FORBES, FORBES & ZIMMERMANN ~ Stolen WW1 English & French medals surface to the amazement of their ex-pat owner.

~ CAPT. CHARLES HAROLD FORBES, LAC. JOHN GRAHAM FORBES, CPL. CHARLES HENRI ZIMMERMAN ~         

I am usually very careful not to open mail that bounces into my SPAM email box however one had caught my eye that warranted a closer look.  Despite the big orange banner warning me that Gmail could not verify the email address and I should be alert to Phishing scams, the mail looked kosher as it had been formatted in accordance with the MRNZ website Contact Form, and so I took a punt and opened it.  The following message appeared:

MESSAGE
I have been handed a bag of WW1 and 2 medals. Some are engraved with J.G. Forbes & Capt A.H. Forbes. others have no engraving.  There are also some dog tags in the name of Charles Zimmerman EV 1915. Would be great to get them back to recipient or family.  Please advise.

Regards, Bill Jump

I called Bill, a former Royal New Zealand Navalman, to discuss exactly what it was he had.  Bill had been given a paper bag of medals  by an acquaintance which had been received from an anonymous third party.  All very ‘cloak and daggerish’ but as with any medals that are received anonymously by MRNZ, it is the return of them to either the owner (if living) or the family that is all important, not how they came to us, so – no questions asked!  The bag according to Bill had been given to him in the hope that as a former serviceman, he would know what to do with them – that is all the information available to me.  Bill forwarded the bag of medals to MRNZ which contained the following:

  • Full size British War Medal, 1914/18 and Victory Medal named to: CAPT. A. H. FORBES
  • Miniature medals of the above – the Victory Medal complete with an Oak Leaf Spray emblem attached, denoting a Mention in Dispatches
  • Full size Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 (France)
  • 1939/45 Star
  • Italy Star
  • Defence Medal
  • War Medal 1939/45
  • GRV Silver Jubilee Medal (1937) named to: J. G. FORBES complete with Box of issue
  • A single French soldier’s Identity tag on a leather boot lace, named to: ZIMMERMAN, CHARLES EV 1915
  • An Identity Bracelet named to: Charles ZIMMERMAN 1915

The medals and bag they came in received anonymously by Bill Jump.

The paper bag had been addressed in French to a person at an address in France.  I also had a handwritten note in biro on the bag,  “Medailles & Stylus” and the name “Mark.”  The French address (interpreted) read:  Mr Forbes John ou MME Mas Des Lauriers,  Domaine Du Pre Vieux, 06530 St. Cezaire Sur Siagne.  I have not studied French since the 4th Form, so to say I was a little rusty was a gross understatement.  The first part I understood – Mr or Mrs John Forbes; with Mr Google to the rescue for the remainder: Mas = a traditional house in Provence + Des Lauriers = Laurel House or House of Laurels; 06530 St. Cezaire Sur Siagne is a village in the French Alps on the Cote d’Azure, about 63 kms SW of Nice.  “Medailles + Stylos” = Medals & Pen (a label of previous contents, or an inclusion?)  

This was of little use to me at this point as I was not about to start phoning France looking for Mr or Mrs John Forbes (or Mark – was he also a Forbes?)  Goodness knows how long ago the bag had been addressed but what was apparent was that the “medailles” were a long way from home at a guess. 

De-cyphering the clues

The paper bag – who on earth was “Mark” ?

In considering the medals in front of me, reuniting un-named medals is almost an impossibility.  Apart from the address on the paper bag, I had just two names which in themselves were problematic.  Apart from the French Croix de Guerre which was always issued unnamed, the two First World War campaign medals and the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal had a common surname of “Forbes” impressed on them and  obviously two different people – A. H. and J.G. Forbes.  The other unknown was, who owned the WW2 medals?  It could be either of the two “Forbes”, or Charles Zimmerman, or someone else not represented.  Clearly finding proof was not going to be a given so interpreting what was in front of me was the first task.   

The medals marked with simply rank initials and name, CAPT. A. H. FORBES , was not a great deal of help as I found after a cursory look for this man on the internet.  One of the irrefutable identity measures used for all regular and irregular military personnel in most countries of the world is a personal and unique military Service Number (or Regimental number as it is known in the Army) assigned to each person, and which  prefixes there name on every document (and medal) belonging to them. e.g. Z123456 Private A. B. BROWN and V567890 Private A. B. BROWN can be differentiated.  The British Officer Corps has never used personal identification (service) numbers.  Whether this was considered inappropriate for their ‘class’ whilst their soldier charges were all accounted for by numbering, is not known by this author.  British Officers (regular and irregular) were only ever identified by their rank and name, sometimes with the addition of their Corps.   Accordingly,  identifying medals or any other item belonging to an officer that is marked only with the rank and name makes precise identification of these individuals very difficult.  Likewise, not having a Corps or Unit name, e.g. 23 Infantry Battalion, simply exacerbates this situation.

These two identifiers are essential, particularly in very large armies, navies or air forces to avoid confusion and miss-communicated information concerning an individual since there are likely to be hundreds of personnel with the same surname and initials within a service or formation.  Each medal issued by the New Zealand government bears a regimental/service (identity) number, rank at the time the medal was qualified for, and the unit in which a person served when they qualified for the medal.    

** First World War MedalsThe full size British War Medal 1914-18 and Victory Medal were both named to CAPT. A. H. FORBES.  Unlike other countries of the Empire, neither medal had a regimental number or a Corps included which is indicative of medals  issued to a British Army officer.  Unless a service person had been commissioned from the ranks (and accordingly had a number which stayed with them for life), service or regimental numbers were not impressed on medals for officers of any of the Imperial armed services.   

Capt A.H. Forbes’ full size and miniature medals as they arrived – Obverse.  

Reverse – MiD emblem is missing from the full size Victory Medal ribbon.

Full size British War Medal, 1914-18 (Lt) and Victory Medal (Rt).

British War Medal, 1914-18, minus a number and corps.

Victory Medal – naming indicates medal issue to a UK officer.

Miniatures – Reverse

Miniatures with ‘Mention in Dispatches’ oak leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak Leaf emblem was attached to the ribbon of the Victory Medal.  This indicates Captain Forbes had received an honourable Mention in Dispatches (MiD) at some point during the war.  There was no evidence of the same being attached to the full size Victory Medal however.

Since I had no idea where A.H. FORBES came from at this point, any one of a number of persons named A.H. FORBES born from 1875 to 1900 could be my man. 

** Campaign & General Service Medals – the four World War II medals were un-named.  Again, unlike most countries of the Empire, the British and New Zealand military forces were the only Allied countries who did NOT name their campaign and general service medals for WW2 service.  This apparently had been a cost saving decision which has subsequently proved to be an ill-considered one.  Soldiers were also required to apply for their medals, as opposed to being either presented or having the medals sent to them as had occurred dafter the First World War.  Technically, the medals I had before me could have belonged to anybody as there is no accurate means of attributing original ownership other than, say, detailed photographs.

L-R: 1939/45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939/45.

