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Remembered Today:

BEF Mobilization - 1914


woolly
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After a unit had mobilized and deployed to France in Aug 1914 - what happened to those elements left behind? By this I mean the 'sick, lame and lazy', the underage and the wives and families in the Married Quarters? Was there an official Rear Party left behind to keep the barracks 'ticking over' in the absence of the unit or did they all decamp to the Regimental Depot (along with the Colours, the Bandies' instruments, the Mess Silver, accommodation stores not required on mobilization, etc), thereby leaving an empty barracks for those who were to follow? What would happen to the wives and families in this situation bearing in mind the obligations to those who where 'on the strength'?

This is a question that has been bugging me for some time but I cannot find the answer. It seems that Regimental War Diaries rightly follow the unit to France and make no mention of those left behind. Can any Pal provide an answer or give me a steer to where I can go looking for the information? Many thanks in advance.

Kind regards

Woolly

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I would guess that a nucleus remained behind at the regimental depot to do what you suggests Woolly. There a major task would be handle all the recruits flocking to the colours. But you raise an interesting point about units based in barracks away from regimental HQ. After clearing up, I can't see that the left-behinds would have much of a role, so perhaps they reported to the regimental depot. A few experienced officers and NCOs (perhaps not always the most efficient) might be posted away to staff the new Kitchener battalions.

Wives and families were required to quit their accommodation to make room for the influx of recruits. I suspect they were left to sort out new homes for themselves, and there wouldn't have been much point in them remaining in married quarters in a barracks that their husbands were unlikely to return to.

Bit of guesswork here, and I look forward to more expert input.

Moonraker

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I suppose a lot of it would depend upon when the CO of the mobilizing unit envisaged that they would return. After all if you were the CO and you genuinely believed that your unit would be 'home by Christmas' then you probably wouldn't make any definite plans about the redeployment of those staying behind.

Seems a bit hard on the pads though - kicking them out of their Married Quarters. Just the sort of thing guaranteed to focus the husband's mind on the job whilst overseas - not!

Like you I am awaiting an expert to jump in!

Kind regards

Woolly

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Not something I have seen mentioned much but the Kitcheners Armies were desperate for accomodation as well as everything else, so I doubt if any barracks lay empty for long. Old soldiers were used as a cadre of NCOs. The sick and lame would have gone to hospital and the lazy would go with the battalion.

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Tom,

I understand that space for the New Armies was at a premium and that they were allocated accommodation on an 'at need' basis, including billets, living at home and under canvas.

But what if the 1/Blankshire LI had just mobilized and vacated a barracks situated in the county of Loamshire (no where near the Blankshire's recruiting area or the Regimental Depot), leaving a small cadre behind to manage affairs and it was then decided that the barracks would be used to train the 10th (Service) Battalion of The Loamshires what would then happen to the cadre, families and sundry paraphernalia of 1/Blankshire LI?

Kind regards

Woolly

PS. I appear to have just been promoted! Drinks on me in the Mess - I'll ring the bell! :D

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Cadre as replacements for casualties, back to regimental depot or to provide experience for newly-raised battalions?

Families more or less evicted from barracks and left to fend for themselves, finding shelter with relatives. Dunno if many would have returned to the home town/city of the regiment - I don't think there was much in the way of welfare officers in those days, and depot staff had their hands full with recruits. The Wiltshire and Berkshire depots (and no doubt all others) were overwhelmed.

Moonraker

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I'm no expert but I'm currently reading Kitchener's Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914-1916 by Peter Simkins and it says that in the first weeks of the war, regimental depots were filled with frequently two and sometimes as many as five times their capacity with new recruits!

Cheers,

Carole.

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I am sure that there were variations, but some resources were required to train replacements etc.

In the case of the TA units that were deployed in the relatively early stages, some battalions were split, with the volunteers for overseas service heading off, and those not volunteering forming a second line territorial battalion, some of which served overseas later in the war, although initially they often acted just as a source of replacements.

Keith

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Regulars went to France. Those who did not go returned to the battalion HQ. When the sick recovered, they reported for duty and were posted. I have never heard of little groups of isolated soldiers dotted around the country. Regulars and reserves mobilised at HQ and concentrated as ordered. The summer training camps were taken over by Kitcheners Armies.

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My understanding has always been that at this time there were very few married quarters in UK, married soldiers found their own rented accomodation. In 1919 some units did actually return to their 1914 barracks.

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As far as the major line regiments are concerned the whole establishment did not go to war leaving strays and no organisation. Please understand that this was just one war (in the end of 4 years) in a regimental history of up to 400 years. It was NOT the first time they had been mobilised, they had done it before and left cadres and, in most cases, the 3rd Battalions, plus territorial units behind.

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It was NOT the first time they had been mobilised, they had done it before and left cadres and, in most cases, the 3rd Battalions, plus territorial units behind.

Can't agree. Before 1908 there were no Territorial units to leave behind, and 3rd battalions were not SR but Militia. 1914 was the first time that the post - 1908 organisation was implemented. There was no plan for other than regular battalions, reinforced by INDIVIDUALS from 3rd battalions, to leave UK.

