This is just an overview of three of my ancestors who served in the army in WW1 and WW2 and the rcords initially found. Further research, particularly in War Diarise is yet to be undertaken.
My Maternal Grandfather’s Army Service
My paternal Grandfather, Horace Huddlestone, always recited amusing tales of his time in the army during World War 2 but it wasn’t until my Grandmother died that we found some of his service documentation. These are the only documents/artefacts which are in my family’s possession.
The documents we have which contain specific details relating to my grandfathers service are:
- Service/Pay book
- Certificate of transfer to the Army Reserve Army Form X202B
- Army Form Med 50A
- Record of Service Army Form W5258
- A newspaper article about ports being built in Scotland
As a bit of background, Horace was due to get on a ship to sail to serve in Japan, thankfully he fell ill whilst boarding the ship and ended up in hospital for a number of weeks. He was then stationed in Gareloch, Scotland.
These documents provide a whole host of information which is useful both in searching for more details about his time in service, his service career and the regiment in which and location where he served.
- His army number (14238482)
- Where he enlisted
- That he enlisted in the Territorial Army for the duration of the war
- Description of him
- Details of his training with the TA’s (from basic training to driver training)
- Inoculations he was given
- Next of Kin
- Medical classifications
- Details of leave he took
Certificate of transfer to the Army Reserve Army Form X202B
- Army number
- Rank (Driver)
- Regiment (Royal Engineers)
- Date his army reserve was confirmed from
Army Form Med 50A (amongst discharge information leaflets)
- Rank (Sapper – nickname for a Royal Engineer)
- Army Number
- Name of Unit (9th Stevedore Company)
- Date of discharge
Record of Service Army Form W5258
- Army number (14238482)
- Rank (Driver)
- Regiment (Royal Engineers)
- Dates of service (16/7/1942 to 5/1/1946)
A newspaper article about ports being built in Scotland (9th June 1945)
This is an article written post WW2 which provides details of ‘secret’ ports which were built by the military in Loch Ryan and Gareloch, on the West Coast of Scotland, for military export traffic and is where Horace was based during his service. This is quite a short article but provides an insight into the size of the ports and the type of ships Horace would have seen.
The most important information these documents provide are his army number, regiment, unit/company, rank and service dates. These details will help to identify any records available for Horace, however as his service was in WW2 any other documents relating to his service are not available to the general public as yet. In the service and pay book his health is detailed as:
22/10/45 B1 HS
4/1/46 B1 HS
I know he spent some time in hospital prior to being posted to Scotland (as discussed above) but I have no other details. There are no details of this in the service and pay book and few hospital records for service men in WW2 survive.
Copies of his service records have been obtained from the Army Personnel Centre. These confirm he spent his early career in military transport training before being to Shandon in Scotland which is a village on the sea lock, Gare Lock in Argyll and Bute from there he was posted to Faslane, better known as HMNB Clyde. His record also confirmed he spend time in Bellsdyke Hospital, Larbert, Falkirk, Scotland, being admitted on the 21st May 1945 where he spent 22 days before being posted to Stranraer, Scotland on the 12th June 1945.
Bellsdyke Hospital was formerly known as Stirling District Lunatic Asylum. The records for the period the hospital was a military hospital are held at the National Archives (series W 222/879) although the discovery catalogue suggests the records date between January 1941 and March 1944 but it may still be worth examining them to see if they provide any further details.
I have not found any information in the papers that Horace received any medals for his service and none have been found amongst my grandparents’ possessions following their deaths. However, those who served in a military capacity between September 1939 and May 1945 in Britain, Malta and the British colonies were awarded the Defence Medal and anyone who had served 28 days’ service in uniform was issued the War Service Medal. On that basis, Horace should have received two medals however individuals had to claim their medals and I suspect Horace did not! Unfortunately, the medal rolls for WW2 are not available at TNA, but at the Ministry of Defence medal office. I understand that such medals can still be claimed and his army number, regiment, unit/company, rank and service dates would no doubt be required to do so.
Details of his regiment and unit would help locate any War diaries covering Horace’s service. These are available from TNA in series WO166 for forces stationed in the UK (Home Forces). They may also be available from the regimental archive.
Knowing the regiment allows a search for general information as to what kind of roles the Royal Engineers undertook at, for example, www.forces-war-records.co.uk and/or by a search engine (such as google) search for the Royal Engineers. Knowing the unit should be able to narrow the search to the type of work Horace would have been involved in and knowing his rank narrows that to more accuracy. Whilst I have researched more about the Royal Engineers generally, I have been unable to find any information about his unit, 9th Stevedore Company.
