Bringing history to life - with a terrier and a tortoise

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THE history of the British Army’s oldest regiment is being brought to life on the release of unseen records to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Records from the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) date from 1848-1922 and include the service of actors, artists and Olympians in the Great War, as well as intriguing information about mascots including a dog and a tortoise.

Now a reserve company, its soldiers are trained as surveillance and target acquisition specialists but in the Great War its two infantry battalions and five batteries fought in France, Belgium, Italy and the Middle East, with the loss of 1,650 men.

Released exactly a century after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which started a chain of events which led to the war, the records reveal men who joined the HAC, including actor John Laurie, best known for his role as Private James Frazer in Dad’s Army.

Adrian Hill, an official war artist, created his harrowing trench sketches of the Western Front while serving in the Scouting and Sniping Section of the HAC, while artist and Olympian Edward Amoore won both a gold and bronze medal for rifle shooting in the 1908 Olympics, then went on to serve in the war, becoming adjutant.

He was mentioned in despatches in April 1917 before being severely wounded the following month, then later went on to serve on the Home Front in the Second World War.

Fellow Olympian Kenneth Powell, who competed in both tennis and hurdles in the 1908 and 1912 Olympics, was a private in the HAC and was killed in action at Ypres in February 1915.

The new records also reveal details about some of the regimental mascots - a mascot tortoise was tied to a battery gun for safe keeping during the Battle of Gaza in April 1917 but was badly wounded and died as a result of enemy shelling which killed six men.

The files also describe how map publisher Edward Fraser Stanford was responsible for the safe keeping of a young terrier dog named Teddy who became the mascot of A and B Batteries, going with them when they sailed for Egypt in April 1915.

Despite going missing twice - the second time for over two months in the Jordan Valley during the summer of 1918 - Teddy was reunited with his comrades after a chance sighting with an Indian Cavalry column on the other side of Palestine, and returned safely to England with Mr Stanford when the war ended.

Paul Nixon, military historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “With so many record sets destroyed in the Second World War, it is extremely rare to have a complete set of World War One regimental records. They will be hugely helpful to anyone wanting to discover more about this important organisation and the role their ancestors played in it.”

HAC chief executive Sean Crane said: “These records provide an insight into the ordinary men from an extraordinary range of backgrounds who chose to fight for their country amidst the great rush of volunteers flocking to the HAC’s Armoury House during the summer of 1914.”

* Go to findmypast.co.uk

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