Burma Mechanical Transport Companies, RASC

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The Burma Mechanical Transport Companies, Royal Army Service Corps.

Noel Clark from Victoria, Australia has kindly permitted the results of his research to be made available in the following Account.

Burma contributed five Mechanical Transport Companies to the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

In April 1919, the Burma Companies were as follows (according to The National Archives War Diary WO 95/5007/1 which appears to end c April 1919).

1023 (Burma] M T Coy RASC (No 1 Burma MT Company) disembarked at Basrah 18 1 18
1024 (Burma] M T Coy RASC (No 2 Burma MT Company) disembarked 1.7.18
784 (Burma) M T Coy RASC (No 3 Burma MT Company) disembarked 30.1.19
1017 (Burma) M T Coy RASC (No 4 Burma MT Company) disembarked 18.3.19
1015 (Burma) M T Coy RASC (No 5 Burma MT Company) disembarked 2.4.19

No 3 Burma MT Company, No 4 Burma MT Company and No 5 Burma MT Company took over the duties and equipment of an existing Mechanical Transport Company, at least some/most/all of of whose previous personnel were then demobilised.

There are brief references to No. 6 and No. 7 Burma M.T. Companies. After formation c August 1919 these two Companies were almost immediately redesignated as No. 15 and 16 Mechanical Transport (Burma) Ford Van Company respectively, and became part of the Mechanical Transport section of the Indian Army Supply and Transport Corps.

Noel Clark's Account

Map of Mesopotamia

A sketch map of Mesopotamia showing some of the places mentioned in the War Diaries, and others relevant to the operations in 1918-1921.

No. 1 Burma M.T. Company

No. 1 Burma M.T. Company (No. 1 Burma Ford Van Company, 1023 M.T. Company A.S.C., No. 1023 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C.)

The first Burma unit was formed in Rangoon in November and December 1917.[1] It departed from the depot in Rangoon on 5th January 1918 and embarked for Bombay under the command of Major Reginald Willows Hildyard MARRIS with Captain Guy LYNN as Workshops Officer; LYNN took over as Commanding Officer on 3rd September 1918. Officers received commissions in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers.[2] One third of the drivers for this unit were Indians and the remainder Burmese. The unit re-embarked at Bombay on HM Hospital Transport Bamora on 11th January 1918, disembarked at Basra on 18th January with a total strength of five British officers, 23 British other ranks, and 200 Indian other ranks (the latter including the Burmese), and went into camp at Makina, Basra, to continue training until 13th February 1918.

Interestingly, the War Office had allocated the Army Service Corps company numbers 1023 and 1024 for the No.1 and No. 2 Burmese M.T. Companies, but then allocated the same two numbers to two British companies formed at Bulford, England in the autumn of 1917. When the British units arrived in theatre they found the first Burmese unit already there, and this caused some hasty rearrangement of numbers, personnel and duties. The British 1023 was temporarily renumbered to 1024, and then absorbed into the M.T. Depot, and the British 1024 was disbanded in mid-March 1918 and its personnel sent to M.T. Company 1020 as reinforcements; the two Burmese units retained their promised 1023 and 1024 numbers.

On 13th February 1918 the No. 1. Burma unit, now unquestionably 1023 M.T. Company A.S.C., commenced its journey by road from Makina to Hillah, where it was to be stationed, and where it arrived on 2nd March 1918 and commenced convoy operations.[3] Convoys carried various loads – mats (trench mats etc.), bamboos, lime, black earth, bricks, petrol, kerosene, foodstuffs including vegetables, water and ice, ordnance stores, tentage, mails, personnel and baggage.

Officers assisting Major MARRIS and Captain LYNN included 2/Lts. George Robinson COCKMAN, Ernest Raymond ALLEN, Edwin BRUCE and Edward Gibson FLEMING. There were various subsequent transfers in and out of the unit, and temporary attachments of personnel from time to time, and the Diary needs to be read in detail to follow these. The Diary is also unusual in that it mentions a number of the non-commissioned officers and men by both name and regimental number; one being Mechanist Staff Sergeant Louis Vernon COLATO (050206), who later became a commissioned officer.

After the Armistice of Mudros on 30th October 1918 (curiously given no mention whatsoever in the Diary) 1023 Company remained in Mesopotamia as part of the Army of Occupation. The Diary for the period 1st December 1918 to 24th May 1919 inclusive is missing, but from elsewhere we know that on 16th January 1919 the unit was still at Hillah.[4] During that time command of the unit had passed to (then) Captain COCKMAN, and on 25th May 1919 temporary command was taken by Major C. N. DRAPER from 1016 Company. The unit was now at Kirkuk, where it remained until 24th July 1919. On 29th May an escorted convoy from the unit under the command of Lt. Patrick Joseph BAILLIE and on its way to Chemchamal was ambushed by Sheikh Mahmud’s mounted Kurds as part of the Kurdish insurrection of May-June 1919. The War Diary records that the convoy as a whole suffered a number of casualties including 15 Indian Other Ranks killed; one Burmese driver from 1023 Company was still unaccounted for six days later.

