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Royal Defence Corps in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Royal Defence Corps

    Regular Battalions:

  • Royal Defence Corps, 13th Observation Coy
  • Royal Defence Corps, 7th Observation Coy

       The Royal Defence Corps was a corps of the British Army formed in August 1917 and was disbanded in 1936. It was initially formed by converting the (Home Service) Garrison battalions of line infantry regiments. Garrison battalions were composed of soldiers either too old or medically unfit for active front-line service; the Home Service status indicated they were unable to be transferred overseas. Eighteen battalions were converted in this way. The role of the regiment was to provide troops for security and guard duties inside the United Kingdom; guarding important locations such as ports or bridges. It also provided independent companies for guarding prisoner-of-war camps. The regiment was never intended to be employed on overseas service.

    If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Want to know more about Royal Defence Corps?

There are:13861 pages and articles tagged Royal Defence Corps available in our Library

Those known to have served with

Royal Defence Corps

during the Great War 1914-1918.

  • Bathe William Harry. Cpl.
  • Beary Daniel. Sgt. 467th Protection Coy. (d.4th December 1918)
  • Cunningham M.. Pte. (d.29th September 1919)
  • Harris Thomas. Pte. (d.18th January 1919)
  • Higham David. Pte. 8th (Service) Btn.
  • Kettley George. Sgt.
  • Kilmister Harry. Act. Sgt. 7th Btn.
  • McConaghy John. Sgt. 9th (Tyrone) Btn.
  • Murphy John William. Pte. (d.17th Oct 1917)
  • Pretty Howard S.. Pte. 8th Btn.
  • Riddell Albert Henry. Private 1st Battalion
  • Riddell Albert Henry. Pte. 1st Battalion
  • Veacock Henry. Pte. 314 Coy. (d.16th September 1918)
  • Young George. Pte. 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion

All names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Feb 2018

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Did you know? We also have a section on World War Two. and a Timecapsule to preserve stories from other conflicts for future generations.


Pte. Thomas Harris Royal Defence Corps (d.18th January 1919)

Thomas Harris previously served as Pte. 3925, 1/17th London Regiment and entered France on 6th December 1915. He died and is buried at Netley Hospital.



Act. Sgt. Harry Kilmister 7th Btn. Gloucestershire Regiment

Harry Kilmister fought at Gallipoli including Chunik Bair, and was evacuated along with his comrades to Egypt in January 1916. After that, he was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps, with 20% disability.

Wayne Finch


Pte. M. Cunningham Royal Irish Regiment (d.29th September 1919)

M. Cunningham served with the Royal Irish Regiment, then with the Labour Corps and Royal Defence Corps. He is buried north east of the Cathedral in the Cashel (Rock of Cashel) Graveyard in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

S Flynn


Sgt. Daniel Beary DCM 467th Protection Coy. Royal Defence Corps (d.4th December 1918)

Daniel Beary (listed as Berry on CWGC database) was the Husband of Bridget Beary, of Barna, Pallas-Grean, Limerick. He was aged 48 when he died and is buried in the Ballinaclough Cemetery, Co. Limerick, Ireland.

s flynn


Pte. David Higham 8th (Service) Btn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry

David Higham was my grandfather. He left work in the cotton mill in Blackburn at the age of 19 and enlisted in 1915. He was small at enlistment. He was only 5 Ft 1 and a half inches tall, which would have prevented his earlier enlistment until there was a relaxation of the minimum height requirements. He enlisted in the South Wales Borderers before joining his intended unit the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. My grandmother came from Shropshire so that may have encouraged that. He served in Salonika with the allied expeditionary force there and, after seeing active service, suffered a common fate there as he was invalided back to Malta with illness. He spent some time in Malta recovering (he had fond memories of his time there) before being discharged on 20th of Novemeber as no longer fit for war service.

Howard Thomas


Sgt. John McConaghy 9th (Tyrone) Btn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

John McConaghy, was the elder of two sons of William and Martha McConaghy of Sion Mills, Co. Tyrone, Ireland. He enlisted in the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, The Tyrones, on 2nd October 1914.

He took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, receiving machine gun bullet wounds to his right arm extending from elbow to wrist. These wounds left him unsuitable for front line service and after recovering in a hospital in Sheffield he was eventually transferred to the Labour Corps Serial No. 627449, where he served as a Guard with No. 200 P.O.W. Coy. He also served in the Royal Defence Corps and the Monmouth Regiment. On 9th December 1919 he was transferred to the Army Reserve with the rank of A/C.S.M.

I well remember, as a child sitting on my father's knee, running my fingers down the groove left by the bullet wounds on his right arm, he never talked about it! He died, at the home of his eldest daughter, in Kidderminster, Worcs., England on 19th May 1950.

2 unknown NCO's & A/CSM John McConaghy

Pencil Drawing of 14516 John McConaghy

John McConaghy


Pte. George Young 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers

George Young was wounded in December 1916 and transferred to Royal Defence Corps.



Pte. Howard S. Pretty 8th Btn. Duke of Wellington West Riding Regiment

I came across a diary that was passed down through our family. It was created by a family member in 1915/16 at a WW1 hospital called Grove House in Harrogate. Our family member was a nurse there and had servicemen describe their experiences through the diary. Entries include the Gallipoli experiences of Pte Pretty of the 8th Duke of Wellingtons West Riding Regiment. This man's descendants,I am sure would be interested, I hope it may reach the family at some stage.

John Fison


Pte. Albert Henry Riddell 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Albert Riddell was born in November, 1878 at Stoke upon Trent, Staffordshire, to John Riddell & Hannah Clarke. In 1891, he lived with parents at 20 Trent Cottage, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire. In 1901, they lived at a house named The Village, in Staunton on Wye, Hereford By 1911, the family were living at 103 Queen St, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, and Albert was working as Colliery Hewer.

