My Tommy’s War: An Eastender in the Lancers

12th Lancers Corporals

12th (Prince of Wales’s) Lancers Group – Photograph from private collection

At The National Archives we are busy planning our programme of activities to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in 2014.

With our unique and extensive collection of First World War records, from the official unit war diaries to medal cards and records of the men and women who served, we hold an invaluable resource for genealogists, historians, scholars and anyone interested in researching the history of this conflict or the people involved.

In this blog series, we will follow a group of volunteers from our staff as they embark on a voyage of discovery to trace their First World War ancestors using records held by The National Archives. At regular intervals over the next two years, each will write a blog to explain what records they have consulted, what they found about their ancestor and how they intend to continue their research in this and other archives. They will also share hints and tips to help others conduct their own research.

We hope you will come with us on the journey to discover our ancestors. With the approaching centenary, at no time has it been more fitting to discover the people behind those old photographs and medals.

As the person overseeing this series, I thought it only fair to be the first to post. Read on to see what I found out about my Tommy…

I joined The National Archives in July this year and am a keen (but very amateur) family historian. I am by no means a military historian so excuse me if I get any Army terminology wrong in what I reveal about my ancestor.

For many years I was frustrated as trying to find any ancestors involved in the First World War led me down a dead end. That all changed recently when, following the sad death of the last relative of my grandparents’ generation, I was handed a carrier bag that had been destined for the tip!

Inside was a treasure trove of photographs, birth certificates, death cards and all manner of trinkets dating back as far as the mid-1800s. I was able to put faces to names on census records but even more exciting for me were the photographs of a host of men in uniform.

Here is just one of them:

Charles Alfred Hunt


Dashing, isn’t he? Or perhaps I’m biased… And helpfully, he signed his name on this photograph so I knew who he was. What a clever, forward-thinking chap!


Charles Alfred Hunt

The uniform in this second photograph also helped me to identify him as a Private in the 12th (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers.

So, armed with this new information, I hit The National Archives’ records.


Census records

Years ago, I had searched the census records of 1891 and 1901 and followed Charles and the rest of the Hunt family living in Bethnal Green. But in 1911, Charles disappeared from the Hunt census record. At 23 years of age, it was possible he had left home but with such a common name I decided to park my research on him, waiting for a further clue. With the discovery of these photographs I had the clues I needed and took a punt that he may have been in the regular army. It paid off and I found him on the 1911 census, not in London but in South Africa, stationed with the 12th Lancers in the Transvaal. At last I could take up my search for Charles again.

First World War 1914

Using the guide of how to research the First World War, I next tracked Charles down in records of The National Archives at the outbreak of the First World War when the 12th Lancers deployed as part of the BEF to France.

The unit war diaries have to be one of the most amazing record series at The National Archives (they are certainly one of the most requested in our reading rooms). Kept by officers, they give firsthand, daily accounts of action with each diary entry varying in length from a few sentences to whole pages. The diary for the 12th Lancers (WO 95/1140) showed they arrived in France on 18 August 1914 and, only ten days later, fought a battle against a regiment of German Dragoons. Extracts from the unit war diaries show that the 12th Lancers charged on the lance and that their victory at Moy was an historic battle still remembered by the regiment today on Moy/Mons Day. The action of 28 August 1914 is captured in a fantastic annex to the unit war diary detailing events of the battle.

12th Lancers unit war diary annex

WO 95/1140 12th Lancers Unit War diary Annex for 28 August 1914

Charles Hunt's 1914 Star medal card

Charles Hunt’s 1914 Star medal card

Now that I had found his regiment and read about their actions in France in August 1914, I went in search of Charles in the British Army medal index cards 1914-1920 and found two medal cards for his 1914 Star and Victory medals.

But my excitement at finding these cards was short-lived. On the card for the 1914 Star is written ‘DOW 29/8/14’. Just 11 days after arriving in France and at just 26 years of age, Charles had died of his wounds.

Using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website I found Charles’ grave in Bavay, a small cemetery that for most of the war was behind German lines. Charles is one of only 12 Commonwealth servicemen buried in this local graveyard and he is buried beside another man from his regiment, Private WW Totman.

I was surprised that although Charles’ First World War experience lasted only 11 days, I was able to find so much information in The National Archives to help me understand where he was and what he did. I would urge anyone with even scant information to try and search for their ancestor and the medal cards are a good place to start.

So where to now?    

