Chief Operator Inez Ann Crittenden – Hello Girl

During World War One when American forces began to arrive in France in 1917 they found the French telephone service lacking in efficiency and the ability to effectively support the American Expeditionary Forces. To remedy the situation General John J. Pershing issued a call for experienced American telephone personnel to fill the void. While the actual construction of the new telephone system would be handled by U.S. Army engineering units. Pershing decided the vital switchboard operations would be handled by specially recruited female staff who would become known to posterity as the “Hello Girls”. They were also the first uniformed female members if the U.S. Army.

That women would be selected was not so much as the result of forward thinking, but simply out of one of expediency – the vast majority of experienced telephone operators in the U.S. were women. Besides technical proficiency, the women would also have to be able to speak French fluently. Ultimately some 7000 women would volunteer for service overseas and of those 450 were selected for training.

Crittenden Sunset 1918

Above: Chief Operator Inez Ann Murphy Crittenden as she appeared in the June 1917 issue of Sunset magazine. She wears the insignia of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on her uniform. Female members on the telephone units like Crittenden had to purchase their own uniforms. Source: Sunset Magazine/google books.

The selected volunteers received training in military protocol at Camp Franklin, Maryland and of these 223 would eventually deploy overseas to England and France two groups. Sworn into service with the U.S. Army Signal Corps they were to adhere to the same military regulations and protocols as their male counterparts. Organized into two units, the first fell under command of Chief Operator Grace Banker. Inez Ann Crittenden would be the Chief Operator of the second unit.

Inez was born in Oakland, California in September 1887 to T. P. Murphy and his wife Emily. At the very early age of 14, she had already found employment as a telephone operator. With her saved earnings she hired a private tutor to continue her education, learning French in the process. She married Nathaniel P. Crittenden in 1911 but the couple would divorce in 1917. By the time she entered service with the Signal Corps, she was the executive secretary to J. K. Armsby, the president of the California Packing Company. Already fluent in French, she passed the required Signal Corps exams and was appointed Chief Operator with the nominal rank of 1st lieutenant.

Sailing for France on board the RMS Carmania on March 29, 1918, Crittenden would soon impress her superiors overseas. She would be reassigned to the Committee for Public Information at the United States Embassy in Paris and later to a post in the Intelligence Department.

b4

Above: A U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph showing “Hello Girls” performing their critical switchboard duties somewhere in France in 1917-1918. Source:  U.S. Army Signal Corps.

With the war rapidly drawing to its close, Inez Crittenden no doubt looked forward to returning home. This was no to be. In early November 1918, she contracted the Spanish Flu which was then spreading into a worldwide epidemic. On November 11, 1918 – the last day of the war – she died in Paris at the age of 31 and was laid to rest at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial.

Crittenden San Francisco Examiner

Above: A newspaper clipping from the November 29, 1918 edition of the San Francisco Examiner announcing the death in France of Chief Operator Inez Ann Crittenden. Source: San Francisco Examiner/ancesrty.com.

Other surviving “Hello Girls” returning stateside found their service now being considered in rather ambiguous terms. Although they served in uniform with the insignia of the U.S. Signal Corps, they were now considered to have been civilian employees of the army and therefore denied official veteran status and were refused honorable discharges and were never issued the World War One Victory Medal.

Grace Banker

Above: First Unit Chief Operator Grace D. Banker photographed after being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal at the end of the war. The much-deserved award of this medal Banker only added to the ambiguous nature of the female telephone operators status as soldiers. Banker wears the shoulder patch of the 3rd Army as well as three regulation gold U.S. Army overseas service chevrons on her lower sleeve denoting indicating between 18 and 23 months of foreign service. Given Inez Crittenden much lauded service as Second Unit Chief Operator as well as with the U.S. Embassy in Paris, one wonders if she might similarly have been presented with the Distinguished Service Medal had she not died on the last day of the war. Photo: National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Over the years a number of bills in Congress intended to rectify the disgrace died in committee. It was only through the tireless efforts of former Hello Girl Merle Egan Anderson that in 1979 the twenty surviving Signal Corps Operators were finally recognized with full veteran status and were presented with their much deserved honorable discharge certificates and World War One Victory Medals by President Jimmy Carter. Unjustly the recognition was not retroactive and those Hello Girls who had passed away prior to 1979, including Chief Operator Inez Ann Murphy Crittenden, are still not considered veterans by the nation they so willingly and actively served.

hello_girls

Above: Members of the Signal Corps telephone operators photographed soon after their arrival in Paris, France. The pictured male senior officers – all members of the Signal Corps – would never have their veteran status questioned after the war. Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps. 

Brothers Reunited

About ten years ago while perusing a well-known online auction website I came across a pair of cabinet photographs depicting two brothers taken just prior to their departure for South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. The two young men, looking not many days out of their teens, were identified as Frederic William Piggin and Henry Arthur Piggin, were photograph identically uniformed and posed by photographer Bert Storer of Long Eaton, Derbyshire around 1900.

