Soldier, it’s a dog’s life……………….








Shoulder Title (Source: Thierens Family Archives)



                                                                                  The Search is on…..



Charles Frederick Gambles (1888 – 1959)



 Facts: according to his death certificate Charles died 25th April 1959 at the age of 70 so he must have been born in 1888 or 1889. Searching for his birth via different sources led to a dead end. His father Thomas was missing too. Thomas refused to turn up in the 1881 census in England and neither of them turned up in the 1901 census. As an inexperienced researcher into family history I was stumped and irritated, until I thought to combine these years with the history of the 56th Essex Regiment of Foot. I then found out that the Regiment was stationed on Malta from 1887 – 1889. No wonder I couldn’t trace them in England, they had gone A.W.O.L.!

Just on the off chance I decided to type British Army in Malta in one of the Internet Search Engines and the second hit happened to be a small goldmine: little Charles was indeed born on Malta in 1888 and was apparently already a member of the Essex Regiment to boot…..

Army Chaplains Registers of Births/Baptisms 1800 - 1900

GAMBLES, Charles F.                1888 56th Regiment 

GAMBLES, Katherine                 1887 56th Regiment

I was amazed and rather shocked when I noticed the name Katherine Gambles mentioned as shown above. The coincidence of two Gambles born within a year or so and both children from a soldier of the 56th Regiment (the Essex Regiment) was just too unreal.  Something made me check the Death Records on the same website and true enough, the little Katherine died in the same year of 1887:


GAMBLES, Katherine, 0 years   1887

There was in my mind only one possible conclusion: my grandparents had a baby daughter in 1887 that died soon after she was born. This information was to my knowledge completely unknown within the rest of the family. Apparently my grandparents had never told their daughters about their Aunt who was never to be.


1.       The Website Malta Family History; see Index of Baptisms by Army Chaplains 1800-           1900;

2.      Oral history from family members.


Charles had an younger Brother Albert E. who was also a regular in the Essex Regiment of Foot, but until now I have no facts or knowledge about his service record at all.

Stop press!

Birth certificate Charles arrived in St Agnes on 8th June 2004 and his D.O.B. is:…..

6th November 1888.

Baptised 28th November 1888, chaplain was a guy called W. Ponsford and certificate signed by Captain H.C. Copsman.

Seems to be true:  William PONSFORD, promoted Chaplain to the Forces 1st Class on 1st May 1880, serving in Malta 1890

Charming: waddajamean serving in Malta 1890?

Sources: 1.  Birth Certificate Charles F. Gambles


The Orphans


 Royal Military Asylum in Yorkshire via

Stop Press! Fluke find of Charles, poor little bugger…..

All I did was bung in Gambles and thought ..... it! This was the result:


(Info on census card shows: name, occupation (schoolboy), age and place of birth.)

Found him in an Asylum of all places. Creepy name for a, me thinks, sort of Military Boarding School. Teachers all military, all boys’ school, all aged between 9 and 14 and born all over the world. 2nd Bn Essex Regiment was in Burma in 1897 and was sent to South Africa in December 1901. Census was 31st March 1901.


Charles was sent to England somewhere between 1897 and 31st March 1901, and who knows his brother and mother too?

 Shit, wrong! It darn well is an Asylum located on the grounds of Chelsea Hospital

Crumbs, it is not, it’s more of an Orphanage: The Duke of York’s Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers, later called The Duke of York’s Royal Military School !



The Royal Military


This institution is also situated at Chelsea. The first stone of the building was laid by his royal highness the Duke of YORK, on the 19th of June, 1801. It is a handsome edifice, and admits 700 boys, and 300 girls, the children of soldiers who have died, or are toiling, in the service of their country. The former are educated according to the system of Dr. Bell, in reading, writing, and the useful parts of arithmetic; and the latter in needlework, and the different branches of household work.

BRIEF HISTORY DURING THE SNOW ERA (1813-58) The Asylum was a boarding school for children who were orphans or in need of the Army's charity. It was formed in 1803 with the name "The Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army" and remained at its location until 1895.  Thereafter the name of the school was changed to The Duke of York's Royal Military School and relocated to above the cliffs of Dover between Folkestone and Dover At first, the institution was intended both for boys and girls, and both were admitted freely; but it is long since the Asylum has been reserved for boys only. As stated in the original regulations, the institution was intended for, "1st", Orphans. 2nd, those whose fathers have been killed on foreign service. 3rd. those who have lost their mothers, and whose fathers are absent on duty abroad; and 4th, those whose fathers are ordered on foreign service, or whose parents have other children to maintain. These regulations have since been extended to admit the children of pensioners of long service and good conduct. Children, according to the original regulations were admitted at " the earliest age for nurture, and into the Asylum from four years till twelve years, being discharged at fourteen years.[1]


For a long time I was wondering whether Thomas Gambles was killed in action and now I’m convinced this is true: I found the poor little basterds Charles and Albert in the ledgers of this Asylum, or as it was actually called after 1892: Duke of York’s Military School, which took boys from the age of 9 to 14 or so and educated them until they could (voluntary) join a regiment. Evidently this is what happened. The mystery though is what happened to their Mum…..This is where I found Gambles Charles F and Albert E, both Essex Regiment (Father’s Regiment)

 All names entered into W0143/27 and WO143/78      All Names Index

Here only Charles is mentioned as transferred to Duke of York’s School.

Transfer to the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea          Transfers



Charles’ age was 12 on 31st March 1901 according to the census report and the Asylum took on kids from 9 to 15, so he could have stayed there sometime from 1897 through 1903, which happens to be the year (?) he joined up with the Essex Regiment according to the photo of the Drummer Boy. So this is where Charles (and Albert?) stayed and was raised until he joined Dad’s Regiment in about 1903 in Dublin! Albert is still a bit of a mystery…..Age wise he must have been younger and he is not mentioned in the Transfer Index!

Thomas Gambles must have died or was disabled (?) somewhere between 1897 and 1903. His regiment was stationed in Burma from 1897 to 12.1901 when it was sent to South Africa. In 1902 it was stationed in Warley, England.

Conclusion: Looking at the dates Thomas must have died in Burma.

Okay, there is always a chance the boys were sent here for their education, but the fact that I can’t find Thomas at all, no birth, marriage, death, resurrection, etc. does seem to point to the more dramatic theory….Another possibility is that their Mum died and Thomas sent them to England???

Series details for WO 143

                                                                                                       Browse the catalogue from here

Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army, later Duke of York's Royal Military School, and Royal Hibernian Military School: Records                                                                       





Administrative/biographical background           Provision of education for soldiers and their children was provided at regimental schools, which began to be established in the second half of the eighteenth century. A Corps of Army Schoolmasters was formed in 1846. On 11 June 1920 this was replaced by the Army Education Corps, which in 1946 became the Royal Army Education Corps.

Alongside the regimental schools there were two boarding schools for children of serving or deceased officers. These were the Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin, founded in 1769 for children and orphans of soldiers on the Irish establishment; and the Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army, established at Chelsea in 1801 on the initiative of the Duke of York.

In 1892 the latter was renamed the Duke of York's Royal Military School, and in 1909 it moved to Dover. In 1922 the Royal Hibernian School moved to Shorncliffe, and in 1924 it was merged with the Duke of York's School.

Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army, 1801-1892

Duke of York’s Royal Military School, 1892

Alongside the regimental schools there were two boarding schools for children of serving or deceased officers. There are other examples of boys 'Not Admitted' and shown as ' Provided for, a standard fee was paid to the relative or foster person to care for the child until old enough for admission to the RHMS or until such time that the child reached the normal discharge age of 14.