Firstly a tip – don’t always rely on official records to hold the accurate details of a person you are searching for. Charles is incorrectly referred to as ‘C H Hunt’ on his 1914 Star medal card and also in a book by Major HVS Charrington MC, which details the 12th Lancers in France between 1914 and 1918. Major Charrington also records Charles as having been killed in action on 23 August 1914 rather then 29 August. These inconsistencies can be frustrating but it is always a good idea to find a constant. For Charles this has always been his regimental number – 127. If I’m ever unsure whether a record I have found relates to him, then I use this number as confirmation.

Now that I know when Charles died, I am eager to find out whether he saw action in that famous battle on 28 August 1914 or suffered his wounds on a previous day. I also want to find out about his military career between 1911 and 1914. For this I will look for his service record and contact the Regimental Museum of the 12th Lancers and The National Army Museum to see whether they can provide information on Charles’ service as a regular soldier.

I am particularly fascinated to find out how a boy from a working class family in the East End of London became a cavalryman, fighting beside men born in the saddle, learning their skills from playing polo and hunting. I am also intrigued to find out why his rank is sometimes shown as Lance Corporal and other times Private. Charles features in the group photograph at the beginning of this blog. He is far left on the second row from the back and has a single stripe on his sleeve, which I understand denotes a Lance Corporal but on his medal cards he is recorded as a Private.

I feel that I owe it Charles to find out as much of his history as I can because to me, he is no longer just a name missing from the census.Somebody in my family loved him enough to carry his photograph in a locket.

I am incredibly proud to call Charles my great-great-uncle and on 29 August 2014, I will be with my family in a small cemetery in northern France to lay flowers on Charles’ grave. It may be nearly 100 years since his death, but he is not forgotten.

August 2014: An update to this blog and my research into Charles can be found here:  /blog/tommys-war-eastender-lancers-part-2/

(Please  note, all of the photographs in this blog are my own and do not form part of The National Archives’ collection. The scan of WO 95/1140 is taken with my own camera as a visitor to The National Archives’ reading rooms might take, and does not reflect the quality of an official digital image ordered from The National Archives.)



  1. David Underdown says:

    I can explain (or attempt to) the lance corporal/private discrepancy. In the First World War lance corporal was an appointment, held by a private, not a substantive rank. This meant for example, that it was much easier for a lance corporal to be deprived of that title than a corporal. A lance corporal could be reverted purely administratively, he was appointed by the regimental CO (or possibly his squadron or troop leader) and if for whatever reason it wasn’t working out it could be taken away again (it was effectively a trial period to see if a man was suited to being an NCO). Once you actually made it corporal the only way you could be reduced to the ranks was via formal disciplinary action (it gets a bit more complicated as the high casualty rate meant people were often acting in higher ranks, but that’s the gist).

    Some records show rank, others appointment.

  2. David Matthew says:

    Very interesting article especially on the medal card problems, family historians weren’t thought about at that time. Medal cards are not always what they seem, there is a medal card for one of my ancestors who died 20 years earlier!, not surprisingly he didn’t receive any medals.

    It would be nice if the Ministry of Defence could release the records of those soldiers who served after 1920 and who have not been transferred to TNA. Hopefully by 1918 TNA will have been able to get everyone properly listed with full names and trying to research online is not easy as there are often two or three alternatives for the same person and of varying page numbers.

  3. David Matthew says:

    There was of course no TNA in 1918 but in 2018.

  4. David Underdown says:

    There was an interesting news release from the Western Front Association about some further WWI pension administration cards which the MOD is gifting to them, (The WFA previously took custody of the original Medal Index Cards)

    1. Caroline James says:

      Thank you so much for your comments so far. If anyone wants to share stories of their own Tommy, then we are on Twitter at #mytommyswar

  5. Caroline James says:

    Or of course, leave your stories here!

    1. Verity Walker says:

      Dear Caroline,

      I reach out to you this 11 November from the Scottish Highlands, through the good offices of my many friends in Bavay who found your wreath this morning, photographed your (sensibly bilingual) letter and passed it to me by e-mail. They wish they had known you were to visit, as the war dead of the town are newly honoured there after an extraordinary family story of my own came to light – my grandfather, Major Thomas Westmacott, then a Captain in the India Light Horse, liberated the town, accompanied only by his interpreter, in 1918, although under heavy bombardment. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

      Tom had a terrible time, becoming an Assistant Provost Martial and commanding firing squads, but he survived, and left a detailed (and unpublished as yet) collection of letters etc. He saw the bodies of many of the men of the North Staffs buried at Bavay piled up, still warm, outside a billet they were leaving and he was entering in 1918. He steps over them, barely noticing, and remarks what a cosy billet it is. It damaged him psychologically for ever.

