An Introduction and Overview to Blencowes in WW1

Table on Contents

About The World War One Project

I started this website in about 2012 with some preliminary research into individual Blencowe family members and their ancestors who served in the ‘Great War’, By 2016 a website was completed, documenting 318* Blencowe ancestors and at this point exhaustion with the subject research and other interests caused me to postpone the publishing of the information for general consumption.  However, the 100th anniversary of the end of the war in 2018 was an incentive to get on with the publishing effort. This research while it took a great deal of my own time I would be remiss in not acknowledging the Blencowe Families Association and certain key individuals who help in providing valuable information. Firstly Ann Burton (Blencowe) whose ‘Roll of Honour’ for the fallen of that war was the first point of interest for my research to begin. Ann was in constant touch over the years and provided information and family linkages that were very helpful. Likewise, Peter Blencowe generously provided both family photos, letters and a booklet he had written about his father for my use. Many other family members are mentioned in the pages and I thank them for their efforts to provide me with photos and family stories.

In 2020 I started working collaboratively with long term Blencowe family researcher Daphne Austin. A problem in working with such a large name base is common first names so, in order to help identify accurately the individuals, I have introduced unique numbers [RIN] for the Blencowes in these web pages. The unique RIN was established by Daphne’s comprehensive database and can be seen in this form [nnn] beside names at the top of web page, they can be used to access the Blencowe Families Association database which will give much more information about the family tree of that individual.

2019 was the year I started to add the spouses and children of Blencowe women to these pages and they can be viewed by going to the Index page Spouses, Son and Daughters of Blencowe’s -An Index . This work is ongoing with about 60% pages completed and more under construction. So far we now have over 450 men and women in this and the main Blencowe index.

 

Important

These pages are password protected.  For a small fee membership of the Blencowes Families Association will give you free access to the hundreds of pages and thousands of images in this study. BFA membership contact details

If you think you have the right password and are experiencing problems please contact me on roger.blinko@gmail,com

Enquiries

If you have a question or can add information to an ancestor please contact us via this form and we get back to you asap.

How to use the Website

Each page is designed to have the minimum of clutter to enhance the reading experience, navigation is hidden on the right side in a panel that only appears when you click the bar symbol that looks like this.banner and nav bar

The Introduction and Overview page is probably the best place to start before going to the individual Blencowe pages. This home page contains a table of contents and provides navigation to pages plus this tutorial video to learn how to get the best out of the search facility on the website.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8LcX1Y-jPo&rel=0]

Blencowe Individuals

Each page has the parents listed and if known the oldest ancestor that the Blencowe Family Association has traced. Note this website doesn’t reflect some recent DNA studies that link some of the oldest ancestors.

Listed alphabetically they and their family are linked throughout the document. A line Kin comments: will list family members; siblings, spouses, children and extended family members that served and that can be lookup in conjunction with that individual’s record. In some cases it’s been established that children of the individual served in WW2 and so that is also noted.

Marriages and children are included if known.

Generally, pre-war Census records etc have been included to show the research that identifies the individual’s pre-war existence and experiences.

In addition all the individual pages there is an Index of Names Page that lists all Blencowes date and location of birth, their regiments, period of service and country served.

Corrections-Additions

One of my prime reasons for making this research available online is that in the last three years of research new material as come to light constantly, these records are incomplete and my objective is to improve and enhance when I can. So if you have information that challenges my writings then please use the blog or email me to set out your information. I will gladly update substantiated findings and any new photographs that come to light.

Photo Gallery

Each man or woman’s page has a Gallery at the bottom that shows relevant photographs maps and in the case of free records ie Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA they are also included. There is a short cut to photos via a link at the beginning of that persons war service detail.

There are over 4,000 images. Enjoy..

Copyright Material

British copyright material that was purchased for my research under advice is not displayed on this website. These images primarily from the British National Archives, Ancestry, and Find my Past and consist of War Diary images, Service Records and Medal Records. If you want to see this material then contact me and I will give you the links to purchase from one of the above providers. Obviously, if records exist they have guided me in telling the individuals story, I have interpreted war diary entries for the many of the events described in the project. If you want to see this material then purchase from one of the above providers. if you need guidance on what is available contact me and I can give you specific details of the images available.

US records are similar to the British as Ancestry et al sell these records and therefore cant be displayed. Some US State archives have records freely available but will be subject to the state’s copyright laws and only used for research and non-commercial purposes.

Australian records are government copyright but publicly available with the following conditions “Any copies of records you receive are provided to you on the understanding that you are to use them for research or study or in order to seek permission to publish. Where the Commonwealth government owns the copyright, you may download, display, print and reproduce the material in unaltered form for your personal, non-commercial use.” In this context then the records are displayed on this web site but they are usually a subset of the records and links to the whole collection are provided. the Australian website is at http://www.naa.gov.au/collection

Canadian records have similar copyright conditions for non-commercial reproduction; ‘Unless otherwise specified, you may reproduce materials in whole or in part, in any format, if the work is not being revised or translated, for non-commercial purposes or for cost-recovery purposes without charge or further permission, provided you do the following:
Exercise due diligence in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced;
Indicate both the complete title of the materials reproduced, as well as the author (where available); and
Indicate that the reproduction is a copy of the version available on the web [insert URL where the original document is available].”

In this context then the records are displayed on this web site but they are usually a subset of the records and links to the whole collection are provided. The Canadian website is here.

