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Remembered Today:

Army Snobbery


Hugh Pattenden
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Hi,

Where smaller regiments such as the Cambridgeshires, Herefordshires, Hertfordshires e.t.c. and the smaller yeomanry regiments looked down upon by either members of larger units or the general staff? Its just a thought thats been naging me for a while. Was there a certain pride within these small units because of their size and uniqueness? Did battalions of these regiments as a whole or individual soldiers from them ever find themselves unrecognised by other members of the army because their corps were so small?

Thanks,

Hugh

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I wouldn`t have thought they were looked down on, Hugh. If anything, I think the reverse might have applied, and esprit de corps would have been higher! Certainly I can`t see the yeomanry thinking of themselves as second class soldiers. Phil B

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Where smaller regiments such as the Cambridgeshires, Herefordshires, Hertfordshires e.t.c. and the smaller yeomanry regiments looked down upon by either members of larger units or the general staff?

From memory (I don't have my notes to hand!), the 1st Herts. were attached to 4th (Guards) Brigade for several months during 1915. They were affectionately known by the Guards battalions of the Brigade as the "Herts Guards"! I remember reading in the Grenadier history that they were held in high esteem.

Kind rgds

Ed

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Historically, the further you were from London - the less socially 'in-tune' you were. Talking Victorian army here.

Agree with posters above. Therefore you get young gentlemen joining 'less fashionable' regts. and developing inverse snobbery!

Is that the right term?

Once again Prof. Holmes' 'Redcoats' is a perfect primer for the British Army up to late Victorian times.

Get it for Christmas - you won't be disappointed!

Des

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Well, it does depend... certain Regiments were more 'fashionable' than others, with fewer demands of social engagements, dress, private incomes etc etc really rather late. Montgomery joined the Royal Warwicks as it wasn't quite as 'fashionable' as regiments such as the Royal Fusiliers, the KRRC, certain LI.. and was thus within the means of the son of a Bishop.

Even in the late 1970s, when I was first making serious enquiries about a commission, there was an IMPLICIT hint that unless you had 'other means', the Guards, 'certain' Cavalry regiments, even the RGJ, were 'not quite for you'.

In 'The Way Ahead' - the WW2 film with David Niven et al. Niven is looked down upon in the 'Duke of Glendon's Light Infantry' as he's 'only' a TA officer. You can guess the rest.

Perhaps 'looking down' did not greatly endure concentrated shellfire; 'class' doesn't make you any more bullet proof!

Oh, as to the Yeomanry... my unit, despite the fact that we had not seen a horse for nearly 20 years when I joined, and had a Home Defence, non-NATO role, were encouraged to consider ourselves a cut above 'line infantry'!!

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Even in the late 1970s, when I was first making serious enquiries about a commission, there was an IMPLICIT hint that unless you had 'other means', the Guards, 'certain' Cavalry regiments, even the RGJ, were 'not quite for you'.

Still the same in the early '90s, Phil. I'd guess that it still is like that when talking commissions (or even sponsorship for the RCB!). (Unless of course "Pater" was a Col. in the such and such Regiment and was an aquaintance of the CO of the regiment of your choice, etc. etc.). <_<

Dave.

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Were the Bantam Battalions looked down upon - in the metaphorical sense that is?

Yes, it is a serious question.

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For an 'unfashionable' regiment the Warwicks managed to include both Montgomery and the great Bill Slim amongst their number in the Great War, so that doesn't seem to have affected their subsequent careers too much.

The Lancashire Fusiliers, not exactly a pre-war glamour unit, won the most VCs of any regiment during the war.

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I think there was definitely an element of snobishness from the Regular Battalions whose members looked down on the New Army Battalions. This comes across in the writings of Graves and Dunn.

Dunn in particular is scathing of some New Army Battalion Officers.

Tim

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But., Tim, you`re talking of TF Bns within a regular regt. I think Hugh was referring to wholly TF Regiments like the Cambridgeshires! Phil B

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Can I also add the amount of antipodians that joined British Regiments rather than staying in unfashionable south of the border ones.