Perhaps I misunderstand your point?

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I haven't got a specific reference to hand, but I believe that the Colours, mess silver, band instruments and the like were ordered to be laid up in a secure place (local bank vaults?).

The men would normally be posted to their regimental or corps depot under the administrative control of a designated officer, pending becoming available as reinforcements as the sick recovered and the under-aged reached 19. Those who were unfit for overseas service would become part of the depot's permanent cadre, or be deployed elsewhere in the UK (e.g. coastal defences).

Barracks would normally be handed over to the ASC who were responsible for their management, rather than being left in the care of a battalion cadre.

Wives and families stayed in their rented accommodation (there were indeed very few married quarters within barracks) and separation allowances were payable to them.

Ron

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I think there is a bit of a false question here. The OP implies that people were left behind like a straggler off the back of a column. No one would be left behind in this sense. Every person would be under orders to proceed to some place or carry out specific instructions The sick would be in hospital, the dispossessed on notice to quit etc. etc. The army did not pop off to F&F on a whim. It was all very carefully planned and was a triumph of staff work. So nothing happened because no one was left behind.

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Can't agree. Before 1908 there were no Territorial units to leave behind, and 3rd battalions were not SR but Militia. 1914 was the first time that the post - 1908 organisation was implemented. There was no plan for other than regular battalions, reinforced by INDIVIDUALS from 3rd battalions, to leave UK.

Perhaps I misunderstand your point?

I think you did miss my point, which in relation to the 3rd and territorial battalions was that they were left behind so that their quarter masters plus residual staff were around to look after the silver etc. Tom makes the point well: this was not a midnight flit but a well organised logistical triumph that puts the beginning of most wars from these islands in the shade by a long margin. I disagree that this was the first time that the post 1908 organisation was implemented; it had been implemented every time that a regular battalion had been deployed to India or any other post in the interim. I am speaking purely in terms of mobilisation and men moving out of the UK, nothing post around 20 August 1914.

I have researched a QM hon Lt (at outbreak of the war), who had 28 years service by 1914, but had never seen a shot fired. He was on home establishment when the 1st bn mobilised to France. He organised the initial reserves to go to France before going out himself just too late to qualify for the 1914 Star. His organisational ability and troop support were recognised by a DSO, MC, as well as MiDs plus being promoted to hon Lt Col. With men like him around the home establishments were efficient and well run.

The Edwardian army may not have been a touch feely organisation, but they looked after their own. The sick were cared for (or else they wouldn't returned to duty), wives and families retained the accommodation they had (they were after all on the strength and their kin were on His Majesty’s business), ammunition store in the magazine (the concept dates form before the 20c) and the silver was the pride or the regiment (and treated with care, not left lying around for Col Bloodnok to pawn)!

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Topic was BEF Mobilization.

Definitely first since 1908.

Sending a regular battalion to India was in no way mobilization, merely a routine upheaval.

The existence of 3rd [sR] battalions and TF battalions did not impinge on the consciousness of the regular battalions [other than as the odd slot for a very few regular officers, NCOs, drummers and orderlies], as they had no role to play indeed, no role outside UK under any circumstances [we all know what happened to THAT concept!]: except as SR individual drafts to make up any shortfall in regulars in war.

In the main, regimental histories up to 1914 ignore Militia, SR and VF/TF except in so far as they make occasional appearances as volunteer companies or formed units [exceptionally] in such as the SA War 1899-1902.

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Oh! and its Major Bloodnok, unless he has wheedled a promotion in the 4th Armoured Thunderboxes attached Mobile Field Brothel/ Bath Unit [light duties and piano playing]

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After a unit had mobilized and deployed to France in Aug 1914 - what happened to those elements left behind? By this I mean the 'sick, lame and lazy', the underage and the wives and families in the Married Quarters? Was there an official Rear Party left behind to keep the barracks 'ticking over' in the absence of the unit or did they all decamp to the Regimental Depot (along with the Colours, the Bandies' instruments, the Mess Silver, accommodation stores not required on mobilization, etc), thereby leaving an empty barracks for those who were to follow? What would happen to the wives and families in this situation bearing in mind the obligations to those who where 'on the strength'?

This is a question that has been bugging me for some time but I cannot find the answer. It seems that Regimental War Diaries rightly follow the unit to France and make no mention of those left behind. Can any Pal provide an answer or give me a steer to where I can go looking for the information? Many thanks in advance.

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to which units were which. The Regimental HQ was not part of the mobiization in August 1914. They remained where they were and concentrated on getting reservists recalled and organising the formation of new battalions. Equally the Special Reserve and the Territorial units were mobilised under quite different conditions to recall reservists, recruit new men and prepare themselves for war.

It was the regular battalions that were mobilized to join the BEF. Let me recount the experience of the 1st Royal Berks who were based at Mandora barracks in Aldershot when war was declared. Their previous role had been to supply reinforcements for the 2nd Battalion in India and to be ready to mobilize in case of war. On the 4th August they were, like most home based units seriously under strength. On the 5th 105 reservists arrived and on the 6th another 33 156 of the men left for Portsdown on the 10th to form the nucleus of the new 3rd Battalion which would thereafter provide reinforcements. The main battalion left Farnborough station on the 12th leaving behind 115 men who were reservists who had just arrived. In addition there were an unspecified number of men who were either in hospital or otherwise unable to travel. All of these soon moved down to Portsdown to join the 3rd battalion.

