Territorial Terror

“You are a Territorial Terror”

This lovely little Burlesque series coloured postcard from 1911 (how that Burlesque word has changed over the years) showing a stage or music hall version of a Territorial in his scarlet coat, swagger stick (and stuck from a nearby hedge it looks) and skew whiff Home Service helmet.

A cheeky chappie who looks like he enlisted in a Light Operetta Company of the Territorial Army.

Tucked away in his jacket is what could be a hidden bottle? Hence the skew whiff helmet?

It captures the British public’s ambivalent attitude to licentious soldiery, the allure of a Redcoat to the giddy local womenfolk from Jane Austen’s Regency period onwards, the perils of a standing army bored and billeted on the civilian population and its slightly derisive approach to “weekend soldiers” three years before WW1. All in one single comic postcard.

The Territorial Force was formed in 1908, so the 1911 postcard was quite topical.

Marvin over at the Suburban Militarism blog has been focussing his research and excellent painting skills on the Territorial Force predecessors, the British Volunteer Regiments of the 19th and 20th Century. https://suburbanmilitarism.wordpress.com

What is even more interesting is the back of the German printed postcard of Watkins and Kracke Ltd. (Don’t read too much into this as subtle German propaganda – many British postcards were printed in Germany).

A short witty note from a loving sister, postmarked Stoke on Trent, 24 JY (January? July?) 1911

Dear Willie,

Just a line to let you know I got as far as Stoke on Sunday and I must say you would look better in these clothes than with a fishing rod and basket.

From your loving sister Annie

Addressed to Master W. Harrop, 76 Westminster Street, Crewe, Cheshire.

I thought 1911 being a Census Year, that there may be a chance with the names and addresses on the postcard of finding out more about Annie and her Brother Willie.

I searched the 1911 census for this Crewe address and found the family of William Charles Harrop and his sister Annie. William was serving an interesting apprenticeship, when not out with his fishing rod.

Using Ancestry I quickly found William Harrop’s Military WW1 Service Record – and thankfully he survived WW1.

This was partly due to his special trade as a Locomotive Engine Fitter for The LNWR . The Harrops were a railway family in the railway town of Crewe, his Crewe born-and-bred father Thomas being a Locomotive Engine Painter, also for the LNWR. Eventually several more sons, Walter Baden Harrop (Baden Powell or BP being a Boer War name?) and Lewis Harrop became LNWR apprentices.

William Harrop’s address by 1916 seems to have moved next door to 74 Westminster Street and he Attested to Enlist and serve from 1916 with the Royal Engineers, ROD Railway Operating Division at Longmoor.

It is clear from his Attestation papers that William had not served as a Territorial, so the postcard choice was no in-joke from his sister that Willie was one such “Territorial Terror”.

Medical Certificate for William with his varicose veins (unusual in a man of 26?) and requires dental treatment,

Interesting unit to work on as a Sapper (equivalent to Private) in the Royal Engineers Railway and Canal Troops Department. It also identifies his employment as Loco Fitter, his previous employer as the LNWR (London & North Western Railway) in his lifelong railway town of Crewe. It seems there was a strong link between the LNWR and the Railway Operating Division.

Longmoor was the Royal Engineers training camp and base in Hampshire for these Railway units with a Railway Signalling School etc.

According to the excellent 1914-18 invasion zone website:

The first of the railway operating companies were raised in April of 1915 and deployed to France in June of that year. They performed three basic functions:

1. The management of traffic.

2. The provision of crews for locomotives.

3. The repair of rolling stock and other items needed to keep a railway in operation. This is where William Harrop as a Loco Fitter would have worked.

The railway operating companies were exclusively concerned with operation of full-size (‘standard gauge’) trains.

The operation of light railways was the responsibility of the light railway companies. This is the type of 26 LRW Company that William served with.

The construction of railway lines, as well as their repair, was the work of railway construction units.

A good description of the genesis of railway units in the BEF can be found in the History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Volume V, The Home Front, France, Flanders and Italy in the First World War, (Chatham: The Institution of Royal Engineers, 1952), pp. 594-595. http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/83960-railway-operating-divisions-royal-engineers/

William was demobilised in November 1919 as Sapper, W.R. 275073 Royal Engineers, formerly 290053.

Decoding William’s Service records

It has been suggested on the 1914-18 Invision Zone webpage on ROD units by some that W.R. on his regimental or service number is Waterways and Railways (rather than War Reserve?)

He enlisted 21.2.16 and was mobilised 10.7.17, then posted 11.7.17. He left England with 26 LWR Co RE on 14.9.17.

His service in the 26 LWR CO is the Light Railway Workshop Company, based at Longmoor. This unit embarked for France and Flanders 12 March 1917. The RE Museum website of War Diaries lists dates for this Company as March 1917 to August 1917, although William’s faded service records suggest that he transferred to the 18th ROC RE on 8 June 1918 .


William survived the war and received the standard two war service medals, the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service with 118th Railway Company, Royal Engineers (formed 13 November 1915) and at first with the 26th LRW Co Royal Engineers.

After the war he returned to and remained in Crewe in railway service. He was listed as a locomotive stores issuer (from 1927) in the 1939 Register, living in 58 Meredith Street, Crewe with his wife Emily L. Harrop (nee Judson, b. 1899). They had married four years before.

Hopefully he still had a relaxing time with his fishing rod and basket up until his death aged 75 in 1966.

What became of his ‘loving sister Annie’ during and after WW1 is harder to trace but she may have married a John J. Prince in 1921.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, happily Sidetracked again in January 2018.


Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

10 thoughts on “Territorial Terror”

  1. Very interesting post. I served in a rail served depots in the ’60’s and there were still railway specific trades although I thought it was RASC but may well have been RE.


    1. Thanks I’m glad you found the background or back of the postcard story interesting. Royal Engineers ROD or ROC units covered this job in WWI, it may have broadened to other units later. Somewhere I have an article from Military Modelling or Soldier Magazine from the Eighties about the modern version of the British Army Railway Operating Dept. When I next run across it, I will post it. Mark, Man of TIN


  2. Great story from an unusual postcard, Mark. Interesting to see that volunteer reserve troops even in the guise of the newly formed territorial force was still, for some at least, a source of amusement and lampooning. I suspect that the coming Great War might have changed some attitudes there. But then the postcard recipient was not actually a territorial, but an engineer in the railway and canal troops. Ah, you’ve got me interested in that topic now…

    Thanks for the reference to my blog too!



      1. “Falmouth Division of Submarine Miners” – there’s a part of the Victorian volunteers never before depicted. I wonder what they looked like? I’m thinking those Victorian Steampunk style metal diving helmets.


  3. This story is about my great uncle and yes Annie did marry John Prince. Thank you for the info, it will really help me find out more about my dads side of the Harrop family


    1. Kathryn
      I’m glad you found it all useful. It was a fascinating story. I have put this card away in storage but when I next sort through my postcards, would you like me to send you the original? It belongs in / to your family and would mean more to your family.
      Contact me through the comments page or manoftinblog [at] blog [dot] com.


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