About the QORWK Battalion Orders

Robert Chown writes:

This is a transcription extract of the 2/5th Queens Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) Part II battalion orders for the period 5th November 1914 until 7th September 1916. These are held at the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone, Kent. Their catalogue number is WKR B2/5/A2 Parts 1-5. The transcription was made between 2008 and 2011. It includes over 15,000 individual order details on about 2,000 soldiers.

This is not the complete record of the regiment during the First World War, but a snapshot based on these surviving orders. The information extracted relates to the activity of 'Ordinary Ranks'. It does not include any information on officers or ORs temporarily attached to the regiment.

The original documents are not the top copy. A number of copies were simultaneously typed by clerks and this resulted in some of the flimsy pages being difficult to read. The same typewriter appears to have been used throughout and certain letters failed to print on the surviving copies by 1916. There were frequent misspellings of surnames, variation in or lack of initials and incorrect regimental numbers. I have tried to correct these but I am sure I will have made a few mistakes. Where a soldier had more than one regimental number, I have used the QO(RWKR) number to enable all the activity of each soldier to be grouped together in the transcription. To enable the transcription to be printed in a paper-based format, it was necessary to sometimes summarise the order details. To save space I have used a number of abbreviations. It is hoped that these are obvious to those with a minimum of military knowledge.

The orders contain a lot of other information about the regiment, the soldiers and their training. Those readers who want to learn more about this should read the original documents for the period concerned. Most activity was organized by company so the soldier's company is a key part of the extract. Transfers between companies could occur.

Some information is intriguing. The rapid promotions in the early months of the war showed Privates one day, Corporals, Sergeants or even 2nd Lieutenants the next. The regiment was inspected on a number of occasions by Lord Kitchener. A significant number of volunteers, in some regiments over 40%, signed up to only fight in the UK. Officers were ordered not to demand their pay in gold at the local Banks as they were running out. The musketry results showed very few 1st Class shots (Scores 90-120) with some as low as 3! An officer viewing a machine gun exercise advised that only soldiers with good eyesight should be selected as machine gunners!

A significant amount of the service records for ordinary ranks in the First World War were destroyed in 1940 during the Blitz. Hopefully this transcription will fill in a few details about reader's ancestors who served. It certainly did for me with details of my father's cousin Pte. F. W. Bourne killed at Beaumont Hamel in November 1916. In addition I was able to learn key information about my wife's grandfather, Pte. T. H. P. Pugh.

Robert A. Chown
August 2011