Revolt at Taranto

Inscribed “Yours very faithfully, Walter Alves.” This c. 1918 real photo postcard provides us with an outstanding portrait of a member of the British West Indies Regiment.

Walter Alves Front

Above: Private Walter Alves of the 3rd Battalion, the British West Indies Regiment photographed while in southern Italy at the end of World War One. The only uniform concession to the warm Mediterranean climate is the quilted tropical service helmet that Alves wears. The rest of his uniform is of the heavy wool pattern issued for wear in France and Belgium. His cuff band indicates that Alves was a member of the regimental military police. c. 1918 Source: Edward T. Garcia/ collection.

Often confused with the long establish West India Regiment, the British West Indies Regiment (B.W.I.R.) was raised specifically for duty during World War One and was made up of black volunteers from the British West Indies as well as British Honduras and British Guiana. With the regiment eventually increasing to ten battalions in strength the B.W.I.R. saw its 1st and 2nd Battalions serve in Egypt and Palestine against the Ottoman Empire with the other battalions seeing service in France, Flanders, and Italy.

While often relegated to secondary roles, the B.W.I.R. drew a mention from Field Marshal Douglas Haig in France who said: “[Their] work has been very arduous and has been carried out almost continuously under shell-fire. In spite of casualties the men have always shown themselves willing and cheerful workers, and the assistance they have rendered has been much appreciated by the units to which they have been attached and for whom they have been working. The physique of the men is exceptional, their discipline excellent and their morale high”.

Equally, General Edmund Allenby, commander of British forces in Palestine lauded members of the B.W.I.R. who served under his command: “I have great pleasure in informing you of the gallant conduct of the machine-gun section of the 1st British West Indies Regiment during two successful raids on the Turkish trenches. All ranks behaved with great gallantry under heavy rifle and shell fire and contributed in no small measure to the success of the operations”.

By war’s end the regiment had been recognized with the award of five Distinguished Service Orders, nineteen Military Crosses, eleven Military Crosses with Bar, eighteen Distinguished Conduct Medals, as well as 49 Mentions in Despatches.

The end of the war found the entire regiment concentrated at Taranto in southern Italy for demobilization. Discontent began to arise with the B.W.I.R. when a post-war pay raise being granted other British troops was denied them. Also contributing to the rising ill-feeling was the endless fatigue duties that were assigned to the regiment. These included the loading and unloading of cargo ships in Taranto’s harbor to the cleaning of latrines for the Italian Army. Resentment finally boiled over when members of the B.W.I.R.s 9th and 10th Battalions refused to do any additional work until their grievances were addressed. These points were put forward in a letter signed by some 180 sergeants of the regiment. Violence broke out which lasted three days before being put down by elements of the Worcestershire Regiment which were also in Taranto at the time. One white British officer – the very one who had ordered his men to clean the Italian latrines – was attacked and one black sergeant shot and killed a private of the B.W.I.R. in self-defense before what became known as the Taranto Revolt was suppressed.

In the wake of the revolt, some 60 members of the regiment were court-martialed and received prison terms ranging from three to twenty years. One man faced a firing squad.

The animosities and resentments that brought about the Taranto Revolt and the circumstances of its aftermath would centrally figure in the Caribbean independence and self-rule movements that began to spring up not long after the end of the war.

Above: A short but outstanding documentary commemorating the Caribbean’s contribution to the Allied cause in the Great War. Produced by the West India Committee.

Not much has come to light concerning the soldier in our photograph. His regimental number being 2443, Private Walter Alves was a member of the B.W.I.R.s 3rd Battalion which did not take part in the revolt. As a member of the 3rd Battalion Alves would have served in France and Flanders prior to the end of the war and being transferred to southern Italy. Alves’ service records have not been found (possibly destroyed during WWII) but his medal index card, as well as his entry in the British War and Victory Medal Roll, have. These two sources confirm his service number and battalion and state that he was entitled to both of these medals. Interestingly both of these official sources show Alves’ medals going unclaimed and being returned to the War Office. Of the twenty members of the B.W.I.R. listed on the same page of the medal roll, seven show their medals going unclaimed. Is it possible that there may have been a statement being made by these men?

Alves himself cut quite a soldierly – and very young – appearance in his photograph. He wears the regulation uniform of the British Army at the time a sports a quilted tropical helmet on his head which reflects the warm and sunny Mediterranean climate of southern Italy. On the cuff of his left sleeve is an armband which shows he had been appointed to the regimental military police. In his hand, he holds the ubiquitous “walking out stick”. Often called a swagger stick and associated with officers, these were in fact carried by all ranks with the main purpose being to keep a soldier’s hands busy – nothing was considered more unsoldierly as a soldier with his hands in his pockets.

