About

Many years ago, after my grandfather’s death, I received a small collection of miscellaneous photographs taken by my him, A.R.Gill, during his time in the British Army, mostly in Africa. My grandfather died when I was just nine but I know from half-remembered anecdotes that he had served as an officer in the Hampshire Regiment, and was known as an “Old Contemptible”, during the First World War, had then been seconded to service in Africa and spent most of the interwar period in various units in Africa with colourful names such as the Egyptian Camel Corps, the West African Frontier Force, the IXth Sudanese, the Sudan Defence Force. He met and married my grandmother in Gambia where he was ADC to the Governor and retired back to England. But he returned again to Africa in the Second World War. I remember my grandparents had two old regimental drums of the IXth Sudanese, which had been converted into coffee tables and I would lie on the floor as a child and look at the strange names of their battle honours and exotic Arabic inscriptions with absolutely no idea what it all meant.

Many of the photographs that were passed on to me had no information, some had handwritten notes on the back by my grandmother. Many of the photographs included other people but did not have their names. Who were they? And where was the photograph taken? When was it taken?  I believe that in the last weeks of my grandfather’s life my grandmother went through many of his old photographs with him and tried to record the places and times where they were taken.  But many have no information at all.  Over the years these photos lay in an old shoe box and I would occasionally take them out and look through them, repeating the same questions.

With the dawn of the internet, with web forums and blogs, so much information became available and by searching for the miscellaneous names and places written on the back of some of the photos, and searching the names of the regiments and battalions, I have been able to find out so much more. Slowly I have been putting together the pieces of a jigsaw, helped along with a few letters and discussions with family members, and downloads of historical material from the National Archives’ website. But so much valuable information has come from small blogs and messages on forums, from people who are clearly doing the same as me, publishing their research for all who may be interested to see. So I feel that I too should also share my research. Maybe I will mention a person, a place or a unit which someone else is looking for, helping to fill in the gaps in their research. Maybe you may know the name of an unidentified person or place in my photographs.

So this is very much a work in progress. The initial goal is to write a monograph of my grandfather once I have filled enough gaps in my knowledge, but I have other photos and letters of his brothers, and a cousin – all who also served in WWI; one who died in Flanders, and one who died just after the war of flu – so maybe the project will continue. In the meantime, please feel free to read and comment. Please let me know if you see any inaccuracies so I can correct them. If you have any information on any of the places, people and units mentioned, great – please do let me know.  Please respect the photographs – copyright still subsists in all of them and is owned by the family, all rights reserved – if you would like to use a photograph, please ask.

In all my research I am reminded of my grandfather’s motto (people had personal mottos in those days):

“Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted”

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16 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear, i wanted to contact you through email & ask you about WW1: western Front, especially about the allied forces at Mesopotamia. As my Grand Father served there in British Indian Army’s, 106th Hazara Pioneers.

  2. I was wondering if you had any information on John Cozier?
    Please email me on lozzle_tsl@hotmail.com Thanks x

    John COZIER
    Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment, 11
    Brigade, 4th Division. Army no. 16452. He was formerly Private, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Army no. 17799
    He was killed in action on 1 July 1916 during the Battle of Albert.
    He is remembered on pier and face 7C and 7B of the Theipval Memorial
    He was born in Swerford and lived in Enstone

    • Laura,

      Apologies for the long delay in replying. Unfortunately I don’t have any information on John Cozier, but I recommend that you contact the Museum of the Royal Hampshire Regiment. They have digitized all their Regimental Journals and so can quickly find any reference of a soldier’s name. Their details are as follows:

      The Royal Hampshire Regiment Trust
      Serle’s House
      Southgate Street
      Winchester
      Hampshire SO23 9EG

      Tel: 01962 863658

      Email: museum@serleshouse.co.uk

      Good luck,

      David Gill

  3. Hi David – I have a photograph of RNAS troops marching in Zanzibar 1917. My father Sgt J E Mitchell is in the front row having served on HMS Manica at that time. I don’t know much about his service then. He later moved to the RAF and served in the 39-45 war as well.

    I can email a copy of the picture.

    David Mitchell

  4. Hello David,

    Very interesting to see your grandfather’s contribution and I came upon your pages whilst trying to track where my great uncle who fell during the 2nd Battle of Ypres. Pte Lawrence Parker was killed on 3rd may and has no known grave. However I have the war diary for regiment and know that he was somewhere alongside ARG immediately prior to his death. Lawrence was in B Coy of the 1/4th East Yorkshire Regiment who were drawn somewhat oddly from between Durham and Hull, himself being from Hull. In the account posted by Col Strick (sorry if that’s wrong, I lose this if I check! ) he mentions being joined by 2 companies from the Durham rifles. Whilst this may be true, the war diary for the East Yorks mentions sending C & D coy to join the Hampshires on the same date. Lawrence in B Coy (along with A) was sent to join the London Rifle brigade, also mentioned as being to the left. That would put him somewhere pretty close to ARG at the time of the fall back to a new line.