      The 14 – 18 war both began and ended, more or less, in Bavay and the war graves reflect this. If you contact me by e-mail I will give you contact details for Francois Duriez, the town’s historian, who has become a dear friend.

      The town has collected a great deal of archive material, one of which, a diary, relates to the nursing of Totman (who fell out of a lorry I think, poor soul) and poor young Hunt, who called for his mother as he died, and one of the nurses held his hand and took her place so he died believing she was there. The BEF was retreating as they were being cared for and the German doctors came ahead somehow – and they took over with kindness from the desperate English doctors who were prepared at first to be captured to try to save his life. Alas, it was in vain, but their humanity highlights the stupidity and waste of war, especially today of all days. The town does more than just say a prayer for them. They held a ceremony with full military honours over his grave on the day the English first came to the town, which I had the honour of attending. Most of us were in tears. I have photographs of this to pass on to you.

      You can also contact me via my website at And if you need any translating done for Francois, do please let me know. It is very likely he will invite you to the events we are planning together for the remainder of the commemorations. If you do stay locally, I can recommend the Auberge Bellevue at Rue de Remparts, a typical little estaminet converted into a lovely B&B.

      Best wishes,

      Verity Walker
      Director, Interpretaction Heritage Consulting

    2. Nick Broome says:

      Hi, I read with great interest about Tommy in the 12th Royal Lancers. My late grandfather, James Hodson (a.k.a. Hudson) was a saddler with the 12th and took partin the Charge at Moy. He joined the 12th RL from 5th Irish in 1912 and remained a Lancer until July 1916 when he, with others, was posted to the Royal Engineers. I would dearly love to get hold of a photo of him in uniform as no-one in my family has one.

  6. Marilyn Kinnon says:

    A brilliant idea (My Tommy) and a brilliant post. A great help to early researchers who lack the skills of research and the knowledge of what’s out there. Eg how can you research a record or collection if you do not know it exists!
    This idea could save the precious time of TNA professionals who currently provide support to early researchers?
    Keep it coming!

    1. Caroline James says:

      Glad you liked the post. I really want to help people find their First World War ancestors.

      There are so many excellent First World War records at The National Archives to explore and we hope that this blog series will give novice researchers a helping hand and also provide hints and tips to more experienced researchers.

  7. Ian Smart says:

    L/Cpl is an easy rank to lose, either through badness or because you are holding it temporarily, (probably even more so in those days) so he may have been up and down between that and private

    Also while you would not have to be horsey to be in a mounted unit (full instruction was provided) the working horse was quite common in urban areas in those days (eg many butchers had a horse for deliveries) and being able to look after a horse was even more useful as a foundation for a good cavalry soldier than being able to ride him.

    If you have the 1937 Army Manual of Equitation and Horse Mastership on your shelves you will get a very good idea of all the things he had to learn in the army.

    1. Caroline James says:

      Oh, I hope Charles wasn’t bad, he looks like such a good lad! But appearances can be deceptive…

      Thanks so much for the info on how a lad from Bethnal Green could become a horseman. I did wonder whether it related to a delivery job. On the 1911 census, one of Charles’s brothers is listed as a deliveryman so it could be a job running in the family.

      I will definitely look for that Army Manual to build my picture of Charles and his life. Thanks.

    2. Verity Walker says:

      Hello again – anyone who served in India and Africa in a reserve regiment often found themselves downgraded in rank on arrival with the ‘proper’ army on the Western Front. Didn’t half rankle with my Grandfather, who spent the entire war protesting at being demoted to Captain from Major. They did put it right but only once the war was over.

  8. Bob Hobden says:

    My own Grandfather was in the trenches in WW1 had his foot blown off and was picked up by the Germans. They mended him as best they could, better than British doctors could have done the British admitted, then repatriated him with his new German made artificial foot following some while later. Nothing in the National Archives about it or even about him. I wonder if the Germans have anything on his injury and his repatriation?
    Then there is my wifes grandfather, last seen by a friend marching over Waterloo Bridge, he seems to have simply dissappeared, his wife remarrying in 1916, again nothing in the National Archives.
    Anyone got any ides where I go now to trace these two men.

