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Need information for my WWI NOVEL


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Aldershot area (Home of the British Army). Frensham in Surrey (Near Aldershot) had volunteer Battalions based there in early 1915. Le Havre had camps and it would be possible to use somewhere like that for a 'training camp'. Although they would have actually gone to a training area behind the front line prior to moving up.

I would doubt that men 'passed out' in 1914 but once trained would be off to the front. The 8th Division or regulars from India etc was formed in October 1914 and based at Hursely Park near Winchester prior to leaving for France at the start of November 1914. A very early volunteer 'could' have been sent to one of the battalions to make them up to was service numbers. The Division was based at Neuve Chapelle which is not a million miles from your man's area.

Steve M

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Aldershot area (Home of the British Army). Frensham in Surrey (Near Aldershot) had volunteer Battalions based there in early 1915. Le Havre had camps and it would be possible to use somewhere like that for a 'training camp'. Although they would have actually gone to a training area behind the front line prior to moving up.

I would doubt that men 'passed out' in 1914 but once trained would be off to the front. The 8th Division or regulars from India etc was formed in October 1914 and based at Hursely Park near Winchester prior to leaving for France at the start of November 1914. A very early volunteer 'could' have been sent to one of the battalions to make them up to was service numbers. The Division was based at Neuve Chapelle which is not a million miles from your man's area.

Steve M

Thanks Steve,

So you don't think that the first to enlist would have passed out before the end of 1914? I read that training was initially only 8 to 10 weeks.

It may be that I can have my protagonist trained in Aldershot / Fresham then get assigned as an individual (or with a group of chums) to a Battalion in order to make up the numbers on the front lines. Even as an exception to the rule this will fit into my story line, if given an explanation.

Cheers mate

Julian

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Julian,

As your protagonist is a banker, you could put him into 26th Royal Fusiliers (the Bankers Battalion), though unfortunately they go on active service too late for your puropses.

Here is their potted history from the Long Long Trail:

26th (Service) Battalion (Bankers)

Formed in London on 17 July 1915 by the Lord Mayor and City of London, composed in the main of former bank clerks and accountants.

November 1915 : attached to 124th Brigade, 41st Division.

Landed in France on 4 May 1916.

Moved with the Division to Italy in November 1917 but returned to France March 1918.

Couldn't you give your main charachter some pre-war experience with the territorials to enable him to get into action with say, 47th Division?

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Hi Kate,

...He enlists and (I thought) he would be sent to the most local camp seeing as he was one of the frist few thousand in August to enlist. The sub story with his girlfriend is that she does leave home to see him and work locally until he 'passes out'...

So I would like him to be somewhere in South England.

Julian

The Kitchener battalions on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire in late 1914 came from all over the country, including Wales. Some Wiltshire camps were 70-80 miles from London with good rail connections, so the girl-friend could in theory have easily visited him. But the lines were very busy with military activity, so her journey would probably have been disrupted.

One decision you'll need to make is whether to have your protagonist enlist in an unit that actually existed - which is fraught with danger because you'll have to be reasonably accurate with its experiences. Or you could invent an unit and base its history loosely on one that did exist. Likewise you could invent a camp - but then are you going to be like Thomas Hardy and thinly disguise actual towns under new names?

Moonraker

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Possibly in 1918, 10 to 12 weeks of training but the majority of 'Kitchener' men joined 'Service' Battalions in new Army Divisions. These trained for much longer than that.

Could your man be a territorial force chap? Worked as a banker by day and did his bit on a Saturday. If so, he could have got to the front line in November 1914. By the end of 1st Ypres in November 1914 the Regular British Army had suffered up to 90% casualties. A TF man would have had the basic training so could have been sent in small group as a draft to a regular Battalion by November 1914. As an example the 1st Sherwoods received their first draft on 5th December 1914 which was 135 Other Ranks. Units who had taken the brunt of the fighting would have needed many more men at about the same time. Some would be returning regulars but others would be men who had been in training for the regular army, TF men and I presume 'Kitchener' men. From December on it was more a case of surviving the elements rather than fighting. The Campaign season was over until Spring 1915. Therefore men would be given the opportunity to train prior to going to the western front. Trench Wastage would take men on a regular basis - killed, wounded, trench foot, frostbite, other illness etc. but not as many as in a battle.

