Royal Artillery photo date/place help

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by Wobbler, Feb 22, 2021.

  1. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    I hope I have posted this in the correct section, wasn’t sure. Apologies if it should be moved elsewhere.

    My cousin in Australia has just sent me this postcard showing my grandad (standing 2nd from the right) and mates, presumably his Battery, but there is no information on the back of the card to say when and where taken. The back simply has grandad’s name and address and the order details for the photography company (Lattis Manufacturing Co.). I’ve never seen the photo before, thrilling to receive it, and it would be good to have some idea of when, and where, it was taken.

    I wondered if there may be some clues from the vehicle and the badges some of the men are sporting? Impossible to see how the location can be ascertained, of course, but as his service records for both terms show, every year he attended annual summer training camps, so it could possibly have been taken at one of those.

    He served two spells with the Territorial Royal Artillery, the first from 1923 - 1927, re-enlisting in 1934, which later events, of course, effectively then saw him through to 1945. I first thought the photo was taken during his 1920s service, mainly because, to my untrained eye, the uniforms just seemed nearer to WW1 era in appearance, although the puttees may have unduly influenced that reasoning. At that time he served with, or rather enlisted into, 364 Bty, 91st (4th London) Brigade, RFA.

    However, I now think, but not certain, that the photo is more likely from his second spell in the 1930s, when he was with 368 Battery, 92 Field Regt, although I am thinking almost certainly pre-war? The main reason I think this is the number plate. I read that three-letter prefixes on UK number plates were not introduced until 1932, but not sure if that is 100% correct.

    I believe I can read “Morris Commercial” on the front of the truck and I then found an unrelated photo online of what I think looks very much like the vehicle in my photo, and that photo is from 1938 (also attached here). Not that a vehicle photographed in 1938 couldn’t have been around in 1925, of course!

    Some of the badges can be made out, which may also help date it; clearly one man wears the Gun Layer badge and I think, but am not sure, that the soldier sat down on the right may have the 1st Prize badge for driving on his sleeve? (I’ll post on the Badge Forum too, I’m sure there’ll be some kind souls there too for whom the badges concerned will pinpoint potential dates).

    One more thing, I note that grandad and many of the others have a leather strap running from right shoulder to left waist and the same, or another, leather strap that hangs vertically from under the left epaulette - any idea what these straps were for? Just for a water bottle or other basic equipment, or is it simply because it looks smart?

    I also hope that you may find the photo interesting to see. :)


    This is the unrelated photo from 1938 of what, I think, looks like the truck in grandad’s photo:

  2. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    The top photo looks like a pre war training camp with the transmitter on the horizon it might be Larkhill School of Gunnery. The flag on the truck might be a red warning flag for a firing range so they might be out picketing the firing area to stop people entering. There is a small bell tent behind the truck perhaps a temporary guard room or office.

    The thick strap looks like webbing attached to a knapsack for rations (cant find the correct word but I have a photo somewhere of me wearing one). An alternative would be a map case.
    The strap across the front is likely to be a water bottle with a leather strap worn on the left hip.
    The truck is a 30cwt something dont think it is a Humber PU but something earlier. Morris Commercial is a possibility it might a smaller forerunner of the Quad.
    Commer was a make used in WW1 and used by the TA prewar. They always got obsolete kit even nowadays!
    The soldier sitting front right seems to have a signaller badge on his right sleeve.
    The bottom photo looks to be in Palestine. Some TA went there pre 1939. The Lewis gun was probably still issued to them out there particularly if they were in a colonial police type roll.

    Might be worth visiting Derek Barton's RA 1939 -45 site as he is an expert on uniforms even if they are pre war.
    There should be a link somewhere on ww2t.

    Anyone recognise the badge on the truck in the background.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Do you have his name and number might find him on the medal rolls

