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17561 Shoeing Smith Benjamin Thomas Griffiths – 3 Questions 1 year 5 months ago #88008

  • Smethwick
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Benjamin was born and raised in Smethwick. His father, Caleb was a butcher.

The following is based on his attestation papers, Statement of Services sheet and Military History Sheet.

Benjamin attested to one year of service on 10th July 1901 in Birmingham, and was assigned to the Royal Field Artillery. On the 13th July 1901 he reported to the RFA 1st Depot at Woolwich and was immediately appointed a “Shoeing Smith”. This is not surprising as the 1901 census showed his occupation back in Smethwick as “Blacksmith”.

When he was posted to South Africa he appears to have been amongst the “Excess Numbers” at “Base Depot”. He was “posted” again on 27th January 1902 either from or to what looks like “1 Pr Maxims”. He was posted again on what looks like “33rd July 1902” either from or to 1 Depot. His South African service ended on 9th August 1902 and the following day his home service resumed. The paperwork does not tell us what happened next.

The following is based on the three medal rolls he appears on. I have dealt with them chronologically.

The first has “Supplementary” hand written at the very top and then hand-written “Specially Enlisted Artificers att’d No.2 Loc. Am. Column”. It is stamped in the bottom left hand corner “No.2 Local Ammunition Column, 28th May 1902, Pretoria”. The signing off signature in the bottom right corner is illegible but underneath is stamped “Captain R.F.A., Commdg No.2 Local Amm’n Column”.

20 soldiers are listed on the form. The ranks are abbreviated – the top and bottom one being “Br. Cr. Mr.” and the intervening 18 are “S. Smith”. So we have 18 Shoeing Smiths and 2 Bomber Collar Makers. I worked out the latter from the Statement of Services sheet of the top one, the service sheets for the bottom one are not available as he was taken “POW” in WW1 and subsequently died.

FIRST QUESTION – what exactly did a Bomber Collar Maker do?

For all but two the annotations show the medal issue dates and that they qualified for between 1 and 3 state clasps and over half either/or the SA 1901 & SA 1902 clasps. All that is against Benjamin’s name in the clasp columns is “68/Art/2019” which made me initially think he must have served in the 68th Battery RFA but now I am 99% certain is just a reference number to do with the issuing of his medal.

Most interesting is the right hand remarks column which for Benjamin contains “To Pom Pom Depot”. Time wise this could roughly tally with “I Pr Maxims” on his Statement of Services Sheet. I always thought Maxims were early machine guns but a bit of reading suggests there were Maxim Pom Pom guns – I don't think I need to articulate my SECOND QUESTION.

The second Medal roll was drawn up in Preston on 13th September 1904 and Benjamin is the sole occupant. At the very top is written “Copy. Original mislaid”. The reference number “68/Art/2019” is written at random in two different places and there is a “Yes” in the OFS & Transvaal columns. The Remarks column tells me he was also entitled to the “1901 and 1902 on Queen’s medal”.

The third Medal Roll was drawn up the next day but at Woolwich and again Benjamin is the sole occupant. It really just confirms the information on the second one – the date 20/09/04 is written large and I think we can presume that Benjamin was issued with a Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps on 20th September 1904.

Searching this site I find a couple of mentions of “No.2 Local Ammunition Column”. One 8 years ago in a post by Rory regarding the medals of 8254 Gunner William Henry Neville. The conclusion was that he served in 83rd Battery RFA. The second 2 years ago in response to a post by Bernice on a memorial in Selby, Yorkshire regarding 6325 Gunner W Clark who was killed by lightning on 22nd November 1900 - it was not decided in which RFA Battery, if any, he served.

So my THIRD QUESTION – is anything more now known about the No.2 Local Ammunition Column and can anybody enlighten me further regarding Benjamin’s experiences in South Africa.

All I know about Benjamin back in the UK is that on 18th October 1902 he married Rachel Fanthom in Quinton Parish Church, Birmingham and he was still a “Shoeing Smith”. I cannot find him or Rachel on the 1911 or 1921 Censuses or the 1939 Register or ships sailing to the New World or Oceania. The marriage was witnessed by Rachel’s sister, Lydia and a George Crump. According to the 1911 census Lydia and George married 4 years later and 2 years after that had a son who they called Benjamin Thomas Crump. So now I am wondering if Benjamin died young and Rachel remarried.

