‘Jane’ – “the Famous James” motorcycle

It was during Reg‘s period of convalescence in England, sometime during his time at the 3rd London General Hospital, convalescence at No. I Command Depot and training at Rollestone Camp that Reg purchased ‘Jane’ his motorbike. His letters home to his wife Laura, and his parents, upon his return to the Front talk a lot about ‘Jane’ and there are photos in his file at the IWM of him posing on ‘Jane’, probably taken at Rollestone Camp:

Reginald Gill

I believe this is a  motorcycle made by The James Cycle Company Ltd known as “the Famous James”.

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More on the history of James Motorcycles here and below.

Reg’s letters in May and June 1917 often talk about ‘Jane’ and how much Reg enjoyed her. In his letter home to his wife Laura in June 1917, Reg mentions:

“Hope you got my photos safely and you liked them, had them taken in Bournemouth one Saturday afternoon, I used to go in there on ‘Jane’ sometimes, it is only 44 miles from Rollestone & I could get down in 2 hours, Jane took me 1500 miles while I was at home, so I got about quite a bit, + cheaply at that, I couldn’t possibly have done so without her, I have only £17/13/3 to pay now and I am sending Dad money [out?] whenever I have a few francs to spare, so will soon have her paid for, I hope.”

And to his parents in July 1917:

What an extraordinary thing the back tyre bursting like that, as far as I remember
I mended the last puncture, which occurred in Salisbury, I picked up a horseshoe nail and I certainly remember examining the [cover?] carefully. I am very glad to think you are riding her, it will do her good, better than the engine standing idle in a fixed position for a long time.

 

By Jove wouldn’t I love to have a ride on dear old Jane once more, I know she is in the best of hands however. If anything happens to me I want Dick to have her, so please give her to him with my love.

Dick was Reg’s half-brother, A.R.Gill – who was serving in the 1/2 Kings African Rifles in East Africa at the time.

But then in August and September the tone of Reg’s letters changes. He now seems  preoccupied with a decision to sell Jane and buy a more powerful motorbike:

I was thinking of saving up till I get about £35/. and then getting Dad to sell my bike and buying a stronger & more powerful machine about 3 ½ to 4 ¼ H.P. which would stand the wear & tear of the Australian roads better than ‘Jane’. Am glad you had a nice time at Broadstairs dearest, I should love to see the dear old place again, if I get another lucky crack I must take a run down that way and visit all the old haunts. I can imagine that Canterbury must well nigh be ruined with all the soldiers there, how sick I am of the sight of khaki. I think this year will see an end to it all.

 

I have definitely decided to purchase a  James 4 ¼ H.P. motor bike and sell dear old  ‘Jane’. I wonder if dad could manage to arrange the sale for me, I should like if possible to get £30/./. for her (minus the speedometer) as I really think she is worth that amount.

I am saving up & already have about £30/./. in my pay book! Strange to say. If Dad could manage to get £30/./., & my £30 added (the bike costs £69/10/.) I should soon be able to buy one, and he could ride it about for me until I could get home, they are magnificent machines. Will you ask him to write me on the subject. I enclose a letter I received from the James people.

 

The new bicycle I’m thinking of getting is a 4 ¼ H.P. model capable of taking a side car, so I could take you out. I wonder if you would go with me.

 

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JAMES 1914 MODEL 6 598CC 1 CYL SV 2703 (source: Yesterdays.nl)

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1913 ‘James No. 6’ 3 ½ HP 588cc

This is a photo of a  “4½ hp (86×103) equipped with full chain drive and 3 speed James gearbox. A new feature for the 1915 model 4½ hp was the gear change lever that was positioned through a slot in the petrol tank instead of at the side of the tank”:

James 41/2 hp

And here is a 1918 James with 6600cc

1915 James 600cc 4¼ HP side car:

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Above:
“1915 James 600cc 4 ¼ HP side car
Single cylinder side valve
Engine No. J57786
Frame No. 65365
Founded in 1883, The James Cycle Company Ltd became a highly-successful manufacturer of penny-farthings in Birmingham, UK. It initially marketed strongly to the female market, one of the advertising slogans declaring, “Remember – All bicycles are not alike” becoming one of the countless West Midlands bicycle manufacturers to enter the burgeoning motorcycle market.
“The Famous James” renowned for distinction in design and dependability in service and reputed as an affordable commuter vehicle began building motorized bicycles in 1902 and by 1910, complete motorcycles went into production.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, most of West Midlands’ motorcycle manufacturers supported the war effort by turning over their production to the army. James supplied pedal-cycles to the British military as well as supplying 4-stroke v-twin motorcycles to the Belgian and Russian armies.
This 600cc 4 ¼ HP, built in 1914 for 1915 release, is equipped with full chain drive and a three speed James gear box with the gear change lever distinctively positioned through a slot in the petrol tank. This sensitively restored example retains original fittings including handle bars, levers, lamps, cables, foot pedals still clearly bearing the James inscription and original tinware housing the fully enclosed rear chain and primary chain. Rear phosphor bronze expanding band brake-lining is original still requiring oiling as per the manual instructions, with spring drive in the rear hub…..
Finished in brown, gold and red, sporting original James decals, acetylene lights, leather tool panniers and superb alloy appointments this is a well preserved veteran side valve single with period side car.” (Source: Mossgreen Auctions)