Major Thomas COUPER (ex-1017 Company) took command of the unit on 13th June 1919. On 25th July the unit moved to Fathah, and then again on 24th September to Baghdad, which it reached two days later. Here the unit prepared for demobilization. The final entry in the War Diary is for 30th November 1919, although there is evidence is that final demobilization did not occur until 25th January 1920.

Officers and men who served with the Company in the Mesopotamia theatre prior to 11th November 1918 were entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal. Evidence from medal cards at The National Archives, London, is that these medals were issued to qualifying officers and NCOs by the Government of India. However, no cards or rolls have been located showing issue to Burmese or Indian enlisted men serving with the Company.

Officers and men who were with the unit at Kirkuk in May-June 1919 were entitled to the General Service Medal (1918) with Kurdistan clasp. A small number also qualified for the Iraq clasp to this medal, indicating that they saw service after 10th December 1919. In this case medal cards or rolls have been located on www.ancestry.co.uk for the enlisted men, but not for all named officers.[5] One section of the “arrears” medal roll shows the period of service in 1023 Company as 18th January 1918 to 25th January 1920, possibly indicating demobilization on the latter date.

[Note: Some medal award records are not on www.ancestry.co.uk and may be found only by searching the web-site of The National Archives, London, at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/. It is just not possible to give a recipe for searching for details on any particular man. There are numerous transcription errors, particularly in the names of military units, and researchers will need to experiment with combinations of initials, given names and surnames. Some men qualified for medals with service other than with the Burmese M.T units.]

No. 2 Burma M.T. Company

No. 2 Burma M.T. Company (No. 2 Burma Ford Van Company, 1024 M.T. Company A.S.C., No. 1024 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C.)

The second Burma unit left Burma on 15th June 1918 under the command of Major George Edmund CUNINGHAM, arrived at Makina, Basra on 30th June and disembarked from HM Hospital Transport Aronda at Makina, Basra, the following day. On disembarkation the strength of the unit was four British officers, 12 British other ranks, and 162 Indian other ranks (all Burmese). The War Diary is ambiguous on whether these “strength” numbers include or exclude those taken to hospital (mainly fever cases) directly from the ship – one British officer, four British other ranks and 32 drivers – but from the names of officers given it appears that the hospital numbers should be added to the “strength” numbers. The officers initially supporting Major CUNINGHAM were Workshops Officer Captain Sydney WEBSTER and 2/Lts. Arthur John BENNISON, Claud Felix PYETT and Patrick John O’SHEA (aka John Patrick O’SHEA).

The unit remained at Makina until 16th July and then began to move via Baghdad to Hillah and had set up camp at the latter place, adjacent to 1023 Company, by 26th July, and then began convoy operations despite being depleted in numbers due to sickness. The main cargo seems to have been grain, inwards to Hillah. 2/Lts. Edmond Leslie BAYLEY and Horace William TEETON were attached to the unit from the Army Service Corps, and 2/Lt. Donald James ROSS arrived from Rangoon. One driver died from cholera.

In late September 1024 Company was ordered to move to Khanagin, and the move commenced on 30th September 1918. Unfortunately the War Diary for October has not survived, but in early November the unit was ordered to Kerind, which was reached in the middle of the month. The weather and poor roads hampered operations. On 30th November, Lt. P.J. O’SHEA took command of the unit on the admission of Major CUNINGHAM to hospital suffering from dysentery; CUNINGHAM died on 6th December 1918. Major CUNINGHAM's replacement, Captain Edward Gibson FLEMING from 1023 Company, arrived on 24th December, but on Christmas Day the unit was rocked by another tragedy, the death of Mechanist Staff Sergeant V.N. BOGLE, who suffocated after falling out of bed.

The main work of 1024 Company in January and early February 1919 was to convey supplies to Huranabad with occasional convoys to Kasrabad and Aliabad. Several convoys went to Takigarreh to collect supplies for Kerend and forward destinations. Towards the middle of February 1024 Company began convoys to Huranabad carrying supplies, mails and personnel for the Persian Lines of Communication and for the North Persia Force. On 17th February orders were received to move down the line back to Baghdad, and after preparations were complete the move commenced on 26th February and the company arrived in Baghdad on 4th March passing through Quasi-Sharin, Khanakin and Baqubah en route. The unit remained in Baghdad from 4th March to 18th March 1919, cleaning and overhauling the vehicles, checking stores, receiving a summer kit issue, and general camp duties. All British ranks both from and attached to 1024 Company left on 14th March for demobilization. [Note: I think that the Diary should read “British other ranks.”]