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17561 Shoeing Smith Benjamin Thomas Griffiths – 3 Questions 1 year 5 months ago #88012

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Maybe a potential answer for Q1

Could it be a Bombardier Collar Maker?

Possibly responsible for the collars and harnesses / leather work worn by the artillery horses that pulled the guns?
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
Best regards,
Dave
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17561 Shoeing Smith Benjamin Thomas Griffiths – 3 Questions 1 year 5 months ago #88014

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Thank you Dave - you are spot on!

Looked at the document again and what I read as "Bomber" could equally be "Bombdr". I googled "Bombardier Collar Maker" and came up with a direct hit on the BritishEmpire.co.uk website:



With the following text underneath:

The brass chevron badge on the cap indicates that these are in the Royal Artillery. The rank with two stripes was called bombardier in the artillery. He was a collar-maker. The badge above his stripes is a horse bit denoting saddle-maker or collar-maker. The saddlers and collar-maker's badge is number 37.

The collar was the oval leather collar worn by the draught horses that pulled the guns. The uniforms are blue with a red collar. They are not in dress uniforms. The tunics are undress items worn for general duties especially in a hot climate. The white helmet indicates that they are in India or Egypt. Interestingly there is a spike on the top of the helmet which was only worn for a short time before it was replaced by a brass ball in 1880. The medals, according to what you tell me, are the Afghanistan Medal 1878-80 which is silver with a green ribbon that has maroon edges. The photo must have been taken soon after they received their campaign medals (sanctioned 19 March 1881) If they were in India it would have taken a year or two to implement the order to change the helmet spike. So The photo was almost certainly taken in 1881.

Courtesy of Anne Young.
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17561 Shoeing Smith Benjamin Thomas Griffiths – 3 Questions 1 year 5 months ago #88016

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Doing some more googling but leaving out Boer War lead to a Wikipedia entry entitled “Ammunition Column” which focusses on their purpose and structure in WW1.

Until May 1916 they were at the Brigade level but then went Divisional. They were what it says on the can – there to supply the gun batteries with ammunition and they also acted as a reserve to replace the casualties in the batteries. Usually there were 4 Ammunition Columns to a Brigade each one servicing 2 batteries. Typically they each consisted of about 150 men commanded by a Captain and 3 Lieutenants/Second Lieutenants with the NCO’s & other ranks being made up of shoeing smiths, saddlers, bombardiers, drivers and gunners. The latter tended to act as batmen & signallers until they needed to be drafted into a battery. There were about 130 horses to each column. The composition varied dependent on the types of batteries they were servicing.

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17561 Shoeing Smith Benjamin Thomas Griffiths – 3 Questions 1 year 5 months ago #88017

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To answer my own second question from page 476 of "THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA"

The effect produced in the hands of the Boers by the 1-pdr. Automatic Vickers-Maxim guns (better known as " Pom-poms," from the peculiar noise of their discharge) was such that orders were given for them for the British troops, and 57 were eventually sent out, the first three arriving just in time to take part in the final fighting at Paardeberg. These guns worked automatically on exactly the same principle as the rifle calibre Maxim machine guns. They fired a 1 Ib. shell with a muzzle velocity of 1,800 f.s. The shells were cast iron, filled with powder and fitted with a nose percussion fuse ; they were fixed in brass cartridge cases and 25 of these were placed in a belt. The limber carried twelve of these belts, and the weight of the gun and limber in draught was 27 cwt.

So a Maxim = a Pom Pom, and "I Pr Maxims" on Benjamin's Statement of Service sheet stands for 1 pounder Maxims.

Guess most of you knew that already - my knowledge groweth by the day.

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17561 Shoeing Smith Benjamin Thomas Griffiths – 3 Questions 1 year 5 months ago #88027

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A Pom-Pom I presume. MY PRESUMPTION WAS INCORRECT - SEE VERY INFORMATIVE POSTS BY LINNEYL BELOW FOR A CORRECT IDENTIFICATION AND A PHOTO OF A REAL POM POM.

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