Walter Alves Reverse

Above: The reverse side of the postcard, Alves dedicated it to “Mrs. Pennington, with compliments.” The said Mrs. Pennington has not been identified. The postcard’s label is in Italian which coincides with the B.W.I.R.s station at the end of the war. C. 1918, Source: Edward T. Garcia/ collection.

It Happened at Madeleine Farm

Sharing family genealogy with the general public can sometimes be compared with sharing a slide show of past vacation photos. With the 100th anniversary of World War One upon us perhaps sharing my research into the largely forgotten wartime experiences of my paternal great-uncle José Garcia y Baca (1892-1966) of Belen, New Mexico, will hopefully be viewed as timely and not too much of a self-indulgence.

Researching the military service of my paternal grandfather’s older brother José has been problematic from the start. I had become aware that he served in the army during World War One when I came across a questionnaire sent out after the war by the New Mexico Historical Service. The questionnaire contained a quantity of information but left out some very critical details such as where he as stationed and or what unit he may have belonged to. He did mention one curious fact alluding to being “crippled on both legs” as a result of his military service but again failed to mention how this happened. He did list his army serial number – 1630987 – which would prove very valuable later on.

Jose Garcia y Baca Statement of Service

Above: José Garcia y Baca’s Statement of Service form issued by and submitted back to the New Mexico Historical Service just after the end of World War One. While offering some tantalizing clues to José’s wartime experiences, many important details were missing and had to be sought out via other sources.

Attached to the questionnaire was follow up letter to José’s mother Preciliana from Palace of the Governor’s archivist Lansing Bloom enquiring as to the circumstance of José’s injury which apparently went disappointingly unanswered.

Sometime later I found an Army Transport Service Passenger List for the SS Lapland dated June 28, 1918, which lists members of Camp Kearny Automatic Replacement Draft, Company 12 departing New York for an undisclosed European port. So José did indeed serve overseas during the war. To what combat unit he was assigned to was still a mystery since he was going overseas as a replacement and would be assigned to a combat unit once in the theater of operations.

Army Transport Service List Outward

Above: The passenger list from the troop ship SS Lapland, showing José Garcia y Baca as a member of the Camp Kearny June Automatic Replacement Draft Company 12. The Lapland departed New York for Europe on June 28, 1918. 

A bit later I found a February 5, 1919 casualty list in The Washington Post that lists José as “Wounded (degree undetermined)” while serving in France. This would imply that José’s injuries were the result of battle although the list still frustratingly failed to mention his combat unit. This article spurred me on to search out an Army Transport Service Passenger list for his return trip home, which after some time I was lucky enough to find.

Jose Garcia y Baca Wound List

Above: A clipping from the casualty list which appeared in the February 5, 1919 edition of the Washington Post. José Garcia y Baca is listed but no details are given.

Dated December 6, 1918, this passenger list for the SS Maui carries the names of wounded troops returning to the U.S. after the end of the war via Bordeaux, France. Perhaps it was a sign of the times that his name was Anglicized on the list from the proper Spanish José Garcia y Baca to Joseph B. Garcia. This happened a lot in those days so I was not unprepared for this eventuality. But quickly comparing the service number of this Joseph with my José – 1630987 – proved both were the same man. The list also gave me Jose’s overseas unit – “I” Company of the 30th Infantry Regiment.

Jose Garcia y Baca Wound Home Transport Manifest copy

Above: The passenger manifest for the SS Maui homeward bound from Bordeaux, France on December 6, 1918. Although José’s name had been Anglicized to Joseph B. Garcia, his service or serial number was correct as was his hometown of Belen, New Mexico. His father Antonio (here abbreviated to “Anton”) was also correct.

Knowing that the 30th Infantry formed part of the 3rd Infantry Division during the war would allow me to trace in a general way my great uncle’s movements in Europe from the time of his arrival time until he returned home on the SS Maui. Finding out how and when he was wounded would require me to find copies of his service records – if they still existed.

If they still existed was the question of the day. One of the most tragic events in U. S. genealogical history took place in 1973 when a fire swept through the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, Missouri. The fire destroyed 80% of the U.S. Army personnel records dating from between 1912 and 1960. Prior to the fire none of the records had been microfilmed and it was long before the advent of digitalization. Finding records for s specific soldier is an 80% against coin toss.

