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23659 Company Sergeant Major
Royal Engineers
(Later 6127 Regimental Sergeant Major, East Kent Regiment)

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
© 2003. All Rights Reserved.


When this research project began George Edward Ball's service was thought to have started during the late Victorian period and to have ended prior to the Great War of 1914-1918. A search for his service papers was made in the WO 97 files at the Public Record Office (PRO) at Kew but no papers were located. It was thought that he was one of those many individuals whose papers had been lost and that no details of his service would ever be found.

Despite this disappointment, the author was fortunate enough to make contact with one of Regimental Sergeant Major Ball's family members and initial research was begun based solely on information provided by Mrs. Joan Pearman of Cambridge, the granddaughter of Regimental Sergeant Major Ball. During the course of the research work Mrs. Pearman found a photograph of her grandfather, a copy of which she sent to the author. An examination of the photograph indicated that Ball was wearing a shoulder belt of the Sam Browne pattern, thus indicating that he had probably been promoted above the rank of Sergeant as was originally thought based on the naming on his Long Service and Good Conduct medal.[1] It was obvious from the service dress tunic he was wearing in the photograph that he was not an officer, as the collar was typical of the type worn by Non-Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks. Furthermore there was no evidence of rank insignia in the form of "pips" on his shoulders. Even closer scrutiny of the photograph revealed that his cap badge was the dragon of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). Armed with this new information the author consulted with his friend and associate Mr. Stuart Gase of West Drayton, Middlesex. Applying his skill and intimate knowledge of the workings of the PRO, Stuart was able to locate the military service papers of George Edward Ball in the WO 363 Burnt Records.

Regimental Sergeant Major Ball's service papers were well and truly "burnt" and what was not burnt was badly water-damaged. The condition of the papers made the deciphering of names, places and dates extremely difficult in many places. The author has attempted to retrieve the most vital bits of data from the papers; however, some errors, especially related to dates may have been made in the preparation of this narrative due to the illegibility of the documents. Wherever doubt exists regarding the accuracy of any transcript of information, a caution has been provided in the Endnotes of this narrative. Unless otherwise noted, the information presented in this narrative has been taken from Regimental Sergeant Major Ball's service papers. His rank used in various parts of the narrative is the rank he held at the time under discussion. A table is provided in Section 6 listing the dates of each of his promotions.


According to his birth certificate, George Edward Ball was born at 12 Gunner Street in the sub-district of Landport, in the district of Portsmouth, in the County of Southampton on the 29th of March 1868. He was the son of Charles Ball, a 26-year old painter at Her Majesty's Dockyard, and Amelia Jane Ball (nee Marsh), age 22 years.[2] This information is in variance to a slight degree with the information presented by Ball at the time of his enlistment in the Army in 1889. On his attestation papers Ball indicated that he had been born in the Parish of Portsmouth, near the Town of Portsmouth in the County of Hampshire. While there are subtle differences between the two documents the birth certificate should probably be considered to contain the more definitive data as most soldiers were not concerned with absolute accuracy when they provided information to recruiting sergeants. In any case, the town and county are the same, with Southampton being simply an older name for that section of the County of Hampshire.

The 1881 British Census shows that the Ball family was residing at 68 Gunner Street in Portsea, Hampshire.[3] The census indicates that Charles Ball was the Head of the household, which consisted of him and four children. The census return does not list Charles's wife Amelia Jane, so presumably she was deceased at the time. The eldest daughter, Emily Ball, age 19, is listed with no occupation. It is probable that she was acting as the woman of the household and caring for her younger brother and sister in the absence of their mother. The next in line, Louisa Ball is shown as a 16-year old Dress Maker. George, age 13, and his younger sister Amelia, age 8, both are listed as Scholars. The census shows that the entire Ball household had been born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.


The following is a description of George Edward Ball at the time he enlisted in the Army in 1889:


19 years and 6 months.


5 feet 5¾ inches.


124 pounds.

Chest Measurement:

34 inches.






Light brown.

Physical Development:


Small Pox Marks:


Distinctive Marks:


Vaccination Marks:

Six on the left arm.[4]

The following is a description of George Edward Ball at the time he re-enlisted in the Army in 1915:


45 years and 7 months.


5feet 6 inches.

Chest (normal):

32 inches.

Chest (expanded):

34½ inches.

Distinctive Marks:


George Edward Ball was a short man and slightly built. According to his military records his height and chest measurement, and probably his weight, did not change much at all between the ages of 19 and 45. The photograph of him as a Warrant Officer, dating to the period of the Great War, shows him with white, closely cropped hair and a bushy, greying mustache.


