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Remembered Today:

Who were better prepared; 1914 Reservists or Kitchener Army?


timsanders
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Much of what I've read follows the narrative of; The BEF (August 1914) were the best trained and equipped British land army ever to step foot on the continent and Kitchener's New Army were an ill equipped and ill-prepared civilian volunteer mob thrown helplessly into battle.

 

However, in the case of many pre-war reservists, August 1914 found them in civilian life at home with their wife and children. Some had left the colours 7,8,9 years earlier after only 3 years active service and with no meaningful combat experience. Moreover, the battle hardened Boer War veteran recalled in 1914 would be well into his 30s and perhaps less well-acquainted with modern warfare.

 

Notice of mobilisation to embarkation was under 10 days, leaving no time for substantial organisation and re-training. The demand on fitness, march discipline and importantly, breaking in of footwear, would be crucial in preparing the soldier for a 250mile retreat under fire in two weeks' time.

 

Smith-Dorrien’s reluctance to commit men into battle in 1914 is often criticised, yet if 60% of his men were reservists recalled only a few weeks earlier, it’s reasonable to wonder how fit to face the advancing German Army, the BEF really were.

 

Would the largely younger New Army men who benefited from a years training and were able to observe the first year of hostilities unfold, be in some way better prepared? Were these men eased into battle? Although costly, were the battles of 1915/1916 simpler tactically, in comparison to the war of defensive movement against the advancing Germans in 1914?

 

Like most questions regarding The Great War, I understand there are no absolutes and I may be basing my hypothesis on the exceptional cases rather than the army as a whole. My primary intention is to dig into the reservist selection and training process of 1914 and contrast with the readiness of 1915’s New Army.

 

I’m sure, through 1914-18, the training and organisation of all men was carried out the most effective and practical way in order to aid the war effort, however, I wonder if the narrative at the beginning of this post could be challenged, if not perhaps, revised.

 

Thanks for reading, would love to hear anyone’s views on this.

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18 minutes ago, timsanders said:

However, in the case of many pre-war reservists, August 1914 found them in civilian life at home with their wife and children. Some had left the colours 7,8,9 years earlier after only 3 years active service and with no meaningful combat experience. Moreover, the battle hardened Boer War veteran recalled in 1914 would be well into his 30s and perhaps less well-acquainted with modern warfare.

 

Notice of mobilisation to embarkation was under 10 days, leaving no time for substantial organisation and re-training. The demand on fitness, march discipline and importantly, breaking in of footwear, would be crucial in preparing the soldier for a 250mile retreat under fire in two weeks' time.

 

Smith-Dorrien’s reluctance to commit men into battle in 1914 is often criticised, yet if 60% of his men were reservists recalled only a few weeks earlier, it’s reasonable to wonder how fit to face the advancing German Army, the BEF really were.

 

Would the largely younger New Army men who benefited from a years training and were able to observe the first year of hostilities unfold, be in some way better prepared? Were these men eased into battle? Although costly, were the battles of 1915/1916 simpler tactically, in comparison to the war of defensive movement against the advancing Germans in 1914?

 

Like most questions regarding The Great War, I understand there are no absolutes and I may be basing my hypothesis on the exceptional cases rather than the army as a whole. My primary intention is to dig into the reservist selection and training process of 1914 and contrast with the readiness of 1915’s New Army.


The composition of an infantry battalion, and how it transformed during 1914 can be determined by analysing the 1914 Star medal roll for a given battalion. Of interest would be the following:

  • From the ranks of the initially deployed battalion, how many of them were from the Army Reserve, as opposed to peacetime soldiers who were still serving their time? (This requires analysis of service numbers as a pointer, and entry to ToW dates from the medal rolls.)
  • Whilst some subsequent reinforcements were from the Army Reserve and had as little as 3 years Active Service soldiering, some reinforcements were from the Special Reserve and would have had six months of service. How many of these men were sent out? (Painful activity of separating those who enlisted under SR terms from those who enlisted under Regular terms of service.)
  • How many men were to join the battalion, in a subsequent draft of reinforcements, who had enlisted after the outbreak of war? How many of them had prior military experience? (Surviving service records, or notes from CWGC in respect of prior service or age are a help, too.)
  • What were the casualty figures for a battalion in 1914, versus in 1915 and in 1916?


There was a slew of threads initiated by the late Martin Gillott which are likely to be of interest.


Good luck with your ongoing research.
Keith

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13 minutes ago, Keith_history_buff said:


The composition of an infantry battalion, and how it transformed during 1914 can be determined by analysing the 1914 Star medal roll for a given battalion. Of interest would be the following:

  • From the ranks of the initially deployed battalion, how many of them were from the Army Reserve, as opposed to peacetime soldiers who were still serving their time? (This requires analysis of service numbers as a pointer, and entry to ToW dates from the medal rolls.)
  • Whilst some subsequent reinforcements were from the Army Reserve and had as little as 3 years Active Service soldiering, some reinforcements were from the Special Reserve and would have had six months of service. How many of these men were sent out? (Painful activity of separating those who enlisted under SR terms from those who enlisted under Regular terms of service.)
  • How many men were to join the battalion, in a subsequent draft of reinforcements, who had enlisted after the outbreak of war? How many of them had prior military experience? (Surviving service records, or notes from CWGC in respect of prior service or age are a help, too.)
  • What were the casualty figures for a battalion in 1914, versus in 1915 and in 1916?


There was a slew of threads initiated by the late Martin Gillott which are likely to be of interest.


Good luck with your ongoing research.
Keith

 

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I was unaware Martin G had passed away - I always found his posts on the BEF in 1914 to be enlightening and well researched.

 

My personal interest is 1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers and my GGF, a pre war reservist. In light of the fact NF had the largest pool of reservists out of any regiment, I'm trying to gain an understanding as to how a married father, on reserve since 1907, would be sent out with the first draft of men.

