Who Goes There? Gun Crew No. 4 RNA

This 4″ x 3″ Carte Postale is a puzzler but one that I suspect someone out there will be able to solve. Written on the front are the words “Sole Survivors Gun Crew No 4 RNA” (view large version of photo). The back of the card reveals more information including the date the photograph was taken (March 2, 1919) and the cryptic message “Sole survivors of gun crew No 4 Rna who actually brought ? out. 1915.“. It also notes that one of the soldiers is Donald Reed.

I’ve not being able to figure out the”RNA” reference and so I’m assuming it is meant to read “RMA” (Royal Marine Artillery). This theory fits nicely with the flaming grenade cap badge and if my hunch is correct perhaps “brought ? out 1915” refers to the Gallipoli evacuation? My understanding is the RMA were the last to leave the beaches in late 1915.

I couldn’t find a lot of information about the Royal Marine Artillery online and so this photograph and its message may be of interest to other researchers.

8 replies

  1. There’s a record for Reed, Donald Wilde Register Number: 448 Division: Royal Marine Artillery: Short Service When Enlisted/Date of Enlistment: 29 January 1915 Date of Birth: 15 October 1893 in ADM 159/95/448 at The National Archives. He was still in France on 3 March 1919, and by then a sergeant, so based on his age the man front left? He embarked at Boulogne on 16 March to go to Shorncliffe for demobilisation, discharged 14 April.

    In 1915 he was serving with an RMA Howitzer Brigade (no further details given). Pre-war he was a chauffeur and motor-mechanic (his rank is given as motor driver initially), born Camberwell he was living in East Dulwich with his mother, and returned to her address on discharge.

  2. Looking at the photo too, all seem to have a single medal ribbon up, presumably 1915 Star, and on those where it’s visible, a full set of overseas service stripes on lower right sleeve. Reed should have a wound stripe too, but I can’t see if man front left has one (back right does, but doesn’t seem to be wearing any rank).

  3. David,

    Thank you very much for the wonderful analysis and for the link to the record at the National Archives. This certainly must be “Uncle Donald Reed”.

    I’ve added a link to a larger version of the photograph and I can’t see a wound stripe on either Sgt. seated in the front. The statement on the back “2nd from left, front row” is odd considering there are only two men in the front row.

    It will be interesting to see if the story behind the “Sole survivors” statement can be uncovered. I know very little about the Royal Marine Artillery and so this is a perfect excuse to learn about them.

    Thanks again,

  4. Jakealoo,

    Try to get a look at ‘Britain’s Sea Soldiers’ by Gen. Blumberg: chapter 24 covers the RMA Howitzers – see pages 277 to 299.
    Howitzer number 4 was on the Western Front throughout the war.
    Regarding the message; I think that this simply refers to ‘brought out’ to the Western Front in 1915; howitzer number 4 arrived in France on 14th April 1915.
    Re the reference to ‘survivors’; the personnel would change for all sorts of reasons during the course of the war, however, on 20th October 1917 howitzer number 4 received a direct hit and 7 men were casualties that day (see p. 291 in Gen Blumberg’s book mentioned above.)


    • Correction: 20th October 1915 should read 19th
      quote from Blumberg – “Place: Menin Road – On 4th supported Australian attack on Passchendaele when all objectives gained. Dismounted and remounted at Outpost Farm on 19th. Hit by shell and temporarily out of action, ready again on 20th; 7 casualties………..”

      • Hi Michael,

        This makes a lot of sense. I will definitely look for a copy of “Britain’s Sea Soldiers”. I’ve had a great response to my request for information on this photo and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

        Thanks again!
        Steve (Jakealoo)

  5. Wouldnt these guys have been wearing the RM badge on their caps? I guess by survivors I suspect it refers to the members of the original crew. The crew of such a gun would have been 88. I dont think they had all been killed.

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