It appears that Reg had grown up with various motorcycles and cars in which his father had a keen interest. I believe that Reg’s father (GH Gill) and Reg’s uncle (A.A. Gill, ‘Uncle Bertie”) were some of the first members of the Automobile Association and purchased the first two Vauxhall motor cars to be produced but I have no evidence of this.

Reg as a boy on a Rudge Whitworth bicycle

Clyde car 2 cylinder, White & Poppe engine - EG and friend unknown

Clyde car 2 cylinder, White & Poppe engine – EG and friend unknown

Ford Model T - No 2 - GHG & EG

Ford Model T – No 2 – GHG & EG

Victoria 4 cylinder car. made by Victoria Motor Works, Godalming 1908. Driver and Passenger unknown

Victoria 4 cylinder car. made by Victoria Motor Works, Godalming 1908. Driver and Passenger unknown

Vauxhall 5 HP, AA Gill's car

Vauxhall 5 HP, AA Gill’s car – “Uncle Bertie but I don’t recognise his passenger as his wife Aunt Josephine”

Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage - GHG & ARG

Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage – GHG & ARG

Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage - AAG & son, David

Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage – AAG & son, David

Hupmobile 1913 - passengers unknown

Hupmobile 1913 – passengers unknown

Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage - GHG & ARG

Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage – GHG & son, ARG

Ford 1908 Model T - GHG & EG

Ford 1908 Model T – GHG & EG

Victoria 1908 - GHG & ARG

Victoria 1908 – GHG & ARG

GTG

Reg’s brother Theo (GTG) in India 1914

 

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Letter to Mum & Dad – 15 July 1917 (or June?)

The next surviving letter of Reg‘s is to his father and step-mother dated 15 July 1917. But the content so closely matches his letter to his wife Laura dated 15 June, and mentions that he only just left them ‘last Wednesday’, that I have to assume this is incorrectly dated and must have been written on 15 June 1917, the same day as the letter to Laura.

                                             France.

                                                 15. 7. 17.

 

Dearest Mum & Dad.

Just a line to let you know I am still alright, will give you a short history of happenings since I left you last Wednesday afternoon. When I got to Waterloo I at once enquired after my valise, only to find it had not arrived and was no where to be found. I went to the Station Master and kicked up a deuce of a row about it and he came to the conclusion that it could not have been sent from Amesbury Station[1] because it had not been prepaid on! So he telegraphed and told them to forward it at once. Then I went to the Automobile Club[2] and booked a bed and on to Victoria to catch the 8 o’clock train to Bromley, arrived at the house about 10 to 9 and had some dinner and caught a train back to town at
10.0pm & went on to Waterloo but could get no satisfaction
from them about my gear, so went back to the Club and to
bed & was waked up at 2.0 am with information that
my valise had arrived at Waterloo, so I made arrangements to have it sent round at 6.0 am. Caught the 7.50 am at Victoria and saw the Newquay family waving in the field at Shortlands[4] as the train went by. The boat did not sail until 3.0 pm so one or two others & myself went for a swim & had some lunch and then went on board. Got to Boulogne safely & was told by the R.T.O. that our train did not leave until 10.30 am next day (Friday) so we had to put in the night there & next day caught the train. She stopped at Etaples[4] and did not go on any further until Saturday ay 7.30 am so had to stop the night again at our own expense. Eventually arrived at Albert and walked out to the Battalion where I got a pipping welcome from every one. We are going forward now, so will write you again shortly. We get paid in a few days and I will send some money home
for Jane[5], will try & get some registered envelopes. It is very hot indeed out here and is very trying, it doesn’t improve the smells at all, as you can imagine. I can just picture the dear old garden at home, only wish I could see it
again. Everyone is very hopeful that the war will be over by September or October and we have every reason to think so, I cannot say any more about that however, but it is what we call in Australia the “Dinkum Oil”[6].
I wrote a line to Newquay. Will you forward any
letters or parcels to me at the same address. I have
got my old Company back again thank goodness, but
alas there are very few of the old faces left. By Jove
wouldn’t I love to have a ride on dear old Jane once more,
I know she is in the best of hands however. If anything
happens to me I want Dick[7] to have her, so please give her
to him with my love. I am awfully well & quite happy here
this time.

Good bye to you both.

Ever your affectionate son.

