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47958 (WR-40006) Company Sergeant Major
HERBERT DICKINSON
Royal Engineers
(formerly 26699 Sergeant, 107
th Company, Imperial Yeomanry)

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2001. All Rights Reserved

1. INTRODUCTION

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were obtained from the soldier’s service papers. It should be noted that Dickinson’s papers were located in the burnt document files, therefore they were not completely legible. Some information pertaining to his service had to be omitted because it could not be read clearly from the papers. Some place names or dates may also be in error due to the poor condition of the service papers. Please note that an Addendum has been added to this work subsequent to completing the narrative of Dickinson's service in the Royal Engineers during the Great War of 1914-1918, as a result of finding the papers for his service in the Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War. This Addendum can be found following the references of the original work.

2. EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY INFORMATION

Herbert Dickinson was born at in the Parish of Redcar, near the town of Middleford, in the County of Yorkshire on the 12th of July 1874. Redcar was a chapelry parish of the town of Marsk, part of the archdiocese of Cleveland, in the North Riding of Yorkshire [1]. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the parish of Redcar was Wesleyan Methodist; however, the members of the Dickinson family were Presbyterians.

Redcar is a coastal town on the North Sea located south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and northeast of Middlesbrough. It is a small town and at the time of Dickinson’s birth it probably had a population of about 800. The 1881 British Census showed no record of a Herbert Dickinson being born in our around Redcar or Marsk.

3. PRIOR MILITARY SERVICE

Prior to enlisting in the Army for service in the Great War of 1914 to 1918, Herbert Dickinson served in the 107th Company, Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War of 1899 to 1902. While serving in the Imperial Yeomanry he rose to the rank of Sergeant. His Regimental Number was 26699.

The 107th Company had no County affiliation and formed part of the 6th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry. The company had only one contingent of men, approximately 170 in strength, which went to serve in South Africa.

The make up and nature of the Imperial Yeomanry that Herbert Dickinson so eagerly joined as a family man, aged 25 years, is best summed up by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his book, The Great Boer War:

". . . the Imperial Yeomanry, a corps of riders and shots, appealed to the sporting instincts of our race. Many could ride and not shoot, many could shoot and not ride, more candidates were rejected than were accepted, and yet in a very short time eight thousand men from every class were wearing the gray coats and bandoliers. This singular and formidable force was drawn from every part of England and Scotland, with a contingent of hard-riding Irish fox-hunters. Noblemen and grooms rode knee to knee in the ranks, and the officers included many well-known country gentlemen and masters of hounds. Well horsed and well armed, a better force for the work in hand could not be imagined. So high did the patriotism run that corps were formed in which the men not only found their own equipment but contributed their pay to the war fund."

Although Doyle’s description of the Imperial Yeomanry is rather chauvinistic, nevertheless, this is the unit that Dickinson joined to fight the Boers in South Africa. He served in South Africa for two years and returned home to be discharged after his time expired. For his service during the war he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps [CAPE COLONY][ORANGE FREE STATE][TRANSVAAL] [SOUTH AFRICA 1901] [2].

4. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

The following is a description of Herbert Dickinson at the time he enlisted in the Army in 1914:

Age:

40 years and 61 days

Height:

5 feet 8 inches

Weight:

172 pounds

Chest (normal):

35 inches

Chest (expanded):

38 inches

Eyes:

Blue

Hair:

Brown

Distinctive Marks:

Mole on the back of the left shoulder.

Dickinson might have been considered to be overage at the time he enlisted. His civilian trade and his prior military experience were probably mitigating factors that enabled him to join up. As will be seen, he was quickly promoted to non-commissioned officer rank. It is interesting to note, however, that instead of being assigned to a support-type unit where he could serve behind the front lines, he was immediately assigned to a front-line field company.

5. ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING

Herbert Dickinson enlisted in the Royal Engineers on the 10th of September 1914 at Edinburgh, Scotland. On his Attestation papers he gave information regarding his prior service in the Imperial Yeomanry, indicated that he was married, that he was not an Apprentice and that he had never been imprisoned by civil power. Dickinson enlisted in the Army Reserve for one year of service, but he did indicate that he would serve for more than one year if the war lasted longer. His enlistment in the Army Reserve most likely was due to his age.

Dickinson was issued a Certificate of Medical Examination on the same date as his enlistment and was found to be fit for service in the Army Reserve. He was also issued a Certificate of Primary Military Examination on this date and was found fit for service in the Royal Engineers. His prior service and civilian trade would have made him especially useful to the Sappers. As noted above, this was probably the primary reason for him being allowed to enlist at his age [3].

His attestation papers were found to be correct and were given the Certificate of the Approving Officer at Edinburgh on the 10th of September 1914. The local Magistrate in Edinburgh certified Dickinson’s Attestation on the 12th of September 1914.