New Zealand records have similar copyright conditions for non-commercial reproduction. “The Crown copyright material on this website may be copied, printed or downloaded or reproduced in any number of copies and in any format or medium provided that:

  • it is not changed
  • it is not sold
  • it is not used in an inappropriate or misleading context having regard to the nature of the material
  • any disclaimers included on the published information are reproduced on any reproduction of the material
  • where the material is being published or issued to others, the source and copyright status must be acknowledged”. In this context then the NZ records are displayed on this web site but they are usually a subset of the records and links to the whole collection is provided. The New Zealand website is here.
Disclaimer

Certain material has been passed onto me from, for example, relatives of the featured men and women. I believe that this material was provided without any restrictions on its use. In most cases, I have identified those who contributed material if however, anyone on reading seeing the material on this website wants it withdrawn please contact the author via the comments section on each page at the bottom.

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Overview

In 1914 the collective Blencowe families were about to have their lives turn upside down, jobs, family, and futures all thrown into question as the world turned away from peace to fight what was initially a European war. Testimony to its impact is that 100 years later much interest and debate still abounds about its cause and justification.

The ‘Great War’ shaped the future of the world like no other war before had done, in Great Britain and its Dominion’s the social order was profoundly changed in the United States a new era was established as it proved itself the most powerful and industrialised nation in the world.

The terrible suffering and losses of the war, created family turmoil and tragedy not experienced so universally at any other time in history. The Blencowe’s were not immune from these effects and as a family group can be seen as pretty typical of what took place across the world over the period 1914-1920 and onwards.

A war started by the actions of a Serbian radical against the Austrian-Hungary empire was to find its way into the Blencowe homes as far-flung as Lancashire, Yorkshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, London, Melbourne, Queensland, Perth, Auckland, Nelson, Vancouver, Ontario, New York, Kentucky, and Oregon. It reached our family homes and wreaked havoc upon the peaceful lives of its inhabitants.

Devastating as the war was to be for our extended family at first it didn’t appear that way, most of the young Blencowe men and women who rose to the challenge from near and afar ‘raced’ to volunteer. How quickly this changed! Within a year, millions of lives were touched by death and maiming and the rush to serve abated. Consequently, governments were forced to create propaganda to win the minds of all and to continue to supply the human material that was needed for the warfare of living in trenches, artillery bombardment, ‘ over the top’ charges and machine-gun massacres.

Blencowe Diaspora and the Military

Blencowes had started to emigrate in the 17th century and so by 1914 the family was widely distributed, Dominion countries and the USA were the predominant choices but one family had established itself in Argentina.

The Blencowe’s had also a long history of serving in the military, it’s perhaps no coincidence that our first ancestor (Adam de Blencow) is reputed to have been a Norman soldier. Families that had served in the military prior to WW1 tended to have produced further generations of soldiers and this a the source in many cases of the seasoned Blencowe soldiers and sailors who will we see are in service in 1914.

There is a group of military-experienced Blencowe’s who were volunteer soldiers and were amongst the first to take up arms, some were old (by the standards of 1914) and yet they picked up where they may have left off in the 1901-1902 South African war or in the Sub-Continent border skirmishes of the early 20th century.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 8.52.12 am

Some Blencowe men were already military leaders but most were simply foot soldiers, from labouring type backgrounds, tough and hardy, they were certainly going to need those characteristics. Blencowe mothers who sent off these men were fearful of the consequences and in many cases, their fears proved to be very real. In some cases, two or more children were lost by them.

Social Change

The social changes referred to earlier are apparent in the number of Blencowe men who rose from the ranks to become officers because of their achievement in the field and not as an entitlement, it’s no surprise that this took place more frequently in the new world countries such as United States, Australia, and Canada. For Blencowe women the war brought an abundant opportunity for change and progression, The traditional role of women as nurses to the war effort were fulfilled by “women of good families” in Great Britain but again the new countries didn’t have this class restriction and benefited from a wider pool of resources. But it was in industry and service that the women had their greatest new opportunities and from munitions to transportation, they took up the challenge with energy. Alas, very few Blencowe women have so far been identified in these roles (mainly because of a lack of records). There were military roles for women for the first time and Blencowe women are found serving in the ‘new force’ the Royal Air Force. The Military nurse was a more traditional role that several of our women took up.

The study touches on who joined and when did they volunteer ie before conscription was introduced in 1916 or were they conscripted without much choice of the regiment or where they were to be sent. The early volunteers had certain perks, those that joined Territorial battalions could choose whether to serve overseas or not (for a while). Territorials and those in the Regular Army had chosen the Regiment/Service that they served in.

The study is a way of paying tribute to the members of our family who gave so much 100 years ago and while it will be a story that is incomplete, including probably some errors, it is one more piece of our shared history for us to appreciate.

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“Joining Up”
THE ATTESTATION PROCESS

Examining the different records for Gt. Britain and the Dominion countries the process of signing up or Attestation was very similar the candidates subject to a medical examination and age qualification are asked a series of questions and sign up for a committed term of service, in the case of non-conscripted this was for a term or period of years. In the case of conscripted then the usual term was until the cessation of war.

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CONSCRIPTION IN GREAT BRITAIN

Recruitment 1915 Hyde Park.PNG1914 Enlistment lines were huge

In the United Kingdom after 1908, there were two ways to join the armed forces.

  1. Voluntarily as a permanent obligation; A man wishing to join the army could do so providing he passed certain physical tests and was willing to enlist for a number of years. The recruit had to be taller than 5 feet 3 inches and aged between 18 and 38
  2. Enlisting as a “Reservist” or joining the “Territorials”; Special Reservists enlisted for 6 years and had to accept the possibility of being called up in the event of a general mobilisation and to undergo all the same conditions as men of the Army Reserve. The Territorial Force came into existence in 1908 as a result of the reorganisation of the former militia and other volunteer units. It provided an opportunity for men to join the army on a part-time basis.