Reg

 

[1] Amsbury, Wiltshire, near Stonehenge. The station, which served the military camps on Salisbury Plain during WWI, including Rollestone, closed in 1963

[2] Royal Automobile Club – see previous post

[3] The family of G.C. Bower – ‘Uncle Cliff’ living in Shortlands, Bromley – the railway passes a few streets from Durham Avenue just after Shortlands railway station. See previous post.

[4] Étaples or Étaples-sur-Mer

[5] ‘Jane’, Reg’s motor cycle

[6] Australian slang for the real truth or hard information.

[7] ‘Dick” was Reg’s half-brother A.R.Gill – serving in the 1/2 Kings African Rifles in East Africa at the time.

 

The Bower family

The details given on Reg’s records at the Australian War Memorial for contact address for any further information for the Historian, presumably given by Reg’s wife Laura after the war, are “George H Gill, Esq. c/o Newquay, Durham Ave, Bromley, Kent, England”. This was not the home address for Reg’s father G.H.Gill.

G.H.Gill had moved since Reg was a boy, firstly to The Copse, in Witley, Surrey and then, just before WWI, to the Malt House, Lurgashall in West Sussex, where Reg’s visited while on leave from the Western Front.

I have discovered that Newquay, Durham Avenue in Bromley was in fact the address of George Clifford Bower, Reg’s ‘Uncle Cliff” on his mother’s side of the family.

Reg’s mother Agnes Ellen Gill (nee Bower) tragically died in childbirth with Reggie in September 1883. Reg is recorded as being born in Putney. His elder brother, Theo, was also recorded as being born in Putney two years previously in 1881 and Theo’s photo album shows the following house of his grandparents Mr and Mrs Theodore Bower ‘the house in which I was born’. It is likely that Reg was also born in the same house.

Meadowcroft, Upper Richmond Road, Putney

GTG photo album - p.45Although Reg and Theo’s father remarried a year later in 1884, to Mary Agnes (nee Kingsnorth), Mary tragically died of Hodgkins disease less than eight years later in 1892, leaving Theo and Reggie motherless again, aged just 11 and 9. GH Gill remarried for a third time in 1893 to Eleanor Pritchard (nee Cook) who had been the specialist nurse of his late wife Mary during her illness. GHG’s third son, Albert Richard Gill, was born in 1894. However, despite the tragic loss of Reg’s mother, it seems from Reg’s letters home from the front (here and here) that Theo and Reg remained very close to their mother’s extended family.  I discovered a photo montage of the extended Bower family which seems to have been made from separate photos taken of the family members in around 1900-1903:

The family of Theodore Bower, Esq.

Written on the back of the photograph:

“Back Row L-R: Jack Richardson, Theodore Bower, Theodore Gill, Reginald Gill, Herbert Richardson, Mrs G.C.Bower, G.C. Bower, T.H.Bower, G.H.Gill, Violet Bower, Geoffrey Richardson.

Middle Row L-R: Marjorie Bower, Alfred Bower, Mrs Herbert Richardson (‘Aunt Edith’), Daphne Bower, Theodore Bower, Margaret Bower, Mrs. Theodore Bower, Mrs. T.H. Bower, Bernard Richardson.

Front Row L-R:  Phillip Richardson, Gerard Bower, Cyril Bower

Of those mentioned in Reg’s letters:

George Clifford Bower, stockbroker, and his wife Emily Maud (nee Earnshaw) – ‘Uncle Cliff’ and ‘Aunty Maud’ in Reg’s letters – lived at ‘Newquay’, Durham Avenue, Bromley. Their children were:

Violet Bower – not mentioned in Reg’s letters. Violet married Francis John Fane in October 1915 and so presumably had left home by the time of Reg’s visit in June/July 1916.

Capt. Theodore Clifford Bower MC – mentioned in Reg’s letters in his visits to Bromley as ‘Theo‘.

Theodore H BowerAt the time of Reg’s first visit on leave in 1915, Theo was a Lieutenant in the 2nd battalion the Honourable Artillery Regiment (2 HAC). The HAC was (and still is) a territorial regiment in the City of London and many city professionals served both in the ranks and as officers. Theo was a private in 1912 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant just before the outbreak of war in August 1914, to Lieutenant in May 1915 and to Temporary Captain in January 1916 and Captain in April 1917 and Acting Major while second in command in July 1918.

