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210903 Pioneer (later Sapper)
JOHN REVIE
Royal Engineers

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2004. All Rights Reserved.

1. INTRODUCTION

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from the soldier’s service papers obtained from the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) at Kew, Richmond, Surrey. The research into Sapper Revie's life was generated by two photographs. The first photograph was of John Revie as a Pioneer, newly enlisted into the Royal Engineers in 1916. This was a postcard photograph of a clean-shaven John Revie in a new uniform, complete with riding crop and spurs typical of a soldier during the Great War period who served in a mounted unit. The second photograph was dated the 3rd of May 1918 and shows Revie with a mustache and a not so innocent aspect after having served more than three years in the war.

Pioneer John Revie at the time
of his call up in 1916.

Sapper John Revie as a veteran in 1918.

2. EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY INFORMATION

John Revie was born in July of 1886 at Old Monkland Parish in Lanarkshire, Scotland. His parents are believed to have been Peter and Christina Revie of Stable Yard, Bank Street in the Parish of New Monkland, Lanarkshire. Peter Revie was born in 1858 in Airdrie, Lanarkshire. At the time of the 1881 British Census,[1] Peter was working as a Journeyman Joiner. His wife, Christina, was born in 1862 in Old Monkland. In 1881, the Revie's had a 10-month old daughter named Mary, who also had been born in Airdrie. The Revie family worshipped in the Presbyterian Church.

John must have been studious as a child and as a young man, for at the time he enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1915 he was a science teacher and a proficient wireless operator. Both of these qualifications made him of special interest to the Army and specifically to the Royal Engineers.

At the time of John's enlistment into the Army Reserve in 1915, he and his sister Mary were living at Lochview Cottage on Townhead Road in Coatbridge, Scotland, a town located about 9 miles east of the city of Glasgow. On his attestation papers, John listed his sister as his next of kin. Presumably, both of their parents were deceased by that time. If this was the case, then their parents died at an early age. In 1915 Peter Revie would have been only 57 years old and his wife Christina only 53 years old.

3. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

The following is a description of John Revie at the time he enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1915:

Age:

29 years and 4 months.

Height:

5 feet 9 inches.

Chest Measurement (fully expanded):

35 inches.

Range of Chest Expansion:

2 inches.

As he was not called to the Colours immediately after his enlistment, John Revie had to undergo another medical examination when he was called up. The following is a description of Revie at the time he reported for duty in 1916:

Age:

30 years and 2 months.

Height:

5 feet 9 inches.

Weight:

148 pounds.

Chest Measurement (fully expanded):

35 inches.

Range of Chest Expansion:

3 inches.

Physical Development:

Good.

Vaccination Marks:

One on left arm.

Minor Physical Defects:

Upper dentures.

Vision:

Right eye, 6/9; left eye, 6/9.

Medical Category:

A (fit for general service).[2]

The postcard photograph of John Revie taken in 1916 shows him as a clean-shaven, rather youthful looking 29-year old. The 1918 cabinet card photograph shows him with curly blond or light brown hair and a rather well established mustache.

4. ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING

It appears that John Revie enlisted on the 27th of November 1915 under the Derby Scheme. On the 11th of October 1915, Lord Derby - who had played a major part in raising volunteers - was appointed Director-General of Recruiting. He brought forward a scheme five days after his appointment for raising the number of enlistments. According to his scheme, men aged 18 to 41 could continue to enlist voluntarily, or attest with an obligation to serve if called up. The men who registered under the Derby Scheme were classified into Married and Single, and into 23 groups according to their age. The Derby Scheme ceased on the 15th of December 1915 and the Military Service Act was introduced. John Revie was just able to enlist under the Derby Scheme with only 18 days to spare before the plan was scrapped and conscription begun.

Revie's was a Short Service enlistment "for the duration of the war with the Colours and in the Army Reserve." His enlistment took place at the Recruiting Office of the 71st Recruiting Area (the Depot of the Highland Light Infantry, Regimental District 71) at Hamilton to the southeast of Glasgow.