In 1914 there was no conscription. Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener on his appointment as Secretary of State for War shortly after the declaration of the war, issued a call for volunteers to increase the size of the army.

Kitchener did not believe that the Territorial Force was the right structure for doing this. The plan he devised required the men would only have to enlist ‘for the duration of the war’ but legally they were joining the regular army. The volunteers were generally assigned to units of the ‘new armies’, although many (once trained) were posted to replace losses in the existing regular army units.

Recruitment Hyde ParkA recruitment drive during the First World War at Trafalgar Square, London. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)1915

The wartime volunteers had a choice of the regiment and unit they joined. They had to meet the same physical criteria as the regulars, but men who had previously served in the army would now be accepted up to the age of 45.

Note: There are several recorded instances in this document of underage and indeed over age Blencowe men being accepted into the service. It must be noted that it was not necessary to produce evidence of age or even of one’s name in order to enlist.

Looking back at the immense casualties suffered during the war, it seems hard to believe (given the scale of Commonwealth participation) that conscription for British residents was actually introduced in three stages and not completely enforced until 27th January 1916. In 1915 the act of “National Registration” was evoked this gave the government information rather like a census trades ages etc, however, it didn’t greatly increase numbers.

As a new initiative, Lord Derby introduced the ‘Derby Scheme ‘ in October 1915 which was targeting greater numbers of enlistment and was half-way to conscription, Again rather a poor take-up was the result, 38 per cent of single men and 54 per cent of married men who were not in ‘starred’ occupations failed to come forward. Disappointed at the results of the Derby Scheme, the Government introduced the Military Service Act on 27th January 1916.

All voluntary enlistment was stopped. All British males were now deemed to have enlisted – that is, they were conscripted – if they were aged between 18 and 41 and resided in Great Britain (excluding Ireland) and were unmarried or a widower on 2 November 1915. Conscripted men were no longer given a choice of which service, regiment or unit they joined, although if a man preferred the navy it got priority to take him. This act was extended to married men on 25th May 1916.

The Group system referred to in the notice above was a schedule for call up by age groups and marital status.

EXEMPTION

An application could be made before the appointed date to a Local Tribunal for the issue of a certificate of exemption. There were four grounds for exemption: if it was expedient in the national interests that he should be engaged in other work, or if he was being educated or trained for any other work, that he should continue; or if serious hardship would ensue owing to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position; or ill-health or infirmity; or conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service. Certificates of exemption could also be granted by any Government department to men or classes or bodies of men in their employ, where it appears more convenient for this to take place than by individual application to Local Tribunal.

A certificate could be absolute, conditional or temporary. Exemptions for continued education or training and those on financial hardship grounds could only be temporary. If the conditions under which an exemption was granted changed, it was the duty of the person to inform the authorities. A fine of up to £50 could be applied if he did not do so. False statements or misrepresentation at the time of application for exemption could lead to imprisonment with hard labour for up to six months.

Appeal tribunals were established, to hear cases of men who believed they were disqualified on the grounds of ill-health, occupation or conscientious objection. It can’t be assumed, that people who were attempting to gain exemption from military service must be conscientious objectors. When the National Archives examined the records they found that of the 11,307 separate appeals heard between 1916 and 1918, only 577 were conscientious objection cases, just over 5%. Some objectors would have been business owners of small businesses where their absence would have finished off the business, or those that their absence would have caused grave hardship to the family of dependants.

Application for Exemption newspaper article Blinco

A family example was found of Thomas ‘William’ Blinco 1897 who was subject of an appeal and was granted temporary exemption until his 19th birthday, above are two articles from the Windsor and Slough Times. William, as he was known, went on to serve with the Royal Garrison Artillery and survived the war being awarded the British and Victory medals for overseas service. Not all the exemptions were fair or equitable there is evidence that tribunals held around the country were subjected to a wide range of reasons for individuals to be exempted and a lack of even-handed application of the act was a concern. The fact that many exemptions were applied for and granted made recruitment numbers very disappointing.

The government was forced to react and tighten up the process to ensure exemptions were genuinely needed.

The 1916 Act was altered in April 1918, following a serious political crisis concerning the provision of manpower – which along with a large extension of the British section of the Western Front, was cited as a prime cause of the defeat of the Fifth Army in March 1918. This act reduced the minimum age of recruitment to 18.

Note: The introduction of conscription made it very much more difficult for a recruit to falsify his age and name.

BLENCOWE’S IN EXEMPTED ROLES

Blencowe’s with small businesses or roles that were important to the homeland economy and war effort (ie Policeman, Munitions work, etc. could have gained exemptions.

The information gathered in this research on the Blencowe’s in World War 1 compared to those known to be in occupations that would have been considered ‘starred’ produces an interesting analysis.

exemption list of Blencowes

The occupations were mainly gleaned from the Blencowe’s in the 1911 census the last column shows whether they are recorded as having served in WW1. The analysis shows 23 Blencowe men out of a total 36 or (approx 2/3rds) in the ‘starred’ exempted categories did not serve.

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“JOINING UP” AUSTRALIA, CANADA AND NEW ZEALAND.

By 1914 the British Empire had begun to mean less and less to those who had settled in the colonies, so it was some great surprise that the announcement of war in Britain against Germany raised so much fervour, passion and willingness to fight for the home country.

All three countries’ governments were actually bound to support the war and readily agreed to send a number of Volunteers, Australia 20,000, Canada 20,000 and so on.