On 19th March 1919 the unit left Baghdad for northern Iraq, travelling via Belad, Samarah and Tikrit and arriving at Baiji on 21st March. On 26th March the unit received orders to cross to the eastern bank of the River Tigris and make camp at Fathah; it remained here until 31st October 1919. From Fathah 1024 Company ran regular convoys of supplies, mails and personnel to centres such as Kirkuk, Mosul, Erbil and Altun Kupri.

In early May there was disquiet amongst most of the Burmese drivers, questioning how much longer they were to remain in Mesopotamia given that there had been no fighting there for six months. Some 31 drivers in total refused to continue working and were arrested and taken into custody pending court martial. At least 28 were found guilty of refusing to obey a lawful command and sentenced to imprisonment. Convoys continued and on 26th May one driver was killed and another wounded in action during the Kurdish insurrection. After the insurrection most of the convoys were of supplies, mails and personnel to Kirkuk. In October 28 of the imprisoned drivers were released and rejoined the unit; 13 returned to work but the other 15 continued to refuse and were re-arrested.

On 23rd October 1919 orders were received to return to Baghdad; the unit left Fathah on 1st November and arrived in Baghdad two days later. The remainder of November was occupied in preparing the final demobilization. The final entry in the War Diary is for 30th November 1919.

Medal entitlements for 1024 Company were exactly the same as for 1023 Company. Again, service dates in the “arrears” medal roll suggests that the date of demobilization was 25th January 1920.

No. 3 Burma MT Company

No. 3 Burma M.T. Company (No. 3 Burma Ford Van Company, No. 784 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C.

Recruiting started for this Company on 28th August 1918. From 4th November 1918 the Company undertook training at the No.1 M.T. Training School at Sohan Camp, Rawalpindi, India, where its Commandant, Major Richard Stanley BAKER died suddenly of influenza on 13th November 1918. Captain Thomas Garnet Henry BROWNE commanded the unit from 30th November to 9th December 1918, and Major George Chesney Nevill STEVENS took command on 10th December.

Orders to proceed overseas were received on 12 January 1919, and the Company embarked on HM Hospital Transport Bamora at Karachi on 24th January, subsequently disembarking at Basra on 30th January and going into Camp 7 at Makina, Basra. Officers assisting Major STEVENS included Captain BROWNE (Workshops Officer) and 2/Lt. John Marmaduke CONDER (Adjutant).[6]

On 6th February 1919 orders were received via Captain LYNN, O.C. No. 1023 M.T. Company R.A.S.C. to proceed up country to Baquba to relieve No. 784 M.T. Company R.A.S.C. The unit left on river craft the following day, and after slow progress up the River Tigris due to flood conditions arrived at Baghdad on 17th February. The unit then entrained for the final leg of its journey, and arrived at Baquba on 19th February 1919.

On 4th March 1919 Major STEVENS received orders that No. 3 Burma M.T. Company was to take over all the equipment and duties of No. 784 M.T. Company R.A.S.C. and that he was to command the unit henceforth to be known as No. 784 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C. British and Indian personnel of the “old” 784 Company were to remain attached to the “new” Company pending demobilization or transfer. The changes were completed and the new arrangements took effect on 6th March 1919.

6th March 1919 also saw the final entry in the War Diary for No. 3 Burma M.T. Company. The only later Diary for 784 Company after this date that I have been able to find is the fragment for December 1919. [Note: This fragment is incorrectly inserted between December 1918 and January 1919 in the Diary for No. 784 M.T. Company R.A.S.C., i.e. before Major STEVENS took command and the unit was renamed.]

The Diary for No. 5 M.T. Column shows 784 Company at Fathah on 2nd May 1919.

The fragment of Diary for December 1919 shows the unit at Kirkuk. On 2nd December 1919 Lt. W. KINGSLEY (probably W.E. KINGSLEY originally with the Indian Labour Corps) took over command of the unit from Major STEVENS, who left for Baghdad the following day for demobilization. Lts. O’SHEA, CONDER and Charles Dixie KIERNANDER were with the Company at this time, and convoys were running to Fathah and Kifri with mail and personnel. One convoy to Fathah took down material from the 1st Battalion 3rd Gurkha Regiment dump. Major COUPER took over command on 10th December 1919. Convoys then began bringing Christmas supplies up from Baiji, some being forwarded on to Erbil, Bazzan and Altun Kupri. On 29th December Lt. C.F. PYETT and Captain E. BRUCE joined the Company, and Captain BRUCE took over command. On 31st December Major COUPER and Lt. CONDER left for Baghdad for demobilization.

