This is a letter from my Grandfather, George Edward Lines, written on the 11th of February 1915. I am gradually scanning and transcribing his letters, and will add notes as I find more information. For context you can see his Official War Record. This will come between his being commissioned in December 1914 and his going to France.
Dear Mummie/ At last I've got a moment to write to you as I've been inoculated today & so have to lie down for a bit. I believe I told you I was going to Wendover, but my Company & station were altered at the last moment, and I am now in the 98th Company at Chesham for about a month when we go to Henley for pontooning and afterwards to Wendover where my own permanent camp will be in huts. We are in billets here, officers & men alike, and the billet where the officers of my Co. are is the above address. There are Major Coffin our O.C.Company, four other subalterns besides myself the Adjutant, Medical Officer and of course our Host and Hostess Squire and Mrs Lowndes.It is a most priceless place with abt. 230 acres of grounds, so I seem to be rather lucky in my billets, don't I ?. There are two little kiddies, girls abt. 7 and 10, who seem to regard us subalterns as big brothers for playing with, with the result that our behavior at times is hardly as dignified as one would expect from Officers of the British Army. There are two other children; the son & heir about 17 at Eton and another girl about 14. I suspect the boy is a ??reglar ??nut. The youngest kiddie is Joane and the other Cicelie. They are awfully nice people but everything is done in such style that one doesn't feel always exactly at home. Perhaps it is because I've been away from civilisation too long. Mrs Lowndes showed me their genealogical tree last Sunday. It is a most enormous scroll of parchment and goes right back to William the Conqueror through all sorts of royalty, so I suppose we ought to be frightfully impressed. It was a very interesting example of Heraldic art. At present being the 5th Subaltern in our Coy. I'm acting as Supernumerary but the Major tells me he wants me to look after the horses and drivers when we get them. I think there are about 70 horses in a Field Coy. so there are exciting times ahead teaching people to ride and breaking horses in etc., to say nothing of being a sort of rest. I shall have to cultivate a horsey expression. Have you any suggestions ? In addition to this I am supposed to know all the Infantry work, and of course building, trenching, so if I don't get swelled head I ought to. The worst of it is I get so little time to write of you and Mouse, but I know you'll forgive me. Now I've really got to my Coy. I shall have to stick to it like the dickens or I shall be getting ticked off. We were inspected by the General Commanding ??our Division [section eaten]. It was most awful - we stood stock still for an hour while he came round. The General and his staff came to our place for lunch, but owning to the limitations of table room four of us junior subalterns had to partake of grub in the sitting room with the kiddies for which we were very thankful. It was much nicer. Isn't it promising being under an O.C. of the name of Coffin & then to be billeted in The "Bury". He's an awfully decent sort, rather quiet, but very sound I think. I expect I shall feel pretty rotten tomorrow, but of course have a have a day off. I'm going to write mousie a nice long letter having neglected her for so long. I feel an awful brute but blame it on Kaiser Bill. Write to me as soon as you can & tell me how you're going on in the new house. Heaps of love to all Chief
- http://www.francisfrith.com/uk/chesham/chesham-the-bury-1897_40544 – picture of the building.
- https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1124657 – The Bury is a Grade II Listed Building
Squire Lowndes was probably descended from William Lowndes – which would explain the family tree. This still exists, and according to the National Archive is held by Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies
The Pedigree roll can be viewed at http://www.mikelowndes.net/lowndes-roll/sheet1.html (Warning – required Flash)
The Official War Record shows Grandpa was assigned to the 126th Field Company, but he from this letter he was with the 98th for a while.
According to The Wartime Memories Project
98th Field Company, The Royal Engineers was raised as part of 21st Division. 21st Division was established in September 1914, as part Kitchener's Third New Army. The Division concentrated in the Tring area, training at Halton Park before winter necessitated a move into local billets in Chesham In May 1915 they moved to Wendover. On the 9th of August they moved to Witley Camp for final training. They proceeded to France during the first week of September and marched across France to going into the reserve for the British assault at Loos on the 26th of September suffering heavy casualties....
From http://www.reubique.com/98fc.htm the 98th Field Company were attached to the 21st Division, and Joined the 21st Division at Chesham on 30 Jan 1915 and moved to Wendover in May 1915.
Here’s a useful explanation of the composition of a Field Company – which also refers to around 70 horses Composition of a Royal Engineers’ Field Company – The Long, Long Trail (and the picture shows ‘pontoon work’ which Grandpa was to go on to do at Henley).
I do not know when, or if, Grandpa moved back the 126th Field Company, but their entry from the Wartime Memories Project shows that they
126th Field Company, The Royal Engineers joined 21st Division in March 1915 at Chesham. In May 1915 they moved to Wendover. On the 9th of August they moved to Witley Camp for final training. They proceeded to France during the first week of September and marched across France to going into the reserve for the British assault at Loos on the 26th of September suffering heavy casualties. ...
Building pontoon bridges was an important skill for the Royal Engineers. There is a video of Bridge Building at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-royal-engineers-bridge-building/query/royal+engineers
It is possible that this is Clifford Coffin – who received a Victoria Cross in July 1917, at which time he was a temporary brigadier general, which can be a temporary promotion from a Lieutenant-Colonel.
http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbcoffin.htm shows that Clifford Coffin was a Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1917 and this is one step up from Major, which is the rank an Officer Commanding (O.C.) a Company would have held.
It appears from the South Africa Medal records that Captain Clifford Coffin was attached to the 17th Field Company in 1901, and to the 20th Field Company in 1903, so it would be quite feasible for him to be a Major, commanding the 98th Field Company in 1914.
His listing in Hart’s Annual Army List 1908 shows that he was a 2nd Lieut. on 17th February 1888, a Lieut. on 17th February 1891, a Captain on 17th February 1899, and a Major on 18th January 1907.
Training at Lowndes Park
Thanks to my brother for notes on inoculation, research into the Lowndes Family Roll, Field companies and pontooning video.