Ball was recruited for enlistment in the Regular Army by Colour Sergeant J. Griffin of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. He enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers at Gosport, Hampshire on the 27th of March 1889. His was a Short Service Attestation for 7 years with the Colours and 5 years in the Army Reserve.[5]

At the time of his enlistment Ball had been working as a Carpenter and was living with his father. He indicated to the Recruiting Officer that he was not married, he had never been convicted by Civil Power and had never been previously rejected for service in the Royal Navy or the Army. He did indicate, however, that prior to enlisting he had served in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment located at Portsmouth. Undoubtedly it was during his service with this Volunteer Battalion that he met Colour Sergeant Griffin who ultimately recruited him to join the Regular Army. At the time of his enlistment, Ball declared his religion to be Wesleyan. His next of kin was noted to be one John Ball of Portsmouth.[6]

George was examined on the day of his enlistment at New Barracks in Gosport. The examining Medical Officer, Captain A.T.I. Lilly, Army Medical Staff, found him fit for service in the Army and issued the required Certificate of Medical Examination.[7]

On the 28th of March 1889 Ball's Certificate of Primary Military Examination was issued at Winchester by the Acting Adjutant of the Hampshire Regiment Depot. He was determined to be fit for service in the Royal Engineers.[8] Immediately thereafter the Officer Commanding the 37th Regimental District (Hampshire Regiment) at Winchester reviewed Ball's attestation documents and issued the Certificate of Approving Officer, thus putting the final seal on his enlistment. Upon final approval of his attestation, Ball was posted to the School of Military Engineering at Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent. As 23659 Sapper George Edward Ball, R.E. he began his basic training as an engineer soldier at Chatham.[9]


Canada (1890-1896)

Following his recruit training, Sapper Ball was posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He sailed from England aboard HMS Lyne on the 9th of June 1890 and disembarked in Halifax on the 7th of July. During the period in which Ball served at Halifax there were two companies of the Royal Engineers located there; the 18th and 40th Companies. Unfortunately, the entry in his service papers is illegible, therefore his unit of assignment cannot be known with certainty, however he probably served with one of these companies.

While in Canada Sapper Ball married and his first child was born. He apparently found Army life to be appealing while serving at Halifax. On the 16th of October 1896 he volunteered to extend his enlistment to complete a period of 12 years with the Colours.[10] His performance of duty obviously was good during the more than 6 years that he served in Canada, as his request for extension of service was approved and he was appointed to the rank of Lance Corporal and promoted to the rank of 2nd Corporal during that period.

Chatham (1896-1899)

2nd Corporal Ball and his family sailed from Halifax on the 9th of December 1896 aboard SS Carthaginian. They landed in England on the 21st of December and after a short leave he reported for duty at Chatham, where he was assigned to the 31st Field Company, Royal Engineers at Brompton Barracks. On the 16th of October 1899, as the threat of war with the Boers was looming in South Africa, Ball re-engaged to complete 21 years of service with the Colours.[11]

South Africa (1899)

The 31st (Fortress) Company mobilized with the Army Corps for service in South Africa on the 7th of October 1899 and embarked for Cape Town on the 21st of October on board SS Gascon. The company sailed for South Africa by way of Gibraltar under the command of Captain F.G. Fuller, R.E.[12] The initial assignment of the 31st Company after its arrival in South Africa was to work on the Lines of Communication in support of the railway companies of the Army Corps. Upon arrival in South Africa, the company moved directly to De Aar in the Cape Colony to participate in this work. De Aar was an important railway junction of the main lines from Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

In November of 1899 the 31st Company was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division under Lieutenant Colonel J.B. Sharpe,[13] the Commander Royal Engineers for that division. The 1st Division was with Lord Methuen’s column and was preparing to move to the relief of the besieged town of Kimberley. On the 21st of November the company moved northward with Methuen’s column and arrived at Belmont Railway Station. The Boers were driven from the hills commanding the railway at Belmont on the 23rd of November and the engineers with the column were employed to repair the railway damage caused by the Boers during their retreat from the area.

The 31st Fortress Company arrived at Graspan in the Cape Colony on the 25th of November and on the 28th of November the unit took part in an attack on the Boer positions on the Modder River near Rosmead in an unsuccessful attempt to save the railway bridge there from destruction. On the 29th of November the company worked on the construction of a temporary bridge to replace the one destroyed by the Boers. This bridge was completed on the 10th of December.[14] The men of the 31st Fortress Company who took part in the actions at Belmont (23 November 1899) and Modder River (28 November 1899) received clasps for their Queen’s South Africa medal for participation in these battles.[15] 2nd Corporal Ball did not receive the clasps for these actions.

2nd Corporal Ball served a little over one month in South Africa when he developed an ulcerated leg as a result of the climate and the rigors of active service. He was invalided home on the 30th November 1899 and sailed from Cape Town aboard HMS Orient. He arrived in England on the 21st of December 1899 and was immediately admitted to hospital at Netley, Hampshire for treatment of his ailment.

2nd Corporal Ball was entitled to
the Queen's South Africa Medal
the single clasp [CAPE COLONY]

Although he served a very short time in South Africa, he was entitled to the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasp [CAPE COLONY] for service during the Boer War. Since he did not receive the clasps for Belmont and Modder River, he must have been ill and excused duty during these actions. His name appears on the medal roll of the 31st (Fortress) Company, Royal Engineers, dated Pretoria, South Africa, 8 July 1901. The roll, signed by Captain Frank G. Fuller, R.E., Officer Commanding, 31st Company, notes that he was invalided home on the 30th of November 1899.[16] The entry on the medal roll confirms the date of his departure from South Africa as indicated in his service papers.