 

Thanks again.

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John Sneddon's book on the 1st Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914 - The Devil's Carnival - contains some interesting observations on the Reservists mobilised in August 1914 who were sent to the 1st Battalion. 

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26 minutes ago, AndrewThornton said:

John Sneddon's book on the 1st Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914 - The Devil's Carnival - contains some interesting observations on the Reservists mobilised in August 1914 who were sent to the 1st Battalion. 

Yes, it's a most treasured member of my bookshelf and another source that confirms 1st Bn NF had a large surplus of reservists report to depot at outbreak.

 

'Most of the reservists who rejoined the colours were soft and we were fully occupied hardening them, getting them used to their equipment, the pattern of which was new to most of them and teaching them as much as possible a few of the principles of scientific warfare' Captain Beauchamp Tudor St John's diary entry 9th August 1914

 

After 'discarding' 400 men 'there were still doubts about the quality of some of the remaining reservists and the Colonel took drastic action. He sent an urgent telegram to the harassed Depot Commander in Newcastle instructing him to go through the reservists and select one hundred who had most recently left the regiment and dispatch them immediately to Portsmouth. In turn, each Company was to weed out 25 of their most out of date men and return them to the Depot.' THE DEVILS CARNIVAL - JOHN MASON SNEDDON

 

Soft men unused to equipment and unfamiliar with modern scientific warfare hardly fits the description put forward by British official historian Brigadier James Edward Edmonds:

"The British Army of 1914 was the best trained, best equipped and best organised British Army ever sent to war"

 

In the case of 1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers, it's hard to understand how, after turning away 400 men initially then a further 100, men who had left the colours 7 years earlier were deemed suitable for immediate deployment.

 

I wonder whether this was the same picture across the other battalions of 1st and 3rd division?

 

 

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The situation was comparable, from the research I have done so far. As you know from Twitter I have been doing work for some time now concerning the 4th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers and 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment in particular. The 4th Royal Fusiliers, as constituted when they landed in France, was composed of approximately 25% Regulars serving at the time war was declared and 75% Regular Reservists, with a sizeable contingent of Section D Reservists amongst them. 

 

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Fascinating thread.

 

To further complicate matters should not the analysis examine the three constituent elements of a battalion, namely the other ranks, the NCOs, and the officers for comparison. I would assume that the 1914 battalions had significantly higher percentages of experienced NCOs and officers than the New Army battalions. These two groups would be critical to making the most of lesser trained other ranks. The New Army battalions were handicapped by all three groups having to learn on the job, while the 1914 battalions, at least initially, had long-service professionals in the NCO and officer ranks.

 

Regards

Bill Stewart

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2 hours ago, AndrewThornton said:

The situation was comparable, from the research I have done so far. As you know from Twitter I have been doing work for some time now concerning the 4th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers and 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment in particular. The 4th Royal Fusiliers, as constituted when they landed in France, was composed of approximately 25% Regulars serving at the time war was declared and 75% Regular Reservists, with a sizeable contingent of Section D Reservists amongst them. 

 

75%!! That’s staggering, even if only a number were section D.

 

I wonder whether it would be a fools errand to cross ref the Mons casualties from the War Diary with the 1911 Census to find out who was in India with the battalion and who was at home?

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15 minutes ago, adk46canada said:

Fascinating thread.

Absolutely.

 

It's very likely the pairwise comparison of 1914 reservists and the New Armies is fraught with unexpected pitfalls. That said, some throwaway thoughts for me:

  • The tragedy is the disconnect between 1914 and 1916. Chief culprit here is Kitchener, who rejected Haig's mechanism for growing the BEF through the TF.
  • Kitchener's unilateral decision effectively consigned the original BEF to fight on with piecemeal reinforcement whilst simultaneously ensuring a dearth of skilled instructors for the New Armies.
  • Supplying barbed wire and adequate defence stores would have slashed the BEF's casualties in 1914.
  • Any or all of grenades, mortars, rifle grenades, Lewis guns, HE shells, fuze instantaneous etc would each have been incredibly powerful force multipliers in 1914.
  • Without parroting the OH's overly optimistic assessments of the 1914 BEF, they were skilled marksmen, trained with sufficient emphasis on 'decentralisation' to use their initiative to good effect over and again in the field. The constant and instinctive counter-attacks and the ability to 'task org' on the hoof throughout First Ypres are remarkable. That they managed it day in, day out without relief from 20th October to 22nd November is humbling.
  • Whilst many 1914 reservists were unfit, they often had 7 years or more of regular soldiering under their belt. I'd rather make an unfit battalion fit than train an untrained battalion from scratch and launch it on the Somme.
  • 'The War the Infantry Knew' gives a stark account of how 300 men of 2/RWF captured High Wood on 20 July 1916, putting right the failure of 3 New Army battalions: '[the RWF] were very weak, their platoons were only the size of sections, but they were out for business. This small controlled force force was a most effective contrast to the large loose mass that had been herded into the Wood in the morning...' (p235) I know this doesn't concern 1914 reservists, but it's an interesting sidelight.
  • It would be going too far to say the New Armies trained themselves as a parody of an army, but up to the 1st July 1916 they learned a limited curriculum of trench-to-trench 'set-piece' attacks. For example - the man who made the furthest advance on 1st July 1916 may well have been GOC 21 Div. He 'patrolled' through Mametz Wood and onto the Flers-Courcelette line (not captured until mid-September). When he returned he couldn't get his division up and moving to exploit the opportunity. By the time he made it all the way back to his own HQ to issue formal orders, the opportunity was long gone. 'Decentralisation' and the development of widespread battlefield initiative lay in the future.

Sorry for the unstructured brain dump, but those are my immediate thoughts sparked by a most interesting question from Tim!