The Prince of Wales (Capt TC Bower commanding the honour guard of the HAC) at the Guildhall – Oct 1922

I understand that Theo had been hospitalised in France in December 1914 with frostbite and returned to England but rejoined his regiment at the front again in 1915. Theo was awarded the MC in 1917, presumably for the period of the 2 HAC in Bullecourt in May –  reported in the London Gazette 17 July 1917:  “before the attack he carried out a daring reconnaissance in daylight and brought back most valuable information. Later he led his company with great gallantry setting a fine example throughout.” He

 

 

 

Margaret Bower – mentioned in Reg’s letters as ‘Margy and her husband‘, who was John M Nussey

Alfred George Bower – mentioned in Reg’s letters as ‘Baish‘ or ‘Baishe

Baish Bower

Baishe was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 4th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in May 1915 before transferring to the 1st Battalion on 27 July 1915. Later in the war he was a temporary captain.

After the war Baishe became a stockbroker like his father. He played football as an amateur for the Old Carthusians (the old boy team for Charterhouse School, where he and his brothers had been to school).

 

Baishe also played for the famous Corinthians and made nine appearances for Chelsea in the 1st and 2nd Division between 1923 – 1926. He won five full caps for England between 1923 and 1927 as an amateur at a time when it was becoming increasingly rare for an amateur to play for the full international team. Baishe went on to captain England for 2 victories, against Belgium and Wales, also a draw against Wales in which he was the last amateur footballer to captain England.

Daphne Bower – born in 1901, and mentioned often in Reg’s letters with ‘Uncle Cliff’ and ‘Aunty Maud’. She would have been 15 years old at the time of Reg’s visits on leave from the Western Front.

Theodore Herbert Bower, the other brother of Reg’s mother, and his wife Mary Whichelo (nee Rowe) – known as ‘Uncle Bert‘ and ‘Aunty Minnie‘ in Reg’s letters. Their children were:

Cyril Whichelo Bower – not mentioned in Reg’s letters presumably because he was on active service. Captain C W Bower DSC RN. He passed out from the training cruiser HMS Cumberland as midshipman in December 1910. Then  to HMS Hibernia (January – December 1911) and HMS Orion (January 1912 – February 1913), When the War broke out he was a sub-lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Laforey, 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, Harwich Force until September 1915. and then to the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Eastern Mediterranean Squadron for the final stages of the Gallipoli campaign (October 1915 – January 1916). In March 1916, he was appointed first lieutenant of the HMS Harpy (also 5th Destroyer Flotilla) on patrol duties off the Dardanelles (May 1916) and in December 1917, on the new destroyer HMS Michael. Cyril was awarded the DSC in September 1918, for service in action against enemy submarines. In 1923-25 he served in the HMS Hawkins, flagship in China, and in 1928-30 as first lieutenant-commander of the HMS Despatch, flagship on the America and West Indies Station. He was then executive officer of HMS Champion, gunnery and torpedo school cruiser, at Portsmouth. And finally Cyril was appointed Captain-Superintendent of the Arethusa Training Ship in 1932. He died in 1973.

Gerard Rimington Bower  – not mentioned in Reg’s letters – He was serving as 2nd Lieut. with the 1/22nd London Regiment 1st Bn Royal West Surrey. Actually Gerard was killed in action on 15th July 1916 – the day after Reg’s letter home describing his visit to the Bowers. Gerard went to Tonbridge School leaving at  Easter, 1914. Three weeks after the outbreak of war he received a commission, dated August 24th, 1914, in the 2/22nd (County of London) Battalion London Regiment (The Queen’s) (Territorial Force), and in the spring of 1915 he went to France with his Battalion and was promoted Temporary Lieutenant, on 27th May 1915. After being in the trenches for five weeks he returned from the Front, as he had been given a nomination for Sandhurst. Passing out of Sandhurst at the end of 1915, Gerard was gazetted to The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regt.) as 2nd Lieut., December 22nd, 1915, and returned to the Front on 20 May 1916. He was killed in action on 15th July 1916, whilst leading his men in an attack in the Battle of the Somme, shot through the head right on top of the German wire, which at that point had escaped destruction during the preparatory bombardment. His C.O. wrote of him “He had only been a short time with us, but he gave every promise of a successful career and I much deplore his loss. He died in a gallant manner at the head of his platoon.” Various officers have testified that he was “an excellent officer and one of the smartest subalterns in the Battalion,” and the following are extracts from some of their letters: “His platoon was among the first to go over, and I hear he led the men splendidly, that it was a fine sight to see them all in line following him. He led them forward right in the face of a heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, with another machine-gun catching them in rear from a certain wood. He showed great bravery and a fine example.” “He was so high-spirited and such a good officer, almost the ideal type, and we were all so fond of him.” “He had that devotion to duty and that love of, and care for, his men which is the hall-mark of the English officer.”

Godfrey Bower  – not mentioned in Reg’s letters and I cannot find information for him.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any information on the Richardson family.

Rejoining the 28th Bn, June 1917- Letter home to Laura

Upon arriving back at his battalion at Senlis in France , Reg immediately wrote a letter to his wife Laura in Fremantle, which has survived and is held at the Australian War Memorial (Ref: 1DRL/0314).

extract from letter to Laura 15 June 1917

C Coy                           France
28th Battalion              15.6.17.

