Investigating the social background of the Brigade’s manpower

From 70 Brigade
Revision as of 16:25, 2 April 2013 by 70bgadmin (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

One of the aspects of the make-up of the Brigade that I wished to explore, if at all possible, was that of the background of the soldiers who served within its ranks.

It became clear at a relatively early stage that I was not going to be able to access personal information in any real sense – such detail lies within the Service Records of individual soldiers, held in the Midlands, but under the control of the Army Historical Records Branch at Kentigern House in Glasgow.

Family members can request a copy of their relative’s records, but such information is not accessible to the general public, not even for respectable research purposes. Indeed, in what was an illuminating conversation with one of the staff in Glasgow I learnt that the millions of files had been re-sorted from what I understood to have been their original Regimental Number order.

I found this out as I had asked Historical Records whether, in pursuit of my social history questions, I might be allowed to access the files of members of the Brigade to be able to ascertain, for example, details of marital status and employment background, as well as to confirm the Battalion(s) to which men had been posted – a key detail which is not included in the Regimental Enlistment Books.

Firstly, I was told that this information was treated as “personal and in confidence” and therefore access was limited to, as I mention above, family members of the soldier concerned and, secondly, that, as the files were no longer in Regimental Number order but had been re-sorted into alphabetical order, for the very purpose of answering those family queries more easily, such an approach was no longer feasible, as the files on soldiers with adjacent numbers might well be literally several shelf-miles apart.

Having for some years argued the importance of making information more accessible to family historians I therefore found myself hoist with my own petard, so to speak, as, in pursuit of the genealogy focus, the interests of military historians had thereby been relegated to a much lower priority. This change in file storage arrangements – which might otherwise have been regarded as a technical issue of interest only to archivists – has brought to notice the vital nature of the Army Enlistment and Discharge Books. The Ministry of Defence had originally planned to destroy these original records – citing a shortage of storage space – and arguing that they were no longer relevant, given that the individual soldiers’ files had been retained at Glasgow. A national outcry caused MoD to rethink their proposal, though they were still keen to rid themselves of this large archive of material.

These Enlistment and Discharge Books are now, it appears, the only records related to individual Regiments set out in Regimental Number order and I am immensely grateful that Military Museums around the country jumped at the chance to acquire these when they were finally offered to them by MoD, as an alternative to them becoming waste paper shredding.

Having seen the size and number of the boxes containing the Durham Light Infantry Books when they were first delivered to the Museum Curator’s office, it was a task which was not taken on lightly by the Museums. Durham County Record Office, for example, arranged for the DLI Books to be professionally conserved and then microfilmed them, so that the contents can be more easily studied. The point should also be made that these Books also contain 19th Century and early 20th Century Enlistments. The level of detail included in the early pages on individual soldiers is effectively the equivalent of the Attestation Forms which Family Historians will be familiar with from the First World War, and are therefore “gold dust” for the enquiring genealogist. Sadly, the enlistments during the period under study are limited to the details of name and number, without even a date of enlistment shown. These books feature significantly at various points within this work.

So, without access to individual service records how could I make any assessment of the points I wished to investigate?

Here I had a small piece of luck.

Held in the Archives of the Black Watch in Perth is a small, red, hard-backed notebook – a Platoon Roll Book, produced commercially by a firm of printers in Devonport – and of which it is hoped other examples might come to light in due course as a result of this work becoming public.

The example in the Perth collection originally belonged to the then Lieutenant T D Ross – Platoon Commander of number 15 Platoon, “C” Company, 1st Tyneside Scottish - and was his personal record of the men under his command. I decided to see if this, in the absence of a broader analysis, might serve as a microcosm of the social mix within the Brigade and determined to find what I could from its contents.

15 Platoon’s HQ, and the three Sections which made up the Platoon – numbers 7, 8 and 9, each had a page in the Roll Book which contained a list of the men, with Regimental Number, rank, date of enlistment or re-enlistment, age on enlistment, duties on which engaged, personal weapon number, marital status, religion, trade or calling (pre-enlistment) and any remarks.

