At a recent family party I was chatting with Matthew my nephew & godson. He was asking about Jack Greenwood’s war record and how many Greenwoods there were in the records. I promised him details of what I have, so here goes.
My grandfather was christened John Greenwood although his family and friends knew him as Jack. His service records were one of the many destroyed in the blitz in 1940 nor did he keep a diary unlike my other Grandfather. What we do know about his part in the war has had to be pieced together from photographs we have of him; his Medal Card; the entry in the Medal Roll and a few clues from a letter he wrote to his then girlfriend and future wife.
Which Regiment was Jack in?
We can make the obvious first step that he is in the cavalry from the picture of him on a horse. His regiment comes from his cap badge which is the feathers of the 3rd Dragoons. The postcard of Jack in the field hospital (below) also shows his Prince of Wales feathers. The other photos we have of him in uniform has a cap badge from the 1st (Royal) Dragoons. This was the cavalry unit based at York at the start of the war. So it is likely he started at York before moving to the 3rd Dragoon guards for his active service.
A further check is searching for all the John Greenwoods in the cavalry. From the War Medals index there are only two John Greenwoods in the Cavalry; one in the 3rd Dragoon Guards, the other in the Hussars. His insignia are not those of the Hussars. So everything points to the Dragoons.
He had two Regimental numbers, first GS/15242, then D/15283. A prefix of GS means General Service in Cavalry units, which became D for Dragoons. All members of the Territorial forces, of which the Dragoons were part, had their numbers changed in April 1917. So we know that he joined up before the numbers changed in 1917.
Following a careful examination of the mounted photo above, I spotted a stripe on his arm. So Jack made it to Lance Corporal in Canterbury. He perhaps was acting during training, or maybe lost his stripe sometime during his service.
Jack didn’t volunteer at the start of the war, otherwise he would have a Star medal on his card. So it looks likely that he joined-up in 1915 or 1916, maybe the latter which was when conscription started.
Why did he join the Cavalry?
Most people who were conscripted joined the local regiment that were recruiting in the town at the time. Jacks brother Sid Greenwood, joined the 2/4 York & Lancs regiment probably when they visited York in April 1915.
Jack probably volunteered for the cavalry at the barracks close to where he lived in Fulford, York. There is a photo of a young Jack with Cavalry officers. Based on his age this was taken before the war started, so he was showing an early interest in the cavalry.
Jacks uniform and equipment.
Here is Jack in his new uniform, probably taken just after he joined up. It shows the insignia of the 1st (Kings) Dragoons.
He is wearing the standard khaki service tunic, distinguished by a 90 round brown leather bandolier worn in the Cavalry. A stiffened flat-topped cap is on the table. These were worn in the early years of the war but later on and in active-service, the caps were replaced by an infantry soft cap. On his arm he has the insignia of a signaller. Photographed with his group, below, probably still while training, he is also wearing the stiff cap and the insignia of the 1st Dragoons.
The later photo with Jack mounted on his horse shows him again with a stiff cap, but with the badge of the 3rd Dragoon Guards. This is also a posed photo, in active service his horse would be loaded with extra equipment. His weapon was the .303 Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle. This is carried on the saddle in a specially constructed ‘rifle bucket’ for easy access. In action the sabre was positioned on the opposite side to the rifle bucket usually strapped with his metal mess tin. The cavalry were proud of their sabres, experts judged that this 1908 pattern cavalry sabre was, perhaps, the best designed and weighted edged weapon the British Army ever produced. Ironically, the sword was also one of the most under used.
So Jack probably joined up in 1916, starting at York Barracks. He moved to Canterbury, the HQ of the Cavalry where did his basic training and the specialist skill of a Signaller. At some time in Canterbury he became a Lance-Corporal, but lost his rank later on.
After he finished his training he moved to the 3rd Dragoon Guards and prepared to move to the western front in France. Jack had a leave visit to York early in 1917, having an emotional departure from York Station. He wrote to Ada; “I must thank you for showing such bravery at the station… keep smiling and don’t worry + when I come back after this war we shall be happy together”. He left England on Wednesday 14th February, the day after he went into the YMCA in Canterbury and wrote his letter to Ada. He was on his way to France writing, “going tomorrow morning (Wed) + will write from Rouen.”
Jack is in the bed on the far left.
We cannot really know what Jack did during his active service. He did suffered injury or illness, we have a photo of him at a field hospital, although when this happened and where it is will be difficult to pin down. Jack recovered from his injury, he was fully fit at the end of the war and never mentioned it in later life. I also have a photo of Jack at the Railway workers convalescence home in Dawlish although he looks much older so this may not be his war injury. I will decipher the regimental war dairies in due course so we can follow the regiment through the rest of the war.
At the end of the war he was discharged on 18th October 1919 and returned to civilian life. Although he left the army he was still an active reserve as a Section A and Class Z Reserve. There were fears that Germany would not accept the terms of any peace treaty so trained men were told they would be liable to be quickly recalled in the eventuality of the resumption of hostilities. He also committed to return for twelve days training every year. Class Z reserve was soon abolished on 31 March 1920 as normal life returned.