 

Cheers,

 

Richard

 

 

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51 minutes ago, adk46canada said:

Fascinating thread.

 

To further complicate matters should not the analysis examine the three constituent elements of a battalion, namely the other ranks, the NCOs, and the officers for comparison. I would assume that the 1914 battalions had significantly higher percentages of experienced NCOs and officers than the New Army battalions. These two groups would be critical to making the most of lesser trained other ranks. The New Army battalions were handicapped by all three groups having to learn on the job, while the 1914 battalions, at least initially, had long-service professionals in the NCO and officer ranks.

 

Regards

Bill Stewart

An Interesting thought Bill. You’re quite right, the command at battalion level would certainly have been more experienced in 1914. Indeed, many experienced NCOs and officers were lost in 1914 and would be replaced by younger less experienced leaders. A great loss to the British Army.
 

My knowledge of New Army is fairly basic, but I understand many other ranks who survived 1914 were promoted to leadership positions at platoon/company level in order to lend experience to the new recruits.

 

Based solely on fitness and training, I believe a pre-war reservist was at a disadvantage to the recruits that came later in the war. But, command and leadership is another matter. The question of which men were better led is perhaps, one to answer by someone more learned than I.

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One of the questions raised by the late Martin Gillott, in respect of the pool of reserves was: of the men that enlisted in a given year, what percentage were still serving as at 1914? (To be "still serving", there is evidence of this, be it a surviving service record or a MIC.) I've recently done some analysis on this for a county infantry regiment, using the modern term of "churn" versus Martin's term of "wastage".

With regard those 400 men who were discarded, it would be interesting to know how soon it would be, before they were deployed to a theatre of war?

If you do analysis on the service numbers to derive when they joined the regiment, you can then analyse who was serving with the colours, as at the outbreak of war, who was theoretically in the Army Reserve and time serving, and those men who had served more than 12 years. 

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17 minutes ago, Old Forge said:

Absolutely.

 

It's very likely the pairwise comparison of 1914 reservists and the New Armies is fraught with unexpected pitfalls. That said, some throwaway thoughts for me:

  • The tragedy is the disconnect between 1914 and 1916. Chief culprit here is Kitchener, who rejected Haig's mechanism for growing the BEF through the TF.
  • Kitchener's unilateral decision effectively consigned the original BEF to fight on with piecemeal reinforcement whilst simultaneously ensuring a dearth of skilled instructors for the New Armies.
  • Supplying barbed wire and adequate defence stores would have slashed the BEF's casualties in 1914.
  • Any or all of grenades, mortars, rifle grenades, Lewis guns, HE shells, fuze instantaneous etc would each have been incredibly powerful force multipliers in 1914.
  • Without parroting the OH's overly optimistic assessments of the 1914 BEF, they were skilled marksmen, trained with sufficient emphasis on 'decentralisation' to use their initiative to good effect over and again in the field. The constant and instinctive counter-attacks and the ability to 'task org' on the hoof throughout First Ypres are remarkable. That they managed it day in, day out without relief from 20th October to 22nd November is humbling.
  • Whilst many 1914 reservists were unfit, they often had 7 years or more of regular soldiering under their belt. I'd rather make an unfit battalion fit than train an untrained battalion from scratch and launch it on the Somme.
  • 'The War the Infantry Knew' gives a stark account of how 300 men of 2/RWF captured High Wood on 20 July 1916, putting right the failure of 3 New Army battalions: '[the RWF] were very weak, their platoons were only the size of sections, but they were out for business. This small controlled force force was a most effective contrast to the large loose mass that had been herded into the Wood in the morning...' (p235) I know this doesn't concern 1914 reservists, but it's an interesting sidelight.
  • It would be going too far to say the New Armies trained themselves as a parody of an army, but up to the 1st July 1916 they learned a limited curriculum of trench-to-trench 'set-piece' attacks. For example - the man who made the furthest advance on 1st July 1916 may well have been GOC 21 Div. He 'patrolled' through Mametz Wood and onto the Flers-Courcelette line (not captured until mid-September). When he returned he couldn't get his division up and moving to exploit the opportunity. By the time he made it all the way back to his own HQ to issue formal orders, the opportunity was long gone. 'Decentralisation' and the development of widespread battlefield initiative lay in the future.

Sorry for the unstructured brain dump, but those are my immediate thoughts sparked by a most interesting question from Tim!

 

Cheers,

 

Richard

 

 

Thanks Richard - lot's of valuable points to consider there!

 

Perhaps Brigadier Edmonds saw organisation, training and equipment from the point of view of NCO/Officer level rather than the other ranks when he wrote the OH? I don't think anyone would argue that mobilisation and embarkation in August 1914 was anything but a complete masterclass in military organisation.

 

Regarding the reservists, many pre-war regulars in the years immediately after The Boer War enlisted 3 year active service and 9 years on reserve. It's not uncommon to find men who left the army in 1905/1906/1907 with only 3 years active service on the medal rolls for the 1914 Star. The 3 years active service were much akin to 'Empire Policing' and even with their annual rudimental training they could hardly be considered battle ready.

 

The men of 1914 were better lead in terms of experience but which action required the most independence of thought and military acumen from the humble private; The war of movement and fighting retreat or the wide fronted assaults of trench warfare? A moot point perhaps.

 

The comparison of course, isn't straightforward as both The Old Contemptible's and Kitcheners Men had to face different demands and challenges.

