Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Colours of the British Army Vol II: Units Raised During the Great War


Guest
 Share

Recommended Posts

For anyone interested in the rather complex story of battle honours, regimental entitlements for honours and the issue of colours at the end of the Great War this is essential reading. My copy arrived last night after a 2 year search. It is a rare publication having been privately published.

The author, James Geddes has spent a lifetime tracking down and photographing almost every surviving Colour of the British Army. Other volumes cover the Militia and the Territoral Force and the Regulars. This volume covers over 600 battalions raised in the Great War and meticulously records the details of the Union Flags, later consecrated to become the King's Colours of these battalions. Many were laid up immediately after being presented, many were not issued - the battalions having already disbanded. 270 colours were issued to units raised in the Great War.

Geddes covers the history behind the establishment of battle honours and the mechanism by which Regiments applied for recognition. He also covers in very accurate detail the series of General Routine Orders ( GROs), Army Council Instructions (ACIs) and Army Orders (AOs) that governed the issue of colours, design, battle honours to be displayed etc, providing the full text of the GROs, ACIs. and AOs Interestingly 15 battalions ignored the ACI instructing battalions to limit the honours displayed to the 10 selected by each regiment. Nine battalions of the Cheshire Regiment, one of the Suffolk Regiment and two of the Gloucestershire Regiment unilaterally chose to display the battle honours gained by the individual battalions. One managed to include 11 battle honours.

Each Regiment is covered in order of precedence with a list of all battle honours granted in the Great War with the selected 10 highlighted in bold. This is followed by each 2nd and 3rd Line TF Battalion, Service Bn , Garrison Bn etc. It provides details on the Colours' location, date of presentation, wording, central devices and crown details, emblazoning and battle honours added to the Colour. There are 122 colour photos. There are dozens of anomalies in the way the Colours were emblazoned which are all highlighted and summarised in the introduction.

It is a hefty tome at 208 pages printed on heavy, high quality paper. Layout and formatting is not particularly attractive and has the feel of a (higher quality) privately-published book, however the content is well researched and comprehensive. It is a definitive reference book. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How has he handled the battle honours of the rifles regiments?

Cheers,

Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He lists the all the Great War Battle Honours with the 10 selected in bold, followed by a list of battalions raised in the War with notes next to each "No colour issued - Rifle Regiment" In the case of the Rifle Battalions of the London Regiment - the same - (between the battalions of the London regiment that were issued with colours. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He lists the all the Great War Battle Honours with the 10 selected in bold, followed by a list of battalions raised in the War with notes next to each "No colour issued - Rifle Regiment" In the case of the Rifle Battalions of the London Regiment - the same - (between the battalions of the London regiment that were issued with colours. MG

Most useful. You've seen exactly the thrust of my question!

It's logical that the London Regiment battalions with rifles traditions were likewise not issued with colours. Presumably this also applied to the other rifles battalions scattered among the county regiments such as the Leeds Rifles (7th & 8th West Yorks.R), Robin Hood's Rifle (7/Sherwood Foresters), Isle of Wight Rifles (8/Hants), Liverpool Rifles (6/KLR) etc.

When you get your teeth into the book, I'd be very interested to hear how the various GROs, ACIs, and AOs detailed issuing the battle honours to the rifles regiments. Were rifles regiments covered in sub-sections of the orders, or did they get separate versions?

As I'm sure you're well aware, riflemen historically were spread around the battlefield in skirmish order and did not use a flag as a rallying point. Thus the KRRs carried their battle honours in the arms of the Maltese Cross in the cap badge, while the RB had theirs in small scrolls on the laurel wreath. They may well have been limited to 10 also. The Great War honours were added in place of, I suspect, some of the earlier honours, but I'd have to dive into my reference books to tell you exactly which. Of course, that might have been purely down to the tiny amount of space available as much as any War Office diktat.

The LR rifles battalions generally only had the South Africa honours in their badges, but I'm not aware of what happened about including their Great War honours post war.