If he was earmarked for being sent to the front in November 1914, then I would expect training to be done by a regular unit based in Aldershot. It is also conveinient for London by train - a short journey. He may also have been given weekend passes to go home.

Steve M

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Stay in touch with Steve Morse--recently he published fiction about the Sherwood Foresters. :rolleyes:

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Julian,

As your protagonist is a banker, you could put him into 26th Royal Fusiliers (the Bankers Battalion), though unfortunately they go on active service too late for your puropses.

Here is their potted history from the Long Long Trail:

26th (Service) Battalion (Bankers)

Formed in London on 17 July 1915 by the Lord Mayor and City of London, composed in the main of former bank clerks and accountants.

November 1915 : attached to 124th Brigade, 41st Division.

Landed in France on 4 May 1916.

Moved with the Division to Italy in November 1917 but returned to France March 1918.

Couldn't you give your main charachter some pre-war experience with the territorials to enable him to get into action with say, 47th Division?

Kate,

The fact that he was in banking I have not made relevant to his enlisting in the army. I just had him enlist as an infantry man. But interesting thought. Trouble is the time line...... Humnnn. Interesting.....!

J

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The Kitchener battalions on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire in late 1914 came from all over the country, including Wales. Some Wiltshire camps were 70-80 miles from London with good rail connections, so the girl-friend could in theory have easily visited him. But the lines were very busy with military activity, so her journey would probably have been disrupted.

One decision you'll need to make is whether to have your protagonist enlist in an unit that actually existed - which is fraught with danger because you'll have to be reasonably accurate with its experiences. Or you could invent an unit and base its history loosely on one that did exist. Likewise you could invent a camp - but then are you going to be like Thomas Hardy and thinly disguise actual towns under new names?

Moonraker

Thanks M,

I have managed (quite successfully) to be vague about his unit all the way though. This gives me the freedom to move him wherever I want geographically around Ypres and the smaller towns. Thankfully that is not an issue. THe issue now is somehow getting him from enlisting in early August and on to the battle field by second week of November.

The girlfriend character can live in the local town close to the training camp (as she does in the novel). Once I find a place for my protagonist to train then I have her live close by.

Cheers

J

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Possibly in 1918, 10 to 12 weeks of training but the majority of 'Kitchener' men joined 'Service' Battalions in new Army Divisions. These trained for much longer than that.

Could your man be a territorial force chap? Worked as a banker by day and did his bit on a Saturday. If so, he could have got to the front line in November 1914. By the end of 1st Ypres in November 1914 the Regular British Army had suffered up to 90% casualties. A TF man would have had the basic training so could have been sent in small group as a draft to a regular Battalion by November 1914. As an example the 1st Sherwoods received their first draft on 5th December 1914 which was 135 Other Ranks. Units who had taken the brunt of the fighting would have needed many more men at about the same time. Some would be returning regulars but others would be men who had been in training for the regular army, TF men and I presume 'Kitchener' men. From December on it was more a case of surviving the elements rather than fighting. The Campaign season was over until Spring 1915. Therefore men would be given the opportunity to train prior to going to the western front. Trench Wastage would take men on a regular basis - killed, wounded, trench foot, frostbite, other illness etc. but not as many as in a battle.

If he was earmarked for being sent to the front in November 1914, then I would expect training to be done by a regular unit based in Aldershot. It is also conveinient for London by train - a short journey. He may also have been given weekend passes to go home.

Steve M

Steve, thanks,

This is interesting. I like the territorial idea. Not sure where he would do this in the butt crack of nowhere in mid Wales. This gets me out of the predicament to get him to the front lines by November, but causes another issue. His character is that of a pacifist at heart. Enlisting was a 'heat of the moment' thing of duty and patriotism without much thought. If he was already in the TF then he would have some idea of whether he likes being a soldier or not. But I really like that suggestion.

Would he have to be an active TF member or at least have been in the TF for some time before hand for him to qualify to go to the front lines early?

