3rd Row No. 1 : AN INTERESTING GENTLEMAN : ?BARRACK WARDEN
It has been suggested that this gentleman is a “Barrack Warden” – “who in effect is a civilian and an ex-serviceman and, in this role, were indeed uniformed”. The cap badge is “the ‘Royal Cypher’, which was worn by Barrack Wardens. A Barrack Warden is a form of military caretaker. They were usually ex-military, and uniformed, hence the medal ribbon, who were either retired or in some cases were invalided out of service. They were employed to look after both official barracks, and requisitioned buildings.”
This gentleman is wearing a ‘Blue Patrol Frock’. With its twisted cord shoulder straps and high collar, it was made available to Other Ranks from around the turn of the 20th Century. It was based on a similar uniform worn by officers, but it was made from a less expensive, coarse serge fabric. From 1902, it tended to be made with flat cloth shoulder straps but this varied according to the Regiment or Corps concerned. (Great War Forum members acknowledged).
He is the only man dressed in this manner.
3rd Row: Nos. 2 – 4 Royal Army Medical Corps PRIVATES
‘Private’ is the most junior rank in the Army.
3rd Row Nos. 5 & 8 – 17 : Royal Army Medical Corps CORPORALS
Corporal (Cpl) : Commanded a Section which consisted of 8 men.
3rd Row Nos. 6, 7 & 65 : Royal Army Medical Corps LANCE CORPORALS
The soldiers above are the three Royal Army Medical Corps Lance Corporals who appear in the 3rd row of the ‘July 1918 Colchester Military Hospital’ photograph.
The rank of Lance Corporal is the lowest ranking non-commissioned officer in the British Army. It is between the ranks of Private and Corporal. Second in command of a Section, which consisted of 8 men. The badge of rank is a one-bar chevron worn on both sleeves – as seen on these three men.
3rd Row Nos. 18 to 26 : Royal Army Medical Corps SERGEANTS
The Sergeant was the most senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the platoon. A platoon was made up of, up to, 70 men. He was the Platoon Commander’s “right hand man” and was second in command. This meant he would take over, should the Platoon Commander be killed or be unavailable.
3rd Row Nos. 25, 27 & 48 : Royal Army Medical Corps COLOUR/STAFF SGTS
The rank of Colour/Staff Sergeant was the senior grade of a Sergeant and the highest ranking Non-Commissioned Officer. They would often be charged with maintaining the stores and supplies for the Company.
3rd Row Nos. 28 & 47 : Royal Army Medical Corps WARRANT OFFICER Class II
They are the most senior soldier in a Company and they answer directly to the Company Commander. Responsible for discipline and administration at Company level (227 men).
The rank of Warrant Officer was introduced into the British Army in 1879, having been a military grade from the early years of the Royal Navy. Warrant Officers rank between the Non-Commissioned and Commissioned officers. Men holding this rank were/are experienced soldiers and often had/have specialist appointments.
During WW1, there were two classes of Warrant Officer – Class I and Class II. In 1915, the Warrant Officer Class I was extended and the Class II was created. There was a requirement to introduce a suitable rank badge and the decision was made to extend the Royal Arms’ use (already in use with Sergeant Majors in the Foot Guards). The wearing of a smaller version of the badge (below elbow) was in keeping with what was the practice when the Crown was the only badge of Warrant rank. These soldiers hold a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty The Queen.
N.B. A Warrant Officer rank of Class III was created in 1938
3rd Row Nos. 35 to 38 : PHARMACY/DISPENSARY WORKERS
These four women are standing in the centre of Row 3. They could be pharmacists and/or dispensers. With their laboratory white coats and smart ties, they certainly appear very professional and ‘look the role’.
3rd Row : Nos. 29 + GENERAL SERVICE Voluntary Aid Detachment WOMEN
Nos. 29 – 34 and 39 – 46
These women are a real mixture but it is believed that they are all one ‘type or another’ of General Service V.A.D.s. The General Service women took over the jobs of men in military hospitals from 1917 and did the same jobs as the ‘Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps’* – but within hospitals. (*WAAC 1917–1918: later ‘Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps’ 1918–1920).