Brain shaker:

Always wondered why this photograph of Charles was made in Chelsea. He was 12 on 31st March 1901, and the photo was taken in +/- 1903 (as written in handwriting of our Dad) the photo could have been taken in 1902, 1903 or 1904. This would make his age 13, 14 or 15.  Taking into consideration what Charles (?) scrawled on reverse photo: ‘Wishing you a happy New Year’ the end of 1902, beginning of 1903 or the end of 1903 are logical possibilities date wise. Studying his face on the photo I would guess he is not older then 13, 14 or 15. So the photo could have been taken either at the Royal military School or when he had just joined the Essex Regiment, which was stationed at Warley between 1902 and 1904. 

   Royal Military School? Drum badge intro. At least as early as 1874 [and 1849 for drum-majors], and has appeared in several materials and sizes. The early versions were cloth, fairly large, and rather gaudy and padded, a not-very-good likeness of a drum, in various coloured wools. It was intended for red frocks [not the smarter tunic, where the full drummer's lace and shoulder adornments marked his role. Nevertheless, it was worn on red tunic in many regiments, but not in the Guards]. Later [and here I avoid a date!] it appeared in brass, smaller and detachable, and in khaki worsted with detail picked out in different but dull colours. As to whether the colourful one made it on to service dress, I do not know, but I suspect so. The brass one was in wear by many in 1418. This is what they looked like:

This is where school was:

Now for the fun part:

At the time this article appeared, the British monarch was Queen Victoria, who had ascended to the throne in 1837.

The Electrician (London), May 26, 1899, page 144:

    The Queen and the Electrophone.--Her Majesty heard the electrophone for the first time on Wednesday, when she listened at Windsor Castle to the boys from all the naval and military schools and the Duke of York's school singing "God Save the Queen" at Her Majesty's Theatre, in London. Afterwards the Queen and her guests had the opportunity of listening to the concert at St. James's Hall.

‘The great majority of boys joined the army at the age of fourteen as band-boys or drummer-boys. From the earliest Chelsea days there was always a military band, also drums and bugles….band and drum practice was an integral part of the School curriculum. His musical progress was so good that he was made a lance-corporal on attaining the age of eighteen and at twenty two was promoted sergeant. At the early age of twenty-six he was appointed Drum Major and Bandmaster….”

Excerpts from: Play Up Dukies, Duke of York’s Royal Military School 1801-1986 by George Shorter, Drum major: the male leader of a band (= a group of marching musicians) especially in the army.

Bandmaster: someone who conducts a military band.

If it is exceptional that the above person was promoted to lance-corporal at eighteen  it might be significant that Charles was a lance corporal at twenty!

Army Service

“Terms of service for the Regular Army were based on a voluntary system, and recruits were required to be between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five and to be medically fit. The majority of the cavalry, infantry and artillery served for seven years with the colours and five with the reserve. ……Soldiers of good character who had completed eleven years of service could re-engage to a limit of twenty-one years.”

Source: Keith Simpson: The Old Contemptibles p.p 22 and 23.

Service Record of Charles Frederick Gambles, reg. number 7318

Little Drummer Boy

Drummer boys: a very old British army tradition. Quite often sons of professional soldiers joined their fathers regiment if it expected to need recruits in the near future.  They were taken on as boy soldiers from the age of 14/15 and educated until they could join in the capacity of an infantryman or whatever was needed at that time.

Some of the boys learned to play a musical instrument and marched with the band. Others learned trades which could be used in the army units, for instance bricklaying or carpentry. By the end of the 19th century most boys served in the Drum Corps. Some drummer boys also learned to play the bugle so they could frighten the snoring soldiers out off their sweet dreams at an ungodly early hour and send them back into their fleabags before they fell asleep on duty.

The boys wore both dress and field uniforms, design varied according to what regiment they served in. They all lived in a separate room from the men at the barracks which was void of any sort of privacy.  During the Victorian era the poor little buggers were forced to take a bath once a week as awareness off the need for personal hygiene was rising. Even shirts and socks had to be changed once a week! Quite disgusting, what? Actual military training in the sense of the use of firearms was ‘not done’. They did attend school to learn to read and write.

The boy soldiers followed their regiments all over the world and in times of war and battle even fourteen year olds performing their duties as drummers were actually killed in action.

Here is a relatively recent and shocking example:

‘A brave boy will be honoured, 90 years late
By Kevin Myers
(Filed: 14/03/2004) The Sunday Telegraph

Last Friday, I had the great honour of being invited to open the
fund-raising campaign for a memorial in Waterford, Ireland, to Private John
Condon, who was the youngest British soldier to die in the Great War. Aged
14, he was killed during a German gas attack near
Ypres on May 24, 1915. He
was not alone - a thousand British soldiers died that day - but his death
was especially tragic, not merely because of his absurd age, but because his
parents thought he was still in
The first they heard of his fate was the telegram announcing that he was
missing in action. Another six years passed before his bones were found near
Mouse Trap Farm outside
Ypres, identifiable by his regimental number on a
fragment of boot.’

Source: Email posted in BECforces Group from Gordon Angus Mackinlay, 14th March 2004.



Approx. 1903, drummer boy in Dad’s                   Photo undated, two stripes, dress uniform?                                                                            

Regiment. 2/Essex Regiment was stationed in Warley, England.                                                                                                             


Same uniform, date unknown.                       Photo 1910, 2/Essex Regiment  Stationed

                                                                        in Ireland, Curragh Camp.  Moustache Contest!              


At a guess all the guys in the 1910 photo are two-striped corporals.                    




Sergeant Gambles in dress-uniform,                    This photo comparable age wise (?) and 

date unknown.                                                      taken after leaving Essex regiment?  


Question to the 1914-1918 forum:


Grandfather was in the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment and on this photo = same as Avatar one can see his lapel badge. Looks like three swords.
Searching the net I found and 'borrowed' from the following badge which clearly depicts the same three swords.
This photo has the caption: Essex Volunteer Regt. Cap badge.
Does volunteer mean regular; is the lapel badge the same design as the cap badge
and can anyone point me in the right direction to find out more about these badges and the different sorts of uniforms worn by soldiers/ NCOs in the Essex Regiment from about 1903 to 1923?
Thanks in advance.
(Grandson) Michael

Attached Image
Attached Image    


Answer from Harry Betts:


This is the lapel Buttonhole badge of the Essex Volunteer Regiment, for wear in " Mufti”, A WW1 Raised Unit, the "Swords" are the Three "Seaxes" the badge of Essex County The Essex also wore the Three Seaxes on a shield as a Collar Badge, without the crown & scroll, & the French Imperial Eagle was also worn in Commemoration of the Capture of the French Imperial Standard blink.gif




‘In Mufti’ means when not wearing a uniform….


SEAX is the name that we have given to the computer system designed and written for the Essex Record Office. Unlike some other system names, SEAX is not an acronym: the letters do not represent words. A seax is a curved Saxon sword, and a row of three Seaxes is the symbol of the county of Essex. So the name SEAX identifies our new archive computer system with Essex

After a good scrutiny I noticed his collar badges, definitely Essex regiment, they are the three Seaxes the county of Essex also uses:   Essex County Council

      The collar badge on the left is comparable to the buttonhole badge on the right, which was worn by the Essex Volunteer Regiment when out of uniform (called: in “Mufti”). The difference is that it has been beheaded and the scroll at the bottom has been dumped.

Thought you might be wondering what the hell a Seax is:  A seax is a curved Saxon sword, and a row of three Seaxes is the symbol of the county of Essex.


Army Service


“Terms of service for the Regular Army were based on a voluntary system, and recruits were required to be between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five and to be medically fit. The majority of the cavalry, infantry and artillery served for seven years with the colours and five with the reserve. ……Soldiers of good character who had completed eleven years of service could re-engage to a limit of twenty-one years.”

Source: Keith Simpson: The Old Contemptibles p.p 22 and 23.



As far as I can make out these are ranks from lowly to higher up for no-no-officers:

. Sergeant
· Colour Sergeant
· Company Quartermaster Sergeant
· Company Sergeant Major

[note that the last two were not promotions, but appointments, in that CQMS and CSM were at that time appointments for Colour Sergeants].