My maternal Great (x2) Uncle (Grandfather’s side)
Also, during researching my maternal grandfather’s family I discovered my Great (x2) Uncle, Albert Huddlestone, had served in WW1. He enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps for the duration of the war. I found his service record (27 pages) on ancestry.co.uk. This provides a great deal of detail about his service career, not only the important details such as serve number, rank, and regiment, personal and family details but also details of where he was posted (Salonica), details of the ships he was transported on and the dates of those travels; details of his role in the RASC, which was an ambulance driver; details of medical history during his time of service (admittances and discharges from hospital) and periods of leave and a copy of his Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity which was provide on his dispersal from the RASC.
All these details provide an insight into his service career and the details within it (rank, regiment, posting details etc) would help locate other documents which could provide even more details of his service career. Such as war diaries in series WO 95 at TNA. There is information available about the Salonica campaign at https://salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk/ and at the Imperial War Museum https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/a-short-history-of-the-salonika-campaign.
The documentation I do have does not provide details of any medals he may have been awarded and the medal rolls may therefore be consulted to determine this as at Medal Roll Index WO 327 at TNA.
My Maternal Great (x2) Uncle Army Service (Grandmother’s side)
During my research into the family of my maternal grandmother, Mary Oldfield, my mum told me that one of Mary’s maternal Uncles had gone into the army sometime around WW1 and had never been heard from again so was a bit of a mystery. He was Earnest Downing. I found him in the 1901 and 1911 census with the rest of his family. He was born about 1901 he would therefore have been too young to serve in WW1 and I could not find any record of him in the military in my searches on www.ancestry.co.uk. If he enlisted after 1921 then no records would be available online. However I tried a search on www.findmypast.co.uk and found one record in the transcriptions of Army Book 358 (Royal Artillery attestations 1883-1942 Transcription). He is listed on page 123 and the following information is provided:
- Regimental number 1017736 (There is also written above in red pen 1/2/95)
- Whether the enlistment was for the regular army (R), militia (M), special reserve (SR) or Territorial Force (T) R
- Full name DOWNING Ernest
- Date of attestation 13/3/19
- Age on attestation 18 5/12
- Place of attestation Pontefract
- Whether transferred to or from another corps and in such cases, the date of transfer 29/6/41 to A/A
- Trade on enlistment Horseman on Farm
- Parish, town and county of birth Barnlsey, Yorkshire
- Next of kin (parents’ details to be written in pencil, wife’s details to be written in ink) (Father) Joseph, Castleford
- Place and date of marriage
- Place and date of birth of each child
- Campaigns, wounds, medals or rewards of any kind India
- Date, place and cause of discharge 15/8/44 to RASC (Royal Army Service Corps)
- Rank and character on discharge
- Rate of pension awarded
- Address on discharge
- Remarks – often gives details of prior service, often including a regimental number and date of enlistment Former no. 285053
This information would help locate details of his service record as it identifies his army number (and a former number), when he enlisted, where he was first posted, where he was transferred to in 1944. The writing in red pen above the regimental number is clearly added later to the original record and appears to be a date. By that time he would have been around age 94/95 years and therefore I would assume he was retired from the forces. It may therefore be that it is his date of death. A search for him with that date may assist in solving the mystery although as yet such a search has been unsuccessful! What it does tell us is that he did not die in WW2 but was still a member of the forces at that time. It would be worth checking the medal rolls for WW2 which are retained by the Ministry of Defence medal office and the Gallantry medals records, as cited in the London Gazette
As with my grandfather, as the majority of his service was spent after 1921 his service record is not available to the public, but may be obtained by next of kin with more limited information being available to anyone else who enquired provided he died more than 25 years ago (so if 1/2/95 is his date of birth his record would not be available to those until 2020.
We have his service number and know he served in India. It is not known how long he served in India and whether he was still there during WW2. The war diaries for South-East Asia Command at TNA in series WO 172 may assist with this.
If his service record could be obtained it may provide answers to some of these queries in any event and whether and how he progressed through the ranks It would also be interesting to see if any other family details were provided in his service record which may help trace any direct descendants and answer the question as to why his parents and siblings never heard anything more from him once he enlisted.
Unfortunately, I have not come across any ancestors who have served in any earlier wars/battles….yet!
 “able to perform any service”
 “Free from serious organic disease, able to stand service conditions in garrisons at home. Category C2, able to walk to and from work a distance not exceeding five miles and hear sufficiently well for ordinary purposes”.
 “Category B, free from serious organic disease, able to stand service conditions on the lines of communication in France or in garrisons in the tropics and in addition, if classified under B1. able to march at least five miles, to see to shoot with glasses, and to hear well” (HS being “Home Service”)
All grading descriptions taken from https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1918/jun/20/military-service-medical-grading (12th January 2019)