Devonport (1900-1904)

After recuperating from the thrombosis and edema in his leg, 2nd Corporal Ball was released to duty from the hospital at Netley on the 1st of March 1900. He immediately proceeded to Chatham were he reported for duty on the 3rd of March and probably served with the Depot Battalion for a short period of time. On the 31st of May 1900 he was posted to the newly raised 57th Field Company at Devonport. While serving at Devonport he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Singapore (1904-1908)

Sergeant Ball departed England for Singapore on the 3rd of November 1904. Although his service papers are not specific on this point, it appears that Ball was assigned to the 41st Fortress Company at Singapore and specifically to a section of the company stationed on Blakang Mati.[17] Blakang Mati (known today as Sentosa) is an island in Singapore Strait just south of Singapore. The island is about 2 miles long and is strategically located for the defence of the harbour of Singapore. The work undertaken by Sergeant Ball and the men of the 41st Fortress Company was to construct and maintain fortifications on the coast in support of the Gunners of the Royal Artillery and the Submarine Miners of the Royal Engineers in order to defend Singapore harbour against possible enemy attack. These coastal defences were vital to the British Empire as they secured coaling stations needed by the Royal Navy.

While serving in Singapore, Sergeant Ball completed 18 years of service and became eligible for the award of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal,[18] which he was duly awarded in October of 1907. On the 5th of November 1907 he was promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major and was posted to "C" Company of the Depot Battalion Royal Engineers. He left Singapore for his new posting on the 30th of January 1908 to report to his new company at Chatham, which was then under the command of Captain A.J. Wolff, R.E. [19]

Chatham (1908-1910)

Company Sergeant Major Ball's marriage was finally recognized on the 12th of February 1908 and he was brought on the married roll. He served at Chatham until his discharge from the Army on the 26th of March 1910 at the termination of his second period of limited engagement.

Gillingham (1910-1915)

Although he took his discharge from the Army in 1910, George Ball did not, in fact, truly leave the Army. He and his wife and five children lived at 38 Mill Road in Gillingham, Kent, in close proximity to the Headquarters of the Royal Engineers at Brompton Barracks in Chatham, and he took a position as a civilian clerk employed in the Royal Engineers Record Office. He worked in this civilian capacity for the Corps until shortly after the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-1918.

Service During the Great War (1915-1920)

Six months after the start of the Great War the War Office discovered that it was having serious difficulties maintaining military records in the various regimental and corps record offices. On the 25th of February 1915 the War Office authorized the enlistment of a number of ex-soldiers and civilian clerks to perform these duties. On the 14th of April 1915 George Ball resigned his employment as a civil clerk in the R.E. Record Office so that he could enlist in the Army under the new scheme devised by the War Office.

George Ball enlisted as a Private in The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) at Chatham on the 15th of April 1915. This was a Short Service Enlistment as a "Home Service Specially Enlisted Clerk" under the conditions of War Office letter 35/General Number/1430 (A.G.1) of 25 February 1915. He swore the Oath of Attestation on the 15th of April and his enlistment was certified by the attesting officer and the approving officer on the same date. When all the paper work was completed for his enlistment he was issued Regimental Number 6127, immediately promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class I and posted to The Buffs regimental depot at Canterbury. On the 22nd of April 1915 he was appointed to the position of Staff Sergeant Major and assigned duties as Superintending Clerk of the 3rd Battalion, East Kent Militia at the regimental Record Office in Hounslow.

Sergeant Major Ball served in this capacity throughout the remainder of the Great War. In March of 1917 he was mentioned in despatches for his good work [20] and on the 15th of March 1919 the London Gazette announced his award of the Meritorious Service Medal when he was "brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for War for valuable services rendered in connection with the war . . . ".

On the 3rd of April 1920, in preparation for his second discharge from the Army, George Ball was issued a Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity. The certificates were issued by the Soldiers' Dispersal Office in London and show his rank as Regimental Sergeant Major. His medical category is shown as "B3" indicating that he was fit for home service. Regimental Sergeant Major Ball was discharged on demobilization on the 30th of April 1920.


a. Promotions: George Edward Balls received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

27 March 1889

Sapper (upon enlistment in the Royal Engineers).

7 December 1893

Appointed Lance Corporal.

1 September 1896

Promoted 2nd Corporal.

1 April 1897

Promoted Corporal.

1 April 1901

Promoted Sergeant.

5 November 1907

Promoted Company Sergeant Major

15 April 1915

(upon enlistment in the East Kent Regiment)

15 April 1915

Warrant Officer Class I, 3rd East Kent Regiment.

22 April 1915

Promoted Staff Sergeant Major
(Superintending Clerk), 3rd East Kent Regiment.

30 April 1920

Regimental Sergeant Major (upon discharge).

b. Conduct: George Edward Ball received the following Good Conduct Badges during his time in service:[21]

Date of Award

Good Conduct Badge

27 February 1891

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 1d per day.

27 February 1895

Awarded Good Conduct Pay at 2d per day.

Sergeant Ball completed 18 years of service with the Colours on the 26th of March 1907, making him eligible for the award of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. In October of 1907 he was awarded this medal with gratuity in accordance with Army Order 242.


George Edward Ball earned the following Certificates of Education during his time in service:[22]


Certificate of Education

26 June 1889

Awarded 3rd Class Certificate of Education.

4 October 1890

Awarded 2nd Class Certificate of Education.

24 March 1891

Awarded 1st Class Certificate of Education.


The following medical information was taken from George Edward Ball's military records during his time in service:


Date of Admission


Period of Hospitalization
or Treatment

Gosport, Hampshire

27 Mar 1889

Primary Medical Examination

Found fit for military service.