The failure to issue named medals resulted in numerous soldiers in New Zealand refusing to apply for their medals after the war.  They considered that applying for un-named medals an insult, a ‘slap in the face’ in light of the service and sacrifices they, and those who did not come home, had made on behalf of the country.  For the numerous Maori soldiers who did not claim their medal entitlement, the reason was culturally based, a fact that has only recently been made public with the discovery by an Auckland lawyer of Maori heritage, that in excess of 350 soldiers of the 28th Maori Battalion had refused to claimed their medals as the believed there was no mana in receiving un-named medals in the mail.  It also amounted to a breach of Tikangai (Maori customs and traditions that have been handed down through the passages of time from tupuna (ancestors).  If a reward or accolade was to be made to a warrior, it was presented in person by a Rangitira (a person of high rank), or equivalent representative of the Crown – in this case whomever was the authority responsible for sending the soldiers to war.  As Roger Stone, the lawyer coordinating the research of unclaimed medals on behalf of the now deceased 28 Maori Battalion soldier’s tupuna said, “You had to do things face to face. That’s our tikanga, our way of doing things properly.”

King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935 – named to J. G. Forbes.

** The King George V Silver Jubilee Medal (1937) – this was awarded to selected military personnel and civilians on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee year (25 years) of George V’s reign with Queen Elizabeth, since his coronation in 1910.  This particular medal was in its box of issue, was named inside and on the medal itself.  Logically, it appeared that A.H. and J.G. Forbes were connected, the medals being in the same bag however that needed to be proven.  If they were, how were they connected, were the two Forbes male or female etc – without proof of who these belonged to there was always the chance they could go to the wrong descendants.     

 

 

 

 

** Croix de Guerre (Cross of War), France – The French Croix de Guerre** was awarded to French and allied soldiers, including 11,589 Americans, for their service during World War I and was authorised by French legislation on April 2, 1915.  The Croix de Guerre was a medal awarded with degrees based on the actions of the soldier and his role.  The lowest degree was signified by the Bronze Star, while the highest was a Bronze Palm.  Soldiers could receive multiple stars and palms for multiple acts of wartime gallantry.  In some instances, whole military units and even French villages were awarded Croix de Guerres.

The Croix de Guerre may be awarded either as an individual award or as a unit award to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy.  The medal is awarded to those who have been “mentioned in dispatches”, meaning a heroic deed or deeds were performed meriting a citation from an individual’s headquarters unit.  

This particular medal was dated 1914-1918, denoting it was the last of four issued for First World War service.  A Croix de Guerre had previously been issued on three occasions covering service for each year of the war, e. g. 1914–1915 then 1914–1916, 1914–1917 and finally 1914–1918.  Unfortunately this gave me few clues as to the recipient.

Note:  ** Not to be confused with the Belgian Croix de Guerre which is of similar design except the cross is surmounted with a Royal Crown and the ribbon colours are reversed (red for green and green for red – unevenly spaced).

Obverse

French Croix de Guerre, 1914-1918. 

Reverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Bracelet and ‘dog-tag’ named to ZIMMERMANN ~ Charles  EV 1915.

Identity disc (‘dog-tag’) and bracelet – The identity dog-tag and bracelet all bore the same details, a name and a year – ZIMMERMANN Charles EV 1915.  I was unfamiliar with the style of naming however after a little research discovered them to be French.  The EV stands for “Enlisted Volunteer” and the year “1915” indicates the year of enlistment.  This would be of great help in tracing the owner’s family – maybe?  It was interesting to see the green ink on the ‘dog-tag’, a means of dulling the shiny metal similar to the way in which metal hat and collar badges were blackened to reduce any give away reflection of light off them at night.  

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Identity of CAPT A. H. FORBES

My best hope to find this man’s identity was his MEDAL CARD, if he had one.  While there are many thousands of these in existence, many do not exist because of destruction of records caused by bombing during WW2.  Whilst most WW1 veterans were recorded on Medal Rolls when they  qualified for a medal, Medal Index Cards to record their medal issue was a much looser arrangement, not always well administered and with many missing (or not created), particularly for irregular (territorial and short service) soldiers and officers. 

Medal Cards

For those British servicemen and women of the First World War who had a Medal Card raised, the card was a standard, red ink formatted layout that recorded Surname, Initials, Service Number, Corps, Unit, Decorations and Medals (with dates of qualification for each medal).  Also included, could be the Date the soldier arrived in the operational theatre of war (i.e. country), and the soldier’s Disposal on exiting the service – whether Killed In Action, Wounded In Action, or Discharged, Posted, Transferred for whatever reason.  These annotations were sometimes supported by references to King’s Regulations and included various code letters that summarised the soldiers employment and medal history.  On the rear of the Medal Card was a space to record an address – Home, Next of Kin, or Forwarding address for medals etc.  

Medal Cards were normally hand-written written and in some cases the legibility of the information has led to errors and identity confusion.  It is baffling to understand why only the initials of a person on the Medal Cards were not always expanded in full from the outset, given the large numbers of personnel who enlisted with the same surname and initials.  Some initials were subsequently expanded to show partial or full first names, but most were not.  The typewritten Medal Rolls produced after the war were somewhat more reliable but contained limited identification detail:Unit and Medal the roll was raised for, number, rank, last name, initials, date of qualification, and whether the medal had been issued or not. 

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What I really needed was A. H. Forbes’ first names.  Having these could remove a whole lot of guess work and most possibilities of identifying the wrong man.  The Medal Card Index on-line showed numerous A. H. Forbes and combinations thereof, some with additional initials, a daunting task I am thinking.  Not having a Corps to reference meant I could still have trouble narrowing the field of contenders but this I would do firstly by deaths, rank and then by medals awarded.  Hopefully that would leave me a short list.  Nothing for it but start at the top. 

At the top of the Ancestry list was not a Medal Card per se but a blank filler card: 

Interpreted, the card showed that Forbes, A. H., T/(Temporary) Lt. (Lieutenant), was an officer commissioned on the General List, who had been added to a Special List that listed personnel award a Mention in Dispatches (MiD).  The award was annotated with a London Gazette (L.G.) reference: 11 June 1918, Page 6927.  A Special List is used for specific employment assignments, not attached to any particular Regiment or unit.  Whilst the rank referred to was not that impressed on the medals, the Oak Leaf emblem on the miniature Victory Medal denotes the award of a MiD so a link did appear to exist.  The officer’s initials were correct, however I still had no idea of Capt. A. H. Forbes’ first names, nor his corps or his employment. 

After checking the complete Medal Card Index for my man, I initially came up with six cards named to A.H. FORBES: two Privates (Infantry), one Gunner (Artillery), and three officers.  I immediately ruled out the Privates and Gunner as the full size medals had already indicated A. H. FORBES was an officer, a Captain (CAPT).  The three officer’s cards were marked as follows: 2LT/LT GR. GDS (meaning a 2nd Lieutenant promoted to Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards [an Infantry Regiment]); 2LT/LT/CAPT A.S.C. (meaning promoted through all three ranks to Captain in the Army Service Corps [a logistics organisation]), and a CHAP.IV CL., LT. (Rev) R.A.CHAP. DPT. meaning a Chaplain [Padre] 4th Class [ which = the equivalent rank of a Lieutenant (Reverend) of the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department.  