The main chap that springs to mind is Maj Gen Freyberg (VC) who was a subaltern with the Hauraki Regiment (Territorial Force) when war broke out. He resigned his commission and shot through, only to magically reappear the second time round as the Div Comd for 2 NZEF.

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park enlisted in the NZ Artillery and saw service in Gallipoli, only to request a transfer to the Royal Artillery. Then onto the RFC, highlight of his career obviously the Battle of Britan.

Two extreme examples, but it should be noted that not everyone wanted to be a colonial.

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Guest Ian Bowbrick
Oh, as to the Yeomanry... my unit, despite the fact that we had not seen a horse for nearly 20 years when I joined, and had a Home Defence, non-NATO role, were encouraged to consider ourselves a cut above 'line infantry'!!

Shame also your lot couldn't play rugby to save their lives ;)

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Guest Ian Bowbrick
Were the Bantam Battalions looked down upon - in the metaphorical sense that is?

Yes, it is a serious question.

Very much so.

Physical fitness and stature are or certainly were regarded as very important - anyone not conforming is frowned upon and at the time of WW1 people not measuring up were regarded by the hierarchy as 'degenerate' - I use the word advisedly here having a great-uncle who at 5' 1'' served as a bantam and ended up in the Labour Corps, but boxed and was never beaten.

It is also raises another issue and that was the number of bantams who were executed in WW1, were certainly not in proportion to the numbers in the army. See the shot at dawn site and look up Peter Goggins of the DLI. Pte Goggins was a bantam murdered for example.

Interestingly during my own service, I was once attached to the Gurkhas, a group of men who are not the tallest in the world, however I don't know a single Regt we came across who didn't give them a wide berth. Totally fearsome and very loyal. Stories are now coming back which detract from the issue.

Ian

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One of the worst form of snobbery was the tendancy for Sandhurst or Woolwich trained career officers to look down on officers who had been promoted from the ranks, although it was probably more prevalent in peace time than under battlefield conditions where many men of officer material had initially opted to join as rankers and were subsequently promoted.

Undertones of this continued right through until well after WW2. Such "ranker" officers were usually older than average for subalterns, were perceived as not knowing how to behave properly in the Officers Mess, and lacked the breeding and upbringing of "gentlemen". The fact that they were often highly experienced former NCOs with a sound knowlege of their soldiers, and the experience to be highly effective on the battlefield was often overlooked, a point not missed by the ultra efficient German Army which relied heavliy on mature and experienced Junior Leaders.

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The Hertfordshire Regiment was attached to a Guards Brigade, and had to leave on the formation of the Guards Division.

At the dinner for the officers given to mark their leaving in responding to the vote of thanks the Herts. CO stated that they were off to raise the standard of another Brigade.(possibly only slightly tongue in cheek...)

The Herts went from eight to four company organisation while serving with the Guards Brigade. Consequently companies were always numbered in the Herts rather than lettered (as in all Guards Regiments except the Scots). This practice was kept up in TA Royal Anglian days.

A certain fashionable regiment disliked to admit it had even had a bantam battalion (I won't name them)

The LF were, if not socially elite, then not unfashionable - some East Devonshire families had provided officers to the Regiment since Williamite days and I believe Wolfe had served with them. Everyone looked down on the Mancs. Fashion and status of Regiments can shift. Size does n't have too much to do with it - The Camerons were one of the most fashionable regiments of Victorian days and the smallest in the Army

In Australia between the wars the Byron Regiment was having heavy difficulties recruiting and faced the danger of being amalgamated. It applied for permission to become a kilted unit of Highlanders and the problem was served almost overnight.

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The Herts went from eight to four company organisation while serving with the Guards Brigade. Consequently companies were always numbered in the Herts rather than lettered (as in all Guards Regiments except the Scots). This practice was kept up in TA Royal Anglian days.