Private (Privates were also called various other things depending on their regiment and trade, such as Gunner, Driver, Rifleman, etc)
Lance Corporal (or Bombardier in the Artillery)

The above ranks (apart from Privates) are known as Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs)

Company Sergeant Major
Warrant Officer 2nd Class
Quartermaster Sergeant
Warrant Officer 1st Class

These Warrant Officer ranks were changed at various points during THE WAR

Information from:


Medal card No. 1280 of Gambles, C

Corps:                            Regiment No:                Rank:             

2nd Essex Regiment       7318                               Serjeant

Machine Gun Corps       8625                              Acting Company Serjeant Major                                                                

Medal card No. 1880 of Gambles, Charles F

Corps:                             Regiment No:                Rank:            

Essex Regiment               7318                              Acting Colour Serjeant                                                                                               

Machine Gun Corps        8652                             Acting Colour Serjeant

Sources: ThierensFamilyArchives and Medal Index Cards P.R.O

Combine all this shit and possibly we can reconstruct the army career of Charles:


Civilian                                                          1888 – 1903               Home, wherever

Not quite true, see Chapter 3!

Drummer Boy                                               1903 – 1906                Essex Regiment

Lance Corporal  Drums?                              1908                           Essex Regiment

Sergeant                                                       1915                           Essex Regiment

Acting Colour Sergeant                                                                   Essex Regiment

Acting Colour Sergeant                                ?                                  Machine Gun Corps

A/Company Sergeant Major                      ?                                  M.G.C.

Company Quarter Master Sergeant           1917                           Machine Gun Corps


Thanks to Allison who dug up the medal rolls of Charles at the National Archives we have some more factual information :

Charles was awarded the clasp to his 1914 Star Medal on 3 JUN 1918. There is some interesting info mentioned on the Medal Roll nr. 43:

-         Date of disembarkation: 22 8 14 = 22nd August 1914;

-         Rank: sergeant;

-         When the clasp was approved on June 8th 1918 his rank was  A/CSM of the M.G.C. = Acting Company Sergeant Major;

-         Under to be left Blank for use in War Office: IV.2043 C.A.28-1-20;  

 The  Victory and/or British War Medal Roll shows that these medals were certified on March 8th 1919 with the annotation: Class Z.A.R. 1-4-19 = 1st April 1919. Also his rank was a/WO/Cl II. Which means what? Question: Can anyone please tell me what the following abbreviations mean:

Class Z.A.R.
Auth 4763
IV 2042 BA

Answer: Class "Z" Army Reserve{The normal classification for those disembodied from Service After the Cessation of Hostilities}
Auth~authority #/Letters with date
28th January 1920 being the date he was Discharged to the Reserve


More information: Class Z Army Reserve was the normal route out of the army once a man was demobilised. I understand that the Class Z commitment was for a year.
 The Class Z Reserve was established by Army Order on
the 3rd December 1918, to guard against the possibility of any emergency re-mobilization that may have been required in the event of Germany refusing to accept the terms of a peace treaty.
The Class Z Reserve was abolished as a result of AO 98 on
29 March 1920, which said that "All soldiers in Class Z of the Army Reserve will be deemed to have been discharged as from the 31st March 1920."

My question was not quite correct, it should have been: Class Z.A.R. 1-4-19

Given the above mentioned answers the conclusion can only be that Charles was demobbed into the Army Reserve on  March 8th 1919, while he was a acting Company Sergeant Major in the Machine Gun Corps i.e. a promotion since 1917 when he was a Company Quarter Master Sergeant. What I cannot explain (yet) is the date 28-1-20.


Can now: it refers to where the info on the medals can be found, purely an administrative affair. (I think)

Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant          1930’s                                  P.P.C.L.I.

Very big ifs to be answered:

-         Corporal stems from photo ‘moustache contest’?

Acting Colour Sergeant (what the hell is that)=Sergeant is mentioned on M.I.C. No. 1880 for the V.M. and the B.W.M. and the entries were of a later date, id est both 1919. [note that the last two were not promotions, but appointments, in that CQMS and CSM were at that time appointments for Colour Sergeants].

-         Sergeant stems from M.I.C. No. K 1280, so he was a Sergeant when he entered the war and  A/C.S.M. in the M.G.C. was added with the entry of the clasp in 1919;

-         So does this mean he was A/C.S.M. in 1919 when the Clasp was awarded to the 1914 Star? Looking at the handwriting on the card the answer seems to be yes? YES.

-         Battalion Orders M.G.C. Grantham states his rank as C.Q.M.S. in August 1917, which is lower than A/C.S.M., so this is consistent with a possible promotion during his M.G.C. career. YES.

Let’s try again:


ARMY CAREER CHARLES                                      

Civilian                                                          1888 – 1903               Home, wherever

Drummer Boy                                               1903 – 1906                Essex Regiment

Lance Corporal                                            1908                            Essex Regiment

Acting Colour Sergeant                                1915                           Essex Regiment


Company Quarter Master Sergeant           1917                           Machine Gun Corps

Acting Company Sergeant Major                191 ?                          Machine Gun Corps

Acting Warrant Officer Class II.                 1919                           Machine Gun Corps

These last two are the same, last one rank and first one appointment...I think.




The Old Contemptibles 1914 


Source: Desmond6  The Great War Forum -> The soldiers and armies of the Great War -> Other


On 4th August Great Britain declared war on Germany and shortly thereafter a British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) was sent to France and Belgium. The British had only 247.432 regular troops at the time. The B.E.F was comprised of about 120.000 regular soldiers, the rest were stationed abroad.

 The 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment was stationed in Chatham, England at the time and was sent as part of 12th Brigade, 4th division to France in August. It was shipped over to France on 22nd August. Charles was there as can be deducted from the following facts: he was awarded the 1914 Star Medal with clasp mentioning the dates 5th August – 22nd November 1914 and his rank, name and number engraved on the reverse of the medal.

Horrific Detail: by the end of 1914 the ‘Old Contemptibles’ had all but been wiped out, some regiments lost over 90% of their original strength.

Source: © website  Paul Reed  (opzoeken!)- tweede bron zoeken!!!



“The casualties of the BEF between 14 October and 30 November were 58,155, the majority of whom were infantry. Of the eighty-four British infantry battalions at Ypres on 1 November, eighteen had fewer than 100 men, thirty-one fewer than 200 men, twenty-six had fewer than 300 men, and only nine exceeded 300 men.”

“The total casualties of the BEF between 5 August and 30 November 1914 were 86,237, and the greater proportion of them had been amongst the infantry of the first seven divisions.”


Source: ibid pages 109 and 111.












Source: ibid page 110.


The implication of this fact is that it is neigh a miracle that Charles survived the War at all.




By the end of 1915 the French Army had already suffered 1,961,687 casualties of which 1,001,271 were killed or missing. From Corelli Barnett.


The well trained but poorly armed 12th Brigade crossed the channel on 22nd August 1914 and consisted of the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment, the 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers and the 2nd Battalion the Inniskilling Fusiliers.  Soon enough, on the 26th August, the soldiers of the 4th division ( )  joined the  saw action in the Battle of Le Cateau ( ) where they joined the hard-pressed  Divisions of II Corps who  were slowly retreating after the Battle of Mons since the 23rd and 24th . In a whole series of rearguard battles the B.E.F. was slowly driven back by the Germans towards the Marne. After a whole series of rearguard actions the B.E.F.  forced the German Army to a standstill and pushed them back during fierce battles in the Mons area. This ended in a stalemate and the bloody trench warfare became an intricate part of the arduous life (and death) of the 4th Division.






The 2nd Bn Essex Regiment fought in most of the major actions as part of 12th Brigade, 4th division from the 26th August – 5th November 1915. From that date until 3rd February 1916 it was transferred to 109th Brigade, 36th Division, only to join up once more with it’s old comrades (or rather what was left of them by then) until Armistice Day on 11th November 1918.