And when you say much longer training, how much longer are you talking about? 4 months instead of a little over 2 perhaps?

Thanks for your advice and support.

Julian

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So Steve, this is what I am thinking might work out.....

What if my protagonist chap DID train for a time in the Territorial in Wales. Not currently but a few months prior. He goes to London, War breaks out...

Would he enlist voluntarily or would the government call him up seeing as how he was already trained?

Either way how long would he train again before being shipped to the front lines?

Would other Territorials train or 'refresher train' together as a group or part of the new Kitchener enlistees? Any idea?

I have two ways to keep my story line the same. One is as above that he is a Territorial. Second is that he is one of the first and the exception to the rule to get called up with a handful of others as replacements for existing BEF soldiers who are getting wiped out en mass. The latter would work better for the story but I need to get an idea of what is more plausible.

I do need to get him into the trenches by early November so what would you say was the most likely and plausible scenario?

Cheers mate

Julian

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Another possible example of a way of for an August recruit - again this is TF - making it to the front by (late) November '14 (I'll admit at the outset that this is a bit tortuous and, although it might well exist, I don't have any evidence of a man who actually travelled this route).

The 1/5th London's (London Rifle Brigade) 2nd Battalion was sanctioned on August 31st with, it's said, the required number of men being found within a just a couple of days, and its establishment completed by the 4th September. Training took place over the following months in London with the only type of shooting practise available being on local ranges with miniature rifles. (standard Rifles were reported as being in very short supply, and those that were had to be passed around) No uniforms were issued before October, and, apparently civvies didn't totally disappear until the 19th November, at about the same time the battalion moved down to Haywards Heath in Sussex. The LRB's 2nd battalion didn't get to move abroad until early 1917, however, the crux of this scenario, is not down to the activities of the majority of the 2nd battalion men, but down to a draft of 32 men about which the LRB Regimental History relates:

'On the 12th October a draft of 32 men was sent to the 1st battalion at Crowborough to take the place of some, who to their bitter disappointment, had been rejected for foreign service on medical grounds.'

On the 4th November the LRB's 1st Battalion embarked - possibly with some, if not all of the 32 men drafted from the 2nd battalion - for Le Havre, before moving to St. Omer (via Abancourt, Aumale & Abbeville) by the 7th, then to Wisques before joining the 11th Infantry Brigade at Ploegsteert around the 22nd where companies were attached to regular battalions for training and familiarisation in the trenches before subsequently becoming active there in its own right. (The LRB was to remain in the Ploegsteert area until mid March '15 and was also one of the battalions involved in the '14 Christmas truce)

I would think it likely that any men from the 3rd battalion who ended up in the draft to the 1st battalion - and possible subsequent move to the front with it - would have been the very best available and may well have been those who had some previous experience of TF soldiering before enlistment with the LRB, but it's by no means a certainty.

NigelS

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Hello Julian,

Going back to your post #34: His character is that of a pacifist at heart. Enlisting was a 'heat of the moment' thing of duty and patriotism without much thought. If he was already in the TF then he would have some idea of whether he likes being a soldier or not.

Just a thought - maybe he didn't know he was a pacifist at heart when he joined the Territorials in Wales, but began to feel uneasy as time went on. Then he didn't have to worry about it any more because he moved to London and didn't have to continue training.

Then he could have forgotten his previous unease in the heat of the moment, and signed for Imperial Service (see #19) only to realise his real feelings at a later date......

Now, having no knowledge of the way the Territorials worked, I wonder if it was possible for him to just walk away from them when he moved to London? Some kind person who does know will no doubt help out with the answer. :)

Regards

CGM

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Hello Julian,

Going back to your post #34: His character is that of a pacifist at heart. Enlisting was a 'heat of the moment' thing of duty and patriotism without much thought. If he was already in the TF then he would have some idea of whether he likes being a soldier or not.

Just a thought - maybe he didn't know he was a pacifist at heart when he joined the Territorials in Wales, but began to feel uneasy as time went on. Then he didn't have to worry about it any more because he moved to London and didn't have to continue training.

