War Diaries Talk

Appointment of "Town Major"?

  • brecon_beacons by brecon_beacons

    Entry on January 21st 1916 on the 1st Life Guards diary has a Captain Hely being struck off the regimental strength, to take up the appointment of (what looks like) "Town Major".

    My first question is: am I reading that right - does it indeed say 'Town major'?

    Only definition of a Town Major I can find is: "an officer of a British garrison having the general supervision of good order (as in an occupied city during military operations)".

    Has anyone else got any information on this? Were officers taking responsibility for the towns on the Western Front?


  • HeatherC by HeatherC moderator

    I think you've read it correctly (though you are more familiar with your diarist's handwriting than I am!)

    I hadn't come across the term before but it seems like a sensible arrangement to have a Staff Officer based in the town to liaise between the Civil and Military authorities. I've found a few references to the Town Major of Ypres, who seems to have kept a diary. This link describes the staff he had - interesting to see it included a sanitary officer and a provost marshal! http://www.greatwar.co.uk/battles/second-ypres-1915/prelude/ypres-civilians.htm

    I also found another mention where it says they were responsible for making billeting arrangements in towns behind the lines. Again a liaison post between civilian and military authorities. It appears this may have been a post given to men who were older or who had been wounded - is this the case with your Captain Hely do you know?

    Anyone else come across a mention of a Town Mayor?


  • David_Underdown by David_Underdown moderator

    Town Major it is. Effecively local liaison officer, and responsible for day-to-day military admin and law enforcement in the town (probably the wider local authority area too). Like brigade majors, they didn't necessarily rank as majors. There are war diaries for the town majors for the areas of Ypres and Poperinghe (not yet digitised) http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details?uri=C7356278 and http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details?uri=C7356252. The appointment also existed in the Second World War.