 Source: History of the 12 Mech Bde & Sig Sqn (228)

 The fact that they were poorly equipped in terms of men and firepower earned them the name ‘contemptible little army’, apparently this is what Kaiser Wilhelm II named the B.E.F. when he heard off Britain’s contribution to the allied forces.

The "Old Contemptibles" was the title proudly adopted by the men of the BEF who saw service before 22nd November 1914. They were the originals, and most were regular soldiers or reservists. They derive their honourable title from the famous "Order of the Day" given by Kaiser Wilhelm II at his headquarters in Aix-la-Chapelle 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." The precise translation has been debated endlessly, but the irony of the choice of title is clear.

Source: The Long, Long Trial?


This is what Charles went through the first months:


Short History from the Website of the National Army Museum – source of casualties end 1914:

Whatever the actual origin the British regulars were delighted thereafter to be referred to as 'The Old Contemptibles' and named their post-war veterans' association accordingly.

Source: Thierens Family Archives

Found a Badge:








The Old Contemptibles Association wasn't formed until 1925.) Maybe the memorial was placed there by his fellow-members. Perhaps his ashes were scattered near the row of war-graves? The church burial records might give up some information.


Tinned Soldiers



Source: ThierensFamilyArchives

Most of the clues I had pointing towards the unknown military career of my Granddad stemmed from this metal box, which I regarded as his medal box as that’s where I found them. Admittedly, it was a tight fit. Studying every article of content and plodding through loads of WW1 websites, I suddenly hit a website where a photograph of this same tin was    exhibited.


In November 1914, an advertisement was placed in the national press inviting monetary contributions to a 'Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund' which had been created by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone who would be wearing the King's uniform on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'.

Source: Paul Hinckley

 ‘Medal tin ’turned out to be a Christmas present from  Princess Mary – the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary -  to Charles and all his compatriots slogging in the trenches in France and Belgium in 1914.


What an unexpected and wonderful surprise this box turned out to be. This embossed brass box contained a smoking gun: a pipe, lighter, 1 oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes.

 O.k., so he smoked. Don’t blame him in the least under the prevailing circumstances. By the way, non-smokers received a smokeless gift.


Oh, I nearly forgot: for some twisted reason in August the people at home and in the trenches thought it would be a quick and easily done job, long over before Christmas. Not so as it turned out, only another 4 bloody years to go, so I suppose ‘sweet seventeen Mary’ was not just a dumb, pretty blond, no, she must have foreseen the necessity of strengthening the soldiers backs cause she started fundraising as early as October.

B.P. was faced with a formidable challenge: how to get all the parcels to the men in time for Christmas? Well, not much has changed over the years, they didn’t make it. Some parcels arrived in the summer of 1916 and “in January 1919 it was reported that ‘considerable’ numbers had still not been distributed”.  

Source: Paul Hinckley: The Princess Mary Christmas Gift 1914.


Wounded in Action

Charles was wounded at least twice sometime during the war, which is proven by the existence of a pair of so called wound stripes, which were introduced in  July1916 and issued every time an officer or soldier was wounded since 4th August 1914  and also was officially mentioned in the Casualty Lists. These wound stripes were worn vertically on the left sleeve of the soldiers jacket and granted backwards from the beginning of the war.

When and where Charles was wounded is as off yet unknown.

Source: Rootsweb, Great War Archives, info from Ian Edwards, Ilford, UK.



 Photo from the Thierens Family Archives                                         Photo from the Internet                                                                                                            




Charles was awarded three War Medals:



1. The 1914 Star Medal with Clasp






Front of Medal with clasp clearly            Reverse: name, rank and serial number:

Fastened to the ribbon.                            7318  SJT C. Gambles  2/Essex R.


Source : ThierensFamilyArchives



The Clasp 5th Aug. – 22nd Nov. 1914


Source : ThierensFamilyArchives


This medal was thought up in 1917 and  awarded to all soldiers and…….. who had served in France and Flanders between August 5th and November 22nd 1914.  We are talking about 378.000 individuals here.


In 1919 someone had a small brain wave and decided to add a clasp bearing the above mentioned dates to all persons who had actually served under fire during that time.

Now we are talking about just 145.000 servicemen and non-combatants of which most were members of the original British Expeditionary Force sent to France when war was declared on August 5th 1914. Most of these men were dead by the time the medal and the clasp were granted. One hell of a lot of widows or next of kin’s received the ‘honours’.




Source: Public Record Office/DocumentsOnline Medals  for a mere £ 3.00 a piece…..


Now for some weird goings on:


-         Normally there is just one medal index card for all the medals;

-         Charles has two cards as we shall see;

-         Note that this first card bears the name: Gambles, C. as does the medal itself!

-         Note:  2/Essex R. and M.G.C. Regtl.No. 8625;

-         Note: the cross reference at the top of the card to Charles F. Gambles;

-         Note Remarks: Clasp 4763 shows “Charles Frederick”!


. The codes on the MIC (like the C/2/103 B3 page 199 as seen above) refer to which roll(s) you should look at. In the majority of infantry cases they gives the man's battalion(s).

Bear in mind that the medal card does not always record all units a chap served in, whereas the medal roll (he may be on more than one) should, plus there are lots of mistakes on the on-line service.


2. The Victory Medal 1914 – 1919:




Victory Medal, engraved: 7318  A.C.SJT  C.F. Gambles Essex R. 

Source: ThierensFamilyArchives


This medal was also conceived of and executed in 1919. It was awarded to military and civilian personnel who served ‘on the establishment of a unit in an operational theatre’, whatever that may mean……………


There were 2.078.183 issued to be exact.


Source: Public Records Office/ DocumentsOnline/ Medals.






3. The British War Medal 1914 – 1920 :




 British War Medal 1914 – 1920,  engraved:

7318, A.C.SJT C.F. Gambles Essex R.

Source: ThierensFamilyArchives

Again, this medal was authorised in 1919 and was issued to both soldiers and civilians if they entered a theatre of war, or rendered approved service overseas  between August 5th   1914 and November 11th  1919 (when a cease fire was declared/ Germans gave up) and service in Russia in 1919 and 1920 also qualified for this award. Hence 1914 – 1920, which mystified me for a while….




Source: Public Records Office/ DocumentsOnline/ Medals.

Weird goings on continued :


-         Note that this is medal card number two for the Victory and British War Medals issued to Gambles, Charles F.

-         Note: Essex R., Rank A/C/SJT;

-         Note: M.G.C. 8652!

-         Note once more a cross reference at the top of the card: see C. Gambles, and according to me it is the same handwriting on both medal cards.


Conclusion: there was a regular balls up at the time the first entry was made for the 1914 Star Medal and somehow some bright star noticed this. Well done!

What no one apparently noticed (well, apart from me of course) are the different  Regimental Numbers for the Machine Gun Corps. Clearly 8652 is the correct number as is proven by an entry in the Battalion Orders of No. 6 Battalion Machine Gun Training Center, Grantham dated Tuesday, 14th August, 1917, where the birth of Charles’ first daughter  was announced.





Source: ThierensFamilyArchives

For the laymen and –women amongst you lot an explanation of ranks and units:

What is the Medal Rolls Index?

The Medal Rolls Index, known as the Medal Index Cards (MIC), was created by the Army Medal Office (AMO) towards the end of the First World War. The index was created to enable the AMO to place on one card, all of the details about an individual's medal entitlement, their rank or ranks, the unit or units they served in, the first operational theatre they served in and most importantly, the original AMO medal roll references. These medal rolls (held in WO 329) show the entitlement to the medals and also provide all of the accounting references for the issuing of the medal or medals.


