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204 (426898) Company Sergeant Major
ROLAND HARRY NUTTALL
Royal Engineers

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2001

1. INTRODUCTION

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were obtained from the soldier’s service papers. Considerable detail regarding Nuttall’s service during the Great War of 1914 to 1918 also was obtained from A History of the East Lancashire Royal Engineers printed for private circulation and published at the offices of "Country Life" in 1920.

2. EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY INFORMATION

Roland Harry Nuttall was born in July 1880 in Manchester, Lancashire. His father was John B. Nuttall of 16 Station Road in Higher Openshaw, Manchester. His mother’s name is not included in his military service papers.[1] The members of the Nuttall family were members of the Church of England.

Roland trained as an electrician as a young man and took a position at the Hyde Road Car Works in Manchester. The Hyde Road Car Works was an electric-powered tramway (trolley) system on standard gauge tracks that ran by connection of the cars to overhead power lines.[2] While working for this company he resided with his parents at the 16 Station Road address.

3. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

The following is a description of Roland Harry Nuttall at the time of his initial enlistment in the Royal Engineers Volunteers. This description was made following a medical examination performed at Manchester on the 12th of August 1907.

Declared age:

27 years and 1 month

Height:

5 feet 4 inches

Chest (fully expanded):

35 inches

Range of expansion:

3 inches

Physical development:

Very good

Vision:

Good

4. ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING

Roland Harry Nuttall enlisted in the 3rd Lancashire Royal Engineers Volunteers at Manchester on the 23rd of July 1907. He was 27 years old at the time of his enlistment and had no prior naval or military service. Following a medical examination that found him fit for military service, he swore the Oath of Attestation before Magistrate Eustace Holden on the 12th of August 1907. On the following day his enrollment in the 3rd Lancashire Royal Engineers Volunteer Corps was certified at Manchester by Captain P.H. French, R.E., the Adjutant of the Corps. Nuttall was assigned Regimental Number 1311 and the rank of Sapper.[3]

In 1907, when Nuttall enlisted in the 3rd Lancashire Royal Engineers Volunteers, the Corps establishment consisted of eight companies of Fortress Engineers. Six of the companies had already been formed at this time. The seventh company, to consist of telegraphists and electricians was being formed. Nuttall’s civilian experience as an electrician made him a splendid candidate for this new company.

On the 1st of April 1908 the 3rd Lancashire Royal Engineers Volunteers were redesignated the East Lancashire Royal Engineers (Territorial Force). Nuttall was discharged from the Volunteer Force on the 10th of May 1908 and on the following day he enlisted for service in the Territorial Force at Manchester. His enlistment was approved on the 11th of May 1908 by Captain French, who was now the Adjutant of the East Lancashire Royal Engineers. Nuttall was assigned Regimental Number 240 and was posted to the East Lancashire Division Signal Company, R.E.[4]

After his enlistment in the Territorial Force, Nuttall began a training program with his unit that took him into the field for two weeks each year. The following table indicates the dates, locations and types of camps he attended during his summer training:

Dates

Locations

Types of Camp

6 to 21 June 1908

Abergavenny, Wales

Regimental camp

25 May to 12 June 1909

Ilkley (Ben Rhydding), West Yorkshire

Regimental camp

14 to 28 May 1910

Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire
(encamped on West Down)

Divisional camp

4 to 18 June 1911

Claughton (Garstang), Lancashire

Divisional camp

7 to 21 June 1912

Newmarket (Cargrave), Suffolk

Divisional camp

27 July to 10 August 1913

Ilkley (Denton), West Yorkshire

Regimental camp

31 May to 14 June 1914

Carnarvon

Regimental camp

During the years between 1908 and 1914, Nuttall re-engaged four times to serve in the East Lancashire Royal Engineers (T.F.). The following is the schedule of these re-engagements: 19 November 1908 for one year, 10 May 1910 for two years, 6 March 1912 for two years, and 11 March 1914 for two years.

