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Author Topic: Troops - Numbered or Lettered 2  (Read 3144 times)
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« on: 15 September 2011, 07:15:13 pm »

Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 04/11/2004 :  12:44:51 PM 
Just to add to Bill's colourful description on the Shoe-smith & farriers in the 9th.
The Shoe-smiths & Farriers in the L.H. regiments were made up of all sorts of blokes. Bill has highlighted that the men in the 9th L.H. were a bit of a handful. But it would incorrect to assume this was consistent behaviour across all Far/S-S's in all L.H. regiments.

No doubt, I believe that these S-S/Far's 'generally' considered them pretty important. I have a postcard with of the Farrier/Shoe-smith's of the 7th titled 'The Heads'. This was the term that the men used when referring to the men in charge/officers. . But as Bill indicated that would not make them unpunishable.
I am sure they probably played on their importance; dishing out favours, & at the same time avoiding some of the less popular military duties. I am aware they got that the Farriers/Shoe-smith's got the pick of the horses after the officers for example.
Photographs of the 7th indicate they were pretty casual mob, yet quite determined looking group. I suppose they were responsible for keeping the 'show on the road' and a few military rules may have been overlooked on the way. I.e. dress/uniforms,etc.

When you think about it these men were in a pretty powerful position in the regiments because they looked after the horses, thus would have known a good horse from a bad horse pretty expertly.I am sure all the men in the Regiments would have wanted a good pony, or at least tried to swap when the occasion allowed for a better one. You can imagine that the Far's or S-S would have been in an ideal position to determine what kind of mount a trooper was allocated. So these 'specialists' were just below the quartermaster/cooks on the internal 'graft' scale within a regiment in my humble opinion.

Cheers
Geoff S

(This information is based on my personal opinion, and I am unable to give specific references to justify all my comments- my apologies)

Cheers
Geoff S


Bill Woerlee
Veteran Forum Member
 

Australia
1069 Posts    Posted - 04/11/2004 :  3:41:00 PM   
Geoff
G'day mate. You have a good feel for these things - maybe an experience or two you might care to tell us about your life. LOL.

What you say makes complete sense. They were the informal command structure upon which the regiment survived. The officers - heads - may have hated them because they were a breed amongst their own, but for the sake of unit efficiency, they would have had to look the other way at all but the most blatant infractions. Even then, punishments were quite light - more like a slap over the wrist rather than anything serious.

In return, apart from keeping the regiment mobile - that pleased the heads - they would have been at the top of the pecking order for favours of all descriptions. In return for these favours, they would have received "inducements" from the men and the officers. Wash my mouth out with soap if this seems like graft and corruption for if you were to read Gullet, our boys rode tall and true and were models of proprietary. Of course, if you believe that then you also believe in the tooth fairy.

Our lads were no different to any other men confined together in an unreal situation with very few forms of currency. The people with the valuable skills also had the power and exploited this to the full.

Cheers

Bill


Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 04/11/2004 :  7:24:25 PM 
Thanks Bill,
My Great-Grandfather was a Shoe-Smith and a Farrier in the 'drunken' 7th. Only the 'heads' would have referred to troops by letters and numbers. It would be more like I am with Bluey's mob, or Ginger's troop, or Smithy's section. They would have had nick-names for Regiments, Squadrons, troops, almost everything. I have a bookcase filled with books on Australian Light Horse in the Great War, but the answers are not always clear. What interests me most is what lies between the lines. I asked him (my great grandfather) many questions about the war when I was a boy. I feel it is the accumulation of all that I have read, together with having visited many of the places in which they fought as a young bloke, that has given me a unique insight into their lives. As a young Aussie on the other side of the world you tend to look after your own (i.e stick with your mates). Together with your mates you feel very Australian and somewhat invincible. Some were brave,others not so brave, some were drunks or larrikins. Many young blokes might have been easily led astray. But for me most of these men were doing a job - looking after their mates and horses ,missing home,trying to stay out of trouble, keeping their heads down and having fun wherever they could.

