22828 Quarter Master Sergeant


Royal Engineers


© Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2016.


1.      Introduction


This narrative account of QMS Jacob’s military service is based on his military service record and on his medal entitlements, medal rolls, census records and campaign histories of the units in which he served.  This research has been performed because Jacob’s medals are in the author’s collection.  His group of medals consist of the following:

·         Queen’s Sudan Medal

·         Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps [CAPE COLONY][ORANGE FREE STATE][TRANSVAAL]

·         King’s South Africa Medal with clasps [SOUTH AFRICA 1901][SOUTH AFRICA 1902]

·         Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (EVIIR)

·         Khedive’s Sudan Medal with clasp [KHARTOUM]  

2.      Birth and Family Information

            The 1881 British Census shows that a boy of 13 years of age by the name of William S. Jacobs was residing at 45 Robert Street[1] in Chelsea, London, Middlesex when the census data was taken.[2]  Since the census lists the family surname as Jacobs and not Jacob, one might ask how it can be assumed that this William S. Jacob(s) is the same W.S. Jacob whose medals are in the author’s collection.[3]  Let us examine some evidence that will lead us to conclude that they are the same person.

            The census record shows that the head of the household at 45 Robert Street was one Frederick Jacobs, 43 years of age.  Frederick was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The census record also indicates that in 1881 he was a Chelsea Pensioner, formerly a Sergeant Major in the Army.  His wife, Laura Jane Jacobs, 48 years of age, was born in Chelsea.  Now Frederick’s birthplace is interesting from the point of view that in 1838 when he was born, Halifax was a town in the making, garrisoned by British troops, and destined to be incorporated as a city only three years later.  Frederick may well have been the son of a soldier stationed at the Citadel in Halifax.  In fact, he may even have been the son of a soldier in the Corps of Royal Sapper and Miner[4] stationed there.

            Further research uncovered the existence of a portion of the service papers of Frederick Jacob.  A Proceedings of a Regimental Board (War Office Form 83) was found for 4481 Sergeant Major Frederick Jacob, Royal Engineers.  This form indicates that Frederick Jacob was a sculptor and carver by trade and that he was born in the town of Halifax, Canada and that he attested for the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners at Newcastle, Northumberland on the 28th of August 1856 at the age of 19 years.  The papers indicate that at the time of the board proceedings in County Galway, Ireland on the 29th of August 1877, Frederick Jacob was 40 years of age.  He was described as being 5 feet 9½ inches tall with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair without any visible scars on his face or other parts of his body.  His military trade is shown as sculptor and carver and he was noted to be a Foreman of Works.  As this board had convened in preparation for Frederick Jacob’s discharge from the Army, his intended place of residence after leaving the Army was noted to be Chelsea, London.

            The members of Jacob’s discharge board consisted of a captain of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and two lieutenants of the Connaught Rangers.  The proceedings show that Jacob had competed 21 years of service of which 7 years and 98 days were served abroad at St. Helena.  The reason given for his discharge is that he was claiming discharge on the termination of his second period of limited engagement.  The board officers indicated that        His conduct has been very good and he was, when promoted, in possession of one         Good Conduct Badge and had he not been promoted would have been in           possession of four Good Conduct Badges.  He is also in possession of a Good   Conduct Medal with gratuity, but has no school certificate.[5]    

Additionally, the board members indicated that Jacob had “never been entered in the regimental defaulters book or tried by court martial.”

            The Jacobs’ eldest child, Mary J.L. Jacobs, was born in New Brompton, Kent in 1863.  New Brompton, now Brompton, was the home of the School of Military Engineering located on the outskirts of Chatham.  Mary was probably born there when her father was stationed at Brompton Barracks.  William was born in 1868 at Sandwich in Kent, one of the Cinque Ports,[6] and a traditional area of assignment for men of the fortress companies of the Royal Engineers.  The last two of the Jacobs’ children shown on the 1881 Census were Elizabeth K. (born in 1874) and Frederick Thomas (born in 1876), both on the island of St. Helena, South Africa.[7]  St. Helena was a port facility to which fortress companies of the Royal Engineers were posted to build up the defences of the island. 

3.      Enlistment

            The service papers of William S. Jacob indicate that his middle name was Skidmore.  His papers consist of three sets of documents; Army Form B. 265 (Short Service Attestation, dated 1888), Army Form B. 268 (Proceedings on Discharge, dated 1909) and Army Form B. 2505 (Short Service Attestation, dated 1915).         

