The 12th (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) 1914-1918

 

'Remembering'

This website is dedicated to the memory of my father, Harry Fleming, and to the officers and men of the 12th (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) with whom he served in World War One.

 

Prologue

This tribute to 12RF was inspired by my father who served in the Battalion throughout WW1 until disbandment. He survived but he never forgot. Nor shall we. In these pages we chart the journey of Harry and 12RF through the war, from the Battalion being raised when the men volunteered in 1914, to the unit's disbandment in 1918.

 

This page is but an introduction to the 12RF website. You can follow their long, long trail and view the images of the men and the locations by registering and then logging in to the website via the link at the top of this page. The menu options on the left will then be activated.

 

The Research

I started this research 20 years ago - with a blank page - and it continues today. Other than one Medal Roll with a limited number of names, and the Battalion War Diary, these men, having done their duty, had simply disappeared. No other records are extant specific to this unit which was one of Kitchener's New Army Battalions raised in 1914 when men responded to Kitchener's call and volunteered for war service. When the war was over most papers were destroyed. Service records were retained but bombs dropped on London during WW2 destroyed 90% of the men's records.

 

12th Royal Fusiliers at Shoreham 1915 (12 Platoon, 3 Company on the left)
12th Royal Fusiliers at Shoreham 1915 (12 Platoon, 3 Company on the left)

And so research began to try and rebuild those records. It has involved the examination of some 100,000 pages of documents held at the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum, and other Regimental Museums including the RF Museum at their old HQ (HM Tower of London). To date we have succeeded in tracing the names and the fate of some 3,000 men who served in this Battalion. The website sets out their itinerary, describes their days in the trenches and in operations, and includes detailed records for each man. The complete 12RF archive is made available here. The website has over 200 pages of information and includes several thousand images. In addition to my own research papers, over the years I have received a considerable amount of help, information, and images and family background contributions from many people around the globe, including families of 12RF men. I am indebted to them.

Harry Fleming 12RF, 1st left, with chums in Shoreham 1915
Harry Fleming 12RF, 1st left, with chums in Shoreham 1915

 

The result, this tribute to those men of 12RF, chronicles their fate and their three year journey as they battled their way up and down the Western Front trenches endeavouring to defy the statistics that now tell us that 30% would die, 60% would be wounded, and only 10% would return home physically unscathed. Arguably, 100% of those survivors were mentally 'wounded' by their nightmare experiences. Through this website, we hope you will see the people that made up those statistics, for that has been our aim throughout.

 

Harry Fleming 12RF, 2nd right, on a tea break during training at Pirbright, 1915
Harry Fleming 12RF, 2nd right, on a tea break
during training at Pirbright, 1915

This website is about two worlds. "Another World" that existed before 1914, and the world that emerged from the trenches in 1919. The period between did indeed lead to "The Death of Innocence", as the historian Lyn Macdonald describes World War One. But above all, our story is about the men and women of those two worlds who once served their country but subsequently served only to make up the statistics that to us remain incomprehensible despite "the changed regard for numbers that the war insensibly produced" as the eminent military historian, H. C. O'Neill, so aptly puts it in his book "The Royal Fusiliers in The Great War". He went on to say about the Royal Fusiliers:

Harry Fleming 12RF, 1st left, during the Battle of Messines Ridge 11 June 1917
Harry Fleming 12RF, 1st left, during the
Battle of Messines Ridge 11 June 1917

"So great is the roll of the regiment that it may be taken to be the British Army, or indeed the British race, in little. If you seek men of leisure, you may find them here; if sportsmen, here they are; if bankers, accountants, stockbrokers, lawyers, men of science, administrators, poets, writers or 100,000 cockneys grousing in a characteristically hearty manner and concealing a wealth of heroism and kindliness under a proper protective irony - here they are. In fine, here is the British race in frieze and fustian."

 

We relate the story of those Royal Fusiliers primarily through the use of contemporary images of the men and their locations. There are also many recent photographs that were taken during our frequent visits to France and Belgium tracing the trenches, graves and memorials where they fought and died, and the towns and villages where they were billeted or stayed briefly while training or while on rest and recuperation behind the lines. To illustrate their journey, extensive use is made of the 12RF War Diary, WW1 trench maps, and modern touring maps. We also include images of the many items of 12RF memorabilia in our collections, including 12RF medals.

 

The 12RF Old Comrades Association Reunion, Stoke-on-Trent 1951
The 12RF Old Comrades Association Reunion, Stoke-on-Trent 1951

The story continues after the war with images of the 12RF Old Comrades Association, of their Reunions that were held bi-annually with one in London and one in Stoke-on-Trent, and of the Distress Fund that they set up to help their comrades who fell on hard times. Such was the camaraderie of this WW1 Battalion (the survivors became known as 'The Old Twelfth' to differentiate them from the WW2 12th Royal Fusiliers), that the men continued their Association and Distress Fund through to the 1980's by which time there were too few left who were able to travel to reunions.

 

We hope this website will be seen as a fitting tribute to the memory of all those 12RF men.

 

Acknowledgements

This project, this tribute to Harry Fleming and 12RF, would not have been possible without the unstinting help of Pauline Eismark, a professional researcher based at The National Archives. 20-odd years ago, Pauline saw what I was trying to achieve for my family and for 12RF and she so generously adopted the cause. She taught me how TNA records worked and, over the following years, Pauline came with us to TNA and helped us trawl through the thousands of records searching for those men whose service to this country and been largely forgotten - painstaking, hard, work. Her patience was unlimited and her knowledge was formidable. The Fleming Family will forever be grateful to Pauline for all she did for us and for this tribute to 12RF.

 

Then there is my wife, Jane. She, too, gave of her time and accompanied me to Kew where we would meet up with Pauline for a day's tortuous, but always rewarding, research. Over all those years, Jane never tired, never wavered, and never complained despite the rigours of the dusty work!

 

Accessing this Website

To activate the Medal Menu options on the left, researchers and visitors will need to login. To do so, or to register and receive login information, please click on Register/Login above (if you have forgotten your password, use the same link to receive a new one).

 

Contact/Email

If you would like to send a message to me about 12RF or about this website, you can Contact me here.

 

Copyright/Terms of Use

12rf.org is Barry Fleming's ongoing research project and has no commercial interests. Access is available for those interested in the 12RF research and is currently controlled by password to protect the interests of contributors and copyright holders. By entering the website, you agree not to download or otherwise distribute any content without prior permission from the copyright holder or from the contributor.

 

We have made every effort to make the appropriate copyright attribution throughout this website, but if you do spot an error or omission, please let us know and we will correct the situation immediately.

 

This website includes optional links to sites provided by third parties over whom we have no control. We cannot take any responsibility for any aspect of those sites. They are provided as a convenience and the inclusion of a site on our website does not imply endorsement by us of that site.