War Stories

Discussion in 'History' started by Seaweed, Aug 26, 2010.

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  1. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    http://www.britisharmedforces.org/pages/nat_ron_brewis_.htm is an example of people's war stories on this site (In this one, typically, a sailor comes home from India to England and as his home is in London is sent to Dunoon for discharge). It occurred to me that this might be a place for Rum Rat to post a memoir of his grandfather without explaining who he, Rum Rat, is. Judging by his posts it would be well worth reading. It looks at first sight very much a pongo thing but seems to have room for the RN as well.
  2. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

  3. Cheers Seaweed I will have a crack at it in this thread later, as It is quite a strange adventure by today's standards.
    Not so much a tale of daring do, more a tale of daring don't, but quite true.
    And he was actually more Pongo than Matelot.
  4. My paternal grand father was born in Perth Scotland in 1870. At the age of two 1872 his dad who was a Gilly for the Duke of Argyles estate, took promotion as a Gamekeeper by moving his family to Hampshire.
    In 1884 my grandfather joined the RN as (he thought) a flag waver.
    They immediately after training (little and basic) put him to work as a stoker in a sail and coal powered ship, and sent him to the West Indies.
    He didn't like that, so as soon as the ship made Pompey, he and his oppo did a runner.
    As they both lived in Hampshire they decided to go to fields afar to avoid the NP's.
    They went to Suffolk as my grandfathers aunt (his dads sister) was recently widowed and struggling to fulfill contracts her deceased hubby had made as a bargee on the canals in those parts.
    Grandad and his mate were basically honest types, (excusing the odd touch of desertion) so when a spate of burglaries started to occur where they had run to it was a bit of a set back, as the local constabulary started poking about as they do.
    Innocent of theft, but guilty of desertion, they decided to take to their heals and went to loose themselves in the nearest big town which happened to be Bury St Edmund's.
    Problem, new names needed, so two merchants horse drawn vans were passing, each with a different name, and one was similar to granddads mates so he took that and granddad had the other.
    They enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment in their new names and the year was by then 1887. They both were sent to the Sudan as part of the force sent to avenge the killing of Gordon at Khartoum (be it two years later)
    and there they remained until 1889 when on the 2nd of September they both took part in the very last battle where the British formed squares and in red tunics. (Omdurman) After the Mahdi had been defeated by Kitchener at Omdurman they were sent to India 1889, where grandads fancy turned to women.
    He was by this time a sergeant and he set his sights high up and married an officers daughter. Disgrace on the girl. She was born and bred in India as it was quite a common practice in those days for officers with their family to remain overseas as long as they wished as long as the regiment stayed. It was common for a regiment to remain in situ for 20 + years.
    What to do with Granddad? Well they promoted him and sent him to the frontier as a district commissioner. Wrong move I'm afraid, grandad was terrified of spiders and scorpions. On the frontier spiders and scorpions were not frightened of grandad so at night when the temperature plummeted, they got around door frames and windows for heat.
    The ahmars told him "Do not open doors until the sun comes up except in emergencies".
    He did, the spiders were there so grandad was not for long and went back to his regiment.
    They sent him back to bury St Edmund's as depot RSM, the year was by now, 1895. There he remained until the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa, and off he went. In the mean time his wife who had permanent flu and colds since arriving in England packed her bags and returned to India never to be seen or heard of again.
    Grandad stayed in Africa long enough to receive both the Kings and Queens medals with 5 bars on the queens and the normal 2 on the Kings.
    It was now 1903.
    He served over the next 11 years in Egypt, Canada and back in Africa, but had been back in UK two years when the first war started.
    He was wounded in France in 1915 and returned to UK to recover, which he did but not for front line fit.
    So being a senior Warrant officer by now he went to Evesham where he was commandant of three POW camps there being an acute shortage of officers. The bastards led from the front in them days, no rear end charlies then.
    A Sergeant was in charge of each individual camp.
    Now grandad being an enterprising sort of chap, decided he was worth every week end off, from Friday am until Monday am so awarded himself each weekend. He took his weekends in the form of working Friday night, Saturday Night and Sunday night as a commissionaire at the Midland Hotel Opposite (then) the entrance to New Street Station.
    He met and married my dads mom there (bigamy went on the slop chit along with desertion) and he was discharged from the Army as W.O.1 in 1920. He had served 33 years in the army and two in the navy by then.
    When the second war started he volunteered and was accepted to train basic recruits in foot drill and close quarter arms drill, and was back in the Army for 4 years. He was now 75 years old.
    In 1956 he was worried that when he died my nan would be discovered as a bigamous wife and it would affect her rights to his half pension for the rest of her life. The desertion from the navy also played on his mind so he wrote to the then War Office and confessed all. He was 86 years old.
    My gran was 19 years his junior at 67. The war Office replied and I still have the letter which states thus:-
    Sergeant Major ******** in lieu of your long and meritorious service rendered to There Majesties Victoria, Edward, George and Edward, we have decided to overlook the blip in an otherwise impeccable service history. Should you ever desert again we will not look upon it as leniently and will most likely have you executed on Tower Hill.
    They had humour even in the times of yore.
    His medal entitlement was as follows:-