Of these three, two names unusually had their initials expanded in full:  LT. (Reverend) Arthur Henry FORBES, R.A.Ch.DPT., and CAPT. Arthur Harold FORBES, A.S.C.  Whilst the ASC officer was the most obvious choice as the rank of Captain matched that impressed on the medals, as the medals had no stated Corps, the Chaplain could just as easily have achieved the rank of Capt (Chaplain 3rd Class) before the war ended.  The third officer, 2LT A. H. FORBES, I had no reason to follow up until I had either ruled in or out the first two.  

London Gazette

All official awards are published in the London Gazette.  A person awarded a military of civil honour is said to be “gazetted” once their name is published in this document, meaning the medal and the ribbon awarded is authorised for wearing from the listed date.  After spending quite some time trying to locate the L.G. of 11 June 1918 as shown on the first card, I thought it strange I could not find the appropriate reference.  I took a punt by going to Mr Google and entered the Gazette edition date and page number.  To my surprise, up came a swathe of individual pages as oppose to gazette editions.  Fortunately Page No 6927 was among them.  It was then I realised what had happened.  What the first card had NOT indicate was that lists of Mentions in Dispatch were published, not in the  primary Gazette editions, but rather in the Supplement to the London Gazette” – in this case, the Fifth Supplement was dated 07 June 1918 and contained a Special List date 11 Jun 1918 (as shown on the card above) – a somewhat confusing arrangement for the uninitiated or not using these regularly.  The other interesting omission from the Special List was that nowhere in the pre-text of the MiD listing do the words “Mention in Dispatches” appear, but are alluded to only– see below from “My Lord, ……”

 

Note: The Edition date and the award List date differ.

Note: there is no reference to the words “Mention in Dispatches” – it is implied.  This 5th Supplement of the L.G. contains 13 pages of names covering all British Empire contributing countries, Services, Corps, Ships, Officers, WOs, NCOs, Men and Women awarded a “Mention.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.G. editions, which also include separate Scottish and Irish Gazettes just to confuse the issue further, are referenced by an Edition Number, e.g.: 36214 and a date.  Publication of an award is the authority date from which the award is made /bestowed/or can be worn – is made on a separately dated List, which is not the L.G. edition publication date.  As I discovered, T/Lt. Forbes’s MiD was published in the FIFTH Supplement to the London Gazette, Edition Number 30740, List dated 11 June 1918.  Whilst I was now leaning heavily towards CAPT Arthur Harold FORBES A.S.C., I could not yet rule out LT (Rev) A. H. FORBES.

Medal Card – A.H. FORBES

With the possibilities narrowed to two officers, I focused on the Chaplain Forbes first.  A MiD can be awarded for low level acts of gallantry or exceptional service, normally initiated by a headquarters unit recommendation, and once approved, are “gazetted.”  O located an L.G. reference for an Army Chaplain: CHAP. LT. COLONEL (Rev) Arthur Henry FORBES, MC (Military Cross).  This appeared to be the same man who, other than an increase in rank from Chap 4th Class (LT), the man had risen to the upper echelons of Chaplain rank, and his initials were expanded.  At last I had both officers names.   The Military Cross is a gallantry decoration which can only be attained by a valorous act when in the face of the enemy, i.e. the Chaplain Arthur Henry Forbes had been overseas to an operational area of operations.  

It is also usual that a gallantry medal such as the Military Cross was often preceded by the award of a Mention in Dispatches.  Whilst I had no evidence of a Military Cross in the bag of medals, I did have an MiD on a miniature medal ribbon.  So technically, I still had two possible FORBES contenders with a Mention in Dispatches.  More proof was required.  

On CAPT FORBES card was three promotions, reference to a General List, L of C (not something I had come across before), and he had qualified for two medals – British War Medal, 1914-18 and the Victory Medal.  There was no reference to a Theatre of War which indicated he had not served overseas, but that could be an omission.  Written at the bottom of CAPT A. H. FORBES card was the following: Emblems Issue Voucher = IV.X/45630/4.11.21 NW6/13584 The word Emblems” can mean one of three things in relation to WW1 medals: the Emblem (or Device) can be the date device with dates 5th Aug – 22nd Nov 1914 which is affixed to the ribbon of the 1914 (Mons) Star; it can also refer to a Silver Rosette that is attached to the 1914 Star chest ribbon bar to denote the qualification of the 1914 Star date device when only the medal ribbons are worn; or it can refer to the gold coloured Oak Leaf Spray emblem worn on the Victory Medal ribbon to denote a Mention in Dispatches.

LG 17 Jun 1918 – appointment to Staff Captain (left side column).

The Medal Card indicated that apart from his being on the General List, Capt. Forbes’ employment had been in a Headquarters, most probably in England, as there was no entry in the “Theatre of War first served in” box on the card.  This I confirmed by other L.G. entries I found for his promotion to Temp. Lieutenant and Acting Captain.  This tended to rule out overseas service and therefore the Military Cross.  I could now safely rule out Chaplain Lt.Colonel Arthur Henry Forbes, MC. 

“L of C” stands for Lines of Communication and together with the annotation of HQ means that Capt. Forbes had been posted to the Lines of Communication (Army Service Corps) HQ, – a logistics and supply headquarters which at that time was was located in London.  An L.G. entry dated 17 June 1918, pg 7118, appointed T/Lt. Arthur Forbes to be a Staff Captain attached to a Headquarters with the rank of Temporary Captain, whilst he undertook the duties of a staff officer in the Lines of Communication HQ.

The reverse of Capt. Arthur Harold FORBES Medal Card added further confirmation he had been awarded a MiD.  There were two annotations – M in D – / 1 / 18.  Interpreted, this meant a Mention in Dispatches had been awarded in Jan 1918, and that Army Form E 79 was Retd 29. 9. 21.   This is a form acknowledging receipt of the medal and signature of the recipient.  

But what of the Croix de Guerre and the French Identity Tag and Bracelet named to CHARLES ZIMMERMANN EV 1915  among the medals?  I anticipated these to be something that Arthur Forbes might have picked up in France however as he seemed to have remained in England in the L of C headquarters, it was unlikely he would have received the Cross.  Whilst Allied officers and soldiers were awarded these, I could find no record of the medal awarded to Arthur Harold Forbes at any rank. 

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Family connection in NZ

Having Arthur Forbes’ full name meant I could now start researching his background.  I found several family trees that were useful but as always, there was insufficient detail.   Three requests for information from tree authors resulted in two negative “not related” responses, the third however was successful.  I received a reply from one Emma Forbes who was domiciled in France.  Emma is a Resource Management Adviser for the OECD’s Directorate for Education and Skills in Paris.  Emma at once confirmed her grandfather was indeed Arthur Harold Forbes and in referencing to the medals, said the following:

“I confirm that our grandfather is Arthur Harold Forbes and may have won medals in WW1.  Sounds like all these medals do indeed belong to my family, more precisely to my brother Mark Charles Forbes who lives in Christchurch.  I’m pretty sure that my mother gave Mark all the family medals.”