Canada moved quickly to recruit and over-achieved its 20,000 target contribution with 33,000 men dispatched by October 1914 and ultimately 600,000 enlisted. The Canadian nation was deeply divided on the issue of volunteering, the split mostly on English-French Canadian language populations. In fact of the 400,000 volunteers before conscription, only 5 % came from the French-speaking population. Because of this split the difficulty to raise numbers, the Canadian government eventually introduced conscription on 18th May 1917. It should be noted that Australia was also divided in opinions about the war the large Irish immigrant base and others not keen to join in.

New Zealand’s enthusiasm to serve ‘the old country’ was the strongest of the three countries with a mostly British based population it didn’t have the divisions in the opinion of Canada and Australia.

The NZ expeditionary force was quick into action in 29th August 1914 it captured and occupied German-held territory in Samoa. By the end of the war, New Zealand had contributed 120,000 men or 12 % of its entire population in 1914, a terrible price was paid per capita, 18,500 New Zealanders dying in or because of the war, and nearly 50,000 more wounded.

Australia raised and sent its 20,000 troops in November of 1914. While the initial enthusiasm in Australia equalled Canada and NZ, the Australian selection criteria included a minimum height of at least 5ft 6in (167.6cm) and a chest size of 34in (86.4cm), as well as a full set of healthy teeth (no fillings). The effect was to anger those that failed and to stifle enthusiasm. The Australian unions also became opponents of the war and canvassed heavily for no participation and any introduction of a conscription law.

Eventually, the government relaxed the selection criteria and this along with propaganda programs raised more than 290,000 Australians to serve in the war (of these, 46,000 were either killed in action or died of their wounds). The conscription issue for Australia was a wildly divisive situation for the population and after two “no votes” in national Plebiscite, conscription was never to be introduced in World War I. This situation left the Australian troops continuing to rely on volunteers until the war finished in November of 1918.

The uniqueness of the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand men and women distinguished them to their officers (mostly British at first) but also served to self identify themselves as not English but “of their own country” a feeling that has sustained national identities in those three countries ever since.

In all three countries, resistance to volunteering did exist for various reasons. New Zealand seems to have been by far the most aligned with the “the home cause’ and its government moved first to conscription in 1915. French Canadians who had very divided loyalties to their country were by far the most resistant to fighting for the Empire. Canada did eventually pass an act of conscription in 1917 and the Australian public as we have seen couldn’t agree on conscription.

No matter the situation all three countries employed propaganda to achieve its need to increase the volunteer contribution, engender the right patriotic behaviours and overcome arguments for the no conscription movements in Canada and Australia.

As an example of the tactics involved, this description of tactics from an Australian education source:

Recruitment propaganda perhaps achieved success because it amplified the original reasons for Australians wanting to be involved in the war. It can be concluded that Australian propaganda posters utilised six different aspects to appeal to men to enlist. These included:

  • Appealing to their patriotism by summoning people to ‘rally around the flag’ and reminding them of their duty to the Empire and the British
    • Utilising a gender approach which made men feel they needed to enlist to prove their sporting aptitude, courage, and masculinity.
    • Inviting peers and family to place pressure and shame on men for not applying in order to make them feel ashamed and cowardly.
    • Encouraging a spirit of adventure and a desire to see the world by using a recruitment poster which places emphasis on a physical, sport-like side of the war.
    • Self-interest, including a chance to have a secure job which was relatively well paid.
    • Exaggerating the hatred and fear of the Germans by allowing people to think that they might attack their friends and families.
ENLISTMENT USA

Perhaps learning from the experience in the allied countries, when the USA joined the war in 1917 it was government-imposed conscription so that all men had a liability for service. The US government authorized a selective draft of all those between twenty-one and thirty-one years of age (later from eighteen to forty-five); and prohibited all forms of bounties, substitutions, or purchase of exemptions.

USA registration
Young men registering for conscription during World War I, New York City, June 5, 1917.

The US government was slow to get organised but when efficiency kicked in it was shown that the resources of the USA were mighty and the key turning point in the stalemate of WW1 battlefront.

Despite the conscription, it was still necessary to encourage men to join the different services of the war effort as the posters above from WW1 attests. During the war, the US mobilized over 4,000,000 military personnel and suffered relatively low per capita death rate of 110,000 deaths, including 43,000 due to the influenza pandemic.

Albert Smith Blencowe son of a Gawcott emigrant and a farm labourer from Wisconsin was the oldest (46 yrs) American Blencowe to serve and also one of first to enlist, joining the Navy in December 1917. Albert survived the war and in 1930 U.S. census registers that he was a WW1 veteran.

US naval recruits

This photo shows naval recruits after a local campaign to attract more “bluejackets ” .Photograph from The Sunday Oregonian. Portland, Ore. June 24, 1917.

 

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WAR RECORDS

The war records from each country’s National and State Archives are an essential piece of information needed to complete a profile of a man or woman’s service in this study. The extent to which this information exists varies greatly, consequently, some Blencowe’s have good detail for an account of their war activities and others virtually none. Compounding this variation is the fact that his information differs greatly from country to country as well.

GT. BRITAIN

The war records for Army service consist of;

  1. Army Service Records. These are very useful if exist as they typically have a Casualty Form which details army units/places posted to and when and will detail awards, promotions, wounds, and hospital visits.
  2. Army Pension Records. The records are useful to understand what wounds or illness the person may have been subjected to as they concentrate on Pension Board examinations and compensation awards.
  3. Army Medal Index Cards and Medal Roll Sheets– see below
  4. Silver War Badge Records.