That the two photographs had remained together after more than a century was no small miracle but this was lost on the seller who posted the two images for sale separately – an all too common and very unfortunate occurrence. In spite of my best efforts, I was only able to secure the purchase of one of the photographs, that of Frederic William Piggin.

Needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed with the outcome of the sale, but there was nothing to be done about it. I was saddened by the loss of historical and familiar context that would result in what seemed to be the permanent separation of the pair of photographs.

Frederic William Piggin

Above: Frederic William Piggin wearing his khaki field uniform just prior to his departure for South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. Originally paired with an almost identical photograph of his younger brother Henry Arthur Piggin, the two photographs became separated when the previous owner listed them separately on an online auction site. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

Fast forward to a few short weeks ago when I found myself rummaging through the same online auction site. I was performing one of my usual keyword searches when one of the results immediately caught my eye. Even after a decade, the long lost photograph of Henry Arthur Piggin was instantly recognized. This time I was determined to acquire the image and placed a maximum bid that would certainly guarantee my winning the auction this time around. It did.

I had researched the life and ultimately tragic military career of Frederic Piggin not long after purchasing his photograph. As one might expect I also uncovered a bit concerning his bother Henry – they both served in the same unit during the Anglo-Boer War and World War One so some of their records were found pretty much side by side. Below is that research along with some new additional information regarding the long lost Henry Arthur Piggin.

Frederic(k) William Piggin was born around 1877 in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, the son of Richard S. and Mary A. Piggin. The elder Piggin was a butcher and farmer of some 60 acres in and around Long Eaton. Younger brother Henry Arthur Piggin who was born about 1880 also in Long Eaton.

Both brothers served in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. I have found a ship’s manifest for the R.M.S. Kildonan Castle that lists Mr. F.W. Piggin age 24 and Mr. H. Piggin age 21 returning to England from South Africa in 1902. Both men are listed as members of the “Col. Defce. Force”. Examining the medal rolls for both the Queen’s and King’s South Africa Medal reveals that both Frederic and Henry served together in 1/Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts and 2/Branbant’s Horse. Frederic Piggin served as Quartermaster Sergeant in 2/Barabant’s Horse and Quartermaster Sergeant and Squadron Sergeant Major in 2/Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts. The Queen’s South Africa Medal roll shows him as being entitled to the clasps: “Wepener“, “Belfast”, “Wittebergen“, “Cape Colony“, “Orange Free State” and “Transvaal“. He was also entitled to King’s South Africa Medal with its two clasps: “1901” and “1902“. His brother Henry Arthur’s medal entitlements were exactly the same so one can assume that they remained together during their entire service in South Africa.

Frederic William Piggin was wounded twice during the Anglo-Boer War. At Jammersburg Drift (severely) on 9 April 1900 and at Lindley (lightly) on 31 December 1900.

Frederic is mentioned in the as being a butcher by trade in the September 13, 1910 edition of the London Gazette with his business being located at 24 High Street in Long Eaton while living in Hall Croft, Beeston, Nottingham.

The two Piggin brothers seem to show up again during World War I as members of Notts Yeomanry, T.F. (South Notts Hussars). Henry Arthur Piggin is shown as a 2nd lieutenant of the Nott’s Yeomanry, then a Lieutenant in the 1st North Midland Field Ambulance and finally as a captain in the Army Remount Service. His theater of operations is shown as France on his medal index card.

Henry Arthur Piggin

Above: The long lost photograph on Henry Arthur Piggin recently acquired online. Whether or not this is the exact same photographic print of Henry which became separated from that of his brother some ten years ago is impossible to say. It is quite possible that the Piggin brothers ordered multiple prints from Long Eaton photographer Bert Storer as keepsakes for loved ones on the eve of their departure for South Africa. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com.

Frederic Piggin stayed in the 1/1st South Nottinghamshire Hussars (Yeomanry) during his entire World War I service. Serving in Salonica, Egypt, and Palestine he rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Military Cross for actions mentioned in the 5 July 1918 edition of the London Gazette:

“Lt. [acting captain] Frederick William Piggin, Yeo. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was in command of the leading squadron in an action and led his men with great skill. He advanced rapidly over very difficult country, driving back a superior force of the enemy. He cut the enemy’s line of retreat, capturing two field guns and some prisoners”

Frederic Piggin remained on active service in Egypt (his unit was transferred there from Salonika in June of 1917 and remained there as part of the Desert Mounted Corps until April 1918.

Additional information regarding Frederic Piggin and his death during World War I has been kindly provided by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Piggin of Hamburg. Frederic Piggin was drowned when the troop transport ship Leasowe Castle was torpedoed off Alexandria, Egypt on 27 May 1918 with a loss of 83 men, officers, and other ranks. His name is listed on the Chatby Memorial which is located in Chatby War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria. Based on this it is probable that Piggin’s body was lost at sea during the sinking.