Officers and men who arrived in Mesopotamia as members of No. 3 Burma M.T. Company and who had no other qualifying service did not qualify for the award of the British War Medal or Victory Medal. Most officers and men of No. 784 (Burma) M.T. Company would have qualified for the General Service Medal (1918), with either or both of the Iraq and Kurdistan Clasps; medal rolls have been located on www.ancestry.co.uk for the enlisted men (for some reason the entitlements have been indexed as ‘7th Mechanical Transport Company’ or ‘84th Mechanical Transport Company’), and for two of the known officers (CONDER and O’SHEA). One record shows service with 784 Company until 15th September 1920, possibly indicating demobilization on that date.

No. 4 Burma MT Company

No. 4 Burma M.T. Company (No. 4 Burma Ford Van Company, No. 1017 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C.

Less is known about this Company than the other four. After formation in Rangoon, the unit spent several weeks in training at the No.1 M.T. Training School at Rawalpindi, India. It disembarked at Basra on 18th March 1919 under the command of Major Thomas COUPER and went into camp at Makina. A few days after disembarkation COUPER received orders to proceed up-country to Shargat, to take over the vehicles, workshops, camp, duties and designation of No. 1017 M.T. Company R.A.S.C. The unit proceeded up-river to Baghdad, then by train to Baiji, and finally by road to Sharqat.

Headquarters, consisting of Major COUPER, Captain Henry Stewart JACKSON and Lt. W.E. KINGSLEY, plus 16 British other ranks, 26 Burmese other ranks and four followers arrived at Shargat on 15th April 1919. The previous day a detachment of the unit consisting of one British officer (unnamed), two British other ranks and 101 Burmese other ranks had remained Fathah to begin driver training with 1024 Company. This training commenced on 16th April, but the War Diary for 1024 Company makes no mention of the detachment after 19th April.

On 16th April the Burmese workshops personnel commenced duties and the Burmese heavy vehicle drivers commenced training, and on 21st April the Burmese Ford van drivers also commenced training.

The War Diary does not give much information about the convoys being run, except that some were on mail duties and others bringing supplies up to Shargat from Baiji. On 27th April all personnel (except workshops) left Shargat and relocated at Baiji. [Note: I am not convinced that this move includes the personnel of the Burmese unit. It may refer only to the personnel of the British unit as a prelude to their dispersal or demobilization.] Two days later a detachment of the Company left for Mosul for duties on the Mosul-Zaccho road. The last entry in the War Diary is for 31st May 1919.

On 29th May 1919 Companies 784, 1023 and 1024 are all mentioned in the War Diary of No. 5 Mechanical Transport Column, and on 30th and 31st Lt.-Col P. WEIR, Commanding Officer of the Column was summoned to 18th Divisional Headquarters to explain why 1015 and 1017 Companies ‘…were so bad.’ His explanation was that the Burmese had little experience as drivers, and his suggestion was that ‘…the two new Burma companies should go on an easier line for work.’ These diary entries indicate that by this time all five Burma companies had assumed their new identities and were in No. 5 Mechanical Transport Column. There are subsequent references to Companies 784, 1015, 1023 and 1024 companies, but nothing further on Company 1017, in the War Diary of No. 5 MT Column, which finishes on 30th October 1919.

Officers and men who arrived in Mesopotamia as members of No. 4 Burma M.T. Company and who had no other qualifying service did not qualify for the award of the British War Medal or Victory Medal. Medal rolls for the enlisted men of No. 1017 (Burma) M.T. Company have been located on www.ancestry.co.uk showing the award of the General Service Medal (1918) with the Iraq Clasp, and for one named officer (JACKSON, Kurdistan Clasp, but attributed to 1024 Company). The medal rolls for the enlisted men are endorsed ‘Baghdad 14-9-20.’ This date may indicate demobilization.

No. 5 Burma MT Company

No. 5 Burma M.T. Company (No. 1015 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C.)

This Company was formed by 5th October 1918 when Lt. Harry LINSKILL took command of ‘Depot No. 5 Burma Ford Van Company.’ [7]After leaving Rangoon, No. 5 Burma Mechanical Transport Company undertook training at the No.1 M.T. Training School at Rawalpindi, India. The Company disembarked at Basra on 2nd April 1919 with six British officers, ten British other ranks, 199 Burmese other ranks, and 11 followers. Its Commanding Officer was Major William Temple LIDDELL, and two of his mentioned assistants were 2/Lts. William Henry JAMES and John William EDWARDS. Shortly after arrival at Basra LIDDELL received orders to proceed to Baghdad by river and thence north to Sharqat to take over the equipment, duties and number of 1015 M.T. company A.S.C. (1015 M.T. Company A.S.C. was originally formed at Bulford, England, on 21st October 1917, one of ten Ford Van Supply Columns for mixed British and Indian establishments being formed at Bulford at that time. 1015 had arrived at Basra on 22nd January 1918.)