            William Skidmore Jacob enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers on the 2nd of May 1888 at Dorchester, Dorset.[8]  He was assigned Regimental Number 22828 and the rank of Sapper upon his enlistment.  On this attestation paper he indicated that his place of birth was Woolwich, Kent, although this was not actually the case.  He was born in Sandwich, Kent but probably said Woolwich as that was where he was living at the time that he enlisted.  He stated that he was a British citizen, that he was 20 years of age and that his trade was engine driver.  He further indicated that he was living in his father’s home, that he was not and had never been an apprentice, that he was not married, had never been imprisoned and had never previously served in Her Majesty’s forces.  When asked if he had ever been rejected as unfit for military service he answered “Yes! Under chest measurement.”[9]  William stated that he was willing to be vaccinated and that his preference for enlistment was the Royal Engineers.  The information contained in the attestation document was recorded by one Quartermaster Sergeant Curtis of the Dorsetshire Regiment.  Apparently his undersized chest measurement was not an obstacle to his enlistment, as he was administered the Oath of Attestation and his attestation was certified by a colonel at the depot of the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot.

            The Description on Enlistment of William Skidmore Jacob indicates that he was 20 years old, 5 feet 7½ inches tall and weighed 132 pounds.  His chest measurement was 34¾ inches (he must have taken a really deep breath).  He had a pale complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair and no distinguishing marks.  His religious denomination was shown as Church of England.[10]

            Jacob’s Certificate of Final Medical Examination was signed by a major at Dorchester on the 2nd of May 1888.  He was deemed fit for military service at Dorchester on the 8th of May 1888 and was approved for service in the Royal Engineers on that same date by the Colonel Commanding the 39th Regiment Depot.


Home Service (2 May 1888 to 31 December 1896)

            Following his enlistment Sapper Jacob proceeded to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, Kent where he underwent his preliminary training as an engineer soldier.[11]  On the 5th of March 1895 he extended his service to complete 12 years with the Colours.  Following his initial training and his extension of service, and because he had been an engine driver in civilian life, Jacob probably was posted to railway duties which ultimately would get him assigned to the 8th Railway Company, Royal Engineers in Egypt 

Service in Egypt and the Sudan (1 January 1897 to 21 July 1899)

            The 8th Railway Company had been in Egypt for some time and Jacob may have joined the unit there.  By 1896 he had risen to the rank of Corporal and was assigned to a detachment of the 8th Railway Company commanded by Lieutenant E.C. Midwinter, R.E.  This detachment was employed on the Desert Railway and its extension southwards as part of the operations with the Egyptian Army for the reconquest of the Sudan from the Dervish leader known as the Khalifa.  Jacob’s Medical History Records show that he was in hospital three times at Wadi Halfa; in September 1897, February 1898 and October 1898.  The first two hospital admissions were prior to the battles at Omdurman and Khartoum, which took place on the 2nd of September 1898.  His third entry into hospital took place in October 1898 following the battles.  He obviously remained in good health during the advance to Khartoum.  

            During the advance to the Atbara, the only regular engineer unit available to the British and Egyptian field force for general engineering duties was a small composite unit.  This unit consisted of a single fortress company (the 2nd Company, R.E.) and the detachment of the 8th Railway Company in which Corporal Jacob was serving.  The Egyptian Army could not afford the luxury of a field company of engineers.  There were many men, however, among the Egyptian infantry battalions, who would have been called “Pioneers” in a British unit, and in each Egyptian battalion there was at least one officer with experience in building construction.  An examination of the medal roll for the Queen’s Sudan medal, which Jacob earned for this campaign, shows him on a list of “British N.C.O.s and Men Attached to the Egyptian Army for operation in the Sudan in 1897 and for the Expedition to Khartoum in 1898.”[12]  It is very probable that Jacob was serving with an Egyptian unit to augment the field engineering capability of the Egyptian Army.  His Khedive’s Sudan Medal, also earned during these operations, was awarded with the clasp [KHARTOUM].  This clasp was issued for participation in the Battle of Omdurman on the 2nd of September 1898.  No engineer units are listed in Gordon (1971) as being awarded this clasp.[13]  It is very likely that Jacob was attached to an Egyptian Battalion during this battle, perhaps as an NCO in a “pioneer” platoon.[14]