5. ASSIGNMENTS AND CAMPAIGN SERVICE

When the Great War broke out in Europe in August of 1914, the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division was one of the first to be called up. At the time of the call up, Sergeant Nuttall was serving in the 42nd Division Signal Company commanded by Captain A.N. Lawford, R.E. (T.F.). The company was mobilized for service on the 5th of August 1914 at Old Trafford in Manchester and joined the 42nd Division under canvas at Bury, north of Manchester, on the 20th of August. The Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.) of the division at the time of mobilization was Lieutenant Colonel C.E. Newton, R.E.

The 42nd Division Signal Company concentrated at Chesham Camp in Bury on the 7th of September 1914 and three days later it embarked at Southampton on the Donaldson liner S.S. Saturnia, together with the Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade Headquarters and the 6th and 7th Lancashire Fusiliers. The horses, cable wagons and transport in charge of Company Sergeant Major Campbell, together with a small detachment of the company, embarked on another vessel.[5]

The officers of the 42nd Division Signal Company on leaving England were:[6]

Captain A.N. Lawford, R.E. (T.F.) - in command

Lieutenant G.L. Broad, R.E. (T.F.) - No. 1 Section

2nd Lieutenant R.S. Newton (6th Lancashire Fusiliers) – No. 2 (Lancashire Fusiliers) Section

2nd Lieutenant G.N. Robinson (4th East Lancashire Regiment) – No. 3 (East Lancashire) Section

Lieutenant C.H. Williamson (7th Manchester Regiment) – No. 4 (Manchester) Section

The company reached Alexandria on the 25th of September 1914 and the following evening it detrained at Abbassia, Cairo, and took possession of the old Polygon Barracks that had lately been occupied by the Camel Corps School.

The company quickly settled down in its new home and undertook a hard period of training for the next seven months. The training program included riding and driving, cable laying, visual signalling, musketry and technical lectures on various subjects. The company also prepared for combined brigade and divisional operations, which took place later on the vast open desert adjacent to Polygon barracks.

Following this period of training, one of the first tasks allotted to the company was the organization of signal communications in the Defence of Cairo scheme, as a precaution against the breakdown of civil telegraphic communications in Cairo. The company's work was also involved with the large Imperial wireless station near Abou Zabaal, about fifteen miles from Cairo. This work was constantly practiced by heliograph and limelight under the supervision of Major Lawford, who had been promoted since arriving in Egypt.

Detachments of the 42nd Division Signal Company were sent to Ismailia for work on the Suez Canal defences where they laid cable line from Ismailia to Kantara. This work proved of great value in the defence of the Canal against the Turkish attack in February of 1915.

Early in 1915 the War Office increased the establishment of the 42nd Division Signal Company from approximately 150 all ranks to 208, with a proportionate increase in horses, vehicles and equipment. To bring the company up to strength, a large draft of men arrived from England in March. Nuttall, now Company Sergeant Major of the unit, soon found his responsibilities in the company increased proportionately with the increased establishment.[7]

The company took part in several division route marches through Cairo and its environs, including a memorable march on the 28th of March 1915 before General Sir Ian Hamilton, who was then preparing for operations in the Dardanelles.

After seven months of strenuous training, CSM Nuttall and the men of the company were in a high state of efficiency and readiness when the call came for more serious work at the end of April; namely, the landings on Gallipoli.

CSM Nuttall landed on Gallipoli on the 4th of May 1915.[8] The first bivouac of company headquarters was on the edge of the cliffs above Lancashire Landing. A move inland was quickly made to a position selected for divisional headquarters, where a Signal Office was formed in tents in the early hours of the 11th of May. Communications between division headquarters and the brigades were then rapidly established. The Signal Office was moved to a new position on the 21st of May, occupying some old trenches about 400 yards to the east of the first position.

The company was involved with preliminary work in connection with the Battle of Krithia, which was scheduled to start on the 4th of June 1915. It was while engaged on this work on the 3rd of June that Sergeant C.E. Williams won the first Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to the company, while in charge of two strong parties laying cables forward along the Krithia Nullah. All day long the enemy had shelled this main communication route, which was congested with all kinds of traffic. One of the working parties was caught by two salvoes that killed two men, wounded another, and smashed up the cable barrows killing a horse. Sergeant Williams with splendid courage and determination reorganized his men, and by force of personal example carried on and finished the job.

During the severe fighting commencing on the 4th of June 1915, the whole of the 42nd Division Signal Company had four or five days of strenuous and unceasing work in support of the two brigades involved in the battle.