A little warning bell just rang: remembrances of "Inkerman Company", "Right Flank Company", "KING'S COMPANY", "Prince of Wales's Company" float across my mind in association with Foot Guards. Not a lot of sign of lettered or numbered companies there!

GG certainly had numbered companies in 1914, as did CG and IG. SG were lettered, as you say. Source Westalke, quoting War Diaries.

More recently, I think I have heard [mind you, I am deaf] Guards on route lining being ordered by "No. 2 half company ......." etc.

Can any afficionado elaborate, please?

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The main chap that springs to mind is Maj Gen Freyberg (VC) who was a subaltern with the Hauraki Regiment (Territorial Force) when war broke out.

Freyburg was born in England.

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park enlisted in the NZ Artillery and saw service in Gallipoli, only to request a transfer to the Royal Artillery. Then onto the RFC, highlight of his career obviously the Battle of Britan.

My immediate reaction was that he had served with the South Africans. But of course that was Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, whose Damascus Road conversion to flying occurred while the Rhodesian Regiment were foot-slogging their way around the German South West Africa campaign.

Robert

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For Phil B....

The quote is an old line from many, many books and histories of the British Army under Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula.

It is attributed to the British Cavalry officers who stated something very similar. It was quite obvious from their actions that the officers mess of those regiments was not exactly a repository of original thinking, although that particular quote is quite amusing.

DrB

:)

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A little warning bell just rang: remembrances of "Inkerman Company", "Right Flank Company", "KING'S COMPANY", "Prince of Wales's Company" float across my mind in association with Foot Guards. Not a lot of sign of lettered or numbered companies there!

GG certainly had numbered companies in 1914, as did CG and IG. SG were lettered, as you say. Source Westalke, quoting War Diaries.

My understanding was that all of the companies were numbered (1 through to 4) apart from No. 1 Company of the 1st Bn. which was King's Company (photo below; taken at Wellington Barracks c.1914 - anyone care to hazard a guess at the height of the NCO's stood at the front?!).

I'm afraid I can't speak for the modern Regiment - I'm sure the "Prince of Wales's Company" is associated with the Welsh Guards but Nijmegen and Inkermann Company's do ring bells.

Rgds

Ed

post-3-1095875571.jpg

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The Hertfordshire Regiment was attached to a Guards Brigade, and had to leave on the formation of the Guards Division.

At the dinner for the officers given to mark their leaving in responding to the vote of thanks the Herts. CO stated that they were off to raise the standard of another Brigade.(possibly only slightly tongue in cheek...)

Further to my earlier post and the above, there is also mention of this in Lyn McDonald's "1915".

Rgds

Ed

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All the Guards companies are numbered consecuetively through their Regiments (except the Scots Guards who have lettered companies)

The named companies - Queens (or Kings) Company is No.1 Company GG, Nijmegen Company is the company that bears the tradition of 2nd Bn GG (it has a number too, but my memory is not that good) Inkerman Company bears the tradition of 3rd Bn GG and also has a number

Prince of Wales Company is No.1 Company Welsh Guards and fulfils a similar role to The Queens Company in the Grenadiers

The senior and junior companies of a Battalion of Scots Guards are known as "Right Flank" and "Left Flank" respectively. This is due to a time in the early 19th Century when the regiment were classed as Fusiliers. In those days battalions had elite companies (grenadier and light) on the flanks. As fusiliers were supposed to be elite troops they did not have them.

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This is due to a time in the early 19th Century when the regiment were classed as Fusiliers.

They were the Scots Fusilier Guards from 1831 to 1877.

Rgds

Ed

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Hertfordshire Regiment officers in 1914 included members of the McMullen family (of the brewery in Hertford), the Gilby family (gin manufacturers) and well as several representatives of the local gentry. Henry Page Croft (later a politician of the National Party) was CO in 1915-16.

I reckon their officers mess bar must have been one of the best supplied.

5 R Anglian were still numbering their companies in the early 1990s. Also plenty of rivalry with the RGJ who were considered to have over inflated ideas of their own importance.

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