Other columns were pre-printed to allow more information to be shown, such as musketry classification, but Lt. Ross chose not use those extra columns. Not even all the regularly used columns were completed for every soldier – which somewhat limited the usefulness of the analysis.

However, even with the pages only partially completed, the document paints a picture of a group of men who made up what became, through training, a rather specialist group – this was the Reconnaissance Platoon. Information about their training and experiences will be found under the material on Iceland in particular.

The Platoon was reformed at least once during the period covered by the Roll Book – perhaps as a result of a different form of Battalion organisation – and as personnel changed, replacement pages were set up, though the earlier versions were retained in the book.


An analysis of the Roll Book shows the following:-

Three separate successive lists of Platoon HQ and Section members were included in the book, covering a period of, apparently, around one year. None are dated, other than an annotation on the first listing to remark the re-formation of the Platoon in November 1941. In addition, the Battalion Commander provided, for some reason as yet unknown, a certificate on 19 March 1942 attesting to the names of the Platoon members, which forms a fourth version of the Platoon’s complement.

Each of the Sections consisted of a Corporal, or Lance Corporal, and seven men. The fourth version of the listing for Platoon HQ, in addition to Lt. ROSS as Platoon Commander, included the Platoon Sergeant – Sgt F WYNNE – a Batman, a Runner, two 2” Mortar operators and a Driver.

However, the first listing in the Book included two Anti-Tank operators within Platoon HQ, but no Driver. By the time of the second listing, the Driver has appeared, and the Anti-Tank gunners have left – perhaps this reflects the re-forming process, which was noted on one page as having taken place on 14th November 1941. It is assumed that these two men manned a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle when they were part of the Platoon HQ. Did they remain as Anti-Tank gunners, but with a more substantial weapon to operate at Company or Battalion level? That remains to be investigated.

Men were moved between roles to some degree, with some limited movement between Sections, including promotions, and I comment further about this later.

Against a Platoon establishment of 31 men the lists show, over the period covered by the book, a total of 58 (this incorporates a correction) men as having been members at one time or another, with a separate sheet in the first version listing 7 men as “attached” or “away” – with all the entries subsequently crossed out. Only one of these seven is listed elsewhere in the membership of the Platoon at a different time – with the implication that he is also a Regimental Policeman – while; four of his comrades are shown as “transferred”, one Lance Corporal is listed as “attached” who could be a member of the RAOC (the annotation is faint) and one is marked as Corps of Military Police, assuming that my interpretation of the abbreviations is correct.

Six of those seven men only appear once in the Roll Book, that is on the page in question, and it may be that they were being held temporarily on the strength of the Platoon while their transfers or redeployments were being organised. They have no information against their names at all, other than these faint annotations – so their personal data is missing completely.

Eighteen out of the fifty-eight men – including the Platoon Commander - appear in all four sets of listings, and ten appear in three of the listings, giving a reasonable degree of stability in the membership of the Platoon. Sixteen men appear in two of the listings and fourteen only appear once – including the six referred to above. In what appears to be the third listing, three of the longest serving Platoon members are included on a separate page as “Reserve” rather than being allocated to a Section – perhaps these would have formed a “stay-behind” group if the Platoon went into action?

It also appears that weapons were issued and retained on a personal basis – the only change in weapon identification number documented being that in relation to Corporal Parkin, who was issued with a Thompson Sub-machine Gun when he was made a Section Commander, in place of his rifle. The number of his SMG was not recorded. Not every soldier had their weapon number listed in this particular Roll Book.

A total of forty-one men – not including the Platoon Commander - had their peace-time occupation recorded and these can be summarised as follows:-

Architect

Bar Man

Bobbin Maker

Bricklayer’s Labourer

Builder’s Labourer

Bus Conductor (2)

Butcher

Callender Worker

Coal Salesman

Colliery Labourer

Despatch Clerk

Farm Labourer

Gamekeeper

Gardener (2)

General Labourer (4)

Grocer’s Assistant

Ironworks Labourer

Lino Printer

Marble Polisher

Market Gardener

Mason’s Labourer

Millworker

Miner (5)

Painter

Paper Mill Labourer (3)

Paper Reel Maker

Ploughman

Postman

Printer

Shop Assistant

Many of these occupations clearly involved heavy manual work; several were “outside” in agriculture or associated industries, while others were factory-based or in primary industries, such as construction or mining. A few would have required numeracy or literacy skills, while only one could be described as “professional” – and that individual did not stay long with this particular Platoon, though he does appear to have remained with the Battalion.