    UK Silver War Badge Records 1914-1920 for Stanley Jas Blincow
    This record often issued at the time of honourable discharge is full of good details ie date of enlistment, date of discharge, the reason for discharge and last regiment served.
  5. In some exceptional cases or through family research or via newspapers, journals and books, more detailed accounts can be found

Of the records held at the National Archives at Kew, the Army Medal Cards are the most complete, unfortunately, about 60% of the soldiers’ Service Records were irretrievably damaged or lost completely as a result of the enemy bombing in 1940 during the Second World War.

The RAF which was formed in 1918 have records available online but the Royal Navy has limited records of Navy Rosters.

UK MEDAL CARDS

war medal card example

The example above is for a Canadian soldier Charles Albert Blencowe a native of Kidderminster who emigrated and served the Canadian army and then the British Tank Corps as a tank commander, This is a British medal card, the general rule is that where the man finished service, determined who recorded the medal on the medal index roll for a specific Regiment and who awarded the medals.

The record will tell us in varying degrees of detail;

  • Name as recorded by the Army, can be misspelt and in one case a nom de plume (Arthur Stewart) was discovered used for several years by Charles Edward Blencowe before being corrected. Initials are often used but expanded at a later date and also corrections are made.
  • The Regimental unit is specified in Corps sometimes the actual battalion or battery is specified. In this example, Charles had two Corps.
  • Rank is often abbreviated but consistent, ie. Private is always written Pte.
  • Regimental service numbers were issued by each regimental Corps, Charles was promoted an officer so only has one, these numbers are studied much on the internet and dating of number issue (because of consecutive use of numbers) is possible in a lot of cases. The regimental service number was used on many occasions to lead to discovering more about the soldier’s battalion, movements, and involvement.
  • Date of entry and place tells us often if they were involved in action overseas or home-based, either by an entry about foreign service (the date of entry into war front) or the type of medals awarded. Sometimes the army administration fails to enter this information.
  • Medals awarded are indicated and a medal roll index* which can add other information such as the regimental unit number.
  • Medals awarded can also tell us if the man served overseas as the British and Victory awarded for service overseas. Not shown in this example a 1914 or 1914-15 Star would indicate a date of entry into the combat zone before 1916.
  • A notation (often hard to decipher) may tell us that the man was wounded or got sick and had to be discharged.
  • Finally, the card may have an address when/where medals were sent.
WAR RECORDS AUSTRALIA

The National Archives Of Australia (NAA) provides comprehensive and free records for all men and women. The NAA records are further supplemented with a great many books, newspaper and other reference material besides family recollections. In addition, all Regimental diaries are available freely online.

Typically the Australian war records include within in them details of the medals awarded to the person.

WAR RECORDS NEW ZEALAND

The Auckland War Museum and Archives NZ provide the same level of excellent records as the NAA, so records are freely accessible. The records are further supplemented with a great many books, newspapers and other reference material besides family recollections. Typically the New Zealand war records include within in them details of the medals awarded to the person.

WAR RECORDS FOR CANADA

The soldier’s records for Canada are accessible via the Collections Canada website and will be a free and comprehensive project to digitise is underway. Veterans Affairs Canada has good information for those awarded medals or honours. In addition, the excellent Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group website provides Regimental diaries freely online. The records are further supplemented with a great many books, newspapers and other reference material besides family recollections.

The Canadian war records may include within in them details of the medals awarded to the person this set of records is more inconsistent in this regard to other countries.

WAR RECORDS USA

The service records for individuals in WW1 are harder to find. They do not appear to be in any one repository online. There is a National Archive however some State Archives are more comprehensive in what information can be gleaned for an individual.

There is a War Veterans entitlement to a headstone and these are recorded nationally when an individual’s relatives have applied for the headstone at their death.

The 1914 US Draft is complete and online and provides a clue to those who may have served. The enlistment and service records if they exist online are to be found in State Government Archives, good fortune has been had with the States of Ohio, Kansas, and Missouri in finding Blincoe’s.

The 1930 US Census asked a key question, it asks the question in column #30 are you a War Veteran? and so where these records can be found and readable! then we have a personal answer. It is however not the definitive answer as some responses have been found to be answered incorrectly. The question was only asked once in 1930 so it is likely it was a cause of misunderstanding and difficulty for census accuracy.

Determining who from the Draft was enlisted then is a combination of State, National and Census record comparisons.

Casualties

Records of Casualties are sometimes hard to find especially if there is no service record for the person. However, some luck has been gained in the study using newspaper reports, hospital admittance records and some family recollections.  Those that died in the war is another story though as extensive work was done after the war to commemorate these lives. There are those also who died because of the war and not within its timeline either from wounds or illness they are also honoured with a poppy icon on their page..

There were 37 Blencowe deaths that can be attributed to the war or 1 in 10 who served. Some are not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission but certainly, as a result of the war fell sick and died prematurely. Two examples of this would be both Valentine Blencowe and Sidney Blincoe both gassed in combat and both took time to die from the after-effects of the lung infections. Valentine died in 1923, Sidney in 1920. Of these two men, Sidney Blincoe is commemorated by the CWGC but Valentine is not. Coincidentally and to underscore the variations in recognition Sidney Blincoe’s brother William John died in 1919 but was not included in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records but rather remembered at his local church and war memorial.

Trench warfare, the use of gas and mass destruction by artillery bombardment created millions of casualties that were maimed, seriously ill and disabled after the war. Casualties were heavy, 94 Blencowe men were thought to have been wounded with 81 documented the others are discharged early for no specific reason which could mean either they suffered wounds or war-related sickness. This is roughly 1 in 3 men or women affected physically by the war, numerous anecdotal stories though attest to the mental illness suffered post-war by them and so it might be that as much as 50 % of those Blencowes that served were scarred by the experience.

