Disembarkation

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) began landing in France in mid August 1914. By the end of November it consisted of 14 divisions as follows:-

Cavalry divisions:
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1st Indian

Infantry divisions:
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, Lahore, Meerut

British troops embark for France.
(Photograph courtesy of the
Taylor Library, Barnsley)

From both the medal index card and the 1914-15 Star medal roll it can be seen that Herbert disembarked in France on 20th December 1914. Thus he could either have been part of a draft for one of the above divisions or he could have disembarked with a new unit being deployed on the Western Front for the first time.

My uncle remembers that Herbert spoke of sailing to Salonika. The divisions that served in Macedonia (the name of the campaign for which the Salonika landing formed a part) are listed below.

Infantry divisions:
10th, 22nd, 26th, 27th, 28th, 60th

As can be seen, non of the divisions in France during November 1914 also served in Macedonia. However, the situation is slightly complicated by the reorganisation of some divisions that occurred in February 1915. This moved some batteries from divisions that did not serve in Macedonia into two divisions that did as shown below.

  • 11th battery, 15th brigade, 5th division transferred to 1st brigade, 27th division on 9-2-15
  • 39th battery, 14th brigade, 4th division transferred to 19th brigade, 27th division on 9-2-15
  • 22nd battery, 34th brigade, 2nd division transferred to 3rd brigade, 28th division on 4-2-15
  • 118th battery, 26th brigade, 1st division transferred to 31st brigade, 28th division on 17-2-15

We therefore have a possible route from the Western Front to Salonika if Herbert was drafted into the 11th, 39th, 22nd or 118th batteries. However, as far as I know no records of drafts still exist (apart from occasional vague references in war diaries) so this possibility is difficult to prove.

The other possibility is that Herbert did not arrive in France as part of a draft but arrived with his unit. In order to determine which, if any RFA units disembarked on the day Herbert did a list of embarkation or disembarkation dates for units going overseas is required. The embarkation returns for 1914 are kept in WO25/3533A (PRO). These show which ships sailed on a particular date, the unit or units they were carrying, the officers' names, the destination and the date of disembarkation. The disembarkation returns for 1914 in WO25/3697 (PRO) are very similar. The returns for the Territorial units sailing to various parts of the Empire to take over garrison duties from the regular army (to allow them to fight in France) are included, but unfortunately the BEF is not. However, there is a list entitled "Embarkation dates of units going overseas 1914 - 1918" in WO379/16 (PRO). Although it is the date of disembarkation that is required, this list helps narrow the search down to a manageable number of units.

The list below shows all the RFA units embarking in December 1914 along with the dates.

RFA Unit Embarkation date
1st Brigade Ammunition Column 20th December 1914
19th Brigade Ammunition Column 19th December 1914
20th Brigade Ammunition Column 22nd December 1914
67th Battery 19th December 1914
95th Battery 19th December 1914
96th Battery 19th December 1914
98th Battery 20th December 1914
99th Battery 21st December 1914
131st Battery 19th December 1914
132nd Battery 20th December 1914
133rd Battery 22nd December 1914
364th Battery 20th December 1914


To determine which of these units disembarked on the 20th December 1914 the appropriate war diaries have to be consulted. War diaries are kept at the PRO in the series WO95. The index for WO95 is arranged by theatre of war and then by division. Since the divisions are not known, the supplementary finding aid for WO95 needs to be consulted. There are two lists in the supplementary finding aid for the RFA. The first lists the brigades in numerical order with the war diary references. The second lists the RFA brigades in numerical order together with the batteries that formed it and the division to which it was attached. The table below is based on information from the WO95 supplementary finding aid. It lists the RFA units that landed in December 1914 (as determined from the table above) together with the brigades and divisions they served with and the PRO references for the war diaries.

Unit Brigade Division War diary reference
1st Brigade Ammunition Column 1st Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
19th Brigade Ammunition Column 19th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
20th Brigade Ammunition Column 20th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
67th Battery 20th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
95th Battery 19th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
96th Battery 19th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
98th Battery 1st Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
99th Battery 20th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
131st Battery 19th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
132nd Battery 1st Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
133rd Battery 1st Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883
364th Battery 20th Brigade 27th Division WO95/2257
WO95/4883


It can be seen that all the RFA units embarking in December 1914 served with the same division, the 27th. From the index for WO95 it is found that the 27th Division served on the Western Front and in Salonika. To determine the dates of disembarkation, the war diaries need to be consulted. For December 1914 they are all kept in WO95/2257. From these it can be determined that the units that disembarked on 20th December 1914 were :-

  • 19th brigade ( 95th, 96th, 131st batteries and brigade ammunition column)
  • 67th battery of the 20th brigade
The rest of the division's field artillery disembarked on the following day.

Herbert Halliday disembarked in France on the very day that RFA units of the British 27th division disembarked. This division served on the Western Front and in Salonika. No other division in France at that time also served in Salonika. It therefore seems likely that Herbert served with the 27th Division on the Western Front and sailed with them to Salonika.

However, we shall see later that these dates may not be completely accurate...