Frederic William Piggin’s promotions during World War One were as follows:

 

Squadron-Sergeant-Major, South Nottinghamshire Hussars – 1914

Second Lieutenant – 27 November 1914

Temporary Lieutenant – 12 November 1915

Temporary Captain – 1 August 1916

Lieutenant & Temporary Captain – 24th July 1917

Acting Captain (commanding Yeo. Squadron) – 15 December 1917

Lieutenant – 4th February 1918

Gazetted for the Military Cross – 4th February 1918

Drowned off Alexandria, Egypt- 27 May 1918

For his service during the Great Was Frederic William Piggin was entitled to the British War and Victory Medals along with the Military Cross. He appears to have never married and his medals were forwarded to his sister in Birkhamstead.

Henry Arthur Piggin was entitled to the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals for service in France during the World War.

Henry survived the war which took his brother’s life and would marry Miss Kathleen Ida Cooper in September 1926. In 1931 Henry was still active as a riding instructor and dealer in horses at Repton, Derbyshire.  He passed away in Hampshire, England on 14 December 1961.

From the Far East to the Wild West

There are those rare instances when research into the identities of soldiers in an old photograph turns up far more than one would have guessed possible. This carte de visite of Private Clyde G. Wilson and Corporal Elmer Brick of M Company, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry is an example of just such an occasion. As it turns out one of these men – Private Wilson to be specific – was a key protagonist in one of the Old West’s last “range wars”, the so-called Dewey-Berry Feud which was fought out in Wilson’s home state of Kansas in 1903.

Clyde Wilson and Elmer Brick

Above: Private Clyde G. Wilson (standing, left) and Corporal Elmer Brick (seated, right) of M Company, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry in Manila during the so-called Philippine Insurrection. Carte de Visite, Centro Atrisico/Fotografia Espanola – Photographer
Manila, Philippine Islands. c. 1899

Photo Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

Clyde G. Wilson was born on 5 December 1876 in Iowa the son of William Oliver Wilson and the former Clara Burk. The family had moved to Salina, Kansas sometime before Clyde Wilson, along with his younger brother Samuel enlisted in M Company of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. At the time of his enlistment, Clyde Wilson stood 6 feet tall and weighed 178 pounds. He was said to have blue eyes.

The 20th Kansas deployed to the Philippines but arrived too late to see action against the Spanish but they did go into the field during the Philippine Insurrection. During his service in the Philippines, Wilson rose to the rank of sergeant but younger brother Samuel was not so fortunate, being killed in action on 29 March 1899 at Guiguinto River.

Clyde Wilson returned home with his regiment in October 1899 and in March 1900 stood for election as town marshal in his hometown of Salina, He ultimately lost his bid but was appointed to the town’s police force soon afterward. As will be seen Wilson like so many western personalities did not seem to see any undue conflict of interest in working both sides of the legal fence when the opportunity presented itself. By 1903 the afore mentioned Wild West was dying in fits at starts although a few of the old “habits” lingered – Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” had only recently still been active in Utah and Colorado – when Clyde Wilson was hired by the Chicago-born Kansas rancher Chauncey Dewey who owned a spread called Oak Ranch, which according to a June 9, 1903 article in the Chicago Tribune encompassed some 93,000 acres. The same article says that Dewey (who was often referred to in the press as a “millionaire”) obtained much of the property by taking over the defaulted mortgages of smaller farms and ranches, a practice which no doubt led to more ever growing animosities between the involved parties.

One such standing feud existed between Chauncey Dewey and Daniel Berry, a farmer and patriarch of a large family. The bad blood had arisen from the fact that members of the Berry family had refused to vacate property now owned the Dewey Cattle Company. As are many such cases it was a small spark that set off the final firestorm.

Daniel Berry had several bad debts against him and an auction of his property was held to help pay off his creditors. A five barrel stock tank was one of the items up for bid and it was purchased for five dollars by Sheriff Robert McCulloch of Cheyenne County on behalf of Chauncey Dewey. Two of Berry’s sons let it be known that if Dewey wanted to take possession of his purchase he needed“…to be damned sure to send the right kind of man after that tank…”

The following day Chauncey Dewey took the dare and headed over to the Berry spread with ten of his men to back up his claim. Amongst those ten was Clyde Wilson. Being an experienced former soldier had made Wilson one of Dewey’s right-hand men. Dewey also made sure that all of his men were well armed with Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles.

Arriving at the Berry farm Clyde Wilson and another Dewey cowboy began to load the tank in a wagon they had brought for the purpose and Daniel Berry decided to go tell Chauncy Dewey and “thing or two” his eldest son Alpheaus joining him. At the same time two more of Berry’s sons, Burchard, Beech and a cousin Roy rode up and dismounted. As is so many such cases no one really knows what really happened next or who fired the first shot. In moments Daniel, Alpheaus and Burchard Berry where all dead, Beech and Roy Berry wounded – the later having a portion of his jaw shot away.