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This is a very small sample of the research I have been doing so far relating to British soldiers who fought at Mons, which may be of interest as it shows what can be found if you dig around. These soldiers all served with the 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment:

 

L/14064 Private Arthur Herbert Abbot[1]

 

Born 30 May 1894 in London and attested in 1913. Served in “A” Company and wounded on 23 August 1914. Private Abbot was captured and taken to Feldlazarette No. 3 at Maisieres and then moved to the Couvent des Soures-Noires. Left on 18 November and sent to Wittenberg, moving to Quedlinburg by November 1915. At Meersburg by December 1916.[2] 

 

L/8135 Sergeant John Adcock

 

Born 9 September 1883 at Tottenham and baptised John William Frederick Adcock. Attested in 1902. Served in “D” Company and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. Next of kin resided at 139 Shrewsbury Street, Old Trafford, Manchester. Reported as missing. At Sennelager by 16 December 1914, Soltau in 1916 and Grossenwedermoor in 1917. Interned in Holland on 29 December 1917 and repatriated on 18 November 1918.[3] Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 25 March 1926. Worked as a newsagent after the war and died at Tottenham on 8 August 1952.

 

L/6616 Private Oliver Roland Addison

 

Born 28 August 1881 at Islington. Attested at Dalston for the 6th Militia Battalion on 25 July 1900 and employed as a piano worker. Enlisted for the Regular Army on 22 October 1900 and posted to the 4th Battalion. Later transferred to the Reserve and appointed as a postman in the London Postal District on 31 October 1910.[4] On the completion of his period of engagement he re-enlisted on the Section D Army Reserve in 1912. Resided at 1A New Trinity Road, off Long Lane in East Finchley in 1911 and 51 Dunbar Road at Tottenham in 1913. Served with “D” Company and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. Sent to Sennelager and moved to Minden by December 1916. At Friedrichsfeld by October 1917. Died at Bertha Hospital in Friemersheim on 12 July 1918 after contracting a lung infection.[5] Next of kin recorded as residing at 90 White Hart Lane in Wood Green. Private Addison is buried at Cologne Southern Cemetery: Plot XI, Row A, Grave 7.

 

L/10811 Private George William Ainsworth

 

Born at West Ham on 15 April 1887. Attested in 1905 and mobilised from the Reserve in August 1914. Served in “D” Company. Wounded on 23 August 1914 in the lower leg and taken prisoner. In captivity at Oflag Bad Blenhorst near Nienburg and at Verden, and was admitted to hospital in January 1917.[6] Worked as a bottle labeller and labourer after the war and died in 1957.

 

L/14479 Private Robert Aldridge

 

Born at Camden Town in January 1896 and baptised Robert Charles John Aldridge at Holy Trinity Church in Haverstock Hill on 9 February 1896. Attested on 7 March 1913. Wounded on 23 August 1914 and taken to Feldlazarette No. 3 at Maisieres.[7] Reported as missing on Casualty List dated 20 September 1914 and confirmed as a prisoner of war in February 1915.[8] At Luisen-Hospital Dortmund by 28 October 1914.[9] Discharged on 29 April 1919 as a consequence of wounds and was issued with Silver War Badge B206615. Emigrated to Canada and was a member of the Saskatoon Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Died 5 June 1966.

 

L/14182 Private Joseph Worthy Alexander[10]

 

Born in London in 1896.[11] Attested for the 5th (Special Reserve) Battalion at Mill Hill on 6 October 1911 and employed as a van guard. Enlisted as a Regular soldier on 22 July 1912. Fought as a Lightweight in 4th Battalion boxing tournaments.[12] Served in “D” Company. Wounded on 23 August 1914, receiving a gunshot wound to his left shoulder. Reported as missing on Casualty List dated 20 September 1914.[13] At Parchim by 17 October 1914, at Gustrow by June 1915 and then moved to Cologne by August 1917.[14] Repatriated in November 1918 and discharged on 30 December 1919 as a consequence of his wounds, being awarded a war disability pension. Issued with Silver War Badge B456391 on 2 March 1920 and sent the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 7 July 1920. Joseph Alexander moved to Leeds following his discharge, lodging with his cousin Mrs L. Austin at 7 back Lloyd Street off the Kirkstall Road, and obtained employment at the Northern Asphalt Company. Mrs Austin recalled:

 

“In 1912, when quite a boy, Joe enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment, and was one of the first to go out to France. In the early Mons fighting he was taken prisoner, and remained in the hands of the Germans until November last. He was badly wounded and suffered greatly from the cruelty of the Germans.”[15]

 

On 19 December 1920 Joseph broke into the house of his girlfriend Edith Preston at 79 Westfield Road. He was armed with a revolver and after shooting Edith’s father turned the gun on himself and later died at Leeds General Infirmary. The incident was reported widely by the press, the Leeds Coroner returned a verdict of suicide at the subsequent inquest.[16]

 

L/8842 Private Samuel Michael Allen

 

Born at Wapping on 29 August 1883. Employed as a wire worker when he attested at Stratford East on 11 May 1903. Posted to the 4th Battalion on 7 July 1903 and passed his Mounted Infantry Certificate on 5 May 1905. Awarded Good Conduct Badge on 11 May 1905. Transferred to the Reserve on 11 May 1906. Resided at 5 Chapel Street in New Eastwood and employed as a wire rope maker when mobilised on 5 August 1914. Served with “C” Company. Wounded in right knee and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. Reported as missing by Commanding Officer 4th Middlesex on 19 September 1914. Sent to Luttich by 28 October 1914, moved to Sennelager and to Celle by May 1917.[17] Retained in service (while a prisoner of war) under the terms of the Military Service Act of 1916. Repatriated on 31 December 1918, disembarking at Hull. Transferred to the Class Z Reserve on 26 April 1919 on his demobilisation and was discharged on the termination of his engagement on 31 March 1920. Samuel Allen returned to Nottinghamshire and received his 1914 Star on 30 July 1919, and the Clasp and Roses were sent to him on 13 January 1921. He died on 1 February 1928 and is buried at Eastwood Cemetery.

