I enjoyed the article in Teynham News on the World War One medal found in the old Teynham School playground. So I decided to take on the challenge posed by Barry Knell, the man who found it, and the editor, to discover more about the man named on the medal, Pte Edward Victor Jacobs.
Like Barry I couldn’t place a Jacobs family in Teynham, and a quick look at the 1909 Directory confirmed that suspicion. I have been researching my family history and have become quite adept at tracking down elusive family members so I thought I would see if I could find Pte E Jacobs. My first step was to look at National Archives on line and I entered his service number into the search engine – it gave me the medals record of one Edward Jacobs, Army service number 119009. He had been awarded the 1914/15 Star alongside the British War Medal and the Victory Medal1 which at least confirmed that he survived the War.
I have been using Find My Past for family research and entering Edward Jacobs’ name into the search engine gave me access to the Army War records. Edward’s complete War record is available on line via FMP and all sorts of intriguing facts were revealed. He joined up on 18 August, 1915, in Belfast on a short service (for the duration of the War) enlistment form. He gave his age as 22 – though his date of birth was subsequently discovered to be 10 May, 1894. His place of birth was given as Leeds (Yorkshire not Kent!) but I can find no record of the birth (except for an Edward Jacobs born in Rotherham, Yorkshire, in 1894 but who also died that year).
So what was our Edward doing in Ireland? And this of course was an Ireland before the separation which occurred in 1921. Don’t know – but a search of the Irish 1911 Census indicates that he was there with his mother Rosa. Rosa is shown as a widow and was born in Russia – a Russia before the Communist revolution and with a Tsar (Nicholas II) who was on friendly terms with Britain. They were lodging with a family having the surname Green also shown as originating from Russia (an unusual Russian surname!). I have been unable to find any marriage or death record for Rosa.
In the 1911 Irish Census Edward’s occupation is shown as a cabinet maker, but he was enlisted into the Army in 1915 as an electrician. On 1 November, 1915, he embarked on SS King Edward from Southampton attached to 593 Company2 33rd Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) Ammunition Column3disembarking at Rouen two days later.
What was Army life like for our Edward? On 15 December, 1915, he was admitted to hospital and discharged three days later but he was readmitted on 4 January, 1916, rejoining his unit on the 16th. On 24 May he was back in hospital for two days with boils (lovely!) He seems to have stayed healthy through most of 1916 and was granted leave from 26 November to 6 December (after a year on active service). He failed to return on time but there is a note indicating that this absence was satisfactorily explained and he rejoined his unit on 18 December.
He remained with 593 Coy until 28 June, 1917, when he was posted to 654 Coy4 where he stayed until 13 November, 1917, when he joined 886 Coy and was again granted leave from 8 to 22 December, 1917. Edward blotted his copybook when “on the night of 1 March, 1918, he 1) used a lathe for unlawful purposes and 2) knowingly stated a falsehood to the NCO.” This was considered “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline” and for this he was awarded 10 days “F.P.No25'. I wonder what he was using the lathe for – perhaps for manufacturing ‘field art’ from an empty shell cartridge.
Following this Edward became more mobile since he was posted to 884 MT Coy on 15 April, 1918; to 770 MT Coy on 14 May, 1918; and 641 Coy on 5 July, 1918. On 9 July, 1918, he is reported to have an abscess on his face and he is then posted to 604 MT Coy6on 24 July, 1918. He is granted leave in France from 3rd to 10th September, 1918, and a further 14 days leave from 30 November, 1918, to 14 December, 1918, before being transferred to the UK for release on 24 June, 1919. It seems that he returned to Ireland and became a student at Queen’s University, Belfast, from October 1919 to October 1921.
RASC records were apparently held at Woolwich Dockyard and in 1920 and 21 there follows a series of correspondence between RASC Records Section and two potential employers: one is the Colonial Government Service (Gold Coast) the other is the RAF Recruiting Depot in Birmingham. Both were inquiring regarding the conduct and capabilities of Acting Sergeant Edward Jacobs. He is given good references; however it is made very clear in one note by Urgent Postal telegram that “according to my records 119009 JACOBS E has never held the rank of Acting Sergeant.” Our Edward seems to have been embellishing his record!
He enlists with the RAF on 8 December, 1921, as Aircraftman 2nd Class under service number 350789 and is immediately promoted to Corporal the following day having passed the Air Ministry examination which he took on application. He is posted to T Squadron RAF Depot Uxbridge for training after which he is transferred to RAF Manston on 22 February, 1922, and is promoted to Sergeant on 31 December, 1922, and so finally achieves the position he had prematurely claimed on application.