Emma said she would email her brother in Christchurch who would hopefully make contact.  She also confirmed that her and Mark’s father was John Graham Forbes, an electronics engineer and the eldest son of Arthur Harold and Bertha Forbes.  Emma  recalled seeing medals in her father’s desk as a child but had no idea at that time, what they were.  Her father had apparently dropped his studies at the age of 15 and went to join the war (WW2) because he had wanted to work on the trains, and that he had finished up serving in Italy on the Adriatic coast.  Emma also said she understood that her grandfather (Arthur) had been involved in the First World War but knew nothing of the details.  John Forbes’ initials “J. G.” also appeared to account for his ownership of the George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1937.

I quickly made contact with Mark Forbes.  Mark was a Surveyor by profession who had come to New Zealand as a result of both marriage and a position he had been offered with a Wellington firm.  Since then he had decided on a move from city life and became a deer breeder at Cust in North Canterbury for a number of years.  During this time Mark also joined the Territorial Force at Burnham, an Engineer with 3 Field Squadron and the 2nd Canterbury, Marlborough, Nelson and West Coast Regiment.

With regard to the “missing medals”, Mark was able to shed some light.  Before he moved from Cust to the city, Mark had stored his furniture and personal effects in a shipping container which a Cust local had allowed him to store on his property.  As Mark related to me, apparently after 18 months or so, it was time to move into his new residence and so he went to retrieve some items from the container as he had done from time to time.  On this occasion as he approached the Cust property, he had seen a container on the back of a truck disappearing down the same road as he was travelling.  Thinking nothing of it, it wasn’t until he reached the property and found his own container gone did he realise it must have been his that he saw!  Despite attempts to recover the situation, country North Canterbury is not a place you can get easily get a Police response.  That was the last Mark had seen of the bag of medals which had been given to him by his mother.  You can imagine his reaction when I told him I had the medals.  Mark also mentioned that with his grandfather’s medals had been a number of civilian medals that his grandmother (Bertha Forbes) had received for animal welfare – regrettably, none of these were in the bag Bill had sent to me.

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Who was Arthur Harold FORBES ?

With confirmation I was on the right track, I could start to look for family tree references that included ARTHUR HAROLD FORBES.  Sometimes military records are attached by the author of a Family Tree which can provide immediate proof of military service and that the Tree you are consulting contains the correct person and their family (or not).  If correct, from this all other information required can flow – dates, parentage, siblings, locations, occupations, marriages, deaths and so forth.   

1913 – Arthur Harold Forbes – Barrister at Law, age 19.

To ascertain the details of the soldier’s civil occupation (“Labourer” for instance tells little) some degree of instinct is sometimes required once one is familiar with an individual’s basic family structure.  The occupations and locations of relatives can sometimes also provide useful detail.  In Arthur’s particular case, his occupation being “Barrister at Law” and the address on the Medal Card provided plenty of leads for further research.  I combined all relevant information from the publicly accessible family trees containing ‘Arthur Forbes’ name which in due course built a fairly full picture of his family. 

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FORBES of Kolkata    

The Forbes family’s traceable origins available on the internet, are in Aberdeen, Scotland during the 1790s.  William and Frances Forbes ran a cottage industry weaving loom and also carted wool.  Sons Francis (1815–1858) and Henry (1823–1856) were both born in Old Machar, Aberdeenshire together with their three sisters.  Young Henry Forbes went to sea and joined the Royal Navy.  In Jan 1856, whilst Captain of the Forecastle on HMS Polyphemus, Henry was drowned when the ship was wrecked on Hansolm Light off the coast of Jutland, Denmark leaving a wife and two daughters.  His brother Francis went on to become a merchant who domiciled himself in the Indian trading hub of Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal (now W.Pakistan).  In January 1847, Francis Forbes married a London lady, Maria Anna Eliza PARDEW** (1828–1857) in Calcutta and subsequently produced a family of two sons and two daughters, all born in Calcutta.  after her last child was born in 1857 Maria Forbes, 29, died whilst in London.  Her husband  Francis Forbes died in Calcutta a year later in 1858.

Note: ** Maria Pardew’s brother, Edward James Pardew (1838-1927) and his wife Emma (both Londoners) had 11 children, all of whom were born in New Zealand between 1862-1882.  The family emigrated to Victoria, Australia shortly thereafter.

FORBES of London

HENRY BRACEY FORBES – Solicitor, Attorney-General, Judge-Advocate, Special Constable

Henry Bracey Forbes (1850-1931)

Francis and Maria Forbes’ second son Henry Bracey FORBES (1849–1931) – father of Arthur Harold Forbes et al – was 11 or 12 years of age when he and his siblings were returned to Surrey, England from Calcutta around 1861.  Once Henry had completed his education he moved to Poplar, London to commence law studies at Temple.  Henry Bracey Forbes was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in 1871 and commenced practising law from his offices at the Guildhall Chambers, Basinghall Street, London, and at Dalston. 

Eleanor Kemball Forbes (1850-1939)

Henry became the founding father of “Forbes & Son”, a law practice that would endure for many decades and still exists today, albeit in a multi-partnered law firm that has undergone many iterations.  The family name is active in the legal profession to this day with a number of the Forbes descendants practising in England. 

In 1873 Henry Forbes married Eleanor KEMBALL (1850-1939) in London and during the ensuing thirteen years, the couple had ten children.  In 1891 the Forbes family resided in a large house at 28 Addington Road in the well to do suburb of Stratford-le-Bow St Mary (known as Bow), Bow and Bromley in the Tower Hamlets, London.  Bow was at the centre of several prosperous suburbs which Henry rightly assessed would be good for business.  Henry eventually retired from the firm sometime during the First World War leaving Forbes and Son in the hands of his son William.  Henry Bracey Forbes died in 1931 at the age of 82.

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1.   William Henry Kemball FORBES (1874-1958), the first born of Henry B. and Eleanor, was to follow in his father’s footsteps no doubt soundly guided by Henry.  William started his law career as a Solicitor’s Clerk articled to his father.  William successfully undertook his examinations in 1894 at the age of 20 however, as solicitors had to be 21 years of age to practice, William had to another six months before he could be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in June 1895.  It was at this point that Henry and William formally established their partnership that launched Forbes and Son, Solicitors at Law.  The practice was run from offices Henry had built onto the side of the family home.  Here Forbes and Son flourished for the next 20 years until closed after offices were opened in  London Street and later Mark Lane in Central London.  In in 1919, William’s own son John Henry Forbes together with a friends son, Edwin Leslie Harding RICHE were both articled to William.  Both were admitted to the Roll in 1924 and became formal partners of the firm in 1925.  The dynasty continued.