 

L/14184 Private Harry Allgrove[18]

 

Born 21 January 1894 at Ashcott in Oxfordshire. Attested in 1912. Taken prisoner on 23 August 1914 and sent to Lubeck by 28 October 1914.[19] Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 29 April 1924. Lived in Camden Town and Kentish Town after the war and worked as a coal trolleyman. He died in March 1949.

 

L/14640 Private Alfred Alvin

 

Attested on 21 August 1913. Reported as missing in Casualty List dated 24 November 1914.[20] In captivity at Hameln. Discharged due to sickness on 28 August 1919 and issued with his Silver War Badge on 2 October 1919.

 

L/9331 Private Albert Charles Amis

 

Born on 22 May 1886 at Belvedere in Kent. Was a printers’ apprentice when he attested in 1903. Transferred to the Reserve and worked as a machine assistant residing in Enfield. Served in “A” Company. Taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. At Sennelager by 16 December 1914, sent to Friedrichsfeld in 1916 and had moved to Chemintz by 8 February 1918.[21] Issued with the Clasp and Roses for his 1914 Star in January 1939, by which time he lived in Enfield and worked as a decorator. Died in 1959.

 

L/13560 Corporal William Arthur Ammerlaan

 

Born on 10 January 1891 at St Pancras.[22] Attested for the 5th (Special Reserve) Battalion in 1911 and subsequently enlisted as a Regular soldier. Appeared before Tavistock Police Court on 30 June 1914 charged with assault, the case being recorded by The Western Times of 3 July:

 

“At Tavistock Police Court on Tuesday, before Messrs. R. D. Doble (in the chair) and T. Doidge, William Ammerlaan, a corporal in the 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, stationed at Willsworthy Camp, was charged with assaulting Annie Crouch, a domestic servant in the employ of Dr Hughes, of Downhouse, Whitchurch. On Sunday evening the prosecutrix stated that the prisoner met her on her way home, and wanted her to go in another direction. He began to molest her and when she told him to keep his hands off, he struck her a blow in the face, knocking out three teeth and loosening others. He said: “There is something for your trouble.” She then went home, and told her master what had occurred. Yesterday, she went to the camp with P.C. Nankivell, when she was shown eight soldiers in uniform. At first she identified the wrong man, when the prisoner stepped forward and said: “That is not the man,” adding that he saw a corporal or a lance-corporal with the girl on the previous evening. Directly he spoke, she knew he was the man who had assaulted her. – P.C. Nankivell having given evidence, the prisoner pleaded guilty. – An officer gave the accused a good character, and said he was a married man off the strength. – The Bench, taking into account his good character, and the fact he had exonerated the man at first mistakenly identified, fined him £2 and costs or a months’ imprisonment. – The officer paid the fine.”

 

Served in “A” Company. Taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. At Sennelager by 16 December 1914 then sent to Dulmen. At Minden by 22 May 1917, then at Soltau by 28 August 1917. Repatriated 18 November 1918.[23] Resided at Notting Hill and Paddington after the war and worked as a metal finisher on motor cars. Died at Paddington Hospital on 9 January 1945.

 

L/13801 Lance-Corporal William Amor

 

Born 13 December 1893 at Kentish Town. Was employed as a factory hand residing at 15 Balmore Street in St Pancras when he attested in 1911. Served with “B” Company and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. Next of Kin lived at 95 Lucey Road in Bermondsey. At Sennelager by 16 December 1914 and moved to Celle by 2 February 1916. Also held at Friedrichsfeld and moved to Wittenberg by 7 June 1916, then Heestenmoor. At Hameln by 18 June 1917.[24] Repatriated 18 November 1918.[25] Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 24 May 1921. Employed as a bus conductor by London Passenger Transport after the war and died at Camden in June 1972.

 

L/9674 Private Alfred Argent

 

Born at Stratford East on 11 May 1879. Attested in 1904. Working as a general labourer in 1911, residing at 7 Georges Cottages, Enfield Wash. Mobilised from the Reserve and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. At Sennelager by 16 December 1914.[26] Reported as seriously ill with influenza at No. 73 General Hospital at Trouville on 19 October 1918. Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 20 January 1920. Died 14 December 1928 at Enfield.

 

L/12654 Private Edward Alfred Arnold

 

Born 26 February 1891 at Stepney. Attended Dr Barnado’s Charity School on Copperfield Road in Mile End. Attested in 1909. Wounded and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914.[27] At Wahn by 6 January 1915.[28] Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 20 January 1920. Appointed as a postman in the London Postal District on 17 February 1926.[29] Moved to Barking and remained employed as a postman. Joined the Barking Branch of The Old Contemptibles’ Association. Later moved to Dagenham and died on 30 September 1957 at Old Church Hospital in Romford.

 

L/9826 Private Frederick Victor Asher

 

Born at Southampton in 1887. Working at the Star Hotel in Southampton in 1901. Employed as a clerk at the Import Office at Southampton Docks when he attested for the 6th Militia Battalion at Hounslow on 4 May 1904. Enlisted as a Regular soldier on 28 May 1904. Reservist mobilised at the declaration of war. Reported as missing following the fighting on 23 August 1914. In November 1918 his death was presumed to have occurred on or after 23 August 1914 for official purposes. Buried at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, with a headstone inscribed ‘Buried Near This Spot’ at Plot IV, Row C, Grave 5. The cemetery register states that he was the son of Arthur and Charlotte Asher of 21 New Road in Southampton and the husband of Emily Clothier (formerly Asher), of 129 Radcliffe Road in Southampton.

 

L/10788 Private Alfred Ashley

 

Born at Hackney in 1886. Working as a bootmaker’s porter when he attested for the 6th Militia Battalion at Woolwich on 10 October 1905. Enlisted as a Regular soldier on 27 November 1905. Served in “C” Company and taken prisoner on 26 August 1914 at Bertry, having received a head wound. At Altengrabow by 10 March 1915 and moved to Gardelegen by 27 September 1917. Repatriated 18 November 1918.[30] Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 13 January 1921.