Dewey and two of his men – Clyde Wilson and another former soldier by the name of William McBride – where charged with murder but only surrendered after a company of Kansas National Guard was called up to keep them from being lynched by members of the Berry faction, a group now swelled in numbers by outraged local ranchers and farmers. Dewey’s brother C. P. Dewey and two wealthy Topeka bankers posted the $100,000 bond for the three men. This was an immense sum by the day’s standards totaling over $3,000,000 in today’s dollars.

The March 1904 the trial must have been seen at the time as an event of the then new century with the defense and prosecution employing some fourteen lawyers between them. More sensationalism occurred when one of the prosecuting attorneys L. D. Hotchkiss met an untimely end in a “…sudden and shocking death by drowning…” as recounted in the Fourteenth Biennial Report of the Attorney General of Kansas.

During the trial Clyde Wilson testified on his own behalf as reported in the March 2, 1904 edition of the Kansas City Star:

“I came to Oak Ranch, October 7, 1902, and worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper. I went with Chauncey Dewey and his men June 3, 1903, to the Alpheus Berry place. I had a Winchester rifle and a six-shooter. When we arrived there I was standing close to Dewey when the Berry boys rode up. They dismounted and tied their horses to a wagon. They pulled their revolvers around in front of them and when they advanced three or four steps one of them said: ‘You will take nothing from here to-day.’ As he said this they all put their hands on their pistols. Dewey said to them: ‘Stop, stop where you are.’ They fired at us. Roy Berry fired directly at Dewey and Burch Berry fired at McBride. When they put their hands on their pistols, I put a cartridge into my Winchester. When the Berrys fired I saw a horse drop. Our men then fired. Two of the Berry boys fell. I saw Dewey shoot. I did not bring my gun to my shoulder until after the Berry boys fell.”

Clyde Wilson TrialAbove: Proceedings of Clyde Wilson’s, Chauncey Dewey’sand William McBride’s murder trial as it appeared in the February 20, 1904, edition of the Salina Sun. Source: Newspapers.com/Salina Sun.

The trail ended as many probably thought it would with the well connected and equally well moneyed Dewey faction being freed after a verdict of not guilty was returned. Chauncey Dewey, Clyde Wilson, McBride, and the entire jury were burned in effigy by an irate mob outside the courthouse. The surviving Berry’s filed a wrongful death suit against Chauncey Dewey, Clyde Wilson and William McBride –  the other ex-soldier in Dewey’s service. That case dragged on for years before finally being resolved for some $15,000 in the late 1920s in favor of the Berrys.

In 1910 Clyde Wilson was ranch manager for one Albert Bretschye in Ashland Kansas. Working with him was another of his younger brothers, Trace Wilson. Clyde Wilson must have retained some of his ill-gotten local notoriety because in April of the same year he was reported in the Salina Evening Journal as being near death as the result of an automobile accident that occurred in Topeka. As if to prove that old associations died hard the same newspaper reported later in May that Wilson had recovered enough to finish his convalescence in Chicago but that he first planned to stop at the Dewey ranch and meet up with his former employer Chauncey Dewey, who was also planning to visit Chicago.

Wilson married sometime before 1915. He and his wife Hattie had one daughter named Ida Helen born in Colorado on 10 May 1915. A few years later with the U.S. entry into World War One, he re-enlisted in the army on 2 April 1918 joining the 9th Recruit Company at his old rank of Sergeant and seemingly spent the rest of that year training recruits at Fort Logan, Colorado. He received an honorable discharge on 27 December 1918. After the war, Wilson was in the oil and gas production business and by 1940 we were City Clerk in Fredonia, Kansas. He must have found that both professions were much better suited to a family man than his old gunslinging cowboy days were.

Clyde Wilson Medal Group

Above: A reconstruction of Clyde G. Wilson’s medal group as it would have appeared at the end of World War One.

The first medal from left is the Philippine Campaign Medal which Wilson was entitled to for service with the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry from 1898 to 1899.

Second (center) is the U.S. version of the World War One Victory Medal which Wilson earned while serving with the 9th Recruit Company, General Service Infantry at Fort Logan, Colorado in 1918. His medal was issued without clasps since the duration of his service during the war took place within the borders of the United States.

Third (far left) is the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Spanish-American War service Badge issued to members of the 20th upon their return to Kansas in 1899. Originally intended to be a State of Kansas honor to her veterans, the Legislature failed to pass the required bill whereupon the Kansas Department of the Grand Army of the Republic stepped up and
produced the badge themselves for presentation to this younger generation of veterans. Photo Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

In December 1927 Wilson applied for military pension benefits based upon his service with the 20th Kansas Volunteers. Wilson was still active in August 1945 when he served as a pallbearer for William Dillener one of his old comrades in arms in the 20th Kansas
Volunteers. Clyde G. Wilson died on 3 August 1958, probably with his boots off at the ripe old age of 80 and was buried with military honors at Gypsum Hill Cemetery in Salina, Kansas.