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  5. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    Noticeable in the top photo they are all suntanned and look darker than the men in Palestine. Even their hands are brown but some of their wrists are white
    Are they builders, agricultural workers or regular soldiers.
    TA soldiers attended annual camp usually for one week pre-war two weeks at the most. Unless of course this was post embodiment (after 1st Sept 1939) training for war. The truck might be a novelty new issue.
    The one wearing puttees is probably the driver.
    Units trained quite hard until Christmas 1939 after which many went to France with the BEF.
    The others were either home service or sent abroad to defend the colonies.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  6. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    This is a TA unit (explanation further on). I would suggest the photo is taken in 1938/39. Any earlier and they were unlikely to have a military vehicle, rather borrowed or impressed civilian vehicles. The SD uniform & peaked cap were standard wear in TA units until replaced by Battledress usually sometime in 1939/40. The other thing that positively identifies them as TA are the brass titles on their shoulder straps. Regulars would have RA, TA would have T over RA or possibly a unit title. For 92 Field that might be T over 5 London. Looking at the photo my guess would be T over RA.
    The soldier front right is not wearing a signaller badge, this is crossed signal flags. It might be a prize badge, these were worn until 1939. The badge might be a crown over a steering wheel indicating the first prize in Driving Prizes, Mechanised Batteries.
    I'll leave it there for the moment & see what else is suggested. If you want to check out my site as suggested above here is the link
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  7. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    Thanks very much for this, I’d not noticed the flag at the back, so if I missed something as obvious as that, you’ll realise I’d definitely not spotted a transmitter on the horizon. I wonder if it is indeed Larkhill then.

    I’ve tried to enlarge the bonnet badge but it’s too large a file to upload, but I think it does read Morris Commercial. I must also say the second photo, from Palestine, is a red herring, nothing to do with the photo with my grandad and what I assume are his Battery mates. When I was trawling through lots of images online of various Morris models, as I’m no expert, I found this one and just used it to compare the trucks to see if you guys agreed it’s the same type or not. My fault, it’s just a random addition, hope I didn’t mislead you with that one!

    Mind you, I’ve just now had an interesting look at the BPP site Owen pointed out, so that’s a nice bonus.
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  8. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    Grandad is 750930 Walter Gatty. I have his full service records which show him attending annual camp each year, save 1935, from ‘34 to ‘39. Of course, the records don’t show where the training took place, unfortunately. I’m also assuming this photo was taken at one of those camps, which may be wrong.
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  9. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Field artillery mostly had their firing camps at either Larkhill or Okehampton.
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  10. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    Excellent Derek, thank you very much. I have visited your site, superb sir!

    Your information about the uniforms, together with what you say about the use of a military vehicle, is really interesting and your opinion about the photo therefore being from 1938/39 is a compelling one to me. Brilliant stuff!

    This page is from his records and details his attendances at training camps. Certainly Larkhill seems likely, doesn’t it. Interestingly, he was appointed Driver IC in August ‘34 but I can’t see any trade badge on his sleeve in that photo, unless it’s out of shot.


    I am also leaning more towards that badge on the guy sat at the front being a driving prize badge - it’s shape seems quite similar:

    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  11. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    Cant see any Tors so I discount Okehampton where I have been numerous times both militarily and for exercise, no hills in the Background so its not Sennybridge where I went with 267 Field with their 25 pounders and many times since on expeditions. Which leaves Larkhill or the surrounding Salisbury Plain where 67th Field Regt trained prior to going with the BEF.
    Dont think it is Redesdale in Northumbbria where the 67th went in 1942 or Irvine/ Kilmarnock where I have worked in the past.
    It does however put us into the Embodiment period post 1st September 1939. Particularly the truck. I recall the 67th Field having to get there by Midland Red Bus and the guns taken by civilian contractors as the old 1913 Commer trucks broke down.
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  12. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Drivers both Horse & I/C did not wear any qualification badge until the steering wheel badge was introduced in 1942.
    The vehicle is a Morris Commercial, I think the 15 cwt CS8. It started to reach the TA units in 1938 as a replacement for the civilian vehicles used by BC's, OP's & Battery Staff. The gun towers were mainly Morris Commercial CDSW 6 wheelers by 1939 but replaced in1940-41 by the Morris C8 Quad.
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  13. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    Really appreciate your detective work here, fascinating stuff.
  14. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    This is great info, Derek, and yet more details about the vehicle that point to it being ‘38 or ‘39. I’m absolutely delighted with what I have learned from you guys today, as will my cousin be when I pass the info onto him, as he knew nothing about the photo’s history either.

    Out of curiosity, I wonder if you can answer this for me too? I recently acquired an original WW2 Driver IC badge for when I finally put together a medal/badge display for grandad - would he likely ever have worn one, given he had qualified so many years before the badge was created, or were they only awarded to those newly qualifying after 1942?
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  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  16. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Don't know for certain but I would think if his qualification is recorded officially then he should be entitled to the badge when it was introduced.
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  17. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    Cheers Derek.
  18. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    Thanks Owen.

    I found that image randomly, said it was from Flickr. It seemed the closest in appearance.

    I just had another rummage online and found this link to HMVF with
    the same and many other photos:

    British Army Morris Commercial vehicle photo's in Palestine - circa 1938
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