            The Battle of Omdurman was fought by a British and Egyptian field force of some 23,000 men under Sir Herbert Kitchener, against a Dervish force of some 50,000 men.  The Dervish force attacked the British who were in a defensive position in a zariba, with their backs to the River Nile.  The Dervish were repulsed after suffering heavy losses.  Kitchener then advanced to drive the enemy before him into Omdurman.  In the course of the battle, the Egyptian Brigade on the British right, under General Hector Macdonald, became isolated and was attacked in front by the center of the Dervish army, while his flank and rear were threatened by the Dervish left, which had not been previously engaged in the battle.  The position was critical, but through the extreme steadiness of the Sudanese, who changed front under heavy fire, the attack was repulsed.  There is a very good possibility that Corporal Jacob was involved in this action and that he was attached to one of the Egyptian or Sudanese battalions in the Egyptian Division.[15]

            Corporal Jacob was not presented with his medals for participation in this campaign until the 29th of March 1899.  At that time he was at Wadi Halfa in the Northern Sudan, on the east shore of Lake Nubia.  Wadi Halfa was the northern terminus of the Desert Railway,[16] just below the second cataract on the Nile.

            On the 11th of May 1898, while in the Sudan, Jacob re-engaged for the Royal Engineers to complete 21 years with the Colours.[17]  In October of 1898, according to his medical records, he was back in Wadi Half and he was still there in March of 1899 based on the date shown on the medal roll for the Sudan campaign.  He apparently spent an additional three or four months in Egypt before returning home.  In fact, his medical records show that he was still in Cairo from late June to late July 1899 when he left for home.

            His service papers clearly show that he participated in the Sudan Expedition, 1897 and the Khartoum Expedition, 1898 and that he was entitled to both the Queen’s Sudan Medal and the Khedive’s Sudan Medal with clasp [KHARTOUM].  These entitlements are verified by both his service papers and the medal rolls.

Home Service (22 July 1899 to 20 October 1899)

            Corporal Jacob returned to England for a very short period of time and was posted to the 31st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers at Chatham.  The threat of a conflict with the Boers in South Africa soon found him on his way again to foreign service.        

South Africa (21 October 1899 to 10 October 1902)

            The 31st Fortress Company was mobilized at Chatham on the 7th of October 1899 for service in South Africa against the Boers.  The company embarked on board S.S. Gascon on the 21st of October and sailed for South Africa by way of Gibraltar under the command of Captain Frank G. Fuller, R.E.

            The mission of the 31st Fortress Company was to serve with Army Corps Troops in South Africa in support of the railway companies on the lines of communication.  Upon arrival in South Africa, the company moved directly to De Aar in the Cape Colony to participate in this work.  De Aar was an important railway junction of the main lines from Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

            In November of 1899 the 31st Company was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division under Lieutenant Colonel J.B. Sharpe, the Commander Royal Engineers for that division.  The 1st Division was with Lord Methuen’s column and was preparing to move to the relief of the besieged town of Kimberley.  On the 21st of November the company moved northward with Methuen’s column and arrived at Belmont Railway Station.  The Boers were driven from the hills commanding the railway at Belmont on the 23rd of November and the engineers with the column were employed to repair the railway damage caused by the Boers during their retreat from the area.

            The 31st Fortress Company arrived at Graspan in the Cape Colony on the 25th of November and on the 28th of November the unit took part in an attack on the Boer positions on the Modder River near Rosmead in an unsuccessful attempt to save the railway bridge there from destruction.  On the 29th of November the company worked on the construction of a temporary bridge to replace the one destroyed by the Boers.  This bridge was completed on the 10th of December. 

            The men of the 31st Fortress Company who took part in the actions at Belmont (23 November 1899) and Modder River (28 November 1899) received clasps for their Queen’s South Africa medal for participation in these battles.[18]  Corporal Jacob did not receive the clasps for these actions.  Since he sailed with the company from England aboard the S.S. Gascon, as indicated in his medical records, he had to have been with the 31st Company at Chatham when it sailed to South Africa.  His ineligibility for the clasps can only be the result of him being on detached duty away from the company when these two actions were fought.

            In any event, he may have rejoined the unit prior to the 10th of December 1899, but after the 28th of November when the battle was fought.  The company was still working on the Modder River bridge at that time. 