Then he could have forgotten his previous unease in the heat of the moment, and signed for Imperial Service (see #19) only to realise his real feelings at a later date......

Now, having no knowledge of the way the Territorials worked, I wonder if it was possible for him to just walk away from them when he moved to London? Some kind person who does know will no doubt help out with the answer. :)

Regards

CGM

I was thinking the same scenario. Can you just leave the T's of you want to? Had enough, a change of heart? Then perhaps get called up or discovered that you were TA and pushed through quicker to the front lines to cover heavy losses?

My protagonist has 3 stints in the front lines from when he arrived in early November to beginning of January. I could have him arrive much later, like the end of November and just perform 2 stints in the front lines if that works better logistically for a normal Kitchener volunteer.

J

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Julian, you seem to be pitching your man as an "ordinary" soldier. Is there some scenario where he could be fast tracked by meeting a General and

having some special skill (knowing German for example with a German grand parent or some such ability, or even a German branch of the family)?

He might then be attached to the staff of the General and be sent frequently to the front trenches on reconnaissance, meet some of the German family in the Christmas truce who are in the same unit as Herr Hitler, they take a dislike to each other etc etc................. That may get your man into France more speedily..... just a thought..... see if others think it might be plausible enough.....

Alternatively, he meets up with a Welsh Padre who inspires him to see the war as a way to bring peace by defeating the forces of evil..... joins up and acts as a stretcher bearer, seeing the suffering at first hand then convinces him that war is wrong.....?

We need to find an acceptable way for him to get to France in time for three stints in the trenches and to be there for the Christmas truce.... (where was Hitlers unit, when was he first at the Front.... no point mentioning him if he wasn't there!!)..... over to the experts to find a convincing way for him to do what you intend!!

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Now, having no knowledge of the way the Territorials worked, I wonder if it was possible for him to just walk away from them when he moved to London? Some kind person who does know will no doubt help out with the answer. :)

Regards

CGM

I've found a piece on page 19 of The Trench (David Biltons book about the 1st Hull Pals) which could answer my question. In 1913 Baron Barnett Moss, a junior clerk with Walter and Holbeck asked to be discharged from the 2nd Northumbrian Field Ambulance as his work commitments made it difficult to attend drill sessions and the yearly camp. He was given a discharge.

Moving away would surely warrant as a reasonable reason to be given a discharge.

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hi,

dont know if its been mentioned previously but....

just rumaging through a couple of my books when i remembered your post on this.....

these two pages are from the book

'the imperial war museum of the western front' by Malcome Brown.

hope these images help...

this was a double page spread, did my best to scan but bit of a thick book lol! can email u full size ones if you want them....

post-43102-1248299673.jpg

post-43102-1248299879.jpg

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this was a double page spread, did my best to scan but bit of a thick book lol! can email u full size ones if you want them....

Thanks Dave,

Turns out that Etaples wasn't functional until 1915 so I can't use that, as my chappy neeed to be there in late october 1914. But I will create a fictional one that is similar for my character somewhere in France near La Havre for my story. I am sure that the rigours, belittlement, discipline and training by the 'canaries' was the same wherever the soldiers trained just before the front lines.

Thanks mate

Julian

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The TF men only signed up for home service, so he could be willing to fight for his homeland but not in a Foreign Field. The with everyone else joining up in the national fervour, he opted for foreign service. This could solve the 'pacifist' problem! Willing to die for home but not some Foreign war. He could also have been given a white feather for not signing for Foreign service which may have overridden his pacifist thoughts. The TF may have been a way of getting a few pounds extra and a free holiday on training each year rather than for King and Country. He could have fallen deeply in love with the lady and she gave him a white feather :rolleyes: The 11th Division trained from August 1914 until May 1915 but by 1918 the 18 year olds would get 8 to 10 weeks if they were lucky.

If you want to contact me - http://www.ypressalient.co.uk/ It has my email address.

He could have been in the 1/1st Bn Honourable Artillery Company, Infantry. TF in London and went to France 20/9/1914. It was also in the Ypres area at the right time.

Steve

Mr Foreigner Pete - Wash your mouth out :P

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