I filled out a records request form and mailed it in and waited and hoped. It can take several months to hear back from the Records Center, most often only to find out nothing survived the fire. A strange as it may seem to this day none of the surviving records have been digitized and all searches are still done by hand. It should also be noted that many of the surviving records were severely damaged by the fire, by water used to fight it and the resulting mold that took root afterward. Six months later I finally received a reply.

The letter stated that some of my great uncle’s records were extant and gave the required information regarding payment, etc. which was duly dispatched. About a month later a large envelope arrived containing 70 pages of black and white Xerox type copies of José’s surviving records. Surprisingly the majority of the documents (most showed evidence of burning around the edges) dealt with his with his wounding and the subsequent medical treatment he received.

The majority of the records are daily medical reports relating to José’s injuries. They confirm that he was indeed wounded in action and not injured in an accident or disabled as the result of sickness. As shown in this daily report he was wounded on October 9, 1918, at the Verdun sector in France having been shot through both lower legs my German machine gun fire. One bullet had entered just below the head of his right fibula shattering the upper third of the bone. Another or possibly the same bullet had entered just below the head of the left fibula but had not done such extensive damage.

Jose Garcia y Baca Medical Record for Wounds

Above: The front and back of the daily report for January 11, 1919, taken from José Garcia y Baca’s service records. The report – which shows evidence of the 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire – lists in grim detail the nature of his wounds, the general sector of the front where they occurred and the date of the event. 

The records also state that at the time of his wounding he was serving with F Company, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division. With this information, I was rather incredibly able to determine the exact action during which Jose was wounded. After having done a good number of such research projects in the past, this is the only time that this has happened. The following account described the event:

“On the morning of October 9th at 9:12 a.m. the 30th Infantry attacked the Bois de Cunel (Cunel Woods). All the preparations were made to have a smoke screen obscure the view of the enemy to conceal the 30th Infantry’s attack between the Bois de Cunel and a small patch of woods just south of it. However, on the morning of the 9th, a heavy fog hung over the engagement area. Under the cover of smoke and fog, the 30th Infantry commenced its attack. The 30th Infantry wasn’t discovered until they were almost to the Bois de Cunel. When they were discovered by the Germans their machine gunners poured heavy fire into their ranks. The 30th’s advance progressed steadily in spite of heavy resistance and continuous artillery bombardment. The Madeleine Farm was a German strongpoint not in the 30th’s sector, however, the machine gunners from the farm were inflicting heavy casualties on the 30th’s advance. “E” and “F” Companies were assigned immediately to reduce the farm. “E” and “F” Companies did so quickly with heavy losses and capturing a large number of prisoners in the process. The same day the entire Bois de Cunel was taken and the 30th’s line was reestablished in the Northern edge of the woods.”

Madeleine Farm

Above: A c. 1918 view of the partially destroyed Madeleine Farm. It was here while attacking German machinegun emplacements on the morning of October 9, 1918, that José was severely wounded in both legs.  

So José was wounded during the attack on the German machine gun positions at the Madeleine Farm sometime soon after 9 am on October 9, 1918. As stated previously this kind of specificity is remarkably rare.

German Machine Gun

Above: A late war German machinegun emplacement. Madeleine Farm was defended by several such posts and the attacking American troops suffered heavily before capturing the position.

José’s war was over but he had a long road to recovery. He would first be taken to Field Hospital #27, then to Evacuation Hospital #10, Base Hospital #32 and Base Hospital #114, all in France, until shipping home to Camp Merritt, New Jersey on the hospital ship USS Maui on December 9. 1918. He disembarked at the Receiving Hospital at Ellis Island, New York on December 17 and was then transferred to Base Hospital, Camp Merritt, New Jersey. He remained at Camp Merritt until December 30. 1918 when he was shipped west to the base hospital at Camp MacArthur, Texas. He was once again transferred to the base hospital at Camp Bowie, Texas on February 26, 1919. He remained to convalesce there until April 16. 1919 and was discharged on April 22, 1919. His final medical report states that as a result of his wounds he was considered to be 30% disabled.