            Jacob was promoted to the rank of sergeant on the 1st of January 1900.  In May of 1900 the 31st Fortress Company was serving with Army Corps Troops in the Orange Free State and on lines of communications work.  By the 4th of July 1900 the unit was at Naboomspruit in the Transvaal.

            On the 8th of July 1901, Jacob, now a Sergeant, was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps [CAPE COLONY][ORANGE FREE STATE][TRANSVAAL].  These clasps, known as the “state bars” were authorized for the following periods of service:[19]

·         [CAPE COLONY]:  Issued to all troops in the Cape Colony at any time between the 11th of October 1899 and the 31st of May 1902, who received no clasp for any action already specified in the Cape Colony, nor the [NATAL] clasp.

·         [ORANGE FREE STATE]:  Issued to all troops in the Orange River Colony at any time between the 28th of February 1900 and the 31st of May 1902, who received no clasp which had been already specified for an action in the Orange River Colony.

·         [TRANSVAAL]:  Issued to all troops in the Transvaal at any time between the 24th of May 1900 and the 31st of May 1902, who received no clasp for an action in the Transvaal, which had already been specified.

            At the time the medal was authorized, the 31st Fortress Company was in Pretoria.[20]  By the 31st of January 1902, the 31st Fortress Company was at Stormberg in the Cape Colony.  His service papers clearly show his entitlement to this medal.  Interestingly, his papers show his entitlement to the clasps [BELMONT] and [MODDER RIVER], but both of these entries were subsequently crossed out leaving him with the entitlements only to the state bars.  Apparently when the medal roll was produced it was assumed that Jacob was entitled to these clasps since he was a member of the 31st Fortress Company.  At some point an officer must have recognized that he was not with the unit during the actions at Belmont and the Modder River and had his eligibility for those clasps deleted.

Home Service (11 October 1902 to 1 May 1909)


            Sergeant Jacob returned to England with his company aboard H.M.T. Dunera at the end of the South African War under the command of Captain A.M. Henniker, R.E.  He remained with the 31st Fortress Company at Canterbury until it was disbanded on the 31st of December 1902.  At that time it appears that he was transferred to “D” Depot Company, Royal Engineers Training Battalion at Chatham.  On the 21st of August 1903 he was awarded the King’s South Africa Medal with clasps [SOUTH AFRICA 1901][SOUTH AFRICA 1902].[21]

            Sergeant Jacob completed 18 years of service in 1906, and in July of that year he was awarded the Long Service Good Conduct Medal (EVIIR).[22]  On the 12th of September 1906, while still serving in “D” Depot Company at Chatham, Jacob was promoted to the rank of Company Quartermaster Sergeant and was assigned to pay duties for the company.  On the 1st of May 1909 Quartermaster Sergeant William S. Jacob was discharged on the termination of his third period of limited engagement having competed exactly 21 years of service.

            At the time of his discharge Quartermaster Sergeant Jacob was 41 years of age.  He was described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall with a chest measurement of 37 inches with a range of expansion of 2 inches (apparently military service did much to build him up).  His complexion was pale, his eyes grey and his hair dark brown.  His trade was still noted to be “Engine Driver.”  His intended place of residence when leaving the Army was listed as 77 Luton Road in Chatham.  His Conduct and Character were described as “Exemplary, no offenses in the whole of 21 years.”  As for any Special Qualifications for Employment in Civil Life an entry was made on his Army Form B. 268 to indicate that he “has been employed for the last eighteen years on clerical and pay duties.”  This last comment surely is incorrect or an exaggeration.  He was an Engine Driver during all the time of his military service and was assigned to both a railway company and a fortress company.  It is unlikely that for 18 years he performed “clerical and pay duties” although these duties may have been supplemental to his primary duties.  His only involvement with pay duties was during his posting to “D” Company of the Training Battalion during the last two to three years of his time in the Army.  Whoever made the entry on his Army Form B. 268 regarding his “clerical and pay duties” may have thought that his would help him to find employment in civil life.  If the railroads did not need engine drivers he could look for work in another field.  Additionally, there probably was little demand for someone who had spent much time in a fortress company as there were few fortresses to work on in civil life.


a. Promotions 


William Skidmore Jacob received the following promotions during his time in service:


Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Appointment and Time in each Grade


2 May 1888

Lance Corporal (1)

23 April 1891

2nd Corporal (2)

1 November 1893

Corporal (2)

1 July 1896

Sergeant (3)

1 January 1900

Company Quartermaster Sergeant

12 September 1906

Quartermaster Sergeant

1 May 1909


(1)   This promotion came when he was serving in the 8th Railway Company and it was approved on his records by Lieutenant T.H. Cochrane, R.E. (later Lieutenant Colonel).

