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Ms Pah

First British troopship to reach France?

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MerchantOldSalt

I no longer have a copy of the book in question, just a note I made on a photo of the HYTHE, will find a copy and see what it says.

 

T

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Muerrisch

This old thread contains some pearls to cast before you ..............

 

 

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QGE
15 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

This old thread contains some pearls to cast before you ..............

 

 

 

 

In retrospect I am highly skeptical about 5th Aug as an embarkation date. While some undoubtedly did disembark on this date, I suspect some were entries where clerks, faced with blanks to fill in and no guidance, simply used the 5th Aug 1914 as the earliest 'qualifier' date. In some rolls we see 'before  midnight 22nd Aug 1914' which bookends the latest qualification date. On some rolls every Officers is simply given the earliest qualifying date despite the fact they arrived over a few months. The rolls are not particularly reliable and need other documents to corroborate. The 2nd Bn RWF is a case in point; the war diary conflicts with the medal roll by at least one day. The other diaries corroborate the arrival of the RWF so in this case (and most others) I would defer to the diary rather than the medal roll.

 

Separately, trawling the BEF diaries it is worth noting that the HQ 1st Cav Div embarked on 11th Aug 1914 and disembarked on 12th Aug 1914 with 'Advanced Parties' .... thinking about logistics etc, I feel that the first large unit (Battalion, Cavalry Regt, Battery, RE Company etc) is still likely to be the 1st Bn Middlesex shortly followed by 2nd Bn RWF etc , the Lines of Communications (LoC) troops that were simply used as labour on the first few days. While specialist intelligence, MLO, ASC , Staff would undoubtedly have been ashore when the whistle blew, they don't really fit the romantic ideal of the British Army arriving in France. Given the LoC troops beat the Cavalry by a day, my money is still with 1st Bn Middlesex Reg as the first major unit off the boats. 

 

The SS Hythe claim is interesting as the ferry boat in civilian times it would be the obvious choice of transport for the earliest staff. I don't believe it would have been big enough for a major unit. My speculation. MG

Edited by QGE

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Muerrisch

I agree about the book-ending and I happily concede primacy to the Middlesex, though it goes against the grain. Re. the second-place 2nd RWF, there was a bit of jostling and rank-pulling to be first ashore, so the soldiers were well aware of the historical significance of the occasion.

Am I correct in thinking that the Middlesex would be the first formed body of the British army on French soil since the aftermath of Waterloo? My 19th century European history is rater thin.

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QGE
14 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

I agree about the book-ending and I happily concede primacy to the Middlesex, though it goes against the grain. Re. the second-place 2nd RWF, there was a bit of jostling and rank-pulling to be first ashore, so the soldiers were well aware of the historical significance of the occasion.

Am I correct in thinking that the Middlesex would be the first formed body of the British army on French soil since the aftermath of Waterloo? My 19th century European history is rater thin.

 

1st Bn Middlesex claims are purely based on their published history. Their war diary does not start until 22nd Aug 1914 when 19th Inf Bde was formed. The history states:

 

"Before the Expeditionary Force sailed, certain troops were sent to France to guard the Lines of Communication. and amongst these was the 1st Bn Middlesex Regiment. The Battalion landed at Havre, two companies on 11th and two companies on 12th August, remaining in camp for ten days until the 19th Infantry Brigade was formed......" 

 

My emphasis. A footnote states:  

 

"The 1st Bn Middlesex Regiment was the first British Regiment to arrive in France and was accorded a tremendous  reception by the French"

 

Contrast this with the 2nd Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers' war diary which has C & D Coys arriving on 13th:

 

10th Aug 1914.  The above moved in two train loads to SOUTHAMPTON.  HQ and A and B Coys embarked in SS GLENGARIFFE.  C and D Coys to rest camp.

11th Aug 1914.  Sailed from SOUTHAMPTON at 2:00 am.  16 Officers and 495 rank and file.  Arrived at ROUEN 4:30 pm and disembarked and were billeted on North and South sides of RIVER SEINE.

12th Aug 1914.   4 Officers, 120 men, 1 horse A Coy entrained at 5:00 pm for AMIENS.

13th Aug 1914.  C and D Coys arrived at 7:00 am, remainder of transport arrived at 7:00 pm.

 

The 2nd Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders appear to have disembarked over three days as follows:

 

10th Aug 1914.  Monday.  

1st train arrived 12:30 pm, up to time but succeeding trains were delayed outside SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS STATION.

6:30 pm.  A and B Coys, on SS SEAHOUND, steamed to BOULOGNE, the men being packed together.

1st train party and C Coy embarked on SS BERTHA to sail at 10:00 pm but hour of departure was postponed and the men slept on board.  

D Coy and remainder of HQ marched to a rest camp, about 3 miles out of SOUTHAMPTON, with 2nd Line Transport.. ASC Drivers reported.

11th Aug 1914.  Tuesday.  

9:00 am.  A and B Coys arrived BOULOGNE and marched to billets in the old barracks.  Turned on at once to pitch tents for rest camp outside town.

5:00 pm.  HQ and C Coy arrived and joined A and B Coys.

HQ No. 3 Base Quartered in HOTEL BRISTOL.

12th Aug 1914.  Wednesday.  

Companies on fatigue in camps and at docks.

13th Aug 1914.  Thursday.  

Companies on fatigue. B Coy moved to new billets in the girls school (ECOLE BRECQUERECQUE).

14th Aug 1914.  Friday.  

Companies on fatigue.

3:00 pm.  D Coy and remainder of HQ arrived on SS EMPRESS OF INDIA and marched to billets in a school in PLACE FEMELONT.

 

Edited

Edited by QGE

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