The Burmese unit personnel arrived at Sharqat on 3rd-7th May 1919, and LIDDELL took command of the renamed company on 8th May 1919. A detachment under the command of 2/Lt. EDWARDS was sent to Mosul on 9th May and returned in early August. The Company was employed on mail and passenger services to Mosul and back and by early July these were running smoothly. An additional daily “post and passenger” service to Ain Dibs (a few miles south of Sharqat but no modern name found) was commenced in August. Nothing of special interest occurred from then until the final entry in the War Diary on 30th September 1919.

However some brief references to 1015 Company on later dates are found in the War Diary of 1016 Company. On 25th-27th October 1919, when 1016 Company was stationed at Mosul, the Commanding Officer of 1015 Company came up from Sharqat and negotiated an arrangement in which 1015 Company took over 26 vans and various duties from 1016 Company at Mosul, and Captain WRIGHT, Workshops Officer 1015 Company, brought 15 surplus vans and 50 men up from Sharqat to add to the Mosul detachment.

On 4th March 1920, when 1016 Company was at Baghdad, there is mention of the transfer to it of 34 Indian other ranks ‘ex 1015 Coy.’

No. 1015 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C. remained in Iraq long enough for its officers and men to qualify for the General Service medal (1918) with Iraq Clasp. As for the other companies, the medal rolls for enlisted men have been located on www.ancestry.co.uk. One shows a service period up to 18th September 1920, which may indicate demobilization on that date. However, only one record has been found for a named officer – that for Major LIDDELL.

No. 5 Mechanical Transport Column

References to all five of the Burmese companies have been found in the War Diary of No. 5 Mechanical Transport Column, which was formed in December 1918 specifically to service the Persian Lines of Communication.

No. 6 and No. 7 Burma M.T. Companies

Two references have been found to the formation of these two companies. On 30th July 1919 it was reported that the Burmese Government proposed to form the two companies, to be commanded by Captains C. E. LAW and A. H. HILL respectively, and that recruiting had already started under the direction of the Divisional Recruiting Officer, Major C. M. D. ENRIQUEZ.[8] The period of service was to be one year or less at the discretion of the Government. The formation of these two units was also reported by Major ENRIQUEZ in one of his books.[9] However, the official Government of India publication detailing India’s contribution to the First World War lists only five Burma M.T. Companies.[10]

Further references in the London Gazette suggest that after formation these two Companies were almost immediately redesignated as No. 15 and 16 Mechanical Transport (Burma) Ford Van Company respectively, and became part of the Mechanical Transport section of the Indian Army Supply and Transport Corps. Lt. Jones Arthur NICHOLS (aka James Arthur NICHOLLS) was appointed O.C. No 15 Coy from 15th August 1919 with Lt. Robert Smith McWHINNIE as his Workshops Officer from 12th July 1919 to 17th December 1919, and Captain Arthur Halkett HILL was appointed O.C. No. 16 Coy from 18th July 1919 with 2/Lt. Bernard Chevalion CHASE as his Workshops Officer from 6th August 1919.[11]

It is not known whether these units continued to use Burmese personnel, or if they did so for how long. Acting Captain Joseph Robert Rice CLARKE was appointed Workshops Officer of No. 16 Company on 1st April 1920 (when the unit was in Peshawar), and then as Acting Major was O.C. of the unit from 26th October 1920 to 3rd February 1921.[12] Acting Captain Harry DUPREE was Workshops Officer of No. 15 Company from 1st April 1920 to 19th November 1920.[13]

There was further redesignation of various Indian Army Mechanical Transport Companies on 6th May 1921, including the redesignation of No. 692 M.T. Coy R.A.S.C. as No. 16 (Indian) M.T. Coy.[14]

The Actions on 25th and 29th May 1919

The following notes were sent from Major. E. G. FLEMING Commanding Officer of No. 1024 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C. to Lt.-Col P. WEIR, Commanding Officer of No. 5 M.T Column at Baiji, on 31st May 1919.[15] [Minor alterations have been made to the text.]

Sunday 25th May 1919

A convoy of about 30 Ford vans under the command of Lt. PYETT 1024 (Burma) M.T. Coy were with BRIDGE’s Column caught at Tashluja Pass in the early morning.16,17[16][17] A sharp encounter with the opposing Kurds took place. 19 Ford vans, along with LAMB cars [light armoured motor batteries] had to be abandoned. 14 of the vans abandoned were on the charge of 1024 (Burma) M.T. Coy.
The timely arrival of the East Surreys with Lewis guns on vans from 1024 Coy. and 784 Coy. assisted the first convoy to get back though the pass. Lt. ALLEN of 1023 Coy., Lt. O’SHEA of 1024 Coy. and 2/Lt. KIERNANDER 784 Coy. were with the vans that brought up the East Surreys. Casualties [M.T. Coys.]: 1 Burman driver killed, 1 Burman driver slightly wounded.