    1. Caroline James says:

      It may be worth your while trying to contact the relevant authorities in Germany to see if they hold any records. Our record experts may be able to advise other records held by The National Archives where you might look for your grandfather’s military career.

      The disappearance of your wife’s grandfather is intriguing. Not sure who
      can help with that…but good luck.

  9. Virginia Batty says:

    Excellent bit of reading, whilst poignant too!! I would love to research my grandfather’s time in the Merchant Navy during WW1 but have not had a lot of success with it but loved your story…very engaging!!

    1. Caroline James says:

      Thank you for your comments. Why not see if any of our research guides can help with your research for your grandfather.

  10. Edward Reid-Smith says:

    The “rank” of Lance Corporal wasn’t dubious only in WW1. My service record shows that I did my National Service full-time 1950-1952; in 1951 I was on the course for sergeant-instructor in the Royal Army Education Corps as a Private. Soon, I was a “Local Acting Unpaid Lance Corporal”wearing one stripe, before promotion to “Paid Acting Sergeant” — unpaid to paid A/Sgt on the same day. My official service record shows promotion from Private to Sergeant in one go, ignoring L/A/U Lance Corporal because of the “local”. I don’t know whether it is still th same today, but as David Underdown said in his first comment, it was an administrative appointment at will (or at whim?).

    1. Caroline James says:

      Thanks for the tip. It would seem that the rank of Lance Corporal is a bit of a movable feast…

  11. Deirdre Wogan says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your blog. My Wogan grandfather was killed on 9 April 1918 and he too came from Bethnal Green. My father was born on the Mile End Road. My father was a regular soldier for many years [demobbed 1946] and he used to tell us some very amusing stories about promotions and demotions he had experienced – demotions usually for what was called “dumb insolence”.

    One of the things that struck me was the effect on those left behind and on succeeding generations of the loss of so many men in WW! – my grandmother was left with four boys under 11 and no income. She went out charring to support the family and died worn out, before I was born.

    1. Caroline James says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the blog and thanks for sharing your family’s experiences.

      My hope is that as part of the national commemorations of the First World War, we also remember those left at home to cope.

  12. Peter Culligan says:

    Great idea. Not only an interesting story but I find the comments added just as fascinating. Thanks

    1. Caroline James says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s good to know that people find this blog series useful.

  13. Peter McGuire says:

    It is very interesting to hear about the research others are doing. I have discovered that my great-uncle Thomas Keelty joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. I think he volunteered when he turned 18 in 1915. He was born in Golborne, Lancashire in 1897 but his parents were Irish immigrants and he obviously kept strong links with Ireland. He served on the Western Front and was killed on 14 October 1918. He is buried at Cement House Cemetery, Langemarck, Belgium. His gravestone shows that he was awarded the Military Medal but I cannot find any mention of this on his Medal Card. Unfortunately the regimental records were destroyed during the Second World War. I would love to discover whether there is any way I could find out more about his medal and why it was awarded.

    1. Geoff Dunning says:

      Try trawling the London Gazette it may take some time but I feel you may find something as all bravery and gallantry medals were listed in that publication.
      Another source that might be helpful is the Regimental association or museum.
      Good luck

      1. Caroline James says:

        Thanks for the tip. On behalf of me and the other posters!

    2. Caroline James says:

      Thanks for your post. The next poster has kindly given some tips on how you might continue your research. Good luck!

  14. Monica Russell says:

    Your blog is a brilliant idea and very helpful to people like me who are just starting out and have no great knowledge of what is available. It might help if you could say which of the sites are free or have a fee to pay. I have a great uncle who was a prisoner of war of the Germans but have no idea how to go about finding out any more about his story. Are there German records available somewhere?

    1. Caroline James says:

      Hello. I’m glad you like the blog and hope you find what you are looking for with the help of the pointers you have received.

  15. Keith_H says:

    Hi Monica,
    Your Great Uncle will be listed on the WW2 German POW listing. This can be accessed via the Ancestry website. It will state his name, rank, service number & his last camp name. The database is called “UK, British Prisoners of War, 1939-1945”. The following TNA website should be of interest:

  16. Keith_H says:

    I have a Great Uncle, George Goldsmith, who joined the army at Stratford around about 9 September 1907. (You can work this out from the regimental number). He appears in barracks during the 1911 census, along with a man named Robert Mayersbeth.