Longer-term disabilities that were incurred did receive the government pensions but these were in no way compensated for the loss of income or the greatly reduced quality and length of life. Hence the suffering for some did not end with the war and while some family stories have been retained, the great shame of the post-war period was the need to “get on with life” meant not a lot was shared about the war experience and the time of struggle after.

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WAR MEDALS AND AWARDS

This book records awards for each Blencowe including any war medals, it some cases pre-war medals are also shown to give a better picture of the individual’s service to their country. Of course, medals are not the only measure of a person’s achievement, sacrifice, bravery or level of danger that they faced. It’s inevitable that the book will miss certain Blencowe’s who deserved more recognition than they actually received from the authorities. A good example of this is Richard William Blenco born 1866 who served his country from 1883-1919 and yet because he was a Sergeant instructor at home during WW1 he did not qualify for any recognition.

COMMONALITY OF WW1 MEDALS

The British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Blencowe’s received the same set of medals for war service, The British Medal or General Service medal as its sometimes called, The 1914 and 1914-15 Star medal and the Victory medal. The Victory was, in fact, an Inter-Allied War Medal which was agreed to by all allies in March 1919. All medals were to be almost identical to obviate the need to exchange allied medals and each was patterned after a French medal of 1870. The medal was authorised in Britain (and for other countries) on 01 September 1919.

The American records are generally not available so a presumption has been made about medals awarded i.e. men who served overseas were awarded the US version of the Victory Medal. Other medals were awarded to US servicemen such as Purple Heart, Army of Occupation, State Recognition medals, but again no comprehensive set of records available so assumptions have been made in some cases.

BRITISH AND DOMINION MEDALS
THE BRITISH WAR MEDAL, 1914-1920

BWM1

This is the most commonly issued medal.

It is impossible to set out all the details of qualification for this medal, but essentially the requirement was that a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.

All men and women who served in the main theatres of war qualified for this medal, as did those who left their native shore for service in, for example, India.

6,610,000 British War Medals were issued over 220 British and Dominion Blencowe’s were awarded this medal the only exceptions being those that were not serving abroad or disqualified for disciplinary reasons.

The soldier’s regiment and number are inscribed around the rim.

THE VICTORY MEDAL

Victory 1

This medal was awarded to all those who entered a theatre of war. It follows that every recipient of the Victory Medal also qualified for the British War Medal, but not the other way round. For example, if a soldier served in a garrison in India he would get the BWM but not the Victory Medal. In all, 300,000 fewer Victory Medals were required than British War Medals.

All three armed services were eligible. It is not generally known that Victory Medals continued to be awarded after the Armistice, for the British forces who saw action in North Russia (up to October 12th, 1919) and Trans-Caspian (up to April 17th, 1919) also qualified. The medal was struck in bronze.

An oak-leaf emblem was sanctioned for those who were mentioned in despatches for valour or acts of sacrifice.

UK victory with oak leaf

5,725,000 Victory Medals were issued 221 British and Dominion Blencowe’s were awarded this medal the only exceptions being those that were not serving abroad or disqualified for disciplinary reasons

The soldier’s regiment and number are inscribed around the rim.

Blencowe’s who was mentioned in despatches and received the Oak Leaf Emblem.

  1. Blencowe Arthur John Walcot MM, MC, 1880, Major 2nd and 1st Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers.
  2. Blencowe Charles Bernard, 1880, Northwich, Commander Royal Navy.
  3. Blencowe Emily Georgina, 1887, Bury St Edmunds, Nurse, Special Military Probationer, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
  4. Blencowe Ernest Cecil Blencowe (Gottwalz), 1880, Derby, Captain, Dorsetshire Regt (Service Bn.)
  5. Blencowe Frances Isabel, 1864, Chailey, Voluntary Aid Detachment.
  6. Blencowe James Aubrey, 1887, Banbury, Staff Sergeant, M2/046055 – Army Service Corps. Electricians
  7. Blencowe Randal John, 1892, Twyford, Bucks, Private M2/081453. Royal Army Service Corps.
  8. Blinco Alfred, 1869, George Green, Company Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class 2. 1350, 604180, Middlesex Regiment, Labour Corps.
  9. Blincow John MM, 1889, Gartosh, Private, S4751, 111293, 383207, 9th Bn. Gordon Highlanders, 44th Bn. Royal Fusiliers, Labour Corps

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THE 1914-1915 STAR

Web1914-15Star front only
A Star similar to the 1914 Star (see below) was issued to all personnel, with certain exceptions, who served in a theatre of war before 31 December 1915 and who did not qualify for the earlier Star Medal. Note this qualification excludes those that would have been conscripted as that was introduced in 1916.

2,078,183 of the 1914-15 Stars were issued.

Simple rule: if a man did not qualify for a 1914 or 1914-15 Star, he did not see service in a theatre of war before 1916.

70 British and Dominion Blencowe’s were awarded this medal having served overseas in the qualifying period

1914 STAR

The 1914 Star sometimes (unofficially) called the Mons Star.

This medal was awarded to all officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and all men of the British and Indian Forces, including civilian medical practitioners, nursing sisters, nurses and others employed with military hospitals; as well as men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, who served with the establishment of their unit in France and Belgium between August 5th 1914, and midnight of November 22/23rd, 1914.