Brothers William Henry Kemball and Charles Bracey Forbes.

In addition to becoming the Principal of Forbes and Son after his father retired, Henry was appointed the Attorney General of Bow County Court (principal legal adviser to the government and representatives in court) He served for a number of years as the Military Representative of the Stoke Newington Military Tribunal (today known as the Judge Advocate – one who presides over military Courts Martial) and in addition, was appointed a Special Constable.  These are officers of the Special Constabulary, the part-time voluntary section of the statutory police forces of the United Kingdom.  An 1831 Act of Parliament (extant today) allowed for the formation of special constables outside of times of unrest, if the regular police force was deemed to be too small in a particular area.  ‘Specials’ were also granted full powers of arrest like their regular counterparts at this time, as well as weapons and equipment to carry out their duty.

In 1941 the offices of Forbes and Son in Mark Lane were reduced to rubble after aerial bombing however it rose again in a new location in the city. By the end of 1943, WHK Forbes had gone blind and John Henry, serving with the Royal Navy was given leave to carry on the business.  The business survived the war and Edwin Riche (ex-RAF), John Henry (ex-RNVSR) and cousin Geoffrey Charles Forbes (1912-2000) [ex-88 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Company, RA] becoming partners in the firm.  WHK Forbes retired in 1945 but continued in a consultative capacity until his death in May 1958, just short of his 84th birthday.

2.   Charles Bracey FORBES (1876–1934) had no particular affinity or desire for a career in law and after leaving school sought a Quantity Surveyor’s qualification.  Charles became a very successful Surveyor and later Property Developer.  A measure of CB’s success might well be gauged by the size of his estate left to his wife upon his unexpected death in 1934 – in excess of £30,000 with an equivalent value today of around: £2,161,221.00, or NZ$ 4,321,512.00 – a substantial sum by anyone’s standard today let alone in 1934!

3.– 5.   Between 1876 and 1879, the next three Forbes children – Adelina Frances (1876), Frederick George (1878) and Stanley (1879) Forbes unfortunately did not survive. 

6.   Alice FORBES (1880–1920).  A life-long spinster, Alice remained living at home for the thirty years of her life.

7.   Sidney Herbert FORBES (1882–1945) after his education in London started his working life as a Bank Clerk with the Barclays Bank with whom he carved out a successful Banker’s career.  Sidney married Ellen ENEMARK (1869-1917) in 1915 in England however after just 18 months of marriage Ellen died in 1917.  Sidney subsequently re-married in the same year, Ellen’s younger sister Hertha Elcirca ENEMARK (1893-1982).   In 1923 Sidney (40), a Commercial Representative, his wife Hertha (29) and their six children migrated from London to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Sidney died aboard a passenger line following a business trip to London.  He died on route to Buenos Aries in 1945.  Hertha and the children returned to London where she lived out her life.

8.   Edith FORBES (1884–1980), also a spinster entered the nursing profession.  During the First World War, Edith volunteered for to be one of the first 50 nurses to join the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps (APMMC) which was a dedicated service to rehabilitate wounded soldiers by means of massage and various innovative electrical and water therapies to assist in healing their traumas and muscles to help them function again.

“Edith”

Nurse Edith Forbes – c1917.

Badge of the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The APMMC was privately funded ‘Corps’ started in August 1914 by Mr and Mrs Almeric Paget.  The Pagets funded 50 fully trained masseuses to be sited in the principal Military Hospitals in the UK, beginning in early September 1914.  

The work was hard, starting at 9am with a 30 minute lunch break and a 10 minute tea break at 2.15.  Each masseuse would see 30-40 patients per day and provide treatments that included massage, hydrotherapy, electro-therapy and stimulation of the  muscles with the ‘Bristow coil’ or subjecting a limb to interrupted galvanism, ironization or a Schee bath, diathermy or radiant heat.

The service was such a success that the staff numbers were quickly increased to over 100 a day.  A grant from the Director-General of Army Medical Services to fund expansion was provided and the first convalescent camp opened at Eastbourne with over 3000 patients, 500 of whom were massage cases.

The War Office officially recognised the corps in early 1915 by making it the official body to which all masseurs and masseuses engaged for service in military hospitals should belong.  Until early 1917 members of the corps were only required to serve in the UK, but from that date onwards service overseas was an option.  A total of 56 masseuses served in France and Italy between January 1917 and May 1919.  In total 3,388 women and men served in the A.P.M.M.C., with a peak membership of 2000 in 1919.

The word “military” was added to the corps’ title in December 1916 and in January 1919 APMMC became known as the Military Massage Service by Army Council Instruction.

9.   Arthur Harold FORBES (1885–1967) – see below

10. Septimus Alexander aka “Alec” FORBES (1887–1964) was the last born son was who entered the medical profession becoming a Doctor of Medicine, living and practising in Croydon for the remainder of his life.  Recently graduated Dr Forbes married Dora Alice BUHL (1891-1961) in Dec 1915 at Rochford, with two sons resulting from their union – David Alexander Forbes (1920-1995) and Lt-Colonel Duncan Charles Forbes, Royal Army Education Corps.

Forbes family at Westcliff-on-Sea in 1914,  line up behind their matriach Eleanor Kemball Forbes and patriach, Henry Bracey Forbes in the centre.  

The Forbes men are from left: William Henry Kemball Forbes, Lt. & Dr. Septimus ‘Alex’ Forbes RAMC, 2Lt. Arthur H. Forbes ASC, and patriach Henry Bracey Forbes – Westcliff, 1914. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His Honour, ARTHUR HAROLD FORBES, LLM – Barrister, Soldier, Solicitor, Judge, Mentor 

Arthur Harold Forbes was the eighth child of Henry and Eleanor’s family.  Born in Bow on 29 Oct 1885, at the time Arthur completed his secondary education the family was living at “Heathfield” in Woodside Park Road, Finchley.  Arthur’s professional career was almost pre-ordained as he, like his elder brother William before him, benefited from his father’s wisdom and expertise in  introducing him to the fundamentals of a career in law.  By 1911, Arthur at 26 years of age had become a qualified Barrister and had started courting his future wife, Music Professor Alice Bertha ALLISON (1884-1978).  Shortly after completing his studies to become a fully fledged Solicitor, Arthur and Bertha married in May 1914 just prior to the outbreak of the First World War.

With on-set of the First World War, all able-bodied men of appropriate age who were engaged in the professions such as Law, Medicine, University Educators etc, were required to undergo training for war service for appointments at home and abroad.  Personnel from the professions were generally selected to be officers and undertook training at one of the approved officer training institutions established in the universities such as Cambridge and Oxford, and places of tertiary learning such as a law and medical schools who have a long history of establishing their own territorial army unit.  The training units were staffed and overseen by the city’s regular and territorial army units with a mix of experienced regular soldier instructors and officers in oversight.  As the war progressed and the need for officers grew, the officer training units also took soldiers from the ranks who had been identified in the field (France & Belgium) as a result of observed performance and accumulated experience, as being suitable for commissioning.   