11 Apr 1889

Re-vaccinated against small pox

Two vaccinations in the right arm with "perfect" results.

Nova Scotia

17 Oct 1896

Medical Examination

Found fit to extend service to complete 12 years.


15 Oct 1899

Medical Examination

Found fit to re-engage to complete 21 years of service.

Cape Town,
South Africa

16 Nov 1899


Released from hospital. Prescription: "rest and tonic" and return to England.(*)


21 Dec 1899


Admitted to hospital
for treatment and recuperation.


23 Feb 1900


Medical Board recommended return to duty after recuperation.


1 Mar 1900

Debility, thrombosis and edema.

Released from hospital. Prescription: "rest and tonic."(+)

Devonport, Devonshire

19 Sep 1904

Medical Examination

Found fit for overseas service.

Blakang Mati,

9 Jun 1906

Ague (malaria)

Admitted to hospital.
Treated with quinine.
Released on 16 June


15 Apr 1915

Primary Medical Examination

Found fit for reenlistment.

(*) Major G. Tuke, Royal Army Medical Corps provided the following evaluation with regard to Ball's condition: "As he is not likely to be fit for active service for the next two months he is being sent home."

(+) Doctor's comments: The thrombosis and edema have disappeared - is able to walk without trouble - appears quite fit - probably caused by climate and service - rest and tonics."

According to Mrs. Pearman, Sergeant Ball was afflicted with an ulcerated leg while in South Africa, a condition serious enough that the doctors there recommended that he have the leg amputated. He refused to allow them to cut off his leg and was sent home for further treatment. His leg never healed and, according to his granddaughter, he had to have it dressed daily for the rest of his life. Sergeant Ball's medical records indicate that "debility" was the primary cause of his hospitalisation and return to England. The common medical definition of debility is simply weakness or asthenia (loss of strength). This condition was common enough among soldiers on active service in a hot climate, such as that of South Africa. An ulcerated leg is not specifically mentioned in the service papers, although the doctor in Netley does mention "thrombosis and edema." Applying the common medical definitions to these two terms might imply that Ball suffered and injury of the leg that resulted in swelling (edema) and a blood clot (thrombosis). The condition appears to have been serious enough that he was unable to walk normally for a considerable period of time. Obviously with such a condition he could not perform his duties on active service in South Africa. No mention is made in his service records of any consideration being given to amputating his leg.


George Edward Ball married Rachel Cleveland at Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 26th of October 1895, without leave.[23] The Balls had six children and eight grandchildren. The names, dates and places of birth of their children are shown in the table below.

Name of Child

Date of Birth

Place of Birth

Amelia May

31 January 1896 [24]

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Frederick Charles

25 February 1897

Gillingham, Kent



Unknown [25]

Edgar Clarence Valentine

14 February 1901

Devonport, Devonshire

Edith Aileen

11 December 1904

Gillingham, Kent

Reginald Albert

16 August 1910 [26]

Gillingham, Kent

The first five children were born while Company Sergeant Major Ball was still in the Army. His last child appears to have been born while he was employed at the Royal Engineers Record Office at Chatham, although the author has no explanation for the place of Reginald's birth being in Oxford.

The following information regarding G.E. Ball's children was compiled by his granddaughter, Mrs. Joan Pearman:

Child's Name



Amelia May Ball
Born: Halifax, Nova Scotia, 31 Jan 1896
Died: 1968

Edward Humphreys

Born: 1926
Died: 1987

Frederick Charles Ball
Born: Gillingham, Kent,
25 Feb 1897
Died: Gillingham, Kent,
14 March 1976

Violet Wells
Born: Wandsworth, London,
31 May 1903
Died: Gillingham, Kent,
26 Jan 2000

Born: Newport, Monmouthshire, 21 Mar 1930
Keith Frederick
Born: Newport, Monmouthshire, 7 Jul 1933

 Lilian Ball
Born: 1898
Died: ?


Edgar Clarence
Valentine Ball
Born: Devonport, Devonshire,
14 Feb 1901
Died: Gillingham, Kent,

Never Married


Edith Aileen Ball
Born: Gillingham, Kent,
11 Dec 1904
Died: Gillingham, Kent,
6 Aug 1993

Harry Cottam
Married: 3 Apr 1926
Died: 5 Dec 1981

Born: 11 Jan 1927

Reginald Albert Ball
Born: Gillingham, Kent
16 Aug 1910
Died: Abingdon, Oxfordshire

(1) Violet Hurrell
Married: 5 Jun 1929

Born: Aug 1929
Born: 17 Mar 1931
Born: 3 Aug 1936/7

 (2) Helen Meadows
Born: 1914
Died: 1993

Born: 10 May 1953

George and Rachel Ball were married in 1895, but it was not until 1908 that he was brought on the married rolls. Thirteen years must have seemed like an eternity for Mrs. Ball to live "off the rolls" while she accompanied her husband on his various postings. Add to this the requirement to care for four children while her husband was in the Army and one must admire the toughness and steadfastness of the woman. Rachel Ball appears to have accompanied her husband on all his postings except for Singapore. There is even a notation on George Ball's Military History Sheet that reads as follows:

"Name and Address of Next of Kin . . . Wife. Rachel. With husband. South Africa 99"

Presumably this entry means that Rachel was in South Africa in 1899. How she got there and how she was allowed to remain there while her husband was in a unit on active service is a mystery; however, no other interpretation of this entry in Ball's military records is readily apparent.