Information transcribed from the Medal Index Cards includes every rank listed on an individual's card. On the card, the ranks are usually given in an abbreviated form, and there may be a number of abbreviations for the same rank, for example there are at least four abbreviations for "Rifleman": RFLM., RFMN, RFN. and RFM. Therefore to make it easier to search by rank, we have expanded the abbreviations to their full form:

Abbreviation                                                 Rank  


A.C. SGT.                                          Acting Colour Serjeant                                                                          

C.Q.M. SJT.                               Company Quarter Master Serjeant                                                    

C.S. MJR.                                        Company Serjeant Major    



Information transcribed from the Medal Index Cards includes every unit or corps listed on an individual's card. On the card, this may be given in an abbreviated form, but there may be a number of different abbreviations for the same unit. Therefore to make it easier to search, we have expanded these abbreviations to their full form. The following list gives the abbreviation and full unit name as well as country:

Abbreviation                                                    Unit                                                                                                                                                       

ESSEX R.                                                      Essex Regiment                                                               

M.G.C.                                                        Machine Gun Corps   

Major Balls Up Number Two :

The left hand side of the card contains a list of the campaign medals an individual was entitled to. To the right of these are the Army Medal Office (AMO) references to the original medal rolls for each of the medals. Below this, information regarding the operational theatre first served in and the date the individual entered that theatre can be found. In many cases this part of the card is blank, which usually means that the individual went to France in 1916 or later.

So why is there no information about the operational fields on Charles’s medal cards as he was in the shit right from the beginning???

This can be interpreted that he entered the theatre with the Essex, and later transferred to MGC. All 3 medals would bear his Essex number.

Source: Chris Baker

Millions died……..


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
Flanders fields.

To you with failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
Flanders fields

This poem, regarded by many as the greatest poem of the war, was written by Lieut Colonel John McCrae, of the Canadian army. A graduate in medicine from
Toronto University, he was appointed January 5, 1918, Consulting Physician to the British armies in France and died in hospital January 28 1918, “ dark to the triumph he died to gain”

Charles survived…..


Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (P.P.C.L.I.)

 Charles wanted to quit the army and was looking for a civilian job when his (older?) brother Albert (who had enlisted with the P.P.C.L.I.) wrote to him from Canada and urged him to come over and join up, which is exactly what he did.

Photo: Thierens Family Archives

Several clues indicate that Charles served with the PPCLI, attaining the rank of Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant Warrant Officer 2nd Class, until he returned to Great Britain due to the threatening outbreak of WWII.

Sources: 1. Lapel clasps Patricia's and a Green felt maple leaf with a   small badge of the     PPCLI.  2. a photo mentioning PPCLI Sarcee Camp 1927 P.007, though this is unsure as no  positive identification has been made of the presence of Charles in the photo, as   yet.                      3. Death certificate of his wife Beatrice Elizabeth Gambles at Fort Osborne  Barracks in Winnipeg in 1930. 4. Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with inscription: R.Q.M.S. (W.O. CL.2.)  

 C. Gambles P.P.C.L.I. (Thierens Family Archives)



Medal Mystery

The mystery of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal


Good-Conduct Badges [always with the hyphen], "a high distinction ......... as a token of Our Royal approbation ..... A chevron on the left arm", are covered in the Pay Warrant 1914. This badge was a genuine chevron, i.e. point up, worn lower left sleeve. The exception was Guards drummers, who wore them point down I believe, to cross the drummer's lace on their sleeves.
The badges did not attract extra pay [Good-Conduct Pay] unless a soldier had elected, some years before 1914 [I can research this change if needs be] to receive it rather than "Service Pay".
There was a further complication, that of "Proficiency Pay". If anyone has had the patience to understand the interaction of these three potential additional payments, please get in touch!

I do not believe the badges had any role towards pension, other than that a soldier without good conduct per se would not have been retained to 21 years service and so would not have got a retirement pension.

I do not believe that Good-Conduct Badges had a lot to do with promotion, either. They were certainly neither a necessary nor sufficient cause, and irrelevant for promotion above corporal.

Badges were earned at a rate of one for each period of years as follows:
2,5,12,18,23,28, although soldiers with no significant crime record could go 16, 21, 26 for the later badges. These qualifying periods had altered a lot over the preceding years, but I know of no changes during the war [indeed, soldiers "for 3 years or the duration" were officially Regulars on a different contract, and I see no reason for them not to earn a badge after 2 years].

Pictures exist of old soldiers with more than this number of badges; I have examples, but not during the Great War.

The highest rank/appointment that could wear the badges was that below full corporal or equivalent. This had not always been so, and was different for the West African Regiment.

Regarding the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, this was only awarded to those with a very high standard of conduct, demanding higher standards than the Good-Conduct Badge, "not less than 18 years with irreproachable character", and carried a gratuity of £5.

Finally, the opening question of this thread. All that the Pay Warrant says on this is "in awarding a Good-Conduct badge or badges to a man rejoining Our Regular Forces from Our Army Reserve, regard shall be had to the entries in his regimental conduct sheet during his service in the reserve". There is an implication that, if you had been virtuous whilst a Reservist in civvy street, you could "put them up" when you went back in.




Source: ThierensFamilyArchives

This medal was awarded for 21 years ??? of duty beyond the seas, so how come Charles got it in the first place? Start counting: 1914 – 1919 in France?; 1920 -1922 in Turkey?; 1923 -1938 in Canada??? – Why would Canada count or vice versa Britain count, when he joined a Canadian regiment, not a British one, or was Canada not completely independent yet/ did being a member of the Commonwealth or whatever count?

Counting: 5 + 2 + 14 = 21 so he must have got his medal somewhere between 1935 and 1938 or so.

Permanent Overseas Forces Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Click on picture for larger image (153K).

Permanent Overseas Forces Long Services and Good Conduct Medal



Years: 18 years service
Service: Permanent forces army and air force; and navy until 1925
Ranks: NCOs and men
Dates: 1909 to 1932
Bars: There was no bars to the medal.


A circular, silver medal, 1.42" in diameter.


King George V is shown in Field Marshal's uniform, facing left, and the legend:



The reverse bears the inscription FOR / LONG SERVICE / AND GOOD / CONDUCT in four lines and around the perimeter are the words: PERMANENT FORCES OF THE EMPIRE BEYOND THE SEAS.


A single-toe claw, with double-scroll claw supports on the rim, attaches to a straight, swivelling suspender.


The medal is engraved around the edge with number, rank, name and regiment.


1909 to 1916: The crimson ribbon was 1.25 inches wide, with a narrow central white stripe.
1919 to 1932: The crimson ribbon was 1.25 inches wide, with a dark blue centre stripe (0.125") and a narrow white stripe on each side of the centre stripe (0.09375 [3/32] inches wide).


There were 839 awards to the Canadian Army and 1 to the RCAF.


Veterans Affairs Canada - Anciens Combattants Canada

So what is the mystery: the wrong ribbon and no number engraved stupid!

Second chance:

Long Service and Good Conduct (Army) Medal


Years: 18 years service
Service: Permanent forces of the
Ranks: Warrant Officers, NCOs and men
Dates: 1902 to 1909
Bar: There was no bar to the medal


A circular, silver medal, 1.42" in diameter.


The obverse shows King Edward VII in Field Marshal's uniform, facing left, and the legend : EDWARDVS VII REX IMPERATOR.


The inscription FOR / LONG SERVICE / AND / GOOD CONDUCT appears on the reverse in four lines with the word CANADA above.


An ornate scroll suspender is attached to the medal with a single-toe claw.


The recipient's rank, name, and regiment is engraved around the rim.


The crimson ribbon is 1.25 inches wide, with a white centre stripe (I0.125" ).


There were 150 awarded to the Canadian permanent army.



Veterans Affairs Canada - Anciens Combattants Canada


So what is the mystery this time: wrong medal, but correct ribbon; the word Canada is missing; wrong King and the medal was issued between 1902 and 1909 stupid!

Where the hell did Charles get the combination 1902 - 1909 ribbon and the 1909 – 1932 medal from???

Sent this question the National Archives Canada and never received an answer…..

Thanks to Bryan (Canada) Service Number P.P.C.L.I.: PF 20659. PF= Permanent forces.