For the young lawyers and other eligible persons in the legal profession in London, officer training was conducted at their long established territorial army unit at the Inns of Court.  

Temple and Military Training 

No. 1 Essex Court, Temple – LONDON

In 1914, Arthur Forbes’ address at this time (as we discovered from the reverse his Medal Card)  was: One Essex Court, Temple, London.  A quick Google of this address reveals that Essex Court was a mix of legal chambers and residential apartments to accommodate the best and brightest of the barrister fraternity in London.  Some of the most prominent barristers in London, those who specialise in commercial disputes, resided here.  To this day their members provide specialist advice and advocacy services worldwide, which include all areas of dispute resolution, litigation and arbitration.  It was here that Arthur Forbes lived and worked immediately after the war.

Essex Court Chambers

Temple

Temple is a historic legal district, the home to English law, the Royal Courts of Justice and judicial establishments like Middle Temple being one of London’s four Inns of Court, with gardens beside the Thames and a grand 16th-century hall.  Temple was named in honour of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and refers to the area in the vicinity of Temple Church which was built by military order the Knights Templar in 1185.  Temple Church is the centre piece around which the rest of the Temple (district) evolved.

Middle Temple Hall is one of many buildings of similar architecture grouped together in Temple that make up the Four Inns of Court.

The Knights had two halls, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, which today are two of the four Inns of Court and act as local authorities in place of the City of London Corporation within their areas.  It contains many barristers’ chambers and solicitors’ offices, as well as some notable legal institutions such as the Employment Appeal Tribunal

Inns of Court

In the earliest centuries of their existence, beginning with the 14th century, the Inns were any of a sizeable number of buildings or precincts where lawyers traditionally lodged, trained and carried on their profession.  Over the centuries, the four Inns of Court became where Barristers were trained, while the more numerous Inns of Chancery – which were affiliated to the Inns of Court – were responsible for the training of Solicitors.

In the 16th century and earlier, students or apprentices learned their craft primarily by attending court and sharing both accommodations and education during the legal terms.  Prior to the English Civil War in 1642, this training lasted at least seven years; subsequently, the Inns focused their residency requirements on dining together in the company of experienced barristers, to enable learning through contact and networking with experts.  In the mid-18th century, the common law was first recognised as a subject for study in the universities, and by 1872, bar examinations became compulsory for entry into the profession of law.

Coat of Arms – INNS of COURT – London

Today the Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales.  There are four Inns of CourtGray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple.  All barristers must belong to one of them.  They also  have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. 

The Inns also provide libraries, dining facilities and professional accommodation. Each also has a church or chapel attached to it and is a self-contained precinct where barristers traditionally train and practise, although growth in the legal profession, together with a desire to practise from more modern accommodations and buildings with lower rents, caused many barristers’ chambers to move outside the precincts of the Inns of Court in the late 20th century.

Inns of Court – Officer Training

Since at least 1584, members of the Inns of Court have rallied to the defence of the realm during times of crisis by having an integral military unit staffed by men from the legal profession, who are of fighting age (18-45).  That tradition continues to this day in that 10 Stone Buildings (this is an address) in Lincoln’s Inn has been the permanent home of the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry since 1842.

Lincolns Inn in the Old Square, one of the Four Inns of Court –  home of the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry.

In 1908, the Territorial Force was formed and the Inns of Court Regiment became the 27th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Inns of Court); but almost immediately it was changed into an officer training unit under the designation of the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps (I.C.O.T.C.).   The regiment had an establishment of one squadron of cavalry (ICOTC Squadron) and three companies of infantry.

Inns of Court OTC ‘sweetheart’ brooch.

In 1914, the Inns of Court Reserve Corps was formed, consisting of former members of the Inns of Court Rifle Volunteers; and in 1917 the 1st Cadet Battalion, Inns of Court, was formed to train boys under military age.  The Inns of Court OTC expanded rapidly in August and September 1914, as thousands volunteered for military service following the outbreak of the First World War, and the Corps quickly outgrew its peacetime premises in London.  A training camp opened in tents on Berkhamsted Common, in the west of Hertfordshire in September 1914 and remained in operation until June 1919, hosting around 2,000 officer cadets.  As part of their training, the men dug around 13 miles (21 km) of trenches across Berkhamsted Common, evidence of which remains visible 100 years later.

Commissioning

Inns of Court – Officer Training Corps cap badge.

During the First World War, the Officer Training Corps (OTCs) became officer producing units and some 20,577 officers and 12,290 other ranks were recruited from the OTCs between August 1914 and March 1915.  In February 1916 a new system of training for officers was introduced, after which temporary commissions could only be granted if a man had been through an Officer Cadet unit.  Entrants would have to be aged over 18 and a half, and to have served as a ranker or to have been with an OTC.  The training course lasted four and a half months.  The Officer Cadet Battalion had an establishment of 400 cadets at any time (although this was raised to 600 – if the unit could accommodate them – in May 1917).  More than 73,000 men gained infantry commissions after being trained in an OTB, with increasing numbers coming from ‘the ranks’ as the war went on.

Arthur Forbes was enlisted into the Territorial Inns of Court Reserve Corps during the initial years of the war.  Having completed his basic training, Arthur progressed through the ranks to reach the Senior NCO rank of Sergeant.  Sgt. Forbes had been engaged with the preparation and training of officer cadets, soldiers and boys under military age, who were keen to enlist.  As a qualified Barrister and having proved he had ‘the right stuff’ (officer material), Sgt. Forbes was identified for a staff officer’s appointment, however he first had to attend the Inns of Court Officer Training Unit which was run from the Lincoln’s Inn.  

Cadet Officers, as they were known, attended as equals and would graduate as equals.  Those already carrying NCO or Warrant Officer rank from previous service, relinquished this for the duration of the training and removed all such rank badges from their uniform.  A Cadet Officer’s dress was defined by a white band around their forage cap and white gorget patches on their collar lapels.  Cadets were permitted to retain their Corps hat badge, medal ribbons (if any) and qualification badges, e.g. qualified Machine-Gunner.

After four and a half months of training, Sgt. Arthur Forbes placed 1st in his OTC course, soon to be officially gazetted as a Second Lieutenant (2Lt).  To mark the occasion he received a new wristwatch engraved: Sgt A.H. FORBES  “1st at ICOTC” – this is now in the possession of his grandson, Mark Forbes.

Territorial Inns of Court OTC  Shoulder Title

Once training was completed, each freshly graduated Second Lieutenant was allocated to a specific corps in the army, wherever the need was greatest.  Whilst many single men sought active service appointments in the front line, married and older men fulfilled their obligation by contributing to the training of soldiers and occupying staff officer appointments in formation headquarters in the UK. 

Cadet Officer Arthur Forbes is gazetted to be promoted to the rank of Temporary 2nd Lieutenant (on probation) with effect from 11 April 1916 (left side of page).