As regards other social information, the marital status of the Platoon was predominantly “single” with no entry made for 18 of the 58 men listed. Of the 41 where an entry was made, only four are listed as married.

This is not, perhaps, surprising when the ages of the Platoon members are taken into account, given that, of the 38 men for whom there are details completed, 3 were only 17 at the time of their enlistment, 1 was 19, 14 were 20, 3 were 22, 3 were 23, 11 were 24, 2 were 25, and 1 was 28 years old when he enlisted. The ages are significant, as those called up under the Militia Regulations would have been 20 or 21 at the time of enlistment, while those with DLI Regimental Numbers were either enlisted before 1st February 1940, when the Battalion was converted from having been 12th DLI, were transferred subsequently from one of the other DLI Battalions, or volunteered for the Tyneside Scottish – having previously been Regular soldiers with the DLI.

As regards Religion, again an entry is missing from that column for 18 of the 58 men. Of the remaining 41, 12 are Church of England, 5 Roman Catholic and 24 Presbyterian. This co-ordinates with the Regimental Number analysis, as the Presbyterians were most likely to be Scots. This is one of the firmest indications of the change from a North-Eastern based unit – with DLI numbers – to a Black Watch unit, containing former DLI soldiers having retained their Regimental Numbers, but increasingly manned by those from Scottish Regiments.

That is further confirmed when the Regimental Numbers are examined in more detail. Forty-three men out of the total of fifty-eight have their numbers recorded. Of these, 12 were from the DLI, 27 from The Black Watch, 2 from the Royal Scots, 1 from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and 1 from the Highland Light Infantry. It is hoped to try and correlate the transfers in from other Regiments by using the entries in the War Diaries.

Having available the Roll Of Honour for the Battalion as an Appendix to “Harder than Hammers”, and also the extracts from the Enlistment Books, which show transfers from the DLI to The Black Watch, allowed me to try and identify those men whose details were incomplete in the Roll Book. This was marginally successful, despite errors of number transposition, and the analyses above were amended to include those men where possible. Unfortunately, the frequency of some surnames meant that several men could not be specifically identified.

The men of the Reconnaissance Platoon 1941-1942.

The records in respect of each man having been tabulated, an extract of the key facts is set out below in alphabetical order, using the information as recorded at each Platoon listing (1st 2nd 3rd and 4th).

Pte R D Adamson 2760247

Enlisted in Black Watch 8th April 1940, aged 24, Mason’s Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Three entries; 1st Number 4 Rifleman in Section 7, 3rd and 4th Section 9. Not known where he was at 2nd listing. In 1947 was living in Abernethy, Perthshire.

Pte J Allan 2760189

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 20, Clerk. Single, Presbyterian. One entry only. 2nd Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Kelty, Fife.

Pte J C Annand 2760170

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 24, Bobbin Maker. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. 1st Number 2 Rifleman Section 9, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Section 9. “Harder than Hammers” shows his Regimental Number as 2760190 – this will be checked.

Pte F Barber 3061204

Enlisted in the Royal Scots – date not known. Architect. One entry only. 1st Section 9. “Harder than Hammers” shows his Regimental Number as 3061205 – this will be checked.

Pte A J Baxter 2760158

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 24, Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed twice only. 1st Anti-Tank number in Platoon Headquarters, 2nd Section 8. In 1947 he was living in Dysart.

Pte J Baxter 4460964

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 16th April 1940, aged 20, Shop Assistant. Single, Church of England. Date of transfer to 1st Tyneside Scottish to be verified. Listed twice only. 3rd and 4th Section 7. In 1947 he was living in North Shields.

Pte D Bell 2760059

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 20, Paper Mill worker. Single, Presbyterian. Listed twice only. 1st Number 1 Rifleman Section 7, 2nd Section 7.