It’s never possible to identify VADs solely on the point that they have a red cross on their aprons, as many did not. Detachments were first set up in 1909 and, for women who were pre-war Detachment members, red crosses were usually on their aprons. Pre-war VAD women had to gain certificates in Home Nursing & First Aid during their first year and some Detachments only sanctioned red crosses on aprons for those women who had already got their certificates. Others were simply all kitted out in identical aprons – complete with red cross, whatever their status.
But after the war started it was increasingly common for plain white aprons to be worn, as it was simpler, saved on red material, and also made laundry easier. By the end of the war, it was probably more common for VADs to be wearing plain white. Additionally, the VADs who were either part of St. John or under contract to the War Office (rather than to the British Red Cross) never wore red crosses in any circumstance.
There will, almost certainly, be a proportion of Special Military Probationers who served under exactly the same conditions as VADs but were appointed by the War Office – with no affiliation to the British Red Cross Society/St. John/Joint War Committee. They are dressed in exactly the same way as BRCS VADs, but with no red crosses on aprons. Considering many BRCS VADs weren’t wearing red crosses by 1918, it’s impossible to tell the difference
Some of the women in the photograph are wearing outdoor uniform and are wearing some indoor uniform. Some women are wearing chef-type hats … these could be General Service V.A.D. kitchen staff. However, those hats were worn by some nurses in civil hospitals so they could be civilian nurses … but, being at Colchester, it is more likely that these women are General Service V.A.D.’s.
(Acknowledged: Sue Light for women-related observations: www.scarletfinders.co.uk)
All in all, this situation is a real mine-field and we can only conclude that we shall never know the exact circumstances under which any of these women were contracted to work at Colchester Military Hospital …. unless any woman can be positively identified and any of her significant paperwork has survived to determine more.
3rd Row No. 47 : Royal Army Medical Corps WARRANT OFFICER Class II
SEE PREVIOUS NO. 28 for more information.
3rd Row No. 48 : Royal Army Medical Corps COLOUR/STAFF SGT.
SEE PREVIOUS NO. 25 for more information.
3rd Row Nos. 49 to 56 : Royal Army Medical Corps SERGEANTS
The Sergeant was the most senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the Platoon, which was made up of up to 70 men. He was the Platoon Commander’s ‘right hand man’ and was second in command. This meant he would take over, should the Platoon Commander be killed or be unavailable.
3rd Row Nos. 57 to 64 : Royal Army Medical Corps CORPORALS
Corporal (Cpl.) : Commanded a Section which consisted of 8 men.
3rd Row No. 65 : Royal Army Medical Corps LANCE CORPORAL
SEE PREVIOUS NO. 6 for more information.
3rd Row: 66 – 73 Royal Army Medical Corps PRIVATES
‘Private’ is the most junior rank in the Army.
3rd Row No. 73 : An INTERESTING Royal Army Medical Corps PRIVATE
Wound Stripes: In July 1916, wounds stripes were introduced – one for each occasion an officer or soldier appeared on the Casualty Lists as “wounded” (retrospective to beginning of the war). The stripes were worn vertically on left sleeve of the jacket; with lower end about 3″ from bottom of sleeve; and made of 2″ long gold Russia braid. This Private has been wounded twice.
Good Conduct Stripes: On 1 March 1881, it was dictated that good conduct chevrons be moved from the right arm to the left arm. Large chevrons worn point-up on the left forearm were for good conduct. In WW1, these were worn by soldiers under the rank of Corporal, 2nd Corporal or Bombardier. The one chevron this Private wears represents 2 years’ good conduct.
Overseas Service Chevrons: In December 1917, the Army introduced Overseas Service Chevrons (or stripes). These chevrons were ¼ “ wide, with arms of 1 ¼ “ long. They were worn point up, on the right forearm. Each one worn denoted one year’s overseas’ service, undertaken since 04 Aug. 1914. This Private has served two years overseas.
Acknowledged: Great War Forum http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/