The P.P.C.L.I. and World War 1

Shortly after Great Britain declared war on Germany it asked Canada for military assistance.

It looks as though someone in Canada thought the shit might hit the fan in Europe as Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault developed a plan to found a regiment which could be mobilized on short notice. The shit did hit the fan and on August 6th 1914 the Canadian government accepted Gaul’s proposal and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment (P.P.C.L.I.) were founded.  The P.P.C.L.I. was actually the last privately funded regiment serving with the British Army in Canada (yes, before that time it was apparently quite common practice).


Captain Gault

Captain Gault forked out $ 100,000 to finance and equip an Infantry Battalion. On 11th August recruitment started and within 8 days (!) 1.098 soldiers who had seen previous military service throughout the British Empire were roped in. Just about every British army unit was represented in the P.P.C.L.I.

A fleet of 33 Atlantic liners assembled to transport the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.), including the P.P.C.L.I., to Great Britain, escorted by warships from the British Navy and set sail on 3rd October 1914. On 14th October it arrived at Plymouth and after training on Salisbury Plain the P.P.C.L.I. it joined the British 27th Division where it was brigaded with the 3rd King’s Royal rifles, 4th King’s Royal Rifles, 4th rifle Brigade and 2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. The 27th Division landed in France on 21st December.

The Regiment left Ottawa on the 28th of August, 1914 and embarked at Montreal on the MEGANTIC.

The sailing was cancelled due to enemy action in the Atlantic and the Regiment disembarked at Levis, PQ, where the Patricias set up camp and conducted needed training and organization. On the 27th of September, 1914 the Regiment sailed from Quebec on the ROYAL GEORGE, and on the18th of October was in camp on Salisbury Plain, England.

The British authorities found the Patricias to be well trained and capable of taking the field. In early November the Regiment moved to Winchester to join the 27th British Division as a unit of the 80th Brigade . Other units of the Brigade were all regular battalions of the british Army: 4th Battalion The Rifle Brigade, 3rd and 4th Battalions Kings Royal Rifle Corps, and 2nd Battalion King's Shrophire Light Infantry.

The 27th Division landed in France on the 21st of December, 1914. The Patricias were therefore the first and only Canadian Infantry Regiment in a theatre of war in 1914.

The Patricias served one year with 80th Brigade (named the "Stonewall Brigade" after its defence of the Ypres Salient in May, 1915). The historic battle of FREZENBERG was fought on the 8th of May, 1915. The enemy attacked behind clouds of poison gas, however the Regiment held the front even thought they were fighting from ditches and shell holes and were under fire from three sides.

The Regiment came out of action commanded by Lt H.W. Niven with 154 effectives. The anniversary of this famous battle is commemorated annually by the Regiment.

On the 22nd of December, 1915 the Regiment became part of the newly formed 3rd Canadian Division as a unit of the 7th Brigade. Other units of the Brigade were: the 42nd Battalion (Black Watch); the 49th Battalion (The Edmonton Regiment); and the Royal Canadian Regiment. The Regiment fought in many actions throughout the rest of the World War I and was part of the Canadian Corp which captured Vimy Ridge on the 9th of April, 1917.

During the battles around Passchendaele on the 30th of October, 1917 two members of the Regiment won the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Another Victoria Cross was won at Parvillers in August, 1918.

In November 1918, the Patricia's were involved in pursuing the Germans and on the 11th of November, 1918 No.4 Company entered Mons and shortly thereafter the Armistice was declared.

The Regiment returned to Canada in early 1919 and was demobilized at Ottawa following the homecoming parade.

Recently, the Regiment has been granted the honour of perpetuating the history of the 960th Battalion (Canadian: Rifles) Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force. This is a unit that was formed as part of the 16th Canadian Infantry Brigade in late 1918 to travel to Russia as part of a large multinational force to aid the Czech Legion while protecting allied war stocks in Vladivostock.


  CAPT. STEVE NEWMAN (Regimental Adjutant, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.)


Captain Steve Newman is currently the Regimental Adjutant of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. The Regiment is wrapping up some research on the Regiment in the Great War and preparing to publish several books - one on Flanders and one on France. During this research the Regiment has managed to identify one of their men who has been listed as "missing" for eighty years.  Tom Morgan

The gravestone with an etched maple leaf was eloquent in its simplicity. Surrounded by eighty-seven other men, he was simply the Unknown Sergeant. On the stone his regiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was listed and with it the date 28 September 1918. Located on a small hill, Crest Cemetery overlooks the rolling French farmland and villages of St Olle, Raillencourt and Sailly. Nearby is the historic town of Cambrai and dotted on the landscape are the military cemeteries showing the price paid in breaking the Canal Du Nord and Marcoing Lines eighty years ago.

Nearly sixty-six thousand Canadian military personnel died in the First World War. Forty-five thousand of them, mainly in France and Belgium, have known graves. More than nineteen thousand Canadian names are commemorated on the impressive Memorials to the Missing found on Vimy Ridge, France and the Menin Gate of Ypres, Belgium. When bodies were discovered but could not be identified by name they were buried with a headstone which gave the particulars of nationality, rank and regiment if possible - and in some cases a date. Others were simply listed as an "Unknown Soldier of the Great War."

The Empire, as it was known then, listed 530,000 names among the missing. Eighty per cent of these being from the United Kingdom and the remainder from the Dominions and Colonies.

From time to time soldiers' remains are recovered from the battlefields and some are identified, but most have disappeared forever. Less than half of the missing are buried as unidentified in cemeteries. The Unknown Sergeant was one of these and his name was carved somewhere on the Vimy Ridge Memorial.

The Canadian Corps was in full stride in the second half of 1918. Along with the Australian Corps and several British divisions they spearheaded the Allied effort to victory in the mad dash known as the "Last One Hundred Days." It began with inflicting the "Black Day" in the history of the German Army at Amiens, 8 August 1918 and ended with the capture of Mons 11 November 1918. Between the two points lay heavy fighting and casualties. On 28 September 1918 the Unknown Sergeant and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) crossed the Canal du Nord near Bourlon Wood and then swept across the open fields towards Cambrai. As members of the 7th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division they were asked to crack the Marcoing Line, the last of the major German prepared defence lines west of Cambrai. The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) led the Brigade attack with the Patricia's in support. Even before the battle could be joined the Patricia's lost their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Stewart, DSO. He and several men were killed by shell fire as they moved across the open fields towards Raillencourt. The RCR enjoyed initial success before being held up by flanking fire from St Olle and the enemy support line in Sailly. The Patricia's deployed and helped force the support line into Canadian hands by mid afternoon. At 7p.m. the Patricia's and the Edmonton Regiment (49th Bn) attacked towards the fortified village of Tilloy. The assault was caught up in heavy wire obstacles; overgrown and not obvious from aerial photos. Furthermore, the enemy covered the obstacles with machine gun fire which inflicted heavy casualties on the assaulting force. The next day three officers and forty men were discovered killed in a small area where they had failed to claw their way through the wire. During three days of heavy fighting between 28-30 September 1918, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry suffered 375 killed, wounded and missing.

Among them was the Unknown Sergeant.

For eighty years the grave remained unnamed. The occasional visitor would stop by and visit those with names, or possibly wonder about the five men who were unidentified in the cemetery. The peaceful setting of today belies the horror and violence suffered by the men who fought here. For those buried in Crest Cemetery their only constant and faithful companions are the gardeners of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who spend so much loving attention and care on the war graves and grounds of cemeteries around the world.

A new series of books dealing with the Patricia's in the Great War has been researched and the first, "With the Patricia's In Flanders 1914-1918 -- Then and Now" will be published in early 1999. A similar book will be done for France as well. The basis of the series is an in-depth view of the Regiment during the fighting and a look at the battleground today. Each cemetery and Memorial to the Missing has the full service record for each Patricia buried or commemorated there. It was in the course of this research that the identity of the Unknown Sergeant was discovered. The Regiment lost six Sergeants on 28 September 1918. All had known graves except for one. He was Sergeant George Ross Thompson.