    I am keen to locate a rough are where he would have fallen and wonder if you have any further info on this particular battle?

    Coincidentally, I now live in Hampshire, near Buriton.

    Best regards

    Paul Laurie Jessop

    • Paul,
      Thank you for your message.
      Have you seen the BN War Diary of the 1st Hants for these days? They are missing from the National Archives at Kew but I found them on a great website in Canada and posted the relevant days here: https://gillww1.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/battalion-war-diary-april-may-1915/
      Does this help at all? It records two companies from the East Yorks joining on 1st May and mentions the Rifle Brigade on 27th April “Trenches extended and improved during night 26/27th. Learnt during night that Rifle Brigade were about 1 ½ miles to our left rear, this still leaving a large gap. Col Hick’s account (you can read here: https://gillww1.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/second-battle-of-ypres-april-may-1915/) mentions that “On the night of the 27th/28th we were reinforced by two companies of the 8th Durham light Infantry (T), …. With these reinforcements we were able to extend our line to the left and close the gap, linked up with the last R.B. of our own 11th Brigade. And so our line was complete again.”
      There’s further mention of the East Yorks in the Hants Regimental Journal. You can see copies of a couple of pages here: https://gillww1.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-hampshire-regimental-journal-june-1915-p180.jpg

      But none of the accounts or maps I have seen really give any clear idea of where exactly they were. I suppose there must a trench map somewhere with more accurate positions – maybe the Canadian website has this?
      Also you might try the Brigade war diary for the 11th Brigade – see here :
      http://data4.collectionscanada.ca/netacgi/nph-brs?s1=4th+Division&s13=&s12=&l=20&s9=RG9&s7=9-52&Sect1=IMAGE&Sect2=THESOFF&Sect4=AND&Sect5=WARDPEN&Sect6=HITOFF&d=FIND&p=1&u=http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/02015202_e.html&r=15&f=G – particularly these pages: http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e064/e001580797.jpg


      They seem to be using map references for positions. But can we find the map?
      I’ll keep looking.
      All the best,
      David

      • Paul, I think I’ve found the position where your great uncle would have been, with the LRB on 2nd/3rd May 1915.
        The Canadian website was very useful as it has all the diaries for the 11th Brigade. I found the following pages for the LRB:


        This puts the LRB on 29th April at the following position “Received orders at 7.30pm to take over trenches north of road D.13.c.3.X to D.13. centre and relieve E.Yorks. Two companies 4th Yorks attached to Battalion. Relief effected. Order of of Coys. from left:- No.1 Coy., No.2 Coy., No.3 Coy., No.4 Co., L.R.B. Z.Coy. 4th Yorks with Y.Coy., 4th Yorks in support trench dug by battalion on night of 25th.”


        On this next page, for 1st May they are still there “In trenches north of road in D.13.c.” It seems they were there under heavy shelling until being withdrawn on the night of 3rd May. 45 killed and 128 wounded on 2nd May!

        I found a guide on trench maps and how to read the coordinates here: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/research/maps/british-army-ww1-trench-maps.htm
        and believe we are looking for map 28, NE, square number 13.

        I think I have found a map for this here – http://digitalarchive.mcmaster.ca/islandora/object/macrepo%3A66721/-/collection. Although it is a later map so it doesn’t show the position of the trenches in April/May 1915 we can still work out the position from the reference. Actually, it seems the line was moving so quickly in the battle of 2nd Ypres at the end of April that you would need a different map for each day.

        In fact, I did find a very useful series of maps on a Canadian site which shows the fast movement of the front line, and the utter confusion there must have been, in those days at the end of April when the Canadians were gassed so badly and fell back, and the 11th Brigade came up in the confusion, somehow plugged the gap and held the line. http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/writing/maps.asp
        The last map shows the rough position of the 11th Brigade on the night of 26th/27th April 1915: http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/Maps/ypres5R.jpg – plugging the gap between the 10th Brigade on the left, and the 85th Brigade on their right.