 

L/9346 Private James Prince Aubon

 

Born at Finsbury Park in 25 August 1885.[31] Employed as a labourer by J. A. Weston, greengrocer, and resided at 179 Moselle Avenue in Noel Park when he attested for the 6th Militia Battalion at Tottenham on 6 January 1903. Enlisted as a Regular soldier on 5 November 1903. Transferred to the Reserve and in 1911 working as a labourer, residing at 62 Winkfield Road in Wood Green. Mobilised from the Reserve and posted to the 4th Battalion. Taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. Sent to Soltau and at Hameln by 15 October 1917.[32] Next-of-kin address given as 14 Copenhagen Street in King’s Cross. Died at Islington in 1929.

 

L/10136 Lance-Corporal William Frederick Austin

 

Born at Surbiton on 22 July 1886. Employed as a waiter at the Eastern Hotel on East India Dock Road in Limehouse when he attested for the 6th Militia Battalion at Stratford East on 11 February 1905. Resided at 42 Bonnington Square in Vauxhall.[33] Enlisted as a Regular soldier on 4 April 1905 at Stratford East. Posted to the 4th Battalion on 14 July 1905. Appointed an unpaid Lance-Corporal on 24 February 1906 and received pay for the appointment on 1 October 1906. Awarded 3rd Class Certificate in Education on 3 September 1906 and 2nd Class Certificate on 16 November 1906. Passed Mounted Infantry course at Mounted Infantry School, Longmoor on 30 September 1907. Deprived of appointment and reverted to Private on 26 March 1907. Appointed an unpaid Lance-Corporal on 20 August 1909 and received pay from 31 December 1909. Awarded Physical Training Certificate No. 995 at Aldershot on 30 April 1910. Also qualified as a Battalion Scout and served as Regimental Police Corporal. Transferred to the Section B Army Reserve on 8 July 1911. Mobilised from the Reserve on 5 August 1914 and posted to 4th Battalion. Taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. Reported as Missing. At Mannheim, then at Dulmen by 2 August 1916.[34] Sent to Switzerland and interned at Interlaken on 27 November 1917. Retained in the service under the terms of the Military Service Act of 1916 on 3 April 1918 and received as £20 bounty. Admitted to No. 2 General Hospital suffering from neurasthenia. Repatriated on 18 December 1918 and admitted to King George’s Hospital in London. Transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on 10 February 1919 on demobilisation and discharged on the termination of his period of engagement on 31 March 1920. Issued with the Clasp and Roses to his 1914 Star on 20 January 1920. Lived in Barnes after the war and employed as an aero motor fitter. Died in 1971.

 

[1] Surname recorded as Abbott on the 1914 Star Roll. This was subsequently corrected and a duplicate Medal Index Card produced.

[2] ICRC Records: PA 38, PA 1038, PA 3918 & PA 9317.

[3] ICRC Records: PA 636, PA 1120, PA 5242, PA 6270, R 51060 & R 51889; Middlesex Chronicle, 31 October 1914 and The Scotsman, 22 February 1915.

[4] London Gazette, 31 October 1910 and Postal Service Appointment Books 1737-1969. Addison was issued with Registration Number 462915.

[5] ICRC Records: PA 636, PA 7332, PA 16417, PA 33254, PA 34757 & PA 34831 and Middlesex Chronicle, 31 October 1914.

[6] ICRC Records: PA 97, PA 5212, PA 7685 & PA 8411 and Middlesex Chronicle, 31 October 1914. Based on the information that Ainsworth was at an Oflag he appears to have been employed as an Officer’s servant during his captivity.

[7] ICRC Records: PA 38.

[8] Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 26 October 1914 & 22 February 1915.

[9] ICRC Records: PA 173 & PA 357.

[10] Also recorded as Joseph Walter Alexander.

[11] ICRC record his date of birth as 20 January 1894.

[12] Sporting Life, 31 October 1912.

[13] Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 26 October 1914 & 22 February 1915.

[14] ICRC Records: PA 681, PA 2385, PA 13528 & PA 13992

[15] Leeds Mercury, 20 December 1920.

[16] Western Times, 21 December 1920.

[17] ICRC Records: PA 1, PA 173, PA 1120, PA 4129, PA 10386

[18] Also recorded as Harry Smith and Henry Allgrove.

[19] ICRC Records: PA 173, PA 268 & PA 357.

[20] Dublin Daily Express, 1 January 1915.

[21] ICRC Records: PA 636, PA 1120 & PA 4283 and Middlesex Chronicle, 31 October 1914 (recorded as Ames).

[22] Name recorded as William Antonio Ammerlaan on his birth registration.

[23] ICRC Records: PA 1, PA 636, PA 1120, PA 4343, PA 11065, PA 14472 & R51889.

[24] ICRC Records: PA 1, PA 636, PA 1780, PA 4129, PA 5007, PA 12345 & PA 18761 and Middlesex Chronicle, 31 October 1914.

[25] ICRC Records: R 51063 & R 51889.

[26] ICRC Records: PA 636 &

[27] Reported as wounded (unofficially) in the Casualty List dated 31 October 1914 (Dublin Daily Express, 6 November 1914).

[28] ICRC Record: PA 957.

[29] London Gazette, 5 March 1926.

[30] ICRC Records: PA 1818, PA 15236 & R 51889.

[31] 1911 Census gives his place of birth as St Pancras.

[32] ICRC Record: PA 17161 and Middlesex Chronicle, 31 October 1914.

[33] Previously enlisted for the Royal Navy on28 May 1902 but had purchased his discharge on 26 August 1902.

[34] ICRC Record: PA 5530.