Thursday 29th May 1919

A convoy of 37 vans was despatched from Kirkuk to Chemchamal at 6.30 a.m. About noon news was received that 8 vans had left Chemchamal early in the morning but had to put back as it was found that the road had been blocked by a 4-foot wall. The leading van came to grief and when the following vans got up it was found to have been stripped and the driver gone. The driver’s clothes were strewn about the ground near the van. This news caused a certain amount of anxiety to be felt as to what had become of the morning’s outward convoy under 2/Lt BAILLIE of 1023 Burma Coy. Major DRAPER, Lt. PANCHAUD and I went out to see if there were any signs of the returning convoy. About 8 miles out we met the artificers’ van returning with a number of drivers on board, who had had to abandon their vans. The drivers stated that at a very narrow part of the road they ran into the back of a cart convoy which completely blocked the road. The drivers and most of the animals had been killed [ambushed by the Kurds]. Major DRAPER and Lt. PANCHAUD went on while I returned with the Burman drivers to make their report to the 55th Brigade Headquarters. Major DRAPER eventually joined up with the 32nd Lancers who had picked up a certain number of wounded from the A.T. Convoy [“Animal Transport Convoy” – the cart convoy referred to above] and also some drivers from the M.T. Convoy who had had to abandon their vans. Upon return to H.Q. it was learned that a wireless from Chemchamal had been received to the effect that 17 vans of the Ford convoy had got through. No news has as yet been received as to the fates of the personnel or of the other vans of the convoy.

These two incidents serve to illustrate the difficulty of finding some of the relevant records. Both took place ‘…north of a line drawn east and west through Kirkuk, between 23rd May 1919 and 31st July 1919, both dates inclusive…’ and hence those involved should have qualified for the India General Service Medal and Kurdistan Clasp. Of the men named in the first incident report, there are records of the award to both Ernest Raymond ALLEN and John Patrick O’SHEA, but no record has been found found for 2/Lt. Charles Dixie KIERNANDER. Similarly for the second incident no records have been found for Patrick Joseph BAILLIE. Lt. PANCHAUD was Stanley John Oblein PANCHAUD of the Royal Army Service Corps, attached to 1024 Company at the time. His medal card shows that he arrived in Mesopotamia in January 1918 and the award of the British War Medal and Victory Medal, but there is no mention of the award of the General Service Medal (1918) and Kurdistan Clasp.

Lt. Claud Felix PYETT provides another example of difficulties with the records. According to the War Diary for No. 784 (Burma) M.T. Company R.A.S.C. PYETT joined that Company on 29th December 1919 at Kirkuk, and this is confirmed by the General Service Medal (1918) roll on www.ancestry.co.uk. Prima facie this qualified PYETT for the award of the Iraq Clasp, i.e. he was ‘north of a line drawn east and west through Ramadi between 10th December 1919 and 13th June 1920, both dates inclusive’, but there is no mention of the award taking place either on the medal roll or medal index card. Indeed, PYETT’s medals are extant and there is no Iraq Clasp.

Medal and Clasp Award Criteria

The British War Medal (1914-1920) was instituted in 1919 and commemorated the successful conclusion of the war. The basic qualification for the Army and civilians was to have entered a theatre of war or rendered approved foreign service between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918 (for Mesopotamia, between 6th November 1914 and 11th November 1918), both dates inclusive. The qualification period was later extended to include mine-clearance operations around the United Kingdom, and service in Russia, in 1919 and 1920.

The Victory Medal (1914-1919) was also instituted in 1919, and commemorated the victory of the Allied forces. The basic qualification was to have served on the establishment of a unit within an approved theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. The qualification period was later extended to include mine-clearance operations around the United Kingdom, and service in Russia, in 1919 and 1920.

Officers and men of the Burma Mechanical Transport Companies qualified for both the British War Medal and Victory Medal if they served in the Mesopotamia theatre as above. Prima facie only members of the 1st and 2nd Burma M.T. Companies so qualified. Members of the other companies may have qualified for either the British War Medal, or both medals, but only if their qualifying service was with another unit.

The General Service Medal (1918-1962) was instituted on 19th January 1923 for various military operations other than in East, West and Central Africa, India and on the Indian Frontier, and the Second World War. (It was intended for issue to the Army and the Air Force; the Naval General Service Medal (1915-1962) recognized service by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.) 17 clasps were ultimately issued for various conflicts; the medal was not issued without a clasp.

