Friday, 9 January 2015

But it says he was in the DLI…

Yorkshire Regiment brothers: a war memorial puzzle

Over Christmas I visited the First World War exhibition at York Castle Museum.  As part of their displays they had loan of the Yorkshire Law Society war memorial which featured two Pocklington men listed as being 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (6 DLI).  Of course I made a note of their details, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick William Robson and Captain Edward Moore Robson, to look at when I got back to work. 

Yorkshire Regiment Cap Badge © IWM (INS 7212)
Cap Badge of the Yorkshire Regiment
This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence © IWM (INS 7212)
I began by looking at the Soldiers and Officers Died records for the Durham Light Infantry but couldn’t find either of them.  Looking on Ancestry and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission I found matching names for the 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.  I did a general internet search and found the website of the Pocklington and District Local History Group who have been researching their local war memorial which also includes Frederick and Edward Robson.  From the information they have found, Frederick and Edward were brothers who did both serve in the 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.  However, they also say that when Frederick was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel he took command of 6 DLI.  

I checked the war diary for the 6th Battalion and it notes the new command on 11 April 1917.  Frederick is in our Honours and Awards book for the Distinguished Service Order he received in 1916 whilst still serving with the Yorkshires and is also referred to in Harry Moses book ‘The Faithful Sixth’.  It is likely a case of the paperwork not being up to date in all departments which no-one would deny being an impossible task in the circumstances.  I wonder if the listing of both brothers as DLI on the Yorkshire Law Society memorial came from someone knowing that they had served in the same battalion and someone knowing that Frederick had commanded 6 DLI.

Attached to different units

Other clerical errors can be seen in the Soldiers Died record.  There are some 3rd Battalion DLI men who are listed as having died in October and November 1914 despite the fact that the only battalion to have seen action at this time was the 2nd.  One example is Joseph Perrett who is listed as 3 DLI on both the Soldiers Died and Commonwealth War Graves records.  His service records exist on Ancestry and show that he was wounded in France whilst serving with 2 DLI.  
Photograph of officers of 3rd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, Lieutenant Griffith-Jones (standing second right) was killed while attached to the 2nd Battalion (D/DLI 2/3/72)
D/DLI 2/3/72 Photograph of officers of 3rd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, Lieutenant Griffith-Jones (standing second right) was killed while attached to the 2nd Battalion 
As shown with the Robson brothers, war memorials can contain discrepancies in the regiment served.  They can also have name spelled incorrectly or some researchers find that their ancestor isn’t on a war memorial.  Conversely, it is not always clear what a named man’s connection to the area is.  The reasons are varied and many.  There was no single organisation in charge of war memorials and different ones would have different criteria.  Some got names from the newspapers (that may have reported things inaccurately), others required families to submit names.  There is a very interesting discussion thread on the Great War Forum that can be found here that gives several real examples encountered by researchers.  

The moral of the story is to check all available sources to corroborate what was recorded, and remember that at the time, in difficult circumstances, people were doing their best to get it right.

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