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Remembered Today:

Battalion deserts in training


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The following extract from the Regimental History of the Cheshires describes the initial training of the 11th Battalion at Codford in Wiltshire. It mentions a whole Battalion "deserting" because of the conditions. Must have been around October/November 1914. Has anyone come across any reference to this before? Any idea which unit it might have been (I don't think it's another Cheshire Bn)

"A very motley crew they were, in every sort of civilian garment, not excluding bowler hats and shorts. Route marches with sticks instead of rifles, many hours of digging, night marches and football, made the men fit. But the hours were long, the loads too heavy and discontent spread. Conditions became worse with the approach of winter. Blankets were scarce and the men were sleeping in the mud. A neighbouring Battalion actually deserted and one night serious trouble narrowly averted.”


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An interesting tale which I suspect is quite true. Peter Simkins in his book Kitchener's Army, relates the problems causes by Kitchener's decision to appeal for volunteers before any provision was made for their clothing or accomodation.

In some units mens were billeted in private houses, others were under canvas. By the end of 1914 it is not surprising that many were 'brassed off'. Also the number of regular officers and NCO's in these units was very small. In some cases a framework of officers and NCOs was formed by appointing men with better education, or experience as foremen and the like, even Boy Scouts. I don't expect they thought making a protest was a serious crime.


Old Tom

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