    George was killed in action on 18 September 1914. He has no known grave, and the account from the War Diary suggests that when his battalion was caught out in the open, and exposed to a modern artillery barrage, many of the casualties were blown to smithereens.

    The first line of his Medal Index Card states that he was a Lance Corporal, and the second line states he was a private. It is interpreted that when he landed in France, he was a Private, and he held the appointment of Lance Corporal when he died. (His “oppo”, Charles Mayersbeth, had died on 26 August 1914, so he may well have taken his place.)

    The “Soldiers Who Died in the Great War” info will advise as to where your deceased relative had enlisted. It may be worth paying a visit to the Tower Hamlets local history & archives centre, to see if an obituary had made it into one of the local newspapers. (They have microfiche of old newspapers)

    It would appear that he is on the memorial at St Matthews church

    George’s name, and civilian address, are recorded at Bethnal Green memorial library.

    His older brother Thomas, living in Haggerston, was conscripted into the Army. Four years later, on 18 September 1918, he was killed in action. The date of 18 September must have been painful for their mother for years to follow.

    1. Caroline James says:

      Hello Keith. Thanks so much for all the hints and tips. I will definitely explore ‘The Soldiers Who died in the Great War’ and the Tower Hamlets archive. I do believe that it is my Charles on the war memorial in St Matthew’s church – thanks for the photo.

      Your Great Uncle’s story is fascinating and makes me realise how fortunate my family is that we have a grave to visit for Charles. Many families don’t have this.

  17. Vera Brown says:

    Fascinating. Thank you for sharing your story. My Father was in the Scots Guards and awarded the military medal and bar. Luckily he survived–or i would not be here. Good hunting

    1. Caroline James says:

      Thanks Vera. Good hunting to you too!

    2. Nick says:

      The 1914 and 1914-15 Star show the highest rank/appointment at the time of qualification (in this case, lance corporal).

      The War and Victory Medals show the highest rank during the period of qualification (in this case private, as lance corporal was an appointment).

      My Great grandfather’s medals (1st Norfolks) would have been marked exactly the same.

      Only C Squadron and Lieutenant Colonel Wormald’s party took part in the charge at Moy (Cerisy). Of the commanding officer’s party, one of the troopers was wounded, one had his horse shot from under him, Trumpet Major Mowlam was wounded by a German lance in the thigh (and subsequently captured), and Wormald was wounded. Only the adjutant, Captain Charles Bryant, escaped unscathed, to later transfer to the RFC and win a bar to his DSO.

      Two paintings of the charge, and the return from the charge, commissioned by Bryant are int he 9th/12th Lancers Regimental Museum at Derby, as are Wormald’s medals (he was killed by shellfire as a Brigadier organizing the burial of dead in No Man’s Land after dark) and the sword Bryant carried in the charge.

  18. Keith_H says:

    Hello again,

    I made mention previously of service numbers. Chances are that your ancestor’s service record did not survive, but you can try and track down records of men who joined at the same time. (This is how I believe that George Goldsmith enlisted on or around 9 Sept 1907)

    Paul Nixon is an expert, and I came across the following:

    line cavalry was to re-number by the three corps: Dragoons, Hussars and Lancers.

    I am unsure of the precise date when this Order came into effect. The lowest numbers currently on my line cavalry databases are .. 104 (Lancers on 12th February 1907). Men already serving with the cavalry line regiments were not re-numbered


    127 Private Charles Alfred Hunt, 12th (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers.

    I reckon that he joined in 1907/8, joined the regiment in Sialkot, then went to the Transvaal, and then Norwich in 1913


  19. Caron Stuart-Cole says:

    Hi Caroline

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and family photos. Somewhere on the group photo of the 12th Lancers is my father-in-law Charles Stuart Cole Service No 12999.


    1. Caroline James says:

      Hi Caron,
      How wonderful to think that the photo features both of our relatives. The image on the blog is pretty low quality. If you’d like a better quality version, please contact me at and I’d be happy to email it to you.
      Best wishes,

      1. Margaret Haywood says:

        My grandfather, Thomas Bell Corporal 906, 12th Royal Lancers kia Nov 1914, Flanders. Suspect he may be on your group photo. Is it poss to email me a copy please, I have one photo of him. I have visited his grave at La Laiterie, Belgium. My grandmother was pregnant with my father when Tom Bell left for France n August 1914 – previously based in Norwich – suspect he was part of BEF and may have enlisted in 1907/8.