(2)   These promotions came when he was serving in the 8th Railway Company and they were approved on his records by Captain J.H. Twiss, R.E. (later Brigadier General).

(3)   This promotion came when he was serving in the 31st Fortress Company and it was approved on his records by Lieutenant R. Oakes, R.E. (later Colonel).


b.  Conduct 

            As previously indicated, William Skidmore Jacob served for 21 years and his conduct had been “Exemplary” during the entire period of his service.  He had committed no offences nor had he been tried by court martial during his entire time in the Army.  He had been granted Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 1.d per day on the 2nd of May 1890.[23]  His award of the Good Conduct Pay was authorized by Lieutenant H. Sloggett, R.E. at Chatham.   He had been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on the 1st of July 1906 following his completion of 18 years of service.  A certificate is included in his service papers containing the following information:

            Certified that the sum of £5. for a Gratuity for a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal awarded to No. 22828 C.Q.M.S. W.S. Jacob. R.E. has been credited to his account in the Pay List of D. Company R.E. May 1909.


27th April 1909

This certificate is stamped Royal Hospital Chelsea and the stamp is dated 26 May 1909.



a.      Education


            QMS Jacob earned two Certificates of Education while in the Army; a Third Class Certificate on the 29th of March 1889 and a Second Class Certificate on the 4th of August 1893.[24]

b. Qualifications


            QMS Jacob was a qualified Engine Driver.  His qualifications in this trade are summarized below:

            He attended a course in Engine Driving at the School of Military Engineering and qualified as “Skilled” on the 17th of July 1891.

            He attended a course in Engine Driving at the School of Military Engineering and qualified as “Superior” on the 19th of October  1892.

            He attended a course in Engine Driving at the School of Military Engineering and qualified as “Very Superior” on the 20th of October 1894.

            Since he had been an Engine Driver in civil life prior to entering the Army, it must have been easy for him to attain these high qualifications at the School of Military Engineering.


            The table below provides a summary of the service of QMS Jacob at home and abroad during his years of service.      

Home or Overseas



Years    Days


2 May 1888

31 December 1896

     8        244

Egypt and Sudan

1 January 1897

21 July 1899

     2        202


22 July 1899

20 October 1899


South Africa

21 October 1899

10 October 1902

     2        355


11 October 1902

1 May 1909

     6        203

Home Service:

15 years  173 days

Service Abroad:

  5 years  192 days

Total Service:

21 years      0 days








Date of Arrival

Date of Admission to Hospital

Date of Discharge from Hospital


Nature of Illness

Number of Days in Hospital





9 May 1888

12 Mar 1892

19 Mar 1892



Unknown (1)

Halfa (2)

29 Jan 1897

8 Sep


11 Sep




Error in diet


29 Jan


Found fit for re-engagement at Halfa on 22 February 1898.


29 Jan


19 Oct


25 Oct


Tonsillitis & Scarlet Fever


Slight case. Recovered.


20 Jun


21 Jun 1899

1 Jul






21 Jul


No admission





S.S. Gascon (3)

21 Oct


No admission





South Africa

10 Nov 1899







H.M.T. Dunera

18 Sep


No admission






11 Oct 1902

No admission






23 Jan 1903

No Admission







(1)   Where the word “Unknown” is shown in the table it indicates that the handwriting on the Army Form B. 178 (MEDICAL HISTORY) is illegible.

(2)   The location shown on Jacob’s Army Form B. 178 actually is Wadi Halfa in the Northern Sudan.

(3)     SS Gascon ran aground on 23 December 1909 at the mouth of the Douro Estuary whilst outward for Liverpool from Oporto and became a total loss.

(4)     Jacob appears to have been in good health during most of his military service, except when in Egypt and the Sudan where he had been in hospital for a total of 22 days during the period from 29 January 1897 to 1 July 1899.  His illnesses were undoubtedly due to the affects of heat and poor quality food and water.



