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Albert 'Dick' Edwards

This article was written by his granddaughter, Mrs Annie Boag.

My Grandfather was, to me, a wonderful old gentleman. He always had time for my brother Carl and me. He would patiently turn my skipping rope and generally indulge us. He always seemed content; I never saw him angry or heard him raise his voice. When we knew him he was a gentle person who even, dare I say it, seemed a little bit hen pecked. He was fond of smoking his pipe, the smell still transports me back to my childhood, he loved listening to the shipping forecast (unbeknown to me all that time on troop ships). In the morning, without fail he would always ask if you had slept well and wanted to know whether or not the "grub" was good at school.


As children we knew very little of his past. We knew not to ask about his origins so had obviously tried at some point. Grandma would tell us "Granddad doesn't like to speak about the past". We knew he had been in the army, that's why Dad joined and probably why I followed in their footsteps. Above his fireplace, in pride of place was a picture of him in uniform with a Sikh Officer. Grandma told us that the officer was a Persian Prince. I now have a smaller copy of the photo and know it was taken in Ahwaz and the officer was a Captain Janmeja Singh. (See photo end of story) Having recently acquired a couple of photographs of my grandfather, which had been tucked away in a box, I have become determined to find out more about his life and his military service in particular.

 

I deeply regret the missed opportunities of talking to him about his early life, if I am more honest I am ashamed of my lack of interest as a child and teenager, in him as a man and his achievements in life and the fascinating life he lead. Unfortunately my father died at a relatively young age so I missed that opportunity too. I intend to find out as much as I can about my grandfather, to honour his life and to preserve his memory for my children and my brother's and cousin's children. Already it is too late to record his recollections, but I hope to do the best that I can.

 

A story we were often told was that Granddad had lied about his age and run away to join the army at 14. That was a common occurrence in the First World War. He apparently became a drummer boy and became known as "Dinky" because he was so small. As he grew this was shortened to "Dick" and this nickname was used for the rest of his life. I always thought his proper name was Richard not Albert.

 

He was born on 2 February 1902 in West Derby Liverpool and by the age of 16 was living in Leicester.


I now have access to my Grandfathers service records, fascinating but tantalisingly meagre in detail. He did join the army as a boy soldier, on 2 June 1918, but at the age of 16 years 140 days, not 14. He did lie, but not about his age, he said his mother was his aunt and listed her as his next of kin. I believe this was so that he didn't need parental consent to enlist. He the joined the 5th Reserve Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment as a boy soldier where in addition to obtaining his Second Class Certificate of Education he learned to be a soldier and I presume, a drummer boy. On enlistment he was 5 feet and ¾ of an inch tall (the height of my 10 year old daughter!) and he had a chest measurement of 33 inches. Perhaps the original story was true, perhaps he did try and join at the age of 14 but was rejected because he looked so small and young. Maybe one of the recruiters passed on the tip about having no parents, to remove one obstacle. As you can see from the photograph, which I presume was taken shortly after enlistment, I find it incredible that the recruiter believed he was 16 even though he was telling the truth!

On 19 Oct 1919, at the age of 17 years, 247 days, having grown 4 and a quarter inches in height, he was demobilised to be re-enlisted into the regular army, The 1st Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment. I presume after some further training he joined the battalion in Tipperary Barracks in Ireland where he stayed until the British Army withdrew in 1924. The 1st Battalion was the last British army regiment to occupy Tipperary Barracks. After a month with the regular army he picked up his first stripe followed a year later with his second. He qualified as a PTI and in 1922 he was appointed paid Lance Sergeant. I hope to discover more information about the Regiment's deployment in due course.

The 1st Battalion moved to Aldershot and my grandfather was posted to the 2nd Battalion in India. The journey took 23 days which qualified as Indian Service. He arrived in India on 16 October 1924. I know that the Battalion was stationed in Poona, Dinkpore and Lucknow. I don't know where my grandfather was. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading William Pennington's book "Pick up your parrots and monkeys". This has given me a wonderful insight into life as a boy soldier, life in India and on the troop ship which my grandfather served on. Whilst in India he gained his First Class certificate of Education in Lucknow and extended his service to 12 years. After 4 years and 76 days in India, (at that time there weren't R & R trips back to England) the 2nd Battalion went to The Sudan for a further 1 year and 124 days.