2Lt Arthur Forbes was commissioned into the Army Service Corps (A.S.C.), ** his commission being formerly promulgated in the London Gazette on the General List of Officers, with effect from from 21 January 1918.  After junior officer induction training which introduced the specifics of the ASC to those entering the Corps, 2Lt Forbes was placed on a “Special List” for officers to be employed in the Lines of Communication Headquarters, for the duration of the war.  On 11 October 1917, Arthur was appointed a Temporary Lieutenant (T/Lt) for his HQ role in Dec 1917.  This was quickly followed in February 1918 by further elevation for his HQ responsibilities as a staff captain (a staff officer appointment), to that of Acting Captain.  As a staff captain, T/Capt Forbes’ duties would likely have included keeping data, sending and receiving communications to user units/personnel, acting as a Duty Officer in the HQ, overseeing the duties of junior soldiers employed in the HQ,  draft movement plans and supply orders, maintain state boards, manage personnel establishments tables, deliver briefings as related to Army Service Corps operations and administration.  The HQ L of C would have had a significant work load as the war drew to a close at the end of 1918.  The major focus of work was the repatriation and recovery of men, equipment and machines from France.

2Lt. Arthur H. Forbes – Army Service Corps, January 1918.

Army Service Corps

The A.S.C. (Army Service Corps) is a huge logistics organisation in the British Army and today covers every aspect of road transport, air dispatch, supply (clothing, fuel, oils, water), catering and postal services etc.  The officers and men of the Army Service Corps (ASC) – sometimes referred to in a joking, disparaging way as Ally Sloper’s Cavalry – were the unsung heroes of the British Army in the Great War.  Soldiers cannot fight without food, equipment and ammunition. They cannot move without horses or vehicles.  It was the ASC’s job to provide them.  In the Great War, the vast majority of the supply, maintaining a vast army on many fronts, was supplied from Britain.  Using horsed and motor vehicles, railways and waterways, the ASC performed remarkable feats of logistics management and supply, and were one of the great strengths of organisation by which the war was won.  At its peak, the ASC numbered a phenomenal 10,547 officers and 315,334 men.

“Lines of Communication” was an army term used to describe what today we might call the army’s logistics: the supply lines from port to front line, and the camps, stores, dumps, workshops of the rear areas. It is difficult to comprehend just what it took to supply an army that in France alone built up to more than 2 million men. 

ASC Labour Companies

In France and Flanders it was soon discovered in 1914 that the local authorities could not supply civilian men for labouring duties, such as helping the BEF disembark its stores and equipment from ships.  The War Office arranged to send 300 labourers for these duties. More followed, and by the end of December 1914 they had been formed into five Labour Companies of the ASC.  

Each Company consisted of 6 officers and 530 other ranks. Numbers 1 and 2 Labour Companies were officially formed at Aldershot on 24-25 August 1914.  A number of Foremen and Gangers were recruited in the early weeks, to act as NCOs.  Approximately 21,000 skilled labourers and dock workers had joined by the end of 1915.  The Companies were absorbed into the newly-created Labour Corps between February and June 1917.

Horse Transport

The largest element of the ASC in WW1 was the Horse Transport Section.  Most Horse Transport Companies were under orders of Divisions, with four normally being grouped into a Divisional Train. Others were part of the Lines of Communication where they were variously known by subtitles as Auxiliary Supply Companies or Reserve Parks.  Soldiers who served in the Horse Transport usually had the letter “T” as a prefix to their regimental number.

The ASC Remounts Service was responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules to all other army units. The units of the Remounts were always part of the Lines of Communication and were never under direct orders of a Division.  Soldiers who served in the Remounts usually had the letter “E” as a prefix to their regimental number.

Army Service Corps – hat and collar badges, 1915.

Mechanical Transport

The British Army was already the most mechanised in the world when the Great War began, in terms of use of mechanical transport. It maintained that leadership, and by 1918 this was a strategically important factor in being able to maintain supply as the armies made considerable advances over difficult ground.

All Mechanical Transport Companies were part of the Lines of Communication and were not under orders of a Division, although some (unusually known as Divisional Supply Columns and Divisional Ammunition Parks) were in effect attached to a given Division and worked closely with it.  Those in the Lines of Communication operated in wide variety of roles, such as being attached to the heavy artillery as Ammunition Columns or Parks, being Omnibus Companies, Motor Ambulance Convoys, or Bridging and Pontoon units.  Soldiers who served in the Mechanical Transport usually had the letter “M” as a prefix to their regimental number.

Base Depots

The Base Depots established in the various theatres of war were the primary locations.  They were used as main stores; for organisation of men and units going to and from the units in the field; and for administration, e.g. the Etaples Base Depot was the primary ‘entry/exit’ point for troops and supplies destined for France.  The Etaples Depot could accommodate up to 100,000 men (a % of these under canvas) within its 8 kilometre perimeter.

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Recognition of Service

Capt Arthur Forbes must have put in some sound work in the two years he spent as a staff officer at the L of C Headquaters, his contribution being recognised by the award of a Mention in Dispatches on 7th June, 1918 as published in the London Gazette.

Mention in Dispatches  – Bronze Oak Leaf Spray emblem on Victory Medal ribbon.

At wars end, it was the Headquarters units that were the last facilities to be closed down and dismantled, once men and equipment had been returned to England.  The majority of men were demobilised and returned to their professions however from a logistics standpoint, their’s was the huge task of organising  the BEF’s repatriation to the UK which took the best part of 18 months to effect.  Capt Forbes relinquished his Temporary Capt’s rank once his HQs had closed down, and was demobilised in 1919.  Arthur Forbes was discharged with the substantive rank of Lieutenant on 9 January, 1919. 

For his service, Lt. Arthur Forbes received two war service medals in November 1921.  With them came the bronze Oak Leaf Spray emblems denoting his award of a Mention in Dispatches (MiD) which were to be attached to his Victory Medal ribbons.  

Awards:  British War Medal, 1914-18 and Victory Medal.  Mention in Dispatches, 11 June 1918  (LG, No. 30740 – Fifth Supplement, dated 7th June 1918, Pg 6927) 

Home Service: 1917-1919, L of C HQ, London 

LG No. 30704, Fifth Supp., 11 June 1918 – Mention in Dispatches:  SPECIAL LIST ~ T/Lt Forbes, A. H.  Gen List.  (left hand column, halfway down)

Post-war career

His Honour, Judge Arthur Harold Forbes, LLM – County Court Judge.

After the war Arthur Forbes returned to practising law, his career going from strength to strength.  He and Bertha moved into 26 Park Crescent, Essex Court, Temple.  Arthur had his chambers here whilst also having the convenience of living on site.  After the war Arthur Forbes’ career went front strength to strength.  Arthur practised within a number of law firms and partnerships  over the years.  Such was his grasp of commercial law in all its forms, and his reputation for fair play, Arthur rose in the judicial ranks to become His Honour, Judge Arthur Forbes,  a County Court Judge.  In addition he lectured and wrote various legal ethics papers which were highly regarded as searching and instructive works from which those at any level of advancement in the judiciary could do well to heed.  It would be fair to say that the final lecture Judge Arthur Forbes’ delivered to the law faculty at Birmingham University in the year before he died, 1966, summed up the importance he placed upon professional responsibility.  For Arthur Forbes,  the paramount principle he believed underpinned the application of all law, whether by a clerk, barrister, solicitor or county court judge, was LEGAL ETHICS, the title of his lecture. 