At the time of his enlistment, Revie indicated that he was not married and that he had no prior naval or military service. He expressed a willingness to enlist for General Service, although he did indicate a preference for service in the Royal Army Medical Corps. An interesting notation is found in his attestation papers under question 10: "Did you receive a Notice, and do you understand its meaning, and who gave it to you?" Instead of the Name and Corps of the individual who gave him Notice, the word POLITICAL is stamped on those lines. This notation may refer to his enlistment under the Derby Scheme. It may also refer to some arrangement made between Revie, Army, and perhaps his local Member of Parliament to allow a special enlistment into the Royal Engineers because of his skills as a Wireless Operator. A notation on his Medical History sheet states: "Special application made to the Wireless Section R.E." It appears that this notation was meant to influence the decision of the Recruiting Medical Board should his medical examination indicate that Revie had some disqualifying medical or physical problem.

John Revie's attestation was witnessed by one W. Liddle and was certified by John Lavell, Justice of the Peace for Coatbridge. On the 28th of November 1915 John Revie was transferred to the Army Reserve pending call up for active service.

Revie was called up for service in October of 1916, almost a year after his enlistment. He reported to Hamilton to undergo a medical examination on the 10th of October. As mentioned above, the medical examiner noted on his Medical History sheet that Revie's enlistment was considered under a special category for the R.E. Wireless Section. This notation may have been meant to indicate that he could perform his duties under less than Medical Category A conditions, perhaps because he would not see front line duty, or perhaps because his wireless operator skills were critically needed by the Army. The notation appears to have been unnecessary in any case as Major John H. Stephen, RAMC, the President of the Recruiting Medical Board in Hamilton, classified Revie in Medical Category "A."

On the 12th of October 1916, the Officer Commanding the Wireless Training Centre at Worcester reviewed John Revie's enlistment papers and deemed him to be suitable for training as a Wireless Operator. A letter subsequently was sent to Revie at his home in Coatbridge informing him that his enlistment was authorized for service with R.E. Signals. The letter told Revie to report to the Recruiting Office near his home and that a Railway Warrant would be issued to him for the journey from Coatbridge to Worcester.

5. ASSIGNMENTS AND CAMPAIGN SERVICE

Wireless Training Centre, Worcester (1916-1917)

All of John Revie's training after entering the Army appears to have been technical in nature and all related to telegraphy. There is no indication in his service papers that he received even the most training required of a soldier. He reported to the Wireless Training Centre at Worcester on the 28th of October 1916 and was posted as a Pioneer in the Royal Engineers, Regimental Number 210903. On the 25th of November 1916 Pioneer Revie was granted Proficiency Pay at the rate of one penny per day, granted no doubt based on his trade proficiency from civil life. On the 2nd of March 1917, Revie was remustered as a Sapper at the R.E. Wireless Training Centre and on this same day he was examined for trade proficiency at the Workshops of the Interception Center at Diglis. Based on this examination he was found to be proficient as a military Wireless Operator (Telegraphist).

France and Flanders (1917-1919)

Sapper Revie was transferred to the Wireless Signal Depot with the British Expeditionary Force in France on the 13th of March 1917. On the 23rd of March he was transferred from the Depot to the General Headquarters (GHQ) Wireless Section and on the 27th of March he was again transferred, this time to the Intelligence Section (Wireless). His duties with this unit involved monitoring the traffic and movements of the high-powered German wireless stations working in the rear area and the movements of bomber aircraft employed by the enemy.[3]

On the 27th of April 1917, Sapper Revie was posted to the Third Army Wireless Company, which he joined on the 1st of June. There is no explanation in his service papers as to why there was a delay of 34 days before he actually joined his new unit.

Army Wireless Companies had been organized in July of 1916. The companies included sections and sub-sections for each Corps within an Army and for each Division within a Corps. By the creation of this establishment wireless communication was for the first time organized throughout the British Expeditionary Force as far forward as Divisional headquarters.[4] The table below illustrates the organization of the Wireless Section of an Army Wireless Company at Corps level during the last two years of the war. This section did not exist at Corps level during 1914 through 1916.[5]

Ranks of Personnel

1917

1918

Sergeants

2

2

Second Corporals

1

2

Interpreter Operators

9

3

Sappers

14

23

Pioneers

1

1

Attached A.S.C. Motor Transport

--

3

Totals:

27

34

The table below illustrates the organization of the Wireless Section of an Army Wireless Company at Army level during the last two years of the war. Similarly, this section did not exist during 1914 through 1916.[6]

Ranks of Personnel

1917

1918

Captain or Subaltern

1

1

Subaltern

--

1

Company Quartermaster Sergeant

1

1

Military Mechanist Staff Sergeant

1

1

Sergeants

2

3

Corporals

2

3

Second Corporals

1

3

Clerks

--

2

Sappers

13

20

Pioneers

2

2

Batmen

1

1

Drivers, Attached A.S.C.M.T.