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41 minutes ago, Keith_history_buff said:

One of the questions raised by the late Martin Gillott, in respect of the pool of reserves was: of the men that enlisted in a given year, what percentage were still serving as at 1914? (To be "still serving", there is evidence of this, be it a surviving service record or a MIC.) I've recently done some analysis on this for a county infantry regiment, using the modern term of "churn" versus Martin's term of "wastage".

With regard those 400 men who were discarded, it would be interesting to know how soon it would be, before they were deployed to a theatre of war?

If you do analysis on the service numbers to derive when they joined the regiment, you can then analyse who was serving with the colours, as at the outbreak of war, who was theoretically in the Army Reserve and time serving, and those men who had served more than 12 years. 

Yes, that's the key question really. I don't have access to the enlistment records but The 1911 census is close enough to 1914 and lists those on active service with 1st Bn in India.

The first three NF men KIA at Mons were on this list, I need to go through more and find out which (if any) of the men at home with their families on the 1911 census were casualties on 23rd August 1914.

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15 minutes ago, AndrewThornton said:

L/8842 Private Samuel Michael Allen

 

attested at Stratford East on 11 May 1903. Posted to the 4th Battalion on 7 July 1903 and passed his Mounted Infantry Certificate on 5 May 1905. Awarded Good Conduct Badge on 11 May 1905. Transferred to the Reserve on 11 May 1906. Resided at 5 Chapel Street in New Eastwood and employed as a wire rope maker when mobilised on 5 August 1914. Served with “C” Company. Wounded in right knee and taken prisoner on 23 August 1914. 

This fits the profile of the men I'm thinking of.

 

On reserve May 1906

Recalled while working as a wire rope maker 5th August 1914. 

Prisoner of war 23rd August 1914.

 

Thanks Andrew.

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I have to admit that I've always been fairly dubious of the "rapier" image of the professional B.E.F. in 1914. In particular what sticks out to me is Le Cateau, where, despite the classic depiction, the Germans and British were about on par in terms of guns on the field in the first half of the battle, and the significantly more experienced British artillery gets badly beaten.  Alexander Watson also made a very interesting point in Enduring the Great War about how the BEF of 1916-1918 seemed significantly more capable of enduring the psychological trauma of modern war than the BEF of 1914.

 

I don't doubt the immense struggles of the Kitchener armies, though. A lot of which, I find, tends to fall on the stagnation of the BEF's training and development between Loos and the Somme. I don't just think this is an issue of the dilution of the regulars, either. The French and Germans go through the bloody training school of Verdun during that period, meaning they are comparatively advancing significantly faster in doctrine and training and the BEF seems to have failed to really pull the necessary lessons from the battle. Even well into the battle of the Somme Greenhalgh noted how French infantry were fairly shocked at the ways in which British infantry seemed reluctant to go to ground and use cover to advance. While some of it is obviously jingoism, the BEF's basic training definitely seems to have been 6-7 months behind the curve. Which makes it a particular tragedy because you can't build a staff officer corps in a year, but that sort of basic training is definitely the kind of thing you can fairly rapidly disseminate, especially with the fairly long period where the BEF wasn't involved in as much fighting.

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At a pinch...

A soldier enlisting from Aug 1907 onwards would be serving 7 years with the colours at the outbreak of war, and would have a number from 2100 upwards
A soldier enlisting from mid Aug 1906 to July 1907 would have already transferred to the reserves, a number range between 2000 and 2099 approximately.
Various soldiers would appear to have transferred to the reserves early when the 3rd and 4th battalions were disbanded in April and January 1907 respectively.

A soldier enlisting from mid Oct 1904 to mid Aug 1906 would be serving 9 years with the colours at the outbreak of war, a number range between 680 and 1999 approximately.

A soldier enlisting from 2 Dec 1903 to mid Oct 1904 would be in the reserve, after serving 3 years with the colours, at the outbreak of war, a number range between 1 and 679 approximately.
A soldier enlisting from April 1902 to 2 Dec 1903 would be in the reserve, after serving 3 years with the colours, at the outbreak of war, a number range between ???? and 9999 approximately.

Regular enlistments prior to April 1902 would have been time served, some of whom may have extended their time in the Army Reserve as at the outbreak of war in 1914

Sources:

Terms of Service thread, data table populated by user Muerrisch
Paul Nixon army service numbers:
https://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2012/03/northumberland-fusiliers-regular.html
 

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If I might add something... I'm in the middle of a very boring lecture and think my time's better spent answering a thread or two. 

What should not be forgotten is the fact that plans for a deployment of the british forces on the left wing of the french in case of a war had been in the making for a couple of years. I've just spend 8 months in readiness and deployment matters and there is not much difference, finally, between today's VJTF and the role of the BEF in 1914. Beyond the logistic preparation (the trains, the ships and the arrival and dispatchign of troops in France - what we call today the Detailer Deployment Plans and the RSOM procedure) there is the fact that the old army and the territorials were permanently trained for the event of war through their winter camps. So I tend to agree that the 1914 stading army was clearly better prepared for the fight. 

What is sure, is that the armed forces as a whole - and with that I mean the enablers - were very well prepared, or they would never have been able to pull off the whole thing in a  mere EIGHTEEN days (time between the declaration of war and the first shot) 

 

M. 

 

PS: come to think of it... might be an interesting article: VJTF vs BEF... who was better prepared?? 

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4 hours ago, Marilyne said:

So I tend to agree that the 1914 stading army was clearly better prepared for the fight. 

The army as a whole body yes.

 

The focus here is upon a recalled reservist of private rank (who made up 75% strength of some 1914 battalions) and whether it was common for a man, on reserve since 1905/1906/1907, to have embarked with the first draft on 11th-14th August 1914?