Lastly, I've long been wanting to double check the Army Office citation for the fact that the KRRC's 1st Cadet Battalion, based out of Sun Street/Finsbury Square, was the only cadet battalion ever to be granted a Battle Honour ('South Africa, 1900-1902"). In my notes I have this as covered by AO 151 of 1905, but I've not had a chance to get to Kew to cross-check this. Does Geddes mention the KRRC 1st Cadet Battalion? Probably not as they would not have been issued with colours.

None of these Qs are urgent - just crossing t's and dotting i's you understand!

Many thanks!

Cheers,

Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A passing thought. Does the book indicate where colours are located? Most cathedrals and minsters have some, often with quite detailed notes about the regiment.

Old Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It indicates where the colours were located at the time when he wrote/ researched the particular section. Unfortunately a number are no longer where he saw (and photographed) them.

There are four volumes of the book. If I remember rightly they are: Regular Battalions, Battalions raised During WW1, Territorial Battalions, and Militia Battalions(?).

I would be interested to know where any copies of this are in libraries, since I have only ever used the British Library copies.

Geddes covers the battle honours of all the battalions including the history of the honours themselves (i.e. when they were granted - some surprisingly recently for historic engagements). The battle honours of all regiments and battalions with "rifle" traditions are included.

Roger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would love to see this series of books. A quick search on line reveals just one copy for sale at around £200 and possibly one in Canada so there's probably going to be a gap on my shelves for a while yet. How many copies were published?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They were published at about £85 each!

The last time I saw any for sale they were not £200, but well out of my price range.

Apart from the odd copies appearing for sale, the only copies I have seen are in the British Library. I have not managed to track any other copies down in British libraries so far. (Hence my question).

Incidentally if anyone goes to consult the British Library set, one volume is stored off site and needs to be ordered in advance.

Roger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Roger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A passing thought. Does the book indicate where colours are located? Most cathedrals and minsters have some, often with quite detailed notes about the regiment.

Old Tom

Yes it does. Most are laid up in Churches and Cathedrals and the photos are generally if these Colours. Some were later destroyed and some stolen. Interestingly there is an ACI that strictly prohibits Colours from being kept in private hands.

MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would love to see this series of books. A quick search on line reveals just one copy for sale at around £200 and possibly one in Canada so there's probably going to be a gap on my shelves for a while yet. How many copies were published?

The run was from memory only a few hundred each. I spoke to Geddes some years ago and he had none left. Mine cost £85 which I think was the price of the original. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The run was from memory only a few hundred each. I spoke to Geddes some years ago and he had none left. Mine cost £85 which I think was the price of the original. MG

Thanks Martin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most useful. You've seen exactly the thrust of my question!

It's logical that the London Regiment battalions with rifles traditions were likewise not issued with colours. Presumably this also applied to the other rifles battalions scattered among the county regiments such as the Leeds Rifles (7th & 8th West Yorks.R), Robin Hood's Rifle (7/Sherwood Foresters), Isle of Wight Rifles (8/Hants), Liverpool Rifles (6/KLR) etc.

When you get your teeth into the book, I'd be very interested to hear how the various GROs, ACIs, and AOs detailed issuing the battle honours to the rifles regiments. Were rifles regiments covered in sub-sections of the orders, or did they get separate versions?

As I'm sure you're well aware, riflemen historically were spread around the battlefield in skirmish order and did not use a flag as a rallying point. Thus the KRRs carried their battle honours in the arms of the Maltese Cross in the cap badge, while the RB had theirs in small scrolls on the laurel wreath. They may well have been limited to 10 also. The Great War honours were added in place of, I suspect, some of the earlier honours, but I'd have to dive into my reference books to tell you exactly which. Of course, that might have been purely down to the tiny amount of space available as much as any War Office diktat.

The LR rifles battalions generally only had the South Africa honours in their badges, but I'm not aware of what happened about including their Great War honours post war.

Lastly, I've long been wanting to double check the Army Office citation for the fact that the KRRC's 1st Cadet Battalion, based out of Sun Street/Finsbury Square, was the only cadet battalion ever to be granted a Battle Honour ('South Africa, 1900-1902"). In my notes I have this as covered by AO 151 of 1905, but I've not had a chance to get to Kew to cross-check this. Does Geddes mention the KRRC 1st Cadet Battalion? Probably not as they would not have been issued with colours.