The BEF contingent arrived in France on the 13th with a strength of 1129 men. Thereafter the 3rd Battalion fed reinforcements on a regular basis with reservists and sick, plus a few old soldiers who had reenlisted reporting to the 3rd for duty and assignment. A large number of the older soldiers were sent to form the NCO nucleus of the Kitchener 5th, 6th 7th 8th and 9th battalions.

The war diary notes when these reinforcements joined the 1st Battalion The first on the 4th Sept - 95 men, the second 7th Sept 95 men, the 6th on 30th Nov of 149 men. It would seem that when parties arrived in France they went first to a base camp and were then sent on their way in quite different sized batches from those that arrived from England.

After the 2nd Battalion had arrived in France the 3rd continued to supply reinforcements to both battalions. Eventually there were three reserve battalions - the 3rd, the 9th and the 3rd/4th but after (I think) 1916 the batches were all sent to Infantry Base Depots to be assigned to whatever regiment/battalion needed reinforcement regardless of what regiment the men had joined originally.

regards

John

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From "Regulations for Mobilization 1912"

Part III

Regular Army & Regular Reservists

Section V - Procedure on Mobilization

Para 135 - "If mobilization is for service abroad, "Details left at the Base" will, unless orders to the contrary have been issued, mobilize with their units, but will not accompany them when they leave for their place of mobilization. Special instructions will be issued for the movement of these "Details left at Base".

Para 139 - "Surplus personnel(details) not mobilized with a unit will, except as provided for in Para 140c, remain at the peace station pending further orders. Details of cavalry regiments will be absorbed in the reserve regiments when they are formed."

Para 140(a) "The details to be left behind by cavalry regiments will be taken over by officers detailed by the War Office for service with the affiliated reserve regiement. The NCO's required for this purpose will be detailed, on the scale given at (b)ii, below, by the officers commanding cavalry depots under instructions from officers in charge of cavalry records, from among NCO's allotted to the permanent cadre of the affiliated reserve regiment."

b "Officers commanding reserve brigades R.H. & R.F.A. and 3rd(5th or 6th) reserve battalions will, as soon as possible after mobilization is ordered, (in any case, so that they will reach the regular unit not later than the morning of the 3rd day) send to their affiliated regular units, officers & NCO's of the regular establishment to take over the details left behind by those units on the following scale";-

(i) Officers

Up to 100 O/R's = 1 officer.

100 to 300 O/R's = 2 officers.

Over 300 O/R's = 3 officers.

(ii) Other ranks

Per Cavalry Regiment, R.H. or R.F.A. Brigade or Infantry Battalion - 1 NCO acting as QMS; 1 NCO acting as pay sergeant and in addition 3 NCO's percent of the strength of details of whom one quarter should not be below the rank of sergeant.

"The officers & NCO's of the service unit who are unfit for active service, but fit for service at home and available for duty with the details(see Para 204) will be reckoned in diminution of the numbers sent under scales(i) and (ii)above."

©"In the case of other arms or branches details will be disposed of under regimental or corps arrangements under instructions from officers in charge of records concerned."

Reservists joining the Colours

Para 162 - "On arrival at their units, reservists will undergo a final medical examination as to their fitness for service, those found unfit will join the details(Para 139), and will subsequently be dealt with as follows, the action taken in each case being reported to the officer i/c records concerned (see Para 211)";-

(i)Those found medically unfit for further service, either at home or abroad, will be discharged.

(ii)Those found temporarily unfit for service both at home and abroad, will be temporarily relegated to the reserve.

(iii)Those found permanently unfit for service abroad, but fit for service at home, in the case of mobilization for service abroad, will be temporarily relegated to the reserve, unless their services are required for duty at home.

"In the event of protracted hostilities, thos under (ii) will be re-examined after one month and subsequently at such dates as the P.M.O. concerned may direct. Reservists who when examined are found fit for service either at home or abroad will be sent through the depot to the reserve unit."

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Oh! and its Major Bloodnok, unless he has wheedled a promotion in the 4th Armoured Thunderboxes attached Mobile Field Brothel/ Bath Unit [light duties and piano playing]

You're thinking of Major Dennis Bloodnok MT, MT & MT. I was thinking of Colonel Algenon Bloodnok AGG; purveyor of naughty postcards by Royal Appointment to Bertie Prince of Wales.

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My point has been made far better by Tom, John and Graham. The whole regiment did not march off to war; they left behind administative personel as well as the other battalions who were able to look after the various strays, silver etc etc mentioned in the opening post.

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You're thinking of Major Dennis Bloodnok MT, MT & MT. I was thinking of Colonel Algenon Bloodnok AGG; purveyor of naughty postcards by Royal Appointment to Bertie Prince of Wales.

Quite forgot about old Algie, as we called him: champion barbed wire hurdler of the unit until his unfortunate accident.

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