    The khedives medal for the Sudan, and the British Egypt medal. The Indian General service medal North west frontier, The Queens and Kings Medals for South Africa, with 5 and two bars respectively. The First WW trio, and the meritorious Service Medal. The Long service Good Conduct medal, and the 1940/45 star, the war medal and the defence medal.
    Thirteen in total that are now in the "Keep" at Bury Regimental museum, along with various artifacts.
    He lived to be 91 years old and died in 1961. His wife survived him by the age difference and she died age 91 in 1980.
    My dad thanks to the attentions of the Imperial Japanese Army known better by the name THUG BASTARDS lived only to be 63 and died in 1985
    from Ill treatment he never had a chance recovering from either physically or Mentally, and even so he attained a very high position in the oil industry with a major American oil company. Which is why I live here with you Poms and not back in Oz. :roll:
  5. RumRat, what a great piece of family history. You must be very proud.
  6. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    What an amazing record. There must have been some extraordinary stories tucked away behind it from India and the Boer War and two World Wars. Many thanks for cutting the rest of us in on this Rum Rat.
  7. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    Now that is a seriously awesome story. Thank you for sharing it RR, I reckon it black cats the one about the bootneck that was in the paper a few days ago, you should give them a call and say " 'ello, that's fcuk all, listen to this".
  8. That's really interesting - it;s always good to know about where you come from...

    Just a couple of points - and I'm not d*cking on the story but there are some chronological problems which maybe might help you work out what was really going on (or they might just be errors in the post):

    Omdurman was 1898, not 1889. Kitchener was in the Red Sea territories in the late 1880s.

    Gordon was killed in 1885 - the force to avenge his death didn't go until 1896. It is posible that your grandfather was at Abu Klea, where there were squares, etc, but that was 1885 - coincidentally the last year the British fought in red tunics, at the battle of Gennis. Omdurman (1898) was the last British army cavalry charge (as taken part in by one WS Churchill).

    So, if the dates are slightly wrong, I would suggest that your grandfather was actually about in the Sudan slightly earlier than you suggest -i.e. 1885, or much later (1898). Given the fact that reocrds of peoples' birthdays tend to be a bit shaky back then, it could well be either - although the first option would have made him a very old man when he died...

    However, for him to have been at Omdurman 1898, he couldn't have been depot RSM in Suffolk unless he was doing both (maybe an interesting story there in their records?)

    Equally, if he enlisted in 1887 then he'd have missed all the fun in the Sudan pretty much for that decade - the only battle in 1889 in the Sudan was the Battle of Toski/Tushkah on August 3 (and the only British troops there as opposed to British Egyptian were the 20th Hussars).

    Anyway, like I said - it's really interesting stuff and well worth a few hours in some archives somewhere I'd have thought....
  9. :thumbup: Fcuking ace oppo thank you for sharing a great family story. 8)

  10. I'm trying to make up my mind as to is this some kind of "Walt" call ?

    My dates may be confused, but all facts are not only true they are provable.
    The man you need is Brigadier Sibun,
    The Keep,
    Gibraltar Barracks,
    Bury St Edmunds,

    You will be able to enquire about the contributions (about 4 or 5 years ago, from Tamworth Staffordshire, and the phone conversations we had, I'm sure he will calm your troubled mind.

    Old grandad?
    Yup 91 when he died in 1961 I think that clears that up.

    Military Funeral? Well gun carriage and members of the regiment at his funeral..... Yes present and correct.
    RSM, Warrant Officer 1 yup.
    Oh and you could look him up on the deserters list for 1886 ish, but be sure to look under the name H. SMITH. as that was the old family name he joined under. Yes RR I am but for the grace of Grandad a SMUDGE, thank fuck he did it, I love that name. 8O :?
    I have his birth certificate dated 1870 and muse at the fact both his parents signed with a X as neither could read or write.

    And in 1940 Training new entrants at Stock field Road, Territorial Army Barracks , Acocks Green, Birmingham, where everyone locally especially the old soldiers just knew him as Sarnt Major.
    The Local turf accountant knew him better than most.
    6ft 3inches tall and he had three strokes.
    Semi illiterate as far as reading and writing was concerned, could remember every card played when playing whist, and was fluent in Urdu.
    Remembers the reports in the papers when 9years old of the unthinkable loss of Number 3 column at Isandlwana. Six when Custer was defeated.

    Now if I have misconstrued your intent I apologize, but it being a ripping yarn, people do tend to ............... :roll:
  11. Honestly, it's not a Walt call, I'm a miltary historian. I never questioned the events in the post, just the dates/places.