Reg rejoined the battalion behind the front line at Senlis in France, during a period of rest, training and sports. He was back as company commander of C Company.

Dearest Kidds,

                        Just received three letters from you, the first for a whole month, I [?] an Australian mail was lost somewhere out at sea with all the mail hence the reason of the long wait. I got my orders for June 1st and on June 2nd at 5p.m. managed to leave Rollestone and get home on dear old ‘Jane’, which I did in 3 ½ hours (70 miles) arriving there just about 8.30 p.m. I left ‘Jane’ with Dad, he will look after her for me and went up to London on Wednesday afternoon by the 4 o’clock train, arriving at Waterloo about 6pm.

I  then booked a bed at the Royal Automobile Club and  then on to Victoria & caught the 8 pm train for Bromley, got to the house about 10 to 9 and had some dinner and then Aunty, Uncle & Daph came to the station to see me off by the 10 o’clock train for town & went to bed & in the morning was up at 5.30 and had a  swim in the swimming baths at the Club and on to Victoria to catch the boat train to Folkestone at 7.50. When we had passed through Shortlands Aunty, Uncle, Daph & the [?] were in the field at the back of their house to wave farewell so I saw them all for the last time. They have been most awfully good to me Kiddie, it has been like a home to me in England and I have always just skipped down whenever the opportunity offered.

Shortlands‘ is an area in Bromley, a suburb of south London, and which is on the route of the train to Folkestone.  “Aunty, Uncle, Daph” are Reg’s Uncle Cliff, George Clifford Bower, his wife and daughter. G.C. Bower lived with his family at a house called ‘Newquay’ on Durham Avenue in the neighbourhood. From a map of 1919, you can see a footpath behind the houses on the north side of Durham Avenue leading through a field to the railway line:

Shortlands, Bromley 1919

It’s clear from Reg’s letters that he had a very warm relationship with the extended Bower family and he was touched by their farewell ritual.

Royal Automobile Club Pall Mall.The Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, and its famous swimming pool, is still going strong. During WW1 honorary membership was offered to convalescent officers.  In 1916 the Club expanded the sleeping accommodation which was available to officers arriving or departing to the Front. And in 1917 the Club agreed to extend membership to the Royal Overseas Officers Club and so provided a base in London for officers of the Imperial forces. The Club was extremely busy. By the end of 1917, 7,000 officers of British units had been registered as Honorary members, and 4,500 officers of Imperial units.

pool-3900-x-1380-4The swimming pool was covered over at some point in 1917 (after Reg’s visit in May) and converted into a dormitory and between 20 and 30 officers resided in the Turkish baths. 800 meals were served at the Club per day. (The RAC – The Pall Mall Clubhouse during the First World War).

The letter continues:

The boat sailed about 3.30 pm and so I landed in stinking old France again about 5.0 pm. My left wrist will be permanently stiff I’m afraid but that doesn’t matter much as long as they leave me my right so I can play tennis or some game or other. I wrote to Mum before I left England, hope she gets my letter. I didn’t cable you when I was leaving because it is no earthly use your worrying about me a month or so before it is necessary, so you will have a month extra peace in fact don’t worry about me at all Kidder darling, I’m perfectly happy & contented here with the old Battalion. I am anxious to do my job & get it finished and then get home to you all and pray God no more partings in this life. I think things will be over a great deal sooner than you anticipate & that next year we will be back in dear old Australia again. What a home coming it will be for us all.

The tone of Reg’s letters has definitely changed since the previous year on his arrival in France and the ‘Black Anzacs’ Raid at Armentieres.

Your three letters were dated to April, 6th & 7th May. I actually joined up the Battalion on Saturday afternoon June 9th and for a royal welcome from those who were left, not too many old faces alas. I was away 7 months almost to the day. Jack Roydhouse has got the MC and is in England with trench foot, it is a rotten thing, a high temperature and aches and pains all over the body, and seems to crop up at any minute, like malaria.

Jack Roydhouse MC, formerly a school master from Subiaco, West Australia. Adjutant 1916-17. A brigade-major 1918-19. Wounded on two occasions. Twice mentioned in Despatches. He arrived at the 28th Battalion in France with Reg as part of the 7th Reinforcements in 1916 and was on the Brigade Staff of the 6th Brigade at Pozieres in July/August 1916.