The clasp is inscribed with the qualifying dates 5th August 1914 to 22nd Nov 1914

A clasp to the 1914 Star: A bar clasp inscribed “5 Aug. to 22 Nov. 1914” was given to all those who qualified for the 1914 Star and who served under fire. Since the same ribbon is used with the 1914-15 Star, holders of the 1914 Star were permitted to wear a small silver rosette on their ribbon when the decoration itself is not worn. On the medal index cards, this is usually noted as the “Clasp and Rosette” or “C&R”. It was necessary to apply for the issue of the clasp and many of our Blencowe’s did not do this for whatever reason.

Seventeen Blencowe’s were awarded this 1914 Star medal, the men receiving this award were called the ‘Old Contemptibles’. The name self-adopted by British troops belonging to the regular army in 1914, the term was supposedly derived from a comment made by the German Kaiser.

The Kaiser, upon hearing that German forces were being held up in France while en route to the French capital, is said to have exclaimed his exasperation of “Sir John French’s contemptible little army”

Surname First Names

Birth

Birthplace

Rank

Regiments

Blencoe Arthur Henry

1893

Aston, Birmingham

Gunner

39th Royal Field Artillery

Blencowe Arthur J W MM MC

1880

Marston St Lawrence

Captain -Temp. Major

1st and 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers

Blencowe Edward Prowett DSO

1877

Northwich, Cheshire

Colonel

Royal Army Service Corps

Blencowe Frank James

1862

Norton, Daventry

Private

12th Lancers, 5th Lancers

Blencowe John

1883

Limerick Ireland

Private

1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment

Blencowe William Edward Walley

1878

Devizes

Sergeant

2nd Battalion,1st Wiltshire Regiment

Blinco Robert William

1884

Kildare Ireland

Private

1st Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Blinco Thomas Arthur

1879

Whitehaven

Corporal

5th Border Regiment, 1/5th Border Regiment

Blinco William John

1885

Mortimer Berks

Private

3rd Cavalry Army Service Corps

Blincoe

Victor George

1895

Newmarket

Private

2nd Suffolk Regiment

Blincoe

William Charles

1879

Chipping Norton

Petty Officer 1st Class.-STOKER Submarine Depot Base

Royal Navy

Blincow

Alfred

1883

Long Buckby

Gunner

Royal Field Artillery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Blincow Arthur James

1889

Burton

Private

1st Grenadier Guards

Blincow John Henry

1886

Tipton

Sergeant

2nd Batt. Worcs Regiment

Blincow Joseph Wallace

1894

Shoreditch

Sergeant

1st Grenadier Guards,

Grenadier Guards (Buckingham Gate, London)

Blinko George Francis

1883

Hatfield

Private

2nd Worcestershire Regiment

Blinko Harry Ernest Francis

1893

Paddington

Private

1st/9th London Regiment

THE SILVER WAR BADGE

SWB (2)

Those British Blencowe’s honourably discharged because they were unfit to serve, were in most cases awarded the Silver War Badge which was introduced in 1916.

The Silver War Badge, sometimes wrongly referred to as the Silver Wound Badge was introduced from 12 September 1916. It is a circular sterling silver badge with the legend “For King and Empire – Services Rendered” surrounding the King George V cypher. The badge had a pin for wear as a brooch, this pin originally. One of the motives for this badge was to signify to members of the public that this man had been wounded in war and not a recipient for a ‘white feather’ a favoured way for a woman to dishonour a ‘coward’ who had not done his duty.

MEDALS FOR EXCEPTIONAL BRAVERY
DCM military_cross_obverse mm two sides large

Distinguished Conduct Medal

Military Cross

Military Medal

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL

The DCM was awarded to Warrant Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, serving in any of the sovereign’s military forces, for distinguished conduct in the field. It was thus the second-highest award for gallantry in action (after the Victoria Cross) for all army ranks below-commissioned officers and was available to navy and air force personnel also for distinguished conduct in the field.

Two Blencowe men received this high honour:

Blinco Charles William DCM, 1888, Swaffham Bulbeck, Sergeant, 8131, 2nd and 12th Suffolk Regiment.

Blincoe William Henry DCM, 1892, Kings Norton, Sergeant, 2712, 305338, 2/8th Bn. and 8th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment,(Territorial Force).

MILITARY CROSS

The award was created in 1914 for commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers. In August 1916 Bars were awarded to the MC in recognition of the performance of further acts of gallantry meriting the award and recipients of a bar continue to use post-nominal letters MC. In 1931 the award was extended to Majors and also to members of the Royal Air Force for actions on the ground.

Awarded to just to two Blencowe’s:

  1. Arthur John W. Blencowe MC. born 1880 Marston St Lawrence Captain -Temp Major 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers

  2. Frederick William Blincowe MC born 1890, Grimsbury, Northants, Sergeant, 2nd Lieutenant, P/4006, 17th (Reserve) Bn. Rifle Brigade, 8th Bn. East Surrey Regiment.

MILITARY MEDAL

First instituted in March 1916 as an award for distinguished service in the field for Warrant Officers, NCO’s and lower ranks. The award of an MM was also possible for women. All awards of the MM were announced in the London Gazette, with no citation. The listing in the London Gazette was made was usually some 3-4 months after the event for which the award was earned. Military Medal awards are often mentioned in war diaries. The recipient was allowed to use the initials MM after their name.

