist anymore so I haven’t yet checked if that might have been his (or his wife’s) local church.

Private Albert Henry Bailey, service number 13/970a

TPR. A. H. BAILEY, Auckland M.R., Killed in action.
TPR. A. H. BAILEY, Auckland M.R., Killed in action.

This post collects the information I’ve found about Private Albert Henry Bailey, service number 13/970a. [Image source; image credit: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150909-39-5]

For background: I’m researching randomly-selected soldiers from Irish, British, Australia, New Zealand, Canadian or Indian WWI battalions/regiments to get a sense of the issues researchers face and the variations in available resources. It’s one part of my CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin. I’m relatively new to researching soldiers’ records, so any tips or links would be appreciated.

I first came across Albert Henry Bailey on the High School Dublin War Stories site. I think he caught my eye because he’d travelled so extensively before the war. The High School Dublin War Stories site has collated research on each man whose names was listed on The High School Great War Memorial.

I couldn’t find him in the official Discovering Anzacs site, but he’s in the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph database and Archives New Zealand have put his original military records online. The Cenotaph database summarises records from the Nominal Rolls of New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. From this, we learn that he was born in Ireland, was single, and lists his mother in Dublin as his next of kin. He embarked with the 3rd Reinforcements of the Auckland Mounted Rifles from Wellington, New Zealand on 14 February 1915, landed in Suez, Egypt on 26 March 1915, on one of three ships carrying 1719 men. He died in Gallipoli (the Dardenelles), Turkey on 8 August 1915. His burial place is unknown so he is listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial in Turkey.

His medals were sent to his mother in Dublin. His mother, Mrs Anna Bailey, lived at 74 or 76 St Lawrence St, Clontarf, Dublin but she wasn’t living in the same household as Albert in the 1901 census (or wasn’t staying there on census night), when he was living in Clontarf West. I couldn’t find a definite match for him in the church records on  irishgenealogy.ie, but according to FamilySearch records from Ellis Island he may have emigrated to the US in 1908.

This neat summary masks some details that can be unpicked by looking through his original military records. He was born on 24 April 1885. Firstly, they provide some physical details – in November 1914, he was 28 years old, 5 foot 10 inches tall, and weighed 10st 12 lb (in October he was listed as 5 foot 10 1/2, 154lb but while he may have lost a few pounds he’s unlikely to have shrunk!). He had blue eyes and red hair, with a ‘fair’ complexion. His religion was listed as Presbyterian, though I have a feeling I saw him listed as Church of Ireland somewhere (annoyingly, I didn’t note it at the time).

It looks like he enlisted with the Wellington Mounted Rifles on 15 December 1914 (in one instance, using a form printed for the 6th Hauraki), but was then moved to the Auckland Mounted Rifles (possibly on 2 April 1915; his military number changed from 11/970 at the time), possibly because the AMRs were created about this time? A medical record tells us he was at the Trentham camp at one point, then sailed from New Zealand to Egypt in February-March 1915 on the ship Aparima, part of transport HMNZT 19. Letters from at least one soldier on the same ship survive. Trooper Ralph John Newton mentions the food, looking after the horses, deaths at sea, and flying fish in the letters he wrote to his parents.

According to the High School Dublin page Albert had already travelled from Ireland to the US to New Zealand, so he might have experienced the voyage differently from someone who’d never left New Zealand.

Interestingly, for an Irishman far from home, on one version of his Attestation forms, he changed his answer to the question, ‘Have you ever served in any military or naval force?’. He’d originally written ‘Have done voluntary drill with the Territorials’ but then crossed it out and written firmly, ‘No’. [But I can’t make out the rest – 7th *land? image 18]

His service records show he was promoted from Trooper to Lance Corporal at Leitown (?) on 28 June 1915, but was ‘posted to unit as Trooper’ to the Dardenalles on 30 June 1915 or 14 July 1915 (discrepancies are possibly due to administrative lag, or because it better fit with the battle plans?). He’s listed as Lance Corporal on the Chunuk Bair memorial.

The official Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment diary entry for the day he died reads:

Aug 8th  Left OVERTON GULLY at 0130 and proceeded to RHODDENDRUM SPUR arrived there at 0800.  Proceeded under fire to cross ridge into safety.  Remained in gully until 1200 during which time several shrapnel shells struck and did damage.  11th and half the 3rd Squadrons then rushed over the crest line of the hill and reinforced firing line on CHUNUK BAIR and remainder of the 3rd and 4th Squadrons joining us at 1400.  Kept enemy back with greatest difficulty (from 1800 t0 2000 had only 85 men) Relieved by OTAGO infantry at 2015.  Fought all night.’

I’ve linked to the transcription because it’s easier to read, but here’s the original diary page on the Australian War Memorial site. The list of those killed and wounded that day runs over four pages.

His Grave Registration Report does not contain any new information as his military records also list his next of kin. I couldn’t find him in the London Gazette or Trove. However, I was able to find his picture in the Auckland Weekly News. It took me a while as I hadn’t accounted for delays in the lists of casualties being published in New Zealand. He died on August 8 and it was reported in the August 30 edition.

What can we learn about his experiences by looking at information about his battalion? Via this list of WW1 NZEF Unit Histories by the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Armoury Information Centre I found the official history of his unit, hosted in the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection at the Victoria University of Wellington Library. The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914-1919, published in 1921, describes their departure, reception in Australia and the voyage to Egypt.

It also describes August 7, the night before Bailey died:

‘On the 7th, the A.M.R. was rested in Overton Gully, below the position they had taken. Worn out with their night’s fighting, they were able to get some sleep, but they were not immune from shell fire, and 10 men became casualties. On the night of the 7th, the whole attacking force was reorganised in three columns, and the A.M.R. was placed in the right column, under Brigadier-General Johnston. This comprised the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the Maori Contingent, the 8th Welsh Pioneers, the 7th Gloucesters, the 26th Indian Mountain Battery, and the Auckland Mounted Rifles. This column was ordered to assault Chunuk Bair at dawn on the 8th.’

You can read the account of August 8, on which ‘the Regiment had practically ceased to exist’, for yourself.

Bailey was a ‘store manager’ when he enlisted, but did he already know how to ride a horse, or did he learn on the job? Do any personal items that relate to Bailey still exist? Nothing’s turned up yet but perhaps? They may have already left their horses behind by the time they arrived in Turkey – what was that like? In the absence of personal accounts, I’ve looked for letters, diaries or memoirs by other soldiers in the same unit, location or campaign written about the same time.

However, finding personal accounts that can be linked like that is like finding a needle in a haystack – hopefully my research can suggest a way to help link personal accounts to military units. In the meantime, I happened to know of a diary by another New Zealand soldier, William Henry Winter, who was also killed in action at Gallipoli on August 8. Winter was in a different unit, the Wellington Infantry Battalion, but Bailey would have shared many of the experiences he describes. Does this help us understand Bailey’s experience, or is the gulf too large to cross?