Pte J Capaldi 3060947

Enlisted in Royal Scots 18th April 1940, aged 20, Marble Polisher. Single, Presbyterian. Listed three times. 2nd 3rd and 4th Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Llanelli, having married there in 1945.

Pte A Clamp 4460986

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry – date and personal details not recorded. Number obtained from “Harder than Hammers” – to be checked against DLI Enlistment Book. Listed twice only. 3rd and 4th Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Thornaby-on-Tees.

Pte J S Douglas 2760256

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 24, Paper Reel Maker. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. All in Section 8. 1st entry shows initials as J B. In 1947 he was living in Markinch, Fife.

L/Cpl T Foggerty 4461006

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 16th April 1940, aged 24, Postman. Single, Roman Catholic. Listed three times. 2nd, 3rd and 4th Section Second in Command, Section 7. One entry shows an incorrect Regimental Number and his surname is spelt incorrectly on two of the entries. “Harder than Hammers” has him listed as a Sergeant by the end of the War and the surname spelling and Regimental Number have been amended to correlate with that version. Details to be confirmed from DLI Enlistment Book along with date of transfer to 1st Tyneside Scottish. In 1947 he was living in New Silksworth, Sunderland.

Pte R Forbes 2760163

Enlisted Black Watch 18th April 1940 aged 24, Lino Printer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed three times. 1st and 2nd Section 9 and Platoon Barber, 3rd as Reserve and Platoon Barber. In 1947 he was living in Cupar, Fife.

Pte H Forsyth 2760196

Enlisted Black Watch 16th April 1940 aged 20, Printer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed five times. 1st, 2nd and 3rd all as 2” Mortar Man in Platoon Headquarters, 3rd and 4th as Section 7. Implication is that he was moved to Section 7 between the 3rd and 4th listings, and therefore appeared on the 3rd listing twice. Some entries show his initial as T while “Harder than Hammers” has it as H, though his Regimental Number matches on all entries. In 1947 he was living in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Pte J M Gibson 4461012

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 16th April 1940, aged 24, Builder’s Labourer. Single, Church of England. Listed twice only. 1st and 2nd Number 3 Rifleman Section 9.

Pte J Gilmour 2760130

Enlisted Black Watch 18th April 1940 aged 24, Colliery Labourer. Married, Presbyterian. Listed three times. 1st 2nd and 3rd all Section 8. “Harder than Hammers” shows his Regimental Number as 2760310 – a possible transposition error – this will be checked. In 1947 he was living in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

L/Cpl C Graham 4461014

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 16th April 1940, aged 20, ‘Bus Conductor. Single, Church of England. Four entries. 1st Section Second in Command, Section 8. 2nd, 3rd and 4th Section Second in Command, Section 9. Date of transfer to 1st Tyneside Scottish to be obtained from DLI Enlistment Book. He may have enlisted with a relative, as a D Graham has the following DLI Number 4461015.

Claude Graham was killed in action on 29th June 1944 as a Lance-Sergeant with 1st Tyneside Scottish.

Pte N Haigh 4461148

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 16th April 1940, aged 24, ‘Bus Conductor. Single, Church of England. Date of transfer to 1st Tyneside Scottish to be obtained from DLI Enlistment Book. Four entries. 1st and 2nd Batman in Platoon Headquarters. 3rd and 4th Batman in Section 7.

L/Cpl T Hamilton 4461020

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 16th April 1940, aged 25, Grocer’s Assistant. Single, Church of England. Only one listing. 2nd Section Second in Command, Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Philadelphia, County Durham.

Pte Hope

Unable to positively identify exactly which Pte Hope is referred to – there are several listed in “Harder than Hammers”. He is only on one listing. 1st as “Attached or Away”.

Pte Hudson

A query remains about the identification of this soldier. “Harder than Hammers” lists a T Hudson in the Battalion with the Regimental Number 4461166, and a L/Cpl G Hudson with number 4457155. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists a Pte George William Hudson, of the Black Watch, as Killed on 24th October 1944 with the Regimental Number 4461032. This will be further investigated using the DLI Enlistment Books. He is only shown on one listing. 1st as “Attached or Away”.

