Nobbs With Medals On
Captain William Nobbs MM Indian & Royal Army Service Corps
The Man William Nobbs, Will as he was known, was born on 9th August 1887 in Colchester, son of Robert and Ellen and was one of seven children, Ellen, Florence, Herbert, Gertie, Edith and Beatrice. In 1891 Will’s father was employed as an Inn Worker at the Flying Fox on Harwich Road, Colchester, the family living in the Public House with him. By 1901 they had moved to 43 Stanwell Street and Robert had become a Cab Driver, moving again later in life to Rowhedge Road, Old Heath. Will married Annie Bosley during the first quarter of 1911 in Farnham, and they subsequently lived at 49 Winton Road, Southsea, Hampshire. After his schooling, Will worked as a Motor Mechanic at Messrs Gray’s Engineering Works at Hythe before attesting and joining the regular Army on 16th April 1909 aged 22. He enlisted into the Army Service Corps, number 46211 and was promoted to Corporal and Sergeant. Following the outbreak of World War 1 on 4th August 1914, Will entered France eight days later on 12th as part of the British Expeditionary Force, serving in the 59 Mechanical Transport Company, 1st Divisional Support Column as a Foreman and
- later promoted to Mechanist Staff Sergeant, with a new service number M/27507. During the War he saw extensive service in France and in the London Gazette of 14th September 1916 was awarded the Military Medal, for bravery in the field, whilst serving in the 1st Divisional Train ASC. Although his citation is not available, a local newspaper reported that Will was, with others responsible for capturing 15 German soldiers and a large quantity of ammunition, and had put up two miles of barbed wire entanglements whilst under heavy shell fire. The story of the German capture is repeated below in Will’s own words from a letter written to his wife, although it is somewhat understated! Will may also have been mentioned in despatches during the war but this has yet to be confirmed. Toward the end of his service in France he worked from the Bethune Station, and left here on the morning of 17th November 1917 travelling to Mantova in Italy arriving on 22nd. He remained here for a week and on 30th moved to Padua for one day and then on to Fanzola on 1st December. Two days later he travelled to St Florians for two days and thence to Trevignans on 5th where he remained for a month before moving finally to Albaredo on 5th January 1918 where he worked as a Workshops Foreman in the Anti Aircraft Battery 1145 Company RASC.
Following the signing of the Armistice Will was awarded, in addition to his MM, the 1914 Star with clasp 4 Aug-2 Nov 1914, 1914-18 British War and Victory Medals. On 15th January 1919 he was discharged from the RASC, his service described as ‘Foreman fitter. Good capable mechanic’, immediately re-enlisting under Army Order 4 of 1919 and continued his service, being awarded the Army Long Service & Good conduct Medal in about 1924. He was initially based at Aldershot but later posted to British India and promoted to Staff Sergeant Major where he was awarded the India General Service Medal with clasp ‘North West Frontier 1930-31’. On 14th October 1933 aged 46 he was Commissioned as a Lieutenant (Mechanist Officer) in the Royal Indian Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport) where he became the Officer in charge of the Workshops No 5 Mechanical Transport Company Indian Army Service Corps, service number 128588, at the base in the Waziristan District. He moved from Waziristan on 29th January 1934 having built up an excellent working relationship with his Indian subordinates and was presented with a coveted ‘Farewell Address’ Scroll. He moved to Chaklala, a major populated area of the city of Rawalpindi in the Punjab Province and a year later was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal 1935 for his services followed in 1937 by the Coronation Medal 1937. On 16th July 1939 aged 52 William retired from the RIASC, but on 25th May 1940 eight months after the outbreak of World War 2 he accepted an offer of re-employment with the RASC and reported for duty at the No 1 MT Depot, Feltham, Middlesex on 1st June. During the War he was promoted to War Substantive Captain and in May 1944 joined the Old Contemptibles’ Association.
He retired a second time on 15th August 1945 aged 59. Will continued his association with the Old Contemptibles’ Association serving in his local branch together with his rapidly diminishing band of ‘Chums’, as members were known. He lived at 69 Hanworth Road, Feltham, Middlesex and died on 29th April 1983 aged 95 in Surrey, 65 years after the signing of the Armistice.
Army Order 4 1919
All calling up under the Military Service Acts was suspended at midday on 11 November 1918, and from that date until 15 January 1919 posting was confined to men who had previously been called up and reported themselves. The Ministry of National Service subsequently to 11 Nov 1918 only recruited and handed over to the Military Authorities men between 18 and 25 years of age who presented themselves voluntarily for enlistment and who were willing to be attested for the full period of 12 years' Army Service to fill vacancies existing in the Regular Establishment. The number of recruits so enlisted during the period 11 Nov 1918 to 15 Jan 1919 was 1,139.
