Army – Who were they?

By concidence, the number of Army names is broadly similar to the total number of family, church and work colleagues; 246, accounting for (I made it) some 877 references in total, compared with over 1000 references to the 260-odd civilians.

Again, very many are mentioned only once or twice, and there are the same difficulties in identifying and differentiating as with the civilians; but a little more can be done in the way of statistics: almost half of the references (428) are to only 6.5% (16) of the individuals mentioned, all of these 16 having counts of 10 or over, the highest tallies being Harvey (90), Holman (55) and Billy Truman (47). These numbers, of course, reflect in part the characters who proved to be mutually congenial, but also the chances which brought men to live and work together in the Army.

One can also provide a breakdown of the ranks of those mentioned. ALL seems to have been fairly meticulous in recording rank when writing a name, especially on first mention but often thereafter as well, the main exception being one or two of the corporals and sergeants with whom he worked most often and most closely, where rank must at times have taken second place to the exigencies of the moment; and of course, in one or two cases there are traceable promotions. With the necessary caveat for the uncertainty of the data, and noting that I have not included mentions by rank alone (“the C.O.”, “the sergeant-major” etc., as these would have been references to a number of individuals over time), the 246 identifiable soldiers break down as 183 privates (75%), 22 non-commissioned officers (9%; 1 lance-corporal, 9 corporals, 10 sergeants, 1 staff sergeant), 1 quarter-master (probably of warrant-officer rank), and 30 officers (16%; 13 lieutenants, 16 captains and 1 major.)

If, as later, the Army in WW1 gave captain’s rank to all medical officers, this would seem consistent with these numbers. Only 82 (33%) of the comrades mentioned by name are first mentioned in the diary before ALL reached France (ie at Sheffield or Alnwick, or both), and some of these either were mentioned as being brought together in drafts for France, or although first met with in Sheffield or Alnwick, were later encountered again in France. Of the 1203 days of ALL’s War-time service, from arriving in the Sheffield barracks on 28 July 1915 to Armistice Day, his service in France (894 days) amounted to 74%.

August 2013

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