Upon completion of the formal paper work for his enlistment, Herbert Dickinson was assigned Regimental Number 47958 and the rank of Sapper. He then was posted to the Royal Engineers Depot Battalion at Brompton Barracks, Chatham, Kent. This was to be a temporary interim posting until a use could be found for his skills and experience. His stay at Chatham would amount to about ten days.

6. ASSIGNMENTS AND CAMPAIGN SERVICE

Sapper Dickinson was transferred from the Royal Engineers Depot Battalion to the 77th Field Company, Royal Engineers on the 21st of September 1914. The 77th Field Company was one of the divisional field companies of the 17th (Northern) Division. The other field companies of the 17th Division were the 78th and the 93rd. The division’s Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.) was Lieutenant Colonel H.R. Hale, R.E.

Dickinson joined the 77th Field Company at Wareham, located about 11 miles west of Bournemouth in the County of Dorsetshire. The units of the 17th Division then made a number of moves in preparation for their deployment to France, as indicated below:

Wimborne, Dorsetshire: [4] December 1914
Woolwich, Kent March 1915
Hursley, Hampshire [5] July 1915

After joining the 77th Field Company, Dickinson was quickly promoted to Corporal, then to Sergeant, and then to Company Quartermaster Sergeant, all within about six and a half months. Following a period of training with the other units in the division at the locations listed above, Dickinson’s company embarked for France on the 14th of July 1915. The 17th Division went into the front line in the Ypres Sector on the 21st of July and saw action at Hooge from the 30th of July to the 9th of August 1915.

The 77th Field Company reached St. Eloi, France on the 1st of August 1915 and was at Vierstraat on the next day. The company remained in this area during the winter of 1915 and during the spring of 1916. The 77th Division saw action during this period in the battle of the Bluffs from the 14th of February to the 2nd of March 1916.

While in the Ypres Sector the company performed field-engineering works and prepared for the large British offensive on the Somme in the summer of 1916. On the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the British Somme offensive, Company Quartermaster Sergeant Dickinson and his company were at Morlancourt. The company took an active part in the first phase of the Battle of the Somme that ended on the 13th of July 1916. The 77th Field Company was next involved in the Battle of Delville Wood, which began on the 15th of July 1916 and ended on the 3rd of September.

Dickinson remained with the 77th Field Company until the 6th of February 1917, when he received orders transferring him to the Railway Training Depot, Royal Engineers at Longmoor Camp, about 13 miles south southeast of Aldershot, in the County of Hampshire. He embarked for home the next day and proceeded to Longmoor upon his arrival in England.

Training in railway operations and construction was the principal activity at Longmoor during 1917 when Dickinson arrived at the Camp. In that year 6,212 recruits, the highest number trained in one year at Longmoor, were sent overseas [6]. As a Fitter, Dickinson may have had a dual role while serving at Longmoor: training of new recruits in the maintenance of the railway equipment and maintenance and repair of the equipment to keep it operational for training purposes.

Dickinson served at Longmoor until his discharge from the Army on the 9th of March 1920. For his service during the Great War of 1914 to 1918, Company Sergeant Major Herbert Dickinson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal [7].


Note:
CQMS Dickinson did not receive a Mention in Despatches
as indicated by the oak leaf on the above Victory Medal.

7. PROMOTIONS AND CONDUCT

a. Promotions: Herbert Dickinson received the following promotions during his time in service with the Royal Engineers in the Great War of 1914-1918:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

12 September 1914

Enlisted as a Sapper

13 September 1914

Promoted Corporal

25 September 1914

Promoted Sergeant

1 April 1915

Promoted Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Dickinson’s rapid promotion to Company Sergeant Major within 6 months of his enlistment was undoubtedly due to his previous military service as a Sergeant in the South African War and his trade as a Foreman Tube Maker. He possessed both the technical and the supervisory skills required of an engineer non-commissioned officer from the day he enlisted in the Royal Engineers.

b. Conduct: There are no notations in Dickinson’s military papers regarding his conduct during his time in service. It may be assumed that his conduct was "very good" or "exemplary" as indicated by his rapid promotion to Company Quartermaster Sergeant.

8. EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

a. Education: There is no indication in Dickinson’s military records of his civil or military education.

b. Qualifications: Corporal Dickinson was qualified as a Proficient "Fitter" on the 13th of September 1914. This proficiency was most likely due to his civilian trade as a Foreman Tube Maker.

9. MEDICAL INFORMATION

No medical records were included in Company Quartermaster Sergeant Dickinson’s service papers. The records do indicate that on the 6th of February 1917 he was transferred to a War Reserve status and his Regimental Number was changed to WR-40006 as a result of an undisclosed disability. On the 11th of February 1920 he was placed in Medical Category B.III. It is believed that this medical category indicated that he was temporarily unfit for general service.