Awarded to these eight Blencowe’s from Gt. Britain, Canada and Australia:

  1. Albert Blencowe M.M. born 1887 West Bromwich Sergeant 49747 Royal Garrison Artillery
  2. Charles Numno Blencowe M.M. born 1892 Birmingham Rank: Private 123103 18th Battalion Canadian Infantry
  3. Frederick William Blencowe M.M. born 1894 Birchip, Victoria, Australia Rank: Sergeant 1070 21st Bn. & 24th Bn. Australian Imperial Force
  4. Mervyn John Blencowe M.M. born 1892 Brackley Rank: Private 202727, 235339 Suffolk Regt. and Northumberland Fusiliers
  5. Frederick William Blincko M.M. born 1894 in Clapham, Lance Corporal, G/73048 24th Bn. Royal Fusiliers.
  6. Albert Edward Blinco M.M. born 1892 Eton Rank: Driver 66358, 66358 Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Field Artillery.
  7. Alfred Ralph Blinko M.M. born 1890 Enfield Rank: Lieut. 76355 29th Battalion Canadian Infantry
  8. John Blincow M.M. born 1889 Gartosh, Lanarkshire Rank: Private 4751 9th Bn. (Pioneer) Gordon Highlanders

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USA MEDALS
THE VICTORY MEDAL

Victory France clasp

The World War I Victory Medal is a decoration of the United States military which was first created in 1919, The United States Army published orders authorizing the World War I Victory Medal in April 1919 and the U.S. Navy followed in June of that same year.

Victory Medal was awarded to any member of the U.S. military who had served in the armed forces between the following dates in the following locations

6 April 1917 to 11 November 1918 for any military service.

12 November 1918, to 5 August 1919 for service in European Russia

23 November 1918, to 1 April 1920 for service with the American Expeditionary Force Siberia

Victory medal clasps awarded included France, various battles/sectors, including offensive and defensive.

enlarged battle clasps
Clasps shown here are Champagne-Marne,Aisne,-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector

ARMY OF OCCUPATION MEDAL

Army of Occupation medal

The US Military played a large part in the occupation of Germany after the Armistice was signed. The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal is a Bronze medallion 1 1/4 inches in diameter.

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Notes on Reading the Blencowe Pages


Set out below are some key points that may be helpful when looking at a person’s page to understand a bit about the organisation of the page and various aspects of WW1 military structure. There is also below a list of acronyms that will also help in this exercise.

  1. Pages are by individual and are alphabetically organised. Links to other relatives that served are included as well as a link to a photo gallery for that person. The photo gallery containing documents, maps, and images relevant to each person is currently held at the Google Photos website. A link called Online War Photo Album appears on each page for access to these galleries. Note there is no navigation between the various photo galleries except via individuals pages.
  2. Format of Records

    The records are listed alphabetically with Surname, Forenames as the determinant of the order of appearance. If it’s known. there was a nickname or common name for the individual that is stated.

    Each person’s record contains immediate ancestry ie parents plus the oldest-known ancestors, key dates/events, census records in their lives up to WW1. This is followed by the war service and any known significant events, census records etc. after the war.

    An entry of particular focus is the Kinfolk (K: comments) of the person who also served in this war, this entry contains close relatives including siblings who served.

  3. The ranks given in most cases are the last serving position. There are many websites that explain the structures of different service ranks and country variations.
  4. British and Dominion Army organisation can be confusing but this may help.
    • An army was made up of a number of Corps(numbered by Roman numerals for some strange reason ie XIV equals 14 Corps).
    • A Corps was made up of a number of divisions (Div.).
    • An infantry division was made up of a number of brigades (Bde.). (usually 3-4 per division)
    • An infantry brigade was made up of a number of battalions.
      An infantry battalion was made up of 4 companies. (typically about 1000 soldiers)
    • An infantry company was made up of 4 platoons. An infantry regiment had a number of battalions but these did not often serve together but were split among brigades. In my pages, the battalion, brigade or division is referred to often because the history of the movement and war action tends to be written referring to these military units.
    • The American services had a different structure, refer to the internet for differences.
  5. Maps are used extensively, Using a variety of sources for maps including modern road maps to show locations of the Blencowe’s. Some times these are customised and have approximate locations. Accuracy of location (within meters) is possible using the WW1 trench maps (these maps also appear frequently). Referencing map grid locations and reading the trench maps is explained very well here.
  6. War diaries have been purchased by myself and are viewable as PDF files. Please note that these are copyright and should not be downloaded permanently to your computer or passed on to others. In the British war diaries, Officers are typically the only ones named when wounded/killed, lower ranks are not. The lower ranks are merely referred to as OR’s and only numbers of deaths in most cases recorded. There are exceptions to this, for example, the war diary of the 11th Rifle Brigade (see Thomas Henry Blencowe 1896 ) names all casualties whatever the rank.
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Sources of Information.

Throughout the records specific reference is given for war diary extracts, book paragraphs, web blogs, etc. but there are a number of very useful resources that have been commonly used to gain an understanding of a person’s regimental information and the “where and when” of the war experience.

  1. The British RAMC Base Hospitals in France 1914-1918.
  2. The War Forum An extremely comprehensive website that includes the regimental, brigade division and army information as well as an overview of the battles of WW1 including the order of battle (ie which units took part) .
  3. National Archives.
  4. Australian Archives at Australian War Museum and National Archives of Australia.
  5. Canadian Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918.
  6. Archives New Zealand and the Tamaki Paenga Hira; Auckland War Memorial Museum.
  7. McMaster University WW1 maps.
  8. National Library of Scotland WW1 maps.
  9. The Internet archive of out of print publications.
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Copyright 21 Dec 2019 R G Blinko

2 thoughts on “An Introduction and Overview to Blencowes in WW1

  1. Mark Carmichael says:

    Roger, you have done a commendable job in memorializing the sacrifice and service that so many members of your family gave to their nation. Your efforts are remarkable and you should be proud. Great work. I am working on a similar project, but am very early in the research phase. Fantastic work! Well done!!

    1. Thank you Mark, I appreciate your comments as I know you are very interested in the capture of this history and a writer of your own families stories.

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