 

A sprinkling of these men throughout a whole battalion would probably have had minimal impact on the fitness and fighting efficiency of the army as whole. These men, if few in number, would have benefited from experienced command and the other ranks who they stood shoulder to shoulder with - providing a clear advantage to the New Army men of 1915.

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This is a small sample size, but I've looked into the 1st NF men who were K.I.A. in the first two days of fighting.

 

1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers KIA Other Ranks -  23rd August 1914

 

image.png.455501adecc3c674340699c9b34d84a2.png

 

1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers KIA Other Ranks -  24th August 1914

 

image.png.c50857476953667a346b4a3147de6232.png

 

Out of the first 17 K.I.A.

12 were serving with NF as recently as 1911.

Thomas Buckingham was only 16 on 1911 census so presumably was serving in 1914. 

I'm unsure when Jack Saunders, Thomas Cairns and John Tweedy left the army, but neither one appeared to be in active service in 1911.

I can't locate James Smith in 1911, though he did enlist in 1903.

 

As mentioned, this is a small sample size of 1 regiment, however, the vast majority of 1st Bn NF men who died at Mons and Frameries on 23rd/24th August appeared to have been largely single serving soldiers or recent reservists.

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1 hour ago, timsanders said:

This is a small sample size, but I've looked into the 1st NF men who were K.I.A. in the first two days of fighting.

 

1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers KIA Other Ranks -  23rd August 1914

 

image.png.455501adecc3c674340699c9b34d84a2.png

 

1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers KIA Other Ranks -  24th August 1914

 

image.png.c50857476953667a346b4a3147de6232.png

 

Out of the first 17 K.I.A.

12 were serving with NF as recently as 1911.

Thomas Buckingham was only 16 on 1911 census so presumably was serving in 1914. 

I'm unsure when Jack Saunders, Thomas Cairns and John Tweedy left the army, but neither one appeared to be in active service in 1911.

I can't locate James Smith in 1911, though he did enlist in 1903.

 

As mentioned, this is a small sample size of 1 regiment, however, the vast majority of 1st Bn NF men who died at Mons and Frameries on 23rd/24th August appeared to have been largely single serving soldiers or recent reservists.

Tim, I have some details of a few individuals I have researched who may also be of interest to you:

 

614 Corporal Richard Whitborne Thornton https://m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTg0ODg0MTg2NTE1MDg3MTozNTIyMzYyNjk0NDY1NDI4

 

755 Private David Will https://m.facebook.com/OldContemptibles1914/photos/a.848844121817312/1603596773008706/?type=3

 

2319 Private Henry Geradine and 677 Private Francis Ryan 

 

https://m.facebook.com/OldContemptibles1914/photos/a.848844121817312/1065906170111105/?type=3&source=57

 

https://m.facebook.com/OldContemptibles1914/photos/a.848844121817312/848886808479710/?type=3

 

195 Private Patrick Joseph Grace https://m.facebook.com/OldContemptibles1914/photos/a.848844121817312/1603493953018988/?type=3&source=57

 

 

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10 minutes ago, AndrewThornton said:

677 Private Francis Ryan 

 

Thanks for sharing, I love reading your research!

 

Francis Ryan is a very interesting case. 

 

Born: 1876

Enlisted: July 1904

On reserve: July 1907

Recalled: August 1914

Wounded: 28th August 1914

Salonika (with 2n Bn): Sep 1916 - Oct 1918

Discharged: 1919

 

 

 

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19 hours ago, timsanders said:

 

 

Regarding the reservists, many pre-war regulars in the years immediately after The Boer War enlisted 3 year active service and 9 years on reserve. It's not uncommon to find men who left the army in 1905/1906/1907 with only 3 years active service on the medal rolls for the 1914 Star. The 3 years active service were much akin to 'Empire Policing' and even with their annual rudimental training they could hardly be considered battle ready.

 

 

 

Untrue I am afraid. 3 and 9 was useless in providing soldiers to police the empire. Politically driven, it had two purposes: to build a reserve of sorts, rapidly, and to give young men, unwilling to commit to long contracts, a taste of army life in the hope that they would convert.

A soldier on the short lived engagement took a minimum of 6 months to train, and a minimum of 21 days to reach India during the limited trooping season. He also had to be 20 years of age. Given that half of enlistees were 18 years old, for many newly arrived in the colony it would be have been time to construct a "Gosomee" or "Chuff chart" as they were known in my day.

 

For hard fact on the composition of the army in 1913/August 1914 refer to General Annual Return of the British Army 1913, readily available. For hard fact on reserves and reservists, WFA Stand To! three part series by Gillott and Langley. For the politics, Hansard of course.

 

Here is a brief quotation from Stand To!

 

Colours and Reserve.

A paid Army Reserve did not exist until the Limited Enlistment Act of 1870, whereby line infantry soldiers at the end of six years colour service were retained as civilians with 4d per day for six years of further liability. A soldier could enlist for, or convert to, the full 12 years service and be discharged afterwards. In 1881, a year of many changes in the army, the standard Terms of Engagement became seven years with the Colours and five on the Reserve, the latter on half pay, paid quarterly in arrears. Other arms of the service had different terms, reflecting the need for different training periods and duties. As an example, the Foot Guards were not expected to serve outside the United Kingdom except in war and so engaged for three years with the Colours and nine as reservists. This built up a large Guards’ reserve but would have been useless for the line infantry, with their duties in far-flung outposts of empire. After six months training and a long costly sea voyage a three-year man would be of little value.  For example the voyage to India in the trooping season, October to March, took 21 days (Old Soldier Sahib, Frank Richards).  Soldiers often enlisted at 18 but those under the age of 20 years were prevented from serving overseas. In war the age was 19 years except for drummers, buglers and trumpeters. (Mobilisation Regulations 1914).

Edited by Muerrisch
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