Pte J Humphries 4456205

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 25th March 1939, aged 17, Painter. Single, Church of England. Four entries. All as Runner in Platoon Headquarters. Private John Humphries from Gateshead was killed in action with 1st Tyneside Scottish on 28th June 1944, at the age of 23, though his Regimental Number is shown in Commonwealth War Graves records, and in “Harder than Hammers”, as 4454205. This will be verified with the DLI Enlistment Book.

Pte A Jeffrey 4461167

Enlisted in Durham Light Infantry 18th April 1940, aged 24, Gardener. Single, Church of England. Listed three times, 2nd 3rd and 4th all as Section 7.

Pte A Johnson

No details available on this soldier and the number of men with the same surname in the Battalion makes specific identification difficult. He is listed on only one occasion. 1st as “Attached and Away”. At 1st January 1941 in Iceland there was a Pte Johnson from 1st Tyneside Scottish serving in Brigade Headquarters as an Orderly, and he may have been this man.

Pte Johnston

No details available on this soldier, and there are two men listed as casualties in “Harder than Hammers” with the same surname. He is listed on only one occasion. 1st as “Attached and Away”, with an annotation of “CMP”.

Pte D Johnstone 3185872

Enlisted in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers on 18th April 1940, aged 24, Bricklayer’s Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. All Section 8. There is some confusion and possible error over this man’s entries as his Regimental Number in “Harder than Hammers” is listed as belonging to a Private A Johnson. This will require further investigation.

Cpl W H Jones 4443681

Enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry 10th May 1924, aged 20, General Labourer. Single, Church of England. Listed on only two occasions. 1st and 2nd as Section Commander, Section 8. In 1947 he was living in Felling, Gateshead.

L/Cpl Lindsay

No personal details available. Several men are listed in “Harder than Hammers” with the same surname, making identification more difficult. Only listed once. 1st included as “Attached and Away”.

Pte R Lister 2760170

Enlisted in Black Watch 8th April 1940, aged 20, Miner. Single, Presbyterian. Only listed on one occasion. 1st Number Five Rifleman, Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Dysart, Fife.

Cpl MacDonald 2760172

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 23, Paper Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed only twice (but see McDonald below). 3rd and 4th as Section Commander, Section 8 (took over from Cpl Jones – see above). In 1947 he was living in Inverkeithing, Fife.

Pte MacMillan 2760173

Enlisted in Black Watch 8th April 1940 (but see immediately preceding Regimental Number issued to Cpl MacDonald ten days later), aged 20, Farm Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed on three occasions. 1st and 2nd shown as Bugler, and in Section 7, 3rd shown in Reserve but still Bugler. “Harder than Hammers” spells his name as McMillan.

Pte J Malone 2758987

Enlisted in Black Watch 15th January 1940, aged 23, Millworker. Single, Roman Catholic. Four entries. All in Section 8. In 1947 he was living in Hilltown, Dundee.

Pte E McBay

No personal details available on the Roll Book. “Harder than Hammers” has Pte Macbay 2760110 listed, which suggests that this might be the same man, as there is no McBay on the Appendix.

If this is the correct man, he enlisted in the Black Watch (date unknown). Listed on three occasions. 2nd, 3rd and 4th all as Driver in Platoon Headquarters. In 1947 he was living in Dunfermline, Fife.

Cpl McDonald

This entry appears to be a further entry for Cpl MacDonald listed above as 2760172, which, if it is the case, having checked further with “Harder than Hammers”, shows that he was also listed as Section Commander of Section 8 on the 2nd, as well as the 3rd and 4th listings. This also means that he took over from Cpl Jones after the 2nd listing was compiled. A check with “Harder than Hammers” suggests that McDonald is the correct spelling so the other entries have been changed and this reduces the total number documented in the Roll Book by one.

Pte G McLaughlan 2760232

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 20, Ploughman. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. All four in Section 8. In 1947 he was living in Tayport, Fife.

Pte T McLintock

No personal details included in the Roll Book. Listed only twice. 3rd and 4th both in Section 7. Need to check whether this man was a casualty. The closest match is a “Harder than Hammers” casualty entry listing Pte C McLintoch 3060964. Commonwealth War Graves records show a Pte T H McLintock 3060964 Killed in Action on 1st July 1944 with The Black Watch, aged 24. It appears there is a typing error in the Roll of Honour in “Harder than Hammers”.