On the morning of the 16th of June 1915 the enemy guns were especially active and the 42nd Division Signal Company was singled out for their attention. Five of the headquarters horses were killed in a few minutes of bombardment, but by the ready assistance of officers and men the remainder were gotten away from their position in the open and dug in without further losses. During this bombardment, CSM Nuttall, who most likely assisted in getting the horses to shelter, was slightly wounded by shrapnel.

The company worked through the remainder of June and July in support of the operations of the forward brigades before being relieved of front line duties. Early in August the division, after only a few days out of the line, took over the northern sector of the Allied line from the 29th Division, a sector extending from the coast at Fusilier Bluff on the left and across the great Gully Ravine. Divisional headquarters were at the mouth of the ravine on the edge of Gully Beach. The Signal Office at this location was in a sandbagged shed, roofed, and under the protection of a steep bank.

By the end of August 1915 the whole company was very low in strength owing to the large amount of sickness, the chief causes being dysentery, jaundice and septic sores. Major Lawford, Lieutenant Broad and CSM Nuttall all became ill about this time. On the 26th of August 1915 CSM Nuttall was admitted to 1/3rd East Lancashire Field Ambulance and on the 1st of September 1915 he was evacuated from Gallipoli and taken to the Military Hospital at the Citadel in Cairo. He was suffering from a severe case of jaundice and was subsequently admitted to the 17th General Hospital (Alexandria and Victoria Military Hospital) in Alexandria on the 5th of October 1915.

CSM Nuttall was discharged from the 17th General Hospital on the 20th of October 1915, but because of his continuing ill health, he was not returned to his unit at Gallipoli. Instead, he was posted to the convalescent center at the 42nd Division Base Depot at Mustapha, Egypt. On the 30th of November 1915 he joined the 42nd Division Base Signal Depot at Cleopatria.

The 42nd Division Signal Company remained at Gallipoli until the 3rd of January 1916 when the company headquarters reached Mudros. The company embarked on the 16th of January 1916 for Egypt and after arriving at Alexandria, the unit entrained for Cairo and encamped at Mena under the shadow of the great pyramids. The whole of the 42nd Division Signal Company arrived at Mena by the 22nd of January. After a brief and welcomed rest at Mena Camp, the company proceeded to Shallufa on the Suez Canal on the 2nd of February 1916 and immediately commenced work in connection with the Canal Defence scheme.

It is not known whether CSM Nuttall rejoined his unit at Shallufa. On the 29th of March 1916 he was admitted to the base hospital at Mustapha, suffering from rheumatic fever. Nuttall was subsequently invalided to England from Alexandria aboard HS Dunluce Castle on the 17th of April 1916. His war was effectively over.

It appears that Nuttall may have been granted an extended period of leave after arriving in England. On the 26th of August 1916 he was admitted to Southern General Hospital at Edgbaston in the West Midlands, to be treated for rheumatism and gastritis.

On the 4th of September 1916 CSM Nuttall was discharged from hospital for light duty. His service records do no indicate where this light duty was performed. On the 27th of November he was formally transferred from the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division Signal Company to the 71st Division Signal Company. His Regimental Number was also changed at this time to 426898.[9]

The 71st Division was being formed in Hampshire and Surrey in November of 1916; hence, CSM Nuttall was one of the first men to join the new unit. Most of the divisional engineers were from Lancashire and Scotland, so Nuttall was again to serve with men from his home district.[10]

Nuttall’s health was still a matter of some concern even after his transfer to the 71st Division Signal Company. On the 22nd of January 1917 he was called to appear before a medical board in Farnham, Surrey. The board placed him in Medical Category C1: permanently unfit for general service, but fit for home service. The board’s statement as to his disability read "rheumatism and gastritis following rheumatic fever and jaundice in February 1916 as a result of climatic conditions." The findings of the medical board allowed Nuttall to continue serving in the 71st Division as long as it remained in England.

The 71st Division moved to Essex in March of 1917, with headquarters at Colchester and with the responsibility of defending the local coastline.[11] Almost as soon as he arrived in the Colchester area, Nuttall was admitted to Hamilton Road Military Hospital on the 9th of March 1917 for treatment of myalgia.[12] He was discharged from hospital on the 12th of April 1917 and rejoined his unit. At this time, the 71st Division Signal Company was at Cavalry Barracks in Colchester.