Clyde Wilson Obituary

Above: Clyde Wilson’s obituary which appeared in the August 4 1958 edition of the Salina Journal. No mention of his part in the Dewey-Berry Feud is mentioned. Even as late as 1958 old animosities may very well have still lingered. Source: Newspapers.com/Salina Journal.

Samuel Elmer Brick was born on 8 January 1878 at Browns Creek, Kansas the son of George W. Brick, a painter by trade and Mary Ann Clanin.

Brick enlisted in the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry at the same time as Clyde Wilson in Saline, Kansas. Based upon the photograph it seems that Brick was the first of the two to receive a promotion – in this case to corporal. Brick was slightly wounded at Caloocan on 10 February. This wounding is mentioned in the regimental history but apparently never officially recorded.

After returning home his life took quite a different turn than that of his gunslinging friend Clyde Wilson. He returned to the family home and like so many young men in those days took up his father’s trade as a painter.  Brick married his wife Lillian BellePadgett sometime around 1906 and by 1910 had three children and now owned his own paint store – the Salina Paint & Paper Company. In 1920 his business is listed simply as a paint and paper store.

He seems to have had a certain business acumen since in 1919 he registered a trademark with the U.S. Patent Office for Nurex Adhesive Paste which based upon the nature of his business must have been a type of wallpaper paste. He held a patent (1920) for a type of bookbinding gum to be used for the making of pads of paper. Reading through his patent (No. 1,341,782) it is obvious that Brick had more than a casual grasp of chemistry. Two additional patents were also held for waterproof and bookbinding gums. (Nos. 1,389,574 and 1,384,575).

Elmer Brick Patent Drawing

Above: Elmer Brick’s drawing for his 1920 patent for improved book/pad binding gum (No. 1341782A). Brick would be granted at least three such patents. Source: Google Patents.

Brick also stayed active with his old military associates. While attending the 10th Annual Encampment of the United Spanish War Veterans in 1913 he was appointed Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief.

During World War One Brick registered for the draft on 12 September 1918. I have found no record of him serving during the war but with the war coming to an end in November this is not all that surprising.

Samuel Elmer Brick died on 8 December 1920 at the age of 42 due to complications arising from Lymphatic Leukemia in Dallas, Texas. He was buried in his home town of Salina, Kansas. One wonders if his death had resulted from exposure to the numerous chemicals related to his chosen profession.

Clyde Wilson and Elmer Brick Reverse

Above: The reverse side of the above carte de visite showing the period inscription identifying the subjects of the photograph Clyde Wilson and Elmer Brick. Photo Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

The Gunhand – or Who Was George Frensley?

This carte de visite formatted tintype is the latest addition to my collection of Old West photographs. The six-shooter armed subject is identified on the mount’s reverse side as George Frensley. The style of the mount places the creation of the image most likely sometime in the late 1870s.

george frensley matted

Above: Carte de Visite format tintype depicting a revolver armed George Frensley. If properly identified the photograph was probably taken in north Texas sometime in the 1870s. Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com collection.

Frensley’s clothing also fits into that same time period. He wears his revolver on his left hip is cross draw fashion – a style affected by many gunfighters during the period. Although little of his sidearm is visible, the grips of the pistol seem to be those of a Colt. The fact that the revolver’s ejector rod housing has left its impression on the holster seems to confirm the revolver being of Colt manufacture. It could be a Colt Single Action Army which would date the image no earlier than 1873. His sidearm could also be a Colt cartridge conversion which also dated from the early 1870s.

Colts

Above: Frontier era Colt revolvers of the type George Frensley appears to be armed with. At the top is a nickel-plated Colt Richards-Mason type cartridge conversion revolver circa the early 1870s. At bottom is a Colt 1873 Single Action Army revolver. Photos – Rock Island Auctions.

After an exhaustive search of historical records, the evidence seems to indicate that George Frensley may, in fact, be George Washington Frensley who was born on April 3, 1855, at Water Valley, Kentucky to Charles Alfred Frensley and Letitia Susan Draper. The family relocated to Texas sometime after 1860 and by 1870 Charles Frensley had died. The family was living on a farm in Cooke County, Texas along the border of Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma).

george frensley unmatted

Above: George Frensley’s tintype removed from its paper frame allowing the image to be viewed in its entirety. Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com collection.

Frensley does not show up in the 1880 census and it is possible that he was employed as a roving cowhand. This photo seems indicative of that possibility. Little else regarding Frensley has come to light other than the fact that he died at Whitesborough (today’s Whitesboro) Texas on January 15, 1883. The town – also close by the border of Indian Territory – was so unruly in the 1870s that female residents were forbidden on the streets on weekend evenings due to the rampant random gunfire that plagued the frontier town.