George Thompson, according to his attestation papers, was born in Kenora, Ontario 5 April 1888. When war broke out in 1914 he was single and working as a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) engineer. The Patricia's accepted men who had prior service and were not in the Canadian Militia as those units were mobilizing as well. There were a few taken despite the lack of service and Thompson was one of them. Most had a specific skill applicable to the new regiment butThompson was valued for his services even before arriving in Ottawa and meeting Lieutenant-Colonel Farquhar, the new Commanding Officer. There were seventy Legion of Frontiersmen, former soldiers who belonged to the Empire-wide organization, waiting in Moose Jaw. They had heard of the new Regiment and the PPCLI troop train coming from Calgary.

It was their intent to join it - invited, or not.

The veterans persuaded young "Smokie" Thompson of the CPR to help them by placing two railcars on the siding by the main line. The determined men bluffed the day and night operators of the station into letting them wait for the train despite having no paperwork or authorization from CPR to join the train or use the rail coaches. When the train arrived, Thompson was quick to connect the two extra cars before it could leave. Although the conductor refused to co-operate at first, coercion and bluff got them to the next rail divisional point. They were told that they must produce a copy of their authorization upon arrival. Fortunately the conductor changed and once again through bluff and coercion they reached Winnipeg. Hamilton Gault, the founder of the Regiment, who had been receiving telegrams about this strange group attached to his Calgary train sent CPR a guarantee of transportation costs. For his part in the affair, Thompson was accepted in Ottawa as a private in the newly formed Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, service number 1056.

Thompson arrived in England with the Regiment and the First Canadian Contingent in October 1914. The PPCLI crossed to France as part of the 80th Brigade, 27th Imperial Division on 20 December 1914. He served in the cold, wet St Eloi sector until being hospitalized with general debility 23 March 1915. Thompson returned to the unit 5 April and fought through the epic stand at Frezenberg 8 May 1915. Promoted to provisional Corporal 26 August 1915, he was destined to become a drill instructor at the Canadian Base Depot 15 May 1916. By this good fortune, he missed the Battle of Sanctuary Wood (2-4 June 1916). In August 1916 he rejoined the unit just as the Canadians were preparing to head south and take part in the Battle of the Somme. He was promoted to Sergeant 15 September 1916, during the fighting at Flers-Courcelette and survived the attack against Regina Trench 8 October 1916. After taking part in the assault on Vimy Ridge in April 1917, he was granted ten days leave in Paris returning to the unit 22 May 1917. Nine days later he was evacuated to hospital ill. Released from hospital 4 July he was attached to the 3rd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station on 20 September 1917 and did not return to the PPCLI in the field until 13 May 1918. By this time the last major German offensive of the war had collapsed into stalemate. Thompson suffered an abscessed leg 3 July 1918 that held him out of the initial battles of the "Last Hundred Days" at Amiens and Scarpe, but he returned to help bolster the unit just after 28 August 1918. A month later he was killed by machine gun fire during the morning, 28 September 1918, as the Regiment supported the RCR in their initial assault on the Marcoing Line. The war and the Regiment moved quickly past Cambrai towards Mons and Peace. Thompson's body was lost as he passed from the sight of his fellow man.

There were many people involved in identifying the Unknown PPCLI Sergeant. It started with the touring of Patricia battlefields, cemeteries and memorials by Captain Steve Newman, the current Regimental Adjutant. This was followed by long hours of detailed research in the National Archives and Personnel Records, ably guided and assisted by Tim Wright of the Research Division. Independent confirmation and advice by Norm Christie, a former CWGC Records Officer and author/researcher on Canadians in the Great War (The King & Empire Series), helped clinch a positive identification. Photos and military maps came from the Regimental Curator Lynn Bullock. And finally, Roy Hemington, the current Records Officer of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in England assessing the merits of the evidence and moving to rename the Unknown Sergeant's gravestone. After eighty years, his name is:

Sergeant George Ross Thompson, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

The Regiment has located relatives of Sgt. Thompson, living in Winnipeg.

The Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has contacted them with regards to possible wording of a personal incription on the headstone - a priviledge which would have been available to Sgt. Thompson's next-of-kin 80 years ago, had his identity been known.

The original "Unknown Sergeant" headstone has been delivered to the PPCLI Museum, where plans are under way for its display. Final details for a graveside service by the Regiment are still being looked at.

Postscript added 2nd October, 1998
The sound of rifle fire will be heard across the battlefield again shortly after eleven o’clock, on
9 November 1998. As part the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Pilgrimage commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Armistice (1918) Sergeant Thompson’s grave will be re-consecrated. A padre will lead the service sprinkling Canadian soil and maple leaves upon the grave. The family has chosen to place at the bottom of his new gravestone the following inscription “In remembrance of the sacrifice made for freedoms enjoyed today.” The unique folklore of Sergeant Thompson’s part of the Regiment will be read and the Minister of Veteran Affairs will lay a wreath as will a PPCLI Sergeant. Echoing across the fields to the other cemeteries in the area will come the haunting Last Post and Reveille and the sad lament from the pipes, remembering the Patricias and their comrades in arms who lie nearby.

In Calgary at the Museum of the Regiments the Patricias will unveil a new display in time for the 11 November ceremonies. The original Unknown Sergeant’s headstone will be set back from a full archway with a mural of Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Cross of Sacrifice in the background. The exhibit will remember over six hundred soldiers of the Regiment missing in the Great War with no known grave. A Patricia Honour Guard will be provided from Edmonton for the ceremony with a Sergeant laying an exact duplicate of the wreath used in France against the headstone.

Should you have pictures or information on any Patricia, particularly those killed in the Great War, please contact the author of this article, Capt. Steve Newman.

Copyright © Capt. Steve Newman, PPCLI, July, 1998. [2]










Life of a Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant with the P.P.C.L.I.


In 1923 (?) Charles and his family sailed for Canada to join his brother Albert to serve with the P.P.C.L.I. Albert had joined the P.P.C.L.I. in 1921:

 I did another check in the Archives. I was able to find your Grandfather but not until 1928 (this doesn't mean he didn't join earlier because we don't have nominal rolls for each year but he definitely joined later than 1922. I also noticed an AE Gambles on earlier (1921) nominal rolls - possibly a brother?)

Lynn Bullock


PPCLI Regimental Museum and Archives


Source: Email dated 7th October 2004.


They were stationed at Fort Osborne Barracks, 139 Tuxedo Avenue, in Winnipeg.


In it self it is rather remarkable that Charles found a job with the P.P.C.L.I. As an aftermath of the First World War the Canadian government slashed the defence budget massively.

Background information

The P.P.C.L.I. was resurrected as a regiment of the Permanent Active Militia of Canada on April 1st 1919 and a year later D Company was permanently stationed at Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg.


Only a handful of officers and senior NCOs, who had fought in The Great War, chose to stay on. At the end of 1920 Regimental Head Quarters (R.H.Q.) and A Company also settled down at Fort Osborne Barracks while B Company was stationed at Work Points Barracks, Esquimalt, British Columbia.

A and D Companies were assigned to train the militia in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and B Company ditto in British Columbia and Alberta. In practice this meant that the regiment was physically divided and it was not able to train as a single unit until 1927.

Between 1927 and the Second world War it concentrated only three more times for joint training. All training exercises were held at Camp Sarcee near Calgary.



N.B.  This means that the photo we have of the P.P.C.L.I. at Sarcee Camp is absolutely unique and we must identify Charles!

This is no mean task; possibly he is positioned in the vague part of the photo on the left or was taking a leak…..


Source: ThierensFamilyArchives

Back to business. It is quite amazing really that Albert and Charles were accepted by the P.P.C.L.I. as in the 1920’s, as mentioned before, the defence budget was significantly cut and even more severely so during the years of the Great Depression.