Rachel Ball appears to have been living at all the addresses in England shown as Sergeant Major Ball's residences except in one instance. In January of 1919 there is an entry in Ball's service papers that shows Mrs. Ball residing at 5 Sisters Terrace in Hull, Yorkshire. She may have been living there temporarily or simply visiting a relative.


George Edward Ball was discharged from the Army the first time at Chatham on the 26th of March 1910 on the termination of his second period of limited engagement. He was discharged a second time at Hounslow on the 30th of April 1920 upon demobilization following the end of the Great War of 1914-1918. His total service, including his service as a civilian clerk working for the Army is reckoned as shown in the tables below:


Period of Service

Chatham, Kent

27 March 1889 - 8 June 1890

Halifax, Nova Scotia

9 June 1890 - 20 December 1896

Chatham, Kent

21 December 1896 - 20 October 1899

South Africa

21 October 1899 - 20 December 1899

Netley, Hampshire

21 December 1899 - 28 February 1900

Chatham, Kent

1 March 1900 - 30 May 1900

Devonport, Devonshire

31 May 1900 - 2 November 1904

Blakang Mati, Singapore

3 November 1904 - 29 January 1908

Chatham, Kent

30 January 1908 - 26 March 1910

Chatham, Kent (Civil Service)

27 March 1910 - 14 April 1915

Hounslow, Middlesex

15 April 1915 - 30 April 1920


Period of Service

Home Service

21 years and 58 days

Service Abroad

9 years and 342 days

Total Service (Military & Civil)

31 years and 35 days


Sergeant Major Ball appears to have remained in the Chatham/Gillingham, Kent area after leaving military service following the Great War of 1914-1918. Little is known of his life after the military. His intended residence after his discharge in 1920 was listed as 38 Mill Road in Gillingham. He never worked again after his discharge from the Army and was able to live on his pension. He died on the 19th of November 1954 of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 86. His residence at the time of his death was 28A Wyles Street in Gillingham. Despite the diagnosis made by the Army doctors in South Africa, he still had both of his leg when he died.


Sergeant Major Ball's Long Service and Good Conduct Medal is in the author's collection. The whereabouts of his Queen's South Africa Medal and his Meritorious Service Medal are unknown. Although a Medal Index Card for Ball could not be found at the Public Record Office, it is likely that he also was awarded the British War Medal for service during the Great War. This medal was issued singly without the Victory Medal to certain regular and mobilized personnel who served at home and did not see any active service. If he was awarded this medal, its whereabouts also is unknown.

The British War Medal
for service in the Great War, 1914-1918

A search of the 1901 British Census was made by his granddaughter without success. In all likelihood, Ball was in South Africa at the time the census was conducted.

During the course of this research, Joan Pearman also informed the author that there were nine other relatives of hers who served in the Army. Details of their service are included here for genealogical purposes.

Chief Engine Room Artificer Edgar Clarence Valentine Ball, Royal Navy

George Ball's second son served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Known as "Curly" because of his fair, curly hair, Ball was serving aboard HMS Curacoa on escort duty for the Cunar Liner Queen Mary near the Isle of Skye when, on the 2nd of October 1942, the two ships collided. HMS Curacoa was split in two. Of the 439 men aboard HMS Curacoa, 338 were lost. Ball was one of the fortunate survivors, but just barely. According to family history, he was at first thought to be dead when his body was recovered, but an observant individual noticed his eyelids flutter and he received medical attention. He did suffer a serious head wound that required the insertioin of a metal plate in his skull. He became a very morose man following this horrendous event.

Reginald Albert Ball

Reginald Albert Ball, George Ball's youngest son, was born on the 16th of August 1910. He is known to have served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. It is believed that he reached the rank of Sergeant during his time in service. Details of his service have yet to be obtained, but further research is underway.

Reginald had three children who also served in the forces.

His daughter Doreen Ball served in the Woman's Royal Naval Service (W.R.N.S.) during the Second World War.

His son Peter Ball joined the Royal Air Force as a boy at St. Asaphs and later served in the RAF after attaining age for full time service.

His son Dennis Ball served in the Army for several years, but was invalided out of the service after suffering an injury in a road accident in Northern Ireland.

552716 Sapper Alfred Thomas Brinkhurst, Royal Engineer
Joan Pearman's grandmother's sister (Mildred Lane) married Alfred Thomas Brinkhurst. Sapper Brinkhurst served in the 105th Field Company, Royal Engineers in France and Flanders. He died on the 27th of May 1918 at the age of 41 years. His death is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial at Aisne, France. He was the son of William George Brinkhurst and the husband of Mildred Fanny Brinkhurst of 122 Brookscroft Road in Walthamstow, London. At the time of his death, Brinkhurst's company was serving with the 25th Division. The date of his death coincides with the first day of the Battle of the Aisne. Sapper Brinkhurst was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service during the Great War.[27]


Gunner Daniel Henry Lane, Royal Horse Artillery

Gunner Lane is another relative on the Lane side of Joan Pearman's family. Lane was born at Holyrood, Edinburgh in February of 1872. Prior to enlisting in the Army he was a Barman and lived at home with his father.