Interestingly a letter from the Adjutant General to José’s mother Presiliana dated May 27, 1919, stated that besides his severe wounding on October 9, 1918, he had previously been slightly wounded on August 10, 1918. The records further confirm him being issued a wound chevron for his uniform. The wound chevron was made from gold bullion and was worn point down on the lower right cuff of the uniform jacket. As implied it signified that the wearer had been wounded in action. In 1932 with the creation of the Purple Heart veterans in possession of a wound chevron could submit an application to exchange the chevron for the new medal. Nothing in José’s records indicate that he did this although his slight wounding on August 10, 1918, would mean that technically he would have been entitled to the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster.

Jose Garcia y Baca Wound Notification Letter

Above: A photocopy of the May 27, 1919 letter from the Adjutant General to José’s mother Presiliana which revealed the previously unknown fact that José had been wounded not once but twice while serving in France. Note the charred edges – evidence of the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, Missouri.  

Also included with José’s service papers was his application for the World War One Victory Medal. This medal was issued to all U.S. service members who served during the war. Uniquely among U.S. issued medals the Victory Medal was issued with a wide variety of campaign/battle and service clasps that were worn on the ribbon in the tradition of British campaign medals. José’s application requested the “France” service clasp with his medal and the request was approved on December 11, 1920. The request for the “France” service clasp was a mistake on José’s part and its approval by 1st Lieutenant Irvine L. McAlister was in error. The “France” service clasp was intended for U. S. military personnel who served in France but did not otherwise see action. Troops serving in administrative capacities behind the lines in Paris for example. Being that José was wounded twice during the final great American offensive of the war – the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – he was in fact entitled to the battle clasp “Meuse-Argonne” for that action. Digging a bit deeper into his service papers showed he was in fact also entitled to the “St. Mihiel” and “Defensive Sector” battle clasps.

Jose Garcia y Baca Victory Medal Application Form

Above: José’s application for his World War One Victory Medal. He mistakenly applied for and was granted the single “France” service clasp and not the three battle/campaign clasps he was actually entitled to.

Sadly, I have been unable to find a photograph of José in uniform during the war.

A Murder Most Foul

The photograph below came from a photo album which I believe to have once been the property of Private Thomas Franklin Fleming of Company C, 32nd United States Volunteer Infantry (USVI) and identifies muder victim Private William Kilpatrick of Tahlequah, Indian Territory (left) . The label also states rather matter-of-factly that Kilpatrick was shot and killed by Tuazzo on October 7, 1900, at Balanga, Bataan in the Philippines. Naturally, this type of image simply screams out for further research and is exactly the type of image that I collect. Although faded by time the history lurking within this image is simply too much to pass up.

Kilpatrick with Revolver

Above: Private William Kilpatrick of Company C, 32nd United States Volunteer Infantry (left) photographed sometime prior to his murder by Private Pasquale Tuazzo. c. 1900

My first cursory investigation into the ill-fated Private Kilpatrick only turned up a burial record dated March 1, 1901, which states that he was buried at the Presidio in San Francisco. Unfortunately no next of kin, birth date or place are listed on the card. This leaves a few additional avenues open to me in finding out more about him.

A bit more has turned up on Private Pasquale Tuozzo (according to all official records I have found this is the correct spelling of his name.) was born in Salerno, Italy and served with the 3rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry as a baker with the brigade bakeries in Summerville, South Carolina prior to joining the 32nd USVI and shipping out to the Philippines.

Kilpatrick with Group

Above: Members of Company C, 32nd Infantry, United States Volunteers pose prior to their departure to the Philippines. The doomed Private William Kilpatrick stands at far right. c. 1900, 

Although the exact circumstances of the crime that left Private Kilpatrick dead are still yet to be uncovered, another typed label in the same photo album next to a second photo of Tuozzo states that he was dishonorably discharged from the army after and general court martial on December 10, 1900 and sentenced to 99 years at the Military Prison on Alcatraz Island.

There are several additional sources that I plan on looking into and I may attempt to get copies of Kilpatrick’s service records from the National Archives. I also plan on trying to find a source for old military prison records in order to find out if Tuozzo actually served his whole 99-year sentence. Much of this story is yet to be uncovered.

Since my initial investigation in the murder of Private Kilpatrick I may have identified his family in the 1900 Census for Township 17, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma). He appears to have been one of seven children of Thomas and Rhoda Kilpatrick and was born in Indiana around 1876. The census lists his occupation as “U.S. Soldier”. Kilpatrick was already overseas by the time the 1900 Census was taken and the enumerator probably listed all members of the household whether present or not. Kilpatrick also appears in the 1900 Census for military and naval personnel at Balanga, Bataan, Philippine Islands. Interestingly, his fellow soldier and future killer Pasquale Tuozzo is enumerated on the same census page.