      William Skidmore Jacob married Helena Elizabeth Robinson, a widow, at Gillingham, Kent on the 11th of June 1905, with leave, being placed on the married rolls of the Royal Engineers on that date.  The Census of England and Wales, 1911 indicates that the Jacob family consisted of the following individuals:

·         William Skidmore Jacob, head of household, 42 years of age, an Army Pensioner employed as a Storekeeper, place of birth: Woolwich, Kent.


·         Helena Elizabeth Jacob, wife, 32 years of age, place of birth: Shorncliffe, Kent.


·         Hilda Constance Robinson, stepdaughter, 9 years of age, place of birth: Bangalore, India.


·         Helena Laura Jacob, daughter, age 5, place of birth: Gillingham, Kent.


·         Frederick William Jacob, son, age 5, place of birth: Gillingham, Kent.


·         Ellen Louisa Jacob, daughter, age 4, place of birth: Old Brompton, Kent.


·         Thomas George Jacob, son, age 4, place of birth: Old Brompton, Kent.


·         Winifred Maud Jacob, daughter, age 2, place of birth: Old Brompton, Kent.


The census returns indicates that the Jacobs had 8 children, two of which died by the time of the 1911 census.  Jacob’s wife,   Helena Elizabeth Robinson, was the wife of 27094 Corporal George Edward Robinson, R.E.  Robinson had enlisted in 1892 and was posted to India to serve with the Madras Sappers & Miners.  He served for just over 10 years when he fell ill and returned to England.  Robinson died at Chatham on the 29th of May 1903 from pulmonary phthisic, a wasting or consumption of the lung tissue; that is, tuberculosis.  The Jacobs and the Robinson obviously were very close friends.  Corporal and Mrs. Robinson had a daughter, Hilda Constance Robinson.  When William and Helena married, William adopted Hilda as a stepdaughter and she was officially recognized in his Army records as his stepdaughter. 

Research indicates that Hilda Constance Robinson was born in Bangalore, Madras, India on 29 June 1901.  Hilda Constance Robinson died in New Forest, Hampshire in March 1991 at the age of 88.

Mrs. Jacob had three pairs of twins: Helena and Frederick, both 5 years old and both born in Gillingham on the 27th of September 1905, and Ellen and Thomas, both 4 years old and both born in Old Brompton on the 11th of December 1906.  Winifred Maud and Charles Skidmore were both born on the 28th of January 1909, but Charles does not appear in the 1911 census as he apparently died before 1911.  The 1911 census actually indicates that the Jacobs had 8 children, including their stepdaughter Hilda, but that they lost two children of their own.  Charles was one of those who died.  The name of the second child is unknown and may have died at birth.

The Jacob’s residence at the time the census was taken was listed as 16 Pheasant Road, Luton, Chatham, Kent.

NOTE:  The information presented in Sections 1 through 9 of this narrative covers the life and military service of QMS Jacob up to 1911.  During the course of this research it was discovered that Jacob enlisted again for service in the Great War of 1914 to 1918.  His enlistment for service in that war is be covered in the following section.


  1. SERVICE IN THE GREAT WAR (2 June 1915 to 27 September 1919)

            William Skidmore Jacob reenlisted to serve in the Great War of 1914-1918 on the 2nd of June 1915.  At the top of his Short Service Attestation document (Army Form B. 2505), written in pencil, is the comment “For promotion forthwith to rank of Company Quartermaster Sergeant.”  Obviously his prior service was recognized by the Army.  His papers indicate that he was issued Regimental Number 103835 at the time of his enlistment.  To the questions asked on his attestation he responded that his address was 16 Pheasant Road, Luton, Kent, that he was a British Subject and that he was 47 years old.  He stated that his trade was Engine Driver, that he was married and that he had 21 years of prior service in the Royal Engineers and that he was a pensioner as of 1/5/09.  He enlisted for General Service and had been recruited by an officer in the Royal Navy.

            Jacob took the Oath of Attestation and it was certified on the 2nd of June 1915 by a Major who was the Officer Commanding the Depot Companies, Royal Engineers at Chatham.  His enlistment was approved by this same officer on the 11th of June 1915.

            Jacob’s physical description at the time of this enlistment showed his height to be 5 feet 9 inches with a 36 inch chest having a range of expansion of 2 inches.  It is apparent that the physical condition of recruits during this period was subject to far less scrutiny, as the British Army was in need of as many men as possible to fight this World War. 