    2. Jan Somers says:

      Hello Carolyn, am rather late to this blog, but hope you can put me in touch with Margaret Haywood, whose Grandfather from the 12th Lancers is Thomas Bell, Corporal 906 who was kia 20th November 1914. He is my Great Uncle and I have a great deal of information on his parents and 7 brothers and sisters, but little information on Thomas Bell himself. I would love to make contact with Margaret and hope you can help. Thank you, Jan Somers from Brisbane Australia, grand daughter of Gertrude Bell, Thomas Bell’s sister who migrated to Australia in 1910.

  20. Keith_H says:

    Hi Caroline,
    To conclude, on the subject of service numbers:

    104 enlisted on 12th February 1907
    122 is for the 2nd March 1907

    So, it appears that he enlisted in March 1907. Presumably he was in the UK for a year, then went to Sialkot? The other question which springs to mind is whether he served for seven years, came out in March 1914, and was recalled from the reserves in August 1914.

    You think you have one question answered, only to find that other questions get thrown up!

    PS I see The “Soldiers Who Died in the Great War” list states he enlisted in London

    Best wishes, Keith

    1. Caroline James says:

      Hi Keith,
      Thanks again for all of your fantastic tips on how to find Charles. You are helping me bypass months of researching – which is great!
      Best wishes,

      1. Richard Miller says:

        Hi Caroline,
        Just picked up on this as I’m just completing a dissertation on the 5th cavalry brigade in 1914 – but rather more significantly my grandfather and his brother were both NCOs in the 12th Lancers in 1914. Do you know the date of the photo? Or where it was taken – or indeed who it is of? The background doesn’t look like the Norwich cavalry barracks to me so i’m wondering if it is South Africa (they only came back in 1913)? I’m also curious as to why there appears to be one officer and a lot of Cpls/ L/Cpls. This would suggest that perhaps it isn’t a particular squadron but some other grouping.
        If you don’t know then I know someone who might be able to help.

        1. Caron Stuart-Cole says:

          Hi Richard

          Do you have any more information on the12th Lancers in WW1. I’m interested in finding out about Charles Stuart Cole.


          1. Richard Miller says:

            Hi Caron,

            Apologies but didn’t spot your email until now. I’m afraid that I don’t recognise that name from any of my research – but my interest in the regiment is mainly in the detail of the period Aug-Sep 1914 with a more general interest up to 1916. I can say that he isn’t mentioned in any document that I’ve seen for that first period – when did he serve, and did he survive?


    2. Clippingimages says:

      Thanks for sharing.

  21. Richard Miller says:

    Hi Caroline,
    Just had a look through some of my paperwork last night.
    Firstly, the officer in the photo looks to me like Frank Wormald, the Commanding Officer, so I would guess at that being a ‘group’ – maybe all the JNCOs (Cpls & L/Cpls)?
    Secondly your great great uncle. He was part of C Squadron. On the afternoon of 25th August two troops of the squadron went forward, dismounted, into the village of Mecquignies to round up what was thought to be a small German patrol in an orchard. Unfortunately they came across a rather larger German force which was advancing and No 1 Troop under Lt Dan Moore were surrounded and most were killed or captured. Your uncle, ‘Mick’ Hunt, was in Lt Leche’s troop (No 4 I think) and during the ensuing fight as B & C Squadrons tried to extricate Moore’s troop he was hit twice and subsequently died of his wounds (hence date of death of 29 August). You might have a look at WO95/1125/1 which is the Cavalry Brigade Field Ambulance’s War Diary. I can’t remember if he is listed there – I suspect not, but there might be a hospital record. A number of the wounded were left with locals as the Retreat was in full swing so it may be he never got that far back. L/Cpl Totman was one of Moore’s troop who also died of wounds sustained in the same action, so I’d guess that Grand Seraucourt was where the medical facilities were or where they were left. Also killed were Auker, Plant, Collar and Johnson. C Squadron went on to participate in the action on the 28th near Cerizy which involved their charge at Moy, but I’m afraid that your uncle was already out of it. His namesake, Private AD Hunt, also in Lt Leche’s troop, was killed there. Hope that is of use.