Professor of Music, Alice Bertha Forbes (1884-1978)

Judge (Ret’d) Arthur Harold Forbes, LLM retired to Banstead, Croydon in Surrey where he died on 15 April 1967 at the age of 81.    Bertha his wife died aged 94 in 1978.  

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Arthur & Bertha Forbes family

After the war, Arthur Forbes returned to Temple Chambers.  He and Bertha Forbes sensibly had delayed starting their family until after the war.  Their first born child, Margaret Allison Forbes (1919-1920) sadly did not survive.  Their second child, John Graham Forbes (1921-2003) successfully flourished and eventually embarked on a career in electronic engineering.  Marriage records show that John Forbes was married at the French Protestant Church in Soho, London on 12 January 1952 to London born Mona Suzanne ZIMMERMAN (1924-2020).  This in itself proved to be a revelation that assisted putting the pieces of this medal puzzle together.  The name “Zimmerman” being the same as that on the named identity ‘dog-tag and bracelet’ forced me to look carefully for a possible link.  Further research of various associated family trees turned up a black & white photograph of the Forbes family at John and Mona’s wedding.

The-unnamed wedding group was simply entitled “Forbes & Zimmermann Wedding, 12 January 1952.”  With some evaluation of other photographs and text, most have been named.

Wedding of John G. Forbes & Mona S. Zimmermann, 12 Jan 1952.   Sitting from left: Mrs Henrietta Ellen (nee Durham) Forbes, Mrs Bertha & His Honour, Judge Arthur H. Forbes, Mona and John, Mona’s parents M. Charles H. & Mme Marcelle M. Zimmermann,  William Henry Kemba ll Forbes and Edith Forbes.  Standing from left: ?, ?, Murray Kemball Forbes, Mrs Dora Alice (nee Buhl) and Dr. Septimus “Alec” Forbes.

The photograph prompted a number of queries I sent Emma to which she replied with the following:  

“Our mother is Mona Suzanne Zimmermann and the wedding photo is our (Emma and brother Mark) parents’ wedding.  Her father (our grandfather) is Charles Henri Zimmermann** so these medals (the Croix de Guerre, bracelet and dog-tag) probably belonged to him and were left to Mona (when her father Charles died) who handed them down to Mark.” 

Mme. Marcelle and M. Charles Zimmermann.

To my great delight the photograph had revealed not only pictures of bridegroom John and his wife  Mona, but also of Mona’s parents, Charles Henri and Marcelle Marie Zimmermann.  Emma’s suggestion of Mona’s Zimmerman link to the medals plus the photograph, was confirmation enough for me that the “Charles Zimmerman” referred to on the French identity tag and bracelet and Mona’s father were one in the same.  The Forbes family pages also turned up additional photographs of the family, some of which I have included in this post. 

Note  ** Following a conversation with Emma’s brother, Mark Forbes regarding his maternal grandfather Charles Zimmermann’s military service, he was able to add to my research.  This gave me a steer towards records in the area of France Mark had suggested.  I located a record that placed  Charles Zimmermann at  the outbreak of war, living at Mulhouse, a city in the Alsace region of eastern France, about 40 km NNW of the Swiss town of Brasel.  Brasel sits at the point where the current French, Swiss and German borders converge.  Alsace and Lorraine are French territories that were once German.  Invaded by Germany in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War, the 1871 Treaty of Frankfurt resulted in both territories being ceded to Germany.  The inhabitants remained staunchly pro-French until the territories were eventually returned to France in 1919.   As a consequence of Alsace being under German control at the outbreak of WW1, Mark had told me his grandfather Charles had been conscripted into the German Army.  Being from a Francophile family, Charles made his escape from Germany back into France where he was promptly captured and imprisoned as a POW.  He was interrogated extensively on suspicion of being a spy before eventually being cleared and removed to Vienne, Poitou-Charentes.  It was in 1915 that Charles volunteered and was accepted for enlistment into the French Army (Infantry) at Montmorillon, Vienne (hence his identity tag & bracelet inscription EV 1915 = Enlisted Volunteer).  By the end of the war Charles had achieved the rank of “Corporel” and was the recipient of the French Croix de Guerre.  

French Croix de Guerre with Star & Palm.

Mark’s insight into what little his grandfather had revealed to him about his war service, to me their seemed to be adequate precedence for which the French would formerly acclaim a soldier’s individual bravery.  Charles had endured conscription into a foreign (enemy) army, he had made his escape and evaded the enemy to return to France, was subsequently captured by the French, confined and interrogated as a spy, until finally exonerated and returned to war as a French soldier.  Collectively, these are the sorts of circumstances that would be likely to warrant no lesser award than the Croix de Guerre.  Judging by French awards made for lesser acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, it is very possible Charles’s Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star (the lowest level of recognition Charles would have received) may very well have been upgraded to a higher level by the addition of a Bronze Palm?  Only a check of his French military records would be able to confirm this – not an easy task for a Kiwi!

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John and Mona Forbes had a family of five – Catherine Sarah (deceased at 6mths), Mark Charles, Emma Katy, Claire and one other daughter.  It was Emma who provided me some inkling of her father’s employment: “I understand that our father, John Graham Forbes, dropped his studies at 15 and went to join the war because he wanted to work on the trains.  He did indeed serve in Italy on the Adriatic coast.”  Mark was also able to added of his father: “He worked on radar in the RAF and after he was demobbed at end of the war, he was contracted to work on military electronics with Marconi and Plessey.  This information at least gave a degree of certainty as to who the WW2 medals had belonged to.

Arthur and Bertha’s third and last child was Murray Kemball Forbes (1926-1982).  Murray, like his grandfather and uncle’s before him, carried on the Forbes tradition by making his career in practising law.  Murray married Eton born June HOFFMAN (1926-1991) in Sep 1953 and together had one daughter.  Murray and June made their home in Solihull South, West Midlands. 

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The end is nigh …

I emailed Mark Forbes again with the conclusion of my research and as I was going to Christchurch arranged to meet and hand over the medals.  Mark and I met at a Shirley cafe and enjoyed a very pleasant cup of coffee after reuniting him with the medals he never expected to see again.

Mark and the medals of his grandfather Arthur, and his French great uncle Charles Zimmermann.

Precious medals believed to be gone for ever – reunited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to Bill Jump for placing his faith in MRNZ to have these medals reunited.  A lengthy case and certainly not one I thought for one moment would be concluded in my own home town.  A good result where even the seemingly daunting aspects of researching non-New Zealand soldiers can be overcome with persistence – and the odd stroke of luck.  Whew, on to the next case.

The reunited medal tally is now 351.

 

 

Medals Reunited New Zealand©