Naturally, the question at hand is whether or not the George Frensley in the tintype is one and the same with George Washington Frensley. No definitive proof has been found indicating that they are the same man but at the same time no other suitable person by the same name has turned up in my repeated searches although the possibility of other likely candidates turning up cannot be discounted.

“…for his long and highly meritorious service…”

Lance_Corproal_Hammerton

Above: Drummer John Hammerton of the 1st Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment in a photograph that once belonged to Drummer William H. White also of the 1st Battalion. He wears his drummer’s trade badge on his upper right sleeve and had been awarded two good conduct stripes when this photograph was taken. Hammerton is dressed in his white tropical service uniform which is befitting his serving in India. His foreign service helmet rest on the studio table and his walking out stick can be seen on the studio chair. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersofthequeen.com

This carte de visite was one of a pair that once belonged to Drummer William White of the 1st Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment. The first carte (not shown here) depicts fellow Worcestershire Regiment drummer J. Chapman. White’s inscription on the reverse side of Chapman’s photograph states that he died while serving in India, the fact of which means that his service records no longer exist. The second of the pair of cartes (shown above) depicts No. 644 Lance Corporal John Hammerton’s whose service records have been found.  The first page of his attestation papers is missing so his place of birth is not known although his birthdate of about 1858 can be assumed by his stated age at the time of discharge. He attested with the 1st battalion of the 29th Regiment of Foot (later the Worcestershire Regiment) on 29 August 1871. He shipped out to India on 29 January 1879 and spent four years, 306 days in India before returning home on 1 December 1883. Hammerton remained with the regiment in home service for another 14 years, 159 days before claiming his discharge after having given three months’ notice, leaving the colours on 8 May 1898. He served a total of 26 years, 253 days in the Queen’s service.

Lance_Corproal_Hammerton_Reverse

Above: The reverse side of Drummer Hammerton’s photograph showing William White’s inscription identifying Hammerton as the subject, giving date and location of the photograph – Nasirabad, March 1883. Hammerton had already been appointed Lance Corporal and the promoted Sergeant when Drummer White inscribed the photograph. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersofthequeen.com

Hammerton attested as a boy on 29 August 1871 when he was about 13 years old. Appointed Drummer on 1 December 1873 and retained this appointment until 6 September 1884 when he reverted to private. Promoted Corporal a short time later on 15 October 1884 and then promoted Sergeant two months after that on 15 December 1884. His rapid promotion slowed to a more normal rate being promoted Colour Sergeant on 15 December 1889. Had he not been promoted to sergeant he would have been entitled to 5 good conduct badges but was awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal for his long years of exemplary service. Interestingly his service papers never showing holding the appointment of Lance Corporal. On 21 July 1924 Hammerton was granted an annuity of £10 “…as a reward for his long and highly meritorious service…”

Hammerton’s service records show him being brought onto the married establishment on 5 February 1884 with his wife’s name being Fanny. His papers also give the names of two daughters; Emily (b. 12 December 1885) and Edith (b. 12 April 1888).  John Joseph Hammerton passed away at Hipswell, Yorkshire on 2 December 1938 and the age of 81 and was buried in the churchyard of St. John the Evangelist Church in Hipswell.

John Hammerton Grave

Above: John Hammerton’s grave in the churchyard of  St. John the Evangelist Church in Hipswell, Yorkshire. Photo: findagrave.com

The Queen’s Escort – 1887

Risaldar_Major_Sher_Singh

Above: Cabinet photograph of Risaldar (Captain) Sher Singh by A & G Taylor of London. England. c. 1887. Sher Singh is pictured wearing the splendid full dress uniform of his regiment. His tunic is of the “alkalak” style with its distinctive curved lace across the chest. His pagri (turban) is of the regimental pattern. A cummerbund (sash) and sword belt encircles his waist and his saber is of the traditional Indian “tulwar” pattern.  Photograph: Edward T. Garcia/soldiersofthequeen.com collection.

In 1887 Queen Victoria was to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and military representatives from the far-flung corners of her empire were called upon to take part in the commemorative pageant in London that was to mark the event. Her personal escort was to consist of selected native cavalry officers of the Anglo-Indian Army. 

In years of service to the British crown Risaldar (Captain) Sher Singh (pictured above) of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, Punjab Frontier Force may have been the most senior of the Queen’s escort.  He certainly seems to have been the most highly decorated of the group. As in the case of the other Indian officer’s pictured here no overall statement of service has been found but a general outline of such service can be put together based on their campaign medals and decorations. Additional information was found in History of the Second Panjab [sic] Cavalry from 1849 to 1886 which was published in 1888.