Pte R McVean 2758176

Enlisted in Black Watch 16th October 1939, aged 22, Gardener. Listed on three occasions. 1st and 2nd in Section 8 and 3rd in Reserve. This man does not appear to be included in the “Harder than Hammers” listings and this will be further checked.

Cpl Mitchell

No personal details on the Roll Book. “Harder than Hammers” lists a CSM J Mitchell 3058635 who may well be this man. If so, he enlisted in the Royal Scots – date unknown at this time. Listed only once on the Roll Book. 1st as Section Commander, Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Duns, Berwickshire.

Pte Ness

No personal details entered on the Roll Book. “Harder than Hammers” and Commonwealth War Graves Commission list two Privates Ness. Pte William Ness 2760178 was Killed while serving with 7th Black Watch, having transferred from 1st Tyneside Scottish when the Brigade was disbanded. Pte William John Ness 3061352 was Killed in Action on 28th June 1944 aged 30. The “Harder than Hammers” casualty list includes a Pte Ness Regimental Number 3061532 with the initial P. Not clear at this stage who is the right man. Listed only twice. 3rd and 4th both in Section 9.

Pte R Newton 4456694

Enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry 3rd March 1939, aged 17, Butcher. Single, Church of England. “Harder than Hammers” shows his Regimental Number as 4453694 – this is confirmed via the DLI Enlistment Book, which means the Roll Book has a transposition error. This has been corrected on the database. Four entries. 1st and 2nd Number Three Rifleman, Section 7. 3rd and 4th Batman in Platoon Headquarters. In 1947 he was living in Gateshead.

Pte Nixon

No personal details on the Roll Book. “Harder than Hammers” lists a L/Cpl R Nixon 2766633. If this is him, he therefore enlisted in the Black Watch, date unknown, but with a Regimental Number considerably later than other men in the Platoon from the Black Watch, and in 1947 was living in Dundee. There is, therefore, some doubt as to if this is the man listed in the Roll Book, and this will need to be further investigated. “Harder than Hammers” also lists, within the Roll of Honour, Pte E Nixon 4459405, who was Killed in Action on 20th May 1940, and therefore cannot have been a member of the Platoon in 1941. Listed on two occasions only. 3rd and 4th Section 8.

Pte P O’Brien 3323625

Enlisted in the Highland Light Infantry 30th May 1940, aged 20, Ironworks Labourer. Single, Roman Catholic. Listed only twice. 2nd and 3rd Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Barrhead, Glasgow.

Pte J Ockers 2762223

Enlisted in Black Watch 20th June 1940, aged 28, Bar Man. Single, Roman Catholic. Listed only on one occasion. 1st Section 7. He does not appear to be included in the “Harder than Hammers” listings.

Pte W T Ower 3322630

No personal details included on the Roll Book. Details of Regimental Number and initials extracted from “Harder than Hammers”. Enlisted in Highland Light Infantry, date unknown. Listed only twice. 3rd and 4th Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Glasgow.

Cpl A Parkin 4456608

Enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry 26th April 1939, aged 19, Miner. Single, Church of England. Listed on five occasions. 1st as L/Cpl, Section Commander Section 9, 2nd (first entry) as L/Cpl, Section Second in Command, Section 8, 2nd (second entry) as Cpl Section Commander, Section7, 3rd and 4th as Cpl Section Commander, Section 7 – during which he is shown as issued with a Thompson Submachine Gun. In 1947 he was living in Hamsterley Colliery, having left the Battalion as a Sergeant and having been awarded the Military Medal.

Cpl W Paul 2760235

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, age and occupation unknown. No details of marital status or religion. Listed on two occasions. 2nd and 3rd Cpl (assumed Section Commander) Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Cupar, Fife having left the Battalion as a Private.

Pte J A Redpath 2760180

Enlisted in Black Watch 16th April 1940, aged 22, Coal Salesman. Single, Presbyterian. Three entries. 1st (first entry) Anti-Tank number in Platoon Headquarters. 1st (second entry) “Attached and Away” annotated as Regimental Police. 2nd Section 8. In 1947 he was living in Leven, Fife, having left the Battalion as a Sergeant.