--

7

Totals:

24

45

During the period of his assignment to the Third Army Wireless Company, the unit lost three men through enemy action. Although the company was not a front line unit, many men served in forward sections and subsections establishing wireless communications down at division level. Soldiers Died in the Great War lists the following men lost in the company while Sapper Revie was serving with the unit:

On the 29th of June 1917, Sapper Revie was transferred to the Second Army HQ Signal Company near Messines where he remained for six months. During this 6-month period, Revie's company participated in the following campaigns:

Campaign

Dates

Pilckem

31 July to 2 August 1917

Langemarck

16 to 18 August 1917

Menin Road

20 to 25 September 1917

Polygon Wood

26 September to 3 October 1917

Broodseinde

4 October 1917

Poelcappelle

9 October 1917

Passchendaele

12 October 1917

Passchendaele

26 October to 10 November 1917

While Revie was serving with the Second Army Wireless Company, two of his mates were killed as a result of enemy action. 152197 Sapper Reginald Guy Turner was killed in action on the 22nd of July 1917 during the preparation for the battle of Pilckem. 78361 Sapper Andrew McMurray died of wounds on the 6th of August 1917, wounds that probably were sustained during the battle of Pilckem or shortly thereafter.[7]

On the 1st of January 1918 Revie joined the Third Army Wireless Observation Group near Cambrai on the formation of this unit. These Groups were formed as part of the Army Signal Companies for the purpose of gathering intelligence on enemy wireless stations and aviation units. During 1917 and 1918 the Wireless Observation Groups consisted of the following personnel:[8]

Ranks of Personnel

1917

1918

Subaltern

2

1

Sergeant

1

1

Clerks

2

3

Corporals

8

1

Second Corporals

--

1

Sappers

25

39

Pioneers

3

7

Batmen

1

1

Attached Drivers, A.S.C.M.T.

2

1

Total:

44

55

Sapper Revie was granted leave to go home to Scotland beginning on the 7th of February 1918. From his service papers, this appears to be the only leave he was granted after his posting to France. On the 21st of February he returned to his unit.

Revie was posted back to the Second Army Wireless Observation Group, near Scherpenberg, from the Third Army Wireless Observation Group on the 16th of June 1918. This appears to have been only a temporary move lasting 13 days. On the 29th of June he returned to the Third Army Signal Company in the Ancre sector.

Sapper Revie's service papers show that he was admitted to the 3rd Australian General Hospital in the St. Nazaire area on the 25th of November 1918 for some undisclosed injury or illness. He remained in hospital until the 9th of December 1918 when it appears that he returned to duty at his unit.

By the 14th of April 1919, Sapper Revie was in Abbeville, France where he signed his Statement as to Disability. In this statement he made no claim for disability as a result of an injury or illness incurred while in the Army. He subsequently was sent home for demobilization and on the 19th of February he was issued his Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity at No. 1 Dispersal Unit in Georgetown, Paisley, Scotland. These certificates listed him as 210903 Sapper John Revie, R.E. Signals. His record office was listed as Chatham and his intended residence was listed as Lochview Cottage, Townhead Road, Coatbridge, Scotland. The certificates also indicated that his medical category was "A." For his service during the Great War of 1914-1918, Sapper John Revie was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.[9]

6. PROMOTIONS AND CONDUCT

a. Promotions: John Revie did not receive any promotions during his time in service. He entered the Army as a Pioneer in the Corps of Royal Engineers and shortly after being called up he was mustered as a Sapper.

b. Conduct: John Revie's service papers do not give any indication of his conduct during his time in service nor is there any record of him having received any Good Conduct Badges.

7. EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

a. Education: There is no record of John Revie having earned any Certificates of Education during his time in service. Based on his qualifications prior to entering the Army, it seems certain that he would have easily qualified for a First Class Certificate of Education.

b. Qualifications: John Revie earned the following qualifications during his time in service.

Date

Qualification

28 October 1916

Granted Proficiency Pay of 1d. per day as a Wireless Operator.

2 March 1917

Tested and found to be proficiency as a Wireless Operator (Telegraphist).

8. MEDICAL INFORMATION

The following medical information was taken from John Revie's service records during his time in service:

Location

Date of
Admission

Ailment

Period of Hospitalization
or Treatment

Hamilton, Scotland

27 Nov 1915

Medical Examination on Enlistment

Found fit for service in the Army.

Hamilton, Scotland

10 Oct 1916

Medical Examination on Call-Up

Found fit for General Service; Medical Category A.

3rd Australian General Hospital, France

25 Nov 1918

Undisclosed injury
or illness

Treated and released on 9 December 1918.

9. MARRIAGE AND PERSONAL INFORMATION

John Revie was not married at the time that he entered the Army Reserve in 1915 or at the time he was called to the Colours in 1916. There is no evidence in his service papers that he married during the period of his military service.

10. DISCHARGE

John Revie was demobilized from the Army at Paisley, Scotland on the 19th of February 1919 on completion of his war service. His total service was reckoned as shown in the tables below:

Location

Period of Service

Home (awaiting call-up)

27 November 1915 to 27 October 1916

Wireless Training Center, Worcester

28 October 1916 to 12 March 1917

British Expeditionary Force, France

13 March 1917 to 15 February 1919

Home (awaiting demobilization)

16 February 1919 to 19 February 1919

Location

Period of Service

Home Service(*)

320 days

Service Abroad

1 year and 160 days

Total Service(*)

2 years and 115 days

Note: Home Service and Total Service shown in the table above do not include the period when John Revie was at home in the Army Reserve awaiting call-up.

11. POST SERVICE LIFE

No information is available regarding John Revie's post service life except that after his demobilization from the Army he returned home to Coatbridge.

REFERENCES

Books

1. LETTS, C. Roadbook of Britain. Charles Letts and Company Limited, London, 1977.

2. MERRIAM WEBSTER. Geographical Dictionary, Springfield, MA, 1997.

3. PRIESTLEY, R.E. The Signal Service in the European War of 1914 to 1918 (France). The Institution of Royal Engineers and the Signals Association, Chatham, 1921.

Computer Software

1. 1881 British Census and National Index. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1999.

2. Soldiers Died in the Great War. The Naval & Military Press Ltd., Heathfield, East Sussex, 1998.

Documents

1. MINISTRY OF PENSIONS. Locations of Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations, British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919. Westminster, 1923.

2. Soldiers Service Papers consisting of the following documents:

a. Short Service Attestation.

b. Descriptive Report on Enlistment.

c. Statement of Services.

d. Medical History.

e. Trade and Special Qualifications.

f. Certificate of Trade Proficiency.

g. List of Transfer Documents.

h. Casualty Form - Active Service.

i. Statement as to Disability.

j. Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity.

k. Medal Index Card.

l. Medal Transmittal Slip.

m. Letter from the O.C. Wireless Training Centre to Mr. John Revie, dated 18 October 1916, re: Call-up for Active Service.

Periodicals

Battle Honours of the Royal Engineers. The Royal Engineers Journal. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1925-1932.

ENDNOTES

[1] 1881 British Census, Family History Library Film 0203696, GRO Reference: Volume 651-1, Enumeration District 13, Page 2.

[2] Men in Medical Category A were found fit to be able to march, see well enough to shoot, hear well and stand active service conditions. There were four subcategories (A1 through A4) of Medical Category A, however a man classified as Category A with no subcategory designation was fit for any and all tasks required of him in war time.

[3] PRIESTLEY, p. 164.

[4] Ibid., p. 163.

[5] Ibid., p. 336.

[6] Ibid., p. 338.

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War.

[8] PRIESTLEY, p. 338.

[9] The whereabouts of these medals are not known to the author.