            Jacob listed his wife on his records as living at the Luton address.  He also listed all of the children that he had listed when he was discharged in 1909 with the addition of on more; Gladys May, born on the 20th of September 1915.  His Statement of Services for this enlistment is rather brief.  It shows the following information:

·         Attested as a Sapper on the 2nd of June 1915.

·         Qualified as an Engine Driver (“Very Superior”) on the 2nd of June 1915.

·   Promoted Company Quartermaster Sergeant in the 3rd Provisional Company, R.E. on the 3rd of June 1915.

·   Transferred to the 130th Field Company, R.E. on the 3rd of June 1915.  (This field company was part of the 25th Division which fought in France and Flanders.  Fortunately for Jacob he did not accompany the unit to France).

·   Transferred to No. 1 Depot Company at The Gables, Deganwy, Wales on the 22nd of September 1915.  This company was part of the Dismounted Training Center formed to help cope with the large flow of recruits into New Army units.  It eventually formed the 4th Reserve Battalion, R.E. in January of 1918.[25]

·   Transferred to Class “Z” Army Reserve on demobilization on the 27th of September 1919.  The Class Z Reserve was authorized by an Army Order of the 3rd of December 1918. There were fears that Germany would not accept the terms of any peace treaty, and therefore the British Government decided it would be wise to be able to quickly recall trained men in the eventuality of the resumption of hostilities. Soldiers who were being demobilized, particularly those who had agreed to serve "for the duration", were at first posted to Class Z. They returned to civilian life but with an obligation to return if called upon. The Z Reserve was abolished on the 31st of March 1920.[26]  It is doubtful if at his age Jacob would have been recalled to active service in any event.

            With his transfer to the Army Reserve Jacob actually served for almost one year beyond the armistice.  It may be assumed that his services were needed to assist in mustering out other soldiers who were being demobilized.  His service from the 2nd of June 1915 to 27th of September 1919 gave him an additional 4 years and 118 days, making his total service with the Colours 25 years and 118 days.

            Since Jacob never entered a theater of war or served overseas during the Great War he was not entitled to the British War Medal and since the Victory Medal was never issued by itself, he received no additional medals for his service between 1915 and 1919.


1.      Merriam Webster’s Geographical Dictionary.  Third Edition.  Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1997.

2.      GASE, S. and DE SANTIS, E.  Unpublished study relating the date of enlistment of Royal Engineer soldiers to their regimental numbers.  West Drayton, Middlesex and Columbia, Maryland, 2000.

3.      GRIERSON, J.M.  Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War.  Greenhill Books, London, 1988.

4.      Queen’s Sudan Medal Roll, 8th Railway Company, R.E., dated Wady Halfa, 29 March 1899.

5.      SANDES, E.W.C.  The Royal Engineers in Egypt and the Sudan.  The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1937.

6.      WATSON, C.M.  The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers.  Volume III.  The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1954.

7.      GORDON, L.L.  British Battles and Medals.  Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1971.

8.      HARBOTTLE, T.  Dictionary of Battles.  Stein and Day, New York, 1971.

9.      Queen’s South Africa Medal Roll, 31st Company Royal Engineers, dated Pretoria, South Africa, 8th July 1901, WO100/157.

10.  King’s South Africa Medal Roll, (The Late) 31st Company Royal Engineers, dated Canterbury, 21 August 1903, WO100/314.

11.  Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Roll, dated 1 July 1906, WO102/17.

12.  FEATHERSTONE, D.  Omdurman, 1898:  Kitchener’s Victory in the Sudan.  Campaign Series 29, Osprey Publishing Limited, London, 1893.

13.  CHURCHILL, Sir W.  The River War: An Historical Account of The Reconquest of the Soudan.  Longmans, Green, London, 1899.

14.  CHURCHILL, W.S.  Modern History Sourcebook: The Battle of Omdurman, 1898.

15.  The Service Papers of 4481 Sergeant Major Frederick Jacob, R.E. (W.O. Form 83).

16.  The Service Papers of 22828 Quartermaster Sergeant William Skidmore Jacob, R.E. to include Army Form B. 265, B. 268 and B. 2505.

17.  The Service Papers of 27094 Corporal George Edward Robinson, R.E. (Army Form B. 265).

18.  Marriage Certificate of Frederick William Louis Jacob to Laura Jane Skidmore, 12 March 1861.

19.  Register of Births in April, May and June 1868.

20.  1881 Census of England and Wales.