I have also located copies of Tuozzo’s service records at the National Archives in Washington D.C. and acquired copies with the hope that some light might be shed regarding the particulars of the crime in question as well as some details of Tuozzo’s background. His service papers state that he was the of son of  one Angelo Tuozzo, and was born at Salerno, Italy around 1872. He was relatively tall for his time standing 5 feet 8 inches and was a baker by trade prior to enlistment with Company C, 32nd USVI on July 27, 1899.

Tuozzo Group

Above: Private Pasquale Tuozzo (at left) with fellow members of Company C, 32nd Infantry, United States Volunteers. Luzon, Philippine Islands, c. 1900.

While the majority of the paperwork included in Tuozzo’s service records relate to his court martial for the murder of Private Kilpatrick very little in the way of detail of the crime is mentioned. It seems that the army was more interested in whether the crime was committed and less as to the how’s and whys.

The specifications of the crime and charges against Tuozzo were outlined in General Order No. 29, Headquarters Department of northern Luzon dated December 6, 1900:

“In that Private Pasquale Tuozzo, Company C, 32nd Infantry, U, S. Volunteers, did, in time of insurrection, with malice of aforethought, willfully and feloniously murder and kill one William Kilpatrick, Private, Company C, 32d Infantry, U.S. Volunteers, then and there being, by shooting with a certain revolver, then and there held in the hand of the said Pasquale Tuozzo, and thereby causing the death of said Kilpatrick. This at Balanga, Bataan, Luzon, P. I, on the 7th day on October, 1900.”

The trail was a short one. A total of twelve witnesses were called and Tuozzo was found guilty to the charges and specifications against him on December 9. He was stripped of rank, dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 99 years at hard labor. The sentence was to be served at Bilibid Military Prison in Manila. At some point, Tuozzo was transferred to the U.S. military prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. He disappears from the records after this. Did he die in prison? Was he paroled at some point? Perhaps the answer to those question will be found one day.

Tuozzo Clpping

Above: A newspaper clipping from the January 22, 1901, issue of the Wilkes-Barre Semi-Weekly Record (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) mentioning the conviction of Pasquale Tuozzo for the murder of William Kilpatrick.

As for the unfortunate Private Kilpatrick, he also returned to the United States and was buried at San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio. Ironically Kilpatrick’s grave offers a view of the distant Alcatraz Island.


Using Water Guns at Gallipoli

Gallipoli was one of the many unmitigated Allied disasters of World War One. An attempt to knock the Ottoman Turks out of the war in 1915, the campaign suffered from ill planning and a serious miss-judging of the fighting spirit and abilities of the Turks when defending their homeland. While the campaign was indeed a bloody fiasco – it in part cost Winston Churchill his post as First Lord of the Admiralty – there was no shortage of valour or even ingenuity amongst the British, Australian and New Zealand troops who took part in the effort. Lance Corporal William Charles Scurry of the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force was a remarkable case in point.


Above: William Charles Scurry after his appointment to Temporary Captain. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Born on 30 October 1895 at Melbourne, Scurry was an architectural modeler by trade and was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in the 58th Infantry (Essendon Rifles) before the war. Eager to get into action, he resigned his commission and enlisted as a private in the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. He arrived at Gallipoli not long before the Allied command had decided to cut their losses and begin an evacuation of the front.

Any retreat in the face of a determined and capable foe in fraught with the highest risks but the Allied withdrawal was probably the most successful part of the campaign and a rather remarkable invention by William Scurry contributed greatly to that success.


Above: One of Lance Corporal Scurry’s so-called drip guns which bought much needed time during the Allied withdrawal at Gallipoli. With a mechanism similar to ancient water clock, modified SMLE rifles like this example fooled the Turks into thinking the allied lines were still occupied. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Below is an interesting and well produced animation recounting Scurry’s “Drip Gun” and its use in covering the final ANZAC evacuation from Gallipoli.

Below: A documentary produced by ABC Australia on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign highlighting William Scurry’s invention.

They also served. Rifles with no attending riflemen would not have fooled to Turks, A key element in Scurry’s ruse were the dummies made to help complete the illusion of fully manned positions.

Gallipoli Dummies

Above: Some Scurry’s decoy dummies. History is silent as to their eventual – and probably grim – fate in Turkish hands. Photo: Australian War Memorial.