Cheers
Geoff S

I imagine the two most frequent discussions or arguments amongst the men were about food or horses. (apart from the other obvious one!) The 'heads' or officers looked after themselves. So who could improve my tucker or my ride? ANSWER Farriers, Shoe-Smith's Cooks, etc



Jeff Pickerd
Advanced Forum Member
 

Australia
486 Posts    Posted - 04/11/2004 :  8:51:41 PM 
To all
We have moved on from Steve's original post, but have found this discussion arrising from Kim's post,interesting.
From all the letters and diary entries I have been able to read so far from the men of the 8th Light Horse Regiment, I have not as yet come across any direct criticism of smiths, craftsmen or articifers of the regiment, particularily with regard to graft and corruption, although a few references to conduct.
I would agree with almost all of what has been said with regard to their conduct, and the tolerance shown to them, but I think we are being a bit unkind to stamp every man into this mold. The sense of comradeship and loyalty to the Regiment seems to have had a strong bond on most men, particularily the originals and earlier Reinforcements, who had been through so much together and lost many good mates. The tolerance shown to them is understandable when the trades and skills of these men were needed and udoubtably carried out professionaly.They were after all paid at a higher rate for their skill.
The main criticism, or in many cases down right anger, has been directed at those men who had remained behind at the Divisional Depots back in Cairo, and who they considered, did not have the courage or moral fortitude to go to the front. The anger stems from what they considered to be the cowards, shirker's, bludger's and low life thieves who stole their personal belongings, equipment and souvenir's sent back to the depots, while they themselves were out in the field pursuing and fighting the enemy.
This attitude was probably grossly unfair to many men who would have acted honorably and carried out the work they were ordered to undertake,to the best of their ability, with out having any choice in the matter.
There are references of men who were ordered to remain behind in Egypt when the regiment went to Gallipoli, who later stowed away on board transports taking subsequent Reinforcements, so as to join their mates at the front. Many have stated that they could not have faced their mates if they had not gone, and also the fear that the fighting would be over before they got a chance to go into action . This applied to Shoeing Smiths and Saddlers as well others assigned to other tasks.
Jeff

Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 04/11/2004 :  11:27:49 PM 
Hi All,
I know we have moved on, but this is an interesting topic as some of these issues are rarely mentioned in the published references. I agree with what Bill & Jeff & steve have noted & would add the following;

"I have not as yet come across any direct criticism of smiths, craftsmen or articifers of the regiment, particularily with regard to graft and corruption, although a few references to conduct."

In retrospect GRAFT was probably not the accurate word to describe the informal command structure,as it implies organised corruption. Bill probably was closer top the mark, when he mentioned they were high in the pecking order for "favours of all descriptions"

"The sense of comradeship and loyalty to the Regiment seems to have had a strong bond on most men, particularily the originals and earlier Reinforcements, who had been through so much together and lost many good mates"

I strongly agree with this comment. The deaths of 'originals' is almost always noted with profound sadness of the comrades in the regiment. The sacrifice of the 'Originals' was important aspect to the Espirit de Corps of the units.


stevebecker
Veteran Forum Member
 


1866 Posts    Posted - 05/11/2004 :  08:05:45 AM 
It may be worth checking a cross section of unit's Farriers or Shoe smiths to see in what trouble they may have got up to?
Just to prove one way or the other if they did in fact get away with it.

The Service records are in some cases availible and I have a short list of all LH Farriers and Shoe Smiths maybe we can find out what was going on.

S.B

garytraynor
Forum Member


Australia
139 Posts    Posted - 08/11/2004 :  8:14:31 PM 
Hi guys,
My great uncle Tom McGrath was a Shoesmith with the 13th L/H......would any of you have or know of any photos of the Farriers/Shoesmiths of the 13th?Huh?

I have yet to find the book "My Corps Cavalry" and so I do not know if there is anything in that......any help would be appreciated (Especially by his daughter who is still alive)

Cheers Gary Traynor
Eurobodalla Lighthorse Troop

Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 09/11/2004 :  9:35:09 PM 
Garry,
I do not have any photographs of the S-Smith's or Far-Sgt in the 13th L.H. But if you contact Napoleon's bookshop in York Street, Sydney I am pretty sure that they had "My Corps Cavalry" in stock. (That book is not that hard to get)

Cheers
Geoff S

Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 09/11/2004 :  10:12:57 PM 
Steve,
As per your last comment. "It may be worth checking a cross section of unit's Farriers or Shoe smiths to see in what trouble they may have got up to?" (I don't think you need to look any further for evidence)

I found this little gem yesterday/I think strengthens my point I was making about some of the 'specialists'. It is taken from 'From War to Lar- The Life of Brig-Gen Lachlan Wilson of the Light Horse' by R Likeman'. It has just been published.

This is LWC comments about DRIVERS on the 10th of May 1919.