General Gellibrand (in his hat) and his staff  having breakfast in a shell hole in Sausage Valley in the forward area near Pozieres, France. (Jack Roydhouse MC, front right)

CEW Bean gives an interesting portrait of Brigadier-General John Gellibrand CB DSO DSM in the Office History: The commander of the 6th Brigade at Poziers “was a man of exceptional personality, Brigadier-General John Gellibrand, of whom some description has already been given in these pages. A cultured soldier, staff-college graduate turned apple-grower, usually wearing an old ” Aussie ” tunic (as worn by a private) and living as simply as his men, sardonically humorous but sensitive to a degree, he was, like many sensitive men, a riddle to his superiors. His judgments sometimes appeared to them oblique, and he seldom explained them, since he loathed to thrust himself forward and attributed to those who dealt with him an understanding of his motives which they seldom possessed. He had the sensitive man’s high code of honour-however unpalatable the truth, he told it bluntly and left it at that. These qualities made him a difficult subordinate-not popular with his superiors, but of far greater value to them than they were aware; for, in his ability to inspire his own staff and battalion commanders, and. through them, his whole brigade, he had no equal in the A.I.F. His brigade staff comprised a group of youngsters-E. C. P. Plant, brigade-major; R. H. Norman,’ staff-captain ; Lieutenant Rentoul, 2 brigade signalling officer; together with Captain Gilchrist ,engineer ; and Lieutenants Savige and Roydhouse “learners” (attached for staff-training). All these lived together as one family. Any morning they – together with ‘‘Gelly ’’ in his shirtsleeves and old felt hat – might be seen breakfasting in a large shell-hole outside brigade headquarters in Sausage Gully.” (Bean, p 601)

Jack was awarded the MC for action in the second battle of Bullecourt on 3 May 1917 , gazetted on 1 June 1917:

“Captain Jack Roydhouse, Infantry.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
He displayed great courage and determination in
organizing and carrying out bombing attacks,
setting a splendid example to his men. His work
helped materially to hold our positions”

Jack survived the war, returning to teaching, at Hale School, Perth (he is mentioned here in 1922, in charge of the school cadet corp).

Reg’s letter continues:

Hope you got my photos safely and you liked them, had them taken in Bournemouth one Saturday afternoon, I used to go in there on ‘Jane’ sometimes, it is only 44 miles from Rollestone & I could get down in 2 hours, Jane took me 1500 miles while I was at home, so I got about quite a bit, + cheaply at that, I couldn’t possibly have done so without her, I have only £17/13/3 to pay now and I am sending Dad money [out?] whenever I have a few francs to spare, so will soon have her paid for, I hope.

 

“The 28th Btn Comforts fund is quite the first thing of its kind, Col Read tells me he has [???] £150/./. from them besides numerous cases of sensible goods, the money is spent on all sorts of things, such as sports materials & games of all sorts, also vegetables and tucker is bought for the boys when we are in billets and they are fed up & fattened and enjoy life immeasurably, they look a wonderfully healthy lot and are all in the pink, including yours truly.

Col. Read was Lieutenant Colonel George Arthur Read DSO . Before the war he had been a manager of a wool export business and enlisted in the AIF in March 1915 as a private but rose astonishingly quickly ending up as to commanding officer. Read had been appointed Captain in August 1916, and then temporary Major in the same month. Appointed Major in November and then Lieutenant Colonel and CO of the 28th Battalion in January 1917. He was seriously wounded in the aerial bombarded after the Battle of Polygon Wood but survived, being invalided back to Australia. He died in 1929.

The Battalion Comforts fund was collected by volunteers back home from the local community. Laura was a tireless volunteer throughout the war, first as secretary for the Fremantle Soldiers Comforts Committee and then the Fremantle branch of the Red Cross Society. “RED CROSS SOCIETY, W.A. DIVISION. FREMANTLE FOODSTUFFS DEPOT. In connection with the work undertaken by the Red Cross Society and the supply of foodstuffs and extra comforts to the returned soldiers in the various Military Hospitals and on returning Transports and Hospital Ships, the Society are desirous of securing suitable Accommodation in a central position in Fremantle for the purpose of a depot for this work. All parties who have a room, or shop which they could place at the disposal of the Society for this work, either free or at a nominal rent, are requested to communicate with Mrs. R. H. GILL, of Essex-st., Fremantle who is Hon Secretary pro. tem for the Committee.” (The West Australian, 21 January 1918)

Reg continues:

Old ‘Newt’ has a Base job somewhere in France, about the best thing for him, everybody is sick of the Political soldiers who don’t know the first rudiments of soldiering, anyway he can’t do much harm where he is. No. 3 A.G.H. has left Brighton and is established somewhere in France, I think it is at Abbeville, should so much like to see Anderson again, perhaps I may yet! in his official capacity.”

I cannot find out the identity of “Old Newt”, but “Anderson” must surely be Major Thomas Lynewolde Anderson who had been a doctor in Fremantle at some point before the war and was a medical officer for the 3rd Australian General Hospital (3AGH) which was at that time in Abbeville in the Somme.

