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Remembered Today:

Rifle Brigade 53rd TR Battalion


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My Great-Uncle joined the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade from the 53rd Training Reserve Battalion.

At what age would he have been posted to the 1st Battalion and what steps would he have taken to get there? For example would he have had two weeks training in France before moving up ?



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Hello Greg

The Training Reserve was originally formed in September 1916 with 112 numbered battalions, mostly formed from the old Fourth New Army, to train conscripts from age 18. It was later reorganised into 69 battalions, numbered as 51st, 52nd and 53rd Bns of regular regiments.

We therefore need to be clear about whether you are referring to the "old" 53rd Bn TR (formerly 9th Bn King's Own Scottish borderers) or to the 53rd Bn of the Rifle Brigade. I am assuming the latter?

53rd or "Young Soldier" battalions were formed of men newly conscripted, between 18 and 19 years old, and organised into companies for those born within a three-month period. Every three months, one company would have reached 19 and they were then transferred to either the 51st aor the 52nd ("Graduated") Bn of the same regiment, and were used on home defence duties. These in turn provided drafts to other battalions of the regiment for service abroad.

After being sent to France they would normally spend a relatively short period at the main reinforcement camp at Etaples, learning the latest tactics and being finally hardened up in preparation for the front.

So, assuming that your great-uncle was conscripted at age 18, he would have spent a year or so in 53/RB before being posted to either 51/RB or 52/RB. He would then have gone to 1/RB. But it is still possible that he may have found himself in France within a shorter period, especially during the spring and early summer of 1918 when every man who could be sent abroad was urgently needed. There was a parallel struggle going on between the War Office and the Prime Minister, the latterdeliberately keeping back fully trained men in the UK so that the Armies in France could not waste lives in a repetition of the offensives of 1916 and 1917.

I hope this helps, but unfortunately there isn't a neat and definite answer!


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