10. MARRIAGE AND PERSONAL INFORMATION

Herbert Dickinson married Susan Russell at Hamilton, in Lanarkshire, Scotland on the 9th of November 1901. Hamilton is located approximately 10 miles to the southeast of Glasgow. The Dickinsons had a daughter, Catherine Whyte Russell, born on the 31st of August 1910 at Dumbarton, Scotland, a town located about 13 miles northwest of Glasgow.

Prior to his service in the Great War, the Dickinsons lived at 805 Dalmarnock Road in Glasgow, Scotland. Herbert worked as a tube maker and although he had never served as an Apprentice he appears to have learned his trade very well. By 1914 he had become a foreman at the place where he worked prior to entering the Army.

11. DISCHARGE

Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Dickinson was issued a Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity at Longmoor Camp on the 11th of February 1920. The Certificate indicated that in case of emergency, he was to rejoin the Colours at Longmoor. His intended place of residence after discharge was 805 Dalmarnock Road in Glasgow, Scotland.

Dickinson was discharged from the Army at Longmoor Camp on the 9th of March 1920. His total service was reckoned as shown in the table below:

Location

Period of Service

Home Service

2 years and 337 days

Service Abroad

1 year and 208 days

Total Service

4 years and 180 days

12. POST SERVICE LIFE

No information about Herbert Dickinson’s post service life was uncovered during the research for this work. It is known that he returned to Glasgow to live. He probably returned to his former trade as a tube maker. It is also possible that his acquired skills as a fitter while in the Army may have opened up some additional avenues of employment for him.

ENDNOTES:

[1] SMITH, F., pp. 348 and 429.

[2] According to Gordon, all 170 men of the 107th Company received the clasp [SOUTH AFRICA 1901]. A total of 130 men of the company also received the clasp [SOUTH AFRICA 1902] and a number of them received the clasp [WITTEBERGEN]. Dickinson was not at Wittebergen and apparently he came home prior to 1902. Dickinson’s medal is in the author’s collection.

[3] Dickinson was enlisting in 1914 before the British knew that they would suffer such horrendous casualties on the Western Front. At this point in time there was no reason to enlist overage men except perhaps for their previous military experience or for some special skill that they possessed.

[4] Now Wimborne Minster, located about 7 miles northwest of Bournemouth.

[5] Located about 8 miles due north of Southampton and about 4 miles southwest of Winchester.

[6] RONALD & CARTER, p. 51.

[7] These medals are in the author’s collection.

REFERENCES

Books

1. ATTERIDGE, A.H. History of the 17th (Northern) Division. Robert Maclehose & Co., Ltd., The University Press, Glasgow, 1929.

2. DOYLE, A.C. The Great Boer War. Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., London, 190_.

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

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

5. RONALD, D.W. & CARTER, R.J. The Longmoor Military Railway. David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1974.

6. SMITH, F. A Genealogical Gazetteer of England. Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, 1977.

Documents

The service papers of Herbert Dickinson, consisting of the following documents:

a. Attestation Paper, Army Reserve, One Year Service, Army Form B.248.

b. Statement of Services.

c. Description on Enlistment.

d. Military History Sheet.

e. Form of Receipt to Accompany Documents and Statement as to Disability (Army Form Z. 22), Army Form Z. 69.

f. Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity, Army Form Z. 11.

Internet Sources

  1. Expediamaps.com
  2. Multimaps.com

ADDENDUM NO. 1

26699 Sergeant
HERBERT DICKINSON
Imperial Yeomanry

1. INTRODUCTION

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this addendum were obtained from the soldier’s service papers, WO128/78, found at the Public Record Office at Kew, Richmond, Surrey. As a result of locating the papers for his service in the Imperial Yeomanry during the Second Boer War, this addendum adds much to the previous story of his life taken from his papers after serving in the Royal Engineers.

2. EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY INFORMATION

According to his Imperial Yeomanry Attestation papers, Herbert Dickinson claimed that he was born in the Parish of Middlesbro, in the County of Yorkshire. In 1914 he indicated that his birthplace was Redcar, North Yorkshire. Middlesbro is only a short distance (about seven miles) west-southwest of Redcar; therefore, this difference does not represent a significant discrepancy in his records.

Dickinson’s next of kin in 1901 is listed as his father, Mr. W.Y. Dickinson of Tullis Vale, Uddingston, Scotland. Prior to joining the Imperial Yeomanry, Herbert Dickinson worked as a Stocktaker and resided outside his father’s home.

3. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

The following is a description of Herbert Dickinson at the time he enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry in 1901:

Apparent Age:

28 years and 7 months

Height:

5 feet 9 inches

Weight:

147 pounds

Chest Measurement (minimum):

35 inches

Chest Measurement (maximum expansion):

37 inches

Complexion:

Fresh

Eyes:

Grey

Hair:

Brown

Vaccination Marks:

One on the left arm

Distinctive Marks:

A mole on the back between the shoulders

Religion:

Presbyterian

4. ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING

Herbert Dickinson was enlisted for service in the Imperial Yeomanry at Glasgow on the 18th of February 1901 by a Sergeant Major S. Langley. Upon his enlistment he indicated that he was not an apprentice, that he was not married, and that he had never been imprisoned by civil power. Dickinson had no prior naval or military service and had never been previously rejected for service for any reason. His term of enlistment was for a period of one year.

Dickinson swore the Oath of Attestation at Glasgow on the same date that he was enlisted and his enlistment was certified by Lieutenant John Scouller, the Regimental Recruiting Officer. The certification of his enlistment was quickly followed on the 9th of February by a Certificate of Medical Examination. This certification was prepared at Glasgow by Dr. Hugh Kelly, certifying Dickinson fit for service in the Army. Lieutenant Scouller then certified his Primary Military Examination. The Attestation was certified by the Approving Officer, the Colonel of the Queen’s Own Regiment of Imperial Yeomanry Cavalry at Glasgow on the 18th of February 1901. Trooper Herbert Dickinson was assigned Regimental Number 26699 and was posted to the 18th Company, 6th Battalion, Scottish Yeomanry.

5. ASSIGNMENTS AND CAMPAIGN SERVICE

Dickinson served at home from the 18th of February until the 16th of March 1901, when he embarked for South Africa to serve in the 107th Company, Imperial Yeomanry. From the date of his attestation to the date of his embarkation for South Africa he had less than one month to receive any training as a soldier. Since the Imperial Yeomanry was a mounted unit, he also had very little time to learn to ride, unless he was an experienced horseman at the time he enlisted.

As indicated in the main part of this narrative, Dickinson was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal for his service during the war. His Military History Sheet with the Imperial Yeomanry indicates that he was awarded the clasps [CAPE COLONY][ORANGE FREE STATE][TRANSVAAL][SOUTH AFRICA 1901] and [SOUTH AFRICA 1902]. This is in error, since the medal in the author’s collection does not have the [SOUTH AFRICA 1902] clasp on it. Furthermore, the very same Military History Sheet shows that Dickinson returned home to England on the 5th of November 1901; hence, he would not have been entitled to the 1902 clasp.

6. PROMOTIONS AND CONDUCT

a. Promotions: The Queen’s South Africa medal earned by Herbert Dickinson during the Boer War is named to him as a Sergeant. There are no records of promotion indicated on his military service papers. His Statement of Services does show, however, that upon his discharge for the Army he was a Sergeant. For a man who spent less than two years in the Army, that is a rather impressive string of promotions from Trooper to Sergeant.

b. Conduct: There is no record of Herbert Dickinson’s conduct during his time in the Imperial Yeomanry; however, his rather meteoric rise to the rank of Sergeant is evidence that his conduct must have been very good.

7. EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

a. Education: There is no evidence that Herbert Dickinson earned any Certificates of Education while serving in the Imperial Yeomanry.

b. Qualifications: No special qualifications are listed in Dickinson’s service record during his time in the Imperial Yeomanry.

8. MEDICAL INFORMATION

Herbert Dickinson’s medical history is not included in his service papers while in the Imperial Yeomanry.

9. DISCHARGE

Sergeant Dickinson returned home from South Africa on the 5th of November 1901 and was assigned to the 1st Provisional Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry. He was discharged from the Army on the termination of his period of limited engagement on the 31st of October 1902. His total service was reckoned as shown in the tables below:

Location

Period of Service

Home

18 February 1901 to 16 March 1901

South Africa

17 March 1901 to 4 November 1901

Home

5 November 1901 to 31 October 1902

Location

Period of Service

Home Service

1 year and 8 days

Service Abroad

248 days

Total Service

1 year and 256 days

10. POST SERVICE LIFE

Based on the information contained in his Great War service papers, Herbert Dickinson married while he was still serving in the Imperial Yeomanry and appears to have gone to Edinburgh to live after being discharged. The trade that he worked at as a civilian is unknown; however, it must have been a technical trade of some type, as he was allowed to enlist in the Royal Engineers in 1914, at the age of 40, for service in the Great War.

REFERENCES

Military Service Papers, WO128/78, containing the following documents:

1. Short Service Attestation.

a. Questions to be put to the Recruit Before Enlistment.
b. Oath to be Taken by Recruit on Attestation.
c. Certificate of Magistrate or Attesting Officer.
d. Description on Enlistment.
e. Certificate of Medical Examination.
f. Certificate of Primary Military Examination.
g. Certificate of Approving Officer.

2. Military History Sheet.

3. Statement of Services.