For the Burma Mechanical Transport Companies the two applicable clasps were Kurdistan and Iraq, and the applicable award criteria for these were as follows.

Kurdistan. All officers and men who served: 1) At Kirkuk, or north of a line drawn east and west through Kirkuk, between 23rd May 1919 and 31st July 1919, both dates inclusive; or 2) At Dohok, or north of a line drawn east and west though Dohok, between 14th July 1919 and 7th October 1919, both dates inclusive; or 3) At or north of the advance base near Akra and Amadia respectively between 7th November 1919 and 6th December 1919, both dates inclusive.

Iraq. All officers and men who served: 1) At Ramadi, or north of a line drawn east and west through Ramadi between 10th December 1919 and 13th June 1920, both dates inclusive; or 2) On the establishment of a unit or formation within the boundaries of Iraq between 1st July 1920 and 17th November 1920, both dates inclusive.

Known gallantry and distinguished service awards

(Notes: This list may not cover all awards associated with the Burmese M.T. units. Burmese names as written in references.)

Military Cross

  • Lt. Claud Felix PYETT[18]

Mentioned in Despatches

  • Lt. Patrick Joseph BAILLIE[19]
  • Lt. (A./Maj.) C. N. DRAPER[19]
  • 2/Lt. (A./Maj.) Edward Gibson FLEMING[19]
  • B/065277 Havildar So Min, 784 (Burma) M.T. Company[20]
  • Lt. (A./Capt.) Edwin BRUCE[21]
  • Lt. Patrick John O’SHEA[21]
  • Lt. (T./Maj) William Temple LIDDELL[22]
  • 2/Lt. George Robinson COCKMAN[23]

Indian Distinguished Service Medal

  • 050441 Driver Kui Maung, 1024 (Burma) M.T. Company[24] (aka Abraham Kin Maung from GSM medal roll)

Indian Meritorious Service Medal

  • 050188 Havildar Isaac Mg Chit, E, 1023 (Burma) M.T. Company [25](not found in GSM medal roll)
  • 050182 Havildar Mg Tun Ya, 1023 (Burma) M.T. Company[25] (Havildar-Major Tun Ya in GSM medal roll)

Other Awards for Services Rendered in Mesopotamia

  • Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent of the British Empire (O.B.E.): Lt. (T./Maj) William Temple LIDDELL[26]