Risaldar Major Sher Singh wears from center left to right: the 1887 Jubilee Medal, the Indian Order of Merit star awarded for valour, the Indian Mutiny Medal (1857-58) with three clasps, the 1854 India General Service Medal with two clasps and the 2nd Afghan War Medal (1878-80) with the single clasp “Ahmed Khel“. Around his neck in the Order of British India awarded for Indian officers for long and faithful service. The Indian Order of Merit was the oldest award form valour in the British Empire (established by the Honourable and East India Company in 1837) and was issued in three classed.  The first class was awarded under criteria similar to that of the later Victoria Cross and in 1902 when the Indian troops became eligible for the Victoria Cross, the Order was reduced to two classes.

According to a newspaper 2012 interview in the Henley Standard (Henley on Thames and South Oxfordshire) with Sher Singh’s fifth great-grandson Paramvir Singh, the Rasildar Major was some 74 years old when he attended the Queen’s Jubilee. This would place his birth date around 1813. According to family tradition, this old soldier stood just over five feet tall and would vault into the saddle of his horse since the stirrups were too high for a normal mount. Apparently, he performed this feat in front of Queen Victoria who was quite entertained by it. When Sher Singh received word that he had been chosen to be a member in the Indian contingent in the Jubilee he rode on horseback the entire was from the Afghan border to Calcutta where the England bound ship was waiting. The journey took him some four months.

The Jubilee may not have been Sher Sing’s first visit to England. He seems to have been part of the group of four who attended the delivery of the Koh-i-noor diamond to England in 1851. The others in the group where the young Maharaja Duleep Singh, deposed heir to the great Sikh Empire, his guardian British Army surgeon Dr. John Login, and Login’s wife Lena. If Sher Singh was indeed the fourth member of the group then it is possible that he was for a time attached to the Maharaja’s household.

A relatively complete outline of Sher Singh’s military career can be put together from mentions made of him in the 1888 book History of the Second Panjab [sic] Cavalry from 1849 to 1886. Published anonymously in London, Sher Singh is stated to have joined the 2nd Punjab Cavalry on 3 June 1849. Duffadar Sher Singh was cited for gallant and distinguished conduct at the battle of Agra on 1 October 1857 during the Indian Mutiny and was awarded the Order of Merit, 2nd Class on 17 December 1857. He was promoted to Jemadar on 22 January 1859 and to Resaldar on 16 November 1874. For his services during the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War, Sher Singh was awarded the Order of British India, 2nd Class and granted the honorary title of Sirdar Bahadur. His 2nd Class Order of British India was advanced to the 1st Class in 1886.

When Sher Singh died in 1888 Commander-in-Chief in India Frederick Sleigh Roberts, VC tendered his condolences to Singh’s family referring to him as a personal friend and stated his desired hope to have appointed Singh as an aide-de-camp had a posting become available.

Roberts also wrote in part:

“The late Risaldar’s unswerving loyalty to the State and to the officers under whom he served, his general demeanour, his single-hearted honesty and his untiring energy which the weight of 75 years had failed to impair, afford a bright example to his fellow soldiers which Colonel Lance trusts will long be remembered and imitated in the Regiment.”

This outstanding photographic study was once part of a set of fifteen which depicted officers of the Anglo-Indian cavalry who were chosen to take part in Queen Victoria’s 1887 Golden Jubilee of 1887. The set of photographs were in all likelihood the official portraits of these officers taken at the behest of the Queen by noted photographers Andrew and George Taylor. After supplying the Queen with her photographs the Taylor brothers would have offered additional sets for sale to the general public. These photographs came from one of those commercially available sets.

The set original depicted two British officers (Captain C.W. Muir, Viceroy’s Body-Guard and Captain G.A.Money, 18th Bengal Lancers) and 13 highly decorated Indian officers and was complete until it was broken up for individual sale via online auction. While the dispersal of the set was unfortunate it did allow at least some of the images to be displayed at the soldiersofthequeen.com website. It was interesting to note that the two images of British born officers sold for a considerably higher sum than any of those of the Indian officers even if the latter are by far considerably much more rare and more desirable from a collectors point of view, at least in my opinion – especially when one considers their extremely fine condition and outstanding composition.

With the close of the auction, I had acquired what I consider to have been the four best of the photographs – each depicting an identified veteran Indian officer taken at the very apex of the British Raj.

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Above: A photographic illustration taken from the 1888 edition of History of the Second Panjab [sic] Cavalry from 1849 to 1886 showing a group of officers and
noncommissioned officers of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry in 1859. A young Sher Singh is shown seated second from left. Image courtesy of google books.

The Wartime Odessey of Yang Kyoungjong

When the photograph below appeared in the American press not long after D-Day the soldier in question gave rise to the belief that Japanese soldiers where fighting alongside their German allies on the beaches of Normandy. While this possibility had long been pondered (as far back as 1941 some U.S. Naval personnel swore they saw Nazi planes over Pearl Harbor) the actual story behind this photo and the unlikely soldier in question – Korean-born Yang Kyoungjong – is in reality much more remarkable if not downright improbable.