"For some reason unknown to ordinary regimental Commanders. drivers
receive more consideration than ordinary troopers. In the Light Horse Regiments in the AIF they were not enlisted as Drivers, so there is no question of contract.
As a class they are inferior men to the ordinary trooper. The transport is usually a dumping ground for troop undesirables and a refuge for the man who wishes to avoid danger and rough life of the troop. The Driver has no outpost duty, and no night duty, except his own horse piquet, His hours are more regular, he lives better as he has means of transport of extra clothing, blankets, cover & ratiions; he carries cooking utensils. He gets an extra 1/- per day in pay. Regimental officers do not know why. He does have two horses to look after, but so have the 37 troopers who lead the pack horses of the Regiment. (tools, ammunition, Hotchkiss guns) and they get nothing extra.
The point I wish I wish to particulary to draw attention is the manner of disrating them. AIF Order No. 785, as amended by No. 920, provides that, ..."as in the case of NCO's, such soldiers (i.e. Drivers and Shoe-smiths) will only be disrated by for misconduct or inefficiency".
It is not a question of inefficiency. They may be efficient enough, but are often lazy. It is generally recognised that they are the dirtiest and the most undisciplined part of the unit. The result of the above rule is the Commanding Officer cannot by himself get rid of a permanent driver. He must court martial him, and then perhaps the Court may award some other form of punishment than reduction.
I would srtongly recomend that a CO have full power to revert any driver for misconduct or inefficiency, At present he has neither,as his powers are governed by the words,...as in the case of NCO's
Signed
Brig-Gen LC Wilson
Commanding the 3rd Light Horse Brigade

It is very interesting to me that the C.O. of a Light Horse Brigade was unable to change the 'system' that restricted his command with some of his men. The "informal command structure" as Bill put it must have existed, even the 'Heads' were powerless to some extent

Cheers
Geoff S.




Bill Woerlee
Veteran Forum Member
 

Australia
1069 Posts    Posted - 10/11/2004 :  2:10:26 PM   
Geoff
Good letter from Wilson. Reading between the lines gives away more information than in the letter per se. I suspect Wilson must have had a wild time with these fellows. While a very professional officer and very good at his craft, his letter indicates that his understandning of the character of the Australian war machine left a tad bit to be desired.

An army is not formed out of context of the nation. The characteristics of drivers and farriers has not changed much over the last hundred years. They may be a fractious, disrespecting mob of larrikins, of this there is no doubt - just go to a trucker's stop to find this out - but they are hard working in their own trade and their work is vital to keeping our economy rolling as they too were vital in keeping the AIF rolling during the Great War.

One book I thought was an excellent essay in attempting to get to the heart of the Australian soldier was written by Dale Blair called Dinkum Diggers. the portrait he paints was a tad bit different to that of Gullett. One event that I never knew about was the strike by soldiers - all good union men - on 15 February 1916 for a 40 hour week. These fellers did not mind doing drill for 40 hours a week but that was their limit. They went out on strike and paraded with banners in the streets to drive their message home.

That is what I mean about Armies needing to be seen within the context of their society. We have a group of folks who have been through some pretty difficult labour brawls - the Great Shearers Strike, the problems at Broken Hill and all the rest of the areas where there was militant unionism. These folks did not lose their militancy when they joined they just transferred the behaviour so it manifested in other ways.

So too with the shoeing smiths, farriers and drivers.

I am inclined to follow Steve's suggestion about establishing the penalties suffered by the actions of these folks for disobedience. This along with Les's story of Kerley who dacked the padre, makes a wonderful and colourful collection of yarns.

Cheers

Bill



Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 10/11/2004 :  11:45:56 PM 
Bill,
I would agree that it is very important to look at these men in context of their society. They were a product of their enviroment as it existed at the beginning of the 19th century in Australia. I especially like your point about their militancy simply being transferred. I would suggest many of these blokes were not afraid push the boundaries when they felt circumstances dictated.

I don't have 'Dinkum DIggers'. (too many published to purchase all of them these days) I know the book- I think it's based on the 1st Battalion. I will have to check it out in more detail in future!

Cheers
Geoff S
As per LCW, perhaps he understood 'the system', but being a lawyer he just never gave up trying to fight it!

Geoff
Senior Forum Member
 

Australia
576 Posts    Posted - 10/11/2004 :  11:48:28 PM 
Bill,
I agree it is very important to look at these men in context. They were a product of their enviroment as it existed at the beginning of the 19th century in Australia. I especially like your point about their militancy simply being transferred. I would suggest many of these blokes were not afraid push the boundaries when they felt circumstances dictated.

I don't have 'Dinkum DIggers'. (too many published to have them all these days)But I know the book- I think it's based on the 1st Battalion. I will have to check it out in more detail in future!

Cheers
Geoff S
As per LCW, perhaps he understood 'the system', but being a lawyer he just never gave up trying to fight it!
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