21.  1901 Census of England and Wales.

22.  Register of Marriages in April, May and June 1905.

23.  1911 Census of England and Wales.

24.  GASE, S.  Summary of the Service of 25675 Sapper Septimus Grundy, R.E.

25.  Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, William Skidmore Jacob, General Register Office Application No. G010800, dated 6 November 2000.


[1] This street no longer exists in modern day London.

[2] Mormon Family History Library Film 1341018, Public Record Office Reference RG11, Piece 0082, Folio 30, Page 8.

[3] The difference between Jacob and Jacobs can be dispensed with immediately.  It was not uncommon for the spelling of names in the census to be incorrect.  Both versions of these names were common in England at the time.  The correct name, or at least the one that William S. used, appears to be Jacob, as this spelling is used on three medal rolls bearing his name, without the final “s.”

[4] The Royal Sappers and Miners were later amalgamated with the officers of the Royal Engineers so that both officers and other ranks became Royal Engineers.

[5]  By school certificate the officers were indicating a Certificate of Education.

[6] Cinque Ports was a designation given to a number of seaport towns on the coast of Kent and Sussex in medieval times, including Dover, Sandwich, Romney, Hastings, and Hythe.

[7] St. Helena was a British island in the South Atlantic Ocean located about 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa.

[8]  See Periods of Enlistment for the Corps of Royal Engineers.

[9]  During this period the chest measurements of a recruit in the Royal Engineers had to be in the range of 34 to 36 inches.

[10]  There are actually two physical descriptions of William S. Jacob on his enlistment.  The second description appears on his Army Form B. 178 (MEDICAL HISTORY).  This description, prepared on the 2nd of May 1888 at Dorchester shows his birthplace as Woolwich, Kent, his age 20 years, his former trade as Engine Driver,  his weight as 132 pounds and his chest measurement as 34¾ inches.  It differs from his DESCRIPTION ON ENLISTMENT by showing his height as 67¼ inches and adds that  his Physical Development was Good and that he did not have any smallpox marks.  It also indicated that he had three vaccination marks on his left arm and that these were made in infancy.  He was revaccinated twice on the 5th of July 1888 with the “two perfect” results.

[11]  See Engineer Recruit Training.

[12] Queen’s Sudan Medal Roll, 8th Railway Company, R.E., dated Wady Halfa, 29 March 1899, prepared by Lieutenant G.B. Macauley, Officer Commanding, 8th Railway Company, R.E.

[13] GORDON, L.L.  British Battles and Medals.  Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1971, p. 259.  It should be noted, however, that FEATHERSTONE (1993) indicates that there was a “Detachment” of Royal Engineers with the British 1st and 2nd Brigades at the battle of Omdurman.  These may have been sections of the 2nd Company, R.E.

[14] The order of battle of the Egyptian Division at Omdurman was:

                1st Brigade (Macdonald):   2nd Egyptians, 9th Sudanese, 10th Sudanese, 11th Sudanese

                2nd Brigade (Maxwell):       8th Egyptians, 12th Sudanese, 13th Sudanese, 14th Sudanese

                3rd Brigade (Lewis):             3rd Egyptians, 4th Egyptians, 7th Egyptians, 15th Egyptians

                4th Brigade (Collinson):       1st Egyptians, 5th Egyptians, 17th Egyptians, 18th Egyptians

[15] See Sir Winston Churchill’s description of the battle in The River War: An Historical Account of The Reconquest of the Soudan.

[16] Later known as the Khartoum Railway.

[17]  See Re-Engagement in the Regular Army.

[18] GORDON, p. 272.

[19] GORDON, pp. 270, 273 and 274.

[20] Queen’s South Africa Medal Roll, 31st Company Royal Engineers, dated Pretoria, South Africa, 8th July 1901.

[21] King’s South Africa Medal Roll, (The Late) 31st Company Royal Engineers, dated Canterbury, 21 August 1903.

[22] Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Roll, dated 1 July 1906.

[23]  See Good Conduct Pay.

[24]  See Certificates of Education.

[25] The Long, Long Trail.  http://www.1914-1918.net/RE_ukbasedepots.html

[26] The Long, Long Trail.  http://www.1914-1918.net/reserve.htm