The State Library of Victoria (SLV) has an old photo album of TL Andreson‘s with fascinating photos of the 3AGH, firstly at Lemnos for the Dardenelles campaign, then near Cairo before moving to Abbeville in France. It includes many photos of Anderson’s following posting to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital (1AAH) at Harefield Park in England. Extracts from the album can more easily be seen here.

Panorama of 3AGH at Abbeville in TL Anderson’s album. (Source: SLV)

Reg finishes the letter:

The good old 28th kept its name up again quite recently, the Germans have a healthy respect for what they call the “diamonds” they reckon us about the best of British troops, but as they say “too reckless”. Must close this now ducky [one?], I love you plenty,  plenty. Good bye darling.

            Ever yours,

Reg. “

Reg is referring to the battalion’s part in the second battle of Bullecourt, for which the battalion was awarded battle honours. The nickname “Diamonds” must come from the 28th Battalion’s identifying colour patch, a blue and white diamond, which was worn on the sleeve of the soldiers’ tunics. Bean goes into detail on the Australian’s colour patches here.

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RHG’s final days in Blighty – letter home, May 1917

Reg wrote a letter to his father and step-mother from Rollestone Camp in the final days before he returned to his battalion in France, after his return from hospital with mumps:

The letter is held in Reg’s file at the Imperial War Museum in London, donated by Reg’s father (reference: Documents.14424)

:

28/5/17            Rollestone

                                    Salisbury Plain

 

Dearest Mum & Dad,

                        I arrived quite safely back
at camp, Jane behaved perfectly and took me
back in 3 ½ hours, which was good going. Thank
you awfully Mum & Dad dear for giving me such
a good time at home, I enjoyed every minute
of my few days and the time only sped too
quickly, unfortunately it always does in times
like that. I am expecting my orders any day now
the War Office have officially written me that I
am available for active service at short notice
so that may mean 24 hours, anyway I shall
cycle home & leave Jane & send my box on. I must
try and see Aunty Maud & Uncle before I go, as
they have been very kind to me, if I get 24 hours
I might go up to [Town?] after I leave you & stop
there that night. It is very hot & muggy to day,
it rained hard all day yesterday, I hope you
got it at home, it would do the garden a lot
of good. Have you any news of Dick since
I left, what a pity it is he is so far away. Will
you ask Dad to write to Horseferry Rd. & ask them
to inform him in [?] of casualty to me, I will
also, then you will be sure of hearing. Good bye
to you both. I will wire any news.

Yours,

Reg.

Jane was Reg’s motorcycle which it seems from his letters he purchased with help from his father sometime during his period of hospital and convalescence in England.

Reginald Gill

The Malt House, Lurgashall - presume after renovation copy

The Malt House, Lurgashall, West Sussex

Reg’s father, George Henry Gill (GHG), lived with Reg’s step mother in the Malt House in Lurgashall in West Sussex. GHG had moved here shortly before the First World War and Reg had first visited on his leave in June 1916 after the Raid at Armentières. Major Roy Phillipps MC DFC, Reg’s mate from Perth, also visited Reg’s parents on leave in December 1917.

Aunty Maud & Uncle” were Reg’s ‘Uncle Cliff’, George Clifford Bower and his wife, who lived with their family in Bromley a suburb on the southern outskirts of London. Uncle Cliff was the brother of Reg’s mother who died shortly after childbirth with Reg and it seems Reg was close to the extended Bower family. Reg mentions Uncle Cliff and family in affectionate terms in his letter home in June 1916.

Dick” was Reg’s half-brother, A.R.Gill who was over ten years Reg’s junior and was serving with 1/2 King’s African Rifles in the East Africa Campaign, seconded from the Hampshire Regiment. Dick had just been wounded in the thigh during an engagement with the enemy at Yangwani in German East Africa in April 1917.

Horseferry Road” was the administrative HQ of the AIF in England. Reg is planning for the eventuality of further wounding or worse – understandably so, but the tone of his letters has an air of concern and foreboding which is so different to the optimistic tone of his letter home the previous year in June 1916 after the successful ‘Black Anzacs’ raid at Armentieres.

From Hospital to Training Battalion – January to June 1917


Reg was discharged from the 3rd LGH on 19 January 2017. In a letter to his wife Laura written in June he says that his left wrist will be permanently stiff. From Hospital in London, Reg followed the standard route back to fitness and rejoining his Battalion at the Front, via the Command Depot for convalescence, followed by the Training Battalion for ‘hardening off’, both of which were on Salisbury Plain in the south of England.

First Reg was sent to No. I Command Depot, the A.I.F. convalescent and training camp at Perham Down on the edge of Salisbury Plain, arriving four days later on 23 January 1917. This was a temporary camp receiving men “likely to be well within 3 months” and getting them quickly up to the fitness required to move on to the Training Battalion, as soon as possible. By October 1916/January 1917, there were 5,600 men at No. I Command Depot, with men arriving at 630 per week. The structure and purpose of these depots for the AIF is covered in great detail by  Section II, Chapter XVI of the Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918 by Colonel AG Butler DSO and this excellent website about the 22nd Battalion, AIF: Following the Twenty Second.