None of these Qs are urgent - just crossing t's and dotting i's you understand!

Many thanks!

Cheers,

Mark

Mark - some quick answers.... Firstly it is important to remember that the the award of Battle Honours and the granting of the right to carry Colours are distinctly separate issues that have large overlap. Regiments and battalions were awarded Honours and those that had the right to carry Colours could choose to carry the Honours on the Colours but under strict guidelines laid down by the ACIs. The book is concerned with Colours, but does by necessity include all the Battle Honours of each Regiment. For the sake of completeness Geddes chose to include the Rifle Battalions of larger Regiments and include the Battalions of the Rifle Brigade and the KRRC, highlighting in each case that as Rifles they were not granted Colours. All the Great War Battle Honours are listed for all Regiments including the KRRC and Rifle Bde.

1. The other Rifle Battalions are treated similarly.

2. Issuing battle honours and issuing colours are separate issues. The short version: after the War the Battlefield Nomenclature Committee was set up and created a publication (available as a reprint) defining battles by geographic boundaries and dates. To qualify, a battalion had to have its HQ and 50% (from memory) of the battalion present. Each Regimental HQ had to compile a list of which battle honours it thought that it was entitled to by consolidating the actions of ALL the battalions of that Regiment - Regular, TF and New Army. From this a list of Great War Battle honours was produced for each REGIMENT. The Rifle Regiments were no different from the non-rifle Regiments in this process, so were not singled out in this part of the process.

Each (non Rifle) battalion was granted permission to carry Colours, but the battle honours of the Regiment would be carried on all battalions' Colours. Silk Union Flags were issued to the battalions that had not disbanded but each battalion had to pay to have the battle honours applied, so in many cases the Union Flags (which became King's Colours once consecrated) were issued as plain Union Flags with no emblazoning or Honours. For the Regiments with dozens of battle honours, adding the Great War Battle Honours was a problem as the honours were usually borne on the Regimental Colour, not the King's Colour and there was limited space. The King decided that the honours for the Great War would be carried on the King's Colour and an ACI details this, limiting the number to ten which had to be selected by the Regimental committees and approved by the Army Council. Typically when one sees the complete list of Regimental battle honours for the Great War, the 'selected ten' are always highlighted in bold. The ten honours were selected in a way that reflected the honours gained by every battalion. This meant that every battalion within a Regiment would be represented in the selected list. This is why the Great War selected ten often include Honours from the so-called Side-Shows of East Africa, Macedonia, Gallipoli etc. The other Great War honours were not carried on the Colours.

Essentially this meant that every battalions' colours within a Regiment would carry the same honours, so it is interesting that fifteen battalions chose to ignore the ACI. This is the short version. Like all Army matters, on the surface it was simple but in practise it was more complex. There were a number of amendments to the lists of battle honours in subsequent ACIs. I have copies of most of these.

The main exception to this was that the battalions of the London Regiment (TF) were treated as separate Regiments and received their own Battle Honours.

3. I am not aware that any prior Honours were deleted to include Great War honours for the simple reason that the Great War battle honours were carried on the King's Colour not the Regimental Colour. Prior to the Great War the King' Colour carried no battle honours so nothing had to be removed to make the space. In publications ALL Great War battle honours are listed, not just the selected ten.

From memory I believe the Manchester Regiment had the largest number of Great War battle honours somewhere in the region of eighty, which would have been difficult to carry on a single Colour.

4. I will check on the Cadet Battalion question and revert.

I hope this helps. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin - it certainly does help. Much appreciated! Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

..

As I'm sure you're well aware, riflemen historically were spread around the battlefield in skirmish order and did not use a flag as a rallying point. Thus the KRRs carried their battle honours in the arms of the Maltese Cross in the cap badge, while the RB had theirs in small scrolls on the laurel wreath. They may well have been limited to 10 also. The Great War honours were added in place of, I suspect, some of the earlier honours, but I'd have to dive into my reference books to tell you exactly which. Of course, that might have been purely down to the tiny amount of space available as much as any War Office diktat.

Hangs head in shame!

It was of course the South African honours that were squeezed onto the badge after the Boer War. The Great War honours never made it onto the badge.

Apologies - age is my only excuse - LOL!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...