Every time cuts hit the defence forces, men were dismissed from the Permanent forces, pay was cut and training time was chopped. The P.P.C.L.I. for instance, remained at about two thirds below its authorized strength averaging about 250 to 350 officers and men.

Under these circumstances they were supposed to train the militia. A neigh impossible task as the militia had no modern equipment at all.

Even so, every Patricia officer and every man with the rank of corporal and above was trained to be an instructor. They were sent all over the west to try to teach the militia the rudiments of soldiering, often on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons.

Life for the average Patrician during these years consisted of small-arms training in the spring, summer encampments or courses, guard duty or recruit training whenever possible.

Now here is a possible clue as to why at least Charles was accepted in the P.P.C.L.I.:

Training was a mixture of musketry practice, learning the Lewis and Vickers machine guns and mortars, etc. If Charles was indeed a machine gun instructor during W.W.1 at Grantham, his skills would have been very valuable in the post war Canadian army.


Basic pay during the inter war years was 1.10 dollars a day (which by the way was exactly the same amount that was paid in 1915!), which compared favourably to. for instance, labourers, cowboys and farmhands. One guy who joined the P.P.C.L.I. at some stage literally said: “I was working for the Marconi Company as an office boy, polishing doorknobs and being the gopher at three dollars a month. When I joined the army, I started off at 1.30 dollars a day ….and on top of that I was being fed and clothed.

For Charles it must have been different in a certain sense, but again, it proves somehow that he evidently had skills the Canadian army needed at the time:

There were few married men as the regiment allowed only one-tenth of its men to be married at any time, and those men had to have permission. They received a 50 percent supplement to their regular pay and were allotted space in married quarters.

Source: David J. Bercuson: The Patricias, The Proud history of a Fighting Force.

Canada's Permanent Force, 1919-1939

        On 20 March, 1919, the Regiment was selected to form part of Canada's "peace-time" army to be called the Permanent Active Militia, more commonly known as the Permanent Force.  The Regiment's headquarters, "A" and "D" Company were located at Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg, Manitoba in April, 1920.  "B" Company was located at Esquimalt, British Columbia.

        The years between the wars were lean ones for the Canadian Militia, both Permanent and Non-permanent.  It was a period of official neglect and ever decreasing establishments.  By 1924 the Regiment had been reduced to 209 all ranks.  Patricias were concentrated at Sarcee Camp, Alberta, to carry out battalion training on only four occasions during these twenty years.  Each summer the Winnipeg companies went to camp, first to Camp Hughes and later to Camp Shilo to carry out company training.  On the west coast, "B" Company trained at Heal's Range and other points on southern Vancouver Island. Each year the Regiment was called on to provide instructors and to conduct qualifying courses for officers and non-commissioned officers of the Non-permanent Active Militia.  Instructors were also provided for contingents of the Canadian Officers Training Corps at the universities of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.


During the interwar years, the Regiment was reduced to 209 all ranks and was restricted to low level training with only a few occasions to gather as a formed battalion. For the Winnipeg based Companies, most summers were spent training at Camp Shilo. Ironically, this would later become a new location for one of the Regiment's permanent Battalions. Following summer training in Shilo, A and D Companies would return to Winnipeg and enjoy some much deserved annual leave in September. Training at Osborne Barracks consisted of many activities including compulsory boxing matches and unarmed combat training lessons. Matches were often held in the evening and the public were usually invited as guests.

Note the differences!



The name "Jeep" with a capital "J" was used by the Canadian artillerymen at this time as is evidenced by a photo album at Burnaby Village Museum (where I am the Curator) and by another story by a veteran who was there at the time 

One of the 1936 "Jeep" is preserved at the Canadian War Museum and can be seen in their VIMY HOUSE warehouse facility. The preserved example does not have the 18 pounder limber (caisson to U.S. people) bodies mounted on the rear deck (4 of them). 

"The Jeep" Camp Shilo, Manitoba, 1937 



Charles must have had skills which were very much sought after as he was ‘recruited’ into the P.P.C.L.I during the years of severe budget cut backs between the two world Wars.

As a machine gun instructor at the Machine Gun Training Centre in Grantham during WW1, combined with actual battle experience, he would have been invaluable as an instructor to the Militia.

As a Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant (R.Q.M.S.) Charles must have been part of the Regimental Headquarters and that is the explanation why he settled in Winnipeg

He must have been a sort of whiz kid in scrounging left right and centre to keep the Companies supplied with whatever was needed, especially I should think military hardware, for training purposes. I’m not sure yet, but I think Charles was responsible for food, clothing, weapons, pay (?), etc. for the whole regiment, which made him senior to the C.Q.M.S.’s of the Companies in Winnipeg, Manitoba but also for B Company in British Columbia. As a matter of fact he was possibly the right hand man of the regimental commander???

Tot top it off: the Canadian Army was willing to take on Charles as a married man with wife and two kids, pay him an allowance for them and quarter them at Fort Osborne Barracks.

I think they liked him!


Near Sarcee….Source:


Sarcee Camp: what went on before…..


Thank you Sir!!!



Google Image Result for www_geh_org-taschen-m197500870008_jpg

Of course before Sarcee camp ever existed (it was built during the First world War to train large numbers of recruits) all the land belonged to the native Indians, the Sarcee. It is written that the government of Canada bought/rented the land from them. Yaw, sure.

The camp is situated in the Sarcee Indian Reserve eight or nine miles south-west of Calgary.

What went on after…..

Summer training camps for militia Calvary were held in Calgary from 1901. With the out break of war, the military expanded rapidly. The city was also growing and large land tracts needed for training were difficult to obtain. Land was leased at the north eastern edge of the Sarcee Reserve and work on  Sarcee  Camp, second largest of the major Canadian training bases, began in April, 1915. By the 1916, twelve infantry battalions plus other units were under canvas at the same time - almost 15,000 men. Serviced with water and electricity, the camp was planned by military engineers. With few wooden buildings, thousands of which 
tents were pitched in neat rows. Whitewashed rocks outlined roads, walkways and unit perimeters. The camp opened to visitors on Wednesdays and Sundays. It cost ten cents extra for the bus trip from the end of the streetcar line. "
Sarcee City" sprang up nearby. Commercial and recreational services included theaters, a pool hall, a photographic studio, several soft drink vendors and a shooting gallery. A reporter from the Calgary Herald described it as a place where soldiers might "relieve themselves of their money on every form of harmless trash imaginable”

               Inter-War Years

C Battery fording the Elbow River, Sarcee Camp, 1933 Between the First and Second World Wars the batteries were employed in training of the Militia artillery units. The RCHA Brigade represented the only three permanent artillery batteries and had its headquarters with A and B Batteries at Kingston and C Battery at the Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg.

Personal Tragedy

Sadly, on 21st January 1930 Beatrice Elizabeth died of breast cancer, leaving Charles to fend for his two still young daughters.

New Happiness

On 12 September,1936 Charles remarried to his former housekeeper Catherine Deacon.


Photo: Thierens Family Archives








When WWII threatened to erupt they returned to Great Brittan and he offered his services to the British Army but was turned down due to his age (51 at the time).

Possibly he served as an air raid warden during the German bombing of London where they lived at the time.

Source: Doreen Beatrice Thierens-Gamble via her eldest  William.




Source:  Thierens Family Archives


Living Quarters in London: 97  Richmond Avenue



Charles married of both his daughters somehow, well one was easy, the other one was pure luck. For us a two edged sword…..

Charles Frederick Gambles died at home, 97 Richmond Avenue, Higham’s Park, on 25th April 1959 at the age of 70.



  Source: Thierens Family Archives    

The search still continues…..



One does not give up….ever!









































[1] In the case of Thomas: pensioner of long service and good conduct? – did he have a medal – T.N.A. !

[2] Via the CEF Study Group Forum I have recently gotten acquainted with Steve Newman and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of his book: ‘With the Patricias in Flanders’.

[3] Well, well...a Harold Edwards as one of the witnesses?