Pte A Robertson 2760078

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 20, Paper Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed on only one occasion. 1st Number 5 Rifleman Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Leslie, Fife.

Lt T D Ross

No personal details included in the Roll Book. Four entries. All as Platoon Commander in Platoon Headquarters. In 1947 he was living in Redditch, Worcestershire, having left the Battalion as a Major and having been awarded the D.S.O.

Pte J Smith 2760272

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 25, Labourer. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. All Section 9 – listed as Number Four Rifleman on 1st listing. In 1947 he was living in Dysart, Fife.

Pte S Storrie

No personal details on Roll Book. “Harder than Hammers” lists a Pte J Storie 3061398 who may be the same man, in which case he enlisted in the Royal Scots, date unknown. Listed on only one occasion. 3rd Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Dalkeith, Midlothian.

Pte A Strachan 2760242

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, age unknown, Callender Worker. Married, Church of England. Listed only twice. 2nd and 3rd Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Dundee.

Pte W Tapp 2760213

Enlisted in Black Watch 16th April 1940, age unknown, Miner. Married, Presbyterian. Listed on four occasions. 2nd and 3rd (first entry) Section 9, 3rd (second entry) and 4th 2” Mortar Man in Platoon Headquarters. In 1947 he was living in Lumphinnans, Fife.

Pte Thompson

No personal details on Roll Book. There are nine possible candidates listed in “Harder than Hammers” with no indication as to which might be the correct one. Listed on only one occasion. 1st “Attached and Away”.

Pte A Wallace 2760215

Enlisted in Black Watch on either 5th or 18th April 1940, aged 20, Colliery Packer. Single, Presbyterian. Listed only twice. 1st and 2nd Number Two Rifleman Section 7. In 1947 he was living in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Pte W Whitley 4456302

Enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry 26th April 1939, aged 17, Miner. Single, Church of England. Four entries. All as 2” Mortar Man in Platoon Headquarters. In 1947 he was living in Annfield Plain, County Durham.

Pte R B Wilson 2760187

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 23, Market Gardener. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. All Section 8. In 1947 he was living in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Pte Wood 2761375

Enlisted in Black Watch 15th August 1940, aged 22, Despatch Clerk. Single, Presbyterian. Listed only twice. 3rd and 4th Section 8. This man does not appear to be included in the “Harder than Hammers” listings.

Sgt F Wynne 2751530

Enlisted in Black Watch 1st September 1939, age unknown, General Labourer. Married, Roman Catholic. Four entries. All as Platoon Sergeant in Platoon Headquarters. In 1947 he was living in Dundee.

Pte R Young 2760157

Enlisted in Black Watch 18th April 1940, aged 20, Gamekeeper. Single, Presbyterian. Four entries. All as Number One Rifleman Section 9. In 1947 he was living in Dundee.

General conclusions

The information given suggests a fairly typical snapshot of a Platoon. The role of the Reconnaissance Platoon would have made excellent use, for example, of the shooting and stalking skills and experience of the ex-gamekeeper – Pte Young – while the toughness and resilience required from the men while on extended patrols in the field, especially during winter warfare training in Iceland and Snowdonia, would have benefitted from many of their employment backgrounds. Some of the miners, for example, could well have been familiar, from their work underground, with handling ponies as pack animals, a skill which would have been of use in Iceland, and also with the mules of the RIASC in Snowdonia.

Such a small sample does not allow grand statistical assumptions to be made about the Brigade as a whole, but is does, perhaps, give a flavour of the men who formed this fighting force and suggests some clues as to the choice of men for promotion and roles of greater responsibility.

More Information

Creating the database of names
The use of War Diaries in the history
List of Abbreviations
List of Units
Home Service 1939 - 1940
British Expeditionary Force April - June 1940
Defending against Invasion June - October 1940
Iceland Garrison October 1940 - December 1941
Home Service and Winter Warfare Training 1942 - 1943
Pre-Invasion Training 1943 - 1944
Normandy 1944


To contact the author by e-mail with any queries, or to send information - click here.