Khartoum, Sudan - Granddad is possibly back left man in the first platoon. [ Zoom ]

In April 1930 my grandfather went with the Battalion to Old Park Barracks in Dover. In retirement my Grandfather returned to live in this area in a small village called Worth, near Deal and Sandwich. In 1930, whilst in Dover, he signed on for 21 years service and attended a long qualifying course at Hythe SAS in Rifle and light automatic gun. On 9 Mar 1931 he was promoted to colour Sergeant and on 1 Sep 1931 promoted to WO2 CSM, vice Gavells.

From 2 Sep 1932-28 Oct 1932 he attended another weapons course, this time at Netheravon. I mention this because I have a course photo, it looks like a skill at arms course but I can't make out if my grandfather is a WO1 or WO2 in the photo. [ Zoom ]

 

On 7 Dec 1932 he married my Grandmother, Violet Foad, a local girl, in the Church of St Mary in the Castle, Dover His witness was Sergeant T Wadsworth from the 2nd Bn.

 

The Battalion must have moved to Catterick in 1933, because my aunt, Shirley was born there on 12 December 1933.

It would appear that whilst serving in Catterick he was deployed as Ships Sergeant Major on the "HMT Neuralia" to and from India. It doesn't show in his records other than on his reports so I presume it is classified. (Nor does it count as service abroad). The book I mentioned earlier, "Pick up your Parrots and Monkeys", has a great chapter on life on "Neuralia". According to William Pennington it was the ship's Sergeant Major, which my grandfather was, who got to shout those immortal words – "Pick up your parrots and monkeys, and fall in facing the boat!". Did he say it to us as children as a joke? I'm sure he did, but I can't say for sure. He received glowing reports, signed in Bombay and Southampton. I don't know if he was away for the whole period or if they were 6 month detachments. We think these two photos were taken during this time as one of these babies is possibly my aunt Shirley. We don't know who the other one might be. No rank is visible on the photos to help date them (possible crown on forearm) but we presume 1934.

On September 6 1934 he was appointed acting WO1, presumably to be ship's RSM. On 8 January 1936 he was posted to the 4th Battalion in Grantham for a tour of duty as WO2.

 

On 22 Sep 1936 my father Derek was born in Grantham. He followed my grandfather into the army, he was a Royal Leicester and then a Royal Anglian and he also spent many years with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. He was still serving when he died in 1988.

 

This picture may have been taken in 1936 - the black armband could signifiy that it was around the time of the death of King George V.

 

I know very little of my grandfather's activities in Grantham. He attended a course of instruction in keeping .303 Lewis Guns and rifles in order at the Military College of Science in March 1937. Then, in August 1938 he is pictured (on the right) in Nether Kellet, Halton, Lancaster.

He was posted back to the second Battalion on 8 January 1939; on 18 February 1939 he was appointed RSM, vice Clerk. His record then states that on 8 Sep 1939 he was posted as RSM to the ITC (Infantry Training Centre - where hundreds of civilians were trained as soldiers in 26 weeks).

 

In October 1939 he was awarded LS and GC Army Order 76, & £5 gratuity paid Oct account 1939. His medal has the Palestine bar on it.

On 31 May 1940 he was discharged as WO1 RSM for the purpose of being commissioned. His Military Conduct Testimonial states "This Warrant Officer is discharged in order to become a quartermaster. He has given many years of loyal service to the Regiment. He is a first class soldier in every way. He is full of initiative and enthusiasm and thoroughly worthy of this promotion." The rest of the report has been blanked off when copied. It was signed by the OC, Commanding ITC, The Lincolnshire Regiment; at this point he had served for 20 years and 225 days. You might be interested to know that during this time he grew 6 and a quarter inches!

 

My grandfather continued his career in The Royal Leicestershire Regiment and that is another story as they say!

The story, you have just read is my starting point, I have a lot of research to do. If anyone who reads this remembers something their father or grandfather told them or digs out that box of old photos from the attic (go on its fantastic-don’t throw them away, give them to a museum!) I would love to hear from them.

 

Annie Boag (previously Captain Annie Edwards)

 

If you have any information about the "Lincolns" (between 1918 and 1940) that you think Annie would be interested in, particularly any details of published memoirs from that time, or the Regiment's activities in India and Sudan, please send her an email [ annieboag@msn.com ].


The Webmaster of www.thelincolnshireregiment.org is always pleased to hear from anyone who has information or photographs that we could publish on our website (must have strong connections to the Lincolnshire Regiment or the Royal Anglian Regiment please). You can contact him via our [ Contacts ] page.