He enlisted on 4th of Sep 1914 with the 4th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment 4/2271 and spent 6 months training. He then transferred to 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, an active service battalion part of 10th Brigade, 4th Division and was renumbered 50792. He saw service in France & Belgium between 7th of April and 5th May 1915, when he was wounded, probably gassed on 3rd of May at "Shell Trap Farm"

On 29th of April 1916 Albert was posted to 13th Observation Company Royal Defense Corp in Sussex then on 5th of January 1917 he transferred to 7th Observation Company Royal Defense Corps in Sussex stationed just north of Brighton. He was discharged on 6th of July 1918 as "unfit for service" and married on the 4th of August 1919 in St Michael's Church, Budbrooke, Warwickshire. He and his wife then lived at 11 Newdigate Place, Nuneaton, Warwickshire Albert died in September 1956 in Nuneaton.

Gerald Southam


Private Albert Henry Riddell 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Albert Riddell was born in 1878, the 3rd of 7 children. Of course, like any male coming from Burton upon Trent, he worked at a brewery. He served in France from 7th April was wounded and then served with the Royal Defence Corps. He married in 1919 and sired 7 children. His oldest daughter, my mother, said that he played on his war wounds and his only employment was drinking beer. Albert died in 1956.

Gerald Southam


Pte. John William Murphy Royal Defence Corps (d.17th Oct 1917)

John William Murphy served in the Royal Defence Corps and died age 53 on the 17th October 1917. He is buried in Jarrow Cemetery.

John was born in Jarrow 1864. His death is recorded at Grimsby. 7a.660. In the 1911 census he is living at 53 Blacketts street, Jarrow. John(46) is a platers helper in the shipyard and Ellen his wife of 17 years had 7 children with 5 surviving all single and living at home. Anthony(25) is also a platers helper, Jane(21) is a domestic servant, as is Rebecca(18) and Mary Ellen(15). Patrick is ten years old.

Vin Mullen


Cpl. William Harry Bathe Canadian Ordnance Corps

William Harry Bathe was born in Deptford, SE London, in 1879. He enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 9 August 1897. Although he had signed on for 12 years, he spent 50 days in all with the Marines – and six of those were in hospital, suffering from cowpox, a bad reaction to his smallpox vaccination. On 29 September 1897, he transferred to the Army Ordnance Corps, and his conditions of service changing to seven years in army service and five years with A Reserve.

3653 Private Bathe W H started his duty with the AOC at Woolwich, but spent his first Christmas and New Year in the army in hospital. He was there for 34 days while being treated for rheumatism caused by exposure. He did not stay with his new unit for long, buying himself out of the army for £18 less than a year after joining the AOC, on 10 September 1898. On 28 February 1901, he volunteered to serve in the Second Anglo-Boer War, becoming a private in the 36th Company (West Kent) Imperial Yeomanry. In fact, before he joined the Royal Marines in 1897, he had been a member of 2nd Volunteer Battalion West Kent Regiment. He was a member of the second contingent of Imperial Yeomanry to go to South Africa, on 23 March 1901. On 29 July, his mother Evangeline was refunded £12, two-thirds of the purchase money paid to buy William out of the army three years earlier. William Bathe was awarded the Queen’s South African medal with clasps for his service in Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal, together with clasps to show he served in South Africa in both 1901 and 1902. At the end of the war, he returned to the UK on 27 August 1902 and was discharged at Aldershot on 3 September. Two years later, he was back in South Africa as a member of the South African Constabulary, serving with the SAC between 1904 and 1906 before returning to England.

In July 1907, he emigrated to Canada, a couple of months after his younger brother George had done so. He lived in Montreal and joined the local militia – the Royal Rifles of Canada. William Bathe enlisted with the Canadian forces soon after WW1 broke out, joining the 12th Battalion of the 1st Canadian Division with service number 23072. He was attested on 29 September 1914 and sailed for England on SS Scotian on 3 October. What William did in the first 11 months of his service in England is unknown, but it has been suggested that he may have been seconded to a civilian armaments factory to learn about modern weapons. He was certainly in Forest Hill on 19 May 1915, when he acted as a witness to his sister Florence’s wedding, but his military records do not resume until 16 September 1915, when he “returned to duty” and was based at Shorncliffe Camp. Later, in early March 1916 he was attached to Canadian Ordnance Corps at Ashford with the rank of Armourer Corporal. In August 1918, he was promoted Acting Armourer Sergeant and finally, in October that year, Acting Armourer Staff Sergeant. During his time with COC, he worked on repairing rifles, spent a few months with the machine gun section and also was based in Greenwich for six months to February 1917 with the Canadian Arms Inspection & Repair Depot. It was not until 27 October 1918 that William served in France, being attached to 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion as armourer. He remained in France until May 1919 and then returned to the UK and was eventually demobilised in Britain on 2 September 1919.

Peter Bathe


Sgt. George Kettley City of London Yeomanry

I have the Victory Medal of Captain George Kettley of the Royal Defence Corps plus service record and also a photograph. He served as 9939 & 300238 Sgt in the 1/5th London Rifle Brigade and City of London Yeomanry from 1898 to 1916, thereafter being commissioned into the Royal Defense Corps. In 1918 he was apparently C.O. of the POW Camp for German Officers at Ripon. I wonder if anyone has any further information on him ?

Peter Leonard

Want to know more about Royal Defence Corps?

There are:13861 pages and articles tagged Royal Defence Corps available in our Library
  These include information on officers, regimental histories, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.

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