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Above: A U.S. military press photograph taken at Normandy not long after the June 6, 1944 landings depicting a rather disheveled and forlorn looking POW in German uniform. Although unidentified in the original photograph, some believe that the man may be Yang Kyoungjong. Others postulate that this soldier may have been a POW from Soviet Asia who had been pressed into German service. The photo’s original caption incorrectly identifies the subject as Japanese. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

Born on March 3, 1920, in what is today’s North Korea, Yang Kyoungjong was sent as a laborer to Manchuria by the Japanese occupiers of Korea in 1938. Once there he was conscripted into the Japanese Kwangtung Army which had set up a puppet regime of Manchukuo in the Chinese province. At the although officially at peace the Soviet Union and Japan were in fact in a low-grade shooting war. The confrontations escalated to the point of several pitched battles, during one of which – Khalkhyn Gol – Yang Kyoungjong found himself captured by Soviet Forces. The year was 1939.

Yang Kyoungjong was sent to a Siberian gulag – a virtual death sentence – along with other Japanese POWs. Yang would receive a reprieve of sorts after Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Initial Soviet defeats left Stalin so hardpressed for troops that he offered pardons the prisoners provided they volunteer to military service against Germany. Yang Kyoungjong volunteered for service in the Soviet army probably more to escape death in a gulag than anything else but his previous experiences in fighting along the Manchurian border would have ill-prepared him for the unimaginable carnage of Europe’s eastern front.

Yang Kyoungjong would have found himself packed like cattle along with thousands of other unwilling Soviet conscripts headed west along the Trans Siberian Railroad. The 2011 Korean film My Way depicts Yang Kyoungjong taking part in the Battle of Stalingrad but I have found no information confirming this. He apparently took part in the Third Battle of Kharkov in the eastern Ukraine (1943) where he was captured by the Germans.

By this time Nazi Germany found itself in the same predicament that the Soviet Union had just a couple years earlier – suffering from a dire shortage of troops and she resorted to the same dubious solution to the problem. Soviet, as well as other Eastern European prisoners, were conscripted for service in the Wehrmacht. Many of these troops – volunteers and otherwise – were organized into Ost-Bataillonen (Eastern Battalions) with the intent that they perform labor duties in occupied territories freeing up regular German units for more important frontline service. Once again Yang Kyoungjong found himself in a new uniform of another army.

Above: Of related interest in the 2011 Korean film My Way which is loosely based on Yang Kyoungjong’s wartime experiences during World War Two.  Here is a link to a trailer for the film which makes for some pretty spectacular viewing even if it is filled to overflowing with some big-time anachronisms such as the Iowa class battleship USS Missouri bombarding the Normandy beachhead.

Yang Kyoungjong along with the rest of his fellow Ost-Bataillone members were apparently deployed to the area around the Cotentin peninsula, close by Utah Beach in Normandy, France sometime prior to the Allied landings on D-Day.  Uninspired and completely unprepared for battle the Ost-Bataillonen not surprisingly contributed virtually nothing to the German defense of Normandy. Yang appears to have surrendered to American forces not long after June 6.

Interestingly a wartime account made by Lieutenant Robert Brewer, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (of Band of Brothers fame) mentions his regiment capturing four Asian soldiers in German uniform not long after D-Day. Could one of these four men have been Yang Kyoungjong? In any event, Yang was reportedly sent to an American POW holding camp in England prior to being shipped to a permanent camp on the United States where he remained until 1947. One might guess that Yang was surprised not to have been shoehorned into an American uniform and deployed to fight the Japanese in the Pacific. Had that happened this remarkable journey would have indeed gone full circle.

After release, Yang declined repatriation to Korea and settled in Illinois. He is said to have passed away there on April 7, 1992.

So that is the remarkable story of Yang Kyoungjong. Remarkable? Yes, but is the story true? I was rather disappointed when after considerable research I was, and have been unable to find any verifiable/primary sources confirming the tale. For example, I can find no newspaper mention of Yang Kyoungjong with the exception of a 2012 review of the book The Second World War by Anthony Beevor. One might assume that given Yang’s notoriety an obituary might have been published in a local or national paper. None have been found. Versions of Yang’s life appear online in dozens of places, and while remarkably similar in detail, none provided any links to reliable and verifiable primary source material. Even a 2005 investigative documentary by the Seoul Broadcasting System found no evidence that Yang Kyoungjong ever existed.

It appears to this reporter at least that Yang’s story is one of the better peices of World War Two apocrypha. While it does not seem to be true, it is one tale that I wish could be verified.

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Above: A group of Asian POWs in German Army uniforms under guard on board a U.S. Navy vessel sometime after D-Day. Being transported to a POW camp in England, many if not all of these men were probably Ost-Bataillonen conscripts from the eastern reaches of the Soviet Union, some may have indeed been Korean and whose forgotten tale parallels that of Yang Kyoungjong. Photo: Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.