On the 11th of May 1917 Nuttall elected to continue in service under the Military Service Act of 1916. Despite his many illnesses it seems that he was eager to soldier on until the end of the war. In December of 1917 it was decided to disband the 71st Division, although the division did not cease to exist until April 1918. Nuttall was transferred to the 67th Division where he assumed the duties of the Company Sergeant Major of the divisional signal company.

The 67th Division had been formed in 1916 for service overseas. Twice it had been warned to be ready to proceed to Ireland and once to France, but all moves were cancelled. When Nuttall joined the 67th Division Signal Company in 1918, the unit was in East Anglia on Home Defence and it remained there until the end of the war.[13]

CSM Nuttall remained with the 67th Division Signal Company until the end of the war and beyond. On the 6th of February 1919 he was given a medical examination at Colchester in preparation for demobilization. At the time he complained of pains in his shoulder and arm during cold weather along with dyspeptic (indigestion) symptoms. The doctors diagnosed his problems as rheumatism and gastritis.

On the 11th of February 1919 CSM Nuttall was transferred from the 67th Division Signal Company in East Anglia to No. 1 Dispersal Unit at Heaton Park in Manchester in preparation for his discharge from the army. He was issued his Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity there on the 13th of February. This certificate indicated that his Record Office and Pay Office were located at Chatham in Kent and that his address for pay was 16 Station Road, Higher Openshaw, Lancaster. The certificate further indicated that Nuttall was assigned to the Eastern Command and that in case of emergency his place for rejoining the Colours was to be at Deganwy in Wales. Nuttall’s year of birth on the certificate was given as 1883, a contradiction to the 1880 date given on his enlistment papers. Finally, the certificate indicated that his Medical Category was B-1; temporarily unfit for general service.

For his service during the Great War of 1914-1918, Company Sergeant Major Roland Harry Nuttall received the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. On the 1st of May 1919 he was also awarded the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal.

6. PROMOTIONS AND CONDUCT

a. Promotions: Nuttall received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

12 August 1907

Sapper (Volunteer Force)

11 May 1908

Sapper (Territorial Force)

1909

Lance Corporal

1910

Corporal

1912

Sergeant

10 September 1914

Company Sergeant Major

NOTE: Nuttall’s exact dates of promotion from Lance Corporal through Sergeant in the Territorial Force are not shown in his service papers.

b. Conduct: There are no specific entries in Nuttall’s service papers regarding his overall conduct, nor are there any indications of disciplinary problems or field punishment. It may be assumed that his rapid promotion to the rank of Company Sergeant Major following the outbreak of the Great War is an indication of his conduct being either "Very Good" or "Exemplary" throughout the entire period of his military service.

7. EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

a. Education: There are no entries in Nuttall’s service papers regarding his education while serving in the Army.

b. Qualifications: During his time in service, Nuttall received the following qualifications and certifications:

Date

Qualifications

29 May 1908

Certificate of Trade Proficiency. Rated as a Very Good Electrician (*).

11 Sep 1908

Qualified as a "Skilled Electrician."

28 May 1909

Qualified as a "Superior Electrician."

(*) This certification was made by a civil tradesman, as no means were available for testing Nuttall in a Military Workshop.

8. MEDICAL INFORMATION

The following medical information was taken from CSM Nuttall’s service records during his time in service:

