What regiment were these soldiers in?
QCould you help identify the regiment of these soldiers? The one sitting is James Henry Roberts, born 7 December 1879 in Perth, Western Australia. He arrived in Southampton on 16 May 1914, enlisted in the British Army and presumably served in France, but I don’t know which regiment. He returned to Australia in 1919.
He sent this postcard to my cousin’s grandfather. The message on the reverse says, “To brother Fred – somewhere
in France from brother Jim, somewhere in France.” I haven’t found him in any of the service records.
A This is a studio photo of a British and an Australian soldier, taken in 1917 or 1918. The British soldier is a private, probably from the Middlesex or Suffolk Regiment. The Australian is also a private, and probably an infantryman. Australian troops arrived in Britain from mid-1916. They needed a depot for troops to go to when their wounded were discharged from UK hospitals, and later had training camps in the south. If no service record can be found for Private Roberts, try Medal Index Cards (on ancestry.co.uk and The National Archives’ site at bit.ly/tna-mic). As Private Roberts served in France there should be a Card for him though he may not have declared both first names. TNA’s site is easier to use and will give the soldier’s number, which you can then use on other websites. Phil Tomaselli
1 SOFT CAP
The cap Private Roberts is wearing is a soft Service Dress cap, only introduced in 1917 to replace the original Service Dress cap which was far stiffer, with a stiff peak which had proved awkward in the trenches.
2 WHOSE BADGE?
The badge appears to consist of a circlet of vegetation around an insignia. The Middlesex Regiment badge has the Prince of Wales Plume surrounded by a laurel wreath. The Suffolk Regiment badge has Gibraltar Castle central among a wreath of oak leaves.
3 SHOULDER BADGE
Australians are usually identifiable by their slouch hats, but here we can also see the sunburst badge of the Australian Imperial Force. His shoulder badge might identify his battalion, but it isn’t clear enough here.
4 SHOULDER NUMBERS
The shoulder strap might have, very faintly, some letters or numbers, possibly S2 or 32. The 32nd Middlesex Battalion was created in 1917 from men who never served abroad and remained in Britain throughout the war.
5 POCKET PLEATS
Private Roberts’ uniform has pocket pleats and a uniform khaki colour, suggesting that the production problems of the early years of the war have now been resolved.