        If the LRB were in trenches in a line between D.13.c.3. on their left and D.13. centre on their right, just north of the road, and the two companies of the 4th E Yorks were on the right of their position, then I believe that spot is roughly where the number 13 appears on the trench map, where the east-west road is joined by the stream coming from NW and the lane joins from due N. Here is link on Google maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@50.8849502,2.9532502,123m/data=!3m1!1e3

        This corresponds with the positions given for the night of 29th April in the Brigade diary here: http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e064/e001580757.jpg. This puts the very right hand side of the LRB’s line (which we know from the LRB war diary was manned by the two Coys of the 4th E Yorks) at D.13.b.3.2.

        Let me know whether you think this may be the place.

        Kind regards,

        David

  5. Sir,

    It was with great interest that I had found your blog by ‘accident’ as I am a collector of British officer’s swords, especially of the Gurkha Regiments. However, out of interest I see that your forbear served in the XI Sudanese Regiment and later Sudan Defence Force before and after the Great War. I am Sudanese and like you from my grandparents received some photographs of my great grandfather who was a Sudanese officer in the 9th Sudanese and of my grandfather, his son, who as an Lieutenant fighting the Italians at Keren received the MC in 1941 with the SDF. Wonder if your forbear knew them? If you would like I could send you photos if interested.

    PS I just bought a Rifle Regiment Gurkha officer’s sword to Lieutenant Colonel KCS Erskine MC 1/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles who won the MC at Gallipoli. I never served in the Army and neither did my father (being a Diplomat and so abhors war) but having seen the stern gaze of my great grandfather peering down from me from the walls of grandmother’s house, well i supposed made me interested in the recent past and acquire my enduring hobby!

    Best wishes,

    Yahya

    • Dear Yahya,
      Thank you for your message and interest in the site. I would be very interested to see your photos and to know the dates that your grandfather and great grandfather served.
      Kind regards,
      David

  6. Hello David,

    I was trying to find pictures of The Malt House as my family owned the house up until very recently. Unfortunately we could not keep it after my great-grandfather passed away and it was very sadly sold.

    The pictures that are on this website are amazing and I know that my grandfather, mother and extended family would love to see them.

    Do you still have the photographs? If so, I’d love copies of them.

    My wish is to earn enough money to buy the house back for the family! (I’m a teacher so it’s a pipe dream!)

    Thanks

    Charli

    (My wordpress account is linked to my school site, apologies if that’s what comes up!)

  7. Dear David,
    I came across your fascinating blog for two reasons: the first was whilst researching RAMC medic John FItzgerald Gwynne for our WWI casualties website http://www.cathedral-school.co.uk/world-war-i-the-cathedral-school-remembers.html, (as he was attached to the 1st Battalion of the Hampshires from 1914 until his death 100 years ago on Thursday,) but particularly whilst researching the Manica, as John Dolben Mackworth is an Old Llandavian, of whom we are very proud. The photos you posted are wonderful, and really serve to illustrate this remarkable story and the bravery of the men who spent so long suspended in that flimsy basket. I have used the photos to bring the story alive for the children in a display in the school about John Mackworth, a use I hope you approve of, but I would also like to use one or two of them, with proper attribution, in the Old Llandavians’ newsletter, as it is a story that I know they will appreciate. The newsletter is mostly distributed as an ‘e-shot’, through the school website, and although I doubt anyone except Old Llandavians would find it, technically anyone could access it through the Alumni section of the school website, which is why I am contacting you to ask your permission.
    All the best,
    Louise.
    PS I would give my eye teeth for a family history like yours! Mine is more boring than Michael Parkinson’s!

  8. Hi David ,
    I came across your site whilst researching Laura Jane Back , who married Reginald Henry Gill .
    You may be interested to know after the death of Captain Gill , Laura married the Revd Louis Evans Webb in September 1925 in Fremantle , West Australia .Laura died in 1946 , Bradford Yorkshire and Louis died in 1954 also in Bradford Yorkshire The Webb’s went to the U.K in 1938 .
    It would be interesting to know if Laura made or kept on contact with any of the Gill family .after Reg’s death ?
    I am related to the Back family, through my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Lydia Back , one of her brothers was the father of Laura Back [ James was her father ] .
    I don’t surpose you have a photo of Laura ?
    Do you know what happened to Reg’s medals ?
    David you have a great site and and in depth history of the Gill family , well done .
    Best Wishes
    Allan Harris
    Albany West Australia

  9. Thank you so much for uploading all this material and the photographs. Such a valuable resource. If I reference any of these in my own writings, I will be sure to attribute your blog properly. Thank you again.

Please feel free to comment. If you see any inaccuracies or have some further information, please let me know.

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