References

  1. The main sources of information used for this research are the various unit War Diaries held at The National Archives, London. Where these have been digitised they are available for download via the State Library of Victoria. They are as follows.
    WO 95/5007/3 No. 1 Burma M.T. Company – from November 1917 to 30th November 1919.
    WO 95/5008/1 and WO 95/5008/2 No. 2 Burma M.T. Company – from 1st July 1918 to 30th November 1919.
    WO 95/5005/3 No. 3 Burma M.T. Company – from 24th January to 6th March 1919, and December 1919 only.
    WO 95/5007/2 No. 4 Burma M.T. Company – from 15th April 1919 to 31st May 1919 only. This Diary is incorrectly catalogued at The National Archives, London, under WO 95/5007/1.
    WO 95/5007/1 No. 5 Burma M.T. Company – from 3rd May 1919 to 30th September 1919.
    By May 1919 all five Burma companies were part of No. 5 M.T. Column, which was formed in December 1918 specifically to service the Persian Lines of Communication. There are mentions of the companies in the War Diary for this unit.
    WO 95/5005/1 No. 5 M.T. Column – from 1st January 1919 to 30th October 1919.
  2. The War Diaries usually refer to officers by surname and initials, sometimes only by surname. Where possible, full names have been obtained from the Indian Army List.
    The Quarterly Indian Army List, April 1920, Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, 1920.
    The Quarterly Indian Army List, April 1921, Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, 1921.
  3. Every attempt has been made to identify the places mentioned in the War Diaries. Where the modern spelling or name differs from that used in the War Diaries, the modern versions are as follows (in Iraq unless otherwise stated).
    Ain Dibs – no modern equivalent found – a few miles south of Sharqat.
    Aliabad – probably Ali Abad (Iran) between Kerend and Eslamabad.
    Bazzan – Baizan.
    Belad – Balad.
    Chemchamal – Chamchamal.
    Fathah – Al-Fathah.
    Hillah – Al-Hillah.
    Huranabad - Eslamabad-e-Gharb (Iran).
    Karind – Kerend-e-Gha (Iran).
    Kasrabad – probably Khosro Abad (Iran) between Kerend and Eslamabad.
    Kermanshah – Baktaran (Iran).
    Khanagin/Khanakin – Khanaqin.
    Quasi-Sharin – Qasr-e Shirin (Iran).
    Samarah – Samarra.
    Sharqat/Shargat – Al-Shirqat
    Takigerrah – also Taq-i-Girreh and many other variants – was the name given to the mountain pass north-west of Kerend on the road from Qasr-e Shirin to Kerend-e-Gharb, later known as the Pai Tak Pass (Iran), and historically known as ‘The Gates of Zagros.’
    Tashluja – Tasluja, the pass being on the road from Chamchamal to Sulaymaniyah.
    Zaccho – Zakho.
  4. With the M.T. in Mesopotamia, Brevet Lt.-Col. F. W. Leland, Forster, Groom and Co. Ltd, London, 1920.
  5. . The three relevant databases on www.ancestry.co.uk are as follows.
    British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920.
    UK, Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920.
    UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949.
  6. The Workshops Officer’s surname is spelled BROWN rather than BROWNE, but the wording indicates that he was the same man who had previously commanded the unit.
  7. London Gazette, 31761, 30th January 1920, p. 1269.
  8. The Pioneer Mail and Indian Weekly News, 1919, Vol. 46, p. 33.
  9. A Burmese Wonderland, Major C.M. Enriquez, Thacker, Spink and Co., Calcutta and Simla, 1922, p. 188.
  10. India’s Contribution to the Great War, Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, 1923, p. 285.
  11. London Gazette, 31870, 20th April 1920, p. 4582.
  12. London Gazette, 32348, 7th June 1921, p. 4551 and 32413, 5th August 1921, p. 6176.
  13. London Gazette, 32257, 15th March 1921, p. 2097.
  14. Army Service Corps 1902-1918, Michael Young, Leo Cooper/Pen and Sword Books, Barnsley, Sth. Yorkshire, 2000, p. 308.
  15. From WO 95/5005/1 – War Diary of No. 5 M.T. Column.
  16. Lt.-Col. A.H. Bridges was the Commanding Officer of the British garrison at Kirkuk. The force ambushed at Tashluja Pass had left Kirkuk heading for Sulaymaniyah where a number of British prisoners were being held by the Kurds. The Pass is about 12 miles from Sulaymaniyah. It is generally recorded that Bridges exceed his orders and that the column should not have proceeded beyond Chamchamal.
  17. A brief description of the incident is contained in Loyalties Mesopotamia, Sir Arnold T. Wilson, Oxford University Press, Reissue 1936, Vol. 2, pp. 136-137. This book is available on-line at http://www.kurdipedia.org/books/92554.PDF
  18. London Gazette, 31777, 12th February 1920, p. 1802.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Ibid., p. 1803.
  20. Ibid., p. 1804.
  21. 21.0 21.1 London Gazette, 32452, 9th September 1921, p. 7198.
  22. Ibid., p. 7201
  23. London Gazette, 30867, 3rd August 1918, p. 9996.
    COCKMAN was in charge of a detachment from 1023 Coy. in March/April 1918 at Hit (on the Euphrates, north-west of Ramadi). On 28th March 1918 he was in charge of a convoy that was under fire from the Turks. His mention may relate to that episode.
  24. India, Governor-General’s Orders No.3, 1920. Listed in The Indian Distinguished Service Medal, Rana Chhina, InvictaIndia, 2001.
  25. 25.0 25.1 These awards have not been verified. They are mentioned in the War Diary of 1023 Company with the reference ‘Order of the Day, Mes. Ex. Force, No. 127, dated 20.12.18).
  26. London Gazette, 32452, 9th September 1921, p. 7194.

Acknowledgement

My thanks go to K. J. Lindsay for his assistance in the concluding stages of my research.

End of Noel Clark's Account

Copyright for the above Account belongs to Noel Clark

Also see

Historical books online

  • Despatch by Lieut-General Sir W R Marshall on the operations of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force from 1st October 1918 to 31st December 1918, dated 1st February 1919. Mesopotamia and NW Persia (page 4743) The London Gazette 8 April 1919 Supplement: 31287 Page: 4739
Despatch from Major General Sir George F MacMunn, officiating Commander-In Chief, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, describing events since 1st January 1919, including North Persia, and Southern and Cental Kurdistan, for various operations between March and September 1919. The London Gazette 5 March 1920 Supplement: 31813 Page: 2877. The actual pages are dated 8 March 1920.
Four Despatches from the Commander-In Chief, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force: Despatch No 1, dated 17th January 1920 from MacMunn, covering the period November 1919 to 17th January 1920. Despatches from Lieutenant-General Haldane, covering the periods: 18th January 1920 to 30th June 1920 in Mesopotamia and NW Persia.[Despatch No 2 dated 23rd August 1920. Page 5323]; 1st July 1820 to 19th October 1920 [Despatch No 3 dated 8th November 1920, page 5329]; Despatch No 4, dated 8th February 1921 (page 5347) The London Gazette 1 July 1921 Issue: 32379 Page:5321.