    1. Ann Davies says:

      I am wondering what information you have concerning this 12th Lancers incident on 25 Aug 1914, as I think this may have been when my grandfather Walter Pearson (Pte 2899) was captured, rather than on 28th August as recorded at the 12th Lancers Museum (who I think also have or had his number recorded incorrectly). He ended up in the POW camp at Doberitz, and never spoke of having had any involvement at Moy. However, I know from the Regimental War Diary that several went missing on 25th. I also have the account written by Lt Moore, and have just returned from a visit to see the places where the 12th Lancers had been 19 – 28 Aug. I was under the impression they had been cut off in the Forest of Mormal, but you mention the village of Mecquignies, which I know is just about a mile from the northern edge of the forest.

    2. Margaret Haywood says:

      My grandfather, Thomas Bell, Corporal 906 12th Lancers kia 20 Nov 1914, buried La Laiterie Cemetery, Belgium, which I have visited. I have one photo of him and suspect he might be on the group photo taken in SA? Suspect he was part of BEF, not sure when he signed up. He was in Norwich in 1913 before leaving for Begium/France? I would like to take a look at his service record to try and find out about his family and some of his history pre-Army? Any help appreciated.

    3. Margaret Haywood says:

      Please see my note of August 2013. I know that my grandfather, 906 Cpl Thomas Bell was in SA in with 12th Lancers (but cannot identify him from the photograph which Caroline has posted). He embarked for France August 1914 and was kia 20 Nov 1914 – guessing the Ypres area – he is buried in La Laiterie WW1 Cemetery, Huevelland, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. I have a copy from the War Diary from the trenches. Would you be able to tell me how to access any field hospital notes – I am not having any joy in finding out his next of kin (parents) info. Thank you. Maggie Haywood

    4. Verity Walker says:

      Information on 12th Lancers cut off in the Foret de Mormal near Bavay on the Franco Belgian border

      Hi again Caroline and others,

      Have been reading though the blog in more detail and realise that I can help with another piece of this fascinating jigsaw.

      The German advance on the retreating BEF in 1914 was so rapid they missed large tracts of forest and open countryside. Local people in Bavay (where I am working with the community on First World War memories) recall the story of how a group of English soldiers (presumably the 12th Lancers, Charles Alfred’s regiment?) was sheltered by the townspeople in the heart of the forest for some months (timings are a little hazy) under the auspices of Gaston Derome, the town’s clever and brave Mayor. They were living rough in trenches dug in amongst the tree-roots so it must have been fairly grim. All went well until the leaves started to fall and Derome realised he couldn’t protect them much longer. He also realised that most of their uniforms were unrecognisable, in tatters. So he sent in village clothes and swapped them for the army uniforms and for days local ladies carefully and secretly washed and repaired the uniforms. They then sent them back into the forest so the soldiers could change, and one day Derome walked out of the forest with a column of British soldiers in immaculate, washed uniforms marching behind him, much to the shock and embarrassment of the Town’s German commanding officer. The town historian Francois Duriez believes that the commanding officer may already have been spirited away to safety.

      These men were therefore taken as POWs and not shot as spies. The repercussions on Derome were severe (that’s another good story) but he did manage to see his town through the war.

      This story is as it has been told to me, so any corroboration on this would be gratefully received. Hope this post is of interest.

  22. Caroline James says:

    Hi Richard.
    Wow! I’m so grateful to you for providing all of this information. It’s incredible and so detailed – including the nickname ‘Mick’ – I have no idea where this might have come from.

    I never imagined when I posted this blog that I would get so much information on Charles. I’ll definitely check the records that you recommend.

    To answer your first question, I think the group photo was taken in South Africa. There is a pith helmet on a table, which you can’t see due to the crop for the blog. The sign to the left of the group says ‘Corporals’ Room.’ Also the style of gates (that you can’t quite see) and building, point to somewhere other than Norwich!

    I would be happy to share a better quality version of this image with you. I have another group photo that you might be interested in too.

    I also have a few questions I’d like to ask you. If you are happy to, then I can be contacted through

    Thanks again for making my day,

    1. Alice Michell says:

      Hello, as a family we are starting to think how we commemorate my Gt Uncle’s death in the action at Moy de l’Aisne and I came across your fascinating blog. Jack Michell, (the name in the account description is simply inaccurate – it is a common mistake), was killed in the action on the 28th August 1914. He was 43, my Grandfather’s older brother, and my father was named after him when he was born six years later. A professional soldier, he had seen action in South Africa and whilst we have a miniature painting we have no photograph. Is it possible to see a full photograph?

  23. PATRICK BUREK says:

    I have traced the relative of a friend in Australia who was killed in WW1. I found out he was also in the Boer War serving with the Imperial Infantry. They were mounted infantry and not as ‘glamorous’ as the cavalry. He was an apprentice lighterman from Poplar. I asked myself the same question as you did. What was an East End boy doing riding a horse?

