Army Commission

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Sally Meek, May 13, 2022.

  1. Sally Meek

    Sally Meek Member

    Hello Everyone

    We have a story within the Family that someone was bought out of their Army Commission prior to WW2.

    I have a name and dob in 1913 so I presume the earliest he would have enlisted would have been 1931.

    I do know that by 1939 he was in the Police Force, but cannot find any records online for him.

    Besides paying £30 and waiting , which I am loathe to do at the moment as I am not sure the story is true,.can anyone suggest any options please?

    I have searched Ancestry and FMP and also Newspapers and The Gazette but have not found anything..

    Does the Army Records Office offer a free search?

    Thank you
  2. Richard Lewis

    Richard Lewis Member

    Hello Sally,

    Welcome to the forum.

    Have you looked at the Army Lists?

    CL1 likes this.
  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    How long was he the un-named / unknown police force? Pre-WW2 there were many more forces in England & Wales now, most cities had their own, as did docks. If he was later promoted, even to the higher ranks he might appear online or in Chief Constable annual reports.

    Do you know which school he attended? Especially if a private school, as they can have old boys groups, journals etc.

    Sometimes you have to work without a name, using an address can identify information.

    Adding the name here is an option too! Then the sleuths can do their bit hopefully.
  4. Sally Meek

    Sally Meek Member

    Thank you both for your replies.
    Didn’t think about Army Lists. I will look later . my laptop is playing up and is currently being worked on.
    His name was William Frank Smith born 1 June 1913 in
    Southampton but would have lived in Bridgwater Somerset at time of enlistment I think.
  5. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    As far as I know officers could simply resign their commission - as the actor David Niven did in the early 1930’s. An officer’s commissioning and subsequent resignation dates would be noted in the London Gazette.

    I am not aware there was any process for an officer to “buy himself out”. My understanding is that process was for non commissioned ranks only.

    It may well be that your family story is mixed up as it was quite common for men to join the pre war army (Guards Regiments were especially popular as their minimum service commitment was for 4 years with the colours and 8 years on the reserve) with a view to using a favourable service record as a stepping stone to securing a position as Police Officer.

    The Police entrance qualification could be met by the possession of both a 2nd Class Army Education Certificate, or higher, together with a Very Good (or higher) Conduct Assessment on discharge. Guardsmen would generally always meet the minimum Police height requirements.

    If he was a serving Police officer in 1939 he ought to be shown on the 1939 Register available on Ancestry & FMP. I have seen Police officers marginally noted as Army Reservists with an army service number shown.

    Not all Police reservists were recalled immediately on the outbreak of war. The mobilisation of the 500+ Scots Guards Police reservists started in December 1939.

    Scots Guards and Coldstream Guards records, in various forms, are available on FMP. Somerset was a strong Coldstream Guards recruiting area.

    Last edited: May 13, 2022
  6. Sally Meek

    Sally Meek Member

    Evening Steve
    Thank you for your reply. I am not very au fait with army records and I may have inadvertently used the term "Commission". I don't know if the man in question was an officer or not. The Family would not suggest an officer to me, but guards/coldstream guards were part of the story told. I wish I had paid more attention at the time!

    In the 1939 census William was a Police Constable in The Police Station at Eastcott Rd in Swindon. He is not marked as a reservist.. I have looked at FMP, but I will look again.

    I will also drop an email to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre who hold some Police records to see if they can help me.

    I did put his name into the search box in the Army List but nothing came up.

    I will report back.
  7. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    Thanks for clearing up the “commission” issue as you will end up having members running down an endless rabbit hole searching for him as an army officer.

    The County History Centre may be best able to assist if they hold the Wiltshire (or is it Swindon Borough?) Police records.

    It would do no harm to write to Wiltshire Police to see if they have retained any material in their archives. If they can’t assist they may signpost you to an appropriate source.

    I think the true story may be that he did 4 years in a Guards regiment pre war and secured Police employment at the end of that period. I think the “buying out” account may be inaccurate. I doubt it would have helped him to secure Police employment in a competitive 1930’s jobs market.

    I appreciate there will likely be many Smith’s listed in both CG & SG records on FMP
    but I’d encourage you to look carefully once again through the CG enlistment records as you may have missed him on your first look through - it’s often the case you can’t see the wood for the trees.

    Good Luck.

  8. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Last edited: May 13, 2022
  9. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    I’m afraid Id have to discount those candidates as a 24 year old man would not have sufficient experience or service to be appointed to such ranks in the pre war Coldstream Guards.



    CG Regimental History gives the above W F Smith full name as William Frederick
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
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  10. Sally Meek

    Sally Meek Member

    Thank you for looking Steve

    I have ploughed through the Coldstream records on FMP and I didn't spot him.

    I have dropped an email to Wiltshire and District History Centre to see if they hold any records for him.

    I will update as and when.

    Again apologies if I misled any of you regarding "commission"
    Tullybrone likes this.
  11. Sally Meek

    Sally Meek Member

    Morning Everyone

    I received a reply to my email from the above this morning.

    "Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck. We do have a Wiltshire Constabulary collection, but there seems to be a gap in our holdings around the date that you are looking for. We have extensive records from 1839-1926 & again from the 1950s-80s. I looked at the census & couldn’t find any of the constables listed at this Swindon station, which makes me think that a volume has been lost at some point. I am sorry that I cannot help you on this occasion."

    Thank you to everyone who responded. I am going to park this query for now as I was sidetracked from my current research by a Family conversation!!
    Tullybrone likes this.

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