I’m con­fused as to whether my great grand­fa­ther was a Pri­vate or Sergeant. Can you solve this mys­tery for me?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - Q & A -

QMy great grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam Webb (b1872), joined the Lo­vat Scouts in 1915 (reg­i­men­tal num­bers 4336 and 226118), which amal­ga­mated with the Cameron High­landers.

I have many pho­to­graphs of him. In all but one he is a Sergeant, but in his Rolls In­dex Cards he is listed as a ‘Pri­vate’. He was given the ‘men­tioned in dis­patches’ leaf, also while be­ing a Pri­vate ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per.

I would love to con­firm he was ‘Sergeant Webb’. Do you know how I can do this?

Liz Beard, by email

AYou’re lucky to have so many items from your great grand­fa­ther – pho­to­graphs, a let­ter and a cer­tifi­cate, al­most all of which point solidly to him hav­ing the rank of Sergeant.

Ex­cept the one piece of sur­viv­ing of­fi­cial pa­per­work, his Medal In­dex Card, says he was a Pri­vate! I’ve checked the ac­tual Medal Rolls (WO 329/668 and WO 329/2805), which also have him as Pri­vate.

Of­fi­cial doc­u­ments are by no means fool­proof, es­pe­cially when a man was serv­ing over­seas. For ex­am­ple, Wil­liam clearly was “Men­tioned in Despatches” (in the Lon­don Gazette of 12 Jan­uary 1920), but there’s no men­tion on his Medal Card and no sep­a­rate Medal Card for it.

The pho­to­graphs are too var­ied for there to be any chance that Wil­liam was pre­tend­ing to be a Sergeant, in par­tic­u­lar the group pho­to­graph of him with Gen­eral Al­lenby.

There’s no sur­viv­ing ser­vice record for Wil­liam. Sol­diers’ records were held by his Reg­i­ment and up­dated when in­for­ma­tion came in from his unit. The Lo­vat Scouts first went abroad (to Egypt, then Gal­lipoli) in Septem­ber 1915 so if he was pro­moted while out there, it’s pos­si­ble the in­for­ma­tion never got back to Scot­land. There may also have been con­fu­sion when the Scouts be­came a bat­tal­ion of the Cameron High­landers in Septem­ber 1916.

I’ve seen mis­takes on ser­vice records be­fore, some­times where in­for­ma­tion’s omit­ted or where in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion is added, far worse than this.

He calls him­self Sergeant when he joined Com­rades of the Great War (pre­de­ces­sor to the Bri­tish Le­gion), where men he served with would know his rank. Wil­liam was a Sergeant and his men called him that, I’m sure.

The ar­chives of the Lo­vat Scouts are held by the High­landers’ Mu­seum in Fort Ge­orge ( thehigh­landers

mu­seum.com), which may be able to help you fur­ther.

Phil To­maselli

The sign- off on this let­ter seems to sug­gest Wil­liam was a Sergeant

Wil­liam Webb’s Medal In­dex Card in­di­cates that he was a Pri­vate

Wil­liam’s Lo­vat Scouts uni­form

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