Location

Date of
Admission

Ailment

Period of Hospitalization
or Treatment

Gallipoli

16 Jun 1915

Slightly wounded by shrapnel

Treated in the field

Gallipoli

26 Aug 1915

Jaundice

1/3rd East Lancashire Field Ambulance until 31 Aug 1915

Cairo

1 Sep 1915

Jaundice

Military Hospital, Citadel, Cairo until 4 Oct 1915

Alexandria

5 Oct 1915

Jaundice

17th General Hospital until
20 Oct 1915

Mustapha

29 Mar 1916

Rheumatic fever

Base Depot Hospital until
16 Apr 1916

Edgbaston

26 Aug 1916

Rheumatism and gastritis

Southern General Hospital until 4 Sep 1916

Farnham

22 Jan 1917

Medical Board

Placed in Category C1

Colchester

9 Mar 1917

Myalgia

Hamilton Road Military Hospital until 12 Apr 1917

Colchester

6 Feb 1919

Rheumatism and gastritis

Medical examination in preparation for discharge

Manchester

13 Feb 1919

Medical Board

Placed in Category B1

9. MARRIAGE AND PERSONAL INFORMATION

Roland Nuttall was married during the time of his service in the Territorial Force. His wife gave birth to a son, George Alfred, on the 1st of December 1910 at 9 Camford Road, Rusholme, Manchester. At the time of their son’s birth the Nuttalls were living at 10 Archer Street (off Queens Road) in Cheetham, Manchester. During this period, Nuttall was employed as a Depot Foreman by the Manchester Corporation Tramways.

Nuttall’s service papers indicate that while he was in the Army his wife moved to a new address at 2 Bradburn Street in Cheetham, Manchester.

10. DISCHARGE

Roland Harry Nuttall was discharged from the Army at Heaton Park, Manchester on the 12th of March 1919 on the termination of his limited engagement. His total service was reckoned as shown in the tables below:

Location

Period of Service

Home (Volunteer Force)

23 July 1907 – 10 May 1908

Home (Territorial Force)

11 May 1908 – 4 August 1914

Home (Active Service)

5 August 1914 – 8 September 1914

Egypt

9 September 1914 – 3 May 1915

Gallipoli

4 May 1915 – 31 August 1915

Egypt

1 September 1915 – 16 April 1916

Home

17 April 1916 – 12 March 1919

Location

Period of Service

Home Service

10 years and 144 days

Service Abroad

1 year and 219 days

Total Service

11 years and 363 days

CSM Nuttall’s discharge documents were received by the Royal Engineers Records Office in Chatham, Kent on the 24th of March 1919.

11. POST SERVICE LIFE

Little is known about the post service life of Roland Harry Nuttall. After his discharge from the Army he appears to have returned to Manchester where he lived with his wife Annie and son George Alfred at 2 Bradburn Street in Cheetham, Manchester. At some later date the family moved to 5, The Shambles, Worcester and then to 8 Orchard Street in Worcester.

REFERENCES

1. "COUNTRY LIFE," LTD. A History of the East Lancashire Royal Engineers. London, 1920.

2. GIBBON, F. The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, 1914-1918. Country Life Ltd., London, 1920.

3. MIDDLEBROOK, M. Your Country Needs You: Expansion of the British Army Infantry Divisions, 1914-1918. Leo Cooper, Barnsley, 2000.

ENDNOTES

[1] The 1881 British Census as compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not contain any information on the Nuttall family.

[2] The system is still in service today in Manchester as the Heaton Park Tramway.

[3] Nuttall’s Regimental Number of 1311 was rather high because he was a relative late-comer to the East Lancashire Royal Engineers.

[4] His Regimental Number in the Territorial Force was much lower than his number in the Volunteer Force because not all of the men in the Volunteer Force enlisted in the Territorial Force unit.

[5] Nuttall would soon take over as the Company Sergeant Major on the 10th of September 1914. He may have been with CSM Campbell and a detachment from company headquarters during the journey to Egypt. In fact, Nuttall’s service papers show that he did not actually embark until the 9th of September, two days after the main body of the company left.

[6] It appears that there were not sufficient officers of the Royal Engineers assigned to the company when it embarked from England. Infantry officers had to be used to command the sections.

[7] There is no mention in the unit history of what happened to CSM Campbell, the man who was Company Sergeant Major when the 42nd Division Signal Company left England.

[8] Some sections of the company took part in the Landing at Helles on the 25th and 26th of April 1915.

[9] According to a listing of Regimental Numbers Allotted to Soldiers of the Royal Engineers (TF) under Army Council Instructions (ACI) 2243, Appendix 192, the number given to Nuttall upon joining the 71st Division Signal Company was a number allocated to the 1st West Lancashire Field Company. This company was originally allocated numbers in the sequence 426001 to 428000.

[10] MIDDLEBROOK, p. 138.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Diffuse or non-specific muscular pain or tenderness.

[13] MIDDLEBROOK, p. 131.