Reg was only at No. I Command Deport for one week, moving on to 7th Training Battalion at Rollestone on 28th January. Rollestone Camp is about ten miles as the crow flies from Perham Down on Salisbury Plain. The Training Battalion was not for new recruits but for experienced soldiers returning from convalescence. It was designed to harden them off after the Command Depot ready for their speedy return to their battalions at the Front and involved a mixture of military training and sports.

Rollestone Camp & huts Sailsbury Plain

Rollestone Camp shewing troops going through musketry in snow.

bayonet training at Rollestone camp

A group of soldiers of the 3rd Division AIF taking part in a training exercise on the Salisbury Plain simulating trench warfare.

brothers Frederick Benedict (Ted) Alsop and Bernard Michael (Bern or Barney) Alsop training at Salisbury Plains on the machine gun.

 

Crowds of soldiers and officers watch a boxing competition at an Australian camp, possibly on the Salisbury Plain.

soldiers playing ‘Catch the greasy pig’ during a sports day

Two soldiers applying grease to a pig for the ‘Catch the greasy pig’ contest that was part of a sports meeting held to celebrate the birthday of King George V

Three unidentified soldiers enjoy the snow at a camp in Wiltshire. Jan-Feb 1917

 

A group of unidentified soldiers playing ‘two-up’ at a camp on the Salisbury Plain. The player would toss two coins into the air, and the ring keeper would take bets on the coins falling ‘heads’ side up.

Reg’s recovery was delayed and he was back in hospital at the end of March, “N.Y.D.’ (“not yet diagnosed”), at Cobham Hall – a country house outside London in Kent, a wing of which was converted into a hospital for Australian Officers – and then to Tidworth Hospital on 6 April, now diagnosed with mumps. Tidworth was the location of the operational headquarters for the AIF (the administrative HQ was at Horseferry Road in London).

A view of the south front of Cobham Hall, Lord Darnley’s residence in Kent. A wing of the hall was used as a convalescent home for Australian officers.

The top ward of the Australian convalescent home at Cobham Hall, Kent. Otherwise known as the picture gallery.

convalescent officers playing croquet on the lawn before the west front of Cobham Hall, Kent

Reg is not recorded back to the training battalion at Rollestone until 21 May 1917. But within two weeks of his return to the training battalion, 7 June 1917, the AIF Depot at Tidworth records him “proceeded O/Sea’s France”:

 

 

Investiture at Buckingham Palace – November 1916

Reg was still recovering at the 3rd LGH in Wandsworth from his wound at Gueudecourt when attended the investiture at Buckingham Palace on 22th November 1916 to receive his MC from King George V for his action in the Raid at Armentières.

No letters from Reg survive of this occasion. We don’t know how much freedom he was allowed out of hospital, or if he was joined by his father and step-mother or members of the Bower family. But there is an account written by Vera Brittain‘s brother, Edward,  receiving his MC shortly afterwards on 17th December 1916 which gives an interesting insight into the proceedings:

“I came up to town on Tuesday the 16th, went to Buckingham Palace on the 17th at 10.30 am. Mother came with me in the taxi from home and I dropped her just outside the gates and drove in alone; I ascended a wide staircase and deposited my hat and stick in a sort of cloak room, keeping my gloves (your gloves), went up more stairs, was asked by an old boy in a frock coat what I was to receive, was then directed to another old boy who verified my name etc and told me to stand on one side of the room – a large room with portraits of royal personages round the walls. There were 3 C.M.G.’s, about 12 D.S.O.’s and about 30 M.C.’s so it was a fairly small investiture.

“We were instructed what to do by a Colonel who I believe is the King’s special private secretary and then the show started. One by one we walked into an adjoining room about 6 paces – halt – left turn – bow – 2 paces forward – King pins on cross – shake hands – pace back – bow – right turn and slope off by another door. The various acts were not read out, but the Colonel just called out ‘Receive the C.M.G.’ etc. Colonel so-and-so.

“The King spoke to a few of us including me; he said “I hope you have quite recovered from your wound”, to which I replied “Very nearly thank you, Sir”, and then went out with the cross in my pocket in a case. I met Mother just outside and we went off towards Victoria thinking we had quite escaped all the photographers, but unfortunately one beast from the Daily Mirror saw us and took us, but luckily it does not seem to have come out well as it is rather bad form to have your photo in a ½ d rag if avoidable.”

source: Great War London

Although Reg’s casualty form only mentions a GSW (gun shot wound) to his left wrist, he is seen in the photograph walking with a stick. I can only assume the stick is merely part of his uniform or just for fashion, rather than a medical necessity.