Lane enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery at Woolwich on the 17th of November 1890. He was 18 years and 9 months old and stood 5 feet 3-1/8 inches tall at the time he enlisted. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and red hair and was a member of the Church of England.

On the 9th of March 1891 Gunner Lane had an accident on duty in which he fractured his left radius. A court of enquiry was held to investigate the cause of the accident. He spent 39 days in hospital until the 16th of April 1891. He was discharged from the Army on the 9th of September 1891 on payment of £18 after having served only 300 days.[28]

Daniel Henry Lane indicated that he was returning to the home of his father at 14 Vicarage Lane, Plumstead, London after leaving the Army. Lane subsequently married and had a son born in 1906. According to Mrs. Pearman, Daniel Lane was lost in the San Francisco earthquake on the 18th of April 1906. Unfortunately, Daniel never got to see his infant son, as the child was born sometime after the earthquake.

107696 2nd Corporal Frederick Charles Ball, Royal Engineers

Frederick Charles Ball, George Edward Ball's first son, was born on the 25th of February 1897 in the Parish of Gillingham, Kent. As a young man he resided at 38 Mill Road in Gillingham and worked as a Clerk. He enlisted as a Sapper, in the Royal Engineers at Chatham, Kent on the 29th of November 1915. His enlistment was for the duration of the war.

As he was only 5 feet 2¼ inches tall at the time of his enlistment, he was under the height requirement for service abroad; therefore, after his period of initial training at Chatham, Frederick Ball was posted to the Establishment for Engineer Services (E.E.S.) as a Clerk. He served in this capacity initially in No. 1 Company, 2nd Reserve Battalion, Royal Engineers and later with the 6th Reserve Battalion, R.E. Besides Chatham, Ball also served at Drumsheugh Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland and at Loch Doon, near Dallmellington in Ayrshire, Scotland.

On the 21st of February 1919 Frederick Ball was transferred to the Reserve on demobilization. He was serving with the 6th Reserve Battalion, R.E. at that time. His Army Form Z. 21., Certificate of Transfer to the Reserve on Demobilization, lists his Specialist Military Qualifications as Clerk. His Medical Category is given as A1 and his rank on demobilization is shown as 2nd Corporal.

Frederick Charles Ball died at 267 Bredhurst Road, Wigmore, Gillingham, Kent on the 14th of March 1977 at the age of 80. Frederick Charles Ball's son, Keith Frederick, also served in the Royal Engineers.

22590837 Sapper KEITH FREDERICK BALL, Royal Engineers

Keith Frederick Ball was born at Newport, Monmouthshire on the 7th of July 1933. He resided at Pontypool and Mountain Ash until 1940, when his family moved to Mitcham, Surrey. During the German bombing of London, Keith was evacuated to Guildford where he remained until 1944.

Keith enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers on the 20th of September 1951. He was assigned to 4 Training Regiment Royal Engineers at Gibraltar Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire for basic training following his enlistment. Upon the completion of his basic training he was posted to 8 Training Regiment Royal Engineers at Pinefield Camp where he served until April of 1952. In May of 1952 Keith was posted to 11 Training Regiment Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Otley Deer Park in Ellesmere, Shropshire where he was trained as a Vehicle Mechanic A3. He remained with this unit until September 1952 at which time he received orders for an overseas posting.

Sapper Ball left Stansted in October 1952 bound for Fayid, Egypt by way of Malta. From October of 1952 to September of 1953 he served with 2 Army Field Survey Depot attached to 42 Survey Regiment, Royal Engineers as a Vehicle Mechanic and Driver. His place of duty during this period was Sobraon Camp in Fayid.

In September of 1953 Keith returned home via Port Said to Southampton aboard the troopship Empire Ken. Upon his arrival in England he reported to Barton Stacey in Hampshire for demobilization from full time service. In October of 1953 Keith was transferred to 121 Army Engineer Regiment (T.A.) in London.

Sapper Keith Ball at Sobraon Camp, Fayid, Egypt, 1952-53.

Major Arthur Charles Wells, MBE, Royal Army Service Corps

Arthur Charles Wells was born on the 29th of March 1917. He was Joan Pearman's mother's younger brother who, as a child, was sent to live and be brought up by Joan's parents. As a boy he did well at school and after graduation he joined the Civil Service.

At the beginning, or just prior to the start World War II, Arthur joined the Army as a Schedule D Reservist at the Headquarters of the South Wales Borderers in Brecon. Joan's family was living in Wales at the time. After enlisting, Arthur was sent to Aldershot where he joined the Royal Army Service Corps and was trained in intelligence work. He joined the Norwegian Expeditionary Force and later the North Western Expeditionary Force and became one of the original General Staff Intelligence Team in the headquarters of British IV Corps. By that time, Arthur had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Arthur Charles Wells became engaged to Margaret McCarthy in June of 1941. Later that year he was posted to India and served in Burma. He made regular broadcasts on the All India Radio and his transcripts, about 400 in number, are presently in the Imperial War Museum in London. By the time he was performing these duties in India, he had accepted a commission and was serving in the rank of Lieutenant.

