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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Training Camps


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Hi - please excuse my ignorance. I've been doing a lot of searching on training camps and I just want to make sure I understand properly.

From The Long, Long Trail:

Gradually, new camps were constructed. Some of them were vast affairs, with their own canteens, hospitals, post offices, clubs and so on. Many camps were developed, with principal concentrations at Salisbury Plain, Cannock Chase (Rugeley and Brocton) in Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire (Clipstone being the main centre) and the North Wales coast.

It then goes on to talk about the Training Reserve and lack of regimental affiliation, which was then reorganised again in 1917. So by 1918 what would have happened? Am I right in thinking regimental affiliation was back in place by then? In which case, would a soldier be conscripted into a specific regiment and then sent to one of the big training camps to train with that regiment?

Apologies again for confusion....

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Hello Curious, and welcome to the Forum.

From the outbreak of war, most recruiting was for General Service, not for a particular regiment or corps. As well as forming "Kitchener" or "Pals" battalions as complete units, most of which had gone abroad by the end of 1915, "second-reserve" battalions were formed from surplus men and further recruits, and these sent drafts to the battalions in the field.

When conscription was introduced, most of these second-reserve battalions, plus some newly formed units, became 1 to 112 battalions of the Training Reserve. They ceased to have direct regimental affiliations and conscripts, again enlisted for general service, were posted to them, if needed for the infantry (about 60% of the total) for initial training and then posting to regiments abroad. Other arms had a parallel, but distinct, system.

Once the initial flood of conscripts had eased, in 1917, and only those just reaching 18 were joining, new conscripts would be posted to "Young Soldier" battalions of which there were 23, affiliated to regular regiments as their 53rd Bns. They were divided into four or five companies, each cotaining men within a three-month age range, so that training could be made progressive. Every three months, themen who had turned 19 were then posted to "Graduated" battalions, 51st and 52nd of the same regiments, for further training and use on home defence. These in turn would send drafts to France, usually to the main training camp at Etaples, to learn the latest techniques before finally being posted to battalions in the field. As not every regiment had a set of these training battalions, a man passing through say 53rd and 51st Royal Fusiliers might not necessarily end up in a RF battalion abroad.

I hope this makes things a bit clearer for you!


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Hi Ron

Thanks very much - that does make things much clearer! Two further questions:

1. Is there a list anywhere of the regiments which took the 'Young Soldier' battalions?

2. Would this system be any different for young officers? Would they have gone to France before reaching 19?

Also, just to confirm, once a soldier had passed through the training and gone to Etaples, he could in theory have been posted to any battalion who needed him at the time?

Thanks again for your help.

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1. Is there a list anywhere of the regiments which took the 'Young Soldier' battalions?

2. Would this system be any different for young officers? Would they have gone to France before reaching 19?

Hello Liz

The following regiments had 53rd Bns:

Queens (West Surrey)

Northumberland Fusiliers

Royal Warwickshire

Royal Fusiliers

Kings (Liverpool)


West Yorkshire




South Wales Borderers

Royal Sussex



Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby)

Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry


Kings Royal Rifle Corps


Durham Light Infantry

Highland Light Infantry

Gordon Highlanders

Rifle Brigade

2. No, Officers were trained in separate Officer Cadet battalions of which there were about 24, numbered, for the infantry. It is possible that men from these went abroad before they were 19 but I have no evidence. Perhaps another Pal can help.

Many of the officer cadets would have been men over 19 selected from the ranks and who had already served abroad.

Yes, a man posted to Etaples after 1916 might end up wherever he was needed.


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Thank you again for all the valuable information. One more (hopefully final) question:

I see from the Long Long Trail that the Officer Cadet battalions did not accept men until they were 18 and a half. What would have happened to them at 18? Would they have been conscripted to a Young Soldier battalion and then have to apply for the OCB? And having been through an Officer Cadet Battalion, would the same system apply whereby they could be sent to join any regiment in need?

Thank you!

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Very interesting information. I'm not sure where Pte Arthur Sanderson's experience fits. My information (from his brother) is that he was born 4th January 1899 and from his pension record I have this sequence of events -

22/11/1916 Attested (He was just short of his 17th birthday)

23/11/1916 To army reserve

5/5/1917 Mobilised and posted to ASC (Then aged 17 years 4mths and 1 day)

6/5/1917 Joined ASC

1/6/1917 Trans to 12th TRB

19/8/1917 Trans 14th TRB

9/1/1918 8 52nd NW (5 days after his 19th birthday)

16/1/1918 "R" IBD posted (difficult to read but this is what I made out)

Calais Expeditionary Force

17/2/1918 Trans 7th Lincolnshire Regt

He has a selection of service numbers but the one which appears in the post war Medical Boards is 42969. I was also quite surprised that he was able to register at the declared age of 16. The bit I'm curious about is the month in ASC. His attestation dated 21/5/1917 (at which his appointment to ASC is approved - NB he joined ASC 6/5/1917!) which is attached to his pension record gives age 17 years and 10 months and the place he attested was Bath in the section headed Certificate of the Approving Officer though his home address is given as Newcastle on Tyne. I'm assuming his ASC posting was to Bath. The paper also has the stamp of a recruiting office in Newcastle and the section headed Certificate of Magistrate etc is dated 22/11/1916. The age given is interesting - I've checked Bmd and he is registered 1st qtr 1899 backing up the brother's info. Looks like Arthur added a few months to his age, perhaps he wasn't keen on the ASC. Interestingly the occupation given is Clerk. I'm trying to make sense of the whole thing but struggling as there seems to be a number of inconsistencies. Singnificantly the Attestation page is stamped at the top "Original".

For the most part I can sees the pattern Ron describes but without that guidance I would have struggled badly. Hope you are not as confused by my description.

Thanks for that and if you have any ideas about the oddities I'd be grateful


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