Whilst at Uxbridge he met Florence Helena Medland (born 29 December, 1901) from nearby Ealing, and they married on 11 November, 1923, just before being posted back to M Squadron at Uxbridge on 20 November. He then spent just under a year in Egypt being posted from Uxbridge to 47 Sqd7 on 12 December, 1923 and shuttling between 47 and 14 Sqds8 a couple of times before returning from Egypt to Uxbridge on 1 November, 1924. He spent the remaining year of his service with A&AEE9until discharge on 19 November, 1925.
Edward and Florence had one child, a daughter Maureen, born in 1926. In the 1939 Register they can be found living at 1 Rugby Avenue, Wembley, where Edward is employed as an electric and radio engineer. He has some impressive qualifications designated by the letters after his name in the register – GradIEE; AMIRE; AMIWE. With those qualifications and at that time and in that place he may well have been involved in the research and development of electronic and radar systems during World War Two – especially given his RAF service experience at the Aircraft Experimental Establishment. It is surely no accident that his Wembley address would have been convenient for his RAF service at Uxbridge and subsequently for the GEC Research establishment at Wembley.
Sadly their daughter, Maureen, died in 1942 aged just 16 and I can find no trace of any other offspring.
Edward and Florence eventually moved to Thanet where Edward died in 1968 aged 74. Florence lived on until 1985 when she died aged about 83.
It appears that my hopes of finding a Teynham connection, perhaps a living relative to whom Barry could pass on his ‘Pip’, are dashed. Never mind – it was an interesting exercise and it just goes to show what fascinating information is available to us via the wonders of the internet. It’s a story that has sufficient intrigue and unexplained gaps that it could form the plot of a spy novel – if only I could come up with a convincing reason for the loss of Private Jacobs’ medal in the playground of Teynham Primary School!
1Pip, Squeak and Wilfred are the affectionate names given to the three WW1 campaign medals — the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal respectively. These medals were primarily awarded to the Old Contemptibles (British Expeditionary Force (BEF))
2Each division of the Army had a certain amount of motorised transport (MT) allocated to it, although not directly under its own command. The ASC MT Companies were attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery as Ammunition Columns/Parks. The heavy guns and howitzers of the RGA, with attendant equipment and ammunition, needed motorised transport to haul them. The MT Companies called Ammunition Parks operated dumps, or stores, of ammunition and the larger calibres of artillery shells required special mechanical handling equipment. Specialist skills in mechanics or electrics would have been essential to maintain the supply of shells and equipment to the artillery near the front line. 593 COY was formed in October 1915; Ammunition Column for 33rd Brigade RGA; and served in France under XIV Corps and VIII Corps, as “H” Siege Park.
3Siege Batteries RGA were equipped with heavy howitzers, sending large calibre high explosive shells in high trajectory, plunging fire. The usual armaments were 6 inch, 8 inch and 9.2 inch howitzers, although some had huge railway- or road-mounted 12 inch howitzers. As British artillery tactics developed, the Siege Batteries were most often employed in destroying or neutralising the enemy artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, store, roads and railways behind enemy lines. 33rd Brigade was first in France on 8 August 1915.
4Formed March 1916. Ammunition Column for 77 Siege Battery in France. Later for VIII Corps and then to Italy for XIV Corps.
5Field Punishment Number 1 consisted of the convicted man being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, often a gun wheel or similar. He could only be thus fixed for up to 2 hours in 24, and not for more than 3 days in 4, or for more than 21 days in his sentence. This punishment was often known as 'crucifixion' and due to its humiliating nature was viewed by many Tommies as unfair. Field Punishment Number 2 was similar except the man was shackled but not fixed to anything. Both forms were carried out by the office of the Provost-Marshal, unless his unit was officially on the move when it would be carried out regimentally i.e. by his own unit.
6Formed November 1915. Ammunition Column for 65th Siege Battery RGA and became XV Corps Siege Park.
7No 47 Squadron had been demobilised at the end of WW1 but was reformed on 1 February 1920 when No 206 Squadron at Helwan was renumbered. Equipped with DH9 and later DH9A's, it immediately sent a detachment to Khartoum in the Sudan, with the rest of the squadron joining it in 1927.
8No 111 Squadron was re-numbered No 14 on 1 February 1920 at Ramlah in Palestine. It would remain in Palestine for the next 20 years operating in detachments at Amman and Ramlah.
9In 1917, the Experimental Aircraft Flight of the Central Flying School was transferred from Upavon, Wiltshire to a site on the heathland at Martlesham, Suffolk, and on 16 January 1917 Martlesham Heath Airfield was officially opened, as an experimental airfield. The unit was renamed the Aeroplane Experimental Unit, Royal Flying Corps. After the end of World War I the site continued to be used and was renamed as the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment of the Royal Air Force. During WW2 the experimental establishment was transferred to RAF Boscombe Down where it remains, now operated by QinetiQ for whom I worked until retirement.