A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hooptedoodle #13 - More Ancestors

I would not wish to suggest that my family is especially interesting, so I promise this is not the beginning of a genealogy blog. I was going through some archive stuff on the computer, and came across some ancient photos.

Great-Grandfather Robert is on the right end of the middle row

These were taken by my Great-Grandfather Robert during his WW1 service, and they form part of an extensive archive of documentation and pictures which has been painstakingly compiled by a relative of mine. Robert (who was the father of the grandfather I mentioned in Hooptedoodle #10) served in the Royal Army Service Corps, Motor Transport branch. His discharge papers in 1919 describe him as a "Ford driver". His service included spells in Egypt, Damascus, Gaza and Palestine. He carried his snapshot camera with him throughout and, understandably, most of his pictures are of things which he found interesting during his off-duty moments - the ruins of Palmyra, casual groups of his mates, tourist stuff of camels and so on. He did, however, take some pictures of his unit at work, and their vehicles, and I thought someone might be interested in the WW1 machinery.

This is described as 'a camel ambulance'

A breakdown

Army chaplain on horseback, in Egypt

While thinking about family history, a story which was handed down by Robert's father (who was also named Robert) is interesting, if only as a glimpse of a historic occasion. Robert senior (my great-great-grandfather) was an Irishman, from Tralee, a career soldier who served in the 95th (Derbyshire) Regt. He was present at a big ceremony at which many of the British Army units were re-organised and renamed.

I guess this was the 1881 event (in Hyde Park?), when Queen Victoria presented the new colours. The story is as I was told it, as a boy - if the details are inaccurate or have changed through retelling over the years, please reject or correct as you wish. The drill was that the 95th had to march up to the dias where Her Unamused Majesty was located, receive a blessing and the new flags, and then be ordered by the RSM to march off, under their new title (2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters) - this last is the important bit.

Sadly, the RSM had been steadying his nerves with much gin, and when his big moment came to march them off, he couldn't remember the new regimental title. After a long, awkward silence, during which we may imagine the RSM growing very red in the face, he eventually roared, "Oh - bugger it! - 95th Regiment of Foot - about face, quick march..."

Legend has it that HM was even less amused than usual, and the RSM was dismissed from the service without pension. Feel free to append your ending of choice.


  1. Great pictures! And very good ones, clear, well composed etc esp for being so early on.

    Palestine? No candid shots of Lawrence in there are there?


  2. My great-grandfather was an Irish Liverpudlian coal merchant - he and Lawrence did not move in the same circles! There are a great many photos of crowds of Arabs, any one of which could be The Bold TEL, I suppose.

  3. Fascinating entry - the pictures are very interesting. I particularly liked the chap with the Lewis Gun on the truck.

    An Irish Liverpudlian? I knew you had some redeeming characteristics Tony.

  4. Hi Tony - those photos are fascinating. I quite recently discovered that I had a Great-Uncle who served in WW1 and was able to download his service record when it became available on line last year. He was one of Kitchener's volunteers - joined up in September 1914, was sent to Egypt and then to France in 1916, took part in the entire Somme battle (inlcuding the first day!) and was killed just as the battle ended in September 1916 - age 21. All the more poignant because my own son is now 21 and Uncle George was completely written out of family history! Thanks for posting,


  5. Ian - that is a genuinely touching story - I think the passage of the years has kind of dulled our awareness of how much WW1 affected people's lives. When I read about tens of thousands of casualties in a single day on the Somme then I can boggle at the numbers, and try to appreciate the scale of human tragedy, but the reality is that almost every family in the country (and Germany, and France, and so on) lost somebody.

    Great-grandfather Robert was 40 when he was called up in 1916, and I always assumed that he was called up to the RASC because, as a coal-merchant, he could drive. Not so, apparently - the army taught him to drive - as a coal merchant, he seems to have had a part share in a horse and cart! Robert got through the war with no injuries, as far as I know, and returned to Birkenhead. He died, following surgery for prostate cancer, in 1930 - aged 54. Photos of him in later life indicate that 54 then was much older than it is now.