For some reason, Arthur never got any home leave while he was assigned to India and was separated from his finance Margaret for 4 years. In 1945 Margaret sailed out to India and they were married in Delhi in June of 1945. They both returned home in December of 1946. For his service during the Second World War, Wells was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Burma Star, Defence Medal and War Medal.

Arthur returned to the Civil Service after demobilization from the Army. By the time of his demobilization he had risen to the rank of Major. After managing various Employment Exchanges he was offered a post in the Diplomatic Service as Labour Attaché and served in India and Pakistan and later in Morocco and Tunisia. He had a very illustrious career and was awarded the MBE at Buckingham Palace on the 29th of March 1977, his 60th birthday.

His wife Margaret died in 1993. After her death, Arthur went to live with Joan Pearman, during which time he wrote a book about his life and career, which he refused to have published.

Arthur and Margaret had no children.

Arthur Charles Wells died in 2003.


While researching Sergeant Ball's military service the author came upon another man with a very similar name, who also served in the Royal Engineers. He was 22269058 Sergeant George Edward Ball, R.E. who killed by a land mine explosion on the 23rd of June 1951 near the Imjin River in Korea. He was 35 years and 1 month old at the time of his death. Sergeant Ball also probably served in World War 2, although no record of his service in that conflict was uncovered. Based on his age at the time of his death, this George Edward Ball was born in 1916. However interesting this information might be, Joan Pearman, the granddaughter of 23659 Sergeant Major George Edward Ball, indicates that there is no known relationship between the two men.

Additional details regarding the service of 22269058 Sergeant George Edward Ball, R.E. were found in a book by Major-General A.E. Younger entitled Blowing Our Bridges: A Memoir from Dunkirk to Korea via Normandy. This book was published in 2004.

At the start of the Korean War, then Major Tony Younger was given command of 55 Field Squadron, Royal Engineers. 2 Troop of the squadron was commanded by Captain R. ("Bertie") Bayton-Evans and the sergeant of 2 Troop was Sergeant G.E. Ball. Sergeant Ball served in 55 Field Squadron until his death on 23 June 1951 at the Imjin River. Specific mention of Sergeant Ball is made by Major-General Younger four times in his book.

During the period of the withdrawal of the United Nations forces in January 1951, 2 Troop was given the mission of destroying three bridges over the Han River. One of these was the decked railway bridge known as Shoofly Bridge. This bridge consisted of 66 wooden trestles on which metal girders had been laid. The bridge was prepared for demolition and Major Younger was at the firing point when the order was given to blow the bridge. The following is taken directly from Younger's narrative:

"Once at the firing point I sent Titch back half a mile to a safe distance and then jumped into the sandbagged trench. Sergeant Ball, smiling and calm, thrust a mug of hot, strong tea in my hand and I had a brief chat with him. This tough and reliable man was the perfect foil to Bertie's mercurial temperament. He had a strong face which broke into a ready smile whoever he spoke to, old or young, rich or poor, senior or junior: a man of great potential."

After receiving the order to blow the bridge from Colonel Itchener, the senior American engineer officer under whom 55 Field Squadron was serving, Sergeant Ball fired a Very pistol to recall the infantry from the far side of the bridge. When it was determined that all friendly forces had crossed the river, Sergeant Ball, at the exploder, connected up the electrical cable from the explosive charges on the bridge. He took a nod from Captain Bayton-Evans and pressed the handle. The Shoofly Bridge disappeared in a huge smoke cloud, leaving many pieces of the bridge on the ice floes of the frozen Han River.

Sergeant Ball also was present during the squadron's operations at Gloster Crossing on the Imjin River. Gloster Crossing was a ford across the Imjin River that had been heavily mined by the retreating Chinese after their defeat at the Imjin. Major Younger, Captain Bayton-Evans, Sergeant Ball and a number of the section sappers cut long sticks to mark any mines they found. The two officers and Sergeant Ball then slowly worked their way into the river to remove the mines.

Near the end of April 1951, 55 Field Squadron was tasked to take up a defensive position at Kanak San. Sergeant Ball was present with the squadron during this time. In mid-June 1951, Major Younger received orders to leave Korea to attend the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. A week later, on 23 June, he boarded a Scandinavian Air Line flight out of Tokyo bound for Zurich. On that very day, Sergeant Ball was killed by a mine explosion at Gloster Crossing. Captain R. Bayton-Evans, Lieutenant G.B. Robinson, and Sapper S.J. Higgins also were killed on that day.

While the author has tried to make this research work as complete and as accurate as possible, facts concerning the life of Sergeant Major Ball are still to be uncovered. Joan Pearman is assiduously working on her family tree and through her efforts more information is certain to be found. If and when this information comes to light it will be added to this narrative in the form of Addenda.


The following information was supplied by Ms. Amy Blythe in an email to the author dated 11 April 2005:

Endnote number 6 to the narrative indicated that George Ball was not known to have a brother named John. Ms. Blythe indicates that indeed George did have a brother named John Henry Ball born in Portsmouth in 1860.

The 1881 British Census shows a John Ball, age 21 years, birthplace Portsmouth, Hampshire living at Addington Crescent in Lambeth, Surrey. He was living there as a lodger in the home of Stephen Meginis, a dye paint manufacturer, and his wife Emma Meginis. John Ball's occupation is listed as house carpenter. Other residence in the Meginis household at the time included the following individuals:

Ms. Blythe also indicates that she has two members of one side of her family who served in the Royal Engineers around the same time as George Ball and that one of them was married to George's niece.



1. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers From 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.

2. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.

3. GORDON, L.L. British Battles and Medals. Spink & Son, Ltd., London, 1971.

4. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.

5. JONES, H.W., HOERR, N.L. and OSOL, A. (editors). Blakiston’s New Gould Medical Dictionary. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1941.

6. MERRIAM WEBSTER. Geographical Dictionary, Springfield, MA, 1997.

7. SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977.

8. WATSON, C.M. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume III. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1954.

9. YOUNGER, A.E. Blowing Our Bridges: A Memoir from Dunkirk to Korea via Normandy. Pen & Sword Ltd, Barnsley, 2004.


1. Certified Extract From an Entry of Death, SA037290, General Register Office, London, dated 19 April 1982.

2. Certified Entry of Birth of George E. Ball. General Register Office, 20th September 1992.

3. GASE, S. Company Moves of the Royal Engineers. West Drayton, Middlesex, 2002.

4. Medal Roll, WO100/157;2766, Public Record Office, London.

5. Soldier's Service Papers consisting of the following documents:

  1. Soldier's Service Papers, WO 363, Burnt Records.

(1) Short Service Attestation in the Royal Engineers; 1889.

(a) Statement of Services.

(b) Military History Sheet.

(2) War Office Letter, 25 February 1915.

(3) War Office Letter, 2 April 1915.

(4) Resignation of Employment in the R.E. Record Office.

(5) Short Service Attestation in The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), Army Form B. 2505; 1915.

(a) Description on Enlistment.

(b) Statement of Services.

(c) Military History Sheet.

(d) Medical History.

(6) Memo, Ministry of Pensions, 29 January 1919.

(7) Memo, Infantry Record Office, 23 March 1920.

(8) Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity, 3 April 1920.

(9) Memo, Infantry Record Office, 22 April 1920.

(10) Pension Records, 1944 to 1954.

(11) Record of Award of the Meritorious Service Medal.

(12) Queen's South Africa Medal Roll of the 31st (Fortress) Company, Royal Engineers.

(13) Miscellaneous Marriage and Death Certificates.

(a) Marriage Certificate of George Edward William Ball and Edith Kirkby, 26 December 1938.

(b) Marriage Certificate of George Edward Ball and Edith May Cameron, 25 January 1947.

(c) Death Certificate of George Edward Ball, 23 June 1951.

Personal Communications

PEARMAN, J. Various email messages, documents and photographs, Cambridge, 2002-2003.

BALL, KEITH FREDERICK. Various email messages, documents and photographs, 2003.


[1] It was the acquisition of this medal by the author that started the research project.

[2] Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth. James L. Childs, the Registrar for Portsmouth, registered George Edward Ball's birth on The 13th of April 1868.

[3] 1881 British Census. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Family History Library Film 1341282, Public Records Officer RG11, Piece 1152, Folio 32, Page 14.

[4] Ball had been vaccinated in infancy and again in 1883.

[5] See Periods of Enlistment for the Corps of Royal Engineers.

[6] The name of John Ball as George's next of kin is listed on his Military History Sheet. The word preceding the name "John Ball" appears to be "Brother." George was not known to have a brother names John; hence, this may be one of those problems with deciphering a smudge (and poorly written) word in the record.

[7] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army and the Corps of Royal Engineers (Victorian Period).

[8] George Ball's civilian trade as a Carpenter certainly was instrumental in paving the way for his acceptance into the Royal Engineers as the Corps was always seeking recruits who had prior civilian skills that could be put to use directly upon their entry into the service.

[9] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[10] See Extensions of Service of the Regular Army.

[11] See Re-Engagement in the Regular Army.

[12] Francis George Fuller.

[13] James Birch Sharpe.

[14] WATSON, p. 81.

[15] GORDON, p. 272.

[16] The name of 22828 Sergeant W.S. Jacob, R.E. also appears on the same page of the medal roll with that of George Ball. The medals of Sergeant Jacob are also in the author's collection.

[17] Based on a study conducted by Stuart Gase and the author, the 41st Fortress Company was the only company of the Royal Engineers stationed at Singapore during this period.

[18] This medal is in the author's collection.

[19] Arnold Johnston Wolff.

[20] His service papers show a notation to this effect, but the specific date of the London Gazette entry for the mention in despatches is illegible.

[21] See Good Conduct Pay.

[22] See Certificates of Education.

[23] See Marriage of Soldiers During the Victorian Period.

[24] Both the 18th Company and 40th Company were in Halifax when Amelia May was born; therefore, the date of her birth provides no clue as to Ball's posting.

[25] Lilian appears to have died in infancy. Information regarding this child was supplied by Mrs. Pearman. Lilian Ball does not appear in the service records of G.E. Ball.

[26] Information provided by Mrs. Pearman indicates that Reginald Albert Ball was born on 16 August 1910, however G.E. Ball's service records indicate that Reginald was born in 1909.

[27] These medals are in Mrs. Pearman's possession. Since he died on active service his family also would have been entitled to his Memorial Plaque. The whereabouts of his Plaque is not known.

[28] These details of Gunner Lane's life were obtained from his service papers at the Public Record Office thanks to a search made by Stuart Gase.