    The one big problem is that Omdurman was 1898, as that seems to be what all the others hang off.

    Now, I wasn't suggesting that the records were wrong, just in the nicest possible way that some part of what you had written (probably dates) was an error (not deliberate, just mistaken). That must have meant that he was at Omdurman after he was depot RSM - or he wasn't at Omdurman. Like I said, I'm not saying it's untrue, in fact, as said, it might even be more interesting for you as there is clearly some more to the story as other wise it doesn't make sense.

    My mind's not troubled honestly, I just think there is probably more to the story - unless, as I suggested, he wasn't at Omdurman but was at Abu Klea. Having said that he was going some to be depot RSM at 25, so was clearly a force of nature :wink:

    Incidentally, I did think about sending you the original post as a PM rin case people thiought I was just jumping on you, but decided that someone
    else might have a better steer if I made it more public.

    It's a great story, and like I say I wasn't questioning the basic facts (except Omdurman), more the details as posted - and even then I was questioning out of genuine interest rather than just to make you look daft. Sorry if that's caused any offence, which was genuinely unintentional.
  12. I have conceded that Some of my dates were questionable as I have not viewed the piece I wrote since it went to the museum.
    I do not think he was an RSM at Omdurman I recall he was a lower life at that time. His promotion to SM or RSM may have been when he was shipped away from his Regiment when he married. He definitely was a depot RSM that much has been determined by the reg.
    He was discharged from the Dorset reg when he finally left service, and had served in/attached too, two other regiments.
    I well remember he never talked of his exploits very often, as he was a man of few words.
    I have a pic of him in Red tunic, its one of those coloured after took Victorian efforts and it was my discovery of this that prompted him to tell me he had fought in Sudan in Red. He actually did join in 1887 as when he joined the Navy he was 14 but lied.
    I did not know him well and only met him for a short period in 1956 when I was 6. He died two weeks after my dad brought me with him to England in 1961, we came as he was dying, for dad to see him one last time.
    He viewed the Martini Henry as the "Modern" rifle it being introduced into the British army the year after he was born.
    Whilst they were part one firearms he kept one secreted in his house and it came into my dads possession after grandad died.
    I have a "As New 1876 pat Bayonet that he left dad and now I own it, and it was this that got me into collecting military weapons.
    I took and passed a degree in political History whilst in the Andrew, and have never used it since. 8O :roll:
  13. Pretty good life then. He was probably having more fun than my great grandad, who spent the same period down a coal mine - literally after he was killed down one in 1880 aged 36 - he was identified by his boots after his body had lain under a tarp at the pit head for 4 days.... That's why I get interested in peoples' stories - there's always something there worth looking at.
  14. My Mothers brother is a person I am trying with limited success to trace, as he is a far and away the most difficult to tab.
    he left Australia in 1937 to join up and this we know he did. He was accepted into the army in 1937, but transferred voluntarily into special forces in 1938.
    He finished his training and was sent to Poland in 1940. He served in France for a short time in 1941 just into 1942, but then he becomes hard to keep up with.
    The last time he was heard of directly was a letter that my aunt received in 1944 posted 43 which places him in the Crimea but he was heard about from a friends son who saw him back in Poland by late 43 early 44.
    We think he might have been at Kursk, or even in the last stand just prior to the Red Army entering Berlin but either scenario is at best an educated guess.
    He is listed as missing on the Eastern front 1943, and my nan for some reason received his medals and decorations in 1974.
    He was originally in the SS Leibstandarte 3, but after war started who knows,? we don't only that he stayed SS.
    Her other Brother Joined the RM and served aboard HMS Diadem on Russian Convoys.
    Strange World.
  15. Yep, can see why you might struggle to track him down...
  16. Try:


    This could be III Infanterie Batallion (Motorised) under the command of an SS Major Wiedenhaupt.

    You never know, but it's not unknown for relatives to fight on opposite sides in a conflict, there are many stories of the US Civil war in 1860s.

  17. WM His name was so easy to remember as unlike the other members of his family he refused to change it or even Anglicise it when the family arrived and settled in Australia in 1931. The original name was Braun and when he refused to take the name the rest did, he was asked to make it Brown, but refused.
    My mum said he would have been a perfect Nazi as he was very arrogant, and being older, liked what he had seen in Germany, before the family left.

    My interest in him is purely academic, it would be just tying up a loose end if I ever found his fate. Certainly no tears, unless there was a Swiss bank account in the offering. Full. :twisted: :roll: :D
  18. Steve,

    Swiss Bank acct, Mmmmm.... :idea: .If you send me your Bank account details there is a fellow I know in Nigeria who is ever so good at transferring between cross-border accounts. 8)

  19. Thank god for that, I thought I might get cheated.

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