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.