  24. Grover says:

    Many thanks for the some interesting thoughts in your article on My Tommy’s War: An Eastender in the Lancers | The National Archives blog..

  25. Norman McKay says:

    Absolutely fascinating blog. Thank you. I am going to use your online form in the hope that you or someone can clear up a mystery about one of our relatives who was lost in WW1.

  26. Dr Trevor Purnell says:

    Hello Caroline,

    Very interested in your story. I am researching ‘Shoeing Smith’ J Dummer 3666 also of the 12th Royal Lancers. I too found him in the 1911 Census residing with his regiment in the Transvaal. If the Boer War finished in 1902 and the Lancers did not land in France until 1914, what were the Lancers doing until 1914. Obviously they were still in the Transvaal in 191, but performing what function. Grateful if anyone can fill in the history of the Lancers during the missing years from 1902 to 1914
    Many thanks and regards.

    1. Ann Davies says:

      I believe these were their postings (my grandfather served with them from 1910-1928, and his brother from 1901-1913):

      1902 India: Umballa
      1907 India: Sialkot
      1911 South Africa: Potchefstroom
      1913 England: Norwich (C Sqn at Weedon, N’hants)

      1. Dr Trevor Purnell says:


        Many thanks for your kind reply. Just the job.


  27. Alan Davidge says:

    Fascinating! I’ve just discovered that my Great Uncle, Albert Fisher Davidge was also in the 12th Lancers. He too came from the East End and was a barman when recruited in 1905 (he left in 1920 as a captain). The family were pub landlords in the East End and I too wondered not only how he managed to join the regiment but how he was promoted to captain. I understand it was a field commission which presumably indicates that he was good at what he did rather than born to privilege. He also won the MC in 1918.

    Any information would be welcome. The 9th/12th Lancers HQ in Leicester have been an enormous help and forwarded me all his military records. From these I discovered that, despite surviving the war, he came to an untimely end in 1935 from injuries received falling down steps at his public house/hotel in Northampton and sadly his widow was not entitled to a continuation of his pension.

    1. Anthony Baker says:

      Imagine my surprise when reading your comment about your Great Uncle because Lieutenant (then) Davidge, a name familiar to all in our our family called on my grandparents in 1918 to speak to them about the loss of their son L/Cpl John Baker MM. who was killed by a sniper on the 27th of January 1918. As his Troop Commander he wrote about John in a way deeply appreciated by all, a man he regarded as one of “the best and one of the bravest “. Needless to say his letter has remained in the family and its words have passed down the generations. Three of my father’s brothers volunteered, John was one of two who never returned and I was sorry to hear about your Great Uncle’s sad end. Best regards, Anthony Baker

  28. Jerry Murland says:

    Your great great uncle Charles Hunt was one of two privates who served with 12/Lancers, and who both died of wounds. Both men are buried in the small cemetery near Bavay. Totman and Hunt were more than likely casualties of the cavalry rearguard which took place at Mecquignies on 25 August.
    I have described this fight and the later engagement at Cerizy/Moy in my book ‘Retreat and Rearguard 1914’ – available on Amazon or from the publisher Pen and Sword Books.

  29. Claire Stoyle says:

    I also have a great uncle who survived the transvaal tournament in 1912 , he was one fo the few to come out – I also have a poem of the treacherous charge and the way the germans surrendered to let them pass and then opened fire

  30. […] has been almost two years since we launched our My Tommy’s War blog series with My Tommy’s War: An Eastender in the Lancers, a blog about my great-great uncle Charles Hunt. I had no idea then of the personal journey I was […]

  31. Glenn David Allen says:

    My Grandfather Francis Wilmott L/2858. joined the 12th Lancers in 1910. He married my grandmother in January of 1914 before going to France. I do not know very much about his war experience. I was told as a child that he had one horse killed underneath him and that he spent the rest of the war in the trenches. He served up until 1920 when he was discharged as unfit for duty, due to wounds. His last unit was the 1st Royal Regiment of Lancers. In 1927 Frank emigrated to Canada with his wife, Florence Violet and daughter Frances Joyce ( my mother ). He worked as a prison guard before and after WW2 and as a POW guard during. He passed away in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada in 1970. Perhaps his experiences as a Lancers made him the amazing Husband,Father, and Grandfather he was.

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