Re-enlistment of serving soldiers
Meanwhile, the necessity for refilling at an early date the depleted ranks of the old Regular Army in order to provide overseas garrisons and reserves at home having become evident, an Army Order was published on 10 December 1918 authorizing the re-enlistment of serving soldiers for periods of, approximately, two, three or four years. Bounties of £20, £40 and £50 respectively were given, in addition to any pension, bounties or gratuities due on account of war or other services, to men re-enlisting for these periods. ThisArmy Order, which became Army Order 4 of 1919, was subsequently further extended by Army Orders 124 and 125
Letter from William Nobbs as written to his wife Annie
France 29th September 1914
My Own Darling Wife,
I received another PC from you yesterday in which you stated that you were going home on Friday at which news I was pleased o hear. But as I stated in my last letter would rather have had a letter. I have had one from Mother and one from Florrie who states that she is getting married at Xmas to Mr. Fritton the jockey, I only hope that she will be as happy as we were darling You can see from the papers where the British force is near I should like to tell you but must not. But look where the war was in 1870. Up to now the latest papers we have had is of the 21st so you see we are not up to date! But anything is exceptable (sic.) to read here. I will now give you an account of how the MTs captured 15 Germans near St. Simeon. I was in charge of the first aid of our lorry column when just near (or rather 10 miles north east of it.) a Dennis lorry broak (sic.) with magnets and water trouble of course we had to stop and put it right by this time the column had gone on, well as we were in the middle of the job a French Civi came running up to me and said there were Alemonds up in the village and with his fingers made out 20, so I fell my 1 men in and marched them up when about 400 yards out of the village I saw a Haystack with the Germans hiding, as soon as they saw us they put up their hands and came out there were 15, when I stripped them I found about 1000 rounds of ammunition 15 rifles and bayonets 3 revolvers etc. As I was marching them back an Officers of the AVC came up and said he would taken them from me as he had caught 4 in the morning and he told me to collect all the arms etc and bring them back, well after that he would not let me have the prisoners but handed them over to an officer of a column going back to rail head as his prisoners, telling me to smash all the rifles etc, that was the last I saw of my 15 Germans, but as they never showed fight, but wanted to shake my hand there was no honour., they were nearly starved all they has in there (sic.) was a few apples but the next time I catch some I’ll see no officer takes them from me. Now dear as the post man is waiting I will close.
Trusting to hear from you soon.
I remain Your Loving husband
PS you can send this to the Daily Mail if you like but mind you get it back.
27507 Sergt W F Nobbs
59 MT coy
1st Div Sup Col
of 1919, of which the former slightly modified the conditions and of which the latter applied them so modified to men serving as members of Overseas Contingents. Re-enlistments under Army Order 124 were closed by Army Order 329 (published on 27 Sept 1919) from the date of its receipt in the various commands. The total number of men re-enlisted under these Army Orders, with bounty, was 74,930. (To get a modern equivalent, 2011 cash value, multiply by about 50, so it was quite an incentive.)
The Story A rather brief story for a group of such detail. The medals awarded to William nobbs were acquired at an Orders and Medals Research Society Convention in London 2006. With the group came much paperwork and some goodquality photographs. Although the group was dabbled with from time to time, and was left largely un-researched until over five years later, when everything was pulled together and a biography could be fitted in place from the paperwork; with, of course the help of the London Gazette and Ancestry.com web sites. An interesting story of a time served soldier, who lived to a grand old age and would have been one of the last ‘Old Contemptibles'. A further search for his will was made in August 2012, following the additional information from ancestry.com, and this time was successfully located. It does make an interesting addition to the research, and of course increases the possibility of some further research in the future.
The Old Contemptibles Association
was founded by Capt JP (John.Patrick) Danny, Royal Artillery on June 25th 1925. The Association had 178 branches in the UK & 14 overseas branches. It produced its own magazine The Old Contemptible and all members were known as "chums": The members of the Association are survivors of the First British Expeditionary Force of August-November 1914 - that 'little mighty Force that stood for England...stood fast while England girt her armour on' -that withstood the German onslaught at Mons, The Marne, The Aisne and Ypres, they kept the enemy from the Channel Ports. They derive their honourable title from the famous "Order of the Day" given by the Kaiser, Wilhelm II, at his headquarters, Aix-la-Chappelle, on the 19th August, 1914:-
"It is my Royal and Imperial Command that you concentrate your energies, for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and that is that you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers, to exterminate first, the treacherous English, walk over General French's contemptible little Army."
- Military Medal: M-27507. SJT.W.NOBBS. 1/DIV:R.A.S.C.
- 1914 Star: M-27507 SJT. W.NOBBS. A.S.C.
- British War Medal: S.SJT. W.NOBBS. A.S.C.
- Victory Medal: S.SJT. W.NOBBS. A.S.C.
- India General Service Medal: 1/C SSM. W.NOBBS. M.M. R.I.A.S.C.
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as awarded.
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as awarded.
- 1935 Silver Jubilee Medal: Unnamed as awarded.
- 1937 Coronation Medal: Unnamed as awarded.
- Meritorious Service Medal: M-25775 W.O. CL.II. W.NOBBS. M.M. R.A.S.C.
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