Monday, 4 May 2015

M is for muddle

For years I wondered why my great grandfather Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny had been taken away from his duties as a doctor during World War 1 to be aide-de camp to General Birdwood.

I had been misled by photographs on the Australian War Memorial website:

  • E00083 Photograph December 1916: General Sir William Riddell Birdwood (back left) and Captain Trent Champion De Crespigny ADC, seated in General Birdwood's car, passing an Australian transport column on the Mametz-Montauban road. 
Australian War Memorial image E00083

  • E00094 Photograph December 1916: Pictured in conversation after a church service at Heilly are, left to right: General C B B White; General Sir William Riddell Birdwood and Captain Trent Champion de Crespigny.
  • E02011 Photograph March 1917: General William Birdwood with the Assistant Provost Marshal Lieutenant Colonel W. Smith, and Aide-de-Camp Captain Trent Champion de Crespigny of the 1st Anzac Corps Headquarters, riding through the Chateau gates.
  • E00540 Photograph March 1917: Group portrait of the General Staff of the Australian Corps Headquarters outside the Chateau at Henencourt. Left to right, back row: Captain (Capt) C R E Jennings, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General; Capt N Clowes, SCRA; Capt C Sheldon, Staff Officer to the Chief Engineer; unidentified; Lieutenant M... ... Capt Trent Champion de Crespigny, Aide de Camp (ADC) to General Officer Commanding (GOC). ...
  • E00541 Photograph March 1917: Group portrait of the General Staff of the Australian Corps Headquarters outside the Chateau at Henencourt. Left to right, back row: Captain (Capt) C R E Jennings, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General; Capt N Clowes, SCRA; Capt C Sheldon, Staff Officer to the Chief Engineer; unidentified; Lieutenant M... ... Capt Trent Champion de Crespigny, Aide de Camp (ADC) to General Officer Commanding (GOC). ...
  • E00451 Photograph May 1917: General Sir William Riddell Birdwood decorating an officer for bravery in the first attack on the Hindenburg Line. The ceremony took place at Ribemont. Left to right: Captain (Capt) O'Regan MC, Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC); General Birdwood; Capt H Thomson MC; unidentified (partially... ... Capt Trent Champion de Crespigny ...
  • E02360 Photograph May 1918: General Sir W R Birdwood presenting medals to members of the 4th Division. Standing in the centre, left to right: unidentified; Major H. Thompson MC, Staff Captain, 4th Brigade; unidentified; General Sir William Birdwood; Captain de Crespigny, Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to General Birdwood; Lieutenant...

My great grandfather was, as far as I know, the only person of his generation who had the forename Trent with the surname Champion de Crespigny.  I could not think who else Birdwood's aide-de-camp could be. It must have been Constantine Trent. I was wrong.

I found the correct answer in Trove, the digitised newspaper collection  of the National Library of Australia..

.
AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND ARMY CORPS. (1916, June 22). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6473059

This was confirmed by a notice in the London Gazette, that Captain Henry Champion de Crespigny of the 56th Punjabi Rifles had been appointed aide-de-camp to the Commands and Staff area of the Regular army with effect from 6 August 1915. (London Gazette of 28 September 1915, supplement 29311, page 9625)

Henry Champion de Crespigny (1882 - 1946) was my great grandfather's fourth cousin once removed. He was the son of Philip Augustus Champion de Crespigny (1850 - 1912) and Rose de Crespigny née Key (1859 - 1935).

Henry de Crespigny became the sixth baronet following the death of his cousin Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny (1878 - 1941). None of the five sons of the fourth baronet  Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny (1847 - 1935) had sons. Henry de Crespigny's father Philip de Crespigny was the fourth baronet's younger brother.

Henry de Crespigny died unmarried and the baronetcy passed on to his brother Frederick Champion de Crespigny (1884 - 1947).

Chelmsford Chronicle 1 November 1946 page 3
...............

Update: I have been in contact with the War Memorial  who advised

Thank you for your email drawing our attention the incorrect identification of Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny in several of our Official photographs. I apologise for the confusion this has caused you. The cataloguing of these images was carried out decades ago, before access to so many excellent digitised records were available. I have looked at the original captions and noticed that only General Birdwood was named except for one caption where “Captain de Crespigny” was named. I can only surmise the error must have occurred here when someone interpreted this partial identification as being Trent rather than Henry - Henry’s service record would not have been visible to them having served with the Indian Army.

I am working to correct the cataloguing for these photographs now and the updated records should refresh to the website by the end of the week.



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